Experiencing RMCAT


Personal Experience
I’m standing near the head of a line of 12 people; we’re all shouting at the top of our lungs, “knees-knees, elbows-elbows, eyes-eyes” as one of our comrades fights off a bullet-man (padded attacker). It’s almost my turn…this is my seventh and last fight, but I know it will be the toughest, this is our final exam at RMCAT, it’s what they call bloodfest.

I hope I don’t go against the guy in the black outfit; he’s the biggest and most experienced of the bullet-men. The line applauds, that’s my cue, I’m up next, I put on my headgear and walk onto the mat. Just as I feared, the guy in black steps forward. I tell myself it’s just a scenario, it’s not real, relax, calm down. The guy in black starts cursing and heads towards me, the crowd is shouting but I hardly hear them, my vision narrows, my heart’s pounding, a switch goes off in my head, I forget where I am, what I’m doing, my body takes over, I’m no longer thinking.

As if programmed to respond, I raise my hands and tell the guy to back off several times, instead, he suddenly comes for me, I lunge forward and kick his groin several times with my knee, my palm strikes pound his head (I don’t know if my shots are getting through the massive body armor he’s wearing, but I just keep tearing into him) I hit his him with elbows, then more knees to his groin…he finally drops to the ground, as he attempts to stand up, I quickly knee his head and drop him for good. The crowd shouts, “Look around,” a part of the training to help break the tunnel vision effect of the adrenal rush. I quickly turn to see if there’s anyone else, there isn’t.

I walk off the mat completely out of breath and feel like I’m about to collapse; the whole engagement lasted less than 60 seconds, but felt like 5 minutes. I hear applause, people are congratulating me, my hearing’s coming back, so is my peripheral vision. I’m still panting, but regain my composure after several minutes. The next guy is up and the shouting starts all over again. “Knees-knees, elbows-elbows, eyes-eyes.”

After we all fought, we sat down and watched the video playback and discussed the results, it was so surprising, none of us thought we did as well as the video showed. Without exception, the fights were all very primal, no fancy moves, no spinning kicks or flying techniques, only basic knees, low kicks, elbows, head- butts, fingers to the eyes, groin slaps etc.

Those of us who were in better shape (to endure the altitude) included their favorite techniques, but all techniques, without exception were comprised of gross motor skills.

We were all relieved that this was the last fight of the program; the stress was keeping us hyper for the past few days. Participants came from all walks of life, from bounty hunters to cops, to DEA, ex-military, martial artists and just civilians with no martial arts training at all, women as well as men; all ages, from twenties to fifties.

We were all amazed at how effective this training turned out to be, but we also knew that no one would believe us unless they experienced this training in-person. Since that time (October 2001) I’ve been evangelizing adrenaline stress training, but not with great success. Most martial artists still think they own the Holy Grail, and that’s unfortunate. No matter what style or art you practice, adrenaline stress training is a valuable adjunct to your normal training.

The Adrenaline Effect
The hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) is important to the body’s metabolism. Heightened secretion (by the medulla) caused by fear or anger, results in increased heart rate and the hydrolysis of glycogen to glucose. This reaction, called the “fight or flight response,” prepares the body for strenuous activity.

When someone perceives a life-threatening situation, epinephrine is automatically released into the bloodstream (for more energy) and alters our body’s system. Our bronchial passages dilate (pumping in more oxygen) our heart rate increases (giving us more endurance), our pupils dilate (helping fine focus, but causing tunnel vision) auditory exclusion and Tachy-psyche occurs (the misperception of the passage of time).

Without proper training some of these effects can be disabling. Tachi-psyche can cause a person to freeze; the results of visual and auditory exclusion are obvious, loss of fine motor control will leave you without fancy defensive moves, and an increased heart rate may cause you to panic even more.

How our Brains Figure into This
The brain is comprises of three parts, the reptile brain, the mammalian brain and the neocortex. The reptile brain (the reptilian complex) evolved first and contains our most basic emotions. From the reptile brain we get our instinct to survive, our fight or flight response, and urges to reproduce. The mammalian brain (the limbic system) evolved next. From our mammalian brain, we get our need to nurture, love, and form communities. The neocortex evolved last, this is where we get the skills necessary to balance the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain. The neocortex is what sets us apart from the animals; it gives us our intellect, logic and memory.

Why Adrenaline Stress Training Works so Well
In scenario-based adrenaline stress training, the body responds to the perceived threat at hand and overrides the neocortex. At that moment, we are in the “fight or flight” response. You experience the adrenaline effect with many or all the effects of the adrenaline rush. With enough training in a stressful state, you can control the reaction of an adrenaline dump.

