By Margaret Osborne and Nicolas Pennisi
The blade of a box cutter popped out a few notches. Adrenaline coursed through Mickey Allen’s
veins. Two strangers held his arms, as another threatened to swipe at his stomach. The blade
poked through his shirt and pierced into his skin.
“I’m going to gut you, boy.”
The cold November evening outside his apartment in Newark back in 2002 is seared into Allen’s
memory. His close encounter with death inspired him to learn self-defense at Modern Warrior, a
martial arts studio in Lindenhurst. Now, 16 years later, he commutes 180 miles three times a
week to instruct courses of his own.
“There are martial arts places as you drive down any commercial street—you’ll see eight of
them,” Allen said, but he prefers the instruction at Modern Warrior and could tell from his first
visit that it was “special.”
“It’s a school that trains people for reality, as opposed to YouTube martial arts demonstrations,”
On Nov. 3, Allen led a three-hour training called “Advanced Hostage Tactics,” where students
were trained to deal with crisis situations involving guns, knives and various forms of restraints. The class, which he designed, prepares students for the emotional repercussions of violence. He also teaches Bo Fung Do classes, rape prevention classes and instructs law enforcement.
Hostage situations are rare. According to the FBI, only 4 percent of incidents requiring law
enforcement response are hostage situations. But gun-related crimes in Nassau County, though
steadily declining, are still prevalent. As of July 2018, there were 476 violent crimes, and 12
percent of those involved a firearm.
The training mimics a real-life hostage scenario. Bound to a chair with duct tape, gagged
and covered in a plastic garbage bag, Amanda Tripple listened as her “loved one” was held at
gunpoint. Her rapid breathing caused her to panic—she asked to stop the simulation.
“He’s is doing it for my own good,” Tripple, who trains three times a week, in addition to private
lessons, said about her instructor. “The reality of getting grabbed and tossed and assaulted is way
worse than what he is doing.”
Unlike traditional martial arts, which generally have a strict set of rules, Modern Warrior’s self-
defense classes hone students to be resourceful and use objects in their environment to
their advantage. Students practice drills, but ultimately use whichever tactics work best for them
when applying their skills.
During the hostage training, students moved through a room equipped with a bed, couch, lamps,
and even books, as if it were a real home. David Davoll, a student participating in the training,
felt this “added to the realism.”
In 1981, Modern Warrior started out in owner Phil Messina’s garage in Lindenhurst. After
working as an NYPD Sergeant in Hell’s Kitchen, he started COPS, Corporation of Protective
Services, which was intended to train police officers. After gaining popularity, he expanded to
his current studio and rebranded as Modern Warrior.
The studio, which has a bus, bedroom, weather simulation room and airplane-like seats, focuses
heavily on teaching students how to respond to different environmental conditions.
“Target hardening is more important in reducing crime than the police actually getting there on
time,” Messina said, referring to victims’ ability to defend themselves during a crime.
According to Fox5, Nassau County’s police response time to violent crimes in progress is 3-5
minutes. One of Modern Warrior’s key educational points is preparing its students for that time.
“You just never know,” Davoll said about the possibility of a hostage situation. “We like to think
stuff will never happen, but I guess it could. It makes you think.”