CCW Safe Podcast- Episode 79: Tony Blauer
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CCW Safe Podcast- Episode 79: Tony Blauer
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CCW Safe Use of Force Expert Rob High and Firing Line Radio host Phillip Naman are joined by Tony Blauer of SPEAR System and Blauer Tactical Systems to discuss training philosophies for self defense.
Rob High: Hi. I’d like to welcome everybody to the CCW Safe podcast. I’m Rob High. I’m joined by my guest host, Phillip Naman, and today we’ve got a special guest with Tony Blauer. Tony does a lot of training. He’s done it for decades now in some self-defense things and we thought it was critical to get him on. We discuss a lot of things with our members about situational awareness, de-escalation, avoidance, but we also know, we’re realists, that there are times that something happens, worst-case scenario, and we have to defend ourselves.
You guys know that I come from a law enforcement background. I was a defensive tactics coordinator for the largest police department in Oklahoma, and I’ve trained all over the world. One of those trainings that always alluded me was Tony’s. I would still really enjoy the opportunity to go sit under you and learn some things, but it’s one of those that for everybody that the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem you’re going to cross is a nail. Tony gets into some things as far as instinctual things. You’ll see things that, say, in your reptilian brain, I always call it your lizard brain, but they’re are things that I don’t have to train you to do.
Phillip Naman: My wife calls that my normal brain.
Rob: [laughs] There are things that I don’t have to do, my body just automatically has that response, whether it’s a startle response or whatever. I’m going to let Tony tell us a little bit about himself. We appreciate you so much for coming on and joining us, sir, so thank you.
Tony Blauer: Yes. No, I’m excited. I’m excited because this is a very specific group. In the last couple of years, especially in the last couple of years, hundreds of podcasts, but from fitness to business to self-defense to martial arts to whatever, but this is a neat one, the CCW because I’ve done classes. Probably 20 years ago, I did a gunfighting video series and I have very specific ideas on that area, that domain, the training, the mindset, adaptive courage, and so on and so forth. Excited to be here. Thank you.
Rob: That’s awesome. If you can go in a little bit and just explain. You’ve got a really unique perspective on how you gear your training and it’s always fascinated me. My background from a little kid on, I was a wrestler. I was very actively involved in that sport for more than 50 years. I’ve been an official, I’ve competed all over the world, I’ve been a coach, I’ve done martial arts for decades now, but not everybody has the ability to go in and spend 18 or 20 hours a week in a dojo, and I understand that, but you shortcut some of that with things that are already pre-built into our brains.
Tony: Yes. I’m trying to think of the best place to start with this. In a nutshell, what I’ve done is I’ve created a personal defense system that’s entirely based on the sciences of survival, the neurobiology of survival. What that means is I look at the physiological response that are automatic in our body. We don’t need to manipulate them, we don’t need to learn them. I look at the natural movement, kinesiology, biomechanics, how our body’s engineered, and then I look at functional and normal psychology, and I’ve created a system that’s holistic in physiology, physics, and psychology, but also holistic in moral, ethical, legal.
It’s weird because you use the word shortcut and if you intonate it differently, it sounds like a hack. “Oh, you’re short-cutting.” Or as opposed to if I’m late and you know a shortcut, please tell me. It depends on the connotation, but hacking, if I say I’m going to help you hack and augment your survivability quotient, it’s got a positive thing but hacking also sounds like breaking into or bypassing and whatever. I want to share with your audience that we are all human weapons. I had this epiphany actually on a podcast, probably about 10 years ago.
I was getting asked over and over again. I’ve been a martial artist, I’m 61 years old, I’ve been training since I’m seven, and anytime I was in a confrontation, tunnel vision, tachypsychia, fancy word for things would go into slow motion, auditory exclusion, but most importantly, the fine motor skills that I trained so diligently on were nowhere to be found. If you look at most gunfights, nobody is any pure isosceles or weaver or doing this or that, their foot’s not here. Bad guy shoot more accurately than good guys. They run by and go bang, bang, bang.
