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Tony Blauer and his SPEAR system for self-defense

By March 1, 2017 No Comments

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Tony Blauer“And the day I realized there’s no such thing as ‘No Fear,’ there’s only… if I want to get to ‘No Fear’ I got to get to ‘Know Fear.’”–Tony  Blauer

Tony Blauer and Commander Divine are old friends, and he has been on the podcast before. Tony is an expert in self-defense, especially the psychological and emotional side of fighting. He has trained various clients, including the Special Forces and the police in awareness and close combat. He explains where his interest comes from, and the major difference between the realities of actual fighting versus the disciplines used in the martial arts or MMA. He traces his system back to the origins of human hunting and fighting 80,000 years ago. Find out about Tony’s SPEAR system and get more understanding of the value of our natural instincts and reactions in self-defense.

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Transcript & Shownotes

Hey folks, Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for joining us again this week. We’ve got a terrific friend and expert in many different martial arts disciplines here. And an expert in mental toughness, and the mental science of fighting, Tony Blauer.

But before we get started, please go to iTunes and rate the podcast when you have time so that other folks can find us when they Google like, Tony Blauer and his world famous podcast comes up, then ours will show up, because we’re related somehow. Through SER or something like that.

Tony is the founder of the SPEAR system. And I’m not going to try to remember what the acronym is right now. And also High Gear? Am I right with that?

Tony Blauer: Yup. Developer High Gear.

Mark: High Gear which is like a self-defense Redman suit. We’re going to talk about that. Developer of Crossfit self-defense. And all around leader in the field of combatives and the mental side of the fight.

So we’re going to have a really interesting discussion on all of that. And I’ve know Tony for years, actually has been on this podcast couple years ago, before we even called it a podcast.

Tony: One or two times, yeah.

Mark: Is that right? Okay. But it’s been a while. Lot’s changed since then. Specially your hair.

Tony: It’s amazing. Yeah, I’ve grown my hair, finally.

Mark: You’ve grown your hair out. It’s looking even wilder. Wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley with that hair, man. I’d be worried.

Tony: I’d probably be wearing a hood, so you wouldn’t even see it.

Mark: (laughing) Of course. So how you been Tony? It’s good to see you.

Tony: I’m good man. I’m good, man. I’m really excited. Your Unbeatable Mind is taking off, and I think what prompted this was I got an email from somebody…

Mark: If you keep doing that I’m going to flinch.

Tony: I’ll keep my hands over here. I got an email from somebody who’s a… you know, one of the participants in your program and a big fan of yours. And actually didn’t even know that I lived in Encinitas and that we knew each other.

Mark: No kidding.

Tony: Yeah, and it was like, “Hey, have you ever heard of Mark Divine? Unbeatable Mind? I think, man, you guys would really hit it off. You guys should talk.” And everything. And so my answer to him, I copied the URL for the show we did. And I said, “Check this out.” It was kind of funny. And then I said, “I gotta get in touch.” My travel schedule and your travel schedule we haven’t connected and we live so close.

Mark: That’s right. So last time I have no idea what we talked about.

Tony: Ha-ha. I think we just ramble when we talk.

Mark: We both just went off on all these tangents. But so we’ll have to assume that most folks listening don’t know who Tony Blauer is. So, you were born… (laughing)

Tony: In a log cabin. And raised by wolves.

Mark: In a log cabin, down by the river. Raised by wolves. Or was it… tell us the story of when you escaped from Lompoc prison.

Tony: It was Alcatraz, not Lompoc, yeah. It was me and Sean Connery…

Mark: Oh right. Enough on that.



Mark: So you are a Southern California guy, right?

Tony: I finally am. And guess what? Next week I’m actually going to be sworn in as an American citizen.

Mark: No kidding? You’ve been Canadian all this time. Wow. How did you get away for so long just on a green card? Milking off the American system. I’m just kidding.

Tony: I’ve basically just been hiding in the trunk of your car and eating scraps of food…

Mark: I wondered what that smell was.

Tony: God. Worst podcast ever. For me. Best for him.

Mark: You know if you could see the video, you’d see that we’ve got a bottle of whiskey in front of us and…

Tony: Half a bottle at this point.

Mark: Just kidding.

Tony: So no, I moved to the States in 2008, and I had a green card and set up our company here and was waiting, because you have to wait a certain amount of years before you can apply for citizenship.

Mark: So that was 2008. Apparently you had been involved in self-defense for many years before that.

Tony: Yeah. I’ve been teaching 36 years now. So I’m 56 and I started wrestling, competitive wrestling when I was in elementary school. And then I got into Tai Kwan Do and martial arts and got into boxing. And I was just a fanatic for it. I just… it’s just something I’ve always, always been doing. And really how I got started in… and really it’s funny cause some people might go, “How do you start your own system?” Well everybody’s doing it now. There’s all these RBSD, Reality Based Self-Defense…

Mark: Most of them knocked off the SPEAR system, right?

Tony: There’s a lot. And you’ve emailed me a couple times going, “Is this one of your guys?” A lot of people don’t even understand. Ironically, I saw a guy doing a video where he was talking about the OODA loop and Hick’s law and the worst demo of ever seen of somebody copying what we do. Clearly didn’t understand what we did.

And it’s embarrassing. I understand why people sometimes say, “SPEAR is shit.” Because they see something like that…

Mark: And trace it back.

Tony: Or they go, “He must be one of Blauer’s instructors.” Or, “This is SPEAR.” There’s no substance to it. In our train-the-trainer program we talk about the illustrious subject matter expert. And tell people, “Hey, an expert is someone who’s memorized someone else’s material. It’s not a big deal.” Everybody can be an expert, right? And what we get into is the substance. And it’s no different. That’s why we’ve stayed connected…

Mark: Well, new things like SPEAR to me… from my perspective and my experience come, from deep, deep mastery of a subject. I.E. knowing how to fight, what works what doesn’t, having tested many, many things that didn’t work. Then teaching, right? And then simultaneously studying everything there is on the subject, right? And then out of that comes a new interpretation, cause this is all filtered through the brain of Tony Blauer, which we know is a very interesting place. And out of that comes a new interpretation of a specific set of principles and skills that haven’t been presented before. Now all the nuts and bolts are around, cause there’s really nothing new under the sun in my opinion. But the way it’s brought together is new, because you’ve mastered the subject at such a deep level plus you’ve studied everything everyone else has done. You know what I mean?

Tony: Yeah. And, you know, out of respect to everything out there, it’s weird… if you learn how to play guitar, you can play piano, bass, drum. Now it’s about learning the technique of that. But the key here is you understand music.

And I understood music as the metaphor here. I understood, fear and fighting, but there was very different in what gave birth to SPEAR and it was truly a visceral experimentation. It wasn’t a theoretical experiment. And I used to… I didn’t know why I’d wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a drill. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and maybe I was having a nightmare about a fight where everyone was in regular speed and I was in slow motion. And then I would think about it, it would consume me.

My pursuit of martial arts was really about understanding fear. And understanding how to manage fear. And it was always connected to random, spontaneous violence.

Mark: You think this was you had an unrealistic or some sort of fear-based experience yourself? I mean, was it your fear that prompted you to study fear?

Tony: Yeah. 100%. And I’ve superficially written about this on a couple of blogs, where I explain that I studied fighting… remember I said my fear… I didn’t have a fear of failing a math test. I didn’t have a fear that I was gonna get kidnapped by aliens. It was… I can remember being 6 years old and walking somewhere and going, “I wonder… what would I do if someone’s behind that corner?”

Like 6 years old in the ’60s, 1966. You’re not thinking about those things, right? You know…

Mark: I wasn’t.

Tony: I was, and I thought it was weird. So I thought that I had more fear than anyone should be having. And I didn’t know what to do with it. But it was always connected to some sort of violence. And remember Bruce Lee and the Green Hornet and James West in Wild, Wild West. So these were big shows in the ’60s.

Mark: Yeah. Wild, Wild West was a favorite of mine.

Tony: Yeah. And I remember, I’d watch a show and go to school. Homework. And whenever there was fighting on a show, I’d be like this. Whenever there was fighting, I was transfixed. And somehow in that moment, I went, “That might help me understand why I’ve got this fear.”

Cause I didn’t have anxiety. It wasn’t like I was like, “My God, I can’t go out of the house.” It was, I’d be out playing, and I remember me and some friends went to go play some baseball at a park. We were like 9, 10 years old and there was kids 3, 4 years older than us. And all I thought was, “We’re gonna get in a fight. What are we gonna do?” Cause these kids were being, like, rude to us. “Hey you little punks.” Pushing one of my friends around. And all I was thinking was: Am I going to run? I got a bat in my hand. Am I gonna hit somebody? Who am I going to hit?

And it was really, really scary stuff. My heart’s pounding my adrenalins going. But it was like warriors come out to play type thing. It wasn’t like choreographed martial arts stuff. I wasn’t even studying stuff. And so I’ve always been incredibly OCD with this introspection. And I would just sit there, staring at the ceiling, going, “why am I thinking about this? Why am I thinking about this?”

