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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.

Veteran’s Day, USA

     Lots of people post pictures on the Facebook and the internet of themselves on Veteran’s Day, but I’d like to post this guy. One of my personal heroes I guess you could say. TC Gaston. He was kid from the projects of Washington D.C. He joined the Army and was a decorated Korean AND Vietnam war vet and my MP Sergeant in South Korea. In the 1970s, we were all stuck in an a crappy Army base just south of the DMZ on the west side of South Korea. We did the usual policing and force protection along with the ROK Marines and overseeing KATUSAs. Gaston never went to college but he was one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. If you could imagine a black Clark Gable in mannerisms and speech but a wicked sense of humor and real understanding of people.


     Through the years some of you have heard me talk about him. And my recollections of his fighting and uncanny way with dealing with all kinds of people (he had most of the officers afraid of him) I could tell many stories but briefly here’s one of my favorite: In the 1970s, and I hear tell in the 80s too, there was constant trouble at the DMZ, and we had various levels of alerts, but one morning, the war sirens went off. When this special baby sounded off, we appeared ASAP, even if in our skivvies, civies, Mickey Mouse pajamas or Ho Chi Minh flipflops. You got there.

In this ragtag formation a LT. told us,

     “I don’t know anything about this yet, but we now are at war. Somethings happened. We are at war.”

     Everyone was quickly released to scatter off to their attack positions and jobs. A few of the guys – some were missile tech guys there and in the Army only to eventually go to college – were actually sobbing. For me, I had this sick sense of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was in for it. There. Not up for it, there. It’s an “oh-shit moment.”

     The MPs met at our little station house and were given the force protection assignments. My job was to oversee a 50 caliber, machine gun team on the north west corner of the camp. It was facing north and overlooking the valley/rice patties that the Red Guard first invaded over in the 1950s. It was a breathtaking valley I had walked over and jogged on and now it became a ticking time bomb.

     We each had an M-16 and a .45 pistol. Big problem, while we MPs had ammo for our .45s, while some of our guard staff had some M-16 ammo, we and no one else had any ammunition for the M-16s or the 50 cals! I learned later that through history, in places like Pearl Harbor, the ammo has been locked up and no one either sent release orders, or they forgot too up and down the chain of command…I don’t know…but locked-up ammo has been a problem through military time.

     Gaston, now suddenly in full charge of force protection, walked in the shack having just supervised a bunch of stuff outside. Several of us said, “Sarge, we have no ammo!” He was aghast, “WHAT?” So far, he’d only had his pistol belt with mags. He disappeared and marched across the chaotic grounds of the base. He commandeered an open-backed, duce and a half (that’s a big old Army truck) jumped in the bed and standing up in the open back, ordered the driver up a long steep hill to the ammo dump. In his force protection role, he had keys to everything. Too include the ammo dump. They returned within minutes, him standing behind the cab of the open truck with bandoleers of ammo hanging over his shoulders.

     At the main grounds he shouted out to all, “Ammo! Ammo!” and desperate men ran to the truck where he dispensed the ammunition to the troops.

     A Captain and Lt. ran out of HQ and the C.O. said, “SGT Gaston! No one authorized that ammo release from the dump!”

     Gaston gave him a dirty sneer, ignored him and continued distributing the ammo. They could not say much. I mean, how could they? Gaston whistled us over and we got our ammo too.

     This little base has several operational assignments. One was to missile the holy fuck out of North Korean planes, and also bomb a few sites over the DMZ before we were over run. We were not meant to "stay." To "defend." Just hang on till the damge was done, then “retreat” the best way to Seoul.

     Gaston was in full infantry mode once back in the shack. He looked pissed. He look concentrated. He looked at all of us and said,

     “When they shoot off all their missiles this place is empty. Worthless. We’ll work out way back to Youngsan.” He looked into each of our eyes. “When we go, you don’t follow these officers and these college boys, you follow me! You got that? You follow me, because I am a combat muther-fucker and I’ll get you there alive.”

     I’d follow that son-of-bitch anywhere. I still get goosebumps when I think about that speech. I guess ya had to be there.

     We remained on war status for several days. Intense at first because we heard nothing but the classic "rumors of war." The GI radio and one TV station told us nohting. The people in the village played out their lives. We sat and stared at that valley and the skies. The thought always occurs to you in these times, "we didn't make enough sandbags!"

     Then it downgraded after a few days, day by day. There were numerous alerts while I was there but none as big and serious as that one. It was all over an multiple killing incident at the DMZ that is too long and distracting to explain here.


      This is a small story. I could tell many stories about Gaston. Police stories too. Like the time he knocked out a knife attacker with one punch. Or, when he played on the unit football team, damn near 60 years old, playing tackle with us kids. On the way to the games in one of the duece and a halfs, he'd have a pack of gum, ten pieces and give 9 of them away to us nearby. I noticed small stuff like that. Or the time…well…DON'T get me started.

     He retired right after this tour and returned to his life in the Washington DC projects. I was on a security detail on a small mountain that overlooked the base below and I saw him get into a KATUSA jeep for last ride to Youngsan. I watched the jeep for as long as I could from up there. I never saw him again. None of us heard from him again. He had an ever-lasting impression on my life, as a cop, a soldier and person. I can still picture him on the back of that deuce and half, ammo hanging off of him, and see him handing out ammo from the back of that truck to the troops.

     This Veterans Day I would like to especially salute Staff Sergeant Thomas Gaston. I ain't much in life. But whatever I am? He helped.


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Should You Even DARE Use a Knife to Defend Yourself?

 (This "never-knife," and "anti-use-knife" subject came up somewhere else on FB, where a Krav school decided to completely stop teaching the use of the knife for self defense. One reason was that carrying knives is prohibited in their region. Another reason was the low stats of such events – might be the lack of carry-knives is a reason for the low stats of events? These observations are actually a common argument in various countries around the world and from various instructors AND practitioners around the world I meet with.

     "I'll never have a knife!" they declare.

     "Yes you will, you'll have the knife of the guy you just disarmed." I add. (Insert the word "pistol" in place of "knife" when you hear about that subject.) Because they do spend copious amounts of time, disarming, disarming, disarming. What happens next?

