December 5 is Day of the Ninja

Originally published 02DEC2010 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Martial artists prepare for Velociraptor Awareness Day, April 18

Originally published on 18APR2012 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.


April 18 has been designated Velociraptor Awareness Day. The day was created not only to remember those who have fallen to these terrible beasts, but to raise awareness of how one can attempt to protect themselves from these dangerous and cunning predators. For those of us who are martial artists and personal protection personnel, we may be called upon to help save the lives of humans against these menaces. It is best not to answer this call, but to run. It is best not to run all manly as if you are merely ‘regrouping’, but to flail your arms and cry like a little girl. The velociraptor will see this as a sign of respect and seek out a different, less reverent target. If for some insane reason we find ourselves morally or ethically compelled to intervene between a velociraptor and its prey, the first thing we must evaluate is the main engagement styles martial artists have at our disposal; grappling, percussion, and weaponry.

Grappling techniques against a velociraptor are ill advised. The shoulders have more of a forward and down orientation compared to humans that will require major adjustments to grappling techniques to effect most types of joint locks. The rear-facing ankle bone also means that any type of leg controls will be utterly alien and unfamiliar to a similarly trained groundfighter. Equally distasteful is the proposition that the velociraptor has a long neck and sharp claws. While the diligent grappler is learning to adapt his technique to these new body mechanics, the velociraptor is using his face as a chew toy. If the grappler somehow gets in very close and can get under the raptor’s mouth, it will counter by lacerating his guts open with his rear claws. No, the skeletal structure and body mechanics are just too different from that of a human to make the grappling arts such as jujutsu and aikido effective, and create a dangerous “learn on the job” proposition.

Special hint: If you must grapple with a velociraptor, go for the figure 4 tail lock. Done properly, from a ground technique, the grappler uses his feet to push against the velociraptor’s back legs. This keeps his rear claws from lacerating you, and you’re sufficiently far away from his mouth and teeth. Its front arms are too weak to help it stand. Hope that your help arrives before its help arrives: They are pack hunters, and they don’t tap out.

Percussion techniques against a velociraptor are also ill advised. The primary target would conceivably be the creature’s head. Unfortunately, the majority of a velociraptor’s head is it’s mouth and the majority of its mouth is it’s teeth. Putting hands and feet inside the mouth of a velociraptor is inadvisable. To make matters worse, the body orientation of a velociraptor is advantageous in that it does not stand upright. Leaning forward in hunting mode, its torso remains well behind its formidable jaws, a very effective protection. Even barring the raptor’s primary weapon, its secondary weapons are its claws. These are sharp, and made for climbing and rending flesh. While the percussionist throwing a punch is thinking of hitting with the correct form, the Velociraptor rakes your face with its talons and watches your mandible dangle uselessly from your skull. If Wolverine saw the wounds, he’d be so impresssed that he’d log on to to see if he was somehow related to the raptor.

Special hint: If you must engage a velociraptor with punches and kicks, do your best to stay at the thing’s side. It’s forward sloped shoulders will cause it to have a hard time hitting you with it’s arms and claws, and its legs are so geared to running and hopping there is not as much side to side movement capability. Staying at the side towards the rear is the best flank to avoid its long neck and bite.

This leaves the martial artist with weaponry. Of course, the first thought is something along the lines of an AR-10 with the formidable 7.62×51 cartridge and a magazine with the shot capacity of a bad 1980’s era soldier of fortune movie. This is an excellent option if the shooter can score the hits. Velociraptors are fast and stealthy, though, meaning a protector must be fully aware and able to bring this heavy main battle rifle to bear very quickly. Too often, the velociraptor surprises its prey and is already engaged, making the rifle useless in close quarters. Remember, close quarters combat (CQC) to humans is within arm’s reach while CQC to a velociraptor is with your head in its mouth. It is likely that the best firearm for velociraptor defense is the 12 gauge pump shotgun with a sawed off barrel and some 3” magnum 000-buckshot , or a possibly a Magnum Research BFR Revolver in .45 Long Colt / .410 shotgun.