So to me, getting into the martial arts, it wasn’t just a way for me to learn movements and the mechanics and stuff like that. I was truly seeking to understand scenario specific fear management.

Mark: Mm-hmm. Well that’s the term you use now.

Tony: Right.

Mark: When you were 12 you didn’t say, “Can I learn scenario specific fear management from you?”

Tony: “Is there a Spontaneous Protection Enabling Response System around here?”

No, of course not. But what was interesting is I wrestled but I was afraid, always scared wrestling. When I did Tae Kwon Do and went to competitions and stuff, I was super, super scared. When we’d spar, no matter how well I did, I was afraid.

But listen, I tell this story, now, 40 years later. I do these seminars on performance psychology and fear management. Cause what I discovered in the serendipity of this was while I was trying to piece this together and kind of reverse engineer this for me, I found that it worked on you. And it worked on you. And it worked on…

Mark: Right. Because the human psyche works pretty much the same way, unless it’s broken.

Tony: Exactly. And so now… and this is like 3 decades… and we talk about our 10,000 hours and 10,000 reps and the mastery principle. Is all these decades later, when someone says, “Well, what is SPEAR.” It is the only fully behaviorally based, personal defense counter-measure there is. Because it’s based on physiology, physics and psychology. It’s all science. Unless you’re a unicorn or from outer-space, this stuff will apply to you.

mark: So if you’re fighting a unicorn or an alien, there’s a little footnote in your…

Tony: Yeah, it’s a disclaimer. It just says, “May not work with aliens. No guarantees.” Clint Eastwood said in one of his movies, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” And so, you know, I tell people… “Will this work?” “Well, buy a toaster.” They don’t understand the reference, but I do.

The… listen, at the end of the day, I’ve interviewed… you know, you’ve been doing martial arts for years, but you also come from an amazing military background and exposure to that. And I’ve… over the past 20 years… like a parallel thought–my students for the past 2 decades have been military and law enforcement. So I broke away from teaching martial artists. I had a call this week where these instructors were going, “yeah, but… yeah, but…” and I go, “None of you fight. And none of your students fight. My students fight.” And I’m not saying I’m a promoter and I’m not saying I’m their coach, but the people that have trusted me to share training and program management…

Mark: Are training to actually fight. Not to avoid a fight.

Tony: And they’re hunters. They gotta go towards the bad guy. So I can hide behind a tree going, “There’s a bad guy.” And I’m gonna push a cop. “You gotta go fight that guy.”

And I make that tongue in cheek, and I’m not… what I’m saying is we need to demystify… and I created this actually to create… it might be appropriate to throw this in here–I don’t know that I’ve ever shared this with you, cause it’s in the last year–I created 4 categories for conversations.

Category 1 is every martial art in the world. Category 2 is every combat sport. Category 3 is the new wave of reality-based self-defense programs. And Category 4 are violent encounters.

In category 1, every martial art, you don’t really talk about scenarios. You don’t talk about pre-contact cues. You don’t talk about dissonance. You don’t talk about fear management. And your focus is on embracing, adhering to, and executing mastery over a complex motor skill. I remember being disqualified in a Tae Kwon Do tournament when I was a teenager for hitting somebody with a hook to the body. It’s not part of Tae Kwon Do.

Mark: And the interesting thing… I completely understand and I wanna hear the rest of it, but number 1 is not a prerequisite for 2, 3 or 4\. In fact, it can be a limiting factor. When I got to BUD/S and Jerry Peterson said, “Hey Mark, you gotta unlearn that Karate shit, if you’re going to learn how to fight.” It’s like, “Oh, okay. Let’s start.”

Tony: Like some of this stuff does have value. Maybe the discipline, maybe the mobility, the stability. Understanding how to generate power. But we’re talking about the movements, and the mechanics. The targets. And also the outcome. So the category 1 stuff, there is stuff in category 1 that has value, but here’s the most important thing. On the 4 categories, if you ask the question–your focus is the personal safety, your security, your family’s security. There’s category 1, martial arts, category 2–combat sports, category 3–reality-based self-defense, category 4–violent encounters. You can only look at one and study one. Which one’s it going to be? And here’s the question, you wanna make sure that no matter what happens, you can pick up the danger, manage your fear, and get the hell out of danger by either going through the threat or avoiding it. Which category are you going to study?

Mark: Violent encounter’s the only one.

Tony: Only violent encounters. And so this is the interesting thing. In category 1, there is no really discussion about violent encounters. Category 2… this is the confusing thing, because you have all the people who do jujitsu in MMA and boxing and Thai boxing and stuff like that go, “Yeah, why don’t you come into the octagon and fight. Why don’t you do this, why don’t you do…?” So category 2 develops a lot of amazing attributes. Pain management, stamina, endurance. Being a serious MMA practitioner develops amazing skills. The problem is, it doesn’t develop situational awareness. The fear management is specific to possibly a weight class, the rules, the moment you’re getting ready to fight.

Category 3–and I haven’t figured out how to monetize my haters yet, because I make fun of reality-based self-defense as an acronym. What other self-defense is there? Other than reality-based? Why would you do that? And its just this like movement to separate and go, “Hey, look at us.” And I look at how they’re practicing, and this is interesting… is I look at how category 3, reality-based self-defense practitioners, they look like category 1 but they’re wearing BDUs, running shoes, t-shirts. They have cooler acronyms. And instead of it being an old ear-clap, it’s an eye-gouge. Instead of it being a shotokan type elbow it’s a grabbing the head and dropping an elbow. And it looks more violent, and they talk violence, but because people are selective listeners and get defensive when they hear this shit. When you’re studying a category 1,2,3 you are committing to a series of Pavlovian drills to develop a complex motor skill. And so one of our maxims is, “Careful what you practice, you might get really good at the wrong thing.” How important is situational awareness in the real world?

Mark: It’s huge.

Tony: It might be everything because if you have no awareness, how do you get prepared? So we need to look at situational awareness differently. And we can’t just be like a lip-service, talking heads on a… you know, if you look at the Orlando massacre. And you get the talking heads in the news saying “situational awareness, situational awareness, situational awareness.” Well, that guy was in that club for 3 hours. Everyone who was still alive in the club had situational awareness. Didn’t do anything. All the cops standing outside waiting for someone to tell them, “Go in and kill the guy.” had situational awareness for 3 hours while he was still shooting people. People bleeding out.

And so, I tell people, like, there is no such thing as the “situational awareness” like the panacea situational awareness. Because if you have situational awareness but you can’t manage the fear, then it doesn’t matter. In other words, it’s a tactical trinity.

That’s when I say our system–we look at the vetting, the vetting is this–is it based on sound physiology? And all the science of kinesiology and biomechanics? Are we generating and exploiting what we know about physics in terms of speed and power? And then, is this psychologically achievable? Does my brain reject this? Can I make this happen?

And so that’s why we say physiology, physics and psychology. And that’s the formula for success. When I’ve interviewed people who’ve been in close-quarter gun-fights. Ambushes. Military guys. I go, “You were in an ambush. you were walking down the street and all of a sudden shots rang out, what did you do?”

They always answer, “Immediate Action Drill.” I go, “Okay, well what’s that?” I know what that is, but what is that. “Oh, we get off-line and return fire.” I go, “Okay, before you did that, what’d you do?” They go, “I don’t know what you mean. That’s all we did.”

So like these rounds went flying by your head, and you just threw yourself off-line and rolled off the ground and came up and running towards the threat.

And when you peel the onion with them, what they realize is they did the startle/flinch. That the first thing they did was, “Whoa, shit!” And they did that primal flinch that I’ve shown you and that we’ve talked about. The primal flinch. It looks different because they’re holding an M4 and they got kit on.

Mark: And they’re also highly trained in reality-based scenarios.

Tony: But here is the thing. Even though they’re highly trained, the physiology, the neuro-science still… and that’s what we understand, is the limbic system, the amygdala gets bypassed by stimulus being introduced too quickly, regardless of whether you’re male or female and regardless of training. And that’s out of a neuro-anatomy book. It’s got nothing to do with combatives.

And so what we’re trying to do is bring that level of science and education, and say, “Listen,”

It’s taken me sometimes hours to explain that this motion could save your life, and to deny its place is too reject physiology. How could you do that? What unites all of us in the room here is physiology. So you could be an experienced commando with all this experience. I got no training, I’m just sitting in the room. I don’t know your background. And all of a sudden a crazy, active shooter comes in here. We’re both going “Whoa!” But I might fall over and go fetal, where you flinched and you picked up the chair and whipped it at the guy and charged the guy. And that’s where the training comes in.