     Others say that aspects of the knife training "culture" can be whacky, extremist and too ugly to connect with, even loosely. Stigma!

     Still, I carry on with my own knife course – Force Necessary: Knife! Here's why and perhaps some of the talking points I use, may be used by you for your positions. Below is how and why I justify a "nasty, violent" knife course, and how I have wrangled with these issues myself, into something I can morally and ethically work with.)




"I'll never use a knife."

"I'll never need a knife, I have my unarmed skills."

"Even if I disarm a knife, I'll just throw it off."

"Carrying Knives are illegal where I live."

"I don't need knife training. Everyone alreday knows instinctively how to use a knife."

"People who like and use knives are crazy, like criminals."

…and so on. 

     First off, I understand your concerns.  I really do. I myself have no particular fascination with knives. I do not collect them, nor would I collect wrenches or hammers, or tools in general. Some folks do collect knives. And of course, that's fine. But since I feel this way, I might offer a very practical viewpoint on the subject, needless to add my decades of investigating crimes might add some value too.

     We live in a mixed weapon world and therefore I accept the challenge of trying to examine this hand, stick, knife, gun world. I have a knife course. I have my own motto in my knife course. “Use your knife to save your life.” which is the opposite of the "no-use," "never-need them," anti-knife movement remarks we hear. Mine is a politically correct slogan that sets the stage for the carry and use doctrine. I would like to say in summary for myself, and some things to think about, is that…we all live in a hand, stick, knife, gun world. Carry and possession laws aside. It’s still a hand, stick, knife, gun world. It's a world of war and crime and that  includes weapons. We fight criminals and/or worse, we fight enemy soldiers.

   – Sometimes we escape them.

   – Sometimes we capture them.

   – Sometimes we injure them.

   – Sometimes we kill them. 

     It’s all situational in "who, what, where, when, how and why." I believe that those "Ws and H," based on good intel, not assumption, should set priorities for training schedules for you and your areas/regions. Where you live and what goes on there are very, important considerations.

     However, one set within those priorities should never ignore that in a hand, stick, knife, world, a person (who lives anywhere) should know how to use a stick, a knife or a gun, despite the laws possessing them. I am not talking about possessing here, as in walking around with an illegal weapon in your pocket, though I know many world-wide that do, I am just talking about using. Using it. Knowing. Messing with it. Familiarization.

     Statistics of things almost never happening? Knife defense hardly ever happens? I agree. If you do big-picture studies of fighting in general, I think you would discover though that even simple, unarmed fights are also extremely rare when compared to population size and the billions of personal interactions people every day. I believe this to be true in USA states, Australia, United Kingdom and other countries banning common also. When you consider this big picture, places like Australia are a wonderful, peaceful places. (USA is too when you think of 320 million people and billions of easy, successful, interactions every single day).

     So then, if an actual, unarmed fight, or an actual unarmed attack/crime is so very, very rare, why do we then bother to practice any self-defense at all? If it hardly ever happens? Even crime rates are small compared to the over-all population. Most of you reading this now will never be in an unarmed fight, never a knife fight, never be shot, or never be a victim of crime. Still we work on these problems because on some level we know, it has happened, will happen and could happen to you and yours. It sort of – needs to be done. Needs to be looked at. With these very low stats, this "understandable, needy" acceptance, logic suggests to us to work unarmed material. This very same logic should suggest that we include stick, knife and gun too.

     You'll never have or will never touch a knife (or gun)? In a fight, you might well pick up a knife, a stick or a gun in the area, or right from the bad guy's hands. I might mention here too, that an attacker's knife, disarmed and dropped on the ground? It is still dangerous and the death threat is NOT over. A person was just trying to kill you with it, and his knife is still just 3, 4 or 5 feet away from his hands on the ground? It is still a very deadly situation and a very quick pick-up.

     So you have disarmed him or picked it up and now hold his weapon? What happens next? Can you fight with it? He's charging in! (My favorite “What” question is "what happens next?" What happens next? ( Ending down the "what question" line with in – "are you arrested or sued?) Don't know what to do next? Do you think you will just become a knife fighter/user because of some magical, inert, instinct? Why do you spend all that time working on simple, unarmed moves and spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars shooting guns and bulleye chasing, and yet ignore the knife? (Some people suggest getting a disarm and "throwing it away," tossing a knife "away." This is suggested by the naive as some sort of consummate solution, but is not consummate or universal, such is highly situational,  and is the subject of another essay.) I might add here there are numerous Department of Justice stats through the years in the USA that even holding a knife, "presenting a knife," can scare off over 50% of common criminals.

     Knives are EVERYWHERE, (and knife-like items). “sticks,” or stick-like things are too in a way. Guns? In many countries the opponents bring the guns to you, barrel first. Many of the Krav schools around the world (oh, about 40% of the schools I teach at each year are Krav schools) have no weapons handling at all. All unarmed stuff. Not all, but many. This is a criticism I hear with some regularity from many Krav people actually. But whatever. In a way that's fine if all the parties involved are educated enough to know this incomplete status and where they fit in the big picture. I don't agree doctrine-wise, but whatever.

     In order to best use or fight against a weapon, you should at least know how that weapon is actually used. Not how you assume it is used. Your assumptions may be wrong. Know something about it. We have that USA expression about baseball –

     “you’ll never hit a curve ball if you never see one in practice.”

     This involves studying the curve ball, throwing good curve balls in practice and a lot of batting practice concerning curve balls. We also have another old expression, "life throws you curve balls." This is trus in all confrontational endeavors. You must know what a boxer does. You must know whet a grappler does. You must know what the current armed robber team in your area is doing. You must know what the street thugs are doing – the the fad of the "knock-out gangs." Know they enemy, Which brings us back to the "who, what, where, when, how and why."

