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H2H FIGHTING: The Lack of Intense H2H Training Options

Only with actual fighting experience you will fear no man

Over the years I have seen a lot of guys get their ass kicked regardless of experience in the ring, dojo, training and even real world street fighting… One of the most memorable ass kicking’s I ever witnessed was back in the day at a house party in the Middle East [house parties within the Expat community are pretty common in the Middle East].

Like all fights this one ended up starting when one guy from our group and a guy from another group ended up trading words over something stupid and a fight followed. The fight itself was not really that much of a surprise [Booze + Security Contractors in their 20’s + confined space = Fight sooner or later].

It was the fact that my boy was ex-military and a pretty experienced competition fighter and he didn’t last 3 seconds before we had to drag this little British dude off of his pummeled face.

So why did he lose?

I saw the reason about one second before the fight started.


The Brit was a fucking bulldog; the second he knew there was going to be a fight he smiled like someone just gave him a cake. He had all sorts of Royal marine tats on his forearms, a black eye [presumably from another resent fight] and was yelling with a distinctive working-class brit accent.

My buddy was just a regular guy from the burbs who never saw any action in the military who isn’t really the blood-thirsty type. Later when I talked to him about his street fighting experience he told me that he had been in several fights [mostly with his buddies] in the Army, gotten into brawls where he and his boys would all fight as a group and a few fist-fights in high school.

But he had never really squared up face-to-face with another dude for an all-out scrap, and certainly not a Brit offshore oil roughneck on shore leave… He was honest with me and said “that dude looked like he wanted to fucking kill me bro – like literally kill me, sort of freaked me out so I hesitated and waited for him to come in, and when he did I froze – that fucking guy was drooling and shit he was so furious”.

So can you learn how to control your fear in a physical conflict?

Well that is not an easy one answer question. Some people say you are either born a fighter or not.

I believe there is some truth in that, just like people who are naturals at playing golf or mathematics, some people are just born with that “angry blood”. Others are a product of their environment, like guys I know who grew up in South Philly or as Christians in Egypt pretty much have zero fear when looking someone in the eye before a throw down due to the large amount of fights they have been in.

But on the other hand I have seen some guys go into the military as pussies and come out hard-charging straight-up warriors. So that is a good example that a combination of the right training, some hard work that puts a little callus on your hands and a few years in the right environment can transform even the most mundane individual into a pretty fearless mother-fucker.

I have even trained and mentored guys who were somewhat in the “wimp” category into pretty tough individuals. I myself come more from the “product of my environment” category than the born angry category.

But after the training, mental preparation, getting dirty and all the other prep work is up – quite frankly nothing beats the experience of squaring-up with someone and going at it. But you can hardly go around just picking fights, the dental bills [I probably put my dentists kids through college when I was in my 20’s] and eventually getting sewed will put a stop to that in no time.

So this is where realistic H2H training comes in. The type of training where you go home with a black eye and you can’t remember your last name.

Unfortunately due to the liability issues, the fact that most H2H instructors have never actually been in a fight and that most commercial H2H is centered around you getting “up to the next level” [IE: Paying for more classes] – finding intense H2H training outside of the Military is difficult.

There are some underground Fight Clubs [I was a member of one once] but some get way out of control and others are really nothing more than yuppies playing out their Brad Pitt fantasies.

I have also seen some Martial arts groups that have pretty intensive looking training and meet-ups where they really go at it in a semi-controlled environment. But they are few and far between and some have an odd cult following that seems to focus on the founders more than the actual fight.

Boxing and MMA is really the only thing that most people have access to that is somewhat in the realm of actual fighting. But even those two have its limitations, Rules.

At one time my brother and I looked into running 2 week long 18 hour a day intensive H2H programs that were a blend of MCMAP and Fight Club that would be taught by us with a few ex-cons, SF types and gang members thrown in the mix. The type of training where people would go home with broken noses and a 200 pound sack. But the liberty insurance would have made it cost-prohibitive for most people to attend.

