What is Contemporary Fighting Arts?

Logo of Contemporary Fighting ArtsContemporary Fighting Arts (CFA), is a cutting-edge reality based self-defense system specifically designed for real world self defense applications. Since 1989, Contemporary Fighting Arts has been the world's leading authority on reality based self-defense training. Our dynamic self-defense system integrates all of the essential elements of the martial arts with practical, "street smart" life-saving techniques.

CFA is designed to provide you with the most efficient self defense techniques to avoid, defuse, confront and neutralize both armed and unarmed criminal assailants and to accomplish these acts in the safest manner possible. Unlike other martial arts, Contemporary Fighting Arts dispenses with impractical methods and focuses on reality based self-defense (RBSD) and street fighting preparedness. The bottom line is CFA teach you how to really fight!

Contemporary Fighting Arts is the culmination of years of research, analysis, experimentation, methodical innovation and reality based self-defense experience from self-defense expert, Sammy Franco. Its physical foundation is predicated on stylistic integration. Stylistic integration is the scientific collection of specific elements from various disciplines, which are strategically integrated and dramatically altered to meet three essential criteria for real world self defense: efficiency, effectiveness and safety.

Contemporary Fighting Arts draws upon the knowledge and wisdom of the martial arts, military combatives, police science, and human psychology. If you are truly looking for a martial art style that is engineered to work under real-life combat conditions, then you have come to the right place!


Before discussing the specific elements that make up the Contemporary Fighting Arts system, it is important to explain how CFA acquired its name. The first word, "Contemporary," was selected because it refers to the system's modern, state-of-the-art orientation. Unlike traditional or sport combat martial arts, CFA is specifically designed to meet the challenges of our modern world. 

The second word, "Fighting," was chosen because it accurately described CFA's self defense orientation. After all, why not just call it Contemporary Martial Arts? There are two reasons for this. First, the word "martial" conjures up images of traditional martial art forms that are antithetical to the system. Second, why dilute a perfectly functional name when the word "fighting" defines the system so succinctly? After all, Contemporary Fighting Arts is about teaching people how to really fight.

Let's look at the third and final word, "Arts." In the subjective sense, "art" refers to the self defense skills that are acquired through arduous study, practice and observation. The bottom line is that effective reality based self defense skills will require consistent practice and attention. Take, for example, something as seemingly basic as a punch, which will actually numerous hours of practice to perfect.

The pluralization of the word "Art" reflects CFA's multifaceted self defense instruction. The various components of CFA's training (i.e., de-escalation tactics,knife fightingstick fightingsubmission fighting, and so on) have all truly earned their status as individual art fighting forms and, as such, require years of consistent study and practice to master.

To acquire a greater understanding of Contemporary Fighting Arts, you need an overview of the system's three vital components: the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.

The physical component of Contemporary Fighting Arts focuses on the physical development of a self defense practitioner, including physical fitness, weapon and technique mastery and self defense attributes.

Physical Fitness
If you are going to prevail in a street fighting situation, you must be physically fit. It's that simple. In fact, you will never master the tools and skills of reality based self defense unless you're in excellent physical shape. On the average, you will have to spend more than an hour a day to achieve maximum combat conditioning.

In Contemporary Fighting Arts, combat conditioning comprises the following three broad components: cardiorespiratory conditioning, muscular/skeletal conditioning and proper body composition. The cardiorespiratory system includes the heart, lungs, and circulatory system, which undergo tremendous stress during a violent self defense situation.

The second component of physical fitness is muscular/skeletal conditioning. To strengthen your bones and muscles to withstand the rigors of a real fight, your program must include weight training and calisthenics. You will also need a stretching program designed to loosen up every muscle group. You can't kick, punch, ground fight, or otherwise execute the necessary body mechanics of self defense if you're "tight" or inflexible. Stretching on a regular basis will also increase the muscles' range of motion, improve circulation, reduce the possibility of injury, and relieve daily stress.

