Civilian defense vs military offense

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If it’s true it makes a mockery of the Okinawan obsession with self-defence.

The Okinawans have been conquered a few times over their history. They learned to hide their martial expertise behind folk dances and what not. I wouldn’t find it surprising that foreign visitors found no “weapons”. They wouldn’t have found any if they had looked and they had them anyways.

Sumo would definitely be more native Japanese than Karate in my view.

To defend against eye gouging, one must understand how to do it. If their view is that to defend against grappling, one must think and do things a grappler would think and do, then the same applies elsewhere. In order to do an eye gouge, one must retain muscle memory and this, under TFT, is handled using a super slow form of targeting. Every single muscle impulse is locked in, perfected, and given complete form and flow. Except at the end, where the action to penetrate the finger into the eyesocket and swirl it around, is not taken. Instead you can order the muscles to do it, and shoot your arm to the left of the actual eye socket, but you are visualizing attacking the target itself. You’re looking right at the target. You’re just moving your fingers to the side. Eye gouges and rakes are also different. Hitting from the sides, using the knuckles vs using the finger tips, using the thumb vs using the index finger, it’s all different. Most people just go with whatever they find simplest to learn. When they ignore eye gouges and “assume” they can do it or defend against it, that’s relying on luck, not skill and training. If I wanted to rely on luck, I wouldn’t need training or anything else for that matter.

Once you understand the ability of an eye gouge to do damage, NOW YOU CAN defend. Now, but not before. Regardless, instead of coming up with creative ways to defend against eye gouges, TFT just focuses 100% on accessing targets in an offensive mode. An injured human is no longer a threat. Even in the US, the jury will not be convinced that you were “defending yourself” if you struck a person multiple times or kicked em multiple times on the ground. One stand up strike that leads to the guy falling and you stomping on him again to break his collar bone because he’s still moving and a threat, can be argued off as “self defense in perception of future grievous bodily harm from the assailant”. But because no single strike guarantees incapacity, is the reason why a lot of Self Defense Civilian fields advocate running away. They can’t guarantee one strike will ensure safety and they can’t guarantee that multiple strikes won’t get you into legal hot water so… best to run away so that you don’t have to appear in court for mutual combat.

TFT’s philosophy is purely designed for situations requiring lethal force. Meaning, if you are authorized by the law to shoot and kill a person, then that’s where TFT can be employed. This is much more flexible in the US than in places like Australia. States like Georgia and the southern states south of the Bible Belt have very liberal laws concerning self defens and the use of violence. Georgia even recently made it legal for people to carry combat knives openly, so long as they are certified CCW. This is why TFt doesn’t teach the “run away” thing. Because if you shoot someone and “run away”… well, that’s semi legal. Like a hit and run. Illegal if they catch you.

Our juries, in certain states, are far more understanding of appropriate uses of violence. However, if you go to California, it’s like a maximum security prison. If you aren’t the police, and you use violence, the state is going to punish you. Just because. Doesn’t matter what your motivations were and it doesn’t even matter what American law is on the 2nd Amendment. California will not permit the use of force or violence by ANYONE other than their LEOs. That’s their de facto stance, inconsistent with the de jure rule of law. So in the US, we think of California as like a third world banana republic actually. They aren’t ruled by the junta, but by a combination of MS13 type mobs in inner cities and the LEO unions. Don’t even go to Oakland.

Fortunately TFT is like the unarmed version of concealed carry of firearms, which is allowed in the US if the person is licensed. Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Columbine, were all perpetrated in areas that guns were banned in, including concealed permits. For safety reasons, the soldiers of Ft. Hood are unarmed. Only the Military Police are (maybe) armed or private security contractors. No personal loaded weapon or concealed sidearm, is permitted on US bases due to bureaucratic safety rigamole about “misfires” happening. It would take a few more Ft. Hoods to change that little rule of ours. That’s why TFT is so convenient. It’s an unarmed version of concealed carry sidearm. Hence, nobody knows you have it, metal detectors can’t see it, and thus it won’t be confiscated from you.

So in that sense, Dan, TFT would fit the definition of a military H2H training program (Army combatives are designed more with PT fitness than mind than actual functinality) on par with military marksmanship, except it’s been modified to also suit the requirements of civilians.

