All self-defense and defensive tactics instructors need to get their a$$ kicked!

Before you get your blood pressure and pulse rate up, hear me out.

Let me take you on a journey back in time.  My law enforcement career started in January of 1995. My formal pursuit of legitimate tough-guy status started a few years before that. I researched various martial arts and defensive tactics programs. Just like in the medical community, law enforcement has a plethora of classes aimed at making department level instructors. I took every one I had the opportunity to.

I immersed myself in training for any and every possible cop vs. bad guy scenario.  Ironically, it seemed the more I trained, the more I realized what all I did not know. I found I had two major fears- facing an attacker armed with a knife and the other was being choked out from behind by an attacker.

Short of shooting either of those from a distance, most of the police style defensive tactics, Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Judo I trained in, provided me little in the way of real-world skills against the people I feared the most. It was those fears that caused me to seek out and train for what I feared. You don’t go to a boxing school to learn wrestling and you certainly wouldn’t train to use the blade at a gun range. So my fears led me to train in both grappling and edged weapon systems to augment my striking, baton and firearm skills.

So let’s get to the a$$-kicking instructors need.

Flash forward several years. I opened my own martial arts schools and ran at least one for nearly a decade.  In all my years of running a school, I had police officers come and train and I never charged them a penny for them to work out with us. I did this because I felt officers never got enough hands-on training time. Many loved to shoot, but rarely trained their empty-hand skills. Perspective- How many people does the average officer shoot during their career? However, how many people will the officer touch with his hands during a career?

While police academies  call their hand-to-hand training “Defensive Tactics” there is nothing the average police officer learns that is “defensive” in the academy. Their end goal is taking custody of a person suspected in committing a crime, therefore their skill set is based upon acts of aggression, the taking custody of that person. Defensive means just that- defense. In law-enforcement defensive tactics is a play on words, they actually do mechanics of arrest and control during so called defensive tactics traininig.

I was on patrol one night when I ran across one of the troopers that trained with us. He stated a new trooper was moving into the zone and wanted to know if he could come train with us. I immediately said “of course”. The trooper then said “He is supposed to be some MMA guy”. To which I replied… “Yeah, everyone claims to be today”. I said that because a person who never trained a day in their life could step into an amateur MMA ring, get knocked out or submitted in seconds…and what do they get to call themselves forever? Yup, an MMA fighter.

A few weeks pass and the new trooper arrived for class. I was about 50 lbs heavier than him and although I was in good shape, he was in amazing shape. In my experience teaching officers over the years, the one thing I found was they had a difficult time with the concept of having a training partner. They would always have the police academy mentality of fast/hard and win! Having this understanding, I would spar with everyone, especially the new officers first. I did this to make sure they were not going to hurt someone by trying to be too dominant or competitive early on.

As me and the new trooper are getting ready to spar, I noticed his training equipment in his bag was similar to mine. The real hard contact type stuff. Not something that came from a “Take My Dough” and buy your belt type joint.

We are wearing 6oz MMA gloves and a mouthpiece for sparring. He and I touch gloves and the match is on. We exchanged a few punches and kicks in which I immediately recognized he had very good striking skills. All was going fine until we clinched in the middle of the ring. I recall how shocked I was that when we locked up, I couldn’t move him. Before I could process what was happening, I was taken to the ground and submitted.

Immediately I jumped to my feet. I looked around the room and noticed all of the students and training partners had just witnessed what had happened. My brain was spinning. I was like… “No way. This is my effin house. You don’t come in here and do that to me!” I lightly jumped around, shook my arms, rolled my shoulders, raised my gloved hand and said “Let’s go again“. I mean, here is this guy, who I outweigh by 50 lbs AND this is my school…I couldn’t let this go. No way, not me.

We touched gloves and began to spar some more. You want to know what happened? I experienced that definition of insanity… you know, the whole trying the same thing expecting a different outcome…This went on for a couple of weeks, me getting my butt kicked by what appeared to be effortless skills.  I finally had a glimmer of reason enter into my brain and I asked him to formally be our grappling coach. I was so honored he accepted.

Him kicking my a$$, in front of so many witnesses made me hungry. Really hungry. Yes I could strike well, yes I am skilled with sticks, knives and firearms…but my grappling was limited to a few offensive moves that worked well against people of equal or lesser skills. I learned quickly that grappling with a grappler is a bad idea. As is boxing a boxer.

About 2 years later, while rolling, I caught my coach in a submission hold. I was like… I got you now sucker! A worked and worked to sink the lock in ever so deep as he wiggled and found the only space I failed to remove and ta-da he escaped.  I was so mad, I threw my mouthpiece across the gym, ripped off my gloves and stomped around like a child in a tantrum.  It hadn’t dawned on me yet how much he helped me or how much I had grown. Heck, we even started going to other gyms and paying a mat fee just so we had more people to roll with.

.It was around this time it dawned on me I learned so much more by losing, by getting my a$$ kicked than I ever did as the “winner”. You see, with winning, at least for me anyway, I got complacent. I began to have an inflated ego and a perception of my skill level that was far from accurate. The a$$ kicking I received help put things back into perspective.

No matter how good I got, someone was able to school me. That is what drove me, what made me continue to train every chance I got. I wanted to train so much that I would be a real tough guy. I wanted to be able to beat people up should the need arise. My paradigm shift came once I got old… The older I get, the younger and faster the competition is. I have spent the majority of my life training to be a tough guy and the one thing I found is there is always someone tougher, faster, stronger and definitely meaner.

Now I get to travel the country and teach self-defense my way. I do so by defining what a win is in self-defense. Our version of a win is prevention or escape. Not beating someone up or submitting them, but escape without every throwing a punch if possible, and if forced to, to use the least amount of physical force needed to escape, preferably unharmed.


The more I trained, the nicer I became. The more polite I became. I saw the usefulness of kindness as a self-defense tactic. Through training I learned the only person I could control was me. I learned that possessing the skills to fight doesn’t give you a blank check to use them.

 So, if you are a self-defense instructor, martial arts or defensive tactics instructor, I encourage you to get your a$$ kicked. It will fire you up and get you hungry again. When you are hungry, you never stop learning. As far as my pursuit to be recognized a legitimate tough guy…I don’t get Christmas cards from those who are, so I guess I never made it 🙂

Thanks for the a$$ kickings!