On October31, 2010 I finished one of the most useful courses I have ever attended, and that was the Combat Life Saver (CLS) course hosted by the military. I had been waiting for over a year for a slot to open up, and I finally had my opportunity; along with four other soldiers from my military police unit; including my commander. This course came on the heels of my first aid and CPR re-qualification a week prior, so I was ready to dig deeper into the subject matter.
This intensive course was taught by doctors, nurses, and Emergency Medical Technicians was a lot of hands-on training. We had plenty of practice applying the U.S. Army's Combat Application Tourniquet (C.A.T.), the Israeli field bandage, shoving a 14gage needle/catheter into the second intercostal space along the mid-clavicular line into the ribs of a side of beef as a stimulant for decompressing a tension pneumothorax, inserting a nasopharyngeal (NPA) to clear an airway, and how to deploy and tear down the latest U.S. Army casualty litters (the SKED litter and Talon II litter); not to mention carrying around a "casualty" on the base's field. We also were tested with real-world scenarios: from discovery of the wounded to calling in a 9 Line MEDEVAC (Medical Evacuation) order.
When I was in Germany the following week I had several German soldiers (Bundeswehr) in my courses. One of them, Andreas Luttropp (who also assisted me with my Women's Survival course and teaches the Military Police Combat System brought in his medic bag. He had taken a similar course and showed me his gear. Something new that I learned from him was to have the medical tape already on a folded piece of flexible plastic for a sucking chest wound. All the user has to do is unfold the plastic, peel the tape off, refold the plastic, and then apply the tape over the square. The new rule for both the American and German Army is to tape all four sides, and not three sides anymore. Of course, the tape must extend 2" beyond the air tight dressing. It was also interesting to note that the Germans are also using the Israeli bandage, and even the newest one on the market that uses Velcro for self applications. Israelis are masters of taking existing technologies and making them better.
To top it off I also had a German combat medic in my Bodyguard Defensive Tactics course on Thursday, November 11th, and he was a wealth of information, and this master sergeant confirmed many things I had been taught. He has been deployed to Afghanistan five times. Of course, I am a firm believer that all Reality-Based practitioners should get as much medical training as possible. Dealing with injuries is the post conflict phase of a fight.
On Thursday, November 4th, I landed in Dusseldorf International Airport and headed to my school in Solingen. One of the projects I worked on was setting up our industrial fog machine; the type used in theaters and night clubs that can spew out a huge cloud.
I attached a large soft plastic tube from the machine nozzle that goes from the classroom and out into the training room through a vent 8 feet above the ground. I spray painted the end of the tube flat black, which blends into the Reality-Based black walls, and it is not noticeable. When the switch is pushed a steady stream of fog fills up the training room for two minutes. Then it takes two minutes for the machine to recharge.
With this fog machine I can simulate the smoke after a grenade attack or a terrorist chemical attack for our Terrorism Survival course, a structure fire for our victim rescue techniques in the Control & Defense course, and even use it to add a little foggy weather for some scenarios. In the Tactical Pistol course on November 10th I had plenty of fog in the room, and no light coming into the large training room, and the police officers, soldiers, and security personnel had to use their tactical flashlights (torches) to find the armed suspects. The scenarios worked quite well, and all of the participants said that it was some of the best training they had ever had on low-light situations.
In the Defensive Tactics for Bodyguards course I had a scenario where two bodyguards were protecting a diplomat at a political fundraiser event and then suddenly a cloud of white "gas" started to fill the room. The first group I tried it on all "died" in the terrorist attack. However, after a few pointers on NATO CBRNe (Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and High Explosives) standard procedures the rest of the groups performed exceptionally well, and the first group was given a second chance. Once again that fog machine was worth the investment.
On the weekend, starting on November 6th, I taught my yearly Women's Survival course. In the course I had a young German police officer, four women from the big product mailing company Otto, two women from Boker knife manufacturer, a woman who drove all the way from Switzerland, and the rest heard about the course by word of mouth or in the catalog. In fact, many of the attendees came because their husbands or boyfriends had taken one of my Reality-Based courses and insisted that their loved one take it. Eighteen year old Ann-Marie had no idea where she was going Saturday morning when her boyfriend dropped her off at the Boker Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection Training Facility. He just said, "You are going to attend this class for your own good." It turned out Ann-Marie was one of my best students, and she appreciated the training. Now, that's a boyfriend who really cares about his girlfriend's safety.
My youngest student was 11 years old, Vanessa, who took the course with her mother who is a dedicated past Reality-Based student. Normally I do not allow girls into this course until they are 13 years old, but both of her parents are already students of mine teaching the Reality-Based Personal Protection system and they both felt that she could handle it, and she did. To everyone's surprise she did quite well. There was a time or two I made Vanessa leave the room for some subject matter I felt she was not quite mature enough for, and I set up scenarios for her that she was likely to face. Both parents observed her fights and were quite proud of her.
Unlike traditional-based martial arts courses that start off teaching women how to break free from a wrist grab or how to kick a man in the groin, I start off my Women's Survival course with scenarios dealing with threat zones. I teach my students the proper distance to keep people at depending on the person approaching them: family and friends, professional contacts, and strangers; each have their own zones. The next thing I did was to take the students outside right onto the streets of Solingen. They learned all about situational awareness in an actual urban setting. Throughout our little "walk" I have my assistant instructors observe them or just outright jump them. By the time we got back into the classroom they were fully aware of what a "soft target" is and what a "hard target" is. Today they all live our motto, Be A Hard Target, which by the way, all my German students insist that the English expression should not be translated, and so even on our German Reality-Based T-shirts that we sell in the shop has the motto in English.
