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Hock Hochheim teaches hand, stick, knife and gun combat to military, police and savvy citizens in 11 allied countries each year. He's the author of more than 250 dvds on self-defense and more than 12 books on how to protect yourself. His products sell in more than 40 countries.

I Was a Teenage…Teenager!

     A teenage cave…aahh “person.” Yeah, cave person. It must have been tough being a teenage cave person as in the movie and poster attached to this suggests. You were pretty stupid about your rocky or jungle surroundings. Your world. Didn’t know that movie dinosaurs, giant snakes and giant bugs were everywhere. Quicksand. Strange tribes of semi-monsters in various stages of their evolution roamed. Didn’t understand sex real well. Fire was new and cool. But somehow, as in the movie, still had hairspray and fingernail polish. Is that much different than teenagers today?

Lots of the “I was a Teenage….this or that monster” movies, comics and books. Like a teenage werewolf. Some teenagers are little monsters. Remember the expression “raging hormones?” If you have grown kids. Then you know they were once teenagers. Teenagers are often, generically a real pain in the ass. That’s life. If you have young kids? Gird your loins because a lot might REALLY change around teenage time. Is their hope in all these prehistoric hormones?

I too was a stupid teenager, probably a monster at times, were you? I can’t tell you just how stupid I was. I was also pretty stupid in my twenties too. Maybe I got a bit smarter when I hit about 30 or so, but I still question that. Not sure where I am on the stupid chart today either. I should not have been trusted with what I was trusted with back then, in what was once called by advertisers as the “Wonder Bread” years. (that’s growen’ up years and you needed all the nutrients of white bread to survive).

It always seems like teenagers of every generation demonstrate and even riot. Doesn’t it? Like clockwork. Always something to rant about. Lots of “teenager talk” these days too, huh? Teenagers recently descended upon DC and other cities lately over gun control. It was a liberal hoopla, holiday. Better than Christmas! Never let a tragedy go to waste. Although crowd counters say that the groups were only 20% teenagers. 80% of adults – many of whom always show up with all the required anti-this, anti-that, pro-this-or-that liberal stuff. They are so organized! Buses. Hotels. Placards! All those signs! The news says that the usual, dare I say “suspects,” paid large chunks of money to bankroll it all. These suspects are a wicked little ring of interconnected complainers. A big circle that even includes George Soros and Louis Farrakhan. But who cares, right? Soros. He’s like an unmasked Darth Vader.

Remember the 1968 movie, “Wild in the Streets?” Of course you don’t. But it was about US teenagers voting in a 24 year old president Max Frost. If you are a dipshit hippy this is great news. Also for Bernie Saunders fans because young and old minds of mush, with no math skills or grasp of history have hope. Ahhh, the road to Venezuela.

A rare few of these teenage monsters though became school and church shooters. But this is really rare. I mean REALLY, really rare. Look at the big picture. 340 million Americans. Some 340 million-plus firearms out there. If you believed the media, liberals and these teenagers, we would all be dead by now. Same thing with video games. Yet, we have some 30,000 high schools, some 90,000 elementary schools. Some 6,000 colleges. These places are doing business some 180 days a year. Then think of summer school. It’s more. Some 70 million “kids” are in school. Then add in the years to this equation. Crunch the math, run the numbers and see how unbelievably, incredibly safe American schools and kids are every day. Every year. Then run these same number categories on churches. I think it is hard for teenagers to grasp this safety. It is also hard for under-developed, short-sighted adults to grasp this too. Under-developed?

Apparently John Adams said this first, and it has been altered and re-quoted and requoted and it’s a concept I have grown to believe, give or take a few years of age…

“If You Are Not a Liberal When Young, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative When Old, You Have No Brain.”

     But under-developed? It is common knowledge in the brain industry that the human mind if not injured, brainwashed or abused, it is not fully formed/functional until about 25 years of age. TWENTY-FIVE! Not 16, 18, even 21. This accepted science will not manifest over into politics. It’s a conundrum. We vote at 18. Kids go off to war at 18. I think the common military unit is often like a high school football team with guns. We’ll NEVER enforce a 25 year old voting age. Hell, we can’t even define what a citizen is anymore. I can. Common sense can. But then there’s California. Before these amazing, breaking brain discoveries were made, the old adage was that an adulthood/personality/life-path is usually formed at 21. “You are who you were at 21.” But I think now, that old adage needs to adjust to 25 thanks to neuro-science. Then come those haunting words. Injured. Brainwashed. Abused.  I think geographic and demographic brainwashing are the biggest deterrents to smarts, common sense and critical thinking. Then there’s just being a rebel for rebels sake. Its prehistoric! Like clockwork. Like the prehistoric teenage rebels in the movie…

But anyway…
– So cheer up, parents. If you can live through it, some teen-age monsters grow up and out of it.

– So cheer up America. If you can live through it, the teen-age monsters grow up and might think things through.


“I am just an unfrozen, teenage caveman. I don’t understand your cars and machines, your politics, the history of the world, math …”

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To Sumbrada, or Not to Sumbrada, THAT is…

First off that’s me and the “Irreplaceable” Tim Llacuna in March, 2018’s  big Central California Stick seminar weekend at Ron Esteller’s Kaju. Though the Bay Area, CA seminar that weekend was listed as Force Necessary: Stick, I also promised a little segment on Filipino stick too, just to round things off. And, as a result, we got a request for…Filipino Sumbrada. And since I “sing for my supper” as Sinatra use to say, so we, by God, did us some Sumbrada.

     Which…can be complicated for some folks to do such things. I am not a fan of Sumbrada, per say. I certainly do not believe it should be the foundation format for a system, as it somehow is for some, which I find short-sighted. It is but one drill in a bunch of skill drills/exercises. It has been declared a “dead drill,” blah, blah, blah and yes, to some extent I agree with these naysayers. But it is still a very universal drill for many, many Filipino systems and I…in good conscious, cannot put a PAC/Filipino practitioner out on the street that doesn’t know about Sumbrada and hasn’t fooled with it. I just…can’t. I’ve been forced, more or less, to mess with it since 1986 and that is why. It does develop a few healthy attack recognitions and mannerisms.

     I first learned Sumbrada from Paul Vunak in the late 1980s. Sumbrada means a few things, like “counter for counter” and sort of like “shadowing.” Sumbrada range is when the tip of your stick can touch the opponent’s head and your hand can touch the opponent’s hand. That hand contact is a very deep subject. People tend to forget that on the end of all these drills, you break the pattern. Like the Bruce Lee example, folks get busy looking at the finger and not the moon, people get too busy worrying over the pattern and forget you are supposed to free-style fight.

     In that PAC course I require folks do hand sumbrada, single stick sumbrada, double stick sumbrada, Knife sumbrada, espada y daga sumbrada. And, we make folks do at least three inserts/interruptions for each, all in Level 7 of the PAC course. Sumbrada is just another  exercise, among many exercises, which include wind sprints and chin-ups and beating tires and war posts, etc. Doing too much of one thing and not enough of other things is the real problem.

     But the Force Necessary: Stick course is NOT Filipino martial arts stuff. There is no sumbrada in FN: Stick. The FN: Stick course is laid out this way:
   Impact weapon vs hand
   Impact weapon vs stick (rare, huh?)
   Impact weapon vs knife
   Impact weapon vs gun threats

Level 1: Impact Weapons & their Stress Quick Draws
Level 2: Stick Retention Primer
Level 3: Stick Blocking Primer
Level 4: Single Hand Grip Striking Primer
Level 5: Riot Stick (Double Hand Grip)
Level 6: “While Holding,” Supporting the Stick
Level 7: The Push Series Grappling & Spartan Module
Level 8: The Pull Series Grappling & “Chain of the Stick”
Level 9: The Turn Series Grappling & “In the Clutches” 
Level 10: The “Black Belt” Combat Scenario Test
Level 11: Intensive Stick Ground Fighting
Level 12: “Crossing Sticks” Stick Dueling Expertise
Level 13: …and up…levels upon Individual request

Much of the FN: Stick course material is over-viewed in this best seller Axe Handle Combatives.  Click here to see more and, or acquire it:

The Ten Deadly Mistakes

     I can’t say how old this list is. I saw them all in the 1970s in police training. This list. It’s not in any order.

