When you are in the middle of a fight for your life, is not the time to decide which vital areas on your adversary to strike.  This decision should be made well in advance.  A great acronym to remember four specific striking areas is B.E.A.T.  B.E.A.T is short for Brain, Eyes, Abdomen and Testicles.  These striking areas should be used to distract your adversary long enough for you to exit the threat zone.  They should not be considered blows that will incapacitate.  They might, but most likely they will create a very short time period in which your adversary is not thinking about you but is thinking about pain.  That is your window of opportunity.  RUN!

I was first introduced the B.E.A.T model in Frank Albert’s great book One-Strike Stopping Power – How to Win Street Confrontations with Speed and Skill.  This book is available at www.paladin-press.com.

BRAIN – Rock the brain and you reboot the computer.  Slapping the side of your adversary’s head will usually get their attention and cause a distraction.  If the distraction works, run.  The best self-defense technique is running away from the threat.  Remember that slapping someone is only a distraction; follow-up strikes are obviously necessary if the distraction does not work and you plan on winning this encounter.  Always have a follow-up plan.  Preprogram Murphy’s Law into the equation.  Plan for the worst and when it does not happen, cool!

EYES – If they can not see, it is very hard to find you.  We all should be able to agree that shoving your fingers into the eyes of someone that is attacking you will most likely upset them.  It will also usually cause them to drop or let go of whatever they are holding and retract their hands back towards their eyes.  Again, this is the golden moment for you to exit the threat zone.  Do not stand around admiring your handy work, RUN!

ABDOMEN – Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you?  A good straight punch or better yet, a knee delivered to the abdominal region should do the trick.  Where do you want to strike?  Well, make it simple, and hit them around the navel region.  Drive your strike through the navel; do not just strike the surface.   Here is something to think about: Melchor Menor, a former two-time Muay Thai world champion was tested on the power of his knee strike.  Menor delivered a knee strike to a monitored test dummy, and the power of his knee strike was equal to the power of a 35 mile per hour car crash.  That would certainly cause some destruction!

TESTICLES – Ok, nobody really wants to talk about this one but grabbing the soft area of the testicles and attempting to rip them off will certainly get the attention of any would-be rapist.  Obviously, this is a little more difficult if he still has his pants on.  You will have to grab through a lot of cloth.  The only problem is that the testicles are well protected by the large leg muscles and getting a direct hit is difficult.  A simple strike or flick of the fingers into or towards the groin region will cause just about any man to take a step backwards, or at least flinch. That certainly does not put him out of the fight; however, do not be discouraged. Aim low and hit hard.  If you do get a direct hit, you will have most likely hit payday.  Stun and RUN!

So, there is the B.E.A.T. model.  Train it, practice it and prepare yourself for battle.



I was reading an old Combat Hard Blog post that referenced an article by the Combatives Legend Bob Kasper, entitled “Swamp: How to Make The First Strike Your Last.”  In the article, Bob talked about power in combatives, and the idea that when you strike, you sure as heck better make it count in order to lessen a perpetrator’s commitment to the attack.  Being an average size person, I have always been extremely interested in generating as much force as possible with the my God given body.  SWAMP is a simple acronym for Bob’s five principles of power.  Apply these principles to make all your strikes count and effective break in your opponent’s OODA loop and force him to go on the defense.  Remember you should be driving the bus.

S: Stay relaxed.  You slow yourself down if your muscles are tense.  Try throwing a punch with all the muscles of your arm contracted.  Not very efficient, is it?  Now throw a punch with your arm more relaxed.  Think about how you clench the fist right before impact, but stay loose at every micro-step before that moment.  Explode on impact.  Not easy, and it takes practice.

W: Weapon first.  Kasper says, “Let him feel the technique before he sees it.”  In other words, avoid telegraphing your movement.  This is also takes practice.

A: Acceleration.  Speed is critical.  Slow and steady, like the tortoise, is not going to win this particular race.  Be the hare, and beat him to the punch.

