A few months ago, Loren W. Christensen and Mark Mireles released their latest collaboration: a book on self defense called “Total Defense“. It has an interesting concept (which I’ll explain in the first question) and when Loren told me about it, I asked if he wanted to do an interview. He agreed and here we are.
Also, Mark Mireles has also agreed to do an interview so you’ll get both perspectives. You can read it here: Total Defense: Interview with Mark Mireles.
Total Defense: Interview with Loren W. Christensen
Q: This book has a unique approach: two authors show techniques to solve the same problem and give totally different solutions. Doesn’t this mean you both contradict each other?
A: Not at all. The idea is that the reader sort of gets two books in one. Mark is a wrestler and jujitsu guy with decades of experience in competition and on the street as an LAPD cop. I’ve got nearly 46 years as a punch/kick fighter (a combination of karate, kung fu, muay Thai and boxing), as a grappler (jujitsu, aikido, chin-na and police defensive tactics) and in arnis. In the book, Mark does just a little hitting and I do just a little grappling. Mostly we stress our primary arts to show how each of us would, or have in the past, defended against a specific attack.
In all of my books, I stress the importance of simplicity in battle. Such is the case in Total Defense. Mark shows how easy it is to dominate an attacker with simple grappling moves and I show how easy it is to dominate using clawing, ripping, gouging, and hitting.
Q: “Total Defense” has a specific topic: defending yourself against the most common techniques used in a street fight. Can you give some examples of these?
A: We both show how we would use our specific fighting art to defend against a tackle, headlock, collar grab, bearhug, baseball bat assault, a gun, a knife, 2-on-1 attack, how we would fight in a tight space, and a few others. We also discuss the many elements of each attack and the elements of our defense. When you understand the concepts and principles behind both the attack and the defense, it dramatically increases your understanding and effectiveness.
Q: How did you come about selecting those specific attacks?
A: These attacks were some – just some – of the most common types of assaults that we investigated as cops (Mark still does as an LAPD copper), ones we’ve witnessed on the street, and assaults that were attempted on us. Does our stuff work? I often joke to students, “I spent 29 years in law enforcement and almost 46 years training in the martial arts. Look at this face of mine. No scars and no crooked nose.”
Okay, the truth is that I got hit as a cop, just never in the face. I got a scar on my thumb where a whore kicked me with her rapier-like heel, a tender biceps from when a guy hit me with a 2×4 board, and scars on my shins where shotgun pellets punched their way in, and still reside.
Back to your question: We chose common techniques that we experienced directly or indirectly on the street.
Q: Could you give an example of a situation in which you used one of these techniques?
A: I can think of a few times when my partner and I, or just me, had to fight folks in tight places. When I worked skid row as a cop, I got into a ton of scraps in restrooms, restroom stalls, and 8 x 8 foot dives where two or three people slept in their own waste and vomit. These places were the most disgusting of all that is disgusting. I told my partner many times not to let me die in one of these hell holes. “If I get stabbed or shot,” I told him, “drag me out onto the sidewalk. Don’t let me breathe my last in this festival of filth.” He would promise me that he would and then he’d make fun of me for saying “festival of filth.”
There were many times when a guy stabbed or slugged another guy in a bar and then ran into the restroom (taking a dump is a natural response after you do a felony.) You don’t wait for the man to pull up his pants where he might have a weapon nor do you wait outside the stall for him to come out on his terms, which might be bad for you. So we would kick the door in, grab the sitting felon by his shoulders and yank him to the floor. After we got him cuffed, my partner and I would argue over who was going to pull up his pants.
We learned quickly how to get the best of people in these small spaces. Mostly, I used:
- head twist control holds (the body tends to follow the face).
- sleeper holds.
- clothing control (yank the coat over the head and knee the body).
- knee strikes to the peroneal nerve on the outside of the thigh to collapse the legs.
- foot stomps to the top of the feet and toes.
I fought a guy once in a phone booth who had just shot a store clerk. I pressed him against the glass with all my body weight, and then worked slowly and methodically to get his hands – that so desperately wanted to get that gun – behind his back.
Q: Is the book geared to a particular grappling or striking art?
A: As mentioned earlier, Mark’s material is primarily grappling, wrestling and jujitsu. He especially loves wrestling and talks about how it’s making a comeback in the martial arts world for one simple reason – it works. I have studied several punch/kick arts but in the last eight or nine years I’ve been studying, practicing and teaching the mauling arts of ripping, gouging, shredding and pressing vital targets. My stuff is sort of like my dad’s carpentry. After he’d make a table or chair, he’d say, “It ain’t much on pretty but it’s hell on strong.” That’s what I strive for.
Q: Who would benefit the most from reading the information in “Total Defense”?
A: Many martial artists are seeing the value of understanding fighting ranges: grappling range, clawing and gouging range, kneeing and elbowing range, punching range, and kicking range. In this book, the reader gets Mark, who works heavily in the grappling range, and me, who works in the clawing, gouging, kneeing, elbowing and punching range. Since both methods are highly effective, it’s a matter of choice by the reader as to which approach he can see himself using. Or, and this is the cool part, the savvy reader can blend both approaches. The reader might think, “I like Mark’s double-knee shoot takedown in this situation, but after the guy is down, I like Loren’s eye gouge and pectoral rip follow-up.
Q: Do you have any new books or projects in the works?
A: I just finished a big women’s self-defense book. Turtle Press is working on it now and it’s yet to be titled. I wrote it with my lady, Lisa Place, a veteran martial artist. She’s coming up on 49 years but can kick and punch faster and stronger than most 20-year-olds. She shows some bodyweight exercises in a chapter called “Getting strong now” that will have gals half her age sweating and cursing her.
It was a tough book to write because it’s important to teach women from the inside out. For many, their inner warrior – we call it “lioness” in the book – has been suppressed by parents, males, other females, and society. But once a teacher can help a woman reach inside and unleash this lioness, well, look out. I’m always amazed, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this many times, too, how a timid and shy woman, after the right kind of training, turns into a savage beast fighting as if protecting her young. We worked hard on this book to help women find that within themselves. And every woman does have it within her.
I sold my first novel this year. YMAA Publishers picked it up and we have just begun the editing process. I was calling it Revenge (Bao thu) but the publisher is leaning toward Dukkha, a Pali word that roughly translates to suffering, pain and discontent. I like that even better. The story, that is in the police/martial arts genre and takes place in the present, examines moral confusion among its characters and, I hope, stirs some internal moral debate in the reader. Along the way, there is a lot on police procedure, the horror of PTSD, the ugliness of revenge, cool martial arts fighting, and a sexy female Vietnamese gang. There is even a tender romance for guys like you, Wim.
I’m deep into a follow-up novel now.
Click here to buy “Total Defense” now.
That’s it for the interview. Special thanks to Loren for taking the time to do this. I’m done reading my latest romance novel, so now I’ll post the interview with Mark Mireles too… :-) It’s right here: Total Defense: Interview with Mark Mireles.