SGPT: Obviously our readers believe in preparedness, and we push people to not only exude a sheepdog lifestyle and be prepared and proficient with their firearms, but also hands, feet, elbows, and knees. That’s where you come in. How important is it for people to train hand to hand – especially if they’re prepared-minded?
Ryan Hoover: First, I appreciate the opportunity. Really enjoy what you all are doing with SEALGrinderPT. Before I answer your question, if you could indulge me for a second, the “sheepdog” analogy has started to wear on me. At some point, everyone in this industry started identifying this way, and as a result, I think many have become the sheep that they profess to abhor. Everyone started looking the same, doing the same things, and speaking in sound bites and tired clichés. The innovation seemed to stagnate, because no one wanted to actually disrupt anymore. The industry and the players became “comfortable”, content to simply follow the flock.
Now, to your actual question, I have seen dozens of dashcam videos of police officers taking beatings while trying to access a firearm. In my own courses, I’ve witnessed, time after time, CCW holders do the same, in scenario training. I think it is dangerous to become “weapon-centric”. First, you may not always be able to access it in any given moment in time, which means you need to use personal weapons (hands, feet, head, elbow, legs, etc.) to create the opportunity to do so. Second, introduction of a weapon is not always 1) legally prudent or 2) tactically sound. Another tired cliché that has become commonplace is “better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6”. It is easy to say and hard to argue with but I contend that you can actually know the laws and defend yourself without potentially spending the rest of your life in prison (besides, how good do you really feel about those “12”?). As to tactics, there are many variables to consider: fighting range, third parties, backdrops, lighting, terrain, additional weapons platforms, etc. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail, so if a firearm is my only option, I am either going to shoot a lot of people that should not be shot or I am going to take a lot of beatings.
SGPT: How important is fitness to you personally as well as to any practitioner of a self defense system? I know FTF is accessible to all, and uses stress inoculation and techniques that are easily recalled under stress and work for various scenarios (IE 2 on 1, etc).
RH: I think fitness, when it comes to self-preservation, is vastly underestimated and generally underemphasized. We speak in terms of self-defense and “defense from self”. The reality is, most people are much more likely to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and the like, than from being shot or stabbed or choked to death. However, I know people that train for the most unrealistic of scenarios, things that will never really happen, but they can’t do ten pushups. In terms of physical fitness/readiness as it relates directly to self-defense, we don’t know how long a fight will last, we don’t know how big the guy will be or how many friends he will have; we can’t control these things. What we can control, the one variable that is ours to own, is our preparedness, and the truth is, the bigger and stronger and fitter a person is, the greater their chance of surviving violence (plus, you might just need to be able to run away from a threat or to one, and you should be able to do both, without passing out.)
SGPT: Would you recommend people training anaerobic HIIT type methodology for the above – IE max effort strikes, 400m sprint, ME sandbag throws, 400m sprint, etc.? I realize this may be getting too technical, but I completely agree. I’ve seen guys especially in shooting matches or classes, who have the $2000 tricked out race gun or decked out SCAR, but are obese and can’t get out of their own way. That fancy whizz bang 800 doesn’t help you if you can’t quickly move to cover.
RH: I think mixed modalities for fitness is best, but max effort for short(er) bursts is ideal for this particular aspect of combat functional performance. HIIT, Tabata protocols, sprints, etc., should be a significant portion of your programming.
SGPT: Do you advocate the use of KIM drills (keep in mind drills) to help people stay sharp and aware?
RH: We talk about concepts and principles, a lot. We emphasize critical analysis and decision making, over technical memorization. Too many systems seem to focus on collecting techniques. A common refrain in our classes is, “it depends”. So, while we don’t focus on KIM drills specifically, I think the Keep In Mind concept is inherent in our teaching pedagogy.
SGPT: What is one thing you see that people don’t train enough of?
RH: It is hard to nail it down to one, but when it comes to “self-defense”, I think there is not enough time spent on “self-protection”. We distinguish the two, labeling the former as “reactive” and the latter as “proactive”. Now, proactive could mean anything from parking your car in a place that makes sense to listening to the hairs standing upon the back of your neck to pre-emptive striking, but these are all things that should be a part of any program designed to get us home safely.
SGPT: Too much?
RH: I see two extremes here, and I am going to come at the Krav Maga community on this one. First, how many groin kicks do you really need to practice? Second, do you really need to spend time training how to escape a gun to the back of the head from back mount? I mean, 1) how many times has this ever occurred in reality and 2) if you were not good enough to avoid that situation, I don’t think you are good enough to escape it. Here’s the thing, when you get in front of a group of people, as a self-defense instructor, you are saying “I am going to make you safer today”. So, whatever you teach during that hour (which is made up of warm-up, combatives, self-defense, and drilling) you are prioritizing over other things. That is something that should be taken very seriously.