     The list was distributed in a police-only textbook in 1975 called Officer Down, Code 3, by Pierce Brooks. The list also applies to the military. One might think that this doesn’t completely apply to citizens? But it does. For example, some civilians might think that Number 9 doesn’t apply, but there are situations, concerns and applications about controlling suspects while waiting for police arrival. I have taught those “arrest, control and contain” methods for over 20 years to people because I think they need to know them. They can be important. I have always said,

     “I’ve never learned anything as a cop I didn’t think citizens needed to know too.”

     If a person will stop and think about it, every point can apply to their safety.

     Many of you out there think some of these topics are “new” and recently invented by young “geniuses.” Like the pre-fight indicator lists which has reached new fad-like heights of late. None are new. I do think they have some merit as I have seen them unfold before my eyes. But they are not as important as one might think when you add criminal and military ambush into the equation. But the police spend an inordinate amount of time intervening, interviewing, investigating and prowling into areas regular people shouldn’t do or go and interacting with people. So too do soldiers and Marines going to house-to-house, village-to-village in the last 20 years. Knowing these, essentially biological tip-offs and learned tricks like sucker punches and so forth, can be helpful. I have a while chapter of these pre-fight tips in my book, Fightin’ Words. I started collecting them in 1973 from a class in U.S. Army military police academy.

     Numerous tips are instinctual for many, but the list attempts to stick a label on it – which is fine and can be educationally important. New people are learning old stuff all the time and “old,” “been-around” people need reminders, maybe through new ways (as well as learning new things too).

     People are constantly ridiculing police actions and police training. The root, the backbone, the steering for quality has been present for decades and decades. Apathy, manpower and budget problems get in the way. It’s left to the individual officer to spend, train or to stagnant. As with a citizen. Learn, train or stagnate. Use it or lose it. Ignorant and or, Perishable.

     People – cops, may tire of seeing the list and their eyes might brush right over the poster in a blur after awhile, as it appeared on many a squad room wall decades ago. All of the “fatal mistakes” are important. All are old pieces of advice you can live or die by. May all good people live by them.

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The Perceptions of Your Fight

Who Fight? What Fight? Where Fight? When Fight? How Fight and Why Fight?
     I am an old police detective from a time when Community Oriented Policing was going to save the world and cure cancer. One of the points of said movement was that the “perception of crime” was just as real to citizens as the real crime was. Usually the perception of crime was/is always way higher than the real McCoy. So, police then not only had to fight real crime, but had to have an advertising and public relations campaign against the perception of crime. I then sarcastically nicknamed our police agency the “Happy Machine” because we had to also make people… “happy.” I would often walk into the squad briefing and mutter, “another day at the happy machine,” which would make my fellow officers laugh and chuckle. The first time I said it there was an uproar of laughter. It least that made them happy?
     Fact was and is, in the big picture, most people in the USA and other civilized countries will never be victims of crime. But people have fear and a perception of their future crime problem. Home invader? Rapist? Mugger? Mass shooter. Crazy guy? Serial killer? Kidnapping? Bar fight? Road Rage? Etc. Some even have an imaginary perception of how they will handle it. Gun? Knife? MMA? WWII? Kill? Maim? Contain? Negotiate? Pray? Etc. It certainly would help if their perceptions were as accurate as possible in predicting an overall crime and a generic solution or two. 
     Perception, as defined – “a way of regarding, trying to understand, or interpreting something; a mental impression.”
     Mental impressions and being impressionable. I recently watched the first episodes of the 1980’s TJ Hooker cop show, just for sheer nostalgia. On patrol in a giant squad car prowling residential streets, Hooker lectures his rookie partner – you know, that skinny kid with the weird hairdo – the shame and horror of Los Angeles, how people cowered and hid in their houses, fearing the crime on the streets. That was 1981! They were scaring the BeJesus out of you back then. Of course that was dramatic, but the fear idea fed and still feeds people.
     How deep was that paranoid perception of criminals? Has that perception changed? Many perceptions about fighting against bad guys are subliminally shaped by books, movies, TV and even personal fantasy projections. Remember back when Chuck Norris or Claude Van Damme would kick a bad guy down? The bad guy would crash and the Chucks and the Claudes would just stand there, in a poster-boy, fighting pose, bouncing up and down, waiting for the serial killer to stand back up and continue the fight. Art imitates life and life mimics art. That was the “movie fight” until Steven Seagal came along and started breaking arms.
     We had a champion black belt in our old karate school I attended decades ago, who got into a fight….in a bar…and lost. He came to class and told the school owner, “I was in a fight last night and it wasn’t anything like I thought it would be.” If you are in a non-sport class, your student should return to you and say, “I was in a fight last night and it was just like you told me.” Perception.
     Perception is the running guts of training though isn’t it? We martial folks, civilians, police and military train for the perception of what we think our “fight” will be like. If you are sport fighting, you know exactly who, what, where, when, how and why about your scheduled fight. You have a darn good perception of the “Ws.” Even if you are a soldier, you have some good perceptions about what might happen to you and your unit, all from a gathered mission intelligence and assignment history. (This is why God made sergeants.) You know the Octagon fight will happen and you’ve seen enough of them on TV to plan ahead. And you are pretty sure trouble is ahead in a war zone, but what about sporadic criminals versus citizen encounters? That may never happen…
     I use to complain that so many of these modern fighting systems of recent times inadvertently train for a fight in “the bar,” or on the sidewalk or parking lot right outside the bar? The cursed dark alleyway out back of the bar? Roadhouse movie world? How many training videos were made right inside bars? Young guys teaching other young guys how to fight in bars and they just automatically assume/gravitate to the barroom setting. Meanwhile a soldier in Syria has another location in mind.
     Real people seem to be fighting a whole lot, huh?Somewhere else on the planet. Earth is a big place. Police are at least generally aware they could be fighting absolutely anyway, anywhere – inside or outside houses and business. On tile floor, rugs, cement, dirt, grass, mud, tar. I have never fought anybody underwater, though. HA! Should I train for that too? (Though I know of some cops fighting people on the fringes of oceans and lakes.)
     I think I’ve had to struggle, and, or fight most people on parking lots, streets and inside houses full of furniture more than other locales. And kick boxing and wrestling didn’t completely help me one time as a crazy guy and I slid down a long, thick, muddy hill, in the rain, duke-ing it out, outside a hospital. Almost vertical ground fight. You really can fight in weird places.    
     People on the planet Earth will fight in rural, urban, suburban areas, inside and outside of buildings at any time of day and regardless of the weather. But cheer up barroom brawlers, I do hope that using the ashtray-on-the-bar-to-hit-a-guy-in-the-face-with-trick…will work out for ya! (Unless its a no-smoking bar, of course.)
     Gun instructor and ex-cop Tom Givens reports that through the years his shooting students have had over 60 gun encounters in parking lots (Memphis is a little crazy by the way) so an emphasis on shooting live fire AND SIMS, in and out of, and around cars should be pretty important. Parking lots are indeed melting pots of all kinds of people and places with various temperaments, and where bad guys do go to hunt. Records even show that one in every five vehicle accidents occur on parking lots too. Parking lots then super-duper dangerous? Once again, in the big picture, if you compare say, Walmart’s total sales/customers, to its parking crimes and accidents, their parking lots are pretty darn safe places.
     We see crazy reports on the news about road rage. But look at the millions of cars in the USA taking billions of trips each day, compared to road rage incidents. Road crime and even vehicle accidents stats in comparison tell us the roadways are pretty darn safe too. Domestic and family violence/disturbances are way too high, but in comparison to the big picture of 340 million people in the USA? Not too bad (as far as we know.) There are over 100,000 schools/colleges in the US and a teeny-tiny sliver of school shootings. Add in attendance days and you have millions of safe days. Schools are pretty darn safe places. How about comparing the total number of houses with the total number of burglaries. Oh, and, by the way, the police don’t fight people all that often when compared to the tons of non-violent police/citizen interactions and arrests.
     It’s nice to do these big picture comparisons and breathe a sigh of relief, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare and be complacent. And when we prepare, we perceive. You are still left with these guesses, your perceptions and mental impressions of your future fight. We now watch crazy, reality, video clips on youtube and perhaps they do help the real perception of the wacky chaos that will most likely occur in a fight, and not leave us with some Chuck Norris, karate fight scene in our minds.
     It’s always a good rule to “reduce the abstract” when training, but there is still a time and place for you, in a sterile room, to learn and exercise some basic, generic things which we hope you can apply under the circumstance, come what may. Sadly, we don’t have Hollow Decks like on Star Trek where we can fight and turn up the knob on resistance and locations, and still go to work the next day not scarred or crippled.
     Come, what may. We learn the “come what may” via collecting good intelligence info on crime and war where you are and where you are going. So, we train to fight the fight we perceive and who, what, where, when, how and why we perceive it will happen.
Who will you really be fighting? 
What will it be like?
Where do you perceive your fight will be?
When will this happen?
How will it unfold?
Why are you there? Why are you still there?
Will things happen as fast as you think? Slower? Sporty Non-sporty? Indo artsy? Slinky Systema? Crazy?
Hand? Stick? Knife? Gun? Will it start with an interview or ambush? How do you perceive your fight?
What’s your fight gonna be like? 

