I’m so jazzed by this book I contacted two of the authors, Michael J. Asken, Ph.D. and Loren W. Christensen to get a better sense on the intention behind the book and more info on them.
Michael J. Asken, Ph.D and I have been communicating about some cool stuff I’ll reveal in the near future and Loren Christensen agreed to an interview!
Loren’s background is impressive…to say the least:
Loren W. Christensen is a Vietnam veteran, retired police officer, a martial artist since 1965, and a prolific author of books and magazine articles.
As a writer, Loren has penned over 40 books and dozens of magazine articles on a variety of subjects. While his target audience is most often what he calls “the warrior community” – martial artists, cops, soldiers – his writing has become popular among high school and college students, parents, professionals of every kind, and people interested in a side of life outside the norm.
Loren is most thankful to his many friends, associates and fellow writers in the warrior community for their continual support and expert advice.
- Bachelors of Science – PSU
- Vietnam veteran – 716th Military Police
- Career police officer (ret) – Portland, Oregon
- Street patrol, gang enforcement, defensive tactics instructor, bodyguard
- Script advisor for the motion picture Best of the Best 3
- Martial artist since 1965
- Earned a total of 11 black belts in three fighting arts
- Starred in 7 instructional DVDs
- Author of 40 books and dozens of magazine articles
- Nominated for the Frankfurt award
- Co-author (with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman) of “Evolution of Weaponry” in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict, Academic Press
- Wrote regularly for Black Belt, Karate Illustrated, Inside Kung fu and many others
- Currently writes regularly for Black Belt and Police and Security News magazines
- Book Solo Training was ranked in Amazon’s top 3 for three years in a row
- Named in the 2007 – 2008 Heritage Registry of Who’s Who in publishing
Loren has been interviewed by Black Belt Magazine, Paladin Press and many other top publications. To find these interviews you can go to:
Well, like I mentioned Loren agreed to an interview and here it is!
Loren Christensen Interview With Gregg Swanson
GS: 2008 Black Belt Interview you said “I had been teaching realistic martial arts for several years.” Can you expand on what you mean by realistic martial arts?
LC: When I began training in 1965, training was all about, “You must do it this way because this is what the old master passed on to us.” Or “We must respect the style’s teachings.” Or “We must do it this way because…well, I don’t remember why but I know this is what the masters said to do.” Okay, fine. But the masters aren’t here with me right now on this dark street with this big ape, and I can’t get their stuff to work on him.
I began training in kong su, a Korean style that was heavily influenced by Japanese karate. We used deep stances, stylized blocks, stiff footwork, robot movements, and so on. I discovered quickly as a military policeman patrolling the extraordinarily mean streets of Saigon, Vietnam, that my training wasn’t helping me.
Dealing with rocket attacks, terrorist bombings, anti-American riots, bar brawls, combative AWOLs, street fights, thefts, drug overdoses, assaults, and murder investigations kept me humping 12 to 14 hours every shift, every day. It was an intense, enlightening, and horrific time in which I put my skills to the test, discovering what worked and what didn’t work in the martial arts, at least for me. There was no place in a back alley of Saigon or in the Wild West bar brawls for deep, static stances and stylized blocks. I made some quick modifications to help me survive the year and then promised that I would spend the rest of my martial arts career studying and teaching techniques applicable to real-life survival.
When I joined the Portland Police Bureau a year after getting home, that intensified my efforts to search out techniques that I considered, and my street-oriented martial arts teacher friends deemed, street functional. I’ve been studying and teaching that way for more than four decades.
GS: Is the term “martial arts” misleading for street and self-defense?
LC: I think at one time the term “art” was used to refer to “any skill or mastery.” Of late, it’s often defined as “deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses and emotions.” I’m guessing that when used to reference karate, jujitsu, muay Thai, and many others, we mean skill and mastery. That said, if you thump someone to the extent that you have “deliberately (re)arranged their elements,” you no doubt have “affected their senses and emotions.”
I prefer “science” to the word art. In my writing and DVD work, I try to refer to the “why” behind every action.
- Why block this way as opposed to another?
- Why angle your body this way as opposed to moving another way?
- Why hit here instead of there?
- Why use this body weapon instead of that one?
- Why hit at this angle as opposed to another?
- Why hit now instead of waiting a couple seconds?
The answers to these and many other why question are based on science.
- You use this block because it deflects the force and discombobulates the attacker’s thinking.
