23 February 2011

ISR Matrix: The Definitive Review and Interview

ISR Matrix is a self defence system which teaches a linear response that aims to overcome an attack in a progressive manner. The defenders response can be scaled depending on the nature of the attack. In particular, the response is scaled according to the legal use of force continuum. For a more aggressive attack, more force can be used where necessary. Where little real threat is present, control is used to neutralize the attack.

This organic ability within the system is one of its strengths. Although ISR Matrix is targeted primarily at the Law Enforcement (LE) and Armed Forces (AF) communities, they also cater to civilians. It is well understood that LE and AF personnel need to adhere to strict use of force guidelines however, most self defence systems for civilians ignore such a reality. Everyone needs to be concerned with use of force. A person defending against an attack can legally use too much force purely out of a reaction or overly aggressive training and end up in court and then prison. CCTV is everywhere. This is very important.

Review and Interview

This post is an independent review of ISR Matrix so that subscribers and readers of Low Tech Combat can better understand the system and make an informed decision as to whether they should pursue opportunities to participate in one of the ISR Matrix courses. Included is an exclusive interview with Dave Pauli who is the Australian representative for ISR Matrix. This in itself is excellent reading! Some of the key strengths and weaknesses of the ISR Matrix system will be explored as well.

UPDATE: Since first writing this review, the writer of this post (Adam @ Low Tech Combat), has participated in an ISR Matrix course, so this post has been updated where necessary. Not much has needed to be changed actually. Indeed many of the comments at the bottom of this post (which are numerous and positive) make more sense since having now done a course. The quick version, it is highly recommended!!

Note: This is a long post, even for Low Tech Combat standards.

ISR Matrix was founded by Luis Gutierrez in 1996. It is based on the principles of Aliveness. Luis Gutierrez is also the vice President of Matt Thornton's Straight Blast Gym. Therefore, we can see straight away that the system is very much focused on closing and clinching. This is how the system pressure tests its students. This is how the founders and instructors are able to test their system and prove that it works. Can they apply their system against a 100% resisting opponent in realistic scenarios? With much of the focus being on the LE and AF community, the focus is teaching that which works in real dynamic environments, within the use of force continuum.

ISR Matrix

ISR is an acronym which provides an overview of the entire system.

"I" stands for Intercept.

"S" stands for Stabilize.

"R" stands for Resolve.

The 9 Core Components

Within ISR Matrix there are 9 core components.

Within the "Intercept" phase there are the "Helmet", "Dive" and "Arm Drag".

Within the "Stabilize" phase there are the "Wrist Weave", "Harness" and "Underhook and Pike".

Within the "Resolve" phase there are the "S Position", "Back Rides" and "Arm Wrap and Knee Ride".

Overall, the system teaches a 3 stage response whereby the defender intercepts by either outflanking or closing aggressively with the attacker and achieves a controlling position to momentarily stabilize and neutralize the attack. When physically engaging, this is the first response to all attacks. From that moment and position of stability, the situation and resolution options are quickly assessed and the defender choses how to resolve the situation with due regard to the nature of the attack, the likelihood of it continuing and the legal considerations of the use of force continuum. The defender may chose to disengage, restrain or indeed apply striking techniques. This the beauty of the system in a day and age of legal prosecutions and a widespread network of CCTV cameras spreading through society.

Within the Use of Force Continuum

In a self defence setting, a simple locking or restraining hold may be all that is required to stop the threat. Remember that most assaults occur between people who know each other. You do not want to knockout uncle Bob just because he has been going through a rough patch and has had a few too many drinks at a family bbq. 

For an attacker who is still being aggressive and is still trying to attack the defender, further techniques can be used to stop the attack from a controlling position where the attacks are mitigated. Where there may be more than one attacker, a more destructive technique could be used. The person being held could be positioned between the defender and the other attackers or forcefully directed into them. Striking, dynamic takedowns and forcefully directing attackers into obstacles is always an option. At any time, the defender can disengage if required. 

The point is, once in this controlling position, an appropriate technique can be deployed depending on the level of threat. From these stabilising positions, the defender can think. This is very important. Thinking under pressure will enable smarter decisions to be made rather than just reacting through an entire encounter. It is known that in a real encounter, under pressure and stress, thinking rarely happens. This is normal. These stabilising positions facilitate and enable the defender to think. The advantages of this should not be overlooked. ISR Matrix has obvious advantages to any practitioner.

