Thursday, September 27, 2012

SELF-DEFENSE: Southnarc (aka Craig Douglas) - Training Structure & the Criminal Assault Paradigm

Training Structure & the Criminal Assault Paradigm
by Southnarc (aka Craig Douglas)

Today, self defense and protection training is more prolific and available than ever. It seems that on every street corner there’s a school that teaches self defense and in every magazine there’s a new ad every month for the ultimate protection system.

With this market saturation how does the concerned citizen make an informed decision as to what school or instructor offers them the best and most appropriate product?

One area to pay attention to is how the training is structured. More specifically does the instructor have a grasp on, and always keep his material relevant to, the context.

If we are to seek solutions the first thing we have to do is understand the problem.

Most citizens are concerned about the problem of criminal assault and what solutions are the most appropriate for managing this issue.

So with that said, let’s look at the problem of criminal assault and more importantly how training is historically structured.


No criminal wants to get caught or get hurt themselves while carrying out a crime. A criminal will stack the odds in his favor and usually only initiates action when there is a high probability of success. It’s not an issue of ego or a contest of skill with a junkie who’s craving a fix.  It’s about getting paid for the professional violent criminal. So some norms in criminal assault that we see repeated time and time again are:

  • Attack initiated by surprise
  • Range closed by a ruse if surprise cannot be gained
  • The presence of a weapon
  • The presence of another criminal

On the surface this seems to be a simple paradigm that one would think the training industry would always pay homage to. However for the most part, the training industry has failed to stay honest to the problem. How so? Well let’s look at how most training is structured.


To understand where training has failed historically let’s go back and examine our constants in criminal assault.

Attack initiated by surprise

Most training is conducted under circumstances where the trainee is allowed to have equal initiative with his training partner.  You know there’s going to be an attack.  Consequently you can “prep” yourself and think about what you’re going to do.  This can drastically affect the core content of the training.

Range closed by a ruse if surprise cannot be gained

How much training begins with the given technique applied while the student is in the Threat Management stage of a potential confrontation?  How much uncertainty is there in a student’s mind when he’s required to apply a technique in training?

Looking at these first two criminal assault “norms” is a student ever doing anything other than rehearsing a technique or waiting to rehearse a technique?  Is there any mundane task that the student is required to be engaged in, a split second before he’s required to demonstrate his proficiency?

The presence of a weapon

This is particularly absent in empty hand training.  How much of the student’s time is spent working empty hand against weapons versus empty hand to empty hand?

The presence of another criminal

As noted above this is also noticeably absent in most self defense/protection training.

Why?  Because multiple opponents and weapons are difficult problems to deal with.  Most people who train are enthusiasts.  They enjoy it.  No one, after a hard day on the job, maybe working for someone they dislike, wants to go participate in something that leaves them feeling dejected and frustrated.  So we DO the things we’re GOOD at.  And our training devolves into an enjoyable, athletic endeavor that is about as relevant as any other enjoyable, athletic endeavor such as skateboarding or ballroom dancing.

With that said what’s the relevance of holding ourselves to the standard of two rounds in the A-zone at 7 yards in 1.5 seconds from concealment when the criminal is not going to give you a reason to shoot him until he’s right on top of you?

What’s the relevance of standing off at mid-range and swatting at one another with training knives?

What’s the relevance of an extreme close quarter pistol technique that cannot withstand any forward drive by an opponent that is that close?

What’s the relevance of a knife grip that sacrifices strength in favor of maneuverability?

What’s the relevance of seeking an arm bar instead of getting to your feet?

Somebody explain to me how given a limited period of training time, any of these things reflect the context of criminal assault except in the most esoteric way?

So now that we’ve figured out what’s wrong what should the concerned citizen look for in a good trainer or school?

All training, whatever the sub-discipline is should include some concept or model of Awareness and Threat Management, with definitive, real solutions included in the latter.

All training whatever the sub-discipline is should have the core content reflect the reality of unequal initiative and disproportional armament.

All training, whatever the sub-discipline is, should reflect the importance and the value of the other sub-disciplines.  If the “gun guy” eschews empty hand training or the “martial artist” says that your gun will only be taken and used against you, look somewhere else.

It’s important that YOU, the concerned citizen get good information and know what to look for.

I’m a fanatic about contextually underscored training.  We should always be examining the problem and focus our solutions accurately.

Tactics, I’ve come to realize in the citizen self defense world are more often than not, merely paid lip service to.  Most training focuses on technical development of motor skills whether that’s shooting, blade work, or empty hand skills.

After all we must understand the problem, before we can discuss solutions.

You can contact Southnarc via his site:

In case you missed my other Southnarc/Craig Douglas entries I've posted, please check out:



back to top
Stickgrappler's Sojourn of Septillion Steps