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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.

The Paul Bishop, Hock Hochheim Author Interview

(Now here's ya some readen'. Interrogated by one of the greats, LAPD decades-long vet/investigator and author Paul Bishop strapped me in for some incriminating questions about my writing! I confess! I confess!)

Bishop: If you were to go rogue and Interpol was foolish enough to issue a most wanted BOLO, what pertinent information would be on it?  

Hock: BOLO! Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the look-out for W. Hock Hochheim! Grew up in New Your City area and became an illegal immigrant in Texas in 1972. Finally granted Texican citizenship after an Apache initiation. Be advised. Former Army patrolmen, Former Army investigator. Former Texas patrol office. Former Texas detective. Has several black belts in martial arts. Once described himself as – first and foremost a writer, second a detective, third a martialist. In that order. Since retirement, travels the world (11 countries) —like Cain in Kung Fu — teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives, but would prefer being a hermit and writing westerns, with an occasional crime thriller and how-to-fight book.
Bishop: When did you first consciously begin to develop the skills of a storyteller?

Hock: As a kid, as I was fascinated with comics and books — and covers! Both hardcover and paperback. I began to draw and write in the ‘60s, in what is now called graphic novels—a combination of illustrations and words. In my case, while they played off each other, they also took from each other. I noticed that in phases of time, the art was fantastic and the words seemed to suffer, and vice versa. Great words, lazy art. It seemed I had only enough energy for one at a time. I created western stories back then for some unknown reason, as I was interested in all genres. I majored in art and was bound for art college in New York City, but instead, climbed on a motorcycle and took off for points unknown. 
Bishop: You have written a diverse mix of non-fiction and fiction. Is your approach to each different or the same?

Hock: If there is a singular approach through all, it is to be different than the usual formulas. Not follow the mainstream storylines. Say, in terms of a western, the "cattle man vs the sheep man" formulas. The "land grabber vs the settlers." My western character Gunther is set in the early 1900s, which is already different. He is reading HG Wells and Freud. This approach has not endeared me to classic western readers, but it’s still rather classic—with a twist. In Last of the Gunmen, Gunther is up against a minor league baseball team whose players commit robberies when they are playing away games — robbing church money being sent to the Pope, is their big caper. Not exactly a classic saloon, cowboy showdown. 

In Blood Rust, our hero was an NYPD detective. I love good NYPD detective stories when the style is just right. I wanted to capture that motif, but not in the usual way. Enter Rusty who, after being shot in the head in an ambush, becomes a New Jersey criminal—he’s a psycho, until he finds out he convicted the wrong man for murder. Something goes…BOOM…in his head. Crazy Rusty has become a popular character and, with any luck, I can write the next one in a few years. But the approach is recognizably the same—but different. 

Bishop: When writing your books specific to tactics and strategies of self-defense, how do you separate yourself from the other books on the subject?

Hock: The how-to textbooks are very rote, step-by-step, unless there is a support essay, in which a bit of personality may appear. Fightin’ Words: The Psychology and Physicality of Fighting book is full of personal, flavorful essays on fighting subjects. In my novels, all this fighting stuff manifests in the action and fight scenes, which I am happy to say readers like. I try to put people in the driver’s seat. In terms of writing, the fighting the fictional fight, it becomes checkers not chess. The sentences are structured to be quick and personal, matching the speed of the fight whenever possible. Violent poetry.
Bishop: How is what you teach in seminars different and how did you develop your tactics?

Hock: I started doing Ed Parker Kenpo Karate in 1972—I was not a kid, which will tell you how old I am — right before I joined the Army. I have never stopped studying various martial arts since. I messed with them from a police and military perspective, so, I realized arts and their dogmas were not perfect fits for fighting crime and war. I studied many different arts, always looking for the next best thing. I discovered there was no next best thing. Soooo, I decided to create the next best thing—The essence of hand, stick, knife and gun. 

Bishop: What are the most common self-defense misconceptions you run up against?

Hock: Oh, like…that size doesn’t matter—It does matter…it’s why God made weight class/levels in combat sports. That being alert is the key to safety. You can be as alert as a skittish fawn, but then you may well have to fight. How much gas (endurance) and how much dynamite (explosive power) and savvy (fighting time and grade) do you have? It’s great you were alert to a bad guy approaching, but how long will you remain alert when he is smashing your face in? Another misconception is a knife or gun solves everything. People have to draw these weapon under stress — with almost no practice for doing so — and often it is morally, ethically, and illegal to shoot or stab somebody based on the situation. That’s just three. It’s a lengthy list.

Bishop: What prompted you to turn your hand to fiction and the slam-bang action tales of adventurer Johann Gunther?

Hock: Serial characters make the world go round, whether you are a child reading Dick, Jane and Spot, a teen reading Harry Potter, or adults reading and watching Harry Bosch or Batman. People fall in love with serial characters. We like to stick with good characters, especially when they age. I wanted to take a shot at that concept. Gunther exists in a time gap between the western gun fighter of the 1890s, and the Sam Spades of 1920s. He is a mix of both. Detectives were indeed popular then, and Gunther is a "problem-solving" detective.

Bishop: Did you have a specific real life of fictional character who provided the inspiration for Johann Gunther? 

Looks-wise, since Gunther is an immigrant German, I imagine him to look like the actor Rutger Hauer, when he was in his ‘30s and ‘40s. Gunther is a highly realistic, fully-fleshed out version of the old Paladin, from the 1950s TV show Have Gun, Will Travel, which was a sophisticated show in its day, but not by modern complex standards. We learn how Gunther wound up in the US, the Army, the stint as a deputy in Paris, Texas, his appointment to West Point, etc. So, he is a mix of various fiction models, but different. My first fictional character was Jumpin’ Jack Kellog, a Houston area police detective in Be Bad Now, who is a mix of several real Texas detectives I worked with and knew. Ol’ Rusty, of Blood Rust, is not anyone really—just a red-headed, crazy guy, who can’t think straight and solves his problems and the crime with half psychopathic measures.
Bishop: Have you found anything in the psychology or practice of martial arts that has application to the writing process?

Hock: I guess so. In the arts end of martial arts, they try to develop various qualities of perseverance and—if you think about it—the good qualities of a bring a better person. For me, sitting down to write is a torturous process with rare flashes of rewards. I guess these martial arts qualities help keep me in the chair through the torture.
Bishop: Your new book, Dead Right There: More Memories and Confessions of a Former Military and Texas Lawman, Private Investigator, and Bodyguard, is a sequel to your first collection of real life cases in which you were involved—Don't Even Think About It. What prompted you to share more of your experiences?

Hock: In the 1980s, while I was a police detective, my father-in-law was visiting. He was reading a non-fiction, book written by an insurance investigator. He loved it, claiming, “These stories are great. Interesting.” I looked the book over. Jeez, it was the most boring, paper-crime, cases. Fraud cases. People like this?  I mean, a few days before I cleared a murder and we were shot at trying to arrest the guy, but people were mesmerized by the very simple fraud stories in the book. Really? 

I thought about this. People like true action. They also like true procedurals. Everyone loved the stories I told them. I was very lucky to have been a detective in the Army and in Texas for about 18 years. It was a very interesting time and place in Texas and law enforcement history. A lot of things happened, killings, robberies, rapes, and it was the era of lone-wolf-detective. You got your cases, or went to the crime scene when on call, and you worked them hard—by yourself. Occasionally, you could ask your close-friend detectives for help. It wasn’t just detective stories. People also liked to hear my patrol stories. (I have an odd sense of humor).

I always felt the urge to write, and had been doing it on the side. I was the editor of the international Close Quarter Combat Magazine, and had many articles published elsewhere, as well as a history book on Pancho Villa, and the police novel, Be Bad Now back in the 1980s. However, it was about 2002, when I began writing down these true police stories. It’s a long, back story. 

I collected the stories and composed quite a hefty book called, Don’t Even Think About It, a line I used a lot when arresting people and predicting they were going to resist arrest in some way. I think I heard Randolph Scott say it in a western once, and it stuck with me. The book was bought. Then, publishers bought out publishers and the book was in the classic development-hell of a hidden file cabinet somewhere. I pretty much forgot about it. 

Then in 2009, someone called and said they now owned the book and were going to publish it and others they had acquired. Next, they told me the book was too big and needed to be cut in half. I cut it in half, still trying to keep some chronology of the stories. Thus, Don’t Even Think About It—half of it anyway—made it into print. A promise of a two-book deal contract was forthcoming, to cover the second half of the original big manuscript. The contract never came—and like all other vanishing, distressed book publishers, these people caved too. 
So, there I sat with a whole other complete book. I then owned the rights to book 2 Dead Right There, which was what I had titled it. Over the years, thousands of copies of Don’t Even Think About It have sold. People liked my blogs, and they liked the book. So I hope they will also like Dead Right There. “Dead right there,” was another phrase we used back in the day — “Do that and your dead right there.” There are a lot more action stories in this new one. 

Bishop: Will there be a third Texas Detective book? 

Hock: You know, I don’t know. I don’t think so, but my wife keeps reminding me of strange stories I have told her, which I have forgotten! So, maybe there is another one in the future. 
Bishop: Clearly your schedule is packed with seminars and writing. Do you still find time to read for pleasure, and if so, which authors do you reach for on your bookshelf?

Hock: I am gone so much, I write a lot on planes and in hotels. But I write obsessively at home, too. It is not healthy. I work out quite a bit, and listen to a lot of audio books. I usually have one book going on audio and one paper book going at the same time. 

I recently went through a lot of Matt Helm books and revisited Mike Hammer. Also some Ian Fleming. I have read several Longmire books lately. Like I dissect a boxing match, I dissect these books for plot, pacing, style. Why do they work? When did they work? I think fiction is the poetry of non-fiction. The emotional connection that, most times, non-fiction can’t seem to touch. Let’s face it, more people know about the Civil War from the movie Gone with the Wind, than any history class they attended as kids and teens. Such emotional fiction is very powerful. And, the writer’s challenge is to make the uninteresting, interesting—you know those in-between scenes needed to knit a story together. make them iteresting! Write it and skin it like Hemingway. What’s left is the poetry, if you’re good—If you’re very good.