So we don’t teach people to flinch, we teach them to convert the flinch. But there’s a missing element there, and this is neural circuitry of fear. What is missing in a lot of people and I ask people…

Mark: Well, it’s the fight or flight. So you can flinch and freeze. Or you can train yourself to flinch, recognize what’s happening and to take action. And that’s what I think you’re saying is the link.

Tony: If you understand…

Mark: Link the flinch to the next psychological movement.

Tony: So there’s centripetal force that’s created when we flinch. And so what we want to do is weaponize the flinch. So if it’s a close-quarter fight, and my hand came up…

Mark: It’s an effective flinch.

Tony: Well, the flinch is always tactical, but that doesn’t mean that you’re being tactical. In other words, I can flinch like this as you go to head butt me. And I accidentally elbow you in the face–I can’t take credit for it. I don’t go, “yeah, I did an elbow to Mark.”I did this and hit you and stunned you. What we need to teach people is that the speed and reliability of the startle/flinch is why it’s still here and those no T-Rex being interviewed here.

And so, let me expand on that a little bit. About 6 months ago…

Mark: (laughing) They made horrible interviewees anyway.

Tony: And they can’t do the SPEAR cause their arms are too short. They can’t. They can only do the fingers splayed part. You guys digging this?

So, but in all seriousness, somebody asked me 6, 7 months ago I was on a show and they went, “How many times you been asked what the best martial art is?” And I go “I’ve been asked that since the Internet was invented. And my answer’s always Art is for a museum.” And I go, “The street is different.” This is before I came up with the categories. I wanna just finish a thought on the categories and then come back to this caveman, Paleolithic little story.

In category 4… in category 1,2,3 you’re trying to figure out how to beat your opponent with your toolbox. Right? So it’s boxing versus kick-boxing. It’s jujitsu versus wrestling.

And so what happens is you’ve got an unconscious bias pre-disposed by the conditioning patterns of your training, to make those moves happen. You don’t even know about it. And so I’ve done this where I’m on the road teaching for 3 months law enforcement, gun-fighting, military classes. And then I’m doing like and empty-hand class for personal defense readiness stuff, and we’ll do a move and I’ll knock somebody away and my hand’ll go here. And I’ve had people who I’ve knocked them away and hand goes down, and then I come back up.

And then I see people like copying me. They’re like this and I go, “Why are putting your hand there?” “Well you were doing that.” “I was? Oh shit, I was reaching for a transition to my pistol.” But I’ve been doing that for so long, that the brain pattern, that synapse just got burned like that. And I still catch myself doing it, because I do that way more. Where when we’re working with law enforcement, military, some guy’s attacked inside the reactionary gap. Startle/flinch. Boom. Create space. And now you’re transitioning to your kit while you hold ’em off. In the context of a scenario.

That’s an example, even with me, who looks at this stuff like really big picture, from the scenario not from the… Really it’s the forest, not the tree. And I’m really going, ‘Well what about this? What about that?” I still have Pavlovian responses to moves that are inappropriate, right? And so… go ahead…

Mark: This is a thought. I don’t know if it fits here, but the needs of the SEAL Special operator are different than the cop. And so do you present the SPEAR system in a different way to a special operator versus a cop, you know?

The special operator needs to be… unless they’re ambushed, they need to be offensive and not wait to be attacked.

Tony: Right. So in terms of movement–and so I work with a lot of special operations groups. And so the first day and a half of both communities is the same. And then now the scenario changes.

mark: So if you go in, if you enter a house, you know, as a special operator, you’re not going to be like, “Okay, put you’re weapon down.” And then he throws a punch at me and I do the SPEAR and then I take him down. No, it’s like, boom everyone goes down.

Tony: 100%. 100%. And so everything we do is reverse engineered. What do you need to do? You go into the room? And I’ve been at places, not gonna mention any names, but I’ve been at high level places where they have their trainees way too many options. Which…

Mark: Right, slow them down.

Tony: You look at the decision making loops. If I’ve white t-shirts, and blue jeans and a pair of sneakers, I can get dressed really quickly. If I’ve got too much shit, I can’t make choices.

So when someone says, “Yeah, we’ve got the Frankenstein system, where we’ve combined all these different martial arts to make the best martial art.” That’s always failed. And at the end of the day, if you talk to somebody who’s really been there and done shit. And I’ve done that type of research with guys. They have… it’s not even a move. It’s a movement. It’s how they move their mind, and how they move their body. And it comes back to our… you know the acronym we created 20 years ago for this performance enhancement psychology, called closest weapon, closest target.

But you’re the weapon. So it is a head-butt, is it a muzzle strike, is it a half-spear, is it a palm strike. And the problem is when someone says, “Hey, we’re going to adopt this system to do that.” And now you’re telling people how to solve their problem. And that’s where hesitation comes in.

But the big thing that I want your listeners to get is that when you’re doing category 4, the only way we can study category 4 is by studying the bad guy. And we do something different, and I ask this when we start any one of our courses. At some point I’ll ask the group, I’ll go “Who controls the fight?”

And most people in law enforcement or military who haven’t been exposed to this reverse engineer logic will say, “We control the fight.”

Mark: The attacker always controls the fight.

Tony: Well, and it’s an interesting thing…

Mark: Controls the start of the fight, anyways…

Tony: The start of the fight. So we’ll get that sometimes, Mark, but we also… we get, “yeah, he controls the start of the fight, but we control how this ends.” And I go, “You need to solve the riddle. But who controls the location? The bad guy. Who controls the level of violence when you open a door? When you pull somebody out of a car? When someone taps you and you turn around?” The level of violence is controlled by the bad guy. And then my next question is “who controls the length, the duration of the fight?” And that’s where people go, “We do!” I go, “No.” How tough is the guy? What type of drugs is he on? Is he wearing body armor? You know people who have shot people and then hit them with their gun because the bullet didn’t work. They’re that crazy or that dangerous and that… So, you need… I always make the joke, you remember Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the black knight. “What are you going to do, bleed on me?” And you cut off his arms and legs and he still wants to fight. So I would always tell people, “That’s they guy you gotta prepare for.” Kick the guy in the balls…

Mark: “Merely a flesh wound.”

Tony: “just a flesh wound.” So when I created the categories, I said, “Hey, category 4 is violent encounters. And how you prepare for violent encounters is not fantasizing about how you’re going to get your favorite move in. So we like to throw like Zen riddles into class. I go, “Did you ever think that your best move might trigger my best counter? And therefore your favorite move might be the shot that drops you.” so how do you build, how do you reverse engineer? And I say “Listen. Your opponent will tell you how to beat him. But until the fight starts, you combine a little situational awareness, a little abstraction–I know a, I know c. b is happening here. But I’m looking for weapons and targets. I’m threat discriminating based on what I know. I’ve got to take my arsenal and apply it to the confrontation. And force must parallel danger, of course. We can’t be cavalier. You see some guys going, “Well I would just do this to the guy. Nobody comes into my personal space.” And that’s just not the way the world is anymore.

Caveman Combatives


Tony: Which brings us to the back of my t-shirt, which is… can you read that?

Mark: “Caveman combatives.”

Tony: Caveman combatives. What’s it say underneath that?

Mark:”Established 2015 by Tony Blauer.”

Tony: No, no, no. What’s it say below that?

Mark: “80,000 BC”

Tony: 80,000 BC. So get this, so people go, “Oh yeah, Blauer’s stuff…”

Mark: I thought you were the original caveman.

Tony: I’m not that old. So people go, “Blauer made up that art.” And I go, “First of all, somebody made up every fucking art.” Can I swear on the show? Too late.

So someone came up with Aikido, someone came up with… the fact that I’m alive while you’re alive doesn’t mean you get to discredit me. You know what I’m saying? “Oh, you made this up.” Yeah. Like somebody invented the iPhone. Somebody invented Kokoro. Who’s that guy? I don’t know what that guy’s…

Mark: I don’t know. Mark something.

Tony: Some guy. I don’t know. But my point is if we move past that… “So this is only like 30 years old.” I go, “No, motherfucker. This is hundreds of thousands of years old.” Do you know when the first spearhead was discovered? The oldest spearhead discovered?

Mark: How old is it?

Tony: Between 4 and 500,000 years old. So 400,000 years ago, some version of man had figured out how to sharpen a rock and stick it into an animal.

Mark: Well it could have been an alien.

Tony: Could have been an alien or a unicorn. Thank you. Thank you. Can I get another host, please?

Mark: (laughing) I’ve been fired. Wow. That’s a first.

Tony: Is that vodka or is that water? So get this, they’ve found spearheads, and they usually find like holes in carcasses and stuff like that. So my shirt says 80,000 years old. And people say, “Why 80,000 if its… if you,” when we’re talking about the spear as a metaphor, they go “like, why, if you know you’ve got spearheads at 400,000 years…”

Mark: Cause that’s as far back as you can trace your ancestry.

