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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    New England

    Did Modern Day RBSD Borrow its Concepts From "Point" Shooting?

    Any visitor to Bullshido will soon notice that Reality Based Self Defense training does not get much respect on this site. This is probably because of the questionable abilities of some of its advocates, (Sammy Franco) The exaggerated claims of some of its teachers, (Jerry Peterson of SCARS, and some would say IMPACT/Model Mugging) The high price for short blocks of instruction, (See SCARS again) The refusal (except for SAFTA) of any of these programs to enter fighters in NHB competitions, and the resulting poor performance of the one school that did. (SAFTA) Other sources of ridicule surround RBSD's frequent paramilitary themes, (even in the absence of any legitimate connection to military or law enforcement agencies) and the disputed effectiveness of adrenaline stress training.

    RBSD training seems to have most of the following characteristics. 1) It focuses on teaching fewer 'high percentage moves". 2) It tends to de-emphasises full contact sparing for "realistic" role playing and scenario training. 3) It often claims to be built on scientific theory, (SCARS) or on the biological reactions humans go through while under stress. (point shooting, RMCAT, IMPACT/Model Mugging) 4) The training is often intensive and abreviated, a typical training session might be only two full days, or a week long, with the assertion that they have produced a competent fighter, (or if Jerry Peterson is talking, someone who is unbeatable) 5) A great deal of attention is paid to spotting the signs of impending violance and either defusing it, or pre-emptively stiking. (Geoff Thompson's training is a good example of this even though he uses full contact training methods.)

    Over time, I've developed the following theory.

    1) RBSD's template of instruction mimics the instructional methods and beliefs used in teaching "point shooting", a abbreviated method of teaching combat shooting devised by W.E. Fairbairn for the Shanghai police in the 1920s, and subsequently adopted by parts of the British and American military during WWII.

    2) This system of instruction works better for teaching shooting then it does hand to hand combat, and is an improvement over static methods of instruction in the martial arts and combat shooting, but is inferior to the premier methods of training for both shooting and hand to hand combat.

    3) The template for point shooting instruction was also used by Fairbairn and later Col. Rex Applegate for teaching hand to hand combat skills, and so this method was picked up by a lot of RBSD advocates who read such books at "Kill or Get Killed" by Col. Applegate.

    4) To understand the problems and limitations of RBSD training it helps to understand the original training methods behind point shooting which were apparently later borrowed for H2H combat training.

    Our story starts in 1910s Shanghai. This Chinese seaport had an large international settlement in which multiple European powers had joined together through an 1842 imperalistic treaty to control approximately 5,500 acres of territory in down town Shanghai. This settlement contained roughtly 30,000 Westerners and 800,000 Chinese, (Cassidy, p. 52) the latter often living in unspeakable conditions. The foreign powers in the international settlement jointly provided a police force for this chaotic territory though the force was generally administered by the British. Some of the law enforcement problems this settlement faced, were highly aggressive and professional bands of kidnappers, labor unrest and riots, and organized crime of all other ilks. (Cassidy, p. 53-55) Starting in 1910 Fairbairn was the sergeant in charge of muskety and drill instruction to the Shanghai Municipal Police. (SMP) (he later advanced to become an Assistant Commissioner of the SMP) Between 1910 and 1919 he was personally involved in multiple shooting incidents and attended the scene of hundreds of other shootings in order to conduct research in order to improve his shooting instruction methods. (Cassidy, 51, 55, it is unclear precisely how many times Fairbairn himself was actually shot at)

    In 1919, a year in which the SMP lost nine officers in shootouts, (Cassidy, p. 56) Fairbairn created his original training program which would later become known as point shooting. At the time Police Officers were trained to target shoot, Fairbain started to change their training drastically. Rather than report the various stages of development in his program, I will skip ahead to Fairbairn and Sykes 1942 text "Shooting to Live" which depicted his finished system. The assumptions of the system are laid out as the following.

    "In the great majority of shooting affrays [with a pistol] the distance at which firing takes place is not more then four yards. Very frequently it is less. Often the only warning of what is about to take place is a suspicious movement of an opponents hand. Again, your opponent is quite likely on the move. It may happen too, that you have been running in order to overtake him. If you have had reason to believe that shooting is likely, you will be keyed-up to the highest pitch and will be grasping your pistol with almost convulsive force. If you have to fire your instinct will be to do so as quickly as possible, . . . The whole affair may take place in a bad light or none at all." (Fairbairn and Sykes, pp. 3-4) The point shooting system had three tenants. 1) Extreme Speed in drawing and firing, 2) Instinctive as opposed to deliberate aim, 3) Practice under circumstances which approximate as closely as possible actual fighting conditions.

    Before going further I should explain what it is meant by instinctive aim. "Please try this little experiment while sitting at your desk. Imagine you are holding a pistol in your right hand. Sitting squarely and keeping both eyes open, raise your hand from the level of the desk, but not so high as the level of your eyes, and with a straight arm point your extended forefinger at a mark directly in front of you on the opposite wall. Observe carefully now what has taken place. Your forefinger, as intended , will be pointing to the mark which you are facing squarely, and the back of your hand will be vertical, as it would be if you actually held a pistol. You will observe also that you have brought your arm across you until your hand is approximately in alignment with the vertical center-line of your body and that under the directing impulse of your master eye, your hand will be bent from the wrist to the right." (Fairbairn and Sykes, p. 6)

    Fairbain theorized based on his experience that under stress and suprise humans tend to "square on the threat" in other words they will move their bodies to put the threat directly in front of them directly ahead of both of their eyes. They will also frequently hunch over a bit (this somewhat resembles a boxing crouch) and without using these precise words, Fairbain believed that they would retain gross motor skills but would often not be capable of complex motor skills . (Note above section in which he discusses convulsive grip on the pistol) Even under stress, a man would be able to look at a threat, and point a pistol held at the centerline of his body towards the center mass of his target without using its sights (at ranges under 30 feet) Therefore a trainee could square on the target and using his body, centerline, and hand pointing abilities quickly draw a pistol and shoot a moving target under dim light conditions.

