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Martial Arts For The Survivalist

October 16, 2012 by  

Martial Arts For The Survivalist

Physical strength, endurance, flexibility, adaptability and mental discipline are all attributes of a true survivor. Unfortunately, they are also attributes that are often neglected by the average survivalist.

The popular assumption is that if you have sizable food storage and can shoot straight, you are ready to rock and roll. But the first and most important weapon in any prepper’s arsenal is his own strong, healthy body. If a person is weak and unhealthy, no amount of gear is going to save him in the middle of a crisis situation.

Preppers who have spent all their lives enraptured in the world of firearms sometimes view hand-to-hand combat training with cynicism. The common retort is “Why use my hands when I have my Glock?” Indeed. Why should we? Perhaps because one day we may not have a weapon in our possession during a dangerous circumstance. Should a survivalist simply give up because he loses his gun or runs out of ammunition? I think not.

Survival in the midst of collapse and calamity does not necessarily depend on having all the right tools at all the right times. Sometimes, you have to improvise; and the only tools you can always count on are your hands and your brain. Martial arts training hones and refines these assets to perfection and teaches the mind to deal with the stresses and fears associated with combat. In fact, 95 percent of success in martial arts revolves around learning to accept the idea of someone trying to kill you so that you can move past the terror of the scenario and deal with it calmly and logically. Adrenaline, tunnel vision and unchecked emotion are the true enemies in any fight. We defeat ourselves long before our assailants ever touch us.

Another concept within martial arts that I find fascinating is the philosophy of Bushido, which is often mistaken as a brand of Eastern religion. Instead, it is a kind of warrior’s code, a way of dealing with adversity in one’s life. Struggling with obstacles — whether self-created or created by others — requires balance and the ability to take control of the problem and apply one’s own terms instead of the terms other people try to set for you. It is about leading the battle, instead of being led, while staying true to your conscience. In the end, we should feel no need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves. Traditional martial arts still contain elements of Bushido within their methodology, and I believe such practitioners are some of the few people left in the world who operate on a legitimate warrior’s code — something we desperately need in our culture today.

I have studied multiple forms of martial arts for more than 26 years, and I have found many methods that would work well for the worst survival situations and plenty that would be utterly useless. When I started my training classes for liberty movement individuals and families in Northwest Montana, my idea was to combine all the strategies that I felt were intuitive, easy to learn and quick to use. My goal was to help students to become physically capable of self-defense within a very short period of time, without running slapdash over important factors like mental strength and intelligent application. The program has done very well so far, and I would like to share some of the styles and strategies I now use in my classes with the rest of the liberty movement.

Shotokan Karate: Shotokan is a Japanese martial art using movements derived from defense methods common in Okinawa and streamlined for easier application. At first glance, Shotokan seems stiff and impractical, but that is not the case. Shotokan training is extremely intense, and the sparring matches can be brutal. Deep stances and sharp strikes train the body to hold ground even against a larger opponent. Shotokan practitioners can take physical damage unlike any other style I have seen beyond perhaps Thai Kickboxing. As the student advances, the stiffness disappears, and their strikes become coldly logical and precise. Shotokan is a perfect foundation art for beginners in self-defense. If they can handle this style, they can handle anything.

Thai Kickboxing: Thai is world-famous for its fast, devastating steamroller-type strikes and the ability of its practitioners to take a hit and keep on going. For a crisis situation, it is imperative that the survivalist be capable of absorbing and moving past the pain of a fight. In a SHTF scenario, it will always be a matter of life and death. There is no such thing as a hand-to-hand fighter who can avoid every attack and come out unscathed. Plan on getting hit. With the heavy arm-to-leg blocks of Thai Kickboxing that act as a kind of self-made brick wall, along with devastating leg sweeps and knee breaks, this art form is perfect for the dangerous possibilities of collapse.

Western Boxing: It’s not an Eastern martial art, but Western boxing teaches incredible punching power. Eastern martial arts focus on speed in order to inflict damage, but Western boxers hit harder because they assert more body weight behind their punches. Of course, it is more important to learn speed and timing before learning to hit hard. The most powerful punches in the world are useless if all they do is sweep the air. Western boxing is an incomplete fighting style, but a fantastic addition to the survival martial artist’s repertoire.

