It had only been three months ago that I was in Eastern Europe teaching, Slovenia to be exact, and on July 9, 2014 I touched down at Prague International Airport to head to one of my favorite cities in Europe. The next day, at 8:30 in the morning, I was on a live fire shooting range surrounded by fields and forest an hour outside the capital of the Czech Republic; my third time to this country. I had been invited to teach a Tactical Pistol course in the morning and a Bodyguard Defensive Tactics course in the afternoon hosted by Akademie Aegis run by Martin Hradecky and Mario Tacheci: both are Reality-Based Personal Protection instructors I had trained before in Solingen, Germany and in Prague.
The moment we arrived at the range it was cold and raining – right in the middle of summer. It stayed that way the entire day letting up for only 20 minutes in the late afternoon, and when everyone was driving home. That’s Murphy’s Law at its best. In the morning when I was being introduced to my students through my translator Mario Tacheci I told them, “I trained for many years with the United States Marines, and they have an expression that applies to today, and that is, ‘If it’s not raining, it’s not training.” And, so we got to work immediately. Actually, the rain didn’t bother me all, or anybody else for that matter. They were all professionals, and they were there to learn rain or shine.
I was able to teach a lot of techniques and move through the courses of fire at a fairly good pace because every one of my shooters was an expert. They all had tight groupings in both slow fire drills and combat shooting drills. I covered movement drills, dealing with a terrorist armed with a hand grenade, Red Drill, Crowd Interference Drill, and bodyguard tactical shooting. A few hours later we switched to assault rifles and I had the chance after the training to try out some of the newest Czech firearms. After all, the Czech Republic is a large manufacturer of small arms, and their products are respected worldwide.
The next day I taught at Martin and Mario’s self-defense school located in the city of Prague. The school is called Arnis and Balaraw Fighting Club, and it is quite a large impressive school. I was teaching instructors only, and they all wanted to know the secrets to putting together conflict realistic scenarios. After the day was finished my hosts presented me with their school hat and t-shirt, for which I was very honored to accept. I gave both of them the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection challenge coin manufactured by Boker.
For my one-day off in Prague Mario Tacheci took me to a Prague Castle medieval museum located on the old wall fortification where I continued my ongoing research on human conflict. I took a lot of great photos and we even had a chance to compete against each other with a crossbow. We each had three lethal bolts to shoot at about five meters, and Mario came closest to the bull’s eye. I had three good centerline shots, which would have been kills in the neck area, but the goal was for the center circle. It was great how the castle staff had set up a protective lane in which to fire the crossbow. It was set up like a modern gun range where the target went back and forth on a track. We then visited the statue of Jan Žižka (a hero of the Czech people, and one of only seven generals in history who have never lost a battle). Next was the Fata Morgana, which is the Botanical Garden of Prague. For me this was a chance to get a few photos I needed related to my Wilderness Survival course. Of course, we also enjoyed some good authentic Czech food and it was a pleasure just to walk around the streets taking in the sights and sounds.
Who is Martin Hradecky?
Martin Hradecky’s interest in martial arts goes back to his early childhood when he started training in the Japanese styles of Shotokan Karate and Jiu-Jitsu. Not long after he started to train in Chinese Shaolin Kung-Fu, Wing-Tsun Kung-Fu and Tchaj-Ti.
A significant breakthrough in his understanding of the martial arts, and fighting in general, happened when he started training with Petr Machacek, a living legend among Thai boxing and MMA trainers within the Czech Republic. Machacek trained Martin in both Muay Thai and practical self-defense; including ultimate fighting techniques.
Martin has been working in the field of security services since 1991 and has worked for many Czech and foreign security agencies. He then went on to specialize in close protection and related duties. During his bodyguard career Martin has worked for some of the top entrepreneurs, show business personalities, and corporate business managers of Europe. The list also includes being assigned to teams protecting politicians and diplomats.