    "We cannot claim that the system produces nail-driving marksmenship, but this is not what we look for. We want the ability to hit with extreme speed man sized targets at very short ranges under the difficult circumstances which have been outlined already, Nail driving marksmenship will not cope with such conditions." (Fairbairn and Sykes, pp. 6-7)

    The Fairbairn system was as developed in Shanghai, was designed to quickly train native policemen, making a virtue out of necessity. Likewise, during World War II, the program outlined in "Shooting to Live" as taught to the British Special Operations Executive involved only seven and one half hours of familarization firing in six periods.

    "In the first period, classes of eight students were allotted one hour to fire six shots each at stationary and moving targets for a total of twelve shots per student. [this does not count much dry firing the weapon on an empty chamber] In the second period, one hour was allowed for students to fire a total of twelve shots at moving targets in dark conditions and at an oversized standing man target from behind cover and at long range. In the third period students . . . spent one hour firing twelve shots at indoor targets. The fourth period, also an hour, was held outdoors and involved firing up and down at distances of twenty to twenty five feet. For the fifth period, students were permitted to fire fourteen shots in two hours, at surprise targets they stalked on an open range." In the sixth period, one and one half hours were allocated to fire ten shots in something called the "Attack in the Open course. Then there was a final full speed graduation exercise so lets round training time up to eight hours. (Cassidy, pp. 92-93)

    In Col Applegate's Military Intelligence course, there were eight training sessions used to teach pistol point shooting with another practical combat pistol exercise and six sessions devoted to point shooting with a tommy gun, and M1 carbine. (Col. Rex Applegate and Maj. Chuck Melson, pp. 107-108) I've seen other estimates for how much time was used in various courses in Britain and the United States to train this method and while the numbers slightly differ, (The British Commandos devoted 9.5 hours for pistol point shooting instruction with 10 hours for the Thompson and Sten guns) (Applegate and Melson, p. 50) the hours of instruction was typically between 8 and 20 hours depending on the weapons used. Applegate later commented that in his ideal course there would be 40 hours of instruction devoted to close quarter combat, (hands, knives, sticks) and 24 hours devoted to weapons training. (Ibid, p. 86)

    This is eye popping considering modern police training courses will devote something like 40 clock hours and 600 rounds to training their recruits in basic pistol craft. The Fairbairn pistol method by contrast took perhaps eight hours, with Applegate using less that twice that amount of time for pistol instruction. I think that so little hours were devoted to pistol instruction for the following reasons. 1) At least when training military personnel, they had already been through basic training, and had some familarity with firearms. 2) When training OSS people, most of them would be doing more spying then shooting and if they would be shooting people it would be at close range. 3) It was wartime, they had to crank the numbers through. 4) The Germans couldn't sue them so the instruction didn't waste any chalk talk time on shoot/don't shoot legalities. 5) It's better to shoot someone with a rifle, though these courses admittedly covered carbines and submachine guns. 6) Soldiers were expected to receive their instruction in the course and put in more practice time with their units later. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY

    7) Because it was "instinctual" lots of marksmenship training was unnecessary. The theory went something like this. We could have you spend days in the dueling position mastering one handed shooting but because we're just teaching you to speed shoot at close distances and you only need to hit a pie plate size target at under twenty feet, after you get the technique down, little refinement is necessary. (Sound like any RBSD program pitches you've heard? "Once you learn X you will not have to practice X, its like riding a bike, you never forget") Whereas a better analogy is if one intends to bike race, they simply can't stop practicing for a couple years before racing again, because they are facing resisting opponents, who are also improving, even though they could still probably still outrace someone who had never competed in the first place. Still for people for who weren't getting into long range gunfights and didn't have a lot of time to practice pistol shooting the theory made good sense. eight to ten hours of instruction would generally produce someone who could hit a man sized target at under 20 feet, and that brought them to a basic level of proficiency. If one didn't have the time to teach target shooting, basic proficiency in some system was better then incomplete training in a system that was more complex, harder to learn, and would be more likely to fall apart under heart pounding stress conditions. For example the Weaver stance system, yes I know the best shooters in the world and people like the FBI HRT use sighted fire, they also shoot at minimum 2-3 times a week to retain their cutting edge skills. But If one is not practicing at least 3-4 times a month, the Weaver sighted fire method becomes much more problematic as a combat method.

    Even though its hard to hit a target with a pistol shot in combat conditions, training someone in instinctive methods of pistol shooting in a crash course is more effective then similarly teaching hand to hand combat in a crash course. WHY? Well to start, once the bullet hits the target it's going to have the same impact regardless of how much or how little the shooter practices, whereas if one doesn't hit the heavy bag for a couple years and then takes a swing at someone, something is going to be missing as compared to if you were going to the boxing gym three times a week. In other words firearms made it possible to retain the ability to kill with incredibly less effort.