I am currently reading a history book on Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and listening to The Memory Illusion, which covers the very latest neurology research on memory. If I pick a new author of a fiction series, it’s like I investigate them. But, most of book series leaves me scratching my head. 
Bishop: What are you looking for in the year ahead in your writing and in your seminars?

Hock: I have to write a textbook on gun combatives. I do not teach marksmanship. I only cover interactive shooting with safe ammunition. I have amassed quite a bit of knowledge on how people shoot each other, in common and some uncommon situations. You are not really learning to gunfight unless moving and thinking people are shooting back at you. I use safe to painful, but not real, ammo to organize this exercises. Fiction – and, I am pitching a book about a terrific female action character and Japanese terrorists. And my German publishers/distributors have accepted my third Gunther plot, Rio Grande Black Magic. I am really excited about it — as all writers say – but that ones for 2019.
As far as seminars go, I am 65 years old and the stopwatch is ticking on how long I can zip around teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives. I tell people every weekend that I only play touch football and everyone else plays tackle. But when you’re older, even touch takes its toll. Then, there’s that flicker of macho, a flash of youth I shouldn’t have, then there's mistakes or missteps I shouldn't have taken. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wham. I just survived my most recent surgery from being hit with a stick at the wrong place, wrong time. But I will go on until I can’t or shouldn’t—or I get a big book deal that makes even Clive Cussler and the ghost of Clancy jealous!

Bishop: Thx Hock for sharing and for all you do for law enforcement across the country and around the world. You are a true warrior…

Hock: And I thank you!

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Violence is My Middle Name

Austin Danger Powers – “Danger…is my middle name.”
Willie Violent Jones – “Violent…is my middle name.”
Violence Combatives – “We fight violently.”
Violence Self Defense – “Self defense is sheer violence.”

     Consider what I say here. I’ve been in the martial teaching business since 1990 when I opened my first classes and school. This escalated/evolved to the point I started traveling to teach, whereupon I had to close my school. Too busy. Since then and for 22 years, I have taught in places all over the planet as far as China and Australia. I’ve literally seen hundreds of courses and schools come and go. I constantly interact with school and course owners. It has helped me identify doctrine and dogma problems, planned and mostly unplanned obsolescence, successes, but more failures. I have definite opinions on martial success and failure.

     And I have opinions on using the word “violence” or "violent" in system names and ads. I’ve seen a training trend through recent years, to include these words in the title of courses and programs. “Violent This-or-That,” course, or “This-or-That Violence” course. I don’t think it’s a good idea or a good name, or part of a name. Maybe it’s okay for a movie? For a B-Movie at that. But, for a training course, for a successful business? No. It’s back to the "who, what, where, when, how and why" review to see why.

     WHO? For starters, remember the customer. The "who-things" like – who are your customers. Do they just want to be violent? Why do they want be violent? Yes, who is the customer? Your next customer? The one you haven’t met yet. And may never meet because of your message. Your viewers? Your readers? Who wants, as a main attraction – just to be violent? Who responds to your violent shingle? Who shuns it? (Also remember the who includes the police. The Prosecutor. The Judge. The Jury, all are “consumers” of your message. Remember that line, as it will come back again later in the essay.).

     I also understand the attempts of various people at sounding oh-so-tough, like tough-guy courses, with skulls crushing everything and so forth. I mean, while I don’t like it, and I see through right it, I kind of understand what they are getting at, what they are trying for. Usually this is a very small slice of the market catering to, I would say, based on my observations, oh…white males mostly between 17 and…oh…36, 38-ish? And a certain type at that. Are you stopping there? Very few people are around that "get" what you are trying to say and do.

     Then WHAT. What's in a word, anyway? This word violence? Violence and violent will always be perceived as negative words. It just…does and will. Look at the common definition.

Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. synonyms: brutality, brute force, ferocity, savagery, cruelty, sadism, barbarity, brutishness More strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force. "the violence of her own feelings" synonyms: intensity, severity, strength, force, vehemence, fury, fire; "the violence of his passion"; LAW- the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.

     Not one single good or positive message in definition and synonyms. And, that phrase – “The unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation.” Wow. So now you want to teach something with the word violence in the title? Every definition of violence is negative, with a part and parcel, negative message attached, whether you, yourself perceive it so or not, and no matter innocent it may seem to you? Bubba, it’s negative. 

    Of course, books can cover this voilent subject. They are politically correct. I have seen books like “Understanding Violence” by reputable doctors and so forth. Understandable, acceptable and informative in a professional studies sense. They are psychology books like: 
  -Violence and Domestic Abuse
  -Youth Aggression and Violence
  -Children Exposed to Violence
  -Violence: The Enduring Problem
  -Violent Men: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Violence

     A search on the web will open many magazine and news reports that worry about martial arts and violence, and of course, especially the impact on kids and teens studying them. Run a search and read the concerns. Bullying is also a major, pop topic these days, and a hefty vein of violence comes with it. Bullying runs hand-in-hand with the the definitions of abuse and violence.

     In every literary aspect the word violence has a negative connotation, doesn't it? We the people don’t like violence. We the people want to stop violence. Violence is a problem. But then next, you/we want to teach physical violence! But from only a self defense perspective? Yes, but folks, don’t call it “violence- anything, because semantically, overtly, covertly, it’s a big problem. How’s that going to flesh out for you? I add the word “flesh” for an obvious reason. How in the world are you going to beat, bruise, stab, cut or shoot flesh in a legally, morally and ethical, acceptable method. It’s a tightrope we in this business walk.

     Ye ol’ martial arts schools have violence cleverly hidden in their titles, haven't they? Kung Fu. Krav Maga. Jujitsu. Judo. I mean they are not called “Kung Violence.” Not “Violent Maga.” Not "Violent Judo." Would you send your kids to “Boxing,” or to a class called “Boxing Violence?” Would the advertisement read, “Learn the Violence of Boxing?” No, not a good idea. All martial arts are indeed teaching violence and fighting, but they don't use that term. Smart, huh?

     Look at the three biggest, monster movements out there – Krav Maga, BJJ, MMA. All absent a title with the terms of "violence." They seem to be about something else on the surface, but they're not, are they? Bruce Lee's, Jeet Kune Do is another example. It has been crazy popular since…since Bruce! It translates to "way of the intercepting fist," Intercepting an attack. Thwarting the violent attacker. And it seems we can get by with "combat sports," fairly well. It's SPORTS! And slip by these days with even some "fight clubs."  Not "Violent Sports." Not "Violent Fight Clubs." On the use of "fight club" monickers, I think the further time takes us away from the orignial movie and closer to combat sport competitions, the better, the title "fight clubs" are accepted. 

     The word, the title “violence” is absent from all the big successful ones, yet semantically, we know that violence is also their, and our, true core, work and business. They are just smarter at tagging it, selling it, packaging and covering over it. It’s all still a tightrope. It's all how you massage the name.

     Even, consider subliminal violent ads. Business wise, remember the old NAPMA study done with karate advertising? Two people, one punching the other in a very classical pose. To the true-blue martial artist, this seems brilliant. The good, person wins. The school owner, the school staff, the photographer all recognize the puncher as the victor, good guy. YET! Regular citizens, regular people looked at the ad on the web, door-hangers and print ads, saw themselves as the one being punched! When surveyed they ask, “will I be punched in the face like this? Every week?” (well, yes, maybe, but do we want them to understand the overall context? But the overall, context is survival. Self defense. Proper use of legal force. Do we want to make that difficult message worse and add violence to the title?) To us? A classical, meaningful, positive “karate” message. To them, a negative. How do you suppose your new potential, customers will perceive your course, your school of “Violent Combatives,” “Violent Countermeasures?” “Violent This-or That?” How many martial arts literally became dance routines when occupied by enemy forces?

     Also, while we are at it, consider your logos. How many bloody weapons are in it? Smashed skulls? Figures of bodies smashing bodies? Highly successful courses usually have abstract artwork of some sort. I just was hired by the British government to teach counter-ambush courses. Do you think they would have hired me if I boldly advertised I was in the "Edged Weapon Costa Nostra?" and, or had screaming skulls in a pile of corpses as a logo? 

     Think of the word "engagement." Most folks just conjure up weddings unless you have some military DNA. Even the established infantries and special forces use the term ROE, "rules of engagement," not ROV "rules of violence." It's a quandary we're in, this name-game trap. If we use the titles "crime prevention" and, or "self defense," people's eyes glaze over. They immediately conjure up a boring lecture, or a meeting at the old folks home. Or, an excuse for a Tae Kwon Do class for parents to come in and do some eye-poking. Still, I refuse to use the titles "violent" or "violence." I am even slowly disassociating myself from the term combatives, but I don’t think that selling "combat" and "combatives" is as bad as selling "violence."   

     I think you can inspire and motivate people to use proper force, with and without weapons, and not turn them into “Amok, Vikings of Violence.” What then? For many decades now, “Force” or “Use of Force” has been an acceptable standard, a term, an expression that has flown flags all the way to the Supreme Court of the USA. Police, military, civil and criminal law. It’s all about levels and appropriate use of force. The terminology is acceptable by various levels of maturity, and acceptable by various levels of institutions concerned with the big pictures of societies. Twenty-two years ago, I started switching over to the title “Force Necessary” from martial arts, after a short stint of foolish, dabbling with thuggish names like “street-fighters” (I too, was once 30 years old). I’ve used Force Necessary supported with sub-titles: 
-“Sometimes force is necessary,” and, 
-“Only use that force necessary to win or survive.”

