First off, I would like to say "hello" to all the combative and martial art practitioners from New Zealand & the surrounding areas. It's been over a decade since I taught seminars in NZ and throughout Australia. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality and the beautiful region.
FT: Where were you born and raised?
I was born 1960 in Montreal, Canada.
Was any of your family involved in the military law enforcement or martial arts/combat sports/combative training?
My family was pretty athletic, both sides. So I took to all sports pretty easily. No one was into combative sports though.
What rank/grades did you achieve in the styles systems you practiced?
I've wrestled, boxed, and studied TKD as well as dabbled in many arts over the years. I never focused on the ranks and the belts…I've been training most of my life, almost non-stop since 1967 in some sort of combative sport or system. My highest rank was just a Green Belt in TKD.
Have you ever competed in any martial arts combat sports competitions and what success did you have titles etc.?
I started wrestling at a very young age and competed throughout my junior school years, I started with TKD when I was 13 and competed in local tournaments. At the age of 15 I took up boxing as well.
Have you ever qualified on law enforcement courses or military CQB or CQC courses?
Not sure how to approach this one. The direct answer is 'no'. It wasn't a part of my evolution or path. I was approached from within the communities to share my research. Our company helps re-write qualifications or requirements for certification, so it's not an area I get to pursue. Initially as part of my research model, I participated in several DT & SWAT training programs so I could understand what the fundamental officer or operator had to deal with. Its easy to be an armchair quarterback from the outside and criticize an approach, but until you try juggling USE OF FORCE POLICY while you're thinking about hitting someone or wearing 100 lbs of kit while you're talking about groundfighting.
As a 'combatives consultant' its important for me to understand & appreciate the situations & technologies of the individuals I train. It has been well almost 15 years that I've now been teaching fulltime to law enforcement & military groups on an exclusive basis. Our courses are now certified in several state statutes in the USA. We have been by-lined in over 30 lesson plans at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and of course the S.P.E.A.R. system is being taught in many agencies around the world by progressive trainers.
Could you outline your self-defence training background?
There's so much to that answer. I've always been fascinated with martial arts and always was working on something no matter system I was exploring. But I began teaching professionally in 1979 and opened my first school in 1985 after teaching privately for 6 years. In the early 90's my seminar business started to grow and I had to make a difficult choice: run schools or develop the seminar circuit? I chose the seminars and it's been most rewarding.
We have done extensive research on fear and analyzed its affects on performance. Over a decade of groundbreaking research went into the CEREBRAL SELF-DEFENSE: Mental Edge™ program – the first behaviorally based self-defense course of its kind.
In 1982, eleven years before the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the popularity of no-holds-barred events shook the martial arts world, we had created the PANIC ATTACK SYSTEM™ where role-playing, scenarios and tactics converge to help the student understand what really happens during a street attack. This may have been the first no-holds-barred scenario based contact simulation system.
In 1987, we discovered – during a drill – that instinctual, subconscious movement is always faster than cognitive muscle-memory. This process, now known as the S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM™ and it is unlike any other self-defense method because it does not rely on learned muscle-movement or memorized skill sets.
Have you been involved with close protection training and operations? And have you protected any famous people that you are now at liberty to reveal?
No, my main role is 'train-the-trainer' & customized programs. Over the years I've trained several bodyguards, some of them were responsible for the protection of some very high profile individuals. Some of my private students also had their own bodyguard teams, so I've been connected to that AO, but from the other side. Also over the years my career has brought me in contact with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, Robert Conrad, Martha Stewart, Brandon Lee to name a few and while out with them, even though it was professional in a social environment, as a combat athlete, when I'm out, I'm always in bodyguard mode – over the years that 'radar' has always played a part in my travel…
Did your background include working security crowd control or as a bouncer?
No, not as 'my' job, I did do 'research' work in a variety of venues to gain an understanding of that scenario and environment too.
When did you begin to develop your own system of self-defence?
