you can’t learn fighting from a video.

I keep getting spam emails from a “tactical training” outfit that’s advertising training which will turn the most mild-mannered and pasty-faced accountant into a battle-hardened commando in a few days or weeks.

Let me take this occasion to share with you my 100% fail-proof litmus test for determining the value of any given training, equipment, or technique.

The following items are universally bullshit, and a total waste of money:

  • Any technique named after its inventor.
  • Any technique or device named after a martial creature, action, or effect.  (“Cobra Strike draw”, “Fang Face Bullet”)
  • Any technique that’s proprietary (can only be taught by one individual, at one school.)
  • Any technique that is advertised as being learnable solely through mail-order media (DVD, VHS, or book.)
  • Any technique that is advertised as “revolutionary”, or as being actively suppressed/shunned by the “mainstream” instructors in the field (due to its superiority, of course, not because it’s a bunch of crap.)
  • Any device or technology with more than one occurrence of the letter “X” in its product name.
  • Any technique or gadget that is primarily marketed as being the preferred/official gear of the U.S. Navy SEALS, Delta Force, or similar high-speed, low-drag outfits.
  • Any technique that features levels of proficiency marked by silly rank names (“Twelve Weapons Combat Honcho”), pseudo-military rank structures, made-up Japanglish titles, shoulder boards, epaulettes, or sew-on patches.
  • Any technique, training, or equipment advertised in the back pages of Soldier of Fortune, Guns & Blammo, and Wannabe Commando Magazine.

That about covers it, I think.  Let me know if you think I missed a parameter.


19 thoughts on “you can’t learn fighting from a video.

  1. ChrisB says:

    Why can’t one learn fighting from a video? Is dance impossible to learn from video, what about knitting, making flint knives, or a canoe?

    I’ve learned a tremendous amount from videos, not just martial arts videos but even from things like NFL games, if I can see how someone was injured why can’t that be useful? If I can see how a player falls (incorrectly) and is injured as opposed to a player who falls in a different manner and is not injured, why is that not useful?

    Most martial art DVDs out there are crap, but even with that being the case they’re not completely useless if you look at them critically, looking for the holes in what they’re doing.

  2. Sean says:

    Ahhhh you hit one of my favorite nails on the head – we used to joke that “Official XXYYZZ Issue” meant two Team guys and a support guy picked one up at a gun show to look at, and now the manufacturer was going to milk it for everything they could…

  3. Bob says:

    Ha Ha good one. Rule 1, do you remember the “Weaver Stance” named after Sgt. Weaver (LAPD?), or Author Lamb’s “Lamb Baton method” used by Boston PD in the years before the ASP, Col. Appelgate’s shooting system used in WW2 by the OSS (oops that’s rule 6), the knife designed by Col. Fabian’s & named after him (6 again), and the Welsh Longbow. Ok that last one’s a place name and reach, but so was winning at Agincourt in 1415. Come to think of it, there are all that pesky stuff by Col. Appelgate (OSS & Author), Ed Magivern (former fastest speed shooter in the world and Author), Jeff Cooper (Thunder Ranch founder and Author), Bill Jorden (Speed DA gun draw, M19 S&W proponent, and Author) , Walter Winans (Olympic Champion [shotgun], Duelist, and Author), etc. that fall literally into the hopper with your list because they’ve died and now their knowledge may be available solely in book, video or DVD format.
    Knowledge come in many forms, so be very judicious in applying rules 1, 4, 6.

  4. Eric says:

    Col. Cooper did not found Thunder Ranch, he founded Gunsite. Clint Smith, who was an instructor at Gunsite, founded Thunder Ranch.

  5. El Capitan says:

    I’ve heard that the Heimlich Maneuver is an extremely effective technique…

  6. Marko says:

    Yeah, but the Heimlich is not a fighting technique. (Maybe I should clarify that parameter.)

  7. Tony says:

    Bob, seems to me that just about all the things you mentioned seem to be outdated.

    Agreed though, you do have a point.

  8. jb says:

    Learning to fight is quite distinct from picking up techniques. Having physical training gives you a frame of reference from which you can judge whether something you see on a video will be effective against a real opponent, whether you will be able to master said technique, and ultimately use the technique in a real encounter. An untrained individual seeing a technique which appears effective in a demonstration, without the chance to practice it with a trained partner, might come under the impression that making his body execute a complex or physically stressful move in a situation where he is already under emotional stress will be easier that it actually is, in addition to not knowing whether the technique is actually effective. Of course, the single biggest problem is that, even when the presenter on the video tells you to practice and practice, most people need to be made to train over a long period before they realize the importance of repetition.

  9. perlhaqr says:

    Damn, does this mean that my Xerxes Xylophone is never going to catch on?

  10. ChrisB says:


    Of course one needs to practice a movement to become proficient, but would “fighting” be held to a different standard than shooting or archery?

    And Marko, many times “authorities” on subjects will criticize something as crap even though it might be superior, usually because it’s outside of their paradigm and they cannot replicate it nor understand how it’s done.

  11. dot says:

    Yes, I agree, the vehicle of media, inclusive of blogs, is such conceptual crap, but sometimes it contains info for making us better beings. However, it all is good, if but naught for entertainment value.

  12. Bob says:

    Eric, I was indeed mistaken, thank you for the correction.
    Tony, Ya, that’s the problem with getting older, you get *outdated*. ;^)
    Course if you carrying and use a revolver then old fashioned or outdated seems to be the discription you get. {8^)

  13. Brian Dale says:

    Bob, is the Earth outdated ’cause it still goes around and around?

  14. Brian Dale says:

    Huh. The software ate the “wink” at the end of my “Revolvers, Earth, {inferred to be NOT} Outdated” comment.

  15. So Eddie Murphy’s “quart of blood technique” from Trading Places is total bullshit?


  16. Rusty P. Bucket says:

    Yup. The only way to learn how to fight is to do it.

    And I don’t know about that martial arts bullchit at all. I have seen plenty of those city guys get their stuffing beaten out of them by laughing steel workers and railroaders who think a broken nose is the height of entertainment. You are in the deepest of trouble if you ever come up against one of the rare individuals that truly loves to fight.

  17. crankylitprof says:

    Damn. I guess Zamfir and Esteban lied to me, and I will never master the pan flute or the Spanish guitar…

  18. Tam says:

    I would probably adjust number one to say:

    Any technique named after its inventor by the inventor himself.

    Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid list.

  19. Andrew says:

    I think you need to host a spelling contest.

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