Employed by the embassy of Israel in the Czech Republic Martin provided protection of the ambassador and his family. This opportunity led to mutual cooperation with Israeli counterparts and Martin receiving training in Israeli instinctive shooting and tactics courses. In the years to follow Martin went through many different courses and specialized trainings, mainly close protection, inside of the Czech Republic, the United States, Russia, Israel, Germany and the United Kingdom. The instructors he has trained under include Jim Wagner, Avi Nardia, Lee Morrison, Gabe Suarez, Shai Levi, and James Short.
Martin Hradecky’s many years of training and real world experience led to him teaching a variety of firearms and tactics courses: Krav Maga, Rukopasnyj boj, Kapap Combatives, Hand-to-Hand Combat, Adaptive Combat Training (ACT), Urban Combatives, Force on Force also known as Defence And Restraint Tactics (D.A.R.T.), and Reality Based Personal Protection.
Martin’s has always had an interest in weapons, ancient and modern. His enthusiasm led him to learning Asian and European weapon systems, historical and modern, “cold weapons” and firearms; this included learning the history behind all weapons as well.
Martin was significantly influenced by the Filipino martial arts. From 1990 to1992 he trained in Latosa Eskrima system, and later in Kali. For many years he studied Serrada Escrima with guro D. Zorvan, situ guro K. Filbrandt, and became instructor certified.
Martin went to the Philippines and trained directly with the Casio family (the Lakas Katorse system), and the Dagooc family (the Dagooc Arnis system and classical Arnis) where he developed his knowledge and skills in stick fighting, knife and bolo combat. He had the opportunity to train one-on-one with Maul Mornie of the Silat Suffian Bela Diri and then European fencing instructor Milan Stepan. However, when it comes to combat with a knife Martin favors most the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection knife system, and his proud of his Knife Survival, Knife Expert, Tactical Knife, and Knife Instructor certificates.
Martin is the founder of Skatach Security and Training Agency and has provided training to many private security agencies including: Pinkerton, Fénix, Securitas, and Pedus Service. The company has also taught official courses for various state armed forces of the Czech Republic.
Currently Martin is the chief instructor Arnis & Balaraw Fighting Club where he teaches of self-defense and self-defense for women. He also continues to works as one of the chief instructors at Akademie Aegis, which is a shooting and tactics academy. Through Aegis he has worked with counterterrorism units of the Czech Republic. His instructor resume includes the national S.W.A.T. team of the Czech Republic Police (ÚRNA), the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the military police, and the 601st group of General Moravec Special Forces. Courses taught to these units include Close Quarters Battle (CQB), knife and telescopic baton use, shooting skills and tactics.
Today Martin also continues to participate in security projects as a personal protection consultant. He also regularly tests different equipment and products for companies; mainly cold weapons, hand guns, rifles and special equipment. He is also an author of many articles mainly for renowned Czech magazine Zbrane & Naboje (Weapons and Ammo), and he is regularly contributes to the martial arts magazine Bojova umeni - Fighter´s magazin.
Who is Mario Tacheci?
Mario Tacheci started his martial arts training, thanks to his brother Alex who was an instructor, going back to 1971 with Japanese Karate, Jeet Kune Do, and Aikido. At 9-years-old Mario enrolled in Judo classes in the Prague club TJ Tatran where he trained for approximately five years. Not only did the martial arts begin to shape his life, but it was also a golden opportunity to see life outside of the Soviet Empire, for the country at the time was communist Czechloslovakia. It was forbidden to leave the country, but international martial arts tournaments gave him the permission he needed to visit the Western countries, “enemy countries,” Germany and France. In 1989 came the fall of Soviet communism, and Mario would have permanent freedom after that.
When looking for more practical self-defense training Mario tried different systems starting with Tae kwon Do (with the International Tae kwon Do Federation with Dan Gun school, with the grand master Hwang Ho Yong). However, it was a typical traditional-based Korean school environment, which led him to “dislike” the mass trainings because of the lack of personal attention. This experience led him to begin training in Escrima having private lessons with Dan Zorvan (a student of Si-Fu guro Klaus Fibrandt) who was living in Germany, but visited Prague on a regular basis in the late 1990s. Zorvan’s way of teaching was exactly Mario had been looking for in terms of effective self-defense. Almost immediately after the first lesson Mario and Mr. Zorvan started planning the first Czech Filipino martial arts school - Combat Serrada Escrima Czech Republic (CSE). It was because of this collaboration, and the first CSE seminars taught in Prague by Klaus Filbrandt and Dan Zorvan, that Mario met his future training and business Martin Hradecky.
