Meet the Martialist

By Eric Deen, 12 February 2008

Phil Elmore, publisher of The is, according to the “About” section of the website, “…a virtual meeting place and sounding board for a grass roots movement to restore ethics and realism to systems shrouded in misinformation and irrational mysticism.” They are, “…devoted to one goal: improving the standards in the Martial Arts…” Bullshido is the second most trafficked martial arts website on the internet, and the first category under their F.A.Q. [frequently asked questions] is about a man named Phil Elmore.

Elmore is a loved and hated controversial internet celebrity, a [30-something] year old freelance writer from [New York]. He is the writer of the online magazine The Martialist [], and one of the administrators of an online martialist community called Pax Baculum [] which roughly translates to, “Peace through force.” Elmore is the author of such books as Flashlight Fighting and Street Sword, whose titles are self-explanatory. He is a lot of things to a lot of people, but most importantly, Phil Elmore is a martialist.

According to the FAQ on Elmore, “…[Elmore] is claiming to be an expert in the field of self-defense, training, scholarly pursuits of fighting, and general warrior bad-assness despite his statements to the contrary. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to assess his credentials as you would anyone who presents themselves as an authority… He claims to have trained since 1990 but it appears he has never held a senior rank in any style (black belt or equivalent experience) nor has he ever been an instructor. He also has no amateur or professional fight record.”

It seems Bullshido’s beef with Elmore, though a long-standing and pervasive feud, is based mostly on his credentials, rather than his ideas themselves. “[The idea of] Martialism is the recognition of reality…” according to Elmore’s booklet on the topic, Be A Martialist, “ -– the reality of our dangerous world and the measures that best help you prepare for and achieve success in self-defense.” The rift seems to stem from the fact that many at Bullshido believe that preparation should include training in sport-fighting, or MMA [mixed martial arts].

According to Elmore, “Sport fighting is not a fight, it’s a duel — and in a duel, two people square off under a set of rules and try to be the toughest guy in the room. I don’t want or need to be the toughest guy in the room. I just want to be safe. Fighting unfairly means taking every advantage possible to ensure that you survive and go home to your family intact.”

In fact, the motto of Elmore’s The Martialist publication is, “For Those Who Fight Unfairly.”

Elmore believes that the bad blood is based on misunderstandings and misinformation perpetuated by ill-informed parties. Elmore, speaking without hesitation as though having spoken on the subject many times, said, “I wish that they would argue with me about my actual opinions. I am prepared for that, but most of my critics have issues not with what I’ve said and what I do, or don’t do, but with what they think I’ve said and what they think I do…or don’t.” He added, “I’m continually accused of either not training, or not training hard enough to meet some standard of pressure testing. This accusation is made blindly and repeatedly despite the fact that I continue to train. For example, I have attended, for two years running, a class run by a narcotics officer and SWAT [special weapons and tactics] trainer who trains citizens and LEOs [law enforcement officers] alike in close-quarters combat methods… At the culmination of one of the drills, I was pinned by not one but two individuals, one of whom I was beating in the helmet with my empty gun until the instructor called a halt. These things are done full-contact with appropriate protection. That is impact training. That is pressure testing. If it’s not, I cannot imagine what could possibly rise to this standard the Bullshido people do not themselves meet, but which they use as an excuse to vilify anyone who does not toe their sport-fighting line.”

Alexander Thompson, an outdoorsman, martial artist, self-proclaimed “gun nut,” and moderator at the Pax Baculum online martialism community said, while driving to pick up his new Irish Wolfhound pup, “[Bullshido’s] arguments that Phil doesn’t train are based on bullshit. Far as anyone I know can verify is that Phil trains in at least two systems along with many, many seminars with cutting edge pioneers in modern weaponry … gun fighting. What Phil doesn’t train in is BJJ and Muay Thai. Therefore he is not cool [to] them.”

Regarding Bullshido’s claims that Elmore considers himself an authority, Elmore said, “I don’t consider myself an authority, but rather an influence. If you go out on the internet and state your opinions, you will cause controversy. Controversy brings attention, and attention brings influence.” Thus, it seems that though Elmore and Bullshido may be less at odds than they realize, the perceived bad blood and controversy actually benefit both sides more than would a peaceful resolution, because they channel traffic in both directions.

Thompson said, “Bullshido’s opinion and criticism of Phil is not a unified voice, but it is majority negative. I think it has something to do with the zero attention span of today’s younger generations. They will post a self-mocking photo Phil produced himself, and take it seriously, or just out of context, and run with it in a spree of mockery, but no one will have read the article that accompanied the photo…and of course Phil deliberately agitates these people to generate traffic and publicity.”

Visitors to Elmore’s sites may also find humor in the many photos Elmore has taken of himself in martial arts poses and holding various firearms and martial arts weapons. Elmore insists, however, that it is all in jest. “The reason I appear in so many pictures on the site is because I think it’s funny to have a doughy white guy as the face of an online magazine. I thought I made it obvious by raising my eyebrow in every picture, but some people still don’t get the joke.”

Many might be turned off by the perceived aggressiveness of Elmore’s site and philosophies. As Elmore put it, “The idea [of martialism] is criticized as too aggressive or combative, but it’s not simply aggression. That’s an oversimplification. At its core is the idea of assertive living. It’s the opposite of pacifism. It’s not a new idea. This is how men used to be men, how citizens used to function through common sense and ordinary drive. This is the way people used to be!” He added, “Martialism is about everything you do in your daily life. It’s not a competition or a duel. It’s not about who’s tougher. It’s about getting home. [Martialism] is about knowing that your family will be safe between work and home and the grocery store.”