Aside from firearms, other weapons considerations are pepper sprays, and melee weapons. It is a little known fact, but oleoresin capsicum, the chief ingredient in pepper spray, has the same meaning in the velociraptor’s language as “mild sauce”. This is pure speculation on the author’s part, as no velociraptors have volunteered for pepper spray application, but I’m going to call this “ineffective”.

This leaves melee weapons, namely swords. Swords are noteworthy for their ability to do a significant amount of damage, as well as keeping the attacker at a slight distance. The sword equalizes the protector against a velociraptor if he knows how to use it. The best kind of sword for velociraptor defense is the katana. Its curved blade facilitates slicing, and the blade’s legendary sharpness will be needed to rend the leathery hide of this predator. Swords win against teeth and claw, because while formidable, the velociraptor risks taking damage on its person by attacking the sword wielder.

Special hint: It is important to note that dinosaurs are related to birds, and chickens are birds. Decapitated chickens run around like a chicken with its head cut off. That’s why that phrase exists. Velociraptors do the same, and their heads bite too. Decapitate, blend with the force of the body going by, then kick the head away. Weapon, grapple, percussion = WIN.

By the time the reader is perusing this article, it will be too late for many of you. For those that will live to see Thursday, please consider enrolling in your local kendo, iaijutsu, or other sword training curriculum so that you can be ready for next year. Also take up running. Jogging and distance running is good but remember the arm flailing and crying. The runners you see are actually preparing for this holiday, but often leave out this side of the training.

Everyday carried items

What a person carries with them every day says a lot about them. Make sure at least some of what is carried can serve a defensive role if needed. For the mundane items of everyday life, ensure they are safeguarded in some ways. Here are some Every Day Carry (EDC) thoughts.

Author’s note: This article draws upon previous articles about everyday items as weapons and items designed with tactical use in mind. Please consider adding a tactical pen, flashlight, kubotan, and training in them to your personal inventory and skill set.

A cell phone, car keys, and wallet are standard fare, and are generally needed in today’s society. Look at ways to ruggedize the phone, such as a sturdy case or picking a a rugged phone like the Casio G’zOne) Clothing should allow for easy access to key fobs and car keys, and likewise be difficult for pickpockets to get at your wallet. These things allow you to call for help, escape a situation, and in the case of the wallet, contain a lot of information about you.

Another precaution with cell phones, personal data devices (PDA’s) and GPS devices is to enable the power-on password protection. Yes this can be a hassle, but if these devices become lost or stolen, a significant amount of personal data can become accessible to others. The business trip for next week scheduled in the PDA and the “Home” address in the GPS tells a criminal where a target is, and when to hit it.

With the advent of the USB memory sticks, people are carrying around a significant amount of information. This digital information may be personal or professional, and can be damaging or dangerous in the wrong hands. If carrying data in this manner is necessary, consider looking into a basic encryption program to keep the data in an inaccessible format unless the intended user is the one opening it.

Several programs are available via freeware, such as Axcrypt. If the items become used again, the unintended user will be forced to simply delete  the files and use it to his own ends. None of the original owner’s data is available.

A simple point and shoot digital camera can be a very useful tool in an EDC kit. Whether integrated in the cell phone or a stand-alone device, it can serve as an in-field “scanner” (I have copied several notes by camera), or can be used to document car accident damage, video record events, etc. Of course, the same data precautions apply to the memory card as above. Keep the camera’s memory as cleaned as possible.

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Firearms and martial practice

Originally published on 26NOV2010 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

One aspect of training in the martial arts is about personal protection for one’s self and his loved ones. The study of striking (percussion), grappling, and weaponry are hopefully all addressed at some point in the martial artist’s studies. The subject of firearms in martial practice is one that tends to divide the martial community.

The purists among martial artists believe that firearms are “the easy way” to self defense, and have no place in traditional martial study. They believe it takes little or no skill to pull a trigger, and true inner peace or mastery cannot come from such an easy path. These practitioners train hard so that they might never need such tools, and choose instead to rely on skill, technique, and awareness to obviate the need for firearms.

