Turning to Reality-Based training amidst Europe in turmoil
While I was in Europe this month teaching my Reality-Based Personal Protection courses (Level II, Women’s Survival, and Level III) riots broke out in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, and 130 demonstrations flaring up all across France. Some anti-austerity groups were also trying to stir up trouble in Germany, where I was teaching, in order to stir up the people to follow along with the chaos sweeping Europe, but the Germans are enjoying a tenuous economic security at this moment and wanted none of it; one of the reasons that I am thankful that my RBPP school is located in Solingen, Germany. However, Germany sees a few potential economic problems looming on the horizon. As I was flying out of Dusseldorf International Airport on Thursday, the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, was flying into Germany to discuss the European Union’s economy. It is more of a “crisis avoidance meeting.” In addition to the tensions in Europe the nightly news reports on television are non-stop about the Israeli-Hamas conflict that is escalating, the bloodbath of the Syrian Civil War, massive protests erupting against the Jordanian government due to a recent tax increase on fuel, and talk of the United States going off the financial cliff in January. This is very worrisome to Europeans since our two economies are woven together. Then, closer to “home,” there was an office shooting in Hilden; a small town a few minutes from my school just five hours after I finished teaching my Handgun Survival course, which is designed to teach Reality-Based Personal Protection students and instructors how to conduct realistic shooting scenarios that include terrorism, armed robberies, drive-by shooting, school shootings, and office massacres – just like Hilden. These kinds of shootings are happening so frequently now that they don’t even shock the nation any more. The story was on the front pages of the newspapers and on the evening news on the day it happened, but practically forgotten the next. All this was the backdrop for my courses.
The students who came to me this month are the rare few who see violence increasing around the world, not decreasing. They are the ones that want to be ready if the violence spills into their lives. To prepare for a potential criminal or terrorist attack some of my student based continued on with their martial education with my Level II courses taught from November 5th to 9th. These courses, listed in order, were Conflict Conditioning, Situational Awareness, Control & Defense, Improvised Weapons, and Handgun Survival.
All of these students in Level II had taken Level I in the past, and they included martial arts instructors, police officers, and security agent Andy Taubert who runs Brilliant Personal Security GmbH in Switzerland near Zurich. A pleasant surprise was having Patrick Wengler, the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Luxemburg, come to pay me a visit. We ended up doing another training video together that I will eventually place on YouTube. You might recall that the video that I put up on YouTube before this trip to Germany, Jim Wagner my self-defense instructor: Impact weapons defense, was with Patrick. Also, Bernd Israng and Jochen Burlafinger came in to help out; as well as Joachim Roux of Aikido-Kreis Cologne and Reality-Based Cologne. Not only is Joachim one of my top students and one of my most talented certified instructors, but he is a good friend as well having enjoyed some outings with his family; he’s the one who introduced me to Geocaching.
One evening when I finished teaching I received a surprise visit from Peter Wolfsdorf. He is the owner and operator of the well-renown bodyguard school AASW located in Bavaria. I first met Peter in 2005 when he hosted me to teach his instructors the Reality-Based Personal Protection Knife Survival course; a course every bodyguard should take. Peter asked me, “Are you doing anything for dinner?” Fortunately, I didn’t have any plans for that night and twenty minutes later we were enjoying a fantastic Italian dinner in the heart of Solingen. With him was a friend of his, a captain in the German Army, who it turns out has been carrying my Jim Wagner Reality Based Blade for years on duty. At the dinner table we talked about security issues, and especially about the future of Afghanistan when American and German troops eventually pull out of there.
Every morning before breakfast I got onto my laptop in my hotel room and sent out a daily personal protection tip for my Twitter followers and Facebook friends. I only had about 20 minutes each morning, and so I got it out quick. One of the tips that got a lot of good feedback was about how to survive a garrote someone places around your neck to try and kill you with. Here is that tip:
If someone slips a garrote around your neck the Jim Wagner rule is, “get behind him.” There is no other solution.
A garrote is a robe, wire, or cable, that is sometimes attached to handles on each end, that an attacker slips over his victim’s head from behind and then pulls or twists it around the neck in order to cut off air and blood flow
The problem with regaining your airway or getting blood flow through the carotid arteries again is that the strangling device around the neck is going to be so tight that you can’t slip your fingers underneath to pull it away from your neck. The minimum time before you black out is three seconds. If the cord happens to be right over the larynx then that could be crushed in less than a second. So, basically, you have less than a second to figure out what to do in order to survive a garrote attack.
In my Reality-Based Personal Protection Improvised Weapons course I teach my students how to both apply a garrote and how to defend against it. Just like I teach choke holds from behind I use the same Jim Wagner jump-start command rule to get out of a rear choke hold, I use the same rule to get out of the deadly force garrote, “If the attacker is behind me, I get behind him.” To shorten this jump-start command in your mind it is, “Behind me, get behind him.” Jump-start commands are something you repeat in your brain every time you practice a particular move. For example, when you come up to an injured victim you always tell yourself, “ABC. Airway, Breathing, Circulation.” This jump-start command helps you in the moment of stress to remember what you are supposed to do thereby reducing reaction time. I remember at Fort Benning, Georgia watching the Airborne troops training and hearing them always repeat, “Stand up, hook up, shuffle to the door. Jump right out and count to four.” Why did they always repeat this even if only jumping from a wooden tower to go down the zip line? So that when they were in real airplanes jumping out they would not forget any vital steps. Therefore, I have many jump-start commands in my system, and “Behind me, get behind him,” will save your life when that garrote is squeezing the life out of you.
