Most Dangerous Man in the World: MMA Fighter and Special Forces Soldier Tim Kennedy

In the 20-plus years I’ve worked for Black Belt, I’ve met a lot of people whose backgrounds have run the gamut from traditional Asian arts to law-enforcement defensive tactics to military combatives. I’ve interviewed tons of masters, soldiers, cops and fighters — representatives of just about every category of martial artist you can imagine.

Why do I bring this up? Because if I had to pick one of those people as the Most Dangerous Man in the World, it would be a guy who was featured on the cover of our July 2011 issue and inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 2011 as MMA Fighter of the Year. His name is Tim Kennedy.

Tim Kennedy

If you’re a follower of the UFC, you know Tim Kennedy’s name well. His professional record stands at 18-5 (according to, which is impressive by anyone’s standards. If you’re not into MMA, you might remember him from his appearances in Black Belt and from the free guide that’s available on our website.

Kennedy rose to his current status by building on the martial arts he learned as a child — jujitsu, boxing and wrestling — and augmenting that skill set with kickboxing and jiu-jitsu and then tempering it all in the MMA cage.

But that’s hardly enough to make someone the Most Dangerous Man in the World, in my opinion. What sets Tim Kennedy apart from the rest of the pack is his military training. He started with Army Basic Training, then volunteered for Airborne School. Getting his jump wings wasn’t enough, however; he went on to spend nearly a year in the Special Forces Qualification Course.

If you’re thinking “lots of theory but not so much practice,” know that Kennedy, 35, served in a counterterrorism unit in Iraq, where he no doubt polished his combat skills. When he was rotated stateside, he elected to undergo Ranger training and, he says, attend “a few different sniper schools.”

OK, let’s review for a second:

•    Skilled in MMA — check

•    Airborne qualified — check

•    Special Forces — check

•    Ranger — check

•    Sniper — check, check and probably check again

There’s more, on both the training front and the experience front. Kennedy joined a HALO sniper team — those are the guys who leap out of high-flying aircraft and plunge earthward, opening their chutes at the last possible moment. (Hence the meaning of the acronym: High-Altitude, Low-Opening.) Next, he served in Afghanistan — more real-world experience — as a combatives instructor, not just for regular troops but for the 7th Special Forces Group.

Let’s review again:

•    Proficient with feet and fists, as well as on the ground — check. Traditional martial arts and MMA will do that for you.

•    Proficient at combatives — check. He went through the Modern Army Combatives Program and won the Army-wide tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2007. He also completed the Special Operations Combatives Program.

•    Proficient with weapons — check. When he knew he would be heading into a protracted battle in Afghanistan, he says, he’d carry “five guns [and] a few different knives.”

When it comes to personal combat, what’s left? There may be a few minor aspects of the fighting arts he hasn’t mastered, but it’s doubtful anyone else who’s done the things he’s accomplished has mastered them, too. It’s for that reason I feel comfortable giving Tim Kennedy the unofficial title of the Most Dangerous Man in the World.

Request for intel: If you know a female fighter — think Ronda Rousey as a Navy SEAL — who’s deserving of the title of the Most Dangerous Woman in the World, send me a message. I’d love to meet her.

Tim Kennedy

Bonus! What Exactly Is SOCP? 5 Questions With Tim Kennedy

Black Belt: What curriculum did you teach to the Special Forces?

Tim Kennedy: At first, we used the Modern Army Combatives Program. Toward the end, we started using — and now we use primarily — SOCP, which stands for Special Operations Combatives Program. It builds on the fundamentals we expect everyone who’s coming into the Special Forces to know: level two of MACP. Then we put the guys in a kit and make sure that they’re deadly, that they know how to grapple, how to box, how to wrestle.

Matt Larsen book

Black Belt: What role does hand-to-hand combat play in the mission of the Special Forces?

Tim Kennedy: It gives guys the opportunity to make space so they can get to their tools: their gun, their knife, their cuffs and so on.