…to further explain and define the title, and my message, my mission. (To a civilian, there are many definitions of winning, not just leaving a pulpy corpse on the sidewalk, shot full of holes or impaled with the latest, over-priced, tactical knife.) I have had success using the old term "Police Judo," as oppossed to "Police Combatives," and other admin-cringing acronyms. 

     I said I would mention the police, prosecutors, judges and juries before closing out. So the police hear, “I am a student of Violent Quantifications” as the arrested person reports, in handcuffs, after defending herself, thinking such study is a plus. Indeed, your last step in surviving the violent act is thwarting jail or lawsuits. Civil or criminal courts. But, if you are trained by, or certified by… 
  – “Violence Kinetics” or, 
  – “Violent Measures” or, 
  – “Seven Degrees of Violence,” 

…and have the tattoos or the t-shirts advertising them? Watch out. Any and everything will be used against you in court. Anything with the words violence and violent in it, and you are probably starting off your defense behind the old eight ball for a jury to grasp. Do you have a perceived super-hero, system-head promised to fly in and rescue you with his brilliant testimony? What's he look like and sound like? Where's he been? He'll explain to some virgin, nimrods on a jury in 20 minutes about the essence of, the importance of sheer violence in mankind's evolution, and therefore explain away your sudden, imperative, violent act?” Good luck with your situation. Be advised from a veteran street cop and detective, you might very well however, statistically, be squeezed into a plea bargain before you have your system-head appear in court.


    I am frequently asked about this-or-that course. "What do you think of Ralph Williams 'Violence Development' class." I really try to keep my mouth shut on such matters, but bubba – just for starters? Wrong name. Right out the chute. Bad idea. Think about what you call yourself. What you do and what you teach? Who are you? Who are your “customers?” Who do you want to help? As many as possible? How do you advertise? Are you happy with a small group of amok Vikings? Which is fine, I guess, as long as you know where you are and where you will shall remain. Small.

What is your overt and covert message? Are your good intentions muddled by your name? How big is your telescope? How smart are you about what you are doing, in the big picture? The tightrope we walk is already shakey enough.

It all starts with your name. 
In the languages of the world, violence is a very bad word.
Is violence your middle name?


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Public Service Announcement – Martial Arts and Injuries

Yet another injury/surgery. Monday, (December, 2017) I had a tumor/cyst (being evaluated) cut out of my armpit and chest. Some 5 inches by 4 inches. (its tentacles went deep.) It is 99% non-malignant at first glance the doc says, and testing on it will be done as routine. The doc thought from the CT Scan it would be a quick, 10 minute, open-and-yank-out deal so we used a local numbing. I say “we” because he thought that and I agreed.

     But, I was on the op table for 45 minutes, AWAKE, as they cut every square inch of the damn thing out. It went like 3 to 4 inches deep in parts. Jane was in the room since they thought it would be a breeze. As they went deeper into un-numbed areas, I “told them,” and they needle-numbed deeper.

     When they first hit these raw nerves, it sent burning, skinning sensations into my armpit and down my arm. Felt like someone was skinning my skin with a shaving razor. I yelped, they injected. But, I couldn’t help but think about those poor people getting bullets extracted similar to this process, under minimum or NO pain killers in battlefields and gunfights. Wow. You would have to tie these people down because the shocking pain would cause anyone to jerk and move. Bite a bullet too? (I also thought of the old military armpit, saber stab we teach – sooooo, that's a mere hint of what THAT feels like!)

     Looking at the just-after-pictures, I swear I have seen gunshot wounds that look better than this. Still, compared to some, this was endurable and a few jokes were cracked in the operation. In comparison – my son-in-law’s brother, David Miller died a few days ago, just a super guy, fighting complications from Crohn’s Disease. THAT is serious. This was just an extraction.

     Anyway, this has really jacked up by right pec, armpit and inside upper arm. Many layers of stitches from way deep to surface. I can’t even climb stairs because a sudden rise in blood pressure might pop those inner, deep stitches open! Whole upper right side hurts like a car wreck or something. I cannot do ANYTHING for a week but vegitate. Then a few small things after that first week. NO GYM for weeks! I will grow even more fatter and out of shape.

     Now, what caused this? I am prone to cysts on injury spots. This may be my third surgery from them. Two on my hands, from hitting folks years ago. How’d I get this big, chest one? About 6, 7 years ago, while stick fighting, I dodged a head shot and the top inches of my friend’s stick missed my helmet and smashed/clipped into this area of my right chest/shoulder. Of course I had no torso protection. And it REALLY hurt, ergo, I REALLY remember it. The doctor asked me about injuries there and I recalled this one. He nodded and said, this is probably where it came from. Probably, though. You know we can’t be sure. There are some of these things just pop up, so I cannot say with 100%. best guess.

     Some of these things are filled with a fluid and some with fat. Most go away and some like this one and my other two I had? Don’t. They just hang out and keep growing. With tentacles.

     So…martial arts? How did I lose half my upper, right arm in the 90s? Shadow boxing with baseball bats instead of sticks one day in my 40s. Snap! You know, using bats to get bigger, stronger and faster. Riiigghht. Instead I got an irreparable, muscle rip and life-long, half strength. Lets not even get into my hip replacement and wonderful, brain damage. And I still can’t let anything cold into the left side of my mouth from a very special punch in the mouth years ago.

     My public service announcement is…take better care of yourself when young. And older too. Seriously, folks. People ask me when I am going to quit teaching, quit this schedule. I tell people that every weekend I only play touch football and everyone else plays tackle. But when you’re older, even “touch” takes its toll. Then, there’s that flicker of macho, a flash of youth I shouldn’t have or do, then there's mistakes or missteps I shouldn't have taken. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wham.

     Once again, take care of yourselves. I remember that line from a martial artist once, that after a certain middle-age, injures are not just injuries, but turn into small, life-long disabilities.

     Some of those, not so small.

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Stupid Grips on Knives – The Saga Continues…

I don’t really have many irritating pet peeves. I am usually quiet and calm, trying to stifle frustration. Live and let live. But some things drive me bonkers.

     One thing? Whack-job, knife grips. Silly, goofy, worthless knife grips where, if there are ANY accidental or on purpose contact with the knife, the knife will fly from one’s hands. The good news is, just about everyone seems to understand this very simple concept. Everyone knows you can’t dress a deer, cut a Christmas turkey, even slice a white-bread, baloney sandwich with a poor, lame, open-fingered, hand grip on a knife. Do you think a carpet-layer, or a chef or a butcher works with half-a-hand grip on his knife handle? No. Least of all then, what about stabbing or slashing an arm-flailing, person in a fight for your life? Stabbing or slashing clothing, flesh and bone?

     One needs a decent grip on the handle of a knife! We all assume everyone knows this? Right? You need as much hand as possible on a highly-textured, knife handle. After all, it’s a fight, and arms and bodies are slinging everywhere. Everyone seems to understand this very simple concept, except some – not all – but some Filipino (and yes, some Silats) martial arts heads and systems – who mindlessly perpetuate these…cancerous grips.

     The Cancer Grip is name I coined in the mid-1990s, and wrote about in magazines and books. It’s a nickname for when a person hikes their thumb and ball of thumb up off the knife, leaving only four fingers on the handle and a substantial opening at the top of the fingers (try slashing anything with this). Some of the BIGGEST names in Filipino martial arts slip into this lame grip. I have even seen a Filipino guy teach an ENTIRE knife system with this high thumb grip. This is a thinking disorder. But wait…quick take some anti-vomit pills…it gets worse because there are some FMA people that lift the thumb and…and I say…AND open the pointy finger of the grip. Some even add an open pinky- now TWO fingers hold the knife!

     Case in point, I don’t usually buy any the Recoil-style magazines as they are predominately catalogs with random articles in between. But I do thumb through them at airports. One is called “Concealment” and I zipped through it on a long Christmas, cashier line. Lo and behold, there in a double-truck, two page, photo spread, someone yet again, in the year 2017, almost 2018….with the Cancer Grip, AND with the pointy finger sticking out.  Will mankind never evolve?

The knife used in this photo – ironically – as designed – has for a “spine,” a smart, curvy place to secure the thumb, yet…

     In the late 90s when I started writing about this grip, I took a lot of heat from various system and Guro fan-boys. “How dare you question Guro_____ and Pyeong_______!” Ordinarily, Guro and Pyeong do good stuff, I like them too! But on this one thing? No. And I never mention their names or the systems, (don’t here again) I just ridiculed the grip. This grip was also on the cover of a popular, “tactical” guy’s, 1990’s knife book, he being yet another thoughtless, victim of this cancer (and another person with just about zero, real-world experience.)

     I recall one debate with folks in Germany. “WHAT?” a “_____ _____” student said to me when I mentioned this. “Huh? How…?” Then he ran home to Berlin to check with his “_____  ______” masters. He returned to explain to my ignorant self what his masters said, “What Hock doesn’t understand is, when we actually stab, at that very instant of contact, we close down the thumb.”


-For one thing, if so, why does no one on the planet doing “______ ______ “know this?

-Second, what about slashing, Einstein?

-Third, it is still an utterly freakin’ stupid idea to barely hold a knife, in any chaotic situation, such as combat, or even a tool-like job, in this lame manner. Remember in a fight your target is moving. Your instant of perceived contact, stab or slash, is just a split-second guess. Anyway, do you want to keep pumping your thumb up and down? Up and down? Think you can remember to do that in a fight for your life?

     The only thing that poor, ignorant Hock doesn’t understand is why people do this at all or try to make excuses for this. Bubba, it’s a screw-up. It’s a very dangerous screw-up. It is cancerous because people like to imitate Guros and Pyeongs – mindlessly –  thoughtlessly – then the infected return to their classes where their students mindlessly imitate them. Then one day…too many people are doing this, mindlessly. Then, it’s in a national magazine again. The public snapshot of a silly, fucking knife grip invades the young minds of mush. Art imitates life, life imitates art. It’s like…a… little…cancer.

