Jim Wagner's Reality-Based
Personal Protection Instructor Certification Program

Most people studying self-defense today are practicing movements that have literally no relationship to what goes on in a real fight; but traditional martial arts instructors still insist these techniques are effective, and -- you must spend years practicing them. On the contrary, it doesn't take years of study to defend yourself. Most of us can learn the basics in a relatively short period of time. It should be like learning how to drive -- with good instruction and realistic scenarios, anyone can learn easily.

Then why are so many people looking for self-defense at traditional martial arts academies and sports gyms? It's because they don't know any better! Martial arts academies and sports gyms keep telling everyone they teach self-defense (just because it looks like fighting, doesn't mean it is). Another reason is that most people have never been in a real "life and death" struggle and their familiarity with fighting comes only from TV and the movies.

Real fights occur suddenly and viciously, seemingly out of nowhere -- and when we least expect it. They usually consist of surprise, multiple attacks and ambushes -- with guns, knives and other weapons. There are no rules, no time outs, no breaks, and these attacks are usually over in seconds.

There are no sports schools I know of, that prepare you for this level of violence; and traditional martial arts are so out of touch with reality, they're still practicing barefoot in loose fitting uniforms; when was the last time you went to work barefoot and in sweats? So what type of defense training is best suited for the world we live in today?

To find the answer is to merely browse through any newspaper and see what type of crimes are being committed? You'll find assaults, rapes, shootings, stabbings (lots of stabbings), road rage, car-jackings, home invasions, kidnappings, hostage situations, snipers and threats of terrorism. What traditional martial art school prepares you even one of these threats? Absolutely none! Most people say no one can truly prepare you for this type of violence - but that's untrue.

There's a small but rapidly growing movement in this country that teaches integrated reality-based defense. This goes way beyond merely kicking and punching. It encompasses training for all physical challenges [noted above], as well as indirect attacks such as threats of terrorism. These groups teach overall survival and defense strategies [through scenarios and drills] in a broad range of subjects, including: firearms, counter-knife, impact weapons, combatives, and aspects of survivalism. This is the way we should all train, and in the near future integrated reality-defense will most likely overtake traditional martial arts in popularity.

A fundamental difference between an integrated reality-defense program and traditional martial arts (and sports) is that it's weapon-centric. In other words, in the vast majority of cases, if you're attacked, it will be by the business end of some sort of weapon. Therefore, it's in your best interest to also carry a weapon (and know how to use it). Traditional schools are in a time-warp and believe their antique techniques will win the day [over any weapon].

Another important difference is that traditional martial arts deal only with the immediate physical threat, whereas reality-based methods include the whole gamut, including pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict. This includes awareness strategies, conflict diffusion and resolution, de-escalation, preemptive strike, adrenaline stress, self-medical management, how to speak to the police, prosecutor attorney's and more.

The last major but essential difference with traditional arts is that good reality-defense programs teach through scenarios in simulated environments. The closer to reality the environment is, the better you can recall the experience. So - a dirty, smelly, low-lit, and dangerous looking parking lot is the ideal place to practice robberies and car-jackings. Astonishingly, very few training programs present this in their curriculum.

The most comprehensive and satisfying reality-based programs I've ever attended was Jim Wagner's Reality-Based Personal Protection Instructor Certification Program. When I first learned that it was a full five-day course, I wondered, "What were we going to do five full days?" But during the course of the training, I was completely surprised at how much useful information was presented; I was hoping it would be extended several days.

I first found out about Jim Wagner through his former law enforcement and military website (he sold that company a year ago). Most of his seminars were held on the West Coast, or in out-of-the-way cities, so I didn't have a chance to train with him during that time. I came across him again when he started his series of articles in Black Belt magazine. I was impressed with them; they were by far the best articles in the magazine. Since then, I've been pestering Jim to hold his seminars in New York and he finally did, this is the overview of that training.

Jim Wagner first introduced the term "reality-based" to the world through his monthly column in Black Belt magazine HIGH RISK. His system is innovative, and will change the way we think about and practice self-defense.

