Close Quarters Combat

Split Second Survival, Part 2: Reality-Based Gun Defense as Taught by Larry Wick

After capturing my attention with his blade work, Larry Wick of Split Second Survival moves on to firearms. He takes out a training weapon — in this case, an Airsoft gun — then clears it and hands it to me with the same instructions: “If I move, kill me.”

Again and again, regardless of the setup position, Wick handily moves through or past me, ending up almost every time with my training gun in his hands. In every instance, he moves forward or at a slight angle. Not once does he step back or retreat.

Larry Wick (left) and Dr. Mark Cheng

“Moving backward is only good if you are 100-percent sure of what’s behind you,” Larry Wick says. “If there’s even a remote possibility that you might be moving into the range of an attacker, it’s best to move forward and then reorient yourself so you keep as many assailants as possible in your field of view.

“In fact, it’s best to keep moving so you’re constantly getting a 360-degree view of your surroundings.”

This mobile awareness minimizes the element of surprise and makes it harder for the assailant to track you by creating a moving target, as opposed to a stationary one, he says.

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Wick repeats the disarm from seemingly disadvantageous positions, and I grow frustrated by my inability to “shoot” him. Nevertheless, I notice a few more of his tenets in motion.

Instead of grabbing the gun or my arm with both hands, he’s soft-touching my wrist or forearm and gliding past it, one hand at a time, like feet going tiptoe up a flight of stairs. His hands move from the gun or my wrist to my forearm and up to my neck, where he executes a neck-crank takedown.

Noticeably absent from the Split Second Survival arsenal are strikes and throws. “Those are great techniques, and I’m a tang soo do man by training, so I love to kick and punch,” Larry Wick says. “But if you punch a 350-pound angry man and don’t knock him out cold, cripple him or kill him, your day just got a lot more difficult.”

The same logic applies to throws, he says. A failed throw becomes an opportunity for an assailant to put you on the ground, a place that Wick insists you don’t want to be.

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“Ground grappling is great; I’m a big fan of it,” Larry Wick says. “But I don’t recommend that you go there in a street fight if you can avoid it.”

His reasoning: In one-on-one contests like the matches you see in the mixed martial arts, there’s no need to concern yourself with multiple attackers. However, ignoring that variable on the street can be fatal.

“You don’t want to be executing the perfect arm lock on one guy while his friend comes up and stomps your brain into the ground,” Larry Wick explains. “Every tool is good, as long as you understand when and where to apply it.”

Split Second Survival trains you to understand that excessively committing to a technique, focusing on a problem or reacting to a confrontation can be hazardous to your health. That’s why Wick advocates handling threats with maximum expedience, minimal commitment of resources and an eye toward being prepared for the unexpected.

I finally notice the truth of the last of Larry Wick’s tenets: Every technique and combination he demonstrates takes less than a second to put me on the defensive. Whether it’s with the knife or the gun, I begin the encounter thinking that I have him in an inferior position, but in no time I find myself backing up or covering up. The system truly lives up to its moniker Split Second Survival.

“If you take longer than a second or so, you’re struggling with your attacker,” Wick explains. “Survival is about dominating those who threaten you. So you can’t think like you’re going to fight them. You have to immediately dominate or destroy them to truly survive.”

Read Part 1 here.

Dr. Mark Cheng is a traditional Chinese-medicine physician and martial arts researcher based in Southern California. Visit his website here.

Photos by Rick Hustead

BONUS! How to Maximize Your Mobility

Larry Wick’s mobility lessons are best taught through a bag routine he created. Starting with a swinging heavy bag, you move toward it and glide past it, staying as close as …

How to Use Trapping in Self-Defense: Everything You Need to Know for the Real World

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee displayed his incredible mastery of combat skills, wowing audiences around the world. Before the movie hit theaters in 1973, few people had seen a trapping technique in action. Fewer still knew how to apply one. Even today, trapping is, for the most part, surrounded by mystery and confusion.

Before you can gain a realistic understanding of trapping, you must understand what it is not. Perhaps the most fundamental point that needs to be made is that trapping is not grappling. When you trap, you should make no attempt to struggle with your opponent and pit your strength against his, nor should you try to manipulate his joints for the purpose of pain compliance. Grappling is a separate art, and it has its own rules and realities.

Here’s what trapping is: the momentary immobilization of an opponent’s limbs designed to give you a brief opportunity to strike while he cannot. Trapping does that by removing your opponent’s defensive barriers.

Richard Ryan

Origins of Trapping

Trapping probably originated when warriors fought using razor-sharp blades and other deadly implements. Imagine a martial artist facing an opponent with a sword. Physical contact with it means injury or death. The last thing he wants to do is grab the blade. If he tries to punch or kick, he’ll be cut — or worse. So he deflects his opponent’s sword using his own and creates a brief opening that enables him to attack.

In battles with swords, it wasn’t uncommon for fighters to strike, deflect or momentarily trap each other’s blade to get the upper hand. When these weapons were removed from combat, similar techniques were developed for the empty hands.

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But how effective is trapping in the real world when a sword is nowhere to be seen? Why don’t boxers and kickboxers use it? Why do we rarely see it employed in MMA matches?