     And after a stab, often an “evacuation” of the blade is needed, to get out of blood, guts and bones and clothing. I have worked numerous police cases where people were stabbed and the knife remained stuck in the body. Without putting your foot and shoving on the other guy off the knife, (standing?). The most common fix is twisting the knife at the hand, or hand and wrist, or hand, wrist, elbow. (The Marines use to call this  “crowbarring”) This also makes for a more grievous wound. This common twist escape cannot be done with the Cancer Grip.  


     These things like the Cancer Grip are the little weird things that give FMA a bad name amongst MMA people, switched-on military people and so on.

     Even the position of the knife hand, in junction with the wrist and forearm is important, but that is another subject, another essay. But again, on the subject of hand grips, I have written about his before, banged this drum before, time and time again. I’ll probably still get fan-boy, hate-mail by repeating this. And, the good news is most people know that you need as much hand on the handle of knives as possible, just a few FMA people do this silly, mindless thing. Anyway, as you can tell, this irritates the snot out of me. 

     My final prayer for you, “May all your enemies surprise you by being ignorant and untrained (oh – and may they use the Cancer Grip).”


Some additional comments from others:

     Bill McGrath checks in on this,I think my former teacher was the one that started this (cancer) grip. He didn’t originally teach it as a fighting grip though. The first time i saw him use it was at a photo shoot in 1980 at Inside Kung Fu magazine (simply to look more dramatic in the photo). He never taught this grip for fighting all the time I was training with him in the 70’s and 80’s. The only time this grip was used in training was when we used plain straight dowels as a training knife and we would use this grip just to simulate large cross guards for disarming purposes. But when we made training knives with built in cross guards we did not need to use this grip any more. We would use just the thumb raised at two times. One, when drawing a double edge knife close to your body, to act as a guard to keep the cutting edge away from you. Two, during a wrist lock; but even here you don’t open your thumb until after you have made contact with the opponent’s arm and just about to begin the lock. My teacher would also use the thumb open grip while doing live blade practice with students. But this was to act as a guard to protect the student’s arm from slipping down the blade. It was a little teaching trick to help students overcome their fear of a live blade, but still give them some protection from the blade. It was not intended for actual fighting. This all changed after my teacher moved back to the Philippines in 1990. Then he started to teach this grip as a fighting grip. Many things changed in his teaching at that time, but I don’t have a good explanation why. I can only say that that grip was not taught as a fighting grip when I was learning the system and it is not the way I teach using a knife today.”

     Jorge Gonzalez checks in on this, “When I went to Sama Sama in England this summer, some people were having this kind of ‘grip’ while executing a drill . Tuhon Richard Sayoc, overlooking the training saw this, stopped the training and put us on a line after each other in front of a tree . ‘ Now stab the tree as hard as possible’ he asked . Grips changed naturally…’If I see any of you change your grip again you will be hitting that tree for the rest of the weekend.”

Robert Steven Boger says, “The art of stabbing without stabbing…Lol.”


Hock’s email is

Coming in 2018


“Essays and articles I have written since the Knife/Counter-Knife book was published.” – Hock



Remy Presas Notes

Just stumbled upon a box of photos and odds and ends, and two of the photos were of me and Remy Presas, part of Remy's wish to make an Arnis stick book. In about 1994 Remy was staying at my apartment for a while. He had a book deal with (I can't remember, but they are long out-of-business now). He said we needed to take many photos. Jane came over, we dressed up and we took hundreds of stop-action photos of Modern Arnis stick progressions. (This was before the subsequent Tapi-Tapi craze.) I took the rolls of film to the camera store (remember rolls of film? Camera stores?) and had them developed.

     Then, Remy discovered the book deal did not come though. I had the photos in order in a shoe box. Then I moved and moved and moved and moved again. Things were minimized, tossed together, some things thrown out! The dedicated box was squashed, chunked, shrunk and otherwise who knows?

     I've had friends beg me to give them any pictures, even out of order and they struggle like a puzzle to put them in order, to make a new book out of them. BUT…I know more than half have been lost since 1994. I still come across some scattered photos like these. I wish I had them, because I would make the book.

     Reading this, omeone said “there’s history.” So I have added on the following. Here’s a double piece of Remy/FMA history. REAL history.

     One of those nights while Remy was staying at my apartment, a movie came on cable television as we sat on the couch that was an incredible coincidence. Anyone seen “A Dangerous Life” with pre-motorcycle-accident, Gary Busy? It covers the …well read the review –

"a 1988 English-language Australian film about the final years of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos' rule, from the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1983 to the People Power EDSA Revolution in 1986 that ousted Marcos. The film focuses on American TV journalist Tony O'Neil (Gary Busey), who finds himself in the middle of key events that lead to the downfall of the Marcos regime. Originally airing on television as a mini-series that ran for a total of six hours, the film was edited to 162 minutes for the home video release. Filming of the movie took place in Manila, Philippines, Colombo, Sri Lanka and Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne in Australia."

     It was especially mesmerizing to Remy as he blurted out little side stories to many of the big and small characters. I too, having already been to Manila several times, and having seen the palace, etc, found it engrossing, but not as much as Remy did. “He even looks like that guy!” Part of the sports end of this government planned on killing Remy for his disrespectful infractions to them. Another whole story I have written elsewhere.

     If you are interested in FMA enough to be interested in the Philippines, this is a good and accurate movie to watch.

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The Nymphomaniac, Nancy Reagan and China Oil. What?!

(What a title huh? I have changed some of the names here because people have been killed over this mess!)

Meanwhile, an evening shift in the 1980s…

     Typing a report at my desk, My Detective Sgt Howard Kelly walked up and stood in the open door frame of my office.

     “Whatcha doin?” he asked.

     The question was rhetorical, because I knew we were going somewhere.

     “I am…” 

      “Let’s go for a ride,” he said and walked out of sight.

     “Ooookay…,” I muttered, getting my jacket. Many of our misadventures started off this way.

     On the parking lot we got into his Chevy pick-up, not his sedan, he put on his cowboy hat and off we drove, but randomly. He turned on his handheld police radio and his CB radio, keeping us in touch with HQ.

     “I have to tell somebody about this,” he said. “It’s big. It’s secret.”

     Big? Secret? Nowadays, any adult with a mature, open, unbiased mind knows that the United States, Russia, China, and smaller countries have been screwing around with each other’s countries. Even the o’ revered, great one of all times, star-child himself, Obama was learning from tapped Euro leaders, phone calls, messing with Israeli politics, colluding with Russia over nukes, etc. Can't name them all here. This kind of business has been going on forever. But those are big issues. What about bizarre, crazy issues? Crazy, concocted influences? And folks still get killed over them. In Howard Kelly’s truck that night, he told about a bizarre one.


     “The Texas Rangers and the FBI called me into Weldon’s office two weeks ago,” Kelly began. “You know Congressman ______ __________ ?”

     “Yeah,” I said. He was kind of a big deal in DC leadership. Texan. Democrat.

     “There are some people in Dallas, who want to hook up with a big Chinese oil company. Big bucks. Big money. You know that ain’t gonna happen with the Chi-Coms. But they want to figure out a way to do this. It’s the ________ Oil company.”

     “Okay,” I said. Not a familiar name to me.

     “They are pushing to get this deal done on many levels. One trick they are using? Trying to get Nancy Reagan to convince Ronnie that the Chinese are safe and okay to worth with, and push this oil deal.”

     “Well how are they gonna’ do that?” I asked.

     “They want to plant a maid, an assistant to Nancy Reagan into the White House.”


     "They have contacted Congressman _________ . They have asked him to vouch for a woman for that job. Plant her in and work on Nancy, get Nancy convinced, about it all. Then if….IF…the topic comes up with the president, Nancy will talk up the deal. The Congressman is in on it, and is pushing for her to be hired.”

     I chuckled. What a long, long shot!

     “One problem. The woman they chose? Alice Jones. She’s a real fast talker and charming and all, but she’s a nut. And she’s a nympho.”

     “A…nympho,” I repeated.

     “Yeah. As the deal was being cut, Alice was running around here screwing about 6 guys at the same time.”

     “Okay,” I said, wondering where I fit in all this?

     “The Rangers and the FBI think she has told all 6 of those guys about the plan. One of them told the Feds. And the Feds told the Rangers.”

     “Then told you. Okay.” And now me, still wondering.

     “Well, one of the guys she told? Was a local veterinarian. Horse doctor out on Highway 318.”

     “There’s a vet missing…” I said.

     “Yeah, Doc Reed Smith.”

     “Him? It’s an unassigned case. He’s just gone. His wife said he packed up his bags, took off in his truck. Yeah. No one is working the case because it looks like he took off.”

     “He’s on the run.”


     “He’s running. For some reason. Some threat. Over this.”

     “What about the other five guys?”

     “They don’t live in our city. They didn't tell me about the other guys.”


     We drove around the quiet, dark streets of downtown.

     “What will we do?” I finally asked. This is usually the point where I am told where I fit in. 

     “Nothing. Nothing right now. But I want you to know all this. I don’t think one person in our PD should know all this. So now you know. Just keep your ears open for anything that sounds connected to this.”

     Nothing! Whew! I sez to myself.

Back at the station, I pulled the missing persons report. About three weeks prior, a patrolman documented the sudden disappearance. Doc Smith acted real funny, scared, packed his bags and left the wife and daughters. Our admin did not assign the case because there was no apparent crime. A BOLO was dispatched on NCIC. Just one. And that was that.

That was that. Until two weeks later at my home. I opened the local newspaper to read a story about our local citizen, a veterinarian Doctor Reed Smith. He was shot and killed in a motel out Amarillo way, the previous night.

     “Damn!” I declared.

     “What?” my wife asked.