Aliveness is Central

One other aspect of ISR Matrix which is also key to its success and growing popularity is its ability to train its students in the system gradually and progressively. At first, the system can be taught slowly until it is understood and then it can gradually be stepped up in intensity by having the "attacker" resist the moves more and more until they are resisting 100%. This is important. 

Indeed, as an opponent resists, this leads to follow up transitions. The resisting opponent determines what technique the ISR Matrix defender will employ. They are not trying to force their techniques on the aggressor. This is one of the aspects of the training that impressed the writer of this review. The defender can easily transition from one hold to another, based purely on how the aggressor tries to resist from a stabilising hold. This happens to a good standard in a very short period of training time on an ISR Matrix course.

Like has been said many times here at Low Tech Combat, any system that aims to be teaching self defence as one its training benefits (be that self defence courses or martial arts), needs to be utilizing Alive training drills, so that students can apply their techniques and tactics under pressure.

Sensory Depravation and Overload

Once proficiency has been gained in utilizing the 9 Core Components against resisting opponents in various scenarios, there may be further additions to the training, venue permitting. Music is turned up loud. This is to overwhelm the sense of hearing. The lights are turned off. This is to limit the use of sight, humans most powerful sense. Lights are flashed on and off from a torch and shined over the place and into the defenders eyes. All of this aims to take the student out of their comfort zones and raise the heart rate and apprehension.

In such a state, no fine motor skills will work. Such lengths are gone to because in real situations, the conditions may not be ideal as well. ISR Matrix is designed to work regardless of environmental conditions and stressors. Drills such as those briefly described above greatly enhance the participants confidence in the event of experiencing similar stressors in the future.

Interview with the ISR Matrix Australia Head Representative

Low Tech Combat has been in touch with Dave Pauli, who is the head ISR Matrix representative in Australia. I have asked Dave to answer some questions about ISR Matrix for the subscribers and readers of Low Tech Combat. Dave has surprised me very much with some very comprehensive answers which make very interesting and informative reading. I got a lot out of it. I am sure you will get a lot out of this interview as well.

Let’s get into it.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

What do you feel are the 3 best aspects of the ISR Matrix system?

Dave ISR Matrix:

The core ISR techniques enable the participants to train with high levels of intensity for extended classes with practically zero risk of injury. High levels of intensity in training are essential for the participant to have confidence in themselves and the system and to burn the system to memory. Systems that rely on bone breaking, joint manipulations and so on simply cannot be tested under pressure in training.

All ISR techniques are truly multi-purpose and interchangeable, offering a lot of bang for your buck across a wide range of situations. Less is more… fewer techniques means quicker reaction times and more training time available to build expertise in each of those skills. This aspect, along with the emphasis throughout the ISR on structure based defence, dominant positioning, environmental control/situational awareness and ready transitions between techniques and use of force options ensures street applicability.

The training method and the people behind it cannot be overlooked. The ISR Board of Directors is comprised of some of the finest sworn law enforcement and military use of force training professionals worldwide. The proven coaching methods and techniques have been refined in their own successful and progressive MMA gyms and within their special operations teams. We have one instructor that served in a military special operations unit followed by over 30 years on a busy full-time SWAT team, all the while training and competing in functional combat sports. Most have over 20 years experience at the sharp end.

The ISR approach has been validated by the ISR Board of Directors, both in competition against trained resistors and in the streets, jails and night clubs from Iraq and Afghanistan to the United States, Canada and Australia where the bad guy is not bound by rules. The ISR material has been tested under extreme levels of resistance during our internal R&D and the team routinely beat up on each other to validate the truth in combat. I have not seen this level of commitment nor this level of operational and training expertise evident in other systems that I have trained under.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

What are the 2 biggest shortcomings of the ISR Matrix system?

Dave ISR Matrix:

Currently the single largest shortcoming of the ISR is that demand is close to outstripping supply. Our ISR Matrix LE Instructor Trainers remain full-time Law Enforcement Officers and run MMA gyms part time. ISR Matrix is in demand worldwide and although we regularly conduct courses for various agencies, we simply don’t always have the instructional staff on hand to readily deal with every short notice course request that comes our way. That said we are not about to compromise on the training standards required of ISR Matrix Field Instructors and Instructor Trainers.

