If you've turned on the news recently there is no doubt you've seen or heard about the ballistic missile tests conducted recently by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) throughout the last few weeks. The concept of the North Korean government rattling the saber by testing a new missile system is nothing new. The notion of a nuclear armed North Korea is no longer simply a notion as it is no doubt fact. Despite the fact that even the Chinese, who fought alongside the North Koreans against the United States, have condemned their missile tests, I would anticipate that more tests will be conducted and development on a true intercontinental ballistic missile system will continue. To understand these tests, we must first look back at the North Korean missile tests of previous years.
The DPRK missile program began with tests of the Nodong-1 (also Rodong) missile system in 1993. The performance of the Nodong-1 is nothing to write home about, as the missile is essentially a DPRK produced and scaled up version of the SS-1d Scud-C. Development of the system began in 1988 and the first test in 1990 was unsuccessful, with the missile blowing up on the launch pad. In May 1993, the Nodong-1 missile was successfully fired. This missile has a range or between 1000-1500km.
On 5 July 2006, the DPRK test fired their Taepodong-2 long range missile for the first time. This particular test resulted in the missile losing control after 42 seconds of flight and crashing in the Sea of Japan. The Taepodong-2 Missile is not believed by some sources to be "missile" (in the "weapon" sense) technology but rather as "space launch vehicle" technology. This analyst would submit to the reader that most early space launch vehicle systems were intended to be missile systems first and were used for space launches... As such, it is this analyst's belief that the reverse can be equally true. I hold the R-7 Semyorka, the LGM-25C Titan II, the SM-65 Atlas, and the PGM-11 Redstone missiles all used later as space launch vehicles as evidence that space technology and missile technology are always unilateral developments. To my knowledge, the Taepondong-2 has not been successfully tested. In the event it is later tested, the advertised range is between 4000-6000km which puts Alaska EASILY within striking range.
On 22 June 2016, the DPRK successfully test fired their Hwasong-10 "Musudan" missile system. This missile has a range of 2500-4000km and is launched from mobile Transporter-Erector-Launcher systems. These missiles are still liquid fueled which means the mobile TEL's must remain static for some period of time while the hypergolic fuels are loaded onto the missile. The road mobile nature of the TEL makes these missile systems remarkably difficult to track, however the use of a liquid fueled system, particularly hypergolic liquid fuels that require extreme caution in handling, nullifies this advantage to some extent as the missile must remain static while it is fueled which allows government ISR assets to find, fix, and ready activate first-strike, second strike, TACAMO, and missile defense assets before the missiles can be fueled, let alone fired.
We also see the KN-08 long range missile, similar in design and function to the Russian Topol-M ICBM, under development. This missile has a suspected range, if it is ever brought into production, of 1500-12,000km. This would easily enable the North Koreans to strike Washington, D.C. which is just over 11,000km from Seoul. Should DPRK forces utilize their missile base at Nodong, for example, a missile shot most anywhere on the east coast should be within range, as Nodong is closer to the Eastern Seaboard than Seoul (RoK). Again, this missile has not yet been successfully tested.
Closer to the current tests is the Pukguksong-1 Submarine launched ballistic missile. This SLBM system has been tested at Sinpo Shipyard off their vertical test stand, submersible barge, and a Sinpo class Diesel Electric Ballistic Missile Submarine. The submarine is visible on Google Maps at Lat/Long (40.025426, 128.165595). Just 207 feet Northeast of the sub is the submersible test barge at Lat/Long (40.025880, 128.166033). The vertical test stand is at (40.018128, 128.156585). Again, these are all open source visible on Google Maps at the preceding coordinates. The missile has a range between 500-2000km. This missile is solid fueled. The Sinpo class submarine that these missiles have been tested from is similar to, but smaller than, the old Soviet Golf class of submarines that were modified to launch Scud type missiles. Further, 10 Golf class submarines were purchased from Russia by DPRK for scrap and it is the belief of some in the intelligence field that the North Koreans are attempting to get these boats back into service. Considering the DPRK refinement of the Scud with their Nodong missile systems, I would be willing to bet that they are entertaining the idea if not outwardly working on such a project. The Sinpo class submarine has a maximum range of 1500km and does not have air independent propulsion. It is unknown to this analyst if the boat has a Snorkel device which would allow it to run on diesels while at periscope depth or the boat must fully service to run the diesel engines that charge the batteries. This surfacing makes boats of this type highly susceptible to air and surface warfare assets although when submerged and running on electric motors this type of boat is fairly quiet. Some analysts have stated that this is built off one of the "scrap" Golf class boats but that is, based on the boats dimensions, quite difficult for this particular analyst to believe. A modified hull doesn't become 20 meters shorter and 2 meters narrower, at least not when pressure hulls are involved.
