Chris Pizzo, also known as "Lieutenant X" and "Captain Chris", is the author of several martial arts training videos. Pizzo claims to have developed an accelerated training methodology during his military service which make his videos more efficient as a means of learning self-defense than competing offerings. Bullshido has looked into his claims, and does not believe them.
- 1 Reviews of Pizzo's videos
- 1.1 A.B.C. Accelerated Battlefield Combatives
- 1.1.1 Review by Samuel Browning
- 1.1.2 Review by Benjamin Bradley, certified MACP Instructor
- 1.1.3 Review by theardri
- 1.1.4 Review by Andrew Vaillencourt, "Scrapper" on Bullshido
- 1.1 A.B.C. Accelerated Battlefield Combatives
Reviews of Pizzo's videos
A.B.C. Accelerated Battlefield Combatives
Review by Samuel Browning
Towards the end of the second of the three DVDs in this course, Lt. X turns to face the camera wearing his black balaclava and tells us that Threat Response Systems (TRS) tapes are good but their advertising exceeds what these tapes contain. Lt. X is half right: The advertising does exceed the quality of these DVDs.
We at Bullshido have known about Lieutenant X for quite some time, especially since Top Secret Training seems to have made a pact with the Devil (or at least Google Ads) to have this product constantly appear in the ad bars on our site. We have also collectively endured the hyperbolic, over-the-top copy text which knows no shame. Heck, the back cover of this set reads in part:
You're about to learn how to fight (and win) faster than anywhere else on the planet! In your hands you now have the means to become a black-belt-level fighter and a street savvy counter assault expert without having to spend years in some expensive martial arts studio. In fact, even most black belts…who by the way, have spent thousands to get that pretty belt…wouldn't stand a chance against the kind of intensive military-level fighting tricks and learning tactics you're about to discover.
Accelerated Battlefield Combatives (A.B.C.) Teaches you easy-to-learn, devastatingly simple and effective fighting skills that will end any fight in seconds. This pragmatic and practical method of learning has been utilized by a wide range of military, police, government agents, martial artists, bar bouncers, and pro-level fighters … all with real world experience in combat level personal defense… .This instructional DVD and CD-ROM package will teach you these easy-to-learn skills in a matter of hours and give you the total confidence you need to walk the streets without fear … And, best of all, you don't have to be in-shape, strong or even coordinated!
So does A.B.C. deliver the goods? No. Does it utilize Top Secret Techniques? No. It's mostly comprised of bad judo, twisty-wristy jujitsu moves, and a numbered zone system previously used in other martial arts materials.
Is this material taught well? No. For such a slick marketer, Lieutenant X is surprisingly bad at speaking on camera and has to struggle to keep himself on topic.
I watched these DVDs with fellow member Scrapper, who has a black belt in Judo, and used his freeze frame button to show how one should NOT execute judo throws. For example, when teaching several basic throws using a TALLER demonstration partner, the X-mister NEVER dropped his hips below those of his partner when executing a throw. To put it mildly, for a supposed expert, X's basic judo skills suck.
What is Lieutenant X's Background?
According to X he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the United States Army in 1993 after earning a Master's Degree in Education. His training in hand to hand combat was so popular with the troops that "the brass" started to send him off to train other Federal (unnamed) agencies. However all was not right in Top Secret Training land. According to X,
This information was buried for the last 10 years thanks to the liberal press and their moniker of "murder by numbers".
X complains that "we" were brought in front of a congressional hearing and "shut down". No information is provided concerning when this congressional hearing supposedly happened and how he was actually shut down. Certainly our Federal Government seems totally disinterested in preventing the teaching of craptacular martial arts training methods.
Other comments in the tape make X sound like the frustrated art teacher he may have once been. "Drawing, fighting and public speaking actually are to a great extent, related to the same parts of the brain… . Illustrating depth is the difference between an amateur and a professional artist." Judging by his drawing and public speaking skills on this tape, there's not much hope for X's fighting skills. A classroom of high school students would fall asleep under such poorly organized babble, so I suspect X never truly taught before a regular class of high school or college students. His skills are not that polished.