M: Move in the direction of the strike.  For instance, sometimes students will shuffle forward and leave a foot planted instead of bringing it along with them and moving the whole body into a strike.  The body is essentially divided in the effort.  Moving all the mass together as a cohesive unit is a beautiful thing, and makes all the difference in the efficacy of your effort!

P: Plunge.  We talk a lot in class about putting your a** into your strikes.  Not only do you have to move in the direction of the strike, but you have to utilize your bodyweight correctly behind the strike.  I’ve seen 220 pound guys punch with just their arms.  A lot of them are still powerful, but again, they are using just their arms.  Now, what if a 165 pound guy can put every ounce of his weight into his strikes, and strike as fast and decisively as a cobra, who do you think has the advantage?  How powerful do you think the 220 pounders could be with efficient body mechanics?

Use these principles with any technique.  As soon as you perceive the threat, explode.  Force him to change his mind, or diminish him to the point when he is no longer a threat.  As I often say, “This guy brought you to this dance.  Okay, buddy.  Now, we’re going to dance.”  Just make sure you are leading!

Practice Deploying your Firearm!


I have had the wonderful privilege of training with some of the best firearms instructors in the world.  I have learned so many things about gun fighting and pray that I never have to use any of these skills.  I have fired thousands and thousands of rounds on every type of civilian, military and law enforcement ranges but the one skill that I have practiced without shooting an actual bullet or worked with one of these professional instructors is the actual deployment of my firearm.  Yes, drawing the firearm out of the holster.

All the training in the world amounts to nothing if you can’t get your weapon out of the holster and able to engage your threat.  The practicing of deploying your primary and backup firearm should be done from open carry, concealed carry, standing, kneeling (one or two knees), seated, prone (on your back, on your stomach, or on either side), in your vehicle, in your bed, and just about any other place you can think of. You should also practice while you are defending yourself from an adversary attack. All this training can all be done without firing any rounds and it cost absolutely nothing, except your time.

My good friend and instructor, Hock Hockheim has taught many students to practice drawing your firearm from the Stop 6 positions.  These are the six common stopping or sticking points/collisions in a fight.

Stop 1 – The Stand-off/Showdown/Interview

Stop 2 – Hands on Hands/Fingers in Fingers

Stop 3 – The Forearm Crash Collision

Stop 4 – The Biceps/Neck Line Collision

Stop 5 – The Bear Hug “Clinch”

Stop 6 – The Ground Stop

Once you have worked through the Stop 6 positions, the next step is conducting a few “Pressure” drills or what Tony Blauer calls Ballistic Micro-Fightsä.  These realistic scenarios & drills are conducted with all participants wearing some type of protective equipment and problem solving is learned in a controlled but physically demanding environment.  The end goal of the training is the justified deployment of the firearm to resolve a deadly force situation.

Stay tune for some future clips on exactly what I am talking about in this Blog post.  Until then, train smart, train safe and train each and everyday!


Proud Member!


I am very proud to be associated with the Gung Ho Chuan Association!  There are several location to find out more information about this group.




I am working diligently to get enough people together to host Mr. Fred Bauer, Director of the GHCA and 2nd Regent of the American Society of Arwrology at the Combat Hard Training Center in October 2013.

If you are interested, please email me immediately at steve@combathard.com.


Preemptive Strikes!

Mosley Knife Combatives_1387_edited-1

Many self-defense practitioners and self defense legal experts believe that if the situation is so clear-cut, and one feels certain violence is unavoidable, the defender has a much better chance of surviving by landing the first blow and gaining the immediate upper hand.  I totally agree with this.  In fact, statistics have shown that a single well-placed strike in such a circumstance has usually been all that is necessary to end the conflict.  If we get lucky, we might just knock the attacker out; even if this was not the result, the first strike is usually enough to distract the attacker so that one can either run or follow-up with more effective strikes.

