Company: TRS Direct
Tape Name: Rapid Assault Tactics (R.A.T.)
Tape Cost: $49.00
Length of Tape/Time: 1 hour 16 minutes
Number of Moves/Techniques: Numerous
Return Policy: Money Back Guarantee
Experiences in dealing with this company: Fantastic
The Instructor: Paul Vunak
Company's Address: 606 E. Acequia Ave., Visalia, CA 93292
Company's Phone Number: 1-800-899-8153
Web Page: TRS Direct
Primary Grading Criteria:
1. Production/Tape Quality: 60
2. Instructors demonstrated skill level: 60
3. Comprehension Score/Immediate Understanding: 60
4. Degree to which this will make someone a better Martial Artist: 60
5. Score on delivery vs hype: 60
6. Degree to which we would recommend this product: 60
7. Wasted Time ( The higher the number,the less " fluff" /repetition ): 60
8. Playback Score/Watching it over-and-over again: 60
9. Would I purchase more of this company's products: 60
10. Overall grade based on cost vs. value: 60
Grand Total: 60% (Good)
Secondary Grading Criteria:
1. Beginners benefit: Good
2. Intermediate benefit: Good
3. Advanced benefit: Good
4. Time to benefit: Months, possibly a few years (to acquire high level of speed)
5. The need to buy additional tapes to understand this one: None
Once again, the title of this review ought to be: "Vunak's Best is still Street Safe # 1" !
For those who don't know, alot of Vunak's stuff has a JKD flavor to it. Throw in with that some Muay Thai type techniques here-and-there, Wing Chun, and you'll have the jist of what he's about.
Vunak says that this R.A.T. (Rapid Assault Tactics) system of his is something he developed so that the military could quickly turn the average guy without any training, into a hardcore street fighter. He tells us that nearly everyone who trains to fight, either trains for long-range (kicking), mid-range (punching), or Ground (grappling), and one can assume he meant a combination of those ranges in some instances. He tells us that hardly no one trains in close-range, what he refers to as "Trapping" range, yet states that allows one to deliver the most powerful blows, that they can learn and be effective at the quickest: headbutts, elbows, and knees. Problem has always been, as everyone likely knows, getting to that range (close-range) without getting knocked-out, which he feels this R.A.T. system will partially address! He tells us that attacking in that close-range, where most people haven't trained, gives you the best odds, because people don't typically know how to defend themselves well in it!
With regards to a confrontation, he says one needs to get-in and get-out in the most barbaric way. This is done by primarly using his 3 step approach, which he emphasizes is key to his whole R.A.T. system:
1. Entry (into attack range): He says either use an "intercept" (eye strike) or a "destruction" (various limb destructions with knee or elbow blocks when attacker strikes). Similar to the Kanarek F.I.G.H.T. series and Vranos' dvd, we once again see that high elbow covering-the-head type Muay Thai block, which I'm not a huge fan of. Vunak shows some mock attacks using that pointed elbow block by ones head, when an attacker does a lead hand jab. Specifically, he shows that someone keeps jabing, and you keep raising and pointing that elbow, hoping their fist smashes into the folded point of your elbow, thus a "destruction". My problem with that, a guy does a couple of jabs, sees you do that elbow block, which opens up half of your torso, and then quickly hooks or reverse punches into that open side of your torso. From a practical standpoint, I just don't like that elbow block, especially against a skilled fighter. I think if an attack begins, and you don't know a persons skill, and he throws a couple of jabs to see what you got, and then sees you do that elbow block, you risk him on the 3rd or 4th jab, setting you up for an ungodly hook to the torso, or reverse punch, and there goes your ribs or solar plexus/wind. Using that block against someone with zero fighting skills, or even medium skills, that "might" work, but still, likely only every now and then. The premise we keep seeing behind that elbow block on tapes seems to be that the defender hopes that the attackers first 2 knuckles hit the point of the defenders elbow, thus causing severe pain (destruction). Now I don't know about you, but I think the probability of that happening is very low, compared to the higher probability of opening up half of ones torso for a counter! For kicks, he shows the destruction to be using your knee, to hit into a persons shin, as they throw various kicks. The "interception" suggested is shown to be either a straight type of spearhand to the eyes, or one that kind of whips in at an angle and then straightens into a spearhand at the last second.