Few self-defense instructors in the world can come close to Mr. Wagner's background: former soldier, jailer, street cop, SWAT officer, diplomatic bodyguard, and most recently, a counterterrorist with the United States government. In addition, Jim Wagner is one of the world's top police and military Defensive Tactics and Tactics instructor's, having trained elite units worldwide, including: US Marshals SOG, FBI, SWAT, German GSG9, Israeli Special Forces, US Border Patrol, Brazilian GATE, Argentinean GOE, US Air Force Security Forces, US Coast Guard Boarding Teams, US NAVY and US Marines PMO, dozens of prisons, California Highway Patrol, INS, Helsinki Police Department, and much more.

Jim Wagner's Reality-Based Personal Protection program goes way beyond the "punch and kick," crowd and covers the complete tactical spectrum of Pre-Conflict, Conflict, and Post-Conflict techniques and training methods.


The Program
This program was designed to teach the teacher, it's an instructor's program in Jim's Wagner's system. Instructors are officially certified and will have to keep their training updated. You may also attend this training even if you don't intend to teach others, but just to improve your own skills.

Equipment needed for this course was minimal. T-shirts, jeans/long pants, tennis shoes, protective cup/sports bra, and mouthpiece.

Each day was devoted to a specific topic, although there is some overlap, as to be expected. There's a lot of material here and Jim suggests taking as many notes as possible. All students receive training programs, guidelines and videos to review the information and lessons covered (although these are continuously revised and improved by Jim).

The current training program covers five major areas in as many days (In the near future, Jim will introduce several additional courses not listed yet). For now, you can choose one course, or several, or all five, they are:

1. Defensive Tactics Training Course
2. Ground Survival Training Course
3. Knife Survival Training Course
4. Crime Survival Training Course
5. Terrorism Survival Training Course

Depending on the number of students in each class, every day starts out similarly with standard warm-up exercises covering vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and rotation movements. Jim then reviews important elements that are important to all of the classes, such as self-triage, threat zones, use-of-force-ladder, the assault cycle, the O.O.D.A. Process, awareness strategies, etc.

Each class is eight hours. The information is presented in both lecture and hands on format (90% hands-on, 10% lecture). The method of teaching is, Explain, Demonstrate, Practice, Apply, which is a great way of teaching. This way you're not just fed information (which you can easily forget), you have to think about it first. In addition techniques were taught in whole or part by the use of conflict-based drills.

The most interesting and productive teaching methods however were the situational scenarios (called Conflict Rehearsal in Mr. Wagner's system). You really do retain so much more information with scenarios than any other method of learning, I believe. During one particular scenario in the Crime Survival course, Mr. Wagner had the class go to a local coffee shop. We were told to be observant for 15-20 minutes, and not talk to each other. When we returned, we were asked to remember every detail in the coffee shop and were quizzed. After a while, a similar scenario was set up at our training facility, MR. Wagner acted the part of armed robber and we had to respond correctly (otherwise we'd potentially be shot). We also had to identify the robber later for the authorities. We learned about preserving evidence, the proper way to phone the police, being a good witness, remembering vital information, and how to be a better observer by playing a K.I.M.S. game (Keep In Memory System).


#1. Defensive Tactics Training Course
This course acts as the foundation for the entire series and lays the groundwork for the other courses.

Topics covered
Threat Zones, Conflict Preparation, Conflict stances, Movements/how to move, Arm strikes, blocks and drills, Leg Strikes, blocks and drills, Grabs Chokes & holds, Kinetic Sensation Response drills, Self-Triage and First-Aid

This is a good solid foundational course for anyone, from housewife to pro. Some of the material may be familiar for some, but you'll always come across information you never knew.

#2. Ground Survival Training Course
This class deals with groundwork as it pertains to an assault on the street, this is not sport-based, but teaches realistic and brutal, yet easy to learn techniques.

Topics covered
Falling, Take Downs, Tackle defense, Ground-based strikes, Blocking, Arm strikes, Grabs, Blocking kicks, Evasion & escape, Face down situations, Ground weapon retention, The guard, Counter guard, Ground/Wall maneuvers, Victim rescue, positional asphyxiation (dealing with a prisoner from a citizen's arrest), Self-triage and First-aid.

This is an essential course, especially for those who dislike groundwork. It covers all the major concepts in fighting on the ground. The victim rescue, positional asphyxiation, and self-triage alone were worth the price of the course.

