Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fighting To The Gun

These last few months have been a flurry of learning and experiences for me. Shortly after completing my Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training, my husband and I enrolled in Krav Maga, an Israeli version of down and dirty self defense training. While going through that program our instructor learned we were firearms instructors and got his first ever private firearms lesson from me.

Our experiences are almost exactly opposite one another. He is a career martial artists who has dedicated decades of his life to hand-to-hand combat yet he knows next to nothing about firearms. He wants to get his concealed carry permit and so he wants to learn about guns but his mindset has not adapted to the gun yet. When given self defense scenarios he brilliantly comes up with unarmed responses and when given the option of a firearm it's an awkward afterthought he has to be reminded of.

I, on the other hand, have come from a very different background of ideals and training. I've spent almost seven years learning about guns. I have little doubt that I would be a formidable opponent with a firearm. But I have to get to the firearm first. As our Krav instructor amuses himself with his near inability to remember a gun as an option, I frustrate myself with my lack of options if a gun is not available.

He doesn't know how lucky he is and how irritated I am.

In my blog titled Gun Centric Much?? I talked about the carry community's dirty little secret and that is that the gun is way over pushed as a solution to every self defense problem. Just today I got a comment that said, "... my plan has always been not to FIGHT if I can just SHOOT!"

That statement, quite frankly, is terrifying. 

First, I'm going to touch a bit on legalities. Not every self defense situation out there warrants the use of a firearm or deadly/lethal force in general. Nor should anyone's goal be to use lethal force when they have a less-than-lethal option available to them. As Rory Miller put it in Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected the basic formula is this:
"You may use the minimum level of force that you reasonably believe is necessary to safely resolve the situation." 
If you want a further breakdown of what that means I strongly encourage you to pick up the book and read it for yourself. It's very enlightening and essential information for anyone who wants to understand the legalities of using lethal force.

In a nutshell, however, if you are going to have a lethal means of self defense on your person then you should understand when you can and cannot use it.

But, let's get past that. Let's say you are perfectly justified in using lethal force. In fact, you MUST use lethal force to defend yourself.

You've just been assaulted. A man twice your size with three times your strength has just attacked you. He's fighting to get his hands around your neck (or worse, he already has them there) and he's growling that he's going to kill you. 

Well, if polled, a vast majority of people would respond to this scenario with a hearty, "I'd shoot him!"

That sounds pretty simple, doesn't it?

But as your reach your hand back toward your gun your attacker recognizes the gesture, reaches down and grabs your gun hand, stopping your draw. He also begins to pull up his shirt and you see he also has a gun.. and he's reaching for it.

Now what?

"I'd shoot him!" doesn't seem to be so simple any more, does it?

What many people who carry guns fail to realize is that, in many cases, the hardest part of using a firearm in self defense is actually getting to the gun. 

I can feel the eye-rolling through the screen. 

"I carry my gun on my body in an easy-to-access location. It's in an open top holster with no retention device. I practice my draw stroke daily. I have a less-than-a-second draw. I ever wear tactical clothing with weighted corners so that it can be brushed aside easier. I never button my cover garment....."

Those are good things. And they mitigate some other problems with getting to your gun. But they no amount of ease of access is going to help you free your gun hand from your attacker's if that just happens to be the way the fight starts.

I once asked the members of a gun forum I moderate what they would do if their first indication of danger was that their gun hand was grabbed by an attacker.

I was shocked when a good number of members flat out said, "I don't know.

Most attacks happen at very close distances. Many of them within five feet and if anyone tells you they don't let strangers get that close to them they are lying or delusional. In many cases, the first indication of danger is a surprise attack, a sucker punch, a grab, a push. Yes, sometimes there is an interview stage where a potential attacker will ask for the time or money or a cigarette, but, again if escalation occurs you may well find yourself in a physical fight just to get to your gun. Then you still have to make effective shots, potentially while still in a physical struggle.

On Monday we did a bit of this in Krav. It was/is not easy to do. I have two bruised knees, a sore foot, scrapped ankle, bruised back and scratches on the front and back of both of my upper arms. I also have a nasty three-day-old headache from said head being bounced off the mat (Thank God there WAS a mat!).

There are three scenarios we worked.

1. Getting to the gun.
2. Keeping the gun when your attacker discovers you have one.
3. Keeping your gun and defending against an attackers gun.

Depending on the scenario, getting the gun can be hard enough.

Someone grabs your gun hand, you may have a smorgasbord or options depending on your training and the situation. Whether you punch him in the nose, kick him in the groin I don't care as long as it gets you free to get to your gun if it needs to escalate to that. It might not need to go there, but at least you have that option now.

The number one, absolute best way to keep your gun is to keep it in its holster. Correction: Keep it in its QUALITY holster. The little nylon one-size-fits-most piece of junk you bought for $5 on the sale rack that has two tears in the plastic that holds the firearm to your belt is NOT a quality holster. Now, I certainly understand that not everyone can carry in a quality belt holster. Some outfits and carry needs demand an array of holster options that may be less-than-ideal. However, whenever possible, I would hope (and assume) that you are carrying in the best holster you could find for your lifestyle and needs. And, dare I say, if your cell phone has a better holster than your gun than you may need to rethink some priorities.

Now, here is the problem with keeping that firearm in the holster. If the holster does not have an active retention device (and even if it does (depending on how much you trust that retention device)) it's going to take one of your hands. Which means that you are going to be fighting with one hand tied behind your back. Protect your head the best you know how (and if you don't know how I suggest you learn how) and get mean. Go nuts. Do whatever you can. If someone is trying to get your gun the likely outcome if they succeed is not going to be them smiling fondly and saying, "HA HA! I got it."

And lastly, keep your eyes open and look for tell-tale signs that the attacker is going for a weapon of his own. Reaching to the hip or under a shirt are two big ones. They are universal signs announcing, "I have a gun."

So, here you are. You have one hand on your gun, trying to keep it in the holster because some guy is grabbing for it. You have your head buried in his chest and you're trying to defend it from his blows while also staying on your feet and trying to get him off of you. And you see him reach for his waistband. 

I wish I had an easy solution to this one. It's a crappy situation for sure. If the scenario doesn't open your eyes to the understanding that you might need a little more training than a day or two at the range than I don't know what will.

On Monday, my favored response seemed to be attempting to get to his gun before he could.

When you grab a gun from someone else's waistband it's likely going to come out of the holster like this:

Use it. Your pinky can just as effectively shoot a gun as your trigger finger can (I hope). You will have to fight the urge to just drive the muzzle into his flesh and pull the trigger. Why? Because you're going to push the slide out of battery and it won't fire. If it doesn't fire after that, oh well. At least you have a nice bludgeoning tool. Start bludgeoning.

But let's say he gets the gun first? I'll have to get back to you on that one because it just plain sucks. The gun-nut in me wants to say, "How well do you know your guns?" A wheel gun with a stopped up cylinder cannot fire. Grab that cylinder and hold on tight. Any semi-auto with a slide out of battery cannot fire. A gun also cannot fire to the side. Get "inside the gun" (meaning behind the muzzle vs in front of it) and try to stay there while you commence the fight of your life. It seemed to work okay for me on Monday but I can't say I got away without ever getting shot. Which is why I have Option C: Medical Supplies!!

