The New Kind of Personal-Defense Publication


A while back I noticed there were some interesting new periodicals on the magazine rack at my local supermarket. I have to admit that these publications reminded me of the kind of stuff put out by, what some people once characterized as, the “gun nut”, “wako” or extreme right “survivalist” movement. I had always assumed that the “survivalist” minded readership was kind of a fringe sub-culture that was serviced by smaller niche publishers like, an old favorite of mine, Paladin press.

Therefore, I was a little surprised to see these kinds of magazines in such wide circulation and in such mainstream locations. I was in Canada after all. Yes, the People’s Republic of Canada, a country with the kind of gun laws that many Americans, especially those with views like the NRA, have described as “draconian”. What surprised me even more was the visual quality of these magazines, some of which were printed on thick gloss paper stock with beautiful high resolution photographs and graphics.  Some of these publications seemed more visually appealing and classy looking than the ladies high fashion magazines, (which according to some are nearly as dangerous as firearms to the women of North America because of the “body image” issues they create).   But not to worry, you should have no problem telling them apart because these gun mag models, even the females, were usually more athletic looking and decked out with fire arms, knifes or other tactical equipment. What could be more appealing than a woman who knows how to handle..uhm…my gun.

Some of these publications are straight out firearm magazines and brother I’ve never seen blued-steel made to look so slick or knew that many attractive women were into firearms. Nevertheless, a few others, like “Tactical World”, “Home Defender” and in particular  “Recoil” and its sister publication, “Off Grid” certainly have more of what could be called that old “survivalist” flavor but in a new high-gloss and very polished format.

For those of you unfamiliar with the old “survivalist” doctrine or maybe think I am mischaracterizing these publications by using that term, why don’t I let the magazine itself answer the question of what kind of topics they cover and what they are all about. That way you can make up your own mind about what to call this particular magazine genre.

Recoil” magazine, for example, has a sub-heading that spells it out pretty concisely. It reads: “Gun lifestyle: Gear, technology, Sport, Outdoor, Home & Personal Defense”. Yea, I guess “survivalist” is as outdated a term as self-defense advice from David Caradine  and his kung-Fu would be. This new “Gun lifestyle” looks more like Jason Borne joined the young Republicans and started hanging out with the Kardashians.

Yes, by “personal defense”, they do mean conventional unarmed self-defense but also a lot more.  In fact, this is what I find interesting about these types of magazines and I guess is finely the major point of this post. Their viewpoint is that “personal defense” runs the entire continuum from firearms all the way down to unarmed combat and everything in between.

I believe this kind of format can be very valuable and educational in a lot of ways. I discussed this topic of the “personal defense continuum” back in my post about multiple attackers but it might be a good time to revisit some of those ideas in the broader context.

In other words, there are a lot of ways to defend our persons, our homes and our families that can be a lot more effective than the exclusive use of systems of unarmed combat. Yet there are not a lot of mainstream sources making this information easily available to lay people. Furthermore, as I mentioned in that previous multiple opponents post, once people get serious about a particular martial art style, system or combat sport they can easily become constrained and limited by it. What that means, is simply that they don’t look for or accept solutions from outside of their chosen discipline. Now days, too many People too often think of “self-defense” as only methods of unarmed combat. This happens mainly because there is a huge industry of millions upon millions of practitioners and service providers along with a sports and entertainment culture that swamps us with that particular self-defense message.

However, in the real world of extreme violence this is not only silly but dangerous. As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat (or a kata for that matter, LOL) and if you are serious about real world self-defense in an increasingly hostile and violent environment then it would be stupid to ignore advances in technology, tactics and training that can more easily and effectively help us reach our goals of greater safety and security.  These magazines help remind us of that and put self-defense into the larger and integrated context.

For example, in these publications I have read articles on trained guard dogs side by side with articles on the best concealed carry holster or how to get the best edge on your tactical folding knife. In fact, I have seen quite a few “knife review” articles that aside from being a boon for the cutlery industry give people in jurisdictions like Canada,(where the legal carrying of firearms is not an option) some valuable information and very realistic personal defense options.

As for guard dogs they are one of the oldest forms of property protection and a usually overlooked but extremely viable form of personal protection. For a woman living by herself in a bad neighborhood I would highly recommend a guard dog before I would something like a Krav Maga class, although these things are in no way mutually exclusive. Optimally someone should do both. The point being, is that these magazines present these topics as options that work together and complement each other and are not in competition with each other. Unlike the martial arts world where there is still way, way too much infantile ego driven “my style vs. your style”, who taped who out or “my master can beat up your master” childishness.

