My Greyskull ACS Principles of Violence Course Experience

by Butch White

The following is a written review of the Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences Principles of Violence/Basic Combat Course, from the perspective of Graduate, Butch White. At 51 years of age, Butch was the oldest graduate from the 01-13 class. His performance in the course was exemplary, and it was a pleasure to train him. I greatly look forward to working with Butch in the future. -JP

Let me say first that I hope and pray I never have to use the principles and techniques that John taught the attendees of the first Greyskull Combatives Seminar.  My job requires me to occasionally be in some sketchy places, with questionable people, in the very early hours of the day.  Even before I attended this seminar I knew that if I were ever attacked (by one or several individuals) that simply defending myself could potentially make the situation more dangerous.  The articles John put up prior to the seminar, especially “The Fallacy of Self Defense” and the “Self Defense and Pooper Scooper,” got my attention.

This quote alone explained what scared me and what I wanted to learn and understand:

It is absolutely important that one become fluent in the language of violence in order to come out on top when all bets are off and it is truly time to fight for your life.

I registered for the seminar, made my travel plans and even ordered a copy of John’s e-book Principles of Violence so that I could begin to understand what we were going to be taught over the three days.  The time Friday night was essentially a lecture and discussion format with the attendees explaining why they were there and what they wanted to learn.  (As a side note, I have sat through many classes & seminars and I have to say that John is an excellent speaker and instructor.  It was clear that he knows and understands the subject matter intimately.)   After discussing our reasons for attending, John moved right into the subject of asocial violence and why traditional forms of self-defense are essentially impotent when someone is intent on seriously injuring or even killing you.   He got our attention by stating that “causing the first incapacitating injury was the number one objective in an asocial violent encounter.”  John explained the spinal reflex arc and why it is necessary to understand how the body involuntarily responds to injuries that can occur from the head down to ankles.  We  learned the basic targets of the body and the involuntary response(s) that occur when that part of the body is injured.  John closed the evening by explaining the principles of effective targeting and the importance of not “breaking silhouette” and of “moving outside the line of sight” of the potential threat. 

Saturday was spent learning the “head-to-ankle” targets in a sequential manner that built on what we had already learned as the day progressed.  John taught us three or four targets, along with their respective spinal reflexes, and then moved us onto the mats for some one-on-one movement practice.  After partnering up, participants took turns “striking” targets (making “full contact” with the targets in a controlled manner) while their partner further learned, and demonstrated, the spinal reflex associated with each target (the application of bodyweight transfer behind the strikes brought our learning curve up fast. Reactions were earned, not given).  We continued this process of learning several new targets and adding those movements into the mat work throughout the day.  John was on the mats also, coaching, critiquing and reminding us to slow down with the admonition that “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”  By the end of the day Saturday it was becoming clear that we were not learning self-defense “techniques” (as in “if the attacker does X then you do Y”).  We were learning a system of principles that enabled us to create an injury regardless of what the attacker was doing.  We learned repeatedly that causing that first injury was absolutely essential to incapacitating, permanently debilitating or even taking the life of an asocially violent individual.

Saturday night was all about good times, good company and good conversation.  John cooked steaks and entertained us with stories from his days of training with several of the internet’s fitness and strength training “experts.”  We discussed what we had learned thus far and what we were going to learn on Sunday.  Some stayed later than others but we all had a great time and enjoyed the Sheaffer’s hospitality.

I’m not sure about the rest of the attendees but I confess I woke up Sunday morning stiff, sore and needing some extra time to start moving around comfortably.  John continued the format of the previous day, with segments of target instruction followed by mat time to blend the new targets into our knowledge base from the day before.  Weapons were thrown into the mix by mid-morning, both as offensive tools and in the hands of the asocial attacker.  We learned that the presence of a weapon did not alter the primary objective of creating the first injury.  Focusing on the weapon instead of causing the first injury was more likely to result in injury occurring first to YOURSELF.

The Sunday afternoon session began with an extensive discussion of weapons, principles of pistol shooting and what fire-arms were preferred for concealed carry.  We also covered the subject of multiple attackers and how the principles of “causing and creating injuries” remain the same regardless.  The close to the seminar was a bit intimidating but it gave each of us an opportunity to express what we had learned.  One-at-a-time, we were called onto the mat to “free-fight” with John.  Movements that were awkward and rough on Saturday morning were much more coordinated and smooth.  We were expected to demonstrate an ability to improvise and create injuries regardless of where the “incident” was initiated; standing up, on one’s back, knees, stomach, etc. This one-on-one mat time with John demonstrated just how much he knows and understands the principles he taught us over the weekend.

The entire weekend was outstanding and I would register again today for the next Greyskull Combatives Seminar if I could.  (I was so pleased with the weekend that I am considering having John spend a day and a half with the folks on my team at work, going over many of the principles we learned at the seminar.)  In addition to what we learned, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other men in attendance.  This was a good group of folks and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the 01-13 POV Class.  If you are like me and are concerned about finding yourself in a violent asocial situation, I strongly encourage you to pick-up a copy of John’s e-book and make your plans to attend to the next Greyskull Combatives Seminar.


The December class has been announced, and registration is now open. Click Here to visit the store and lock in your spot(s) for the 02-13 class today. Take part in this intensive course of study, and learn the skills needed to protect your own life, and the lives of those you care about.


2 Responses

  1. Colin


    I bookmarked this site after reading two articles–great stuff. I have a personal question for you. Have you been in a lot of encounters with asocial violence?

    I know you spent time in the Army, but looking at your book and seminar makes me think you’ve had a lot of crazy experiences with street violence.

    October 5, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    • Colin,

      I have been faced with my share of undesirable situations in both contexts that you mentioned.

      These topics make for good conversation over a beer and a steak at the live events.

      Thanks for following and supporting the site. I hope to meet you at an event in the future.

      October 5, 2013 at 6:47 pm

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