The “practicalists” see firearms as another martial weapon to be studied and mastered, believing that as weapons evolve, it is the martial artist’s duty to learn them and adapt or reinvent their technique to include them. They believe that if those brave souls of ancient times that developed the martial arts as we know them had access to this weaponry they would have used them. They believe in the hard training, skill, and awareness the purists do as well, but choose to embrace the evolution of weaponry.

In actuality, the practicalists are correct from a martial standpoint. If the samurai had automatic weapons, the katana would be symbolic or non-existent today. The armor of the knights of old were obsoleted by the earliest of firearms. In these cases, other types of martial study would have been developed and the arts we practice today would be different.

This does not mean the purists’ point of view is without merit. It also does not mean that one should not train under a purist. Both the purist and the practicalists have much to offer. The individual martial artist must decide what his priorities are in martial practice (personal protection, fitness, inner-peace), his willingness to embrace modern weaponry and spend the time and money to become proficient, and his comfort level in training with lethal weaponry.

Some modern weapons with ancient roots

Originally published on 24NOV2010 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

There is an old adage “Fair fights are for idiots”. This is true. If one finds themselves in a self defense situation, every means at turning the odds on one’s favor should be evaluated. To that end, there are several mundane appearing products now on the market that are designed to function as excellent protection tools.

Tactical pens, such as the Smith and Wesson M&P pen, or the Cold Steel Pocket Shark marker have taken root with many people for their utility. They are a functional writing instrument, a commonplace object most people would not even question. Underneath their mundane appearance they feature reinforced hulls for rigidity and caps designed to stay on through the rigors of a fight. A blunted point on one end and a flat cap on another give the wielder some tactical options based on the nature of the threat.

Tactical flashlights have also become prevalent recently, and are an incredibly handy device to have around. Most feature a blinding amount of light output which can be used to temporarily blind an opponent, as well as a more battery friendly setting to provide longer term illumination. Like the tactical pens, they contain features to better withstand the shocks experienced in a fight, such as steel hulls, and LEDs instead of the more fragile incandescent bulbs.

The kubotan is a shaft of metal or wood about 7 inches long and designed as a key chain. With keys attached, it becomes an excellent striking weapon or even a flail-like weapon to help drive off an aggressor. If this item is chosen for daily carry, upgrading the actual key ring may be wise so it can withstand the abuse. Otherwise, you may find yourself without your car keys.

Look for the mundane items around the house or office. A folded pocket knife, rolled magazine, simple dowel rod, some lipstick tubes, or even an artificial dog bone (like Nyla-Bone) can be used as effective martial weapons. If it is reasonably rigid, it may do what you need in a pinch.

All the protection tools used above share similar characteristics as the yawara (a 5-8 inch stick weapon). They are between 5 and 10 inches long, cylindrical, and can be easily used by people with average strength. Training with one of them is equivalent to training in all of them. This means efficiency since one does not have to learn whole new movements or techniques for every item. And with this training, the means to get an “unfair” advantage are everywhere.

Everyday clothing and the martial artist

Originally published on 20JAN2011 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Martial artists tend to look at their clothing a bit differently than others. The practice in the dojo with a dedicated uniform (called a dogi), is a traditional rationale that ensures neatness, safety, and uniform training, such as lapel grab techniques. It also help ensure student safety in the case of jewelry or other accessories that may cause cuts, strangles, or other injury. Once off the mats, many martial artists look for qualities in their clothes that are similar to a dogi.

Allowing for a full range of motion is important, especially with kicking arts. Martial artists look for looser fitting clothing, pants with gusseted crotches, and durable but lightweight  fabric to withstand the rigors of a fight. When clothes become too restrictive, it can impede the ability to use a technique or throw a useful kick. One’s clothing should not be on the side of an assailant.