The first missile of recent testing was an updated Pukguksong-2 missile. Unlike other systems, this land based, road mobile TEL launched missile. The new Pukguksong-2 is solid fueled and utilizes a cold launch (rocket motor ignites after missile leaves launch tube) system which is far less likely to damage the TEL than a hot launch (motor ignites inside launch tube) system. This missile has a suspected range of 1200-3000km. The new TEL is tracked as opposed to wheeled. The biggest change for this missile from previous DPRK missile systems is the use of solid fuel rocket engines to propel the missile. With solid fuel, there is no fueling time (with the exception of the rare split fuel systems which use a solid fuel and a liquid oxidizer or vice versa) and thereby far less time for ISR assets to detect the missile being prepared for launch.
Yesterday, 6 March 2017, 4 ballistic missiles were fired by the North Koreans simultaneously. I have found no open source intelligence that indicates what type of missile was fired. I do not attempt to be some kind of expert on this but if I had to venture a guess, I would say that odds are the missiles fired were either addition Pukguksong-2's or Hwasong-10 Musudan's. I say that based on the missiles' flight distance. If I had to pick between the two, I'd bet more on the Pukguksong system as the solid fuel system would be far safer to fire and far less likely to be detected (and thereby rattle the cages of foreign intelligence agencies that much more) by foreign assets than a liquid fueled system.
This situation is highly fluid. Rest assured that Centurion ASG's Intelligence Department will keep well advised of this situation and prepare as detailed and frequent of reports as possible based on open source intelligence. We'll do the gathering and analysis (read: the hard part) for you.
Check back here and on our weekly Intelligence Summary (IntSum) page frequently for continuing coverage.
Prepared by CASG Intelligence Analyst; 1623HRS EST 07MARCH2017
The Bahamas are a popular destination for American college students on Spring Break. It should be noted that while the Bahamas are generally safe for tourists, like any other foreign country, there are things you should know because "you ain't in Kansas anymore."
One would be well advised to first note that you are subject to the law of the land in such country as you are visiting. Your constitutional rights as an American mean nothing outside of this country. It is not uncommon for Americans to be severely beaten by foreign police and this is usually due to the American in question thinking they can get away with the same things in a foreign land that they can get away with when they're stateside. This usually results in a swift and painful lesson to the contrary. Understand, you are a visitor in their land and subject to their laws and regulations before you disembark on foreign soil and behave accordingly.
When traveling to the Caribbean area, particularly for Spring Break, the two biggest opportunities for legal trouble that American college students have to contend with are alcohol and narcotics related activities. The Bahamian government takes all narcotics related offenses VERY seriously, including marijuana. While modern American college students are typically pro-legalization and many use the substance anyway, a foreign police officer is far more likely to answer your "But it should be legal..." by slapping the taste out of your mouth than carefully explaining that "Should be legal doesn't mean it is legal..." as an American police officer would. Possession of any narcotic is a very serious offense in the Bahamas and will most likely result in an expensive adjudication process and a lengthy jail sentence, even for small amounts of narcotics. Plainclothes law enforcement in the Bahamas are known to routinely proposition tourists about purchasing marijuana. Those who conduct the transaction are arrested. Because the islands are used as a trans-shipment point by many drug cartels, there is a large amount of narcotics on the islands. Consequently, where there's a large amount of narcotics, particularly if cartels are involved, there are a large number or heavily armed criminals that don't want witnesses around. Many cartel "sicarios" don't care that their organization made money off you because you bought dope... all they care about is that you saw them make their drop and this could be very hazardous to your health. Drug traffickers, from street level nickel and dime bag dealers to the cartel "Jefe," are all particularly dangerous people that one should avoid contact with. Even if you are the type that sees nothing wrong with marijuana use and choose to do so (highly advised against it due to the significant legal burden such drug use can bring upon you) it is strongly advised that narcotics be avoided in foreign lands. Jails in the United States with all of your Constitutional Rights are bad enough... in a foreign land, lockup really is that much worse.