Black Belt: Does that mean you assume

Important Stay-Out-of-Jail Advice for All Martial Artists

When you hit another person in a fight, you can never know for certain what the effect will be, says Tim Larkin, founder of the self-defense system known as Target Focus Training.

“I like to show clients back-to-back videos in which the human body takes a tremendous amount of punishment — really good bar fights in which they’re going at it, knocking the hell out of each other,” Tim Larkin says. “At the end [of the first one], the guys are able to get up and walk away. ‘Isn’t it amazing?’ I ask. ‘Look what the human body can take!’

“Then I show a short video of a bar fight that starts the same way. One punch and the guy hits his head on the concrete and dies. There’s silence when I do that. They realize it’s a roulette wheel every time you put your hands on somebody.

“If you cross the physical plane to protect yourself, you have to be OK with the fact that you or the other person could end up seriously injured or dead. The situation had better warrant it.”

To see Tim Larkin in action, watch these exclusive self-defense videos, brought to you by Black Belt:

How to Defend Yourself Against an Attacker Carrying a Knife

How to Defend Yourself Against an Attacker Using Target Focus Training

Street-Fighting Tips Incorporating Bodyweight in Self-Defense Techniques

Combatives Expert Kelly McCann Shows You How to Use Live Partners in Self-Defense Training

Combatives for Street Survival author and self-defense expert Kelly McCann puts a choke on his training partner.Combatives and self-defense expert Kelly McCann comments on use of live training partners in this exclusive combatives training video! Kelly McCann details certain commonplace aspects of martial arts training that should NOT be part of combatives training with a live partner. He and his partner Jack Stradley discuss grabs and assailants using their “off hand” to strike when they have their unprepared victim frozen with fear, as well as exactly how hard training partners should go in their training … exactly how “real” your combatives training sessions should get.

For example, as Kelly McCann says in the combatives video below, “If I say, ‘Throw a punch at me.’ No. 1, I want him to throw it at me. No. 2, I want him to retract so I have to deal with the reality that his arm’s not going to be there, ” like it would be in traditional martial arts training in which the partner might launch a technique and then the counterpart practices the technique.

This approach to combatives training, as Kelly McCann says, “tests me physically. How fast do I get out of the way? And can I do a follow-on movement?” This manner of reality-based training also simulates the dynamics of a street-attack scenario.

As Kelly McCann notes, “Guys on the street just don’t grab and stop. He’s gonna smack me with that [off]-hand … so in training, that’s what your partner should do. He shouldn’t just grab your arm and stop like he’s frozen in stone.”

WARNING: The following combatives self-defense training video is intended for mature audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

COMBATIVES VIDEO | Combatives Expert Kelly McCann Shows You How to Use Live Partners in Self-Defense Training

Learn four essential self-defense moves for
winning street fights in this FREE download!
How to Win a Street Fight: Four Self-Defense Moves From
Combatives Expert Kelly McCann

A former U.S. Marine special-missions officer responsible for counterterrorism and counter-narcotics, Kelly McCann now serves as the president of Crucible, an elite empty-hand and weapons-training facility. Kelly McCann’s organization has taught combatives and other special-ops skills for more than 25 years to a list of clients that includes the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as other U.S. government agencies and special-mission units. Crucible also provides security support services and trains military, government and law-enforcement operators to do whatever it takes to survive.

More combatives training insights like this can be found in Kelly McCann’s three-disc self-defense DVD series Combatives for Street Survival: Hard-Core Countermeasures for High-Risk Situations — available now!

Combatives for Street Survival: Hard-Core Countermeasures for High-Risk Situations is designed as a martial arts multimedia companion for Kelly McCann’s acclaimed full-color combatives book (also available in our online store), featuring a special on-screen closed-caption track detailing specific chapters and pages in the book for in-depth written analysis of the subject matter being presented visually on screen!

Check out these other combatives videos from Kelly McCann!

