Guest Post: Martial Arts For Survivalists

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Brandon Smith of Alt-Market blog,

Physical strength, endurance, flexibility, adaptability, and mental discipline are all attributes of a true survivor.  Unfortunately, they are also attributes that are often neglected by the average survivalist.  The popular assumption is that if you have sizable food storage and can shoot straight, you are ready to rock-and-roll.  Reality has some harsh lessons for those with this mindset.  The first and most important weapon in any prepper’s arsenal is his own body; strong, healthy, and well taken care of.  If a person’s body is left to decay, no amount of gear is going to save them in the middle of a crisis situation…

Hand-to-hand combat training is sometimes treated with cynicism amongst preppers who have spent all their lives enraptured in the world of firearms.  The common retort is “Why use my hands when I have my Glock…?”  Indeed.  Why should we?  Perhaps because one day we may not have a weapon in our possession during a dangerous circumstance.  Should a survivalist simply give up because he loses his gun or he runs out of ammunition?  I think not.

The concept of survival in the midst of collapse and calamity is not necessarily dependent on having all the right tools at all the right times.  Sometimes, you have to improvise, and the only tools you can always count on are your hands, and your (hopefully well oiled and attuned) brain.  Martial Arts training hones and refines these assets to perfection, and also teaches the mind to deal with the stresses and fears associated with combat.  In fact, 95% of success in martial arts revolves around learning to accept the idea of someone trying to kill you, so that you can move past the terror of the scenario and deal with it calmly and logically.  Adrenaline, tunnel vision, and unchecked emotion are the true enemies in any fight.  We defeat ourselves long before our assailants ever touch us.

Another concept within martial arts that I find fascinating is the philosophy of Bushido, which is often mistaken as a brand of Eastern religion.  Instead, it is a kind of warrior’s code; a way of dealing with adversity in one’s life.  Struggling with obstacles whether self created, or created by others, requires balance and the ability to take control of the problem and apply one’s own terms instead of the terms other people try to set for you.  It is about leading the battle, instead of being led, while staying true to your conscience.  In the end, we should feel no need to prove anything to anyone but ourselves.  Traditional martial arts still contain elements of Bushido within their methodology, and I believe such practitioners are some of the few people left in the world who operate on a legitimate warrior’s code; something we desperately need in our culture today.

I have studied multiple forms of martial arts for over 26 years, and have found many methods that would work well for the worst survival situations, and plenty that would be utterly useless.  When I started my training classes for Liberty Movement individuals and families in Northwest Montana, my idea was to combine all the strategies that I felt were intuitive, easy to learn, and quick to utilize.  My goal was to help students to become physically capable of self defense within a very short period of time, without running slapdash over important factors like mental strength and intelligent application.  I feel that the program has done very well so far.  The following is a list of styles that I use in my curriculum...                      

Shotokan Karate: Shotokan is a Japanese martial art using movements derived from defense methods common in Okinawa and streamlined for easier application.  At first glance, Shotokan seems stiff and impractical, but this is not the case.  Shotokan training is extremely intense, and the sparring matches can be brutal.  Deep stances and sharp strikes train the body to hold ground even against a larger opponent.  Shotokan practitioners can take physical damage unlike any other style I have seen beyond perhaps Thai Kickboxing.  As the student advances, the stiffness disappears, and their strikes become coldly logical and precise, almost like a killer robot…….no….seriously.  Shotokan is a perfect foundation art for beginners in self defense.  If they can handle this style, they can handle anything…

Thai Kickboxing: Thai is world famous for its fast devastating steamroller type strikes and the ability of its practitioners to take a hit and keep on going.  For a crisis situation, it is imperative that the survivalist be capable of absorbing and moving past the pain of a fight.  In the street, it may be a matter of life and death, or it may be a drunken adolescent brawl.  In a SHTF scenario, it will ALWAYS be a matter of life and death.  There is no such thing as a hand to hand fighter who can avoid every attack and come out unscathed.  Plan on getting hit.  With the heavy arm to leg blocks of Thai Kickboxing that act as a kind of self made brick wall, along with devastating leg sweeps and knee breaks, this artform is perfect for the dangerous possibilities of collapse.

