Kelly McCann

Everything You Need to Know About Combatives, Featuring Kelly McCann

Since 2008, Black Belt has released a ton of top-notch content featuring the knowledge, skills and real-world experience of Kelly McCann. (Here’s a sample.) All of it revolves around the subset of martial arts known as combatives. In his own words:

“Combatives represents a physical manifestation of force — a sledgehammer, not a jeweler’s mallet. Combatives is sometimes denigrated as ‘too basic’ by martial recreationalists because of the simplicity and the intentionally limited number of techniques.

“Bruce Lee had it right when he threw out all the stuff that was meaningless and boiled it down to ‘less is more.’ In combatives, we boil it down, then attempt it under duress.”

Photo Courtesy of Black Belt

The reason combatives has become so popular in the 21st century is the no-nonsense approach it uses, coupled with the effectiveness of the techniques. It appeals especially to those who don’t have time to devote to mastering a traditional art, not to mention those who love their traditional art but want to learn a few proven moves to fill in any self-defense gaps that might exist.

“The following illustrates a significant difference between pursuing art-form mastery and pursuing street effectiveness through combatives,” McCann says. “Various art forms may have increasingly complicated, intricate or unnecessarily lengthy solutions to a wrist grab. Most involve focusing on the hand that’s doing the grabbing without regard for the actual threat — the attacker’s opposite hand — and include an atemi (strike) along with some wrist manipulation.

“In contrast, a basic combatives solution for a wrist grab might go like this: You slam your free hand into your attacker’s face and simultaneously wrench your other hand out of his grip.

“If the situation doesn’t warrant that level of force, slam your free hand down onto his wrist while simultaneously wrenching your other hand out of his grasp.”

The newest release from McCann and Black Belt is titled Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat. It’s a streaming-video course you can watch anywhere on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Here’s a snippet of McCann describing what you’ll get when you sign up. Click here to order.

There’s no sport form of combatives, McCann explains. “The curriculum is developed for one purpose: succinct, effective self-defense. Someone who learns and practices a combatives curriculum this year will likely be practicing the same curriculum years from now, albeit at a higher level of skill.

“Improved combatives performance isn’t rewarded with certificates or rank; instead, your reward is the personal satisfaction that results from moving faster and hitting harder, as well as the confidence that comes when you know you’re mentally and physically capable of handling unexpected violence.”

Are you ready to start your education in combatives? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course, also produced by Black Belt! Go here to sign up.

“There’s a common misunderstanding that combatives is pure, unadulterated violence,” McCann says. “That’s simply inaccurate. Use of force is regulated in combatives the same way as it is in other methods of self-defense — by using appropriate techniques for the level of threat you’re confronted with and by modulating your power.

“Many people harbor the opinion that combatives is ‘over the top’ or too violent because they’re considering imminent physical violence from a defensive perspective. In contrast, if you embrace hyper-avoidance but still find yourself confronted with an unavoidable and imminently violent situation, combatives training teaches you to attack.

“The logic is clear: If you could’ve avoided the situation, you certainly would’ve. The only requirement at that moment is to modulate your attack with regard to the level of threat you’re facing. And then escape.”

The best thing about combatives is anyone can learn it. Quickly. “First, you have to develop your ability to recognize pre-incident indicators so you can avoid potential confrontations altogether,” McCann says.

The next step it to seek out instruction in the right principles, strategies and techniques, then learn to execute everything explosively so you can dispense with assailants as efficiently as possible. “It’s over when the threat no longer exists,” he says. “Remember that the simplistic and violent nature of combatives doesn’t absolve you from having to act lawfully in self-defense; it just ends situations more quickly.”

Save money and sign up for both of McCann’s streaming-video programs! Get Kelly McCann’s Combatives Self-Defense Course and Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat for one low price. Go here for the details.

About Kelly McCann:

A former U.S. Marine special-missions officer responsible for counterterrorism and counter-narcotics, Kelly McCann served as president of Crucible, a firm that manages protective details in high-risk environments, provides security support services and trains military, government and law-enforcement operators. He now runs Kembativz Brand, an organization devoted to teaching civilians the empty-hand and weapons skills they need to survive …

Get Fit to Fight With Kelly McCann’s Combative Conditioning Exercises

“Good to go” is a common military colloquialism indicating readiness. Are you physically good to go for an unexpected, violent street confrontation?

What’s considered adequately fit in regard to defending yourself? How can it be quantified?

On the no-to-low end of the spectrum, some believe fitness is irrelevant because self-defense techniques are supposed to incapacitate an attacker so quickly … “supposed to,” hmm.