Further to the above, we simply don’t have the time, the staff and in many cases the interest to create a full-time marketing division to raise awareness of the ISR and the extent of our training programs. We are well known in LE/MIL training circles amongst the better units as that’s our core business. We aren’t as well known in civilian circles as some of the better known systems out there that are run by retired Officers or civilians. ISR was established in 1996 and only advertised to civilians in the past couple of years. ISR Matrix has 3 different streams and numerous levels and modules available within those streams.

ISR is best known for the subject control material, however there are further training modules available that integrate with our core material such as ground survival and escape, attached and unattached striking, vehicle based combatives and clinch with cloth, all of which are exceptional and battle tested programs in their own right. All too often, potential students and sometimes even those that have trained with us for one course, have an incomplete view of the depth of the ISR system.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

What areas of ISR Matrix are likely to evolve in the future?

Dave ISR Matrix:

Although we continually pressure test our material, the actual techniques themselves will likely not evolve a great deal. They have stood the test of time over hundreds of years in their respective combat sports and thousands of encounters over 15 years of our own internal R&D. That said in the unlikely event that we find something more functional we will pressure test and adopt it if it meets our needs and enhances the system.

Our training methodology is undergoing continuous subtle refinements as we closely monitor developments in adult education, sports psychology, performance under stress and use of force training research. We are often developing new drills to teach or reinforce our proven tactics in a more efficient manner.  We recognize the limitations placed on training budgets and training hours and seek to develop the finest possible exponents within the constraints of Departmental realities in training.

We are continually getting operational feedback from our course graduates, workplace liasions, Field Instructors and Instructor Trainers that are actively involved in high threat law enforcement and armed forces operations worldwide. As a specialist training provider without a large instructional cadre and without restrictive hardcopy “doctrine” we are well placed to quickly respond to emerging threats and new developments and nowhere is this more evident than our ISR Matrix AF stream where there is always an abundance of new variations and drills to be dissected at each of our regular Instructors summits.

We have been reluctant to release manuals and instructional DVD’s in the past given concerns over quality control and the potential for people to take this intellectual property and teach it as their own without ever having attended a course or properly understanding the material. However as the ISR grows in popularity and demand from our affiliates thirst for knowledge increases, some of our clinch with cloth material will be offered in instructional DVD format and some of our core material will become available in manual format.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

What is one of the best drills used in the ISR Matrix courses?

Dave ISR Matrix:

From the very first low pressure drill, through to the last high pressure drill, each drill has its place and is a stepping stone that contributes to the students success. That said it’s not possible to identify the best drill as they are all important for the students development. Feedback from students indicate that the better drills are those that prove challenging to their previous skillsets and highlight the importance of choosing function before form, especially in low light environments and confined spaces. ISR isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about what works in the real world.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

That’s fair enough Dave, there may be no ‘best’ drill, but could you just explain one of the basic drills found in ISR matrix for the readers of Low Tech Combat?:

Dave ISR Matrix:

I could take the easy option and give an example of a simple drill, but that would be both short changing you and not giving an accurate picture of the ISR. A single drill in isolation would appear to be "just another tool for your toolbox" or just another party trick. What's more important to ISR than the drill itself is the desired learning outcome of our systematic progressive drilling. A key strength of the ISR is the ability to control, assess and reassess while transitioning to other core techniques within the matrix. We don't train to get stuck in a rut by over training a certain pattern with a compliant partner.

Although there is a small selection of techniques in the ISR, there is an infinite number of drills or sequences available. Each drill I teach is an evolution of the previous drill  and a step to the next drill. We introduce new drills every few minutes throughout the course by inserting another variable, another movement, another tactical consideration and/or another element of subject resistance and 99% of our drilling involves degrees of resistance (aliveness).

My aim through drilling and stimulus response training is to have students reach a stage where their initial physical control response to a hostile act occurs without conscious thought, leaving the students mind free to consider the situation, the environment, their options and consequences for selecting a course towards resolution - i.e. restraint, disengage, induce trauma or employ a weapon or other tactical option.  Think of it as instilling tactical problem solving ability on the fly.

To answer your question,  an example of a basic drill that illustrates my point in layman's terms could be: the subject throws a punch (any punch), you cover, intercept and take up a modified clinch then push him away to disengage to safety. That's an example of a basic drill and it's a drill that won't work all the time, that's why I chose it to illustrate this example.