Jiu Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art from Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the way the Brazilians have commercialized and franchised it. Jiu Jitsu is indeed the flavor of the decade for self-defense; and, though I feel it has been way overhyped, it is an incredibly effective style for ground situations. That said, let’s be clear: Jiu Jitsu is actually a very limited fighting style, especially when you’re not in a cage and you are confronted with more than one attacker. Survivalists should learn grappling techniques so that they know how to defend against takedowns and return to their feet. In a real combat situation, you never try to go to the ground on purpose. Multiple opponents will decimate you within seconds while you are trying to put a choke hold on the guy in front of you.  Add a knife into the picture, and purposely jumping into close quarters with the intent to “grapple” will be a death sentence. Successful fighters will always combine Jiu Jitsu with other art forms in order to round out their abilities.

Hapkido: Hapkido in my view is the perfect antithesis to Jiu Jitsu and any other grappling art. It should be at the top of every survivalist’s list of fighting methods. Hapkido focuses on joint locks, joint breaks, using centrifugal force, pressure points, eye gouges, throat attacks, etc. Generally, it is very difficult for someone to grapple with you if you break his fingers or wrists, hyperextend his kneecaps, or crush his windpipe. One twisted wrist could put a dedicated grappler or wrestler completely out of commission. Knowing how to counter grappling using grappling is fine, but knowing how to utterly disable a grappler is better. As a survivalist, it is important to learn both.

Taekwondo: A Korean style, Taekwondo has received a bad rap over the past few years as an “ineffective” martial art, but usually this comes from people who have never actually practiced it. Like Jiu Jitsu, it is a style limited to a very particular range of attacks and scenarios. Taekwondo focuses on kicks to the extreme. Sport Taekwondo is not a practical measure of the style’s use, and this is where its tainted reputation comes from. In truth, Taekwondo has the fastest and, in many cases, the most devastating kicks in the world. The use of kicks depends on the mastery of the fighter. If he is fast and precise, then his strikes will make his opponents feel like they’ve just been hit by an oversized utility van. If he is slow and unfocused, he will be tackled to the ground like a rag doll and pummeled in an embarrassing manner. That said, one well-placed kick can crush ribs, crack skulls and knock an opponent into dreamland before he ever knew what hit him.

Jeet Kune Do: Created by the venerable Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do’s philosophy is to adopt what works and set the rest aside. It is essentially a combination of the short-range tactics of Wing Chun combined with the long-range tactics of Japanese and Korean styles. Jeet Kune Do’s goal is to be a truly complete martial art; so far, it has proven itself in this regard. If you can practice only one style of self-defense, this should be it.

Ninjitsu: The brilliance of ninjitsu really dwells in its “think outside the box” mentality. There is a sort of cleverness and unpredictability to it that makes it so dangerous. Ninjas in feudal Japan were assassins, but they were also the guerilla fighters of their age. The combat methods of ninjitsu revolve around surprise and misdirection, which are factors that always work in the survivalist’s favor.

There is no way around it. The Martial arts make a survivalist better at his job, which is to thrive in the very worst possible conditions. It’s not just about fighting; it is also about developing a fighting spirit. Beyond the utility of self-defense, we survivalists must strengthen our inner world as much as our outer shells. It takes time, patience and a willingness to struggle. Any person who masters a martial art has not only shown a dedication to his own physical prowess, but he has also proven he has a mental toughness that will carry him through any catastrophe. That kind of toughness is a rare commodity in America today and, when found, should be greatly valued and encouraged — especially by the liberty movement.

–Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith

is the founder of the Alternative Market Project, an organization designed to help you find like-minded activists and preppers in your local area so that you can network and construct communities for barter and mutual aid. Join today and learn what it means to step away from the unstable mainstream system and build something better. You can contact Brandon Smith at:

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  • Frank Gomez

    That is nice and dandy but what do you recommend for a man who is 83 years old?

    • Paul Wells

      An extensive arsenal, and younger family members there with you that can shoot straight!