    Now there were some things that Fairnbain incorporated into his instructional system which were light years ahead of any other instruction at the time in terms of producing people who could kill with a pistol. Additionally, in the target shooting instruction of the day, one could shoot bullseyes all one wanted but still not obtain training that would actually prepare one to shoot another human being. It was the old Bruce Lee "land swimming analogy" You could spend all the time in the world shooting bullseye targets under calm conditions but that trained you only to shoot bulleye targets, not human beings.

    Long after Fairbairn left this plain of existance, psychologist and Lt. Col. David Grossman, wrote a book callled "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" Grossman's theory is somewhat controversial but he argues using historical and psychology examples, that people really don't want to kill other humans as a general rule and unless they are properly psychologically conditioned many, if not most, soldiers in combat situations will not efficiently and cold bloodedly aim and shoot other people. While I disagree with his thesis regarding the goodness of ordinary people, it seems common sense that if one is trained to shoot humanoid forms, one will be less hesitant to shoot such forms then if one has only seen bullseye targets to that point. Grossman says that modern combat ranges in which infantry men shoot human size targets that pop up and the disappear is essentially an operant conditioning technique that simulates the visual sights one will find on a battlefield. So the soldier will shoot appropriately sized and moving targets without thought. (Grossman, p. 177-78)

    Fairbairn was perhaps the first firearms instructor to make exclusive use of human form targets, starting with the recruits first target. In Shanghai this was be six foot tall realistically drawn criminal holding a weapon when the recruit was only 2 yards away. Later, during combat simulations the pop up targets would actually fire blank rounds to add realism to the exercise. (Col. Rex Applegate, "Killed or Get Killed: New Revised and Enlarged Edition, p. 282) Fairbain would teach a simple method and then force the recruits to practice it on moving targets, on targets under low light conditions, and while under stress. The result was training that while abbreviated had some reliability because when recruit actually came under fire, they had previously used the techique while their heart was pounding and their body was undergoing an adrenaline rush. In other words Fairbairn tried and often succeeded in training the recruit not to freeze under stress and actually retain some technique in such situations.

    Later in WWII Col Applegate set up a training facility in Maryland at Camp Ritchie that was the state of the art until perhaps the 1980s. He provides a full description of his "House of Horrors" in his book "Kill or Get Killed". (see pages, 280-288) After being trained for a number of hours to "point shoot" the trainee was sent into a range to practice his technique under stressful, low light conditions. First the trainee was made to wait in a dimly lit anteroom by himself while creepy music and enemy propaganda broadcasts were played for at least five minutes. Then he was guided through a maze in a basement in which he had to shoot at 12 pop up targets and use a knife to stab three fully clothed dummies.

    There were some interesting wrinkles in the course which foreshadowed later developments. All through the range the instructee would have to listen to sounds like german and japanese being yelled at him, and simulated sounds of people being beaten, shots being fired, and dogs barking. Years later over the phone Applegate would comment to me that auditory influnces were a large part of his method of inducing stress in the trainee. There were at least two parts of the course in which the shooter was exposed to shoot/ don't shoot problems. In one instance cans were used to make a noise on one side of the trainee after the real target bobbed up on his other side. And yes, a fair number of trainees shot at the can noise. Secondly, towards the end of the maze there was a well lit dummy in an American uniform which about 10% of the students still shot at. Since the student was only allocated 24 rounds for what would turn out to be 12 enemies. Applegate was trying to discourage wild firing practices among his trainees. This practice foreshadowed todays "shoot, don't shoot" targets. Finally some of the targets were rigged to generating flashes simulating the appearance and noice of gun fire. Once again this was an innovation that was not really copied until the 1980s when certain types of training ammunition was developed.

    Obviously stress based scenario training was the way to go in this situation because one couldn't actually have trainees shooting each other for real, though given it was World War II Camp Richie also was able to create a live fire course in which trainees had to crawl under real machine gun fire on a known course. (Col. Rex Applegate and Maj. Chuck Melson, see pages 87-88 for pictures of such training in this location) Secondly the British Commandos who has adopted Fairbairn's methods for teaching pistolcraft and hand to hand combat, were less risk adverse when it came to live ammunition training. For example, the final commando training exercise in Scotland was an Amphibious landing during which instructors would fire machine gun bullets within inches of the trainee's bodies and sometimes shatter paddles. (Russell Miller and the editors of Time-Life Books, p. 70) Using such methods, approximately 40 recruits of the 25,000 students who passed through this course were killed during WWII. (Ibid, p. 60)

    Under war time conditions therefore the simulations of combat concerning gunfire could occasionally approach combat conditions though to keep from killing more trainees, the stressful scenario method was pretty much the most realistic training in firearms available unless one was training to be a British Commando at which point one's life was actually in jepardy. This training method was also used for unarmed combat training, with, in my opinion, less beneficial results.


    My material is all drawn from open sources, however with all due modesty I think I am the first to attempt this particular analysis in print. My sources are the following.

    1) Capt. W.E. Fairbairn and Capt. E.A. Sykes, "Shooting to Live" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1987) (reprint of a 1942 edition.)

    2) Capt. W.E. Fairbairn "Get Tough!: How to Win in Hand-To-Hand Fighting" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1979) (reprint of the 1942 edition.)

    3) Col. Rex Applegate, "Killed or Get Killed: New Revised and Enlarged Edition" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1976) (reprint of an earlier edition published shortly after WWII.)

