The moment it doesn’t work….

Posted on Posted in On Combatives, Science

No martial artist has looked at their training and not doubted it’s effectiveness.

I remember my moment of doubt in St. Louis at a club Rolling Stone magazine called the worst club in America for violence. We came out of an appearance on the ground floor and went into an elevator. Violence was spiraling as it often does in inner city clubs and we decided it was time to exit. Being pulled by my principle (who was being pulled by my team lead) out of an elevator, I was caught between a rock who was pushing past me (6’8 and 300+ pound club security) and a hard place (do I leave my principle’s back and let the club security go or do I stick as I’ve been taught to cover his back).

Anyone who has entered a sweepstakes contest knows, ‘Rules are subject to change.’

Looking back I was wrong to decide to stick with my principle. I didn’t adapt – I stuck to the rules and the rules changed. This led to a shoving match with the club security as I was being pulled past him and he was pulling me back…which led to my 5’11, 190# body being picked up by a guy who probably failed trying out for some NFL defensive line and him throwing me into the next hard place – the elevator wall. My principle’s back was exposed, I caused my team disarray and forced a change in formation at the moment it could least be afforded, and I ended up in a situation where I could have been killed and nearly was.

In that moment – all physics, all mechanics, all of the Russian styles left the leader of K-Sys and the only thing that remained was the fact i was being held two feet off the ground and pummeled. I remember everything – the sweat, the smell, his elbow in my throat and his huge hands holding my arms against my chest. The slamming, elbow into the throat, slammed against the wall and the fight. There was no removal of equilibrium, no neat tricks – there was only one lever to get my right hand free, the eye gouges, throat shots, he briefly stopped, I levered my other hand and grabbed his ear and kept hitting the eyes. These didn’t work very well – he was simply too big, too strong, too driven by his nervous system. His forearm was holding me two feet off the ground by my throat and I began digging into his eyes. He wouldn’t stop. I remember fighting and fading from the forearm in the throat, struggling for air, and thinking, ‘I hope this guy stops giving a sh*t real soon.’

I often laugh when I hear the ‘reality’ guys talk about their experiences fighting – I never hear about how violence really is.

Luckily another celebrity who was at the club was in the elevator with us – his team tried to get by and leave me, but they were blocked and jumped in to clear the way. I made a rookie mistake and they were in a bad spot because of it. They jumped in and knocked the guy off of me. I wasn’t saved because they liked me – I was saved because there was a crowd coming outside of the elevator and they needed to get out quick…which meant jumping in. I flew out the door and as I got back to my team, I realized that sometimes things don’t work…honestly, somethings that don’t work are flat out dangerous to you and everyone around you. If you’ve ever worked in a team, you know this.

All of the neat ‘pull his arm here and he will fall’ that worked in the training room melted under the heat of real life’s light and I was left with the most basic of methods. Experience is sunlight to martial art. You get to see underneath the tree tops to what is on the ground.

The rest of those months on the road I got rid of the things that didn’t work and focused on what did.

We were driving off from the location and I remember looking at my mentor and saying, ‘That shit didn’t work.’

He laughed and said, ‘Everyone learns the hard way their martial art is bullshit – whatever made you think it would work?’

What makes you think your martial art will work?

Pramek was born in that elevator and refined to being street capable for months after. Those lessons still stick with me – end it fast, hard, and move. Never stay in one place, use violence to get to the mechanics and never think that what someone can do with a non-resistant training partner will ever work against a fully resistant train enemy. Even in training – it is almost impossible to duplicate this to something you can train (though in my upcoming book I will teach you how to do it). You simply adapt and learn.

Paths present themselves all the time.
General George S. Patton once said, ‘A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. ‘ In business, in combatives, in relationships we must live in the moment and make decisions for the moment that we would take week’s to plan. The question is – is it the right decision? As a good friend of mine recently posted, a study was done showing your gut feel is most likely correct in your assessment of the situation.

Is your gut always right?

Life rarely catches you by surprise if you are observant. Fights, be it with a loved one or a friend or an enemy – usually have plenty of indicators they will happen if you will just be observant. Here’s 4 tips to avoid the rock and the hard place…and get home with your life, your friendship, your job, or your sanity.

1) Take a moment to listen – most of the time you will be told the problem if you just listen to the other person. Sometimes they tell you right then and sometimes they told you a week before. Act on the problem and the solution instead of acting out of anxiety or surprise.

2) Look around – you are never really caught be surprise if you look around. Most conflicts can easily be avoided by just looking around before them. Take a second every few minutes and look around – you will be surprised by the number of clues you have to what the future may hold.

3) If it feels wrong, it’s probably wrong – the oldest lesson in Executive Protection is this. When someone says ‘feel’ they mean your sense. Look, listen, smell, taste. The ingredients are there for you to make the meal you wish if you will only take the time to look at the recipe.

4) Clear your head – take a breath, swallow some spit, look around, and engage your autonomic nervous system head on. Don’t be it’s victim – be it’s guide. Evolution gave you certain tools to use if you can control them. It’s up to you to guide those tools…not be guided by them.

Looking back – had I looked at the positions of the people in the elevator, had I said a kind word or clearly identified myself to the club security in the elevator, had I observed the tension instead of letting it dictate me – had I done 1 thru 4, I would have avoided that moment.

But, then again, Pramek would not have been born – and experience is our best teacher.

I never made a mistake again on that tour, from The Tunnel in NY (and if you know the Tunnel you know what that means) to the challenges of a city where I was nearly held hostage for a payment, but I obeyed those four rules and got out unscathed…I never made the mistakes again.

In this instance, experience created a whole new system.

Signing off,


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