Martial Blade Camp 2010: A Turning Point in MBC Training Methodology

The weekend of 27-30 August 2010 marked the eighth annual Martial Blade Camp. In addition to being the largest and best-attended event in the camp’s history (48 attendees), it also marked a distinct change in the way that I teach the MBC system.

When I first began teaching publicly in 1997, my teaching method was more traditional and much more drill-focused. After learning the basic mechanics of the system, students were taught the various reflex-training or “flow” drills of the system. This got them moving and introduced the four Defensive Responses (pass, follow, meet, and crossada) of the system in a structured format. That structured format also taught students the sequences of angles that they would ultimately use to execute actual defensive technique.

Once everyone was doing the drills well enough (an accomplishment that varied considerably from group to group), I showed them how to “dissect” the drills and draw combative application from the sequences of angles they had learned. This “wax-on, wax-off” (or as we now call it, “wax-on, whack-off”) followed the traditional learning methodology in which the student is required to do something that he doesn’t really understand until he has earned the right to learn what it really is.

While the traditional method did help weed out folks who were not motivated to train or were training for the wrong reasons, after teaching that way for a number of years, I realized that it was not the most effective way to instill combative skill. When I would watch students at the end of a seminar, invariably the things they remembered best (and the ones they worked hardest to remember) were the practical, concrete applications of techniques. If they were paying attention, they also understood—at least to a degree—the concepts that made those techniques work.

After reflecting on this for a while, I began to experiment with changing my teaching methodology to emphasize realistic technique and the compelling logic behind that technique. I also put the technique into context with regard to the real purpose of MBC—modern personal defense—and the realities of knife carry, blade length, the true performance potential of typical carry knives, and the goal of achieving stopping power. As I refined the presentation, I also moves away from the traditional method of teaching the defenses against various angles in numerical order and focused on commonality of body mechanics and the underlying concepts of the tactics.

At this year’s camp, I focused heavily on the logic of MBC right up front to get everyone to “wrap their brains around the concepts.” I punctuated that with cutting demonstrations that immediately validated the performance of small, legal knives to get everyone to understand the real destructive potential they had on their side. From there, we spent just enough solo time to learn the basic angles and movement patterns of the system before we immediately put them to use in practical applications.

From the “master technique” of the system, we reinforced our understanding of target priorities and developed the total-body mechanics necessary to be effective with a knife. We then learned how to “deconstruct” that technique do discover other Defensive Responses contained within its structure and to understand how to “lower our standards” when the dynamics of an encounter require it.

By the end of Saturday’s training, a number of first-time students, veteran students, and MBC instructors approached me to comment on the methodology. To put it simply, they had never seen so many novice students progress so quickly in such a short period of time. Just as importantly, the veterans and instructors all felt that they had increased their own personal understanding of the system, even though they were technically “reviewing” material they already knew.

My presentation of Counter-Blade Concepts (CBC) followed the same evolutionary format. After teaching the CBC curriculum to a large number of law enforcement officers over the past few years, I have streamlined it to present the most useful skills first. Using them as a template to present the underlying concepts and physical structures of the techniques, we then branch to other techniques that share the same structures and basic mechanics. The order of presentation of technique is not numerical, but is based on the commonality of the attacks. As such, we spend most of our training time preparing for the attacks that are most likely to occur.

Again, the response to the methodology was overwhelmingly positive—especially from the law enforcement and correctional officers who attended the camp. They not only felt that the tactics themselves were much more practical and functional than the ones they had learned, they were also confident that they could retain and apply them more readily due to the common concepts and mechanics they shared.

Does that mean the training drills that used to be the focus of the system have been abandoned? Definitely not. Those drills are still a critical part of the training method in that they provide the scalable, adrenal-stress-inducing method of refining specific skills and developing spontaneous reflex (through transitions). The height of this skill was demonstrated at camp during the instructor testing process and is still a critical part of what we do. However, we now introduce it later–along with the refined logic that supports it as a training method.

MBC is all about giving good people the knowledge and skill they need to keep themselves and their families safe. When it comes to achieving that with a minimum of training time, I’m confident that our current methods are among the best available today. Ask any of the Martial Blade Camp 2010 participants and I’m sure they’ll agree.

Stay safe,


P.S. If you’re interested in the methodology described above, your best reference is the DVD Martial Blade Concepts: The Enhanced Course from Stay Safe Media. It presents the logic of the MBC system in a concise, compelling way and builds a strong foundation of knowledge and skill in a very tight format. While not perfect, compared to the presentation in my aging Fighting Folders video, it is a much more effective learning resource.

Michael Janich