     “A dead guy. Too complicated to explain,” I said.

 The next day at work, I walked into Kelly’s office, closed the door and sat down. Howard leaned back in his chair and looked at me over his reading glasses.

     “What about the other five guys?” I asked. We knew what we were talking about.

     “Not our problem. Ranger problem. FBI problem. They live all over north Texas.

     “Any leads out west?”

     “Nope. He was living in motels. He was shot dead in his room. Looks like a hit.”

     I nodded. I knew the shooting was not our case either.

     “They call us for any background on the Doc?”

     “I referred them to the FBI.”

     “Oh, I’ll be they were thrilled to hear that,” I said.

me and h kelly_medium

Me and Howard Kelly, yesteryear and last year


About three weeks later, Howard Kelly and I were working the same shift and called me on the radio.

     “Eight-nine (me).”

     “Eighty-nine, go ahead.”

     “Meet me behind the Wells Fargo Bank.”


     I did. We drove up, the usual car-door-to-car-door style, meet.

     “You remember that Alice Jones, the woman they tried to plant with Nancy Reagan?” he asked.

     “Yeah. The so-called nympho spy.”

    “The Feds just told me this. They have been follerin’ her. She went to the funeral home here where Doc Smith's body was taken.”


     “Haaa-ha. Well, get this…she went in after hours and visited one of the directors. She paid the director to visit the Doc Smith corpse. She paid him to leave her alone with the corpse for a while.”

     “Uh-oh,” I said.

     “Yeah. She had sex with the corpse. The Feds saw it.”

     “I think that goes a bit beyond nymphomania,” I said.

    “Ya think?”

     "They report the funeral home yet?” I asked. The State of Texas is very anal retention about the rules and regs of funeral homes. I knew the home. I also knew weird things happen in all these homes, but that’s another few stories.

     “Nope. Probably won’t. It’ll blow the surveillance. Maybe someday?”

     And we both laughed, because man…we have a sick sense of humor and that shit was off-the-charts, weird.

And life for us went on from there. We never heard another word about this. Alice Jones was never hired by the White House. No one was ever arrested for Doc Smith’s murder. There was never a Chi-Com, oil deal cut with the Dallas company. The famous congressman died in a car crash years later.

     Who would imagine such a plot? And how such a gamble might pay off, that Alice could coyly, talk up China and oil with Nancy, and then Nancy would talk to Ronnie about this subject? What I learned was how small and how low and conniving, how multi-level, these conspirators have been, are, and will be in good ol’ politics and it doesn’t matter what form of government is in play, commies, socialists or republics. All this modern Russia-Trump crap just cracks me up. Like this is new in any way?

     Oh, and never hire a nymphomaniac, necrophiliac as an undercover spy. Just saying…

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Kathump! A Tongue in Cheek Look at Tomahawk and Axe Training.

The last few years, my Facebook and Youtube pages have been peppered with various superstar guys doing/teaching theee….Tomahawk! Or Axe! I absorb the clips with some amazement, confusion and distaste. Am I seeing an audition for Flash Dance or real-life, “Axe Combatives?” Even I have mysteriously been asked to “do Tomahawk” in seminar sessions. The fad goes viral. Seeing the videos, geared to make jaws-drop, and also seeing the glaring mistakes even makes ME want to create my own axe course, though I have denounced the idea.

     Mistakes? Before I start with this satirical, tongues inside cheeks review, I will state my “bona fidis” that qualifies my comedic opinion. I have had an hand axe thrown at me. I was attacked by a man rushing at me with a full axe. I have worked an axe murder, and several criminal investigations involving axe attacks. For many years I attended an annual “Death and Violent Assault “week long training school, where medical examiners from big cities flew in to discuss, show and explain their major cases for the year. Slide shows and narrative. Synopsis. These often included axe/hatchet murders. Axe autopsy reviews. Etc. Plus, I have co-instructed a few seminars with Dwight McClemore doing tomahawk. Dwight has spent a lifetime studying this subject. As a result of this background, which by the way, honestly, might be 100 times greater than most of those folks parading the globe with this-or-that axe/tomahawk course, I offer my farce observations.

     In short, for starters, if I were to dare initiate my very own, axe fighting course, I would officially call it – Kathump! “Kathump” because when you actually hit a human being with an axe/tomahawk it goes kathump. In fact, it might go so far kathump, it might take a foot on that body part to work and pump the axe out. I am bedazzled by the flowing figure fours and multiple-step, follow-ups that the axe masters demonstrate when showing their moves in combat scenarios. Most of it should really stop at the first good, kathump.


     For example, there’s a video clip of an axe-man with a sweeping blow to head (simulated of course by going over the head because we can’t really hit the head) then he majestically sweeps down and hits the Achilles tendon or at very least, hooks the ankle and pulls in a foot sweep, and said stuntman/uke is pulled down. The mouth-watering, viewing masses, watching with their various rubber and plastic facsimiles in their hands cannot wait to simulate this two step, axe attack! I said to myself upon viewing this,

     “Hold on a minute…wouldn’t that vicious swing into the head…just go…kathunk? Thereby ending the flow, thereby stopping at step 1, thereby no cool step 2, ankle chop-chop?”

     Two steps? What of the three or more step sets they do? I have seen 3, 4 and 5 step axe moves taught, which clearly couldn’t be finished because of a step 1 or step 2 kathump. I just kept spotting motion-stopping kathumps. Doesn’t ANYONE realize the folly of what they are doing? Do they care? Should they care? Or are they just having Flash Dance fun? Do they not know they have to remove the embedded axe?

     Is there a culture, or a country on the planet that in their early history, didn’t need and develop an axe of some sort for work or war? Axes were and are everywhere. Thus, it becomes easy for any martial arts maestro to whip a cool, axe-choppy-choppy, course because…because who in hell will actually research/challenge their info, especially those folks enveloped in “system-love” and “system-leader” love. (For the record I have written about this “over-love” syndrome many times before. If you love your leader too much? Love your system too much? This is not a scientifically good thing, as you will not question what supreme leader or supreme system does. You just follow, follow, follow the leader.) With this vast geographical expanse, with the exotic premise that, “the grass is always greener,” one can conjure/invent/claim any axe course from anywhere.

“Secrets of Monte Carlo Axe Fighting.”

“The Bali Tomahawk.”

“Sudanese Axe Combatives.”

“Tai Chi Axe.”

“Axe Maga.”

“Krav Axe.”

Or, mine – “Kathump!”

     Different countries. For example, here is a history of the tomahawk. USA. “The term tomahawk was derived from the Algonquian words “tamahak” or “tamahakan." The Native American Indians regularly used tomahawks made from stone heads which were attached to wooden handles secured by strips of rawhide. They used tomahawks for general uses such as hunting, chopping, cutting, or mainly as a weapon.” It would be odd if a guy in Switzerland suddenly started teaching "Tomahawk." I also have my suspicions about lifelong FMA teachers who suddenly conjure a hatchet course from thin air, from say, ohhh… "Mindanao," swinging…American tomahawks? Because it’s a fad they want to cash in on.


Hawk 1

     The Great American Tomahawk Company folks I knew in the 90s, was swallowed up by Cold Steel. In the previous years of the swallow, their “Ranger-esque” Tomahawks, touted as used by various US military units, were very expensive. Very expensive to me anyway. Over $150 as I recall. I looked at those simple, 17th and 18th century designs and thought about how I would rather have a modern, hand axe from the Home Depot or a similar home improvement company at $19 or $29, than something less useful for over $150. But now, Cold Steel is selling them way cheaper. Hey, Cold Steel is selling the training tomahawks now for about 13 bucks!

     But having a simple, flat hammer head on one side like a tool, seemed very useful, unlike these classic Ranger hawks. After all, as with knives, soldiers use tomahawks for all kinds of lifestyle chores.

     All these flows and motions? Look, I know it’s important to spend time holding a tool, a weapon, swinging it around. Hitting things, etc. Bonding with the weapon. I see films of people by themselves, just doing that solo command and mastery work with axes. A lot of things like figure 8s in the air, etc. I get the idea. I also see that the axe or tomahawk is used in trapping/moving the limbs of an opponent. I get that too. But to me, they seem to do and expect too much trapping, and trapping the exact motions of another holding/fighting an axe!

     Axe versus axe? We live in a mixed weapons world, would you be always fighting axe-to-axe? Nope. I don’t think so. That gets a little crazy and off-kilter, but if it just a hobby? Who cares, as long as they know it’s a fun hobby. (After all, how many people want to work 28” stick versus 28” stick? Numerous. Endlessly. Yet nearly impossible to actually happen.) And how someone with just an interest in history? Have fun with your hobbies.

     Fun? As a European friend and life long martial artist told me recently, he questioned an axe teacher at a axe seminar, with these same kathump doubts. "You couldn't continue after that chop!" my friend pointed out. The internationally known instructor replied, "but where's the fun in that?" I once asked a guy about his axe god/hero and how the demos and training would be cut by 2/3rds if they counted the kathumps as real. He said, "Then there wouldn't be enough material for a seminar."

     And you know, people like to throw axes and tomahawks for fun, sport and hobby. Okay. Fine. It’s the combat scenarios that can really drive me crazy. And when the expert stands before an "opponent" and does 9 steps of buzz saw, figure 8 magic, that would really have ended at step 2 because of the…kathump. Jeremy Mayes calls it, "the tomahawk ballet."

     What I would do if I invented an axe course? If pressed into the big Kathump fad? Well, the course would be much shorter. So short, the course might only be 90 minutes? No chance for a whole day or a two-day seminar. I would use the combat clock angles for attacks. I would use the statue drill as a formula to introduce trapping and passing. I would do some minimum limb trapping. The scenarios would absolutely include the deadly, kathump realities. Basically, I would process the axe through the classic SFC/Force Necessary formats, with nuance changes specific to the axe, and mixed weapon fights. Nothing from Madagascar or Monte Carlo. And, I wouldn't call it "Texican Axe Fighting," just because I am from Texas.

