The final test of the day was a full tactical scenario that everyone was absolutely confident that they would pass. However, in the end this was not the case, and of the three teams that ran through the identical scenario only one completed the mission successfully.
The mission was to get the Ambassador out of the Italian embassy that is in the heart of the collapsing fictitious country named “X,” for it is not politically prudent to use the name of real countries, and onto a waiting Navy helicopter, with rotors spinning impatiently on the front lawn of the compound before the three local-nationals-embassy-contracted-security-turned-terrorists were able to foil the evacuation.
The one-day course I taught was called Special Operations, through the professional branch of Reality-Based Personal Protection, and it took place in multi-story training center located in the coastal resort city of Carole, Italy on April 13, 2012. In fact, the 50-room building was located right on the beach front overlooking the Gulf of Venice of the Adriatic Sea. Normally students would have been distracted by the spectacular view, but a nasty storm from the Alps moved in from the north darkening the sky and bringing sheets of rain. However, for a training day it was the perfect weather; as the United States Marines always told me when I was training at Camp Pendleton, “If it’s not raining, it’s not training.” This Special Operations course was RESTRICTED to only European Union police, military, and government security agencies. My students came from all over Italy: from the Italian Army, Italian Coast Guard, Caribinarri (National Military Police), State Police Department, Carole Police Department, and various government contracted security agencies. Two gentlemen drove all the way from the capital of Rome; the farthest distance traveled for the course.
Special Operations is the same course I just recently taught to the Bulgarian national counterterrorist team SOBT in Sofia and parts of it to a German SEK team (they’ve requested to be unnamed) back in November. I’ve been teaching in Italy now for six years, which has always included training a lot of professionals, but this was the first time I ran a course specifically for Special Operations operators. And it was just as much a treat for me as it was for them. I always like to examine tactics from other countries.
The morning started off with individual movement, team movement, Active Shooter formations, and a few combat casualty evacuation techniques. Related to this subject, I was fortunate enough to have one of the few tactical doctors in all of Italy attending my course. There are only about fourteen or fifteen “TacDocs” in the entire country who are surgeons and emergency room qualified. This female doctor is a member of the Italian Red Cross, which unlike most International Red Cross organizations, they have a military component. Doctors and nurses in this unit wear military uniforms and can be activated in the event of man-made or natural disasters in their specific regions of Italy. I also covered briefly some Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) in order to instill the importance of every operator to be combat first aid qualified. When it comes to TCCC Italian military personnel are up to date, but their police counterparts are virtually untrained and rarely have tactical medics attached to their teams. My Tactical Doctor student told me that I needed to influence the Italian police agencies to get them up to speed, and she was very happy that I was including some of this training in the course. Even though my medical training is limited to the United States Army’s Combat Lifesaver Course and police first aid courses I have been setting up Tactical Medic courses since 1993 when American SWAT teams were first incorporating this type of training.
The curriculum of the second half of the day concentrated on stairwell movement, and fortunately for us this building had several different stairwell configurations that proved excellent for training. Afterwards we drilled in room entry tactics and Close Quarters Battle (CQB). Noise discipline, tactical hand signals, sectors of fire, and mission specific tasks were hammered into the students. We only used a fraction of the rooms available to us. Then came the finale at the end of the day with the full scenario everybody was looking forward to: the Italian Ambassador Evacuation scenario. To accurately assess the scenarios the teams and the terrorists were all loaded up with fully automatic airsoft rifles. Although I told the teams that there were three known terrorists in the building trying to stop them from escaping and kill the Italian ambassador, there were actually only two: played by Fabrizio Capucci and my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Belgium Nicolas Marucci. Nicolas drove all the way down to Carole from Charleroi to help us out with the weekend courses. Both are firearms experts and gave our professionals a “run for their money.”
Obviously for security reasons I cannot go into any details concerning the successes or failures of the teams concerning their individual scenarios, but everyone came out of the training with a lot of new knowledge that they then took back to their home units.
