An Interview with Clyde CaceresCaceres

Interview by Gila Hayes

Wars in the Middle East increased the numbers of amputees and people with varying degrees of paralysis. As a result, there’s been more blogging and articles about wheelchair gun carry in recent years. Forgotten, I fear, were the more senior people who lost mobility or were paralyzed after an illness or accident. In February, I was privileged to speak at length with lifetime martial artist, accomplished shooter, instructor, and longtime contributor to the self defense and law enforcement industries, Clyde Caceres. I learned a lot and want to share that conversation with members. Enjoy a longer video version at

eJournal: Can you give us a brief bio highlighting your martial arts involvement and the accomplishments of your work in the gun world with an eye towards exploring the foundations of your self-defense principles?

Caceres: It’s been something I’ve been doing for decades and decades. I used to study martial arts very intensively and opened my own school. When more and more law enforcement people came to train, I found myself working more with retention and disarming and skills like that. Eventually, that led me to join a police force part-time, which opened doors for me in the firearms world to work with people like you and your husband, to be able to become, for instance, a Glock law enforcement firearms instructor and a whole lot of other things that I was able to pursue.

eJournal: I’m proud to say I shared some of those experiences with you. Now, let’s fast forward to today. In researching and preparing our interview, I had enormous trouble calling you a stroke “victim” or a paralysis “sufferer” or any of the host of other words that are in ordinary vocabulary. “Victim” was really not accurate! Do those words apply? How do you see yourself and how has that changed over the last 6-8 months?

Caceres: Disabled or handicapped are very standard words from which I boldly shy away. I tend to use mobility-restricted or mobility-limited, instead. That’s just my own personal point of view. When I woke up in the hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, July 5, 2023, obviously something was wrong. They did tests to confirm a stroke. About three o’clock the next morning in the hospital bed, I realized my whole left side wasn’t working at all. It was clear several hours later that my whole left side was just out of commission. I thought about several things. I thought: One, I still have capability. I still have a purpose. I still have a mission and I’m going to stay strong. My faith helped guide me.

I also realized that I had to do a couple of things. I had to keep my right side strong because it’s the only side that works. I also had to keep my core strong, so I started doing crunches in the hospital bed the night after my stroke. The nursing staff came in looking at me like, what are you doing? I told them what I was doing. 

I told myself that I was going to come out of this stronger than going in. I thought about weird little things. I kept my wallet in my left pocket. I needed to move it to my right pocket and when I pull it out, how was I going to open it and take out credit cards or money? That’s not core strength; manipulating a wallet needs dexterity. I told myself, by the time I get out of the hospital, I’m going to be able to manipulate my wallet and wipe my own butt. I accomplished both.

eJournal: While your mindset was key, you were also physically fit before the stroke. I wonder how a less fit individual would adapt daily tasks, to say nothing of modifying self-defense techniques around reduced mobility. With age, most experience diminished strength or flexibility. What are your thoughts on adapting to less physical capacity than we once had?

Caceres: I think you need to mentally come to grips with it. The physical limitations are going to vary between people. There are people in way worse condition than I’m in. I anticipate getting better and healing, but several months ago, I asked what if this is my condition? What am I going to do with it? Where do I need to be? That’s where was born. 

eJournal: What is

Caceres: Very early one morning in October I was sitting drinking coffee in the living room when a thought came, “What if I am like this for good? What if my limitations are what they are?” Hopefully, I’ll be able to will myself to walk again and be blessed to recover, but I might be in a chair, and this might be the limits of my mobility. Then I thought, what am I going to do?

I’m not going to give up! My wife will tell you that even prior to the stroke, whenever she brought up the idea of sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, I’d run! I’d say, “No, that’s not going to be me!” I don’t golf, I don’t fish, so now I thought, “What am I going to do?”

I have a background in defensive tactics, be that with your hands or with equipment. I have a background in manufacturing life-saving tools – Crimson Trace lasers, DKX body armor, et cetera, and I have a background in training people. I’ve taught thousands and thousands of civilians, as well as law enforcement and military. I thought, “Why don’t I start doing defensive tactics for wheelchair bound people?” That is how came about and it grew into more than purely defensive tactics. While there’s an element of defensive tactics within my program, it’s really to build a community of empowered people through information, through products and through training to make them stronger and give them more functionality and power. That’s what is.

eJournal: There is a fine line between acceptance and surrender.

