Author interview with Pete Canavan of ‘Corrections Officer Knife Survival: Self-Defense Training Course’

Author Interview with Pete Canavan


Corrections Officer Knife Survival: Self-Defense Training Course is a step-by-step knife defensive tactics course for corrections officers, law enforcement, military, security and public safety professionals as well as concerned citizens. Attacks from edged weapons can be more deadly than from guns; this course shows how to defend against knife attacks from all angles using gross motor movements that do not require fine motor skills that deteriorate under duress.



Pete Canavan has joined me today to discuss the ins and outs of keeping yourself safe in through the techniques outlined in his self-defense book. Pete, we don’t see as many books in the physical movement, sports or self-defense arenas so it is great that you’ve given myself and the readers a little of your time to chat about a world that many of us may not be well versed in. You obviously have a bit more exposure to this world, can you tell me what you found was important about knife attacks in the corrections fields that pushed you to write this book?

One of my students is a corrections officer at a Federal prison. They do not teach any sort of specific knife or edged weapon defensive tactics to corrections officers for some crazy reason. Basically they are told to “get out of the way” which is a completely ridiculous answer to a violent and potentially deadly attack. They are corrections officers, not matadors dodging a bull! He (Brian, my partner in the book) wanted me to help him create a program that would be something that his fellow corrections officers could learn that would help them during an attack.



That’s very surprising that corrections officers are not taught any defensive tactics as a part of their training, and probably wasn’t something that you believed that you would discover in your role as a defense teacher. Do you primarily teach self-defense or martial arts?

My main occupation for the last 25 years has been a computer consultant providing technical expertise, sales and service to clients in many varied vertical markets. Finally, I have also been involved in direct sales and the network marketing industry that introduced me to personal development in another way. From these 3 core areas I developed a passion for personal development and helping others through training in person, though webinars and via speaking and interviews. This led to a natural extension into writing and helped me write my first book on self-defense, the Self-Defense Survival Guide. My journey as a martial artist started about 20 years ago, and that has led me to this point more so than my IT background.



I’m glad to hear that your martial arts background has been more of an influence on this book than your IT skills! How do you believe that your martial arts skills and experience has contributed to this book?

As a student of the martial arts and now as a Master Instructor, I have been training and teaching self-defense to people of all ages and skill levels for over 20 years. This allowed me to take what I have experienced and be able to create simple, step-by-step instruction that gets this critical information out to the masses. We train with knives that have the same look, feel and weight as real knives but with a blunt edge. This gives those who are training the same characteristics as an actual live blade without the risk of serious injury. However, we put chalk on the edges of the blade so that during training we can analyze if and where we are “cut” in order to perfect the techniques. Nothing is “perfect,” especially in a knife attack. Chances are that you will get cut, but WHERE you get cut makes a HUGE difference! Knowing what you can and cannot do is critical information that you can only get from realistic training.



As you didn’t work in the correctional field yourself, how did you and Brian combine your talents to find the best techniques and tactics for corrections officers from your realistic training methods to Brian’s correctional knowledge?

I did tons of research! We reviewed dozens of different defenses from many different martial arts and self-defense systems plus studied real-world street fight scenarios with him in full duty belt, gear, boots, etc. to ascertain what would work to keep officers safe with all of that extra “stuff” on as compared to just street clothes or a martial arts uniform. I read different books and watched many hours of video to get additional ideas and defenses to try. Over the course of several months I was able to pull techniques from many different martial arts and self-defense systems. We pared down all of these many defenses to come up with simple techniques that work on a variety of different types of attacks. They can be learned quickly and easily by anyone who needs practical edged weapon defenses that work. This includes police, security, campus public safety officers, bodyguards, armored car personnel and of course, the public in general. With the recent knife attacks that have made headlines around the world this past year in places like Paris, London and the United States, having some sort of general knowledge about how to protect yourself and your loved ones from a violent person with a knife is essential information.



I love how your passion for this topic really shines through in your answer to every question that I asked and that you can see a benefit to everyone learning some of the techniques in this book. What do you believe is the most important thing that you wanted to communicate to readers in this book?

Many fighting styles do not address “real-world” scenarios and practice in environments that may not be the same as when an attack occurs. For example, different terrain and temperatures that you could find yourself in during an attack such as a snow-covered sidewalk and numb fingers from the cold (as during an outdoors prisoner transport) or just being outside in general. Practicing in the gym or dojo is fine, but don’t limit your training to these controlled environments. Get outside on varying types of terrain and differing temperatures. Put something slick on your hands to simulate blood. These are things that most systems never address, but you absolutely must if you hope to train in the most effective and realistic situations you may find yourself in.



Was giving realistic advice the most rewarding aspect of writing this book, or were you struck by something else?