That’s a pretty naive perspective.

The results of any self-defense technique are always conditional on the street because of myriad variables that are out of your control. You can’t depend on technique, power and luck always aligning perfectly to achieve a desired outcome; “guaranteed to succeed” is a dangerous appraisal of any technique, tactic or weapon.

Middle-grounders believe fitness is a requirement of self-defense and achieve their personal concept of it in different ways — from running to weightlifting to cross-training. Although well-intentioned and generally fit, some in this group may find that their conditioning program failed to adequately prepare them for the demanding and specific physical requirements of a snot-slinging fight for their life.


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Michael D. Echanis: The Life and Times of the
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Those who believe fitness is essential and maintain extraordinary levels of it are generally conditioning hounds anyway — whether they practice combatives or not. Even in this group, some may miss the mark in achieving the specific fitness level necessary for a nasty physical confrontation in a parking garage.

Defending yourself generally requires a period of intense physical exertion lasting less than three minutes. There are exceptions, of course — a protracted struggle to prevent a rape in an isolated environment, for example — but street attacks are normally quick, brutal events intended to overwhelm the victim. They tend not to be slow, sustained incidents requiring “long distance” physical endurance. During an attack, you’ll rely primarily on fast-twitch muscles for speed, power and plyometric explosiveness.

Basically, fast-twitch muscles use on your body’s glycogen stores for energy during short periods of intense exertion and will fatigue quickly. Conversely, slow-twitch muscles use fat stores to provide sustained energy throughout prolonged periods of lower-intensity work and fatigue more slowly.

It’s important to understand how attacks occur, as well as how your body will physiologically respond in order to develop task-specific fitness goals. By tweaking your conditioning program, you can effectively and efficiently achieve “street fight” fitness in addition to greater general fitness. I believe street-fight fitness is best achieved through intense anaerobic interval training, but I also believe aerobic endurance training is still a requirement for general fitness.


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Face Mash! Kelly McCann’s Essential Self-Defense Moves for
Winning Real Street Fights


An easy way to distinguish the two is by measuring your heart rate. It’s helpful to get a heart-rate monitor. They’re inexpensive and take the guesswork out of reaching and maintaining your target rate. Get a model with a large readout so you can attach it somewhere other than your wrist in the event you glove up to hit the heavy bag or spar.

An accurate method for determining your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. So if you’re 40, it’s 220 – 40 = 180. Low-intensity aerobic work keeps your heart beating at 65 percent of your maximum, or 180 x .65 = 117 beats per minute. In contrast, intense exertion is anaerobic at 85 percent to 95 percent of your max: 180 x .85 (or .95) = 153 (171) BPM.

An aerobic routine puts you in the zone to burn fat efficiently, is easy to sustain for long periods and can be used on your off days as a recovery workout. An anaerobic routine is much shorter in length, is also beneficial for fat burning (in the hours following your workout), requires more recovery time and is more characteristic of the physical requirements of a brawl.

If you don’t exercise, put the Twinkie down and get off your ass.

Confirm your suitability to exercise with your physician, then get after it. If you do train but want to tweak your routine to specifically address overcoming physical failure during a violent street confrontation, try including either short-duration, high-intensity interval routines or long-duration aerobic activity at least twice a week to balance out your training.

I train four days a week, using both high-intensity interval and low-intensity endurance routines. I’m satisfied this approach is balanced, avoids overtraining, and ensures full-body fitness and task-specific, street-fight fitness.

By the way, reliance on gross-motor movements in a donnybrook is important. Above 170 BPM, it becomes difficult to perform complex, …

Kelly McCann Video: How the Index Position Sets Up Your Self-Defense Moves in Real Street Fights

An index position is nothing more than a stance you assume in any threatening, face-to-face situation you can’t simply walk away from. You’ll recognize when it’s appropriate to “index” because you’ll feel really uneasy and uncertain. Indexing enables you to instantly defend or attack without the appearance of being prepared to do either. Sweet! Two for one!

Indexing is like cocking a firearm. When you cock a firearm, you make it ready to fire, cutting the trigger pressure that you need to fire in half. When you index, you cock your own trigger by mentally committing to a pre-emptive attack in order to protect yourself, if necessary.


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How to Use Indexing in Real Street Fights

Exactly how you index depends on what strike you’re going to attack with. The index for self-defense moves like an ax hand is not the same as the index for self-defense moves like a chin jab. Incorporate whatever you devise as your “go to” index positions into your training by assuming one and then suddenly exploding and striking an impact pad as quickly and powerfully as you can, thus simulating execution of real self-defense moves you’d use in real street fights.

