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Modern Combatives Books & Videos

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All reviews and articles by Allen Reed unless otherwise attributed.  Some links may be under construction (as of 7/23/09)

Modern Combatives

Title: Effective Defense
Author: Gila Hayes
Publisher: The Firearms Academy of Seattle
Read and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed (Jan04)

Gila Hayes is a staff instructor at the Firearms Academy of Seattle as well as being an instructor at Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute. Hayes is well known for teaching women how to shoot both on the range and through her articles in a number of magazines. 
Hayes’ book is aimed at the woman who wants to learn to use a gun.  However, any man who is also interested in the same thing should not be put off by the use of the female pronoun thoughout the book. Hayes provides excellent information on both the philosophy of self defense as well as the technical details of choosing a gun for self defense whether it is a handgun, rifle or shotgun.


Title: Weapons and Tactics for Personal Defense
Editor: James Bartel
Publisher: Personal Defense Group, Inc.
Read and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed   (Feb04)

Weapons and Tactics is a monthly newsletter with short articles for the concerned citizen and martial artist. The articles focus mostly on how to plan for and deal with violent crime, rather than how to use martial arts techniques. 
This is a very good newsletter in that it teaches many of the philosophical and tactical concepts that most martial arts magazines do not. I would recommend any civilian concerned with dealing with violent crime subscribe to Weapon and Tactics and share it friends and family.


Title: Riddle of Steel (set of two video tapes)
Author: James Keating
Publisher: Paladin Press
Viewed and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed  (Feb04)

James Keating has an extensive background in Oriental martial arts. He has been studying martial arts since the 1960's. His studies include the arts of judo, jujutsu, karate and kung fu. He also has experience with Filipino knife arts.
Keating runs Combat Technologies (Com Tech) in Washington State. He has been running the annual Riddle of Steel camp since the early 1990's.
This two-tape set is not a how-to on the use of the knife for defense. Rather it introduces some of the concepts and techniques taught at the Riddle of Steel. The techniques shown on the first tape will be very familiar to anyone who has ever studied the Filipino knife arts. The second tape goes into the use of the bowie knife. 
Although this tape does not deal with Keating’s entire system of using the knife, it is a good representative sample of what he teaches. It certainly made this reviewer more interested in taking a class from Keating in the very near future.


Mental Preparation for Confrontation, by C. Allen Reed, Kaiden   @2001 C. Allen Reed   file_image.cmp  (Jul04)  


Title:  Ultimate Combat Conditioning: The Video with Sensei Mike Reeves and Robert G. Yetman Jr.
Publisher:  Paladin Press ( in DVD and VHS formats, approx. 60 minutes running time, $39.95 retail
Viewed and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed  (Feb06)

I live in a rural area so do not have easy access to major gym facilities. I am always looking for new ways to train that do not require me to travel to a gym. I also argue that for thousands of years warriors and athletes, such as those in the ancient Greek Olympics, trained without use of major apparatus. This video by Mike Reeves gives me a lot of new ways to train and train hard.
This video is a companion to the book by the same name, also available from Paladin Press. The video is set up in seven sections. Each section highlights different aspects of fitness. The exercises in each section show alternate uses of body weight exercises, improvised easily found objects, a partner or apparatus in a gym to work the same part of the body.
     The first section is on warming up and stretching. In this section Reeves demonstrates a warm up exercise using a broom stick or just your body, then goes on to demonstrate leg stretches using a chair, a partner or again just your own body. 
The second section of the video is on cardiac fitness. In this section, Reeves introduces the use of a weighted vest to help kick up the resistance when you are walking or running. A quick web search found various models and weight levels for these vests in the $100 to $200 range.
A cheaper method of adding resistance when walking or running is also demonstrated by Reeves: tying an old tire to a weight belt. Then drags the tire on the ground while walking or running.
The next section has Reeves demonstrating how to work on upper body strength. Again, Reeves suggests using a weighted vest when doing push ups and pull ups. Reeves also shows how to use a cinder block, boulder or log to do common weight lifting exercises. If you do have a gym nearby, Reeves also shows common exercises using free weights to work on your upper body strength.
Following the section on upper body strength, Reeves moves onto showing lower body exercises. In this section Reeves shows exercises for the legs that can be done with your own body weight, such as leap frogs or lunges while carrying a log on your shoulders.
In the fourth section, Reeves changes gears and teaches striking and kicking techniques for use in street confrontations. There really is nothing new here for the martial artist who has trained in karate or any other oriental martial art that teaches the use of such techniques. However, Reeves makes his instruction clear and simple to follow for those who have not trained in these systems. 
I do have one major concern about the language Reeves uses when he teaches these techniques. He mentions that these strikes can be lethal. However, he does not explain the legal implications of when and where lethal use of force can be used in self defense.
The next-to-last section of the video has Reeves and his partner showing how to toughen up your skin and muscles to help absorb strikes if you get involved in a fight. Again, the experienced martial artist will be familiar with most of these types of body conditioning exercises. For those who are not familiar with this type of exercise, it should be emphasized that when you do these exercises you don’t need to use a lot of force to build up your resistance.
The final section of the video has Reeves and his partner demonstrating how the body-toughening exercises can then be tested by doing breaking techniques. Reeves has his partner break 2 x 2's on parts of Reeves’ body. This section is little over the top and these techniques should not be done by the inexperienced. Also, when watching these techniques, pay attention to the fact that Reeves is very careful not to have his partner hit him with the Center of Percussion, the most powerful part of the strike, but instead in about the middle of the 2 x 2.
When purchasing this video, be aware it is not a workout tape where you are led through a work out like Tie Bo or similar aerobic workouts. Instead, Reeves shows you how to do each exercise and then lets you decide how to build it into your own workout.
The production values on this video are simple but clear with no fancy special effects. The video is packed full of exercises that can be done by almost anyone who is interested in increasing their fitness level. The only concern I have is that Reeves never really makes it clear that you can build up to these exercises by using lighter weights or lower reps in any of his exercises.
I would recommend this tape to the martial artist or anyone else who is interested adding to their fitness workout.