Reality and the Trapping Controversy

One camp holds that trapping is a practical and street-effective tactic. The other faction has dismissed it as theatrics and claims it’s unrealistic, outdated and better left in the movies. The truth is that like everything else, trapping does work — but only in certain circumstances.

Under the right conditions, trapping can be a fast way to end a fight. Under the wrong conditions, it can become a pathetic form of slap boxing with little effect other than opening yourself up for a knockout. Like all control techniques, trapping should be viewed as a tactical assault, meaning there must be a specific reason you’re using it.

Richard Ryan

Forms of Trapping

There are two forms of trapping: tactile and non-tactile. Non-tactile trapping is more common. It consists of immobilization techniques that don’t require the use of touch to trigger their application. You use your eyes and sense of spatial judgment to determine the range and timing of the assault. No contact with your adversary’s limbs is necessary until the moment of attack. You make no attempt to connect with or decipher your opponent’s movements or energy; rather, you focus on using speed and surprise to suddenly overwhelm him. Non-energy-sensitive traps most often take advantage of your opponent’s positional liabilities, such as a poor guard or passive blocking techniques.

Tactile trapping focuses on the ability to decipher and manipulate the energy of your opponent’s aggression or resistance. It’s light-years ahead of the non-tactile version. It can enable you to feel your opponent’s intentions the moment you and he come into contact. Although the use of sight is highly recommended, it’s not a requirement. With proper training, it’s even possible to defend yourself in complete darkness as long as you can maintain physical contact with the attacker’s limbs and end it quickly.

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Once contact is made, you use your sense of touch to feel the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent’s defense. The incredible neural network on the surface of the skin allows you to “hear” the pressure and friction of his resistance. You can learn to recognize the direction of an attack and continually redirect it to your advantage. This results in the uncanny ability to second-guess your opponent’s actions and smother or crush his attacks before they hit.

The bad news is that tactile trapping is one of the most difficult skill sets to develop and has limited application in the real world. Only a fool would fight blindfolded if given the choice. The real value is the acquisition of the ability to sense and redirect force on contact. With …

How to Defend Against a Gun Threat: Your Mind Is the Key

As you reach out to retrieve your receipt from the ATM, the evening air makes you shiver. It’s been a long, hard day, and you’re glad it’s almost over. Just one more stop at the all-night grocery store. …

“All right, scumbag! Give me your money and your keys!”

Startled, you turn at the sound of the voice, the content of the man’s words not yet registering in your brain. He’s about 20, unshaven and dirty. He smells bad and looks like he’s on drugs. Your eyes survey his body, and your surprise turns to shock as you detect the chrome-plated revolver in his trembling, tattooed hand.

Moment of Truth

That type of scenario has played out countless times, with both accomplished martial artists and armed off-duty police officers in the role of the victim. The situation carries with it some dynamics that cannot be answered with a speedy fast-draw or a spinning back kick. To survive such an encounter, you must understand several things about the realities of human conflict at close quarters.

Primarily, you must have your “warrior mind” in place. Winning a real fight requires controlled violence. You must be able to call up your “dragon” and become a fierce, feral creature instead of the domesticated human being you were raised to be. If you’re not emotionally and psychologically prepared to rip your adversary’s heart out of his chest and barbecue it in front of his fading eyes, don’t try anything. Give him what he wants and hope for the best.

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Even if you would never choose to stand up to a gun, there are scenarios in which you might be compelled to do so. For such situations, it’s beneficial to know how you might solve this problem.


First, I’m not claiming that any secret skills, ancient art or trendy technique can withstand a bullet. Any martial artist who thinks otherwise has been smoking too much rice paper. But I am claiming that if you understand your adversary’s motivation, you have a better chance of defeating him if you’re forced to fight.

If the criminal wanted to kill you, he would just walk up to you and shoot you without warning. Regardless of how many years of training you have or how many arts you know, you will never be able to defend against that. If it’s your day to die, there’s not much you can do except go out with style.

The hoodlum in the story — like most people who will point a gun at you, as opposed to simply shooting you — does so for reasons of intimidation. His objective is to place you in a position of tactical disadvantage and “bargain” with you for something he wants. The bargain is typically that if you do as he says, he won’t kill you. His intent provides you with the opening you need.

Let’s look at the two men in the story in a simplified way: The hoodlum has the pistol pointed at the hero. The hero is surprised. The hoodlum makes his demands, then waits for the expected response. In essence, the hoodlum is in “pause,” waiting for the “return” of the hero. The hero can go either way at this point: comply or fight. If he understands the dynamics of human reaction time, he has a better chance of prevailing.


Every conflict, whether between countries or individuals, is a cycle in which each party observes the other, orients himself according to those observations, decides on a course of action and finally puts that decision into action. Called the OODA loop, it’s the theory of conflict professed by the late Col. John Boyd.

