Red Warrior

Red Warrior, also known as Tushka-homa, is a martial art created by Choctaw Adrian Roman.This system of fighting is a reconstruction of how Native American peoples are thought to have fought prior to the 1800s. Adrian Roman explored and documented the different types of weapons that were unique to the American Indian tribes of that era and theory of their application; however, there is a decent amount of controversy as to how “authentic” this fighting style is, as it is unclear how much of the martial art is truly derived from Native American techniques and sources.

THOUSANDS OF YEARS BEFORE JESUS was born, a small group of men knew how to summon the courage of a bear, achieve the mental alertness of a fox, show the compassion of a dove, teach their sons the wisdom of their forefathers, and savor every stress-free moment of their lives following the path of the Seven Sacred Feathers, the natural laws of Tushka-homma. They were (Achafa-Tushka) the 1st Warriors.

Confusion was unknown; the feeling of alienation and detachment from the rest of humanity was unheard of, depression and stress where never given a chance to take hold. To these men, every thought was an action, every action was an event, and every event had its purpose in All That Is. Past, present, and future were no different than ice, water, and steam – just different shapes of the same substance. As a man progressed through years, his destiny was shaped by progressive revelation of the true nature of things, represented by Seven Sacred Feathers.

These men shared the thrill of the hunt, the strength of the fight, and the contentment that only knowledge of their place in the universe could bring. They slept a sound sleep of good dreams, and woke to days of victory and plenty. They stood at the Center with family and it was peaceful. Life was strong, joyous, and filled with purpose. It was a Song of Strength.

It was lived for countless generations, filling the past with pride, and promising illumination to men of the present and sons of the future. It filled the body with health, the bones with strength, and the heart with song.

From the bounty of nature and the ways passed down to them from their fathers and grandfathers, they built weapons to feed themselves and their families, and to defend against attack. Knives, spears, axes, and clubs became extensions of the man himself, each extending his reach and power, giving him the strength and teeth of the greatest animals. They developed techniques that kept the body strong and safe, while re-enforcing the cycles of nature and the directions of the universe in the mind. The techniques were the Movements of Men on the earth.

The Movements were simultaneously a tool, a prayer, and a language that expressed infinity as motion in the shape of man. The Knowledge of the Movement connected man to earth, earth to sky, and sky to All. It was passion, strength, adaptability, and wisdom. The knowledge of the Movement made him “Tuska-homma”: Warrior.

In the cycle of things small and large, in the falling of the brown leaf and the rising of the yellow sun, Tushka-homma echoed life: The Warrior both performing and being part of the movements of life for the cycles of time and creation.

Years passed. Seasons progressed. Centuries walked along. Millenniums came and went. The Knowledge of the Movement became distant, but not forgotten. Its echoes were fading, but not gone. The Power was still there, like a river turned to ice, waiting for Spring to release it again. Strong, but hidden, its shape frozen in the ancient memories of the sons of those Tushka-homma Warriors who originally saw the river deep and strong, and swam in its waters.

We find ourselves in 21st century America, standing on the very land where Tushka-homma was born. This is where Tushka-homma Warrior’s hunted and fought and thrived for thousands of years, connected to All That Is. Tushka-homma is the Movement, Tushka-homma is the Man – there is no division, there is no difference. This is the land of the seven directions. This is the land where past, present, and future all meet, where all Apprentice Warriors began learning the Movements of Life

You feel there is more to the frozen river than just ice. You can feel the past becoming the present as ice melts into water… Sometimes, very faintly and almost drowned out by the sounds of the city and daily cares, you have heard the distant rushing of the water. You have never seen it, but you can feel it, beginning to rumble beneath your feet. The thaw is coming, and the first of the ice is melting. The Knowledge of Movement is starting to flow. You have asked the question before, “why am I here and what is to be my destiny”? Tushka-homma calls to the bravest fathers and sons of the land to immerse themselves in the learning river, to be the New Tushka-homma, to become the Apprentice Warriors of the new century… Chief Adrian Roman, Choctaw Nation.

Red Warrior System ~ by Dr. Robert G. Rose

Some years ago, Adrian “Chief” Roman, already well-known within kenpo karate circles, began working on a fighting system to honor his native Choctaw people and, indeed, all American Indians. He faced more than a few challenges.