Lastly, get used to firing from unnatural positions. On Monday, I "fired" twice from the ground (thank goodness for the training I've had that kept my legs and knees out of the way of my muzzle) , multiple times with my attackers gun held in my off hand upside down (as in the picture above), point blank. I believe that only once did I get a two-handed shooting grip and that was because I was able to get my attacker off of me, get some suitable distance and draw on him while he was still on the ground.

I found it interesting to watch our Krav instructor work. He's much more likely to take a gun away and beat the attacker with it than use it because he's still incorporating firearms into his mindset. Others were also reluctant to shoot because they were either unfamiliar with guns or perhaps even intimidated by them. My sparring partner was more than a little trigger happy, however, and would shoot me whenever he got the chance. My husband and I were also quick to pull the trigger given the opportunity (for better or worse). Our only real advantage was our willingness to fire from unconventional shooting positions whereas I saw others actually taking the time to try to transfer firearms to their dominant hands or turn them around to make a shot.

This post isn't so much about what to do in these situations (because I'm still learning that, too) but to make you aware that sometimes getting to the gun is a lot harder than you might imagine. And "I'd just shoot him" can mean a lot of exchanging blows before you even a gun out of a holster.

Learn to be ready to fight to your gun.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No Easy Way

A few days ago I saw a posting on a forum by a woman asking for advice on being better prepared to defend herself and her children at home.
Immediately she listed some restrictions including no guns, no knives, no dogs and no impact weapons.

Restrictions are understandable for various reasons and that is the great thing about self/home defense, there is an abundance of options.

And the options came pouring in. Pepper spray, increasing quality of locking mechanisms, alarm systems, etc. For personal security it was suggested some hand-to-hand defense classes might be a prudent investment in addition to carrying taser or personal alarm. The information was mostly solid and standard for the kind of information being sought.

Then the woman came back with her list of excuses. Too much money, too much time, too much change, too much risk of getting hurt. She didn't think it would be worth it, didn't think it would work. By the end of reading her response it felt a bit like, "Well, I guess I'm just doomed, but thanks anyway."

She, and many others like her, come to self defense like someone goes shopping for an outfit to make them look skinny when they are overweight. They want all of the results without any of the work. They want that magic trick of the eye that will melt off their ill preparedness and not only mask it but actually work in the event it is needed. It doesn't work that way. There is no easy way. At least not an effective one.

If you want to be better prepared and better able to defend yourself and others in the event you need to do so, it's going to take spending a little money, getting a little dirty or bruised, a few days out of your weekends and some hours in your evenings. It's going to take a commitment and work and effort.

There is no specific order of things that must be done, or no specific list of things you must get, but it's a truth that people find both time and money for things they really want or need.

Set a budget for both your time and your money. Set a goal for your personal security, home security, family or work security or a combination of them all. Work until you've achieved that goal and then set a new one.

It may not be easy but it's worth it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Contusions of Krav #2

We have a guy in class who is 6' 4", 250 lbs. I love/hate sparring with him because he's a monster (151 lbs and 1' 2" my superior) but if anything I do is working against him it will work against almost anyone.

One thing we are learning against such a big opponant is "cutting him down" so that vital areas are accessible. We do this mainly by attacking his knees.

Except, this is what happens when you attempt to knee someone in the soft part of the knee and end up hitting the hard part.

Of course you need to be very careful when attacking any knee while sparring because they are easily injured so this impact was pretty whimpy. Nevertheless, it left my knee looking a little worse for wear. He just stood there and laughed at me while I started making whining noises.

Moral of the story:
When you attempt to knee a knee, go deep.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Contusions of Krav #1

There's an old joke:
"What do you tell a man with two black eyes?........ Nothing, he's already been told twice."

The moral of the story is, you learn from your beatings... or, at least you should.

I've now been doing Krav for just over a month. We started out pretty slow with a few class mates extra hesitent to really bring the aggression that is quite frankly needed in the kind of fighting Krav is made for.

So I wasn't really getting hit.

You'd think that was a good thing. But I'm not paying to stand around and learn a few moves that I can't really be sure are effective against a determined attacker.

I came here to learn how to fight and in order to do that.. well, you gotta get your skin dirty.
This is my first good Krav bruise obtained while sparring with a former tae student. He must have kicked me twenty-five times in the thigh and while it didn't seem to hurt much at the time I was feeling it the next day. And he was pulling his kicks big time. His full force blows would put me on my butt.

We haven't gotten much into defending against kicks but this mark makes me wonder what I could do different?

Move? Try to catch the kick? I'll have to come back later and think about my lesson learned... for now the lesson is sheer body toughening.

My phone does not do the deep purples justice.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Krav Maga: Week 1

I decided a long time ago that if I were to ever get into any kind of a hand-to-hand defensive training program, Krav Maga would be it.

I don't remember how I first learned about Krav but it immediately appealed to me.

I've heard it described in many different ways but the gist of Krav is dirty, effective, street fighting. There is not a lot of fancy moves or strikes. It's not for sport or for show or points. Krav is about kicking someone's behind quickly and effectively so that you can get away.

At the same time I don't want to say that Krav is 100% about defense either. Whereas that is what you would use it for, Krav is very much into the "the best defense is a good offense" kind of a thing.

Now, I do not come from a martial arts background. I have nothing to compare this training to other than the few one-time-only self defense classes I may have attended throughout my lifetime (mostly within the last four years). In which case it makes sense that I would go ahead and compare what I'm seeing to those and what I like and/or don't like.

1) I love that I get to go back.
In one time self defense classes, you go for an hour, maybe a couple hours, maybe even a couple of days and that is it. You are thrown a ton of information in a very short period of time and given a matter of minutes to try to perfect the move before you have to move on. While good stuff does stick with you it's understandable that a lot of it is lost.

When you are enrolled in a structured program, however, the pace is a lot slower. You get one, maybe two or three moves that you work on throughout the class. You have much more time to work with your sparring partners and work on the skill and even chances to see variations and modify. If/when you forget something, you will very likely be presented with it again in an upcoming class so you are refreshed and reminded and get to work it out all over again.

2) I love the small class.
This may change, but because Krav is very new to the area and there wasn't a lot of advertisement, the class only has four people in it right now, including myself. We all get a lot of attention and a lot of opportunity to work the moves. Of course a few more students would mean a little more diversity in sparring partners but I really hope it stays small. Definitely under ten students.

3) I love what I'm learning.
I'm not spending hours standing there and repeating a move over and over and over again. While I know that has benefit and has its place in training, 100% of the moves I make are against another person.

If we are shown a punch or a jab or a grab or a hook, we are immediately lined up against a sparring partner and told to try it out against them. While I do find myself phantom punching throughout the day (and laughing as my son tries to copy my mad moves) I love that I get to work with other people and not air or a dummy when in class.

I am, however, really liking the idea of a punching bag in my basement for non-class days.

As to what I don't like?

Well, the top of that list would be my lack of strength. I won't waste a lot of time wallowing in self pity and excuses. I need to make a change if I mean to be serious about this. Especially if I'm going to be putting so much money into it every month. Might as well get the most out of it by making the most out of me. While I understand that sometimes sheer determination, willpower and aggression can help you succeed, it doesn't hurt to also be strong enough to back yourself up, too. Lord knows I'll never be big enough.

Second on that list would be the lack of aggression by the guys towards me.

I've complained about this before. I go to male-dominated classes and I watch them kick the crap out of each other. Then we switch sparring partners and they treat me like I'm a crystal vase.

One of the guys in the class whimpers, "My mom is going to be so mad at me," every time he hits me.