So as we speak there is a void in the Martial arts world where you can get hard-core fight training taught by experienced instructors that would transfer into real fight experience.

With 99% of schools only concerned with signing you to another year contract, the rarity of realistic and intensive training clubs, the risk of participating in a Fight Club and the exorbitant insurance costs of running a military style H2H school I don’t see that changing anytime soon.


~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles Kicking Ass, Taking Names and Eating Sandwiches. James G. on FACEBOOK

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  1. I believe Kelly McCann adressed this issue in one of his books. He suggested creating a small group that was willing to train hard enough, meet and pummel learning into each other. No club, no insurrance, just a garage, backyard or an,y other private area and the fun can begin….

    I believe it might be worth a shot provided that the guys can trust each other enough so that no one will go over the line (to be defined within the group). I met my fair share of asshats that thought partners in their Martial Art / self defense class were just dummies they could punch their frustrations out on.
    And don’t forget to get at least a couple of guys that are knowledgeable about first aid. Some one has to help with that boo boo…

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  2. Well, you can always go the Bruce Lee route…learn what you can in the dojo then walk into dark alleys til you figger out what works and what leaves you a gooey puddle.

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  3. There are two types of fights/conflicts that will take place, they are either in a controlled environment and an uncontrolled environment, the fight you mention with your friend is in a controlled environment, it was in a private residence with a bunch of guys who knew each other to some degree and would not have allowed either guy to get stabbed, his ear ripped off, or his eyes gouged out, or his nut sack pummeled, someone or many would have jumped in to stop the fight, they did not want to see a slaughter they want to see a good old fashioned knuckle to knuckle fight with some rules in a controlled environment.

    The other is the uncontrolled environment, the bar, the restaurant, the parking lot, the alley, the sandbox, your home being broke into, road rage, you getting car jacked, mugged, loved one getting assaulted, etc etc I think you get the idea, these are conflicts that are unsuspected and may happen without any warning, these are situations that may require real world h2h combat, where anything goes, it is about survival and possibly life or death, this is an uncontrolled environment where your buddies wont jump in to save your ass, this is not the octagon.

    With that being said I believe that everyone before learning any specialized martial arts should learn how to box first, the good ol sweet science, once you have learned to give and take shots, have an understanding of footwork, angles, control, etc then you can become the ninja you have always wanted to be. I learned how to box in my teens and boxed in the Army then got involved in the MA while stationed at Ft. Lewis, trained in the Filipino and Indonesian MA of Kali and Silat and still do to this day. I have had my fair share of scraps, some in controlled environments and some in uncontrolled environments (the ring & the sandbox). Also, I don’t know the specifics of the fight but had your friend thrown and landed the first shot he may have been the winner, conflicts are very violent in many cases so you must be aggressive but at the same time remain in control, remembering the basics of your training is key to any conflict.

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    • Great comment Aaron

      I have gone over boxing in articles before – I am a huge proponent of boxing as the base H2H skill

      Check out the other H2H articles:

      ~James G

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    • Dead on right, quick assessment of condition(s) in controlled environment as in this house party I talk the conflict down ( I dont need to show asswipes or anyone else that I can piss further) in the uncontrolled environment dead men tell no tales and give no quarter. I once saw a 80 pound asian girl (controlled) back kick a 200 pound (guesstimate) Slime-thug and lay him out cold he was dragged away by his henchwhores.. Great post and replies.

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    • You are right, the martial Arts industry is more focused on money than the art. It has to be, the costs of running a facility makes it so. But there are places where you can find the real deal. However often it’s not easy to break into that scene. You generally have to prove you are not an ass or a danger to others.
      At my place, we hold regular Throwdowns that attract fighters from all over the city who come in to pressure test their training. Though it is competitive, respect for one another is paramount.

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  4. As a student and instructor for about 25 yrs, I have found that no training will be anything like all out combat. As a police officer, Ive had the privlidge of testing my training in real combat. Ive had my ass handed to me, and Ive hand delivered a few “monkey stomps” in my time as well.