Martin Hradecky’s influence moved Mario even closer to reality-based techniques and training methods. Martin even taught him how to do good physical conditioning training that would prepare him both physically and mentally for real combat.
In 2005 Mario and Martin decided to take private lessons with Darrell Casino in the stick fighting system of Lakas Katorse. Apart from this training Darrell also taught them Adaptive Combat Training, which is a reality based self-defense system based on very simple and functional principles.
In 2007 Mario and Martin decided to go to Philippines to train directly with the founder of Lakas Katorse, Darrell’s uncle, Punong Guro Ricardo Casino.
The following year Mario went attended different courses and seminars in the Czech Republic, and some seminars abroad, mainly focused on physical conditioning, civilian first aid, tactical first responder courses, self defense, traditional and modern martial arts. In 2013 was the second trip to the Philippines where Mario trained directly with Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc of the Dagooc Arnis System (DAS). Instructions there included the use of one stick, two sticks, knife, dull dulo, and unarmed combat.
Mario also attended many courses with Mario, such as Silat Suffian Bela Diri with Maul Mornie, Kapap with Avi Nardia, Urban Combatives with Lee Morrison, and Reality Based Personal Protection under the tutorship of Jim Wagner in the following courses: Family Survival, Pocket Stick & Tactical Pen, Urban Survival, Protecting Others. Of course, the latest courses this month under Jim were Tactical Pistol & Rifle, Bodyguard Defensive Tactics, and Scenario Training.
Level 1 and 2 back to back in Paris France
From Prague I took a taxi to the airport I caught a flight to Paris, France on July 13th. The Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of France, Christophe Besse, picked me up at Charles de Gaulle Airport and we headed to Lagny sur Marne forty minutes outside of Paris just as it was getting dark. This was a special night all over the French Republic because it is a night of celebration and fireworks to celebrate the following day – Independence Day; the 14th of July, which is the official date of the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.
The firework show that we saw over the La Marne River was fantastic, and loud music was played throughout the flashes of light and explosions. Thousands of people lined the riverbank on the Quai Saint-Pere and stood on the Pont Maunoury Bridge to watch the spectacle. After the last firework exploded in the sky Christophe and I headed back to his car parked a few blocks away. Half way to the car we stopped in a small closet size room on the side of the street that had a vending machine that offered fresh pizzas served piping hot in 10 minutes. Neither one of us had ever seen such a vending machine before, and so we gave it a try. To our surprise the pizza was actually quite good considering it came from a vending machine.
The next morning we had to get up early to be in the center of Paris by 7 a.m. to get a good spot along the Champs-Élysées for the July 14th military parade starting from the Arch of Triumph and ending at the Place de la Concorde square where the guillotine had been set up to lop of the heads of the French king Louis XVI in 1793, Marie Antoinette the same year, and many other nobility and bourgeoisie. Christophe knew that I wanted to see this parade, and he arranged Levels 1 and 2 around it, plus it was the first time he ever saw this national parade with his own eyes.
The last time I had watched the parade live was when I was 20 years old on a trip I took by myself to Paris. It was just as I had remembered it the first time. Thousands of people lining Paris’ main boulevard, and it started off with cavalry mounted Napoleonic era uniformed soldiers trotting from one end of the boulevard to the other. Minutes later six fighter jets flew low over the Champs-Élysées leaving a trail of striped smoke of the tri-color French flag - blue, white, and red. The crowds cheered. Then continuing overhead where more fighter jets thundering in formation followed by bombers, radar aircraft, and military helicopters one after that. Once the aircraft had dazzled the crowds the military vehicles rumble down the boulevard: heavy tanks, armored personnel carriers, missile launchers, medical transport, and ending with the vehicles of the Paris Fire Department. Unfortunately, we were right next to the beginning of the parade about 100 meters from the Arch of Triumph and the marching soldiers started their march further down the road out of our view. Despite not seeing them, the parade was impressive nonetheless from our perspective.