But, the good thing about this is that we are going to be seeing each other twice a week for who knows how long and hopefully that means he (and the other guy in class) will get over it and get to the point where he's okay being more forceful with me. The instructor sure is and so is my husband. While the instructor tries not to pair me and my husband up I'm perfectly okay with it because my husband will actually fight me and that's what I want. Guys aren't doing me any favors by taking it easy on me. An attacker isn't going to pull his punches, I don't want my sparring partners to either. Okay, well, maybe just enough so I don't break anything.

As to what I've learned so far?

The sort of Krav Maga motto: Simultaneous defense and offense, drive 'em back and finish with a bang! Then disengage and look for the rest of them (cause we all know bad guys run in packs).

Something else that's being driven home is something I've known for a long time but can't seem to get: Getting in close.

Man, I hate, Hate, HATE getting in close to my attacker. Who doesn't? Right?

Someone starts showing aggression towards me the last place I was to be is at a distance where I can smell his breath and feel his sweat.

I hate it. I loathe it. I want to back away, turn away, run away. I will give almost anything to not get close to my aggressor. When intimidated I tend to immediately start thinking, "Don't hurt me," or "How can I get away?"

The problem is that it doesn't work very well. In fact, it's never worked for me.. at all. I get my butt handed to me every time I try to go completely on the defensive with a "get away" mindset.

Granted, getting away is exactly what you should do when you have a chance to get away, but when the game is on and you are in the encounter, the time for defensive posturing and crawling away is over. It's time to crank up the aggression, go big, get in his face and take the fight to him.

So what do we do in Krav? Well, of course we step in.

If there is a list of steps to take in any Krav Maga move book I think Step # 1 would always be, "Step in."

Okay, maybe not every move but darn near.

Someone's going to punch you? Step # 1: Step in!

Someone's trying to grab you? First, step in!

I spent the majority of the last class with both arms wrapped around my sparring partners, hanging from their necks or waists, using their own bodies to jokey for position and land good blows. I was in their faces, between their legs, under their arms, wiping the sweat of their brow from my neck. I hated it, but loved it because it's exactly what I need to get over my distance phobia that would likely get me killed if put to a real world test.

I'm also digging the simultaneous defense and attack thing.

Deflect a blow and punch him in the nose, or throat, or kick him in the groin or elbow him in the face.


And from there it's game on. There are no rules in Krav.


We've learned a couple of punches, jabs and moves to get out of grabs and a cool neck hold thing that's hard to explain. Not a whole lot of stuff but good stuff (I think).

This is good for me. It intimidates me, it makes me uncomfortable, it emphasizes my weaknesses, but it's what I need so I'll drag myself there next week and probably the week after that, too.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gun Centric Much??

On the third day of Handguns 1-3 at TDI this spring I was introduced to a sort of force-on-force portion of the class taught by Bill Posey. In this exercise he made up scenarios and randomly selected students to interact with to see how they would respond to the unfolding scenario. There is, of course, no right answer but the point of the drill is to get people thinking about scenarios and what they may or may not do in said scenario.

While waiting for my turn to get picked on there was a scenario where Bill had his hands in his back pockets and was walking toward a student about twice his size while asking for money. The student, a former Marine, started to insist that Bill stay away but Bill ignored him. When Bill got about 15 ft from the student he pulled out a dummy knife and charged him.

The student dropped to his knee and pulled his gun (this was a force-on-force scenario, not a live-fire drill, obviously) but of course Bill was able to "stab" the student several times while the student attempted to even retrieve his firearm. This is the Tueller Drill at its finest. Of course, we talked about the Tueller Drill and Bill asked what we thought of the scenario.

I chimed in that had it been me I would not have attempted to go for my gun. Instead I would have gone for control of the knife. The former Marine interjected with, "There is no way you are going to be able to take a knife away from someone like me."

"I'm not trying to take it away," I said. "I'm just trying to keep you from stabbing me with it. That's my first goal. Then, if I can control you enough or gain enough distance to get out a weapon of my own I'll go for that. At least that's what I learned in the knife class."

Bill said, "Well, you've had additional training in these kinds of scenarios but not everyone has that same level of training."

There was a look of confusion amongst some of the other students and later I got to talk to a few who seemed concerned by the scenario in that the student went for his gun and was so easily stabbed. Of course, in that scenario he got no more than touched by a rubber knife, but in real life he put himself on the ground and would have easily had 3-4 hilt-deep knife wounds in his head/neck area before he even got his gun out of the holster. Doesn't seem like a winning situation to me.

I thought about this for a moment and it kind of bothered me.

I had to go to a knife class to learn the fundamental rules for drawing a weapon (gun, knife, what have you). I did not learn this "additional training" from a gun class.

What I've learned from gun class after gun class is, "GET YOUR GUN OUT FAST!"

Whether spoken or not there seems to be a predominant theory in the gun community that alertness, speed of draw and movement (or getting off the x) will save you in 100% of questionable or deadly scenarios. Yes, those things are an enormous factor in successful gunfighting, but no matter how fast you are, if your first indication of a threat is facing a weapon and your first thought is to get your own, then I speculate there might be some holes in your training.

And I'm speaking to myself as much as anyone here. I have gun class trainings coming out of my ears but still feel horribly inadequate when dealing with certain scenarios and, truth be told, the more I learn and the more I train, the less and less confidence I have in firearms as the defensive weapons they are hailed as. They have their place, no question about that, but it is limited and often secondary to good common sense, hand-to-hand skills and flat out luck!

Sure, I can be alert. I can practice my draw stroke until I can draw and fire accurately in 1/2 a second. I can even draw while moving but still end up with a knife buried in my throat because I'm putting too much effort into the wrong thing. I'm gun-centric instead of self-defense-centric.

And isn't that the point? Isn't that what we are here to do and learn? Defensive training? Why then, are we learning how to attack our guns and move and shoot with our guns when our guns are an afterthought?

Of course, you don't pay gun schools to learn about non-gun options and good gun schools recognize this. They give you what you pay them for--good gun training--and beg and plead with you to go out and flesh out your training in other areas knowing full well that most of their students will ignore that advice. Many will never take another self defense related class in their lives, thinking, as one man told me, "I already have my permit. School's out."

Don't get me wrong. The training I'm receiving is phenomenal. It's unbeatable and it's exactly what you need if you are going to carry a gun but it's not the beginning. Or, at least, it shouldn't be.
I can't help but feeling it's like a lot of people are rushing to first grade without first completing kindergarten or even preschool. We're trying to build sky-scrapers without learning to add 2 and 2 and trying to paint masterpieces without learning our colors.

What's worse is that there seem to be so many people who rush people off to first grade and don't even tell them that kindergarten is an option. They are rushing them off to gun schools and pushing them into ranges and off to apply for carry permits without a single mention of things like hand-to-hand defense or critical thinking and mindset preparation. Those who do recommend those things are drowned out by the droves of people who seem to believe a firearm is all one would ever need to be properly defended in this world. Inconsequentially, these are also the people who often say they will not even visit states or places where their firearm is not welcome.

Beginners to the field of self defense who consider a gun as an option are thrown into labyrinth of gun-centric idealism, conversation and training that carries them like a zealous wave. And like a wave they are swept away by the newness and the sensationalism of carrying that firearm; by, perhaps, the power they may feel and perhaps even by the enjoyment of the sport of shooting and the great friends made along the way (because, yes! gun people are some of the greatest people on earth... no doubt of it!)

