There are few self-defense instructors in the world with such a diverse background like that of Jim Wagner's. There are even fewer who have had such a dramatic impact on the martial arts world. For his achievements Jim Wagner was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Self-Defense instructor of the Year 2006, the "Academy Awards" of the martial arts community, and simultaneously inducted into the Budo International Hall of Fame for Outstand Achievement in the Martial Arts 2006. This was awarded to him for developing his reality-based concepts and training methods. Going back to 2000 he was appointed as an honorary member of the Brazilian Air Force for training their Air Force's counterterrorist team known as GEPA. Today Jim Wagner's own system Reality-Based Personal Protection, made public on January 21, 2003, is one of the fastest growing self-defense systems in the world and lays claim to over 30 DVDs on the market (produced by various publishers), and five books.
The roots of Wagner's Reality-Based system
At the age of 14 Jim Wagner started learning self-defense from a High School friend, Alfonso Uceda, who had been a student of Bill "Superfoot" Wallace in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do. Today Alfonso is a security supervisor at one of the largest casino/hotels in Las Vegas, and the two have maintained their friendship ever since.
After a year of private lessons Alfonso had taught Jim everything he knew and he advised Jim to expand his horizons by studying different martial arts systems. Jim took his advice and enrolled at the Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai in Anaheim, California. His new instructor, Kiyoshi Yamazaki (the same man that trained actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian) was a strict disciplinarian and traditionalist. In addition to Karate, the weekly regiment also included Judo, Kendo (the way of the sword), and other weapons training (tonfa, sai, staff, and nunchaku). In 2007 Jim Wagner's path would cross with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's when the governor came to the Joint Forces Training Based at Los Alamitos, California to give his leadership during the California wildfires of October. Sergeant Jim Wagner was activated to State Active Duty for the military and was assigned to the Tactical Operations Center for Operation Fall Blaze.
On September 25, 1977 Jim Wagner received his green belt from Kiyoshi Yamazaki. As he was working on his brown belt he saw his first Bruce Lee movie at the dollar theatre, Enter the Dragon (four years after Bruce Lee's death), and immediately wanted to learn kung-fu. When asked Mr. Yamazaki that he also wanted to learn kung-fu Mr. Yamazaki responded in his broken English, "Kung-fu no good." Jim decided then and there to leave the school.
Jim Wagner hooked up with some Vietnamese immigrants at his High School who taught him Vietnamese kung-fu. He then went to a local Hawaiian kenpo school in Newport Beach until that closed down several months later. The instructor had taken a samurai sword to the school in the middle of the night and completely destroyed the place and became a lumber jack up in Washinton State. One of the black belts, Jeff Huff, who came to the destroyed school at the same moment Jim did, took Jim under his wing as a private student and taught him the very traditional martial art of Po Keck Yin Yang Kung-fu and some ballet dance exercise for balance.
In 1978 Jim Wagner went to a 60 hour martial arts training camp, called the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts, nestled in Aspen, Colorado and took lessons from little known instructor at the time Dan Inosanto - protege of the late Bruce Lee. It was there that Jim learned the basics of Filipino Kali, Jeet Kune Do, and Wing Chun. He also had the opportunity to train with the late Larry Hartsell in JKD grappling techniques. It was that very same year that Dan told Black Belt magazine in an interview that he feared that Filipino martial arts would die out. Of course it didn't, and he is credited today for reviving it and making Jeet Kune Do popular.
Jim Wagner recalls his time there, "I got to hear the stories about Bruce Lee and the history of the Philippine martial arts because Dan gave me a lift each morning from my hotel room to the training site twenty minutes away."
Dan Inosanto found out that Jim lived in California only 45 minutes south of his school and he invited him to train at the Filipino Kali Academy in Torrance. Dan Inosanto award Jim his first training certificate for 40 hours of instructions on August 25, 1978. A month later, from 1978 to spring of 1980, Jim Wagner made every attempt to drive up as often as he could. Usually it was twice a week. As such, Jim Wagner was one of the original Jeet Kune Do / Kali students under Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo. Jim remembers, "It was great because sometimes there would only be a few of us training, and we would get a lot of individual attention."
Jim not only looked up to Dan as his instructor, but as a mentor in his formidable martial arts yeas. "When I went into the United States Army Dan wrote me a letter, which I have kept to this day. He was always an encourager, and I never once heard a negative thing come out of his mouth."