#3. Knife Survival Training Course
I've always liked Jim's knife defense approach, "The Jim Wagner Knife Disarm Rule" since he came out with the tape. Jim bases his concepts on instinctive reactions all people have. Of course, he came up with this no-nonsense approaching having been attacked twice with a knife at close range, and having handled dozens of knife incidents as a cop.

Topics covered
Knife avoidance, Self-Triage & First-aid, Mental prep, Weapon deployment cycle, Grips, Defense position, Prison techniques, strike combinations, medical implications of knife wounds, Blocks, Fakes, Kinetic Sensation Response drills, Feeding drills. Ground defense, Jim Wagner Knife Disarm Rule, Hostage escape situations, Double blades (as used by some gang members), and the negative aspects of throwing blades.

The knife-disarm rule was developed by Jim Wagner (after years of trial and error) to find the best method of surviving a determined knife assault. This concept/technique can be quickly learned and implemented. The hostage training was fascinating, and could easily happen to anyone vis-à-vis a botched robbery or even a hijacking.

#4. Crime Survival Training Course
This was my favorite. It had so many practical approaches to dealing with crimes we all read about (but wouldn't know how to deal with). There's so much information here, this course could easily be extended to three-days.

Topics covered
Various crime scenarios, Having a plan, Position of Advantage (POA), Self and victim triage and first-aid, Evidence identification and preservation, Contacting the authorities and police contact, the Assault Cycle, Courtroom survival, Multiple attackers, Firearms survival (close range as well as medium distances), Protecting others (bodyguard style techniques), Chemical attack defense (criminal type), Location Advance (threat assessment), Low and High Risk locations, Situational awareness, Armed robbery defense, Impact weapons defense, car jacking, driving security, car seat defense, Counter-surveillance, K.I.M.S. Game, Home security.

I thought I knew what to say in a courtroom, but according to my responses, I would've been locked up fast. The multiple attackers scenario was scary, you think you can use your skills to escape, but you can't, you need to change your outlook. Counter-surveillance (how to know if a criminal is targeting you) was more difficult than I thought; it's really an important skill, getting away from your enemies.

#5. Terrorism Survival Training Course
Another favorite, especially when we were assigned to locate Improvised Explosive Devices (simulated ones, of course), one slip and you're dead. Lots of concepts and tactics to keep you alive, this is where if you used common sense, you would die rather quickly.

Topics covered
Categories of terrorism, Compressed Decision Time (these types of conflict are much more accelerated than a typical "bar fight"), Terrorist tactics, Terrorist personality traits, Potential terrorist targets, Terrorist attack cycle, Means of attack, Small arms tactics, Public locations situational awareness, Cover & concealment, counter sniper tactics, Actions under fire, Grenade or IED defense, letter & package bombs, Bomb threats, Planted bomb or IED, Car/truck bombs, Vehicle search, Public transportation survival, WMD and DECON (decontamination), Counter-sniper tactics, Daily terrorism awareness, terrorist attack on a building, Preparing for a chemical attack, Surviving as a hostage, Hostage cycle, Conflict bag, Travel precautions & securities, Hotel safety, vehicle safety, on being arrested.

There was so much information here; I could attend this section for a week. Although the name of the course is terrorism survival, it covers so much more in the way of daily survival tips.

Jim Wagner is the father of reality-based training. He's been developing this program for the military and LE for more than a dozen years and now offers thiS wealth of knowledge to civilians. He talks the talk and walks the walk. I spent some time with him outside the classes touring New York City, and he really practices what he preaches.

Jim Wagner's expertise comes through the perspective of a well-rounded law enforcement officer and trainer. For the average citizen, this is much more realistic training than trying to find ex-SEAL or Special Ops talent. Jim Wagner's courses have a direct bearing to what actually happens on the street in a wide range of criminal activities. From concept through execution, the classes cover a broad range of useful material and could be used as a jumping point to specialize in particular areas.

For all civilians, this is the future of self-defense. It offers realistic solutions for the myriad of crimes occurring in the world today. No matter what you're background is, take all five classes if you can. We were so impressed with it; we became certified instructors in the system for the NYC area.

To find out more about this system visit Jim Wagner's website at:

To get training in the New York City Area contact: