Self Defense

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.

Are you ready to start your education in combatives self-defense for both empty-hand attacks and weapons attacks? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course! Go here to sign up.

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.

The newest release from combatives authority Kelly McCann and Black Belt is titled Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat. It’s a streaming-video course you can watch on your digital device. Click here to watch the trailer and then sign up.

“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 …

Split Second Survival, Part 1: Reality-Based Knife Defense as Taught by Larry Wick

If you think Split Second Survival, the brand of gun and knife defense being propagated by Larry Wick, is just another modern martial art or self-defense course, you couldn’t be more off base.

Wick, a veteran instructor and high-ranked tang soo do black belt, has a unique way of dealing with two of the most feared street weapons, and he’s on a mission to share it with the world. The Fairbanks, Alaska-based instructor believes that most of what’s being taught in blade- and firearm-defense courses is not just ineffective; it’s fatally flawed.

Dr. Mark Cheng (left) and Larry Wick

Split Second Survival is about looking at some of the ugliest possible situations and finding the most effective way out,” Larry Wick says. “In most instances, people are unarmed, uneducated about real weapon defense and unprepared for multiple-attacker situations. Our focus is educating them on some of the options that will help them survive.”

Wick is so passionate about his system that he’s willing to go to extremes to prove its validity. For evidence, take a look at his Live Fire DVD. (Do Not Try What You See!) On the disc, Wick uses real guns with real ammo to illustrate the shortcomings of popular self-defense techniques.

In one instance, he fires a pistol next to, but not pointed at, a mannequin head to show the damage that can be caused by the blast that emanates from the muzzle of a firearm. In another demo, he tries a common defense that entails grabbing the slide of a semiautomatic handgun to stop it from cycling — and promptly slices open his own hand. “There are some things we can get away with in the wilderness that I wouldn’t even think of doing anywhere else,” he admits.

Are you ready to start your education in combatives self-defense for both empty-hand attacks and weapons attacks? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course! Go here to sign up.

According to the animated Alaskan, eight tenets form the soul of Split Second Survival:

• Never focus on the weapon.
• Always move forward.
• Make sure any technique accounts for the possibility of multiple attackers.
• Avoid committing both hands to a move.
• Never use strength against strength.
• Don’t intentionally go to the ground.
• Forget kicks, punches, locks, sweeps and throws.
• Complete all techniques in one second or less.

My introduction to Split Second Survival starts with Larry Wick decked out in street clothes. “If your self-defense training only works when you’re in a uniform, in bare feet, on a matted surface or in any other contrived situation, it’s going to be a liability when your life is on the line,” he tells me.

Wick then picks up a training knife and asks me to place it against his throat. To up the ante, he has me grab his jacket so I can press the blade into his flesh with more force. He challenges me to “cut” him as soon as I feel him try to attack, defend, escape or otherwise move.

The look on his face remains gentle — until he delivers the killing stroke. Faster than you can say “Split Second Survival,” he cuts my wrist with my own blade, off-balances me and finishes me with a potentially lethal wound to the throat. It all goes down before I can mount a meaningful attack, with the knife or otherwise. I think, OK, it was a random fluke that won’t happen again.

“Not convinced?” Larry Wick asks. “Let’s try again.” This time, he narrates his way through the same motions. Physically, there’s a uniqueness in his system, and I’m beginning to feel it.

The newest release from combatives authority Kelly McCann and Black Belt is titled Kelly McCann Combatives 2: Stick & Ground Combat. It’s a streaming-video course you can watch on your digital device. Click here to watch the trailer and then sign up.

True to his tenets, Wick shoots his gaze from side to side as though he’s searching for accomplices. His eyes aren’t fixed on the threat — it’s like he’s looking right past me — but I know he’s got the blade and everything else in his peripheral vision. He explains that if he locks his eyes on me or the weapon, I’ll be able to sense what he’s going to do by watching his line of sight change. He’s right — I’ve used that same awareness in sparring.

Less-experienced martial artists often telegraph their moves by changing their focal point from one body part to another. That’s why some coaches have their fighters look at their opponent’s sternum, which keeps all four limbs in peripheral view. In one-on-one sparring, that works fine, but in a street fight, there’s the X-factor of multiple opponents.

“You almost never know …

10 Self-Defense Strategies Every Woman Needs to Know to Survive

The best self-defense strategies and techniques work equally well for men and women, but let’s face it: Women really need them because they’re assaulted more often than men. Statistics indicate that one in three women will be the victim of some type of violent attack in her lifetime. Women also endure more incidents of verbal and sexual harassment.

Although most women’s self-defense courses focus on skills for quickly and efficiently destroying an attacker, self-defense training also should include methods for preventing a confrontation from turning physical in the first place. Learning how to steer away from a threat may not sound as exciting as ripping out an attacker’s heart, but as they say in every beginner’s class, evading an attack is almost always superior to blocking an attack.