    • dan

      as one grows less agile physically, one must sharpen his mental defences…
      the battle is won that is first avoided

    • http://none Charlie

      Frank Gomez,,,
      Are your hands and fingers still usable ? IF, so , with a simple 22 cal’ simi auto pistol and a good barking, biting guard dog, to let you know “”They”” are coming and / or there upon you …
      Of course it goes without saying , that you must have a mind that is in tune with King Jesus and knowledgeable of the evils of man, to use any weapon effectively …
      Any of these Martial Arts Experts that cannot move faster than a speeding bullet are in deep dog do do up against a firearm that’s in the hands of even an old man that can walk, talk, see lighting and hear thunder and blow his nose the old fashion way… Meanwhile ,,,
      Praise King Jesus for Salvation and Healing… Acts 2:38 is salvation…

      • posttime

        Amen, Charlie.

      • Thomas D.W. Segall

        The problem with carrying a firearm is that so many persons who carry such weapons fall to understand that they must practice as much with them as they might if they were intending to fight with the staff, the nunchaku or other flailing weapon, the sword, or the knife. A person who carries a handgun should also study ways of retaining the weapon in a close-combat situation.


      • Jimmy the Greek

        Thomas You should never let them get close enough to you in the first place , and with a pistol if they are close you don’t let them know you even have it until you shoot them .

        • Thomas D.W. Segall

          This gets to be complicated. If you are at a distasnce from another person who is not pointing a firearm at you you might be committing a crime if you took out your weapon to threaten, and you almost would be committing a crime if you shot that person. The law on this has been made more complicated by the “stand your ground” laws, but George Zimmerman may very well realize that you can get into real trouble for shooting someone in a confrontation.


    • http://yahoo gator

      MR. GOMEZ, while i’m no ‘martial arts expert’ i might direct you to other forms of self-defense. 1) pepper spray 2) stun gun 3)walking stick/sword, and of course 4) firearms; all having their pro’s and con’s. remember, if they can’t, see, walk, or breath, the fight is over.

    • http://yahoo gator

      my father could kick like a mule, punch like a hammer, and his knees were devastating, but the one thing that saved him one dark night, was the pocket knife he had ready when he sensed the danger, the ‘predator’ never saw it coming and died as a result.
      knive’s are frowned upon by some. getting ‘wet’ in this day is possibly risky business, but i for one was glad about the result of this ‘confrontation’; avoidance is not allways possible, and there were many more catfish, and crappie for me and pop to catch!

    • RichE

      Frank, just put an apple in your mouth. At your age I doubt if you could outrun a hungry prepper. You’ll be the main course for dinner.

      Speaking of courses, your best course of action would be to convince the water-bottle storing fatalists to take a two week survival course. I guarantee you they’ll change their minds about the romance of survival and put their energies into preserving the current standard of living rather than leaving it.

      • http://yahoo gator

        if he is hungry, the ‘prepper’ eats what he has put away for hard times. by being ‘water bottle saving fatalists’ the ‘preppers’ are preserving their way of life. who do you think made out better during/after ‘KATRINA’?; those that waited on ‘uncle sugar’ to come to the rescue?; or those ‘water bottle saving fatalists’?
        i suggest that YOU put an apple in your mouth, as you sound as though you are unprepared, and do not have a grasp on reality! that definately puts you in the ‘obamanite’ catagory.

      • http://yahoo gator

        RichE, that reply was to YOU. please continue with your dilusional beleifs, we can only hope that ‘natural selection’ will prove true, well sooner or later.
        you should have more respect for your elders; i’d bet Mr. Gomez could teach you a few things, i’d also wager he could [comment has been edited].

        • RichE

          Have you taken any survival training are you a Katrina survivor? You do know name calling is a sign of latent homosexuality.

    • cerebus23

      tai chi its simple enough to get into it. improves balance, concentration and flexibility, and is perfect for the older person that has never done a martial art before.

      it is also very deadly when not done in slow motion forms practice, but that takes a good bit of meditation on the application of the forms.

      ikaido i would also suggest tho this is a art that takes years if not decades of study to understand, but is a art that is perfect for smaller people, and a art that can be used effectively by older people, since it is a art that uses the opponents intent and momentum against them.

      bushido however is a bit of a myth, it was not invented till long after the samurai were dead and gone, and it has as much myth and mysticism as anything in it.

    • KG

      [inappropriate comment deleted] Unless you want Ryan/Romney to win. They will do it for you – of course it’s not personal or anything. They just want to save young people from paying any taxes.