In the United States we rarely have military parades, certainly not down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. to show off our military might, but we do have airshows or military displays from time to time, like the one at my military base I worked on July 4th for Independence Day However, I think it is good that citizens see their military parade down the main boulevard of their capital to give them a connection to their military; especially when less than 1% of the population serves in the military in most Western countries. It not only shows the public the awesome weapons that a country possess, but it lets people see the faces of those men and women who may have to go to war on their behalf, and it is not just some abstract concept or stories on the news channels. National defense and war are real. Watching the French military go down Champs-Élysées was impressive for all who saw it, especially for Christophe and me.
After the parade Christophe and I took the metro to the Saint Michael section of town and went inside our favorite Japanese restaurant, Matsudo, to feast on fresh shushi.
Level 1 (comprised of Defensive Tactics, Ground Survival, Knife Survival, Crime Survival and Terrorism Survival) was taught by me and Christophe Besse at Progress Form Fitness Club. Assisting both of us as an administrator was Miryana Poljakovic, an elementary school teacher and fitness enthusiast; she had obtained her Level 1 certificate last year from me in the same place, and she took to the Reality-Based Personal Protection system like a duck to water. She is fierce, never complains, and just gets in there and fights. On the first day I also witnessed her get popped in the face for the first time in her life, and waited to see how she was going to react. “Is she going to cry, turn and walk away, or suck it up and continue to fight,” I asked myself. To my pleasant surprise she raised her fists up higher and got back into the fight.
I had one day off in between seminars, and with this spare time I went to go see the Château des Champs-sur-Marne about 30 minutes east of Paris. My goal each time I teach in Paris is to visit a different museum, visit a different battlefield, or visit a different castle. I was going to go visit the Pre-historic museum in Lagny, but the storm that came ripping through northern France was horrific. First flooding rains came down as I was heading to the museum from the castle, and then hail the size of marbles pelted the car I was in. Roads were flooded, low lying roads turned into small streams, and foolish people thinking that their cars could go through swift running water got stuck in the deluge. It was safer just to head back to my room.
The next day at Progress Form Fitness Club was the beginning of Level 2 (Conflict Conditioning, Situational Awareness, Control & Defense, Improvised Weapons, and Handgun Survival). My Reality-Based Personal Protection Coordinator of Switzerland, Gaby Tornaire, came to Paris to get certified for the next step in her martial arts education. I had just worked with her in Geneva in April, and so it was good to see her again. Coming with her was Julie Duranton, and Cindy Bancaleiro who is trying to get on with the Geneva Police Department and wanted to have some solid techniques and tactics behind her. I have trained many Swiss police officers over the past nine years, most of them coming to my courses in Germany, and so I am very familiar with their training and I know how to help them when it comes to officer safety and giving them training they would not get otherwise in the police academy or advanced officer training. I first met Cindy, 24-years-old, from one of my courses I taught in Geneva in April, and I was happy to have her in my five course in the French capital.
For my Tuesday course, Situational Awareness, my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Belgium, Nicolas Marucci, came to Paris to assist me in teaching. He’s a tough former MMA champion, and he always makes for a great “bad guy” for realistic crime scenarios because of his menacing look and military and private security skills. Unfortunately, he could only come out for one day, but I’d be spending the weekend with him and his girlfriend in Brussels, Belgium for the weekend.
For Improvised Weapons and Handgun Survival my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Luxembourg, Patrick Wengler, came out to assist me. Not only did he do an excellent job teaching, and all my students loved his input based on his years of military and police experience, but we had a chance to plan next year’s courses for Reality-Based Luxembourg: Air Assault training, assault rifle and tactical pistol training, and advance tactical medical aid.