Alcohol related offenses are the bane of law enforcement everywhere. If you got a patrol officer from every jurisdiction in the world together and asked "What's the dumbest call you've ever got?" every single officer in the room would start their story with "One night we got a call about this damn drunk...." Drunk people tend to make cops mad on sight. In the United States that means more likely to get a ticket or get locked up. In a foreign land, that means "Very likely to spit your own teeth out." The potential for injury or alcohol poisoning bring up a few medical issues that will be discussed later as well. If you're going to drink, do so responsibly. That means NOT driving, NOT acting a fool, and NOT drinking to the point of intoxication. Don't be a drunken boor. Despite what your frat friends tell you, you're not doing anything but pissing people off. Remember all them cartel guys from the last paragraph? Yeah you do... Are you sure you want to piss them off? I'll answer for you... No you don't. What "drink responsibly" also means is staying in a group who will look out for you. At least one person in that group should be stone cold sober. May they can talk that cop out of beating you down for your boorish behavior.... Maybe they notice that guy talking to one of the girls in the group slipping something in her drink... You're in a foreign country and a slip of situational awareness may very well have immediate and long lasting consequences. Impairing substances, such as alcohol or drugs, degrade this so if you're going to get intoxicated, do so in a group and at least one person needs to remain completely sober. Intoxicated young women are targeted for sexual assault or kidnapping worldwide almost as a matter of routine so especially watch the women in your group and you may very well have to be "that asshole" who cuts them off and makes them go back to their accommodations for the night. This also means you now get to pull guard duty, one to make sure they stay in their rooms and two to make sure that no one unauthorized tries to get into those rooms. While this may sound harsh, would you rather have your female friends mad at you because you made them quit drinking and then ran off the guy they wanted to have sex with (same could apply to a female making a male go back to his room and running off the skank he was trying to put it to that night... I speak from the primary perspective of a man looking out for a woman because I'm a man who was raised to protect women at all costs) or would you prefer explaining to her friends and family that she was raped or kidnapped because you didn't have the stones, wherewithal, or both to look after her? I know which choice I'd make.
Going further with alcohol and drugs, don't do risky things if you're going to imbibe. This includes swimming or using excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. Your American insurance policy will not be accepted by Bahamian doctors who routinely require foreigners to pay cash in full up front before they perform medical services. While I recommend getting traveler's insurance for sure, I also recommend preventing likely mechanisms of injury and illness. If you do get hurt badly, medical evacuation to the United States typically costs around $15,000 per the US State Department.
Avoid scooter and jet ski rental businesses. While many are legitimate, a large number of them have been linked to assaults, kidnappings, and sexual assaults including against US citizens. If you do choose to use these establishments, never allow yourself to be alone with the operator or an employee if at all possible. DO NOT operate anything with a motor while intoxicated.
Exercise good personal security practices. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean the criminals are..... quite the contrary in fact. Avoid traveling alone. Avoid dimly lit areas. Pay particular attention to what's going on around you and who is around you. If someone seems to be around more often than not and you don't know them, begin escape and evasion procedures starting with a Surveillance Detection Route (if you need to make a right at this upcoming street, go up one more block and make a left, then a left on the next street taking you back to the one you needed to be on in the first place and turn left on that.) to determine if they're actually following you or not. If they appear to be following you, immediately go to the first well lit public place you can find and call the nearest Consulate or Embassy and have them contact law enforcement for you. Avoid secluded beaches. That pretty thing you want to do bad things to in that secluded cove may be working with someone else who is already there waiting for you... That attractive man of your dreams may be walking you to his kidnapper buddy because you're worth a lot of money at auction to them. If a person offers you a package, reject it unless you can verify what's in it. It may very well be a gift they want to give you but it may also be a couple of kilos of coke they think you can get into the United States for them too... and if you're not the wiser, they don't have to pay your for one, two you can't snitch them out, and three if you get caught they have total deniability.
As with traveling anywhere, good common sense, good situational awareness, and a little bit of thinking before acting will keep you safe in the Bahamas. Use your head, keep your wits about you, and have a good trip.
-CASG Intelligence Analyst
CASG is going back to our roots and do what we do best. Will not longer provide Security Guard Services in Puerto Rico.
We have partnered with Private Investigators and other Security Guard Companies to provide them with Training, Consulting, Risk Management, Equipment and Contract Management services so that they can begin providing top notch services to their customers. So you will continue to see our logo running around as we will be providing uniforms and equipments to companies.
We have some new projects that we are working on and as soon as we are ready we will let everyone know.
There are many ways that business owners can protect their electronic information from current or former employees.
We recently terminated one of our employees (Lower Level IT) for cause and with extreme prejudice. This employee immediately deleted all emails and drive information thinking that he was been smarter than everyone else and the employers could find out what he was up to. Unfortunately for that employee it did not work, CASG uses G Suite Vault that maintains all electronic data sent and received for 10 years as company policy. This is a very useful tool for employers who uses G Suite as their email handler since the employee can completely clear all the information from their account but the employer is the only one with access to the backup file.