    4) John Styers, "Cold Steel: Technique of Close Combat" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1974) (Steyers copyrighted his work in 1952, Steyers was a student of Colonel Biddle who taught a competing school of H2H combat to the Marines before WWII).

    5) William L. Cassidy, "Quick or Dead" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1993), note the foreward by RBSD teacher Bradley J. Steiner.

    6) Col. Rex Applegate and Maj. Chuck Melson, "The Close Combat Files of Colonel Rex Applegate" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1998).

    7) Col. Rex Applegate and Michael D. Janich, "Bullseyes Don't Shoot Back: The Complete Textbook of Point Shooting for Close Quarters Combat" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1998).

    8) Peyton Quinn, "Real Fighting: Adrenaline Stress Conditioning Through Scenario-Based Training" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1996).

    9) Bruce K. Siddle, "Sharpening the Warrior's Edge: The Psychology and Science of Training" (PPCT Research Publications, Millstadt, Ill, 1995).

    10) Lt. Col. David Grossman, "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" (Little Brown and Company, Boston, 1996).

    11) Prof Kelly Yeaton, Lt. Col. Samuel S. Yeaton (USMC), and Col. Rex Applegate, "The First Commando Knives", (Phillips Publications, Williamstown, N.J., 1996).

    12) Col Rex Applegate, "Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1993). (This is a 38 page pamphlet more then a book.)

    13) Russell Miller and the editors of Time-Life Books, "The Commandos" (Time Life Books, Alexandria, Virginia, 1981)

    14) William L. Cassidy, "The Complete Book of Knife Fighting" (Paladin Press, Boulder Co, 1975).

    15) Harold J. Jenks and Harold H. Brown, "Prison's Bloody Iron: Deadly Knife Fighting Tactics Revealed" (Desert Publications, El Dorado, Ar, 1978).

    16) Matt Thomas, Denise Loveday & Larry Strauss, '"Defend Yourself: Every Woman's Guide to Safeguarding Her Life", (Avon Books, New York, 1995).

    17) Camille Peri, "Below the Belt", Mother Jones Magazine, September/October 1990, pp. 44-47, 65-67.

    Copyright-Samuel P. Browning, 2004
    Last edited by Sam Browning; 7/13/2008 9:36pm at .

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    New England
    I can just hear it, Okay Browning, enough with the shooting, onto the hand to hand, which in Applegate's system also includes knife and stick fighting as well as prisoner handling. The shooting once again is important to discuss because the same techniques of instruction with further limitations, was also used for teaching hand to hand combat.

    Most people do not know that Fairbain had legitimate martial arts training but according to a chronology in (Yeaton, Yeaton, and Applegate, p. 92) his Judo and Jiu-Jitsu training is as follows.

    Fairbain's "first instructor in Jiu-Jitsu was Professor Okada, in 1908." He was "accepted into the Kodokan December 8, 1918." His Brown Belt was awarded on January by Y. Yamashita, his first black belt was awarded December 14, 1926 and his Ni-Dan was awarded February 18, 1931. For the early part of this century that was a repectible achievement by a Westerner.

    Samuel Yeaton who was a junior officer assigned with the Marines in Shanghai (guarding the international settlement) had the opportunity to work out with Fairbain in late 1932 and possibly early 1933, he wrote his brother that "I've had about 12 hours of conferences with him and done a couple hours of work on the mats. His stuff is not jiu-jitsu or judo--he gave us an exhibition of judo using five men, two third degree black belts, two second, and one first, to prove it. He uses some of their falls and a few holds, but not more than about 20% of it and most with variations. Its not Chinese Boxing, of which 80% is mere ritual. It's a collection of all the known methods of dirty fighting and it will beat them all. He knows it will, he's done it. Judo is too clean . . . on every hold a judo man's eyes and testicles are vulnerable. [SB:I think Sam was repeating what Fairbairn had told him here.] But it is awful fast but not it's not at fast as boxing. We proved that, and to the Japs at that. Given men of equal speed, its the man who is not suprised by the others method of attack who will win. We put Sam Taxis who boxes featherweight now against a third degree judo man (the punches to be delivered and the throws not to be carried out) and it was a draw. But we had a man hold up his hand as a target and Sammy Taxis put a one-two on it while a man stood besides him and tried to grab his hands. All they got was his necktie . . ." (Ibid, p. 28)

    Fairbain had written at least one book on his hand to hand method "Scientific Self Defense" which was published in America by D. Appleton-Century Company in 1931. (Cassidy, p. 177) By the time he published "Get Tough: How to Win in Hand to Hand Fighting" in 1942 any depth his system might have previously had, and might be contained in this prior work (which I have not read) was lost. Instructees were taught the Chin Jab, an edge of the hand stike, the side kick to the enemies' knee, and how to stomp kick the enemy. There was eleven total releases taught from wrist holds, strangle holds, bear hugs and a hair grab. There was a section on thumb holds, a 'sentry hold', the sleeper hold, and three others. There was also a poorly taught hip throw, a poorly illustrated wrist throw and a back break. There was also a lot of tricks akin to what one would learn on today's seminar circuit. Punch out someone's lights with a matchbox in your hand! Use a chair to defend against a knife attack!