There’s a police officer trying to get ready and ends up getting shot in the armpit in the panel, and nobody was able to explain all this. I could see it and go, “I know exactly why.” I want to tell the origin story of this a little bit that growing up as a kid, learning self-defense, I go, “Okay. Now I’m boxing. Now I’m taekwondo. Now I’m jeet kune do. Now I’m wing chun.” Then a fight would happen, it would still look like, “Oh fuck. Oh.” I’d be afterwards, 14 years old, 15 years old, 17 years old. Can I swear on this show?
Rob: [laughs] Yes, you can.
Tony: Okay, good. I’d be sitting in bed going, “What the fuck just happened? Where was my psyche? Where was that slip punch reverse punch?” There was still this chaos. Now, some of your listeners might be going, “Well, you probably weren’t very good if you couldn’t make that stuff happen.” I will tell you this. I’ve been studying violence, fear, and aggression for 40 plus years. I’ve studied CCTV, body cam, helmet cam, smartphone. When you see true sudden violence, you never see technique. Empty hand or knife or gun. The people that are applying technique are the ones doing the ambushing.
This is important because the good Samaritan, the police officer, the soldier in an ambush, we’re surprised, and this is the big thing in my system. Some of this more elegant explanation is because of the integration of neuroscience and understanding the neurobiology parts of it. Decades ago when I was teaching, it didn’t sound so sexy, but I can tell you now– Hang on. Let me wait for my neighbor with the very loud muffler to leave. In case anyone can’t figure out, this is my garage gym. I teach here five times a week live to people all over Zoom.
All over Zoom. On Zoom all over the world who can’t get to our live trainings, and we do gun, weapon, multiple assailants, fear management, all sorts of stuff here. Garage doors are open and I’m exposed. When a stimulus is introduced too quickly, executive function can get hijacked. Executive function accesses our cognitive brain, our cognitive brain is the part of our brain that sends the neuromuscular messages to do this move, our complex motor skills. If I ask either one of you and anyone in your audience, what would you do here? You’re at an ATM or you’re at a light and two guys get out of their car.
Whatever you answer is a theoretical answer because it’s not happening. You’re imagining a future event and you’ve either done some training or you haven’t done some training, and the degree of reality of your training will actually impact how quickly you answer. Between stimulus responses, refractory delay, and this delay, this gap time between the two is a product of your training. What I need people to always understand, and this is why, and I’m all over the place, 97 rabbit holes here, we’ve got three divisions in my company. I’m best known for the spear system, which is the study of the startle flinch and how to weaponize the startle flinch. What that means is I’m standing here like this. You guys remember Blazing Saddles?
Tony: Remember the scene where the guys got the–
Philip: [laughs] He looks serious. He looks serious, back up.
Tony: [inaudible 00:10:17] Don’t do it. I’ll shoot him. I’ll shoot him. Right? Most of us practice. He’s got a gun, so we practice drawing or we practice gun disarms. When we practice gun disarms, we go, “Okay, stick the gun here.” We do our gun disarm 10,000 times. “Okay, stick the gun here.” We do our gun disarm 10,000 times. Then we practice range of shot, bing, bing, and we get going. What we’re practicing are the complex motor skills, but what we’re not integrating is this idea of decision-making under duress. I teach, in terms of speed, a quickness model and a suddenness model.
The quickness model is, how quickly can you get a good grip on your gun? How quickly can you get front side? How quickly can you clear your clothing? How quickly can you do this offhand? You’re right, your dominant hand’s injured. How quickly can you–? That’s drills and all of us can get good at that. Most people, as you know, don’t train enough, but let’s say everyone trained their ass off and everyone was like– We’re like ninjas. That doesn’t change what our physiology and psychology will do in an ambush. This is the missing link in personal survival.
All fights are dangerous, but the most dangerous fight is an ambush. The ambush will attack executive function. Executive function hijacks access to cognitive thinking, our reptilian brain, the lizard brain, our survival brain does this. I always make this joke. You see an incident happens, an active killer incident happens, something happens, and then you see 100 comments. “That’s why I carry. That’s why I carry.” I always want to jump in there and shake people and go, “Listen, unless your gun is duct-taped to your hand, your gun is not in your hand at the moment of an ambush.” I always make this joke, you guys will appreciate this. How good are both of you are clearing jams in your gun?