Title:   American Combat Judo by B. J. Cosneck
Publisher:  Reprinted by Paladin Press, $16.00 or 800-392-2400
Reviewed by:  C. Allen Reed    (Feb15 07)

This small volume of martial arts techniques was first published in 1959. Cosneck was a combatives instructor for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II where he worked with the boxer Jack Dempsey. Now Paladin Press has reprinted the book.
However, this book is not for the judo player. Rather the operative term in the title is Combat. In his Preface, Cosneck makes it clear he is aiming to present a series of fighting moves that will likely cause serious injury to an attacker. |
The book is broken up into several sections. The first section, titled "Disabling Blows," shows a number of strikes and blows that can be used to disable, stun or set up an attacker for further actions against his attack. In the second section, "Holds and Locks," the author shows a number of holds, starting with a rear choke. Then moves on to other techniques such as wrist throws and defeating grabs from behind.
Cosneck then moves on to "Breaks and Releases," which shows breaking out of various kinds of grabs, chokes and pinning moves. The next section is "Throws and Trips." This section does include some classic judo throws such as the shoulder throw and hip throw, but also includes how to defeat a push at the chest and how to pull a man down from the rear by grabbing his ankles.
Next comes the section on "Police Tactics." Moves in this section include disarming an attacker with a handgun pointed at you, and defending against an attacker with a club. Other police-type techniques such as come-alongs and moving a recalcitrant subject from a chair are also included here. 
There are two techniques I would not recommend learning from this section. The first is how to resuscitate an unconscious subject. Certainly our ideas of proper resuscitation have moved beyond putting a knee into the back of the unconscious subject. The second is the use of a single kick to the knee to disable a man with a knife.
The final short section is "Situations." This is really just a list of techniques that summarize how to use what has been shown in the book. 
The photographs in the book are all black and white, but clearly show how to do each move. The photos are dated in that most of them show two men in 1950's style boxing trunks and boots. There are no photo credits in the book, but I believe one of the men demonstrating the techniques is Dempsey, while the other may be Cosneck. The only problem with this is that Dempsey is a much bigger man than Cosneck. Thus, the inexperienced martial artist might presume that these moves will only work with a bigger man going against the smaller man. I can tell you from my experience of doing many of these moves myself that this is not true.  
Finally, I must agree with the author that none of the moves in this book should be practiced without a proper instructor, as they are quite dangerous if done improperly or without some basic practice learning to fall and roll first.


Title: Martial Blade Concepts: A Crash Course in Defensive Knife Tactics with Michael D. Janich
Produced by: Paladin Press, 1-303-443-7250,;  $29.95 in DVD or VHS, $34.95 in PAL, approx. 60 minute running time
Viewed and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed

