• John DiMuccio

The Most Valuable Skill in the World

"The ability to protect yourself or a loved one is inarguably the single most important skill you hope you'll never need." -Tony Blauer


About 10 years ago, I found CrossFit. In addition to expanding my fitness beyond bro-curls and lat pulldowns, CrossFit also introduced me to Tony Blauer's self-defense concepts. From a few grainy videos online, I learned that his ideas were not only practical, but based on our body's primal and natural responses to external stimuli. 

I did a little Tae Kwon Do back in my day—the perfect supplement to my obsession with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an 8 year old. Full of kicks, blocks, and punches, they taught us how to move, to be disciplined, and to respect ourselves and others. Not gonna lie; it was great. 

Of all the things they taught us—the punching, kicking and blocking—we really didn't learn to truly protect ourselves. I'm a huge fan of martial arts, and truly respect everything it offers. In the real-life situation when the sh** is about to hit the fan, it falls short. ​

​I followed Blauer online over the years, watching videos about his S.P.E.A.R. (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response) system here and there and learning whatever I could—and not practicing them. You can only learn so much from YouTube. Really, it's true.

I've always wondered, having a wife and two kids, if I would be able to protect them in a dangerous situation. If we were ever in a particularly seedy section of a neighborhood or lying in bed wondering if the doors were locked, I had great difficulty managing my fear of being able to protect myself and my family.

Seemingly out of nowhere, I received a notification that CrossFit was holding their Defense/SPEAR specialty Certification course at CrossFit New England. It was a great opportunity to finally visit a box I've been eager to see and to learn the tactical self-defense techniques to which I was previously limited on a computer screen. 

Lo and behold! I found out that Tony Blauer was actually teaching this course by rare chance. Typically, his highly-skilled trainers run the seminars. I had to go.

So... I did. And it was incredible. This group of awesome CrossFitters joined in a two-day course taught by the master Tony Blauer himself. He lectured on theories and concepts of his SPEAR system, told amazing stories of his real-life experiences, and guided us in practicing an arsenal of self-defense drills with our classmates. 


Coach Blauer reminded us of how "functional" the fitness of CrossFit really is—its functionality proves to actually help us defend ourselves. All the movements we learned in the course referred back to a connection with a movement pattern in CrossFit training. For example, the foundational stance, non-violent posture (shown below), shows a strong resemblance to.... Yup, you guessed it—the wall ball. The explosive power developed in the wall ball shot translates to a surprisingly devastating double-palm strike to the face. Our repetitions of the double-palm strike was appropriately referred to as "Karen."

The tactical training was a boat-load of fun, but more important was the enlightening lecture on managing Fear and situational awareness. The purpose of this course isn't to teach you how to fight—"Defend" is actually the last step in the process. Tony says, "Don't confuse 'fighting' with your personal safety. That's like confusing dessert with nutrition." The first two D's (of D1, D2, and D3 defense theory), "Detect" and "Defuse," teach us to first detect and defuse a potentially dangerous situation. The idea is to NOT get to the point of having to defend yourself (but still arm you with the tools to do so if the situation arises).


The best way to protect yourself is to properly manage your fear. There are four steps to know fear: Face it, Understand it's role, Control it, and Know it (hence the fun acronym). This doesn't mean that you shouldn't be afraid of a situation—fear is a good thing, as long as you take control of it and understand the proper response. Knowing Fear can be the difference of life and death in many situations. Aside from it's use in self-defense, managing fear translates to all aspects of one's life—presenting a big plan to a room full of your colleagues, preparing for your first weightlifting meet, or driving through a bad part of town.

It's OK to have fear; in fact, it's necessary. Without it, you wouldn't be able to arm yourself with proper and essential responses to protect yourself or get through a situation. Seriously, embrace your fear, and then punch it right in the face. 

To learn more about the CrossFit SPEAR Specialty Certification course [UPDATE: now called "Be your own bodyguard"], visit: https://training.crossfit.com/bodyguard

Follow Tony Blauer (@tonyblauer) on Instagram!

As a side note, I truly enjoyed my time at CFNE; I suggest you check them out!

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