That’s easy – knowing that what I was doing has the potential to save lives. I created this book for my friend and student to help him and his fellow corrections officers who desperately needed this type of training. I did not charge him for it; I did it to help. Likewise, my good friend Tom who has a video production company donated his time to shoot the videos and take the high-quality still photos. Thanks, Tom! The owner of the martial arts studio where I train (Master Vince) donated the use of his facility to us so that we could make this training course a reality. Thanks, Vince! I decided once it was done that I really needed to get the information out to as many people as possible, both those who are professionals as well as those who are not. Everyone needs some knowledge about what to do if they or a loved one is attacked by a knife-wielding maniac.



Now that you have completed your challenge to answer the questions on how to protect yourself from the knife wielding among us have you started thinking about a new writing challenge to tackle?

My next book is almost done and will be heading to the publisher by the first quarter of 2017. The title is “Staying Safe At College & On Campus” and it addresses the many safety concerns that are presented to college students. It discussed how to enhance your awareness, build confidence and increase your personal safety away from home. I’ve been working on it for that past year or so, and it covers basically anything and everything you can think of with regard to safety concerns in college. Not just the obvious physical safety concerns from robbery, sexual assault and rape, but things like alcohol responsibility, financial safety with regard to credit cards and ATM use, dorm room security, fire safety, party drugs, caffeine and energy drinks, establishing personal boundaries, defining safety concerns, bullying and cyber-bullying, cyber-security, social media and cell phone safety, travel safety, and much more!



Wow, it sounds like your new work is jam-packed with many tried and true tips for the college bound. Good luck with its upcoming release! Both of your books are solid non-fiction publications that give the reader strategies for improving their life. I’m curious as to why you feel compelled to write these books.

It comes easy to me, and I enjoy putting down on “paper” the things that I have learned over the years so that they may benefit others and perhaps save them some of the time and problems I have experienced. This includes not just my self-defense training. I have a membership-based personal development website ( that I created a couple of years ago that has dozens of training videos on it plus lots of written material. In addition, I’ve done many hours of training for another company I am still involved with on both a local and national level. I’ve always been a voracious reader, thanks to my mom who was a librarian and my dad who was a doctor of philosophy and a teacher. They were big readers, and instilled a love of reading in me and my 2 sisters from a young age. Now I am able to write my own books and I think that is largely in part from how much I read when I was younger, as well as how much I still read now. I’m always reading something, and on an average day probably read the equivalent of at least 100 pages in an average book between the newspaper, email, online research, forums, books and magazine articles.



Do you find new ideas for things to write about from your reading material? For example, how does your writing unfold? Do you have an idea or a question that you start with?

I come up with ideas, then formulate an outline. From that I begin to write. I usually try to complete a section at a time, whether it is a chapter or section within a chapter. That way I can be completely immersed in that portion of the book and work on it until it is complete. When I’m actively writing a book, I write just about every day depending on my schedule and what other things I have going on in my life. If I wrote on vacation, however I think my wife would not be too happy! Typically I will go back and re-read what I wrote the next day and may end up making some edits, but for the most part I work on a section until I am happy with how it reads. It isn’t difficult for me to stop and start right back up where I left off because I have the “master plan” with the direction and content that I want to include. This makes it easier to pick up where I left off. I usually write at my desk at the computer in my home office. However, if I am going to be somewhere else for an extended period of time with time on my hands, I will bring my laptop and can write just about anywhere. Even without a computer, I will dictate ideas into my cell phone which converts the words I’m speaking to text, and then I’ll copy them to the document later on when I’m back in front of my computer. Today’s technology makes it very easy to capture ideas and write anywhere. I’ve written quite a bit on my smart phone, believe it or not! It allows me to write, dictate, capture ideas, take pictures and perform research – all from the palm of hand anywhere I am.



Do your outlines include the final idea that you want the reader to pick up from the book, or does that tend to unfold more as you start putting pen to paper?

I have yet (!) to go down the road of fiction, but in terms of the direction of the books that I have written so far, it evolves as you write it. Sometimes you realize you need to add something, or that information may be better off placed earlier or later in the book. It is a process that doesn’t stop until the book is “done” and even then, you will always think of something that you could have done differently, done better, or forgot to put in the book. Can you say, “2nd Edition?” Lol!



*Laughs* Or maybe a sequel might work too. When you write do you find that you run into the issue of writer’s block?

Thankfully, I haven’t really experienced writers block – I have too much in my head to get out! Lol!