It is very interesting to find out (normally after the fact) what employees are up to and what kind of information they are sending using your business email. Staying 10 steps ahead of your employees and not allowing everyone to know all the trades and secrets of your organization (even if they think they know everything) is imperative to maintain honesty within your business an employees. This will eliminate the need (like it happened to us) to begin emailing all the customer who the employee provided erroneous information and and having to apologizing on behalf of the company.
1. We recommend to business owners to use some sort of electronic message backup that works in the background and maintains all your company data safe. G Suite Vault is what we use but there are many more out there that you can use.
2. Have all employees sign electronic and email monitoring agreement, ensure the agreement states that all data contained in that account are sole proprietary information of your business and is been monitored.
3. Don't wait until an employee is released to review their account. Keep everyone honest by conducting a weekly review of account (could be random) and data to ensure you can do damage control early.
4. If you have the ability to do so, like we did, maintain your main IT and Cyber personnel separated from the location where you have the main bulk of employees. They work in the background and report directly to the Top Level Executives. We also had them set up monitoring systems at the office with micro-fiber video and audio, so we get stories from the employees, but we know the truth even before we confront them about it. Say one step ahead of your personnel.
Hope this small post help some business owners to maintain their data protected and at the same time help employees stay honest, that is very hard to find these days.
Smile and wave, smile and wave!!
CEO, Total Force Holdings Inc
We all remember how our mass transportation landscape changed on 12 September 2001. The events of the day before brought most of the free world to their knees as though we all took one big punch in the collective gut. I will never forget the way I felt on 9/11 or the fire that still burns that was lit inside of me that day. We all remember "Here's my ticket. Here's my bags. Nothing in there that shouldn't be. Here's my boarding pass." that was only followed with "Thank you, have a nice flight." instead of "Can you step aside for me? You've been selected for an additional security screening." We also know that those days are long over, and for good reason.
We've seen the threat to commercial travel worldwide come from passengers more often that not. Recently, I read an article from InHomelandSecurity (full article link from InHomelandSecurity.com is as follows: "http://edmdigest.com/news/rogue-aviation-workers-are-biggest-threat-to-aviation-security/") that stated quite clearly that "Rogue Aviation Workers Are Biggest Threat to Aviation Security." This article made a few great points which you can either find for yourself using the link above or keep reading where I will hit the major points.
One thing the article did for sure was get the security consultant, tactician, criminal, and generally deviant gears within my brain housing group to start turning... Generally this turns out to be a good thing for customer, clients, readers, and followers because I tend to give away a lot of information that I should be charging money for when this kind of thing happens. Hey, it's your gain, right?
As I was saying, the article stresses aviation workers as the greatest threat to aviation security. How hard would it be for a disenfranchised or radicalized worker to slip a bomb into the landing gear of an aircraft? Landing gear which retract into the wing... the wing which is full of fuel... Catch my drift? How hard would it be to slip an explosive device into baggage after it was scanned and was being loaded onto the plane?
The article highlights the smuggling of firearms on Delta flights from Atlanta to New York City to smuggle firearms and the recent debacle wherein a 15 year old scaled a perimeter fence and stowed away in a Hawaiian Air jet's wheel well from California to Hawaii. The article also cites many other recent TSA failures, which we all know of as they've been consistently in the news.
When we think of the smuggling of firearms by a credentialed airport worker onto a plane, it takes me back to my days as a kid watching some of the first scenes of the Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin flick "The Delta Force." This film involves a Boeing 707 commercial airliner flying from Cairo to Athens to Rome to New York that is hijacked by Lebanese "freedom fighters" (we would call them "rebels" but one man's "rebel" is another man's "freedom fighter," I will give them that much) who utilize a Colt 1911A1 .45 ACP pistol, a Polish PM-63 9x18mm Submachine Gun (which is really an early attempt at what is now known as a "Personal Defense Weapon" or "PDW" but that is a subject for another time), and a pair of British made (or copied from British made) Mills Bombs... We would call them fragmentation hand grenades. Granted this film was set in the early 1980's when everyone remembered aircraft hijackings happening regularly. These weapons were placed in the lavatory towel and napkin dispenser by an airline worker that was "checking up on a suspected water leak." Anyone who's saw that movie knows how it turns out.... as soon as possible, the terrorist leader runs to the lavatory, withdraws the weapons and ordnance, returns to his partner, and they take over the plane. They divert the route to hostile territory and are eventually stopped by Tier 1 US Special Operations Assets. I'm about to cut that movie on after I write this since it's on my mind now.
The incident in Atlanta shows that credentialed individuals CAN get firearms onto commercial aircraft. If they can get a firearm on, then it is not unreasonable that they could get an explosive device aboard. Who is to say that the terrorists of the world didn't read the linked article and see the old 80's action movie mentioned above and all of a sudden have a light bulb moment? To think that such is outside the realm of possibility is as ludicrous as thinking the airliner in question can get off the ground with no engines or wings.
