Archive for Combat

Gracie Survival Tactics – The Inside Scoop

Posted in Jiujitsu, Martial Arts, REVIEWS, Safety, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2016 by bradvaughn

The Non-Lethal Techniques Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know

by Brandon T. Vaughn  01/06/16

GST - Group Pic GJJ

Over the years my position/role/career as a martial arts instructor has offered many opportunities and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The most recent of which took place last month, November 16th through the 20th, and took me back to California, a place I first had the pleasure of visiting two years ago when I participated in the Gracie Academy Instructor Certification Program in 2013.

My second visit to California would also be connected to the [Gracie] Academy, only instead of Torrance, this time I would be going to Pleasanton, a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area approximately 25 miles east of Oakland, CA. I decided to take advantage of a formal invitation to all CTC Certified Instructors to assist and participate in any upcoming Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) Instructor Certification Courses. Eager to get an inside look at this program only available to active or retired law enforcement and military personnel, and in desperate need of a vacation (even if it would be a working one) I jumped at the opportunity. I’m glad I did. It was an incredible opportunity to learn the GST curriculum first hand, meet some of my fellow CTC Instructors, and get some “mat time” with Ryron Gracie himself.


Adapting To Meet A Changing Climate

GST - Vaughn teaching 2For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) is the Gracie Academy’s Defensive Tactics Program for Military & Law Enforcement Personnel. Created by the Gracie Academy to meet the ever changing needs of their clients, the GST program is itself an amalgamation of two earlier combative/defensive tactics programs. Gracie Combatives, an intensive course based on the most effective techniques of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu developed for the United States Army, and G.R.A.P.P.L.E (Gracie Resisting Attack Procedures for Law Enforcement), a non-violent and court defensible program developed for police officers. Both of the aforementioned programs were originally developed by Rorion Gracie, eldest son of Gracie Jiu-jitsu founder Helio Gracie, and creative mind behind the UFC.

Since it’s inception Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) has been taught to countless Federal, State and International military and law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Secret Service and the US Border Patrol. During my five days assisting with the GST Instructor Certification Program I was able to meet men and women from a wide range of agencies and hear many of their first hand accounts of situations that they have found themselves in while on duty. As well as some of their concerns with the level of self-defense training that their agencies currently have in place.


The Road To Certified GST Instructor

For law enforcement or military personnel (active or retired) wishing to learn Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) for their own continuing education, the complete 23 lesson course is available on via online streaming video. However, if you are an officer wishing to implement the GST program at your department or agency the only way to do so is by completing the GST Instructor Certification (Level 1).

The Gracie Academy teaches anywhere from 5 to 10 of these instructor certification courses a year varying by location. Some are hosted by the Academy itself  at their main location in Torrance, CA while others are hosted by various agencies around the world or by individuals within those organizations. The particular course I volunteered to assist in was hosted by a member of the Pleasanton Police Department with the actual training sessions taking place in the gym of a local high school.

The week long course began at 8am Monday morning and started with Ryron Gracie giving a brief history of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, including its creation, their work with the US Army and the development of Gracie Combatives and how working with the military and law enforcement over the last 20 years led to the creation of the techniques that we would be learning over the next five days. He then moved seamlessly into the first of eight techniques that we would cover that day, setting the pace for the rest of the week. Ryron would teach a technique, using either myself or one of the other four instructors that were there to assist in the course, then when he was sure that everyone understood the technique he would release them to practice the technique with their partner. At this time the assistant instructors would walk around and observe the participants doing the techniques, offering feedback and making any necessary corrections.

Day two and three began with the class reviewing all the techniques that they had learned the day before while. After the review period, which lasted anywhere from 10-15 minutes, we would move on the block of techniques that would be taught that day. The training sessions ended with a series of fight simulation drills in which the participants would combine several techniques from previous sessions with the ones that they had just learned, thus building their muscle memory and making them more familiar with how the individual techniques can be used in any possible combination.

While the first three days were dedicated to the learning of the GST techniques, day four was dedicated to instructor training, where the participants learned the most effective ways to teach the GST techniques to their colleagues when they return to their individual agencies/departments. The fifth and final day of the course consisted of a final evaluation to test the participants overall comprehension of all the material covered during the previous four days.