It’s pretty simple. I don’t need to shoot someone in the head to prove that the gun is dangerous and effective. We “know” it’s effective because we have confidence in it. That’s just a judgment. Judgments are based upon information and experience, but it’s still personal judgment. Sports can test their stuff out because their stuff isn’t dangerous to begin with. It has little threat compared to a gun or knife or determined psychopathic attacker.

A big giant of a man is just as vulnerable anatomically as a weak, petite, female. There is no difference in how humans respond to injury, absent some minor variable tweaks.

I don’t need to detonate a nuke in my backyard to “test” it out. Some things are too dangerous to play around with. The only thing that matters is technical proficiency and whether the principles are correct and working or not. You can “test” technical proficiency using “tests” but those tests won’t look like anything real precisely because if it was real, people would be dead. And there goes your test subjects.

Sometimes “realism” doesn’t actually produce results. It just produces casualties and injured students.


Nice, football as physics

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5 Comments on “Civilian defense vs military offense”

  1. I had a good look around the TFT website and I find nothing to disagree with. The TFT approach is very sound and effective. However it is, under my definition, a system leaning heavily towards military or law enforcement model, rather than a civilian defence model.

    I say this because TFT is “target focused” by its very name/definition. While agreeing with everything I heard Tim say, the philosophy seems to be centered on attacking (albeit counterattacking) your target. It does not focus its primary attention on teaching you how to thwart an attack initiated by your target (except by the obvious tactic of disabling the attacker before this becomes an issue).

    While disabling an attack is clearly highly desirable from a civilian defence perspective (he/she can’t attack you any longer) this begs the question: If you can’t hit him first, how do you avoid being hit by an attack that is heading your way? You deflect/evade, of course. But how do you do this? It is easy to say “just deflect and/or evade” – in my experience it is another to do so.

    To me, the primary focus of TMA is always on how to deflect/evade/thwart that first (or second, third etc.) attack – be it by preemptive strike (which is rarely available when you’re surprised), by deflection, evasion or (more commonly) deflection with evasion. TMA thus puts a lot of emphasis on the art of deflection and evasion (or deflection with evasion). It is “target focused” more in terms of dealing with the attacks – not with viewing your attacker as a “target” for your counters.

    So karate kata begin with a defensive move – as do most CMA (including the internal arts). In this regard I invite you to read my various articles on “blocking”, evasion and evasion with “blocking” (eg. and, mostly with a view to using and adapting the flinch reflex (see

    Then there is the specific TMA focus of counterstriking after you’ve deflected/evaded etc. Learning how to strike disabling targets is a necessary in training and forms a big part of TMA. But for civilian defence purposes you need more: as I’ve said, you need to learn how to avoid being hit by your target. And you need to know how to strike a target that won’t let you strike it. This means learning how to deal with the situation where your own attack is thwarted.

    Assume you’re down on one knee after being blindsided (as Tim shows in one of his videos). You see his groin and you hit it. So far so good: to this point the TFT and TMA approaches are identical. However what happens when you go to strike his groin but he blocks/deflects/evades your counterstrike? To me, that is the most interesting part – how to “turn the tables” and establish control. That is what TMA spends a lot of time answering.

    In this regard I invite you to read and the second part

    In my view the primary focus of TMA is not to hit a target – but to “not get hit” (ie. to avoid being a “target” yourself). This difference is subtle, but significant. The TMA focus is not suitable for military or law enforcement purposes where your goal is to effect a particular result to your target. But it is eminently suitable for civilian defence where you succeed so long as you remain unaffected by the threat posed. If you run away from a civilian defence encounter, you’ve “won”. If you run away from military or law enforcement encounter, you are remiss in your duties.

    Because neutralising a threat through counterattack is a big part of TMA, there is a huge overlap with TFT’s approach. What TFT teaches seems very effective in civilian defence encounters. But there is a difference in emphasis and that difference plays out on the fringes. That difference is bigger than just the differences in our laws about self-defence in Australia vs. those in America. Wherever you are, running away, if it is feasible, remains an appropriate option in civilian defence. By contrast it is generally inappropriate in military and law enforcement situations. This philosophical difference filters down into technical differences and emphases in training.

  2. ymarsakar Says:

    I believe Krav Maga actually uses the flinch reflex, as you mentioned, in order to jump start the gross motor circuits.