I am a martial arts instructor who teaches use of the folding knife for self defense to both law enforcement officers and civilians. I have heard some good things about Michael Janich’s system of Martial Blade Concepts (MBC). I took a look at this video both to check out his system and to see if there was anything I could add to what I teach.
     Janich opens the video with a very clear statement that the use of a knife in a self defense situation is the use of deadly force. Thus, you must consider yourself to be under danger of death or great bodily harm to employ such force legally. Too often I see this important point left out of training on the use of the knife, so I applaud Janich for including it in this video. 
     Janich then goes on to outline the five points in the philosophy behind the MBC system. The first of these is you are not in a duel or knife fight when using a knife for self defense. By this Janich means that although you may face an attacker with a knife, you may also be facing someone with a hammer, tire iron or other weapon that can cause you serious injury. Secondly, you must understand the potential of the knife when you use it for delf defense. Third, your primary goal is to stop the attack, not necessarily to kill your attacker. Fourth, the best knife defense system must be based on human anatomy. Last, the system must be based on natural actions.
     The only point I would add to this is that when you are involved in any physical confrontation, particularly one involving the use of deadly force, you must contact the police. Failure to report the incident to the police may lead to you being charged with a crime, when in reality you were the victim of the attack.
     The next thing Janich does is help you to see what a knife can do with a demonstration of the cutting power of a knife against real meat. Again, I feel this is a very important part of any knife training. There are several reasons for showing this to students who are training with a knife. First, it gives them a sense of what they will be doing to an attacker. Secondly, it makes them aware of how deadly a knife deployed against them can be. Another advantage to having this kind of demonstration on video is that it can be used in court for evidence if you face charges or a lawsuit. 
     In the next section of the video Janich introduces his targeting system. Janich argues that the best way to stop an attack is to destroy the attacker’s ability to hurt you. To do this Janich shows how a knife should be used against the arm and leg of an attacker. Janich explains that cutting the muscles and tendons in the arm holding a weapon will cause an attacker to be unable to use the weapon. He also shows that cutting the major muscles in the thigh will cause the attacker to drop to his knees, thus rendering him incapable of advancing on you.
     Next, Janich introduces his concepts of the four zones and five angles of attack. Janich divides the body into four zones and shows how most cutting attacks will come at you through one of these zones. These then comprise his first four angles of attack. The fifth angle is a center line attack, which he divides into a low angle five and a high angle five, depending on what part of your body is being targeted.  
     Now that Janich has shown you the five angles and four zones of attack, he goes on to demonstrate the primary defenses in the MBC system to these attacks. These defenses are clearly laid out and shown multiple times, from both a side and downwards point of view.  
     Once Janich has walked you through each of the defenses, he introduces two sets of drills to help you learn to work at speed against these different angles of attack. The first drill is his outside-outside drill to work on the four primary angles of attack. The second drill is called a hubud-lubud drill for working against the high and low center line attacks.  
     Finally, Janich introduces the concept of combining the two drills into one. 
     Janich closes off the video by reminding the viewer that this short video only introduces the basic ideas in his MBC system and encourages anyone who wants more information to buy other tapes on his system from Paladin Press or to look at his website, Martial to learn about taking his training courses. 
     The production values in this video were very good. All of the movements can be clearly seen and are repeated multiple times from different view points. 
     I agree with many of the points that Janich makes during the video. However, I have some philosophical differences in how he wants the knife to be used for self defense. 
     Janich argues that the proper stance for use of the knife is with the knife forward . The problem I see with this is it allows your attacker to see that you are armed, and he may escalate his use of force beyond what you are expecting, such as the use of a firearm. I prefer to teach to keep the knife in a reverse grip and only deploy it when you have closed with the attacker.  
     I also don’t like the way Janich wants you to avoid the initial attack by simply pulling your body back far enough for the attack to miss you. This is all very fine if you are facing someone with a short knife. It will only get you hurt if your attacker has a long pipe, baseball bat, or other longer weapon.  
     All that being said. I can recommend this video to any student of self defense who wants a video to introduce the basic concepts behind use of the knife for self defense.

 Historical Combatives

Title: Master of Defence: The Works of George Silver
Author: Paul Wagner
Publisher: Paladin Press
Read and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed (Jan04)

Paul Wagner is an instructor and one of the founding members of the Stoccata School of Defence in Australia. Beside the current work Wagner has co-authored a number of other books, including Highland Swordsmanship with Mark Rector, and an upcoming work on "I.33" with Stephan Hand. 
Master of Defence is not a how-to manual explaining Silver’s system of swordplay. Rather it is a reprinting and updating of Silver’s two treatises, Paradoxes of Defence and Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defence ,as well as a number of articles commenting on Silver’s work by other authors.
The articles are very interesting and do help to somewhat explain Silver’s system. I would recommend this book to any student of defence who is working through Silver, if only for the very clear printing of Silver’s two treatises.


Title: Sevillian Steel: The Traditional Knife Fighting Arts of Spain
Author: James Loriega
Publisher: Paladin Press
Read and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed (Jan04)

James Loriega started his study of martial arts in 1967 with ninjutsu. In the mid-1970's he took up fencing and studied epee and saber. While touring Spain teaching ninjutsu in 1990, he discovered the still living tradition of historical Spanish knife fighting. After studying in Spain for five years, he was awarded a certificate as an instructor in the Andalusian style of Spanish knife fighting in 1996.
The book is both a simple how-to on the Andalusian style of fighting with the Spanish folding knife known as the navaja, as well as other weapons, and a discussion of the history of this style of combat. Experienced martial artists who practice with the knife will not be likely to learn new techniques from this book, but the information on the history is very interesting.