  • Jon

    Good overview. I think the lesson here for survivalists or preppers, is to get involved in something of this sort. Besides giving some ideas and training for defense, any of these will go a long ways in helping you get in shape. Good physical health is important and could be the difference between life and death if things get really bad. At 60, I recently enrolled in taekwondo with my grandson. The fighting method may not be perfect, but it will at least help give me the two seconds I might need to get the S&W out.

  • Keith

    I think that you need to take another look at what your calling ju-jitsu. The brazilians have messed up everybody’s idea of the art. Originally ju-jitsu was an all encompassing art for the Samurai for when they were unhorsed and had to defend themselves either armed or unarmed. It included throws, strikes, joint locks and grappling, just to mention some. Judo, Akido, Kendo and some Karate, all come out of ju-jitsu. The Brazilians have simply taken the ground work of ju-jitsu, and Judo, and worked it into the ground, literally. If you are looking for an all around art, and can find someone who teaches old school ju-jitsu, it will work. There are others as well, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a my style is the only style person. I practice Judo as a workout and ju-jitsu for self defense. Since Judo came from the other it’s not hard to do, but when you work out with the Judo players, you develop good core strength. Anyway, any workout is a good workout, as long as you don’t hurt yourself. Stay safe.

  • Paul Sukontarak

    Russian martial arts are fascinating and perfectly suited to survivalism since most of their art has been developed in real life combat situations. Systema is worth a close look.

  • mark

    This is really taking this survivalist paranoia to a new laughable low. Buy all the canned and dried goods you can, stock up on guns and ammo, learn karate – then you’ll be safe from the always predicted calamity that just never occurs and never will. Like all those who bulit bomb shelters in the 1950s and early 1960s. Well at least the survivalist shops are making money. Who did P.T. Barnum say was born every second?

    • http://yahoo gator

      MARK, its true those bomb shelters weren’t ever used (lucky us) for their original intent. truth was, the possibility of their need was very real. ‘stocking up’ is a wise move for any ‘family head’, and its good to get family involved.
      life-threatening emergencies arise every day; fire, flood, riots, or any other number of man-made or natural disasters can and do occur. mental and physical ability is a BIG plus in all these scenario’s.
      who would have thought ’911′ could happen? keep in mind also, there were those that were prepared when KATRINA hit the Gulf coast, and there were the victims. where was ‘uncle sugar’? NOWHERE to be found.
      i am 58 years old and a longtime BRUCE LEE fan, JEET KUNE DO ‘the way of no way’ is an excellent ‘fighting’ art. applied with ‘multiple weapon’s training, knife, stick, flexible, a person can greatly increase their chances of survival.
      i might add i’m also a ‘champion wrestler’, and while not allowed on the mat, or in the cage, i have the ability to break, and dislocate, in many ways; not just on the ground.
      firearms have always been necessary to a FREE and self-sufficient society. if i could only have one (which i don’t) it would be a shotgun; good for birds, rabbits, hogs or bears, and really effective against ‘human predator’s’. the shotgun is the ‘multiple discipline’ of the firearm world.
      remember ’911′, ‘KATRINA’, ‘BASTROP’, and many others, and please train and be prepared, the life you save may be your own, or maybe the LIVE’S OF YOUR FAMILY.

  • Thomas D.W. Segall

    The systems mentioned are suitable for younger persons, and in my youth I did study judo, jjujitsu, and a Japanese Karate style similar to Shotokan, but I am not seventy-three, and I have practiced Taiji for several years since I realize that the styles I studied in my youth had many techniques that my old body could not perform these days.

    Learning Taiji as fighting art takes much longer than most other arts since so much of its effectiveness rests upon great subtleties of movement, but, besides its health benefits, it is an art which can be practiced for self-defense by those with little speed or strength.


  • http://yahoo gator

    BRANDON, excellent article by the way; hopefully there will be those that listen, and follow your advice.

  • caleb

    I have studied Tang Soo Do. Where I learned the art it was taught much more of a self defense art. Over the last few years I have come to the conclusion that honor and fighting do not go together, so if you get to the place where you must fight, cheat, fight dirty. In sparring shots to the back of the head are acceptable, although we are expected to have enough control to not actually hurt each other. One of my sensies used to do shotokan, and I was always impressed with the way he would take the utter basics and eat your lunch. I know some guys who do old style teakwando (when I say old style I mean before it got tournament happy, I think all the tournaments killed the art), they have nice solid attacks but they lack the footwork that tang soo do teach. Boxers on the other hand are cocky and slow, I have gone 5 minutes with a boxer and he not hit me one time but when it was over he told me my punches were weak, hey dude sparring etiquette demands that your strikes are shallow. But honestly at the end of the day your martial arts comes down to your teacher, sorry master equals sorry art.