One thing X likes to do is compare the Army's Field Manual of 1992 to its hand-to-hand section from 2002. He even refers to the various numbers of its particular techniques such as "325.150" which he deems retarded. Since these are the only named military sources he critiques (though he did mention the army's later manual featuring BJJ), my supposition is that X previously had to teach the hand-to-hand techniques out of FM 1992 and did not progress any higher up the military continuum to see any other H2H systems being used by the Army. Therefore, there is not really anything "Top Secret" about the techniques X teaches.
So What's On the Friggin DVDs?
The DVDs start with a long and somewhat confusing lecture by X, explaining how Advanced Battlefield Combatives is able to teach its material faster then conventional martial arts. X uses a white board with a "concept map" which is almost impossible for the viewer to read. Think of words in circles that are linked to other circles by lines. X claims that this ABC method removes safety from the human psyche. He then moves on to try and teach the viewer something about how the brain functions. X uses the existence of the primitive brain, middle brain and neocortex to assert that humans are motivated by fear and pain more then pleasure. (Probably true). Because of early experiences with pain and fear, such as banging one's head, people associate fighting and fighting terms like punching with these previous experiences. So if one is training people using such terms they fear and revert to using their primitive brain which regulates automatic nervous functions that trigger the fight-or-flight reaction and will not use their trained response. In contrast, X teaches using numbers that allows one to learn while retaining higher thought functions. "Numbers stay in your left-brain, except for some numbers like 69."
As mentioned in the introduction, X uses a twelve number striking system that is found in Field Manual 1992 under the bayonet fighting section. FMA students would point out that this is a standard twelve angles of attack. X appears to have the rather interesting notion that language is more important than physical stimulus in provoking the flight or flight response. To which this reviewer responds: Baloney! Language and neuro-linguistic programming arguments aside, the vision of someone trying to strike you is going to produce a lot more stress rather than willfully exchanging words for numbers.
I then endured some lecturing on how concept maps are superior to regular text in conveying information about fighting techniques, and then X and a very uncoordinated student showed some simple break falling.
All in all, "DVD 1 — Methodology" was between 60 and 80 percent chalk talk, which could have been summarized by Matt Thornton in perhaps three to five minutes.
DVD 2 is described as "Fundamental Techniques". He starts the second tape by showing how people tend to face each other directly during fights while the correct approach is to slip off at a 45-degree angle. This has been widely bandied around in police training circles so often that even non-cops like myself were previously aware of this conclusion. X also babbles about his tape series "Mercenary Combatives," but I didn't really catch how he was qualified to teach that material. He certainly isn't in Iraq earning more money by being a hired gun than he could make peddling tapes. In any case I'll try to evaluate his system based on the three tapes we saw rather that the promise of future, more elite instruction.
X continues to make comments like "numbers aren't scary" so one won't panic when faced by an assault. He also plugs his "Operation Phoenix" tape series that rips off the name of a particularly well-known counter-insurgency effort in Vietnam which was run by the CIA. (You were two years old when our ground troops left Nam, Mr. X.)
X then shows us a series of escapes from the rear bear hug, the front bear hug, and the rear choke, which would be familiar to anyone who has ever visited a couple of RBSD seminars. Despite his professed love for Judo, X's instruction on grappling matters is not particularly enlightening. We get to see X doing the FMA "twist and turn" in response to a right-hand punch on angle two again, and again, and again, which X would then use to do some of the classic, if poorly done, wristy-twisty wristlocks.
On DVD 3 "Advanced Techniques" X then shows the 12 zone system (remember - a system he didn't actually invent) using a padded stick on his hopeless, uncoordinated manservant who is also wearing a balaclava. His point is that if you can twist and turn against a stick, then it becomes child's play to deal with a fist. Then we see him do his twist and turn technique against a knife and X says never to twist and turn to the inside of the blade. He then shows us how to disarm the feared gangster tard. You know, the one who will rob or threaten you with the gun pointed on its side giving you the locked elbow. We see some totally typical kick defenses using the shin and the tape winds down with the realization that X had only taught one strike during the entire three DVD set: A clotheslining strike which you'd be more likely to see in pro wrestling or old-school football.
