Critical Skills of Damithurt Silat

I’ve been training in the martial arts for more than 35 years. During that time, I’ve explored many different disciplines and training methodologies and taught hundreds of students. While it was clear that all martial arts had redeeming qualities, none of them really provided a simple, direct route to developing usable self-defense skill.

Of the traditional martial arts, I was most impressed by the core elements of the Filipino systems. More “tribal” than martial, these arts focused on core mechanical movements and the ability to express those movements combatively by understanding the attributes of various types of weapons. The cyclical reflex training drills—or “flow” drills—of the Filipino arts also make them distinct, providing exactly the type of high-speed, progressive, adrenal stress training format necessary to develop effective combative skills. Unfortunately, like other traditional arts, most Filipino systems tended to drift from their practical roots to focus on stylistic differences rather than core commonalities.

In the mid 1990’s, I had the great privilege of working with the late Col. Rex Applegate, WWII legend and former close combat trainer for the OSS (Office of Strategic Services—the predecessor of the CIA) and Kelly McCann, CEO of the Crucible and one of the most accomplished modern authorities on close combat and operations in high-risk environments. From them, I received tremendous insights into practical combatives training and the best ways to achieve the highest levels of usable skill and retention with minimal training time. Their methods, though a generation apart, were very similar and relied on simple, brutally effective techniques powered by an attitude of ruthless commitment. Clearly, combatives was a more direct route to practical unarmed skills.

Based on the combatives influence, my training partners and I changed gears with regard to our approach to empty-hand skills. I also began a process of detailed analysis of military combatives, the core movements of traditional martial arts, and instinctive human responses to violent attacks. Through that analysis, I learned to identify the “common ground” that exists in all effective fighting technique. I also developed an understanding of instinctive combative reflexes and how to “educate” them to provide reliable, easily learned defensive reactions. I then combined these elements with the proven angular concepts and adrenal training methods of the Filipino arts to create a practical, truly efficient system of empty-hand fighting.

When I began sharing this system with my private students, most of whom were training primarily in the Martial Blade Concepts curriculum, the response was immediate and extremely positive. As I continued to refine the system, many students began to ask the name of the program. They were not satisfied with “empty-hand training” and pushed me to develop a more official term, as I had done with the MBC curriculum. For a long time, I resisted, until one day I had a sudden epiphany. While demonstrating a joint-lock technique on a student, he exclaimed “Damn, it hurts!” I have always had a great interest in the Indonesian family of fighting arts known as pencak silat, or, more simply, silat. Although I had been trying to avoid the typical practices of “duct taping” two traditional terms together, inventing acronyms, or sticking “jitsu” on the end of something, it hit me: Damithurt Silat, pronounced “Damn, it hurts a lot.” It became the perfect name for an irreverently eclectic system.

The most important elements of Damithurt Silat are the concepts of “having a plan and working your plan” and understanding what I call the “physiological potential” of a movement. “Having a plan and working your plan” means having simple, versatile default responses that allow you to do one thing in response to many different attacks. Regardless of what he does, you do one thing and make it work. That way there’s less to learn and less to think about—especially under stress.

“Physiological potential” means understanding what something can be, not arguing over the mysteries of what something is. Many traditional arts argue over the meaning of movements in their forms. To me, there’s not much room for mystery. If you think it’s a defense against a punch, have someone throw a punch at you and see if you can make it work. If it works for you, teach it to some other folks and see if it works for them too. If so, I guess it’s a defense against a punch. If the other style claims it’s a grappling technique, they should get on the mat and use the same process to see if it works. If they’re successful the answer isn’t “this” or “that,” it’s “both.” Damithurt Silat prefers to go even further and strives for “many” and, ideally, “all.”

Damithurt Silat really took form during the period 1998-2008. During that time, I only shared it with my private students and training partners until I was confident that it was worthy of broader exposure. I then began to introduce selected elements of it at my annual Martial Blade Camps, in seminars around the country, and ultimately as co-host of the Outdoor Channel’s The Best Defense television show. The response from students and viewers was overwhelmingly positive and motivated me to work with Stay Safe Media to share the curriculum through Practical Unarmed Combatives Volumes 1 and 2. Thanks to the talents of my partner Mike Rigg—a long-time private student with an intimate knowledge of the Damithurt system—these videos accurately capture and logically present every aspect of the core curriculum of the system. Unlike most martial arts videos, which demonstrate technique, these videos actually teach, enabling the viewer to understand the logic and key concepts of the system and, with minimal practice, develop life-saving defensive skills.

I am incredibly proud of these videos and the opportunity to share them—and the knowledge they contain—with serious students of personal protection.

Michael D. Janich