Tony: No. But thank you. So my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandfather… no. No. It’s around 80,000 years ago is when modern man began exploring the rest of the planet. And so my theory in all seriousness, is that I believe that if the 3 of us here were a tribe. And we’d figured out… our spears were used to hunt animals to feed our family. We weren’t fighting with each other. Because we were a tribe. We were worried about the avalanche, the volcano, the saber-toothed tiger, and the giant wolf.

Mark: And the other tribe.

Tony: But there weren’t any tribes back then. The archaeologists have somehow said around 80,000 years ago, this when there’s evidence that these people started exploring.

So now, and it’s just my theory, and it’s intuitively logical, that’s when interpersonal fighting started happening. Where “You look different than me. And that’s the name sword or spear that I have.”

Mark: “That’s my elephant you just took down.’

Tony: Yeah. And “we were going to hunt here. What are you guys doing here?” And so I just go like… just as a speaking point, I go, “Look, the SPEAR system is hardwired on the reflex which is part of the startle/flinch mechanism, which is part of this movement. If I have a spear in my hand and you’re a giant animal and you come at me, I’m going, “Shit.” I’m going to recoil and then plunge. That’s the extensor chain holding onto the spear. So the first spear actually used all of the same elements of the requirements of situational awareness, managing fear, proper physics and then the psychology of it. Right? If I had like some giant bear running at me, you think the first spear was built properly? Right? So we went out hunting with our spears, and then 5 of us leave and 4 of us come back. And we’re saying in caveman speak, “Yeah, Bob’s spear didn’t work.” We needed it to be like sharper or thicker or bigger. Pain is the mother of invention. But what do you think happened when I’m here like this going, “Mark, you go first. You kill that giant wolf. You’re here like this, going “fuck!” And then the wolf comes pouncing. You didn’t go and some sort of like….

Mark: There was no fancy…

Tony: There was no martial arts. There wasn’t like a caveman Kung Fu studio beside our cave. So the first movement when we were actually fighting with spears against animals and against people, they were micro-flinches, and there was that recoil And it was the same thing, “I’m in trouble.” Flinch. And the serendipity of the whole SPEAR system is I didn’t know any of this when I developed it. And my first client was Naval Special Warfare. Down in Coronado, 1993.

Mark: There’s a bunch of cavemen, for sure.

Tony: (laughing) Right. Knuckle-draggers. They were good dudes man. They could have… They had a lot of stuff there and they were open-minded to it. I went in there to show them my High Gear suit, we just had a prototype. They were my first client for that. And then they asked me about some training stuff and they were good enough to go, “This is cool” And I used to tell people…

Mark: So they hired Dieter instead…

Tony: No. They had already hired him. But thank you. New host please.

And so what was interesting I had created this stance where instead of being in a conventional boxing stance, for a like more street scenario, we went from a reasonable, moral, ethical, non-violent posture which ironically and incidentally is fingers splayed and outside 90\. Take it easy, calm down. Body language being 60% of communication. Take it easy, man. And then if this escalated, how close am I to the shape of a spearhead? Where I could move right in and impale the attack? And that was the metaphor. so there was no acronym, back in the early 90s. What I would say when we were training is, “Okay, guys. Spear stance.” Because what I wanted people to be in was this stance where an amazing thing happens, and I can’t explain it. It’s a black-boxish type thing. That if I say punch me in the face, and I’m standing here like this, you’ll punch me in the face.

If I go, “Hey, punch me in the face,” you’ll punch me in the face. But if I do this and I say “punch me in the face,” you’ll punch around my hands.

Mark: Yeah. Cause your hands are in the way. If you move your hands first, then I’ll do it.

Tony: But what’s interesting about this is… let’s say you go on a trail run, and as your coming up you pick up a little spider web hanging across a leaf. You’ll duck your head out of the way. Like without even thinking. You just do this sudden slip and you keep moving.

You come on another trail, and there’s a little branch with a leaf there. You’ll do like some amazing zig and zag to get away. Your brain doesn’t go, “I could run right through that. Why do I need to deviate?” And so, what we found is when I went “Whoa!” and my hands came up, that this person would then come over with big John Wayne punches. We seduced this very telegraphic attack.

And so when you have somebody in the street who’s a headhunter to start with, who’s got an opportunistic, ego-based attack. If you create an even greater obstacle, what you did is you forced them to do something more telegraphic. And it also set up this big pocket for the spear to come through, whether you hit with the palm, strike with the forearm or the elbow.

Amazing serendipity. So what we had is we had the psychology of behaviorally manipulating what you’re going to do, in a safe space, for me. And then… serendipity part 2 was as you came around and opened up, you opened up the brachial, tie-in, plexus, radial nerve, center mass.

Mark: All target fields.

Tony: And so you got a mad-man with a gun and a hatchet doing stuff. They taught you to shoot… in this quick gun-fighting, where are you aiming? Center mass. Right? Cause it’s a bigger target that’s not moving a lot. It would be cool if we could just shoot knives out of peoples’ hands, and guns out of peoples’ hands. And so that’s the whole thing what we looked at when we reverse engineered the system, I said… Listen. If I’ve got a small weapon to a small target, I got a big margin for error. But if I’m using a big, primal gross motor weapon to a big target, my margin for error’s really small. And I don’t need to care if it’s a left-hook, or a right-hook or a head-butt or a kick. I’m always going center mass if as I’ve got a spear drivin’ in.

it’s pretty neat. I mean, it’s… in the last 30 minutes I’ve explained 30 years of exploration and observations. The other day I explained the entire system to a cop in about 15 minutes. And I was like, “Wow!” I mean, just information overload and a fire hose of information. But again it all filters down from this psychology, to physics to physiology. If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a metaphor, we need to survive. And so you asked about teaching cops different and law enforcement different. At the end of the day, I believe presence is the first thing the bad guy sees and picks up on.

And I’m dating myself here for your audience, but does the bad guy see Dirty Harry, and Clint Eastwood walking across the street? Or does the bad guy see Barney Fife? You know? And so I really believe that whether somebody’s Special Forces, Special Operations, a SWAT team, a cop. security guard… that the bad guy, when he looks at you, and he’s deciding “Am I gonna let this person arrest me? Am I gonna run? Am I gonna fight?” What they’re looking for in the body language and the aura…

Mark: “Am I gonna get hurt?”

Tony: Yeah. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah, unless you’re ISIS most bad guys don’t want to get hurt, so they’ll avoid that.

Tony: Right. And depending on the circumstances and the scenario, ISIS guys run away to not get captured and hurt too. It’s interesting when you come back to that. At the end of the day it’s the neuro-science and the physiology that unites everybody, even the evil ones.

So unless I’ve signed off, and I went “Today’s the day, I’m fucking blowing myself up,” what I’m trying to do is escape because I don’t want to blow myself up ’til next Friday.

Mark: Right. Give myself a few more days.

Tony: It’s interesting stuff, and I’m glad we have a chance to talk…

Mark: Okay, someone’s got a machete, and they’re coming at you. And you lean into them with a spear and they chop your frickin’ arm off. Now what?

Tony: You gotta hit him with the other arm. Half-spear. It’d have to be a big and sharp machete to do it in one blow. And true story, one of the units that I was training. He came in a room, got drawn down the room there. Center-fed room there. Sees the door, comes in. Bad guy over here. Shoots at him. Hits him in the arm. Busts his forearm. Gets hit close range. Busts his forearm. Gun drops. Orients on the guy, sees the guy. His gun jams. And he runs toward him, broken arm. And comes up “Wham!” and hits him because what we teach, and you know. We did a little bit of training. You’ve got a full spear. If I’m empty-handed, I’ll micro-flinch up like this and then I’m coming forward both hands to get my hands on you.

What’s counter-intuitive for people is to move towards the danger. When you flinch, you want to move away. So part of the training is this classical conditioning. How do you convert the flinch and move toward the danger?

Mark: I thought that was really valuable. I mean, that was… even if you’re pressed up against a wall, right? Or the scenarios we did together. If you’re lifted off the wall, you can still fight, but people need to convert that energy.

Tony: And so people need to realize that the extensor chain–fingers splayed outside 90–is stronger than the flexor chain. So if you grab me and you’re trying to pull me into a room, and I jam out, this is just a powerful… the strongest thing you can do. And everybody can do that.

If you’re in Special Operations, I don’t know what the demographic is watching this, you might have your kid in your hands and something happens. And don’t forget, the half-spear where we were using as a practical, tactical application the fore-arm, could also be a palm strike. So that’s the same… the fuel that fires this. Whatever that spark is. Is fear. “Oh shit,” right? And so you know, if I said, “Hey, look at this, Mark.” And I opened my hand and it’s something that you just instinctively don’t like, your body’s going to react to it.

And I make the joke, like the Jack-in-the-box. So you can go “Doo-do-do-do-doodly-do.”

Mark: (laughing) You know he’s going to come out.