As you train, you work on controlling your heart rate, expanding your vision, and lowering the overall effects of the adrenaline. Some adrenaline is good, but too much can bring about debilitating consequences. As you grow accustomed to handling the effects of adrenaline, your body will “automatically” assume this control when it feels the onslaught of Epinephrine.

This control is essential for our ability to react and assess potentially dangerous situations. With control, we have access to two very important ingredients: the ability to Adapt and Improvise. No matter how much a martial artist trains in a dojo with techniques, those techniques stand a good chance of being useless if you can’t adapt them to fit the situation. You have a great advantage if you’re able to improvise (under stress) with objects near you, or your environment.

Instead of training in dozens of techniques, it’s better to master only a few. Techniques that use gross motor skills are best, these include knee strikes, low kicks, palm heel and slaps, and eye strikes among others. Don’t worry about your strength, that will come from your adrenaline state. In the end, it’s your mental ability that wins the fight, and that’s what this type of training cultivates, your mental attitude.

History Of Adrenaline Stress Training and RMCAT
In the 1970’s, a varied group of martial artists started playing with the concept of padded assailant training, in response to an alarming number of experienced female black belts getting attacked and raped. It seems that traditional martial arts training didn’t adequately protect them in real life encounters. Through trial and error, training was implemented through scenarios that included a verbal component, and fancy techniques using fine motor skills were dropped in favor of techniques that used gross motor skills.

Offshoots of Padded Assailant Training began to appear such as Fast Defense, Impact, Prepare, Kidpower, etc. They are all similar in what they do but emphasize different aspects of the training. About 10 years ago, Peyton Quinn, being a bouncer for many years, also realized that adrenaline stress was the missing link, “if you can’t control the adrenaline dump, then you can’t fight.” He connected with Boston’s Model Mugging and met Mark Morris, the longstanding builder of the “Bulletman Suits”, (called that because of the silver “bullet” shape of the helmet.) Upon returning to Colorado, Quinn then teamed up with local Bulletman Bill Kipp, the current program Director for RMCAT.

Peyton believed in this training so much, that in the early 90’s he sold his computer business and bought some land in the Colorado Rockies. Here he built a fully equipped facility to teach scenario-based, adrenaline-stress training. The classes are held in a Quonset hut (a sort of hanger type structure), and the interior space is quite large measuring 2400 square feet. It can easily accommodate 20 students.

Adjacent to the training area are the spacious bathrooms and showers, with separate quarters for women. Sleeping facilities are only a few steps away and are composed of eight rooms with bunk beds in each room; sometimes, it’s possible to get your own room.

There are three types of classes, the basic three-day adrenaline stress course, the two-day firearms course, and the seven-day all inclusive, basic, firearms and stick and knife course. Class schedules, and all information is posted on the website

Most of the people who come to RMCAT are here for the basic three-day course. Peyton picks up all attendees personally at the Colorado Springs airport and drives them to his ranch (about two hours). He’s an interesting character with lots of stories from his bouncer days; surprisingly, he’s also an ex-engineer who ran a successful computer business.

His house is quite close to the training facility and that’s where all students eat their meals and gather to talk after the classes. A word of caution, if you’re allergic to cats and dogs (like I am) start taking antihistamines a few days before you arrive. I counted three cats and two dogs while I was there. Although the antihistamines helped, they also made me feel ill, along with the altitude (8,500 feet above sea level).

The tasty meals (included in the price of the course) are cooked by a professional chef and by Peyton’s wife Melissa The morning meal is your traditional bacon, sauage and eggs, lunch is mostly light sandwiches with cold-cuts and salads, and the dinners are quite hefty affairs consisting of chicken, hamburgers, beef, both fried and barbequed.

While many attendees have extensive martial arts training, there are some that don’t, and in some cases that’s better. Most beginners do exceptionally well even in their first class. Remember, this class is not about learning techniques; it’s about controlling your stress so you don’t freeze in the middle of an adrenaline dump. Think of it in mental terms, not physical.

The basic three-day course usually starts on a Friday, late in the day. Peyton hands out a summary of the program and all the students (and bullet-men) gather in a circle on the mat to go over the materials. After this is done the first scenario is discussed, which involves getting past a bullet-man who’s trying to knife you. There are approximately seven or eight scenarios that all students go through over the three days. They start at a medium level of intensity and increase all the way to complex full-blown knockdown fights.

This is not the place to go to become a champion fighter. This class teaches you to survive a real-life street assault against a predator. Although techniques are taught, the main thrust of the class is concept driven. There are about three to four coaches (bullet men), along with Peyton. The first part of each training scenario features an explanation of the upcoming scenario and the introduction of techniques that have worked time and time again. After the techniques are learned, students are then ready to apply them.