    Fairbairn does caution "Although every method described in the following pages is practiticable--and so proved by the author and his students by years of experience, it is not essential to master them all. I suggest that at first you select about ten which, for reasons of your height, weight, build, etc, seem most suitable, and specialize in mastering these thoroughly. Do not consider yourself an expert until you can carry out every movement instinctively and automatically. . . " [other training instuctions omitted by SB]

    The chin jab is practical, but these moves do not seem to have a unifying principle or core of instruction such as BJJ's interchange between the guard, and the mount. In other words, hand to hand wise, moves could be practiced and drilled but there was not seemingly a way one could safely practice against a resisting opponant such as in boxing, where the participants could work on the ways to practice the applications of the techniques in a 'live' environment. Note, however, that training Fairbain's techniques live might be possible today with an instructor wearing some of Tony Blaur's body armor who was allowed to hit back.

    Now contrary to what some may think, the Applegate/Fairbain hand to hand training was not completely useless. If one took the army recruit of the time who had no experience in hand to hand, and got them to drill a small number of "high percentage moves" to the point in which they could be smoothly executed, then the soldier was in a better position then they were before. At least if fighting against another conscript from another army, who was similarly unexperienced in hand to hand combat. Its also true that sparring needs to be done not only full contact but with moves that are practical to use. For example boxing techniques are just easier to apply then WTK spin kicks to the head, so if you get a bunch of men in a room and they learn 3-5 fighting techniques that can actually be used, that will put them ahead of where they would be if they had spent say, six months learning TKD that focused on less simple and practical material. However, just because they spent say twenty hours on this material, no matter how useful the technique, does not make them the deadly for reasons that can be easily explained.

    Remember when you started to learn grappling either in Judo or BJJ? It was often easy to learn a move, say the sleeper choke, but the real trick is not in applying this move, but in obtaining a position in which one can apply this choke. So the user, needs to not only learn Judo and BJJ techniques, but obtain certain attributes (speed, power, smoothness) and an ability to feel what one's opponent is doing, and react accordingly. "When rolling my opponant sticks out an arm, I feel he has streightened his elbow, I flow into an arm bar, because I am practiced and know how to set up this move, he doesn't feel it coming and therefore does not defend against my move in time." So knowing how to chin jab someone, does not automatically train you to use mobility and positioning to set up this move. The set up is most effectively taught through sparring with realistic techniques, and not by hitting a BOB bag, though using the latter is certainly better training simply punching air.

    The only aspect of Applegate's training which seems to have a sparring component is his knife fighting instruction in which he recommended two man practice using rubber knives and protective goggles. (Applegate, "Combat Use of the Double-Edged Fighting Knife", p. 25) However in this pamphlet, like his earlier book, "Kill or Get Killed" Applegate doesn't discuss the techniques of knife fighting beyond stance, various grips, with a few words on stabbing verses slashing. "Use your free hand to create movement, diverting the enemy's eyes from your knife hand. Use feints; throw handfuls of dirt, gravel, coins, etc, into his face or try some similar ruse. Coupled with feints involving the free hand, constantly make continous false moves with your knife hand from the throat to the knee area and then follow up with a slash to the arm, wrist or throat . . . Generally disabling slashes to the wrist, biceps, ect, are real building blocks to finishing off with a well placed thrust." (Ibid, p. 15)

    And there we have it, boys and girls, along with some advice on sentry de-animation, the Applegate system, but with nothing as complex as Modern Arnis's beginning instruction in the twelve angles of attack or similar drills. Applegate's system was appropriate for military intelligence recruits who were only scheduled for as little as 2 hours of knife training (see Applegate and Melson, p. 89) If the recruits had more time they would be allowed to practice on uneven ground "In a field or up and down a slope or hill or around a house. Students should use every type of cut or thrust keeping on the move all the time" but "during shadow fighting only one student will be permitted to to practice at a time. Others will be formed up behind." (Ibid, p. 57) Hopefully the recruit would practice his knife technique after he left military intelligence school, but he would never be as good as the average FMA practicioner.

    Not surprisingly, there was a more complex American knife fighting system which existed during World War II. The marines were heavily influenced by the lessons taught by Lieutenant Colonel A.J. Drexel Biddle who in the 1930s, instructed new marine officers in hand to hand combat. William Cassidy in his book, The Complete Book of Knife Fighting, says that Biddle based his knife fighting technique on broadsword and epee, and "So strong was Biddle's indoctrination into the use of the sword, that his entire method of instruction is built upon such maneuvers as In-quartata, Passata Sotto, and other, similar movements well known to the duellist . . . This was Biddle's greatest weakness. He was a gentleman instructing other gentleman in the ritual of knife fighting. As such, many of the methods he advocated come down to us as nothing more than quaint reminders of an earlier (and perhaps better) age of conflict." (Cassidy, p. 16)

    Biddle came of age, in the twilight of the use of the calvary sword on the European Battlefield, (Horse Calvary were not generally discovered to be obsolete until the first year of World War I). Biddle actually received instruction from J.H. Hawkins who was the sword instructor for the King's Royal Horse Guards. So if one has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If one reads "Cold Steel" by John Styers who studied under Biddle, one is struck by how Styers, and by extention Biddle, teaches knife fighting as simply an extention of western fencing. Fencing which is heavily dependent on the forward lunge, appears to have applicability to Bayonet fighting. In the knife portion of Styers book, however, Styers' illustrations show him in a series of lunges which look over extended, unprotected, and quite awkward. Harold J. Jenks and Michael H. Brown observe in their book, Prison's Bloody Iron, that such a method was:

    "analogous to the characters teaching the methods used to handle a rifle only handing their pupils a pistol instead. A knife is not a sabre and the same rules do not apply; their is as much difference in the use of the knife and the sabre or rapier as there is in the handling of the rifle and the pistol." (p. 14) "Keep in mind the tip of a fencing foil is capable of moving much faster than the human hand because of the 'whipping' motion involved" (p. 18) "Some of the guys writing books on the art of knife fighting must have learned their act from an amputated octopus at Marineland!" (p. 21)

    In conclusion, just because the Applegate method for teaching knife combat was quite abbreviated, it was not necessarily inferior to other American military methods that were more sophisticated, when these sophisticated methods were unrealistic and flawed. However, once again Applegate was not turning out a particularly practiced, and therefore skilled trainee, which makes anyone who views his system as the end all, and be all, as being unrealistic at best and delusional at worse.