My “Women of Reality-Based” surprised me at lunch time during the Handgun Survival course after we had finished eating at a Thai restaurant near the fitness club. They had given the waiter a birthday cake to bring out at just the right moment. At that right moment the lights in the restaurant were suddenly turned down and the waiter came out with a birthday cake with burning candles. A soundtrack had the instrumental of Happy Birthday playing over the house speakers, but it was my students who sang the song to me and Julie Duranton; for we were celebrating our birthdays at the same time together. I had the pleasure of seeing Julie transition from teenager to 20-year-old woman. Julie was certified by me as a Knife Instructor, Level 1 instructor, and now she was finishing up her self-defense education with Level 2. She also assisted me in teaching in April when I was teaching three different courses in Geneva, Switzerland. Julie and I blew out the candles together, which was fun. For her birthday my wife and I had got her a nice sports sweater with the word CALIFORNIA printed on it, and she had bought a Victorinox Swiss pocket knife for me and presented it to me just before class started. The knife is going to go into my Go Bag.
When Handgun Survival had ended, marking the end of the five-day seminar, and everyone got their Level 2 certificates, everyone wanted individual photos with me, and it was fun doing it. One of my students, Frédéric Garcia, I just call him “Fred,” who is a big strong skilled fighter, came up to me and said, “Jim, now that I have completed Level 2 I now know that this is the best system around. It has everything anyone needs. When I came to you in Level 1 I was already impressed with you, especially in your Knife Survival course. You were the first instructor I ever saw who not only attacked realistically, but you handed the knife to the students and had them attack you. I had never seen this before from an instructor. You said, ‘Come at me how you want. Just try to kill me.’ You didn’t have any rules, or any particular way you wanted your students to come at you like other instructors do, which is very choreographed. You defended yourself like in a real fight. That’s when I knew I wanted to continue to study under you.” Of course I was touched by his comment, and even more proud that he was wearing a Reality-Based Personal Protection t-shirt. He had his name in the logo, but underneath it says, A JIM WAGNER SYSTEM. “Fred, I have to get a photo of your shirt,” I said to him, always glad to see an instructor go all the way with the system.
That evening the RBPP staff took me to a café in the Montmartre section of Paris for my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be at or better company around me for a happy celebration. Christophe Besse, Patrick Wengler, Miryana Poljakovic and my wife and I met up with my former RBPP Director of France, Julien Nodier. Sitting at one of the outdoors table on the cobblestone street with the most perfect weather imaginable, with a view of the Sacré Coeur cathedral at the end of the street and old 19th century cafes and people at the other end, I decided to go all out, “all out French” that is, with an escargots (cooked snails) appetizer washed down with cold French beer (for I was all red wined out by this time), canard a l’orange (duck with orange sauce), and legumes. After the long relaxing meal we all went inside the establishment and convinced the piano player to temporarily surrender his piano to Julien, a musician and music professor, who played the song Happy Birthday like I’ve never heard it before. It had the same catchy tune, but with a mix of classic 18th century melody. Then, per my request, Julien played La Vie en Rose.
After two weeks of teaching it was great to have another day off, and Christophe and I took full advantage of the free time. On Saturday morning, July 26th, we had a small breakfast of fresh croissants and chocolat chaud, and then we took off for a drive south of Paris. We went to Chateau de Fontainebleau; the very castle where Napoleon Bonaparte ruled France from. Whenever the emperor was at war he wrote letters back home longing to be back at Fontainebleau.
Come evening time we had a home cooked meal from the parents of Christophe’s girlfriend’s parents; two people I have become quite attached to in the last several years. We had Victoire champagne and tasty hors-d’oeuvres to start with. Then out came the entrée of roasted chicken, small whole potatoes, and fresh green beans. Dessert was various French cheeses and eye-appealing pastries. It was a great evening of talking about music, films, food, French and American politics, and ending with the Israeli-Hamas War. After all, French Muslims had been rioting every day the whole time I was I was in Paris destroying Jewish shops, setting fires and torching cars in the streets, and throwing rocks at riot police. “What do French-Jewish shop keepers have to do with the Middle East situation?” I asked at the table. The consensus was, “Absolutely nothing.” There is a wave of anti-Semitism that has been sweeping across Europe of late, and young restless anti-Western men are using this current war happening on the opposite end of the Mediterranean Sea as an excuse for lawlessness. Of course, there were no similar demonstrations for the massacre of Muslims in Syria, Iraq or Libya happening at the same time. In the nightly news I didn’t see any young men out in the streets demanding that Boko Haran of Nigeria return over 200 kidnapped girls to their grieving parents. These events don’t even so much as get a burning candle or a pebble tossed from these young men.
