BRAIN DUMP: The Tarani Improvised Weapons Course

tarani knife
June 2, 2017  
Categories: Learnin'

We recently sent Tom Marshall to do get his ass whupped at a training event (a Steve Tarani improvised weapons course). We were hoping he’d take a beating, and maybe endure a little public humiliation. After all, Steve Tarani is one of the most dangerous dudes we know. As it turns out, our intrepid correspondent learned a lot and came home with nothing worse than a few new bruises (sigh). Next year maybe we’ll send him to practice Aikido while running with the bulls in Spain. In the meantime, here are his thoughts about the course. 

A Shooter’s World Class Featuring Steve Tarani

Tom Marshall

Pictures Courtesy of Steve Tarani

Training Organization: Shooter’s World


Instructor: Steve Tarani (

Location: Phoenix, AZ

When: March 2017

Round Count: N/A

Reviewer’s Equipment: Old t-shirt for “flexible weapons” component. All other training equipment provided by instructor.

Reviewer’s Background: Tom Marshall has over a decade of experience working in high-threat countries around the world. A former Merchant Mariner, US Army Cavalry Officer and Private Security Contractor, Tom has traveled to 23 countries on four continents. He has also trained with some of the best in the industry including BlackwaterUSA, CTT Solutions and OpSpec Training.

Instructor’s Background: Steve Tarani has over 25 years of experience as a subject matter expert in protective programs operations and training. He has instructed numerous state and federal agencies including the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and Central Intelligence Agency.

Mix Of Students: Approximately fifteen students with a wide array of backgrounds including competitive shooters, retirees, college students and a contingent of active-duty Pararescuemen.

Class Overview: As the name implies, Improvised Weapons is a non-firearms combatives course focused on the full spectrum of non-ballistic weaponry. This two-day course was neatly compartmentalized into four distinct modules.

Mindset: Steve’s Mindset lecture was the only lecture-based learning in the entire course — and it was one of the few times in my life I’ve ever been truly engrossed in watching a PowerPoint presentation. He started with an overall look at the survival mindset, followed by some basic tenets of close-range engagements, like the relationship between physical distance, time, and the opportunity to act. Then the presentation turned to the mechanics of injury for each of the three types of non-ballistic weapons: impact weapons, edged weapons and flexible weapons.

The latter part of the presentation had some very graphic photos of the damage these weapons can cause to the human body. It’s one of the most informative illustrations of this subject I’ve ever seen, but the uninitiated may want to eat a light breakfast.

Impact Weapons:The first of the three weapons to be taught hands-on was Impact Weapons. These include literally anything hard enough to hit someone with. In fact, the block of instruction started with a down-the-line review by each student of possible impact weapons available in one’s every day environment. Everything from high-heeled shoes to scented candle jars and pool cues were mentioned and validated as legitimate possibilities depending on the circumstance.

This is where Steve really shines (well, shines again) as an instructor. He doesn’t teach katas, or techniques. His curriculum is heavily based on the principles of how to employ each weapon. For example, impact weapons are best employed against “hard targets” like joints and bones. He places great emphasis on getting his students to understand the mechanics of injury that each weapon type relies on – blunt force trauma, in the case of impact weapons. Once proper anatomical targeting is understood, the focus shifts to basic types of strikes and how to integrate movement into your attack or counter-attack.

Edged Weapons.

As opposed to impact weapons, which should be focused on hard targets, edged weapons excel at damaging soft tissue. Steve’s edged curriculum is available as a two-day course all on its own. But in this class it was limited, as with the other weapon types, to about a half-day of overview and orientation. Again, his instruction on anatomical targeting is both succinct and deeply informative. It is my experience that edged weapons curriculums can get very complicated very quickly. Steve has managed to distill basic edged weapons work into a handful of strikes that work with both a point-up or point-down grip left- or right-handed. As with the other two weapon-specific modules, the edged weapons piece included a brief exercise focused on forming a list of possible slashing and stabbing weapons that are available, or could be made in-extremis from items within arms’ reach.

While the focus was on improvised weapons as opposed to dedicated fighting knives, he also took some time to review the benefits and advantages of using a Karambit. I’ve always been a little wary of Karambits, perhaps because I’ve seen too many guys in Multi-Cam pants twirling them around like a key chain. Steve’s lesson has made me decidedly interested in learning some more about how to employ this unique blade, however.

Flexible Weapons.

The final segment of the course was all about flexible weapons. As you might infer, this covers non-rigid items that few people ever thing to employ as weapons: dish towels, bed sheets, t-shirts, ropes, extension cords, etc. This may have been the most eye-opening piece of the entire class. It opened me up to a whole new array of ordinary things I can now employ to combative effect. While the primary mechanism of injury for this type of weapon is through use as a ligature (strangulation) it may also be snapped momentarily rigid to block and redirect incoming strikes or blows.

Again, there are no strict katas or choreographed flow drills. It’s just a couple of very basic movements followed by a lot of practice. There was also a brief discussion of ways to disarm an attacker with a flexible weapon. I watched Steve strip training knives and blue guns out of people’s hands (including my own) faster than I thought possible with something as bulky as a towel.

Final thoughts: I’ve attended numerous of training courses, both on my time and on Uncle Sam’s, but I can honestly say I’ve never before experienced a course quite like this. Steve’s curriculum, presented in conjunction with Shooter’s World, was some of the most unique and utterly useful information I’ve ever received about self defense.

I highly recommend this course for anybody of any background and any skill level.

In addition to his normal instruction around the country, Steve Tarani also works closely with the FBI Citizens’ Academy and was a principal developer for the NRA’s non-ballistic weapons program, listed here.

Tango Yankee Chip

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