Tony: He’s coming out. There’s still a micro-flinch there. And no matter how good you get, you can’t finger jab the clown. You’re always going to be late. The head will always pop up. And so, you know, that’s another big model with the system. And this comes back to category 4, action versus reaction. Category 1,2,3 the focus is on “I’m going to do this, when he does this. When he throws that punch, I’m slipping in and hitting him with a body shot. Okay, when he throws this kick, I’m doing this block, I’m kicking him back.”

That works in the synchronized dance that is those fighting sports and fighting arts. But the bad guy’s truly the jack-in-the-box. And in physics, action always beats reaction. So if you’re training modality is “Well, when you get me in a headlock, I’m going to do this.” You’re violating physics.

Mark: Right. Cause you let the guy put you in a headlock.

Tony: Or you go caught but your training only starts… like how ridiculous would this be, “Mark, I’m gonna teach you how to get out of a hangman’s noose.” I’m gonna teach you to counter.

Mark: First get in the noose.

Tony: Right. In order to practice it, you’ve got to get in the noose. And so we jokingly refer to that as the “Star Trek” model of self-defense. Where you allow the bad guy to beam down into the headlock, into the choke. And don’t confuse this. You’ve been doing martial arts for many years. To understand how to escape from a headlock, you need to put it on, you need to understand what the opportunities are to counter this. But if I said to you, and I just did a video online. And it’s amazing the YouTube hate, stuff like that. I don’t even look at that. But people post “did you see what So-and-so said, or so-and-so said?” I’m like, “Don’t even send that shit to me.”

Because what… I’m trying to make good people safer. So I tell people, “Don’t practice getting in and out of a headlock. Practice picking up the headlock and stopping the headlock. Intercept the headlock.” Because what martial artists do as a rule, is they practice category1, put me in a headlock, I do the escape.” Category 2, “Hey, if a guy gets you on the ground, gets you in a headlock, here’s the escape. Category 3, “Here’s how to get out of a headlock. And I’m going category 4 is, “What if I fuck the guy up way before the headlock gets on?” So, you know, if you’ve got unlimited funds and training time, you can do both.

But it’s like I asked you before, if you could only pick one category to practice so that you got to do what you love. See your family every night. And live in peace. And there’s nothing wrong with being a deadly pacifist. You can be, “I’m not into violence.” But you need to protect yourself.

I had this amazing talk on Facebook–what a waste of time, but you gotta be there–where this guy started saying we need to ban rape. And I said, “Yeah, we should ban murder to, and we should ban all bad stuff.” Let’s just ban bad stuff.

Mark: Good idea. I’ll start the petition.

Tony: Start it. I’ll sign. I’ll be your first signature. And I’m like, “Listen, you’re going to stop evil, opportunistic, mixed-signals whatever. What we should teach is everybody how to protect themselves. Because I can’t control what evil’s thinking or planning or plotting. And this guy’s going nuts, “No. We need to teach men they can’t rape!” And I’m going, “That’s not practical, dude.” People just don’t get it. So I’m maybe thinking of this cause of the YouTube stuff. What I was showing people really simply is that if I’ve got my hands up and you’re walking toward me. And I’m picking up the danger so this is situational awareness, and this is verbal defuse and de-escalation. And then when the guy moves and I go, “Oh shit.” and I flinch and I push away the danger, I can trust the science of physiology to stop you. The startle flinch is akin to… it’s an organic airbag. Like an airbag in a car. The airbag deploys during an accident. An accident means you didn’t’ do this on purpose. I didn’t get mugged on purpose. I didn’t get raped on purpose. So a violent encounter, category 4 are accidents. what can we use in physiology–stuff that’s organic–that’s going to make good humans safer?

And here I am just trying to share this stuff, saying, “If you’re not trying to get into the UFC, if you’re trying to be competitive Thai Boxer or Boxer, you just simple self-defense. And what I figured I’ve done… I try to explain this to people is that, like… do you know how long it takes to take a basic CPR course?

Mark: 3 hours, I think.

Tony: 3 hours. I think a full one now is 4 to 6 hours. So I tell people, “First Aid CPR course, you’re going to spend part of a day. And at the end of the day, you’re going to be able to save somebody’s life. Maybe your own. Put a tourniquet on. Help somebody who’s choking, do the Heimlich, do CPR on somebody. Are you a doctor after 1 day? Could you go into a hospital and put on some scrubs and go “Let me help out with this brain surgery here. I did a 1 day CPR course.” This is how insane people are on the Internet. Cause I teach self-defense like firefighters and EMT teach first-aid. I teach a day. This is what you need to know. Every victim of violence who ever lived to tell the tale said they had a bad feeling. So we teach people, “Trust that bad feeling.” There’s no down-side to choosing safety. You got a bad feeling? You go to a restaurant, you eat something, it tastes wrong. If you get a bad feeling, being a strategist you go, “I’m not going to continue eating this.” Right, I’m not moving towards the danger. It’s so simple. So that’s what we teach with self-defense.

And then we teach primal gross motor movements that everyone can do. Your hands are up. You’ve got a legal, moral, ethical position. Non-violent posture. Trying to talk it down.

And I make it sound easy right now, but it is that easy. The confusion is that somebody now thinks, “Okay, I just did this self-defense course.”It’s not a martial art; it doesn’t replace a martial art. And like the story you told with Jerry Peterson, going, “Hey man.” Like CQV and martial arts, there may be a couple of crossover things, but that’s a different world.

You know Tim Larkin. So Tim released this video, which is a great video. And it really speaks to this 4 category thing. It’s 2 professional MMA guys. There’s actually footage of them in octagons, beating the shit out of people. I mean these guys are ripped like you and me. Ripped like Bruce Lee. I mean, just fuckin’ ground and pound, suplexing guys. And then there’s surveillance video of them at a convenience store gas station where they get in a fight with what turns into 4 or 5 guys, just local street guys. But these guys are all, you know, machismo, and “Hey, we’re MMA fighters.” Right? And so they’ve confused category 2 with category 4\. And what happens is… it’s horrifically graphic. They’re in the pocket, wailing on guys, and guys are punching back. It’s amazing how resilient, as you know, the human body is just when you’re in a fight. And these guys are wailing on these guys and out of a shadow comes a guy with what looks like a 2 by 4, 2 by 2 stick that he had in the car, or trunk or saw it. Opportunistic. He comes in. The first guy, he comes running at the guy like this. And the other guy turns and he does a flinch. He wasn’t trained by me. This is physiology going “Aw, fuck.” Right? He gets hit, comes back, boom. Nails him across the chest. He falls down. He’s on the ground trying to scurry out of the way.

The guy turns and runs… the other MMA guy has his back to him and he’s just drilling this other guy. And they’re kinda going toe-to-toe and this guy comes across, does that Happy Gilmore skip, you know, “You’re going to die, clown.” Skips into it. Hits the guy across the head. Knocks him out cold. The guy falls down. One of those knockouts where you see the head hit, and you go, “That’s bad.” And then 2 guys come over and they kick the shit out of ’em and these guys are drilling him. The guy’s still in a coma with brain damage.

But what’s the point here? The point isn’t that, “Oh, I feel horrible.’ But it’s don’t’ confuse the categories. Just because you’re an IPSC doesn’t mean you’re a gunfighter. Right? You can relate to that more than most people.

And so that’s what we’re really talking about. When I was 20 I got asked what I wanted to do. And I was 20 years old, I was teaching this wealthy guy’s kids in Montreal, and he said, “I’ve done Karate, I’ve done Judo. I’ve been around.” He said, “You teach and look at this stuff completely differently. I’m going to introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s a venture capitalist.” I didn’t’ know what the hell that was.

I go in there. And he goes, “Rick, you go something good going. What is it?”

He said, “I think I’ve got this generic approach to self-defense.”

He goes, “What do you mean, generic approach?”

“I mean, not generic, as in generic’s bad. Like Sam’s Club, Costco, like just a generic brand. Generic as it applies to you, me, everybody. Your daughter. It’s an approach… I didn’t have the cool language that I now years later… but basically saying that if we looked at self-defense from “What’s the bad guy going to do? And how that’s going to affect us emotionally, psychologically and physically. And then built a system for that. We’re reverse engineering it. And I believe I’m on to something here. Nobody’s ever explained it like this.”

And I go, “I wanna make the world safer.” And he looks at me like this, and he says, “you wanna make the world safer?”

I go, “yeah.”

He goes, “You don’t think that’s a little grandiose?”

And I’m like, “Why would that be grandiose?”

And he went, “hey kid, this sounds great. Good luck.” shakes my hand.

And that was 36 years ago. but that’s what we do. And all these years later we got close to 200 affiliates around the world. Trying to spread the message, share the stuff. And we got the MTT mobile training team.

Mark: Well, it’s a growth industry. Cause the world is not that safe right now. I think there’s more and more people who are finally opening up to the idea that they need some skills. So imagine you’ve seen a lot of demand from non-military, non-law enforcement. Do you have a program for…? I remember “Be Your Own Bodyguard.”