It was 1980; right after one of my students got punched out. I realized then & there, that 'we' as a community, teach self-defense illogically. I know that statement has caused me grief over the years. There are many who really see what I'm trying to pass on to this community and those who don't. The statement is controversial, but the proof is all around us. There are very very few people who can actually make 'their' style work in a real fight. That should be a big clue for the introspective person. But it isn't. You can look at the original UFC's and see there the evidence of my contention. Trained men, who wanted to fight, had trouble making technique & techniques work. So how is the average man or women going to make it work in a surprise attack? For the most part they don't. And that's the realization I had 25 years ago after my student got beaten. I realized I FAILED HIM. Not deliberately, not intentionally, but I was his guide wasn't I? The secret was in stress inoculating through realistic scenario training as well as incorporating verbal skills, self-coaching strategies, fear management and other performance mind-set tools.
A huge evolution was the development of a scenario-training suit that allowed the users to really explore the purported value of their system. Last year at the Martial Art Supershow in Las Vegas, one of my training staff told me that the best thing about the HIGH GEAR Simulation Suit and the Ballistic Micro-Fight (scenario drill) was that it gave him a chance to evaluate how 'he' was doing as a teacher. That blew me a way. I had never thought about it in such a simple direct way. Here's a possible epiphany moment for the conscientious instructor. For years, I've always asked instructors about their students…how they performed under pressure? How was fear management addressed at their school? How their student did in fights? The answers were pretty much the same…if the student did well it was the 'system' or 'style' that was applied. If the student performed poorly then it was the 'student's' fault. The instructor and style is always 'safe' with that answer. But isn't it really the instructor's responsibility to guide and train the student?
Could you briefly outline your self-defence system?
There's too much to get into in a short interview. Here's a short excerpt from our site:
In 1988 while working on an isolation drill, something unique occurred. Fear. Impact. Pain. Swelling. The drill was called the 'sucker punch drill' and it blended verbal aggression, natural stances and any sucker punch. The defender had a mouthguard and no offensive choices other than maintain a non-combative natural stance and he could evade, block or jam, but not strike. The aggressor (wearing 16 ozs. gloves) was allowed to taunt, gesture, point and launch a solo shot anywhere on the body at any time. That's it. The aggressor was allowed to encroach (in other words, there was no 'sparring' distance established) and the threats could be anything from any situation (money, mugging, bar room, etc.). This forced the defender to engage the aggressor cognitively and verbally without establishing any sparring-type rhythm. It also served to distract the defender from concentrating on the physical tools exclusively.
The drill was fantastic because true sucker punches are surprises even when your "spider-sense" is picking up danger. Furthermore, the learned muscle-memory blocks and interceptions were mostly ineffective at extreme close quarters and especially with the verbal distractions (just like in real-life). With the verbal and the threat of impact, resulted in a natural 'startle-flinch' reaction to the suddenness and proximity of the attacks. The overwhelming conclusion was that sport trained skills, no matter how theoretically vicious or effective (against a consenting opponent, or ice or bricks and boards) did not readily appear when the opponent controlled the distance and time of attack. This drill and the research that ensued was a huge springboard moment in the evolution of training for real fights vs. sport fights. What resulted from this innovative drill back in 1988 spawned the S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM™ and inspired an entire martial movement towards more realistic training and tactical choices.
The S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM™ is a 'behaviorally' researched, close quarter personal defense method that utilizes the body's natural flinches and reactions to fear or violence and then converts these reactions into efficient tactical choices. Because the system is "Genetically wired and behaviorally inspired™", anybody can learn it and everybody can do it.
The next big part of the training cycle is of course the scenario application. We have been providing simulation training since 1982, that's over 20 years of R & D and real time experience. These methods and training techniques are now incorporated into the highest-level training by the most progressive trainers around.
When did you begin to design and manufacture training protection equipment?