Western Boxing: It’s not an Eastern martial art, but Western boxing teaches incredible punching power.  Eastern martial arts focus on speed in order to inflict damage, but the bottom line is that Western boxers hit harder because they assert more body weight behind their punches; I have seen it, I have felt it, and I have dealt it.  Of course, it is more important to learn speed and timing before learning to hit hard.  The most powerful punches in the world are useless if all they do is sweep the air.  Western boxing is an incomplete fighting system, but a fantastic addition to the survival martial artist’s repertoire.

Jiu Jitsu: Jiu Jitsu is a grappling martial art from Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the way the Brazilians have commercialized and franchised it.  Jiu Jitsu is indeed the flavor of the decade for self defense, and though I feel it has been way overhyped, it is an incredibly effective style for ground situations.  That said, let’s be clear; Jiu Jitsu is actually a very limited fighting style, especially when you’re not in a cage and you are confronted with more than one attacker.  Survivalists should learn grappling techniques so that they know how to defend against takedowns and return to their feet.  In a real combat situation, you NEVER try to go to the ground on purpose.  Multiple opponents will decimate you within seconds while you are trying to put a choke hold on the guy in front of you.  Add a knife into the picture, and purposely jumping into close quarters with the intent to “grapple” will be a death sentence.  Successful fighters will always combine Jiu Jitsu with other artforms in order to round out their abilities. 

Hapkido: Hapkido in my view is the perfect antithesis to Jiu Jitsu and any other grappling art for that matter.  It should be at the top of every survivalist’s list of fighting methods.  Hapkido focuses on joint locks, joint breaks, using centrifugal force, pressure points, eye gouges, throat attacks, etc.  Generally, it is very difficult for someone to grapple with you if you break their fingers, wrists, hyperextend their knee caps, or crush their wind pipe.  One twisted wrist could put a dedicated grappler or wrestler completely out of commission, which is why you never see these methods used in the UFC.  The fights would be over quickly, and the sport's flavor would be lost.  Knowing how to counter grappling using grappling is fine, but knowing how to utterly disable a grappler is better.  As a survivalist, it is important to learn both.

Eskrima / Kali: Filipino in origin, Eskrima and Kali revolve around stick and knife training, and some of the deadliest blade wielding martial artists on Earth are known to originate from these styles.  The point of practicing the Filipino arts is not only to learn to attack with edged weapons, but also to defend against them.  Knowing how armed assailants, trained and untrained, will move to harm you gives you a distinct edge.  Understanding the motion of a knife strike allows the defender to create or close distance effectively, while timing arm and wrist locks to reduce cuts and control the knife hand before serious damage to your body is done.        

Taekwondo: A Korean style, Taekwondo has received a bad rap over the past few years as an “ineffective” martial art, but usually this criticism comes from people who have never actually practiced it.  Like Jiu Jitsu, it is a style limited to a very particular range of attacks and scenarios.  Taekwondo focuses on kicks to the extreme.  Sport Taekwondo is not a practical measure of the style’s use, and this is where its tainted reputation comes from.  The truth is, Taekwondo has the fastest and in many cases the most devastating kicks in the world.  The use of kicks depends on the mastery of the fighter.  If he is fast, and precise, then his strikes will make his opponents feel like they’ve just been hit by an oversized utility van.  If he is slow, and unfocused, he will be tackled to the ground like a rag doll and pummeled in an embarrassing manner.  That said, one well placed kick can crush ribs, crack skulls, and knock an opponent into dreamland before he ever knew what hit him.

Jeet Kune Do: Created by the venerable Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do’s philosophy is to adopt what works, and set the rest aside.  It is essentially a combination of the short range tactics of Wing Chun combined with the long range tactics of Japanese and Korean styles.  Jeet Kune Do’s goal is to be a truly complete martial art, and so far, it has proven itself in this regard.  If you can only practice one style of self defense, this should be it.  Some people attribute the adaptation methodology in self defense to MMA, but really, it was Bruce Lee that pioneered the idea of studying multiple styles and modernizing martial arts.  Because of his efforts, the offensive and defensive capabilities of Jeet Kune Do are astounding, and perfect for the survivalist delving into the world of hand-to-hand.