After the course was completed and the training certificates distributed in our temporary headquarters, an empty room made into an office because it had a desk and chairs, many of the operators took the customary souvenir photos with me, their instructor, and several of them gave me gifts: mostly shoulder patches from their units, which I love receiving because I have a huge collection at home from units and personnel I have trained over the past 20 years from all over the world. A Caribinari police chief from a small town gave me a statuette of a Carbineri military police officer in a traditional uniform from a bygone era; this was truly a nice gift that will be proudly displayed in my office back in California.
For the Italian soldiers in the Special Operations course I gave a brief demonstration of the Reality-Based Impact Head to help them improve their own Combatives program. They were quite impressed with the product for developing knockout punches because the Impact Head accurately simulates the human head when it comes to strikes: from the plastic interior skull to simulate human bone to the rip-proof skin that is anatomically correct. The Jim Wagner Reality-Based Personal Protection system was the first system in the world to first use Ray Long’s invention, and it is a training tool that we continue to use to develop precise knockout punches and other hand strikes (visit www.impacthead.com)
Since Carole is a very beautiful resort city that cannot be ignored, my Italian Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of Italy, Fabrizio Capucci, and I took a little time to do some tourism, and by this time the weather was fair. He showed me the seaside boardwalk and some of the ancient buildings along the way. We even had a chance to work on one of my latest training videos that I will be posting on You Tube in the near future.
Knife Expert course in Ravenna
Along with my Special Operations course I also taught my one-day Knife Expert course in Italy for the first time on April 14, 2012 in the City of Ravenna in the fitness center called MOVE IT. The course was filled with former students who graduated from my Knife Survival courses spanning six years. I had Andrea Borsetti attending the course, who was in the very first course I taught in Bergamo back in 2006, to my most recent students like the husband and wife team Paolo Benecchi and Albina Perversi who took it last year. Returning students also included Federico Nasini and Patricia Vitri who regularly comment on my Facebook. It was good to see all of them again since they are all part of the Reality-Based Personal Protection family.
The students loved the additional knife material found in Knife Expert in which I covered step-by-step: how to defend against and use double knives, machetes, swords, throwing knives, and even spear training. You may be wondering, “Spear training? What for?” Well, ancient spear training directly carries over to using a broom or a mop as a self-defense weapon, and these are weapons found in any utility closet; be it in an office environment, a school, or a home. The remainder of the day was devoted to how various groups around the world do knife attacks: prison shankings, Middle East knifings, American street gang methods, warning stabs one might see in a European night club, the Columbian Neck Tie, along with a few traditional martial arts teachings. Obviously this section of the course is FOR INFORMATION ONLY, since the methods are brutal and illegal, but it is necessary to understand how different groups attack in order for my students to know how to defend against them. The last thing you want is “group think mentality” going into a knife fight. You want to be prepared for what is really out there. As the famous ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote, “Know your enemy.” For most students this portion of the course is a real eye opener. Getting into the minds of criminals is not a pleasant place to be, but it must be done.
An Italian movie production crew, called Unlimited Perception Pictures, filmed all of the action of the Knife Expert course from the beginning to the end, and interviewed me three different times throughout the day. This two-year project they have been working on, a film-documentary to air on Italian television, covers a wide variety of martial arts systems and their masters, and they wanted to include me and the Reality-Based Personal Protection system in the film-documentary. It is due to be released in Italy sometime in the summer and is to be shown on television in ten to fifteen episodes. A couple of times the interviewer, Daniel Latteo, pulled me aside while I was supervising my students and said to me, “Jim, this in unbelievable! I have never seen this kind of training before.” He told me that he had been trying to distill the most practical “street fighting” techniques and training methods from all the different styles he has been exposed to for the last several years, but my system seemed to be a pure concentration of what he has been looking for when it came to his own training philosophy and the direction he wanted to go in personally. He asked me if he could also do some more filming in my next seminar in Germany coming up in May, and I granted him permission. Daniel said to me, “This is what I’ve been after to complete my project. I’d love to film more of you teaching in Germany. I think I’d like to check out the Urban Survival course. Nobody else is doing anything like this in the martial arts.” Daniel said it in perfect English because he had studied movie production and did some work in London.