ISR students however would constantly train a series of minor environmental, situational and subject variations, drawing on tactics from the rest of the ISR where necessary to enable that tactic to apply with a wider range of situational and environmental considerations - i.e. rather than the student learning a single technique, they now have a functional and adaptable skill with the ability to apply it to multiple situations and problem solve mid fight.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

Fundamentally, cases of Assault and other attacks such as Muggings and Robbery are quite different to each other with different mind sets, approaches  etc. One is very Predatory in nature (muggings and robbery) and one is what we call Alpha Male in nature (Assaults). What type of attack does ISR Matrix mostly concentrate on?

Dave ISR Matrix:

While an understanding of criminal methodology and profiling is a most useful pre-fight self defence skill, when a fight breaks out, the reason why a fight erupted is of secondary concern to actually dealing with the fight. ISR picks up where the other systems leave off in that a students first course especially, the training is almost all about the in-fight. We don't engage in drawn out  reality based style scenarios that may try to establish or deal with an attackers motives when we can instead be drilling and attaining proficiency in functional self defence skills. With that in mind, we train for probability not possibility.

Historically speaking, with a background in training private security, corrections and police, ISR students are at risk from a physical assault ambush during a field interview or resistance during restraint. That's primarily what we train towards. A committed attacker will most likely come at you with either punches, a tackle, a grab or push and ISR deals with that very well.

An attacker who resists the control and restraint process is another typical threat that is thoroughly addressed by ISR. Given that our tactics are functional and multi-purpose there's no reason why they can't be utilized in other less common self defence scenarios that become physical. For the hardcore RBSD scenario fan, many utilise the ISR Matrix tactics in conjunction with their existing pre-fight awareness and communication skills.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

Will someone be proficient at dealing with most self defence situations after doing one ISR Matrix course? Please expand.

Dave ISR Matrix:

ISR deals with probability, not possibility. If you are seeking an intensive course that offers tangible benefits and measurable success in dealing with common assaults then you have come to the right place. ISR training instills immediate instinctive reactions to these common attacks and students are physically performing well after 3 days, far better than an equal amount of time spent training in less functional systems or with a less functional training method. We will perform around 1000 repetitions of each technique in a course under progressive alive resistance through many different drills and thousands of technique transitions.

After 3 days hard training, students with no previous martial arts background are able to consistently deal with larger, stronger, fitter and better trained attackers. The many testimonials on our website speak volumes of the speed at which our students develop functional skills. That said, more is always better and a students performance and understanding improve dramatically on subsequent courses – another reason why we don’t award instructor status after just one course.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

Can you provide some real world examples of some people who have done an ISR Matrix course and have applied what they learnt in real situations?

Dave ISR Matrix:

There are many. Some that immediately come to mind –

  • A bouncer that successfully applied a torso control technique on an aggressive patron only hours after his first day of ISR training.
  • Numerous watch house officers who have earned reputations as the go to guy to restrain hostile prisoners because they have demonstrated functional subject control skills.
  • A Crowd Controller who was jumped by six offenders in a hotel and was able to defend himself until backup arrived without suffering injury or escalating to higher levels of force.
  • A Police Officer that witnessed a brief demonstration of just one ISR technique and used that technique successfully on numerous occasions despite never having practiced it themselves.
  • A friend of a student who avoided an armed robbery or assault with a weapon in Indonesia because one of our students had talked with him about some of the pre-threat cues that were integrated into our ISR drilling.
Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

If you had to give away one secret about self defence, what would it be?

Dave ISR Matrix:

Nobody ever won a fight, there’s always consequences and rarely is anyone deemed a hero. The best you can hope for and indeed train for is to go home in one piece, surviving the fight, the trial by media and the courts with your integrity, bank balance, employment and relationships still intact. Training appropriately to achieve this outcome is vital.

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

What is one thing from the ISR Matrix system that readers of Low Tech Combat can take away right now to enhance their self defence skills?

Dave ISR Matrix:

Adopt an instinctive non-diagnostic, ambidextrous response that stops you from getting knocked out. All else fails if you are unconscious. Surviving the physical assault ambush, immediately gathering your senses and countering appropriately are essential to self defence. Question, test and filter your current techniques via alive resistance and only retain that which is functional - better still, save yourself the decades of research and development and come an learn it direct from us to get it right the first time!

Adam @ Low Tech Combat:

Dave, thanks very much for your comprehensive answers. Its been thoroughly enjoyable.

Dave ISR Matrix:

Thanks for the interview Adam, it’s been a pleasure.

Great stuff. I am sure will all agree. Now we will have a look at what can be perceived as being the strengths and weaknesses of the ISR Matrix system.