- You angle your body this way because it removes you from the threat while aligning you perfectly for a powerful counter.
- Hitting here compresses the nerves and shocks the brain, and requires less force than hitting there.
- This body weapon uses less force but creates more acute pain than that one.
- Hitting at this angle shocks the organ more intensely than other angles.
- Hitting now forces the attacker’s brain to play catchup to your action.
While it’s all about science, it also relates back to the old definition of art: skill and mastery.
GS: How can a person balance respect for the history and culture of a traditional martial art with the its’ effectiveness (or lack of) in a street violence confrontation?
LC: While Buddhism is 2500 years old, it’s relevant today because it teaches that everything is transient, impermanent. It teaches that change is fundamental and basic. Sadly, some martial arts systems have not changed with the times. They have not adapted new concepts, improvements, sport medicine, exercise science, and combat psychology, all of which are pertinent to the betterment of the martial arts.
A martial arts teacher once told me that his style didn’t include the backfist because the founder didn’t believe in it. A friend of mine, who was my student early in his martial arts career, went on to be a national karate champ, winning grand champion in over 60 tournaments. On one occasion, he fought five national champions from a country (I’ll refrain from mentioning which one) and beat them all soundly. This is because he fought in a circular fashion while they fought in a linear. Their style refused to recognize things like circular footwork and circular offense.
I’ve began training in 1965. Over those years I’ve met a host of amazing martial artists, many of whom follow the so-called traditional way and some who follow the “if it works to save my bacon, I’ll use it” way. Although I follow the latter, my friends who are duty bound to their style and teachers are getting from the martial arts exactly what they want, and that’s fine. We shouldn’t criticize each other for the approach we choose, whether it’s sport, spiritual or street.
As to finding the balance between respect for the history and culture of a fighting art and its functionality, or lack there of, is the task of the teacher. It’s also up to the students to respectfully keep the teacher honest. The teacher challenges the student and the student challenges the teacher. “Sensei, I understand that this technique was a favorite among the samurai, but how do I make it work on a thug assaulting me at a 7-Eleven?”
Just as Buddhism has adapted to the passing 2500 years and to the many cultures that absorbed it, the teaching of the martial arts must adapt as well. It’s fine to study an art for the culture and the tradition, but if it purports to be teaching self-defense, the teacher and the students need to ensure that it’s realistic.
GS: How did you come about coauthoring “Warrior Mindset” with Michael J. Asken, Ph.D and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and what was the driving force behind it?
LC: Col Grossman called me in 2001 to see if I’d like to coauthor what would be On Combat with him. I had previously co-written a book called “Deadly Force Encounters“, a book that teaches cops to mentally prepare for a deadly encounter, survive it as it happens, and survive the aftermath. Lt Col. Grossman had been using some of the studies that were in the book for his lectures. I flew out to one of his presentations, we worked out the deal, and we began. It took us a little over 30 months to complete (I worked on other books at the same time). Two months after its publication, it became a bestseller and is now required reading by many police agencies, the military, to include the Army’s War College, psychologists and a host of other folks.
Dr Askens, a fan of the Lt. Col. Grossman’s, asked him if he might be interested in coauthoring what would be Warrior Mindset. Colonel Grossman agreed and brought me on. A year and a half later, it was finished.
Since Warrior Mindset’s release, several reviewers have said that with “On Killing“, also by Grossman, and “On Combat“, we now have a trilogy. I don’t recall us thinking along those lines while working on it, but that’s a good assessment. While the first two books teach what happens to the body and mind in combat, this book tests your warrior skills and shows you how you can improve your performance in all areas of warriorhood.
Colonel Grossman and I also wrote a chapter called the “Evolution of Weaponry” for the “Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict,” Academic Press. By the way, you can get that book for low price of $1000.00. Amazon has it for $995.00. Really. I don’t even have one.
GS: What section of “Warrior Mindset” is your favorite and why?
LC: I especially liked the chapters on fear, negative thought stopping, tactical self-talk, and affirmations. Although I have written on these things many times, Dr Asken’s brings a fresh and innovative approach to them in Warrior Mindset. If I were to choose one to be a favorite, it would be the chapter on tactical performance imagery.
Many people know about visualization. For example, martial artist use it to “practice” techniques, sparring, kata, belt tests, success and so on. Dr Asken points out that visualization, at least the connotation of the word, limits the action to just “seeing,” to just forming a mental picture. Performance imagery, however, involves all the senses. You see, feel, hear, taste and smell every minute facet of your activity, whether it’s a belt test, competition, or a street self-defense situation.
