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Copyright © 2003-2004 Phil Elmore, all rights reserved.
SCARS/CFC Non-lethal/Lethal Tactics For Hand-To-Hand
(Volumes 1 and 2 with Accompanying Manual #1)
A Video Review by Phil Elmore
Jerry L. Petersen's Special Combat Aggressive Reactionary Systems Combat Fighting Course (SCARS/CFC) is touted as being "proven in combat." Depending on to whom you speak, this modern martial arts style is or was what SEALs are taught, what sailors in the UDT/SEAL qualification course are taught, improved Kung Fu San Soo, repackaged Kung Foo San Soo, all of the above, or none of the above.
The SCARS system is offensive, not defensive, in nature -- a point on which the SCARS material harps constantly. This is a valid concept, though the utter horror with which some SCARS stylists view terms that even sound defensive rather than offensive in nature is a bit overdone. In SCARS, there are no "blocks" -- only strikes. This is semantics, of course, but you can make an argument for insistence on offensive terminology only as building and triggering the appropriate mindset for the aggressive fighter.
The "science" of SCARS, autokinematics, seems built on the idea that striking a person in a certain way will reliably and repeatedly produce the same result each time. While there are certain generalizations you can make reliably regarding what a person will do when you strike them a certain way in defined areas, I think building an entire system on the idea takes the concept too far. I mention this now because it goes to the heart of what SCARS is as a style.
Marketed as a scientifically devised system, this type of terminology -- "autokinematics," "neuro-offensive linguistics," and so forth -- characterizes the manner in which the material is presented. While complex terminology is not automatically a bad thing, the individual student will have to decide if this presentation makes sense or feels complicated for its own sake.
The first of the two tapes begins with some nicely shot footage of trainees training and soldiers soldiering. A graphic block proclaims this the "Original NAVY SEALS Hand to Hand Combat Program." Without preamble, Petersen begins Lesson 1 and continues through Lesson 10. The second tape contains Lessons 11 through 25.
Production values and sound of the videos are superb. These are very professionally produced. Audibility is great, which is saying something, given the poor audio that plagues so many instructional martial arts videotapes. The picture is crisp, the training environment is clean and relatively free of distractions, and the action is easy to follow.
The demonstrations on the tape all seem to involve an incredibly compliant attacker. The technique chains demonstrated also seem too complex, at least at times. A few won't work as demonstrated, either. For example, a radial nerve "strike," in which the arm is brought down in an arc to attack the radial nerve of the attacker's limb as he delivers a punch, simply cannot be done fast enough to intercept an aggressive hook. My Wing Chun instructor demonstrated this to me as we discussed the same technique as demonstrated in one of Tim Larkin's TFT tapes.
Given the prominence of circular blocks in the SCARS system, one section of the manual deserves comment on this score, too. "Windmill strikes" -- large arcing movements of the arms -- are described in the manual as "the most versatile type of movement. If properly done, a windmill strike will stop either a right or left attack from a punch or a kick." This type of generalization strikes me as unsound, though the caveat "if properly done" can be used to excuse a multitude of sins. While circular motions are indeed effective when done tightly and timed properly, arcing blocks simply aren't fast enough to justify what I see as the overdependence on them described in the manual. "These two striking moves will replace any blocking moves you have learned in the past," the text proclaims.
While proper breathing is extremely important, the very specific breathing Petersen uses to accompany different kinds of techniques sounds vaguely ridiculous and overcomplicates the issue. Hearing him yell, " Wah! Yah! Wah!" while executing large circular radial nerve blocks (excuse me, strikes) and deep upper cuts to the solar plexus and jaw reminded me of the old Batman television series starring Adam West. Pow! Biff! Bam!
The accompanying spiral-bound manual (every single page of which bears the prominent and too-dark watermark declaring COPYRIGHTED INFORMATION – DO NOT REPRODUCE/ SCARS INSTITUTE) contains an overview of SCARS, a discussion of the SCARS combat mindset, text on autokinematics, a section on body mechanics and dynamic breathing, line drawings illustrating the natural weapons of the body, an explanation of "positions of balance," and copious space for "personal notes." Strike charts and "working-out" procedures are followed by explanations of the 25 "combat lessons" demonstrated on the two tapes.
The quality of the line art illustrating the manual ranges from good to mediocre. The illustrations for the "combat lessons" are fairly useless, as they don't clearly show what the techniques involve. (This is not an uncommon problem when trying to demonstrate movement with line art, but these illustrations could be a lot better.) The manual concludes with an appendix containing "fighting sets," which look to be graphic depictions of technique combinations.
As a style, SCARS is marketed as being extremely effective. I cannot say, based on the presentation in this book and video set, that I find it so. While there is some material of value here, and the videos are worth watching if you can get your hands on them, their hefty price tags generally outpace their value.
As a result I do not recommend the SCARS/HCS system.