Well we started the force-on-force training way back in 1980ish with the PANIC ATTACK Drill. It grew consistently from there. Over the years we were always integrating gear from different sports: hockey gloves & helmets, baseball chest, shins, Supersafe headgear from Japan and so on. One of my students said to me one day: "We should make our own gear." And that was the seed. On a trip to a seminar in Nashville I sketched the original concept (part of those sketches are in the new brochure). We then spent years trying to get different manufacturers to make a functional proto-type for me. The first generation HIGH GEAR suit took 7 years and 5 prototypes to make. The gear is unlike anything on the market and is now used by military, SWAT, DT and combatives trainers, we even have pro MMA fighters like Randy Couture, Pat Miletich, Cung Le, Mike McDonald, Carlos Newton and others using the gear to assist in their training. (Visit this link for more details: http://www.tonyblauer.com/4105/03_03_01_highgear.asp)
Have you ever trained and qualified under any of the world war two leaders in close combat?
No I haven't had the opportunity to work with anyone from that generation.
Do you train any high profile combat sports fighters and who are they and what competitions do they compete in and titles they have won?
Over the years I've assisted in different ways with pro fighters. For a time I coached and trained a stable of Pro kick boxers. Most of my work with high profile people has been more on the mind-set, performance psychology. The athletes I really work for the last decade are professional combat athletes.
Are you active in combat shooting and other tactical weapons training?
I wouldn't call myself active, but I shoot when I get a chance. This month I was down at Ft. Bragg for 3 weeks teaching and Jerry Barnhart was down working with a group I had just finished with, so I had a chance to shoot with those guys for a bit.
I'm comfortable manipulating guns as we do offer advanced courses where we teach gunfighting principles and all our operator level courses have integrated long gun and pistol applications during room entry and prisoner handling for many years now.
Tell us about your head quarters and any schools you have under your control internationally?
We're headquartered in Montreal, Canada. We have approximately 75 affiliated instructors around the world associated to us through our PERSONAL DEFENSE READINESS program (http://www.tonyblauer.com/4105/03_05_03_04_instructor.asp) this is an instructor level course that teaches people how to safely integrate our research.
Is your family involved in your work and in what capacity?
Family either works or doesn't. My wife is my business partner. So in our case its does work. She's an integral part of the company's success. She runs the admin and this allows me to focus on new course development, training, and teaching and product development.
Could you tell us some of the departments and units you have trained and what subjects you train them in?
There are a number of national level units and agencies we've worked with that prefer to remain un-named. We always respect that. As for systems, POI's and methods, we never publicly disclose that, but a good portion of the training surrounds our S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM research as well as our Advanced Simulation System with HIGH GEAR.
Generically speaking, I can say we have provided consultation for U.S. NAVY SEALs, U.S. ARMY Special Forces, US Air Force, FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL SERVICE, the U.S. COAST GUARD, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS and a number of other high profile training units.
We have also consulted and designed programs for the United Nations Safety & Security Services as well as specialty groups like the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force. And we have provided presentations at training conferences like the National Tactical Officer's Association, International Association Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors, SWAT Round-Up, Texas Tactical Police Officer's Association, the Illinois Tactical Officer's Association, and the Mountain States Tactical Officer's Association.
As you can see, we've trained all over the world.
Have you been involved in dog training or do you make dog training protective bite suits or sleeves?
No we haven't delved into that area yet, we're still expanding the force-on-force market with HIGH GEAR for humans.
What are your plans for the future as far as training and equipment design? and manufacture are concerned?
We continue to make modifications of few times a year. We've come out with a new chest guard that allows for great in-close force-on-force training and contact. It's a very different protection than the regular chest guard that is used for more realistic simulations. We also just released a conversion kit for our helmet that was approved by the Simunitions Company for use with 9mm marking cartridges, so this way fully integrated training can be experienced. (Visit our newsletter for more info on this: www.imakenews.com/blauertactical)
What hobbies or past times do you enjoy outside of self-defense and combat sports?
I'm on the road over 165 days a year so that doesn't leave a lot of time. I read a lot. I love movies. When I'm at home I try to spend as much time with my wife and 3 children as possible.
