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Damon Gabriel, Self-Defense instructor

introduction to

Self Defense w/ Rising Tide Defense


The EvolveAll Self-Defense Program with Rising Tide Defense is growing fast. We talked to instructor Damon Gabriel to find out more. Damon has over a decade of experience  in counter-terrorism throughout the  Middle East. He has trained in hand-to-hand fighting and the defensive use of pistols and carbines. He has his blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

You recently offered a free self-defense workshop at EvolveAll and it immediately sold out. Why do you think so many people are interested in learning self-defense?

It was a great turn out. I was so excited to see how many people showed up. Generally speaking, I think there’s a real thirst for knowledge for people who want to take care of their own safety and that of their families.

When you offer a class where people can come out and really learn some new skills and see what it takes to really take care of themselves, people appreciate that. I think they turned out and showed up because they really wanted to get this new knowledge.

What kind of scenarios do you cover in class?

We cover the full range—violent encounters that might take place during a home invasion, while you’re in your vehicle, public transportation, walking down the street, at the workplace, convenience store ,or gas station, all sorts of places where you might get involved or witness a third party getting involved and all the judgement training that goes into that.

We also cover a range of activities that are on the edge of self-defense but are critical: How to deal with a medical emergency at home or in the workplace, how to deal with a fire, having an emergency preparedness plan in case of a disaster, having a plan to communicate with your family in case of any emergency. So, we really focus on both the bad side of things where it could be a violent encounter and then just the planning for a bad day when there’s just an accident.

How does the self-defense program differ from the adult martial arts classes like striking and jiu jitsu?

They’re perfectly complimentary. The primary differences lie in two areas: initiative and the sports aspect. The jiu jitsu program and striking program are fantastic programs. Generally speaking, you are going against someone of roughly equal skill who is using roughly equal skill. You are applying striking against striking and jiu jitsu against jiu jitsu.

In a self-defense situation, that’s just not how it’s going to be. We take some of the same skills that you’d learn in the martial arts programs and we neck them down to a much narrower decision tree because under a self-defense scenario your brain is unlikely to compute complex moves. We choke it down to an area in which you have to use a very narrow set of skills that you need to get out of an initiative deficit situation, which basically means you’re being surprised. You’re not exactly sure what’s happening to you, but you have to develop a solution to a problem.

The other big difference is how we apply some of these moves. It’s not good enough to know how to apply them; you have to know when to apply them. All sorts of conditions factor into when a move should be used. Are you in a life and death situation, in which case you can use a lot more force? Or is someone just acting foolish, and you need to restrain them? All sorts of legal, ethical, moral considerations go in there so there’s a heavy influence on judgement training along with skill development.

Tell us a bit more about Rising Tide Defense.

We started out as a firearms training company but we realized as we were training civilians in firearms, the people who were getting ready to go oversees had perception training, awareness training, medical training, communications training, and a whole set of skills that got them ready for adverse conditions in war zones oversees and there was really no equivalent skill development program in the United States.

We really wanted to offer the civilian marketplace the opportunity to get ready for everyday life bad encounters and have all the same kinds of awareness and perception training that we were offering to people going oversees. That’s what we decided to do by partnering with EvolveAll and offering the self-defense program.

This year, we’re celebrating 15 years of EvolveAll. What has EvolveAll meant to you?

The past four years, EvolveAll has been a fantastic community that has welcomed me. It’s my mental health therapy, it’s my physical workout every week, it’s a group of friends I get close with, it’s people you can trust. If you can roll with someone and really feel them pressure you and have the complete faith that they’re going to take care of you the way you’re taking care of them, it builds a series of bonds and friendships and community that you just don’t get in modern life. We all spend a lot of time on our phones and in relatively impersonal relationships and the EvolveAll community has been a great place where we step that up and go far beyond to close, meaningful relationships.

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