[REVIEW] Kelly McCann - "Combatives for street survival"

Hardcore contermeasures for high-risk situations.

In the R.B.S.D. (*) world, there are some key characters and Kelly McCann A.K.A. Jim Grover is most certainly one of them.

Former US-MARINES, veteran of black-ops all over the world, Kelly is one of the few instructors to have a plethoric operational experience and a gift to instruct as well that brought him to work for some of the most prestigious police and military units of the world, and for a few selected active companies in the private sector. 

Besides his services for the professionals, Kelly is also the author of numerous books and DVD’s specifically aimed to the civilians .

On a personal note, amongst the hundreds of DVD's I have seen over the last 15 years, I always consider the series "Jim Grover Combatives" and "Situational Self-Offense" as being one of the top 3 self-protection DVD’s ever produced.

Through his company " Crucible " McCann also recently developped a training curriculum specifically for civilians. More information on this subject is available on his new website : www.kellymccanncombatives.com  , that I urge you to read.
It goes without saying that I was thrilled to watch his next productions, even more after the release of his DVD " Knife Combatives " that, for various reasons, left me with mixed feelings …
So, the release of his latest book  was the opportunity to make a fresh start with a Kelly McCann more in shape than ever.

Back to the roots.

It is a time people under their twenties have never heard of…

 Long before self-defence becomes "trendy", long before Jennifer Lopez kicked her ex-husband’s ass thanks to 3 Krav-Maga lessons and long before the self-defence for anyone ideology «  Beat any aggressor with no effort, no training and in the strict respect of his physical integrity «  becomes a standard…

 This blessed time when you were considered as an alien if you only dared to emit the hypothesis that, maybe, traditional martial arts training wasn’t optimal to prepare yourselve for a street confrontation; when JCVD and Steven Seagal were the reference point  when times came to have a fight, and when everybody was training “Roundhouse kicks” à la Chuck Norris.

 In these good ol’days , it was pretty difficult to find a “real” self-defence course (nobody around here knew the term "Combatives" at that period).
The search was hard and, very often, you had to have some credentials and stand up connections as well, in order to be allowed to join in.

Once in the place, you had to train even harder and to be strong physically and mentally.

It was the time of cellars, garages and small discreet rooms with a sweat and Hirrudoid perfume.
It was the time when nobody would have even thought about complaining for a bruise, a broken finger and or a black eye, but also, at the same time, everybody took care of his (her) partners,  it was the time when you built up steady friendships "on the mat", in  blood,  sweat and tears, while laughing out loudly … the time we were proud to be " apart " while the  martial artists considered you, at best, as a bloodthirsty bully or as a living insult to their  martial  spirit…

 The foreword of "Combatives for street survival" by itself, is worth the purchase of the book and a vivid way to learn some american slang …

In these first paragraphs, McCann displays what I would call a "brutal honesty " by explaining his very own vision of Combatives training.

In a time where self-defense is becoming a market for magic-techniques-that-work-alone, the words of Kelly McCann are rather refreshing … 

Principles before technique.

When reading a book, we often miss important details because we focus on the words and not on the global purpose of it.

The structure of "Combatives for street survival " differs   from the other books dealing with personal protection applied to civilians.

 Rather than describing a wide choice of techniques supposed to get your aggressor uncounscious in a blink of an eye, McCann fully speaks about context: why we train, how we do it and, mainly, about our mindset while we train.
The following chapters are dedicated to the analysis and the understanding of the principles  underlining the “Combatives” system.

Even if it seems insignificant, this way of doing the writing, having nothing to do with good luck or fortune, is quite revealing of a purpose …

 The foundations of any rational method to survive  a “street attack” are contained in the principles described by McCann.
Obviously, we could delete some or add some others, according  the reader’s own sensibility, but the most important ones are there … and that’s already much more than the  majority of the other books dealing with that matter.  

It is only after these principles are hammered down that we get at the technical part. 

McCann limits himself to a good taste classicism . The main strikes (ax-hand, face-smash, chin-jab, etc.) are reviewed in a very clear and well illustrated fashion. Nothing to add on the subject.

No secret techniques or flashy methods : just good plain, pragmatic and heavy moves, quickly exploitable, without any bullshit.

Once again, not a big surprise for those who are used to McCann’s “style”.

Scenario training

The book progression cannot be  more logical: at first, the principles. Then, the techniques and, finally, the application of these.

And the best way to mix techniques and principles that underlie the work is surely «  scenario training « .

This type of exercise provides many benefits compared to the "traditional" way to practise. The most notable being to give a context to use principles and techniques.


While doing so, we remove  artificiality and abstraction  from the personal protection training, working on casual situations and managing both the physical and the psychological aspects of the aggression ( reaction to the stress, the insults and the provocations, development of the concepts of avoidance and verbal de-escalation, ...).



Beware though, this type of work (essential to a serious personal protection training according my view )  must be supervised by instructors who really know their job and their students, and must be strictly done to ensure both physical and psychological safety of the students ... 

In the last chapters of the book, McCann develops and analyzes several scenarios, from the most common to the most surprising. Each time providing a full description of the situation, the  outlining of the pre incident clues, the available advantages and a summary of his actions.

These different scenarios build a very good working base and only ask a customization according the reality and the daily life of the readers.

Final words

By far, " Combatives for street survival " is one of the best books about  personal protection that I have had the pleasure to read.

McCann manages to find a logical and attractive approach  ( by the way,the artwork of the book is outstanding ) while avoiding the classical catalog of techniques or the confinement of an unique psychological approach of the violence. Both isolated ways leading to a sterile nonsense when dealing with a situation.

The tone used in the book also deserves a salute : a subtle mix of rational explanations, an in your face way to talk and a dry to the bone humor helping to low down the crude violence of the subject …

Unlike a present heavy trend, McCann does not try to persuade the reader that learning to prevail in street violence is "easy and painless"… on the contrary and indeed, he  insists on the fact that it is a very demanding, challenging and difficult physical and psychological task which begs for a real personal commitment with no success guarantee.


This is certainly not what the public wants to hear, but McCann is a part of this "race" of instructors who are aware that their instruction could mess with the very own lives of their students ... and, as such,  he demonstrates an  honesty that must be acclaimed.






(*) Reality Based Self Defence: a generic name used for "modern" self-défense styles.


P.S.: Thanks to my good friend Serge "TheBCollector" for checking my miserable english and makin it readable ;-)