These magazines really do run the gamut from the lowest Tec solutions like guard dogs to the latest simple technological innovations such as white light devices for non-lethal self defense. What I particularly like is that the unarmed self-defense pieces are devoid of direct sport influences. Unlike the o’l self-defense “bait and switch” from the traditionalist and combat sport flunkies, these guys are at least trying to give people what they are looking for and what they need. Furthermore, they don’t have the time or interest to play the goofy politics of the conventional martial arts world and they certainly do not make their money being soap boxes or mega phones for the egos and agendas of the same o’l pseudo-professionals of  the martial arts or combat sports world pretending to be self-defense specialists.

That means their articles on unarmed self defense are far less “style” and “personality” driven then what you usually find in a lot of conventional martial arts magazines and books. Personally I find that refreshing since I can do without more “fighting” advice from yet another pimply faced near-adolescent sport Brazilian jiu-jitsu  champion who has never been in an actual fight in his life and who is too scared to be in one. Or better still a “master” of his own style or “toughest man alive” who’s hardest strikes are against his own flabby body as he pounds his chest about how tough and deadly he is while trying to convince the public that he and he alone (like a kind of  flaccid religious prophet) knows the true secretes of self-defense. Hence, I think these kinds of publications have the potential to be a highly beneficial influence on the self-defense consumer and self-defense industry.

On the other hand, in a time when some really good and high quality Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts orientated Magazines (like “Gracie Mag” and “Tap Out magazine”) with very solid self-defense content are disappearing from the mainstream store shelves and getting harder and harder to find we must be aware of how this can also negatively affect the self-defense consumer.

Due to the appealing visual quality and wide spread distribution of these kinds of publications it could be easy for the mainstream public to perceive the writers of these articles as the new experts in empty handed self-defense instead of people just filling a void. In other words, the fledgling self-defense consumer may be getting over exposed to these types of sources and underexposed to publications specializing in their needs.

Hence, we must be aware that a lot of good information and publications can be pushed out of the mainstream market place simply because of economic viability and not because of need or relevance. The fact is there must be a hell of a lot more money to be made, and spent, in an industry of multi-million dollar ammunition factories and billion dollar weapon exporters than in the relatively small-time world of self-defense training.  This disparity in “economic scale” is certainly going to show up in areas like magazine sales which, as I have written, could be a good thing. However, we also have to be careful that the voices of true unarmed self-defense professional within Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and MMA based systems are not lost or our industry’s links to the public being replaced by slick images and messages from big money armament corporations that may or may not really give a shit about old fashioned unarmed self-defense and the people who need it.

The print magazine publishing world is a rapidly contracting place and must be a very tough arena. Let us not forget that even the UFC behemoth could not make a go of its print magazine. Personally I was not that sorry to see its demise since it was mostly a “news and reviews” format that did not have a lot to do with helping ordinary people make good self-defense choices. This was after all a big part of the very original UFC concept which has all but been lost as the UFC became solely focused on becoming a huge revenue generating sports machine. Good for them I guess, a bunch of millionaires got to make a shit load more money when the UFC Company recently sold for record amounts. But how did this help the kid being bullied at school? It probably doesn’t, although the spread of MMA training that has gone along with the popularity of the UFC has certainly helped. Nevertheless, in the end the UFC magazine must have been seen as irrelevant and people looking for self-defense advice now, for better or for worse, have these other published sources to go to or to influence their perceptions. Will they turn to the specialists or the generalists?

In this regard my philosophy is pretty simple- with great circulation comes great responsibility.  Therefore, it remains to be seen, if these new, all-purpose self-defense, publications have the insight, desire and knowledge to be able to vet the Combatives or unarmed combat instructors they present to the public in a responsible and professional way. Or is it going to be the same old pathetic stuff from the pseudo profession with one shamefully obese loon after the other spewing their unfounded opinions and baseless assertions while passing this ego masturbation off as expertise?

We will see, and I am cautiously optimistic since it is a lot more enjoyable leafing through those slick gloss pages with air-brushed gun totting babes then looking at  photos or videos of the slack jaws, vacuous stares and bloated bellies carried by so many of the pseudo self-defense instructors. I can’t help but hope that publications that are able to spend that much money to look that good in print will have content to match.

Much of the public probably hopes so too and also may see an advantage in these new types of publications since their articles on unarmed self-defense are fewer they are hopefully able to cut through  the nonsense and get to the heart of the matter. Alternatively, are they going to make the same mistakes of not understanding the critical differences between “simplicity” and “deficiency”? Once again, time will tell but for these reasons in a few upcoming posts I’m going to explore in more detail some of the self-defense and unarmed combat advice and tactics being expounded through these sorts of publications.