For footwear, light athletic style shoes are preferred, which will help protect the feet but still allow for the speed necessary to launch kicks or perform footwork. Of course, traction plays an important part of this. When dress shoes must be worn, it is beneficial to look for something that can serve as well as an athletic shoe. More and more men’s dress shoes are adopting athletic type soles and treads. Women, though, have a hard time finding shoes that offer function as well as fashion.

Many martial artists have a few items they choose to carry as well, and having extra pockets, or easily accessible compartments helps a lot.  Of course, having multiple pockets is a great way to ensure having multiple defense mechanisms, so if one finds themselves in some type of pin or hold, there is always something accessible. Carrying stuff in a bag, backpack, satchel, or purse is asking for trouble, as these items can be readily removed, or forgotten. It’s best to have one’s protection items on-body carried.

For men, cargo pants come in a variety of styles now, from very baggy and casual to an almost Docker-esque business casual style. Add in a regular polo shirt, and decent casual shoes, and the martial artist dressed as such can be ready for an altercation without fear he will be limited or restricted by clothing choices.

Women have it a bit harder, but dressier slacks and finding a decent flat style shoe is possible.

So, when clothes shopping, keep your requirements in mind. Ensure all the tools you train with are available to you, and consider what, if any, limitations the clothing considered will bring.

A Michigan family’s ‘threat matrix’

Originally published on 18FEB2011 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

In preparing contingencies for emergencies or other events, it is essential to start by assessing exactly what one is preparing for. These events, which are simply called “threats,” are really a way to categorize and determine the probability of their occurrence. In evaluating the threats the typical urban/suburban family faces in Michigan, we look to the local weather, infrastructure, and socioeconomic histories. The “matrix” part of the phrase comes when the contingencies and preparations for each of these threats is addressed and evaluated. Some of these contingencies will be addressed in later articles.

For local severe weather events, Michigan has a history of strong thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, and snow storms. Luckily, these occurrences are generally well predicted and some advanced warning is usually available. So while severe, some preparations can be made ahead of time. Michigan does not see hurricanes, tidal waves, or widespread drought.

Infrastructure threats, such as power failures, are commonplace in Michigan. Detroit residents face poor medical and police response times from overworked public service providers.  Having many industrial areas, Michigan has faced forced evacuations in the past due to chemical leaks. Rural Michiganders have faced forest fire evacuations. All families face house or apartment building fires. Michigan does not typically face water shortages or sewage issues, nor are there any wild animal or insect plagues that can leave areas decimated without warning.

Socioeconomic threats consist of unexpected layoffs, being fired, or facing involuntary pay or hour reductions. These are threats, in that it affects a family’s financial capability to maintain itself and grow. Other threats in this category are violent crimes acted upon family members, home break-ins and robberies, or areas of civil unrest (think Detroit circa 1969).  These can be at home or wherever a person visits, such as the workplace, school, or en route to places.

Locally, Michiganders face national threats as well. The Cold War brought a long and sustained threat of thermonuclear warfare. Acts of terrorism normally assumed to happen only in the Middle East have happened in the USA and may continue to. A poor economy has contributed to a decline in the US Dollar’s value, which can cause alarming price increases and could lead to hyperinflation. Some scientists believe that Global Warming will have unforeseen effects on our climate. The Peak Oil theorizers believe that oil will become so scarce that it will cost more energy to obtain it than the oil itself.

The purpose of this article is not to tell the reader what to think, or what to prioritize, but rather to understand the threats that each Michigan family may face, and begin to determine what preparations each family can make to reduce the risk of harm from these threats. As stated above, this side of the “threat matrix” is just the threats. When contingencies are created, it will be realized that being prepared for one of these threats can actually carry over into being prepared for many.

Time management and martial arts

Originally published on 04DEC2010 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

Practice in the martial arts instills many qualities in its participants. One of the things that can be “inadvertently” learned is good time management skills. For the two hours on the mats, in the gym, or at the dojo, there is generally little time to think about anything else other than the here-and-now.