I’ve written a great deal about this powerful tool. It helped me during my martial arts competition years and it helped me prepare for TV and radio interviews. When I was a street cop, I worked a beat in which there were six 7-Eleven-type stores or, what cops call, “stop ‘n robs.” There was rarely a week that passed when I didn’t respond to at least one armed robbery call to one of them. One Christmas eve, all six stores got robbed. So whenever I had a quiet moment, I would park across the street from one of the stores and do a little performance imagery as to my response to an armed robbery call, especially a hold-up in progress, one of the most dangerous police calls. I would see, hear, feel, smell and taste every aspect of the crime and my response to it. The result was that after “practicing” in such a manner for a while, my response to real hold-up calls became virtually flawless, as if I had done it many times before. I had, albeit in my mind.
GS: How important is mental strength in preparedness for a conflict and how can a non-tactical (military, police, fire, etc) individual train for this?
LC: Mental strength is all-important. I would rather take a yellow belt who is armed with a powerful mindset into that proverbial dark alley than many of the folks I’ve seen wearing black belts.
Case in point: I knew a cop who was a colored belt in some kick/punch art. I saw him throwing some techniques in the weight room once and frankly, I wouldn’t have even given him the colored belt. But this guy was a fighter extraordinaire. He had been a prison correction officer before joining the PD and had once thrashed a mob of cons in one big fight. Other cops said that he was like a pit bull when handling a resisting suspect. I talked with him at length once and found that he had a warrior mindset like an Army Ranger and a Navy Seal combined. What this guy lacked in martial skill, he made up for with a powerful mindset that there was no way on earth that he was going to lose a confrontation.
Those who place themselves in harm’s way are consistently told to focus, concentrate and use their survival mindset, though rarely are they trained how to accomplish this. This is because it’s too often assumed that mental toughness will automatically result from physical and tactical training. This is not always true, but there are specific things you can do to train them. “Warrior Mindset” presents psychological techniques and training to develop mental toughness, the survival mindset and a hardened focus.
The goal is to integrate psychological with physical and tactical training to add a dimension that is often overlooked, but necessary to achieve maximal performance excellence. If you only talk about mental toughness but don’t actively train for it, you haven’t developed the complete warrior.
GS: How important do you see a personal coach being in helping someone develop their Warrior Mindset?
LC: While there are some excellent books on the subject (ahem), I think a personal coach is a wonderful compliment. An author can impart solid information, but a knowledgeable trainer working one-on-one with you can target your specific needs. For example, a large chapter in “Warrior Mindset” discusses ways to deal with fear. A personal coach can take that information and zero in on your specific fears, concerns and needs.
GS: With the apparent emphasis on styles like MMA, UFC and Krav Maga how do you see martial arts evolving in the next 5 years?
LC: There will always be martial artists who want a system that emphasizes the culture and the beauty of movement, a style that allows them to compete, and a style that touches them spiritually. This is fine and such a variety will keep the martial arts alive. However, I think in the next five years there will be a greater number of people involved with martial arts styles and systems that emphasize surviving a street encounter.
GS: How do you see Bujinkan (ninjutsu) being applicable to street defense?
LC: It all depends on the teacher’s background, knowledge of the street, teaching ability, and the slant of the school. For example, krav maga gets a lot of attention these days. The name means “close combat,” though some people just simplify it and say that it means “martial arts.” That leaves a lot of leeway for the individual teacher and school. I’ve seen some krav maga schools that have an excellent curriculum and I’ve seen others that were sadly out of sync with the reality of the street.
Ninjutsu master Stephen Hayes’s system is a nice blend of street oriented martial arts and Japanese culture. However, I’ve seen some ninjitsu people spend way too much time posing in classic stances and rolling around on the ground. Most fights don’t provide enough time to assume a stance, let alone one with wide spread legs and flapping arms, and why would anyone deliberately tumble about on concrete? Real fighting is too explosive and furious for anything but simple, basic fighting techniques. Ninjutsu teachers who trim the unnecessary fat so that what remains is lean and effective are on the right path toward street realistic techniques.
Every style has something to offer for street self-defense. With some, you have to dig deep to find it. It helps if the digger has street experience, street knowledge and a network of friends and associates of like mind.
GS: Many martial artists are opposed to traditional strength and conditioning programs, what is your view on this?