The first self-defense techniques I start off with are handgun techniques. Germany is not a firearms culture, and most citizens are not allowed to own handguns. So, why do I do it? Why do I start with a weapon most people cannot posses? The answer is because most women do not like the idea of using a weapon to defend themselves, and so I start off with the most terrifying weapon and teach them that it is only a "tool." I also explain to them that many criminals use guns in the commission of their crimes, and if they do happen to disarm the criminal they need to know the basics on how to use the weapon. Knowing how a gun operates could possibly save their lives one day. Of course, we use plastic guns and air guns that shoot a 6mm plastic projectile at 1 jule for the training.
After the gun training we go right into knives. Women are already experts with knives; after all they've been using them all their lives, so my job is to teach them knife fighting. If someone breaks into their home intending on harming them or their family it is imperative that they know how to effectively use a knife for self-defense. Every home has them. At first most of the students are squeamish about the whole knife thing, but they soon realize that a weapon can give them the ability to survive a brutal attack. My assistants do very realistic attacks, and most of the students succeed in stopping the attack. When going "hand-to-hand," they rarely survive.
Of course It each my female students how to kick, punch, tear, claw, gouge, and all that they need to know if they are weaponless, but I keep the techniques few and hard hitting. Even most men will only use no more than four or five techniques in any given fist fight, so why waste time teaching people things they will never use in a real conflict? Again, this is another thing that separates Reality-Based from the other martial arts systems.
All of the students must go through three realistic scenarios, and all of them are extremely nervous just before their first confrontation. However, all of them face their fears and do what they can to survive. That does not mean they win, because we don't want to give them a false sense of security, but we do develop the WILL TO SURVIVE mentality in them. We stick with "hit and run" tactics rather than telling them to go "toe-to-toe" with a man like many other self-defense schools do.
The greatest reward I have teaching Women's Survival is seeing the confidence that I have instilled in these women, and to see the radical change from the first few hours of class to the moment I hand them their training certificates at the end of the seminar, and then to hear their deep felt gratitude. I have been teaching this course since 1987, and it is a course that I think every woman should take.
In my Tactical Pistol course on Wednesday, November 10th, I had a lot of good guys in my class, and all of them weapons experts. One of my students was Long Range Reconnaissance Sergeant (Fernspahfeldwebel) Michael Diel of the Heeresamt 1 2 (German Army Counterterrorism). His job is to develop techniques and training methods for the German Army (Bundeswehr) in dealing with terrorists. Sergeant Diehl, who had spent most of his career in Special Forces, said that there were many techniques he learned in my course that he would definitely include into Army doctrine. Also in the course was Timo Cazor who owns TCS-Akademie fur Sicherheit in Bielefeld, which is a successful security training company that is contracted by the German government. He is responsible for training armed security guards in protecting government buildings, public transportation, and money transportation. While having breakfast at the hotel together, just before class, Timo told me, "Your system is the only real system, and this is why I come."
Thursday, November 11th was Bodyguard Defensive Tactics. I love this course because I had been a police bodyguard with the Orange County Sheriff's Department Dignitary Protection Unit for two years and worked as a private bodyguard for six years. I've also taught many bodyguard courses over the years to a lot of agencies. Although I was teaching the course as chief instructor I also picked up a couple of important pointers from one of the soldiers in my class who is currently assigned to bodyguard duties, and has done so in Afghanistan protecting generals and German diplomats. I always encourage my students to share with the class any pertinent information that they have that can help others. In so doing I often get a wealth of information. Of course, this was a RESTRICTED course and the much of the information shared will never be taught in any of my civilian courses.
The last day of training was the Knife Instructor course, and I had a class full of students who were certified by me on November 12th. All participants had already successfully completed Knife Camp earlier in the year, and Friday's course was to give them instructor pointers, go over the material they had learn earlier in greater detail, and then to be tested on all techniques and training methods. Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of German speaking countries, Tobias Leckebush, and one of my top RBPP instructors and the Director of World Wide Dojo Germany, Joachim Roux, both were instrumental in the testing process since they are native German speakers. Joachim also speaks fluent Spanish, so he was able to test our four Spanish students who flew out from Spain to become certified. I also had a German Army Ranger help me with the course, but he requested that his photograph not be shown, and his name withheld.
After the course this same Army Ranger, Marc Gotzmann, and I drove over to the VSS Solingen firearms range for some practice. I had the opportunity to shoot a 9mm handgun, a Colt AR-15 assault rifle, and a Heckler & Koch G36 civilian version of the German Army's current assault rifle for their troops.
The next day, November 13th, I flew home to California and early the next morning I had to be in class for a course for sergeants; not an easy task with fresh jetlag, but I managed to stay alert. Before I left Germany Tobias Leckebusch and I locked down all of the dates for the RBPP courses for 2011. The way it is set up is that anyone, who has the time and money, can go through all of my 15 courses if they choose, and become a Professional Instructor in the system - all in one year.
This was my last trip overseas for the year 2010, and now I am looking forward to the holiday season and getting some projects completed that will help the Reality-Based Personal Protection system grown even larger next year.
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