    “However what happens when you go to strike his groin but he blocks/deflects/evades your counterstrike? To me, that is the most interesting part Ehow to “turn the tablesEand establish control. That is what TMA spends a lot of time answering.”

    While talking with a student of Bak Mei, I heard a hypothesis that Bak Mei was designed to defeat other martial artists of the external or internal type schools. First H2H started off as tricks and attacks people found worked. Then it refined, in China, to external martial art styles that pooled these hard techniques together. Then it progressed to more softer ways in order to defeat harder styles. Circular motions to capture and redirect and reflect straight line punches, for example. Bak Mei would then be the third generation of the pyramid, designed to counter other martial art style practitioners. IN a world where this served as their primary education on H2H and formed the basis for an economic network of bodyguards and caravan guards, that made sense.

    Now it doesn’t, because most of the likely threats civilians face are not trained fighters, TMA or otherwise, but untrained thugs.

    Thus the question of countering or deflecting, becomes more and more academic and less of practical use. Because there’s no threat to use it on given the changing times. And since we’re not doing any sport competitions, we, literally, fight no martial artists. None. There’s no competition going on at all. Thus there’s no need to design attacks with CMA or TMA’s defenses in mind.

    “This philosophical difference filters down into technical differences and emphases in training.”

    I agree that it is chiefly a philosophical difference, which causes a difference in customs, laws, and rules. A philosophical difference on which to emphasize, defense or offense. Does one think in an aggressive posture or a defensive posture. I have always felt afinity for the aggressive mode myself. Because it takes more power to protect others than protect yourself, and in protecting others, you cannot run away effectively. American culture often focuses on maximum firepower because there still exists a strain of traditional heritage and thought that a citizen is someone who takes up arms to protect his civilization and family. While this has faded in certain US states and in almost all US cities, it has not been entirely wiped out. This can be summed up in the Jacksonian line of “Peace through superior firepower”. TFT takes that and applies it to training civilians.

    Board hitting back part 1 and 2 were one of the first things I read on your blog. I commented some when I asked a question on Y!Answers on it.;_ylt=Ai.tEKzMU3tLBuNatHYmh6Dsy6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20110615183716AAyIa8H

  3. A krav maga practitioner friend once said to me: “Learning to fight is 90% learning to be aggressive.” I think he was right. So to the extent that TFT focuses on aggressive attack, I can see why: it gives you a more immediately practical set of skills.

    But, after 30 years of training, I am increasingly interested in that last 10%. To me, that is what is most interesting. It is there that I think you find the true science and art of fighting. I take the aggression to be a “given” necessity – hence I have no disagreement with TFT’s methodology which, manifestly, works. For me it’s really a question of: “Where to from there?” However if you haven’t got there in the first place, learning more complex sets of skills is not inherently practical.

    On the other hand, most folks I know in the martial arts don’t do it for practicality. We can get carried away imputing our own reasons for training onto others. Periodically I find myself remembering that x or y does it purely for “gong fu” – to achieve a skill through hard work. So I try to avoid disparaging wushu or any other “artistic” form of martial art (unless it is manifestly silly, like some of the Xtreme martial arts which seem to be a mix of impressive gymnastics and a parody of traditional martial arts postures/mannerisms.

    If, on the other hand, someone wants quick practicality, I can think of no better system than TFT or krav maga, systema and similar schools.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion, as always.

  4. ymarsakar Says:

    Glad to oblige, Dan D.

    Concerning a retrospective analysis and history of military training, the chief difference i saw between the military and the civilian sphere was attitude and mental perspective. The military sees themselves as a weapon or organization designed to attack or destroy objectives. Civilians see themselves more as individuals with no coherent objective, thus with a concurrent greater focus on self-protection or just selfishness. Thus not only are the military better armed physically to carry out attacks, but civilians are hopelessly outclassed in terms of the “mental firepower” component required in aggression and offensive attacks.

    The US Army has certain powerpoint lectures concerning rape avoidance on US bases. Such is done with a culturally civilian mindset and thus is ineffective, producing much troublesome crime on US bases, overseas or at home. The female soldiers are not taught to shoot a handgun by instinct, at enemies on base, and to kill them, due to both a civilian mentality and a conflicting mentality that says “don’t friendly fire on your own people” brought to them in marksmanship school (bootcamp or Advanced Individual Training). Normally military training is required to get the civilian out of the civilian culture and into the military culture. In order to be aggressive in fighting crime and seeing criminals as the enemy, a different form of training must be applied on top of the civilian/military training.