But if put to the actual test, simulated or real, of defending themselves against some of even the most basic of attacks, they fumble for their firearms and flounder at their defense like a 2nd grader whose trying to learn to divide without first having learned how to add.

I got caught up in it myself. When I first started becoming more concerned about self defense I didn't go to hand-to-hand combat classes. I didn't go out and buy pepper spray. I didn't go to a women's self defense seminar. I bought a gun. One of my first "defensive" classes was a 2-day gun class. I've put more hours and money into gun training than I have ever put into any other form of self defense. And when pitted against simulated attacks my inadequacies to defend myself completely are glaringly obvious.

It frustrates me. I feel as though I've wasted my time.

I know that's not true. If forced to go to the triggers I have confidence that I would be a formidable opponent. But if, for some reason, I was not able to get to my gun in the first place, my confidence wanes.

And as someone in the gun community I see it over and over again and I get frustrated for other people who haven't gotten frustrated for themselves yet.

The newcomer asks the question on where to begin and the regurgitated answer is always, "Well, first, go apply for your permit and go get yourself some good gun training." It's like telling your pre-schooler, "Well, first you need to go to high school and then you can go to college." Yes, it's great advice, but there's a whole lot missing before that.

So, what is missing? Is it just hand-to-hand training?


And to be honest with you, I have no idea what all is missing. I'm trying to figure that out, too. I'm open to suggestions.

For one, mindset is desperately missing. The mindset to think, to use common sense, to out-smart instead of just out-shoot. Your options are not limited to shoot or don't shoot.

For another thing, emotional control is missing. I've said it before; emotional responses seem to be in vogue right now. It can be hard not to be emotional in some instances (if not impossible) but it's something to at least acknowledge and attempt to control. As the saying goes, "cooler heads prevail."
Strength and stamina are missing. And, yes, I'm looking squarely in the mirror as I type this. Americans in general are sorely out of shape, weak and diseased with their own poor health choices (myself included). If you're going to be serious about your safety, it only makes sense that you would be serious about your health and be able to at least last as long as or longer than your opponent if forced to go toe-to-toe with him. I can't even go the grocery store and back with two kids without feeling EXHAUSTED!!

Knowledge, skill and understanding of other tools such as knives, medical aid and the like is also missing.

I'm going to be starting Krav Maga this month and I'm excited to be fleshing out that area of my training. I'm hoping and expecting that it will help build my confidence in non-gun-related defense.

We'll see.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kids & Guns, Securing Tools On Body In An Overactive Environment

Nothing in this world will challenge the concealability and comfort of defensive tools quite like play dates.

I'm the mother of a two-year-old. There are lots of play dates in my week. Several times a week my son and I meet up with mothers, fathers, newborns, toddlers and preschoolers for hours of unrehearsed, unplanned mayhem. You may be called upon to breakup a toddler boxing ring, retrieve spit up cheerios from under a bench, leap to your death after a thrown sippy cup or just be voluntold to lose a spontaneous game of, "No, you're supposed to let me win!" And you must do it all while being safe and keeping your gun concealed.

I refuse to carry off-body around kids; at least not without completely and totally disabling the firearm, locking it up, burying it and pouring cement down the barrel. Such innocent and curious lives should never be cut short because of irresponsibility of gun owners and no other environment is as ripe for firearms' accidents as a play date or nursery. Ten minutes with toddlers and preschoolers and any bag, purse, briefcase and sack is thoroughly examined with a "WHAT'S THAT?!?" Even if your kid is oober smart and cool and knows not to touch firearms it doesn't mean Billy has been trained the same way or that your kid won't get the stupids and decide to play show-and-tell.

I firmly believe that the best way to keep kids safe from your firearm in such an environment is to keep CONSTANT, discreet control of your firearm and that means keeping it on body and under deep concealment. Something new and unusual tends to make little, indiscreet minds lock on and alert the entire area to such a discovery with yet another, "WHAT'S THAT?!?" And a gun on a Momma's (or Daddy's) hip is certainly unusual when it comes to play dates.

Being armed should not make someone afraid of playing (and I do mean REALLY PLAYING) with their children. Today I got roped into balloon volleyball with five kids and three balloons, all of them against me. I was diving over couches, rolling on the floor, colliding with four-year-olds and tripping over two-year-olds. I was carrying a fully-loaded Glock 19, a Ka-Bar LDK and my Gerber Crucial while doing it, too. Which brings me to some finer points of carrying around children.

1. Make sure your gear is tough and capable. The last thing you want to do is dive for that third balloon, land wrong and find your gun has spilled out onto the floor in the midst of five children with their mothers looking on. Having a holster that you know you can roll around the floor with and not have it give up your gun or your concealment should be a top priority.

2. Make sure your holster completely covers the trigger guard and holds your gun close to the body. Preschools are nosy. If they see or feel the slightest bulge they will grab and pull and poke at your gun while screaming, "What's under your shirt?!?" If you don't think so I guarantee you haven't spent five minutes with any child under the age of five. Not to mention you may have to pick up a screaming kid or have another mother ask you to hold her newborn while she goes to wipe puke off her blouse. You do not want anyone to find your gun by matter of just simply feeling it or seeing it. You also don't want to entertain the thought that small fingers or toes or toys could get inside the trigger guard of your gun.

3. Long sweaters/vests (preferably with a button or zipper) are your friend, especially when you are playing balloon volleyball with five kids and three balloons. Keep that thing hidden!

4. Don't make a big deal about adjusting and covering your firearm if it does get exposed. In short, if you do fall head-first over a couch while diving for a balloon and get up finding that your sweater is completely tucked BEHIND your gun, keep a big ol' smile on your face, throw the balloon with one hand while you cover your gun and move on as though nothing happened. Distraction works well with most kids if they do see something.

5. Wear colors that closely match the color of your gun and holster. This is not the time to try out that new custom holster with the beautifully etched American flag in full color on it. If you have a black gun and a black holster wear dark jeans and a black shirt and dark cover garment. If you do accidentally have a concealment slip you are already camouflaged and almost no one is likely to see.

6. Be smart. Don't take your gun off and put it anywhere. Don't fiddle with it. Don't leave it some place where it can be accessed by kids (like the diaper bag or purse or under a coat). You are far more likely to have an accident with a firearm in that kind of an environment than you are to actually need your gun in self-defense. If there's a question about safety then err on the side of caution and leave you gun in a safe location (your locked car, for instance) for the duration of the activity.

7. Have fun! Play dates and kid groups are about letting your child socialize and taking you away from all of the distractions so that you can have fun with your child as he has fun with his friends. If you can't have fun with your kid while being armed then leave the damned thing at home or keep training until you can comfortably (and safely) carry your gun in such an environment. Dare I say it, but your relationship with your kid is more important than the one-in-a-million chance you might get into a shootout at your kids play date. Yes, I know you want to be able to protect you child (I do, too) but you also need to be a parent. Don't let a gun get in the way of spending quality time with your kids.

Be safe, be smart. Protect yourself and your child.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Capacity: How Much Is Enough?

In one of my Armed and Pregnant blogs I wrote the following:
"a good combat handgun has a full grip; decent, easy to acquire sights; a capacity greater than seven; a good sight radius (distance between the sights) for longer range accuracy and can easily be controlled for fast follow up shooting."
 Upon reading that my husband, JD, asked me why I chose "greater than seven" to be my capacity choice for a combat firearm. Others, too, have asked why I think seven is a minimum capacity for a combat firearm.