At 18 years old Jim started teaching his friends at high school Jeet Kune Do, Filipino Kali, Chinese Kickboxing and Wing Chun. Teaching came naturally to Jim and he knew even at that early age that he would become a self-defense instructor. Although he had only been training in the martial arts, practically every day, for four years, Jim could hold his own against various black belts from other systems. This "can do" attitude and desire to pass on knowledge always kept Jim "thinking outside of the box," and coming up with innovative techniques and training methods.
Both Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo were way ahead-of-their-time in late 1970s and encouraged all of their students to learn different martial arts and experiment with them. Thus, Jim Wagner also studied the following systems during this period: European fencing, Chinese Kickboxing, and Greco-Roman wrestling. This was two decades before the term "mix martial arts" came into vogue.
Eventually Dan Inosanto and Richard Bustillo parted ways and over the years Jim popped in a few times at the Inosanto Academy located in Marina Del Ray, California. But, by the age of 25 Jim decided to move on in his martial arts studies. By this time Dan Inosanto had become world famous, but Jim always felt fortunate to have learned from this legend in small groups and one-on-one time with him. It wasn't until 2002 when Jim Wagner finally crossed paths with Richard Bustillo again at the California Peace Officers Association's yearly training event called ARPOC in San Diego, California. Richard, a Reserve Police Officer, was teaching a defensive tactics course while Jim was attending a Child Abuse seminar at the same event. Richard gave Jim a complete history lesson on the Jeet Kune Do system and what had become of many past JKD instructors.
On September 9, 1980 Jim Wagner enlisted into the United States Army. He went through "boot camp" (Basic Combat Training) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and was extremely impressed to the degree of realism that the military trained its people, which would give him a wealth of ideas for the future Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system. He recalls, "They were actually training for the real thing: simulated battlefields, replica enemy weapons, live-fire targets that were painted like Russian soldiers, smoke, explosions - the whole nine yards. Even the best martial arts studios that I had trained in before putting on a military uniform had never trained as realistically as this. That is to say, to include props and special effects as part of the training environment."
After the Army Jim Wagner plunged back into his martial arts studies and hooked up with Ted Lucaylucay who ran a small martial arts school in Huntington Beach, California. Ted was another popular JKD and Filipino Kali instructor at the time who was personally trained by Dan Inosanto, and who had struck out on his own. After several months of training with Ted, Jim started teaching Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali privately, and dropped in occasionally at Dan's new school, Inosanto Academy, located in Marine Del Ray (near the Los Angeles International Airport). Just a few years later Ted Lucaylucay passed away.
Since Jim Wagner had trained with a few of the top Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali instructors of that day, from two different schools, Jim never bothered to ask Dan Inosanto and the others if it was okay to teach the system. He just did it. Dan Inosanto didn't seem to have a problem with it, and Jim never asked for a piece of paper stating that he was an instructor. "Things were much more casual back then, and there was a lot of freedom and experimentation" Jim recalls. "The whole JKD concept was just catching on worldwide in the early 1980s."
Jim Wagner enrolled in college majoring in graphic arts and learning the French language to pursue a career in advertising. French would prove useful in the future since Jim Wagner now teaches his courses in Paris speaking 100% in French. After his first semester at Orange Coast College Jim started working as a production artist for Val-Pak Direct Marketing Systems and then landed the position as Art Director for Mammoth Publishing, followed by CCM Publications. He then went on to work for a couple of advertising firms. These skills in marketing and advertising would prove useful in later years when Jim would begin promoting his company HSS Internatiional and then the Reality-Based Personal Protection system. These same skills are now passed down to his Reality-Based instructors in his Level 3 courses: Advertising and Marketing, Business and Leadership, and Training DVD Production.
1985 the Reality-Based foundation poured
In early 1985 Jim Wagner began teaching his own "mixed martial arts" that he named Modern Fighting Methods. Desiring to teach for profit he started off by advertising in his college newspaper, which netted a few good students from the ad. This advertisement caught the attention of the Orange Police Department who wanted to know exactly what Jim was teaching because they were concerned as to the content of the instructions. Jim was openly combining traditional martial arts with the military arts he had learned at Fort Jackson at Basic Combat Training. With only one phone call from a female detective Jim reassured the police department that he would drop the firearms portion of the training. He had not taken any of his students to the gun range before the "investigation." The promise satisfied the detective. Jim had been instructing his new students in Hart Park just off of the 22 Freeway.