The final component of combat conditioning is proper body composition: simply, the ratio of fat to lean body tissue. Your diet and training regimen will affect your level or percentage of body fat significantly. A sensible and consistent exercise program accompanied by a healthy and balanced diet will facilitate proper body composition. Don't neglect this important aspect of combat conditioning. For more information see our War Machine book.

Weapon and Technique Mastery
You won't stand a chance against a vicious criminal in a street fight if you don't master the weapons and tools reality based self defense. In CFA, we teach our students both armed and unarmed methods of combat. Unarmed self defense requires that you master a complete arsenal of street fighting techniques. In conjunction, you must also learn the various stances, hand positionings, footwork, body mechanics, defensive structure, locks, chokes, and various holds.

Range proficiency is another important aspect of weapon and self defense mastery. Briefly, range proficiency is the ability to defend yourself in all three ranges of unarmed fighting. Although punching range tools are emphasized in CFA, kicking and grappling ranges cannot be neglected. Our kicking techniques consist of deceptive and powerful low-line kicks. Grappling range tools include head-butts, elbows, knees, foot stomps, biting, tearing, gouging, and crushing tactics.

Defensive self defense techniques also taught. Our defensive structure is efficient and uncomplicated. It provides the self defense practitioner with maximum protection while allowing complete freedom of choice for acquiring offensive control.

Self-Defense Training with the Body Opponent BagCFA's weapons program is unique to say the least. Our Students are also instructed in specific methods of armed fighting. For example, sticks and bludgeons are ubiquitous tools and are often used in street fighting. This is exactly why Contemporary Fighting Arts places a strong emphasis on "practical" stick combat.

In Contemporary Fighting Arts we have a knife fighting curriculum called the War Blade Program. This intense program is designed to teach the law abiding citizen how to use a tactical folding knife when faced with immediate threat of unlawful deadly criminal attack. Most people don't realize that a tactical fighting folder is an awesome self defense weapon. In the hands of a well trained citizen, a good knife will neutralize a vicious criminal attacker within seconds!

Contemporary Fighting Arts also provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date instruction about firearms as used for self defense and household protection. We provide specific guidelines for handgun purchasing, operation, nomenclature, proper caliber, shooting fundamentals, cleaning, and safe storage. Our firearm program also focuses on owner responsibility, the legal ramifications regarding the use of deadly force, and above all else...safety! We also have a variety of advanced firearm courses that cover a broad scope of topics including home invasion protection.

Combat Attributes
For any self defense technique to be effective in a real fight, it must be accompanied by specific combat attributes. Attributes are qualities that enhance a particular tool, technique or maneuver of self defense. Some examples include speed, power, timing, coordination, accuracy, non telegraphic movement, balance and target orientation.

Contemporary Fighting Arts has a wide variety of reality based self defense drills designed to develop and sharpen these combat attributes. For example, our students learn to defend themselves while blindfolded or injured, fight with everyday objects in their hands, and fight when distracted. Reality is the key to our self defense training.

For example, in class students participate in full contact self defense drills against fully padded assailants and weapon disarms are rehearsed and analyzed in a variety of dangerous reality based self defense scenarios. Students also train with a large variety of martial arts equipment, including heavy bags, body opponent bags, double end bags, uppercut bags, pummel bags, punching mitts, striking shields, mirrors, rattan sticks, foam and plastic bats, kicking pads, training knives, mock guns, full body armor and lots of different environmental props.

self-defense striking techniquesTHE MENTAL COMPONENT
The mental component of Contemporary Fighting Arts focuses on the cerebral aspects of self defense and street fighting. This includes developing the killer instinct, strategic/tactical awareness, analysis and integration skills, philosophy and cognitive skills.

The Killer Instinct
Deep within each of us is a cold and deadly primal power known as the "killer instinct." The killer instinct is a vicious combat mentality that surges to your consciousness and turns you into a fierce fighter who is free of fear, anger, and apprehension. If you want to survive the horrifying dynamics of real criminal violence, you must cultivate and utilize this instinctive killer mentality.