There are a few ways that a criminal can apply a garrote, but regardless of which one he applies, even if you are seated, the rule is the same. “GET BEHIND HIM!” If you are standing when the garrote is applied step behind the bad guy. If you are seated, such as in a theater or a car, get your heels up on the seat and launch yourself backwards until you are with the bad guy. The garrote may still be around your neck, but it won’t be at the angle the attacker prefers and you will at least be in a better position to counterattack.
The best way to understand my original technique is to practice it. However, safety is paramount and you don’t want to have any pressure on the neck with the garrote. Very light pressure that does not cut off the air supply or stop the blood flow is what you are after when applying it in training. Yes, we want realistic training, but we don’t want real injuries or death.
Be A Hard Target.
Photo above: Swiss security specialist Andy Taubert applies a leveraged garrote technique against a training mannequin in my Improvised Weapons course that I taught yesterday in Solingen, Germany. As an instructor of many U.S. Marines, including MCMAP combatives instructors, I follow their motto: ONE MIND, ANY WEAPON. Put any weapon in my hand, or in the hands of my students, and we will win.
In every seminar I teach I usually get a few gifts. For example, one of my police students who took all five Level II courses gave me one of his police patches. Another one gave me the unofficial patch of his SEK unit (SEK is the same as a large American metropolitan S.W.A.T. team) and a T-shirt with the same emblem. Of course, I love getting police & military patches, challenge coins, T-shirts, and hats of units or personnel that I have trained to add it to my huge collection; for I have trained many since 1992. However, the gift that really touched me was a knife given to me by Jorg Kuschel of Kenju-ryu in Nordrhein-Westfalen.
During our “NATO pause,” our first break of the day, Jorg came into my office and walked up to my front desk. He pulled a small pocket knife out of his pocket. He said to me in perfect English, “Jim, I have appreciated everything you have taught me since I have first come to you. You have opened up my eyes to a whole new way of teaching the martial arts. As such, I would like to give you, a knife fighting master and someone who taught me how to better use a knife, this knife as a gift to you.”
Yes, I was immediately honored that he had taught that much of me to give me a present, and a knife no less, but what he was about to say to me floored me.
“Jim, this was my grandfather’s knife, and I would like for you to keep it. My grandfather was captured by the Americans in World War II. They shipped him to a Prisoner of War camp in the United States where he did labor at a work camp. One of the American guards, who liked my grandfather, gave him this pocket knife. See, it has the letters US carved into the wood here. My grandfather took it to Germany with him when he was released. He then carried this knife for the rest of his life. Then my grandfather gave it to me. I know give it to you, out of deep respect, and it is now returning to the country from which it came.”
I couldn’t speak for a second. This was no ordinary knife, this was a knife that had a deep history and one with a lot of sentimental value attached to it.
I told Jorg, “Thank you Jorg, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. This is such an honor, and I will proudly add it to my knife collection at home. Not only that, I will tell everybody about this knife if I have your permission.”
Jorg gave me permission, and now you know about it. For someone to give me a family heirloom, especially from World War II, was worth mentioning. So, Jorg, if you are reading this now, “Once again, thank you. It is a true treasure.”
Jorg is a traditional-based martial arts instructor, the same age as me, who now teaches Reality-Based Personal Protection once a week at his school, and plans on expanding it as the student base expands. Jorg is a rare breed in the fact that he had all of his top black belt instructors under him go through my courses to become “Reality-Based.” Not many instructors would attend courses as a student with their own students.” Jorg, along with one of his top black belts Ajeeth Sivanayagam, appear in my training video titled Jim Wagner my self-defense instructor: Throwaway wallet.
Women facing their fears
I only teach the Women’s Survival course once a year and this year it fell November 10th and 11th; that’s how I spent my weekend. This was by far the most aggressive group, as a whole, that I have ever taught in Germany. Every woman, and two of them were only 18 years old, gave their all; even when they were extremely nervous going into all of the realistic scenarios to face my male role players: Paul Lavista and Christian Knops.
Assisting me for the two days was my German RBPP Director, Tobias, who is an outstanding instructor. Tobias is the biggest advocate for this course and is always trying to recruit new women to sign up for the course. He, like me, believes this is a course that EVERY WOMAN should take. Although we indeed teach women how to physically fight, the most import lessons learned in this course that our students walk away with is better situational awareness.
What really made this course run really well was the help of my female assistant instructor Sarah Scheu. Sarah was not only a martial arts instructor prior to coming to me for Level 1 and Knife Camp instructions, but she is an excellent communicator on top of that; not to mention flawless English. The women in my lass respected her greatly. She understood their fears, their limitations, and knew how to push them more than they thought they could.