The scenarios are carefully designed to elicit reactions from students to perceive a serious threat is at hand. The most important battle is not the physical one, but the battle for your mind, that of course is denial. Most people freeze because they don’t believe this “event” is happening to them, they deny it, and think if they ignore it, it will go away. The purpose of this training is to help students accept the situation and deal with it.

The encounters always start with a verbal component, which is essential, since most fights can still be diffused at this stage, and, this also sets up your legal defense, if needed. If the de-escalation doesn’t work, then a first strike is recommended. This comes hard for some students but you have to remember, if a predator has crossed your verbal and physical boundaries, he’s really coming to do you harm. A first strike puts you in charge of the situation; it’s always harder to react than to initiate action. If your aggressor realizes that you’re not going to be a victim chances are that he’ll get out of there fast.

When going into the physical attack, students are coached from the side by another bullet-man. The crowd of students is encouraged to shout out the techniques for support. As your body responds to the stress, the coaching from the side [and from fellow students] is slowly being etched into your subconscious.

The bullet men do not drop or give up until they feel a certain number of techniques landed with enough power [through their padded suits] to incapacitate a real opponent. Also, the level of attack (against a student) is measured on a student-by-student basis, depending on, size, weight, sex, strength, etc.

There are three points, I believe, which sets this training apart from others: 1) the padded bullet-man, 2) your coach on the side, and 3) the support from the crowd.

The RMCAT bullet-men are a highly trained group of individuals that will drive you to your maximum limits but not over them. They wear a customized suit that allows them to take really hard blows to the body and head. This is important for the student, because he/she can leash out with full power and doesn’t have to hold back. When is the last time you fought full-contact, full-blast, and under stress? Side note: Although various groups train in padded assailant around the country, the RMCAT Bulletman comprise perhaps the most highly trained cadre of padded attackers. All are personally trained by Master Bulletman Bill Kipp who has 15 years experience and over 30,000 fights in the suit.

The side coach is also important, because he helps explain the scenario as well as guide you through the fight by suggesting certain options. When you’re trapped or can’t move he is yelling out solutions. He’s also there to insure your safety and that of the bullet-man.

The support from the crowd helps immensely, I remember I froze for a split second, and the crowds yelling out the techniques put me back on track fast. In addition, by watching each member perform helps drill in the scenarios and techniques into your mind, you learn much faster.

Since you’re being guided by the instructors and fellow students under extreme stress, you’re body learns how to cope with these type of situations in the future. Instead of thinking of what to do when facing an aggressor, your body will automatically respond to the situation.

At the end of the three-day course, students are in a state of jubilation. Not only have they taken a major step towards their physical well being, but everyone feels a tremendous increase in confidence. Surprisingly, very few injuries occur here, the few that do are minor. All the coaches take great pains to be aware of any physical problems that you may have. Since the basic course is the most strenuous, I suggest you be aerobically fit when you come, the altitude and the stress does take a toll.

The Gun Course
Many people who take the basic three-day course also stay over for the two-day gun course. This is a little more relaxed. The first part of day one is spent going over gun safety 101. If you’re an experienced shooter this will be repetitive to you. But anyone coming from an area where guns are unobtainable will find this fascinating. Peyton goes over types of guns, ammunition, loading guns, etc.

In the afternoon the real fun begins, that is, scenario based training against an attacker with a gun, either shooting blanks or (when I was there) simunitions. One of the scenarios is when a guy comes into the room and takes out a map asking for directions, as he edges closer (and you request he stays back) he quickly pulls out a knife and runs at you, your gun is in a holster and all of a sudden it’s hard to pull out. This is the same drill many police departments use with an attacker at a distance of 18 feet.

Other scenarios (more for law enforcement professionals) include hostage taking. On day two we had the opportunity to fire an assortment of pistols and rifles on the range behind the training facilities. We shot automatics, revolvers, shotguns, rifles and M-16s. You can bring your own guns (if you figure out how to transport them) One guy even brought a 50 Caliber machine gun.

The full week course wasn’t being offered when I attended so I missed the stick and knife course, although our first scenario covered some knife defenses. I would certainly attend the stick and knife course if given the option.

This was definitely a unique awakening experience; I suggest people who haven’t attended one of these classes do so. I’ve spoken to many martial artists, who assume they know what this training is like, but they’re dead wrong, they haven’t got a clue, and they should stop pretending. Just do it!

Although courses in scenario-based adrenaline stress training are given throughout the United States, the reason you want to come to RMCAT is to experience it in concentrated form. Here, in view of the Rocky Mountains, with no TV or other distractions, you are talking shop 24/7 with your fellow attendees. If you have a school and would like to host a training, that can be arranged (depending on where you’re located, through Bill Kipp’s FAST Defense Instructor training program ( All in all, it was a great experience in realism, I suggest everyone to attend at least once.

For more information about RMCAT and Peyton Quinn see: or email him at

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