  • Legal considerations covered by operating within the use of force continuum.
  • Alive training allows for pressure testing and quick learning times.
  • Gross motor techniques work under pressure.
  • Realistic physiological responses are stimulated.
  • Technique selection and progressive training methodology ensures safe training despite the high level of intensity.
  • Emphasis on training for position later lends itself to striking and combatives from a position of safety.
  • Once foundation skills are established, there are further modules available to address ground and striking applications that integrate with the foundation skills
  • Lack of training at the pre-fight stage.
  • Use of strikes are limited in the earlier stages of ISR Matrix training modules.
  • Closing can be unnecessary/dangerous in civilian circumstances.
  • Closing can be a bad choice if an attacker turns out to be a trained grappler.

Let's address the weaknesses first.

Lack of training at the pre-fight stage -

ISR Matrix is unashamedly interested solely in the actual combative phase of any conflict. It lets other systems deal with, and teach, the pre-fight aspects such as recognizing the nature of the approach and pre-attack signs and indicators. This allows the system to focus purely on drilling and attaining proficiency in the physical responses of any type of physical encounter. If you are interested in learning about and understanding the pre-fight stage of conflict, ISR Matrix courses are not for you. If you want to quickly achieve a good level of physical skills, this is the course for you.

Use of strikes are limited in the earlier stages of ISR Matrix training modules -

From such a base where control is first sought (as in ISR Matrix training modules), strikes can easily be delivered from a position of control. In particular, elbows and knees. This is why in earlier modules, the focus is on first achieving that control or position. One can argue that this weakness is actually a strength in that attempting to apply strikes from a poor position or even trading blows is a poor tactic. The ISR trainers are generally Combat Sport coaches so in later modules, striking is covered well and effectively. Once a base in achieving a good position has been attained, strikes are then taught in later modules. For people who like striking, they just need to wait and learn the fundamentals of control first. And then they can unleash their awesome strikes hehe.

Closing can be unnecessary/dangerous in civilian circumstances -

The topic of closing vs not is a larger topic than there is room for here. Some like to close, some like to stay away from an attacker. Some like to control the attacker, others like to stay away from their weapons. The approach used by ISR Matrix in their civilian modules is always to escape where possible. 

It is the belief of both ISR Matrix and Low Tech Combat that closing is actually the better option as that is the best place to control the encounter from. Less force can actually be used. Strikes are not necessary, but possible. Once control has been achieved in close, it is easy to disengage if necessary. Closing does not have to mean going nuts and going for the knock out elbow or pulling out an eye. Attempting to evade and slip and dodge an incoming attack from a distance can be seen to be a high risk approach as eventually, one of the attacking techniques will probably hit their mark.

Closing can be a bad choice if an attacker turns out to be a trained grappler -
The argument of closing against a grappler can be said also of trading blows with a Muay Thai expert or boxer. There are no final solutions. If you do close and the attacker is a trained grappler, then it really is not your day. Such a scenario is very unlikely. The opposite can be said to be true. Much more people have a basic understanding of striking and that is the most likely basic skill set (or simply behavior), of an attacker. Choosing to close is most likely to move the conflict into your strength area (up close) which mitigates the attackers most likely strength (strikes). There are no final solutions.

Less people in society are trained at grappling range than striking range. This gives a little advantage to anyone who closes rather than tries to 'box' an aggressor. Closing to a position of advantage (such as an aggressors back), is obviously a good thing, even against a grappler. As is often the case as well, grappling range often just happens regardless of either persons intent to close to that range.


Much of these weaknesses once they have been looked at, are not really weaknesses at all but can be seen as strengths in a solid reality based self defence approach.

With these weaknesses considered, along with the strengths, Low Tech Combat has no issue with recommending ISR Matrix as a Low Tech Combat approved training provider. Such training with a basis of Aliveness and Use of Force (Legal) concerns is absolutely vital in todays day and age for anyone interested in time effective self defence training. We can see a similarity between what ISR Matrix offers and what Low Tech Combat offered as a possibility some time ago as to what would make an excellent Reality Based Self Defence (RBSD) course.

Upcoming ISR Matrix Courses

Of note, there are numerous ISR Matrix courses coming up soon around the world. You can check out when one is coming to a place near you soon HERE.

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts? Have you participated in an ISR Matrix course? What did you think? If not, do you intend to do one? Do you have any questions for Dave? If you have any, I will contact Dave and let him know and give him the option of replying here. Leave your thoughts below.