Rob: I’m pretty fast.
Phillip: [inaudible 00:12:39] Depends upon the jam.
Tony: Don’t be modest. If I said stovepipe. I’m a new shooter and I go, “Rangemaster, I got a stovepipe.” You’re going to be like, “Okay, that’s okay. You’re just going to do this.” You’re going to do a whole bunch of manipulations that are almost all the same for a double feed, for a stovepipe in a semiautomatic pistol. Most good shooters are good at clearing jams, really good at clearing jams, but would you ever hope for a jam in a gunfight because you’re good at clearing a jam?
Right? I love sharing that. When I’m working with firearms instructors, firearm people, people are like that going, Hey, check this out. I go, “You’re better at clearing a jam that you are engaging multiple threats on the move.” Because people do flat range, diagnostic. “I got three seconds to do this, I got to hit this.” And you get good at the quickness part. The quickness part is my ability to demonstrate a skill set. My definition for quickness is my neuromuscular signal speed. Somebody says, this is the screen for my mic, “Tony, right finger jab to the eye.”
There I do a right finger jab. Left palm strike. Boom. How quickly can I take the information, and we get good at that stuff, wax on, wax off. What we don’t get good at is managing the ambush. We think we’re practicing counter-ambush drills, but we’re actually doing drills to support the skill and then looking that that as a readiness evaluation. Understand this, in the military, they got readiness test. They say, “Hey, tonight between 12 and 6, our readiness quotient is going to be evaluated. Some role players are going to break on to post or onto base and they’re going to test us, so no lie fire tonight. Know this, know this.”
And immediately, is that an ambush if you’re telling us when it’s happening? If I say, “Guys, we’re going to do force on force and shootouts today. We’re using UTM or SIMS.” Is that a real fight? The moment I know I’ve got eye protection on, the moment I have a guy in a red man suit or a high gear suit, I’ve color-coded use of force. Now, if you’re selective listener, it’s going to sound like I’m criticizing that. I’m not, it’s necessary. Jumping into a pool and fighting a rubber shark that I blew up is not the same as fighting a shark in the ocean, and it’s not the same as being surprised by a shark.
I know people that go diving with sharks, that’s fucking insane and scary, and I’m a fear management expert, but I know lots of people that do it, but what they do is they go to areas where the sharks are fed. They may be in the wild, they’ve got centuries there, they’ve got the experts there with some sort of weapon system, they’ve thought about the safeguards. You do sign a release just like skydiving, things could fail, this could be your last jump, and you either go or you don’t go. You still got to manage your fear. I’m not saying we don’t do that training.
What’s missing is this conversation. Do you understand the neurobiology of survival? Do you understand that if I said to all of you, if I said to you both– You put your hands up like you’re negotiating with me like we’re having a fight, do that now on camera. Is this going to be released on camera?
Philip: Yes, it is.
Tony: It is? Okay. Both hands up. When I stand up, push me away. I’m going to stand up, get your hands up. I’m going to stand up. When I stand up, push me away as if we were having a fight in a bar, okay? Now, what I want you to do there is, Philip, you just moved your mic, right? Put your mic back where it was, right? Slam. Look up, Philip. I just smashed you in the face three times, right? Tom didn’t move.
Philip: Thanks a lot, Rob. [laughs] You didn’t save me their, Rob. Some partner.
Tony: Get this. What am I doing there? I don’t know why I called you Tom, I meant Rob, but nobody heard that and we’ll pretend I didn’t even just say this. What I did in that little, little silly demo is this, when we’re in the dojo, we’re in a defensive tactic class, when we’re in a CCW class and you’re talking about stuff, they’ll say things like when the timer goes off, you’re going to do this, hit this target, draw your weapon, then go here, and that’s clear, and you need to practice that stuff. It’s all choreography, we know what’s happening, there’s no surprise.