     For fun? For history? For exercise? For bobby? For…self defense? No matter, the next time you see one of these axe or tomahawk masters do their flash-dance thing in scenarios? Stop and take a hard look, an examination of exactly when that edged weapon goes…kathunk.

     And that is my tongue-in-cheek, satirical review of Axe fighting courses.

     And stand by for- “Hock’s Made-Up, Kathump Axe Course from Nowhere!”

     …nahhh, just kidding.


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Frigid to Red Hot Fighting – Cold Bore Shooting? Or, Cold Shooter?

Shooting Cold. Fighting Cold. 

     No, fighting cold is not about being mugged in Alaska or just a concern for the 10th Mountain Division. It is a term thrown around here and there in the gun training business, but also relates the hand, stick and knife world too. It should be a major concern for all, because generically – it’s really about the ambush, the surprise attack. And you must respond – cold.

fighting cold

     Usually you hear the term with snipers or hunters. Folks who have to suddenly shoot a long gun from a distance.  And from a clean barrel. Once in a while you will hear of a “one-shot” competition, “Participants will be allotted a single shot, cold-bore (unfired rifle) @ 1000 yards. (30 Caliber & under) Time & hit determines the winner.” They have those things because, they are challenging. The sin weighs heavy with that icy-cold rifle, but what of the shooter? 

     There’s also an important concept of “cold bore shooters.” I guess you could remove the word “bore.” Cold shooters.  I think in terms of training and then real life ambushes, there might be a nickname, “Frigid Bore Shooting,” or “frigid shooting.” Here’s what I mean.

Chilly? Cold? Frigid?

     After all, who wants to shoot cold in competitions for scores, trophies, money and bragging rights? Who doesn’t want to take a few warm up shots? I know I often like to do a few dry-fires before live-fires. I use to participate in some police shooting competitions and they were often complicated paths, chores and obstacles involved. You had to be briefed on your routes and goals, and this would include a “walk-thru,” or a dry-run,” or even a live-fire run before the official run. Same with police training courses and qualifications. And then, sometimes not.     

     How cold is it, though? Completely frigid? Cold? Or chilly? They call it “cold shooting,” or reverse it “shooting cold,” and it kinda’ is, in a way. Sadly, oddly, some of the best shooters I know, don’t do as spectacular in their first set, as they wish, and this is one reason why they keep score of this process over time. And often they do about as good as I can when we all start, and I do not shoot as much as they do, nor do I labor and belabor and ponder the art, science, love and dedication to trigger pressure and bulls eye, pistol, target shooting as they do.

     They admit, shooting cold is challenging for most. And, it frustrates some. Then they very quickly get much, much better after a “warm-up,” quickly surpassing ol’ mediocre me. (And yes, yes, we all know some special gun gods and rockstars with so much time and grade they do awesome right out of the gate. Pew-pew! More on that later).

     The subject of cold shooting comes up on the web once in a while. Some regular, range shooters I know and hear about will always keep score of their first set, their “cold shooting” when they first step up to the firing line and shoot a set. A virgin experience of the day?

     Was it completely virgin? They want to keep track of how well they do after they,

   – set the time and date, pack their gear at home,

   – drive to the range,

   – get out of the cars,

   – get some gear from the “back” of the car,

   – maybe sip some coffee,

   – chat with the “range masters,”

   – carry their gear to the spot/stand/table/shelf,

   – shuffle up to the target and paste up a new,

   – wander back to the shooting line and,

   – shoot…”cold.”

   – (If at a class? Listen to the instructors intro, lecture and in some cases, ancillary yammering…)

     So a cold shooter on gun day is not frozen solid. The mind and body are cooking just a little to go shoot. A hunter has worked on the trip, sometimes insanely so, before departure, going over equipment and plans in his or her head. Neither are like a… say… an ambush attack after you walk out of Dairy Queen with a ice cream cone in your hand. Man, that’s COLD!  

     Shooting cold? So, What about fighting cold? Or, working out cold? How cold is this cold, though? Is this “zero to sixty?” As the old “miles per hour,” car speed quote suggests? Was there any of this organizing, any subliminal preparation going on this range day, kike in the list above?

     I became fascinated by this idea of shooting cold and of course, fighting cold too. What does it mean in the bigger picture? How does it relate to self-defense, in crime and in war? You know, all the “who, what, where, when how and why” questions I like to kick around.

     Subliminal preparation? Years ago it was common knowledge in the fitness field that if you packed for the gym and drove to the gym about the same times, your body/brain knew the routine as we are such creatures of habit. You drive, park, walk the lot, climb the stairs. All the while your body/brain is saying, “Okay, okay, we’re coming. We’re getting ready.” Once in the gym, is this moment a true zero? Or, maybe 10? 10 to 60?  Last month I parked on my gym’s parking lot and saw another guy, a bit older than me, park too. He got out of his car, got a gym bag and stopped. He took his ball cap off, looked to the sky and said a prayer. I spied his lips moving. Then he donned his cap and made for the gym doors. He really prepped for a work-out! What did he say I wonder?

  “Dear Lord, let me crush everything?”

  “Dear Lord, don’t let me die of a heart attack this morning?”

   What would your prayer be? Have one? Need one?

     Routines. Preparation. Getting ready. Not always short term. We have all gone to a shooting class, or a martial tournament that we anticipated and our inner engine was revved up more than just the morning before. Even the night before. Even longer than that. I once took a shooting course, to prepare for the tougher shooting course the following weekend. 

     How powerful can mental preparation be? Surely you have heard of, or read the studies about how positive this mental approach can be. Need I repeat them here (sigh)? It is important. I recall even back in 1972, in Ed Parker Kenpo Karate, teachers and students gossiping about another martial arts system and how it sequestered students in dark rooms assigned to imagine the moves over and over in their heads as a basis of performance. 1972! None of us could fathom this being successful. How? HOW! Yet…yet those studies! So, it somehow worked for some. So, does the simple act of going to the range to shoot on gun day, mentally prepare you for the target/bulls eye process? I think so. A bit. It is one step back from dry-firing if you think about it. 

     Just getting dressed for work, be it a guard, or police, lawyer, truck driver, or an accountant starts churning up, the work mind, whether you realize it or not.

 Frigid? How about being asleep?

     It’s especially cold-cold when you consider the old attempts at testing the responses of police when THEY WERE ASLEEP! Yes. Remember those tests decades ago? They would bed down a series of state troopers and tell them, just before “nighty-night” that they would be harshly awakened and they would have to wake up, grab a nearby gun and shoot a target near the foot of their bed. The results were not so good. Often bad in fact. Another similar sleep-study let tested police wake up on their own and they had to remember this assigned chore. As I recall they were slow to remember the assigned chore, but most did grab and shoot…and also not too well, but they did remember. Where does this information fit in the “chilly, cold and frigid” charts of our considerations? Frankly, I don’t exactly know, but it’s interesting.

     When you actual started doing physical stuff on your jogging route, at the gym, at the “dogo,” or the shooting range, you are not really, fully working out “cold.” The same is true with getting your uniform on for work, or slinging your vest on in the military. You are not cold-cold (unless of course, much time passes between the prep and action and you “chill out,” which is a whole other set of “syndromes,” we talk about in other essays). And the same mental prep is true of the drive to shooting range, the lugging of gear, the chat with the range master…it’s gun, gun, gun. The inner gears are working. This type of first round scoring, cold shooting is not as frigid as you think. Not like a zero-to-sixty ambush FRIGID. (Think for a moment about all the mental and physical prep before SWAT arrives on a scene.)

The damn ambush.

     My old catch phrase is – “life is either an interview or an ambush” that people hear each week. I hope they never tire of it. The greatest armies in the world have been defeated by ambush. The simple element of surprise. The greatest fighters too. I get a kick out the internet comments when location cameras around the world catch a criminal jumping a victim in the most “ambushy” types of locales.

     It does come back to the element of surprise and the ambush, doesn’t it. There is always a wise-guy, arm-chair-est that comments “that person was not alert!” and the sage advice, “you must always stay alert.” As if he, she, or we all, walk around with enough cortisol scarring our veins and heart, to be scanning EVERYWHERE, ALL the time. We always hear the expression “you don’t pick the time and place of your attack, the enemy does,” so as everyday walk-around folks, or someone on common police and military patrol, you will probably, suddenly be fighting chilly or cold. It is certainly a good idea to worry about and consider “cold-fighting” and “cold shooting,” in your training, even though we simply cannot really replicate that “zero-to-sixty” frigid to red hot, encounter. I don’t think we need a chart the size of a doorway like the OODA Loop demo diagrams have become, to explain this simple “Boo/Surprise” idea. The element of surprise and reaction to it, can be as simple as a foot fake in football, rugby or soccer.

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     There are many startle responses to the sudden boo/jump, (one modern textbook counted 30 responses) not just one or two, hands-up, as you might have been sold to believe by martial and gun marketeers. Let’s hope you don’t fall right down or feint, which are two of the startle responses! You instead, have to deal with the attack.

     The element of surprise has defeated the greatest paramilitaries of the world. I first learned about all this Ambush/Counter- Ambush in the U.S. Army in 1973, and it was a big deal. They trained us in what was called back then, “Immediate Action Drills,” things done so many times that you may well jump right into that response groove when ambushed. Hopefully. It is reinforced by many, many repetitions. Here are some of my old Army manual notes (minus the small and large unit suggestions they offer) on the ambush drill idea that relates to citizens and police.

Immediate Action Drills: 

     “Immediate action drills are drills designed to provide swift and positive  reaction. They are simple courses of action, dome immediately. It is not feasible to attempt to design an immediate action drill to cover every possible situation. It is better to know few immediate action drills for a limited number of situations that usually occur (in a combat area.)