    In order to shoot a firearm close range, handgun or rifle, one must be practiced in doing so in CQB: Close quarters combat. A hip stance for handguns and melee training with the use of the rifle has to be done on the mats, with physical contact and proper mental attitude adjustment. “Power point lectures” on sensitivity or rape avoidance…. not going to cut it.

    In training methodology, there is an infinite sea of possibilities and potentials. Most people do not have the skill to take advantage or exploit such PP.

    On a different historically, China or such fighters began fighting with the intent to kill. Then when they obtained useful and practical killing techniques that they have tested out in the real world of war and fire, they then started thinking “what else am I missing”. At that point, I believe, was when Kung Fu started integrating with Wu Shu in terms of creating non-lethal techniques in order to increase societal harmony and prevent needless bloodshed. Sun Tzu’s philosophy was adopted into kung fu, as part of Wu Shu, amongst others. Don’t fight needlessly, but when you do, fight with overwhelming firepower. That’s because back in the day, killing people just tends to start bloodfeuds. If you aren’t out to exterminate an entire clan or village or nation, don’t go killing any strangers on the streets in petty bar fights. That meant schools developed that adapted lethal practical techniques into more controlled versions that didn’t kill but simply incapacitated, caused a lot of pain, or some such.

    On the battlefield, killing would be the only real goal around. (There’s a funny argument about that concerning 7.62mm munitions and 5.56mm in American gun circles, about which is better. The 5.56mm doesn’t have much killing potential, since it wounds more often than it kills and military philosophy was that for every wounded the enemy has, you take out 3 real fighters, so it was better than killing 1 enemy. Now a days the US military takes cares of the enemy’s wounded…. another example of old philosophies not adopting to the practical realities of a new age. Very hard to change tradition or “it’s always been done this way”.)

    One of the effects I see with martial artists learning or teaching material is that they are going counter-intuitive to how H2H developed in human history. The intuitive process for learning and teaching H2H is always lethal practical applications first, and then non-lethal advanced applications and then peaceful philosophy ideas. Humans of the modern era teach it backwards. They teach the philosophy first, then the “non-lethal beginner applications”, and then they teach the “forbidden, advanced, lethal applications” to some small elite group of disciples.

    Humans developed lethal H2H techniques first because that was the one humans could actually learn the fastest, from Zero Starting point. Modern humans are finding it difficult to learn martial art techniques because they’re not doing it in the natural order. A person with an understanding of lethal applications has the best chance of adapting and learning non-lethal applications. But the same is not true vice a versa.

  5. ymarsakar Says:


    The same dichotomy can be seen in hard vs soft. MA instructors often recommend or require you to have some understanding of external martial arts before taking a soft or internal style. Aikido, for example, was originally taught as an add on for people who had mastered hard external styles such as karate. And you’ve already mentioned that Taiwanese masters require previous experience in harder styles of fighting.

    It’s a natural progression there. Because humans started out hard naturally, because we were all focused on speed, strength, and power first. Then as we go older, we needed to be wiser, more cunning, and use “tricks” to offset the power and strength of youth.

    The MA community has more or less maintained the natural progression of external to internal. But it’s sketchy at best. It is maintained in the sense that it is still taught. Not maintained in the sense that it is popularly known or practiced.

    Yet Lethal-Nonlethal-philosophy is almost not on the chart in terms of human cognizance. It is not so much that it is rarely practiced. It is more as it is almost never practiced.

    That is what I see as adding to the “learning curve” of Martial Arts, Traditional or otherwise.

    Wu-Shu has an interesting historical background. I can only give their practitioners hints as to how such was practiced or used back in the past. If they don’t want to learn any of that or practice it the traditional way, I won’t make them. Not like it affects me. With the traditional mindset and historical events, a genius at perseverance will be able to backwards engineer the art and rediscover the applications and practicality, whether in the sword art, the dances, or the other movements. They just have to work very hard because documents and records are sketchy. A lot of things to piece back together over the last 2500 years of Wu-Shu.

    People who lack intelligence or are only of average intelligence, can accomplish the same; they just need even more perseverance because they will have to use effort to replace ability.

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