Even when somebody says, “We’re going to try and surprise you, we’re going to have a role player come in the room. Make sure there’s no live ammo on you. You came back from lunch, let’s clear stuff. Visually, physically check your weapons, et cetera.” The biggest thing that’s missing is this suddenness model. The suddenness model is this. It’s how quickly I can move in relationship to a new stimulus. When an incident happens and somebody, you get all the comments, that’s why I carry. Wait a minute. The neurobiology of survival says executive function will be hijacked. You need to recalibrate your brain. I don’t know. Did you guys just hear that noise? That big noise?
Tony: My daughter’s home, something dropped. I stop thinking. I stop talking, and I immediately, my reptilian brain, intuition, instincts was, is that dangerous? Do I need to run upstairs? Do I hear screaming, crying? Did it sound like a body dropping? I go, “Oh, it sounded like maybe she dropped a can or a bottle.” I’ve got five dogs at home, they’d be freaking out. But in a nanosecond, I threat discriminate, and then I come back to the podcast. That’s a stimulus getting introduced too quickly and then I download my protocols and then I assess.
That’s the gap time between stimulus-response. That is what’s missing in, to me, survival learning research, whether it’s for citizens, whether it’s for law enforcement. A lot of the research, a lot of what I do is I’ll get on calls like this. I do a lot of education through Zoom where I’m training trainers in these protocols saying, “Can you include this in your class?” Yesterday I did a class, to give you guys an example, where I had everyone close their eyes, and then they would open their eyes and I would be engaged in a scenario. One of the scenarios was me charging the camera with an improvised weapon in my hand.
Everyone’s online standing in a nonviolent posture, and when I’m here and you close your eyes, you open your eyes and you see me coming at you like this, even though it’s Zoom, people are like, “Whoa.” You’d see the hands come up. It’s like, “Oh, nobody had time to draw a weapon.” Then I had one where I was beating. Close your eyes, open your eyes, and I’m beating the shit out of Bob. Now, people are like, “Shit,” and you can draw a weapon. [unintelligible 00:20:45] Close your eyes. This one, everyone had no weapons. I said, “I’m going to give you command.
Everyone, get ready.” Now, I’m beating Bob and I yell, “Get an improvised weapon.” You see everyone online scrambling for a stick, someone taking off their belt as a weapon. It was crazy, but what we’re creating is diagnostics and capability gaps for stimulus-response, what’s going on. One of the models, there was one where I was stomping Bob and I turned and everyone except for three people had charged towards their camera meaning they were coming to be a courageous bystander. All of these choices, can you imagine that? It was the ability to create this physiology, even on Zoom.
Of course, it’s much more dynamic in a three-dimensional class. We’ve done all that stuff live where I go, “Hey, guys, you were just in this fight, he had a knife, you took the person down, but you want him, you dropped him, but you don’t know how to put on a tourniquet, so you bleed out too.” We’re identifying. One of the scenarios, a counterintuitive one that I told him to do and it was fascinating on Zoom, and again, we’ve done it live so visualize this. Again, I don’t know who’s watching your show. There’s going to be instructors watching. Hopefully, I’m inspiring ideas for training.
One of the scenarios was you had to run, which was counterintuitive for the mock show type A or I’m in a class to do this. In 1988, I did a scenario training at my first school, and I said to everybody, I said, “As soon as you can, in this force-on-force scenario, as soon as you can break contact and run to the end of the school past the juice bar there, that represents the safe haven. That’s the police, that’s the hospital, you’re barricaded.” This guy, who I’m still friends with to this day, he put his hands up, his name’s Larry, he goes, “Hey, with all due respect, Mr. Blauer, we came here to learn how to fight.
We didn’t come here to learn how to run. I think we all know how to run. Why do you want us to run?” I said, “Larry, the fact that you don’t see how running in scenario training creates a mental rep that becomes a neurological option. The fact that you don’t see that means that your ego or pride might keep you in a fight. There’s lots of maimed and injured and dead people who let their ego or pride dictate their next strategy.”
Rob: That is so good. That is so very good.
Tony: Thank you.