After years of research, the staff of the Rocky Mountain Combat Applications Training center discovered a number of effective self-defense concepts and techniques and incorporated them into its curriculum. If you’re an experienced martial artist, the physical techniques may appear familiar or even surprisingly basic, but that’s fine. They’re intended to be simple because in an assault, you’ll experience fear and panic, along with a natural adrenaline rush. Despite the superhuman effects adrenaline can produce — we’ve all heard stories about the grandmother who lifted a car off her trapped grandchild — it doesn’t always work in your favor. You may experience tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and loss of fine motor skills. Consequently, it will be hard to see and hear, and complex martial arts techniques may be impossible to perform.

If you stick with proven strategies and simple gross-motor-movement techniques — such as the 10 described here — your chance of surviving will increase drastically.


Too many women enroll in a self-defense class after they’ve been assaulted. When they recount the incident, they often say the same thing: “I had this bad feeling, but I told myself not to be paranoid,” or “I knew I shouldn’t have gone, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

Are you ready to start your education in combatives self-defense? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course! Go here to sign up.

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t safe — that’s the bottom line. Many women have been conditioned to ignore the little voice that tells them trouble is coming. Your instinct is the best detector of danger. The next time you hear that little voice, listen to what it’s saying.


Don’t make yourself an accessible target. The outcome of a battle is often determined before the first blow is struck. When you have the opportunity to escape from a situation before it turns bad, take it.

Want to know what it’s like to train with Meredith Gold, the author of this post? Click here to get the full story!

If an approaching person gives you the creeps, walk to the other side of the street. If an elevator door opens and the guy standing inside makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, wait for the next elevator. Those actions aren’t cowardly; rather, they’re a smart way to eliminate danger.


Be aware of the message your body sends to those around you. Like animals, human predators target those they consider the weakest or most vulnerable. Attackers search for women who appear frightened, confused or distracted. They look for women who walk with their head down and their hands stuffed in their pockets, or perhaps one who’s overburdened with packages or distracted by children.

Silat for the Street is the title of an online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt magazine. Now you can learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!

Remember that attackers do not want to bait a fight; they want an easy mark. By walking with confidence and awareness — looking around and keeping your head up and shoulders back — you’ll dramatically reduce the likelihood of becoming a target in the first place.


Good verbal skills are an effective self-defense tool, one you’re likely to use more frequently and successfully than any physical technique. When a predator engages you in conversation, he’s actually “interviewing” you to see if you’ll make a good victim. An experienced attacker is practiced at using his words to freeze you with fear, thus reducing the chance that you’ll try to defend yourself.

Although an aggressive verbal confrontation can be terrifying, you have to be strong enough to show the attacker he’s picked the wrong victim. If you stand tall, remain calm and respond confidently and assertively, you’ll probably “fail” his interview. The power of …

How to Avoid Street Fights When You Can — and How to Win Street Fights When You Can’t Avoid Them!

Last night as I waited for the bus, I was hassled by a man who was “interviewing” robbery candidates. (In the past month alone, 35 muggings took place at bus stops in my section of Baltimore.) After missing my second bus there, I walked through a drug-infested neighborhood where two drunken construction workers — cruising for trouble in a pickup — threatened me.

This morning, an angry young man who was pacing impatiently outside a rehab clinic scanned my hands and belt line, then attempted to make hard eye contact. When I passed him, he rose and turned to follow, but he stopped when I looked over my shoulder and shifted the bag I was carrying into my left hand.

Photo by Rick Hustead

Each of these fleeting encounters had the potential to escalate into the physical dimension. In fact, most of the fights I’ve been in were preceded by similar situations. However, each encounter described above was readily defused with the appropriate body language. Those opportunities for mayhem did not turn into contests between me and a potential antagonist. Instead, they were struggles between my rational mind and the egomaniac within.

It is unfortunate that the ego of most trained fighters, which is often exemplified by their attachment to their martial art, yearns for expression in such situations. I have trained with enough sensei and sifu to know that many capable martial artists secretly yearn for such an opportunity to prove the utility of their art at the expense of some cretin who desperately deserves to be their proving ground.

However, those who manage to find such opportunities through risky employment — such as bouncing and law-enforcement — soon lose their curiosity. Also, those who are regularly exposed to such situations outside the context of an authority role never cease to dread the possible entry of personal violence into their daily life. In any case, peril soon loses its romance.

Are you ready to start your education in combatives? Check out Kelly McCann’s introductory course, which also includes weapons defense! Go here to sign up.