Once we packed our gear and cleared out of the training center we drove the three hours back down the coast to Ravenna. Fabrizio, Nicolas, and I had a fantastic traditional Italian dinner: pasta for the first course and tasty meat for the second course; it’s not just spaghetti and pizza in Italy, but there are a wide variety of foods to enjoy. After a hard day of training it was good to be in fresh clothes and relax for the evening. To celebrate a successful weekend we let Nicolas participate in our six-year tradition of having a Toscanello Speciale cigar, a shot glass of Captain Morgan rum, and some Perugina dark chocolate after the meal out on the porch. None of us are smokers or drinkers, but a few puffs and sips is quite an enjoyable experience. The smoke dissipating in the fresh air outside is representative of the worries of the course dissipating. We are always concerned about our students’ safety and eager to get their approval, for we give each course our full attention and knowledge, and doing our best is important to us. The rum, and sometimes cognac with other directors, represents the finer things of life after teaching people how to “battle evil” and enduring discipline it takes. The chocolate is a reminder of the sweetness of life and why we must always fight for it, and to never let it be taken away from us by any criminal or terrorist. When nobody has been hurt in the course, which rarely happens, and everyone is happy, it is a reason for us to celebrate.
After completing the Knife Expert course I took three days off in Italy before heading to Exeter, England to teach my three-day Knife Camp and two-day Wilderness Survival courses there. On the first day of my mini-vacation Fabrizio took me to the city of Genga to see the famous cave called Grotte di Frassasi; the largest cave in Europe and the third largest cave in the world; uno spettacolo unico al mondo. Normally Frabrizio and I visit a medieval castle or military museum each time I visit Italy for my human conflict research, but this time Fabrizio thought that I should see one of the natural wonders of Europe, and he was right. It was worth the visit. The cave was quite impressive with all of the interesting stalactites and stalagmites and a small underground lake. Of course, the surround countryside was absolutely beautiful.
On the second day we wanted to work on a video project and so we headed to Rome on the E45 highway going straight down the center of the country. We wanted the spectacular Roman Coliseum as our backdrop; a five hour drive one-way from Ravenna. Just as planned we spent a few hours in Rome and videotaped some footage for upcoming Jim Wagner my self-defense instructor. The next day we drove to the medieval city of Unico and taped a promotional video where Fabrizio introduces himself and explains what Reality-Based Italia has to offer to people. This video was done completely in the Italian language and I will have English subtitles.
I always enjoy working with the Italians. They are always hospitable and always eager to learn. I look forward to teaching there again in 2013, and it probably will be around April again.
More Reality-Based knife instructors in the UK
After a couple of successful seminars in Italy the effort was, thank God, duplicated in Dawlish, England. As a result the United Kingdom has more Reality-Based Personal Protection knife instructors; along with the first Polish instructor I certified, Dariusz Jan Sygulski, and another French instructor to join the ranks, Cedric Vic Verdier, who decided to take the training in Dawlish hosted by Paul Drury’s Black Belt Academy.
This year, like last year at the same location, I had a fair number of police officers in my Knife Camp; a few of them are defensive tactics instructors from Sussex and Norflock. I would have had five Royal Marine Commandos in the course, for they were indeed signed up and ready to go, but just a week prior to the first day of class they received orders and shipped out to Afghanistan to fight the war. However, I did have one solider in the three-day Knife Camp who did go onto get certified by me and is heading straight away to Afghanistan. Also in the courses was a doorman (bouncer), a forensic expert, a corrections officer from a local prison, a few martial arts instructors from different traditional-based systems, a Krav Maga instructor, and a few beginners, who had absolutely no previous self-defense training; three of which were women. A nice surprise was having Philip Norman get certified by me. Philip Norman is well-known in the United Kingdom for having won the Gladiator competition. I also had a chance to chat with one of my students, who attended the same courses last year, who is working in the Indian Ocean protecting merchant ships against Somali pirates who keep attacking vessels further and further from the coast of Somalia. My former student told me that he is training security teams maritime operations tactics and has included many of my knife defense techniques and training methods in the program. So the next time you hear some news about the Somali pirates, just know that there are some men out there trying to keep the waters safe and the Reality-Based Personal Protection system is part of that effort.