    I teach in a controlled environment, but take things to a “scary” level for my students from time to time. I used to teach a few officers and soldiers at my instructor’s Dojo. We would get together and take turns in the “hole”. This hole was a circle of guys…and gals…that would take 2 min turns with the “man in the hole” while I had HEAVY rock music playing and the only light was a strobe in the corner. It gets pretty stressful when you get through a couple of opponents and you are spent, just to face number 3 who is fresh, while you cant see or hear.

    This was just one tool I used to put the students in a state of panic and forced to use the skills we drilled into them. This was only done with the experienced students and after we closed the school for the night. I would never put a new student into such a state of chaos. This drill is actually where I got the name for my training system. I dont advertise, I dont take just anyone off the street as a student, and I dont tolerate BS during training. I am always trying to get more officers involved in the training, but most are afraid of losing face if they cant hang, after all a cop is “Superman” right?

    I am a traditionalist, but the traditional systems should only be used to teach the principles of the art/system, not the final product. I come from a “Samurai” based Jujitsu/Kenjitsu system. It transfers flawlessly to modern combat, but if you stick to the traditional techniques, you lose a lot of perspective on modern combat. I am always looking for new training techniques to keep things “real”. But…we dont wear the black, protective gear that is pushed by a certain system. If you cant take being hit from time to time, you need to get a different hobby…or job.

    You cant really “control” the fear. Its going to be there. But you can learn to use it. I promise the “mad dog” Brit that ate your buddy’s lunch was scared as well, he just used the fear to pump his adrenaline levels. If he wasnt scared, he would not have gone into posturing prior to his attack. The yelling, drooling and irate behavior was pure “posturing”. When he felt it was working, he jumped.

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    • We used to do that at my Jiu-jitsu training as well! then we also had V’s where you have to face a new opponent with weapons every 3 seconds continuously for several minutes whilst all the instructors are screaming in your face and you’ve got multiple of these event going on simultaneously.

      I cant tell you from personal experience, it definately gets the adrenaline flowing. The worst part was one of the rules was, if you do not disarm, disable & finish off your opponents, then they just keep fighting you. Next thing you know you’re trying to fight 3 guys with knives & bats at the same time with people all around you screaming & yelling. It can get pretty scary, but im fucking glad i did that stuff because it means you get to used to how your body feels during a fight or flight situation (you know heart rate increases, pupils dilated, your pulse pounding inside your head) and subsequently you will not ‘freeze up’ when put into a situation where violence may be about to occur.

      The ability to think clearly even when in this kind of a situation is what has allowed me to avoid every possible potentially dangerous situation I’ve ever been in.

      Also, pretending to be a fucking nutter helps a lot (especially when you are 5 foort 8, barely hitting 60 kilo’s). A while ago these 5 moroccan guys were about to kick the shit out of me, so i unzipped my pants, whipped out my cock and started waving it at them. Having noticed they were blatant homophobes I knew they would not be able to handle that shit, and as expected they ran away shouting “you’re fucking nuts man”

      But if you guys want a place to practise, there is a town in England called Birmingham, you should visit, but i would suggest wearing a stab proof vest.

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  5. I was fortunite enough to have my dad who was a real scrapper while I was growing up. He taught me the basics of boxing, wrestling and Ju Jitsu back in the 60’s this was almost unheard of back then.

    My dad served in the military in Korea, where he met a Korean Martial Arts instructor who was teaching Americans Tae Kwon Do=or the Moo Duk Kwon (style of Tae Kwon Do)-the Republic of Korea Military Armys version) back in this time, it was a very select few who had to be invited into this circle. My dad was not real big on the kata (forms) but he taught them to me so I would have a foundation to build on.

    And let me let you, between the boxing, wrestling, Ju Jitsu and the Korean Karate it helped to form me into what I now consider invaluable training and expience when the time came for me to get down and dirty.

    Of course along the way I also learned something else, if you want to win any outcome its not how big you are that matters, its the size of your heart in the fight and how well condition you are, not to meantion, just how bad do you want to win it.