Accelerated Battlefield Combatives is not accelerated. Its number learning theory is unproven and confusing. Its techniques are made up of poor judo, mediocre standing jujitsu, and some simplified FMA footwork and positioning. It is not secret, and its material from FM 1992 and 2002 is readily available to the interested. "Devastatingly simple and effective" — give me a break! In conclusion, these DVDs are not worth buying, and Lieutenant X's delivery of the material he "borrows" is best described as tardtastic.
Review by Benjamin Bradley, certified MACP Instructor
DVD 1: Methodology
Here we meet Lt X. In this DVD, he talks about the ABC method and the mental aspects of combat. I would like to tell you what it entails but I couldn't follow what he was talking about and I have the feeling he doesn't really know either. X talks about what does and does not enter certain parts of the brain. Somehow I have a strong suspicion that he isn't qualified to speak on such matters. I'm no neurologist, but I am willing to bet neither is he.
DVD 2: Techniques
This was one of the gaudiest instructionals I've seen. The green screen jungle background was distracting. The same outfit is used as in the first DVD. Like X, I must remember to wear Polo shirts, khaki cargo pants, wrestling shoes, and a balaclava once I am commissioned an officer and an alphabet letter. The instruction was unorganized and seems mainly impromptu. The techniques themselves are basic RBSD fare, but taught poorly. Lt. X babbles more than instructs. Now if this were in an actual classroom setting, then I probably wouldn't mind as much; I know I babble sometime in class. However, this is a DVD product that he is recording and selling to the public, so the instruction should be much clearer and well-presented. You can do multiple takes. So it worries me that someone looked at this and felt it was good enough to release for retail.
DVD 3: Advanced Techniques
This is a continuation of the second video but is "Advanced." In this case Advanced would pretty much be everything you will learn as a white belt in BJJ or in the early Kyu grades in Judo, or a noob at Muay Thai. Same babbling as before and poor instruction. X demonstrates a Hip Toss (OGOSHI) but does it terribly even though he professes to have studied Judo. He states he doesn't like to teach this to beginners, however from my personal experience but as a student and teacher, Ogoshi is one of the first throws taught to beginners because its one of the easier ones and embodies almost all the principles of the major throws in Judo. Later on X demonstrates an armbar and it looks like he is trying to figure it out while he trying to explain it.
Both techniques DVDs left me with the impression that neither guy is used to doing any of these techniques with any degree of proficiency.
CD Rom: Military Resource Disc
This contains a several old Field Manuals and the current MACP manual on H2H, Handguns, and Sniper Training all of which you can download for free somewhere on the net. Some of these are not true military manuals but were sold to the public as if they were. Basically if you find anything saying SPECIAL FORCES, SNIPER, RANGER, SEAL, in your local bookstore or military surplus store they are usually excerpts of OBSOLETE manuals or complete fabrications.
My heart felt opinion on the ABC method is that if you bought into the hype and actually purchased this then you need to demand your money back. All you get is bad Judo, Muay Thai, and FMA with improper instruction from old Field Manuals thrown in. If you really want to live action role-play at being a Combatives badass and are too much of a pussy to actually enlist, then I would recommend Greg Thompson's H2H book. At least Greg is a well-known, certified MACP Instructor (Level III) and I personally will vouch for him, although he surely doesn't need it.
Review by theardri
For at least a decade, there has been this overhyped, hard sell campaign by "Lt. X", he claims to be a "former Military Intellegence officer" and "Only Because Of A Military Legal Loophole Can I Reveal The Terrifying 'Decide-Dominate-And-Destroy' Shocking Martial Arts Secret Banned By Congress That Can Transform ANY MAN (Or Woman) Into A Walking, Breathing Weapon Of Mass Destruction."