    Copyright Samuel P. Browning, 2004
    Last edited by Sam Browning; 7/13/2008 9:38pm at .

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    New England
    Adrenaline Stress Training and RBSD

    RBSD loves "short cuts" in training and its biggest "short cut" recently has been the rediscovery of scenario training under stress, or triggering the release of the fight or flight reaction under synthetic experiences. While, I unlike many on the board, think that such training is useful for many people, it's ability to turn out competent fighters is exaggerated.

    Remember when Applegate was having his military intelligence students wander through a dark basement shooting at pop up targets while hearing combat related sounds? This was an early version of such stress training applied to firearms. Applegate asserts that when he took 500 men who had previously qualified on standard fixed distance target ranges as marksmen and experts, when they were run through the "house of horrors" they hit on average 4 of the 12 silhouettes even though none were sprung more then 10 feet away from them. However after going through his point shooting course and then traveling through a "house of horrors" with a different layout, their scores increased on average to 10 hits out of 12 silhouettes. Even though these men had prior experience on a similar range, this was an impressive improvement. (See "Kill or Get Killed" p. 286) Applegate concluded that "target shooting proficiency alone is not enough to equip the average man for combat, where the handgun is his primary weapon." and "there must be a greater appreciation by most training officers of the physical and psychological effects of combat tension on the hand gun user." (Ibid, p. 279) Years later when we talked by phone, Applegate told me that occasionally they had a student who just couldn't function under the stress of the "house of horrors" and would piss their pants. So to a certain if unquantifiable amount, this course was an experience in which a recruit learned to shoot under stress, and this stress probably resulted in most students experencing a limited adrenaline "dump".

    After World War II Adrenline Stress Conditioning then was pretty much ignored by the martial arts until Matt Thomas, the creator of Model Mugging came along. Thomas was born in Japan after World War II, the product of a Japanese mother, and a white Russian who was serving in the American occupation army. ("White" as used here means a refugee from the Soviet Union) After his father abandoned his mother, mom placed Matt in an orphanage and later killed herself. For the next several years until he was adopted by an American family, Matt got a introduction to hand to hand combat in order to obtain necessities such as food since the orphanage was run along Darwinian lines. Later in America, as a racially mixed kid, Thomas had a whole series of fights with other kids after being called some of the more common derogatory names used for Asians. Thomas then earned black belts in Judo, Sombo, Karate, and Kendo. (see the back unnumbered page of Matt Thomas, Denise Loveday & Larry Strauss, '"Defend Yourself: Every Woman's Guide to Safeguarding Her Life", (Avon Books, New York, 1995, and pages, 2-4)

    Thomas says that when he was twenty one and studying karate in Southern California when one night one of his fellow black belt students, a woman came to the school visabily upset. She told her fellow advanced students that she had been raped and had been unable to defend herself against her attacker. The master told her that her failure had shamed them all and that she needed to train harder. When she ran crying out of the dojo, Thomas followed her to offer support, she then became angry with Thomas and called him stupid for making the situation worse. Thomas's Master indicated he was not to return to class, and Thomas began to question the self defense value of the traditional martial arts. (p. 4)

    "Having access to the Stanford University libraries and computer data bases, I spent the next months doing extensive research on attacks against women. I analyzed more then three thousand assualts against women--and confirmed my suspicions. In 40 percent of all such attacks, the victim was knocked to the ground before she knew what has happened. Furthermore, over 80 percent of the attackers used only verbal intimidation, including vulgarity, to scare the victim into submission--something karate, judo, and kung fu do not prepare one for." (p. 5) Thomas also discovered that some women had defended themselves sucessfully despite having NO training, because of a number of factors including the drive to survive and the willingness to use violance in an emergancy.

    Though I agree with Thomas's general conclusions I am also suspicious of his numbers for the following reasons. Unless he accessed the records of a professor who had specifically put together a incident by incident study of such attacks on women I don't see how he could have obtained such a large, specific sample of such attacks, unless he had direct access to one of the Department of Justice's victimization surveys. I don't think they hand out their raw interview data to anyone, though I could perhaps be wrong. Secondly while a large police department might have that many records in its files, I don't think they would be willing to make such a large sample of such records available to the public for study. Finally if 80% of the victims were verbally submitted, how come 40% were knocked down physically without warning. The only explaination I can think of that would explain this discrepancy is that this paragraph is poorly written and what Thomas meant to say is 80% of the victims were threatened into submission and of the remaining 20%, 40% of these women were knocked to the ground immediately. In short, there is something fishy about Thomas's 'study'.