  • Paul

    Mark, this is not the 50′s or the 60′s and I don’t see anything wrong with preparing for the worst. I do agree that it may not be the answer to every unexpected event, but I don’t think you have to be real fanatical to stock up on some extra food and supplies. Also, martial arts training is good for health in general and good for learning to cope with stress or panic. Primarily I would focus on physical and spiritual health since these are beneficial under any circumstances. I hope you are right, but I suspect there will be some severe conditions that some of us will face.

  • Irina Krasnyuk

    What’s in store for you? I don’t know, but must get up the day after.

  • Ol’ Grey Ghost

    Sometimes when people meet me and see I have a handgun in a holster on my hip they ask, “Why the gun; are you expecting trouble?”

    I reply, “No, if I was expecting trouble I would have brought my rifle. This is for ‘just in case.’”

    “‘Just in case’ of what?”

    “In case I have to fight my way to my rifle.”

    “But if you know how to use and carry a gun, why practice all that Karate (Shotokan) stuff?”

    “The deep stances of Karate-jutsu provide a better platform for making me a better shot when I may have to fire one of my guns. And the defensive tactics and techniques of Karate help me to hang on to my weapons when things get really down and dirty, up real close.”

  • Dan Mancuso

    There is good sound reasoning behind this rather short article. Walk softly and carry a big stick. If you can become proficient in a martial art, this teaches you that you have enough self assurance that you do not to have to fight – but if you do meet a situation where you have to defend yourself – you can, whether wit an empty hand or a pistol or other weapon. Whether ‘the end is near’ or not, the world is going down the toilet and if you don’t want to be a victim or a statistic, learn to defend yourself.
    I have studied boxing, tai chi chaun, Aikido and Iaido. I prefer the Zen based philosophy behind the non-competative Japanese martial arts. But I think the best and most practical all round martial art is probably Bruce Lee’s Jeet kun do.
    In my study I feel that what Bushido is, is in it’s translation; Bushi – warrior, do – way of. The way of the warrior. This is a mind set. It entails the warrior becomming an all round person of ability. Martial arts, horsemanship, creativity in the arts like painting, caligraphy, flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, etc. It is also and primarily about honour. Honour to your lord and to yourself. This is what the Samurai warrior strove for. This is why most westerners can’t understand sepuku, or hari kiri. The atmosphere inside a Japanese Dojo is one of respect, effort and learning. You check your ego at the door before you remove your shoes. The west could certainly use a bit more respect, self respect and respect for each other.

  • Bimbam

    Hmmm, looks like one should learn them all or at least be familiar with all styles! Isn’t it already called Mix Martial Arts?

    Only one technique exceeds them all! The 80 year old man with a gun and knows how to use it. He will even beat the armed master of knife or blade.

    And there is even one “art” that can beat all mentioned above, the wife of the 80 year old armed with bear pepper spray and knows how to use it!

    • Deerinwater

      A good old fashion American Hay Maker to the snot locked can deliver more foot poundage impact then any martial arts hand delivered blow. ~ This punch start in the feet and goes up through the legs into the back and shoulder and out the extended arm and into the fist.

      It’s timing, ~ a fluid motion much like a golf swing ~ if delivery is dead on the timing and target, it a very effective and very powerful ~ or something less if your footing or timing is off.

      • Bimbam

        How does one score the “lottery” punch? I have seen people wear themselves out trying to get the “lottery” punch in only to receive it when worn out.

        So, your idea is terrific in theory but fails in practice. You know, who will bell the cat?

  • gunner689AI

    remember: knees, throat, eyes, feet. all are critical for the opponent to operate. don’t be shy, imid, or late in your strikes. usually, he who strikes first wins.

  • sootsme

    Check out Tim Larkin’s Target Focus Training. Hard core stuff that anyone can use when it’s “Hammer Time”.

  • Olene Griepentrog

    i really love flower arrangements with lots of tulips and roses. `

    My very own website
    <img src=" “>


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