Caceres: Like I said, people need to come to grips with reality. It helps if you have faith, and then you work within your limitations and try to expand your capabilities. I work out hard in physical therapy three times a week. I push myself. I’m only making incremental improvement and it’s kind of frustrating. You know what your limitations currently are, and you can reflect on what you could do and use that as a goal and mission to try and achieve some semblance of your prior capabilities and then adapt in order to overcome. I’ve done a ton of adapting.

eJournal: For example?

Caceres: If I need something that’s up high, for instance, I force myself to stand, catch my balance, and reach for it. If something falls or my wife drops something on the floor, I’m constantly saying, “Leave it; I’ll get it.” Fortunately, I’m still flexible, so I reach down and pick up anything that falls on the floor – the cap off a water bottle or a piece of paper.

For physical fitness, besides working out at physical therapy three times a week, I try to use my muscles every time I do something, whether I’m leaning or going forward or stretching. I try to use my muscles constantly to keep them toned.

eJournal: That’s inspirational and leads into the nuts and bolts of what I was hoping to learn from you today. How do you distill or apply the principles on which defensive tactics rely for chair riders? How did you work through principles like moving to the position of advantage or create leverage that powers a control technique? How did you distill and apply those principles to working out of a wheelchair? Or have you completely rewritten the book?

Caceres: I wouldn’t say rewritten, but I’m extrapolating things that work, and I look at things that don’t work and wonder why. How it can be enabled? What workarounds do I need? I’m constantly adapting and overcoming and doing workarounds because of my left side immobility.

Agility is a thing of the past. I have to rely on the wheelchair’s capability in terms of pivots, movement, advancing, withdrawing, and that’s a big limitation. Awareness is huge now because I can’t jump back and react to something. It takes me a while to react, so I need a little more anticipation. My mobility is slow right now, so awareness is critical; distance is critical. I use my verbal abilities to engage people in a friendly manner, but also to verbally push people a little bit away from me if they’re too close and I sense that they’re encroaching in my space for nefarious reasons.

eJournal: In self defense we tend to prioritize. First, I’m aware, then I’ve got verbal intervention, avoidance, evasion and escape, if not, escapes from grabs, weapons use and on up. Does the wheelchair re-prioritize things?

Caceres: Absolutely. It really does. I ask people in classes, “What is the most important rule of self defense?” They say bigger guns or more ammo. The reality that I put forward is that it is better to be somewhere else. Be somewhere else.

Evasion and avoidance start early when you anticipate where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing. In a wheelchair, I constantly have to think about access. I must be constantly aware of little things like the weight or heaviness of a door, or whether I am able to get through a parking lot. There are all kinds of variables that come into play. On, I wrote that my three-dimensional world is now two dimensional. My two-dimensional world is what’s ahead of me and what’s under me. I must be constantly aware of that.

eJournal: Planning your outing in such detail reminds me of something Marcus Wynn described when I was privileged to interview him before he passed away. He talked about preplanning, about preloading commuting and drive time. He was in Minneapolis. It was dangerous, very dangerous. He said, before you go out the front door, before you enter transition zones, you must work through where you’re going to go, how to get there, what you’re going to do upon arrival, what you need to see and avoid. His interview is at . Marcus’ teachings echo how you’ve adapted now that you can’t presume you’ll find good parking or know whether the parking lot has deep gravel or is full of potholes.

Caceres: Exactly, exactly. Maybe I can’t find a parking space that’s close to where I need to be and it’s raining. Maybe I’m at the wrong entrance to a building, so I’ve got to get back to my vehicle, load the wheelchair back up, climb into the vehicle and find the right entrance. There’s just a lot of little things that I never thought of seven or eight months ago. I would see the wheelchair signs and handicap access and I would think, “Oh, that’s good. I’m glad they have that,” but you know, I had no relationship to it. Now I do.

