Story by Mark Shenefelt • Photos by Sarah Welliver • Standard-Examiner Staff
LAYTON — A kick to the groin might be the ticket.
The typical Utahn carrying a handgun lacks broad skills to survive unpredictable encounters, say two local experts who are teaming up to run a multidiscipline self-defense program.
“Most people don’t understand it isn’t as simple as pulling out your gun,” said Clayton Mortensen, who owns the Fortified Krav Maga studio in Layton.
Mortensen, with 16 years of martial arts training and competitive fighting in his background, and Jeff Young, a former Michigan police officer and Iraq war veteran who operates Utah Tactical Coaching, are piloting a hybrid training regimen that combines firearm and hand-to-hand skills.
Getting a concealed-carry permit is a classroom experience. Young, of Ogden, offers those permit classes but adds several hours of firearms training, including range time and “force on force with Airsoft guns — I make them shoot me.”
Young’s training points students toward a “tactical mindset” as well, by running through scenarios that teach ways to reduce or avoid threats.
This is also where Mortensen comes in, teaching Krav Maga defensive combat skills. Krav Maga is a discipline created by the Israeli army in the 1940s. Mortensen said there are no robes or belts or traditional martial arts combat forms — it’s stripped-down defensive fighting.
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“Punches, kicks, elbows and knees, and there are lots of variations,” he said. It includes techniques from jiujitsu, judo, kung fu and other styles.
Teaching gun skills and fighting techniques together “is something that’s kind of new,” Young said.
“We want to help people be able to make a personal response to any level of attack,” he said. “Most people don’t have the resources to learn that broad spectrum.”
Mortensen demonstrated in a recent Krav Maga class how a person knocked to the ground can fight off an attacker. He was able to grasp and pin his opponent’s left arm, creating space and leverage to allow a kick to the attacker’s head.
“Jeff is teaching the firearms skills, and we are running scenarios where you can clear your attacker in hand to hand to be able to access your weapon,” Mortensen said.
Lack of hand-to-hand skills “is even a problem in the law enforcement community too,” Mortensen said.
With SWAT teams, for instance, “their hand-to-hand skills can be very, very limited,” he said. “A lot of officers get killed because they’re so fixated on getting their gun out and they’re stabbed or attacked” in close quarters.
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Young said people lacking hand-to-hand combat skills “may go to the gun quicker than they should.” Self-defense training can help a person “not have to raise up to a forcible felony” in a confrontation, he said.
“I think we can all agree the world is becoming a more violent place,” Mortensen said. “There’s lots of unrest and crime is still prevalent. Everybody has guns and knives and it’s a real thing even here in Utah.”
He said he and Young hope to help people “take responsibility for their own defense” because the police won’t always be available right when most needed.
A man once pulled a knife on Mortensen in downtown Salt Lake City, he said.
“He was not actually attacking me,” he said. “It was more that he was brandishing it. I think he was mentally unstable.”
The solution was “really simple,” Mortensen said. “He got within a range where I wasn’t comfortable. I kicked him once in the groin and once in the body to create some space, and I left and he didn’t follow.”
Ben Fozzard, 33, of Layton, was participating in Mortensen’s Krav Maga class on a recent evening. He said his 11-year-old son wanted to get involved in martial arts and the family enrolled him at the studio. Soon, Fozzard, his wife and the boy where taking Krav Maga together.
“Good family self-defense,” Fozzard said of his interest. He said he is a concealed-carry permit holder and it made sense to add hand-to-hand skills.
Mortensen said the typical Krav Maga student doesn’t have a lot of time to invest in training, so initially “we at least want to give them basic skills that apply to a lot of situations and at least inspire more awareness and desire to train.”
The more you train, “the more you realize what you don’t know,” he said. “One of the core principles with fighting is that it is important to have the competence that you know you don’t have to fight and that you should have humility. … There are a lot of guys out there with a lot of skills.”
Mortensen said there are three kinds of hand-to-hand combat: Sports/mixed martial arts, social violence and criminal violence.
“Social violence involves ego, bar fights, ‘You looked at my girl wrong’ or whatever,’” he said. “A lot of homicides start out as social violence — people hit their head or something and end up getting killed.”
Mortensen said de-escalating a potential conflict is preferred.
“I will never engage in social violence,” he said. “I’ve been to a few concerts with potentially violent encounters, and I won’t engage in that sort of situation. I put my ego aside.”
That should be reserved, he said, for instances of criminal violence, “where someone is actually trying to hurt you or kidnap you or kill you.”
“Always react to the immediate danger first, simultaneously attacking back as fast as possible,” Mortensen said.