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Training Review: “Fight to Freedom” self-defence with Bug Out Canada

Training Review:  “Fight to Freedom” & self-defence with Bug Out Canada

By: Ghost

On Oct. 17-19, 2014, I attended Bug Out Canada’s “Fight to Freedom” combatives & self-defence techniques course.

Prior to the weekend-long class, I spoke with the Instructor, Dan, and went over some of the things that would be covered and course objectives he aimed to achieve.  As the website had little information as to the type of style we would be learning, we also discussed specifics as to the style and its origins.

The course was a Friday-night-to-Sunday-afternoon length, outdoors.  It was cold.  It was rainy.  The upside:  We did our training under a gazebo in a park and in a thicket of woods next to the gazebo.  All in all, when combined with a positive and supportive learning environment I found that it was a good set-up for getting maximum benefit in a realistic training environment.  There were no mats, only concrete and nature’s floor.


Playing in the woods.  Better than concrete.

Playing in the woods. Better than concrete.


Dan, along with his assistant instructor, Chris, were both excellent.  They spoke to us about many of the psychological and physiological aspects of combatives & self-defence, the origins and history of their system (coincidently known as “Systema” or “the system” in Russian.) and it’s practical application in the everyday world as well as on the battlefield.  Years ago, I tried a two-day intro to Systema.  I didn’t go back for the second day.  The instructor was very aloof, seemed disinterested in new students and did not explain anything.  Systema, in my opinion, is strange when first encountered because it is very unlike other “martial arts” systems.  The movements feel awkward and the techniques strange at first, but once they have been explained and practiced and put in the proper context, they do make sense and become effective.  Dan and Chris both made efforts to make everyone feel relaxed and informed along the way.


Dan demonstrating a strike on Chris.

Dan demonstrating a strike on Chris.

(***Note:  there were several injuries and “special considerations” for some of the students taking the course, most notably mobility issues due to previous injuries.  Though this was a factor, it was evident that neither age, height, strength or injuries were hinderances to learning the techniques.  Truly, anyone can take this course and come out with learning something.***)

Body dynamics, movement and breathing were bulk topics in the first half of the course.

As I have trained in several forms of martial arts and self-defence techniques over many years, most of the principles discussed were not new to me.  However, the way that those principles were approached and examined was new, and refreshing.

We practiced rolls, falling, breathing and taking strikes, angles and “planing”, knife work, dealing with multiple opponents, stick work and delivering Systema strikes (demonstrations of the strike was done on each of us.  My brain hurt for the entire weekend after Dan gave my head a small-scale feel of a Systema punch).


Dan demonstrating a knife defence.

Dan demonstrating a knife defence.


The Systema strike was one of the biggest take-aways from the course.  I have taken quite a few hits over the years, but the transfer of force in this particular technique was scary.  It is easily one of the more devastating techniques I have learned – especially as I would easily categorize it as a “fight-stopper” should you be capable of properly landing one.  It is very different from a traditional hit, but if you get the hang out it and practice, you’re far less likely to have a prolonged fight on your hands should you hit someone successfully.

The rest of the weekend included great food (provided) and great company.  The other folks taking the course were welcoming and positive.  Dan and Chris were very involved and very engaged in correcting technique and answering questions.


Lunch.  Yum!

Lunch. Yum!


We topped off our breathing exercises by having Dan drop 15lb kettle bells on our stomache from 5 feet up.  I survived, though I’d prefer not to try it again.  The breathing was integral to the training and did play a significant positive role in minimizing the damage done through the training.






I thoroughly enjoyed myself and feel I certainly got my money’s worth.  That being said, I would have only two small points for improvement for future courses or for a potential student:  DRESS WARMLY/APPROPRIATELY.  I didn’t.  That’s my fault but a lesson learned.  Also, Bug Out Canada should consider running the course earlier in the year to avoid colder/inclement weather.

Those minor points said, this course was a good introduction to martial arts and Systema.  I took away a great many tools to add to my “toolkit” of defence techniques but I would stress that much practice and study would be required in these techniques to become proficient.  This weekend will not make you a Navy SEAL or Spetznaz commando, but will certainly lay the foundation for proficiency down the road.  Dan is a great teacher and his skill and knowledge are without a doubt, solid.  Hopefully he will consider putting an “advanced” combatives course together for some sunny weekend in the future.

In conclusion, I would take the course again in a heartbeat and would easily encourage anyone else who is interested to take it and try something different and effective for themselves.

For more info, be sure to check out the website at:

Train well, stay safe.


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