I’m constantly preparing ahead of time. Where am I going to go? Have I been there before? Do I know my route there or is it someplace new? Do I need to call ahead and ask if they have access instructions for me? I’m trying to get in the habit of taking pictures of businesses that are wheelchair friendly, that try to accommodate people, that are more than just compliant with the Americans with Disability Act of 1990, which is mostly suggestions, not statutory and doesn’t have “teeth.”

eJournal: Can we outline circumstances in ordinary life where a wheelchair rider feels the greatest threat to personal safety and then cover some solutions? Maybe a couple of examples would be useful.

Caceres: The people who live there are just one of the reasons we’re moving to a town of population 800 in Illinois farm country. They’re just overwhelmingly supportive and helpful. The other reason is safety. It’s a town where kids still leave their bicycles out in the yard. Nobody locks their doors. I ride around the town on my power chair very easily to do normal chores like banking or the post office and things like that. I’m bringing that up because my sense of threat where I live right now is almost zero.

That changes when I go to bigger towns of 30,000 people, 40,000 people, 100,000 people. I stay away from Chicago. I have absolutely no use for it. I’m sorry if some of you live in Chicago; I won’t, because I don’t want to be at heightened alert level every time I walk out my door or even in my own house. I’ve positioned myself to be presumably safer. So that’s one aspect of my “be somewhere else” protocol.

eJournal: What about height? For years, we operated with our eyes about five feet up. When you’re in a seated position out in public, does your danger scan change what you see and how you react to what’s coming down the sidewalk? A common concern expressed by chair riders is being pulled or knocked from the chair.

Caceres: Yes, I keep my head on a swivel. I scan even more now than I used to. My awareness of people’s activities, eye contact and gestures, is even more acute. I live where carrying a gun is restricted, so I equip myself with other tools. I maintain distance and with that comes awareness, looking for avenues of flight, and looking for who can be of assistance, because the dangers are not just interpersonal. The dangers include going over a curb somewhere and tipping over.

I’ve fallen three times now. Fortunately, I haven’t hurt myself. Shortly after I got home from the hospital, I fell. The next day in physical therapy I said, put me on the ground and teach me how to get up. I don’t want to be that whiny guy pushing the “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” button or whining, “Please, somebody, help me, help me, help me.” Sometimes I need help and people have been gracious and helpful, but I want to be able to overcome as much as I can. 

You asked about going to the ground and grappling. I wouldn’t want to, so I need distance and to keep threats at bay with whatever means are necessary to stop aggressive behavior. If I get ambushed, I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to fight and claw my way through it. Hopefully, I’ll have a weapon close that I can use or have extreme close quarter tactics and higher level of response available so I’m not trying to fight one-handed from the ground.

One of my limitations is fighting with one arm. I have a hard time rolling to positions that I used to be able to get into. Little things like flipping over in bed that I didn’t even think about before are hard. I have slept on my back for seven months now. Every so often I try to wiggle myself over to be prone. It’s really very hard. 

eJournal: That’s realistic and emphasizes how important it is not to over-estimate what is possible. Let’s segue briefly into firearms and techniques and tactics that fit into your reality today, without use of your left side. Do you remember how often we who avidly train in self-defense gun use have worked on one-handed techniques? We clear semi-auto malfunctions one-handed, and reload one-handed, and do a lot of one-handed shooting. Thank God for the training, because any one of us could lose left- or right-side function at any time. How practical have you found our drills like racking a semi-auto slide by catching the ejection port or the sights on a belt, stiff clothing, or the corner of an object? Have you done any work with those methods? How practical are they?

Caceres: They are not just practical, but necessary. I found my knees are important for clamping things like a jar to be able to twist it. I use my teeth! Just this morning I was trying to pay bills and was trying to pull the innards out of an envelope with one hand until I just took the back end of the envelope, bit it, pulled the innards out and threw the envelope away. You adapt with parts of your body that you never would have considered before.

Regarding firearms, I oftentimes resort to a revolver. My reload is a second revolver because I tried speed loaders and speed strips and while I can put a revolver between my knees and reload, there’s nothing fast, nothing at all quick, about it. Our good friend, may he rest in peace, Jim Cirillo used to call that the New York reload. For me, that’s become more than just a funny story. It has become reality. 