     The knife-stigma issue can be challenging. Weird and violent course names and weird, macho knife names don't help you in the end. Trust me on this. I've worked these cases. I have no grim reapers, no flaming skulls and none of those suggestive, macho mantras made by people (mostly/usually from folks inexperienced with the true, real, ugly, wet violence and the aftermath) who seem obsessed with a certain "type" of knife culture. (I have seen photos of knife training where attendees wear bandanna-masks on their faces like cartels or something like that?) Associate with criminal looks, themes, names and behavior? And then use a Klingon knife in an incident and the police and prosecutors will use all of this against you, every Facebook entry. Every strange tattoo, photo, hobby, associates, etc. Anyone teaching anything about the knife, must know about this stigma and should try to overcome it with a level of professionalism. Remember, by selecting and promoting your own "dark" premise, you are defeating your own end game. Concerned about thus, all my courses are stacked and packed with legal issues and the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. It has to work in court as much as possible! I repeat – remember, by selecting and promoting your own "dark" premise, you are defeating your own end game.

      Historical stigma. Many times through history, self defense has been hidden inside martial arts when self defense seemed threatening to the local governments. The same can be said for modern times. For example, the study of "knife fighting" can be condemned in some societies, yet is okay when done inside the auspices of say – a "Filipino Martial Arts Class." The trappings, as in the "look" and style and so forth, make it an art form to the shallow eye, tempering criticism. Packaging. Many groups in these weapon-restrictive countries, still openly practice sword fighting and "short-sword" fighting, rapier and dagger (that's a knife, folks) but in the wrappings of a Medieval disguise. Those folks get featured on the TV news as an interesting hobby, but some guys in street clothes in the park doing the similar things might get… arrested? 

Knife for self defense

     Force Necessary: Knife! is VERY simple course about the mechanics of the knife. Simple as needed. Complex as necessary. It is a popular course throughout the UK and Australia too, as in other countries, despite the no-carry laws found. Some people are just plain interested in the subject for whatever reason. Historical? Perhaps. Numerous police officers and agencies attend these classes to gather expertise and information on the subject for their professions. Others may have a morbid curiosity on the subject of edged weapons.

     The knife course, all knife courses, should also have less-than-lethal applications, which I think is very important from a doctrine perspective, and people want to know these applications too, as do police. As do the military, as they often are under orders to take prisoners. Less-Than-Lethal applications includes the verbiage around "situational surrender," or scaring the attacker off (this happens in high precentages in the States), closed folder strikes, pommel strikes and areas on the body to slash (like incoming fists) that are meant to slow and wound. 

     While you might quickly punch something or someone, as you might quickly stab or shoot something or someone, an overall "fight" is much more than that singular event. The knife-criminal-attack or knife-war-event is surrounded by details and situations. One studies the situational responses. Your knife course also must cover knife ground fighting as well as fighting against common "weapons," (like a chair for example). Overall, knife "combatives," as well as all "combatives really must include in doctrine:

* standing

* moving

* seated

* kneeling

* ground top

* ground bottom

* ground side-by-side

* fighting versus common weapons, not just knife vs. knife or other exotic martial weapons

All of it seamlessly because, "you fight where you are, with and against what you and he have."       

      Of course, in the history of crime and war, a knife (and sharp, knife-like things) has been used, dare I say, countless times to defend oneself. Since this "no-knife-no-matter-what" discussion "aired" on the web, Britians and Australians have added presented examples where desperate they have used knives to save lives and have been acquitted. Even guns have been used in self defense and shooters were acquitted. In the end, the "totality of circumstances" (a legal term) and common sense should usually win out.

      Self defense instructors? School owners? And here are some points from a business/training perspective, and is part of the "who question." Who do you teach? Who do you want to teach? And the "How questions" – how big is your course? How diverse is your outline? How many people do you really teach, or how many groups and people do you want to teach? Do you expect to teach only citizens, or the police and the military also? Do you want too? Or just teach some nice, neighborhood people in your classic 5 square mile demographic? If you want to do more, reach more, then your curriculum must be of a big mind. That bigger mind is hand, stick, knife, gun. Keep in mind also, that there are just men and women – customers –  who are just interested in the use of a knife. They just…want to learn what they call "the knife." For knife sakes? It fascinates them. These folks too, are your customers.

     Should you ever, even dare to use a knife to save your life? It will certainly be ugly. There will be ramifications. Knives! Look…hey…they exist. They are everywhere. To save your life and the lives of others, use them when and where you gottem'. Its a hand, stick, knife, gun, world. To me, you are either in it or out of it. If you can't do it all (I can't) know where you are in the big picture, and were you need to send people for the rest.

     I will leave you "never-ever-knife" folks with this thought. This question. It's 4 am and you hear two thugs breaking into your back door. Your spouse and kids are asleep. Presuming you are unfortunate enough not to have a gun handy, do you reach for the biggest kitchen knife you can find? Will they get yours first instead, as so many home invaders and rapists do? If you don't even think about getting a knife in that very dark moment? You may have a thinking disorder.

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Gilligans – In Training

     In old-school police training, (and probably first in the business world and certainly in psychology) in the 80s and 90s, there was a teaching term called “Gilligans.” The object was to find one word that instantly conjures up as much as possible. Mental force multipliers? (Oh that sounds way tacta-cool). But, smart instructors were encouraged to invent as many Gilligans as possible. This idea took a good hold by some of the original Calibre Press instructors in the 80s and 90s.

     What is a Gilligan? Of course, youth and even many adults today don't know of, or don't remember Gillgan’s Island, the VERY popular TV show of its times. When one said,


      …back then people immediately had a flash of the show, its overall context – “lost on an island” – and picture of the whole cast. The concept. Virtually instantly.


     I remember when I first heard of the idea decades ago, the police instructor stood still in front of the class and said “Gilligan,” with a big smile. Then he asked for a show of hands of how many people flashed to the Gilligan’s Island TV show. We ALL did. ALL. He explained that it was a one-word concept, He suggested that we invent as many Gilligans as possible when teaching. Find the word (or very short phrase) that means a lot of words, long phrases, sentences and maybe even paragraphs. At best, it should have an emotional contact/connection too. The teaching idea was nicknamed “Gilligan” by whom I do not know.

     Another example of a Gilligan? Classic JKD instructor Larry Hartsell said in a seminar once that when you punch, you should "dent." Imagine denting reasonably thin/thick metal. For me that simple word "dent" put me on the overall right structure to punch harder, penetrate and leave a mark. It "lights" up the brain.There are so many examples and uses of this idea.