The key to boosting long-term personal security in dangerous places is to avoid planting or nourishing the seeds of bad intentions. Not doing vigilante work in a gang-infested city is No. 1 on my list. No. 2 is not accepting the slurred threats of a drunk as a true indication of intent to do harm. Shutting up a tormentor with a punch combination — while his huge friend lumbers around their truck — may sound like fun, but jail cells and emergency rooms await the winners and losers of such altercations. Also, the level of success that trained fighters are taught to seek in combat could easily plant within the mind of an attacker the seeds of true bad intentions, which might turn him into an enemy who is willing to settle the score with a screwdriver, a gun or the grill of his truck.

As trained martial artists, we must abandon the glorification of “winning” a street fight if we are to achieve real peace of mind. I, for one, have yet to achieve this goal. On a bad night, I might have escalated one of the encounters described above. I have set this goal because — at only 35 years of age — I am beginning to have a hard time handling the adrenaline rush that accompanies a spontaneous confrontation.

The last situation I permitted to escalate into the physical realm resulted in a rush that left me too weak to effectively do my work. That spunky little hormone known as adrenaline had enabled me to prevail over my antagonist, but when I returned home 16 hours later, I was still too weak to speak audibly. That led to my study of the dynamics of personal violence, specifically to identify the point at which threat and hostility crystallize into serious intent. That line still appears blurred, but the characteristics of the dangerous attacker are quite clear.

Photo by Thomas Sanders

An untrained person who challenges you to a stand-up fight or who “faces off” with you for a physical contest is not a serious threat. If, for some reason, you find yourself unable — or unwilling — to decline such mutual combat with an untrained person, all you really need are the three basic skills of the combat athlete: the ability to strike effectively with your lead hand, the ability to utilize lateral movement to avoid a clinch and the ability to splay against a takedown.

The criminal is scenario-dependent. To reliably “score” the number of victims necessary to support his drug habit, he must do one of two things. The first is conduct an ambush based on previous observations of the target’s patterned behavior. The second is approach a fixed …

When to Make the First Move in Self-Defense: Hostage Situation

The October/November 2016 issue of Black Belt features an insightful article titled “First Move: Focus on Principles Rather Than Techniques to Neutralize a Knife Attack Against Another Person!” Author and krav maga instructor James Hiromasa provides a detailed analysis of some ways martial artists can respond if they come across a situation — maybe it’s a terrorist attack — in which a criminal is accosting a third party with a blade. Presented here is information on a scenario that didn’t fit in the magazine: a hostage situation in which the stabbing hasn’t actually begun.

— Editor

The same principles that I outlined in the Black Belt article apply to a threat that hasn’t become an active attack. In this case, a hostage taker is standing behind his hostage with a knife held to the person’s neck.

Your best bet is to just keep it simple. You won’t have enough time to mentally run through the scenarios you’ve practiced in search of one that includes all the variables of this particular situation. Stick to principles rather than pre-rehearsed techniques as I discussed.

Kelly McCann’s Combatives Self-Defense Course, a cutting-edge remote-learning program from Black Belt magazine, will help you fine-tune your street-defense skills using your laptop, tablet or smartphone! Start adding these street-proven techniques, designed to help you defend against empty-hand and armed attacks, to your defensive arsenal now.

In the photo sequence below, it’s assumed that you can approach the hostage taker from behind. Your techniques are almost identical to those for the standing active stabber (see the magazine article for more information), but this time, your job isn’t to stop the next stab. Instead, you’re trying to isolate the threat without getting the hostage cut. In other words, you need to move the knife away from the neck on first contact.

Because the attacker and the hostage are so close together, there isn’t space to overhook the arm at the shoulder or biceps, and even if there was enough space, it wouldn’t solve the immediate problem. However, you benefit from the fact that you need not worry about the attacker’s knife hand moving around a lot, which would make it hard to catch.

To get control of the weapon, you can reach under the attacker’s arm and/or around him, making a “plucking” movement down on the wrist of the knife hand. That will move the knife away from the hostage’s neck. This should happen simultaneously with the cross-face, which is discussed in detail in the Black Belt article.

At this point, you should assume the worst — that the attacker is still holding the hostage with his other arm and still has the hostage partially wrapped with his knife-wielding arm. That means a takedown likely would cause more problems than it would solve.

A better course of action is to use the hand that just delivered the cross-face to quickly overhook the elbow of the knife arm, forcing your limb between the attacker’s arm and the hostage’s body. If necessary, you can continue into a figure-4 control.

As soon as you have control, attack with knee strikes and head butts, or try to drive the knife into the attacker. Once the assailant is separated from the hostage, continue to attack. Disengage only when it’s safe or when an opportunity to use a higher force option presents itself.

James Hiromasa runs the Colorado Krav Maga Regional Training Center in Broomfield, Colorado.

Read the article to which this post refers in the October/November 2016 issue of Black Belt, on sale now!