Waiting for SWAT at School Shootings

I have been trying to keep my mouth shut about the Florida school shootings this February, 2018, and for that matter, about all school shootings. Parkland, Florida was indeed a perfect storm for the school shooting. All systems failed. A perfect, horror storm of failures. I am not expert on school shootings and I just read over what Ohio Officer Greg Ellifritz and Police Academy Director Ron Borsch write on them. Pretty comprehensive stuff, as Greg and Ron have made it their passion to collect this info. Recently a friend asked me to endorse and comment on his new school shooting book and I flat out told him I couldn’t because I am just not an expert on it. I can however bark about a few points from my personal experience and opinion.

     I just have a few simple, overall solutions rattling around my head, like locked, bullet proof doors and windows around those doors – maybe even the whole first floor windows?  Then some guards and, or special police officers. Each campus will be different and needs a customized plan. Then, the freedom of some teachers to carry weapons if they wish. And most importantly making an interconnected police computer program to collect and share the selected data on crazy people and guns. As they say, “there outta’ be a law.”

     I am not interested in any misguided, hippy solutions, using small populations or mind-controlled countries as examples of gun-free utopia. These countries still have gun crime and problems. But, remember, these samples of the world do not have 340 million people with 400 million fireams out there already, all over thousands and thousands of square miles. If you believed the detached-from-reality crap the media spits out? We should all be dead by now. Instead only the teenyist, tinyest amount of people are shot and/or killed each year, in comparison to 340 million people, and our interactions! There are literally billions of safe interactions between all kinds of people everyday, coast to coast EVERY DAY. American people…do get along quite well and quite safely, despite what is fired up in the airhead news.

     I was put in a school for a short period. Forced. Ordered. In my agency many moons ago, we got a new detective sergeant, who had no teeth for being an investigator – zero – as he was just a patrol guy “Peter Principled” into filling a gap. He believed so, so strongly in School Resource Officers – that is assigning police to “live” at a school. But the police chief at the time didn’t have the same dream. Not enough manpower, the chief said. That did not stop Sergeant Zero though, as he quietly assigned a few detectives under his bailiwick to wear raid jackets and get out to the biggest high school in the city and…stand around… especially in the morning and afternoon rush. And just hang around the schools? The school admin was so happy and expected way more. But this is just NOT detective work.

     So, I got stuck in this mess too. How? Part of our expected responsibility as detectives was to also develop and work dope cases “on the side.” By “dope” I mean any and all drugs. It is just something we oldtimers did. At the time I was working on a side case when I could, of LSD sales at this biggest high school. From time to time, I climbed on the roof with binocs to eye-follow a certain couple of skunks. I caught one little rat selling LSD. School admin was so happy, and then somehow at that very time, I was swept up in this sergeant’s SRO cause. “Oh can we have Hock out here too?” asked the happy admin. Well, crap. Some of us even found ourselves in a week-long SRO school that Sergeant Zero mandated and my agency “higher” didn’t even know about. (We were also under a strange, detached CID LT at the time too, and the SGT and LT didn’t even talk to each other, when passing each other in the hallway. Police agencies are usually like disfunctional families when you pull back the curtains.)

     Standing around a high school is like absolutely the LAST F___ing thing I wanted to do, and keep in mind I was working a murder during this time period, as well as other cases. I couldn’t, shouldn’t (and wouldn’t) be standing around a damn school. I simply quit showing up out there when this same Sergeant Zero assigned me a second murder. A woman found strangled by a wire hanger in her apartment. What in hell was he thinking? I had a clone, or what? I simply ignored the whole school thing and worked my cases. I waited for his complaint, but none came, because that, and my logical and sarcastic response, would reveal and contest the Sergeant Zero, little SRO “plot.”

     Since then, the SRO programs became official PATROL  programs and almost mandatory in most places in the USA. Many SRO cops see it as a day-job, retirement with weekends off and not at all like guarding a forward-operating-base in Afghanistan, anticipating machine gun fire every several hours. That’s what citizens want and expect right? A super cop who can suddenly machine gun fight an ambush attack? Actually all these security jobs are very boring. Stagnant and boring. I have done all kinds of security jobs since the 1970s. It’s a real challenge to stay ready and alert when the real odds are that NOTHING will ever, EVER happen.

On this cops-waiting-outside thing, which some folks have really asked me to comment on and why I am writing this. First, it’s odd that it took several days before this info came out. Isn’t it? The first rush of news passed over in a big way. Everybody took their usual brainwashed positions, and then…

“Oh and by the way, “our cops didn’t go in”

…news slips out a few days later? What? A lot of people are now talking about these Broward County cops, or in particular, this one SRO cop Scott Peterson waiting and, or “cowering” outside. The media likes that word, cowering.

     There is an aggravating history of “police waiting outside.” I was around during the In the early days of the proliferation of SWAT teams – and the days were confusing and there was a period where many police managements had a “wait for SWAT” attitude and orders. This culminated with the Columbine school shooting. I nearly kicked my TV screen in when I saw the live footage of officer’s waiting outside the Columbine school for SWAT as people were shot and even bled to death inside. Once you have SWAT, then you have to use SWAT or maybe get sued for using them or maybe even get sued for not using them. (This is a subject of a whole other essay.)

     But the general, police-admin consensus at the time was “Have Swat? Patrol Waits.” Patrol backs off and waits. “Secure the scene!” Yes, wait. Wait while all the team pagers go off, team members drive to the station. Team members dress up and dress up and dress up. They arrive in their team van or vans. They prepare a team tactical entry. We know now that is way, way too long, way too late. I …could…tell…you…stories about this.

     After that Columbine carnage a lot of police admins and SWAT guys made public statements supporting the “SWAT-Wait” policies that they themselves had invented and dictated. But simple common sense could tell they were wrong and the whole “wait” idea was wrong, wrong, wrong.

     Thus, after Columbine, the “Active Shooter” courses slowly began – with their own growing pains – which sort of returned the police patrol officer back to pre-SWAT day expectations. All kinds of things were then invented for the common street cop to enter schools, like in groups of…4 (what? Waiting for 3 others to arrive now? And in so close a grouping that one machine gun burst of 3 rounds, or a shotgun blast could take out two or more of the clustered cops. Entry must be made instead a military manner of cover and move, not parade.)

 But lets look at the SRO situation at that very school…
     “A Broward County SRO must carry a political hat and be able to intercept behavior, modify his/her action based on a specific policy need, falsify documents, hide evidence, manipulate records and engage inside the system with an understanding of the unwritten goals. Broward County school law enforcement are given political instructions, and carrying out political objectives. They are not given law-enforcement instructions. The school officers are the primary foot soldiers carrying out county political policy. Physical security of school students is not their role, they don’t have time for that. The Broward County SRO is in place to protect the school system “policy” and ensure students are not arrested for criminal conduct.”


     In my ancient days of policing, police were supposed to deliver babies on up to killing people, and everything in between. We are now expected again to enter school shootings and not wait. And, you have to enter like a solo soldier. How many cops have this soldier DNA in them? Some. And speaking of DNA? What about teachers? Can some teachers act like soldiers too? Well…some.

     As an aside, a whole lot of people are blabbing on the web and Facebook about what they would have done. You know, unless you’ve been in gun fight and most of you haven’t, you don’t know what the hell you would have done, and what you would do may vary from week to week based on a whole bunch of reasons and circumstances. So how’s about a little less of that blow-heart bull from you inexperinced, shadow-box heroes.