    1- Can be designed, developed, and used by anyone, (any unit)

    2- Are designed and developed as needed for the anticipated combat situation.

    3- When contact/ambush, is at very close range and maneuver may restricted.”

     This does work often, and then…sometimes not, because you  might be too frigid, or too cold to respond well. Just some notes. As I have stated many times before, when students approach you with concerns about “how-fast” and “will-they” react properly to an sudden attack, you can honestly shove them back on the floor and tell them to do more reps, and explain why. “Fortune favors the prepared.” Build confidence, yes, but darn it, cold is still cold, and frigid is still worse.

     But, back to the shooting guns cold subject. One of my friends said after reading this when first published in 2011 , “Hock is right about this. I suck shooting cold, but that is how I am going to shoot – cold – stepping out of the Waffle House and suddenly in trouble, on any given night.”  Of course, through training you might achieve that “gun god” status where you can shoot cold on call? Do you really have the time, the money, the lifestyle and the dedication to be such a god? I’ll confess to you right now. I don’t.

     So, it’s hard to replicate shooting cold or fighting cold in training, because you are never completely cold-cold when you plan, dress and travel and lug-in and gear-up for training. Maybe they should call a real ambush response “Shooting Frigid?” or “Fighting Frigid” instead of just being cold? Frigid bore shooting?

     Am I getting warm, yet? HA! 


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“Your Husband is Dead! Dead, I Tell You. Dammit! DEAD!”

Death Notifications. All Horrible. All this talk about Trump and his death notification, made me think of the thee WORST one I ever had to do. It is bizarre and funny and twisted…

It was tough being Iranian in Texas after the embassy hostage takeover in the 1970s. We had a warrant officer, Merle Culbert, who spent his workweek arresting people with active traffic warrants. After the hostage grab, Merle declared a personal war on Iranians and put them on the top of his hunting list each day. It gave him great personal pleasure to shackle up an “A-rab” like that and toss him in jail while our hostages were blindfolded and held captive. BUT, the pastime proved fairly pointless because the happy Iranians in the USA were the exact opposite of those radicals in their homeland!

Iranians started calling themselves Persians back then; and most of us dull-headed Americans, who could barely learn to drive to the big city shopping mall, were not historically and geographically hip enough to make this Iran-Persia connection.

“What? Persia? Ya mean that place where they make them pointy slippers?”

While off duty when I was a young cop, I frequently hung out in a nightclub called the Esalom. The slightly upscale bar and restaurant with sort of a Casablanca look was owned by a “Persian” named “Matt.” American nicknames like “Matt” were common. Inside the club each night, a clutch of interesting characters like an airline pilot, a biker, a few cops, and a few others (the ones I can’t recall because of alcohol or brain damage) drank and caroused as “the regulars.” Later in the evenings, I might troll some of the country Western bars in the city if I was feeling horsy. Well, that about wraps up approximately eight years of my elite social life! But Matt would often run the bar on some weeknights; and on quiet ones, he would tell me stories about his Persia-Iran. Crazy place. Very Americanized and modern except for, as he would put it, “very crazy religious people.” I had no idea how crazy. Matt did. That was why he left his homeland. I began to discover that Matt was highly educated from several American colleges. In fact, most “Persians” were here for college and tried to stay after they graduated.

During and then, well, after the Hostage Crisis, there were many educated and successful “Persians” … living and working among us (as McCarthy would say)! Americanized or not, there were still unshakeable cultural differences. One such Persian family ran a hair salon and nail shop in the main shopping center. Through the years, cops and detectives generally got to know many business people in their areas and cities. I got to meet the Shans: Momma Shan, Daddy Shan, and 18-year-old daughter Shan. And it was there, in the 1980s and in the political, multi-cultural maelstrom, that my tale began one spring evening….

olden days copy

“Hock, there is a dead guy at the hospital from a traffic accident,” Patrol Lieutenant Walter Keene told me on the phone. It was about 6 p.m., and I was eating dinner at my house with my second wife and first and second kids. The evening-shift detectives had left town on a case; and I was on call for the week, so “call” started at 5 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. as usual.

“Traffic?” I mumbled with a mouthful. I don’t do traffic."
“Well, the doctor at the hospital said when they looked over his body, his body had about 20 large, fresh circular … wounds all over it. He said something wasn’t right about it.”
“Fresh circular wounds?”
“Enjoying that dinner are ya?” Keene chided, hearing me chew. He loved interrupting my life for call-outs, whether morning, noon, or night.
“Well, set it aside Mister Detective; and you can eat it nice and cold later,” he laughed out loud. It was just a routine he and I had. When he woke me at night, I’d answer the phone and hear his gravelly voice ask, “Sleepin’ good are ya? Havin’ ya a real nice, sleepy-time dream, are ya? HAHAHA-haha!”
Within about 20 minutes, I was at the hospital emergency room. 

A patrol woman was finishing a fatality accident report.
“This is a mystery crash, Hock,” she said, showing me her diagram on a clipboard. “He was driving south on Mingo Road and veered off smack into a telephone pole at a high speed. When we got there, he was dead.”
She handed me a Polaroid of the car. It was totaled. A giant, v-shaped crash wrapped around a telephone pole. “No skids. Just straight into the pole.”
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Ahram Shan. The guy who owns the hair salon on University Drive in the Johnson Center.”

I nodded, and we walked to one of the ER surgery rooms. I was no traffic investigator; and, frankly, I deeply despised all aspects of traffic work—the tickets, the endless accident reports, all that. My version of an upper rung of hell would be an assignment in a traffic division. But I knew that often those kinds of crashes involved sudden heart attacks, passing out, sleep deprivation, or whatever glitch caused a feller to black out and drive high speed straight into his smashing death.
Shan was naked on a metal gurney. The doctor followed us in.

“Look at these,” the doc pointed out to me. Sure enough there were tens of fresh, circular cuts and bruises all over his body on his face, arms, chest, and legs; and when we turned him over, we saw them on his back. All about the size of small jar lid. One side worse and deeper than the other. I took a real close look. They were not complete, perfect circles. They were somewhat oblong. What the hell? That was before Scully, Mulder, and the X-Files; otherwise, I’d have called them for help.
“Did … something blow up in the car that…?”
“Nope,” the officer said.

Did a really odd beating happen just before the car drive that caused this man to pass out? What would cause those oddball wounds? Some kind of sex fetish deal? What? “Well, I guess I need to find out from whence he was coming. 

And I have to go to the Shan house. Where does he live?”
She handed me his driver’s license AND with it, she handed off another major, nasty responsibility, the dreaded death notification. Before our county organized a medical examiner’s office in the 1990s, we used our nearby Dallas and Ft. Worth offices for autopsies and major forensics; and these modern offices now have investigators who go to the scenes and make the death notification. But back then, death notices were performed by patrolmen and detectives. Detectives did it when it might matter in their investigation. Such as now.

There was an art to death notifications. There were police schools for death notifications. I had been to them; and it was touchy, touchy business. I was not “Mister Warmth,” but was not cold-hearted enough not to try to do a good job with it. Good God, what a terrible thing to have to tell people. I had delivered many; and this unique, American-Persian one I am telling you about was the worst death message I had ever had to do and the worst I had ever heard of anywhere else! So get yourself ready for this ugly ride.

I telephoned the police station and asked for our forensics guy, Russell Lewis, to come out and take some 35 mm photos of the wounds on the body. I ordered an autopsy. I called the evening-shift Detective Sergeant Howard Kelly as protocol indicated and informed him of my little mess. He, too, was eating dinner at home; and there was no need for him to stop because I was holding the bag, so to speak. Then I girded my loins for the trip to the Shan house and the death notification.

I rehearsed the speech in my mind as I drove across the city. The lines are pretty short and not sweet. My guess is that anyone who is at home, has a loved one not at home, and then sees the police show up with grim, sober expressions at the door is already expecting bad news before an officer opens his mouth. I often wonder about the miserable job of doing this chore for the military. Imagine having a full-time job of making death notifications? Anyhow, I kept in mind that the Shan house might contain the secret source of the wounds; so I would approach this as an investigator AND as a death notifier. A greasy tightrope.

The Shan house was a typical residence in a middle-class housing addition. Cars in the driveway. Grass cut. Clean. I parked, took a deep breath, and approached the door. Listened first. Nothing. Then rang the doorbell.
Daughter Shan answered. She recognized me and smiled. No surprise on her face. Just a genuine half smile.

“Is your mother home?” I asked.
“Yes,” she turned to summon her and left the door open. I stepped right in and scanned the joint. Clean, orderly, nothing out of the usual; it was just a lived-in house with some lived-in clutter here and there.

