How not to train the leg kick

I’m busy working on the leg kick book and came across this video below. It features an unknown genius who tries to train the leg kick on a hard object that has no ability to move upon impact. You can imagine the rest…

Let’s just say this isn’t the smartest thing to do…

I think we can safely say Jean-Claude Van Damme is to blame for this thing still going on. For those of you who didn’t see the movie, here’s the relevant scene:

The movie had a bunch more nonsense that no true muay Thai fighter would ever do, but the tree kicking scene spoke to the imagination of youngsters all over the world and started leading a life of its own. To be clear, there is no upside to train the leg kick this way, none at all.

You can still find videos of Thai’s kicking banana trees, but mostly, this is a training relic from the past. Nowadays, virtually all gyms use heavy bags, which are both more practical and versatile to train the leg kick on.

The worst offender I’ve seen was in this video here in which a fighter (or trainer, I don’t remember) tries to show off hitting a wooden pole:

Please don’t do that. Ever.

The only thing this does is damage joints, bones and ligaments in the long run. He mitigates some of it by rolling his arms and legs to take the brunt of the impact on the muscle as opposed to the bone, but his shoulders, hips and knees still take a beating.

When I started training some 30 years ago, I did a lot of this kind of stuff. My teacher was hardcore into body conditioning and we’d hit and kick wooden poles like this or concrete pillars. Let me put it this way: osteoarthritis sucks and this guy is heading straight towards it. If he’s unlucky, it will be there before he hits 40, with an ever decreasing quality of daily life from then on out.

If you want to train the leg kick effectively in a safe manner: kick the heavy bag and the kicking shield. Do so regularly and build up the power of the kick gradually. For most people, that is the safest way to condition the shins while you also develop good technique.

how not to train the leg kick

Damaging your shins, not a good idea..


Just a quick update on my leg kick book, this is the current chapter list:


Chapter 1: Fundamental principles.

Chapter 2: The weapon.

Chapter 3: The lead arm.

Chapter 4: The rear arm.

Chapter 5: The hips.

Chapter 6: The torso.

Chapter 7: The legs.

Chapter 8: Variations.

Chapter 9: Footwork.

Chapter 10: Conditioning.

Chapter 11: Drills.

Chapter 12: Combinations.

Chapter 13: How to defend against the leg kick.

Chapter 14: Basic tactics.

Chapter 15: Advanced strategies.

Chapter 16: Case studies.

Chapter 17: Troubleshooting your leg kick.

I have seven chapters left to finish, with 4 of those already half-written. Some chapters might still get lumped together or get deleted depending on how things go. Writing a book can be a bit weird like that sometimes. Once that’s done, I can shoot the pictures and if possible do some videos too, as a bonus.

If you want to be notified for the release, sign up for my notification list here. Don’t forget to click the link in the confirmation mail you’ll receive right after signing up, or you won’t be on the list.


How to learn self-defense from video footage

With cellphones and cameras so prevalent nowadays, a large number of altercations and fights are captured on video. This footage is often shared online, it goes viral and everybody and their brother have an opinion on it. That’s fine, of course, but so what? Having an opinion isn’t difficult and not particularly useful. A more interesting approach is to look for ways you can learn from that footage and improve your self-defense skills. I mentioned this in passing in my previous webcast, but wanted to expand on it a bit more, hence this article.

Learning, by definition, means you search for information and knowledge you don’t currently have. That means keeping an open mind and is in direct conflict with holding on to your opinion and only looking for information to confirm it. The first step of the learning process is to start with the right mindset:

Check your bias before you begin.

We all have a bias, one way or the other. We all have filters the information in the video has to pass through. Be cognizant of them and try to remain objective. Focus on learning, not on confirming your moral or political beliefs, which technique you think is perfect for self-defense and which one sucks, etc. Instead, look at the elements as they present themselves as opposed to how you would want them to be. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

This can be hard, as we live in an age where having an opinion is valued more than having an informed opinion. But it can be done if your desire to make progress in your training is bigger than your ego. In this article, I’ll give you some tools to use for that goal. View them as filters through which you pass the information in the video, so you can distill information out of it.