Read more:

Broward county sheriffs office did not miss warning signs or make mistakes

Broward County employee reveals inside info

School board admitting their mistakes

I’m No Coward, he says…

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Not Now…While Being Beaten in the Face

     When someone is on top of you, beating the snot out of your face, you are not thinking about “why” he is doing it. Not the psychology of why. Not then. But when?

     But later in the “drawing room,” it might at least be interesting?

     In my courses, in the “genesis chapters” of them, if you will, I place major league importance on the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. I…we…need this mandatory outline to properly prepare for the interviews and ambushes in our lives. And so, securely fastened in the formula of this “bible” is the “why question.” Why is he, she, they committing this crime? This war? There are other whys also.

     I think that some people in the pursuits of fighting or self-defense – whatever you want to call it – may find this “why” too interesting in the wrong place and time, so to speak. Often at the expense of the vital, physical fight training time. I cover the subject briefly in seminars, but not too much, because it is a “drawing room study” and not something to over-dwell upon in action, physical seminars that I and most people conduct and attend. If you are teaching in a room full of sweaty guys and gals with mouthpieces, that is not the time to start a psychology session.

     When? For example, I cover the “why” extensively in my new book, Fightin’ Words, for one avenue because I too am overly interested in all these “why questions.” They are fascinating. I just find them fascinating. “Why” covers a wide berth of psychology, culture, history, economies, brain maladies and disorders…on and on. Why? Why? WHY! Why also helps you unravel the other “who, what, where, when and how.”

     The “Ws and the H”- the genesis of fighting, crime and war. The biblical questions. Not to be ignored. Just remember the best “where” for the “why” questions. Best mostly… for the drawing rooms, I think.

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Where’s Your Gun, Rambo? In the Car?

“This is outrageous.” – civilian

“How can police be this stupid to leave their guns unprotected in a car?” – civilian

“I’m wondering why you would ever leave a gun in the car if you’re not there.” – civilian

“I never leave my gun in the car.” – civilian

“My gun is on me 24-7.” – civilian

     Outraged, critical citizens. Panties in a twist because awhile back, a police officer’s squad car was burglarized and stolen from within – an AR-15 and some pistols. I can’t recall why it made the national news, but it did and the auto burglary report was passed around Facebook. The car was legally parked while an officer ate dinner. Many righteous, indignant citizen comments, even cusswords were made about him by Facebook gun experts, rampaging about these guns “left” in a car. (Remember that the horrible, negligent, police officer himself was still armed while eating.)

     I too am guilty of leaving guns in my car. I confess. For the record, someone burglarized my detective car one night in my driveway, first breaking the window glass to find nothing quickly removable, then prying open the trunk and snatching a back-up revolver and a shotgun. The good news was that the very next day while I was stewing over this personal violation, I had a midnight-shift, worker-snitch in a factory contact me, saying that a guy was snooping around the parking lot of the factory, trying to sell “police guns.” He said someone he knew in the factory was interested in buying them. I told my guy to help massage the sale and keep me posted. Then the next night, myself and another detective, Danny McCormick observed the night shift transaction from afar. We swooped in and “fell” upon the suspect. The two guns were indeed mine. I was very lucky.

Hey, it was a lucky recovery, but that loss only happened once in my 26 years of cop guns, cop cars and crime. When you think about the overall 40 some-odd, years that guns have been inside my cars off and on, the odds were and are pretty good that they remain safe. So are yours. What about the rest of us cops? There are some 2 million law enforcement officers (depends on the definition) in the US. And there is no sure way to know how many take-home cars there are, but we can safely guess are thousands and thousands and thousands of patrol, detective and admin cars are take-home, on the drive-ways and streets of America at night. “Abandoned,” as some civilians might critique. Some car salesmen suggest a quarter of a million police cars are take-home cars. Do you think that each and every night, every single officer carts every single weapon into his or her home? I’ll bet not. And still there are hardly any police car burglaries in comparison to the big national, picture.  I know for a fact that hundreds of agencies in the US  “assign” a shotgun to a patrol car or detective car. Take-home cars or not. Those guns are in those cars on government parking lots all the time. (Alarms today do help.)

     But Dear Panty-Twisted Dipshits, do you not realize that every time officers leave their cars on a call, and lose sight of their cars when inside a mall, a business, a house, where ever, they are leaving a car with guns in it? Every time. Shotguns. Rifles. Pistols. Like that officer did when eating on his dinner break. Brace yourself. Armed police cars are left unattended ALL THE TIME, everywhere.

     How about you? Do you leave some guns in your car for a few minutes? An hour?  Overnight? Once in a while? Think they are safe in the trunk? Mine weren’t. And for this indiscretion I too, will be called all these derogatory invectives by these civilian, virgin, gun-toters, the same denigrations as the ”holier-than-thou” disparaged on that hungry officer mentioned earlier. (Watch how many people reading this will comment on how they judiciously pack and cart all their guns and shark repellent and so forth into their house EVERY single night. “Well, I do every…” They will declare.

Great. “You win a cookie,” as the late, great smart-ass, Don Rickles would say.

     But this essay so far is just a round-about way to get me to pontificate about, and for you to think about…guns, cars…and even the gym. Yes the gym? Yes, the gym and your cars on the parking lot of the gym.

     I was and still am a gym rat. I was and am in a gym 5 days a week if home. My dilemma was what to do with – first decades ago, storing my big-ass .357 magnum Colt Python, then storing my .45. Oh, and my badge too? Leave them in the car? The trunk? You know the lockers in the gym were burglarized regularly and the idea of leaving them in one was too dangerous. So the lockers were out of the question. Could I…wear the big-ass Springfield Armory .45 while working out? What about those extra magazines for when MS 13 invaded the weight room? (Have there been any mass shootings in gyms? I don’t know.) Should I be one of those people that hauls around a gym bag with my hand chalk, lip gloss, shark repellant, tourniquet, 3 mags and my handgun? Those gym bags also had a knack of disappearing off the gym floor too. Could I absolutely keep track of that bug-out/work-out bag, 100% of the time?

“Dear Chief…I was star gazing into the aerobics room and someone grabbed my gym bag, with gun and badge inside.”

“Dear Chief…I was bench pressing and while concentrating on my max, someone grabbed my bag with my gun and badge inside.”

     Should I wear one of those “fanny packs?” (Watch out with that term because it means different things in different countries.). And then worse, I also ran both inside and outside when possible for a portion of the workout. It’s no fun running with a Colt Python or .45 bouncing in a fanny pack. But there are tighter “spandexy” kinds of fanny packs and drawers (underwear) body holsters. Do you carry a smaller gun for these gym workouts and runs? If so, where’s your big main gun? Whoops….in the car?

      I did a casual, little survey back in 2016 on this subject with a whole bunch of cops I know from around the world. Know where their guns were? Locked in their cars, for most. I only found a few officers that wore a small gun in some manner in the gym or running (yeeessss, primary gun was – back in the car). And there were a few who did the gym bag thing. One bagger got in a bind with some bad guys he’d once arrested and pulled the gun out for a threat while in the gym. That incident was the single gym-gun-pull incident I could find in my gossipy, non-scientific study. But never mind the police. What about concealed carry people? What do they do with their handguns when at the gym? They have the same problems.

     Police and citizens! Where is that gun or gun-tottin’ gym bag when you take the shower? In that flimsy locker? In a safe in your car? Just in the car? In the trunk? If you will listen to some zealous, gun guys? They sound like they shower with their pistols on them, or have them resting on nearby soap trays.

     Look, I don’t care where your gun is now. I am not preaching about grafting a pistol to your body.  I don’t really care what you do. But, just ask yourself – when you’re at the gym, or a restaurant? Or on a quick shopping or business visit? Work? Or, sleeping in your beds at night? Where are all your guns, Rambo? Honestly?


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Hey, You Can’t Grab That Stick! It’s a Machete!

Filipino stick training. Filipino martial arts. When it comes to the FMA stick, it’s kind of schizophrenic. As usual I write about things as they “come up.” And last weekend’s seminar was another example of the routine question I hear once in a while – “Hock, I study Escrima, and the instructor told me you can’t grab the other’s guy’s stick because it’s supposed to be a bolo.” (Bolo being FMA for the sword or machete)

     “Yeees,” I say. “True,” I say. “But what we have here today is…just a stick.”