We can take this EVEN further and ask ourselves: "If that 15 year old could stow away in a wheel well, what's stopping ISIL or someone similar from putting a suicide bomber in there? The kid didn't want to die but put his life at risk to fly whereas the suicide bomber PLANS TO DIE and doesn't care.... What's to stop them from rigging him with a dead man's switch so his bomb goes off anyway and the plane still gets blown into 10,000 pieces?"
This can of course be applied to ANY mass transit method. Subways, trains, buses, planes, and ships can be infiltrated by credentialed personnel and either boobytrapped or have hardware stashed inside them for collaborators to come get later.
If you work in the transportation industry, you are a de facto antiterrorist operative. If something doesn't look right, keep your eye on it. If you don't like the look of something, look into it. If you think there's a security risk, stop it and/or contact law enforcement NOW... not after you hear about something happening later tonight on the news. I'm not saying just because someone takes too many smoke breaks or something that is merely against policy like that because no one likes a Blue Falcon... but if someone generally gives you cause for concern and you get that gut feeling that screams "Something ain't right.... I got a bad feeling about this." then you need to open up your mouth and speak on it.... NOW.
The next 9/11 may not be a passenger.... That's the thing about unconventional and Fourth Generation Warfare.... Literally ANYONE could be an insurgent. So keep your situational awareness up, stay frosty, and stay dangerous... but most of all stay safe (or be deadly).
CENTURION ASG INTEL FUSION CELL
Under current United States law, set forth in the USA PATRIOT Act, acts of domestic terrorism are those which: "(A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended— (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."
Terrorists and insurgents are turning to crime and criminal networks for funding and logistics. In FY 2010, 29 of the 63 top drug trafficking organizations identified by the Department of Justice had links to terrorist organizations. In Latin America, for example, the FARC and Hezbollah gain access to Venezuelan territory without fear of reprisals; they gain access to Venezuelan identification documents; and, perhaps most importantly, access to routes for exporting cocaine to Europe and the United States -- while using the same routes to import quantities of sophisticated weapons and communications equipment. In return, the Maduro government offers state protection, and reaps rewards in the form of financial benefits for individuals as well as institutions, derived from the cocaine trade.
Iran benefits from access to the international financial market through Venezuelan, Ecuadoran and Bolivian financial institutions, which act as proxies by moving Iranian money as if it originated in their own unsanctioned financial institutions.
A recent blockbuster book in Spanish, El Bumerán Chávez: Los Fraudes Que Llevaron al Colapso de Venezuela (The Chávez Boomerang: The Frauds That Led to the Collapse of Venezuela) describes in detail from numerous eye witnesses cocaine dealing and high level contacts between Venezuelan government officials and Hezbollah operatives, where the Venezuelan government authorized financial activities of the terrorist group in Venezuela. (Emili J. Blasco, El Bumerán Chávez: Los Fraudes Que Llevaron al Colapso de Venezuela, Center for Investigative Journalism in the Americas, 2015, Washington, D.C.)
Kenny Bryant Smith
CEO, Total Force Holdings, Inc.
Self-Defense, as we’ve established previously, is a very broad and diverse topic that, frankly, some people address better than others. Some methods of self-defense out there are more effective or more efficient than others. Some have such a heavy reliance on liability reduction that they are combat ineffective while others are so combat oriented that they would make even the most hard-nosed of judges scream excessive. The systems themselves are what they are but if taught by a highly skilled and competent instructor these problems can of course be mitigated. Some systems are commonly viewed as a sport but the right instructor can teach you how to make that system work on the street. Remember, an instructor is someone that YOU are paying for a service so you have a bit of due diligence to perform. If you rush right into training with the first guy in the Yellow Pages or on Craigslist offering self-defense training you might get a GREAT instructor or you might get a mix of trash and bovine fecal matter.
Does a black belt alone make a competent self-defense instructor?
I say “Not by itself!”
When I speak on self-defense, I could be speaking about any discipline within the self-defense realm. Maybe you want a specialist in one field. Maybe you want to work with someone who is just as confident fighting with a Glock as they are with their fists. For me personally, I train with both. There are times when I want to refine a certain skill and there are times when I want to mix it up and work how I would on the street. Regardless, I look for a few things.