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  6. Where did the little british guy train to get to be so bad ass? Probably nowhere.

    You get some knowledge from training but no matter how “real” or “scary” it is, It isn’t. The Little guy had experience, not training, and in any field you will find experience trumps training most of the time.

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  7. This is something that frustrates me regularly in my karate sessions. Every week I’m there, gloves ready, just hoping someone else will actually be up for some sparring- and then either nobody is, or we’re constantly being told to go lighter.

    Sparring with one of our 3rd Dans I hit him hard a few times before he realised that I wanted the feedback from mistakes to be immediate and painful, and that I wanted to know honestly what was working and what wasn’t. He regularly spars the less keen members of the club, and is used to people who take a little knock and then all the fight goes out of them.

    Here’s hoping there’ll be a decent, hard-training club at uni next year: Karate has been great for self-confidence, fitness, balance, blah, but sometimes you need somebody to punch you hard to tell you you need to up your game.

    The hole, above, sounds like a bloody useful drill.

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  8. Probably nowhere Paul? He had RM tattoos according to the article. Not only will he have been a working-class street brawler with a little-man complex, but he’s also received top quality military training into the bargain.

    In a twisted sort of way, I felt faintly proud reading this. Something I’m not proud of!

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    • Let me clarify, the guys training in the Rm may have been the most high speed, but the description of the fight tells me th guy is no stranger to fighting and getting hurt. Not life and death encounters but fighting. Unless the guy is deranged and doesn’t care about living or killing, since the other guy didn’t get killed I say he probably has some marbles left in his noggin.

      The experience of getting hurt and finding out you can continue to fight some more or another day is the “training” I’m talking about and doesn’t translate well in simulations/training.

      The Dog Bros are probably as close as you can get.

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      • Most of the blokes who join the RM do it do escape a shit life on the estates where getting into scraps with some hoodies over a pair of trainers is an almost daily occurence and where people trying to mug you is more common than chip shops (of which there are a lot 😉 ).

        Contrary to what most americans believe, england has some proper ghetto’s as well, and the new favorite english past-time is stabbing people for shits and giggles.

        No doubt the brit in this story had to deal with plenty of that crap growing up.

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  9. When I was going thru selection back in the early 90’s I remember our instructor telling us one thing….. I your in a fight for more than 5 seconds you’ve already lost. Get in there and do what the fuck ever it takes to make sure your opponent doesn’t get up. I’ve taken that to heart in the few scrapes that I’ve had to participate in.

    But every fight happens differently.

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  10. James – your description of the Brit Marine is spot on. I lived in a town near one of the RM training camps – not an overly hard place but some nights when they were out on the town you just stayed away from some pubs because of characters like that.
    Shit every town in the UK has a few pubs with people like you don’t fuck with – I went to school with a few of them.

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  11. Good article. This article made me think about 2 types of situations; controlled, and uncontrolled environments.

    In a controlled environment, the MMA guy, the brawler, the boxer, the martial artist and all the rest have a real chance at winning. But winning and surviving are also 2 different things, and when your in a uncontrolled environment, facing asocial violence, which is completely different from controlled “ring” violence, your training in whatever it is you train in, is only going to go so far.

    I like reading Tim Larkins material; Target Focus Training (TFT). His stuff is meant for uncontrolled environments and asocial violence. His system is meant to disable foes, or end them, on the spot.

    Obviously, this type of training is not meant to be used in situations like saving face at the bar…but when your life is really in danger.

    Keep up the thought provoking articles.

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  12. Darn good article. Working with SouthNarc is about as close as you can get without going to the ‘fight club’ model.

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  13. Great article, and you’re right about how hard it is to find realistic self-defense training. I won’t even look twice at a club that doesn’t offer full-speed, full-power, scenario based training, which requires serious protective gear, like the Red Man suit, the HIIT suit, High Gear, etc.

    There are some highly skilled combatives instructors out there, but they are hard to find. I like Tony Blauer, Geoff Thompson, Kelly McKann, Nick Hughes, and some of these high speed guys you run into at the shooting camps often really know their stuff.