     When you say Gilligan today, almost no one thinks of that show, or thinks of the teaching concept even. I just referenced this while teaching in Denver last weekend and one guy there, Larry Cline, "comfortably" over 65, knew the old TV show I was talking about. He immediately said out loud, "Mary Ann.”

Mary Ann Gilligans Island 00

     But it’s the idea, the teaching concept that still lingers. Some young people think they have invented it? But, its what Dave Spaulding always says, "there's a difference between new and original. Its just new to you."

     For a period of time in the thrilling days of yesteryear, at least, the idea of Gilligans was sort of a known term in police training and I am sure other business circles and some military too.

     Maybe we need a new TV show? Big Bang Theory? 



(Jiyu Yushi  checks in –  "The above ideas involve the psychological concepts of associative learning that were quite popular in that time frame from the Behavioralists who were impacting learning theory. Associative learning postulates that certain events and things occur together, making recall and subsequent performance more accurate and swifter with the stimuli received. This learning involves both Classical and Operant conditioning to specific stimuli (visual, audio, tactile, etc)."


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For more on subjects like this, read Fightin' Words, click here

01 Book Cover-med



The Case of the Survival Wardrobe Continuum 

     We were about 4 or 5 weeks deep into US Army Basic Training, back in Ft Polk, LA in the early 1970s – “Little Vietnam” as they called it – and the drill sergeants, were starting to back off a bit with their constant abuse. We were in a formation in our company area, which was right across the street from a small PX, a laundry and a few things, like a an old fashioned strip center. Restricted, we did not dare go over there or leave the company area when off-duty. The drill sergrant asked,“any questions?” right before dismissing us.

      I raised my hand and asked, “when we will be old enough to cross the street?”

      Everyone laughed at my sarcastic ass, even the Sarge.

     “We'll see,” and he dismissed us.


      My joke worked because within a few hours, the word was passed that we could indeed cross the street! Well! We did. The little store was worthless, but you could get a beer there, and a pretty piss-poor, little pizza and a bag of chips. And then, myself and apparently quite a few others decided that we would deposit several sets of Army fatigues over there at the laundry and get them starched! Yeah! Be all looking like the stract cadre walking around. Yes-sir! Be looking mighty fine for all those damn, morning inspections too.

      Within two days we got them back from the laundry. Cost almost nothing. And the following morning we wore them, breaking that heavy, cardboard starch that only those of us in the “green machines your granddaddy called the service” would understand. Driving your foot through the cardboard leg of poster-board pants. OO-ahh. Draft dodgers have no idea what I am yakking about here.

      And there we stood in morning formation. Hundreds of us in toto, but only about 40 of us were starched up. Suddenly the drill sergeants – once friendly, but NEVER to be trusted – started walking the lines,

      “YOU!” “YOU!” “YOU!”

      They started pulling troops from the lines! One even came by me, gave me a dirty look and called me a “YOU!” and he pulled me out, too! What the…?

      They put us in several, new lines. I took a good look around and we were all the guys who had our uniforms starched. That was the only common denominator I could see. Maybe we were going to get a prize, you know? They marched us over to several of our nearby barracks. Now, these were old wooden barracks and, being in the near swamp levels of Louisiana, the buildings were up a couple of feet, off the ground on support beams. And being swampy, the underneath's of which were also shady, wet, muddy and yucky. The Baskerville Moors of Polk quicksand!

       They lined us up by these buildings, and then they ordered us face down on the ground, Then they ordered us to low crawl up to…and then under those barracks, plum out the other side. All to the delight of the other soldiers watching with glee. WELL! I did what I was told, fearing worse on the other end! Why me, Lord? There are hairy spiders and poisonous snakes down here! Leeches and shit! Hells bells, they got gators in the Louisiana bayou! Lumpy, mud and who knows what-all!

       They lined us up and back again we were so ordered! Then back yet again. Then, they lined us up and the drill sergeants took a good look at us, making contorted and disgusted faces. One sarge, the most articulate at yelling in melodious cuss words and clever phrases of ridicule made a speech as only he could. It was full of cussing and yelling and stomping about and well, it was got-dam, beautiful, it was, you know, in that negative sort of way. But I can't recall it word-for-word, so I will summarize it for you all here.

      In so many words he explained that you cannot love your uniform too much, can't worry about it being too clean or kempt. He explained that we constantly clean and polish and brush our uniforms because we were supposed to get them dirty. Every day. All the time. That was our job to get dirty and clean them. Get dirty and clean them. You didn't love your country if you weren't getting dirty defending it. We were in the Army, and if you worry about your clothes getting messed up or dirty, even for a second, you might hesitate to duck, dive or fight, and that might get you killed in – "This Man's Army!"

      So, he explained, in order for us starchie-low-lifes to get a proper day's training in, we first needed to be roughed up, and made to forget about how "purty" we looked. Then we fell in beside the other troops for the day's other fun and games of mental and physical abuse. And we starchie-low-lifes spent the whole day in caked mud. From there after? They didn't care if you showed up in starched fatigues, because you've been read this riot act. It must happen every Basic cycle, huh? The message must be conveyed. After that, we could go starched-up, but just don't get caught worrying about ruining your look. Just dive into the mud hole then they say “jump!”

       Clothes make the fighting man. Movie critics once mentioned that there was a distinct difference between James Bonds. Said one, “Sean Connery, when all dressed up, looked like he couldn't wait to get dirty. Roger Moore when all dressed up, looked like he couldn't stand to get dirty.” What a great analogy.


     If my old drill sergeant had heard that line, he no doubt would have yelled that in my muddy face.

     “Whooo are you, boy? Sean Connery or Roger Moore?"

     “Sean Connery, Drill Sergeant.”

     “Whhhooo? I can't hear you! You prissy little, misbegotten excrement from a house-mouse whore!”

    “SEAN CONN…” …you know the routine.

      It was a lesson I never did forget. And it has merit. It is inspirational and gets your head on straight as you step out the door to go to work. But the lesson doesn't always fit the organization. Even in the military.