Title: Bowie and Big-Knife Fighting System 
Author: Dwight McLemore
Publisher: Paladin Press
Read and reviewed by: C. Allen Reed    (Feb04)

Dwight McLemore is a retired U.S. Army officer who is still active with the Department of Defense. 
McLemore has an 18-year background in martial arts. He holds an Expert Level knife certification with the Scientific Fightng Congress. He aslo holds the rank of first dan in kendo, and was a competitor in the U.S. Wushu Kung Fu Federation.
McLemore is the founder of the School of Two Swords in Virginia. The school teaches combat from the 18th century to modern times. McLemore is also on the advisory council for the American Heritage Fighting Arts Association and a member of the Association of Historical Fencing. 
McLemore is well known for his research on the history and use of the bowie knife. This book is an introduction to both. 
I would highly recommend this book to any student of martial arts. It is a very clear introduction to the use of the bowie knife for combat.


Title: Bowies, Big Knives and the Best of Battle Blades
Author: Bill Bagwell
Publisher: Paladin Press
Read and Reviewed by: C. Allen Reed  (Feb04)

Bill Bagwell is a custom knife maker who specializes in making Bowie knives. Bagwell has been making knives for over thirty years and is one of the founding members of the American Bladesmith Society. Bagwell is well known for being the developer and original maker of the Hell’s Belle Bowie knife. Bagwell has provided training in the use of the Bowie knife to Army Special Forces troops at Ft. Bragg.
     In 1983 Bagwell became knife editor for Soldier of Fortune magazine and started publishing the monthly column "Battle Blades". He continued to publish this column until 1987. This book is a collection of some of these columns.
     Bagwell is one of the early modern proponents of carrying and using a large knife for combat. Any reader of this book must know ahead of time that Bagwell considers the Bowie knife the ultimate knife ever designed for combat. That being said, anyone interested in knife combat should read this book for Bagwell’s comments on different knives and their functions.


Title:  Medieval and Renaissance Dagger Combat
Author:  Jason Vail
Publisher:  Paladin Press 1-800-392-2400; $30
Read and Reviewed by:  Joseph J. Truncale   (Sep 06)

Though my expertise is mostly with the Asian knife and sword arts, I am interested in all knife, sword and dagger arts developed by fighting cultures. In my opinion, this large (8½ by 11, soft cover) fully illustrated book may be the best text ever published on the early European knife and dagger arts. This well researched volume demonstrates in more detail numerous knife counter techniques than most knife books. The dagger was probably the first pointed weapon created by humans. This is because it is designed for only one thing, which is stabbing. Slashing techniques require at least one side of a blade to be sharp to some degree, but all a good dagger needs is a good tip and a solid grip. There was no required length for a dagger in medieval and renaissance times; however, one well-known knife expert did recommend the dagger should be the length of your forearm. There is so much solid information in this text that this review cannot do it justice. The nine chapters cover a wide range of material and are loaded with photographs in each chapter. Some people skip the forward, which I think is a mistake. John Clements wrote the forward in this text, the director of the Association for Renaissance Martial arts. I found the forward very informative and interesting. The first chapter gives an overview of the dagger in history. Chapter 2 defends the use of the dagger and provides a further historical perspective. Various types of daggers are shown in chapter three. In chapter four, we get to the fundamentals of using the dagger, covering the two basic grips, stab angles and footwork. This long chapter also illustrates various ways to block a dagger when unarmed. Interestingly, even though at first glance it would appear the blocking methods are dangerous; however, because the dagger shown does not have sharp edges, the techniques can be effective. The longest chapter is five. It shows numerous defenses against the dagger when unarmed. Though I personally do not like all the defenses shown; nevertheless, most of them can be effective, if practiced. The second longest chapter is six and demonstrates dagger against dagger techniques. This chapter and chapter five should be studied over a long period if you desire to learn the techniques. This means you must physically practice each of the techniques in order to master them. Chapter seven gives an overview of George Silver’s method of dagger fighting. The dagger vs. the sword is covered in chapter 8. The final chapter deals with training issues such as equipment, safety and drills. There is a detailed bibliography at the end of this excellent book. In conclusion, if you are into the blade arts and consider yourself a serious student, this book should be in your personal library. RATING: ***** (Five Stars-Excellent and highly recommended by Joseph J. Truncale)


(more to come.... 7/23/09)

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