The GST Advantage

GST - Vaughn teachingWhat sets Gracie Survival Tactics apart from other defense tactic programs currently being taught to law enforcement and military personnel is it’s lack of reliance on striking techniques (ie. punches and kicks) which may not be effective against an assailant who may be physically larger or stronger or who may be under the influence of a substance that dampens their ability to feel pain. Instead, all the techniques in the GST program are based on leverage, timing, and efficient use of energy. This means the techniques can be employed effectively regardless of gender, size or athletic ability.

With the number of fatal police shootings reported to be nearing 400 nationwide in 2015, and allegations of excessive force at an all time high, GST provides law enforcement officers with a much needed alternative to relying solely on their firearm or secondary tools (ie. baton, stun gun, pepper spray) in situations where the use of deadly force could have possibly been avoided. The GST curriculum also address the high rate of instance where law enforcement officers are shot in the line of duty by an assailant using the officer’s own firearm by including weapon retention techniques in the curriculum as well as a variety of effective techniques that allow an officer to get back to their feet and create distance in the event that they end up on the ground underneath an assailant.


A Fear Of Change

With a seemingly endless list of benefits and advantages, it’s hard to imagine that all law enforcement agencies aren’t already taking part in the Gracie Survival Tactics program.

From conversations I had with some of the men and women participating in the GST Level 1 Instructor Certification Course, I learned that one obstacle the newly certified instructors will encounter when trying to implement the program in their own department may be the very officers that they are trying to help.

Whether it stems from an over reliance on the tools they have at their disposal or the lack of continued fitness requirements after they graduate from the academy, some officers seem resistant to any self-defense training outside what is mandated annually by their state. When you consider that 40% of officers that are shot in the line of duty are done so with their own weapon, it would seem that all law enforcement officers would be eager to learn any technique that, would not only teach them how to retain their weapon, but also how to subdue a suspect without the use of their firearm or auxiliary weapons.

Another obstacle that new GST Instructors may have to deal with is a natural resistance to change. Either from the administration or from their department’s defensive tactics instructor, in the event that the GST Instructor doesn’t also serve that role. Strategies on how to address these and other common concerns are included in the support materials that each course participant receives on the final day of training.

GST - Group Pic Sm


Final Thoughts

Gracie Survival Tactics is quickly proving itself to be not only a valuable resource for law enforcement officers, but to military personnel as well. As I am writing this article, the United Nations Security Service has become the most recent agency to adopt Gracie Survival Tactics.

My experience at the GST Level 1 Instructor Certification Course in Pleasanton, CA was like nothing I have experienced before and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to not only assist, but to participate in the training as well. As a martial arts instructor I’ve had the opportunity to teach students of all ages how to defend themselves. Even if learning self-defense was not their primary reason for enrolling, it was still a skill they acquired while working towards whatever their personal goals were. Having said that, I have to admit that there was something exceedly rewarding about working with individuals that will most likely be using the techniques you are teaching them a regular basis.

Brandon Vaughn

Certified GJJ CTC Instructor



Four Noble Truths & Combative Calculus

Posted in Martial Arts, Miscellaneous with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2012 by hybridfightingmethod

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that life means suffering. The second noble truth is that the cause of suffering is attachment.

This holds true in a combative context.

When in a combat / fight situation, attachment to particular techniques or sequences of techniques can get you killed. You should be primarily concerned with the result you want to have happen. The means by which you arrive at that result will change based on the variables present.

For example, if you have it set in your mind to disarm an attacker’s knife, but due to different variables (strength, size, speed, etc.) the technique you try fails – then your mind will begin to shut down because it doesn’t know what to do next.

If you were focused on a result – say, for example, having them unconscious due to head trauma – and allowed yourself to free flow and use any available tools to do so, you would fare far better.

Or more generally, if your end result is to escape with your life and limbs in tact, you must allow yourself to improvise based on the situation at hand. Attachment to techniques or specific sequences of moves is going to get you hurt.

For the math whizzes out there, think of it like this:

x + y = z

Where ‘x’ is the attack, ‘y’ is your response, and ‘z’ is the end result.

If that is true, and it is really ‘z’ (your end result) that you are after, then if you now have 5x in the picture, you must change ‘y’ if you are still to get the same value for ‘z’.

In plain English: when the variables present change, your response must change accordingly if you are to achieve the same result.