Strategic/Tactical Awareness
Strategy is the bedrock of self defense preparedness. In Contemporary Fighting Arts, there are three unique categories of strategic awareness that will diminish the likelihood of criminal victimization. They are criminal awareness, situational awareness, and self-awareness. When developed, these essential skills prepare you to assess a wide variety of threats instantaneously and accurately.

Contemporary Fighting Arts also teaches students to assess a variety of other important self defense factors, including the assailant's demeanor, intent, range, and positioning and weapon capability, as well as such environmental issues as escape routes, barriers, terrain, and makeshift weaponry. In addition to self defense assessment skills, CFA also teaches students how to enhance perception and observation skills.

Analysis and Integration Skills
The analytical process is intricately linked to understanding how to defend yourself in any threatening street fighting situation. If you want to be the best, every aspect of reality based self defense must be dissected. Every strategy, tactic, movement, and concept must be broken down to its atomic parts. The three planes (physical, mental, spiritual) of self defense must be unified scientifically through arduous practice and constant exploration.

Analytical exercises are also a regular part of CFA training. For example, we conduct self defense problem-solving sessions involving particular assailants attacking in defined environments. We move hypothetical attackers through various ranges to provide insight into tactical solutions. We scrutinize different methods of attack for their general utility in self defense. We also discuss the legal ramifications of self defense on a frequent basis.

self-defense altercationIn addition to problem-solving sessions, students are slowly exposed to concepts of integration and modification. Oral and written examinations are given to measure intellectual accomplishment. Unlike traditional martial arts, Contemporary Fighting Arts does not use colored belts or sashes to identify the students level of proficiency.

Philosophical resolution is essential to a fighter's mental confidence and clarity. Anyone learning the art of reality based self defense must find the ultimate answers to questions concerning the use of violence in defense of himself or others. To advance to the highest levels of self defense, you must find clear and lucid answers to such provocative questions as could you take the life of another, what are your fears, who are you, why are you interested in studying Contemporary Fighting Arts, and what is good and what is evil? If you haven't begun the quest to formulate these important questions and answers, then take a break. It's time to figure out just why you want to know the laws and rules of self defense and personal protection.

There are many tough street fighters out there. In fact, they reside in every town in every country. However, most are nothing more than vicious animals who lack self-mastery. And self-mastery is what separates the true warrior from the eternal novice. I am not referring to religious precepts or beliefs when I speak of CFA's spiritual component. Unlike most martial arts, CFA does not merge religion into its spiritual aspect. Religion is a very personal and private matter and should never, ever be incorporated into any fighting system.

CFA's spiritual component is not something that is taught or studied. Rather, it is that which transcends the physical and mental aspects of being and reality. There is a deeper part of each of us that is a tremendous source of truth and accomplishment.

In CFA, the spiritual component is something that is slowly and progressively acquired. During the challenging quest of self defense training, one begins to tap the higher qualities of human nature, those elements of our being that inherently enable us to know right from wrong and good from evil. As we slowly develop this aspect of our total self, we begin to strengthen qualities profoundly important to the "truth." Such qualities are essential to your growth through the mastery of inner peace, the clarity of your "vision," and your recognition of universal truths.

One of the goals of my reality based self defense system is to promote virtue and moral responsibility in people who have extreme capacities for physical destructiveness. The spiritual component of self defense is truly the most difficult aspect of personal growth. Yet unlike the physical component, where the practitioner's abilities will be limited to some degree by genetics and other natural factors, the spiritual component of self defense offers unlimited potential for growth and development.

In the final analysis, CFA's spiritual component poses the greatest challenges for the student. It is an open-ended plane of unlimited advancement.

sammy franco picture
Sammy Franco
Founder & President
Contemporary Fighting Arts



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