Martial Blade Camp 2013

The dust has settled from Martial Blade Camp 2013 (which took place 23-26 August) and I can now look back on it and say without reservation that it was the most successful MBC training event to date. To put it simply, it rocked on many levels.

Originally slated for a maximum capacity of 70 participants, I overbooked it slightly to accommodate some late registrants who were veteran MBC students. Despite a few last-minute cancellations, we were still on target with 69 hardcore participants from all over the U.S. and Canada, making this the largest camp to date. I also had about a dozen folks on a waiting list with the hope of getting in, but decided to restrict the numbers to keep things manageable and ensure plenty of room to train.

The fun began in Friday night with a short get-acquainted session during which campers received their souvenir packages. This year’s package included a commemorative Spyderco Matriarch2 folding knife laser engraved with the camp logo, a custom-machined non-folding Matriarch2 trainer from Steve Rollert and Keen-Edge knives, an embroidered camp shirt, a custom-minted challenge coin, and an MBC window decal courtesy of camper Robby Cook.

After the meet-and-greet, the campers settled in and I got down to business with a presentation on the logic of MBC and the core principles of the system. Through a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation, I “front loaded” the core concepts of the system to enable campers to understand the “why” of MBC before stepping on the floor to train. This presentation was complemented by live-blade cutting demonstrations on “pork man” to quantify the destructive power of the knife and relate it to MBC’s preferred targets. These demonstrations were complemented by live close-up video feed—a feature used throughout the camp to more effectively share detailed information with the large group through close-up video shown on a large flat-screen TV. By the end of the presentation, campers had a clear understanding of what they were trying to accomplish in their training, why we were doing it that way, and the methodology they would use to achieve it. With that important mission accomplished, I cut them loose to get a good night’s sleep before Saturday’s training.

Saturday morning started with an excellent buffet breakfast that got campers fueled up and gave them another opportunity to get to know each other. We then jumped into the core skills of MBC’s standard-grip system, its combative application, and the drills and training methods necessary to promote rapid skill development. Because of the broad range of skills represented, we established novice and advanced sub-groups that allowed all campers to play at a level appropriate to their skills and knowledge. Although both groups worked the same material, they did so at different levels of intensity and with different levels of detail and understanding.

Saturday’s program of instruction also included Counter-Blade Concepts (CBC)—including a detailed analysis of videos of actual knife attacks—and a presentation on medical treatment for knife wounds. The medical treatment block of instruction was an outstanding addition to the camp and was presented by Affiliate MBC Instructor Eric Vinson, a U.S. military officer and veteran of service in three combat zones.

Sunday again started with an outstanding breakfast followed by more CBC training and instruction in MBC’s quick-and-dirty approach to reverse-grip knife tactics. Sunday afternoon was the setting for the largest instructor testing session in MBC’s history. This session included five senior MBC practitioners testing for Proficiency Certification (the equivalent of a black belt in a traditional system) and Associate Instructor certification and five MBC Associate Instructors testing to become Certified Instructors in MBC. Although testing for all these individuals actually began the moment they arrived at camp, it culminated in a grueling two-hour session that required them to demonstrate their comprehensive skills in and academic knowledge of the MBC/CBC systems. In the final phase of the testing, the “Conga line,” each candidate faced a line of 10 other MBC instructors and senior practitioners. As each one stepped up, he announced one of MBC’s reflex training drills and immediately pressed the candidate to perform the drill at high speed and with full intensity. After roughly a minute, I called time and a fresh instructor would step up to repeat the process. I then took my place at the end of the line to personally challenge the candidate with the “chess game”—a dynamic and spontaneous combination of reflex drills that requires endurance, focused intensity, and highly developed reflexes. Finally, I required each candidate to put his knife away and attacked him with a full-force knife assault to validate his ability to perform CBC tactics under conditions of extreme stress and fatigue. As those who witnessed this year’s testing can attest, I held nothing back in these final attacks.

All the candidates who tested this year did an incredible job of demonstrating and validating their skills and knowledge and I am extremely proud to have them representing and sharing MBC. I also recognized three Affiliate Instructors—experienced instructors of other disciplines who are now authorized to share MBC through their teaching.

On Sunday night, we took a break from knife-related topics and explored my approach to stick tactics—Sobadiwan Eskrima. Drawing from a broad base of Filipino stick systems, Sobadiwan takes the same practical, analytical approach as MBC, but applies it to impact weapons.

Martial Blade Camp 2013 had amazing support from a number of extremely generous sponsors. During each break, I conducted a drawing to give away prizes donated by the sponsors. Altogether, this year’s prizes included nearly $15,000 worth of products and gift certificates. The two grand prizes were a Rock River Arms AR-15 engraved with the MBC logo donated by Lane’s Gun Shop and a Robar-customized CW-45 donated by Kahr Arms. I am incredibly grateful to all the camp’s sponsors, which included the following: Lane’s Gun Shop, Kahr Arms, Tuff-Writer, Spyderco, Stay Safe Media, Keen-Edge Knives, Fobus, Mission First Tactical, Kitanica, FAST Holsters, Robar, Outdoor Channel, AP Tactical, and Blackhawk. Thank you all for your generosity and support!

Monday morning—the last training session—was devoted to study groups that explored topics of interest chosen by the camp participants. These topics included Bowie/large knife tactics (taught by MBC Certified Instructor Keith Jennings), Martial Cane Concepts, and my irreverent approach to joint-locking tactics, Junkyard Aikido. The joint-locking segment even explored some of my take on groundfighting tactics and the benefits of small-joint manipulation in ground defenses.

Like all Martial Blade Camps, the success of this year’s camp was due largely to the incredible support and assistance that I received from my cadre of MBC instructors. Every time I presented a topic or technique, my instructors waded into the crowd to offer immediate support and assistance to the other campers. When learning complex drills, every novice was paired with an instructor or senior practitioner to speed the learning process and ensure the highest degree of personalized attention. In 35+ years of martial arts training, I have never seen a training experience like the one we offer at Martial Blade Camp. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my instructors for making that possible.

Martial Blade Camp 2013 was an incredible experience. Based on the feedback I’ve received thus far, it was the best event we’ve done thus far. I welcome camp participants who read this to share your comments and feedback here or directly with me so I can continue to make every camp better than the last.

Again, to all who participated, thank you for your trust and confidence in me and MBC. I can’t wait to train with you all again!

Stay safe,

Mike