Regarding auto-loading pistols, I do have to use something to rack the slide. I use a cross draw holster, and from there, I can dump an empty mag. I can put it between my knees and reload when I need to.

One-handed shooting is critical. I’m going to get a five-pound dumbbell to exercise one arm projection, simulating a firearm. I used to do a lot of construction and remodeling, but now even my right arm is not worked out daily. I’m going to use a five-pound dumbbell to exercise.

eJournal: I wonder also about drawing while seated in a wheelchair. What about crossing your legs with a loaded gun? Did that change your gun handling? How did you adapt?

Caceres: A lot of other people are limited by loss of torso mobility. A lot of traditional carry is on the belt at five o’clock or so. Because I have torso mobility, I can draw from there, but it’s sometimes uncomfortable when I’m sitting. A friend of mine was paralyzed from the chest down by an IED. He doesn’t have the mobility to do things like this [mimes drawing from behind the hip]. Another acquaintance, former military, went down in a helicopter crash. He can’t feel, so he got pressure sores from holster rub and didn’t know it. These issues become important. I’m fortunate that I can feel and that I can move my torso.

Four or five years ago, I’d transitioned to appendix carry. Now I use a cross draw holster. Visualize yourself standing, even in appendix carry, the muzzle’s pretty much pointed at the floor. When you draw, if you’re careful, you do not sweep your own body. From a standing position, it’s relatively safe. In a seated position where your legs are sticking out in front of you, drawing from appendix carry points the muzzle at your legs. In a cross draw, the holster is pointing slightly off my hips. As I draw, an unintentional discharge or gun malfunction would not hit the femoral artery even if it grazed me.

I also have gone back to a fanny pack because strapped across my chest, it’s in a perfect location. Access to my firearm is simply ripping the zipper open and accessing it and coming out with it. Muzzle angle and direction and so forth are safe. For off-body carry, whether it’s a fanny pack or a sling bag, it goes diagonally over my body. Access like this has becoming more and more important to me because it’s difficult to get my wallet, my pocketknife, and other things out from where I would normally carry them, so everything’s in here. Wallet, sometimes firearms, a zippered pocket for my mobile phone and charging cord, my flashlight, folding knife, Chapstick, reading glasses, things like that. [Grinning] They’re all in my man purse.

eJournal: I like how you move that cross draw up and down center line as needed, since you’ve kept the same orientation regardless of whether the holster bag is in your lap or higher up on your chest. I like the uniformity in where your hand has to go plus the ability to get a strong, high firing grip in whatever is serving as the holster.

This is really good, and I appreciate you sharing how you worked through those details. Returning to one-handed shooting, how is recoil management? Do you shoot a .357 Magnum revolver, for example, or a very lightweight scandium revolver for ease of carry? How are you coping with recoil?

Caceres: I carry a Model 642 Smith & Wesson in .38 Special. I am reminded of one of the most shocking recoil incidents I’ve ever had. It was kind of funny. I was up at the Smith & Wesson factory when they were introducing the .500 Smith & Wesson with a snubby barrel. Being manly, I said, “Yeah, I’ll shoot that.” I loaded, braced myself almost horizontal, fired one round and felt the shock wave through my hands, arms and shoulders. I opened the cylinder and put it down. I thought I was really being a wuss. Afterwards, I had lunch with Todd Jarrett and Ernest Langdon, two of the top shooters in the country. I said, “Hey, what do you guys think of that snubby .500?” They looked at me and said, “What? Do you think we’re stupid? We’re not going to shoot that gun!” I realized recoil mitigation is important.

I’ve always taught that follow-up shots are important. How much time between shots is important. I’ve always preached that. I have for years advocated 148 grain, wadcutter target loads, especially for elderly people, people with carpal tunnel or tiny people, because I’d rather have them fire two or three shots of 825 feet per second flat, big cross section bullets at an adversary and have quick recovery, than to shoot one “magic” 125-grain jacketed hollow point and close their eyes every time they fired a shot from the gun. I’ve been talking to Rob Garrett and hear that the light load wad cutter is making a comeback with that intent in mind. They’re being produced by Georgia Arms, I think.