      Soon after Basic Training, after the military police academy, I was pulling garrison, (standard police patrol) military police duty and in the daytime we had to wear Class A uniforms which was worse than a thick suit and tie. Pistol belt outside the jacket, riding up your torso like a straight jacket. The clod-hopper boots. Are you roller skating in a buffalo herd? The bloused pants with the special rubber-band-thingy on your calf. And heaven forbid you were caught without your big white hat on, even when driving. The whole thing was…

For the rest of the article, read Fightin' Words, click here

01 Book Cover-med


Notes on…”The Tackle”

       The who, what, where, when, how, and why do you want to tackle an opponent? If you tackle someone in the real world, you will usually end up on the carpet, tile, floor, cement, asphalt, dirt, rocks, etc., with the enemy. I know a veteran doorman/bouncer from New York City who says,  

       “why should I take a customer down to the ground? Then I just have to pick him right back up and take him out. And dance floors can be dangerous at ankle height.” 

     The same can be true for many police situations. Sometimes taking a suspect all the way down may be part of your plan. For example, the police may take resistors and fighters down to the ground just to get them off their feet or prevent them from running. In some military situations, enemy soldiers such as sentries must be taken down and out of sight of his comrades and quickly restrained, made silent, and/or finished off.

     Another reason the police tackle people to the ground is because they are chasing people in pursuits. They tackle much like a football player must pursue and tackle. But so many real-world altercations are not foot pursuits. In fact, citizens in most situations would prefer their opponent suddenly turn and flee. Why chase them? Why tackle them? The citizen has then escaped a crime? 

In the non-sport world of no-weight-class restrictions, you don't know the animal you may be tackling and then wrestling with on the ground. Or, for that matter, the size of the ground fight inside the dog – to paraphrase that old expression.



     Many untrained knuckleheads, mimics, and sports people will tackle. Being tackled is one of the four main ways we hit the ground, so says a number of universities with police science department awhile back, gathering a smattering of stats as best they could. The big four ways, briefly, are these:

  1. We trip and fall during the fight.

  2. We are punched down during the fight.

  3. We are tackled during the fight.

  4. We are pulled down during the fight.

     One of our Force Necessary "Worst Case Scenario Modules" is all about the Tackle and Countering the Tackle. So we must learn the ways of the opponent. Here are the main and common ones we exercise through in the courses as a foundation for you to springboard into deeper studies: 

Common Sport-Based Tackles (which can, of course, work in "real" life, too)

   – Single leg right, a "leg pick," or smothering crash on it;

   – Single leg left, a "leg pick," or a smothering crash in it;

   – Double leg;

   – Single of Double leg, and he evades with a footstep, you hunt/swivel for the best direction for a takedown;

   – The "Fire Pole" – a slap-down tackle from a bear hug or clinch;

   – The Military Belgium Takedown, a classic military (WW II) tackle from the rear;

   – Football tackles.


Belgium tackle art series_for the web

Non-Sport Tackles

   – Wild-man, “untrained civilian” body grabs/tackles
   – Military body pitch where a tackler's torso goes airborne 
   – Law Enforcement Pursuit Tackles System where chases tackled from behind are exercised.


Common Counters to Tackles

   – Splay/Sprawl
   – Evasive footwork back and/or side-step
   – Brick wall
   – Side headlock, catch, crank/choke
   – Wheel throw



Experiment with these foundational moves, then is you wish, continue on deeper.

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Shoot the Car! I Need Me Some Relief!

Shoot the Car! I Need Me Some Relief!

     I recall a time when cars did not have air conditioning, and when they did, many police cars still did not have the add-on feature. To save cost, skinflint supervisors ordered fleets of cars without AC, but of course their cars had AC. In the Military Police, “back in the day,” on dayshift we had to wear our class A uniforms on day shift. Whether tan or the green “suit”, we had to wear that big-ass, white hat inside the car. The hat that rubbed on the interior roof if you were over 5 feet tall, and turned the top of your hat gray. Yet we’d see the Provost Marshal (like the police commissioner) driving in his sedan with AC and hat off. His hair all blowing in the AC wind tunnels like a big dog. It’s nice to be king! Evenings and midnights we switched over to fatigues, but hot is hot in Oklahoma and Texas,and in the deep south.

DressClass A copy

     Shoot the car! What? Wait, stay with me. Shoot the car for ventilation? Or for draining? Every once in awhile some eager officer would draw out his gun too soon during a chase, hit a bump and shoot the car. The floorboards. Under the dash. One time in Texas, an officer who shall remain nameless, held his gun, hit a bump, shot his car and killed it. Dead right there. I don’t remember exactly where he shot, but it hit the engine and killed it. This would also happen with interior “quick draw practice.” Or the anxious officer would draw his gun out in a chase and lay it on the seat. Well, when you are driving at a hunnert miles an hour, a slight turn or braking, and that six gun would fling itself all over the car, along with the french fries and burgers). But back to shooting the car…for draining?


     A lot of these old police cars had bullet holes in their floorboards. On purpose. No accident. I was reminiscing with another old vet and we were talking about the ice bag trick. Various ice houses and stores back then often gave free big bags of ice to officers, or sold them, in the summer. Some ice houses just stacked them by their back, open loading doors and cops would drive by and throw them into the cars.

     The trick was to shoot the floorboard, you know center-mass. You go out and drive over some soft dirt or sand, shoot the floor and the bullet buried into the ground. In them-thar days, the outside bottoms of cars did not have the Buck Rogers technology of today’s cars. It just made a nice clean hole in the body, if you knew where to aim. Next, the big ice bags are plopped on the floorboards. The vent fan was turned up full, and wala! Ice bag air conditioning. Primitive, but better than nothing.

ice bag copy

     The floorboard holes were needed for the condensation and ice bags to eventually drain. The driver needed a little makeshift barrier to keep his bags from the pedals. Better than nothing, and your cowboy boots would keep your feet from freezing off, usually. But passengers could ride with their feet high up under the dash.

As I recall, you would certainly get into official trouble for shooting your car, but many veteran supervisors did this in their good ol summer days, too. So. Mums the word. If your supervisor were “cool” the word would get about such pending inspections. And these were fleet cars back then, not necessarily assigned to any one, two or three officers. So finger pointing alibis were engaged. What? Who?