T.J. Kennedy

Hybrid Fighting Method

Sifu Lee On The Art of Combat

Posted in Day's Lesson, Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Training with tags , , , , on October 1, 2011 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Looks can be very deceiving. A person can look like he cannot fight but he may have been training in combat for many years & is very proficient. It is a tactical game of strategy. Like chess you can out beat a stronger, younger, faster, & more powerful opponent with your mind. Like swimming, just b/c a person looks unfit & out of shape it does not mean he is not proficient in swimming. A very fit healthy young man may not even know how to swim & end up drowning!

I have a respect for anyone who passionately trains in the Art of Combat for many years. Even if they may appear as if they know nothing, as if they cannot fight, I know they know something & that they are capable of defending themselves. You will never know if someone is good at Chess or Billiards simply by looking at his physique & judging his appearance. He may be a Master, & you will not know until you play with him some day. If someone owns a pool table, watch out, if someone plays chess often, watch out. If someone studies combat, watch out.

I see that in the Art of Combat, to be a true Master you must strive to perfect the body. You must strive to be a great athlete. If you watch the Olympics, for anything physical, you have to be extremely fit to get to that level of proficiency. Becoming proficient in the Art of Combat requires specialized physical training. It is different than training to be great at Football, Basketball, Tennis, Soccer, Golf, Baseball, etc. Yes you may be a great athlete, but if you are not specializing in exercises most practical for combat you will not be the most proficient in that craft.

Sifu Freddie Lee

“Thoughts via FMK Facebook”



10 Questions with T.J. Kennedy

Posted in 10 Questions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by Combative Corner

The Combative Corner is proud to introduce to you (if you didn’t already know), Mr. T.J. Kennedy…a martial artist with an array of talents, such as: Krav Maga, Irish Stick Fighting and Muay Thai.   T.J. Kennedy is the chief instructor and founder of the Hybrid Fighting Method™ (HFM).  Apart from teaching this unique system, he also serves the public as a self-defense instructor through SAFE International™, an organization that teaches youngsters (from high school up), private groups, and corporations, valuable lessons in personal self-protection.  T.J. lives and teaches in Ontario, Canada.  For more info on T.J., visit his website [here], his blog [here] and/or his YouTube channel [here].  Those who want to be updated by email on his newest articles/posts, workshop dates, etc., should also sign up for his newsletter (located on his blog).

Now… let the interview begin!


(1)   What’s your martial art background?

I started with Tae Kwon Do in high school.  For the entire duration of my childhood, I so badly wanted to take martial arts, that after years of pestering my parents, they finally signed me up at a local school.  I spent just over 2 years there.

After that, I learned Krav Maga, the self-defense system used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  I have also trained in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Karate, Bujinkan Ninjutsu, some Jeet Kune Do, and various pressure point systems.

If I were to boil it down even further, I would say that a majority of my background is Krav Maga, with significant Muay Thai elements – peppered with the rest.

(2)   Did you know always know that you wanted to teach self-defense professionally? If not, what was your direction/job and what got you onto the path you’re on now?

Well, for years I was a devout Pentecostal Christian (I am now an atheist…and much happier), and I went away to college to study for my Bachelor of Arts in Theology.  I spent 3 years in this 4 year program, with an intercultural focus, and travelling to and from Southeast China and Hong Kong teaching English to all ages.  My goal was to travel/move to China and become a Christian missionary.

In my third year, I got engaged to be married, and decided to take a year off of school to work and save money for the costs associated with my engagement.  My fiancée was a Chinese national, and we had plans of getting her a Canadian citizenship.  So our process was to first bring her to Canada and get married, work and live here in Canada until we were able to secure her a Canadian citizenship (in this time I would finish my final year of school), and then move back to China and work as missionaries to the Chinese people.

It was soon after my return from China to Canada in 2002, alone, that I gave my head a shake.  I realized that at only 21 years of age, I was nowhere near ready for marriage.

To make a long story short, I broke off the engagement, and got a job as a security guard to pay the bills.  During this time, I was looking to start training again in some kind of martial art (I had just over 2 years of Tae Kwon Do in high school).

I had discovered a martial arts school local to me that taught Krav Maga.  I booked a trial class, and on a fateful Saturday morning, on a mere 3 hours of sleep, I laced up my shoes and stepped onto the mats with 3 other guys and our instructor for the day.

I felt like a fish out of water.  I accidentally poked one of these guys in the eye…twice I think.  I also quit halfway through, running to the bathroom to puke from the amount of knee strikes I was absorbing through the kicking shield.  I was about to dip out the door when the instructor encouraged me to get back on the mats and finish the last 20-25 minutes of class.