Ninjitsu: When I was a kid back in the 80’s, the ninja was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  I think the allure of it was its simple mythology; if you could learn martial arts, and get your hands on a black mask, you could be a superhero.  No need for radioactive spiders or genetic mutation.  You were a man - in a mask - with badass fists of fury, and that’s it.  Of course, the portrayal of ninjitsu has become so cartoonish that people today scarcely believe it is an actual martial art.  In fact, it is, and a very deadly one.  The brilliance of ninjitsu really dwells in its “think outside the box” mentality.  There is a sort of cleverness and unpredictability to it that makes it so dangerous.  Ninja’s in feudal Japan were assassins, but they were also the guerilla fighters of their age.  The combat methods of ninjitsu revolve around surprise, and misdirection, which are factors that always work in the survivalist’s favor.

There is no way around it.  The Martial Arts make a survivalist better at his job, which is to thrive in the very worst possible conditions.  It’s not just about fighting; it is also about developing a fighting spirit.  Beyond the utility of self defense, as survivalists we must strengthen our inner world as much as our outer shells.  It takes time, and patience, and a willingness to struggle.  Any person who masters a martial art has not only shown a dedication to his own physical prowess, but he has also proven he has a mental toughness that will carry him through any catastrophe.  That kind of toughness is a rare commodity in America today, and when found, should be greatly valued and encouraged, especially by the Liberty Movement.

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unrulian's picture

i'll stick with guns

Bleeding Fart's picture

Survival is not just about an individual's strength or resources. That's a fallacy of people from comfortable,  industrialised countries.

Survival has always been about existing within communities and negotiating/working together against outside forces. Family, friends, and modern day 'tribes' will all be necessary for survival.

The bullet, beans, and bullion blockheads don't get that it isn't just about themselves. No one can survive on their own, or even within a small group. It really does take a village.

Hugh G Rection's picture

What if your small group shoots the villagers?

Bleeding Fart's picture


What I'm talking about is that in an actual survival situation where people couldn't depend on the gov't,  well organised communities would survive the best.

An individual or small group would just not be able to efficiently produce calories/maintain defense in an a given area over the long term.

Hugh G Rection's picture

Oh, I got ya.

They better be prepared to face the roaming marauders though..

Stackers's picture

I'll just use the flying crane kick on em. No defense.

yabyum's picture

Flying crane vs 10 gauge 3" mag double ought in the thorax???? I would rather co-op with you and buy you a cold beer.

economics9698's picture

What he is saying is 100% correct.  You think you are a hard ass until someone challenges you.  Knowing how to kill with your bare hands is essential in street combat.  You must be in at least “adequate” shape.  That means upper body workouts at least three times a week and 45 minute lower body cardio at least three times a week,

I have been in hundreds of confrontations and most people panic.  Very few stay calm and even fewer know how to defuse the situation or end it quickly.  By ending it quickly knocking someone the fuck out fast.

You Zhers better be packing come November 6th, the 85 IQ crowd will be looking for some payback against whitey.

Thomas's picture

3rd Dan (3rd degree blackbelt) in Taekwondo, motherfuckers! For the record, however, I am out of shape, currently unable to fight my way out of a daycare facility without some help.

tsx500's picture

i'm 5th degree tae-bo .... whaddya think about that  ?!

economics9698's picture

Stay in shape or be prepared to get your ass knocked the fuck out.

Harlequin001's picture

and whatever you do, don't get old...

710x's picture

Survival is about being in active denial that regardless of what happens you're gonna die eventually.  Focus on living life rather than surviving it.

Metalredneck's picture

Shodan in Ryusei Karate.  Learning every day.

JoeSexPack's picture

Wrestling & boxing are among the most commonly successful UFC arts. Brazilian JJ is another.


Years ago these debates went forever, but are now settled in the octagon.



MachoMan's picture

I still think it's hilarious that the gracie family thinks it invented submission wrestling...  it's actually a simple derivative of greco-roman/olympic wrestling (there used to be submissions btw)...  that was offshored to japan...  and eventually to brazil...  it's also the same reason why a catch wrestler (more pure derivative of wrestling) decimated the gracie family...