    Thomas is correct however in stating that "it takes years to master any martial art. On average it can, in fact, take several years to learn a correct karate punch. Most people do not have that much time, nor can they afford to wait that long to be able to defend themselves. Fortunately, you don't have to. Singer James Brown recorded a song more than a few years ago in which he sings 'I may not know karate but i do know ca-razy' meaning he knows what he needs to know to take care of himself. . . .What you do need to know in order to greatly enhance your chances of defending yourself, you can learn in a relatively short period of time. For example, though it may take several years to punch with a fist--so that you don't break your wrist when delivering a blow--the heel palm strike, using the bottom of the palm can be mastered in a matter of minutes and can be quite effective. Karate and Kung Fu kicks, usually delivered from a standing position, demand great skill and practice, but almost any women is capable of delivering a knee to the groin or kicks from the ground position. Your own drive to survive and a limited amount of fighting skill can be a powerful combination." (pp. 17-18)

    Thomas was in Boston when he started teaching women's self defense and promptly discovered that his own students could not protect themselves against realistic attacks. He promptly started modifying his instructional methods until he came up with the elements of what would later define the model mugging method. Training would focus on a limited number of techniques. The women would be trained to function in self defense situations under profain verbal abuse by their attacker, "I'm going to **** you, you ****" to teach them not to freeze under such a verbal assault. (Remember one reaction to the fight or flight response is freezing like a deer hit by headlights) The women were taught how to kick off of the ground, so that if they were thrown to the ground or attacked by someone who was much stronger then them, they would kick at them from this location. As simplistic as this sounds there is some logic behind it. The theory is that the attacker will be unable to simply punch the women in the face without going through her feet, meaning that he cannot simply punch her once, incapacitating her. Women also got to practice full force against a man wearing a fully padded suit. This training against a moving target, had no counterpart in traditional karate dojos.

    If you put all of these elements together, what you found was a methodical attempt to condition women students not to freeze under substained verbal assault and a limited physical assault. (women would typically not be hit, but they would be body slammed to the ground, pinned, and shaken.) Women were also given practice in using their voice to prevent the assault, and taught how to set up their strikes by using the element of surprise to create an opening to either knee the attacker in the groin or eye gouge or heal palm them in the face. This is called the high low system of targeting blows. (p. 18) Because Thomas's system focused much more on teaching women how to develop their own verbal tools to prevent assault and how to set up their strikes, it was an advance on the previous short defense courses. Model Mugging was the first such hand to hand adrenaline stress conditioning through scenario based training course that I have been able to discover.

    In one argument I had with Bullshido poster "Strong Machine", he pointed out that the idea that one could only receive adrenaline stress training through scenario training is ridiculous. What do you think flows through the blood of people who are fighting professionally? Though Strong Machine did not make this argument, Tony Blauer who uses 'panic attacks' appears to use full contact sparing to trigger his student's adrenaline dumps. (This observation is based on seeing some Blauer footage from the early 1980s which he distributed.) Is the release of adrenaline in their systems any different then that of a woman in one of these courses?

    I didn't have an answer to this question then, and I only have a hypothesis now, but I will share it with the following stipulation. If some woman or man had the choice to talk MMA with Strong Machine or another competent MMA instructor, they would learn fighting and coping skills superior to any program that turned out graduates who had 20 to 40 hours of scenario training. The problem was that as Strong Machine told me, he would want a woman to train 6 hours a week for a year, (300 hours) before he would be prepared to consider her properly trained for self defense purposes. If one only has a very limited amount of time during which to teach self defense, then Thomas's methods are valid, in that they will teach certain survival skills.

    In his book, Bruce K. Siddle, "Sharpening the Warrior's Edge: The Psychology and Science of Training" (PPCT Research Publications, Millstadt, Ill, 1995). discusses how scientific research had discovered that as heart rate increases, motor skills start deteriorating. Fine motor skills deteriorate after the heart passes 115 beats a minute, and complex motor skills start deteriorating after the heart passes 145 beats a minute (p. 8) Fine motor skills would include activities like typing or handwritng, complex motor skills would include doing things like a quarterback accurately throwing to a receiver while running. (pp. 43-44) Gross motor skills would include activities like powerlifting, where strength increases as one's heart beat climbs past the levels previously discussed.

    "We know that when the human body perceived stress, the body increases the production of adrenal hormones. The adrenal hormones increase blood supply to the extremities, thus increasing an individual's strength potential. This explains why gross motor skills, such as power lifting can be performed optimally under high levels of stress. However, an increase in adrenal hormones will also interfere with fine motor skills and accuracy during event performance". (p. 47)

    In his book Siddle appears to say that adrenal production can be caused by both physical and psychological stress. (p. 48) But he does not effectively explain how much of such production is due to psychological stress as verses purely physical stress. Or in other words, if you take someone running laps who has a heart beat of 175 bpm would they have the same amount of adrenaline in their system as if they had 175 bpm as a result of three thugs attacking them?

    Siddle suggests under stress that the fight or flight system activates the release of hormones which in turn increase heart rate. He quotes Benson, H (1975) The Relaxation Response, Avon books, though I, SB, do not know if this book contains good science. Benson says:

    "When we faced with situations that require adjustment of our behavior, and involuntary response increases our blood pressure, heart rate, of breathing, blood flow to the muscles, and metabolosm, preparing us for conflict or escape. When the fight or flight response is evoked, it brings into play the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic, or involuntary, nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system acts by secreting specific hormones; adrenaline or epinephrine and noradrenaline, or norepinephine. These hormones, epinephrine and its related substances, bring about physiologic changes of increased blood pressure, heart rate and body metabolism." (Siddle quoting Benson at pp. 88-89)

    When a person is under extreme stress however, they can become "hypervigilant" which is a mental state "often described as freezing in place and arises when a high level theat is perceived. . . when serious threats of of physical injury [or] of death are imminent and the time to manage the threat is short. . . in its most extreme forms [hypervigilance] consists of an extremely agitated state of panic or near panic. . . Other salient characteristics of hypervigilance are temporary impairment of cognative functioning and defective decision making." (Siddle, pp. 89-90, quoting Janis I.L. and Mann, L. (1977) Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of Conflict, Choice and Commitment) [Siddle does not list the publisher.]

