The author of this blog does not advocate hate or unprovoked violence against any group. The purpose of this blog is to provide the very best information regarding philosophy, mindset training, and technique for the Christian Martialist in their broader Biblical, theological and cultural contexts. Nothing posted here should be construed as promoting or excusing hostile speech or acts toward anyone.


WARSKYL:: (noun) The mental, moral and combat skills of a Christian Martialist.

WARSKYL -- Seeking to Develop the Best Self Defense System

It is as common for people new to the martial arts to ask which one is best as it is for seasoned martial artists to argue the same question. I originally became interested in the martial arts as a means of self defense. As a youngster who craved the power to stop beatings by bigger, older boys, I collected martial arts and self defense ads from magazines.

I daydreamed over promises such as,  "In just 24 hours . . . You start using these destructive self defense secrets to render any bully twice your size absolutely helpless in seconds." Many years later, when I enrolled in a traditional karate school, reality intruded itself upon fantasy. A lot of what you find in the martial arts realm can be adapted and applied to self defense, but the principal purpose of the Eastern arts is to serve as a vehicle for teaching the principles and discipline of Buddhism.

Some Westerners and a few -- like Bruce Lee -- from the East have tried to separate out the fighting principles from their traditional context, with varying degrees of success. I just find most of them lacking in one way or another. Don't get me wrong, here, because I wouldn't want to go mano a mano with many of those practitioners. It's just that their systems don't meet my criteria for "the best".

Here are my criteria for The Best Self Defense System:

  • The Biblical Worldview drives it, and I'm not talking about just inserting a few Bible verses into the training sessions, or sewing a (yech!) "Smile, Jesus Loves You" patch on the uniforms -- I'm talking about a fundamental interpretation of everything that's done in terms of Scripture, including theonomic ethics & a Book-of-Psalms mindset;
  • You work with, rather than against, normal human reflexes and instincts;
  • You learn to control adrenaline & operate under conditions of stress;
  • You depend on gross motor skills that can be performed under adrenaline stress conditions;
  • You learn levels of force from mild control to lethal;
  • Women or elderly can use it effectively against larger, stronger attackers;You can learn to use it, even if you're not athletic;
  • You train realistically, including the kind of clothing/footwear you would likely be wearing during an attack (not canvas pajamas & bare feet);
  • You use the same skill set for empty hand and for edged & impact weapons;
  • You learn realistic defensive use of firearms;
  • You train for the chaotic realities of combat and not the "if he does that, you do this" teaching you find in most martial arts;
  • You can acquire a practical level of competence in days, weeks or months, rather than years;
  • You find it easy to learn, hard to forget;
  • You need only occasional practice to retain skill level (although the true Christian Martialist will practice often to hone his craft);
  • Oh, yes, -- and it must REALLY WORK.
There . . . that's not asking too much, is it? Perhaps I should take a little inventory of what I have found so far, in my quest for The Best Self Defense System.

The Place of Firearms in Defensive Combat Training

You may have noticed that the primary emphasis in the list above centers on hand-to-hand skills, with just one mention of firearms.  I focus on unarmed close quarters combat (CQC) because it is primary. My jujitsu instructor once told me, "First, learn to use your hands, because if someone is no good with his hands, he won't be any good with a weapon, either." I believe this applies to sticks and knives, AND to a certain degree, to close-combat handgunning as well.

Mindset issues like alertness and aggressiveness carry over from open hand to firearm usage, too. Not only that, but psychological techniques for controlling adrenaline stress and overcoming denial, for example, would also transfer from unarmed to armed conflict.

I also insist on the necessity for good CQC training for another reason: many -- although by no means all -- firearms training focuses on the mechanics of developing shooting skills rather than on preparing for the actual shooting confrontation. While marksmanship is foundational, it takes more than a good range score to prevail in a shootout.

Then, too, a firearm is a lethal weapon. Thus, even if you only wound your attacker -- or even if you just shoot the ground at his feet, the courts count that as the use of lethal force. Most potentially violent situations require less-than-lethal force. So, while the weight of your favorite revolver or pistol in the small of your back can be a great comfort on a dark night, you need a much broader spectrum of force to satisfy both the civil courts and Biblical ethical standards.