During the first morning as Sarah and I were getting the equipment ready for our incoming students, and Tobias was signing them in, Sarah said to me, “A month ago Timo and I were invited to a radio station to do an interview about Reality-Based Personal protection.”
Timo is her “boss” and also her instructor. Timo was certified by me as a Level 1 Reality-Based instructor in September, and of course I was very happy to hear about them spreading the word about Reality-Based Personal Protection through a radio interview.
Who else is teaching this?
I joked with my students, although it is a serious statement as well, by saying to my Level III students, “Who else is teaching this? Who? If you know of anyone please let me know. I’d like to go to a course like this.”
Some joked back, “Nobody.”
The second week of instructions in Germany was devoted to Level III courses. The objective is to make self-defense instructors BETTER instructors regardless if they teach Reality-Based Personal Protection or not. Of course, I started out by discussing with them the positive and negative aspects of running a self-defense business, and most of all wanted them to know the pit falls.
We went into a lot of details about Marketing & Advertising. This is an area were very few self-defense instructors excel. So, what made me an expert in publicity? Well, after my short stint in the United States Army I went into the field of advertising and worked my way up rather quickly to Art Director for a few advertising agencies; that’s the top slot for a creative staff. I thought this was going to be my life-long career path, but eventually it would be law enforcement, and then teaching the world’s elite, and finally ending up teaching RBPP, designing knives, and writing things like this.
Throughout my teaching career advertising & marketing has been a vital skill in getting my message of realistic training out. In this course I didn’t hold back. I shared with my students many secrets to make their own businesses more successful. We covered social media, print media, and the effective use of video media. Not only did we talk about these things, but I had my students do hands-on assignments that they will take home and duplicate.
Eventually the training led to how to make professional, or let’s say “just below professional,” quality video messages, training videos, and imbedded videos. Each student had to pick a self-defense technique for their final project, write an outline, draw a storyboard, prepare the “actors” and have the necessary props ready to go, and then we started actually videotaping each of their video techniques.
Not only was it highly educational, but the men were like boys having fun; sorry ladies, there were no females students in the Level III courses this year.
Again, I decided to take something I was teaching in one of my courses this week and turn it into a personal protection tip. I called the tip The 15 minute robber. Here is the very tip that I placed on my Facebook wall:
Now, I’ve spoken about Facebook a couple of times, and I think it is a great took for communicating to my student and instructor base. If you don’t have a Facebook account yet I suggest that you sign up for one, it’s free, and join me at jimwagnerbpp. You’ll get a good tip, like the one above, everyday; except Sunday. There needs to be one day of rest, and a time to worship God.
The great thing about teaching Level III is that the students love to take photos of some of the projects: stage make-up for injuries, the making of props, and setting up scenarios. One of the instructors, Gerald Meinschein, who runs a very successful martial arts school in Wuppertal (I know because I’ve taught 60 of his students in a 2 hour seminar a couple of years ago) did quite a funny thing. I used Gerald as an example of how to apply stage-make up to make a person look like the victim of a terrorist bombing. I had a large piece of “broken glass” protruding from his forehead with artificial blood running down from it. It was a very fast job that I did, but from a meter or two away it looked like the real thing. Well, he decided to go out to lunch like that. He, and a few of the other students, went across the street to the pizza place and had lunch. Of course people noticed the ghastly would immediately, and had to do a double take. I didn’t go to lunch with them, but they told me all about when they returned. They said most people were shocked at first, but then they laughed. One woman came up to the restaurant window from the outside, opened up her jacket to reveal to them her nurse’s uniform offering her first aid experience. She laughed, and then went on. The high school kids that pass by there, and actually fill up the place got a big kick out of it. Boys will be boys.
After graduation Tobias and I got together for a meeting and hammered out the possible schedule for 2013. When it comes to my European schedule always I start off with Germany first, naturally since it is my European headquarters, and then commitments in other countries are worked around it. I’ve already got seminars lined up in France, Italy, Slovenia, England, and Switzerland for next year.
I climbed aboard my aircraft on Thursday morning bound for the United States, loaded down with some Christmas gifts and a few souvenirs of course, and headed back to my home in California. That was enough rain and cold for me for the month.
Getting a little bit of Revenge
Just before going to Germany to teach my three seminars I was unable to put up a story for the October news. Well, better late than never. On October 23rd one of my top RBPP students and instructors, Butch Pierson, invited me to the filming of the ABC television show Revenge. He is the supervisor of a camera crew and occasionally I take him up on his offer to come out to the set. Over the years Butch has worked on many Hollywood movies and television series.
For anyone who has taken my Level 1 courses they all know that we do a lot of scenario training, and once you advance up the training ladder the scenarios are more elaborate with stage sets, lighting, props, stage make-up, and special effects. Butch knows that I get a lot of pointers by watching how Hollywood creates illusions for the camera to make scenes look real, just like I do for my students. He also introduces me to the director, key people, and some of the actors. Not only do I learn a lot of new techniques, it is also just fun to watch how these professionals work. There is a lot of work and money that goes into each scene.
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