Let’s start with the first one, context.

Learn self-defense from video footage


Context means the circumstances surrounding the event, the facts and factors that influence how it happened and how it is perceived. Think of when you say “you took my words out of context” when somebody distorts your words to fit their agenda. The exact same thing applies when you watch footage of a fight.

There is always a context, so your first step is:

Try to figure out what it is.

Some questions to ask:

  • What happened beforehand?
  • What happened afterwards?
  • Who else was involved?
  • Where did it happen?
  • Who made this video?
  • Etc.

Sometimes you can’t find out all those things. Be cautious then and assume your conclusions will be of limited accuracy, at best. When I review such footage, I generally write the caveat “I wasn’t there and neither were you.” That’s a reminder that we often only have limited or even faulty information to work with.  Only an idiot claims his conclusions are absolute truth when working with information he isn’t 100% sure about…

Another contextual issue is one of presentation.

In today’s world of click-bait articles and videos, presentation is often used to create a narrative or promote an agenda. This makes it harder to learn something because the presentation distorts the facts and sets you up to come to specific conclusions. Some points on this:

  • Is the video edited or not? Creative editing can easily force you to come to a conclusion that is 100% false.
  • Disregard the title of the video and the text written along with it. Look at the video first  and only then read additional information. That way it can’t influence you beforehand.
  • Disregard opinions of and comments by others. Make up your own mind before letting somebody else do it for you.
  • Disregard commentary by bystanders and others in the footage. They might also be biased and as you lack context for them as well, look only at the facts as you see them.
  • Now, watch the video, think it through and form a preliminary opinion.
  • Then and only then, look at all that information you previously ignored to check for elements you might have missed.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t. It’s mostly tuning out those other sources first and only then allowing them back in. If you think I’m exaggerating, read this and remember how the narrative that Zimmerman was a racist gun-toting lunatic was established so quickly early on. If I recall correctly, NBC settled the lawsuit out of court…

Also read this and watch both videos in order. Then go read the comments on my blog and on Youtube. Notice how many people fail to follow the instructions to get more context and how many argue about everything except the point I was making. If you want to learn self-defense, setting your ego aside is a good first step…



The title of this article is “How to learn self-defense from video footage.” Self-defense is not the same thing as fighting, street-fighting, dueling or beating somebody up. Self-defense is defined by the laws of your country and state. These can and will vary wildly. What is valid in San Francisco, California might not be so in Brussels, Belgium. The only way to know what the laws say where you are is to study them. [Read more…]

Webcast 001: Introduction and fundamental concepts

As promised a while ago, here’s the first webcast. You can watch it here below and I added some resources to the content guide underneath.

Some quick info about this:

  • Making this video takes me less time than writing down everything I said in it. As Ive been pretty busy lately, this is an alternative to writing for getting information out and answering questions.
  • I plan to make each episode 15-30min. so you can easily view it or listen to it during a commute or a lunch break.
  • I’ll do one or two webcasts each month.Topics will be whatever I have on my mind at the moment, interviews with interesting guests, other stuff.
  • If you want to ask me something for the Q&A part, leave a comment here below. No guarantees, but I’ll consider it.

That said, here’s the webcast:

Content guide:

1. Introduction

Some information about me, my background, martial arts and self-defense training, my professional background and so on.

Hong Kong Brawl

Loren .W. Christensen books and videos

Dan Docherty books


2. Fundamental concepts. 7min.

There are two fundamental concepts that influence my training, teaching and writing about martial arts and self-defense.

Marc MacYoung’s email list

Marc MacYoung books

Writing Excuses podcast

Brandon Sanderson books

Dan Wells books

Howard Tayler

Learn from the masters


3. Q & A. 24min, 55sec.

Question from Tom Colbert about the differences between martial arts, self-defense and combat sports.