    But good luck finding full speed, full power reality based training at a club near your house that you can train at regularly. At our club, we work hard to make it real, and offer Muay Thai, MMA, and Kung Fu, with the occasional women’s self defense or rape prevention classes.

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  14. Have you guys heard of the Dog Brothers? They specialize in full force confrontations. Granted, they are one-on-one and though there are no rules they expect you to show honorable restraint to prevent serious injury. These guys will fight full force with extra heavy escrima sticks, street hockey gloves, and fencing masks and no other padding. Most fights go to the ground and end in submission. There is a ref who watches for tap-outs, will call it if someone has obviously “won” and is holding back to prevent killing the other guy and in case of injury. It is about as hard core as I have seen outside of a real fight.

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  15. Darn good article.Working with SouthNarc is about as close as you can get without going to the ‘fight club’ model.  

    I concur. Recently took his ECQC and it gets the adrenaline flowing. It doesn’t take long to learn your fighting weaknesses in his class.

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  16. My Dad was a gang member and as a result refused to teach me to fight hoping I would stay clean. I did. But I learned to brawl on my own. I am about 70/30 kicking ass and getting my ass kicked. The times I took a beat down were the times when I was worried about getting home, the times I was the one pounding someone into ground beef I wasn’t.

    I agree completely with the comments on experience. I really believe now that I can see it and smell it in the other guy. I try to use it to my advantage. These days I avoid conflict if at all possible. When I can’t, I have a buddy call my wife and let her know that I may need a hospital, lawyer or both.

    Fighting for anything but your life is bullshit. I am still pretty poor at discerning whether I am or not so I still get into too many fights. I think that this may be the reason I always get a call when my buds feel like checking out the crappy parts of town. You’d think I’d wised up by now, but the truth is I really don’t mind at all.

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    • 70/30 is not bad – I am 50/50 if you include every fight I have been in my entire life

      ~James G

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  17. Great Article James, and having known a couple guys from the Royal Marines; your description is spot on. I have adopted some of what you said in my own prefight persona as a result of the number of fights I have been in and a little knowledge of psychology. I don’t care how badass one thinks they are or their experience in fighting and training in combative arts. There is just something unnerving about seeing someone that is about to get in a fight with that sort of smile on their face. That knowledge that no matter what transpires here, their opponent is going to leave their share of blood on the floor. Hell I have even said that to guys, and it stopped them dead in their tracks. Also little things, when I was a bouncer during University and guys wanted to mess with me, I would pull out a mouth guard and some padded gloves in an effort to tell them that I wasn’t playing around and this was going to hurt them more than me.

    I grew up abroad and always was into the local martial arts. Be it Japan or the Philippines or Morocco any of the other places my father dragged me to. It always ended up as the local kids wanting to whup the American kid’s arse. So I had my fair share of winning and losing. But thankfully I have more tics in the win column than the losing one. And really half of the fight is the attitude. And your guy just didn’t have the right attitude going into the fight. And the Brit guy, (and really I can picture this guy, because I have buddies like him) did.

    As for realistic training for the real fight. I tend to stick with my roots and head outside of the US for training. Schools here in the states just are a little too skittish and are afraid of being sued if a guy gets a bloody nose. I actually just got back from vacation and did some training with some buddies in Brazil and some in Israel. (by the way it is good to be back on here, Had my vacation Figi was lovely, and took my Employer around his business intrests in Mexico and South America, which is a bigger hole than I remember it, good to be back and see things are still going great on here. I missed it.) In Israel I got my ass handed to me daily, got a couple new scars and bumps and bruises and a resetting of my nose.

    I would say that the only benefit that your buddy had that he wouldn’t have in any situation around here is that in a party filled with expats and trained ones at that. He wouldn’t have to worry about anyone else jumping in to beat him while he was down. Which occurs way too much now a days, I was at a bar recently and saw two guys get into it and 10 guys who weren’t even his opponents buddies jumped the guy that first hit the ground. If only to get their licks in. It is a rarity anymore that in a public fight with a bunch of guys that you are only going to be fighting one. Cowards will jump in to throw their own punches in order to make them feel like man. Sad really. Which is why I try not to get into fights in bars, and if so to use every dirty trick I know to drop the guy as quick as possible. And get the hell out of the fray.