     The fact that this question continuously pops up, is reason alone to write about it. A Filipino stylist should know about this sword/stick thing and be able to explain and articulate on the subject. A stick is a sword? A sword is a stick? Not really. Can’t grab? Shouldn’t grab? As a person doing Arnis/Kali/Escrima since 1986 as an obsession at first, and now as a curious hobby of sorts, let me sketch this out for you.

     There are MANY Filipino systems, way more than you have heard of. We just know the lucky-break ones. And systems are being invented all the time. In most of these old and new systems, practitioners have replaced the “wooden” (rattan) stick for the machete, sword as a safer training device. This replacement causes the confusion.

     Do Filipinos carry sticks? No. I’ve been to the Philippines several times, in some big cities and out in the provinces like the Negros Islands and whether it be the municipal areas or the isolated jungles, no one is walking around with a rattan stick on their belts. Plenty of machetes though. Plenty of sharp knives and sharp farm tools. No sticks. In the Philippines, or say, in Mexico and just about any farming culture locations anywhere really, if you are to be killed with an edged weapon, it will probably be a nasty old, rusty farm tool. In Mexico I am told, the expression is, “you will be killed by the $5 machete.”

     Remy Presas would tell me stories of his youth and how he watched men with crop machetes fight and die for sport and money on the Negros. But there was a safer way to do this! And they used the round stick instead, which Remy Presas did for money also. So, a sporting/betting alternative to the machete was born. The stick! (And by the way they did have dulled “training machetes” to use also, but the round stick caught on better. Oh, the lucky breaks.)

     I guess for some I should introduce or remind folks the difference between a round stick and a flat sword/machete. You see, one is round. One is flat. There ya go! But really, they swing different, weigh different and if you are limited to flat edges, one should really be applied differently. A stick is an impact weapon that strikes with the tip, the staff of it, and the handle.

     On the subject of the stick and sword handle – the sword handle can be round so to speak, but often very contoured and form-fighting for the hand. While the Filipino stick is usually just round with no designated end for an official handle. In fact it might be a little taboo to have a designated handle on your FMA stick? We sometimes grimace a bit when we see an over-taped or customized baston handle, don’t we? While FMA swords have all kinds of admirable, customized grips. And proud of it, too.

     Many of the machetes around the world are single edge, and the swords are not necessarily single edged, and can come in all kinds of interesting and elegant shapes, but FMA swords usually that not big and wide like…like say, European broadswords. (Please do not send me photos of giant, Filipino broadswords – I know they exist – I used the word “usually.”) But with the “roundness” of a stick, you lose the very vital, flat-edge-ness of the sword. Oh yeah, and swords are more deadly, faster finishers and need less power application than sticks.

     To accept the stick hand grab is too ignore sword tradition and perhaps believe that in our next street fight, we would be stick-dueling with some thug? The designated thug will use the exact same-sized, designated stick we have! Then again, will you be sword or machete dueling? Outside of a few big “civilized” countries? Well…yes.

     Somehow the sword shape-shifted into the stick so deep in our hearts and minds. Oh, for the love of sticks! For decades, the FMA lover just used sticks, stick, STICKS! The art, the tricks of STICK fighting, stickk-centricm alone developed. Many lovers do not know, or do not care that the sticks are supposed to be swords and machetes. And with the stick, comes a lot of double-hand grabbing and opponent stick grabbing. Look at Tapi-Tapi and Balintawak, for just two pop examples. We all accept the rules that sticks are sticks, sticks have become embraced in FMA and by God, we’ll grab them whenever and where ever we want.

     So, in the 1990s stick enthusiasts came out of the traditional closest and started declaring “you must remember this, a stick is just a stick, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things of living, as time goes by.” And I agree! Just understand you are using a stick. The round stick acceptance was easier for me perhaps because, being a cop, I always thought of the rattan baston as a police stick (or an axe handle). My interest in the FMA stick was not an esoteric, artsy pursuit. People are not “Kung Fu fightin’ – fast as lightning” with matching 28-inch sticks in the alleyways of London (I hear they are throwing a lot of acid these days) or on the south side of Chicago. I wanted to know stick/baton stuff.

     Then, I somehow eased into decades of fun, hobby, certainly social, Filipino stick fighting/dueling stuff. I actually run TWO kinds of stick courses. One, the main big one is Force Necessary: Stick which explores blocking, striking and grappling with an modern impact versus hands, sticks, knives and gun threats. There is zero implication that this is based on any swords. And if you want me to? Ask me to? I will do the Filipino stick vs stick materials I have learned since 1986. Granted I have cut that down too. I play stick-checkers not stick-chess, seeking the essence of it all and not mindlessly, endlessly replicating established – and often BLOATED systems. Or while away my time, seeking out the next stick system, and oh the fascinating magic that THEY do. I don’t run a stick museum, and hell…it’s just a damn stick. (As Remy would often say – “of course, you could just hit the man in the head with the stick.”)

Isn’t it odd that a round stick is chosen to replace a flat bolo or sword? That is like replacing a flat katana with a round broom stick. Isn’t it? katana practitioners would never accept that.

     So we learned that legions of FMA-ers picked up their rounded sticks, sewed on their Filipino patches in revolution and clickety-clicked onward. As though machetes and thin swords never existed. It really is amazing how many FMA-ers blindly accepted the rattan stick as the real-deal McCoy when you think of it. I mean what would Japanese Katana fanatics think of waves of people using broom sticks and calling themselves Katana experts? Would golfers use hockey sticks? Would Chinese fan fighters use tennis rackets? Would a carpenter use a file instead of a saw? Thus the odd, FMS Stick, schizophrenia I suggested.

     Everyone seems so happy with their sticks and stick bags. But still, you can hear these darn spoil sports complain that you should not and cannot grab your stick with two hands, nor can you grab your opponent’s stick with your free hand because it’s a sword! You fool! How dare you! It’s a sword! A bolo! A machete!

     The stick is just like the sword? Is this an excuse? That the universality of FMA weaponry makes them ever so interchangeable? Swords, sticks. Hands. Thin lamps. Rolling pins? “Who throws a shoe, honestly?” I don’t know because while some elements are the same, there are differences bigger than mere nuance. A sword…is kinda’…just like a sword.

     In the last few years I have noticed an increase in…Filipino sword fighting! Yes. Haven’t you seen it? Hundreds of FMA folks have picked up the thin sword. FMA sword grandmasters have arisen from the ashes. I applaud their interest and their understanding that the whole FMA shebang really comes from swords and machetes. My old friends like Chris LaCava and Christof Froehlich, just to name a few, have jumped deep into the roots, understanding the big picture.

     And listen up you “grab-complainer instructors!” If you are so damned offended by people grabbing sticks and forgetting the stick is a machete? Look what’s in your hand! Look what YOU teach with! PUT DOWN THE DAMN STICK AND PICK UP A TRAINING SWORD INSTEAD! That will straighten things out. You know, you can buy dull, safe training swords and plastic swords and machetes too. You are NOT limited to the round “wooden” stick as an abstract facsimile. If you are going have hissy-fits about it? Then practice what you preach and use a damn sword! Pick a theme! A direction! Seriously! If you think the stick is a sword? Don;t confuse your people. Just use a training sword. 

If you use a stick? It’s a stick. Grab it.

So, play it again Sam…
“You must remember this.
A stick is just a stick.
A stick is not a sword.
The fundamental things in FMA, changed as time….goes….by…”


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Shooting an Unarmed Man?

See something interesting about this photo from a gun magazine? Anyone?

     Two guys. Apparently a fight has started. But if you haven’t spotted it yet? The bad guy is…unarmed. No knife. No gun. You might not spot that fact quickly because now more than ever, you’ve seen a lot of photos (and videos) like this and your eyes may glaze over the fact. Unarmed, yet our hero has decided, in this unarmed scuffle, to pull his pistol. It is all tucked back nice, tidy and tactical-like. Will he shoot? We don’t know? I believe many just assume so! The gun magazine photo and the article failed to tell us what happened next, like so much media we see? Did this able-bodied man decide to…to draw and shoot this unarmed man? Who? What caused this? Where? When? Why for? How come? What happened next? I dont know. You don’t know. We just get the photo flashed in out head. 

     Questions unanswered. Photos, books and videos depicting this situation are indeed quite prevalent these days. The overall theme of these types of gun articles and videos is sort of – 

“realist-dealist, gun fight training you don’t do!”