It's also strange to think that the UFC started as a shameless and staged promotional attempt by the family...  it certainly succeeded, but I'm happy it actually evolved into a sport.

Don't get me wrong, bjj has its place...  but let's call it like it is.

Atlas Shrieked's picture

You make it sound like BJJ is worthless.  Fact is, almost every MMA fighter has incorporated BJJ into his repertoire--because it works.  Olympic wrestlers are the best in the world, but until they learn BJJ, their submissions are limited--because the sport disallows it.  And BJJ extends beyond the Gracie family--some of the best MMA fighters train under Cesar Gracie, possibly the worst of the clan, as he started much later than his relatives, and received his black belt much later also.

Because a skinny Royce could beat guys much bigger and stronger, only prove the art's merit.  Helio did the same 80 years ago.  Now that everybody trains in it, the game has been elevated, and physical advantages have emerged.  But for the average person with limited athleticism, strength, speed, and agility, BJJ is a good foundation.

Having said that, Rickson Gracie, the best of his generation, would even admit that when encountered with an attacker with a knife, the best defense is to run, because you have to assume the attacker knows what he's doing.  All else being equal, the knife wins every time (with acknowledgement that all things are not always equal).

I am a Man I am Forty's picture

Rickson is full of himself and needs to get in a ring/cage more often to back up what he says.  His dad even called bullshit on him.  Jon Bones Jones, Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre would whip him.  He probably couldn't take BJ Penn.  

MachoMan's picture

BJJ is not worthless...  the issue is that people (including the gracies) conveniently discard its heritage.  The simple fact is that they did not create it.  The vast majority of its maneuvers are simply the direct descendants of catch wrestling, a dead art (due in large part to the secretive and "club" nature of its practitioners)...  which was a direct descendant of "real" greek wrestling (it's only been a couple of centuries that there are holds barred).  By virtue of the fact that there are few real catch wrestlers left alive, the lie can be perpetrated.

The simple fact is that BJJ is more about sport submissions and primarily directed towards sport grappling.  This is why it is more directed at the MMA practitioner...  not necessarily because it is the premiere fighting style.

I have one word for you though...  sakuraba.  Look up his fight record (opponents) and trainer and then go from there.

BJJ works...  for sure...  but it also primarily only works against tired opponents or opponents that have not been trained in submissions.  You do not win fights on your back from the guard...  sorry.

Manthong's picture

I suggest a daily workout  that includes performing 10 reps of the 16 count manual of arms..

with an M82A1.

Harbanger's picture

No defense when I'm holding your leg and squeezing your nuts.

Hulk's picture

As long as you are a woman, that is perfectly legal !

and tons of fun !!!

Metalredneck's picture

You better be fast.  If you telegraph that one, anybody with any talent will pluck you out of the air.

Harbanger's picture

Sand bags, barbed wire and traps will build you a quick fortress to keep all marauders at bay.

Hugh G Rection's picture

Don't forget to shit on the punji sticks, so if they hobble away they can die of infection.

JoeSexPack's picture

File bullets to get rusty, for tetnus & septicemia.


Fill hollow points with cyanide...or feces.

unrulian's picture

lead doesnt rust, i think you caught something playing with your shit

Atlas Shrieked's picture

You're naively aassuming social order is maintained in the event of economic collapse--good luck with that.  Greece and Spain are precursors--and mild ones at that.  I generally agree with this article--even when equipped with a firearm, an onrushing attacker within a 30 foot radius with a knife wins almost every time,  A master in the filipino sticks and knife arts can kill you 12 times--in 1 second.  Think two attacks on each carotid, wrist, and ankle.

Ghordius's picture

Greece and Spain? Don't see why they should be considered valid examples for your argument. Perhaps you are misreading the fundamentally different (from the US) way protesters/demonstrators and the police behave, here in europe.