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  1. Thanks for writing a thorough review Adam, I look forward to you training with us at some stage and writing chapter 2!

    Just to clarify on the pre-fight material I wanted to add that basic indicators such as target glances, definitive weight shifts, clenching fists, reaching for weapons etc are most definitely addressed on course and actually weaved into all the drills. We take a practical approach to this and it's not a theory lesson as such.

    Something that we don't do on a basic course is run mugging/robbery scenarios where one person is trying to talk his way out of trouble and the rest of the class is waiting for their turn. It just doesn't make sense to waste time with one students bad acting when all students can be drilling hundreds of critical incident micro scenarios in the same time frame. They will remember the skills that they learned under stress and we need to make sure they have the right skill base before they are exposed to stress. Full blown adrenal stress conditioning scenarios are applied later in system.

    Thanks again for a thorough review!

  2. Having trained in various martial arts and also Close Quarter Combat, I would say ISR is definitely the most useful. People often say to me, where are the strikes, why don't you 'take out' the offender? And I used to think the same thing. but as Adam said, even those concerned only with self defence need to be aware of use of force. That's where ISR really shines. Having trained in CQC for years, I realised that I had been trained into someone who was going to seriously injure or even kill an attacker (If things went the way they did in training), and de-escalation was not easy because it did not take into account the level of resistance given to me by an attacker. At the same time, strikes are easily incorporated to the techniques if you need them.

    I feel much more confident using ISR as opposed to other systems because I know it will not fail. Sometimes with other systems, you have to 'be in the right position' or 'step precisely so' in order for a technique to be effective. With ISR you can confidently employ all techniques without worrying about whether your feet are in the right place. In fact, at the end of an ISR course, you can employ all techniques with your eyes closed! Under stress, I find ISR comes out without even thinking. Before I've even consciously thought about 'getting into a pre-combat stance', ISR has taken over and I have control of the attacker.

    I would recommend ISR for everyone, I first took the Physical Management course before I was in security, and was learning purely as self defence. The second time I took the course, I was employed in security, and I was learning the same skill set with a different focus. ISR is also tailored to LE and MIL, with additional content and techniques.

    ISR is the best system I have found that allows me to confidently take control of a fight, and be able to defend my actions after the fight. It is a safe, easy to learn system that can save lives.

  3. Thanks for that additional feedback Dave. Much appreciated. Certainly sounds good.

    Abby, thanks for your comments regarding your experiences of the Physical Management course.

    I am certainly keen to do one of the ISR Matrix courses.

  4. Good review of a really great system.
    I mainly trained in kickboxing and a little BJJ before attending two courses over a couple of years.
    The techniques were instantly recognisable as more practical (and simpler) than anything I'd previously learnt. And every 'self defense' technique I've learnt since has been compared to ISR for functionality and ease of use.
    When I took the second course I was surprised by how well I had retained the skills from the first course, though I shouldn't have been as they were simple, effective and drilled into us very well.
    The 'aliveness' and the training methods really allowed people of all skill levels to progress very quickly and everyone was proficient by the end of the three days. Being able to resolve a situation with attacker after attacker certainly improves your confidence in yourself and the system.
    I don't work in a dangerous environment anymore but I would still recommend this course to any civilian looking for a solid, realistic and reliable self defense system.


  5. A great review but it still doesn't do the ISR justice! I don't think any review can!

    I've trained MMA for ten years and competed at amatuer level. I bounced in rough clubs and bars for years before becoming a Police Officer working in a busy entertainment district. I've been exposed to degrees of violence for years now - here's my brief review of ISR:

    This stuff rocks!
    I was pressured into going on a course by my colleagues who insisted that it was the best thing since slice bread. Eventually I gave in, just to stop their persistent coercion. Boy am I glad that I did. I didn't think I'd learn anything at all. I thought ISR would be like every other deadbeat security or police system out there that just doesn't work or is downright inappropriate due to excessive force. (Martial artist commando pants wearing wanabe's take note: eye gouge or throat strike someone who touches your shirt or pushes you and you are going before the courts!)

    So I attended the course already determined that it would be bs, not practical and not appropriate. I couldn't have been further from the truth! Dave is a good coach and although he doesn't talk about himself on course his background in use of force training and operations is evident in the manner in which he teaches. No matter how complex a question is asked, Dave can talk through the related issues and considerations before coming back to a simple solution that exists within the core ISR techniques.