I did, and ultimately decided that if that 60 minute class could do to me what it did, but all these other guys could handle it – then it was something I needed to invest my time and money in.  I signed up immediately.

Fast forward 6 months of training 3-5 days a week, and I knew I was in love with self-defense.  I knew in my mind that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I told my instructor this, and a year later I was in my first instructor certification course in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The more knowledge I attained and the more I trained, the deeper in love I fell with self-defense and martial arts as a lifestyle.

I took a part-time job as a bouncer in January of 2004 to help pay my bills, as I was at the time not working as a security guard, but as a self-defense instructor.

I got “the itch”, wanting to try my hand at combat sports, so I started training in Muay Thai, Boxing, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  In 2007 I had 2 Muay Thai fights.  The first one I got knocked out cold at about 1m30s into the first round.  My second fight, 3 months later, I won by split decision after a hard fought 3 rounds.

At this point in time, I was passionate about fighting, and passionate about self-defense.  I sat down one day and challenged myself to be excellent at whatever I set my hands to.  I realized that for me, I could be fantastic at fighting, or fantastic at self-defense (and the teaching of it) – but I would have to dedicate 100% of myself to one or the other if I was to be the best I could be at it.

So, on that day, in that very moment, I chose to pursue my dream of teaching self-defense with unwavering focus – and I haven’t looked back since.

(3)   What is the biggest obstacle for you as a self-defense instructor?

For me, the single biggest obstacle as an instructor of self-defense is getting people to be proactive about their own safety and the safety of those close to them.  Some puny percentage of the general population takes any kind of self-defense training, but the need for this kind of training is undeniable.

I think people never really think about what would happen if they were attacked violently.  It’s always something they hear on the news, but not something they think about happening to them.

However, the frequency of violence doesn’t really matter, because all it takes is once.  To be sexually assaulted once, shot once, mugged once, stabbed once, kidnapped once – is enough to scar someone for life (both emotionally and physically).

(4)   Is there a style of martial art that you haven’t gotten an opportunity to study yet, but would like to (and why that style)?

There are many arts or systems that I am aware of that I have not formally studied yet that I would love to.  Capoeira, just for the fitness aspect of it.  Kino Mutai, the Filipino art of biting, gouging, and pinching.  Sayoc Kali for its vicious use of knives.  Tom Patire’s Last Resort Tactics (LRT) and Hom Do (his lethal force system).

As the creator of the Hybrid Fighting Method (HFM), I always have my eyes and ears open for new ideas, and old ideas that I haven’t heard yet.  If there is something of value in them, I like to take what is of value and incorporate it into my system.  For this reason, I will always be a student of many arts and systems.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” I think our learning as people and as self-defense instructors should never stop.  The very moment we think we’ve “arrived”…we haven’t.

(5)   I know from your bio that you do Irish Stick Fighting. Probably one of the lesser known arts from your list. Can you explain to us what it is and why it appeals to you?

Rince an Bhata Uisce Beatha (pronounced: rinkan batta ishka vahaa, which translates to: Dance of the Whiskey Stick) is a Doyle (Dubhghaill) family style of traditional Irish stick fighting which was common place in the faction fights of the 18th & 19th centuries. While most Irish styles used the one-handed methods (much like fencing), the Doyle style evolved from a one-handed style to the much more effective two-handed style when a family member fused the principles of pugilism into the motions of the stick. Passed on from generation to generation, this two-handed style was only taught to individuals with the surname Doyle.

A much sought after style, Rince an Bhata Uisce Beatha was thought to have derived its name from the fact that the style’s creator rented his stick fighting services out to guard illegal distilleries from rival whiskey makers.  ‘The Whiskey Stick’ soon found its way to Canada via a Doyle who left Ireland to start a new life in Newfoundland in the early 1800s. From there, the style found itself passed on from father to son for generations and finally to the current keeper of the flame, Sifu Glen Doyle.  Breaking with tradition of only teaching Doyles, Glen has spread the popularity and tradition of Rince an Bhata Uisce Beatha to anyone with the intensity and desire to learn it.

I first heard of Glen and of Irish stick fighting in Inside Kung Fu magazine years ago (it was before 2000 for sure).

Last year, I had an opportunity to meet Glen, and so I jumped at it.  We met for coffee and talked for an hour or so, and then he took me to check out his training studio.  We hit it off, and Glen struck me as one of those rare human beings that has a heart of gold.