Tony: Yeah, the “Be Your Own Bodyguard” is doing really well. That’s a 1 day course. So we’re growing that team. We’re doing a lot more kinda custom, corporate stuff. The thing they need to realize is this isn’t a martial art commitment.

Mark: Yeah. It’s 1 day, 2 days. You learn some skills that may save your life.

Tony: And let’s say I taught somebody here locally, and you know, the guy got all the content here, but he was just having a lot of trouble moving. I might say, “Dude, your range of motion’s horrible, so it’s preventing you from penetrating with this knee or this elbow. Go see my friend Mark, and go do some of the yoga. And get exposure to some of the movements there, and some of the combatives there.” Because if you’re the hardware, this is the software. I’ve gotta get it in your brain. And it’s almost like this information is almost like… and it’s not like a vaccine in the sense of “now I’m immune to this disease.” as a metaphor. But we’ve got to inject you with this information so that you are more resistant to it. And the danger is fear. The biggest thing we do, Mark. The most important thing we do. And I tell people all the time, “I’m going to teach you about self-defense, but the transcendent value of this the fact that if I can get you at the end of the day to go, “Listen, I’m going to do what I can to protect myself or my family.” And I know that you’re a salesman. I go, “What’s more scary? Protecting yourself and your family? Or making a cold call tomorrow?” In other words, the transcendent value is, you know, I can now look at any confrontation and reverse engineer the scenario so I understand the sequence in terms of “what is my goal here? Where do I need to go?”

So we’ve created that chart, that cycle of behavior. and the neuro-circuitry of fear to show people. Like if you’re hanging out in the fear loop, you may get through that situation through the duress pass, but the duress pass takes its toll on you, emotionally and physically. And maybe a culprit or a component of PTSD. It’s pretty heavy stuff. It’s exciting. Get’s me fired up. As you can tell.

Mark: I can tell you’re pretty fired up.

Tony: Did I take a breath yet?

Mark: I was gonna say, you’re gonna pass out from all those words.



Mark: So you rattled it off really quickly about an hour and a half ago. About what does SPEAR actually stand for?

Tony: Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response. So the Spontaneous Protection part is I throw something at you, your hands come up.

And the Accelerated Response is I’m going to use the kinetic energy…

Mark: That’s the transition from the flinch to the attack.

Tony: Yeah. And so, if I make you flinch and your hands come up and there’s all of this stored energy. So right now your potential energy… I make you flinch, you become kinetic energy. Imagine I grab you and I’m on your throat. Right so I choke you. And you’d be here like this. So my hands would probably get on you before you stopped me if it was a real surprise.

But what happened is, this we get here. Instead of us going “Uh, uh.” and trying to do that, the training says “what’s the closest weapon, closest target.” I’ve got all of this… and you know this from lifting weights, from breathing in yoga… when you’re going to exert, when you’re going to do something powerful, you inhale. And you load your body with the power of oxygen. When you flinch, guess what happens? You don’t go, “Oh my God, I’m scared.” (exhale). You do this (inhale), right? So if I said put your body in the position where you could drop the biggest elbow on my head, you’d go…yeah…you’d do that right? And so if I went to grab you and you did that just dropped that elbow from there, or slam that palm-strike or gouge my eye. But it’s counter-intuitive to move from the flinch, because nobodies said, “You know there’s no T-Rex in the room because they didn’t flinch. But cavemen flinched and they developed the spear out of that. And what it is is a tactical trinity of we’re out hunting and we go… the first hand signal was a caveman going, “Hey I don’t hear any birds or crickets. Things got really weird.” And that’s that… and you’ve experienced that. There’s something wrong on the other side of that door. And you either trust that or you don’t. Choose safety. If there’s nothing wrong, choosing safety, you’re still safe. If there is something wrong, you’re safer. Triangulating on the potential danger and you’re still safer. The whole thing is that tactical trinity of situational awareness, I’m gonna get a fear spike. So what I add when people talk about fight or flight. I go, “Wait a minute, there’s another component here.” When I fight, I wanna be in control especially in this day and age of Smart phones. I don’t want to just say, “I was in the fight syndrome. I don’t know what I did.” I want to know. I hit this person 11 times, because 10 times didn’t work. And that’s lawful, moral, ethical, legal.

And I don’t want to run, because running just out of the flight syndrome also contributes to PTSD. I wanna run because I’ve practiced proper running mechanics, I worked on my aerobic capacity. I’m making fun, but it’s no different than Sun-Tzu “Art of War.” Know your enemy, know yourself. Know the terrain. Right? And so if I’m closing up shop and I see something weird. And I’ve thought about, “What would I do if on my way to a bank deposit I thought I was gonna get held up.” And I thought about that, and I played that out. “Well, I’m gonna drive to the police station.” Or “I’m going to do this or do that.” God forbid that happens, you do that. While it was scary you high-five yourself for being so proactive, right? But the people that talk to me that go… like my daughter had an incident at a… like a… she was out with my… Madison’s out with Olivia and she thinks somebody’s following them. She’s heard me talk about this stuff, and she does this whole charade with her cell phone, where she picks it up pretending to do a selfie. Sees the guy in the reflection. He doesn’t like it. Grabs Olivia, pretends to make a phone call. They move. She tells me the whole story, like, “There’s so many creeps out there, and here’s what I did.” But it wasn’t like, “Dad, I think I was almost attacked.” It was just like “Wow, how did you put that together?” And it was just that, like… the ruse and the distraction and having a plan. And that’s what we want. So we teach people how to think. And it’s all about managing fear. And what I was getting at is you can’t just have situational awareness. And you can’t just have, like, a black belt in every martial art in the world. Because there are a lot of really good fighters that fought Mike Tyson in his prime. And you could tell when they walked in the ring that the fight was over. You can give somebody a whole bunch of weapons. And teach them how to shoot. And they’re still going to lose that gunfight. The secret in everything in life… and we just say right up front in our seminars, “Fear throttles everything we do. Or it is a fuel for what you do. It’s how you look at it.” And who you marry, how much money you make, where you live, how much weight you lift, whether you defend yourself or not is going to be governed in some way by how you manage fear. And really that’s the essence.

And I can’t think of a single, more important skill set than the ability to protect yourself or a loved one. That you would trade everything you have materialistically in a heartbeat.

Mark: Yeah, for sure. Here’s I think one of the scenarios that most people are probably fearful of is when you’re not targeted singularly, but you’re in the place. Like the Paris theater, when some guy walks in with a frickin’ machine gun. And, you know, to me it’s the Todd Beamer approach, right? It’s like, everybody including you are much safer if you move to the danger and take it out as opposed to hide. Or run. If you run you’re going to get trampled and then shot. And if you hide, you’re going to get hunted. You may get lucky, but you’re potentially being hunted. And, oh, by the way, 30 other people are getting shot. But if the 3 or 4 people closest to that shooter attacked, they would have taken him down. They would have ended the threat.

So it’s kind of like the guys on the train in Paris, or outside of Paris. They were sheepdogs. They saw something weird. The guys going in… something’s not right. And so they got up and just waited outside the bathroom. Because they knew what was going down. And as soon as these guys came out with their weapons they took ’em down. They saved probably hundreds of lives.

Tony: Yeah. Now what’s interesting there…

Mark: So how do we get more Sheepdogs like that? Does your system help that type of thing?

Tony: Listen. I’ve got lots of stories where people have the Sheepdog response. But they either actively or intuitively manage their fear. It still comes back to the fog of war.

Mark: The flinch response happens in their mind, and they move toward the threat…

Tony: The startle/flinch is a mechanism that goes from the mind through the body. So the startle happens in the mind. The flinch happens in the body.

So if I go, “Okay, kids, close your books. There’s going to be a surprise quiz today, and it’s worth 25% of your mark.” And then your kid comes home, right. Or you come home going, “I failed that. I bombed that.” That was an exaggerated… I blew a circuit in my mind… the startle overloaded and I blew that.

When it manifests itself in the body–something startled me here, the flinch happened there–and they kind of work hand-in-hand. Understanding scenarios and understanding the formula, and understanding fear is key.

So you remember the “No Fear” t-shirt company? You probably had a bunch of those shirts back in the day. Cause they were cool. Cause anybody’s who type A personality who’s trying to get good at life, whether it was fitness, combatives, military–the “No Fear” lifestyle was, “Yeah.”

Mark: Whatever happened to them, by the way?

Tony: They’re still around.

Mark: (laughing) It’s not “No SPEAR.” I’m not sure where to go with that one.

Tony: Yeah. Thank you. Bu-doom-doom. But the… so, no, they’re still around. They’re really focused on like the Moto-cross and stuff like that.

So many, many years ago–almost 20 years ago–I wrote “No Fear” on a whiteboard, and it was “N-O” fear. And we talked about it. And the logic is little bit more refined now. The idea that there’s a state of “No Fear” perpetuates more fear. Because if you go into a situation where you go, “I was told I was good to go. I got my certificate. I got a pat on the back, I got a pat on the ass, I got pushed in here. Why am I breathing so hard? Why is my heart pounding, here? Why am I sweating? Why do I have Tachy Psyche, fancy word for things look like they’re going in slow motion? Why do I have auditory exclusion? Why do I have tunnel vision?