     It tries to push gun shooters into the next level of reality. It’s up to you, to up your game. The shoe is on the other foot now, but does it leave some laces untied? The message is “you will be fighting unarmed. Learn how,” which is fine. But the subtle message we are frequently flashed with is, “You are hand fighting, you are armed. You eventually draw your gun.” The message seems to promote a lot of pulling your pistol in unarmed fights. Watch out. You may know better, but art imitates life, life imitates art. Seeing a preponderance of these kinds of photos and samples could be a mental (and legal) problem. And where is the real finish to the fight? 

     Think about them – the photos in many gun magazines or a lot of those youtube instructional videos you see. What I see, and hear about from gun mags, internet videos and international seminar attendees, is an unarmed man attacks and you maneuver, squirm, push, pull, pin or pass his arms to draw your gun and bam. Exercise ended, huh? Severely wounded or dead, Mister Unarmed guy drops on the ground, and unless you’re James Bond with a license to kill, your work there is done. No legal probs, huh?  You won, 007? Is this the message? Are you a “Double-O?” You shot an unarmed man and now all the ugly “after” of the “before, during and after” begins.

     In the years past, once in awhile, experts have written on this subject, but I am taking a new over-look on the problem due to this odd, media proliferation these days. I am adding some very specific points and solution exercises for people to work on. Things that I have been developing and using these last 22 years (LONG, long before it was “cool,” as it today).

     I have worked many shootings and subsequent murders through the decades as a police investigator. I’ve attended dozens of schools on this subject. I’ve also been “taken to school” by vet prosecutors and vet criminal defense attorneys. When we investigate, indict and move to prosecution, (no matter what country the process is in) I learned the cracks, the elements, the loopholes and yes, the distortions that can exist in each case. The simple becomes complex. The small, big. The big, small. Shooting someone is a rollercoaster ride. While there are some whacky results in whacky cases, what I am about to line out are overall, acceptable standards and advice.

     Some might call it, “gun arm grappling,” as I have too. The topic is about clearing an opponent’s arms to draw your gun and, or stop him from drawing his gun, (or knife maybe?). This sort of close-up “struggle-draw-shoot” is indeed new to a lot of gun range people, because they never do it. Oh, they probably have seen it these days in the media, but they don’t do the work. It’s an “athletic endeavor,” but quite unlike normal athletics. Fighting is not golf or tennis, maybe a bit like football, rugby or Australian “Footie.” Certainly more like MMA. It’s rough. It’s tumble. People can and do get hurt in training. The vast majority of gun owners in the USA and other countries don’t and won’t study MMA, least of all MMA with pistols. Most won’t exercise at all. But the messy problem happens to gun people. Where does this stress draw fit in the bigger situational picture of shooting?

“Draw/Don’t Draw” is one step in the process. Here are the other steps, as I teach them-

Step 1- There/Not-There – (Why are you there? Or then, why are you staying?

Step 2- Draw/Don’t Draw

Step 3- Aim/Don’t Aim (The gun can be drawn and not pointed)

Step 4- Shoot/Don’t Shoot

Step 5- Stay/Don’t Stay (Don’t gasp. For many in certain circumstances this might be an option)

     Live-fire range people don’t, can’t and shouldn’t grapple with live firearms. It’s dangerous and well…they usually don’t have the gear, time, grade and the martial savvy to organize a training outline and maximize their efforts. So, the preponderance of live-fire shooters never work any real, practical close-up, hands-on, gun-wrangling, problem-solving. This does lead to some confusing problems and mixed, missed messages when these articles and films are written, read and photos seen. 

     Now before I continue, I do not want to appear that I am picking on the participants in the top photo above from a popular gun publication. Not at all. The moment captured may be during a very early, step-by-step training progression, an introductory stage that I will discuss later. The context might be exactly what I am warning you about here and demonstrating the controversy. I just want to use this singular, published photo of an overall training situation, to discuss an incomplete training trend.

      And, a single photo tells us much less than a photo series. I just recently saw yet another series of several “fight scenes” in very popular “weapons” magazines. These prevalent series can be even more ambigious for motives and endings. Our hero struggles with an opponent in each set, standing and grounded. The hero gets to his gun and draws his pistol on the unarmed man in the last sequence of each photo set. Man freezes. Set done. Photo series over. But, what happened next to Mister Freeze? Was he shot and wounded? Shot dead? Fled? Arrested? Controlled until authorities arrive? No explanation in the photos or text of a finish. (I hate to show examples of these photos here because they contain people who read this blog and page, are friends, and editors of these magazines – the editors responsible for publishing the material.)

     So, back to it! Draw on an unarmed man? And, or shoot an unarmed man? Or, to bluff? Draw and bluff/scare unarmed man…off? Hit him with the pistol itself? Or, a pre-emptive draw? Maybe our hero in the photo up top drew his pistol because he is predicting the empty-handed man has a pocketed knife? Did he see the print of a concealed handgun? It would be nice to know so we could better understand the legalities. We always knew about these problems through handgun history, but when did we REALLY start worrying, working on and grappling with these realities? We CANNOT ignore them.

Rubber Guns – Part of the confusion begins with using rubber guns. You know “force-on-force” training, right? The term? The idea? Much of it, popularity-wise, was and is done with rubber guns since the 1990s. A step in the right direction, it seems to have started with police training back then, and it did spread into the civilian gun world. Since the fad inception, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen the two police work-out partners, one a trainer, the other a trainee, have an assigned, orchestrated situation to work through. The trainee manages to draw his pistol and aim it at the trainer. The gun is drawn AND THEN, BOTH PARTICIPANTS JUST…FREEZE. They freeze. As if the fight is over. Then they do it all over again, and again, freezing again, as if just pointing the gun at the attacker completely ends the situation. This innocent, thoughtless approach is not just a police problem anymore either. Citizens do this constantly too. As a result, this mysterious sort of “freeze” ending appears in magazines and videos. This was and is unfortunately often practiced without verbal commands, unless the instructor insists. This encounter is NOT over yet. The worst part is yet to come. Rubber guns don’t shoot safe ammo, and help create the “Mister Freeze” finish.

The “Mister Freeze” Finish – If you have been “around,” I think you’ve seen this draw- and-freeze, in training, books, magazines and videos. Think about it for a moment. Photo spreads of standing or grounded folks ending with a pulled rubber gun pointing at an attacker. The attacker is often unarmed. And if the attacker is armed with say – a knife and about to plunge down? The knifer still just freezes at gunpoint like a statue. Even if a charging knifer was shot, he could still fall down on you in a gurgling, wounded mess.The knife still very much a danger, something the shooter needs to experience in training. This is not good training without a legit finish. (There is a working list of such endings for citizens, police and military and that too is a whole other essay.)

     If you use Simunition ammo (painful and expensive) the training partners need significant gear, altering the reality experience, and it is hard and expensive to do this like 50 times or so. Then move to another scenario and do that 50 times. (That’s probably over $100 Simunitions ammo already) One can only be shot by hardcore Sims…so many times from pain and expense. If you use BB Guns, well, watch out for your eyes? Airsoft? Gas or electric? Make sure it’s a sturdy version! But the introduction of training guns that don’t shoot anything, causes false endings and perhaps bad, inconclusive habits. A rubber gun is important, but like a big boxing glove, is a temporary tool in your tool box to be used when it makes best training sense to. There are also other sturdy guns, like wooden guns, that can also shoot safe ammo. Safe ammo training builds the Shoot/Don’t-Shoot decision shooting.

Okay – Gun’s Out  – You still have to remember that your weapon pull must be justified and you have to be in great fear of your life and others to shoot someone. Say you are in a touchy situation. You just can’t draw every time someone bear-hugs you, or messes with you, shoves you, or touches you or grabs your arm, as seen in so many photos and in training. Once you draw your gun out you have four big possibilities with that gun:

   Possibility 1: Shoot right away.

   Possibility 2: Bluff right away.

   Possibility 3: Re-holster after bluffing because your bluff didn’t work. 

   Possibilty 4: Hit him with the pistol.