    Not only did ISR change my entire approach to Police defensive tactics and subject control, it's now EXCLUSIVELY what I use at work (forget the stuff we are taught at work!) and it's now the core of my MMA approach. My work = ISR + handcuffs and my MMA = ISR + subs. My ISR inspired MMA training is no longer just my hobby and sport, it's now part of my training to stay safe at work as well. I've got a family and my income pays the bills so it's important to me that I stay out of trouble, keep my job and don't get fired, injured or killed. I've already taught the helmet to my wife and kids. ISR is a life and career saver. It should be mandatory training for all Police, security and military.

    Readers do yourself a favor. Attend at least one ISR course ASAP! If this Low Tech Combat review and all the reviews, articles and testimonials on the ISR Australia website can't convince you then nothing can. This stuff just works!

  6. Abby, Daevid, Anon - thanks for the feedback.

  7. Daevid, thanks for your insights. I found the part where you say on the second course after a fair time period, you had still retained much of the skills. A good sign of effective training methods.

    Anon, I like how you've put together ISR + handcuffs for work and ISR + submissions for MMA training. Nice way to organise and prioritise your training!

  8. as a self defence instructor i was always getting security officers and police coming to training looking to increase their skills
    but then say i cant do this or that
    the isr matrix solves this
    if its good enough for police and security is good enough for civilian
    i have shown kids for anti bullying to use the helmet and even used with great effectiveness in the mma class
    can not recommend the isr matrix high enough

  9. ISR should be compulsory training for anyone working in the industry. I learnt more useful skills from Dave before the first water break than I had learnt on courses of up to two weeks duration with other systems and in six months at the Police academy!

    My colleagues are often injured at work or accidentally injuring suspects. I haven't had that problem and I credit that to ISR training.

    I can't say enough good things about it. For all you guys and girls that use force as part of your job this course is a must do. It's the cheapest form of life, health and career insurance you will ever get and it's tax deductible. Get on board!

  10. On behalf of I.S.R. Matrix International, thanks for the comprehensive review. If I could just add a few points...

    Many of the Field Instructors in our organization have a significant amount of training and teaching time invested in Pre-Contact/ Pre-Combat Psychology where Non Aggressive postures, first strike options, etc. are strongly emphasized. Simply put, that information is already out there and the big name(s) teaching it have already developed to as high a level as is usable. The ISR Matrix was designed to be either integrated into an existing Control/ Combatives program or to function as a stand alone system. The Pre-Fight material is there, but depending on the audience, may get streamlined to get the people “moving”. We try to balance the tactical and strategic information with the mechanical skills components in our courses and give our students and instructor candidates things that they need to both enhance their survivability and help them to justify their actions and deal with the post event scrutiny that always seems to follow Use of Force incidents.

    Good point on the use of strikes in the earlier stages. In a basic ISR LE or PM course, we strive to give students a workable strategy for controlling a hostile subject and doing no more damage than is necessary… but if necessary, to enough damage to regain and maintain control in a way that is practical, tactical and professionally responsible. That is the focus, based upon the professional standards of Law Enforcement and Security Professionals who open themselves up to tremendous liability every time they go hands on. The majority of the core material is about establishing a “connection” with the subject through Interception. We see that “connection” as naturally occurring as combatants tend to grab things to stabilize them so they can hit them more effectively. The ISR Matrix is built around this connection, establishing it when desirable and disengaging from it when it is not. Early on, this is what we felt was being completely ignored in contemporary systems that assumed that all you needed was boxing and Aikido to punch a subject into a state of semi consciousness before finishing them off with a wristlock. In the intermediate stages of the ISR Matrix, we reemphasize the use of Strikes to set up entering into Stabilizer positions, using those positions to deliver effective strikes and using strikes as effective ways to disengage and prevent someone from entering in on you… A loop, if you will… and it’s all covered in drills starting on Day One of an ISR PM or LE course.

    Again, thanks for the review and hope to see you all at a training event in the future.

    Best Wishes,

    Fletch Fuller
    Vice President & Director of Law Enforcement Training
    I.S.R. Matrix International

  11. I trained with Fletch in Adelaide in 2009 and he is the real deal. Now a BJJ Black Belt and an MMA coach, he's also the head SWAT trainer for a big department in Florida and still an active SWAT operator.

    Fletch, Dave and all the ISR crew are good to go. Been there, done that and still doing it. I highly recommend ISR courses, you can learn more in one weekend than in your entire career.

