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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.

Split Second Survival with Larry Wick

A Product Review of First Strike, First Cut, First Shot, by Phil Elmore

If I noticed advertisements for Split Second Survival (SSS) at all before a reader brought it to my attention, I likely dismissed the program as another over-hyped "fear no man" magazine snake oil package designed to dupe the inexperienced into buying an unrealistic self-defense program.  When a reader brought the First Strike, First Cut, and First Shot DVDs to my attention, I figured I had nothing to lose by contacting the company.  I was pleasantly surprised, then, to get a phone call from Larry Wick (who devised the SSS program and is himslf a ranked Tang Soo Do instructor).  Larry was only too happy to send The Martialist copies of the videos for examination.  I was even more pleasantly surprised, however, to find that I really liked the the program.

Split Second Survival's First Strike, First Cut, and First Shot
are no-nonsense, practical self-defense DVDs.

The SSS program, Larry insists, is not a martial art though even when he is panning what he sees as deficiencies in the martial arts, Larry is very respectful of them.  Over his years of training, he explains, he has devised this program of practical self-defense to be used for realistic street survival.  Such a system must be applied extremely quickly, Larry explains, and it must have as its premises the threat of weapons and of multiple attackers.  This concept is driven home time and time again throughout the videos.  All of Larry's movements are performed in this context.  You must assume there is more than one attacker and act accordingly, Larry emphasizes and you must assume any of your attackers could have a knife or a gun.

The First Strike DVD comprises defense against unarmed attackers, using your bare hands or an improvised weapon like a comb or a pen.  (Larry includes free licensed SSS gifts with each First Strike DVD, in fact appropriately enough, a plastic comb and a ballpoint pen.)  First Cut is devoted to unarmed defenses against knife attacks.  First Shot is concerned with unarmed defenses against firearms.  In all cases in this first tier of the SSS series (Larry explained to me that he plans to offer more advanced DVDs as he progresses through Second Strike, Second Cut, and so on) the defenses assumed an unskilled attacker.   First Strike involves a lot of grabs, basic moving attacks (punches and so on), and some groundfighting (including when you're mounted and when you're on top).  The other DVDs are devoted primarily to situations in which you're being threatened by someone who is using a knife or a gun to get something from you.

Among the very basic items that can be employed for self-defense is
the ordinary pocket comb, which Larry demonstrates in the DVD.

These are professionally produced DVDs among the best I've seen in terms of production values.  There are plenty of changes in camera angles, special effects, blends, graphic overlays, music, and anything else a viewer could want, all while maintaining good visibility and audibility.  At no time did I have any trouble seeing the action (Larry's SSS cap shields his eyes now and again, but this is a minor quibble) and I could hear everything without difficulty (though there are the inevitable moments when a training partner muffles Larry's voice by covering his microphone during a grapple). I am not overly fond of the camouflage netting used for a background (it is a little to dark), but on balance I can count on my hands the number of videos I've seen that were this slickly composed.

Given that this is a three DVD set I had originally planned a rather lengthy review of each component of each video.  What I realized, however, was that the SSS program is essentially very simple a principle-based series whose instructional design is very good and whose concepts are easily absorbed.  All three DVDs follow the same basic pattern.  Larry introduces the series, repeats his warnings about multiple attackers and weapons, debunks some common martial arts defenses he claims will not work, and then presents the SSS approach to dealing with being attacked or threatened.  He emphasizes legal repercussions and argues for restraint in the use of force (which will displease those viewers who believe in applying maximum aggression preemptively).

The principles on which Split Second Survival is based are entirely compatible with the martial arts and combative programs I have already studied, which is why my impression of this program is so favorable.  Larry asserts that you must keep your hands up (and know how to use both hands simultaneously), stay relaxed, move forward constantly (what combatives exponents would call forward drive), and move quickly to take the initiative.  Larry argues against kicking, saying it is too difficult to manage on variable terrain, and performs only a few simple empty-hand blows (targeting the vulnerable neck area most often).  He understands that you cannot fight force with force and he urges you not to lock up.  He flows smoothly and quickly as he moves, keeping his body relaxed to avoid jerking (which he says will alert the attacker to your intentions).  He is comfortable on camera, ad-libs without difficulty as he walks you through the program, and performs his techniques with speed.  I don't know as I'd call Larry's voice a "radio voice" by any means, but he's not a bad narrator at all.

The basic SSS readiness program involves simply remaining aware of your surroundings, coming forward to attack the neck and throat when you are attacked, and gaining just enough advantage to flee.  "This series has nothing to do with fighting," Larry says.  He wants you to get away but to do so, you attack your attacker.  Time and time again he emphasizes that you cannot afford to attempt elaborate, complicated moves in a self-defense scenario.

Perhaps it is a guilty pleasure, but I found the segments of the DVDS in which Larry criticizes other martial arts techniques to be the most interesting.  His own mechanics are fairly straightforward and in keeping with what I already advocate (for the most part), so it was fascinating to see him pick apart the things other arts teach that he doesn't believe will work.

First Strike includes (as mentioned) the use of the comb and pen as improvised weapons, defenses against attackers who are moving in on you, and some groundfighting.  First Cut follows the same basic pattern, but with topics specific to the blade.  Larry advocates using a light, two-finger touch when redirecting knives (he urges you not to grab the weapon limb) and will probably annoy some viewers with his exhortation to comply with a would-be mugger if this will prevent a robbery at knife-point from becoming violent.  Larry urges the viewer (both in First Cut and First Shot) not to focus on the weapon, but on the man wielding it, when defending against an attack.  He also urges the viewer to stay in contact with the attacker (Chinese martial art practitioners will chuckle at this as they recall the number of times they've been told to "stay sticky")

First Cut covers "basic moving knife" (the lunge, for example) and basic rear attacks before closing with demonstrations of various drills you can do to work on your skills.  First shot does the same, covering basic front attacks, rear attacks, and long guns after Larry runs through his usually debunking of some popular defenses. (Larry even criticizes a firearms defense or two that I explain here).  I very much liked the unarmed and armed methods of First Strike, but I was a little more wary of the techniques in First Cut and First Shot.  Weapons defenses are extremely risky as it is, and as Larry demonstrates defending against multiple knives held to his body (or against multiple firearms pointing at him in true Reservoir Dogs fashion) I have to admit I'm not sure I could pull this off without ending up a perforated mess.  Viewers will have to take what they can from what is demonstrated, which affords much opportunity to absorb useful material.

My only criticism of the instructional presentation of this video lies in the way the techniques are demonstrated.  Each technique (or each expression of the same basic principles) takes place fairly quickly.  While the many repetitions and demonstrates help reinforce to the viewer what is taking place, some slow motion sequences breaking down the action might help beginners get up to speed.  The drills Larry suggests seem to me very necessary to internalize the program, particularly for beginners who might not "get" what they're seeing.  Those who have performed similar movements in other styles and systems will grasp immediately the concepts presented.

Despite these criticisms, I make no secret of my positive opinion of Split Second Survival.  I came to the series with very low expectations and instead was thrilled to see Larry Wick espouse, for the most part, the very self-defense principles in which I believe.  No DVD can be all things to all people, and no amount of video instruction can take the place of hands-on training, but I was extremely pleased to see just how much Mr. Wick and his associates got right in building this program.

It is with pleasure that The Martialist endorses Split Second Survival.