One of Jim's original students, Mike DiGiovanni (who is still good friends with Jim today, and his oldest student at 69 years old), attended one of Jim's courses and later invited him to teach a Tuesday night class at Lou Michelson's converted home garage that he had turned into a Japanese Karate dojo in Huntington Beach. Lou was a professor at the Golden West Community College nearby and had a love for the traditional martial arts and even had a book published titled Karate-Do. Mike convinced Lou that a little bit of instructions from Jim teaching Filipino Kali would give the brown and black belt students some needed variety, and that it would help to retain student enrolment. Lou agreed and Jim taught in the garage each Tuesday night for about a year.
That same year Jim Wagner was the president of the Advertising Design Centre in Orange; a small advertising firm handing print media. Three years into Jim's employment there the owner of the firm was offered the position of publisher for a computer magazine in New Hampshire and therefore tried to sell his business. With no suitable buyers Jim was responsible for liquidating the company's assets, laying off the employees, and eliminating his own job. This was fine with Jim since he wanted a change of career.
Jim's devoted Modern Fighting Methods student, Mike DiGiovanni, was the Building Maintenance Supervisor for the City of Costa Mesa. Knowing that Jim was looking for a new job he suggested, "There is an opening for custody officer at the city jail. I think you would be perfect for the job with your martial arts and all. I know the sergeant in charge, Sergeant Yezbick. Are you interested?"
Jim Wagner recalls, "I was tired of the advertising business and couldn't see myself getting back into it. I thought I'd at least take a look at the jail to appease Mike. When I took a tour of the jail it gave me the creeps, but I didn't have the heart to Mike right then and there that I didn't want the job. However, when I went home that night I realized that if I took the position, even if for only a year, that I would be a much better qualified martial arts instructor in the long run. After all, it is the criminals that are the ones that are going to attack my students, and I had to confess, I didn't know the mind of the criminals at that time. Working in the jail would give me the experience that I needed."
Jim applied for the position, went through the lengthy process (written exam, oral board interview, background investigation, psychological examination, and medical examination), and then was hired by the Costa Mesa Police Department in December, 1988. It was the perfect gift for an unemployed person.
Jim Wagner was hired in December 1988 as a corrections officer for the Costa Mesa Police Department Jail (16 felony and misdemeanor beds, 6 trusty beds, a drunk tank, two solitary confinement cells, and two booking cells, two visitor cells for communicating with prisoners, and a large drive-in sally port. Prisoners could be kept for up to 72 hours at the jail, and trusties could be kept one year.
In 1989 Jim Wagner attended the Corrections Officers Academy held at the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Upon graduation Officer Wagner's duties were to book and house prisoners. These were men and women arrested off of the streets and brought straight into the jail. They ranged from anything from murderers, rapists, and child molesters, to drunks and theives. The Costa Mesa Jail was their first stop before going court and then to county jail or to prison. Needless to say, when they are coming in off of the streets many of them are angry and violent.
Jim Wagner said, "When a prisoner wanted to fight there was no pepper spray, stun guns, or tasers for us in those days; at least not with Sergeant Yezbick's jail. It was pure hand-to-hand combat. Having two years in a custody setting you come to learn the mind of the criminal. I lived nine hours a day with these men. Had that been all I did in my career, just the two years in the Jail, it is more experience that the majority of civilian martial arts instructors out there. I dealt with, on a daily basis, the very 'enemy' that most martial artists train to go up against. I didn't have to wait for that 'what if' day. They came to me every single day. If you don't think jail is a good place to get self-defense experience try spending a couple nights in one in any good size city."
In 1988 Jim Wagner, still teaching in Lou's Huntington Beach garage, started laying down the foundation of the future Reality-Based Personal Protection system (not to be officially available to the public until January 21, 2003). Jim introduced paint guns into the training curriculum for realistic robbery and terrorism survival attacks, combat first aid, and he started leaning more and more on realistic scenarios and less and less of patterned drills.
In 1989 Jim boldly approached the SWAT commander, Lieutenant John Fitzpatrick, and offered to provide the 15-man SWAT team with an OPFOR (Opposition Force). Jim was referring to 10 of his top students that he would train to be the "bad guys" for a variety of tactical responses: warrant service, hostage situations, terrorism, and gang warfare. The invitation was accepted and Jim, under the supervision of Sergeant Ron Smith, created a fictitious "terrorist cell" called the Baleric Liberation Army (BLA). This cell was named after the Baleric Community Center in Costa Mesa where Jim Wagner was publicly teaching Jeet Kune Do / Filipino Kali once a week, later to expand to his women's self-defense program called Women Against Rape (WAR). Jim's very first video, by the same name, was produced in 1988.