My oldest attending student was 61-year-old Trevor Snowdon who flew down from the furthest point north of England, Newcastle, and who was fit enough to do every training drill. He’s a tough man, a teacher by trade, who’s not willing for age to slow him down or keep him from learning how to protect himself and his wife. On the second night Gary Dell, the Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of the United Kingdom, and I went to The Smugglers Restaurant overlooking the English Channel; not far from Paul Drury’s school. We all had some pub grub and washed it down with a pint of good cold ale. Trevor told me, “I’m too old to waste my time on systems that don’t work, and I am not easily impressed with what is out there, and your system is right to the point.”
The first day of Knife Camp is the popular course Knife Survival. It covers everything a person needs for surviving a criminal or terrorist knife attack, as well as teaching the Reality-Based student how to used edged weapons should they ever need to defend themselves or others in an actual conflict. The second day was Knife Expert where students continue their education in double blades, machete and sword attacks, confined space training, spear training (yes, there is a tie in to modern self-defense situations as explained in the previous article detailing the Italian seminars) , throwing knives training, and world attack methods (how different ethnic and sub-culture groups attack with edged weapons). For the last two hours of the day only authorized persons were allowed to attend the Tactical Knife Course. It’s a restricted course to help police officers, corrections officers, government contractors, and military personnel be safer on the job. Since a few of these professionals were also instructors I also learned a thing or two from them. After all, I am always soliciting my students to share techniques and training methods with me, and sometimes somebody does come up with something that I have not seen before, or they explain it in a better manner than I have heard it before from others or even myself. When it comes to teaching life and death material I can’t afford to let my own ego get in the way of people’s safety. I’m always searching for the best information. The police instructors in the course told me that there were many techniques and training methods that they plan on teaching in their own police departments, which is what gives me job satisfaction. The third day was only for those who want to teach the Reality-Based Personal Protection knife program; whether professionally or to their own co-workers, friends or family members.
The students attending the various knife courses Gary and I had to offer in Dawlish was the first group in the United Kingdom to use the Reality-Based Personal Protection Safety Protocol Color Code System. Each student receives a colored strip ribbon that they tie around their necks like a necklace, and which is visible for all to see, for the duration of each course. The color red is worn by those who consider themselves beginners; that is to say that they have little to no self-defense training. Red serves as a warning to those who are more advance to take it easy on the wearer. Yellow is for those who consider themselves intermediate when it comes to self-defense training and experience, and it means that they can go a bit harder with like color or higher. A green necklace signifies an advanced level; just like a green traffic light means “Go!” The wearer of the green color can not only dish out harder punishment to fellow students wearing green, but he or she can take it as well. The color white, and sometimes white with black stripes, means that photographs of the wearer cannot be published. Each student picks the color that they feel best represents the level they consider themself at. For some drills it is necessary to keep the same colors together, and for others it makes no difference. The whole point of the color code system is to keep students safer. In Reality-Based Personal Protection we set the standards.
After Knife Camp ended on Monday evening at 4:30 p.m., April 23rd, I taught a two-hour evening course, titled Introduction to Ground Survival, to a mix of Paul Drury’s students and my own Reality-Based students. We had a good turn-out, including Paul Drury himself attending the course along with his wife Heather. I give Paul a lot of credit for having me teach my Reality-Based courses in his school. Many traditional-based martial arts instructors would feel threatened by having me teach at their school, but not Paul. He himself is always searching for the best techniques for real fighting, and encourages his own students to do the same. As a result, Paul, Heather, Gary and I have developed quite a good friendship together.