The first thing I look for is beyond basic credentials. So many people look for NRA certified instructors when they go to gun schools. To be quite frank, I’ve read the NRA Instructor curriculum. It’s beyond basic. Literally ANYONE can get it. I don’t immediately throw out someone who’s an NRA instructor immediately but if they don’t have something other than just that NRA paperwork, I seriously doubt what they’re capable of. Now, let’s say this NRA instructor also has a Master ranking in a competitive shooting discipline, is a military veteran, has an extensive and verifiable training record with other instructors available, or has served for a long period of time as a law enforcement officer then we have something to work with. If you’re a basic shooter, the NRA program is great. If you’ve been shooting handguns for quite some time there is very little the NRA programs can offer you that you’re not perfectly capable of drilling on a range with another competent shooter and a shot timer. Here’s where someone says shot timers are expensive. No, they’re not. There are shot timer apps for your phone for free. I know this for a fact because I use one.
Can just anyone get one of these?
What about martial arts and combatives? First thing I look at is who backs this person’s rank? If there isn’t an organization backing what they’re doing, I assume they ordered their black belt online and printed their own certificates. Think this doesn’t happen? It absolutely does in the martial arts world, albeit not as common today as it was before the internet came to prominence for backing these things. I want to know what that organization is all about. If you get the vibe that a person gets rank or instructor certification as long as the check clears, you should probably steer clear. If the organization is so closed-minded they only allow members of their organization to compete in their tournaments and seem to frown upon their members cross training with other schools outside the organization or in other arts this probably isn’t an organization you want to be affiliated with. If you think this doesn’t happen, I assure you it does. I was a member of one organization for many years that did this. As a matter of fact, I was inducted into a martial arts hall of honors from a lesser known martial arts magazine and caught serious flak from some of the leadership of this organization for accepting the induction.
Author accepted induction into Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honor for Outstanding Dedication to the Martial Arts. Do hall of fame awards make competent instructors? NO!!!
So, this person is accredited. Their organization seems like a good one. This is where you can start training. Most martial arts schools do some form of initial trial where training is free. Some schools do one day, some do a week, some do a month. How long the trial is has no bearing to me. If the instructor makes any allusion that the system “can’t” be trained with resistance, you should immediately be suspect. If the instructor makes the allusion that the system is all someone needs for personal protection, run far away. There is no problem with someone being confident in their art but there is a huge problem if someone doesn’t understand that every system has limitations. On that note, there are some instructors out there use techniques that require a compliant training partner to pull off. If you hear of someone attempting to use “No-Touch Knock Outs” turn around and run as far away as possible as fast as you can.
Multiple black belts in different styles are a good indicator of an instructor’s level of training. An individual with a large amount of training is usually a better choice than an individual with a lesser amount. But do the belts and knowledge alone make a competent and talented TEACHER? Absolutely not!
So you’ve started training with an instructor. This is a good thing. As a long time martial artist and martial arts instructor myself, I personally believe every human alive can and will benefit from good martial arts training. Part of your due diligence must occur as you train. Watch the advanced students. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is maybe you can pick up on some details to make your own technique improve. The second reason is watch HOW they are training. As a beginner student, there is no issue with training in a vacuum. Training in a vacuum means you are practicing completely rehearsed technique, you know exactly how the attacker is going to attack you and when. This form of scripted training is commonly referred to as “one-step sparring” in many organizations and at the beginner level, there is nothing wrong with that. At the advanced level, there’s no reason for this. What excessive one-step sparring leads to is a false sense of confidence that an individual’s techniques are effective on the street and they may very well be, but there is no pressure testing of said technique. Iron Mike Tyson, though he was always a stark raving lunatic, made the statement that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” No truer statement has ever been made. The street is not a vacuum. If the system you are training in doesn’t allow you to remove the vacuum and give your attacker autonomy in how they attack you, then you must question the effectiveness of your technique. Further, if your school allows free-sparring under such restrictive rules then you can not equate your actual street skill level to your gym skill level.
What about multiple black belts in different teaching methods or schools of the same art? This is a VERY good sign that the instructor understand the art and different methods of teaching the same art.
What about a hard copy of an Instructor’s Appointment, Certification, or License? This is also a very good sign of a competent instructor, as many organizations have some form of instructor’s course but this isn’t always the case.
If the system you’re training in teaches knife or firearm disarming, this is ripe for debunking. I’ve trained in the martial arts since January of 1993. I have seen some very good disarming techniques. I’ve also seen some disarming techniques so absolutely horrible that I’ve just walked off the mat after paying good money for that training. If kicking weapons out of someone’s hand is ever taught, advocated, or allowed to be practiced, turn around and run fast and far. Again, many instructors here apply the vacuum training method. At no point in time should “You didn’t attack them right” ever come out of an instructor’s mouth unless a specific attack is clearly specified. Under no circumstances should the attacker stop their attack, it should be a fluid motion even if done slowly because in the real world knife attacks, punches, or any other kind of attack stops and hangs in the air for you to perform your technique on the attacker.