Rob: It’s just one of those that people don’t ever. It’s not being scared. If you’re not scared, there’s an issue already anyway.
Tony: Can I say something about that?
Tony: We got three divisions. One is my scenario training division, we call ballistic micro fight. It’s all our high gear stuff. Our second one is SPEAR. SPEAR’s an acronym for Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response. It’s the study of the physiology of survival, the neurobiology of survival, and how, regardless of your training, trained or untrained, if I go [screams] and I come at you and I’m surprising you, your body, and I love this metaphor– I always tell people no awareness, no chance. We always talk about in the shooting community, situational awareness, head on a swivel, look for the anomaly.
Well, guess what? Ambush is still happen even though we have that logic. If it was simple enough to just have a situational awareness course, nobody would ever get ambushed, but everyone does and everyone can. I tell people your situational awareness is a conscious cognitive skill.
You need to be awake and you need to be alert and you need to be educated, conscious cognitive skill, but you can still be a cop inside the reactionary gap going, “Let me see your hands,” and the guy goes, “Sure, man,” and he throws a shot there or he target glances your gun as it comes out, and you find yourself backpedaling and falling to the ground because your situational awareness, at a certain point, can be compromised at any distance. The stimulus can be sudden, aggressive, or close, and here’s what’ll happen. I call and I use this metaphor, your startle-flinch is like an organic airbag.
It deploys to create space between you and impact just like the genius of an airbag in a modern car. I’ve taught people how to weaponize that. I’m here and I’m talking to Bob, and all of a sudden he goes the headbutt me and I go whoa when the hands come up. Now, I would use that moment to– My hands are up, that is when I have to use the empty-hand transition. Let’s say he’s going, “I’m going to kill you,” and you happen to be trained and carrying, you’re walking by, the guy bumps into you or it’s a carjacking setup, and you’re like, “Hey, man, I’m in trouble.”
He goes to hit you, those hands come up, you can now drive in there and this is where you transition into stuff. I don’t have anything on me. That would’ve been a cool demo if I had. Who would’ve thought that I’d put something on before the class to demo, but I just came out of literally another session. I don’t even have shoes on. The important thing here is that airbag deploys, it saves you from the initial impact, and the initial impact was the ambush. It’s in this, and you guys are going to love this, when those hands come up and push away, that’s the workspace.
I don’t go like this to change my magazine. I run dry, get a jam, I’m changing here while I can still have a field of fire. That pushing away danger is our workspace where we recalibrate emotionally, psychologically, push away danger, threat discriminate, and then decide. Do I need to create more space with an empty hand skill or do I need to transition to my pistol right away or my knife or what have you? I said I got three divisions and you said something that I interrupted you on because I had to get it in there is you were talking about it’s not fear, that everyone’s afraid.
I wanted to share a line for my KNOW Fear program and KNOW Fear, K-N-O-W is the third division in my company. It’s a whole division on mindset, resiliency, and adaptive courage called KNOW Fear. This idea that there’s no such thing as no fear, N-O fear, but there’s a way to get to know fear to use fear as a fuel. The line I wanted to share with your audience is this. You can’t be brave if you’re not afraid. There’s no bravery without fear. The primary ingredient in bravery is fear.
Whether that’s a firefighter, a soldier, a cop, a citizen, if we do something scary, whether it’s go to the dentist, have a kid, get divorced, get married, protect somebody in a gunfight, regardless, there’s got to be a fear spike. If there isn’t a fear spike, you’re either a unicorn-
Phillip: Or a sociopath.
Tony: -or a sociopath or there’s something wrong. If I say to somebody, “Wow, how did you beat up those three guys? That was amazing. You must have been so scared because they were three.” The guy goes, “No, no, no. I like hurting people.” That’s not something we can learn from, we’re good Samaritans, but anyways, I love that line, I wanted to throw that in there. You can’t be brave if you’re not afraid.
Rob: Absolutely. The other deal, you keep talking about all the fine motor skill things. I made this mistake as a trainer for years. It took us so long to retool our thinking, and this is not a knock on anybody, but I don’t know if you ever learned the Lindell Handgun Retention System.