Mind you, what you are about to read is strictly Lima theory. I have not read this in any blog or been taught it in any class. These are my opinions from my own training, time spent on the range, firefight stories I have read, etc.

First, let me clarify what I think of as a combat firearm and how, in my mind, it differs from a backup gun or even a deep concealment gun.

A backup gun is one you would utilize as... wait for it.. a back up if your primary firearm were to fail or be lost. It is the hail mary, the last ditch effort, the oh-my-god-shit-is-no-longer-hitting-the-fan-it-done-knocked-it-over gun. It's light, it's small, it usually has a lower capacity, poor sights as it is designed for extremely close quarters shooting.

A deep concealment gun is something you would carry because you need to make sure no one ever finds out you carry. I think of people who carry to jobs that have no weapons policies. There is nothing illegal about them carrying in their place of employment but if they were discovered it could mean immediate termination from their job. It stands to reason that these people might sacrifice some size and capacity for the ability to be 100% discreet.

When I think of what I (me, myself, and only myself) think of as a "combat handgun" (in the civilian side of things anyway) I think of the criteria I listed above: a full grip; decent, easy to acquire sights; a capacity greater than seven; a good sight radius (distance between the sights) for longer range accuracy and can easily be controlled for fast follow up shooting.

It's pretty easy to see why I would choose a full grip (better control), easy to acquire sights with a good sight radius (for shots that may require distance) and a caliber that can easily be controlled by the shooter.

But why the capacity over seven?

In all of the firearms classes I've ever been in, in all of the shooting videos I've seen and stories I've read, in all of the statistics that have been sent to me or posted, I can count on one hand the times I have heard of less than two bullets being fired per bad guy (if shots were required at all, that is). I've read multiple accounts of bad guys being shot multiple times and still fighting or only one hit for several shots fired. I've seen video after video of police officers emptying full magazines at criminals and only registering three or four hits. I've seen reports of bodies getting upwards to thirty or forty different calibers pulled out of them accompanied with statements saying it took all of those rounds to bring the individual down.

If you want more scientific data on shootings and statistics, please check out this article on handgun stopping power.

What I'm getting at here is that the a single shot being fired is rare. A one shot stop is rarer.

From what I can glean, if the presence of the gun does not stop the encounter and a trigger must be pulled it can almost be expected that it's going to be fired several times and take more than one bullet to put a stop to someone brave, drugged or stupid enough to keep advancing on said gun.

The people who train other people with firearms know this, so they inevitably teach you to keep shooting until the threat stops. Some schools will teach you to empty the magazine or to fire two rapid shots followed by an assessment and continuation of those two-shot bursts until the threat has ceased. Some teach two to the chest, one to the head. Some teach two to the chest, two to the groin, one to the head. Some don't even give you a shot limit (which I think is ideal).

Whatever the variation, the point here is that I have yet to go to a class that taught to stop shooting after one shot.

Given the safer assumption that you are going to need at least two shots per bad guy and that you may be facing more than one bad guy, that brings your total up to four shots for just two perpetrators. Add another bad guy to the mix or a missed shot or two and, whella, you have now depleted six shots and the fight may only be getting started.

Throwing in an extra round for a grand total of seven isn't a bad idea.

Now, I know plenty of people who have told me they do not feel under gunned with a five-shot revolver or even a little two-shot derringer. While I'm not big into derringers and wouldn't carry one, I have carried five-shot revolvers and agree that I have never felt lacking. It is, as they say, better than harsh words. I will probably carry limited-capacity firearms in the future as well. Some might even consider my G26 to be limited capacity now that there are firearms out there that can decretely carry 19+.

But, for me, if I want to feel like I'm maximizing my armed potential it will mean being armed with a minimum of seven cartridges to fire (with a few prayers sent up that I never have to use them).

I'd rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them (to borrow a cliche).

Now, whenever a discussion regarding capacity is brought up it usually means someone will say, "That's why I carry a reload" or "spare magazine."

True! That is a reason to carry a spare magazine but not the primary reason (magazine failures and malfunctions are the top reason to carry a spare magazine). Unfortunately, however, magazine changes in the middle of a gunfight are prime times for people to die. It has happened that police officers have been found dead with empty guns and loaded spare magazines in their hands. Is it possible to reload and keep fighting? ABSOLUTELY! However, a good rule to remember is: Gunfights are won with what is already in the gun.

Max it out!

But that's just Lima theory.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Carry a Gun and a Bandaid

I get more inspiration and help from my Facebook (FB) friends than I do from any other source. They ask questions that not only keep me thinking and learning but also prompt me to explain some of the things I do and talk about.

I recently announced that I have been in school to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). It has been something I have been interested in for a long time for many reasons. I did not go into those reasons until someone on my FB page posted this:

"What is the connection between, EMT, CCW and first aid kits? Really? Enlighten me please."

Carrying a gun and emergency medical training have two really big things in common: They are both centered around the idea of being ready for the worst case scenario and saving lives.

Now some may question how firing upon someone is "centered around saving lives" but the truth of the matter is that many violent criminals do not stop being violent until they are taken down with force. It very well may be that the only way to save your own, a loved one's or even a stranger's life is to use deadly force.

I have often said that one should put at least as much effort into learning how to save a life as they put into learning how to take one.

It's my own personal belief and philosophy and here is why:

1. You're far more likely to die of a medical complication than from a violent attack.
I'm not going to go hunting for statistics here but heart disease is still the #1 killer in America and many accidents such as drowning and falls come before shootings on the CDCs list of causes of death in America. So you got that pea-shooter strapped to your belt everywhere you go, ready to save yourself or your family in the event you get jumped by some criminal. But, at your annual Christmas get-together your father starts complaining of difficulty breathing and chest pain and suddenly slumps to the floor and stops breathing. Or, while on vacation your kid falls into a pool and upon dragging him out you realize he's not breathing. What are you going to do?

You've invested time and money and training in and with your firearm to keep your family safe from the unlikely. Yet many completely ignored preparing for the likely. The fact of the matter is, medical training is going to save more lives than firearms training in the civilian sector. And if your goal is to save lives, it makes sense to get some medical training.

2. If you get into a violent encounter to where your firearm is necessary, your medical skills and equipment could be just as instrumental in saving your life as your firearm.
Let's take any number of mass shootings as an example. You are in class or in the mall and someone starts shooting. Before you can even orient to the situation you are hit. You are able to return fire and stop the threat. But there are ten other wounded individuals around. You have no medical knowledge or training or tools available to stop your own bleeding. Medics are called but it takes fifteen minutes for them to arrive and then they are instructed to wait outside of the scene until it is secured by law enforcement. It's now been twenty minutes before medics are even allowed into the scene and once they get there they still have to triage. Another two minutes are spent triaging and by the time they get to you it has now been twenty-two minutes since you were injured.

What if you couldn't get your bleeding under control in that twenty-two minutes? What do you think your chances are of still being alive once medics got to you? On the other hand, what if you carried a pressure bandage or a tourniquet? What if you knew how to make one with tools on hand? What if your spouse was hit and has a sucking chest wound? Would you know how to treat it to keep him or her alive until medics arrive and can begin treatment?

