About Featured Expert: John Correia the founder and owner of Active Self Protection, a family self defense training company based out of Phoenix, AZ. He travels throughout the country teaching practical self-defense, and defensive strategies, focusing especially on those who utilize firearms in their self-defense toolkit.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview about family self defense training, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Marcus Roth: Hey there, folks. Welcome again to the Science of Skill podcast. This is Marcus, taking over for Coach Dan. I’m on the horn today, with John Correia, where he has spent the last 11 years gaining experience in the field of self-defense, self-defense training and evidence-based defensive training. Now, he’s here on the podcast today to share his insights. John, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
John Correia: Like you said, I’m what I call an evidence-based defensive trainer. The company that I own is called Active Self Protection, based out of Phoenix, Arizona. It is, at its core, a self-defense and firearms training company. What I’m known for is that people send me real life surveillance videos of armed robberies, muggings, stabbings, carjackings, assaults of all kind, you name it and I narrate them. I do after action reports on them and narrate them and put them on our YouTube channel, which is pretty crazy active. Right now, we’re averaging about 15 or so million views a month.
MR: What’s the name of the channel?
JC: The channel is named Active Self Protection. It’s an active and growing community. It’s crazy and weird. My background, I served in the United States Navy for eight years. That was my first big boy job. It’s funny to me, when people ask me as a defensive trainer, if I was in the military, as a qualification. I say, “Yes,” but then I just wait to see if they ask the follow up questions because, in the Navy, I was a nuclear reactor operator. I made hot water the hard way. I learned to march. That wasn’t defensive at all. It’s when I got out of the military that I started working on the defensive side. When I got out of the military, my primary mission and calling in life is I pastor a church in the Phoenix area. While I was in graduate school, I started taking up self-defense. That’s been a labor of love for the last 11 years or so. I started studying martial arts and started carrying a gun a little over 11 years ago Then, really starting getting good with it. At my core, I’m a teacher. That’s where Active Self Protection came from, which was me saying, “Listen, for me to really know something, I have to turn around and give it away to others and teach.”
MR: Working off that, let’s talk about the balance between self-defense and firearms. What defensive strategies do you recommend? For the average Joe who isn’t looking to join a mercenary company or something, do you think one is more vital than the other? Clearly you went to handguns first, it seems, when you felt you were threatened.
JC: Yeah. It’s an interesting story. In my own case, yeah. I took a firearms course. I got my Arizona Concealed Carry Permit, started carrying a gun. To be honest with you, it was a lucky rabbit’s foot, that I carried around a magic talisman to ward away danger more than an effective tool. About the same time, maybe just a little after, my son really wanted me to start taking Karate with him. He was taking Karate at the local community center. it’s when I started studying martial arts that I realized, “Wow. If I’m going to carry a gun, I really need to be able to use it.” Today, if somebody asks me, I planned to take martial arts just for six months, do it with my son, whatever. Here we are 11 years later, 2016, I finally earned my black belt. As Mr. Miyagi say, “Belt mean no need rope for keeping up pants.” It is a marker, when it’s an earned black belt, of proficiency. Here’s the thing, if you go look at the Bureau of Justice statistics, that’s who keeps statistics in the United States on crime, about 80% of assaults in America are simple assaults. A simple assault is one that doesn’t involve a forced multiplier, a weapon of any kind and doesn’t result in gross bodily disfigurement, significant hospital stays, those kind of things. That’s like getting punched in the face, or slapped around by somebody, or pushed, or whatever, that’s a crime. 80% of assaults are simple assaults, which would not rise to the level of needing a firearm to defend yourself. From the bell curve of necessity, if you were to look at the Pareto Principle of what is more needed, martial arts training is more needed than firearms training.
MR: Do you have any insights on firearms training for the average person, then? Do you have any drills someone could do at home, or at work, or maybe even on the couch, to help themselves? Maybe even for physical self-defense as well.
JC: I always recommend people find a good local trainer. You find those by word of mouth. Great trainers will let you watch them teach. They want to help you. Their ego is not where it’s at, it’s helping you. Take a great class. For a new shooter, an NRA certified class is a great class. You can take their basic pistol class, or their personal protection in the home, or their personal protection outside the home. Those are fine curriculum for new shooters and usually not very expensive because they are a local trainer rather than a regional or a national trainer. I think that the average person should think about some kind of continuing education. Maybe a class every year. Then, several range trips. Maybe at least one range trip every quarter, to get out there to put some rounds trough their defensive firearms. Then, that way, they maintain their proficiency. From home, we talk about dry fire. Now, it’ll take me just a sec to go through that because there’s a couple of things. To practice with your firearm, about 70 or 80% of what you need, you can do when you’re not on a range if you do it carefully. The way that you have to do that is you have to take all ammunition completely out of the room. You have to unload the pistol. You have to get all of the ammo completely out of the room and be in what we call a dry environment. There’s no live ammo around. Then, you can take your training, how to hold the gun, how to sight the gun, how to use the trigger and manipulate the trigger and do that without any rounds in the gun and get about 80% of the value. Dry fire training. I tell people, “If you want to get better as a defensive shooter, if you did five minutes of dry fire training where you simply presented the gun, got a good sight picture, good sight alignment, good trigger press without disturbing everything, reset the gun and did that for five minutes a day for 30 days, you would be infinitely better in defensive shooting.” Same thing from in the place of empty-handed skills or martial arts training, especially as a beginner, you need to get trained. You cannot learn martial arts from scratch on YouTube. It’s just not possible. Once you have some significant training, perhaps you start to get to unconscious competence in as little as 50 hours of training. Now, for most people that take an hour-and-a-half of training a week, that’s going to take you eight, nine months. Then, you can start working those drills and those activities that your teacher gives you, in your home to continue to get better and to continue to refine your skills.
