Friday, May 17, 2019

Against One Who Scares Us by Badger Johnson

The Predator Who Scares Us

One of the more interesting comments made by a person in the original Usenet group rec.martial.arts, allegedly female MA-ist is this, regarding use of self-defense methods and tools:

…against the person who scares me…

All too often we see demonstrations by compliant people, sometimes by a person with a partner who is female or much smaller than they are, or just another student in their class.

Sparring vs fighting for your life
While sparring, in a class we are just playing a game with a fellow student, exchanging moves, almost taking turns.

Though in tournaments it’s different, generally you are matched with someone of similar if not equal skill, and you are trying to ‘score points’. Of course, modern MMA and sub-grappling tournaments the action is faster, somewhat more dangerous. Participants have higher skill and to the layperson seem quite above their ability.

Who Actually Needs Self-defense Training?
Let’s talk about actual self-defense. We sometimes see very large, burly, 6’3”+ people giving a demo, and giving opinions on what to do. But in truth, the people who need self-defense are smaller, female, younger, the elderly, or even the partially disabled.

A technique should be comprised of “non-attribute-based methods”, which a less physically endowed can use. In some cases it should be admitted that for a 5’5” female (or smaller person) to attempt to use a physical move in hand-to-hand is not going to be successful. In that case the smaller female needs to have a force multiplier, such as a weapon or even a firearm, or perhaps a partner who might also be armed.

Compliant Demonstration Partners
When a demo is shown it should not be done with a compliant partner, but, if possible with a person who is actually a threat against the person showing the technique. Now, this is not always possible as there are some very large and muscular persons who lead martial arts schools (such as Mas Oyama, Bruce Lee or Rickson Gracie). In that event the demo is going to be misleading. Those adepts can make the simplest move effective. Compared to them every opponent is essentially unskilled. Thus following their example, what is sometimes called the ‘Founder Problem’, is sometimes less helpful for the normal person.

Attributes and abilities
Let’s look at attributes and abilities. Sometimes people talk about being able to use martial arts or self-defense moves against another person who they might claim is untrained in them. But it does not address the skills that an actual predator may possess. A true predator is someone who has significant experience using force and persuasion on another person and has a long history of success. Experience, you could say, is the ultimate teacher.

The Untrained, But High Attribute Athlete
If you consider a person who is untrained in martial arts but who is a professional athlete in another sport, for example a running back in a pro-football league, who routinely goes up against other players who are wearing pads and helmets, essentially body armor, and who are using steroids or other performance enhancing substances, you get a real sense as to just how ineffective a physical move might be against such a person who is physically attacking someone.

Could the typical martial artist (non-professional) use a grab release or a throw against such a person who was determined to defeat them? Why don’t people we see doing demos bring in such a person to show their moves against? Why wouldn’t Wing Chun players get a college level grappler to come in and let them show their ‘anti-grappling’ moves? Generally the answer is the don’t understand the scope and depth of the problem or the weakness in their approach, so they treat it somewhat lightly.

It’s because the basis of almost all traditional martial arts and most self-defense instructors relies on a somewhat compliant opponent to make their moves work. Imagine a typical demo where the instructor has a 6’5” pro football running back as their demo partner who is trying to win a bet for $100 or who is told the instructor harmed their child (as motivation), trying to show the typical ‘stick your arm out and I’ll do five moves and hit you’ sequence. They wouldn’t dare.

Watching Demonstrations Closely
So the next time you watch a demo, think about how it might work (or not) against a person who really scares the person demonstrating it. Don’t let someone show a 5’5” female being attacked by a 6’2” partner and the female throwing the partner around - it’s a fantasy. Without such fantasies, one might say that trying to use hand-to-hand techniques in self-defense is basically a high risk, low benefit approach. Against a serious self defense threat one needs a disparity of force (such as a weapon, particularly a firearm) or a partner who is trained to assure a positive outcome.

