From the very first hour of class all of the students bonded as if they all had known each other for years. Yet, they were as diverse a group as one could be: a deputy sheriff, a probation officer, a counselor that tends to the mentally ill, two Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables, a beginner who had to be convinced by her husband to come to the weekend course, and marital arts instructors from different systems that include Russian Systema, Israeli Krav Maga, Filipino Kali, Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, Thai kickboxing, and Canadian Defendo. They also came from different corners of Canada as well: British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon. After all, it had been a few years since I taught “course number 1,” the very course that is the foundation of the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system, Defensive Tactics.
With the rise in crime and terrorism worldwide most of my civilian courses in foreign countries for the past few years has been limited to Knife Survival, Crime Survival, and Terrorism Survival first made popular by Black Belt magazine and Budo magazine back in 2005. The idea of once again offering the basic empty-hand conflict course was not my own, though I was never opposed to it. It came about by many people requesting the course from Mike Kendall, the RBPP Director of Canada.
A few months ago Mike contacted me asking me if I’d be willing to fly up to his corner of the globe and teach my original Defensive Tactics course in Abbotsford; a one hour drive east of downtown Vancouver. Not only was I willing, but I told him that we’d do the continuation course as well – Defensive Expert. The date was set for the weekend of March 15th and 16th, and my Delta Airlines E175 jet aircraft touched down at Vancouver International Airport made it “reality.” Mike was waiting for me with Todd Wyatt, who had flown in from the Provence of Alberta and landed there a couple of hours before I did.
Todd is a large muscular man, a schoolteacher by day and a pub bouncer by evening when called upon, and in a fistfight he’d bee “the worse case scenario” if you ever found yourself on the business end of his fists. I used him quite often throughout the weekend to “test” the effectiveness of the newly learned techniques of the weaker and less skilled students in the class. But, like I said, everyone “bonded” from the get go, and there were no egos involved – none. Nobody got hurt, and very body helped each other learn.
Before starting the training Saturday morning at 8 am I had the pleasure of meeting John Parker; the man who offered us his self-defense school, the National Training Centre, for the two days in Abbotsford. John, who I got to know in the 48 hours I was under his roof, is a like-minded instructor. Though he was just introduced to the Reality-Based system he certainly thinks and trains his own students along the same vein. This is probably one of the reasons we got along so well together. Not only was he a gracious host, but we bounced some ideas off of each other, and I even had him step in a time or two to have him show a variation of one of my techniques or explain it in a different way I had not heart it put before.
I mentioned that I had students from the Yukon. Three of them to be exact: Ryan Leef, his wife Heather, and his adult university son Aaron. His lovely wife was not just there to “cheer on the boys,” but she was there for herself to master hand-to-hand combat. After all, she is a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable like her husband; not to be confused with the two young Mounties in the same course who were there to fill in the gaps of the government training. Over the past 20 years I’ve taught a fair number of RCMP constables, including those at the Prime Minister Protection Detail level, and I know what to add to their training to increase their survivability in their dangerous career.
Let me pause for a moment and give a little more attention to my returning student Ryan Leef.
Exactly 10 years ago, in 2009, Ryan took five courses from me in Surrey, Canada when Mitra Castano was my RBPP Director of Canada: Defensive Tactics, Ground Survival, Knife Survival, Crime Survival, and Terrorism Survival. As a RCMP constable, and a Mix Martial Arts fighter, he was highly motivated and a very skilled student, but like most of my students whom I’ve taught my system to I lose touch with them once I’ve handed them their instructor certificate.
Then, on October 22, 2014, Canada experienced its first major radical Islamic terrorist attack; not just in the capital of the nation, but in the Parliament Hill’s Centre Block building itself – the seat of the government (the American equivalent of the U.S. Capitol building).
I, like the rest of the world, had heard about the terrorist attack in the news. As a Reality-Based Personal Protection instructor who introduced the martial arts community the very first Terrorism Survival course back in 2003, I used this same incident as a case study for future courses. I also had a keen interest when the attack happened, because I had taught Terrorism Survival several times in Canada up to that point, and therefore I took this particular attack personally.
Well, unbeknownst to me, Ryan Leef was a Member of Parliament at the time, in Ottawa, and in the National Caucus room at the time when the shots rang out, BAM! BAM! BAM! at 9:52 a.m. Canadian-born terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, believed to have fought in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, breached the sacred building . Ryan, and the entire Canadian government, was in the chamber like sitting ducks. When I state “entire Canadian government,” I mean “entire Canadian government;” the Minister of National Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice and Public Safety, and even the Prime Minister himself – Steven Harper.
