Sunday, February 19, 2006

Ultimate Combat Conditioning: The Video with Sensei Mike Reeves and Robert G. Yetman Jr.

Available from Paladin Press ( in DVD and VHS formats, approx. 60 minutes running time, $39.95 retail

Reviewed by Allen Reed

I live in a rural area so do not have easy access to major gym facilities. I am always looking for new ways to train that do not require me to travel to a gym. I also argue that for thousands of years warriors and athletes, such as those in the ancient Greek Olympics, trained without use of major apparatus. This video by Mike Reeves gives me a lot of new ways to train and train hard.

This video is a companion to the book by the same name, also available from Paladin Press. The video is set up in seven sections. Each section highlights different aspects of fitness. The exercises in each section show alternate uses of body weight exercises, improvised easily found objects, a partner or apparatus in a gym to work the same part of the body.

The first section is on warming up and stretching. In this section Reeves demonstrates a warm up exercise using a broom stick or just your body, then goes on to demonstrate leg stretches using a chair, a partner or again just your own body.

The second section of the video is on cardiac fitness. In this section, Reeves introduces the use of a weighted vest to help kick up the resistance when you are walking or running. A quick web search found various models and weight levels for these vests in the $100 to $200 range.

A cheaper method of adding resistance when walking or running is also demonstrated by Reeves: tying an old tire to a weight belt. Then drags the tire on the ground while walking or running.

The next section has Reeves demonstrating how to work on upper body strength. Again, Reeves suggests using a weighted vest when doing push ups and pull ups. Reeves also shows how to use a cinder block, boulder or log to do common weight lifting exercises. If you do have a gym nearby, Reeves also shows common exercises using free weights to work on your upper body strength.

Following the section on upper body strength, Reeves moves onto showing lower body exercises. In this section Reeves shows exercises for the legs that can be done with your own body weight, such as leap frogs or lunges while carrying a log on your shoulders.

In the fourth section, Reeves changes gears and teaches striking and kicking techniques for use in street confrontations. There really is nothing new here for the martial artist who has trained in karate or any other oriental martial art that teaches the use of such techniques. However, Reeves makes his instruction clear and simple to follow for those who have not trained in these systems.

I do have one major concern about the language Reeves uses when he teaches these techniques. He mentions that these strikes can be lethal. However, he does not explain the legal implications of when and where lethal use of force can be used in self defense.

The next-to-last section of the video has Reeves and his partner showing how to toughen up your skin and muscles to help absorb strikes if you get involved in a fight. Again, the experienced martial artist will be familiar with most of these types of body conditioning exercises. For those who are not familiar with this type of exercise, it should be emphasized that when you do these exercises you don’t need to use a lot of force to build up your resistance.

The final section of the video has Reeves and his partner demonstrating how the body-toughening exercises can then be tested by doing breaking techniques. Reeves has his partner break 2 x 2's on parts of Reeves’ body. This section is little over the top and these techniques should not be done by the inexperienced. Also, when watching these techniques, pay attention to the fact that Reeves is very careful not to have his partner hit him with the Center of Percussion, the most powerful part of the strike, but instead in about the middle of the 2 x 2.

When purchasing this video, be aware it is not a workout tape where you are led through a work out like Tie Bo or similar aerobic workouts. Instead, Reeves shows you how to do each exercise and then lets you decide how to build it into your own workout.

The production values on this video are simple but clear with no fancy special effects. The video is packed full of exercises that can be done by almost anyone who is interested in increasing their fitness level. The only concern I have is that Reeves never really makes it clear that you can build up to these exercises by using lighter weights or lower reps in any of his exercises.

I would recommend this tape to the martial artist or anyone else who is interested adding to their fitness work out.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Apache Knife Fighting DVD

available from for $75.00, sixty minute playing time

I was looking forward to seeing the system put forward by Robert Redfeather, the chief instructor of the Apache Knife fighting system, on this DVD since I have heard good things about his system and teaching style.

The instructional part of the DVD is divided into five sections. The Basic section comes first. In this part of the video Redfeather and Tanner Nydstrom, one of Redfeather’s instructors, introduce the system by talking about safety equipment that should be used when doing knife fighting training and then go on to show the stance and grips used in the system.

The second section is titled Apache Knife Techniques. In this section Redfeather and Nydstrom demonstrate different patterns of counters to attacks and Redfeather’s twelve angles of attack drill.

The third part of the video is the Non-committed or Non-lethal Techniques section. This section has Redfeather demonstrating techniques to disarm or discourage an attacker. I have a major concern with using the term “non-lethal” in the context of any knife fighting system. This concern is based on the fact that legally any use of a knife will be considered using deadly force.

In the fourth section, titled Committed Techniques, Redfeather shows fully committed, close range lethal techniques. These techniques include stabs to the body and head.

In the final section is a Review. Redfeather shows how techniques he has already demonstrated can be put together for use in a knife fight.

The production values on the video are good. Redfeather clearly demonstrates each technique multiple times and slowly enough that they can be followed. The name of each technique is clearly shown on the screen so the name can be associated with the techniques. However, it is a pet peeve of mine when martial artists wear black uniforms on their instructional videos and then use a dark background so it is sometimes hard to see all of what is going on. Unfortunately, Refeather has fallen into this style of martial arts video production and I feel it detracts in a small way from the instructional portions of the video.

Most of the DVD is taken up with video of the final free assaults (sparring) Redfeather has his students take part in at the end of each seminar. During these sessions the students use No Lie Blades training knives which are fairly heavy and rigid. In the first section of the DVD Nydstrom stresses using proper protective gear, but then in the two sections where Marines are shown fighting each other, no one has any eye protection at all. I n the other sections where free assaults are shown the students only have goggles on. In my personal training experience I have found that this really does not allow the student to use the knife with any real threat, since good attacks to the head cannot be made.

At the beginning of the DVD a statement is made that Redfeather bases his system on experience not theory. Yet on the DVD Redfeather gives no real information about his experience.

I went to the Apache Knife website and looked at Redfeather’s biography where he states that he holds an 8th degree black belt but he does not mention in what system or school. He also claims he is in several Halls of Fame but does not give their names.

As I mentioned, the basic production values on the DVD are good. The instructional sections present the material in a way that can be followed and replicated by the student. Redfeather and Nydstrom speak clearly and distinctly. However, there are only twenty minutes of instruction on the video. The rest of this sixty minute video is taken up with the free assaults. I just do not feel that this is worth the $75 that Redfeather charges for the DVD.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Winter out here in northern Illinois has been fairly mild. This morning with a reported temperature of 18 degres it's back to being real dousing weather!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Kicking It Up Another Notch

As I mentioned in my review of Joyce Vedral's book on weight training I started using her system in the Fall of 2005. I spent about a month learning the basic workout and then in October started on her modified pyramid sets, using increasinly heavies weights.

I have now started on Vedral's third level using her combined supersets. In the superset exercises Joyce has you doing two sets of exercises (eg flat bench press and inclined bench press without resting between them). You still do a modified pyramid for each exercise.

I'll post here how I do.