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More than a Gun: Unarmed Defense for Those Who Carry

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As humans, the daily dose of survivorship bias produces a tendency to believe we’ll be at our best, even on the worst day of our life. The reality is our actual performance will be subject to the unbiased standards that we should hold ourselves to. Keeping integrity through tough times can be difficult. It’s human nature to deflect in order to offload some of the responsibility. Point fingers and get angry, it won’t change the fact that relying on one skillset will not grant total freedom over any given situation. As a primer in what one should do when their personal space has been encroached, sometimes going directly to a gun isn’t the best solution. With that said, unarmed defense core concepts and history provide a way to develop a pathway to being more than the mythical good guy with a gun.

more than a gun retention shooting

photo by @rangefox

Acknowledging an over-reliance on one skillset sounds like it should be painful to the ego, but it produces a confident humility if addressed honestly. The barriers to entry for unarmed defense training are more personal in nature. Let’s be clear, there’s a gym of this sort in almost every decent-sized city: the same cannot be said for firearms training. Once one overcomes their personal objections, however, they must choose which unarmed training to take. Here’s the starting point.


Someone who has taken up the responsibility to carry in public, must also consider developing a baseline for the worst-case scenario. When focusing on the fundamentals of marksmanship, it becomes clear that the world isn’t built around facilitating a clean draw into a fully extended pistol grip with a firm and confident stance. Snake Oil Salesmen of the Jason Bourne variety will try to make us believe that we’ll always see the threats coming from a mile away.

unarmed defense

photo by @rangefox

Yet, there’s always a difference between our emotionally charged beliefs and the unbiased statistical data that proves otherwise. Specifically, just because violence often starts surprising, intimate, and uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’ll magically remain predictable, at distance, and fun if we only scan our sectors. While tests of unarmed skill are quick to humble even seasoned shooters, they should be developed because they’re with us at all times.


There is no perfect unarmed self-defense system, let’s just get that out in the open. At the very least, having a foundation in some form of grappling will allow you to control someone else’s body and therefore control their space. Now then, grappling arts that have stood the test of time come in various forms ranging from Greco-Roman wrestling, American wrestling, Catch wrestling, judo, sambo, and of course the well-known Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). They all have their pros and cons, but what all offer unlike other martial arts is the ability to pressure test your level of skill.

runenation on the range

photo by @rangefox

As an example, you’d be surprised by the amount of body awareness that can be developed as a six-month white belt in BJJ over the average neophyte. If you can shut down the space of an untrained fighter’s haymakers, then you control the power dynamic. Grappling is hard and it’s a long road, but the confidence gained, and friendships made along the way, more than make up for the discomfort. You just need to accept and understand that the gun isn’t always the solution to the problem.


Everything’s a lot easier when weapons aren’t plugged in. Punches work, kicks work, throws work, pins work, locks work, all because no one has to worry about getting stabbed, shot or bludgeoned when they’re in a sterilized and safe training environment. With that said, it’s not as easy as you might think it is to find a grappling gym that “trains for the streets.” There’s a very well-known 5th degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt named Chris Haueter. He was one of the first 12 non-Brazilian black belt’s in American that were known as the “BJJ Dirty Dozen.” Chris has a quote that goes, “Think street, train sport, practice art.” It’s easy to get lost amongst the available Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms that are available, but what’s a quality gym/academy and what will end up being a waste of your time?

more than a gun unarmed defense

photo by @corevisiontraining


The first thing that should be avoided is what I call the “One-Stop Gym.” You’ve probably seen them around your town as the gym that offers “everything.” They teach Karate, Aikido, Tai Chi, Muay Thai, and of course Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Many times, whether it be martial arts or not, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. From the outside peering it, it may look like a good gym, but what you’re getting is only a “snippet” of actual BJJ, only a small sliver of unarmed defense. Usually, the coach that teaches the BJJ class is a low-ranking belt as well. If you want to understand quality BJJ you have to find an actual BJJ only gym. A quality school will list their instructor/coach’s lineage on for you to find. You want to look for anything that traces back to the Gracie or Fadda’s roots. They were the original two Brazilians who helped the development of BJJ into what it is today.

unarmed defense jui jitsu

photo by @shadowbanman

An instructor or coach who remains very vague about their roots should be a warning sign, leaving one wary about paying a membership. Though not necessary to look for, but be aware of, is a sport vs. self-defense style gym. BJJ was originally developed for combat, like any other martial art. Yet, over the years those concepts have faded in lieu of competition or “sport.” As aforementioned above with Professor Haueter, as long as you have the mentality and maturity to understand what moves work when your life hangs in the balance and those that don’t, it doesn’t necessarily matter what type of BJJ school you train at. Just sign up, get on the mats, be humbled, make lifelong friends, learn, and repeat.

Editor's Note:

Ian Strimbeck is the man behind RUNENATION, teaching firearms, unarmed defense, and self-reliance.
You can find his work at:, or on Instagram: @runenationllc

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