As I said earlier, writing comes easily to me, but again, I’m not writing fiction (at least not yet…) I can see how if an author is writing fiction and constantly needs to come up with ideas, environments, characters, situations, etc. that it could be much more challenging. To date I have only written from personal experience and things that I know or have learned/researched. This obviously makes it much easier for me. I would like to try my hand at fiction, and am a huge Sci-Fi fan, so I can see that in my future. I’m also an IT consultant, and so I am very familiar and comfortable with technology, so maybe there is a technological sci-fi thriller in my future! I have some pretty cool “adventure” dreams that if I could capture and get the main ideas on paper I could probably make a book out of one or more of them. The problem is finding the time…there are only 24 hours in the day!



That is always the challenge. As there are only 24 hours in the day, do you outsource the editing of your work, is this on the items that you need to fit into your 24 hours?

I edit as I write, then go back and re-read it at another time or two or three… In addition to being a librarian, my mom was also an editor. She used to let me help her proof-read manuscripts when I was in high school, and taught me a lot about editing and proof-reading including how to use editing marks, etc. In college I used to type up and proofread papers for other students for the whopping sum of $2/page. It was an easy way to earn some extra money and also help out friends who didn’t know how to type. My parents had the foresight to send me to my local high school the summer between 8th grade and my freshman year to learn how to type. It was one of the best skills I ever learned because it made me a very good typist. I can type around 60-70 wpm which is why my answers to these questions are sometimes a bit long! Lol! It’s probably also why it isn’t tough for me to write – I type fast.



I have to say that I feel that typing fast is quite often an underrated skill. It can be just so handy to hit those keys very quickly! Apart from improving their typing rates, is there any other tips that you think other authors considering self-publishing should do?

Yes – just start typing! You can always go back and edit what you write, but if you never put words on the “page” or the screen, then you have nothing. Even if what you start to write is bad, who cares! You can go back and revise it and make it better and better until you are satisfied with what you have written. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others; plenty of other writers have been where you are. Take you time to learn what you have to do in order to self-publish by following the guides that are provided on the different sites. I would strongly encourage you to read these guidelines before you ever write a single word! You may discover that you need to write your book a certain way, in a certain format before it can be published. It will be a lot better for you to know this ahead of time before a major problem presents itself!



We haven’t had any other authors advise to read the guidelines before publishing and I don’t think that’s the worst idea to take onboard. I have to agree that reformatting is a drag and just starting on the right foot can greatly reduce future frustrations. To wrap up today’s interview I’d like to move from the frustrations within the publishing world and onto the frustrations of the quick fire round where I pose some through proving questions into order for myself and the readers to get a better understanding of yourself as a person. Let’s start with: do you have any philosophies that you live by?

My personal philosophy is “Persistence is the key.” Having the power to push on when things are tough matters more that intelligence, education or any number of things that dictate whether or not someone achieves their goals and is successful. Giving up must not be an option; it is too easy to give up when the going gets tough. Perhaps it’s my martial arts training, but you must cultivate what I call the “warrior mindset” in order to gain the mental fortitude necessary to keep moving forward and past any obstacle that presents itself to you. I have a training program on the warrior mindset that goes into detail on this concept. Search “warrior mindset” on YouTube for the sample, and register for free on website for the full version.



Thanks for sharing some more of your wonderfully researched ideas :). What is your favorite quote?

“Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.” by Benjamin Disraeli



What is your favorite song or music to work by?

I typically write in silence because I want to fully concentrate on what I am writing. I also go back and re-read what I have written numerous times, and although I love music (I used to DJ in college and listen to XM Radio all the time in the car) I find that my best work and most productive writing is when I have a quiet setting devoid of distractions.



Are you a valuable asset on a quiz team?




If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?

I would play me, of course! Lol! I’m sure the others involved would want to play themselves, but if not, then I would have to leave that up to them to help pick their character.



What is your zodiac sign?




Do you have a ‘do not use’ or ‘most hated words’ list when you are writing?

Not really…but I do try to avoid clich├ęs because they are not unique. Who wants to hear or read something they have heard or read dozens or hundreds of times before? Not only that, but most of the time they aren’t even used correctly! I firmly believe that you need to be unique in every aspect of your life because we are all unique individuals. It is difficult to write in the same person or tense at times, so that is what I try to focus on when writing.



What is your favorite ocean?




Would you have a cast party with the characters in your book if they could come to life?

Of course…and it would be a BIG party that would celebrate the sacrifice that those who work in public service make every since day when they put on their uniform and go to work.



That sounds like it would be an awesome party. This really has been a fantastic interview and I think we’ve just about covered everything we needed to about this book. Do you feel that we’ve missed anything?

No, I think this has been a very comprehensive interview – thank you!



Thank you for joining me today Pete for taking us on the journey of your book and giving us a glimpse of the martial art and corrections worlds. And best of luck with your new release in early 2017.


Want to find out more about Pete Canavan? Connect here!