MR: What about other defensive strategies? What martial arts are you trained in and would you recommend other people adopting that style? Was it good for you initially?
JC: I always tell people that style is far less important than teacher, especially because martial arts is something that you’re going to learn in your local context. When somebody says, “What’s the best martial art to study, John?” I can’t answer that question because I don’t know what’s available in your town and I don’t know who the teachers are in your town. I would pick an art that I was less excited about that had a fantastic teacher. Somebody who could transfer knowledge and could help me as a defensive trainer. There’s a couple of different styles of martial art. Some are more tournament style and sport and some are more defensive. I’m more interested in the defensive world myself, not the sport world, but everybody’s different. Some people really love going to tournaments and doing that stuff and doing sport-based sparring. That’s great. I’ve got no problem with it. My particular art, I study an art that it’s an interesting discussion because we call it UMAS, which is an acronym for Universal Martial Arts Sciences, which is a derivative, an extension, a modernization of Ed Parker’s Kenpo. If somebody’s a Kenpoist, I’ve got some of the toolbox that they have, which is itself, an extension, a derivative, a modernization of the ancient Chinese art of Quan Fa. Every art has its context. I love it, personally. I love UMAS because it is evidence-base, because it is principle-based rather than anecdote-based, because we work from finding solutions to problems rather than preset techniques. That, I find very valuable. In UMAS, one of the things that we do is we say, “Wait a minute. You’re going to adapt to the problem all the time.” You have a set of core principles that you work on. We work from five core principles that we always try to integrate into everything that we do, which are awareness, attitude, logic, margin and simplicity. Then, you solve the problem as it presents itself. Now, then, you’ve got to have a vocabulary in order to solve that, so we give you the vocabulary as we study. Now, everybody thinks their art’s the best. If you don’t think your art is the most effective and the best at what you do, then you shouldn’t study it and you wouldn’t study it.
MR: What would you say is the chief point of usefulness in your martial art? For example, in the context, as you said, of modern America?
JC: Yeah. My art UMAS, it’s chief usefulness I think, is we work on principles. Number one, my art, my particular expression of the art integrates firearms. I’m a tool-user. I carry a firearm every day. My art integrates that understanding in terms of creating and maintaining distance, in terms of using tools of all kinds. Not everybody has that right. Not everybody has that ability. Perhaps if I lived in the United Kingdom or I lived in Canada where I couldn’t carry a firearm every day, I would have to adapt things a little bit. My art would still be useful there.
MR: Whatever method of self-defense, firearms or hand-to-hand, would you recommend a family work on these skills together? You mentioned you and your son worked on karate at the Y, that’s how you began. Do you use this as a community builder for yourself as a pastor or is that another element in your life?
JC: I do recommend families work on this together. Of course, the more self-defenders you have, the better opportunity that you have to protect your entire family. I think that’s very valuable. Not everybody has that and that’s okay. Actually, all my kids, I have four children and all four of them have at least three years of martial arts study. My wife’s a midwife. She’s not really a self-defender. She’s got a little bit. She’s taken some firearms classes. She’s come to martial arts class a couple of times but it’s not really at the core of her heart.
If the family can, if there’s interest there, I think it’s a great thing to do as a family. I think that it builds camaraderie as a family.
MR: You served in the Navy and you might think you went to basic and you might think, “Oh, I was in the Navy. I’m a tough guy,” but you worked on a reactor, right? Like you mentioned at the beginning of the thing, if you live your life pretending like you’re a tough guy who’s confident because you were in the Navy and then you would get into a fight and a legitimate self-defense situation occurs, you are going to be at a massive disadvantage, even though you mentally believe you’re at an advantage. When that’s just not the reality of the situation and that’s what gets you killed or hurt.
JC: 100% agree. That’s part of that Dunning-Kruger Effect, that I think I’m better than I really am, which is one of the benefits of training. I think one of the benefits of training, one of the first things that I remember as a white belt in class, is working with a senior rank and just getting my butt handed to me, a lot. Just getting worked over. I’ll never forget, my instructor’s wife I was working with and she’s a senior rank. She holds a brown belt. I’m a big guy and she’s a little lady and she beat me like a rented donkey all night long.
MR: That’s a great closing insight, to be honest there. We’ll wrap it up here. This has been Marcus Roth and John Correia speaking on self-defense for the Science of Skill podcast. John, if people wanted to reach out to you, how would they go about that? Also, feel free to tell us more about your website.