Mrs. Shan walked in with a welcoming smile and a curious expression. I was glad the daughter was there because they could comfort each other when they heard the news. Always good to have support handy.
“Mrs. Shan,” I started, “I have some bad news. Your husband had a car crash. I hate to tell you this, but … he is dead. He crashed into a telephone pole just two hours ago.” There it was. Boom.
She stared at me with the same expression. Unchanged. The curious smile. The daughter was a little more serious.
“Oh, Hock, that is funny,” she said.
“Ahh … funny?”
“I know what you are doing,” she said.
“What am I doing?” I asked. Then I noticed a wound on her neck. That same oblong shape, cut, and bruise.
“You are trying to make the peace.”
“But it is a cruel joke for you to play. I will not forgive him.”
“I am not trying to make any joke, Mrs. Shan.”
“Ooooh, yes you are!” she wagged her finger in my face. The smile disappeared.
“Momma!” the daughter said and stepped back into the dining room. I remember her moving or crossing her arms in some way that indicated she was getting nervous and believing me.
“It is very cruel for you to do this favor for him.”
“Favor? Mrs. Shan, your husband was killed on Mingo Road in a traffic accident.”
“No, he was not.”
“Yes, he was.”
“You are here to scare me for him,” she said. She was getting angry. The lips curled.
“His body is at the hospital.”
“No, it is not. He has asked you to do this.”
“And his body is full of round bruises and cuts just like the one on your neck,” I proclaimed.
“Momma!” the daughter declared.
“You are trying to make me feel bad about fighting with my husband. I know he has asked you to come here and tell me he is dead to make me feel bad. This is such a rotten trick,” she said. As her words progressed, the anger grew in her face. Lots of teeth. Red skin. She started moving around.
“He is dead,” I insisted.
“HE IS DEAD!” I shouted back.
“Where did he get those bruises? How did YOU get those bruises?” I demanded. My eyes shifted from the mother and the daughter.
“We had a fight! You know this! He told you this!”
“A fight with what?”
“Belts! We … we had a fight with belts.”
There was a belt on the floor and one lying over the back of a living room couch. They both had large buckles. Oblong in shape.
“Belts? You were swinging belt buckles at each other?” I picked them up, with intention to keep.
“Yes, this is how we fight. It is not the first time. We have these fights. I will not forgive him for this evil lie!”
“Well, he is dead. Dead at the Westgate Hospital Emergency Room.”
“YOU are lying! LYING. You are just as bad as he is!” she screamed with a banshee face. “LIAR!” She went for the belt on the couch.

How did it come to this? DAMN! This all went to hell in less than two minutes. It is not too often you yell at the surviving spouse in a death notification.
“He is not dead!”
“Your husband is dead! Dead, I tell you. Dead.”
“No! Liar! LIAR!”
“Come down to the hospital with me. Right now. And I will show you. Both of you.”

The daughter convinced the mother to go. The daughter was in a state of shock. While they grabbed their purses, I decided to grab up those two belts. I had many legal reasons to do so. I was there on an official death notice. Heard a spontaneous admission from the wife. Belts in plain view. My safety issues. I had many reasons to seize those belts, so seize them I did.
It was now nightfall. We got into our cars—me in mine, the mother and daughter in theirs—and I led the way to Westgate. I was steaming a bit, and all pretense of my caring about her feelings was pretty much gone.

We entered the ER, and I walked them straight through and into the operating room. Mr. Shan was still there. Naked. Gray. Deader than hell.
The daughter stopped at the doorway and gasped. The mother marched right up to the body.

“Wake up!” she shouted, inches from his face.
“This joke is over. I will never forgive you. Stop this joke!”
She started beating the body and the face, and a nurse and I pulled her off.
“Momma! Momma! Daddy is dead! He is dead!” the daughter shouted to her, gushing with emotion and tears. She helped us pull Mrs. Shan from the body.

The mother froze. Then she began emitting that shrill scream of the Middle Eastern women we hear on the news these days. She ran down the hallway bouncing off the walls, swinging her purse wildly, and striking her back and chest in an act of self-flagellation. Some of her purse items flew through the air. She dashed outside in the parking lot. Needless to say, she was indeed the main show of the emergency room. The daughter scooped up the items and chased out after her.
The nurse and I just looked at each. I could only mumble, “Iranian,” as some sort of excuse for the behavior?

About 20 minutes later, I had a quiet conversation with the daughter and the ER doctor. She told us that her parents had a vicious belt-buckle battle that afternoon at home. She said he left the house in a fit of anger. And then and there he crashed. I asked her if he had a heart condition. She said no. Anyone in her family have one? Her grandfather did, Shan’s father. In the week of her grandfather’s 54th birthday, he dropped dead of a heart attack.

“And how old was your dad?” I asked.
“He was 54. His birthday was just 4 days ago.”
Father and son! Both men died in the same week of their 54th birthdays. Sound amazing? That coincidence was not all that amazing and was not medically uncommon. I knew the syndrome existed; but for my final reports, I had to do a little research to support my findings. The doctor nodded. Of course, he knew right away. That’s the kind of stuff docs know.
Within a week, the autopsy results were in. Mr. Shan died of a sudden heart attack while driving and coasted right into a telephone pole. Did he also die from the rage of his belt-buckle fight? I didn’t know, and I couldn’t prove it if I did know.
When I left the hospital that night, Mrs. Shan was in the dark leaning against the wall outside the hospital. Exhausted. Crying. Mumbling. Her daughter was inside taking care of the paperwork. I guess I could have stopped. You know … said something. Apologized. Sympathy. Whatever. But instead, I passed her right by and walked to my car, got in, and left. I was not a social worker or a psychiatrist. I was a detective. I just investigated shit.

I got home; and, indeed, the dinner was cold. My second wife started ragging on me for some insignificant thing I did or didn’t do. I poured a shot of whiskey and grabbed the cold pork chop off the plate and stepped out into the backyard. She followed me, of course. In the pasture out back, some cattle were up and moving slowly, uneasily about in the dark. I strolled up to the barbed-wire fence, put the glass on a fence post, and gnawed on the chop. She went on; I missed dinner and I missed the kids’ going to bed. I missed this. Missed that. The complaining droned on and on behind me.

I gnawed on that pork chop bone, and I hoped they’d call me out again for serious crime.


This and other great stories appear in "Don't Even Think About It!"

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Personality of the Knife

Knives have personalities. The generic look. The generic history. Slashing look. Stabbers. The personal attachment look. What is the personality or your knife?

Knife circle 1

I think there are several factors in knife personalities.

Culture of the knife Personality – One is the culture of the knife. Certain edged weapons have a history, a geographic flavor. Just think of the Japanese Tanto. The Kris. The Bowie knife. The Italian stiletto. The medieval dagger. The double-edged, commando knife. One in the martial business, or the knife aficionados, or makers recognize the aura/genre of many knives. This cultural attraction alone might be a main reason someone buys to collect, or buys to carry a knife. Somehow, some way, the look captures one’s fancy, imagination, expectation or whatever connection to books, movies, TV or past affiliation. Sort of a mysticism we mentally project upon a simple inanimate knife. After all, what makes us select the cars, pants, churches or sports teams we do? We are tribal, particular and peculiar from our hats down to our shoes. Hats and shoes as in style that is, not in size. We can’t change the size of our head or our feet. We can change the size and shape of a knife, but will the size be appropriate for our…"heads" and ”feet?”

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Slashing, hacking and stabbing personalities – The shape and size of the knife tells an experienced handler what it can do best. Some are better hackers. Some long, thin ones are better stabbers. Some are wide and are better shaped for slicing. Like a carpet layer needs a certain angle for exactly what is needed, so do all knife users. A novice to so-called, knife "fighting," a new-be to say, construction work, will not know what kind of knife does what best. Experience and education is called for.

Personal, knife personality examples – I knew a Green Beret, Vietnam vet who passed on standard Army/government issue knives and preferred his old own Bowie Knife, replete with a carved stag handle. It was a family heirloom you might say, and therefore more important to him than any generic, legend of Jim Bowie. He said it gave him a certain power, a certain mojo from which he garnered mental and physical strength. This is a personal touchstone, reminiscent of many cultures, such as some of the native Americans might carry a medicine bag of mojo. Same-same. 

     Another friend of mind sought an old-fashioned, traditional looking (and hard to open) pocket, folding knife with stag handles, with multiple blades, because his dad had a similar one and it was lost through time. Both, more “personal, private” personality, touchstone selections. Still, with game points awarded for symbolic and personal mojo, on the battlefield or for back porch whittling, the knife size, shape and handle must fall within a scope and range of usable practicality and common sense. Switch this over to a parallel concept – you wouldn't a pack a flintlock pistol around for self defense, just because you love the early American history era. Extrapolate this idea over to other weapons and survival.

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What personality knife do you really need? – Not just want for whatever abstract reason, but need? I think we have to return to the classic, Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions I use all the time to best determine this.

– Who are you to need a knife?

– Who are you to carry a knife?

– What do you really need or want a knife exactly for?

– What do you exactly expect to do with this knife?

– What training do you have to make this a wise choice?

– What are the local laws for such a knife?

– What happens next? You use the knife and what will the police and prosecutors think of the name and look of your knife?

– Where will you carry this knife? Job? Protection? Handiness?

– Where on your body will you clip, or sheath or cart your knife?

– When will you need this knife? Work time? Off-time? Daytime? Nighttime?

– How will you acquire this knife?

– How will you use it? Do you know how?

– Why will you select a specific knife?

     Another, longer “what” question. The chicken or the egg? What came first for you? Or, what will come first, if you are just now thinking about knives? That mysterious adulation of …“the knife,” and then a knife training course? Or did you need a knife first for a task first, then seek a training course? This consideration might help clear a path for your knife selection and proper training. The collector, the historian, the practical user, the adulator? Who are you?

     But that last line of questioning…the “why.” Why will you select a specific knife? I suggest that you do not make a selection based on looks, genres, eras and or culture alone. I think you should select a knife on its ultimate practicality. Of course if you are a collector looking for this or that showpiece – “I own one! It’s a beauty!” –  have fun! (I am not much of a collector of things so I cannot relate to this, but of course, I do understand the hobby.) Or, if you are fanatic about say, old European sword and dagger fighting. Whatever. Get those weapons and mess around with them. Have fun and exercise. Shoot flintlock firearms (just don't carry them as a self defense weapon).

Knife circle 4

Knives have personalities – The generic look. The generic history. The personal attachment. If you plan to actually carry and use a knife? Whether on the job as a telephone lineman, a surgeon, a soldier or a cop, or just a citizen with a hankering for a knife, think of them as tools and well…think of them as shoes. You’ll be wearing them too, and like your hat and shoes, you can change the style, but you can’t change the size of your head and feet. Get the appropriate tool/knife. See clearly, be fleet of foot for the trails and paths of life, Kemosabe. Don’t stumble around with the wrong size, else you’ll trip, fall and fail. And like “running with scissors,” running with the wrong knife can be a minor or costly mistake.

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