Yes, I look at it a little differently. Unless the bad guy is totally messed up on PCP, he’s not going to want to get shot. I may be off target here, but hopefully the disincentive, getting somebody to stop and back up, will be impactful with virtually any round. If not, the recovery time and sight acquisition between multiple rounds becomes quicker and more immediate with less recoil. I tend to try to keep away from rather than to try to cope with major recoil issues. That’s my own way of looking at things.

eJournal: There’s room at the table for people with lots of different needs. No one is going to look down on you for the wadcutters.

Talking about holsters, carry ammunition and other adaptations raises the idea of mentoring and beyond the inspiring example that you already are. I know you are talking with and guiding people very effectively because it is not theoretical if you say, “Here’s my experience. I think you would do better with a .38 Special or .32 ACP.” There are so many options. What about options like pepper sprayer, pepper gel use?

Caceres: As far as self defense goes and the ability to defend oneself out of a chair, I think ultimately a handgun is a very viable tool, especially if you live where there are flagrantly violent people. Sometimes lethal force is appropriate and even the best option.

I also definitely believe, as you do, in gradients of response, whether it’s verbal or whether it’s audible – although I’m not so big on the whistle because you can’t talk while you have a whistle in your mouth. I’m building other ways, like a small piece of lightweight armor I’m carving out that fits my pack. It is Level IIIA, which stops up to up to .44 Magnum. I’m trying to devise ways of putting kits together for people that are more concerned about acute dangers in their neighborhood. An edged weapon is also a good close quarter tool to get out of the grasp of someone.

I’m not a big proponent of stun guns because they require intimate contact. You have to either close the distance or wait until the threat closes the distance. Neither works for me. TASER®s are a little bit complicated. Even in law enforcement, a TASER® is always supported by lethal force – there are guns backing it up.

I’ve long been a huge proponent of pepper spray. It doesn’t work all the time, but it works most of the time. The ability to keep people back, to keep them, say at 10 feet or further away is really a strong goal of what we do. There’s the mechanical part with using your hands and feet or whatever you’re capable of and then there are weapons like pepper spray that push people away. There are fogs, there are foams, there is gel, there is spray, and everybody has to do their own research based on their environment, little things like how windy it is in the area where you tend to be mobile. There are pluses and minuses to each of those different delivery systems.

eJournal: I read about something I’m not sure is practical or impractical, but you would know. Are you doing any work with ramming, even with the footrests on the chair? How much is the chair an element in your defense?

Caceres: The ramming part is not really practical because there usually isn’t enough torque. If I had both arms mobile, then maybe I could shove myself and that might work to ram it into somebody’s shins. But again, that requires closing the gap. If somebody is four feet away and I try to ram them, that means I’m within their arms’ reach, but it may work.

If somebody is already on top of you, you may be able to evade, but generally there isn’t enough immediate torque in a mechanical chair or power chair to launch yourself. I suppose the makers don’t want people getting whiplash every time they press the toggle. I’d like a ton more torque! I saw a video of a guy that converted his power chair and clocked himself doing 55 miles an hour in a power chair that normally goes 5-6 miles an hour. I don’t recommend anybody should try that at home.

eJournal: [laughing] No. About what other aspects of wheelchair use are most of us missing the point? 

Caceres: There are some other mobility issues that come about by being in a chair. One, your ability to scan is greatly reduced because you can’t turn your whole torso or even your hips. Your ability to react is hampered because of the torque curve on a chair or because gripping and pulling with your arm takes time. One of the biggest limitations that I’ve discovered is to be able to protect your six. Maybe if you had a little mirror or a little camera, you could see if somebody approaching, but if you didn’t, you’d have to somehow be alert to the approach and I can’t just spin around and change my footing like you do on foot. If you’ve got to turn the wheelchair around and face your six, on a concrete floor it probably takes three seconds but if you’re in grass, sand, heavy carpet or gravel, you could be stuck there for several more seconds trying to turn around.