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Boyd was responsible for creating many of the aerial-combat tactics now employed throughout the free world. His findings resulted from projects and studies he conducted on the success American pilots had over their North Korean adversaries in the Asian unpleasantness of the 1950s. Boyd theorized that although the North Koreans had certain technical advantages with their airplanes, American pilots could generally see their adversaries first because of their planes’ cockpit design. They could immediately recognize them as enemies and decide what to do more quickly because of their recognition training, as well as their flight training. And the controls on the American airplanes allowed them to put those decisions into play more rapidly than the North Koreans. This allowed them to complete a decision-action cycle more efficiently than their adversaries.

Boyd then theorized that in any conflict — whether …

Combat Focus Shooting Expert Rob Pincus Discusses the Not-So-Picture-Perfect Reality of Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack on the Street

You’re out for a walk in the city at night and a man approaches you. Before you know it, he comes at you for a knife attack.

What do you do?

In a martial arts magazine, self-defense experts could suggest a variety of counterattacks — some from the traditional martial arts arena, some from the modern martial arts such as krav maga, and others from the reality-based self-defense world of combatives and the like.

The common element, though, would be a picture-perfect execution. “Assailants” attack when the self-defense instructor tells them to, the photographer directs the angle, and there would probably be the opportunity for a second take — not to mention the in-studio snacks and option for lunch when the shoot wraps.

But what does a not-so-picture-perfect knife-attack scenario look like? Combat Focus Shooting expert Rob Pincus talks about that in his latest video, shot exclusively for

Rob Pincus Discusses Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack Under Pressure in a Dynamic Situation

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Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions

Armed with a training gun, Rob Pincus reacts to the approach of his assailant calmly in an attempt to diffuse the potentially lethal situation. As the attack situation escalates, so does the volume of Rob Pincus’ voice as he urges the assailant to “Stop!” and “Stay back!” as they clash in a flurry of advances, retreats, twists and turns. Rob Pincus deflects the attacker’s knife arm outward so as to keep it extended and away from his own torso’s vital organs. This hyperextension throws the attacker slightly off-balance.

While he attempts to regain ground so as to get his knife hand back into the game, Rob Pincus sneaks his right arm under the opponent’s left shoulder and forces that left arm up and over to (a) keep the attacker’s left hand away from the firearm stowed on his belt and (b) open up the attacker’s own vital-organ section and get him into position for the most effective usage of said firearm.

It’s a loud, messy scene. The combatants are all over the place. There is no “take two.” These guys are playing for keeps, and it’s not very photo-friendly. “You can see that in a dynamic environment,” Rob Pincus explains, “it’s much harder to actually make all that look perfect.”

Rob Pincus continues: “And as we know, with any complex motor skills, when you do them at speed and under pressure, they’re going to look sloppy. … The key was keeping [the attacker’s right] arm, using an outside-90, using a forearm technique — kind of a SPEAR System technique — to keep that knife away from my body until I can get pressure and control and then slip my underhook in to a point where I can get set up to duck in.”

Related Martial Arts Books, E-Books,
DVDs and Video Downloads

Combatives for Street Survival — Volume 2: Weapon Counterattacks and Situational Combatives

The Ultimate Guide to Knife Combat

Reality-Based Personal Protection

Self-Defense Expert Rob Pincus Shows You How to Use a Firearm in Close-Quarters Combat

Rob Pincus is an internationally known firearms trainer who teaches both end-user and instructor-development self-defense courses. In this exclusive self-defense video, this close-quarters-combat expert shows you how to use a technique called “duck under to side control” in a situation when you have a handgun and an attacker with a knife threatens your safety.

SELF-DEFENSE VIDEO | Rob Pincus Shows You How to Use a Firearm in Close-Quarters Combat

Learn how to deploy your knife in any situation with this FREE e-book!
Knife-Fighting Techniques: 9 Essential Drills to Deploy Tactical Folders for Self-Defense Moves Under Any Conditions

“Shooting in extreme close quarters requires a little different technique than we think about when we just think about putting holes in paper or even defending yourself from that beyond-two-arms-reach situation where you’re gonna be able to use kinesthetic alignment to put the gun in the right place or maybe even using the sights on your firearm to control the rounds,” Rob Pincus explains.

Related Martial Arts Books, E-Books,
DVDs and Video Downloads

Related Books, E-Books, DVDs and Video Downloads

Jim Wagner’s Reality-Based Personal Protection: Handgun Survival

The Complete
Michael D. Echanis Collection

The Ultimate Guide to Knife Combat

The duck-under-to-side-control technique involves facing an armed attacker — in this case, an attacker armed with a knife. Rob Pincus’ natural reaction to the presentation of the knife is to first raise his hands, even though he himself is carrying a handgun. Rob Pincus closes the gap before the attacker can complete the knife attack, electing to intercept the knife hand and use his forearm to block the man’s shoulder.

The attacker in this scenario then enters into the clinch and establishes an underhook of the attacker’s arm on his gun side. When the man tries to attack or escape from the hold, Rob Pincus ducks under the attacker’s left arm and moves to his back. From that position of relative safety, if the threat to his life still exists, Rob Pincus can draw his weapon and fire without interference.

If you like this video, learn more about Rob Pincus and Combat Focus Shooting by reading this exclusive interview: 10 Questions With Combat Focus Shooting’s Rob Pincus!