2. Pressure: Vunak says at times the previous mentioned "Interception" or "Destructions" might be enough to end an attack, but if not, then next comes Phase 2, or "Pressure" via his "Straight Blast". The "Straight Blast" appears to be mainly be a quick-and-tight rolling series of hammerfists to a persons face. Not quite sure how to describe that better for those who haven't seen a "Straight Blast", but kind of think of it like you're working on a speedbag, hitting with the bottom of both your fists (hammerfist side), alternating and doing that quickly with both hands! Vunak states this will overwhelm an attacker, and that you should charge-forward, non-stop and quickly into the attackers centerline, keep moving forward no matter what, doing these tight and quickly rolling hammerfist type strikes.
3. Termination: Vunak states their are 3 powerful techniques to end any fight, that anyone can do without years of training, and those are:
B). Knee Strikes
C). Elbow Strikes
Vunak refers to this combination as "HKE", taking the first letter from each strike. Vunak says if using the "Entry" techniques or "Pressure" techniques don't end the fight, its now time to "Terminate" it. Vunak says all this fits together and flows in any confrontation. He says you go from "Entry" (far range) to "Pressure" (mid range) to "Termination" (close range). His theory is that you get to "Termination" and fire-off a mix of headbutts, knees, and elbows, by charging down a persons centerline with the "Pressure" (Straight Blast).
Vunak spends alot of time on the tape showing various drills, mock attacks, and even more significant amount showing his "Interactive" portion. This "Interactive" portion is where he's spends a minute or two throwing certain techniques at the camera, and you from your TV are suppose to spar/respond, like your fighting Vunak, with his suggested counter! Alot of instructional time on this dvd was eaten-up with this "Interactive" portion, in which Vunak goes one-by-one through each type of strike or kick you might encounter for a minute or two, and then you're suppose to stand in front of your TV, defending yourself against Vunak appropriately (well, the way he suggests is appropriate), as if you are sparring Vunak. Did I overstate that? OK, simply put, you're sparring Vunak through your TV! This "Interactive" approach is hyped-up a bit too much in my opinion, and implied to be some sort of innovative, revolutionary, and earth shattering new concept, that no video has done before.
"Hey Mr. Pierce (TRS President), I recall having seen this "Interactive" concept of yours, with people sparring their TV, years ago prior to this video, on an old Joe Jennings (Panther) tape of Bill Wallace's! Not sure if you've seen that, but I'm pretty confident that Wallace did that on video way before this. And it most certainly appears this video of yours is a much newer production than that one!"
Trapping Techniques/Energy Drills - Vunak does a good job, from a theory standpoint, of connecting-the-dots in transitioning from one fighting range to the next. We're shown Lop Sao, Jow Sao, Pak Sao, Chi Sao, doubles of some of these, along with slight combos or variations of them. This section appears to be provided so that should you be trying to transition from the "Pressure/Straight Blast" to the "Termination/HKE" phases, and run into any grabs or traps from your attacker, you can deal with them through these Trapping Techniques. This "Trapping" section of the tape gives you a glimpse at Vunak's incredible hand speed!
Likes: I like Vunak's eye strike ("Interception"), which we've seen before on Street Safe # 1. As I've said before, Vunak has ungodly hand speed. I have no doubt he can land that shot, at will, against most moderate to highly skilled fighters. It is really amazing to watch! But as said in the past, watch it on his Street Safe # 1 tape, and you'll see alot more of that strike and Vunak's speed! Next, I've always liked on Vunak's tapes the way he practices elbow strikes to an opponents head. Vunak wears elbow pads, and has an opponent wear what looks like a regular motorcycle helmet. Vunak then often fires a flurry of elbows to an attackers head. Great way to practice that! I've also seen him on his tapes use that motorcycle type helmet to practice headbutts, but I'd strongly recommend the person doing those headbutts, at least wear a sparring helmet to protect their own forehead, if you're going to fire a headbutt into a motorcycle helmet full blast. Overall, I like Vunak's "HKE" (headbutt, knee, elbow) concept, regarding quick-to-learn, yet very powerful, "Termination" techniques!