Atlas Shrieked's picture

I'm not comparing HOW Greeks and Spaniards riot and protest vs. how Americans would.  What I'm saying is when an economy collapes, people take it to the streets.  I'm not even sure what would finally cause Americans to really take it to the streets--the Occupy movement gave some hints.  But I don't think it would get really ugly until they start confiscating or nationalizing retirement funds and and pensions.  Or worse, if hyperinflation kicks in and shelves are emptied.

dolly madison's picture

No one can survive on their own, or even within a small group. It really does take a village.


I think saying no one here is a stretch.  History shows us that some can do it, like the mountain men in the old west.

CPL's picture

Yeah you are missing Judo.  Using an opponents strength against them, locks, flips, pins, takedowns, nerve shots, damage mitigation, rolls, tumbles fits well with Kendo and Bo training.

Gully Foyle's picture




And Systema looks very interesting.

Harbanger's picture

MCMAP training is all I'll ever need.

Tijuana Donkey Show's picture

Uh, Krav Maga? Only the deadliest martial art, period. Works with guns, knives, and everything inbetween. These are all good, but only Krav is battle tested by the IDF everyday. Ask any major law/military/bodyguard, and they will tell you Krav. It blends it all in, cardio, hand to hand, and gun/knife excapes. The reason there is not competitiion Krav is that it's just to rough if you throw it at full power.

vast-dom's picture

i doubt it re: krav. there is not a single UFC fighter implementing it with any success, and that's for a reason. and please don't tell me there are no guns and knives in UFC and that's why krav isn't used or that it's just toO rough. 

jonjon831983's picture

Krav or whatever other combat system, don't bother comparing UFC fights to real life fighting.  Participants may be true martial artists, but they are fighting in a specific "safe" scenario.


In the "cage" you have:


A referee to stop the fight if something goes wrong

1 v 1 only

Specific rules of engagement like you can't tear a guy's balls off or gouge eyes or bite their nose off

A coach on hand to give tips on what to do next

Breaks between rounds for water and strategy talk.


Real fights do not have those... you go in and get out with minimal damage to yourself and maximum to the other (s).

fnord88's picture

ALmost everything i learned in Krav is against the rules in UFC. Throat strikes, groin strikes and eye gouging.

alien-IQ's picture

"Throat strikes, groin strikes and eye gouging" are what you do when you CAN'T fight!

It sounds like womens self defense against a rapist. The only thing you're missing is "vomiting on them to deter an erection".

jonjon831983's picture

alien-IQ, you're confusing sport with life and death fighting.

The one who doesn't add these to their repetoire and can't get over the squeamish nature of this will likely lose... and lose big.


For sparring with a friend or a competition of course you wouldn't pull something dirty like that.

For fighting somebody attacking you suddenly say in the darkness, and you have nowhere to run, you do what you have to do to GTFO alive.

Calmyourself's picture

Alien here has never been in a "fight" Oh sure his sister and him have swung some pillows until someone got a bloody nose and Mom stepped in..  A real fight; any thing you can get your hands on is a weapon ANY hurt you can inflict thats a real fight princess..   Real men bite and kick and gouge and do anything to win.

alien-IQ's picture

yep. that's it. of course. you got me. i'm exposed. oh the shame.

my sheltered privileged life laid bare for all to see.

i just want to scratch your eyes out now and call my lawyer to sue you for mental anguish.

LOL!!!! you fuckin dunce.

Flagit's picture

actually dude, you are comming across as quite the douche. about the time you are spitting teeth, you will gladly bite with whatever you have left.

Calmyourself's picture

"Throat strikes, groin strikes and eye gouging" are what you do when you CAN'T fight!"

Yeah, you would last like ten seconds, you best buy a gun and never leave home without it.. Methinks thou dost protest too much, say hi to your sis, she really bloomed...

alien-IQ's picture got me again. damn. i'm gonna cry now.

Calmyourself's picture

Are you 12?  I better leave you alone you sound like you may just cry, I'm sorry.

alien-IQ's picture

No. I am not confusing one with the other. You are. You seem to be under the delusional impression that because a man can fight with rules that keep him from killing someone makes him incapable of killing someone when those rules are removed.

It's fine and dandy that they have told you to kick someone in the balls and try to scratch out their eyes, that plan is gonna work just great, until you get punched in the face, have your arm broken and get choked to death by someone who actually knows how to fight.