And so if you think about that incorrectly–and you know this–has there ever been in the history of documented battle warriors that can’t shoot. Shoot high and shoot low and can’t shoot. The classic book “Fog of War.” It wasn’t their training, it wasn’t their body-type. Ectomorph, Mesomorph. It wasn’t these guys were 5’8″. 5’8″ guys can’t shoot. It was they couldn’t manage their fear when it came time to do shit.

And I really believe this is the missing opportunity for all of us. And it’s the area that I’ve focused on since I’m 6 years old, 7 years old. Why am I afraid? How do I manage my fear? And the day I realized there’s no such thing as “No Fear.” There’s only… if I want “No Fear,” I’ve got to get to “Know Fear.” K-N-O-W fear.

So what I would do on the board in the class. And it would be more dramatic if I had a little whiteboard here. But imagine I had “No Fear” here and then I write the K and the W beside them. Meaning to manage your fear, you need to know fear. You need to embrace it; you need to look at it. I was just coaching somebody on the phone the other night who’s had a big event coming next day. Panicking in their head. I got on the phone and said, “Listen. Have you had this happen to you before?”


“Did you die?”


“Okay, so you’re not going to die tomorrow. That’s good right?” And we started laughing, and I said, “Listen, you need to look at the fear and go, ‘You motherfucker.’ What took you so long?” And just laugh at it and be with it and use it as a fuel, because now if you look at it in the wrong way, it can throttle what you need to do.

Like, Mike Tyson, may not be the world’s best role model. But just in terms of the formidable adversary he was in his time. He used to throw up before fights. He was so afraid. But you didn’t know that when he was walking down without a robe and his black shoes on. You’re like, “Holy shit. I don’t wanna fight that guy.” That guy was crying in the dressing room 5 minutes before. He puked in a bucket 5 minutes before. And that’s how he managed his fear.

Maurice Smith, I don’t know if you know the name. Old friend of mine. Won a UFC. He’s one of the best kick-boxing champions in the world. Thai Boxer.

So I’m downstairs at some big fight and he’s fighting and he’s lying on a table, and he’s got whatever, the beats headphones were of that era. And he’s just lying there. And you could hear cool rhythm and blues music listening.

And there’s another fighter that sitting there like this and his leg’s going, right? And then there’s one guy who’s punching the face. There’s another guy shadow-boxing. And everyone has their pre-fight ritual.

I say to Maurice, “I study fear. I gotta ask you a question.” He goes, “yeah, what’s up?” I go, “I’m looking around the room here. And I see this guy is vibrating over here. And this guy’s shadow-boxing, and this guy’s punching himself in the face. And you’re lying here like arms crossed, legs crossed, on the massage table, listening to chill music.” And I go, “do you have fear before the fight? How do you handle that?”

He says, “Let me ask you a question.” I go, “yeah, what?” He goes, “Do you have a job?” I go, “yeah, I do.” He goes, “Are you afraid to go to work?” I go, “No, I’m not.” He goes, “Me either.”

And I was like, “Wow.” Now here’s the thing… what a cool answer, that’s like a line from a movie. He’d gotten to the point in his life where he’d fought so much and so consistently and it was his endorsements and his fights. And he’d do kick-box here, he’d do MMA here. And it was like, “Okay, let’s see, my schedule is I’m knocking out somebody on Thursday. Saturday I’m going to choke out somebody.” I mean, he lost fights. But he would go in there like every fighter, “I’m going to win.” But he looked at it like you and me booking a seminar. And it was amazing to me, but here’s the most important point of this. If I didn’t have the detached intuitiveness to look at everybody here and go, “All these guys won tonight.” Now that I know that. If I had changed their pre-fight ritual, would they have lost?

Those 3 guys on the Paris train, if they were alone. If it was just 1 of them, would they have hesitated? Would they have moved? So it’s much easier… you know this from working with teams. But what we need is that government of the self. We need to go, “You know, I’m the commander in chief in terms of my decision making loop. I’m also the special forces in terms of what I’m watching and relaying. “Hey, did you see that?” And I’m also that grunt who’s saying, “hey, you need to go over there and frickin’ dig a ditch right now.” And so that’s taking ownership and responsibility for my ability to protect myself, which is the most fundamental skill. What can I learn if I do this properly? Is there transcendent value? Am I a better dad? A better businessperson? Am I a better friend? And hopefully I never have to use it. And so we come back to, you know, Paris, Orlando, and stuff like that. At the end of the day… people don’t even realize how many active shooter situations there’s been in the States. We did an article on it after the Colorado shooting. When Batman came out.

And at that time, which is like, 2, 3 years ago. There were 28 shootings that no one had ever heard about. Just wasn’t enough bloodshed to make the news. Didn’t fit the agenda.

And most of them were stopped by the bad guy committing suicide. None of them were stopped by the cops. All the other ones, a great percentage of them were stopped by the courageous bystander.

And so in our course, the “Be Your Own Bodyguard” course, when we talk about the “Be Your Own Bodyguard” principle, we actually say, “slash courageous bystander.” That… whatever you believe in. I always say “God forbid,” but whether you’re an atheist, or God, whatever. it’s just an expression. Whatever you believe in, if your family was out somewhere and some psycho shit was happening, would you want some courageous bystander to fuck that guy up? Fuck yeah.

And so how do we inspire that in other people? It’s really about managing fear. And this is why this whole, reframe on “No Fear” is so big. That there is no such thing as “No Fear.” Thinking that perpetuates more fear.

And if you want to get to a place where you can manage any fear. Someone throws something at you and you go, “Whoa.” Because everything’s a startle/flinch. And it’s like, “Shit, how we gonna fix this?” And we gotta get to know fear if we want a state of no fear.

Interesting stuff. So at the end of the day it’s really keeping it… like Ernie and Bert coming up with a survival system. Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street. I know you’re not old enough to remember Sesame Street, but I am. But how would Ernie and Bert teach like weapon defense? They’d say, “This is the hole; don’t be in front of the hole. Go.” And that’s literally Mark, that’s how I teach our weapon protection class. I go, “Ernie and Bert told this to me.” And well have people try this some time, because you do some of that gunplay, right? You start off going, “okay, this is the J, this is the 8, this is the here. Okay you move here and kick here.” And you get people going, “Hey, am I supposed to do this here?” And they get into the analysis/paralysis cause they’re trying to remember the complex motor skill.

If you go, “Everyone stop.” And you get 2 puppets out. It’s much more dramatic if you’ve got the puppets. And you say. “guys, what comes out the hole? Don’t be in front of the hole. Start grappling with the gun.” And it’s amazing how intuitive the body is. And this is what I’ve learned. And this is what I tell people, like, we figured out how to hack teaching self-defense for category 4\. you can’t hack… did you see the fight with C.M. Punk? The UFC thing? He’s never had any fights, but he’s well-known from the wrestling world. He wants to do a fight, but because he’s a big name and well-known they give him a fight against Micky Gall, who’s a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, he’s got 2 fights in the UFC. But he’s been fighting for years. The fight lasted about 9 seconds.

But there was this whole build-up weeks before and everything like that. And this guy, C.M. Punk–I don’t know if that’s his real name–went and trained with Rufus at a real camp…

Mark: And this guy wasn’t a fighter? And he wanted to fight? I don’t understand?

Tony: He was a professional wrestler, who like Brock Lesnar I think, who said, “I wanna fight.” And so they went, “you’re kind of a celebrity. Anyone want to fight this guy?” And this guy Micky said, “I’ll fight him.” And he was like a new kid. They’d just discovered him on one of Dana’s shows looking for a fight.

But like I’d been telling people for 25 years. You can’t fake stamina. You can’t fake experience. I think my buddy Marco Lawler said you can’t fake endurance. There’s like certain things that people go like… I remember one of my students, years ago, he was a prodigy. You’d show him a kick, right away he could do it right away better than you. You’d show him any move… he was like 17, 18 years old. We’d be warming up so some of the guys been training with me for a year or 2, when this guy Evan showed up. And he’s there boxing and moving like Sugar Ray Leonard, and doing spinning kicks. And I go, “This is the guy Evan I was telling you about.” And they’re like intimidated, cause we’re going to spar. They got all their gear on. They’re like “Coach, this guy’s like amazing.” I go, “He picked up stuff fast.”

Mark: It’s not that same as experience.

Tony: Right. “But he hasn’t sparred. You’ve been fighting for 2 years. you’re in the fear loop right now.”This is what fascinated me being a coach. Because I was living vicariously, I would see their fear in their eyes and their bodies, and I’d go, “What’s going on here?”

“I don’t know. Am I ready to fight this guy?”

“I should be asking him. You sure you wanna fight this guy? You.”