He knew that the Indians were great fighters in terms of archery, lance throwing and so on. He did not, however, know much of their hand-to-hand techniques. Since every culture possesses empty-hand fighting methods, it would make little sense to suppose that America’s many Indian tribes did not. Unfortunately, the details of much of their culture, including hand-to-hand fighting, were lost when waves of settlers from Europe migrated west.

Chief wasn’t discouraged. He drew on two sources to develop the system that would eventually be called tushkahoma, which is Choctaw for “red warrior.” First, he learned grappling and striking techniques passed down to him by his father and uncles. For the most part, however, he knew he would have to recreate the lost fighting systems based on the Indian way of life.

It All Starts With the Knife

Indians carried knives as customarily as modern Americans carry a driver’s license. It was an all-purpose tool as well as a weapon. If a close-quarters altercation began, it’s reasonable to assume the combatants did not put down their weapons.

Once you imagine a fight with knives, a system begins to emerge. A system is not a hodgepodge of techniques but a set of moves unified by reasonable assumptions and a short but essential list of underlying principles.

Assumption No. 1: Knife fighting exists in reality. All Chief’s training is reality-focused, and that’s especially true for the red warrior system. Many martial arts neglect hand-to-knife combat based on the very reasonable assumption that it’s virtually impossible to even the odds in a fight against an armed assailant. Since most arts are sport-based, you wouldn’t pit an unarmed person against a person with a knife any more than you would put a lightweight in the ring with a heavyweight.

In the reality of the American Indian, however, there were no doubt occasions when one person lost his knife during an altercation. Did the unarmed person at that point simply bare his throat and wait for the end? Certainly not. In a world where everyone was packing a blade, might martial arts teachers have thought about the eventuality of losing one’s weapon? Certainly.

Reality involves virtually no margin for error. In sport, you can take a strong but wild swing; it’s a calculated risk based on your vulnerability to being counterattacked. You may get hit by that counter, and the worst case will be that the ref wakes you up to fight another day. In life-or-death situations, however, extreme caution is called for. If you get shanked, you probably won’t get up.

In reality, there’s no rest break and no bell at the end of three minutes. Your fight may last 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Every second counts against you. Exhaustion has the same skill-numbing effect as alcohol or drugs. Try staying away from someone swinging a knife at you in a closed room. He’ll expend virtually no energy, and you’ll be hopping all over the place. Your physical strength and conditioning may be greater than his; but sooner than you imagine, you’ll be cornered with no energy left to defend yourself.

Assumption No. 2: A warrior escapes from the encounter when possible. One of the hallmarks of reality-based self-defense is retreat. In a street fight, a weak ego with false pride may consider it necessary to “hold one’s ground.” In life-and-death warfare, there’s a logical dictate to avoid defeat and secure victory. Frequently that goal calls for retreat, even by the bravest and best. SEALs and Green Berets don’t fight against the odds if there’s no need to do so. They’re not out to prove anything.

In the same way, only the most foolhardy of Indian braves would have fought unarmed against a knife if there was any possibility of escape. Note that escape isn’t always synonymous with running away—for example, fleeing isn’t an option if it involves leaving a loved one behind or if you’re slower than your attacker.

Underlying Principles

The practitioner of the red warrior system understands that knife fighting is life or death, and when faced with an unavoidable duel with a blade-wielding assailant, he follows five basic principles.

Principle No. 1: Establish your base. All training emphasizes a strong base whether you’re on your feet or on the ground. (Chief prefers standing because rolling around on the ground when a knife is present can be deadly.) Establishing that base means getting out of the way of the weapon in a manner that gives your body firm support.

Opponents of knife defense point out, somewhat smugly, that you’ll get cut if you fight back. That’s like telling a boxer he’ll get hit if he enters the ring: It’s true, it’s obvious and so what? The boxer still needs to defend himself to the best of his ability. Of course, there’s a high likelihood of getting cut or stabbed in a knife fight, but quickly creating a strong base out of the path of the weapon can diminish that danger.

Principle No. 2: Intercept the weapon. This edict makes many students shake their heads. Establishing a safe base sounds like “backing away,” but that’s not the case. You must get close to the attacker, track the weapon and parry the hand that holds it. By intercepting the weapon, you build in a margin for error. Even if your technique fails—and every technique does fail sometimes—you will have moved the knife to where you want it to be.