Unfortunately my two-day Wilderness Survival course that was to follow Knife Camp had to be cancelled due to the worse rains that southern England has had all year. First of all the ground where the training was to have taken place was saturated with water from a few previous storms, and then an even larger storm dumped more rain and hail at the same location for the scheduled two days. With such a cyclone moving through the area students would have been miserable, wet, cold, and unable to build fires, cook their meat, or even sleep on the ground. It would have been actual survival and very little learning. Maybe such conditions would have been ideal for an advanced course, but not for beginners. However, Gary Dell and I took advantage of the time and map out the land navigation course at the location. We were ankle deep in mud most of the route, but it was worth it. The hail got so bad at one time we had to take shelter for about 20 minutes to let it pass.
I had the opportunity to go over the Wilderness Survival curriculum with my assistant instructor Darren Ayers. Darren is a former Royal Marines Commando who grew up living off the land and is an avid hunter. He is an expert in survival. In between the let up of rain Darren, Gary and I did some Tomahawk and ax throwing, English long bow archery practice, some rifle shooting, and pheasant hunting. To get out of the rain we drove down to a local pub and had ourselves a pint and some fish & chips. Afterwards Darren and Gary showed me how to play a proper game of English darts – “501.” I always tell people that each year “I live many lives.” For every year I am working in various countries teaching or doing various projects, and it feels like a different life each time. Just a week prior to this day I was living the Italian life. I’d get up in the morning, have my latte macchiato and brioche, and then go to work for an eight-hour work day. Then I’d shower and have dinner with my friends listening to the Italian language. Now I was in an authentic English pub living an authentic English life. My home life in California seemed so “foreign” and remote. In fact, the next day I had “high tea” and scones with Paul and Heather Drury in a restaurant that was built in 1545; the United States didn’t even exist that year.
On Thursday, April 26, I caught a plane from Exeter to Manchester to Atlanta and then finally back to Los Angeles. It was a good trip, both Italy and England, and I was glad to have trained so many dedicated people.
Critical meeting in Paris
On my way to Italy to teach my Special Operations and Knife Camp courses I had an 8-hour layover at Charles De Gualle International Airport in Paris. Weeks ago I had notified Christophe Besse, my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of France and my protégé of the system, that I would have some down time there and asked him if he wanted to meet to go over our plans for this July and August. Christophe took the opportunity and we met in a café in Terminal 2; for him it is only 10 minutes away from him home by train, and the train goes right into Terminal 2.
Over some very traditional French food, I had a Croque Monsieur, we discussed our marketing strategy, our upcoming seminars, and French economy and politics. After all, France is now in the middle of their elections and the country can take a completely different turn depending on who is elected as president of the Republic.
I saw Christophe off to his train and then I boarded my Air France plane bound for Bologna shortly after.
Book Review: Practical Home Security
I’m always happy when I see one of my students take what I have taught them in self-defense and become successful at it. One such student is Alex Haddox who is one of my Level 3 Reality-Based Personal Protection instructors. He just recently wrote a book titled Practical Home Security: A Guide to Safer Urban Living published by Palladium Education, Inc. which is in both soft cover and eBook. He sent me an autographed copy, and while flying to Italy, England, and back again I read it on my flights.
When I opened up the book I saw the following inscription:
My guide, mentor and role model.
On the next page a printed paragraph of Acknowledgements reads:
This work is a reflection of their teachings merged with my own experiences, interpretations, research and updates. Of these great men and women the most influential and consistent of my instructors have been my father Victor Haddox, father figure Bill Green, and Jim Wagner. I cannot thank them enough for their expert guidance and life-saving advice.
The book is packed with practical advice on how to secure your home. It’s not just a dry boring technical manual, but it is in a format that is easy to read, and it’s almost as if the author himself is sitting down with you walking you through what you need to do step-by-step, coupled with Alex’s own experiences and case studies that would scare anyone.
After two decades as a cop, and a security expert myself, I was pleasantly surprised that Alex taught me a few new pointers that I am definitely going to pass on to my clients and students. For those pointers alone that I gleaned from book I would say that the 79 page book is worth the price.
Alex also has a very successful Internet podcast titled Practical Defense, which I recommend all Reality-Based Personal Protection students to visit and listen to. He’s been broadcasting for a couple of years now, along with sending out insightful tips on Twitter, and from time to time he will take some techniques and training methods I taught him and a expound upon it.