SGPT: Now let’s talk about blades, we are all about a good EDC here, what is your stance on folders vs fixed blades?
RH: I think if the EDC is for self-defense, a folder is like carrying a firearm in condition 3. Unless you are putting an incredible amount of time into accessing, drawing, and deploying your folder (even with a Wave feature), because of the range in which a knife is most useful, I think a folder is going to be very difficult to engage under stress.
SGPT: As far as concealed carry, anything you feel about CCWs that you want to mention to our readers?
RH: I am not a guy that “always” carries. I recognize that there are some circumstances that make it difficult or untenable. That said I do always have firearms in my truck, at the very least. As to CCW holders, my experience has been that many folks see this as some sort of magic talisman. The CCW course in most states is horrible, and it does nothing to prepare someone for a violent encounter. Often I think this gives people a false sense of security, thinking having a gun makes them a gunfighter. I could go buy a guitar today, but that doesn’t make me a guitarist. I recently ran an Active Killer Defense course (which includes armed and unarmed response), and one of the participants was a competitive shooter. At the end of the course, he told me that he now realized his training had not prepared him to engage in an encounter like that, where the variables are many and extremely dynamic. Now, that is from a competitive shooter, not the average CCW holder that has put rounds in paper at seven yards, a couple of times.
There are many drills and training protocols that can be incorporated to better prepare the average CCW holder, including but not limited to, interval conditioning with draw/point/shoot (recommend SIRT, especially initially), focus mitt training with draw/point/shoot, self-defense training with draw/point/shoot, etc. If students carry regularly, this should be part of their training, not only from the perspective of being able to gain access to the firearm, but also to increase awareness and prevent oppositional access.
SGPT: When it comes to toughness, we’re all about mental toughness as well as physical toughness here at SGPT. What does mental toughness mean to you? How does it play into FTF?
RH: Not to get into semantics, but we refer to “mental toughness” as “emotional toughness”. It is our opinion that one’s ability to control emotions under duress is the ultimate X factor in violent situations (or sports or relationships or ???) In other words, when a player steps to the line to shoot a free throw, with no time on the clock, no one is questioning her SAT scores. Everyone wants to know has she put in the time and can she deal with the anxiety and pressure of the moment, tuning out the crowd, the opponents, the coaches, and the enormity of the context. So, for us, this is a very important part of training. Truth be told, learning to hit isn’t that hard. Most people can do it (often not well, but they can do it), and most people hit relatively hard. I don’t want anyone, trained or otherwise, to punch me in the face. The punch is “simple”, but it isn’t easy. What makes it hard is knowing when to throw it, and then being able to actually execute, when emotions, like fear, anger, surprise, anticipation, et al, are taking over.
SGPT: Great point reminds me of a Connor McGregor quote Ido Portal put on social media the other day “Precision beats power, and timing beats speed.” Do you have a comment on that sentiment?
RH: I think they are all important, and while it is hard to prioritize, when it comes to striking, accuracy is king. The human body is relative resilient, and there is this romanticized perception of KOs and how they happen…truth is, they often don’t, and when someone has trained without an emphasis on accuracy and with an overestimation of KO ability or likelihood, that “oh, shit” moment is likely inevitable.
SGPT: We advocate a varied training approach – our athletes do bodyweight workouts, weightlifting, running, rucking, and active recovery. As a self defense instructor – are there certain energy systems or physical defecits you see that people can address – IE more time spent working at max capacity with minimal rest, overall strength, flexibility, etc?
RH: I think flexibility is massively overrated. I’m a pretty big fan of mobility work, but I think being flexible has little to do with one’s ability to train at a high rate or defend a violent encounter. That said, I think simply being stronger is of significant benefit, and increasing one’s anaerobic threshold should be a priority.
SGPT: Obviously FTF is a system with a myriad of influences from wrestling, BJJ, muay thai, and western boxing, but if somebody doesn’t have access to a FTF or Krav gym, what would you recommend they practice? Some Muay Thai with BJJ if possible?
RH: If the goal is self-defense, and you can’t find a center devoted to self-defense with a mixed modality approach, then I think Muay Thai is a great start. If you can add BJJ or judo or wrestling to your training, that is even better.
SGPT: What is a maxim or mantra you live by?