    So here is my hypothesis which is admittedly untested. A professional fighter or someone who fights full contact will of course have adrenaline in their blood when they climb into the ring with someone because they will be under some stress, and their physical activity will raise their heart beat, However, since the match or sparring does not come as a surprise, they will not experience a sudden spike of adrenaline through their system since 1) they are perceptually ready for the physical conflict to start and 2) they have an ingrained response to this stimulus, they know how to grapple and or strike. On the other hand, a civilian who is suddenly assaulted will respond first through a reaction by their sympathetic nervous system involuntary, nervous system. If they do not have a preconditioned response on tap, either through formal training or informal life experience, they have a much higher chance of lapsing into "hypervigilance" and freezing up.

    So if one takes a bunch of people with no combat experience, and conditions them not to respond to a physically threatening experience by freezing up. Then gives them a trained response decreasing their response time, they will have cleared a major hurtle that would have otherwise prevented themselves from any self defense. However, as detractors of RBSD would correctly point out, just because a previously defenseless person has now learned not to freeze up, and a couple of strikes, does not make them a good or competent fighter. They're just better off then they were before. But such conditioning is a crucially useful step because to quote Siddle:

    "The key to successful survival training is finding methods to decrease the students reaction time to a threat stimulis, and provide training which will condition the students to an automatic response without hesitation. This cannot occur through static skill repetition, in which the skill is not practiced without the threat stimulus. Static skill reptition does nothing to program students to perform a skill in the stress of a field application. An automatic response to a specific threat can only occur when the the student s practice a skill in conjuction with a specific level of threat. This is known as the Stimulus/Condition Response Training Principle. This principle is based upon the interaction which occurs during a conditioned response, such as the flinching of a hand away from a hot object (the stimulus)." (Siddle, p. 36)

    Copyright Samuel P. Browning, 2004

    [Post finished, subject matter continued at post #15]
    Last edited by Sam Browning; 7/13/2008 9:39pm at .

  4. #4
    WingChun Lawyer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    São Paulo, Brazil
    Muay Thai, BJJ newbie.
    Can´t wait.

    (err, if you need this space, just send me a PM and I´ll delete this post)
    That civilisation may not sink,
    Its great battle lost,
    Quiet the dog, tether the pony
    To a distant post;
    Our master Caesar is in the tent
    Where the maps are spread,
    His eyes fixed upon nothing,
    A hand under his head.

    - W.B. Yeats

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Shi Ja Quan
    Yes, you can see the similarities between "combatives" and the RBSD systems of today.

    Great idea for a thread Sam.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    white boy jiujitsu
    "any of these programs to enter fighters in NBA competitions,"

    NBA? National Basketball Association?

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Lafayette, Indiana USA
    Mantis, WC, Escrima/BJJ
    Your thesis is dead on.
    Kung fu is translated as "stand around and talk."

  8. #8
    Jekyll's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    On the wrong side of the pond for gong sau
    San shou(tai chi) +judo
    Presumably this will be entirely unargued, except for your analysis of their training methods by the RBSD crowd as they seem to be quite proud of their liniage.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stickx
    It must suck for legit practitioners of tai chi like Cullion to see their art get all watered down into exercise for seniors.
    Those who esteme qi have no strength. ~ Exposition of Insights into the Thirteen Postures Attrib: Wu Yuxiang founder of Wu style tai chi.

  9. #9
    Don Gwinn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Virden, IL

    And Jekyll, if one were to transmit (Edit: ACCURATELY) the teachings of the Fairbairns and Applegates of the world, one would have reason for pride. These were men who developed the methods they taught in real combat to the death (for example, in Shanghai.)

    In a recent debate on point shooting on another forum, one participant pointed out that point shooting need not be evaluated on an either/or basis as either the One True Way of shooting or a goofy aberration. It was, instead, a useful improvement upon the type of pistol work done in Applegate's day, which was one-handed Bullseye competition style, and a precursor to the two-handed shooting revolution led by Jack Weaver and Jeff Cooper in the old-school IPSC.

    We tend to compare the old one-handed shooting methods to methods developed later and find them wanting, which is probably not a very clear evaluation. In a world where the standard combat pistol stance was to blade your body, put your off hand on your belt, and extend the gun hand straight out from the shoulder, point shooting's emphasis on a low stance and quick n' dirty firing was truly revolutionary.

  10. #10
    Gezere's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Rhineland Pfalz, Der Vaderland
    I just love that the majority of sources are drawn from PALADIN PRESS. Don't they owe Ashida Kim alot of money?:D
    Xiao Ao Jiang Hu Zhi Dong Fang Bu Bai (Laughing Proud Warrior Invincible Asia) Dark Emperor of Baji!!!


    Didn't anyone ever tell him a fat man could never be a ninja
    -Gene, GODHAND

    You can't practice Judo just to win a Judo Match! You practice so that no matter what happens, you can win using Judo!
    The key to fighting two men at once is to be much tougher than both of them.
    -Daniel Tosh

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