Empty Hand Defense at Front Sight Institute


I felt a little nauseous smelling meatballs in a tureen at 11 a.m. As I hobbled down the buffet line at the Saddlewest Hotel I didn’t feel hungry, just abused. And in desperate need of coffee. I’m dragging. We made it straight to Frontsight Thursday without a minute to spare. Vegas in 6 hours? Crazy; but now that there’s an 80 mph speed limit it messes me up in a good way.

Our night courses at the gun training compound were starting at 6 p.m. Sage’s youth class (aka adventure summer camp for 100 kids) was just starting so we quickly signed in, kissed her bye and made our own way to our Empty Hand Defense class without wasting a minute in the 103 degree heat. After signing all sorts of waivers, we were introduced to our coaches. They were like those masters who guide the newbies in some reality show. Martial Arts hall of famers, former military, combat specialists. Basically, tough MFs.

We stretched for nearly 30 minutes and I was already feeling the torque before the punches flew. Uh oh, I’m not in shape for this. I looked around at the class of 100+ Front Sight members. They ranged in age from 18 to 70. Men, women, skinny and large. “You will all be feeling this in the morning,” our range master boomed. Aleve is our friend.

The point of our empty hand defense class is to learn how to get away or neutralize the bad guy- whichever gets us home in one piece. It’s not to crush the other guy. As Front Sight demonstrated several times on Thursday night and Friday, it’s a fine line between defending yourself and getting arrested for assault. They talked to us about being aware of our surroundings instead of “Condition White” (ie Clueless). Condition Yellow – not defensive or aggressive- is what we want; neutral and sure. Confident. A stranger approaches; we practiced stepping back, bringing the palms up and out in front of our chest. “Stand back!” is the first warning. Step back again, “Stand back!” louder for defensive posture 2. Then, into a fighting stance.

We learned the correct body position for jabs, crosses and upper cuts. I tried them all, over and over, switching from dominant side to support side; feeling like a boxer in the Special Olympics.

My arms were sore from punching air but then it was time to punch pads. I held mine tightly for Ryan and yet he still hit so hard I was getting bumped around and scuffed. I switched with a girl next to me so Ryan could ‘fight’ a guy and leave my poor shoulder alone.

Trachea jabs, hammer hits, palm strikes. I was starting to run out of steam by 9 p.m. yet we had only scratched the surface of self-defense. They can only teach the bare minimum in two days. Several students had taken this class before yet none could remember everything. One man told us that if you recall even one maneuver it could save your life.

I really liked the straight fingers to the neck move. I’ll remember that one!

After our break, we worked our lower half with kicks then learned two moves to get us out of a bearhug from behind. Oh yeah, I was feeling the hurt. We drove to the Saddlewest Hotel chatting about how the moves would work in real life. We checked in and despite the two-star surroundings, the bed was soft and inviting. We immediately passed out. It was 2 a.m. and another day was coming on fast.


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