Principle No. 3: Control the weapon. Now the logic of the first two principles becomes even more apparent. Controlling the weapon is the third, sequentially, but the primary one when it comes to importance. With a firm base and an interception, you’re in position to control. Once the weapon is controlled, you have at least a temporary respite and a chance to exercise your options. As long as you control it—which, in the case of the knife, means seizing the hand that holds it—you’re safe.

Principle No. 4: Take away the weapon. Acting on the assumption that your opponent knows what he’s doing, your control will not last long. You must disarm him, and that’s easier said than done. Since your opponent is no amateur, he knows he has to hold the knife tightly. A great deal of practice and finesse is required for the disarm, as well as an anticipation of cause and effect. He won’t be passive while you disarm him. For this reason, the number of techniques in the red warrior system is limited, but they’re modularized so they can be assembled in hundreds of combinations.

Principle No. 5: Neutralize your opponent. That usually involves doing physical damage to him. While it might sound vengeful, it’s not. It’s common sense. He has tried to kill you once; if he gains access to another weapon, isn’t he likely to try to harm you again?

The Dance of War

The aforementioned principles are also steps that must be followed, and they must be done in a flowing fashion, one moving seamlessly into the other. As the opponent thrusts his knife with his right hand, you zone to your left into a strong stance—a solid base—parallel to and outside of his line of thrust. Simultaneously, you use your left hand to contact and then grab, or intercept, the knife hand at the wrist/hand juncture, with your left elbow anchored at your side.

The need for a strong base becomes apparent because without it, you cannot turn the contact into a firm grasp of the wrist. A one-handed wrist grab isn’t a strong hold—until you rotate your opponent’s wrist counterclockwise to destroy his grip strength. Once that rotation is done, you’re temporarily in control of the knife hand. His grip is now weak enough for you to strip away the knife, but cause and effect says he’ll try his only avenue of escape—swinging the knife across his body and breaking your grip on the weak (thumb) side.

Thus, you step forward with his motion and strip the knife with your right hand. But you haven’t finished until you circle under his arm to effect a lock and drop to your left knee, pulling him down. Then you take steps to neutralize him.

Transcending the Knife

The red-warrior system has many counter-knife techniques, but it also has club-to-club methods, unarmed defenses against the club, and a range of defensive moves including bare hand vs. bare hand. All of them follow the logic of the knife.

As you read the principles above, one thing becomes clear: They apply to all effective techniques of self-defense. It’s only when you’re faced with a lethal edged weapon that you realize the need to show the proper balance of caution and aggressiveness that you should show in all fights. It bears reiterating:

•           First, always assume your fight is taking place in the real world. In competition, a touch to the stomach may score a point and a touch to the head may bag two points. That’s fine for tournaments, but on the street, if a small person hits a larger and stronger attacker in the stomach, it will likely have no effect. If that same small person slams a knuckle fist into the thug’s temple, it may be all the “points” needed.

•           In the real world, you should avoid conflict even if it means enduring insults. If you wind up fighting, you may have to deal with legal hassles afterward as you argue that you attempted to avoid combat.

•           In the case of a knife fight, you know your opponent is superior and potentially lethal. Assume that in every fight. Your opponent may be as skilled in a martial art as you are, and his kick may be able to cripple you as surely as a bullet. Forget the “invincible warrior” hype teachers may have given you. If Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis can suffer defeats, how can you imagine that you’re invincible?

•           If you must fight, establish a firm base. Try standing on one foot and boxing—silly, isn’t it? Yet some martial artists pay so little attention to stance they might as well be standing on one foot. A firm base doesn’t mean staying still; instead, it means striving to keep your balance even while moving.

•           Intercept the weapon. A parry is often better than a hard block. You can redirect even a powerful strike with a well-timed parry. On the other hand, a block effected against a powerful blow may not be effective and might even break a bone in your arm.

•           Control the weapon. In the red warrior system, you usually take your opponent to the ground by locking an arm or leg in such a way that he cannot strike.

•           Disarm the opponent. He’ll likely strike again once you release your lock, so you must to take away his weapon immediately. This disarming action may involve hyperextending his arm to traumatize the joint, striking him or causing excruciating pain. You must do whatever is necessary to render him harmless.

•           Neutralize the opponent. In sport, a submission ends the fight. In reality, he may submit and then begin fighting again. There’s a fine line between defense and counter-aggression. If the fight is halted, your assailant is neutralized even if you haven’t “paid him back.” But equally important, remember that you cannot take a chance on letting him resume his violent acts before you’re able to escape.