Sure, your firearm can be instrumental in keeping you from getting wounded multiple times or more severely but sometimes you can't avoid being hurt by violence and having some skills or tools in your back pocket can be just as important as the gun and ammo in your front pocket.
Supplies for about 3 good-sized blow out bags

3. Accidents happen.
Firearms accidents happen. It is true. It is the elephant in the living room that no one likes to talk about. No one likes to admit that sometimes we gun owners make mistakes and we get hurt with our own guns. Worse, sometimes we do something stupid with them that results in injury. You don't have to look far for evidence, either. Just type, "man accidentally shoots himself" into your favorite search engine.

Of course many other accidents happen as well where some basic medical knowledge would come in handy but I'm not going to list all of those and just leave it at being a little gun-centric.

Having the knowledge, skills and tools to treat a gunshot wound when you own a gun is comparable to learning how to change a tire if you drive a car. It doesn't mean it's going to happen. It doesn't mean you want it to happen, but if it does happen you are ready for it.

This doesn't mean that everyone who carries a gun needs to be an EMT, but there are some basic training you can take and tools you can incorporate into your Every Day Carry.

I am a big believer that everyone should learn CPR, basic wound management and shock treatment. The information available for these skills is not hard to find nor is it expensive or difficult. Many firearms training facilities will have combat medicine classes available. Often times combat medicine is included in some firearms classes. If it hasn't been included in any of your training the list of written resources is vast.

Do a book search for "combat medicine," "tactical medicine," "gunshot wound care," etc and you will be overwhelmed with resources.

The term used in the gun community is "blow out bag." It's basically a first aid kit with equipment instrumental in treating more substantial traumas such as gunshot wounds.

There is no exact list of what going in a blow out bag. There are commercial blow out bags you can purchase or you can do what I've done and make your own and it can be as big or small as you want it to be. Furthermore, there are many everyday things you can use in lieu of actual medical supplies if you are caught without a blow out bag and the goodies therein.

There are many conflicting ideas of what makes a good blow out bag so I'll just throw out everything and the kitchen sink and you can decide what you would think would be useful for your own kit/bag. Everything I'm about to show you and talk about I took from my own bag that I carry with me everywhere I go, so it's not impossible to carry all of this stuff.

Nitrile (non-latex) gloves in a plastic bag
Gloves! ~ I carry a small sandwich bag filled with two or three pairs of nitrile (non-latex) exam gloves. Granted, if I were treating myself, my husband or my children I would probably not concern myself too much with isolating myself from their body fluids as I know their medical history but if I chose to treat someone else I am not going to take the chance of getting infected with something like Hepatitis or HIV. Besides, that little plastic bag can have a secondary purpose (more on that later).

81 mg chewable "baby" aspirin
Aspirin ~ I carry 81 mg chewable "baby" aspirin for two reasons: small aches and pains that do not involve bleeding and possible heart attacks. Because it is chewable it dissolves very quickly and therefore gets into the blood stream and starts working faster. For potential heart attacks, aspirin thins the blood and can keep clots from forming. Chewing 4 "baby" aspirin at the onset of chest pain upon suspecting a possible heart attack can be lifesaving. Always remember to tell responders about anything you took, including aspirin.

Obviously, you would not want to use this for anyone who has an aspirin allergy. Also, because aspirin is a blood thinner you would never want to give it to anyone experiencing blood loss no matter how much pain they are in. Just say "no" to giving aspirin to trauma victims.

Trauma (Mild to Moderate):
Artificial tears/sterile saline ~ One thing I use more often than anything else in my bag is my artificial tears/sterile saline. You can find boxes of individually packaged and wrapped containers or a multi-use bottle. I have the bottle for my house, the individual containers for my bag. Not only can you irrigate your eyes if need be but you can also do light irrigation of wounds and small burns.

Bandaids ~ I am a little bit of a bandaid freak. I carry many different sizes and types. Waterproof, large, small, finger, cartoon, if it's out there, I have it and I probably carry it with me, too. That and a little neosporin and I'm ready for any superficial scrap and mild cut life has to throw as me or my kids or anyone around me.

4x4 surgical sponges
Dressings and Bandages ~ When a bandaid isn't enough to stop bleeding or isn't big enough to cover the entirety of the wound it's time to step it up to dressings, gauze, tape and/or other bandages (Just so we get our terminology straight I'd like to point out that a dressing is what goes over the wound and a bandage is what holds the dressing in place). You can use any size of surgical sponges/gauze pads you want as a dressing and cut them to size but the preferred size seems to be 4x4 surgical sponges. They are big enough to be big but small enough to carry in mass quantities. They can be piled on top of each other, lined up, folded over, wrapped, whatever. You can also keep piling them on top of each other if bleeding doesn't stop.

Thin Cinch pressure bandage
If bleeding doesn't stop it's time to get a little more aggressive and the first step is pressure. Manual pressure is pressure you apply yourself or have someone apply with their hand or you can get or make your own pressure bandage. Any type of wrapping with some stretch to it can make a very decent pressure bandage. Ace bandages and self adhesive bandages commonly used in sports medicine are good options. But if you are pressed for space and time and/or treating yourself with one hand, you might want to go ahead and carry a pressure bandage that is already prefabricated such as an Israeli bandage or Thin Cinch. It has a sterile dressing already attached to some sort of elastic bandage.

Bandages can also be used to stabilize sprains and hold splints or injured joints in place. A good, all-purpose bandage is the triangular bandage. Not only can it be used as a bandage but as a sling and even a tourniquet.

Trauma (Moderate to Severe): 
CAT tourniquet
Tourniquet ~ If bleeding still hasn't stopped in a limb with the application of pressure then it's time to move up to a tourniquet. It is a myth that the application of a tourniquet automatically means the loss of the limb. The truth of the matter is that tourniquets save lives and limbs. The best thing to use as a tourniquet is an actual, no-foolin' tourniquet such as the Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT).

If a commercial tourniquet is not available, however, makeshift tourniquets can easily be fabricated provided you do it correctly. Always use something with a wide surface area such as a belt or a broadly folded cloth. The point is to tighten the tourniquet to the point it cuts off blood supply and applying that much pressure to something thin like a shoelace, wire or zip tie encompassing the limb will end up cutting the flesh and underlying tissue causing more trauma (which is bad).
Compressed, sterile gauze

Sterile Gauze ~ If the wound is on the body vs the limbs a tourniquet will not work. Use sterile gauze to pack wounds and soak up blood. The texture in gauze helps to promote clotting. You can buy it in sterile rolls that are not compressed but they take up more space. Compressed gauze is vacuum sealed and a lot can be found in a very small package. Gauze can also be used as a loose bandage on wounds where you do not want to apply pressure. Head and neck wounds are wounds that you want to wrap just tight enough for the dressing to stay in place. You don't want to put so much pressure on a neck wound that it cuts off blood supply to the brain. In head wounds, if there is bleeding there is a good chance of increased inter-cranial pressure (pressure building inside of the skull). A pressure bandage to the head can keep the blood building up inside the skull or shift bone fragments or fractures that results in putting undue pressure on the brain and causing brain damage. A non-pressure dressing and bandage can protect the wound and help stop the bleeding without increasing the pressure. 

QuikClot Combat Gauze
Antihemorrhagic agents ~ If bleeding on the body is arterial (bright red and spurting) and cannot be controlled with a tourniquet (because it cannot be applied) or dressings and pressure than it may be necessary to use an antihemorrhagic (hemostatic) agent such as QuikClot. There are other types of hemostatic agents out there and their use is controversial. They come in either sponges or gauze that is coated in chemicals that activate coagulation (clotting) and constrict blood vessels. They do a fine job of stopping major bleeding but they can induce allergic reactions in some people and can be difficult to remove when the time comes. They are reserved for moments when death from blood loss is imminent and the risk of allergic reaction or further trauma from the removal are secondary to loss of life. They are expensive and do not last long past their expiration date but are life-savers from massive uncontrollable blood loss.