The problem is (a) a military intelligence officer would have almost NO combat experience (they don't do that, it's not part of the job) and (b) there are no military loop holes for teaching this stuff, congress has not banned it etc.
Lt. X is in fact a "composite character" i.e. made up. He is the "brain child" of Chris Pizzo and Damian Ross. Neither to the best of my knowledge are "ex Military intelligence officers", nor trained by the Military. Damian Ross DID train with Carl Cestari at some point. He at some point also did a dodgy deal over Carl's domain name, DVD rights, and I guess a lot more that has yet to come out!
So who is Carl Cestari? Carl Cestari has been put in the "Top Ten Most Dangerous Men in the World" by Black Belt Magazine, and some of his techniques can be found online. Carl is a student of Charles Nelson, who ran a world-renowned self-defense school in NYC. He is in many ways the father of the civilian Combatives Movement.
Which brings us back to Lt. X. There is no such person. His name, in my honest opinion, is either a play off of Camp X, a World War II covert operations training facility, (to appropriate credibility) or more likely cashing in on the X-Men phenomenon (and "Project X where Wolverine got his adamantium enhancements the first time) of "if you put an X in the name people will buy it in bulk". My honest guess is the latter, but I am a cynic.
I am not going to comment on specific techniques, as I could do so for hours. Rather I give an overview on what is wrong.
Oh gods I've seen some shite over the years. My own instructor Geoff Todd (a student of Applegate and Nelson amongst others) would educate us in how to spot these types.
The "production quality" of these DVDs is lacking. Something that is not new to the world of Combatives. Both Cestari and Todd have had what would today be deemed poor quality product (shaky camera work, poor lighting and angle etc). However the difference between real instructors like these two and Lt. X is that they emphasize (a) train for real with an instructor (or if you can not get a partner and work at it till it is slick) and (b) do it right.
The DVDs are broken down into 3 areas "Methodology", "Fundamental Techniques" and "Advanced Techniques" plus a "bonus" CD-ROM of some "military resources".
The DVDs: Methodology
It's all hype. You get a confused (and confusing) lecture on "psychology". What he appears to be trying to get at is "fast mapping" and levels of Response. Rather than citing people like Lt. Col. David Grossman (author of On Killing and On Combat), he tries to "dumb it down" and boy is it dumb. Next we get the "12 number striking system" which is really about "angles of attack" and nothing earth-shattering. He also uses a number system to teach us (much like ordering from a Asian Menu I guess?). He is fond of the "45 degree offset of attack" angle that is popular in Police circles, it's also well known to the public, and only works some of the time (better if you have a gun than your unarmed attacks against a criminal).
The "self defense" techniques that he shows - rear bear hug, front bear hug, and the rear choke - are all commonly known techniques, except much sloppier and utilizes some older ways of doing them. Nothing new, and I learned this the first month at Tanks. I also learned variations on it, and how to fight someone who knows what you are doing. Lt. X also shows the biggest no-no of Combatives: "joint locks." Yeah, the "paladin of the Combatives world" is teaching locks. Something discouraged by every experienced trainer in Military or Civilian Combatives as a basic technique. Why? Because a joint lock is NOT an effective technique if improperly applied, it requires *gasp* years of training to perfect, and even then if you get someone more flexable, or with a higher pain tolerance than usually, you just tied yourself to them. So go put that double wristlock on that guy tripped out on PCP, Lt.X, and see how fun that is.
Advanced techniques? SLOPPY. Knife disarms that do not explain the mechanics of what you are doing (oh he tries and fails).
So lets use Col. Applegate's advice for knife attacks shall we? "Colonel Applegate taught the following: If threatened with a knife when armed - shoot him, or use a chair, pole, stick, smatchett against him. Use anything - even one of Mrs. Applegate's cats by the tail."
Applegate then gives a list of what to do if nothing (cats included) is available. One is "never be flat footed" and Lt. X is so flat-footed here I thought he was wearing skis.