Pull and Bluff? – Will your gun bluff work, which must include good verbiage and great command presence because you have to scare the revved-up, opponent off of you and away. Also, will the grappling enemy always hear your bluff, understand your bluff,  and actually see your gun in the chaos of a close-up wrestle?  A gun bluff is very controversial for some. Not for me at all, because I used it dozens of times as a cop. But some admin people in police and military authority, do not believe in any draw-and-bluff. None. They claim that if you need to draw, then you absolutely needed to shoot. NO bluffing allowed.

     If you draw and bluff, another thing to consider is that your mighty handgun has now been removed from its retention holster, for all that might follow. What happens next? Gun arm grappling on you and your drawn gun? The enemy has two free hands to screw with your weapon bearing limb, bash you, or do both. Anyway, the skills of the gun bluff are a whole other long article (coming soon) and I believe that if a gun-carrier isn’t quite familiar with the pros and cons of the “gun bluff,” they are moving around their world in legal and physical danger.

Pointing and Brandishing – You cannot automatically assume that all citizens are pulling their guns out and, or aiming it under legally justified situations. Smart gun owners ask me about this and worry about the terms of “presentation assault” and “brandishing.” Some very general examples of “non-contact” assault are 1) swinging a baseball bat but not hitting a person, 2) swinging your fist at someone without hitting, 3) and pointing a gun, loaded or not, at someone. (This is why there’s a difference between pulling out your gun and not aiming it, and pulling and aiming it – there certainly is in many police agencies today with “use of force” reports, in that if you pull and do not aim? No use-of-force report is needed. If you pull and aim? A report is needed)         

      Brandishing is a broad term. Military vet and NRA instructor Ben Findley, who wrote the praised book Concealed Carry and Handgun Essentials for Personal Protection writes, “brandishing” or “improper exhibition” or “defensive display” or “unlawful display” (or whatever your state and jurisdiction calls it) depends specifically on your state and jurisdiction. Very generally, however, for an operating definition “brandishing” means to display, show, wave, or exhibit the firearm in a manner which another person might find threatening. You can see how widely and differently this can be subjectively interpreted by different “reasonable” individuals and entities. In some states it’s a Misdemeanor crime and in others a Felony.”  (More things to worry about, huh?)

Handgun as an Impact Weapon – Another controversial tactic is hitting the enemy with the front, top, bottom and sides of your pistol. Finger off the trigger! This is a subject too long, and a click off-topic to discuss here. It’s the subject of a whole other essay (coming soon). Some gun and police authorities condone the idea. Some vomit at the thought. Be aware of this and investigate it. 

Multiple Opponents – One cannot discuss this subject without at least mentioning multiple opponents. So here it is. Sometimes you might be able to draw your pistol, and be able to legally shoot unarmed people if there are a bunch of them and you can logically articulate that you feel doomed.

Training the Introduction – This “always-draw/always shoot” theme and its related “muscle memory,” makes me very nervous. In the beginning, for a short period inside the training progression I teach, I do have people draw guns, sticks and knives under various, simple experiences of physical stress. The trainer is a generic stressor. In the beginning, an unarmed trainer makes certain common physical difficulties that the gunman has to overcome to draw. He swings. He pushes. He grabs. You trip. You’re down. He kicks. Etc. You are standing and seated. Grounded. You pin, pass, pull or push his arms. It’s not a scenario yet, it’s a virgin, introduction to the body mechanics and the difficulties of stress draws. I explain this to participants, then as quickly as possible we move to justified situations where the trainee sees real danger like a trainer pulling a weapon. I do not want to create the muscle memory of people drawing and shooting unarmed opponents just because they are in a fight. So, pulling a weapon? From where?

A Quick Review of Weapon Carry Sites you must watch and worry over-

   *Primary- Usually around the belt line and pockets…

   *Secondary – Usually the “back-up” spots, boot knife, neck chain, takes a little “digging”…

   *Tertiary – sites off the body, lunge and reach…

   (Study the arm/hand movements to these 3 sites.)

Some Draw and Shoot Exercises- There are so many ways to set up these safe ammo training scenarios. For example, here are six big ways I have folks train this problem with simulated ammo guns:

   1-Argue: Argue and at some point a trainer draws a weapon in the middle of the verbal mess. Trainee responds.

   2-Kickbox: Kickbox and at some point a trainer draws a weapon in the middle of the kickboxing mess. Trainee responds.

   3-Crash into a bear hug: At some point, a trainer draws a weapon in the middle of the bear hug mess. Trainee responds.

   4-Ground fighting: At some point, a trainer draws a weapon in the middle of the ground mess. Trainee responds.

   5-Recreating actual crime and war events

   6-Draw after he draws, even after he shoots you. (Never say die)

     Your first step/response might not always be drawing your gun, but stopping/messing up his draw, then you draw. This is why I place such a priority on recognizing the body movements associated with common weapon pulls. I don’t think you are a real-deal, “gun-guy,” unless you can also fight unarmed, recognize weapon draws and know how to disrupt them if possible. Unarmed combatives.

     These sample drills create the proper response to the weapon pull. Good experiments. Often, the best, first response might be with empty hands. Many times clocking the guy in the snout first for a good brain splash, and, or while grabbing his weapon limb in the best spot is the first, smart thing to do. You learn with Sims ammo that if you just pull your gun after he pulls his, you both shoot each other. Sad news. I have seen many, MANY mutual shoot-outs in these drills where both guys are shot with sims in an instant or two.


Unarmed People Can Fight Differently than Armed People  – Another really interesting point about all this is, if an unarmed man is attacking you, or holding you, the unarmed attacker may be in a few common UNARMED positions. But, but…but, if the bad guy is drawing a weapon from the 3 common carry sites, or has one drawn out already and holding you? That is another set of positions. His body WILL NOT BE IN THOSE EXACT, UNARMED MAN POSITIONS. So not only is the common-fad-prep of brainwashing you to draw and shoot unarmed people wrestling with you legally problematic, it’s not teaching you to grapple against ARMED attacker movements and positions.

The “Hulk Hogan/Pee Wee Herman” Standard – Shooting an unarmed person is very, very situational. If an unarmed, enraged Hulk Hogan is attacking Pee Wee Herman and Pee Wee shoots the Hulk, the police, prosecutors, judges and juries may be very sympathetic to wimpy Pee Wee. But If the Hulk shoots an unarmed, angry Pee Wee attacking him, the Hulk cannot expect these same empathies. People will say, “Come on Hulk! You didn’t need to shoot him.” See what I mean? Fear of life kind of thing? Now, extrapolate that in degrees from there. Old versus young? Infirm versus firm. Etc. Etc. This has a lot to do with the WHO of the who, what, where, when, how and why questions, the bible for survival. Who are you and who is he? We cannot begin to list the many situational examples of successful and unsuccesful shootings. Case-by-Case. Situational. We have real, rare “wow” examples, and we all can concoct particular situations in our minds where such shootings would legitimately occur. 

     On the subject of “infirm,” NRA Texas gun Instructor Karl Rehn, owner of KR TRaining reminds, “One of the flaws in the presentation of this all this unarmed combatives material (and people’s perception of it) is that all the demos in magazines and films involve young, fit, male people fighting other young, fit, male people. To those that are martial arts enthusiasts, it’s easy to believe in the outcome of winning in an unarmed fight. That’s not true for all gun carriers, many of whom are older, weaker or simply do not have any training or confidence in their skills.”

     My old friend and attorney David Kenik wrote in Shooting Times in 2015 – “Bubba is heading right for you, smacking his fists together and yelling that he is going to beat you to death. You are scared for your life – and rightfully so – but he is unarmed. Can you use your firearm to defend yourself? The answer is 100 percent, unequivocally, positively; maybe.”

Sims Scenarios! – Science Daily researched studies on gun ownership and practice levels in 2017. They quoted an Oregon State University study that concluded gun owners can train and mitigate risk by working through simulated scenario practices, which typically involve practice drawing/using a weapon in simulated scenarios with inanimate targets, digital images on a screen or using actors, and may include taking armed self-defense training courses. This calls for excellent scenario training modules and simulated ammunition guns. These scenarios do not require Oscar winning performances and set-ups and some instructors like to concoct. They can be easy and cheap to set up and do. Get a training gun that shoots safe, semi-auto ammo, even a rubber band gun will do to learn the concepts of “shoot/don’t-shoot. This interactive exercises should augment live fire training.  This is something I believe in and have organized for about 22 years now. I was and am not alone. This is not new.

