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All Things Self-Defense: Q&A with the Real Vic
When he isn’t chasing down bad guys or working on his martial arts technique, Vic runs the blog 5 Rings Tactical. With a healthy serving of humor and a plethora of knowledge, he writes on a number of topics. With the Fashionable Defense Ensemble (FDE) feature, Vic encourages his readers to submit photos of what they carry for protection every day.
Vic kindly agreed to answer a few of our questions about his professional experience, martial arts background and miscellaneous topics.
When did you realize that you wanted to get into law enforcement?
I think ever since I was in grade school I liked the idea of law enforcement or the military. Car chases, fighting bad guys, what kid doesn’t like that? Right out of high school I tried to enlist in the Marines but was turned down due to a spine injury I had from kickboxing. I’ve always shuddered at the idea of sitting at a desk and trying to figure out what to do when the copy machine is flashing “PC LOAD LETTER.” Now that I’m a cop, I still yell and scream at the printer at the police station at least once a week. Thank goodness for office pops! They help relieve stress.
On your blog, you state that you have experience in the patrol, tactical and gang divisions. With such an extensive background, what would you say are the most important things you have learned?
I wouldn’t say my background is really THAT extensive. I’ve just been very fortunate to be able to experience different areas of law enforcement in such a short period of time. I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is that I don’t know anything. The more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn. A lot of officers get to a certain division then act like they know everything and believe they are better than other officers. I am always asking questions, and I understand that I can learn something about police work from just about any officer I run into, whether he or she is a rookie patrol cop or a seasoned homicide investigator.
When and why did you decide to start 5 Rings Tactical?
I guess I started 5 Rings Tactical this past February. I started the blog for a couple of reasons. I wanted to share information regarding firearms and self-defense, but I wanted to do it in a fun, non-threatening kind of way. I feel like a lot of good people are curious and interested about how they can protect themselves, what tools are available to them, and what skills to learn. The problem is that there is this ultra-serious, macho, tough guy atmosphere surrounding firearms and tactical equipment. Then there is all this conflicting information about guns and tactics, generally from people who don’t really know anything. People want to sound like experts and say that Glocks are better or Sigs are better. Some people are so dogmatic about their own shooting methods and are unable to see things from other perspectives. These stubborn opinions expose themselves when a newcomer asks for advice. It can be overwhelming and intimidating for someone new to the arena to find good information.
Again, I realize I have limited experience, and I don’t know half of what I wish I knew. I am open-minded though, and I wanted to share what little experience I DO have with readers. The blog is lighthearted and hopefully an amusing read, even for those who don’t care about guns, knives or tactics. I am also hoping to start teaching firearms classes soon under the 5 Rings Tactical name. The website has already helped stir up a little attention for that as well.
The Fashionable Defense Ensembles are just a way for people to share what tools they are using. I am also hoping it shows that not everyone that carries a gun or a weapon is crazy. Plenty of mild-mannered individuals in our society are responsible and choose to be armed.
Is there a special meaning behind the name 5 Rings Tactical?
Well, for one, I thought it sounded cool… but apparently everyone just thinks I’m really into the Olympics. The Book of Five Rings is a text on sword fighting and the warrior philosophy and mindset. It was written by the Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi circa 16…. uhhh… it was written back in the day. Like back when the Japanese were known for carrying katanas and doing backflips instead of building smaller but more efficient electronics. Musashi devoted his life to the way of the sword and his book is considered a classic in many languages. We don’t live in the martial culture that Musashi did, but in a lot of ways the violence we encounter is just as bad if not worse. Two samurai fighting a duel is bloody and unpleasant to be sure. Nobody wants to get kicked in the mouth then have his or her head chopped off. In most cases there was a moral code or a set of rules though. Nowadays old ladies get shot at gas stations for their purses, gang members do drive by shootings while their enemies are sleeping, and terrorists shoot up schools full of unarmed, untrained school children. You can’t tell me we live in a world that is too civilized for the warrior mindset to still be valid. Hopefully most of us will never find ourselves in a situation where we are fighting to survive or fighting to keep our loved ones alive… but if it does happen, you want to be mentally, spiritually and physically ready, just like warriors of ancient times. The only difference is that we need to learn to tone it down sometimes. That’s the long answer.
The short answer is: I’m Asian. My co-workers remind me of this fact constantly every time we see someone with a Hello Kitty backpack. Samurais are Asian. The general consensus is that samurai are pretty badass. I based my blog name off one of the most badass samurai out of Asian history.