For three months Jim Wagner, also known by his nom de guerre "Abu Mussa" (father Moses in Arabic), prepared his BLA "terrorists" for the big training event with the SWAT Team. Digging up as much information as he could find at the time about terrorism (a time in history when personal computers were just starting to become popular and before the Internet was a resource) Jim had simulated bombs made, taught small unit tactics, and dissimulated 1980s case studies on terrorism. When the training event day finally came Jim and his terrorist cell went up against the Costa Mesa Police SWAT Team in an abandoned building slated for demolition. The event began after sunset. Both teams were equally armed with paint guns (a time before air guns and Simunitions).
After two hours of Close Quarter Battle the SWAT team eventually prevailed, although Jim had avoided capture by climbing onto a second story ledge and doing a spider drop to the ground below in the courtyard out of sight of the perimeter team.
Highly pleased with the training that Jim provided to the SWAT Team he was invited to set up two more SWAT training events. The second opportunity was a hostage situation involving a fictitious "East Los Angeles Hispanic gang" with the story line of a robbery that went bad, organized by Officer Mike Cohen, and a few months later the second opportunity was a lengthy scenario for the SWAT Negotiation Team organized by Officer Bob Fate under the supervision of Sergeant McErlain.
By year's end Jim Wagner applied for the position of police recruit which was the first step in becoming a sworn police officer. In the United States law enforcement officers and soldiers swear to protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, thus the term "sworn." The opposite is a "civilian." Once again Jim had to take a written test, physical agility test, stand before a three panel oral board, background investigation, psychological examination, and finally a medical examination.
"I liked being a jailer, but after a while you feel like you are 'doing time' in the jail yourself," Jim said. He wanted a career with a little more adventure, and he just didn't want to deal with criminals in custody, Jim Wagner wanted to deal with them in the streets. That is why he made his next goal becoming a patrol cop.
While working in the jail, and waiting for the police recruit process to run its lengthy course, Jim Wagner obtained a business license and opened up a martial arts school which he named The Academie of Fighting Arts located on Grace Lane in Costa Mesa. The logo was a strong arm contained within a box holding a simitar sword. It was at this time, 1990, that Jim was the first martial arts instructor in the world to paint the interior of his school completely flat black: the floors, the walls, and the ceiling. There were no mirrors on the walls, no racks of ancient weapons, no certificates or flags mounted to the wall, nothing. It was just four walls and some spot lights above. Jim looked at his training hall as a "stage" and not a place to be ascetically pleasing. Jim also was heavily into props at this time to enhance the scenarios. Break-away furniture, plastic baseball bats, plastic toys in the shape of tools, stage blood for wounds, and even a car was rolled in through the industrial pull-up door from time to time.
This was also the revolutionary time of experimenting with various layers of safety equipment, sound effects, and lighting.
After two years working in the jail Jim, and an outside applicant named Mitch Johnson, were selected for the two police recruit positions. Jim and Mitch had beat out over a hundred other applicants.
Pinning on the badge
In 1991 Jim Wagner, sponsored by the Costa Mesa Police Department, entered the police academy - the Orange County Sheriff's Department Training Academy Class 104 located in Garden Grove, California; one of only six "stress academies." A stress academy is run like a military boot camp. It was also the regional academy where dozens of law enforcement agencies from all around Southern California sent their police recruits for 21 weeks.It was here that he trained with the shotgun, pistol, baton, and police defensive tactics. Like his military training before, Jim was deeply influenced by the realistic conflict scenarios that his instructors put him and his fellow recruits through.
On June 21, 1991 Officer Jim Wagner was sworn in by Captain Rick Johnson as a full-time police officer at his graduation from the Orange County Sheriff's Training Academy Class 104, The Smallest But The Mightiest, in Garden Grove, California. Two days later Jim was out on the streets as a full-time paid police officer with the Costa Mesa Police Department with his three Field Training Officers (FTO): Phil Myers, Russ Rose, Dan Hogue. At this time the city of Costa Mesa had a population of approximately 100,000 people (located 30 minutes south of Los Angeles), and the police department supported approximately 165 sworn officers. Jim Wagner's badge number was 414 (the four hundred and fourteenth sworn police officer in the department's history).
Along with the uniform, badge, and gun came everything one would expect in an urban sprawl just south of Los Angeles: robberies, rapes, murders, domestic violence, car chases, stabbings, gang activity, and every other sort of evil. Jim had been shot at, attacked with a knife, and plenty of hand-to-hand conflict. For most of Jim's eight years with the force as a full-time sworn officer he was out on the streets doing police patrol. That's what he preferred, and for the his last few years with the force he chose the part of the city that had the most crime - Area 1, the southwest side.