To buy his book, listen to a podcast, or see what other products he has to offer visit his website www.palladium-education.com
Lies, Photoshop and worse
In 2004 a well-known martial arts instructor, and coincidently a competitor, wrote to the world through the Internet that, “Jim Wagner never trained the GSG9,” Germany’s top counterterrorist team. For years he, and his few students, got on as many blogs as possible and continued stating this as the Gospel truth. Many people parroted the lie, and none of them ever investigated it for themselves whether I did or did not train one of the world’s most elite teams.
For a few years I just ignored the attacks, and there was not much I could do about it. But, after enough time had passed I posted several photographs of me training GSG9 instructors at their headquarters in Sank Augustin; including a photo of me being handed a certificate of appreciation from GSG9 Commande Eichele in his office; for I had been hired by GSG9 twice to teach them defensive tactics, knife survival, firearms courses, and Special Operations tactics in 1999 and 2000. Of course, after I posted the photos and the certificate I received there was no apology given to me nor a retraction of the false statement from this instructor and his followers. Instead they came out with new statements that went something like this, “Well, Jim Wagner may have helped train the GSG9, but he was not the primary instructor, but just one of many, and it was not his methods they were learning.”
Some people still could not face the fact that one of the world’s elite teams would seek my techniques and training methods and flat out wrote, “The photos were all doctored up in Photoshop. Jim Wagner never trained GSG9.” Of course, that was just one of dozens of lies about me circulating around the world in order to stop the global spread of my system Reality-Based Personal Protection.
Just over a year ago I joined YouTube for the first time and decided it was time to start putting up some of my history. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million words. One of the first videos I put up on YouTube was me training Germany’s top counterterrorist team GSG9. The video shows me at the Sankt Augustin headquarters, my students practicing some defensive tactics, the shoot house, and me living and working there. I put up just enough to show the viewer what it was like teaching GSG9 and a small glimpse of what I was teaching. Obviously I could not put up LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE material, but there is no doubt that I was the primary instructor teaching my own techniques. The end of the video even has a GSG9 combat unit behind me as I, and I alone, speak into the camera. In the past year the video has received over 34,000 views, and once again those who said I never trained GSG9 are completely silent: no apologies, no retractions, nothing. That would mean that a whole additional lists of apologies would have to be forthcoming concerning all of the other accusations: Jim Wagner was never a sergeant, Jim Wagner was never on a SWAT team, Jim Wagner was never an Air Marshal, Jim Wagner never started the Reality-Based movement, bla, bla, bla. I accurately predicted that positive proof would not change this “professional” instructor or the small group following his lead.
When I was in England teaching this week I heard an even more ridiculous claim against me that is circulating in some martial arts circles in the United Kingdom, and that is that the video that I posted on YouTube training the GSG9 is an elaborate fake. Apparently I found a building that looks similar to the GSG9 headquarters and had a professional sign made: German lettering, GSG9 logo, and a little weathering. I then got a bunch of my students and outfitted them with authentic looking GSG9 tactical uniforms and had them all hold a bunch of Airsoft rifles. That’s how it was all done.
Wow! Can you believe that? I couldn’t. Gary Dell, my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of the United Kingdom said to me, “That would cost an absolute fortune. Who would bloody go to that extreme to fool people? Not to mention that you would have GSG9 coming after you and Interpol.” Yet, that is the latest rumor about me floating about the UK.
I guess if I had faked the GSG9 video, according to these lunatics, that means that I must have done the same with the video also up on YouTube showing me doing helicopter Special Operations HRST training with the United States Marines or Air Assault training with United States Customs on Blackhawk helicopters… Boy! Staging that would be an astronomical price, or perhaps it’s all just CG (computer generated) like they do for movies. Well, if this is the case, and I am so good at doing this, I need to change careers and start working in Hollywood for some big movie studio. Doing that kind of work is true talent. Of course, the newest accusation is preposterous, but it just goes to show you to what lengths many martial artists will go to discredit those in other systems.
Copyright Jim Wagner 2003 - 2015 All rights reserved.