What about instructor certification in multiple disciplines? This by itself is the sign of someone who is dedicated to the practices of training and learning how to train others.
Having identified a few negatives, now we’ll look at how you know you have a good instructor. I will hit a few counterpoints to these positives, some of which are MAJOR negatives but typically a good instructor is as easy to figure out as a bad one.
Your instructor should welcome questions on techniques. Some of my mentors in the martial arts world are the type that encourage questions at any time. As human beings, we learn visually and through auditory communication. If you have a question, and you ask politely, there is no good reason for an instructor to either refuse to answer or dismiss that question. Even people who teach this stuff for a living have to be willing to admit “I don’t know” when that is the case. I’ve had to do that in classes and while it’s not enjoyable to do so, it’s honestly like taking a solid kick in the manhood when you are teaching and get a question you don’t know the answer to, the absolute worst thing an instructor can do is dismiss the question or pull a bogus answer out of their backside. The exception to this is the “What if….” questions. ANY technique can be “what if”-’ed to death. If an instructor answers your “what if” with showing an alternate technique or by saying “We’ll get to that later,” as long as they actually do get to it later this is not a bad thing. It shows a true understanding of the limitation of the technique which is very good.
An instructor should be able to state what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. If they can’t specifically define what they are doing and why this can indicate a less than complete mastery of the technique they are teaching. If you get to be the student that quite literally questions everything, the instructor is rightly going to get annoyed. There is a difference between asking a legitimate question and being facetious. If you ask a legit question of “What exactly are we doing here?” or “Why are we doing that part, right there?” this is a good question. I would say that although I would answer it in an open class format, it’s probably best asked when you are told to practice the technique so the instructor can work with you and your training partner in closer quarters and maybe you see that detail with their explanation. This may be addressed by the instructor calling the class to a halt and explaining it in detail to the class. If the instructor sees a question of this sort asked in a respectful manner as disrespectful, this can be a real red flag. Their answer may be “Because this technique is taught this way.” to a “why” question, and while that snub may come off as rude, some techniques truly are taught certain ways to build certain skills. While that would be a better answer, everyone has a bad day. As long as they don’t make a habit of the “Because we do it this way.” mentality that’s not a red flag by itself. However, “What exactly are we doing….” type of questions should always be answered truly and completely, especially if in a more private setting like during partner practice.
A good instructor understands the difference between sport and street. Some martial arts like Brazliian Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and Boxing to name a few are as much sports as they are fighting arts. If your instructor ONLY teaches the sport aspect and never explains techniques that might be against the rules in a tournament then I suspect their validity as a true self-defense instructor. Granted, sport martial art training is better than no training but there is a distinct difference between the mat or ring and the street. If your instructor bills themselves as a self-defense teacher and ONLY teaches the sport, then you may want to look into additional or maybe even a different instructor. Remember, if your intent is to practice and learn self-defense skills then you’re looking for true self-defense training and this is not always found in sport training. I would say continue your current training and seek out seminars and other short term training programs to supplement what you’re already doing.
In the self-defense world, there are a GREAT many instructors out there. IF you are interested in training, it is your job to find a good instructor. A decent system taught by a talented instructor will make very skilled students. An awesome system taught by a mediocre instructor will make students that are merely mediocre. A solid system taught by an awesome instructor will make truly awesome students that would be a fearsome foe for most any adversary.
Until next time,
Stay Safe, Stay Frosty, and Stay Dangerous
CEO, Total Force Holdings Inc.
Kenny Bryant Smith
CEO, Total Force Holdings, Inc.
Self Defense is such a broad and varied topic. There are numerous methods involving armed and unarmed methods of protecting oneself. A quick Internet search for your area will most likely reveal a myriad of Concealed Carry Instructors and as many or more martial arts organizations that are marketing themselves as “Self Defense programs.” Allow me to be abundantly clear when I state that while almost any training will yield exponentially better results than having no training at all, not all training programs and, most importantly, not all trainers are created alike. Having began my martial quest in January of 1993 (I was born in September of 1987 so when I say I have been doing this almost all of my life, it is not in jest) I have seen all manner of programs ranging from really solid to remarkably ridiculous.
Self Defense starts in the mind. If one is not well versed in both situational and spatial awareness, that person is significantly behind the power curve. That is a decision you and only you can make. One must know where they are in space (spatial awareness) as well as who and what is around them (situational awareness). If a Self Defense program does not cover these two at the fundamental level, then it is (if I may be so blunt) NOT truly a self defense program at all. I consider situational and spatial awareness so critical that they are the subject of this article.