Don’t be fooled by subtly compliant demos showing small people beating large people in a ‘sparring’ match. Even if the smaller person is using non-attribute-based methods, you can assume the opponent is unlikely to be highly motivated, and maybe even over-awed by the person’s reputation. Challenge your instructor to base their methods against a motivated person who scares them.

Professional Athletes vs Amateur Players
Above all remember that amateur athletes playing pick-up ball can’t hope to beat a pro athlete, and martial arts should always be considered a hobby, not a first option against a real threat. Always seek to deescalate, defuse, escape, evade, partner up, and if allowable by law, be armed. Even being armed is not very reliable unless you are partnered up, which is why law enforcement was traditionally done with a partner who could stand back outside of the reactive range and provide cover and back up.

Final Thoughts
Against a predator that scares you, the method should be a layered defense in the home, partnering in the field, and awareness of legal ramifications should a firing solution be required.

In Summary
  1. Find ways to understand your opponent, and how not to underestimate the threat.
  2. Always partner up. If you don’t have one enlist one. Remember predators also work with a partner.
  3. You can’t do it alone, even if heavily armed. This is why traditionally LE works as a team. One in the red zone, one outside seeing clearly.
  4. Use a layered defense - don’t rely on a single option.
  5. Don’t overestimate the effectiveness of single self-defense moves, or collections of tricks.
  6. Learn how to break down demonstrated moves - watch the opponent not the demonstrator.
  7. Appreciate the necessity for having energy, timing, and motion or footwork in your approach to self-defense.
  8. Stress-test your approach and methods, using internal methods - target practice, and external methods simmunition or paintball gaming
  9. Evaluate your weak points and the vulnerable areas in day-to-day practices, particularly parking lots, driving and after-dark activities.
  10. From time-to-time, tear down your methods and build them back up to refresh outdated methods.
  11. Remember that high attribute methods degrade over time.
  12. Train with your partner using internal and external methods. Develop emergency cues for action.

Please check out Badger Johnson's other essays:

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Inktober 2018 - Day #2: Fundamentals: Grips

Welcome to Inktober 2018 Day 2!

Inktober is an event where artists draw 1 picture for each day in the month of October. This year's focus/theme will be on the staff/spear with my notes. Please forgive my crappy picture of the page.



  1. Palm Up/Down grip - Fight initially at long ranges and can rapidly shift hands to center of staff for close-quarters. Powerful long and short strikes using 'push-pull' action of the hands.
  2. Palms Down grip - For close-quarters and levering. Effective for blocking and pushing.
  3. Baseball bat grip - Facilitates rapid, circular, flourishing attacks, where the staff makes a series of vertical spins to block and strike. Best for 5-6 feet staves. If hands closer together, can deliver powerful strikes like holding a baseball bat.
  4. Single-end grip - Used at long range. Facilitates long- and medium- range fights. Can deliver fast long-range thrusts.
  5. Reverse grip - Good for ascending strikes or levering between legs for takedowns/trips.


  1. Some grips may be better for attacks, blocks or both.
  2. Practice various grips in various situations.


  1. McLemore, Dwight C. "The Fighting Staff". Paladin Press, 2009.
  2. Demura, Fumio. "Bo:  Karate Weapon of Self-Defense". Ohara Publications, 1976.
  3. Varady, Joe. "The Art and Science of Staff Fighting". YMAA Publication Center, 2016.

My drawings for Inktober 2018 (this will be updated daily to add links to each subsequent picture in the series):

Inktober 2017's focus was predominately knifefighting and if you want to check it out, please visit my Projects page.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Inktober 2018 - Day #1: Fundamentals: Staff Lengths

Welcome to Inktober 2018 Day 1!

Inktober is an event where artists draw 1 picture for each day in the month of October. There is an official prompt list for the picture of each day. Last year, I put my own spin to Inktober by focusing each drawing on the martial arts. After the first few pictures, I decided to focus on 1 theme for the whole month. Last year's focus was knifefighting and if you want to check it out, please visit my Projects page.

