A couple of weeks ago I got my butt kicked. I finished the day bruised and bleeding but entirely satisfied that I had done right. Notice that I did not say I had “done it right” but rather that I had done the right thing.

I took a six-hour combatives class conducted by Waysun Johnny Tsai of the Combined Universal Martial Applications (C.U.M.A.) Survival School. The class I took was called “All Range Combat.” You snipers reading this will be a bit confused because “all range” means something different to people fighting with their hands. The ranges we explored were from contact to about 6 feet. But we worked all of those, first with empty hands, then with training knives (training knives that I thought should have been made from a softer material). But Johnny assured me that I would learn faster if the mistakes included a pain penalty. He was right. There was pain. It immediately led to realization and learning.

What I Learned About Hand-to-Hand Combat

Let me tell you what I learned. I learned that I have a lot more to learn about fighting with my hands. My training in Defense and Arrest Tactics through the police department really has limited application. Those skills are designed for de-escalation and taking control of a person who is being placed under arrest. Those skills are fine, but the skills taught by Johnny through his C.U.M.A. training really showed me where I was lacking. To be specific: My hand speed is slow, and I need to focus on learning the basic movements of effective blocking and counter-striking.

The realization simply reinforced something I had known for a long time: You will never get good at something without practicing it intensely. I am a pretty good shooter because I practice shooting. I’m not so good at close-quarters combatives because I don’t practice them. Some of the students in the class were repeat visitors. They had taken the exact same class two or three times in an effort to commit the movements to memory. This commitment to personal defense is something I would like to see in everyone who chooses to be a defender.

Details on the Combatives Class

Let’s get down to specifics. I really enjoyed the blocking and counter-striking portion of the class because repeating the movements over and over showed me where I was lacking. The pain penalties, which resulted in bruising and even some minor bleeding, showed me that if I was not committed to the movement and focused on the proper actions, I would get hurt. I often hear people talk about defending against a knife attack with shrugging. They say, “If you fight with a knife, you are going to get cut.” They then continue talking as if getting cut is no big deal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Getting cut IS A BIG DEAL! Johnny was teaching us to avoid getting cut and how to counter-attack to cut the other guy.

We then moved on to a discussion and practical application of pressure points. This is where I really got interested. As we kept going through the practical application of force to various pressure points, I kept thinking, “I could use this to break contact if someone grabbed me and I needed to get to my gun.”

I’ll very likely take this class again. I need the repetition. I need the skills and confidence it provides. The very best thing about self-defense training is finding out what you don’t know. I never want to realize in the middle of a fight that I don’t know what to do next.


About Kevin Michalowski

Concealed Carry Magazine Executive Editor Kevin Michalowski is a fully certified law enforcement officer, patrolling the mean streets of rural Wisconsin in his spare time. A Certified Trainer through the USCCA and the NRA, he has attended training across the U.S. as both a student and an instructor. Kevin is passionate about the concealed carry lifestyle, studying the legal, ethical and moral aspects of the use of force in self-defense.