The seminars had ended and Nicolas Marucci and his girlfriend came to pick up my wife and me in Paris and drove us all the way to Brussels; about a four-hour drive. This time we didn’t have any seminars set up in Charleroi like we did last year, mainly because he is recovering from knee surgery, but we just wanted to hang out together.
That night we had a home cooked meal of couscous and tender meats, and Claude Tussin was an invited guest. Claude is one of the top firearms and close protection instructors in Belgium, and just a great guy to sit down and talk shop with.
The next day was a little bit of tourism in the center of Brussels and a little bit of last minute shopping before leaving Europe. Having been in three countries on this trip, a bunch of weather changes, and having taught 13 courses for almost a month, it felt like I had been away from home for six months. So, on Tuesday morning, July 29th, it was nice to finally board a passenger aircraft heading back to the United States despite the increased airport security for all passenger aircraft going that direction. Thanks to Al Qaeda, and I mean it very sarcastically, everyone is now subject to turning on all electrical devices to make sure that it is not a container packed with undetectable explosives these terrorists claim to be developing in Yemen. It’s not enough that a plane has disappearing over the ocean or one was shot down by a missile over the Ukraine, and another one nose diving into the ground in Africa, but now everyone anywhere in the world flying for business or to visit distant family one has to wonder if they are going to be blown out of the sky because “Allah ou akbar!” Allah is greater! (I speak about those bomb makers in Yemen believing they are doing their god a service by murdering people). Somehow we are all like those innocent French-Jewish shopkeepers in Paris. We are a target just for the sake of being a target.
238 years of freedom
In this article I am going back before my trip to Europe. I’m talking about July 4, 2014 Independence Day for the United States of America.
While most Americans were enjoying their barbequed hamburgers or hotdogs, watching parades, or enjoying the summer sun, I was doing my part to safeguard American lives. I had volunteered to work at my military base all day and night.
When I showed up for duty I had no idea what mission I’d be assigned. Although the year before I had been in charge of a section of the base protecting around 30,000 visitors, I didn’t know what to expect this time around. I knew I’d be given command of something, being that I am a high level sergeant, but I didn’t know what. When I walked through the office my direct supervisor said to me, “Sergeant Wagner, today you will be in charge of everything,” and everything meant everyone (all enlisted personnel) in my Reserve Division. “Oh sure, I’ll be around if you have any questions,” he said, “but you are in overall command of the troops.”
It was a huge responsibility, and I can’t go into the details of the actual mission, but let’s just say that I was honored to serve my country in this capacity. Granted, it wasn’t a combat mission in Afghanistan or a security detail somewhere on allied soil, but it was directly contributing to protecting fellow soldiers and citizens in my little corner of the world.
At the end of the night my supervisor laughed and said to me, “Now you know what it is like to be in charge,” because I had given him an oral After Action Report on all of the “little fires” I had to put out all day and night long. It was easy in the past supervising soldiers at just the main gate, going out on a two-man patrol, or running a Quick Reaction Force, but it was a lot different with nearly 20 soldiers to worry about, and to make sure everything was running smooth.
Obviously, a part of me would have rather been with my family wolfing down a cheeseburger hot off the grill and watching a fireworks display without having to scan a crowd for Active Shooters or a suicide bomber, but sometimes duty comes first, and on this 4th of July it did. For all of you fellow Americans who did the same on the 4th, you put on a uniform and served on this national celebration, my hat goes off to you for your selfless dedication. God bless America.
Copyright Jim Wagner 2003 - 2021 All rights reserved.