Finally, I want to tell you about an experience that has happened to many martial artists, including me. In conversation it comes up that you train in a martial art. Someone listening in pipes up with a remark like, "I don't need jujitsu, all I need is my .38," or, "You can't karate chop a slug from a .45."

Then you say, "Oh, wow! Show me your .45 (or .38, or Glock, or whatever). Where is it?

And he replies, "At home (or, in my car, or . . . etc.)." Sadly, this little exchange goes right over a lot of these guys' heads. But the fact remains, you do not have a firearm on your person every moment of every day. And if it's just out of reach at the wrong moment, it might as well be a mile away.

Therefore, I assert the necessity for every Christian Martialist to develop competence in both unarmed and armed self defense.

A Closer Look at the Elements of the Best Self Defense System

By now I hope you're eagerly awaiting (or at least mildly interested in) the answer to the question, "How close has he come to discovering or synthesizing 'The Best Defense System'?" The answer is that I think I'm a lot closer now than I was a year ago, and I was a lot closer a year ago than I was nine years ago. That, of course does not give you the explicit answer that you were expecting, so let's move on the specifics.

Biblical Philosophy and Worldview as applied to self defense:

Biblical philosophy and worldview topics have been my life's study. I have even written a book (still a work in progress, although published) that articulates a Methodology based on the Reformed presuppositional epistemology as enunciated by Cornelius Van Til . . . and made comprehensible to those who think in English by Greg Bahnsen.

It has been a delight to combine my calling as a sheepdog with my calling as a theologue. (I would consider it presumptuous to call myself a theologian.) I have tried to analyze the root issues of self defense from a Biblically theological perspective, and I think have achieved a sufficient level of success to say that I can teach self defense issues within the context of a truly Christian worldview.

Mindset and Psychology:

I have made a study of the psychology of violent people and the psychology of victims of violence. This is an unsettling and depressing area of study, but some Christian has to do it, Bible in hand, so that we can know what to expect from an assailant as well as from ourselves. A thorough understanding the anatomy of violence can help you avoid 95% of potentially violent situations and better equip you to deal with the other 5%.

For example, there are certain "pre-incident indicators of violence" that Gavin DeBecker lists in The Gift of Fear. A student of self defense needs to know these, because forewarned is fore-armed. In addition, when confronted by imminent violence, many people try to find refuge in denial. There are practical training measures that can help to erase this self-destructive mechanism. I believe that I have a grasp of this and other issues that will elevate the WARSKYL approach to self-defense far above the average.

Adrenaline Stress Conditioning:

To protect yourself adequately, you must make your adrenaline surge serve you rather than master you. I am aware of the breath-control technique as taught in Col. Dave Grossman's On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace and by many martial artists. There are other training factors covered in On Combat and in books like Real Fighting by Peyton Quinn, a pioneer in the field of adrenaline stress conditioning.

Utilization of the Startle Reflex:

Many martial arts still teach as though the startle response either does not exist or can be extinguished with sufficient practice. Even if it were possible, it would not be wise. The research confirms that this reflex has viable & vital  self defense applications.

Tony Blauer's SPEAR  system exemplifies a practical utilization of the startle reflex in a defensive situation. I have adapted this approach into WARSKYL with something I call the combat wedge.

Use of Methods that are Simple, Effective and Based on Gross Motor Skills:

Under stress, the first thing that goes is fine control of the muscles. A burst of adrenaline trades off complex motor skills in favor of speed and strength. For that reason, the core of The Best Self Defense system should consist of methods based on gross motor skills. Those are the skills incorporated into the WWII systems of Fairbairn, Applegate, Nelson, Perrigard, Underwood and others. Those are the skills I have isolated and included in my book, 12 US Military Combat Techniques That Could Save Your LifeThey are simple, direct, relatively easy to learn and brutally effective. Nothing fancy, just the efficient, biomechanical application of force.