We exchanged numbers and emails, and shortly thereafter I received an invitation via email to a training and certification course run by Glen on April 10th-11th, 2010.  Not really knowing what to expect, but deciding to check it out, I went and learned the fundamentals of his system of stick fighting.  I was immediately blown away by the system’s simplicity and efficacy.  I was surprised that without changing a single thing about this system of stick fighting, it could be used for real and practical self-defense.

It is a very simple system to learn, and it is brutally effective.  It is the only stick fighting system that I am aware of that WANTS to be close quarters (there may be others – but I am not aware of them).  The more I learn of it, the more I fall in love with it.  I have decided to offer instruction in it alongside the Hybrid Fighting Method as I believe it is invaluable.

I am currently a Level 1 Instructor in this system, which has 8 levels to it.

(6)   We spoke a little over Skype regarding the message that we are trying to spread to the public about self-defense. In your opinion why do you think people should take self-defense?

For the same reason they should put on a seatbelt every time they get in a car.  For the same reason that they should wear a life jacket when they are on a boat.

They may never get in a car crash; they may never fall off of a boat; they may never get attacked by somebody.  But if they do, they will be thankful they had taken the precautions to save their life.

Literally every person that is drawing breath can, and will, benefit from self-defense training if they take it.

(7)   Who are some of the people that you look up to in our industry (and this includes the traditional martial arts as well) and why?

Well, there are plenty of people that have influenced me one way or another over the years, but the ones that immediately stand out are:

Richard Dimitri – I love guys like Rich.  Very cerebral, and constantly analyzes what he teaches and his own motivations for teaching it.  I think human beings are still evolving, and Rich is one of those guys at the crest.

Richard Grannon – As a bouncer, I was one day watching YouTube videos on bouncers, and came across a video of Richie Grannon.  Listening to him talk about how he was hurt badly as a doorman, how he dealt with fear, and how he now worked as a “self-protection instructor” – I was immediately drawn to this guy.  The story he tells is very similar to mine – and so I felt a strong connection to him.  After watching his videos, I really bought into the concepts he teaches.  I don’t think anyone can go wrong listening to Richie Grannon.

Tony Blauer – Tony, in my mind, is probably THE guy when it comes to self-defense; the same way that U2 is THE band when it comes to popular music.  He’s not a god or a grandmaster or a mystical ninja – and he makes that abundantly clear in his videos and courses.  I really respect that.  Demonstrating the ability to be human and make mistakes in public view is ballsy…and admirable.

Shawn Zirger – This guy is a Senior Instructor under Paul Vunak for Progressive Fighting Systems.  He is the founder of the Zirger Academy of Jeet Kune Do (

I don’t think there is any single human being that I have had the pleasure of spending time with that has a comparable depth and breadth of combative knowledge to rival what Shawn has.  And the really cool thing about him is that he shares that knowledge freely, completely, and passionately to any desiring to learn it.  He doesn’t know it, but his influence on me has led to significant changes in the Hybrid Fighting Method.

Tim Larkin – I really dig Tim for two reasons.  One – for doing his thing regardless of support or opposition because he believes it is right.  Two – for taking the time to field my questions and offering his experience to help me grow as a person and as an instructor.

Gord Wood – Gord…he has been a tremendous friend since I met him in 2003.  He really showed me how to teach martial arts, and out of everyone, is probably the largest influence on me from our industry.  He and his wife, Ashley, run a school out here in Ancaster, Ontario, Canada called Evolution Martial Arts (  If anyone comes out this way, you owe it to yourself to train with Gord.  He’s an outstanding instructor, an amazing friend, and a wonderful human being.

(8)   What has your experience as a (former) bouncer taught you?

Being a bouncer has been a great experience (mostly) for me.  I have learned how to read body language very quickly, how to talk to people to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, and I have also developed a keen sense of awareness of my surroundings of any place I walk into based on my experience as a bouncer.

On a physical level, I have learned through experience (some good; some not so good) what combative techniques/tactics/strategies are effective or ineffective.  I have been fortunate as a bouncer, having never been seriously hurt, save one time.  I have been shot at, knives pulled on me, hit in every way imaginable by fists and feet; but the one time I got hurt badly will stick in my mind forever.