I have been working on how to address your six. You remember one of the things of which I have been a huge proponent for a number of years is the correct use of a laser sighting system. One thing a laser does, as has been proven over and over, is this: it gives you accuracy, much like taking your sights and extending a line from to the sights to the threat. Lasers give you that actual accuracy point projected on your threat. You don’t have to have a linear alignment between eyeballs, rear sight, front sight, and target. As long as you can see the dot, even if it’s like this [points over his shoulder] and in your peripheral vision over your shoulder, you can see the dot; you can shoot. I can get to about seven o’clock on one side and I can get to about five on the other. That six o’clock area between five and seven is hard.

eJournal: Right. And you still need to be able to see enough to make some judgment calls. I remember you shooting behind riot shields without your eyes behind the gun sights. Well done for leveraging technology to serve a current need.

I would like to see you mentoring and sharing that with others. Please tell me about reaching out beyond your goals and dreams for’s website. Will you teach classes? Can we come take a wheelchair shooting class from Clyde Caceres? An instructor-level class? Where is this going? What’s your dream and what’s ahead for you?

Caceres: is my mission to help wounded veterans, injured first responders, or anybody in a chair who is mobility-restricted. What’s ahead for me? Information transmission. Ahead is, hopefully, several nonprofits that I’ve started to ally with who are mostly doing work for veterans, but not always. There’s a fishing nonprofit up in the Great Lakes that’s doing a fishing excursion for anybody in wheelchairs. I am supporting them, and I hope to have them support what I do.

I want to seek out nonprofits that need alliances and help them so that becomes be a nexus for nonprofit information where anybody in a wheelchair can go to explore. Maybe you wonder how to garden from a wheelchair, so you go to and find a Gardening Wheelchair Club and from there you learn what you need to know. I want to collate a list of nonprofits, so I’m asking everybody out there, if you know of organizations, nonprofits that are helping people, vets or otherwise, to help expand the horizons of being in a wheelchair, please contact me at and help me gather that all together. I would like to give people the ability to find missions, to do more than just sit around, to get out and do things, to do things productively, to do things with heart.

eJournal: The more we are active and fully engaged in life, the more pertinent your specialty of the self defense becomes to us, because now we are going out in public and wonder, “What if I run into someone who wants to do me harm?” Clyde, I would love to see you make videos on that subject and teach classes, so keep us in the loop. I am inspired by your attitude, and others will be, too. What’s the takeaway you’d like to leave us with?

Caceres: While our audience may not be mobility restricted, there are more and more people that are, whether it’s a family member or someone they used to work with, someone at their golf club, wherever it might be. Just try and be motivational with them. It’s tough. Someone in a wheelchair might say, “Well, easy for you,” but be positive with them.

To people that are in a chair, I would say, be positive with people you engage with. A lot of times people that are in a chair get flustered because they feel they’re being stared at and get offended. Well, I get that. Kids will stare. You know, you are different looking. I mean, not everybody’s running around on wheels.

I used to be 5’ 6”, now I’m 3’ 10”, so I’m pretty short right now. I’m below most people’s eye level, so people are going to be surprised and say, “Oh, where’d he come from?” and I’m sure they’re thinking, “I wonder what happened to him?” They change their gaze because they realize they’re staring at you. A lot of wheelchair people get offended by all that. Just go with it. Engage people, greet them, say, “Hi, how you doing?” Let people ask questions if they want to.

I encourage anyone with contact with somebody with reduced mobility to point them in directions where they can become more positive. If they are upset about where they are, find ways to be more positive about it. The first article I put on our newsletter was about finding missions. Remember my first ones were open my wallet and get things out and wipe my own butt. Now the missions are getting bigger and a little bit more difficult to achieve. So, if I can shamelessly say it, please go to see what we do. I’m proud to have listed Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network as one of our partners.

eJournal: We’re proud to have you on board with us, Clyde, and we want to do what we can to share the word. We want people to plug into the great resource that you are, because again, as we said at the beginning, folks, we’re talking with someone who’s got lifetime martial arts skills, somebody who is a highly skilled shooter and is working to adapt these skills for wheelchair users.

Reach out to Clyde at He wants to be a resource to you, and we want him to be, because I think, even if it sounds odd to say it, the future’s bright. There are many people who have enormous needs out there. Clyde, please stay in touch with me and let me know how you’re doing; let me know how we can be part of it.

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