One of Jim's sergeants, Sergeant Santee, a martial artist practitioner himself, urged Jim to study with him at Steve Tarani's school who was teaching Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali at the time in Orange County. This was before Steve became involved with law enforcement. Steve also hosted the famous Leo Giron (Filipino Kali) where Jim attended his seminar.
In 1992 Jim Wagner, along with three fellow police officers, formed the tactical training organization called Hike Stalk Shoot, which was later renamed HSS International. Jim was one of the original founders, member of the Board of Directors, and the creator and chief instructor of all of the combatives programs. He also created the entry level sniper course for the company as well as spear headed several of the martime operations courses.
On March 11, 1994 Officer Jim Wagner earned a place on the S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) Team thanks to Lieutenant Ron Smith's support. For most police departments in North America this is the top-of-the-food-chain, and Jim took full advantage of the opportunities. It was through this conduit that Jim learned about logistics, command post operations, hostage negotiations, entry team tactics, and police sniping. On the job training included courses with LAPD SWAT, the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Orange County Sheriff's Department Tactical Training Center, and from U.S. Marines Division Schools MCB Camp Pendleton (Advanced Sniper Course, Military Operations Urban Terrain MOUT, Helicopter Rope Suspension Training HRST, and Range Safety Officer RSO).
On October 3, 1994 Jim Wagner joined the United States Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, Falcon Squadron 40, and was stationed at the United States Marine Corps Air Base El Toro, California as a pilot.
In the early 1990's the United States military was desperately wanting to learn and incorporate police tactics since many military missions at the time were turning into peace keeping missions or humanitarian missions. Jim Wagner, and other instructors, had the opportunity to train military units in SWAT and defensive tactics training due to their expertise and close proximity to various military bases, and in turn were allowed to participate in military courses. It was an equal exchange of ideas and tactics. Jim Wagner actually went through hundreds of hours of scout sniper courses with the U.S. Marines through Division Schools Scout Sniper School with the 1st Marine Division at MCB Camp Pendleton. "Quiet professionals" like Sergeant Parisi actually arranged law enforcement sniper courses for sworn officers compliments of the United States Marines. Sergeant Kevin Ekhoeff brought Officer Wagner into MOUT (Military Operations Urban Terrain) courses and HRST (Helicopter Rope Suspension Training), Sergent Julio Garcia ran Jim through small arms courses, while Sergeant Frank Ortega hooked Officer Wagner up with SOTG (Special Operations Training Group) running through state-of-the-art shoot houses along with rappelling courses (rappelling and fast roping). The arrangement worked well for a few years, Jim taught defensive tactics and SWAT tactics to the Marines, and they made him one of their own. Jim said, "I spent so much time training with the Marines that I became a part of the Marine culture. The only difference with my uniform and theirs when I trained was that my Battle Dress Uniform had on subdued Costa Mesa Police SWAT patches. It was a good six year realtionship."
When Jim ran through the three-day Range Safety Officer (RSO) course on Range 131 at the MOUT Assault Course (MAC) with the Marine instructors in order to teach live-fire courses on the base, Jim and fellow Costa Mesa SWAT officers Dan Erber and Phil Myers, did everything the Marines did: live hand grenade training, obstacle courses combined with live-fire training, and lots of shoot house training with electronic pop up targets. The course produced the best range safety officers possible, and one had to know the military range regulations inside and out.
While participating in a myriad of courses at Camp Pendleton, both military units and other law enforcement agencies using the base for their own training, discovered Jim Wagner's unique approach to training and his seamless blending of defensive tactics with edged weapons and firearms skills. It wasn't long before he was getting offers from not only different Marine units, but from others as well: U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group, Department of Defense Police, San Diego Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Probation Department, Los Angeles School Police SWAT, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines Provost Marshal Office, Drug Enforcement Administration (thanks to student DEA agent Jeff Clancy), and the list goes on. Then, by 1996 Jim found himself being invited by foreign units to train in their own countries: German GSG9, Brazilian G.A.T.E., Argentinean G.O.E., Helsinki Police Department, and various units in Spain, Mexico, and Israel.