KELLY McCANN COMBATIVES VIDEO
Learn From Combatives Expert Kelly McCann How the Index Position Sets Up Your Self-Defense Moves in Real Street Fights!


I usually default to a hands-up palms-out index position. I move my hands ambiguously in an apparent effort to placate the thug or de-escalate the situation.

I’m actually using the motion like a boxer to keep my arms loose and ready to strike with hard-hitting self-defense moves — perhaps with a face mash! Even though I’m indexed, I’ve already visualized striking my attacker. He doesn’t even realize that I’ve crossed the threshold of whether to attack or not before he has.


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Face Mash! Kelly McCann’s Essential Self-Defense Moves
for Winning Real Street Fights


“Telegraphing” Your Self-Defense Moves During Real Street Fights

Your index position is supposed to be conciliatory, but watch out for your face revealing your true intent or making you appear threatening. Don’t give the bad guy a “hairy eyeball” by lowering your eyebrows and furrowing your brow. Lose the mean face. Just relax your jaw muscles and eyebrows or, even better, arch your eyebrows up and look hapless.

Speed’s the Name of the Game in Real Street Fights

Index positions work because actions are always faster than reactions. If your hands are within reach of your attacker’s face, there’s nothing he can do to defend against your strike when you unexpectedly explode with your self-defense moves.

Do you have any idea what a huge advantage that is and how much control that gives you over uncertain situations? When you index, it’s not a foregone conclusion there’s going to be violence. It only means there may be and you’re prepared to pre-empt it.

A Tale of Two Fighters

Consider two different fighters in separate confrontations. One is skilled in real street fights and trained in combatives, but the other is traditionally trained in the dojo. The street-skilled fighter tries to be avoidant, but he’ll unexpectedly attack his attacker because he’s got an offensive mindset.

On the other hand, the dojo-trained fighter has been taught to defend. He’ll likely wait for his attacker to attack, giving up the significant advantage of action vs. reaction because he’s got a defensive mindset. Unfortunately, on the street, his choice to hold back his self-defense moves may be fatal.

Think of it this way: Although both may hold their hands up to appease, combatives-boy has already mentally committed to attacking. Dojo-dude really is defending. Neither situation may result in violence, but if they did, combatives-boy would have the clear head start in his situation. Mentally, he’s already victimized his attacker.


About the Author of the Source Material:
Kelly McCann is the author of the acclaimed book Combatives for Street Survival and the companion 3-DVD set of the same name. Kelly McCann serves as the president of Crucible, an elite empty-hand and weapons-training facility that provides security support services and trains military, government and law-enforcement operators to do whatever it takes to survive.…

Kelly McCann: How Fast Do You Process Threats and Responses?

How fast is your processor?

No, this isn’t the place to find information about personal computing — but it is the right place to talk about personal confrontations.

I’m asking how fast you recognize potential threats and process threat information.

A lot of people evaluate their “street readiness” based on their hard-skills prowess and allocate far less training time to developing the “soft skills” that are so useful immediately before an attack.

The most obvious soft skill, of course, is situational awareness. It’s a cumulative alertness to threats, environment, movement and anomalies. Those anomalies are called pre-incident indicators, the visually unlikely circumstances that collectively indicate an attack could be imminent. Being adept at quickly determining threat potential — without looking like you’re about to implode — is invaluable on the street. It’s one of the few things I (grudgingly) use the new-age term “empowering” to describe. Gawd.


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Face Mash! Kelly McCann’s Essential Self-Defense Moves for
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All right, no epiphany there, but what about in the seconds preceding an attack? Having used your situational awareness to identify a developing threat, what the hell are you supposed to do? What’s the most efficient use of your time when you can’t avoid a physical confrontation and find yourself tensing up and saying, “Uh oh, here it comes”?

How good are you at multitasking? Let’s go by the numbers to make this easier (and it’s not easy).

Kelly McCann’s Threat-Processing Tips — #1: Avoid Paralysis

Don’t be a deer in the headlights. A biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources suggests, “They (the deer) don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.” Truly, if you’ve ever seen this happen to someone, it’s amazing — the word “dumbstruck” comes to mind.

To avoid this, think about (and embrace) the fact that you could be attacked. It’s not too hard — people are attacked every day, so why not you? Second, visualize yourself successfully dealing with an attack. Not obsessively, mind you, but you should internalize, visualize or just own that you will defend yourself and think about what that means in some detail.