The next advice from Applegate is, "Evade away from the travel of the employed weapon as it is on its final travel to you, the target." Why away? Well that will reduce the force if you screw up. Why not block? Simply put if you screw up and get your arms cut (this is from a soldiers POV) you are useless to your fellow soldiers as your arm(s) are now not working, and you may as well have used your body to block it.
What Lt. X teaches is "never turn to the inside of the blade" problem with this is he does not explain what that means. If some one does a thrust at you there is NO inside or outside, or an ice pick attack (again there is up and down but not side to side), what about if they feint the attack (looks like one thing, turns into another) he does not explain reactionary gap, or consequences of getting cut (one is DO NOT GIVE UP, if they cut you on purpose are they gonna stop?).
I'll leave the "gun" disarm alone as it's so bad I might have a stroke if I have to comment on it.
By the end of the third DVD I was wondering, where are the combatives? The kicks, the strikes, more escapes from holds? The counter attacks, the wraps (loose grappling) the evasions? Then I realize, there have been none, baring a clothesline that Hacksaw Jim Duggan taught me as a teen (actually I might have learned more about how to fight from the WWF than I would have from these DVD's).
DVD2: Fundamental Techniques
More sloppy work. While the real basics are shown, they are still shown too fast (or too slow sometimes), no emphasis on the "correct" way of doing it is shown. If Lt. X phase-tested at my school, he would fail. He might get himself or another hurt in the process.
DVD 3: Advanced Techniques
Well I guess they are more advanced than what is shown. But again you get the over-hyped sell of "real professionals" use these, they work every time, and you don't need to train for years to do these.
Lt. X has not taught medical consequences (for you or others), nor has he taught how to spot trouble, avoid trouble or that if you can run away, be like Monty Python and the Holy Grails Knights of the round table and RUN AWAY RUN AWAY. After all the most useful technique for the military is the controlled retreat (no throwing away resources for a hopeless cause).
Now that CD-ROM. What does it contain?
Electronic files of two military manuals (FM-21-150 (circ. 1992) and FM 3, 25-150 (circ. 2002). Sure they are nice to have from a historic perspective, I already own legit copies however and you can find them in second-hand bookstores for almost nothing!
There are also some "old" manuals that I have never seen, Take one labeled "hand to hand combat": It's an incomplete, unidentified document, scanned, and looking a LOT like some of "Kill or Get Killed" by Applegate (or perhaps one of Fairbairn's books). It has a page of content showing over 60 pages were in the original — but now there are 33. Next is the "Special Forces Only" Hand-to-Hand combat manual (st 31-204) that is all crappy TKD and Karate, and I guess MIGHT be a real manual, but have little to do with military combatives.
Finally on a "military level" we have some other manuals FM 23-35 (Hand guns), FM23-10 (a Snipers guide, why one needs to learn to snipe with these techniques I do not know as one is supposedly CQC (close quarter combat) and the other is the antithesis (killing from a distance), but ok Lt. X is selling to macho jerks who love this stuff). Last on the "military level" is an unidentified (no code, or author) Marine Training manual.
We also get a 31-page booklet on "how to become a lethal weapon in two weeks". No comment.
He claims this stuff is worth a whole $40. Woop de do. I can recommend some stuff for much less than that which is better.
So in closing, The ABC system is NOT Combatives, it is not really RBSD either, nor does it teach you something (let alone accelerated) that you would not find else where for much less (or for real time training either!)
Review by Andrew Vaillencourt, "Scrapper" on Bullshido
Let me say this: Accelerated Battlefield Combatives made me mad.
I wanted DEVASTATING, POWERFUL, SIMPLE methods to TOTALLY DESTROY TRAINED FIGHTERS in a system used by ELITE MILITARY forces! That was Lt. X's own promise. What I got was basically bad judo and worse aikido. As I see it, anyone training for 6 months in a competitive fighting program would have learned just as much as they would have from the A.B.C DVDs.
Let's start with disc 1.
First off, Lt. X is a big dude. Not Bob Sapp big, but definitely over 200lbs. He certainly looks like he used to spend some time at the gym.
He absolutely looks ridiculous in a balaclava.