In 1996 Officer Jim Wagner was awarded the rank of corporal (senior police officer) at the Costa Mesa Police Department. Most of his career with this department was on patrol, with two years as a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer trained by the Los Angeles Police Department (working police bicycle patrol and patrol for these two years at the South Coast Plaza Mall when school was not in session), the S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons And Tactics) Team for three years, and was a defensive tactics instructor assisting Senior Officer Dave Dye at the Citizen's Police Academy for a year when in session. Officer Wagner's patrol duties included responding to all calls, self-initiated calls, traffic, prisoner transport, on-call as a S.W.A.T. officer, and court testimonies; a total of eight years as a full-time paid sworn police. Summing these eight years up Jim Wagner reflects, "I just did my job, and I loved it. In a busy city with a lot of crime no other job in the world tests you more! No other job gives you such a wide variety of experiences: combat, helping a lost child find his way home, holding a man's sliced arm together while the paramedics come rolling up code 3, car chases, bomb searches, death notifications, foot chases, finding drugs in a pocket, and the rank smell of a jail at midnight. Nothing even comes close."
When the demand for Jim Wagner's services became substantial (defensive tactics, tactics, and firearms training courses) he became a Reserve Police Officer with the same city for several months in 1999. After handing in his Letter of Resignation to Chief Dave Snowden, who later became the Police Chief of the Beverly Hills Police Department, he terminated his full-time employment in order to pursue his new career as a private contractor to police and military units through his training corporation HSS International that he, along with three other partners, had established four years prior. Jim's services were in demand, not only domestically but internationally, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.
Concerning this epoque Jim recalls, "I enjoyed attending bus assaults with German cops, I loved fast roping with the Marines, I had a blast doing hull searches under huge ships with the Honolulu SWAT Maritime team, I thought it was cool to eat guacamole and fried meat after training with my Mexican SWAT students, and to eat freshly smoked salmon on the edge of the icy river during lunch with a Quinault Indian police officer up in Washington State. I have had literally hundreds of experiences that made me feel alive, and I was perfectly content with my new occupation. I crammed in several life times into one, that's for sure. To some it may have seemed impossible to do all of the things I did. However, to me it was simply my life. I have always followed my personal motto, if you're not living on the edge you're taking up too much space." However, not wanting to fully give up his law enforcement career Jim applied as a Reserve Deputy at the Orange County Sheriff's Department (the fifth largest sheriff's department in the United States), and was sworn in one year later in 2000; it took that long to go through the hiring process. After all, as a Costa Mesa police officer his department had sent him through the Orange County Sheriff's Training Academy ten years earlier; first to the Corrections Officer Academy in 1989 (4 weeks) and then to the Police Academy (21 weeks). Therefore, Jim was quite familiar with the Sheriff's Department culture. When his new supervisor, Sergeant Wilfred Moreno, took a look at his file and saw the amount of training and experience Jim had, he, with the authorization of Sheriff Mike Carona, promoted him to the rank of sergeant with full police powers (Level 1 Reserve Designate due to his past experience and Intermediate P.O.S.T. certificate) only a few months later, and placed him on the newly formed Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU) as a team leader and defensive tactics and tactics instructor. During this stint, working out of the Katella Facility in the city of Orange, Jim was a bodyguard for diplomats, celebrities, VIPs, and as a personal bodyguard for the Sheriff himself. This now gave Jim the opportunity to teach defensive tactics and tactics full time for HSS International, but also kept him "in the game" of law enforcement.
The two years at the Sheriff's Department (2000-2002) was a time where Jim Wagner not only perfected his bodyguard and firearms skills, but where he became involved in other high-speed training: gas & oil platform takedowns off of the coast of California, bus assault, tactical rappel courses, aircraft assault, ship assault, tactical swim and SCUBA courses, police maritime search & rescue, helicopter assault, foreign sniper courses, and lots of police and military defensive tactics courses. Some of the courses Jim created during this period were: Bodyguard Combatives, Entry Team Combatives, Patrol Combatives, Institution Combatives, Investigator Combatives, and Probation Combatives. Many law enforcement agencies and military units either sent their personnel to Jim Wagner or he was invited to train at their facilities.
After the terrorist attacks on the United States of America by Al Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 there were only three official federal law enforcement counter-terrorist teams in the United States: the original being the United States Marshal Service Special Operations Group formed in 1971 (an organization Jim Wagner has officially trained on numerous occasions out of the San Diego, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. offices), the FBI Hostage Rescue Team founded in 1982 in preparation for the Los Angeles Olympic Games (Jim Wagner has not trained the HRT, but has trained a couple of their FBI regional SWAT teams, notably the Los Angeles and Phoenix offices), and the United States Federal Air Marshal Service created in 1968 (for which Jim Wagner was an Agent). Of course there were numerous federal Anti-Terrorist Task Forces around the country at the time as well as military counterterrorist teams, but federal military teams are legally not allowed to operate on American soil in a law enforcement capacity.