From the Octagon to the street

Ground fighting against a knife attack

Boxing for self-defense


4. Get in touch. 28min, 45sec.

New book/video email notification list





Self-Defense seminar in The Netherlands

If you haven’t heard already, next weekend, May 21-22, I’m doing a two-day self-defense seminar in The Netherlands. The location is Assendelft, which is just outside of Amsterdam. There’s only a limited number of available spots, so it’s best to book now instead of wait. Go to this website to claim your spot.

Some of the topics we’re going to cover:

  • Basic Self-Defense techniques
  • Flinch/cover to control/striking
  • 3 timings: ambush/sucker punch, sudden attack, advance warning.
  • Hard vs. soft: control vs. finishing techniques
  • Drills: Jack in the box, Push/pull, Pad striking drill, Wall drill, Frankenstein, etc.
  • Case studies using video footage or real incidents: Ambush, Sucker punch, Escalation.
  • Scenario training: Walk-aways, Boundary setting, Pre-emptive strike, Environmental tactics.
  • Much more…

My schedule is pretty packed for the coming months, so this is probably the only seminar I’ll do for a while. If you want to attend, don’t delay and reserve your spot.


The Brussels terrorist attacks and what comes next for Belgium

I woke up this morning and as always checked the latest news. Turned out this was the day I knew would eventually come. The numbers so far after three explosions at Brussels airport in Zaventem and the metro station of Maalbeek:

30+ people killed

90+ injured.

These numbers will rise in the following hours and days.

I’ll write some more about this in a bit, but first this:

In November 2015, I wrote this article about the Paris Terrorist attacks and their connection to Belgium. It’s long, but I suggest you read it first to understand what I write next.

After I wrote this, I received a lot of negative feedback.

I was told I was a racist.

I was told I exaggerated.

I was told I was a coward.

At the end of that article, I commented on what I thought would happen next. Let’s look at those points now:

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

The bombing at Maalbeek metro station.

  • The polarization of our society will accelerate. This happens at an accelerating pace. An increasing number of people who always believed in peaceful coexistence in a multicultural society are abandoning that belief. Instead, they now state both in private and publicly that it’s time to “clean house.” The “us vs. them” mindset is growing rapidly. At the same time, the reports are coming in of Muslim youth in the high schools of Brussels and Antwerp cheering and celebrating the attacks. The rift in our society is now wider and deeper than ever.
  • Demagogues, from the left, right and center, will get more attention than they deserve, their non-solutions as well. We’ve had months of nonsense from our politicians. Self-evident actions that should be taken are derided as “Nazi tactics” and the opposition goes out of its way to paint the government as incompetent. Truth be told, they aren’t always wrong, but the point is that there is no unified political front to handle the issues. Instead, they launch soundbites in the media to get some airtime.
  • The media once again go out of their way to obscure the facts. The level of media coverage has become even more deplorable than before the Paris attacks. We are inundated with good news shows about how things aren’t that bad in Molenbeek and we really shouldn’t worry too much. Dissenting opinions are either not invited to share their views or they are ridiculed and marginalized.
  • The political will to change is not present. This is only partly true. Some parties want to take far-reaching action, but the coalition government isn’t unified in that approach. Obviously, the opposition shoots down everything the government proposes. But most of all, because of the dysfunctional way Belgium is organized, the Brussels government can block or ignore policy that comes from the Federal level. They have made their intentions clear on that front: they do not see the need for important changes…
  • The Prime Minister announced his plans yesterday and the erosion of privacy has already started. There have already been some legal changes re. police procedures and more are on the way. After the attacks of today, this process will accelerate and we’ll soon wake up in a very different country.
  • We’ve entered the next phase of an asymmetric war that has been raging for decades, but most people chose to ignore it or thought it wasn’t relevant here. Paris was a rude wake up call for them. I believe there is worse to come. I wish I would have gotten that wrong. There’s blood in the streets and corpses on the ground. For many people, they will only now understand that safety is an illusion. It never existed and never will. That includes our lives here in Brussels, Belgium  and everywhere else in the world.

