Gun defense is a touchy topic for martial artists. This tang soo do stylist field-tested all his theories and tactics before he started teaching them.

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 possible the whole time. Don’t bother to do any standard percussive training even though you’re in range. The next step is to modify the bag to approximate an armed assailant. Wick uses bungee cords to attach a bo. Even though you’re now facing a more dangerous opponent, your goal and method should stay the same. Focus on mobility without resorting to force. When that’s too easy, attach additional staffs. Even with the bag looking like a swinging booby trap, you should strive to glide in and out, sensing and effortlessly placing yourself in the available openings without getting hit.

— Dr. Mark Cheng

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!

ANOTHER BONUS! Is It All Too Good to Be True? Weeks after experiencing Larry Wick’s soft-touch method, I still didn’t completely believe in the effectiveness of Split Second Survival. So I tried it with some of my friends and students, making sure not to explain what I was going to do before I did it. The only command I gave was, “Try to shoot me or cut me if you think I’m going to escape.” True to Wick’s claim, I got out every time I avoided using tension and rapid movement. The repeatability of his demo continues to floor me.

— Dr. Mark Cheng

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: or go to

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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