After 9/11 the United States government believed that there was going to be many more attacks on American carriers and suicide bombings in American airports. The government was desperate for qualified active law enforcement or military personnel who were recently discharged. Initially the priority in the hiring process was to recruit anyone with special operations experience as was indicated on the original application form. Jim Wagner ranked as HIGHLY QUALIFIED and was selected for the U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service program under the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The Department of Homeland Security did not exist until a few months later on November 25, 2002.
After Agent Jim Wagner completed 146 Federal Air Marshal missions Al Qaeda activity in the aviation transportation sector became rather quite, largely because passenger aircraft had become "hard targets" due to the new cockpit fortified doors, more Federal Air Marshals on flights, and Al Qaeda knew that passengers would tear them apart if they attempted another 9/11 style sky jacking. At the same time the FAM program was also experiencing mass quitting do to a lot of internal problems. Then, to Jim Wagner's surprise, his Reality-Based Personal Protection articles in Black Belt magazine in North America, and his articles in Budo magazine in Europe printed in five languages, along with his recently released training videos on both continents, started becoming popular throughout the martial arts community. Other people were starting to define what "reality-based" was and was not, and Jim saw that many people were not fully grasping what Reality-Based was really all about. For all of these reasons combined Jim Wagner resigned from the federal government on September 11, 2002; the one year anniversary of 9/11. Had he stayed on with the program he was to have flown to New York City for a mission. Instead he spent his last day on an HSS International event up at the Burro Canyon Gun Range attending an Israeli firearms course taught by his good friend Major Avi Nardia of the Israel Defense Force (Reserve).
A couple of months later, on January 21, 2003, Jim Wagner formed his own company and started the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system.
Back to training the world's elite
Once again Jim Wagner could have photographs of his face published, and begin teaching the world's elite teams full time again. This time it included the U.S. Coast Guard Sea Marshals, the U.S. Air Force Security Forces Space Command, the U.S. Army Military Police, and then in December 2003 for the Israel Defense Forces. Jim was once again invited to train in Israel, only this time it was for new recruits, and their Special Forces selection, at the famous Wingate Institute where the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga was born. However, Jim was not teaching on the civilian side of the facility, but on the military side of the house known as Baghad 8. Very few foreigners have been invited to teach there. However, it was a two-way street. Jim also received instructions by the Israelis in firearms training on Israeli weapons, Close Quarter Battle, counterterrorism methods, and bodyguarding. When it comes to the Israeli martial arts Jim Wagner is an expert. He has studied Hisardut, Krav Maga, LOTAR, and KAPAP. In fact, it was Jim's articles in Black Belt magazine that actually opened the world's eyes to other Israeli martial arts other than Krav Maga. Through this venue Jim let the world know about Avi Nardia (KAPAP), Moni Aizik (Commando Krav Maga), Dennis Hanover (HISARDUT), and now they are well known personalities in the martial arts community. Although Jim Wagner himself does not teach any Israeli systems he has certainly incorporated many things he has learned from them. Likewise, there are Israeli police and military units using Jim's teaching such as the Israeli Air Marshals using his Knife Survival system.
Since 1992 Jim had only been teaching government agencies. Before that he had taught many civilian courses, and even spearheaded one of the most popular women's self-defense courses of its time (1989) called Women Against Rape, but admittedly Jim had developed the "us against them" attitude over the years; a common attitude among law enforcement officials. This is a common phenomenon where law enforcement officials no longer trust civilians and tend to limit their friends to only cops. Then Johan Lai, one of Jim's former deputies from the Dignitary Protection Unit and close friend afterward, convinced him that civilians were the ones actually on the "front line" of crime and terrorism, and that all law abiding citizens should be taught how to defend themselves as much as any first responder. After all, the aircrafts that were seized on 9/11 didn't have military or police personnel aboard to protect the people. It was those brave souls on United Airlines Flight 93 who fought back against terrorists though they all perished in a field at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. When a robber sticks a gun in the face of his victim the police are not going to be there, nor will they be there with a rape victim, or with the victim of a gang related drive by shooting, or - You fill in the blank.
Therefore, on January 21, 2003 Jim Wagner made a decision to teach a civilian version of his techniques and training methods under the new name of Reality-Based Personal Protection. He continuted to teach police and military units, but now there was something "with teeth" for civilians.