I was a bouncer in a downtown Toronto nightclub.  On May 3rd/2009, there was the largest fight I have ever seen in my 7 years of bouncing.  The call came over the radio that something was going down, and so all of us security ran to the part of the club where the fight was happening.  I’ve never seen anything like it – a brawl/riot among 2 or 3 VIP tables.  So, all the ingredients were: 30ish people, 12 bottles of vodka, 12 glass pitchers of juice/pop/etc., about 50 drink glasses, about 50 shot glasses, unknown amount of beer bottles, and 3 large flower vases on the windowsills.

When I got there, there were already 3 or 4 security inside the pyramid of bodies trying to break up the situation.  Glassware and bottles were flying everywhere…it was chaotic.  I stopped on the outskirts of the fight and covered my head due to all the airborne glassware.  A guy in front of me was standing on the couch and he threw a vodka bottle at another table, so I grabbed him and threw him to the floor.

As I did this, one of his friends came from behind me and smashed a vodka bottle over the back of my head (brand was Belvedere – at least it was the good stuff…lol).  I saw a flash in my eyes, my ear was ringing really loud, and my legs both instantly gave out.  I dropped like a sack of potatoes.  After I fell, I tried to get up, but my legs just wouldn’t move.  I sat there for a minute covering my head trying to gain composure.  As I tried to move again, the guy smashed another bottle off the front of my head.  I pulled myself away using my arms, as my legs were still jelly.  As I turned around, that same guy stomped right in my face.  I managed to stand up after this, but I could barely keep my balance.

I had no strength in my limbs, so as much as I wanted to clobber the guy, I made the decision to get the hell outta dodge.  When I saw myself in the bathroom mirror, the entire right side of my head, face, ear, neck, chin, chest, and stomach – were completely painted with my blood.  My jacket and t-shirt were also soaked in my blood.  I grabbed some towels, wet them in the sink, and applied pressure to my head wounds.  I made my way to the staff area at the back of the club, along with 3 other bouncers that got hurt, and we waited for the police and ambulance to arrive.

We all took the same ambulance to the hospital and by 7 a.m. I was out of the emergency room, with 4 staples in my head for one of the cuts, and a nice little gash on my forehead where the 2nd bottle hit.  The rest of my scalp has some small cuts and scrapes and one more gash from the broken glass from the bottles.  As a guy with a shaved head, I am still to this day discovering scars from that night…lol.

I thought I was on the outskirts of the fight, but clearly I wasn’t – as the guy that clubbed me came from behind me.  Sometimes my ego hurts because I didn’t stay and fight, but when I look at it, and the fact that my body wouldn’t respond to what I wanted it to do (it took all my effort just to stand up and to stay standing), I realize that I made the right decision to bail and save my skin.

After the fact, I was told by my coworkers who were working that night that I had knocked out 2 guys before I got to the one who threw the bottle – which would make sense as to why I was targeted.  But I don’t remember everything from that night.  Having had a concussion before being knocked out in my first Muay Thai fight, I know that there are blocks of memory that are lost.

I am thankful, and lucky to be alive to tell the story.

(9)   I know that through SAFE International, you get a chance to talk with young kids all over the country and abroad. Is there an underlining message that you make sure that they understand regarding their safety?

I am always sure to communicate to them that although they can’t control who attacks them, or where they are when they get attacked, or how they’re attacked – the one thing they CAN control is how they respond.  I tell them that if they forget everything I ever teach them, to at least remember this one thing: Ask yourself what you have available to cause injury to the attacker, and what targets on the attacker are available to injure.  Then do everything in your power to cause that damage.  What weapons are available to you (hands, knees, elbow, bites, etc.)?  And what is available to injure (eyes, throat, groin, etc.)?

(10)  What is your method of training to prepare yourself for a violent attack (mentally, physically or both)?

I first start by training a specific technique slowly and in a very controlled manner.  I go through several incidental options that are a by-product of attempting the specific technique.  I do this with all techniques I am learning.  Then I pick up the intensity and get it to the point where I can perform it at full speed and full power.

After this, I allow my training partner(s) to attack me in any way he chooses, starting slowly again until I am proficient, and then I amp up the intensity.

After I am able to confidently defend myself in this context, I add variables of role play, scenario training, etc., to really ingrain the training into my psyche and muscle memory.  That way, when an attack happens, I don’t have to think about what to do (because with all the physical and chemical stimuli I can’t anyway).  I just react according to the principles and techniques I have developed.

Bonus Questions: What are the future plans for Mr. Kennedy?

