Book Review: “Real Fighting” by Peyton Quinn

Here’s another re-post of an old review: “Real Fighting: Adrenaline stress conditioning through scenario-based training” by Peyton Quinn. I tweaked the review a little bit as my opinion has slightly altered over the years. I met Peyton a few times over the years and visited his training center once. He’s a great guy to talk to and he does some excellent work in teaching you to transfer your skills from the dojo to the street. Enjoy the review.

The author of this book is what can be described as a “veteran”. He has seen his share of violence during his days as a bouncer in “problem bars” and lived to tell the tale. Peyton Quinn has martial arts training in Karate, Judo and Aikido, although he does not claim to be an expert. In fact, he will expose some of the problems martial arts have in confronting violent situations.

He has produced several books and videotapes focusing on a realistic approach towards defending against violence. He currently runs a training center in Boulder, Colorado (USA).

Peyton Quinn teaching at RMCAT

Peyton Quinn teaching at RMCAT

The book starts with an example of a violent encounter during Mr. Quinn’s childhood and uses it as a starting point to explain some fundamental principles of combat strategy: Control and use of the environment, continuous attack, etc. He then goes on to explain how fear and adrenaline are essential elements in a fight and how a “bully” exploits this to his advantage. A combat mindset is different from what is necessary in a martial arts tournament and we get another couple of funny examples to illustrate the point. The chapter ends with an interesting point, namely that concepts are more important than specific techniques.

The second chapter deals with strategy, tactics and technique. Peyton talks about a few very important concepts like breaking the opponents balance or redirecting his attack. This is illustrated with a detailed explanation of the vertical backhand slap, renamed to “Come see the stars” by the author. He shows the situation in which this technique can be applied and the reasons why it has a high chance of being successful. I must agree that, as an opening to the dance, it is a good idea.

The third chapter opens the discussion on how to improve the existing models of training. Mr. Quinn doesn’t shy controversy as he discusses the Gracie system and his assessment is not entirely positive. One of the strongest aspects of Brazilian Ju Jitsu is that it allows you to go full on all the time. And this is exactly what you need to develop proper combat attitude. This chapter is the introduction of the next, namely Scenario-based training. In this students are presented with a variety of situations and then have to determine a course of action themselves.

In the case of Mr. Quinn’s program, students are confronted with the “Bulletman” which is an instructor wearing custom made protective gear. To approach the sensations of a real fight as much as possible, the students are allowed to use full contact against the Bulletmen. In the same light, the instructors will antagonize and provoke students (always within a specific scenario) to put them under stress.

Peyton does not claim to have invented this, only to have contributed to it. He goes on to demonstrate the reasons why this type of training is so effective and both the long and short term effects it has on the individual.

The fifth chapter is worth the price of the book alone, as it is a brief analysis of martial arts systems and what it takes to become a “master”. The author makes some very strong points that are not at all popular in the martial arts community: Many martial arts, as they are practiced in the schools and dojos, are sports and not self defense. Also, very few real fights are decided by subtle or master technique. Both statements may be bold, but my experience is that they are also very true. I have met many instructors who teach tournament techniques to students and claim it is self defense.

Me doing some target practice at RMCAT

Me doing some target practice at RMCAT

The final chapter addresses weapons in scenario training. As Peyton says: the community of firearms enthusiasts is similar to the martial arts community in the sense that there are endless discussions over the most futile details. He speaks of his teaching experiences with trained shooters, during seminars. These people very often have problems replicating their firing range skills while being attacked by a Bulletman. He also makes a couple other solid points regarding other weapons and their use for self defense; like not relying on them to be gifted with the magical ability to make the problem go away.

The book ends with a small epilogue which basically sums up the previous work.

Interest: This book is an interesting read and highly recommended to people who teach self defense. It points out one of the basic necessities of self defense training, namely emulating street violence as truthfully as possible. This means putting students under psychological pressure and ensuring that they experience the effects of adrenaline in the blood stream. This type of training prepares them better for a real life encounter, because there will be less chance of them “freezing” due to the stress of the encounter. Mr. Quinn illustrates his book with many examples and makes some outstanding observations on crime, violence and martial arts.

As for the negative: first and least of all, sometimes the text jumps from one subject to another and seems to be losing track.
Second, there are no precise guidelines on how to make good scenarios yourself. I was disappointed by this. This makes the book more an explanation of the “why” but not the “how”. A follow up book with more information on this would be highly appreciated.
That said, this book was published in 1996 and at the time scenario training wasn’t as well known as it is today. There was a need to explain the reasons why it’s vital to developing self defense skills and that’s what this book does. If you think your traditional art or sports fighting training is the ultimate system or you know somebody who thinks such things, get (them) this book. It’ll inject some solid, common sense to their training.

Quality: Very good lay out with many pictures. These are in b/w but the quality is good. The only issue I had is that the text accompanying the pictures sometimes cuts into the rest of the book. This means that sometimes you have to page forward a bit to keep on reading.

Buy it HERE.

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