Have you had to use your self defence skills in a dangerous situation and could you briefly outline it?
Yes. But I don't like to discuss them publicly. As for street fights, in a real fight…a credible situation; the techniques should be incidental to the outcome. In other words, every person has the moral and lawful right to defend himself or herself and force must parallel danger, therefore ever situation should be unique. I'm not impressed by those instructors who talk about 'all' the fights they've had or use that as the 'hook' to market their program. I think of a street fight like a car accident…. if you were more aware you could avoided it (unless you didn't really want to). I wouldn't want to take driving lessons from someone who bragged about all the accidents they've gotten into. Only police officers or soldiers should have recurring scenarios because they must engage with restrictive rules of engagement (as compared to the bad-guys).
Are you involved with other martial arts instructors or tactical trainers in joint training ventures and who are they?
Most of my contacts are through our Personal Defense Readiness program. We do have strategic alliances with a number of professional trainers. I have put on joint training with Alan Brosnan of TEES and Phil Singleton, Pavel Tsatsouline (Tactical Kettle bell instructor), and have associations with other professionals like Robb Pincus (Valhalla Shooting & Training Club). We recently linked up with Dr. Robert Smith, who heads up DIRECT ACTION MEDICAL NETWORK, and we're integrating more scientific research surrounding the anatomical reliability of the startle-flinch link to combat.
I'm always in contact with other trainers and often meet up at conferences and discuss business and training. We get products sent to us to evaluate from knives to supplements. I'm sure I left some people out – we have a strategic alliance page on our site.
Have you instructed in other countries and what countries were they and who was the training for?
I live in Canada, but most of my consultations are done in the USA. I've identified a partial listing in an earlier question. As for overseas, I'm in the UK about once a year and I think I've trained a trainer from almost every constabulary in England. We always have trainers from Scotland and Ireland attend these courses as well. The S.P.E.A.R. System has a strong presence in the UK and is the foundation of one of England's main training centers where they use the S.P.E.A.R. System as well as close to 50 HIGH GEAR suits to prepare their operatives. We have also taught in New Zealand (martial artists), Australia (marital artists, law enforcement & SRT), Germany (military & marital artists) and France (private citizen).
Thank you for this opportunity to share some thoughts with your readers. If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me. We have a lot of articles on our site as well as an online column on PoliceOne.com
Good luck everyone.
Train hard & stay safe,
For more information on Tony Blauer's systems or products visit him online at www.blauertactical.com
S.P.E.A.R. (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response) is a scientifically researched & medically supported program that addresses the 'ambush' attack during arrest & control. The system is a completely ambidextrous close quarter fighting method that trains the operator to engage a hostile threat with greater confidence and speed. Our system focuses on what we refer to as "no-time-to-shoot/no-room-to-shoot/not-safe-to-shoot tactics". This extremely dangerous close quarter scenario is explored and defined through a series of proprietary drills where we focus on ambush pre-contact cues and fighting when 'off balance'. The S.P.E.A.R. SystemêOperator Course provides tactical choices to aggressively engage this type of combatant so the operator can hit his Point of Domination more decisively. The S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEMä isn't a 'muscle-memory' system; therefore it will not interfere with current DT training. The system actually serves as a conduit or bridge to the DT program and tactics the officer or operator is skilled in.
HIGH GEAR is a state-of-the-art padded training suit with unique impact reduction properties. Weighing just 7.5 lbs. it can be used for both marking cartridge training and Defensive Tactics so trainers can fully integrate scenarios. High Gear™ reduces the risk during contact training by allowing officers & soldiers to practice combative tactics in more realistic environments and at realistic speeds. HIGH GEAR will improve the confidence & effectiveness of police officers & soldiers during training related to extreme close quarter experiences such as arrest & control and prisoner handling. Unlike other protective equipment, High Gear™ does not inhibit the user from full range of motion with weapons gear or empty hand techniques so when utilized by role-players, the High Gear™ user will be able to safely and intelligently replicate the actions of a true opponent.