Monday, December 31, 2007

Warrior Spirit

I am scheduled to start teaching an exercise/workout class at Highland College in Freeport, IL.

The class will meet starting Wednesday January 23, 2008 from 7:30 to 8:30 PM at the YMCA on the Highland campus and run for eight weeks. I have included a class description below.

If you are anywhere in the Freeport area and are interested in registering for this class call the Community Education office at the college.

"Warrior Spirit"

Every country and culture has stories of famous warriors who under went physical training to find their warrior spirit.

Both men and women are invited to work together in a one hour long class once a week. The class will involve using empty hand and weapon martial arts moves as well as physical conditioning exercises to manifest their own warrior spirit.

Participants should wear comfortable work out clothes and bring a three foot long dowel rod which is one inch in diameter.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

“Kill or Get Killed” by Major Rex Applegate
first published 1943, re-printed by Paladin Press 2007 Price: $20.00
Reviewed by C. Allen Reed

First published in 1943 during the height of World War II, with this book Applegate set out to teach young soldiers going into battle deadly hand-to-hand tactics to survive close quarter encounters with the enemy.

Applegate argues that too many classes on hand-to-hand combat presume the soldier should be on the defensive. Instead Applegate demands that the soldier be trained to go on the offensive to survive.

Although today’s street fighting is not against enemy soldiers, many of the tactics that Applegate put forward over sixty years ago still apply to defending yourself in the 21st century.

Applegate starts his book by showing basic unarmed strikes, throws and locks. Most of these will be familiar to anyone who has done any kind of self defense training. The pictures used in the book are very clear and make the target areas for these techniques quite obvious.

With the second chapter, Applegate goes on to show how to disarm an opponent who is holding a hand gun or rifle. The modern student of self defense should realize that in most situations where you are being threatened with a gun, it is far better to give up your wallet or car instead of trying the tactics that Applegate shows here.

However, there may be times when you realize that your attacker has more in mind than just depriving you of your money and property. In this case it is important to have trained in some of these disarming tactics and feel confident that you can use them to survive.

The third chapter turns to the use of weapons. In this short chapter Applegate focuses on the use of a short (18-inch) stick. I personally feel that the use of this kind of item is very important in modern day self defense. It is legal any where you go and can be adapted to short umbrellas, flashlights and other rigid devices. Applegate’s tactics with the stick are easy to learn and put into effect for self defense.

Applegate’s chapter on strangulations is very much aimed at the military use of these techniques. The use of a stick or cord to choke an opponent is very deadly and should only be used in a civilian situation if you are absolutely sure it is a life or death fight.

Like Applegate, I too feel that training with a knife for defense is important both to the soldier and civilian. However, I tend to disagree with both the type of knife Applegate recommends for this kind of fighting and his fighting stance.

For the soldier, I feel a heavy cutting blade is far better than the fairly light double-edged dagger that Applegate favors. Partly this is because the modern soldier is likely to face an enemy who is wearing some kind of body armor, so thrusts to the body with a light dagger just won’t be effective. Also, a heavy cutting blade can also be used for more utilitarian duties, so there is no need to carry two knives.

In many states a civilian who wants to carry a knife for self defense can’t carry a fixed blade knife or a knife with a long double-edged blade. Thus, the dagger that Applegate favors is not suitable for these situations. However, the targeting information that Applegate illustrates is still important to both the civilian and the soldier.

I really don’t like the stance that Applegate proposes. Any stance that puts the free hand out in front of the body is too dangerous. I prefer a stance that does not give your opponent a free attack on either the knife hand or the free hand.

Applegate finished up his chapter on knife fighting by speaking to empty hand defense against a knife. I agree with him on many of his points in this section and can see using this section to teach how to defend against a knife attack.

After dealing with the use of the knife, Applegate moves on to training in the use of a hand gun. As a firearms instructor myself I like Applegate’s theory on training a student in a short time on how to use a handgun. However, I disagree with the basic stance he demonstrates.

The single-handed stance with the gun brought low that Applegate favors is not conducive to modern concerns about liability and shot placement. Instead, I favor Applegate’s second stance, where the gun is brought up to eye level, allowing for more accurate shot placement. I also highly recommend that most shooting should be done with both hands on the gun, as this provides much more control of the weapon.

Applegate moves on to training with a long gun by discussing the use of the Thompson sub machine gun and the .30 caliber carbine. Again, I would never train any student to use a long gun by holding it at the hip, as Applegate demonstrates with the Thompson. Instead, as with the handgun, a long gun should be brought up to the shoulder for better sighting and control. It is interesting to note that in the short section on the use of the carbine, Applegate shows the carbine mounted to the shoulder instead of at the hip.

In the next two chapters of the book, Applegate discusses how to set up and use a practical indoor firearms range. Applegate was an early advocate of practical training on the range and felt that all firearms training must include realistic targets, movement from target to target and low light situations.

The last chapter of the book is dedicated to discussing military close quarter combat techniques used by the Japanese soldier in World War II and how to defeat them. In particular Applegate focuses on the use of the bayonet in close quarter combat. This chapter is mostly of interest for the reader who studies military history.

Due to Applegate’s military back ground and the era when the book was first published. many readers will avoid it thinking that the information is outdated and not useful to the civilian interested in learning self defense. However, this would be a mistake. As mentioned before, Applegate was an early advocate of realistic training in both armed and un-armed defense. So any student of these tactics will find something of use in this book.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Second Issue of "WMA Illustrated"

The second issue of "Western Martial Arts Illustrated" magazine has hit the news stand.

Articles include an introduction to Italian rapier by Tom Leoni, a report from WMAW 2007 and 19th century French self defense by Tony Wolf.

Single issues can be purchased by mail from Gallowglass Academy for $9.00. Send a check to PO Box 201, Leaf River, IL 61047 or send a Paypal payment to

Subscriptions for the magazine can be purchased thru the website at