     Everyone knew where they could get their holes plugged if need be, for any planned inspections. We had a day or two to fix things, and in emergencies, we all had a few midnight shift, open garage/gas stations back then to race to when we had a such fix em up emergencies with our cars. But that’s another batch of stories.

      Finally cars were manufactured in such a way that it cost extra to remove the FM radios and air conditioners, frustrating sadistic administrators! Play rock in the cool breeze! And we peons ruled the day! Viva la revolution!

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Storm Jumper! Captured Alive in Water Channel

     On the east side of our city, there ran a series of waterways, storm channels to handle the bad Texas rainstorms. I know some cities don't have any of these drains, but I guess everyone has seen storm channels in the classic movies and TV shows about Los Angeles. Just like theirs in the City of Angels, ours was an "open top" system, quite wide at parts, deep in sections and branched off into all parts of the city.



       The channels were usually dry unless it rained heavily. But like in this photo here, there was usually a skinny stream from somewhere. I have seen them flood and overflow. I have had a few foot chases thru and in, some fights, arrests, and a couple of mishaps down in the dirty ditches. Here's one such tale.

     I once chased down and cuffed a child rapist through those channels, but my first real adventure down below in the water channels … catching an armed robber, way back in the late 70s. There was a series of armed robberies plaguing us on the east side of town, and the detectives were doing the best they could with stakeouts and interviews to break the cases. Solo actor. Big revolver. Black male. In his 30s. Afro. Cheap bandanna over the lower half of the face. We were all convinced that the suspect was a local. No one ever saw a getaway car, and each time the occasional witnesses said the man just melted off into the back lots and alleys behind the businesses.

     Several nights a week back then, I rode with another patrolman named Clovis George, a very sharp and real funny guy, a prior border town/city cop down Mexico way. Even back then, the Texican border towns were all hotbeds of all kinds of criminal activity and, yes, drugs, too. The interstate that split our city ran from old Mexico straight up the center of the USA. A drug route then and now, but that's a whole other story. Clovis had seen a lot of street-level action down there on the border. The George family was big in our city, and he returned home after several years to settle down. Our city produced one Miss America,  Phyllis George, and she was his cousin.

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     Another one of these armed robbery calls went out late one weeknight while we were paired up in one car; and it had us and other cars running every which way hay-wired, trying to find the suspect either running or driving away in a getaway car. Not a clue. A clean escape yet again.

     When the dust settled, we drove to a taco outfit and got tacos and some ice tea, sat on our squad car hood, and ate, contemplating the world as it blew by us. We also contemplated the armed robber.

   "I'll bet that squirrelly bastard is jumping down into these dry channels and running right home," Clovis said between bites.

     "I'll bet we could jump in at one key point and cut him right off," I said.


     Sounded plausible to me, so we made a plan. A large percentage of criminals lived in the nearby projects in our beat, and we drove around to calculate possible routes from Tell Ave. businesses to the government housing districts. We knew the CID stakeouts were spotty and all above ground and vehicle-based. No way the detectives could cover all those locations every night, night after night. So if we were free and patrolling and heard a report of another east-side, armed robbery on our radio, and if our man was indeed a storm channel jumper, we would guesstimate the time and location where the robber would be running, jump in the drains at some point, and stake out that spot.

     Well, within a few nights, a chicken restaurant was hit by our lone suspect. Handgun presented. Money grabbed. Mask. In and out. And Clovis and I raced to our own planned stakeout. We parked the squad car and, in a huddled-over combat run, slipped into the open channel by a viaduct at a bend in the system where we couldn't be seen from afar. There was less than a small stream of water in there. In less than one minute, we heard some splashing and footsteps, and we exchanged surprised expressions like … "well, damn! That could be him!" 

     And sure enough it was. He rounded that corner huffing and puffing with a paper bag of money in one hand and a revolver in the other. We spread out and hit him with our flashlights' beams. We pointed our pistols and started shouting,

      "Drop the gun, or we'll kill ya!"  

      "Drop it or yer dead right there!" Words to that general effect. You know what I mean. And they were true warnings.

     Our man dropped his pistol and bag and put his hands up. Bandanna in his back pocket. We cuffed him, hauled him up the side, and "took him in," as the expression goes. 

     CID was kind of thrilled. And they took over. Our suspect was not a local as it turned out. He was in from Akansas visiting locals and thought he'd run up some traveling money while in town. Mask. Gun. Money. Flight. Matching size and clothing description. Wow. Nice little arrest. Hey, three cheers for the Clovis George idea of ditch jumping, all over some tacos and tea.

     Through the years, Clovis and I were also detectives together, too. First him, and then me. Starting back in the early 1980s, I had a bit of a reputation for getting a lot of confessions; and Clovis often asked me to partner up with him when he had extra troublesome witnesses and suspects in his cases. Plus, I was his choice when he served an arrest warrant on some of his cases because we knew how to work in unison.

     So, we worked these numerous cases together. Always had a blast, too. I remember he had an affinity toward the Tonight Show's Johnny Carson suit line. He thought he was really styling it in a Carson brand suit. You know what? He was!

waterways 3

     We went out with our wives to various country and western establishments in those days, some Tex-Mex locales, and drank way too much as I seem to recall. Admin often made the mistake of sending us to various investigation training schools in Austin, whereupon we had entirely too good a time above and beyond the classes. We'd drive to Austin on Sundays to be in position for class on Monday mornings. On some of the trips we'd bring a small camper's black and white TV set with us to try and watch the Cowboy's games in the car on the drive down. It was a war with the rabbit ears for antennas, trying to catch the local channels as we passed through cities on the interstate. Back then, you could legally drink and drive in Texas (not be drunk – just you know – sip up until), and this adventure always included beer. One guy drove and the other guy operated the rabbit ears. What a team! (Imagine doing that today. We would both be serving life sentences.)

     Clovis took a few promotion tests while in CID and went back into uniform as a supervisor. He continued his professional career rise, while I, never testing for any rank, remained back in line operations working in the trenches, not unlike the stinky water ditch system where we made the aforementioned arrest.