Combatives vs. Zombies: The Black Belt Survival Guide

Unfortunately, there’s been an uptick in multiple-assailant violence involving zombies. Just this morning, I read an account of a young man who was jogging home when three or four zombies attacked him. He landed in the hospital with a bite wound; doctors then monitored him until he transformed. It’s definitely worthwhile to consider how equipped you are to deal with these situations and to have a plan ready in the event you’re ever caught in one.

Without question, your best tactic is avoidance. Situational awareness enables you to discern when zombie situations are developing so you can get away without having to make contact. If you notice early enough, you can move away from harm by changing direction or crossing the street. You can physically position yourself at an advantage by putting parked cars and/or other obstacles between you and the slow-moving threat.

Remember, too, that out of sight is out of mind. The sooner you remove yourself from the zombies’ field of vision, the better. Avoiding an attack is best done from a distance; once the gap between you and them has closed and they’ve fixed you in place, the situation is much dicier.

Get this FREE download before you find yourself in a
dicey zombie-apocalypse situation!
How to Win a Street Fight: Four Self-Defense Moves
From Combatives Expert Kelly McCann

There’s a weird alchemy to verbally defusing physical attacks involving normal human beings. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work at all with zombies. Some self-defense instructors claim they’ve got the magic formula for calming zombies, but they don’t. Once the predators complete their victim-selection process, nothing you say will deter them. You may be inclined to verbally engage them, especially those you remember as human beings. Personally, I don’t want to be connected to them; I want to disengage completely.

A less-lethal weapon such as pepper spray (oleoresin capsicum aerosol) works well for repelling mobs of humans, but OC hasn’t been proved effective on zombies. The spray can temporarily blind them, but experience has shown that they can still hunt by sound and smell.

A blunt object that’s used to damage the brain is better than nothing — but not much better. Why? Because a powerful blow to the head is likely to result in bleeding. Even worse, that blood is likely to splatter, spreading the virus that causes the transformation. If you have no alternative, choose a club that has some length to it — one that will enable you to reach out and whack a zombie before he gets too close. Even better, use such weapons while wearing a face shield that will keep infected blood away from your eyes, nose and mouth. Goggles alone won’t provide enough protection.

When it comes to self-defense — against both humans and zombies — I believe in firearms. I also believe they’re a heavy responsibility. If you’re not willing to invest the time necessary to learn how and when to use one, you may want to reconsider. If you’re up for the instruction, make sure it includes duress-inducing drills that ensure you’ll make sound tactical decisions when you’re stressed. There are far too many instances of victims detecting what they perceive as a zombie threat and opening fire with a handgun only to discover that they’ve shot healthy human beings.

Furthermore, “spray and pray” is seldom successful against zombies because only head shots will put them down for good. And remember that carrying a firearm doesn’t mean you don’t have to be hyper-avoidant. Crack off a few rounds when you don’t have to, and in no time, you’ll find yourself facing a zombie horde without enough ammo to put it down.

Last — and least preferred — is using unarmed tactics against zombies. For all the reasons you can imagine, fighting off even one of these undead creatures while you’re unarmed is just not desirable. It can be done … and it’s been done — almost always by disconnecting the brain from the spinal column. But the risk is so extreme and the outcome so dependent on uncontrollable variables that you’ve got to acknowledge it’s not a great alternative. No one, no matter how good he thinks he is or truly is, should believe he can fight off more than one zombie reliably.

A better plan, in my experience, is to pre-emptively floor one attacker — even though he won’t stay down for long unless you damage the brain — then blow through the hole where he used to be at warp speed. Use that interruption in their momentum to run like your ass is on fire.…

Kelly McCann on How Limiting Your Arsenal of Self-Defense Moves Can Actually Improve Your H2HC Skill

I was recently fortunate to train, have dinner with and catch up with two friends who recently returned from Afghanistan. They’re members of a special-mission unit composed of some of the nation’s best warriors; they are to warfare what Olympic athletes are to sports.
One is a serious martial artist and MMA practitioner, the other a combatives junkie who seeks exposure to virtually anything he believes will hone his self-defense moves, including kali, jeet kune do and more esoteric systems. Both practice hand-to-hand combat (H2HC) techniques and straight combatives regularly. Both have closed with enemy forces scores of times over the past eight years. Their unit has the intensity, funding and diligence to approach training and fitness in the most scientific and sophisticated ways. They’re able to take advantage of any training course the Command agrees is useful.