This year's focus/theme will be on the staff/spear. I am ambitious with this project, will do my best to post 1 picture a day. I also will be jotting down notes to each drawing as after all, I'm trying to learn staff/spear. Additionally, I need to hone my 'gesture drawing' skills as it will be beneficial for notes taking after a martial arts class/seminar. Drawing and notes will be on an 8.5" x 11" paper and I will collect them into a folder.



  1. " shall stand upright, holding the staff upright close by your body, with your left hand, reaching with your right hand your staff as high as you can, and then allow to that length a space to set both your hands, when you come to fight, wherein you may conveniently strike, thrust, and ward, & that is the just length to be made according to your stature."
    ~George Silver's Paradoxes of Defense (1599)
  2. George Silver is saying length of staff is determined by one's height.
  3. Waist height and shoulder height - best to use sword techniques
  4. Some Chinese styles consider eyebrow height as ideal
  5. Chinese and Germans used 8'-12' staves.


  1. Shoulder height or shorter, use the staff as a sword.
  2. Eyebrow height (~5') up to 12', use staff techniques.


  1. McLemore, Dwight C. "The Fighting Staff". Paladin Press, 2009.
  2. Lindholm, David. "Fighting with the Quarterstaff". Chivalry Bookshelf, 2006.

My drawings for Inktober 2018 (this will be updated daily to add links to each subsequent picture in the series):

Saturday, August 11, 2018

In Memory of: Bob Orlando (Oct 26, 1944 - Aug 11, 2016)

Bob Orlando passed away 2 yrs ago on this date. Bob Orlando lost his long fight with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Bob Anselmo Orlando
Lakewood, Colorado
Oct 26, 1944 - Aug 11, 2016

As tribute, I'm archiving his "Author of the Month" entry from the now defunct Paladin Press.

Author of the Month

BOB ORLANDO -- September 1996

Bob Orlando was introduced to the martial arts while on active duty in the U.S. Marines (1961-1964). However, it was not until after he left the service that the flicker of interest kindled overseas became his consuming fire and he began serious study in Chinese kenpo-karate. Shortly thereafter he switched to kung fu, studying under Al Dacascos (who was then teaching in Denver, Colorado) for three years until a back operation made it impossible to continue in that high-kicking style. It was back to Chinese kenpo, where Bob received his first-degree blackbelt from Dr. John P. Cochran. Although Bob has subsequently earned additional rank, he prefers to say that he is a student of the arts and leave it at that. "Rank," he says, "is excess baggage. It becomes a hindrance to learning because everyone expects that you already know everything."
Ever a student of the arts, Bob's quest for knowledge has taken him into aikido, iaido, arnis de mano, and escrima. However, what has impacted him the most are the years spent studying Chinese kuntao and Indonesian pentjak silat under Dutch-Indonesian master Willem de Thouars. After nearly 12 years of training with de Thouars, Bob received his teaching certificate from him in 1994. He now owns and operates his own martial arts school in Denver.
In addition to authoring Indonesian Fighting Fundamentals: The Brutal Arts of the Archipelago, Bob, a graduate of a Jesuit university, has also written numerous articles for both national and local publications and has just completed his second book, Martial Arts America: A Western Approach to Eastern Arts, which he expects to have published sometime next year.

No longer a tournament competitor, Bob still supports tournament and sport karate. As a founding member and past director of the Colorado Karate Association (CKA) -- a nonprofit organization that works to provide competitors with a positive tournament environment -- Bob believes that the arts' sporting element still provides training benefits for the serious practitioner. He currently serves as one of the CKA's top referees. 

