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"Stay 'unreasonable.'  If you don't like the solutions [available to you], come up with your own." 
Dan Webre

The Martialist does not constitute legal advice.  It is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY.

Copyright © 2003-2004 Phil Elmore, all rights reserved.

Self-Defense Made Easy

A Review by Danny "Spanky" Rowell


It has long been my opinion that self-defense is more about mindset than physical technique. I have studied many arts looking for common foundational principles. When I found out that someone had finally included the excellent techniques of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in a self-defense video, I immediately purchased a copy.  Specifically, I bought Self Defense Made Easy, a two volume set recently released by New York Martial Arts Gym.

Volume 1 is Defensive Techniques. The DVD is about 60 minutes long and is divided into 5 sections. Segment 1 deals with attacks from behind. Gene Simco outlines one specific technique (a front hip drop, using Kantan terminology) that can be used for almost every type of grappling attack from the rear. When grabbed, you step to the side to create a small amount of working space, then move your inside leg behind your attacker.  Placing your hips behind his, you go to the ground.

I can hear it now… "Spanky, you don’t want to go to the ground in self-defense, ever!" Well, dear reader, I’ve trained with quite a few self-defense instructors and each one, to a man, has taught me techniques to get my opponent on the ground. Generally you prefer not to go with them, but sometimes it’s a good idea. That is exactly what Simco teaches with this front hip drop. You take your opponent to the ground in a simple but effective technique. You take him there hard and you land on top of him. I know from experience that this type of move hurts on the mats. I can only imagine how much fun it is on asphalt.

"But Spanky, you’re still on the ground." Not for long, amigo. The next technique Simco discusses is how to get right back up, standing, in a position where “you’re ready to fight or run.”

Segment 2 discusses how to deal with common attacks from the front. Gene outlines the basic non-confrontational defensive posture: hands up in front, palms out and open, one foot in front and one in back.  Your elbows are in and you’re trying to deescalate the situation. If you’re a student of self-defense that has been around for a while, you’ll recognize this as a very common approach to initial situational posture. Gene takes this basic stance and adds to it from his extensive background in grappling. He uses simple techniques that minimize your target areas while maintaining strong mobility and facilitating easy counters.

From this single stance, Gene covers how to defend against punches (the jab, the hook, and the cross) and how to defend against kicks.  He also demonstrates a nice maneuver used to defend against the shoot. All the defenses are simply extensions of this one basic stance – one technique used to deal with a variety of assaults from the front.

Segment 3 is on groundfighting. After all, how can you have a BJJ DVD that doesn’t include groundfighting? Gene takes the applied techniques from the first two sections and illustrates how you use the same foundational principles to defend yourself on the ground – and on the ground you will be. Some time, some place, somebody is going to put you there.  Simco outlines a few good methods for dealing with that situation.

Something that really appealed to me in this whole series is that Gene emphasizes again and again that these techniques are not about sports and they are not about fighting. What he is trying to teach is some very basic, universally applicable techniques that will get you out of bad situations and on your way home, safely. It’s not about who wins – it’s about who survives.

Segments 5 and 6 include some basic applications of the previously mentioned techniques for dealing with knife and gun attacks. Gene points out that it is sometimes safer to capitulate to a mugger or another bad guy if all they want is something you can replace easily. Your wallet, cash, credit cards, and other valuables can be replaced. You, however, cannot.

If you find yourself in a bad position and you cannot talk your way out of it – if you are forced to get physical – you can apply the same basic principles and increase your chances of survival. One comment that caught my attention occurred when Gene talked about distance and the firearm. If someone is skilled with weaponry and understands that pistols are distance weapons, Gene explains, you’re pretty much out of luck unless you can run away. These defenses apply when you are dealing with someone who doesn’t truly understand the weapons he is using.

The second DVD, Restraining Techniques, is geared more towards those occupations where restraint and containment are the norm. However, you may have need of these in everyday self-defense as well. If you’re a third party breaking up a fight, or if you find yourself in a situation in which you want to contain your attacker until help arrives, this is a good DVD to have.

Following the pattern set in the first DVD and often referring to Defensive Techniques, Gene discusses how to contain someone while standing or on the ground. To begin, Gene covers two approaches to getting in and getting close to your attacker. From there the technique branches off into restraining the attacker while he is still standing. With strong emphasis on position and mechanics, Gene encourages the use of technique over strength or speed. While you may become gassed and your muscles may become fatigued, your brain never stops working.  Use it.

Gene talks at length about the use of the rear naked choke (RNC). The viewer is treated to a snippet of one of NYMAG’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training DVDs that outlines the proper approach to and technique of the rear naked choke. Gene also adds a nasty little cross-face neck crank to encourage your attacker to comply. It’s effective technically and it’s quite painful to boot.

Simco takes some time in the middle of the DVD to discuss the RNC, its extreme effectiveness as a finisher, and its application. Gene also discusses, at length, the moral, legal, and physical consequences of choking your attacker. You can use the naked choke, and sometimes you must, but it’s probably not your first choice in self-defense situations. (Sounds somewhat familiar, no?) Gene does a great job outlining the pros and cons of using the choke.

The final segment of DVD 2 discusses restraint on the ground. The K.I.S.S. principle that has been used to good effect all through the series is even more applicable to this segment. Gene recommends the Kimura as a good, high percentage lock on the ground and discusses many different angles of setup and execution.

The audio and video quality of both DVDs is top notch. There were a few glitches in the beginning and ending sequences, but only one sync spot during actual technique training. Written graphics that point out warnings, additional tips, and specific definitions appear on your screen when appropriate. Video footage of the techniques being used in mock “real life” situations gives the viewer some insight into how they would be used on the street.

The Self Defense Made Easy series is written, produced, directed by, and stars Gene Simco. The delivery is 99% smooth and the flow is constant and upbeat. You can tell that Gene knows his stuff and is an excellent teacher. As always, Gene backs up his products and his staff provides excellent customer service. I express-ordered my copies and received them the very next day. Everything was as it should be and I’m one happy customer.

For anyone who has BJJ, Judo, Wrestling, or other grappling experience, this is an excellent resource in applying what you know to self-defense situations. Even if you don’t have such a background, you can still learn and use these simple techniques in self-defense.

I highly recommend this series.