Where do you find the topics for your blog posts?
My blog post ideas come from a lot of different places. Sometimes they are a response to questions I get asked a lot. Sometimes they are just ideas I feel like people should consider. Other times I’ve just finished an entire episode of Ugly Betty and feel like I have to write about something manly in order for my testicles to descend again.
I wrote the post about physical fitness because I see a lot of police officers and “gun guys” that spend a bunch of money on new guns, cool tactical gear and always have the latest and greatest ninja-laser, hyper-action equipment. They are always talking about carrying this stuff to be ready for the day they need to fight to protect a life, possibly their own. I think it’s great. I think all cops should carry off duty. I think all responsible citizens that can legally carry weapons should get the proper training and carry their weapons! However, a lot of these men and women overlook physical fitness. What good is your gun if you have to use it under stress, and you have a heart attack? No one ALWAYS has a gun or knife on them. We all ALWAYS have our bodies though. It makes sense to train our bodies.
Out of all of Fashionable Defense Ensemble posts, do you have a favorite?
Man that is a tough one. Obviously I’m biased, but I think the one my fiancé sent in is my favorite. She saw me working on FDEs on my computer and disappeared downstairs. A few minutes later I got an email from her. The picture attached was of her sock-monkey booties, Kimber Guardian pepper spray, a large kitchen knife and a giant wrench. I had no idea she was downstairs gathering those items for an FDE picture, and I was cracking up. She has a great sense of humor and always supports my crazy ideas. That one was fun to write.
You’re currently in the process of getting a training school up and running. Do you have a time frame for when it will be open?
I should be holding my first concealed handgun licensing class sometime in July if things go as planned. I also have a basic pistol course lined up for July or August. I have been getting a lot of requests for these classes so I’m really excited and nervous as well. It’s hard for me to believe that anyone would actually give ME money to show THEM how to do something.
To prepare for offering more varied and advanced classes down the line, I’ve been taking all sorts of tactical shooting classes and training really hard in different areas. I don’t want to be one of those instructors who teaches things they aren’t actually good at. I have my eyes open for possible instructors with different qualifications, so I can coax them into teaching at my school.
What subjects would you touch on within your classes?
The idea is to begin with concealed handgun licensing and some basic pistol tactics. Most of my training and experience has been working with a handgun, either on a duty belt or carried concealed in plain clothes. I am constantly learning, training at different schools, and trying to improve myself. So if things go well, I’d like to add home defense, rifle, shotgun, knife and empty hand courses in the future.
In addition to your career in law enforcement and tactical blogging, you also practice martial arts. How did you become involved in that?
When I was a kid, I was really fat. Being fat and Asian, I got my butt kicked all the time. I was the subject of a lot of ridicule and bullying. Once I even got beat up by a bunch of skeletons while I was dressed as a shower. Luckily the maintenance man at my apartment complex was a part-time ninja and saved my life. I asked him to teach me karate so I could enter the All Valley Tournament and crane-kick William Zabka. He declined and went back to fixing toilets.
Instead, I saw some Jackie Chan movies and became obsessed. I hounded my parents until they enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do and Chinese Kung Fu classes. I remember rewinding the fight scenes in the movie, The Last Dragon and trying to copy Leroy’s moves in my mom’s living room. WHO’S THE MASTA?! I practiced day and night. I didn’t stop eating entire rotisserie chickens with milkshakes for dinner though, so ironically, I was still really fat AND I was further perpetuating Asian stereotypes. I countered the second part by being terrible at math.
Are you partial to a particular style of martial arts?
I think almost every art has something to offer. Currently I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Jeff Messina of Revolution Dojo. He’s a great coach, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter and a great friend. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is practical, effective and works great for smaller guys. I’m 5’ 7” and 165 pounds on a good day. So I need me some Jiu Jitsu. The stuff Jeff has taught me has already gotten me out of some bad spots while on duty.
In high school I trained a lot in Sanshou, which is kind of like Chinese kickboxing with Judo and wrestling throws. It really opened my eyes to training for dynamic situations and not just performing set forms or katas. In college I devoted a lot of my time to Muay Thai kickboxing with my coach and buddy Randy Vera, who is still teaching and fighting in Austin, Texas. He really opened my eyes to hard physical conditioning. I used to consistently hit the restroom to take a dump right before his class because I was so nervous about the workout. Anyway, Randy helped toughen me up and coached me through some rough competition as well.