Regardless of his critics, Elmore will continue to write about self-defense, martialism, and assertive living on The Martialist and Pax Baculum. Elmore said, “To see people, and sometimes entire forums, arguing about things you’ve said, or even just hating you, can really do things to your ego. You have to remember that you’re really not that important. By the same token, when someone writes to you and says that something you wrote made them change the way they lived, and you realize that what you write can and does affect people’s lives, it really puts a lot of responsibility on you.”

Thompson, with a laugh, said, “Is Phil any good at what he does? Who knows? He doesn’t brag about his skills, or seek trophies.”

Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, Elmore’s supporters and critics definitely seem to agree on one thing: Elmore generates discussion, and according to Elmore, “Fair discussion is always good, and it’s all I ask.”


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10 thoughts on “Meet the Martialist

  1. I have come to understand one thing: In the “martial Arts” community, in order to get “recognition” you have to have a certification, senior rank, or something that makes you stand out…God forbid you have some actually combat experience, or have actually engaged in life of death situations. So what Phil Elmore doesn’t have any of those things, well here is the real issue; all the belts, certificates, ranking or what have you aren’t going to save you from the streets of what ever, most folks think they can predict an outcome of any situation, training can be what ever you make and in fact will give you the upper hand. Here is my favorite excuse: “I would have kicked his ass, but I have a 3rd degree black and my hands are registered as lethal weapons…a gentlemen told an EMT after he and I met in confrontation and as he was being loaded into the ambulance. The EMT commented; “Really?, because that piece of paper didn’t help you at all aaah ha ha ha ha haaaaa!!!!!

  2. I liked the bio and the comment, so I would like to add a little something. I’m Brazilian and when I was a teenager, more than 20 years ago, one of my fellow countryman became the Karate-do World Champion. Without mention names or years, the champion, still celebrating the title, came back to Brazil and went to a famous nightclub with some friends. He had a quarrel with someone and a single guy, empty-handed, with some knowledge about capoeira, kicked his ass badly. Unfortunately, the case ended up on gossip magazines and the champion vanished. Sport and combat are completely different things. You can only learn it by experiencing it.
    Congrats for your work.

  3. A Gracie black belt told me this, I like the way you guys train (Serrada) My guys don’t train like you guys, we’re sport. I told him you can choke someone out! He says on your very first lesson your told the lethel (DEATH) strikes which is top of head and left/right temples. The point he was making on my first lesson I was to taught to kill. No Belt required!

  4. Hello sir. There is a pretty much simple way to silence those who thrash talk, if you are a serious martial artist. Some years ago, certain people questioned a ninpo (which is pure survival) instructor in our country. But one day he accepted an invitation from the army and quickly defeated their black belt judo/self defense instructor with a throw. Little people doubt him now.
    So all you have to do is face a credible opponent, use a non – lethal technique which you as a self defense expert surely master (if you work as a bouncer, security, police officer, you need to restrain a guy (even if you beat him down you try to avoid critical injury) instead of kill him most of the time) and defeat him. Even guys from Bullshido will be impressed.
    As for that book, running around with katana is really not my cup. Perhaps in some imaginary post – apocalyptic world, but I would immediately throw a stone or knife at such a person. Even inside a house I would rather use a knife or short blade. More practical.
    Anyways it’s good to have people debunking bad teachers and products. Keep it up.

    1. You didn’t get it. The ideas of Phil are not for bouncers. The ideas are for life and death self defence, situations in which a woman must fight off kidnapping/rape/death against an experienced attacker! These situations cannot be reproduced effectively because a great part of them is psychological NOT physical! Such situations awaken your basic survival instincts. At its core it has nothing to do with martial arts AT ALL! I have actually been target of attempted kidnapping and I was also witness to an actual kidnapping and carjacking. I have great respect for Phil and I think he deserves a lot of recognition from the ordinary man on the street. What does it matter to me how skilled he is? What does it matter how HE can defend himself against an attacker? It is his ideas that can make a difference for ME and YOU. And there are few people I agree with more than I do with Mr. Elmore!

  5. It’s the oldest and truest combat principle out there…”When you have no choice BUT to fight….fight DIRTY”. Like my grandpa used to say “If you ain’t fightin’ dirty you ain’t fightin’ right” The notion of “honor in combat” is a myth. I’m a cop. In the academy after the DT instructors get done with the “dept policy” crap they ALL go off the record and tell us to fight dirty. “Make sure you go home at the end of your shift and worry about the lawsuits later”. If they ball their fist at you, give em some stick time. If they pull a knife or blunt object, pull your gun. If you even THINK they might HAVE a gun, yours should ALREADY be out of the holster and pointed at their head before they can reach for theirs. Certificates are just wall decoration and unless it’s holding up your pants, the only good a belt does you in a fight is if you use it to choke the air out of your opponent. It’s AMAZING what you can do to survive a fight if you go into it with the mindset that “this person could be perfectly willing to kill me”! Keep up the good info Mr. Elmore. Couldn’t agree with you more!


  6. No question about it. I was a corrections officer for 31 years, and the only injury I did NOT receive was a gunshot. Any swung fist or foot in your direction is a declaration of war. End that war as fast as you can, before anybody else gets hurt. Thanks.

  7. I am of the opinion that you assess the opponents’ abilities and intentions, cross-reference that with your short list of tactical objectives and then select your response. That is, not all attackers are capable of killing/maiming you nor are they intent on doing so. The higher your degree of skill, the better your ability to subdue the opponent without damaging him, or even better, to subdue the opponent without physically confronting him at all. Still, if you go through the world in the spirit of harmony, without the desire to hurt others, and you are attacked, you have every right to defend yourself with survival being the obvious goal. Interesting site.

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