RH: There are two that we have championed for many years: everyone is fighting something, and growth is in discomfort. I could (and likely have) write entire articles on these, and not scratch the surface.
SGPT: Favorite Movie? Favorite Quote? Favorite Book?
RH: Hmmmm, any Rocky movie that comes on, I have to watch (yes, even Rocky V), and I love Tombstone. Teddy Roosevelt is my go to for quotes (really like Jim Rohn, too), so while it is hard to narrow it to one, I’ll go with this:
“I like to have the man who as a citizen feels, when a wrong is done to the community by any one, when there is an exhibition of corruption or betrayal of trust, or demagogy or violence, or brutality, not that he is shocked and horrified and would like to go home; but I want to have him feel the determination to put the wrong-doer down, to make the man who does wrong aware that the decent man is not only his superior in decency, but his superior in strength.”
SGPT: What do you like most about traveling and doing seminars?
RH: Well, it is NOT the travel itself. I’ve been to some very cool places, so that is definitely a bonus, but honestly I just love teaching, and I enjoy exposing what we do to more people. I love seeing the light bulbs go off, especially when I have people in my seminars that are there to hate everything that I am doing or saying. I love getting questions that let me know people are truly engaging and listening to what I am saying, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it. I’ve learned a lot from my travels, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time to come.
SGPT: RE Active Killer Defense Training – if someone is a CCW permit holder, why is it so important they train disarms with hands and feet?
RH: I think I mostly covered this one earlier, but I’ll add this: if you were in a movie theater with your family (remember, it is dark, it is loud, it is crowded, there is elevation and fixed seating), and a killer enters at ground level, how comfortable are you with a guy six rows behind you and your kids, that hasn’t done much more than shoot paper at seven yards a handful of times, taking that shot? I know some very high-speed guys that wouldn’t take that shot, or it at least wouldn’t be their first option. I am very pro-2A, but I am also VERY pro-training, and the reality is, most carriers do not train to engage in an event like this.
SGPT: Agreed, and (we) advocate training tirelessly, and I’ve written pieces about CCW etiquette in practice – basically saying that punching paper and strapping on your weapon isn’t enough. You need to train drawing, firing, exercising judgment, cognition drills (where a buddy yells out red, green, square, 7) and you need to engage the targets that correspond, having to use a whole bunch of motor and sensory patterns to do so while thinking under stress. Also am an advocate of shooting while your heart rate is jacked. IE doing sprints or burpees, then drawing and firing, like how it will be if you have an adrenaline dump and need to throw combatives before you can draw. Do you have any training classes you personally recommend our readers check out? We’ve reviewed several, and they all have their positives and negatives.
RH: Let me back up a second, when it comes to training for events like this, foregrounds and backgrounds need to be considered and trained for as things that are always on the mind. Ready positions that support safety for all bystanders and lethality for the threat should also be strongly considered and trained.
Fit to Fight® will be introducing a program very soon that I am really excited about but there are a lot of very talented people out there. Instead of listing courses, I’m going to list guys that I’ve trained with or that people I trust have trained with (this list is NOT all inclusive, and if I thought about it, I could come up with probably a dozen more). All of these guys have certain strengths and things that they tend to focus on or be known for but there’s something to be learned from them all: Daniel Shaw, Steve Fisher, Masaad Ayood (use of force), Jeremy Stafford, Mike Pannone, Matt Jacques, Chase Jenkins, Rob Pincus, Pat McNamara, William Petty.
SGPT: How did you get into self defense?
RH: I was always small growing up (that didn’t change), so I learned I early that I needed to know how to fight, talk, and run. Turns out I wasn’t too bad at any of them.
SGPT: Did you practice other martial arts?
RH: I got black belts in kempo and karate. I trained in Balintawak Arnis for a few years. Since then, Krav Maga, wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, and BJJ, for the most part.
SGPT: What’s your athletic background?
RH: Track and field, mostly: pole vault, long jump, high jump, triple jump, and basically anything 400M or less. I wasn’t great at any of them, but I was good in all of them. The coach gave me a VHS tape to learn how to pole vault.
SGPT: Did you play sports when you were younger?
RH:Basketball and soccer, primarily.
Bio: Ryan is the founder and chief instructor for Fit to Fight®, an international training organization, focused on instructor development in fighting, self defense, fitness, and defensive tactics. With a background in Krav Maga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai, and more, his focus has been on providing real world solutions to those that need them the most. Having taught civilians, military, and law enforcement everywhere from Mexico to Rammstein AFB, and many points in between, his no nonsense approach to training has brought Fit to Fight® to the forefront in the industry.