On November 27th I have an Irish stick fighting championship match that will prove very challenging.  My opponent is a good friend of mine, Colin Simpson, who has been training for years longer than I have in this system.  I am glad that we can be friends now, beat the hell out of each other for 5 rounds, and still be great friends after the fact.

Sometime in early 2011 I plan on having Hybrid Fighting Method instructional DVDs and downloads available to purchase.  The quality is phenomenal!  I’m not just saying that because their my DVDs, but because I was fortunate enough to secure an amazing filmmaker, Mark Hemstock of Hemstock Films ( to film and edit them.

Beyond that, I look forward to preparing and running instructor certification modules in HFM, hopefully by this coming summer.

But before I do any of that…I need to catch up on some sleep!

Thanks for conducting this interview with me Michael; I really do appreciate you taking an interest in what I do.  It is an honour when someone asks me to share my knowledge and experience with them, and I don’t take that lightly.






One-On-One with Freddie Lee : Sparring

Posted in Martial Arts, Training with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2010 by Sifu Freddie Lee

Sparring is necessary in order to become proficient in the combative aspects of martial arts.  But we must be clear on what constitutes as sparring and how far we shall take the sparring in order to increase our ability but at the same time remain healthy and safe.  We learn the physical aspect of martial arts to protect ourselves from harm not to place ourselves into greater physical harm.

If you are to spar to the point of which you receive broken bones, broken teeth, fractured bones, loss of consciousness, and torn ligaments which create long term complications, then I would say that you have forgotten about the initial purpose of practicing martial arts.  You are supposed to practice martial arts to protect your own health, not to cause unhealthy damage to your body.

With that being said, we must be intelligent when we spar.  We must not spar out of competition but rather with the intention of increasing our ability so that we are more likely to survive a deadly confrontation on the streets.  Sparring is not restricted to entail sparring with protective equipment.  Protective equipment can actually hinder a martial artist’s development rather than increasing one’s ability.

Wearing headgear and protective padding hinders ones natural field of vision, restricts movement, and hinders natural flexibility and speed.  It also gives the student the mistaken assumption that they can withstand more damage than they really can so they are more likely to dangerously expose vital parts of their bodies whereas if they were not wearing protective equipment they would be more conscious on protecting their vital organs.

Compare it to a knife fight.  When real knives are used, a martial artist must be intently aware of not exposing any part of the body to be sliced or stabbed, otherwise death is more likely to occur.  In unarmed fighting, the concept is similar.  One well placed timed punch or kick can disable an attacker, so the student must be intently aware of not exposing ones line of defense to allow the opponent to deliver a damaging attack.

Advanced practitioners of martial arts either need no protective equipment or have a very minimal use of protective equipment when sparring.  That is because they have precise control of their attacks, and they can deliver attacks without placing their sparring partners health and safety in jeopardy.  Advanced practitioners know a well timed attack with proper placement, speed, and power when they see it.  They know that if their training partner had delivered the attack at 100% in real life, there would have been significant damage.  Thereby they are able to learn and better their ability by that observance without the unnecessary need of placing their own health and safety in jeopardy.

Beginners do not have this awareness while sparring.  Beginners do not learn to protect their vital areas until those vital areas are attacked with resulting damage.  Because of this, many beginners need to wear protective equipment to minimize the chance of injury.  But a beginner who spars with an advanced practitioner can spar with minimal protective equipment because the advanced practitioner has adequate control of his attacks in which to minimize the chance of causing injury to the beginning practitioner.

An example:  A beginner who is wearing headgear may need a punch delivered at 60% of the instructor’s power in order to receive a feeling of daze to learn that he had mistakenly exposed himself.  A beginner who is not wearing headgear may only need a punch delivered at 20% of the instructor’s power to receive the same feeling of daze in order to have the same learning experience.  An advanced practitioner will be able to control his delivery of attacks in order to help the beginner achieve his learning experience without the need of using protective equipment.

The use of little to no protective equipment is highly preferred because it is the most realistic.  On the streets, in real life, one does not wear protective equipment.  One stands as is, no headgear, no groin protection, no fist protection, no chest protection, no shin protection, etc.  The only advantageous protection one does normally possess is feet protection from ones shoes.  A martial artist will use his feet protection of shoes to his advantage when kicking.  But as far as the other parts of his body, he must be intently aware of protecting himself from harm and utilizing his hands and feet to deliver attacks at their utmost efficiency while causing the least amount of injury to himself.

Sifu Freddie Lee


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