Personal Opinion Detour - I rarely see schools taking beginners, and spending time having them practice for a few weeks or months combinations of ONLY: elbows, knees, kicks to an opponents knees, headbutts, palmheels (nose and chin), eye strikes, and hammerfists, should they have a street encounter before they've developed punches and kicks to an effective level a couple of years later! I've often felt that every school should spend a few weeks immersing students in a quick-and-dirty self defense/fighting system (similar to military combatives), using these easier type powerful techniques that they can be effective with almost immediately. The goal should be to train them to quickly become proficient at delivering flowing combinations of these kind of strikes within the first couple of months they've signed up. Then after they're proficient and excited about that skill, introduce them to the stuff that takes 2-3 years to get good at!
Also, you've heard me say the same about knife and handgun defense. It shouldn't be the 3rd year into someones training, before an instructor shows them knife/handgun defense. I've seen too many schools wait that long! What if prior to the 3rd year they have a street encounter? What the hell is a student to do? Say "Excuse me while I use my cellphone to ask my instructor what I should do, we haven't covered knife/handgun defense yet?" I think that should start being taught almost immediately.
I'm convinced instructors know 90% of students drop-out within the first 6 months. I also strongly suspect that students drop-out, because they don't realize when they start, what they are are about to start training in takes 2-4 yrs to really get good at! I think students get impatient wanting some kind of result they can see, thus they become bored, and think sticking around is too much effort. I think instructors could meet-them-in-the-middle, by immersing them quickly-and-deeply in a down-and-dirty system utilizing the techniques mentioned above, where they would see some results fairly immediate. Instructors either need to buy, or reach in their closest and pull-out their "Redman" total padded suit collecting dust, put-it-on, get on the mat with beginners, and let them flail-away with those easier strikes, getting them use to doing that non-stop in combinations. Instead, they often put them in a horseriding stance their first 6 months, doing single punches into the air! Which do you think would be more exciting to a new student to keep them around, punching thin air and not seeing results, or beating-the-hell out of someone in a Redman suit?
Knowing what I know now, and having been a school co-owner, I think students would rather pound-the-hell out of someone in that "Redman" suit, versus standing in a horseriding stance punching into thin air! That would be fun! Who says a student can't have fun? People stick around for fun! Yet instructors often don't make training fun when they could!
Learning how to use those powerful-yet-simple military combative type strikes mentioned earlier would give students something right-off-the-bat they can be somewhat effective with in the street, should they encounter an attack before their 2nd-3rd yr of training, when they are just starting to develop any real power and speed! I truly believe that in most traditional arts and schools there's a dangerous gap in a students training, roughly somewhere in their first 0-2 years of training, that the student really doesn't know yet how to defend themself proficiently. I feel many instructors who aren't offering some down-and-dirty self defense system to address this "gap" should strongly consider re-designing their curriculum, or adding that to it. It would certainly excite the student more, be better for them if they had a street confrontation in years 0-2, and bait them to stick-around for the techniques that take longer to develop! I believe that once beginners start thinking after a couple of months they aren't seeing any progress, that's when they start doubting they'll make any progress, which messes with their heads, and contributes signifcantly to their alarming drop-out rate. Instructors need to be more proactive in addressing the "root" cause of those feelings, and provide beginners some kind of skills that address their wish for obtaining some level of ability quicker, or one-on-one student counseling/assessment/feedback sessions monthly, until they are at year 2 or 3.
As said in other reviews, the Vee Jitsu stuff (David James) is one of the only systems we've seen that addresses a students immediate need for some sort of skill, yet has a twofold level of training. It provides a quick fix to a persons need for street-skills that takes a couple of months to get down, and then after that their more advanced stuff. Personally, I think that type of program has been a huge key to David James' success. When I visited David James' school in Manhattan a few years ago he had over 600 students! He had so many students that his dojo was on 3 floors in a downtown Manhattan building to accomodate everything he offered! The man was doing something right to have all that going on, and people seemed to know it, because they flocked to his school. James' approach to training is awhole lot different than most closed-minded traditional style instructors, who hope you'll stick around 2 yrs mostly kicking and punching into thin air (basics and forms), to just "begin" looking good. His goal is to take ANYONE and within a few months, have them proficient with quick-and-deadly combos of those kind of strikes mentioned earlier, to brutalize any attacker! And believe me, watching a James' student is one of the scariest and most awesome things to witness! They just keep coming-and-coming at you non-stop, with a flurry of high-and-low strikes, so many and so fast its incredible!