I am a firm believer that most every self defense problem I am aware of can be nullified with better situational or spatial awareness. In the world of concealed carry, one always stumbles upon that one person who only carries their weapon when they are going to that one area that everyone knows is a bad area. My first question is if it was so bad you felt the need to carry more hardware than usual, why were you going there in the first place? On that note, I have no problem with people going about their daily lives armed, I do it everyday, everywhere it is legal to do so… I have issues with knowing you are putting yourself in a situation where you are more likely to need to deploy some level of force unless going to that place in space is absolutely necessary.
If you are clumsy (like Yours Truly), then spatial awareness is that much more important. I am that one guy that usually finds his trailer hitch by introducing his shin to it and finds steps when gravity takes over after ground was SUPPOSED TO BE THERE…. But it wasn’t. This is an example of bad spatial awareness. If you are clumsy like me, knowing more of where you are in space will save you a vast number of lumps and bruises. I can submit that I am not nearly as clumsy as I used to be due to working on expanding my own personal spatial awareness.
A great many self defense cases start with the defender (you’re only a victim if you allow yourself to be one) being lost. If I may pose a hypothetical scenario…..
You are in your vehicle on a trip to visit family somewhere a couple of hours from home. It is well after dark and the weather is bad… let’s say a nasty rainstorm. Your GPS decides it doesn’t like you and starts trying to take you down roads that don’t exist… We’ve all been there. Right about now while you have no source of directions, the coolant temperature gauge in your instrument cluster decides to hit redline and the voltage indicator starts flopping…. You pop the head to a cloud of steam that wreaks of antifreeze and see your fan belt is just as broke as it can be. You have some form of motorist assistance (I myself am a member of the Allstate Motor Club and have found their service and that of the vendors they utilize for service to be spot on) so you call the number and they ask where you are…. Your answer choices are “Well, my GPS says I’m on this road but….” or “I’m about XX miles outside of XXX(town name here)XXX on XXXX Street going Northbound.” Which do you prefer? Now I know what you’re thinking….. “This fool just said I was lost in his own hypothetical situation…. How can I give an answer like the second one?” I would just about bet my last penny that your cell phone or GPS has a map feature with a scale on it…. That is part of spatial awareness… Knowing where you are in the world and finding out where you are in the world by all means available. Although I wouldn’t recommend finding your trailer hitch with your shin… any country boy, including this one, will tell you that all that does is hurt… it ties with stepping on a Lego.
Situational awareness is a kissing cousin to spatial awareness. As the name implies, it is being aware of your situation. Who all and what all is around and/or going on around you. We need to know what is happening around us. Maybe you didn’t get the memo about playing in traffic from your parents as a kid…. If you’re on or about the roadway, it’s generally a good idea to pay attention to if a car might be coming as failing to do so might hurt a little bit. This is a classic example of situational awareness.
Let’s take another hypothetical trip… This one closer to home. As a self defense trainer, I tend to jokingly refer to gas stations as a “Stop and Rob.” Why? Many criminals do just that… they stop in and rob the place. Let’s say your significant other decides they just have to have some kind of snack and the only place you can get it is the local Stop and Rob. It’s three in the morning, the weather is horrible, and yet here you are, being awesome, and going to run said errand. As you pull past the gas pumps, you see two guys you could swear you saw in the paper the other day that the local lawmen are hunting for whatever nefarious deed is popular in your area… they are pulling bandanas over their faces and you see the glint of metal in one’s hand… Had you not been paying attention, your trip to get snacks for your better half would’ve landed you smack dab in the middle of an armed robbery.
By paying attention to where you are and what all is going on around you, you become a people watcher and see some really entertaining things. If you are single (regardless of what kind of plumbing you have and what you’re attracted to), there is some SERIOUS eye candy out there and being a people watcher let’s you see them just as well as seeing those people that seem to have been following you for a good few minutes and appears to be getting closer.
There is absolutely no negatives to this unless you’re the type that is easily distracted (like myself) in which case you will notice that much more. If you are making the conscious effort to know where you are and what is surrounding you, you will miss less exits on the highway… and besides getting lost less, you can spend more time paying attention to the road and less paying attention to a GPS, and this act of focusing on driving may very well save you a significant amount of money (I’m in North Carolina and our laws show a $250 fine plus $197 in court costs if you are caught inputting or reading text off a mobile device while driving) or it could just as easily save your life. I lost a person very near and dear to me in a single vehicle accident due to texting and driving. If you think it can’t happen over your GPS, think again.
Pay attention to your surroundings… It may save your life in more ways than one.
This article is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Sarah Edith Stonesifer (11 SEPT 1990 - 29 MAR 2013). May you rest in peace. Until Valhalla….