Rob: It was something that came about, Jim Lindell, great trainer from the National Law Enforcement Training Center up in Kansas City, Missouri. It was this incredibly complex series of manipulations and wrist locks. You have an attack on your firearm. We need something gross motor with an action of violence right then. We were giving people this placebo like, “This is going to help you.” No, it’s not. This is going to get your gun taken away and get you killed, but it was the thing that was available right then.
Tony: It’s interesting because in defensive tactics and self defense, so much of it is inspired and influenced by martial arts, but martial arts is a collection of hundreds of moves that are fine and complex motor skills, but if you ever just go back just look at a real fight. I don’t mean a douchebag fight with two drunks in the street, I’m looking at real violence where somebody doesn’t want to be there and you got a predator, a social predator, it’s always ugly. Everything works in a demo.
I used to know Mr. Lindell back in the day [unintelligible 00:30:38] days and all that, but I would look around and see these complex motor skills and go, “Look, the litmus test is and what you believe,” it’s what we see on CCTV, and at the time, dashboard video. Nobody was able to pull off the moves they were teaching, and I didn’t understand it either. I’m with you on that. I was like, “Why is this complicated?”
Rob: Yes. It’s because we go into vapor lock. When you get that sudden assault, you shut down. You have to be able to force yourself through that and work through that fear thing. I want to touch real quick and get some of the stuff. How can people contact you? How can people get involved in your Zoom training or anything that you’ve got coming up? What kind of things do you have that guys that are really serious about this can reach out and go, “Man, I like what he’s saying, I like that direction, I need to work on those things.”?
Tony: The first and most important thing is this is our fear management. I tell people, “Start with my–” I wrote a nine-page PDF called Making Friends With Fear and it’s free. It’ll stick you in my funnel, total transparency to expose you to our KNOW Fear program. The book is free. It took me 40 years to write a nine-page thing on fear because if you change how you think about fear, that gives you the chance to win any fight. We have a maxim in our KNOW Fear program. Those who manage their fear manage to fight. It doesn’t guarantee victory, but it guarantees you’re in the fight, and that’s where it’s got to start.
If you go to any of my websites, Blauer Training Systems, we’ll show you. You might be on here going, “I got to get some of that gear. I want to do force-on-force,” it’ll take you to our high gear. You want to get to one of our live courses or online courses, there’s links to all of that, and my team will send you links too that you can share in the show notes. This talk also flew by so fast. If you guys want to go a little longer, I can go a little bit longer if you want to keep it tight, that’s fine.
Phillip: Actually, if you have time we’d love to do another session with you. We’ll close this one off. We’re going to have two episodes come up.
Tony: Absolutely, and if you get some good questions from your audience, I’m happy to specifically identify things. I just want to say we are all human weapons. We all want to survive like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We’ve got that survival at the bottom. The more you understand the physiology, the biomechanics, and the psychology, the more you understand the neurobiology of survival, meaning what makes me human weapon. The safer you are, and then truly your handgun becomes that extension of that self.
Phillip: What you’re saying, what you’re codifying and explaining to people, it’s like the old story about the battle plan. Eisenhower says, “This is our battle plan and that’s great until the first bombs dropped.” Or Mike Tyson says, “Hey, everybody’s got a game fight till you get punched in the nose.” A game plan. Then that’s out the window too. Yes, we can train for perfect scenarios. When the buzzer goes off, draw, fire, reholster, but life doesn’t have a buzzer before the action starts. We’re going to bring this episode back up here. Do another episode with Tony.
He’s been gracious enough with his time and I really appreciate that. blauertactical.com, B-L-A-U-E-R tactical.com is his website. He’s got some great training, very, very in demand. Folks we want to make sure that you know more about him and we’ll have another session with him as soon as we can.
Tony: Thank you guys, appreciate it. Be safe.
Rob: Thank you so much, Tony. You guys take care. Again, if you have questions and comments, you can get me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate you joining us and hope to have you back for this next session with Tony. Thank you so much, Tony. We appreciate you so much.
Tony: Thank you, guys.