Although he is not a "professional" martial artist, Bob, a computer professional for more than 30 years, still considers himself a "full-time" martial artist, because he studies and trains constantly. His school is a small one, and that's just the way he wants it. "Our school is our laboratory. There, we test everything from the practicality of forms training and techniques to the latest craze in self-defense. We have a formal curriculum -- from white to black belt -- but it is not set in stone. For us, the concrete is never quite dry."
Of his own abilities, Bob says, "I have many skills. After nearly three decades in the arts, I ought to. But my skills came not because of any natural talent, but because I worked very hard to get to where I am today. My fortés are my analytical mind and my ability to share what I know with others. I take the complicated and make it simple. I am a teacher."
An experienced seminar presenter, Bob is available for seminars and may be reached by email at

Index of Paladin Press site archived pages:

Stickgrappler's Note: I am guessing the Paladin site will be shut down at the end of the 2017 year and I'm archiving select Paladin Press pages to my blog to preserve an essential part of martial arts from 1970-2017. Archiving some of the Paladin "Author of the Month".

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Not Martial Trained, But Fighting Fit by Badger Johnson

Not Martial Trained, But Fighting Fit.

Let’s say you wanted to be good at fighting but did not want to study a martial art. What would you do?

As I mentioned earlier, I did a few things as a kid that made me a good fighter and I didn’t realize it.

I marched in a HS band, football games and parades. Those parades were from 3-5 miles long as I recall. The Macy’s parade is 5.5 miles. We marched in a relatively flat location in Tidewater, Va. I played a trombone which is not easy to play loudly and not light to carry for that long. We also dressed in wool uniforms with parade dress shoes and plumed hat. We were also required to ‘high step it’ when marching especially since the trombones were in the front. This gave me good cardio and increased my lung power (intercostals and diaphragm).

Around the age of 15 I built a log cabin about 10’ by 12’ about six big logs high, and dug out the floor to have an underground part. I used a hand axe, not a long axe. It took a couple months of daily chopping, dragging, digging and notching. I didn’t realize how much forearm strength it would give me, it was something I did for fun. Very good for shoulders and forearms and grip.

I delivered papers on a regular bike, I think one-speed with a huge basket on the front. It took about forty minutes to deliver them, but I had to pedal about 1/2 mile to pick them up and then 1/2 mile back. That gave me leg strength and added to my ‘wind’.

I lived near a wooded area so we were always climbing trees. I was the best at the rope climb in gym class.

So, I would say to build a fighting base, work on the following:

  1. Overdevelop the forearms, calves, shoulders and neck (to absorb strikes?). Forearms and hands give you extra grip-fighting capability. Calves give you the ability to be explosive. Shoulders allow strength in striking and also endurance to hold your hands up in guard. Practice some kind of jumping, even if sandlot basketball.
  2. Work on method to develop your cardio in the five ranges, and include burst, which is explosive ability for a few vital seconds. You can get this sprinting up hills, dragging a weighted sled and pedaling a bike uphill. (You also improve your lung power when playing a brass instrument).
  3. Play games. Frisbee, basketball pickup games, any running games, tag, or volleyball or soccer in school. This gives you ability to change direction and start and stop.
  4. Learn some kind of dancing. Again, that gives you cardio without really noticing it. It gives you rhythm and timing. You also get rhythm by playing a musical instrument. You get exposed to grace notes and subdividing the beat. This is good for broken rhythm.
  5. Use handheld tools. We played stick fighting and chopped trees and dug underground forts and shoveled snow and cut grass.

What about grappling? Well we grappled and wrestled as kids but without a lot of guidance. I did a semester of wrestling in grade school and junior high so I had an idea of what to do. I’d say this is an area where you most need some formal training. It’s reasonable, say around the age of 15-18 to get some BJJ training and to work on takedowns and grip fighting.

So without all of the formal martial arts stuff, bowing and kata and trying to kick high, you’d be a pretty formidable fighter when needed, though you might not win any formal championships, but again, how many people really need that. I was just living the life of a kid and young adult in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

It’s about building layers. Some attribute development through other base training, some focused work with a goal is needed. You might also need to have a role in mind, a temporary person or idea you put out there as a beacon or idol. But later you become your own hero.

© Badger Johnson, August 2018

Please check out Badger Johnson's other essays:


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