I believe David James' approach is one of the main reasons 4 different reviewers we had here in-the-past, from 4 different training backgrounds, all unanimously agreed out of hundreds of videos and styles they'd seen, his training methods are thorough, excellent, and likely the best around!
I've received hundreds of emails from people over the past 8 yrs who said "I went ahead and got the David James stuff and you were right, it blows away years of traditional training". FYI - David James doesn't pay me, compensate me in any way, or do anything for me to feel obligated to carry-on this way about him! Simply put, out of over 350 videos we've reviewed so far, he still is "The King" of them ALL!
James' does tons of reality based training drills, with either himself or one of his black belts suited up in the well-known "Redman" suit. Students quickly learn on an individualistic basis what really works for them, not their instructor! It puts an end to theorizing about what will work, or what may work if you spend 2 yrs trying to develop it!
Its as if James' focuses immediately with beginners on "What can you do today...ok, lets test that right now to be sure (Redman suit), and we'll show you some other things TODAY you can literally be effective with TONIGHT should you be attacked...and we'll retest that REALISTICALLY (someone coming at you non-stop anyway-they-want) before you leave today to confirm it will work for you!" That is a much different way of training than traditional dojos! Constant and varied attacks in that Redman suit, that can come unexpectedly and non-stop, forces beginners to throw the kind of blows they can do RIGHT NOW TODAY that would realistically drop someone (elbows, knees, hammerfists, palm heels, headbutts, low kicks taking out their knees, joint breaks, more like military-type combatives). Then each day thereafter is focused on delivering those sort of "damaging strikes anyone can deliver", with even more power, speed, flow, and combinations. I'd just about put money-on-the-table, regarding a 6-month-James-student going all-out against most traditional dojos 6 month students!!!
Its as if James' spends each day with students putting them on a different kind of "playing field", a REAL ONE, in which a student never knows "what kind of unexpected attack they might have to face in the dojo today"! That sort of thing addresses: you dealing-with-the-unexpected, adrenal stress attacks, teaching you how to get past freezing-under-pressure, instant responses without thinking about them, constant and never ending flow with your attacks, brutalizing and destroying a person (not just mildly hurting them), and making sure with an unbelievably excessive amount of strikes (beyond reasonable) they are seriously hurt and CAN'T get up! There are no ping-pong dojo type of back-and-forth "tag your it" strikes, waiting for your attackers response. You take-them-out, and even if you think they are "out", you keep pounding on them and breaking things, to make sure they CAN'T get-up to come at you again! That's alot different than back-and-forth, "I tagged you now can you tag me" dojo sparring! It's like saying "To hell with conventional fighting, I'm about to drop 20 H-Bombs on you, and this whole thing will be over in about 10 seconds, and you'll likely feel the fallout somewhere on your body for many years afterwards"! Practicing that sort of thing DAILY, with an opponent coming at you non-stop, is alot different than "tag your it" sparring!
Versus one-steps with static/fixed opponents and both sides rules-based responses, you are practicing with James NO-RULES attacks and NO-RULES responses! It is a much different type of training, probably the closest to reality one can get. James' way ingrains in students how to adapt to a situation "if things don't go by-the-book"! Attackers aren't going to stand still in the street like is taught during "one-steps" or "self-defense techniques". There is no rules-based-sparring or practice with him, which often says: no grabbing, no rushing and tackling, no grappling, no leg kicks, no techniques to the back, no groin shots (some schools), no punches to the head (ATA and WTF), no blind spinning techniques (spinning backfist), no eye strikes, no elbows, no knees, no headbutts, and-on-and-on. Seriously, what the hell are students learning, ingraining, and conditioning their responses to be, if they aren't DAILY practicing NO-RULES type responses in a dojo? Breaking the "rules" and using outlawed-in-a-dojo techniques IS what will end a fight quickly and stack the deck in your favor! And what's really sad is most dojo instructors deep-down know that, yet students don't get to spend any time practicing that with them! And if they don't practice it on live-moving-opponents, how are they going to be good at doing it? So I guess instructors just theorize about what a student-can-and-should-do (outlaw techniques) in the street, but practice in the dojo something else, likely making excuses about safety-in-the-dojo? Hey, you can pad people in those Redman suits and make it safe, but you DON'T!!! I'm convinced most instructors are either too lazy to do that, too cheap (cost of a Redman suit), or don't know better!