LC: In my experience, students who employ strength training are better than those who don’t. If you train for strength and conditioning to compliment your martial arts training (for details, see the answer to next question), you will be stronger, faster, more explosive and have a greater understanding of your body. If you don’t train like this, you won’t reach your optimum in any of these things.
Conversely, jogging long distances will likely slow your kicks (jogging works your slow-twitch muscle fibers) and tighten your muscles. Nor is it going to help much in an explosive, all-out street fight, one that draws on your anaerobic conditioning.
Weight training for great bulk will slow many of your fighting techniques. I’m talking about Mr. Olympia-type bulk.
As always, there are exceptions to these last two paragraphs.
GS: How do you see non-traditional strength and conditioning tools, i.e. kettlebells, TRX, sandbags playing a role in the development of martial artists conditioning?
LC: I think they’re great. I would include bodyweight exercises, too. I’ve written on strength and conditioning using unusual exercises in several books.
Years ago, I trained as a bodybuilder with a goal of looking good. For the last several years, however, I train only to develop power and speed in my martial arts techniques. This is called “specificity of movement,” which, in this case, is an exercise that follows the path of a punch, kick, strangle, and so on. For example, I do an exercise where I lie on my, say, left side, hold a dumbbell (a kettlebell works great) in my right hand, and perform a slow backfist straight up. I lower the dumbbell until my forearm is horizontal to the floor and then repeat the motion. I use as much weight as I can for six to eight reps. Heavy weights stimulate the fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Students who practice this exercise very quickly develop a backfist that explodes from their on-guard stance, much more so than when they were previously drawing their fist back to gather their strength.
I practice catching 10-pound bags to duplicate grabbing someone’s arm. I practice curling dumbbells and other heavy objects from awkward positions to duplicate pulling someone into me. I thrash around on the mat with a heavy bag to duplicate the energy output of grappling with someone.
Perhaps most importantly, I “see” and “feel” the technique that I’m training for. This means that when I’m benching one dumbbell at a time, I imagine that I’m punching. I don’t physically punch fast, but in my mind I’m exploding my punch into a target. This mind/body connection is critical.
GS: Back in the days of competition there were martial artists like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, “Superfoot” Bill Wallace. Then in the movie era there is Jackie Chan, Jet Li and to some extent Wesley Snipes and Jason Statham. Who do you see as a martial art inspiration today?
LC: It depends on your martial arts approach. If you’re into competition, you probably have specific people you admire. I wouldn’t have a clue because I’m not into the sport. If you’re a MMA fan, you probably have a number of people you follow. I don’t have any as there is very little I like about MMA.
I’m a street oriented martial artist so I follow people like Kelly McCann, Marc MacYoung, Melissa Soalt, W. Hock Hockheim, Paul Vunak, my sometimes coauthor Mark Mireles, and Tim Larkin. These people inspire me because they have been in the heat of battle on countless occasions (some continue to be by virtue of their occupations). They have taken this hard-earned knowledge and built their systems around it to help others survive in the mean streets.
GS: If you could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
LC: I’m a movie buff. My gal and I have built a fantastic home theater and collected hundreds of movies. I’d love to have dinner with any of the top directors present and past. People like Hitchcock, Spielberg, Lucas, Kurosawa, Stone, DeMille and many others. I read biographies about movie directors and I’m always fascinated by their incredible creativity, vision and overall imagination.
GS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
LC: I began training in 1965 and still train three or four times a week. I’ve met some amazing people in the fighting arts (and a few whack jobs), and I’ve been fortunate to see the fighting arts in other countries. The martial arts have been a constant during all the difficulties that life presents a person who has been around as long as I have. It’s been a blessing during periods of anger, frustration, sorrow, weight gain and illness. It’s saved my rear end many times as a policeman in Saigon and as one in Portland, Oregon. Judging by the feedback I’ve received from students and readers, my teaching has helped others through some scary situations as well. I can’t think of anything else that can offer a person all that.
I wouldn’t trade my beat-up body for anything.
Thank you so much Loren for a fantastic interview, you shared some great insight!
You find more about Loren Christensen at his site:
Please let me know your thoughts about this interview below and how else you’d like to me to interview
Success in life is not about luck! It’s about managed thoughts, focused attention and deliberate action. Personal success and personal failure all start in the mind. Tap into the power of your unconsciousness mind and eliminate negative beliefs that have been holding back from reaching your personal goals.
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