  12. ISR Matrix has been well received by Military, Law Enforcement and Security Professionals because functions exactly as described: The ISR matrix is a dynamic full spectrum integrated system of subject control and personal protection that thrives naturally throughout use of force continuums and mission specific modes of operation used by both sworn and non-sworn professionals worldwide.

    I have completed a number of ISR training courses and I agree with the above review and comments.

  13. Fletch and all the others, thanks so much for the feedback on this review and all of your additional bits of information about ISR Matrix. It sure does add to the information about ISR Matrix and will no doubt help readers and subscribers of Low Tech Combat decide if this is a course they should do.

    It certainly does sound like the course to do in the 21st century where we cannot always go straight for the knock out or rip eyes out of heads. But if we need to, we can. Good stuff.

  14. ISR rocks! The best training out there bar none. After a lifetime of training in traditional martial arts, combat sports and modern mixed martial arts I'm a convert. ISR training gives immediate results. The attacker loses practically every time. On ISR course I was attacking students who had 2-3 days ISR training and no previous training and they were dumping me every single time! That's what sold ISR to me and made other training redundant. Can't wait for my next course. I really want to train ISR ground and ISR clinch with cloth!!!!!

  15. I agree with the comments of the posters above.

    I also appreciated the no nonsense approach Dave takes with the training. He lets the material stand on its own merits without trying to sell you a "lifestyle image", of how badass he is or you will be after finishing the course.

    The methodology really is well thought out. Lots of reps, intelligently chained together with progressive resistance. Also, Getting students to demonstrate their theoretical knowledge through teachbacks is a great way to deepen learning and knowledge retention for auditory and visual learners.

    Fair and critical feedback is also really good too. In fact, it was one of the motivators to go back a second time round.

    I believe it's the best value for money course of its type. After doing two courses I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to the clinch with cloth material.


  16. The other comments on here pretty much reflect my own thoughts on ISR. It's the best course I've ever done and I'm really glad that I attended because I was almost a no-show after I read on another forum that you can get an ISR Instructors ticket in a weekend and that they are all civilian wannabe's with no skills.... so I was pretty disappointed that I had only moments earlier parted with money to enrol in their course. Given that I had already paid and that I could only find one negative comment online amongst a ton of praise I gave them the benefit of doubt and ATTENDED THE COURSE AND I'M REALLY GLAD THAT I DID!

    There's definitely no wannabe instructors, Dave doesn't go into his background like many instructors do as it detracts from training time but it was evident that he had been there and done that when answering really tricky questions from the cops, bouncers, prison guards and soldiers in our group. There was a trainer from the police on the course who was also an ex commando - he said he had worked with Dave overseas and that he was always a solid operator and exceptional trainer. Dave didn't step outside the course parameters when demonstrating techniques (i.e. no flashy demo's of special instructor only techniques)but it was apparent that he knew the material thoroughly. It's apparent that Dave has been doing this stuff in one form or another for a very long time and understands the what-if's, legal and operational contexts very well.

    I've trained MMA for a few years and couldn't fault his technique or delivery - I learned a lot and I would recommend Dave and the ISR Matrix to anyone as a martial art, self defence or police arrest system.

  17. I love the structure of ISR, it parallels my own research and current approach. The one thing I wonder is the suitability of an inherently grappling-based system (at least at the beginning level) for kids vs adults, seniors vs younger, more athletic criminals?

  18. Trevor I wouldn't call the beginner levels of ISR a grappling based system. Sure there's a lot of clinch training leading to taking the back and takedowns but they aren't needlessly rolling around on the ground. The disengagement option is drilled relentlessly from both standup and takedowns. Combatives from a position of disadvantage and to assist in transitions are easily inserted into the mix. You could also argue that striking based systems aren't appropriate when there is disparity.

  19. 30 Years plus of Martial Arts training led me to believe I knew a fair bit about Combative Method and gave me a sense of being more then able of handling myself . I WAS WRONG !!!!
    Despite my doubts ; I was encouraged to attend an ISR Coarse and I have to say I am now a complete convert . ISR Matrix is a Stand Alone Method ;however it easily fits into any other system complimenting it . I watched Novice and Professional alike; take part in this coarse and each be transformed onto EQUAL FOOTING ; by the end . The novice was just as able as the professional by the end and just as effective regardless of the level of aggression and force they faced . As the Head Instructor of a Combative System ; I was exceptionally impressed by this system ; enough to become one of its exclusive ranks of practitioners .


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