If you don’t, look for a salt lick instead of venturing out on your own.

Kelly McCann’s Threat-Processing Tips — #2: Profile the Potential Attacker

Yeah, I said it. Profile the threat (potential attacker) for weapons. And quickly.

How? Find his hands … anything in them? Is either hidden from view? Notice any unsightly bulges? A weighted windbreaker pocket? An outline under his T-shirt? Any of these might add up to a much bigger issue for you.

Knowing or suspecting that an attacker might introduce a weapon into a physical altercation is critical to your success — whether it drives you to get the hell out of there, act pre-emptively or pull out all the stops if it does go to blows.

Kelly McCann’s Threat-Processing Tips — #3: Position, Position, Position

Where are you in relation to the attacker? Take immediate action to put yourself in the most tactically advantageous position relative to escape avenues, improvised weapons, and physical obstructions you can put between yourself and him.

If you’re this deep into feeling threatened, you obviously don’t need more information, so don’t wait for it. You don’t necessarily have to attack at this moment, but you certainly need to move into the next mindset:

Kelly McCann’s Threat-Processing Tips — #4: Become the Predator

Assume the predatorial mindset and run through the if-he-does-this-I’ll-do-that scenarios in your head. You’re much more likely to take effective action when you’ve visualized it before an attack — even if it’s only milliseconds. Shut out the distraction of hope and don’t think you can wish yourself out of the situation. It’s literally up to you at this moment.

Kelly McCann’s Threat-Processing Tips — #5: Pre-Emption

If you know it’s coming (applying the “reasonable man” standard), waiting any longer just means the attack will fully manifest and your opportunity to disrupt it will be lost.

This is tricky. You’ve got to feel that you’ve seen enough to warrant the pre-emptive use of force in self-defense and that you’re in fear for your life. The time to startle your attacker and derail his momentum is now. Don’t half-step. Your initial attack will define the threat he feels and trigger his own fight-or-flight response. Make sure he feels the need to flee.

None of this is formulaic. None of it is absolute. You’re always at risk of making the wrong call.

To minimize the chance of that happening, spend as much time thinking about the circumstances in which you may have to use force as you do thinking about the use of force itself. Incorporate it into your training by …

Kelly McCann’s “Combatives for Street Survival” Book+DVD Combo Set Offers Unique Learning Feature for Martial Arts Students!

The Combatives for Street Survival Book+DVD Set has been a very successful entry in the ever-expanding Black Belt martial arts multimedia collection. The self-defense content is first-rate, presented by a high-caliber book author and demonstrated on-screen by a dynamic and entertaining modern martial arts instructor. Both the author and presenter in this case are none other than combatives and self-defense expert Kelly McCann, whose no-nonsense approach to fighting has garnered him a reputation for telling it like it is, kicking tail and not waiting around to take names.

In his Combatives for Street Survival Book+DVD Set, the acclaimed instructor delineates the principles of combatives and how to execute them concisely, forcefully and with purpose. Both the book and DVD are content-rich, but it should be pointed out that the content in the Combatives for Street Survival DVDs is directly related to the content in the Combatives for Street Survival book — so much so that we took it upon ourselves to add a special caption track noting where to go in the book for even more in-depth information regarding the subject matter McCann is discussing and demonstrating on-screen.

See the video below for an example:

COMBATIVES BOOK+DVD PREVIEW VIDEO
Special On-Screen Caption Track Links DVD and
Book Content!


The caption track is an optional feature on each of the three DVDs in the collection, which includes the following:

This special option can be triggered by activating the subtitle track on your DVD player or by going to the last page on each Combatives for Street Survival DVD’s menu by clicking “more” to move through the pages of available content.

On the past page, which features trailers for other Black Belt martial arts DVD titles, you will find the clickable words “Book Pages.”

Clicking on “Book Pages” will take you to an option page explaining the captioning and offering the option to activate it (“Pages On”) or to leave it off (“Pages Off”). When you make your selection, you are then taken back to the main menu. Any tracks you select from that point forward will either have the caption track on or off, depending on the selection you made.

This saves valuable time in looking up various topics in the book and prompts you to seek out more information in the book that perhaps Kelly McCann isn’t addressing on-screen. After all, books are great for presenting in-depth information requiring verbiage, whereas DVDs are a great medium for presenting live-action demonstrations — and while the DVDs are surely content-dense, more information means having a higher degree of advantage for your training and therefore for your self-defense on the street and in the field.…

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