Learning a new technique with a sword, grappling an opponent into a pin that turns them into a human pretzel, or launching some new kick, the students practicing every day around the Detroit area are worrying about nothing other than the task in front of them.

After the workout, these same students reflect on what they’ve learned, how much they know now that they didn’t two hours ago, or are reveling in some new detail they just got enlightened on, and are grateful for the last session.

Then they get home, or they get to work. From out of nowhere, tens if not hundreds of tasks, deadlines or the dreaded “action items” hit them. Clean the garage, fix the computer, contact the supplier, go to the bank, etc.

The singular goal and focus they worked with on the mats has evaporated into a haze of “a pleasant memory”. But, why was this two hour session on the mats so productive, and the rest of life so chaotic?

It isn’t. The problem lies in the fact that all the other tasks permeate what is trying to be accomplished, and the whole effort devolves into a very inefficient multitasking session, or an emotional malaise sits in at the prospect of the daunting task list becoming insurmountable.

The solution? Find a task or group of small tasks, and set two hours aside for it. It doesn’t matter if it can be completed in two hours or not, just set aside the time and concentrate on it. If worry or distraction about other tasks begins to permeate your mind shut it down, because this two hours is for this activity only.

It may take some work developing the two-hour focus, but it is achievable. Once the first few sessions go by, task lists start to shrink because things are getting done. Anxiety and worry start to ebb because there is a mental assurance being instilled that you are moving towards your goals, and a confidence in the fact that every task will get its chance to be addressed.

If needed, establish a time at work where you get the two-hour session without interruption. Establish a night in the week or a time on the weekend with your family where you can be left alone to get some things done.  Break larger tasks up into sub-tasks that can be accomplished in two-hour session.

Then, that sense of accomplishment achieved at the dojo becomes a part of other facets of your life.

Challenge as a habit

Originally published on 23JAN2011 for

K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

In the martial arts world, students are regularly pushed to their physical limits. By pushing hard, those limits expand, and the student grows. The same is true in any curriculum. By pushing one’s self hard, whether it be in math, chemistry, literature, or physical arts, the limitations of the student are pushed further and further into the background. Nike calls it “Just do it.”.  Even more compelling is their Swoosh logo represents the Greek goddess of victory. The Japanese call the same concept “malobashi”, which means essentially the same thing.

Most of peoples’ personal limits are self imposed. Statements like “I’m no good at math.”, or “I can’t run a mile” are used to self-limit what we can accomplish. In some not so extreme examples, people evaluate their pitfalls before they even start a task, so that they have the necessary excuses to explain their failures. The truth is, though, that challenges make people stronger. The difficult test, the involved action item at work, or the challenging issue to cope with will make us stronger at the outcome, because we have gained experience. For many of us, accomplishing an involved task successfully has us looking back at the beginning of the task and thinking “What was I afraid of?” or “Why didn’t I start that sooner?”. After the procrastination, the waffling, the worrying, we finish the task with decent results and move on more confidently.

The best lesson to take from this situation is that the worrying and procrastination were not necessary. The task was accomplished with a little hard work, and there was no real doubt of the outcome. Thus, all the pre-task angst was useless. The people we all know in life as the go-getters, the get-er-done folks, and the accomplished professionals have one thing in common; they have learned to not waste time with the worrying, and delve into the new challenge as a welcomed and rewarding experience. Sure there’s planning and thinking things through to do it right, but no time is wasted on what is truly useless worry.

The interesting thing that happens after only a couple iterations of this is that a person learns quickly that they can accomplish things, they have the resources to do so, and people will help them to succeed. Just like a runner stretching out his distance to make that extra mile each day, a person’s personal limitations get pushed back further and further.

Eventually, the reputation is earned as the go-getter, the get-er-done guy, and the success story. Coworkers and supervisors grow more confident not in your abilities necessarily, but in your determination to succeed. All because you set the worry and angst aside and worked with a little determination.

So, if you’ve been putting something off, like entering a martial arts program, starting to work out, the big interior home improvement project, going back and getting the degree, malobashi!