Finally, Some Actual Self Defense Law! – Some folks like to declare and repeat some legalese “all strikes to the head and throat/neck can be deadly” when this topic comes up. What are they suggesting? That you can draw, shoot and kill anyone who does this to you? I do get the idea that they are suggesting this. A national, “Self-Defense Overview from Lawyers dot com checks in,

“People have the right to defend themselves—this much we all know. We also know that there are limits to what one can do in self-defense. For instance, the self-defense doctrine doesn’t allow someone to use a minor scuffle as an excuse to shoot the opponent. At its core, the doctrine of self-defense applies when someone:
  • isn’t the aggressor
• reasonably believes force is necessary for self-protection against imminent and illegal violence, and
• uses a proportional amount of force.

Self-defense can be boiled down to three basic components:
• necessity
• proportionality, and
• reasonable belief.”

     Note the word “proportionality” and “uses a proportional amount of force.” Your reasonable belief that the other guy is going to KILL you with his empty hand strikes, must be explainable, understandable and make common sense within the situation.) 

In Summary –  I don’t think anyone would argue that shooting an unarmed person can create a lot of depressing and expensive problems. The FBI stats report a scary high percentage of people we fight in America are armed with some weapon. People in other countries are also carrying weapons. Be on the look-out, as we say in police work, during the fight for a weapon pull. Yet, it is almost impossible to mine how many armed citizens shoot unarmed people under the auspices of self-defense, perceived or real. Just try to research this on the web and you will be smothered in “police-shoot-unarmed-black-men” links, articles, protests and reports. Citizens shooting unarmed attacker stats are on page 412 (if you can last that long looking?) and would fall disguised into other common crime categories. Locating them and then locating their legal disposition would be tediously hard.

     So, just how big this problem of citizens-shooting-unarmed-attackers is in the USA or worldwide, I don’t think we will ever know. And, perhaps these suggestive photos and videos are somewhat displaced by a growing list of traveling firearms-self-defense-law classes that are pick up around the USA. Which is good. Every gun carrier needs these lessons.

     Thinking, reading and listening cannot replace “doing” and these simulated ammo, situational exercises with fast, easy and cheap simulated ammo guns are very important. I know I see way too many photos, photo sets, videos and hear seminar testimonies on unarmed people being drawn on, and, or “shot” in training. Or, the scenario not be properly finished and participants “Mister Freeze” at the gun point – the endless ending.

     Remember the Treyvon Martin-Zimmerman case in Florida to name just one? Shooter shoots an unarmed man that’s on top of him, punching down on him. Zimmerman pulls and shoots. Seems logical, but LOTS of legal (and social) problems. He was set free in the end. Of course there are some situations where a person can legally justify shooting an unarmed attacker. Case-by-case basis review. I am just warning you to watch out for some popular magazine articles, books, photos spreads and videos “out there” where folks are mindless pulling training guns when they shouldn’t and shooting attackers when they shouldn’t. Art imitates life. Life imitates art, and you might know better, but still do it impulsively anyway. Those nasty Mirror Neurons in your brain! I repeat a key line from above, “I do not want to create the muscle memory of people indiscriminately drawing and then shooting unarmed people.” 

     It will always be difficult trying to convey a big lesson, and the context of such, in one single photo, or even a photo series. It’s a real challenge for authors, magazines and books. Because of this, we must be careful of the unintended consquences from these imagines being scattered around, even amongst the most thoughtful people.

      One of my long time students is very successful heart surgeon. He is about 55 years-old and in moderate-to-good shape. He always works out in our hand, stick, knife, gun materials. He does well enough with it all, but routinely proclaims that, “if some young punk tries to rob me, unarmed or not, I can’t fight with him. I’m an old man. I am shooting him dead.” 

     What can you say to that? It is all very, very situational. He’s already heard all my speeches, warnings, advice and worked through the shoot/don’t shoot exercises. I just say,

     “Well…okay, Doc, I hope that works out for ya.”


* Read up on the precise laws of “fear of life,” “lethal force,” “self-defense,” “imminent, bodily injury, “stand your ground,” “retreat,” etc, with examples, right here.

* Read the great Massad Ayoob’s coverage of some of these cases: Click right here 


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2 or 3 Things in 30 Minutes…

Through the years, and in just the last couple of interviews I have been asked this classic question, “If you had 30 minutes to teach someone some self-defense techniques, what 2-3 techniques would you show them?

     I guess it is some super self-defense, touchstone question. And I I know…I know… some people will say, "eye-jab," or "running away." I am not really an official "self defense instructor." I am not sure what I am really – maybe just a guy who has collected some tricks people are interested in – but inside what I teach is obviously some self-defense. I guess in some sense it is all about defending yourself, huh? But, I am certainly not one of these “Reality-Based, Self-Defense” people, as I find that title/term silly and redundant. Like ordering pizza with your pizza at a restaurant. Or, “I’ll have a cheeseburger, please, and oh…can I have a cheeseburger with that?” Self defense is just self defense. Is or it isn't.

     Anyway, I have no answer to that touchstone “2 or 3” question. No matter what one suggests, it may not apply to the situation. Suggestions would cause endless debate, because it is all situational whether the debaters realize it or not.

     Perhaps if you told me WHY I only had 30 minutes? It might help me figure out what to suggest? You know, like knowing what exactly was going to happen in 31 minutes?

Situation: “Zombies, who only die when decapitated, will finally break into the karate school in 31 minutes. What 2 or 3 things will you teach?”

Well, then, I guess…decapitation.

Otherwise? I got nothing.


A follow-up! This little essay, which I posted in several pages, has been shared, and re-shared about a hundred times in 48 hours with hundreds of comments. As I had feared, for many, it became a chance for them to list 3 things to be taught in 30 minute deadline. You have to understand the 30 minute context is a bit of a sarcastic joke and fallacy. It’s a ill concept for the great unwashed to ask experts and presumed experts what universal three things must be taught in this false time limit pretense. Why 30 minutes? Why just 3?

Many simply agreed with me. Many, offered a solution list (which I was trying to avoid collecting. I mean the whole original essay is about why you SHOULDN’T and CAN’T make such a list without knowing the situation).
The list included:
-running away
-walking away
-eye jab
-high line fake, lowline kick, highline strike
-get a pistol
-elbow strike, hand claw, shin kick
-de-escalation skill
-carry a knife
-balls kick
-avoid dangerous places
-teach awareness
-learn basics of Brazilian wrestling
-the Thompson Fence
-on and on….   
So, you have 30 minutes to teach a soldier how to survive, when in a mere 30-plus-1 minutes, he will be in the snowy mountains confronting ISIS? And you select…negotiation skills? See what I mean? You need a situation.

     Why I am bothering to respond to this, what I found as an interesting take-away from these many comments, is this! People’s definition of their “fight.” How they perceive “their fight” and how they would solve their idea of their pending fight. The fight is undefined in the original question, yet the comments are solutions to defined, pre-conceived notions of fights. Their notions. Their idea of their fights revealed! They conceive of a violent encounter where they can just run away, despite the fact that you can’t run from all fights – as bad guy or guys might chase you, or you can’t abandon your kid sister, or you’re cornered in a place where you can escape, or you’ll be shot in the back. Or, they conceived their fight to be a unarmed, stand-off duel, where they can bob, weave, probe with a jab, or just fake high, kick low… They conceive their fight to be walk-away-able, negotiated with diplomatic banter. (It’s hard to de-escalate a mugger – he just wants your watch). People quickly responded with solutions to their perceived fights. That’s interesting to me and a teaching point. What kind of fight to you think you are training for? Maybe this stupid little 30 minute question is somewhat revealing?

     I say “unwashed” above because…because…if you are savvy, experienced, if you understand the big picture, you understand that this is a hand, stick, knife, gun world…a mixed weapons world…and fights, crime and wars are in urban, suburban and rural areas, inside and outside of homes and businesses. The nature of the encounters and diversity of the situations are numerically vast…VAST. The architecture and geography in which they occur, big as a mountain, or as small as closest…VAST.

     The big picture solution is never quit working out with hand, sticks, knives and guns, with and against them, never quit your study and curiosity of the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions to define high and low priorities, and build a certain, overall “fighting savvy” inside your brain and gut. I have zero problems with people creating baseline, need-to-know skills. Of course we need them. Then examine and experiment with skills to survive situations. Sure. 

     Just not in this 30 minute, clap-trap framework.


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