Reality-Based goes global
Once the decision was made to go public with the Reality-Based Personal Protection system Black Belt magazine immediately put their weight behind Jim Wagner's ideas and filmed the DVD series Reality-Based Personal Protection which consisted of eight titles: Knowledge Domain, Defensive Tactics, Ground Survival, Knife Survival, Crime Survival, Terrorism Survival, Handgun Survival and Women's Survival. On the other side of the ocean Alfredo Tucci, the publisher of Budo magazine headquartered in Madrid, Spain commissioned Jim to work on several DVDs: Police & Military Knife Defense, Special Operations Knife Offense, Police Ground Tactics, and Police Baton Tactics, which to this day are some of Budo's top selling DVDs. Then, Boker, the famous German knife maker, asked Jim Wagner to design "the ultimate tactical folder," which he did called the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade. This knife became so popular worldwide that a whole series of Jim Wagner knives were developed and marketed. This in turned opened up a whole new market for the Reality-Based Personal Protections system.
Of course DVDs and articles is just one way that Jim continues to spread the news about his revolutionary self-defense system. The best way has been for Jim to teach people himself, and to build up an army of qualified instructors. What started as regular courses in Dublin, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Helsinki, and Chicago has recently included other cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Solingen, Germany. From the first month the system started it went international, and it hasn't stop growing since.
Besides teaching Reality-Based courses worldwide, producing DVDs, and writing books and articles, Jim Wagner is still a consultant and instructor to a variety of agencies, security firms, and bodyguard companies. In 2006 Jim Wagner accepted a two-week assignment where he and another bodyguards protected movie stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at their Malibu home. A few months later he also provided executive protection at the 63rd Annual Golden Globes Awards pre-event party that included Shirley McClain, Matthew Perry, Scott Bakula, and Tom Arnold.
2006 also saw the released of the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade having teamed up with German knife maker Boker. This is a tactical folding knife designed by Jim Wagner himself and features a few original ideas that have been patented. Jim's unique knife is only finding its way into the hands of military, police, and security professionals, but it is bringing knife enthusiasts into the Reality-Based Personal Protection system - specifically into the Knife Survival courses.
In 2007 four more Jim Wagner Boker knife designs were released making the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Blade a series. German publisher Wieland also released Jim Wagner's first German language book titled Kampfmesser-MesserKampf and a second book a few months later titled Messerkampf (Knife Fighting). Finishing up the year was the release of Jim's second book with Black Belt magazine / Ohara Publications titled Defensive Tactics for Special Operations.
In 2008 Jim Wagner once again appeared on the cover of Black Belt magazine (February issue). Like previous years he taught several Level 1 courses in Europe, and his first Level 2 course in Australia. Jim Wagner also taught his first Level 2 seminar and Level 3 seminars in Germany. In July of 2008 Boker released the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Fixed Blade to complete this popular series. This knife and sheath was designed specifically for law enforcement and military Special Operations. At the end of the year Budo International released Jim Wagner's DVD titled Conflict Exercises.
In 2011 Jim Wagner was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame receiving the Silver Life Achievement Award. This is also the same year he joined Facebook (jimwagnerrbpp), Twitter (jimwagnerrbpp), and started posting instructional videos on YouTube that has steadily gained popularity.
10 more years of military service
Jim Wagner just retired from 10 additional years of military service on March 5, 2016. Seven of those years were with a Military Police unit, and the last three with the Security Forces of Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, California.
Jim Wagner has trained hundreds of defensive tactics and self-defense instructors since forming his system on January 21, 2003. Not one person has ever said a negative word about the content in the courses. Here is a typical comment from an instructor who graduated from Level 1:
"Jim Wagner's Reality-Based Personal Protection Instructor Program provided me with invaluable information, techniques and experience that have enhanced previous training modules from a variety of sources. I am a professional fighter and instructor, a former United States Marine Veteran and Personal Protection provider. Prior to taking the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection courses I had spent 21 days in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina Disaster providing security for personnel and assets for a major oil company. After NOLA and Katrina I was deployed to Afghanistan working in a variety of operational positions in Southern Helmand Province and Kandahar. During the week long training at Jim Wagner's Los Angeles training facility, Jim touched on every essential aspect of personal survival in a hostile situation, from situational awareness, personal protection techniques, criminal and terrorist survival instruction, and then really drove the point home with "reality based scenarios." I am very impressed with Jim Wagner's professional credentials and skill set. I will continue my training and personal relationship with Jim Wagner for years to come and recommend his training to my own students and clients. My personal opinion is that the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection Program is the finest in the industry today."