Occlusive Dressings ~ Occlusive dressings are those that do not allow the passage of air or fluids through the dressing. There are four basic wounds where occlusive dressings are indicated: neck wounds, open chest wounds, an evisceration (a wound wherein the organs of the abdomen spill or are pressed out of the body) and burns.

Petrolatum Gauze
The neck has a lot of important stuff running through it. Large blood vessels that get nicked (the jugular, let's say) can suck in air like a vacuum hose. That air can travel to the heart or lungs and cause death. Yes, you have to stop the bleeding but in a way that air cannot enter the neck. Apply an occlusive dressing--plastic wrap, the baggie for your gloves (there's that secondary purpose), part of your gloves taped down, a pantie liner taped on all sides, anything that does not allow air to enter the wound.

Our lungs are kept inflated by negative pressure and are protected by our ribs. That being said, if a hole is created in the chest wall so that the negative pressure is compromised we may get what is called a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and/or "sucking chest wound." In order to reestablish that negative pressure a three-sided occlusive dressing needs to be applied. The occlusive dressing keeps air from being sucked into the wound and collapsing the lung and the one way valve allows  the trapped air already built up in the cavity to escape. It will also allow for the escape of blood should it begin building in the area. You can use petrolatum gauze or that baggie for your gloves (baggies make great occlusive dressings). Apply it over the wound and apply tape on three of the four sides. Duct tape is a good tape to use in traumas.

Large occlusive dressing
An evisceration is a pretty nasty thing and not all that uncommon in knife attacks. The knife cuts the skin and the muscle and the guts that were held in by them spill or are pushed out. There are two very important things to remember when dealing with an evisceration: decreasing pressure on the abdomen (so you don't end up losing more guts) and protecting the organs that have spilled out. You protect those organs with an occlusive dressing--preferably a large occlusive dressing. The large pads you can buy for potty training pets work well. They are not sterile but they will keep your insides protected. If you do not have an occlusive dressing any dressing that is large enough will work but the organs that are normally nice and moist might start to get a little dry with the air flow of a non-occlusive dressing. Either way, it's very important to cover them up and keep them protected and provide a new barrier that they cannot escape from now that the skin is no longer doing that job. Never try to put the viscera back in the abdomen. Leave that for the surgeons. If at all possible have the victim lie down on his or her back with the feet flat on the floor and knees up. This will take pressure off of the abdomen and gravity can help keep stuff inside the body where it belongs. Apply the dressing and tape around all four corners too keep air and debris out and moisture and bodily fluids in.

In burns, occlusive dressings help keep the pain down and protect the burn from irritation. Plastic wrap is great for burns but depending on the size and severity whatever you have an hand will have to do.

Improvised tools ~  There are a number of things that can be used in a medical pinch. T-shirts torn into strips make great bandages. Feminine hygiene products such as pads are phenomenal at stopping blood and all of them are occlusive if applied correctly. Tampons can be used for gunshot wounds as they can be inserted into the wound tract or even unfolded and used as a dressing. Definitely throw a few of those into your blow out bag! Diapers are also fantastic improvised dressings. They have a large surface area and they can absorb a lot. They are semi-occlusive as well. Pads and diapers also have saturation points, keep them to show to responders so that they are made aware of how much blood the patient has lost.

Tension Pneumothorax Decompression Needle
Pneumothorax Decompression Needle ~  I'm only putting this in here because I carry one. According to some and depending on state law you need a prescription to even get one. A tension pneumothorax is a condition wherein a lung is compromised and air is now filling the chest cavity but there may or may not be external wound. These injuries are common in blast injuries. The air has nowhere to go as it cannot be exhaled and continues to build in the chest cavity until it puts pressure on the heart and the remaining (and presumably undamaged) lung. If the pressure is not relieved death will soon result. The signs of a tension pneumothorax can be hard to diagnose but major two are pain and difficulty breathing. Loss of lung sounds on the affected side and hyper-percussion are other signs but hard to diagnose without training and a stethoscope. A major but very late sign of a tension pneumothorax is tracheal deviation.

But herein lies the rub: Using a pneumothorax decompression needle is considered a surgical procedure and one can get in trouble for practicing medicine without a license. If things go wrong and you are sued (and even if they go right and you are sued) you will be hung out to dry. You must also know where to insert the needle so as not to puncture a blood vessel and cause more damage and bleeding and turn a pneumothorax into a hemopneumothorax. This needle is a tool I got and was almost afraid to put into my bag. I will do almost anything I can not to use it and will never use it on anyone but myself or an immediate family member.

Now, I'm no doctor. I'm not even an EMT yet (hopefully that will change in two weeks (wish me luck)). All the advise I've just given you on tools and wound management is as a lay person so take it at your own risk and do your own research. But I hope you can see how having a few of these tools and the knowledge and skills to use them could be instrumental in saving a life while waiting for medics to arrive or triage and transport.

Medical training and tools do go hand in hand with carrying and training with a firearm. If you haven't looked into medical training and tools for yourself, what are you waiting for?