Do instructors really think about how a student with a few months of training might respond to an aggressive no-holds-barred confrontation, do they test them even weekly for that, or do they not care? I think instructors want the student to stick-around 2-4 yrs, pay the rent and give them some pocket change, while brainwashing them into getting good at rules-based techniques. And should that student have a street encounter before then and it didn't turn out favorable for the student, I'm sure there's a long line of instructors who will say: "Well, they hadn't trained with me long enough to stand a good chance in that fight!" That's B.S., and I've been all over the U.S. and seen schools who make students in 6 months, look as good as black belts elsewhere! This 0-2 yr timeframe is where instructors have the most potential for failing students!!! Yet most don't seem to care about that.
Note to instructors: "Your student has started handing you a check every month, to make them become good at defending themself ASAP. It is your responsibility, no, it is YOUR OBLIGATION, as an instructor to deliver that to them quickly!"
Even though what I'm about to say is brutal, I believe it to be true: "Should a student have a street encounter between 6 months to 2 yrs of their training, and get hurt, I say their blood, and the responsibility for their injuries, is on the hands of their instructor". I've seen in other schools 6 months being enough time to have taught them knife and handgun defense, and military type combatives, using the powerful strikes mentioned above to have the strongest chance possible of ending an encounter! Yet do schools do this? 99% I've seen don't!!! I've seen alot of schools students, who up to 2 yrs with them, still can't deliver a sidekick that would hurt a fly! Most schools really do things like putting beginners in horseriding stances, having them punch into thin air, or have them spend 100% of their time doing punches and kicks that still take another year or more to get good at, or "tag-your-it" sparring, and most won't even begin teaching knife/handgun defense until year 2 or 3! To me that's B.S.!!! I have seen a better way at other places, and the sad thing is most instructors aren't doing it!
You know what even makes all this sadder? I have seen former highly skilled "Masters" in various arts get older themselves, sustain injuries, and at times lose 80-90% of their former kicking skill, themselves getting to the point where their own kicks look like blue belts. Hey, lets face it, hard style arts will likely do that when it comes too kicking! Yet these same "Masters" will often continue saying to the world "I'm a TKD 8th Dan" yet can't kick anymore??? What does that 8th Dan now mean if their kicks look no better than a blue belts? Does it simply mean "I was good at one time, I can't kick anymore due to my knees, but let me teach you how to wear-out your knees too"? Ever heard the saying "stop the insanity"? What about a middle aged adult, or even older adult, who wants to begin martial arts late in life, or only wants to learn self-defense? Do you really think most stand a good chance of learning how to throw spectacular head-high kicks? Yet kicking arts often brainwash everyone, no matter what age, into believing "kicking head high is self-defense". I don't understand why these older "Masters" with blown-out-knees don't learn for themselves something like the James stuff, so they can either use it themselves since their kicks are gone, or offer that to older adults. The James stuff certainly makes sense to me, for people that have physical problems/injuries, maybe don't want to risk blowing-out-their-knees late in life, or are so inflexible they don't stand a snowballs-chance-in-hell of learning to do high kicks that late in life!
But back to James' stuff applying to beginners. I look at it like this, the street has no rules, the response/reactions in it are highly unpredictable, so why ingrain and condition responses to be RULES-BASED, or with everything going by-the-book? Your attacker may charge you, be dynamically moving around, try to tackle you, start with H2H then pull a knife, you attempt to do a technique and he counters - then what? There's a ton of things that could happen and you better have trained to address all of them! Dojo training, where you "assume" certain responses to your strikes, and RULES-BASED training, I believe often falls short! Students who constantly do that sort of rules-based training are ingraining rules-based responses! And by conditioning students with rules-based responses, their range of responses becomes limited, thus decreasing the probability of a positve result! Heres a quote of David James' I like: "How you train is how it will come out". Another I like by Bill MacCumbee: "I'd rather be a student of reality than a master of fantasy". Vunak mentioned a key concept on this video "Get-in and Get-out", which is often on the David James' Vee Jitsu materials (40+ tapes altogether...which I have!). I mention that here because with Vunak you get some of the Vee type concepts and techniques, but he leaves out a majority of them and doesn't really bring them together as cohesively, so you're barely scratching-the-surface here with Vunak as compared to David James (my opinion)!