Levels of Force:

Not all violence is life-threatening. Some perverse people just want to hurt you but not necessarily kill you. This doesn't mean that their attempts to rob you of your dignity and peace of mind cannot escalate into a threat to life and limb, but you must not assume they will. If you gouge an eye or use lethal force because someone is bullying you, you've stepped over an ethical line (and a legal one).

Nevertheless, the man or woman who is physically harassed in one way or another needs to deal with the problem before it does get more serious. And the first level of force includes the verbal response (although your physical attitude is also part of this force level). I own several books that treat the subject of verbal conflict, but the most readable, most practical and most easily adapted to a Christian worldview that I've found is George J. Thompson's Verbal Judo.

Thompson combines his skills and life experience as English professor, police officer and martial artist to produce a field-tested set of methods for gaining the cooperation of of those who may otherwise become a physical threat. This will probably work at least 50% of the time, and it will place the legal burden squarely on the harasser, since you did your best to defuse (not diffuse, please) the situation. In the cases that fail, you must have some non-lethal defensive methods in your arsenal.

Your lowest level of physical force should include tactical responses to being grabbed, joint locks for immobilization and compliance, and -- the almost universally neglected -- compliance holds that work by taking a person's balance rather than by causing pain. Usually, to apply these techniques you need to use very mild strikes as diversions.

Farther up the force continuum, you can apply the gross motor striking methods already discussed above. You also would want to supplement this with training in strikes that will render a person unconscious (knockout blows) and how to choke a person into a semi-conscious state without killing him. Finally, there are the methods that will cause serious physical harm or death.

The Relationship between Principle and Technique:

Most fights last from 2-4 seconds. If you're dealing with multiple attackers, and you're good enough to fight your way out of the situation, it may last several seconds. That's all. All your training, all your preparation and all your forethought come down to a moment of truth measured in mere seconds.

Among the grim realities associated with that brief span are the adrenaline rush and the sheer chaos of the moment. I've already discussed the need for adrenaline stress conditioning in a previous post (and I hope to write more about it). Adrenaline will help you deal with the chaos of the moment, but you also need to train for it.

When I speak of training to deal with the chaos of combat, I refer to what takes place after that split-second startle response. The startle response is spontaneous, and you should train so that what follows is as well.

Spontaneity is the ability to react appropriately to your adversary's unexpected & unrehearsed (by you) moves. There is no time to run through a mental catalogue of techniques and select one that is appropriate to the moment. Your actions need to be extemporaneous, and they need to be right.

Here is where I feel a lack in my own personal self defense. My previous training stopped short of giving me that spontaneity.Goshin Ryu Jujitsu puts a heavy stress on learning many techniques. Before my training was cut short, I began to see that the techniques were tied together by certain underlying principles. It dawned on me that I was supposed to internalize these principles so that in the right moment, the right technique would just flow out.

I believe that approach would have worked, but my training was cut short. In the intervening years I have not found a practice partner who would stick with the training, so I never completed the internalization process. In fact, the one drawback of this approach is that it takes a long time before it clicks, and you become truly spontaneous.

Since then, I have discovered another approach. It is used by two systems that I know of, and -- to a certain degree -- by individual instructors, like Keith Pascal. One of the systems -- the one that impresses me most -- is Guided Chaos.

This system teaches and trains principles, but they also train students to respond to unchoreographed attacks right from the beginning. One of the teaching methods involves slow motion sparring. An advantage of slow motion sparring is that you can practice moves that might seriously injure a practice partner at full speed.

The Guided Chaos material has some training material aimed at those training solo. I bought their book Attackproof some time ago, and more recently obtained the companion video. Apart from worldview and ethical issues, the video presents some of the mechanics of self defense in a way that closely parallels what I have written above.

Well, that's a summary of what WARSKYL encompasses. I have fleshed out the Biblical justification for self defense, the Christian Martialist mindset and the means of controlling the adrenaline dump in a set of e-books called Gravelbelly's Combat Prep Pack. Click the link for information on how you can obtain the set for yourself.