I wish I was wrong when I wrote that list after Paris happened, but I don’t think I am. I am not going to spend hours looking up all the links to articles and videos that prove everything I wrote in the above bullet list. If you want them, Google is your friend.


What now?

I expect things will get worse. Some thoughts:

  • The rest of Europe. We’ve had the Paris attacks and now Brussels. I expect bombings and attacks to succeed in other EU countries in the near future. Belgium is now at alert level 4, which gives our police forces and government more leeway in going after terrorist. France is still in a state of emergency and has the same leeway now. This makes it harder for terrorists to execute their missions, but not impossible, not by far. However, other EU countries aren’t at the highest alert levels, so terrorists have more freedom of movement there. It also makes sense for them to attack as many countries as possible to achieve their goals.
  • The Syrian war will change. Belgian Airforce already does raids on Syrian IS targets, soon our government will have to decide whether to do more of these. Other governments will have to ask themselves the same question. Increasingly, IS is striking in the homelands of the coalition that is lined up against them. Public opinion in these countries will pressure politicians to act. In the end, that can only lead to an escalation of hostilities and boots on the ground, which also means body bags returning home. We’ll see if our societies are ready for that too…
  • The Belgian economy will bleed. Our government has a multi-billion Euro deficit this year and our economy is fragile, to put it mildly. Today’s bombings deal out a hard blow to our tourist industry (a key component of our economy) and will have consequences in many other sectors. This combined with the negative outlook for both the EU and world economy doesn’t bode well for the future.
  • Belgian society will become even more divided. When I look online and on social media, I see a lot of outrage, which is to be expected. But I also see a huge increase in people who publicly voice their mind on what they perceive to be the root of the problem. For Belgium, this is unheard of and it indicates the tipping point in public opinion I’ve slowly seen building in the last few years. More next.
  • People will push back. Our modern society doesn’t handle fear well, but it also increasingly refuses to be manipulated. As I explained in my other article, the debate about multiculturalism was sabotaged for decades and we were told to not be “scared, white racists.” The problems were left to fester and now we have the current state of affairs, culminating in today’s attacks. The media will find it increasingly difficult to sell the message of “it’s your fault” to the local Belgian population. The people will demand action and the politicians who fail to deliver it will be remembered in next elections. If the people don’t see rapid change (which they won’t, because that’s not how societal change works), they will take matters in their own hands in all kinds of ways. The hardening of out society that started a few years ago will deepen. As a result, our society will become even more divided, the Muslim population will close ranks to protect itself, and then we have a vicious cycle that only leads to more violence and terror.

There’s more, but I’ve delivered enough bad news already.

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

EMTs trying to save lives after the bombing in Brussels.


The future is bleak and we Belgians are now entering the next phase of asymmetric warfare I mentioned in the previous article.  Our society will change rapidly and not for the better. There will be more blood and violence as people come to understand that you cannot negotiate with those who want to kill you. But stopping that from happening has far-reaching, lasting consequences for our society and people do not understand just what that means. Nor will they feel comfortable with what our government and law enforcement will have to do to protect us to the best of its limited abilities. We are entering “breaking a few eggs to make an omelette” territory and this should scare everybody who has half a brain.

The end is also nowhere in sight. We will be struggling with terrorists on our home turf for a very long time. I don’t expect this to be over in the near future and each new incident will spark even more changes in our society. Given the way news, true or false, spreads instantly by going viral, the potential for civil unrest and violence is huge. It’s safest to assume this will become the new normal and prepare accordingly.

All that said, life will go on.

I will still get up each day and go to work, spend time with my kids and loved ones and live my life as I always have.

Illegitimi non carborundum.

Not now, not ever.

The Brussels terrorist attacks what comes next for Belgium

My sentiments on the matter…