More From Combatives Expert Kelly McCann —
Combatives for Street Survival (Book) by Kelly McCann and Combatives for Street Survival (DVDs) by Kelly McCann available now!

Their fighting program encompasses boxing, jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, MMA and various forms of straight combatives. They believe the aforementioned combat sports promote conditioning and athleticism and foster a fighting mentality, while combatives leverages each of those skill sets and provides a streamlined, functional battle-space approach.

Why Less Can Be More in the World of Self-Defense Moves

Our conversation got around to martial arts, combatives, personal preferences, H2HC, organizational needs and training. Interestingly, despite being exposed to a wide variety of self-defense moves, both agreed that isolating and mastering fewer H2HC techniques that are, or become, personally intuitive — no matter where they originate — is critical to prevailing in individual combat.

Learn how the Marines are using traditional martial arts principles to mold the modern hand-to-hand combat warriors of tomorrow in this FREE Guide —
MACE (USMC): How the Martial Arts Center of Excellence Produces Fierce H2HC Fighters Through MCMAP.

In other words, truly mastering the fundamentals of some self-defense moves results in a higher probability of achieving success than does having a passing familiarity with significantly more H2HC techniques — many of which might easily fit into the nice-to-know category.

They pointed out, for example, that of the many submission techniques that exist, fewer than 10 account for the majority of wins in MMA. Among them were the arm triangle, leg triangle, rear-naked choke, kimura, Americana, heel hook, armbar and guillotine. Similarly, any boxer who can get in and out cleanly, use angles, fire jabs and crosses like rifle shots, intuitively counterpunch, implement a bomb-proof guard and move well solidifies himself as an opponent worthy of respect.

In both examples, they’re pretty fundamental techniques, yet that’s what normally wins in combat sports. My friends’ point was that their H2HC experiences proved the same. Relatively few fundamental self-defense moves answer the mail over and over again.

How Many Self-Defense Moves Should You Learn for Optimal H2HC Capability?

There’s a simple, truthful elegance to answering the question, “But how many self-defense moves should I learn?” with one word: “Enough.” The trouble is, finite curricula sometimes leave people feeling doubtful, as if they don’t have enough tools or H2HC techniques in their toolboxes. I suggest they worry whether they have the right tools in their toolboxes and whether they’re reliable.

Concern about the sheer volume of self-defense moves is usually the result of resisting the grind that living a combative or martial life is. It’s the result of accepting one’s skill level with any given technique instead of improving the execution of those self-defense moves; adding more when a person hasn’t mastered what he’s got is futile. Is another H2HC technique really necessary, or does the person just lack the skill to adapt and apply the fundamental in a broader set of situations?

Get more street-fighting tips from Kelly McCann in this FREE Guide —
How to Win a Street Fight: Four Self-Defense Moves From
Combatives Expert Kelly McCann.

In What Direction Should H2HC Training Be Geared?

Think of it this way: One combatant develops very basic knife skills that include lightning-fast thrusts, angled movements, and the explosive ability to get in and out quickly. Another concentrates on a more complex inside skill set involving trapping, redirection and counter-cuts.

Who would win? They train the same amount of time, and each hones his self-defense moves. One approach is stark and simple. The other is more difficult, requires more dexterity and has more component pieces.

I think either would be formidable. The exacerbating factor relative to our discussion here is duress, of course, and what each is able to execute under circumstances that have significant consequences.

Although the search for better H2HC techniques that more completely answer our tactical reality should never end, we all should focus on fewer self-defense moves and grind out our …