Friday, July 6, 2012

TDI Defensive Knife Class Review

This review is from TDI's Defensive Knife Class held on December 4-5, 2010

I have wanted to take a knife class for years. Just like I wanted to get quality gun training when I chose to start carrying a firearm for self-defense, it was a natural progression of my training to want quality knife training when I chose to carry a knife.
Through a series of force-on-force (FOF) scenarios and some research and careful thought I had chosen the Tactical Defense Institute (TDI) Law Enforcement knife made by Ka-Bar as the edged companion to my firearm for every-day carry. When I brought it home and showed my husband my newest acquisition he informed me that TDI was actually a training facility in Ohio that did defensive knife classes. I immediately became interested. After all, it made sense to take a class from the people who designed the knife I chose to carry.
It took another two plus years before I would be in a position, financially and logistically, to take a knife class and after hearing many wonderful things about TDI I finally signed up for their two day Defensive Knife class that took place on December fourth and fifth of this year.
The confirmation email I received said to bring any and all knives I wanted to train with but that if I had no knife it was not an issue as TDI would have several knives available for trial and plenty of trainers to work with. Even though I didn’t need to take my TDI trainer I stuck it, my Cold Steel Ti-Lite and my Ka-Bar TDI Law Enforcement knife in my suitcase and drove to southern Ohio for my class.
A look at the TDI website gives you a run down of the facility with multiple ranges, classrooms, force-on-force houses and everything else a defensive student could ask for.
In anticipation of getting lost (as I usually do) I left my hotel an hour and a half early to make what was reported to me to be only a half-hour long trip. The directions were not hard to follow and even though I arrived to class an hour early there was already instructors there with heaters cranked setting out equipment for the class.
The classroom was clean and neat with comfortable chairs, clean tables, a small kitchenette, two bathrooms, a case to display TDI products for sale, a large television and (blessedly) two heaters to combat the Ohio cold that had swept in for the weekend.
They weren’t kidding when they said they had plenty of knives and trainers. The table at the front of the class was covered with trainer knives and live knives that could be borrowed by students.
As the rest of the students arrived we mingled and got to know each other and it wasn’t a surprised to find that I would be the only woman in the class. I was delighted to find out that John Benner, the designer of the TDI knife, would be an assistant instructor for the class as I was eager to meet him after our wonderful chat on the phone when I had called to sign up for the class. When our head instructor, Greg Ellifritz, arrived with plenty of time to spare we all settled in, some finished paying for their class and it was time to start.
There was a ratio of three instructors for twelve students (I believe), which made for a very safe environment. With any kind of class featuring weapons safety is a main concern and when you have twelve people with knives working them and trying things they’ve never tried before it’s nice to know there’s more than one set of eyes making sure everyone is being responsible and safe. Two instructors walked around the perimeter of the class checking for safety and giving tips when needed as Greg taught. Even when we sparred or did our force-on-force there was someone there to check our pockets and waistbands to ensure we didn’t forget to remove any live weapons (which I had forgotten to do after lunch on the second day and the instructor caught it (thank goodness)). That, along with the continued safety reminders, made me feel very comfortable that no one was going to end up with a knife buried in their belly or their fingers chopped off.
I think the worst wound of the weekend was a student who cut the top of his finger on the hilt of his training knife during the final force-on-force exercise. A quick rinse and a bandaid and all was well again.
Before I went I really wondered what was going to be taught in this class. After all, how much instruction does it take to figure out how to use a knife? All of us have been using knives to cut our food since we were small children and most can figure out which side to point toward the enemy. I didn’t doubt there was going to be fighting techniques taught that I didn’t know but the rest was a complete and eager mystery. I was not disappointed.
Right away, on day one, we opened with a brief introduction of the class and instructors and dove right in to the types of knives available for self-defense and how to choose the right knife for you. There was even a short lecture on how to ensure the locking mechanism on folders would stay secure so as not to collapse on your figures mid-fight. Greg had a bag of knives he brought with him that were passed around for all to see what was available and how it worked.
John talked about the TDI knife and how and why it was designed and it was great to hear it from the designers own mouth. I also learned that my other favorite little knife, the TDI Last Ditch Knife (LDK), was designed by the instructor, Greg Ellifritz. Right about then I was feeling really glad I chose this class.
Then we all moved to the training area and went right into learning different opening methods for folders. We talked about the different grips available for knives and the stance to go along with fighting with a knife. We practiced deploying our knives from various positions such as kneeling, on our backs, sides and what not. Then we had to “earn” our lunch.
Greg wanted to prove that deploying a knife while exhausted was different than from standing and rested so he had us all get down and do twenty pushups and from the top of the pushup position we were to deploy a knife. When we thought we were done he had us do twenty more and try again. It was then we were beginning to see a number of fumbled and failed openings.
After lunch we talked about the rules for close quarter drawing of weapons in general which was either creating distance in order to draw or gaining control of the attacker long enough to draw so that your defensive tool of choice could not be taken from you or the draw interfered with. We did a number of exercises to create either distance or control through sparring with partners.
We learned a twelve-step slash and stab drill and practiced that extensively. We did live deploying and cutting drills to demonstrate the difference in speed between fixed blades and folders. We worked with our knives in our off hands and did the knife equivalent of the Tueller drill by having to draw our knives and deploy them against an advancing attacker. We talked about anatomy and targeting areas on the body that would either cause enough physical damage to end a conflict or cause rapid blood loss which meant that, naturally, we would have to practice them on our sparring partners. Then we talked about wound enhancement by maximizing trauma with the knife. We also talked about the legalities of using a knife for self-defense.
After working knife defense against common grabs and attacks we were given a demonstration on just how quickly one can be rendered unconscious from a choke hold by a volunteer being choked out (a sobering exercise to be sure).
It was a long first day but very educational and hands on.
Day two started with knife care and sharpening. We were fortunate enough to have a custom knife maker in our class who gave his professional opinion on knife sharpening techniques and products. It wasn’t long before we were back out on the training floor learning drills for an unarmed person defending against a knife attack and fighting a knife attack with a knife and some more techniques to thwart off multiple attackers.

Just before lunch we went outside where they had hung up a deer carcass and we all took our turn slashing, stabbing, hacking, coring and cutting this poor deer carcass until it looked like something out of a bad horror movie. I was amazed to personally feel how easy it was to stab right through ribs as I felt them crunch and crack under the force of a TDI wielded by my little hand.

On the other side of the deer we dressed it in clothes and got to try for ourselves how clothing can change the results of slashes and cuts. We even got to try stabbing with other tools like tactical pens and one student went to town with a tactical flashlight that buried itself into the neck of the deer making a very wicked little wound.

While we ate lunch we watched a video on how easily skin cuts and the demonstration of cutting a pig carcass dressed in various clothes (wonderful meal-time entertainment!).
After lunch we pulled out the mats and did fighting from the ground when an attacker already has you on the ground and mounted you. We talked about secretly getting your knife out and then it was time for the force-on-force.
Greg got dressed up in a training suit and laid down the rules. He would attack us in any way he saw fit and the fight would not be over until he felt he was dealt a fight-stopping blow or until we fought our way to the other side of the classroom (through him, of course). Those of us not fighting would play “jury” and decide whether or not the actions of the person fighting were justifiable. This I found to be most unique and interesting as each person fighting was forced to think more about their actions in regards to the law and how they would defend them.
When it was my turn I was very nervous (what 100 lbs woman going up against a 220-plus lbs instructor wouldn’t be?) but I didn’t back down. He confronted me and attacked. I fought open hand until I had the chance to draw my knife. A good cut to his inner leg and I escaped to “safety.”
It was a relief to hear my classmates say I was entirely justified in my actions.

Greg Ellifritz and John Benner were both excellent instructors that I would be happy to work with again and again. Greg, a police instructor with thousands of hours of training in everything from knives, firearms, hand-to-hand combat and even field medicine, was knowledgeable and confident in his teaching without being cocky or overly opinionated. He was humble enough to give credit where credit was due and not pushy with his techniques. He had a likeable sense of humor but didn’t let us get too far off topic before he reeled us in again. He promised he would never try to take away anything that someone had adopted to work for them and he was true to his word even praising those who had adapted different ways to accomplish a goal. We all teased him that at times he got a manically gleeful smile while sparring that indicated he had far too much fun with his job.
As a woman it’s sometimes intimidating to go to a male-dominated class as sexism can be very alive and well but I felt very respected, not feared or undermined. Greg and John both listened and responded to me as an equal student to my male counterparts. While some of the other students were gentler in their sparring with me Greg gave me the training I was seeking by apply a more forceful approach that I would have to repel. John was not far off giving tips and helping to drive home certain points. I was greatly impressed with their professionalism, knowledge, clarity, organization and teaching ability.
I learned more than I could have previously imagined and in the best way possible—by doing the work instead of just listening to a lecture or watching a video. Aside from the techniques of slashes and stabs some of the most important lessons I took away from the class have been the cardinal rules for drawing a weapon (distance or control), the speed of drawing and readiness of the fixed-blade vs the folder and how even the simplest of clothing items can frustrate the outcome of a slash but have little effect on the outcome of a stab. I was not the only one ditching my folder knife in favor of a fixed blade and many people purchased the TDI Law Enforcement knife before the end of the first day to replace their primary carry knife. Knife placement was always driven home as often you cannot draw your knife with your dominant hand and keeping your knife in a location where both hands have access to it is very important.
I like to vary my training by spreading it out amongst different trainers and schools but I am fairly certain I will be going back to TDI for another class or two or ten. I would recommend to others that they do the same.