“When it is clear to you that you or anyone dependent upon you for protection is about to suffer physical violence at the hands of extralegal assailants, attack, and keep on attacking until you are safe.” – Professor Bradley J. Steiner

Your Self Defense arsenal should include “preemptive” (offensive) action on your part.

“An attempt to strike another, when sufficiently near
so that there is danger, the person assailed may strike first,
and is not required to wait until he has been struck.”

– 16th Century English Self Defense Law

First, let us consider the situation of what I refer to as an individual’s preemptive self-offense.

Hypothetically speaking, you are face to face with the assailant, and you know you are about to be tackled.  What should you do?  You might look for an improvised weapon or other tool.  But what if these are unavailable?  If you plan to hit and kick your way out of the situation, should you be the first one to strike? The answer is yes, you should.

Preemptive Attack

A preemptive attack, i.e., physically hitting someone else before you yourself have suffered actual physical damage, would be justified for an individual if, in an emergency situation, he had a rational (reasonable) expectation that another person was about to assault him.

Lawful “preemptive” self offense is simply the act of landing the first-blow in a situation that has reached a point of no hope for de-escalation or escape. If you are walking alone down a dark street, and you notice a suspicious person approaching you, what should you do?  Should you wait until they have their hands on you to start preparing to fight back?  No!  What you do before the physical attack begins can have a huge impact on the outcome of the attack.  If you know an attack is imminent, or you have a strong gut feeling that you might be in danger, it is time to begin mental preparation.  If you have a stun gun, pepper spray, or another self defense device, it is also time to make sure it is immediately accessible and not buried in the bottom of your bag.  Many people shy away from making the first move for several reasons.  One may be a lack of confidence in fighting skills.  Another may be fear of legal aftermath—will one get in trouble for initiating the attack?

The short answer is, no.   Whether you use a self defense device, or protect yourself using your fists, as long as you can articulate that the attack was indeed imminent, the law allows you to protect yourself physically.

It is often unwise to wait for your attacker to get his hands on you before you put up a defense.  In fact, you will often find it very difficult to defend yourself if you wait until you are already in this situation.  By allowing the attack to unfold without creating a pre-emptive offense, you lose control, or the upper hand of the situation.  It is always best to run away from the situation, if at all possible, but if not, you should still be the one to make the first offensive move.  If the attack is truly inevitable, you have no reason to wait.

Intimidation is a crime.  The definition of intimidation is this: if someone verbally threatens you, even if they have not yet touched you, they have committed the crime of intimidation, which is considered in most states as unlawful force or coercion.  If someone threatens you by shouting, “I’m going to kill you!” they have already committed a crime of intimidation.  You should, in fact, you must assume that they mean what they say and immediately take whatever action you feel is appropriate under the circumstances!  Do not wait for confirmation when they actually attempt to murder you!  I believe that this statement by Professor Steiner truly sums up my thoughts on this topic, “Innocent human beings cannot be expected to wait until they are actually suffering what may be permanent or lethal injuries before undertaking necessary self-protective action.“

There are a lot of martial arts teachers who are divided over the issue of the pre-emptive strike. On the one hand, some traditional training begins with the “assailant” attacking the student.  As a result, many students think that they can wait for someone to attack them, at which point the student deftly escapes the attack using their martial arts techniques.  Although these strategies work well in practice, will you really be able to escape such a situation by beginning to fight back only after the attack has already begun?  You might if you have invested some time in training for the surprise assault and utilizing some form of default position.  I would rather position myself for the preemptive attack and let the bad guy play catch-up, not the other way around.  Keep this important fact in mind: fighting in a martial arts competition and real fighting on the street are two completely different things, requiring two completely different mindsets and training.

As a self defense instructor, you should encourage the preemptive attack in real self defense situations.  In other words, hit them before they hit you and keeping hitting them until they are no longer a threat to you.