Lt. X begins with a spiel about his background. He claims he has a Master's degree in education and experience in teaching hand-to-hand combat to the military. This H2H instruction was apparently so good, they had him do the course for other agencies, etc. I found it interesting that at no point does he claim to have seen any real action. No time in combat, no MP experience…not even a scuffle at the officer's mess. Nuthin'.
He claims that Congress tried to shut him down because his stuff was too brutal, and that the "liberal media" has it in for him. Granted, he's not promising that astral spirits would hunt me down (Ashida Kim), nor is he claiming to have been a badass felon with a prison-tested fighting method (Dan Webre). But it all rings of bullshit, just the same.
After his personal bio, he gets into his lecture on the brain and learning theory. On this topic, Lt. X comes off like he's read a few magazine articles on brain function and learned some buzzwords. Consequently, his application of this information is incorrect; for instance, he contradicts himself on the relationship between sensory input and the resulting neurotransmitter effect.
Part of Lt. X's "accelerated" methodology in learning combatives is that rather than labeling techniques with terms, he instead uses numbers. Suffice it to say, learning numbers instead of words will have no appreciable effect on learning efficiency. Once a stimulus is mapped to a response or consequence, that is where it stays unless altered through some kind of habituated feedback mechanism. If the word "punch" scares you, mapping the word "two" to the word "punch" will have the same result. Cognitive stimulus mapping is a double-edged sword and anyone who has a high-school understanding of brain chemistry already knows this.
Furthermore, his numbers system is identical to that employed by many others, and is not revolutionary. Systems such as Filipino Martial Arts and fencing have utilized this approach for centuries. Lt. X also believes that any motion that crosses your centerline facilitates cooperation between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. For that specific motion, yes; there will be such cooperation. However this does not translate to other actions beyond that one action.
In my opinion, the physical techniques on these DVDs regarding throwing are essentially bad judo. I am a judo shodan (1st degree black belt) and have practiced the art for 10 years, including active competition. While I do not feel I do great judo, I am an instructor, and can spot bad judo from a mile off. And based on Lt. X's demonstrated methods, he's barely above white-belt proficiency. He's teaching the orange-belt curriculum, complete with orange-belt mistakes. He has no clue how to break balance, he under-rotates his hip throws, and seems completely unable to get his hips lower than his uke's (partner). For instance, his Ogoshi judo hip throw ends up being nothing more than a sloppy over-the-shoulder arm tug that serves no other purpose than to pull the other guy into you. He ends up improperly trying to twist his uke down.
If you've ever been to a judo class you know what I am describing: Tori fails to properly load uke onto the hip, and the result is a complete lack of kuzushi (the act of unbalancing your opponent). So, he stands there tugging on his man looking ridiculous. Then the spinning starts. It's awful. His uke has to compliantly move with the throw for almost every throw attempt Lt. X makes.
So you take your bad judo, liberally spritz in some aikido, traditional jujitsu, FMA basics, and some Krav Maga, and you have Advanced Battlefield Combat. Why he didn't include systema, I don't know. He probably hates all things Russian…
I want to hammer this point home: Lt. X's throws are AWFUL. His response to every attack is:
- Twist and turn (Sidestep and parry)
- kote gaeshi or bad hip throw
That's it. Seriously.
Also, he actually teaches us to slap a low kick out of the way with the hand. No leg checks, no footwork, doesn't keep his hands up at all.
He does not demonstrate any striking. He does not show any joint destructions, or body target strategies. But, he does do a gun disarm form the comical, side-grip gangster pose. I bet you know what the disarm technique is! (Here's a hint… kote gaeshi.)
At the end of the tapes, he does do something remarkable. He recommends that everybody go train somewhere that does competitive full-contact martial arts. He specifically mentions judo, boxing, wrestling, sombo, and kickboxing. It's as if he understands how poorly his material will translate to the real world and is responsible enough to include one GOOD piece of advice on what is otherwise 3 hours of my life that would have been better spent playing with venomous snakes.
Please don't buy these DVDs.