“Really?” And watching that transformation… I got goose bumps now thinking about it. That’s what I get off of. As do you, when one of your student’s has a breakthrough. Whether it’s in fitness, in yoga, in fighting or mental toughness. Where somebody finally gets it.

But for me the breakthrough, the secret, the key in the lock is always managing fear. That if you didn’t fear fear, what would you do?

I was having lunch with Coach Glassman, and he asked me this question, he says, “T, why do you think some people won’t fight?” And in case you haven’t noticed, I can get verbose and go off on tangents. Right?

Mark: Yeah, I hadn’t noticed that.

Tony: Good. I’ll try it right now. And so I start to go, “Well Greg, there’s myriad reasons for…”

And he interrupts me, and goes, “Isn’t it because they’re afraid to lose?”

Mark: They’re afraid to get hurt too.

Tony: It was what he said. He goes, “They’re afraid to lose.” If we said, “Well what do you mean by lose?” Get hurt, get killed, get embarrassed, whatever. So he says “isn’t just cause they’re afraid to lose?” And the reason I kind of… and again, these are Greg’s words… “if the fight’s going to happen anyhow and you agree to the fight, all you risk losing is the fight.” He pauses, looks at me, and he goes, “And if the fight’s going to happen, no matter what, and you choose to do nothing, what you risk is losing everything.” and he wasn’t talking your life, he was talking about the PTSD, he was talking about the self-esteem, the dignity, the self-respect.

So… but at that moment I still come back to… if you’re afraid to lose, it’s cause you’re afraid. If you’re afraid, it’s you’ve got a lack of understanding on the neural circuitry of fear. Everyone… I’ve had fighters… I was training this one guy. He’s getting ready for a title fight. The door opens up. The ring official for the kick boxing associate comes in. “15 minutes.” Closes the door. His wraps are already stamped. His gloves are on. He’s shadow boxing. Couple peoples in the room, so the adrenalin right. Here we go. And it’s already there. But now it’s real.

I go, “hey, Shawn, how do you feel?”

he goes, “I’m good coach. I’m frickin’ nervous, but I’m good. I’m ready for this. Had a good camp.”

And I look at him, I go “Shawn, you’re supposed to be nervous. You’re about to get in a fight. Someone’s going to try and punch you really hard in the face, and you’re going to try and punch him back. Okay? So you’re supposed to be nervous, kid.”

And he goes, “Thanks, coach.” And I’m going like, “That was a pretty good answer.”

And while I’m sitting there, Mark, something starts to nag at me. Like I gave him like a fortune cookie answer. Because I never asked him… and this is the peeling of the onion… we can’t just say “No Fear.” We’ve got to in other words, to get to this place where we manage our fear we need to know fear, and to know fear you need to ask the question, “What am I afraid of?”

“Am I afraid of getting hurt? Am I afraid of losing? Am I afraid of bleeding? Am I afraid of getting cut? Getting shot?” So if I can study that, I can demystify that a little bit and maybe have more respect for the weapon or the danger. And then I agree to move towards the danger.

And I said to this kid, “Shawn, I want to apologize for that last answer.”

He said, “I loved that answer, man. It relaxed me. Made me smile.”

I said, “But I didn’t ask you what you’re afraid of. You could have been afraid of winning, losing, getting hurt.” His girlfriend’s ringside, his parent’s are ringside. All these things are running through my head. I go, “So what exactly are you afraid of?”

He says… now in amateur kick boxing, it’s a 4 round fight. For title fights. All regular fights are 3 round. He says, “Look, I’ve done 10 rounds preparing for this, consecutive. But it’s the first time I’m actually doing a 4 round fight. it’s stupid, I’m a little nervous about it. What if I don’t get my kicks in? What if I don’t have enough energy in the 4th round?”

And I’m like, “I would never have guessed that.” But he would have walked out, had a not forced that conversation, he’d have walked out carrying the weight of that. And he might not have got his kicks in in round 2 or 3. Or maybe tight, trying to conserve, and got hurt.

So I looked at him, and I said really quickly, “Shawn, can you do 2 rounds?”

He goes, “Yeah.” So I said, “Just do 2 rounds twice.”

And he smiles and that’s what we did. And at the end of the 2nd round, I go “Dude, can you do 2 rounds?” I’m squirting water in his mouth. He goes, “Yeah.”

Now amateur boxing is a 16 foot ring, so you got a foot on each side, so it’s 14 feet inside. You can hear the other corner. And right there, just like we’re in a bad boxing movie, the other guy in the other corner looks up at his coach just after I said that to Shawn and he goes, “Coach, what round is it?” Because, you know, when you’re new to certain things like that time and space. But he went out and he won the title that night because… and if you said, “Hey, I got… I’m willing to defend myself, my family against 1 person, but I’m concerned about 2 or 3.” I would say, “Just fight 1 person 3 times.” You’ve got to break the math down. Listen, coming back to what Greg said, it’s a choice less choice. If the fight’s going to happen anyhow, to go back to what you said with active shooter, you can’t hide under the desk. If the guy’s there and he know your hiding, he’s going to kick you in the face. You just made it easier for him to kick you in the face or shoot you in the face, because you’re in the fetal position. On the floor.

If it’s a choice less choice, you’ve gotta get into the fight. And the only way to do that isn’t to think I need to have a black belt. In fact, I always tell people there are more people who defend themselves everyday through sheer will and indignation, than there ever will be trained people who get attacked and then successfully defend themselves.”

In fact, you probably know this, I know this… there are countless stories of trained people getting their ass kicked by the douche bag in the street. Because the douche bag in the street is violent encounter, and this guy has an unconscious bias to go, “Look man, I don’t want any trouble.” But he’s trying to get to 2 o’clock and get to this outside position to set up his favorite move. Where he just needs to be going right through that guy.

Mark: Whew. Wow. All right, hey listen, let’s wrap this up. Cause we got some things to do. I gotta go face the city tonight.

Tony: I got a meeting at 4.

Mark: Well, you got ten minutes to get there. Good for you.

Tony: It’s a phone, so…

Mark: So people can find you by Googling Tony Blauer and everything pops up.

Tony: They can do that. We got a new website called blauerspear.

Mark: .com I assume?

Tony: Yeah, .com. And a lot of cool stuff…

Mark: Is there a .spear TLD anymore? So you could get blauer.spear.

Tony: I’ll look into that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But go to the website, all that information’s there. How to contact me, the different courses we have for law enforcement, for military, corporations, citizens, Crossfitters, it’s all there.

Mark: Excellent. Okay. And where should someone start if they have no experience?

Tony: You know what, the truth of the matter is approach your personal safety… even when we train cops and military, we go, “Listen, you haven’t been taught this stuff. You think you have, but it’s…

Mark: Forget everything you know.

Tony: Yeah, Just suspend judgment and absorb it. Good information doesn’t displace other good information, right? If I show you something good and you have something there that’s good already that works for you, you’ve got 2 good things, or you just go “boom.” It just bumps it. You don’t need it. If I give you a really good gun, and you’ve got a shitty gun, you’re going to go, “Oh my God. This one’s always jamming. Thank you.”

But if this one works all the time, now you got a backup. So it’s just… we make people practice both sides because it doubles their arsenal. But most people only practice their dominant side.

So the approach on this, where do you start? Is you start going… first of all, it’s self-awareness of saying “would I know what to do to protect myself or my family?” Not being cavalier. I tell people, don’t let ego/pride dictate your next fight. Or your next strategy. Because the reality is when we come at it with one of the 3 categories, and some people–I’m sure there’s a lot of people–who train, who are going to have to maybe relisten to this or sleep a couple days cause they’re pissed off. “He said I’m in category 1, that means I’m not prepared for category 4.”

what I’m asking you is this: You’re instructor and your training might have prepared you for category 4\. But when do you want to find that out? So really you should introspect, going, “what’s it going to cost me to spend a day in one of these Blauer Tactical courses, and make me and my family safer. And if I’ve already got good information I got reinforced. Or maybe it filled my toolbox a little bit. Or maybe I understood fear in a different way.

You can’t start anything without self-awareness, going, “I’m going to check this out.”

Mark: Right. I agree. Okay, awesome. Well thanks so much for your time. Let’s make the world safer. Hooyah.

Tony: Pleasure, buddy.

Mark: All right, folks. You heard it from Tony Blauer, world’s foremost expert on the psychology of knowing fear.

Tony: There we go.

Mark: I wonder if we made a shirt that said “Know Fear,” if we’d get sued.

Tony: We’re coming out with a few, so we’ll find out.

Mark: Sounds good. All right, guys. That’s it for today.

Train hard, stay focused, get to know whether you truly can defend yourself, your loved ones, your family. And if you have any doubt, then it’s time to do something about it. So go to

Tony: Or just call Mark. Just leave a message for Mark.

Mark: (laughing) Yeah. Call me at All right. Out here.


See you next time.