    Great Article James, can’t wait to see what I missed on here. Good to be back.

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    • +1 for training overseas at the “Place of Inception” – I have trained in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Nothing beats training in a dirty 3rd world gym with a bunch of warriors – far from McDojos and Hustler Black Belts wanting you to sign a 12 month contract. The “Pure Art”

      ~James G

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  18. These H2H articles are great James. I might be wrong but I think one of the main points of your article was that fear- whether it’s fear of getting hurt/killed, or fear of getting into trouble- is the thing that is missing in most training. When you are in training, you really have nothing to fear, other than failure. Getting into trouble? Unless you go too hard, or don’t perform kata just right, that isn’t an issue either.

    My problem has always been fear of failure. That follows me into training or into real confrontations. When I was in high school, I was the guy that got beat up in a fight even though I was too afraid to chicken out. I was afraid that if I chickened out, I’d be more of an outcast than I already was. I didn’t realize it at the time, but all those times getting beat up, were actually learning experiences. Now, I’m just a big, ugly bald guy with tattoos that most people leave alone, and I’m happy for that. Like you said in your article, there is no substitute for experience.

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    • Yep, fear was the original point of this article but it got a little sidetracked – the original title was “H2H FIGHTING: Fear No Man”. I am working on expanding that subject a bit more but it is hard to put into words – it is more something you experience.

      ~James G

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  19. Everyone (with sanity) has some degree of fear. It’s how you use it. It took me YEARS to learn how to turn the fear into anger. Example: when I see a pre-fight interview (whether boxing, MMA, etc.) where one fighter is saying “I’m going to get in there and give it my best”….It usually means he’s doomed. Conversely, if the fighters saying “He’s going down!”….at least I know he’s handled his fear, or more accurately….”nerves”. Whenever I get pushed into a confrontation, I make an HONEST effort to get out of it. If I’m further pushed into an actual fight, I’m going into it furious that the person made ME do it to HIM……and he WILL lose.

    That’s my mind set. Go ahead and laugh….but it’s worked for me.

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  20. Was briefly part of a “dojo” that was being run by some little upstart who through he was hot just because he’d finally reached his instructor-level dan and had been picked up by the local YMCA. He didn’t like the fact I was so out of shape and kept trying to find ways to force me to quit.

    One day he said that we were going to scrimmage “as if we were fighting in the real world, no holds barred.” He then pitted me against his buddy, the brown belt who was the co-teacher of the class, who promptly came in and started wiping the floor with me while he laughed.

    Brown belt was just going through his routines to flex his skills, but I was fighting like the teacher had said — like it was a street fight and my life depended on it. So when Brown Belt let one of his hands get too close to my face…I bit him.

    Needless to say, he immediately jumped up and started crying like a bitch that I’d bit him, and I was summarily thrown out of the class. The moral of this story? Don’t take a teacher’s word when they say they’re training you to fight like you would in the streets. In the streets, anything is a weapon. Especially if you’re on the defensive.

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  21. Fantastic Article!

    I’m upset at the lack of h2h training options in the area (Chicago). There is 1 Krav Maga place that I found, and it’s extremely commercial.

    I’ve really really been interested in boxing. Unfortunately, my options are Big Box boxing gyms, or areas where I could be killed because I’m white. I took a look at the big box gym, and when they asked me what I wanted, I told them I wanted a busted nose and to learn to fight. They were all about “getting in shape”…

    I drove by the boxing gym in the ghetto and someone threw a 40 at my car and people started banging on my windows. I’m not a pussy, but I’m smart enough not to hang out there.

    Lastly, like any young man, I love to fight. Unfortunately I will not get into bar fights or the like, because I’m trying to be a police officer and I have to keep my nose cleeeaaaan.

    There just aren’t many options.

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