I would have never known that Ryan was in the middle of that infamous incident had it not been for him contacting me, and thanking me for helping prepare him for that very moment. Not only did he thank me in an email, and in a follow up long distance phone call, but he sent me an official government appreciation letter, gold seal and all, that basically stated that I indirectly helped to save the government that day. He went to great lengths to tell me that he was the first person to recognize the loud sounds out in the hallway as gunshots, and the first to order other Members of Parliament to head to the two closed large dark stained wooden doors and barricade themselves in the chamber; the exact same scenario Ryan did in his 2009 RBPP Terrorism Survival course in 2009. The goal was to stop the terrorist from coming in, or at a minimum slow him down and mount a door ambush… a time before the U.S. Department of Homeland Defense came up with the slogan Run, Hide, Fight for active shooter incidents in my own country.
Now, almost four and a half years after the Canadian terrorist attack, Ryan Leef is no longer a Member of Parliament, but today he is a Use-of-Force consultant and he decided not only to take a refresher course from me, but he wanted his own flesh and blood to have the same direct teaching from me, because as Ryan knows, one never knows when disaster will strike…
Not only was Ryan Leef back to take more courses from me, but former RBPP Director of Canada Nick Serna showed up for the weekend. Nick has trained with me in a few countries over the years. I loved the fact that he was there during my two courses, because he always has great tactical advice to share with the students.
Just before the end of the first day I asked Ryan Leef if he’d tell his two survival stories to his fellow classmates as a learning opportunity for them. I stated “two stories,” because the year before the Ottawa terrorist attack Ryan survived the Boston Marathon Bombing that took place on April 15, 2013. Just as Ryan crossed the finish line in the race two homemade pressure cooker bombs exploded, planted by radical Islamic terrorist brothers Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerian Tsarnaev, killing three people and injuring several hundred. Sixteen people lost their limbs. Who says lighting doesn’t strike twice? Two terrorist attacks in one lifetime…
After everybody was finished shaking hands, and the door was locked up, Mike, Todd, and I took Don Woltjer up on his dinner invitation. An hour later we feasted on two smoked turkeys he had placed in his backyard smoker in the wee hours of the morning. The side dishes included stuffing, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, and the women folk provided deviled eggs and a salad. For dessert Jack, a long time friend of Don’s, made a chocolate cheesecake that would be fierce competition if it went up against any fine restaurant. Of course, we talked shop, a lot about the martial arts, naturally, but we also got into a good discussion about politics and religion. A bunch of alpha dogs are not afraid of bringing up taboo topics at the dinner table.
Don, if you are reading this article, thanks again for a wonder dinner and night. I can’t wait for the next time.
Day two of the weekend seminar was just as electric as the day before. My female Royal Canadian Mounted Police student (name withheld for security reasons) shared with me an article she had been featured in the week before, even though she hates the media lime light. The reporter at the scene of a crime even included an action photo of her moving into the Hot Zone with her carbine rifle in hand. The photo reminded me about why I am passionate about teach law enforcement officers, military personnel, and private security operators survival techniques and tactics, and that is to do my part to keep them safe. Everyone who read that story, and saw that photo in British Columbia only saw “an officer” in the photo, but I see the faces; the human side – men and women who put their lives on the line to protect you and me.
Another surprise for the weekend was when Garth Hoffman showed up to watch the class for a couple of hours. Garth and I go way back to the 1990s when I ran HSS International, a training organization specifically for law enforcement and military operators, and I brought him aboard as a self-defense instructor. I missed him last year when I was in Abbotsford because his daughter was having his first grandchild; my future student. Ha! Ha!
For lunch several of the students invited me, and Garth Hoffman, to go to a nearby restaurant called the Bow & Stern; just a half a block up the street. Of course, Sunday was Saint Patrick’s Day and a few of us had the traditional green beer to celebrate. I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day in honor of all of my students I taught in Ireland. So, that beer was for you guys!
After lunch I covered pressure points for controlling people, victim rescue, Restraint Positional Asphyxiation, and how to take down a suicide bomber from behind, or anyone armed heading for the Kill Zone.
After the course ended, and thus the weekend seminar, Mike, Todd, and I went to have our last meal together. We went to a place that served some great hot wings. When I looked around I saw other patrons having their green beers. One guy went all out for the holiday, and I could resist taking a photo of him.
Mike and I dropped Todd off at the Abbotsford Airport, and then Mike dropped me off at my hotel on the outskirts of town, with a beautiful view of the country and snow covered Mount Baker in the distance, where I just relaxed for the night.
The next morning Mike picked me up, drove me back to the Vancouver International Airport, and a couple hours I was airborne flying south to Southern California. While I was on the two different aircraft to get back home I wrote this article so you’d know how the trip went, and give credit to Mike Kendall for a job well done promoting the Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system in his country.
I got home late, and it was straight to bed, because I had to get up at the crack of dawn to go train the security team of an American Fortune 100 company.
BE A HARD TARGET
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