I have enjoyed Jim Wagner’s “High Risk” column in “Black Belt” magazine, so I was looking forward to reading his book, “Reality-Based Personal Protection.” Despite “Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection” being a bit over used throughout the text, I found this book to contain a lot of useful information for the person wanting to know more about protecting or defending themselves. It is a good addition to any self-defense library.
The author discusses his own traditional martial art background as part of the genesis of his system, but then spends a lot of time stating how his system is better than those traditional arts. I will agree with Wagner to a point. It really depends on why a person is training, and who the instructor is. Yes, I am familiar with some “traditional” schools that have black belt students that would not fare well in an actual fight. I also know “traditional” instructors that have students that will hold their own with any training out there. So it just depends. I do believe if all you want to know is how to fight or defend yourself, training such as Wagner’s program, or that such as Kelly McCann teaches (McCann is one of my favorite instructors) focuses on that one thing, defending yourself. Many martial art programs have different focuses, and therefore they have other benefits besides just learning to fight. Again, it depends on the goals of training.
With that said, let’s look at Wagner’s book. At the beginning he provides some background and history of his work and training. Some of this I knew, some I was not familiar with. Wagner does have an impressive resume.
Chapter One: Knowledge Domain: The Foundation of the System. This chapter discusses why reality-based training is superior for self-defense needs, and also covers important topics such as the OODA loop; legal concepts such as means, opportunity, and intent; use-of-force; conflict stress, and other important considerations for training. This chapter has some very good information.
Chapter Two: Defensive Tactics: Unarmed Conflict. This is a very basic chapter with a little text on directions, arm strikes, arm blocks, leg strikes, and leg blocks. There are photographs illustrating some of these. There is not a lot in this chapter, and though some basics are shown, most people will want other resources to teach actual fighting techniques. Techniques are hard enough to learn without an instructor, but this text is not primarily a technique book, so you will need more resources or training. It is good to show some of the basics that are most useful in real situations.
Chapter Three: Ground Survival: Using The Ground Tactically. I’m glad that Wagner started the chapter saying the ground is the last place you want to be. In real fights, you don’t want to be down, but unfortunately, you will sometimes find yourself there. Wagner does provide some useful information regarding being on the ground, and the text contains numerous photographs illustrating different training exercises to help you prepare for the street. Not bad to have a little extra information about practical ground fighting.
Chapter Four: Knife Survival: Usage And Defense. Besides the fact that I disagree with the statement “expect to get cut,” or “you will get cut” regarding knife fighting, I found some useful practical information in this chapter. I have trained in the grab, close, takedown, and escape disarm drill and find it very practical for facing a knife unarmed. I have taught this drill, and think it is one of the best parts of this chapter.
Chapter Five: Crime Survival: Common Criminal Attacks. This was a good chapter because Wagner wrote about some things you don’t see in many self-defense texts. Some were not new, but liked that he included: Counter-surveillance, situational awareness, legalities of pre-emptive strikes, other legal parameters, training, conflict language, teamwork, and counter-ambush tactics. He also included some practical drill such as thinking like a criminal, and walking the gauntlet. The short bit on first aid should prompt people to get training, and the section on citizen’s arrest was useful and something I don’t remember seeing in other self-defense books. He also includes some advice for dealing with the police and some information regarding biochemical defense. The final part of the chapter before photographs dealt with courtroom and attorney information. Very basic, but I do agree with Wagner that those of us that teach self-defense and martial arts should include teaching about the legal aspects of defending oneself.
Chapter Six: Terrorism Survival: Armed Attacks To Weapons Of Mass Destruction. In today’s world, terrorism is a fact, and the possibility of being a victim of a terrorist attack, while slim for most, is a possibility. Wagner provides some basics to help a person if they ever find themselves in that situation. However, without training for this, just reading a book most likely won’t help you much. There are other resources out there for terrorist threats, but this chapter does provide some useful advice.
Chapter Seven: Handgun Survival: Weapon Handling And Tactics. This short chapter has some basics for using a handgun for self-defense. Wagner advocates using air guns for training, and much of this chapter focuses on drills you can use with an air gun for practical training. You will need more training and instruction than this chapter provides, but you can say that about any resource. The chapter does provide some good safety advice and elements you should incorporate into your handgun training.
Chapter Eight: Women’s Survival: Violence And Counterattacks. This is a very introductory chapter on issues women may face. There are much more complete references on both rape recovery and rape prevention as well as home security. (Wagner includes two pages of bullet points on home security tips) It’s not bad advice, and he does provide some useful information and tips, it’s just as complete as other sources.
In summary, this book contains a lot of useful information and practical drills for anyone interested in self-defense or personal protection. It is a good addition to one’s martial art or self-defense library, and I would encourage people to not just read the text, but to actually incorporate the drills and advice into their training. Protecting yourself is up to you, and this book is a good resource to help you do just that.
By Alain Burrese, J.D.
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