Ax Hand Strike

In the Pistol Combatives curriculum, the Ax Hand is the very first empty hand techniques taught.  It’s very easy to perform, especially under stress, and extremely versatile.  I usually teach both the long and short ax hand.  I prefer Combatives Legend Dennis Martin’s description of how to form the ax hand.  Extend the fingers AND the thumb, which makes the hand very rigid.  He explains that extending the thumb helps to keep the hand from cupping.

I use the short ax hand to the trachea as part of an attack sequence.  Project the edge of the hand forward, without cocking it.  A little stomp that others call the “drop step”,  gives you more power with the strike (the foot falls the same time the blow is dealt).  I’ve never been able to find consistent information on how much pressure it takes to crush the trachea, but suffice it to say, you will get someone’s attention and it will HURT.

The long ax hand is used within an attack sequence, as well.  The body is turned slightly, as the hips are engaged to generate power.  With a chopping motion, we generally strike to the side of the neck, around the brachial plexus origin.

Combatives Expert, Kelly McCann applies the ax hand from two separate starting positions.  The first is what he calls the “subservient stance”.  The hands are folded together, resting against the body at the area of the groin, and the chin is tucked.  From here, he loops the ax hand around in an arc towards the side of the neck.  He also utilizes the drop step (same leg as striking hand) here to add power to the strike.  He emphasizes bringing the other hand up to a guard position.  The other starting position is one we also use: the Jack Benny Stance.  Like with our version of the long ax hand, he turns the body a quarter turn as if turning away (shoulder comes up here) and strikes, in an arc again towards the neck/brachial plexus region.

By the way, if you don’t know what a Jack Benny Stance looks like, a picture is truly worth a thousand words.  Just Google, “Jack Benny” and you will see multiple pictures of this amazing individual.

Rex Applegate, in his book, Kill or Get Killed, describes the edge of the hand blow (i.e. the ax hand) as “valuable because it can be utilized at vulnerable spots of the body which would not be susceptible to blows from the fist or heel of the hand.”  He keeps the fingers together and the wrist locked.  Like McCann, Applegate also emphasizes keeping the fingers and thumb extended to avoid “clenching” the hand.  In application, he states that the elbow should be bent, and that the strike be a chopping motion, with a hit and retraction, in order to localize the force within a small area.  He explains that this increases the effectiveness.  This makes a lot of sense when you look at the targets: forearm, windpipe, base of skull, under the nose, bridge of nose, base of spine, and of course, the side of the neck.  Above all targets, he prefers the testicles.

On Dennis Martin’s Combatives Forum, http://www.cqbservices.com/, he has a quote by E.A. Sykes, describing the ax hand:

The most deadly blows without weapons are with the side of the hand. All the force is concentrated in one area.  The effect of these blows is obtained by the speed with which they are delivered, rather than the weight behind them.

This is right in line with Applegate’s thoughts on the subject.

Dennis believes that the ax hand is highly underestimated (probably more so in recent times, I imagine).  He also utilizes and highly recommends the vertical ax hand: “like the Hammerfist, it can be used to a crouching assailant, targeting the neck, spine, kidneys”.

The use of the vertical ax hand on a different target—the top of the shoulder, close to the neck is also a technique of choice.  I am a big Star Trek fan, so I often talk about Captain Kirk using this chop in fights on the TV show.  There is a nerve motor point here: the Suprascapular.  I can attest to the fact that this one hurts and is extremely effective.

So there you have it–the ax hand from many different perspectives.  As with any technique, train it in a multitude of ways, find what works for you and your body, and tuck it into your toolbox.  The ax hand is brutally effective, tried and true; keep in mind that the simplest techniques are always the best when you’re under pressure.  Keep this in mind, ALSO: some of these strikes can distract with pain, some can cause temporary motor dysfunction, and some CAN CAUSE DEATH.  Remember: even with empty-hand techniques, you are a deadly weapon, and you must accept full responsibility.  Train safely and responsibly.