Was that a detour or what? OK, back to the review...
Back to the "Likes"....I liked the roughly 10-or-so Trapping techniques and "Energy Drills" Vunak showed. Vunak does a good job, from a theory standpoint, of connecting-the-dots in transitioning from one fighting range to the next. I'm not sure to what extent I personally believe in his Trapping Techniques being consistently effective in the street, but they certainly could have some value, and the general hand speed those drills typically develop couldn't hurt to have in ones arsenal! Vunak did a great job of substantiating his theories (not that I 100% agree with all of them), and he certainly deserves alot of credit for making that crystal clear! Vunak provides alot of theory and concepts during this video, that seem to tie-in his techniques to his own justification of why they would work!
Dislikes: I think Vunak could get just about any technique he wants to work for him! He is highly skilled and very fast! I have a hard time believing that he can take anyone, and in a short time instill in them that same level of speed, so they could make this RAT system of his work against attackers of ALL skill levels (even highly skilled). A couple of quotes I like that I feel put the R.A.T. system in perspective: "There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists". Another of my favorite quotes comes from David James, "It doesn't matter what your instructor can do. He won't be there to help you in the street. The only thing that matters is what you can do". And I'll add this to that James quote: "...and not have to spend 2-4 yrs to become effective at!" How many students either drop-out before getting any lasting benefit, or might encounter a situation before they get good 2-4 yrs later? Mentioning all that brings me right back to Vunak's speed, flow, and ability to deliver combo's. The way Vunak does them, you just don't develop Vunak's skills overnight! So from the standpoint of someone buying this R.A.T. dvd, and thinking you can become highly proficient (Vunak speed and skill) within weeks or months like is implied, I think is a huge stretch! I think it would take a person years to get Vunak's speed! Vunak shows great techniques, its just that I feel the way he does them are speed-based, requires someone spend alot of time developing combinations, and also requires an incredible sense, or development, of ones timing! Next, I didn't really care for a significant amount of the time on this video being eaten-up with Vunak's "Interactive" segments throughout the whole tape! I'd estimate about 25% of this video is "Interactive"! Next, the rolling-speedbag-type-hammerfists (Straight Blast) I felt might have questionable effectiveness in street attacks! Should someone go low, bending halfway over while both of your hands are head high doing that dual-hand rolling hammerfist, I think they could deliver a good hook punch to your ribs, or shot to your groin/knees, or grab around both knees with both hands doing a double leg takedown, thus turning the tables on you. I'm just not a big fan of techniques, or blocks, that awkwardly leave your body open somewhere else, or does so in such a way you can't react to something else quick enough! Similarly, I'm not a big fan of that Muay Thai type elbow block as a defense against headhunting, which leaves half your torso open for counters!
Question: In the previous review "Viper" we mentioned that Nottingham had trained with Vunak, and one of his training packages offered Vunak R.A.T certification. On that Viper dvd of Nottingham's he more-or-less says a Vunak type eye strike won't work. Now that we know R.A.T. includes that technique, and it is the main "Interception" technique shown in R.A.T, along with info at Nottingham's website that he will train/certify someone in R.A.T., does anyone out there see a little conflict with that? So what does Nottingham do when it comes to teaching someone the "Interception" part of Vunak's R.A.T.? Does he skip that technique which is integral to R.A.T., put in something else he likes, or does he bite-the-bullet and goes ahead and teaches a technique he personally disagrees with?
Assessment: Compared to Vunak's Street Safe # 3 that we just reviewed, I think this has a little more value! If you were to take everything from Street Safe # 1, the stuff you individually like from this video, mix all that up, I see a way you could come up with a pretty good bag-of-tricks.
Recommendation: I'm going to classify this one as "Good". Definitely not "Excellent", didn't quite make it to "Very Good" in my mind, because of some things I didn't like and could have questionable usefulness in ALL street situations against attackers of ALL skill levels. Yet I wouldn't say that it was so mediocre that it was "Fair" either. There were, in my opinion, enough high points here-and-there that it could have value. I think the "Interception", "Termination" (with drills), and "Trapping" had significant value. Bottomline, you might want to do like Vunak's student Nottingham did on his Viper dvd, discarding Vunak's techniques you don't care for, and pick cafeteria-style what you like.