     Then he had a severe heart attack in the early 1990s. He recovered and became a supervisor for our communications division. He also became an avid runner. Then he suddenly died in 2002. The heart again. Couldn't outrun those genetics no matter how hard he tried. I was working out of the country at the time and missed the funeral. 

     Many years later, the next century actually, our agency developed a truly amazing, modern police academy. They dedicated the police library part in his name, which I thought was just a damn fine idea. Here's a picture of one of the best Police Chiefs you can find, Lee Howell, dedicating the library with Dana George.

waterways 4

     Clovis George was a really good guy, a good friend, and we had a lot of laughs, tacos, beers, and margaritas. Plus, together, we handcuffed a number of felons, too. What more could you possibly ask of a friend? What more?



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“A Knife Should Be Felt, Not Seen.” 

"A knife should be felt, not seen." 



This kind of a macho-sounding meme is going around the web. I guess that's true if you are…you know…like an assassin or something? Or in a horrible, desperate worst case scenario? I think we can all conjure up a nasty situation where you need a concealed drawn knife at the ready. And then sneak it into action. But to suggest that "all knives should be felt, not seen?"

"Seen knives" have worked well too, which is what I would like to talk about here. But there use to be a number of studies by the Department of Justice that said – and it varied a bit each of the years they did it – some 65% to 75% – or like an average of 67% of the time, the presentation of a knife or gun to a criminal, "scared" the attacker off. Meaning that only about 30% of the time, people had to actually fight (as in wound, maim or kill, or be those those things). Now, stats can be screwy but I know numerous people, some of you reading this now, that have interrupted an attack by presenting their knife (or gun), and the event was never reported to the police, never making the DOJ study list. I might easily be convinced that there are many more such successful, presentation-interruptions than the G-Men found.

So, there is also some merit to an opponent seeing the knife sometimes. Lots of people get stabbed and complain that it felt like they were being hammer-fisted or punched, and continued fighting, oblivious to the fact their opponent had a knife. Staying too close, too long. Would you stay in a fistfight against someone with a knife, when you could leave? Depends, huh? The display, presentation of the weapon, with a threat and command presence, can end the fight before it starts and it has!

A presented knife can hold attackers at bay for an orderly retreat. Stuff like that.

Numerous vets report that letting the opponent see the knife, hear the threat, and it counts for something, sometimes, because it has worked.

All these things have happened not just in personal anecdotes, but in research. I think people should be open to the situational problem-solving, not these kinds of overall one-note, well…macho suggestions. Supporters of this message claim "well, you know, it is out of context." But the message is exactly what the message is. Heck, life is out of context. We need to shoot for the best message.

That line might sound so cool, until you're in jail. Or in court. I hope in the end the overall situation is in your favor. I have seen them go both ways. (And I know for a fact that whatever you have posted on Facebook will be used in court against you.)

So you have in a continuum, whether gun or knife:

Draw/Don't Draw

Point/Don't Point

Use/Don't Use

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Draw Guns and Knives … or Not? And When?

Draw/Don't Draw. 
Point/Don't Point. 
Shoot/Don't Shoot

     Who, what, where, when, how, and why do people draw their weapons once inside the fight? AFTER the fight has started? After the first collision? When do they or don't they draw their knives and guns, or maybe their clubs? Brass knucks? Or other weapons? We have already documented the three major weapon-carry sites here in prior essays and outlines:


Primary Carry Sites – think quick draw; 
Secondary Carry Sites – think backup; 
Tertiary Carry Sites – think lunge and reach, off the body

     These are locations on or near the body we need to anticipate for weapon pulls when dealing with suspicious people. Their hands access these weapon sites. (This is where we pack em too!)

     “Watch the hands, it’s the hands that will kill you,” is the old police adage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you just stare at their hands during an encounter, but you just keep track of their hands.

     But if someone is armed and gets into a grappling/fist-fight, why and at what point in the fight does the weapon draw happen? When do they do it, or why don’t they pull their knives or guns AFTER the fight has started? As a Army and Texas detective, I have investigated tons of assaults, aggravated assaults, attempted murders and murders, plus have received continuous police training on crime and here is what I think.

1. No pull – they actually forget they are armed

2. No pull – they know better

3. Pull – they get mad enough

4. Pull – they start to lose

5. Pull – dominant fervor

     1: No pull – they forget. Yes, people get in fights and can forget they are carrying a weapon. When we arrest them and discover a gun or knife on them and ask them, “Why didn’t you use this?” They sometimes answer, “I forgot I had it.” This is a common occurrence.

     2: No pull – they know better. Some people understand that the situation they are in doesn’t warrant or justify the use of their knives or guns. They don't "rise to the occasion.” Some seasoned criminals know this. Smart guys and, of course, cops. Cops are carrying all kinds of weapons, get in all kinds of scrapes, and never pull the weapons from this sense of understanding and control.

     3: Pull – they get mad enough. Everyone understands this. You are in a fight and perhaps take an extra serious blow or experience something that further enrages you. You forget the law and your common sense and pull that knife or gun out.

     4: Pull – they start to lose. Everyone understands this, too. You are in a fight and sense it ending very badly for you. Predicting the disaster, you pull out the weapon.

     5: Pull – dominant fervor. An official name for this category has arisen in the last few years, which recognizes a certain personality type. When they are in the final stage of winning or have won, they hate for it to be over. They want to further punish the opponent. So rather than leave, they want to enjoy themselves and the victory. Enjoy the moment. If they have the enemies pinned against the wall or ground or in their clutches, out comes the guns or knives. They get shoved in the loser's face with celebratory words. They may carve up the people a bit. I recall a case I worked once where the winner cut the loser's face and said, "Here, wear this for awhile." Consider this as a "victory lap."

     Recently, I was talking with Queensland, Australia, police officers at a training session. They had just investigated an armed robbery…

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01 Book Cover-med

The “Myth of the First Event” and how it relates to the “Diminished Fighter Theory.”

     Watching judo practice and tournaments, watching the stepping and positioning of opponents and the time it took, I use to make a remark years ago that "all judo throws work quickly after you break the guy's nose." And many folks looked at me like I was crazy or something. But I wasn't. I meant it. You've seen grapplers step and step and torso-twist and circle arms for a position for a take down. You've seen wrestlers, wrestle and wrestle to get that submission. But, once you severely stun the opponent, opportunities suddenly, can quickly occur in all forms of fighting, standing and on the ground. Put boxing into judo. Put ground n pound into wrestling. Unarmed or with weapons, close and afar, once stunned, they are diminished. Weapons? Yes. Through the years in policing and training with Simunitions, and other sims ammo that goes "boom," I have learned that he who gets that first gunshot off, sends not just a bullet but a very shocking explosion at the opponent, so often disrupting their return fire plans, especially when close. Most range shooters are never on the wrong end of a barrel and don't grasp this advantage. Why do you think the police and military use stun grenades?

     What exactly is the Diminished Fighter Theory? It's a helpful phrase I coined decades ago about how you need to diminish an opponent in a fight. This is far from a new idea, its common sense and most folks get it, but still the idea doesn't often float down and melt into many systems and practice. Just look at the martial arts of the world and watch what they do.

     Sometimes they come to you diminished. They are drunk, drugged, out-of-shape, etc. Sometimes, not. Then, when we fight, we fight an opponent's athleticism, their pain tolerance and their adrenaline, and therefore even the lesser performer might rise beyond expectations. So, we have to diminish them. I've used the analogy also for years about how we would hate to fight "Bruce Lee on 3 cups of coffee." Bruce, fresh. Alert. But throw chair at his head, and he's Bruce on two cups. A lamp at his head? One cup. And so on until he becomes…"manageable." Diminished. When we stand before a giant that we have to fight into handcuffs, it seems to be an impossible task. But if you diminish him enough, not only can you cuff him, you can tie his shoelaces together. Your first serious diminishment make knock the opponent cold. Which would be great, but you can't count on it. Settle for stunning.

We fight their:

  – pain tolerance

  – adrenaline (which also helps their pain tolerance)

  – athleticism

     Diminishment. But the theory is only a side issue to the Myth of the First Event. What is this "first event?" A fight of any kind has several physical events. Everyone has an idea on what the first physical event is. The first significant, physical thing that happens in a fight. What then is the "Myth of the First Event" all about? The confusing myth that few seem to understand? Understanding/contemplating these "must/can" questions –


  1 – "must every martial move work in the very first event of a fight?"

  2 – "can every martial move work at the first event of a fight?"


     Must every? Can every? No, and no. I would venture to guess that in the big picture about 70% of all martial and martial arts moves that people strain and train to learn are not appropriate in the first instant of a fight against Bruce Lee on 3 cups of coffee, or versus many normal people for that matter when the fight first starts. And by 80%, I might be very generous. Unless you are talking maybe about boxing? Boxing and a few others can be very "first event-ish."

     A fight of any kind has several events. Like primary – the first, then secondary, obviously the second thing, and third and so on. Yet the martial world, arts, tactical or otherwise has seemingly tons of moves, compared to this one, two, three option. Where do they all fit in? (Please do not burden me here with quips about bunch of pre-fight jargon, as this essay is only about the physical fighting part). These tons of moves are taught by many international instructors. These instructors make video clips like mad, showing parts of these tons of moves. But most of these movements are NOT the first events of a fight, but often seem to be shown in these internet videos as firsts. They are, or rather should be second, third, fourth on and on, etc.

     These clips are then judged by millions of viewers. "That won't work!" viewers declare as well being far, far, far worse in belittling, scathing tirades. But they might not realize that many of those moves should be reserved and are quite worthwhile against the ½ diminished or fully diminished fighter. Wrong time! Wrong demo. Out of context. But still, I think most all viewers innocently rate things on will it work in the first event of a fight and they just don't realize it. But they forget or don't understand that the moves they criticize often have potential in the following events, the following seconds. I still see clips of secondary moves done in the right time, and still ridiculed as "not going to work." Perhaps these critic has never really be clocked in the mouth and head hard enough to understand the value of these follow-ups.

     One might organize training methods in like sort of a Tier 1 and Tier 2 approach. Tier 1 is very small collection of first event, really diminishing moves…like BOFFO! A great smack to the head, to the brain/computer, for example. Then once diminished, Tier 2 stuff can be better implemented. You have a diminishing event as early as possible so that many follow-ups might work, follow-ups like locks, controls, take downs, finishes, etc. You would assume people know this? But listen to them. Watch what they do or say.


group fight 1     I know this deeply because I have lived in these Tier 1 and Tier 2 worlds, in the police world we were and are forced to do Tier 2 stuff first, then when faced with undiminished resistance, only then can we move up to Tier 1 responses and even that is legally problematic and frowned upon. Do you see what I mean? It's ass-backwards for police, if you will. This has hung a huge yoke upon police training over the decades. An, ass-backward disorder, but such is the life and the gamble of the police officer. But struggling in the backwards world helped me better understand the order.

     And, also take heed…with all this talk of diminshment, this is NOT an excuse to follow-up with stupid or unnecessary things after the diminishment! Not at all. I am constantly seeing extra, exotic, even whacky movements – moves that hypnotize the easily "hypnotizable." Things too fancy. Things extra and unnecessary. In our courses we are "Force Necessary, not Force Unnecessary," but this should be true in your fighting system too. You have to trim the fat. From what I see? Most don't, electing to do complex, flashy crap.

     In summary, the myth of the first event is misjudging all moves to be great in the first event of fight. The myth also explains that a great many moves are still very worthwhile to know, practice and execute, but in the second, third and so on events against a diminished fighter. Not all things are meant to be used in the first event. Many things are still good and important, they are just…"Tier 2." A stun is a stun – a distraction. A diminishment in plain language is a diminshment. You don't have to inject a bunch of OODA Loop jargon to understand and explain this.

 – Don't use Tier 2 in Tier 1 times.

 – Don't blanketedly ridicule and throw out Tier 2 material because they didn't work in in the first event. They are meant for…later.

     Recognize what is Tier 1 and Tier 2. Before you ridicule a video, an instructor, or a course and declare what they are doing is worthless, consider the context of the clip, and consider if it might work against a diminished fighter a few seconds later in the fight. (And your critique might be right! The instructor might not understand the Tier 1 and Tier 2 equation?


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