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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.

Fiery Grab-Assing – One in the Top Ten Crazy-Brave Moments I’ve Seen 

     One of the bravest things I have ever seen right before my very eyes wasn't in the military or wasn't performed in the act of battling criminals. This particular act of incredible courage was performed by one officer, Glenn Bell at the secluded, police gasoline pumps on a Texas city service complex. I worked very closely with Glenn for several years back in the 1970s. He  was a fastidious, do-gooder and the senior officer on our squad who really did take responsibility for the shift and I mean seriously. This night it almost rendered him into a ball of fire. We had to keep this heroism secret for decades. Decades! Until now, whereupon I reveal it right here…   


     Not many citizens know that before the end of a patrol shift, just about every patrol car in the country, perhaps the world, has to go to a particular place to get gas. Most agencies drive to a city, county, state, federal complex or compound to refill their fuel. Or, they have a credit card arrangement/or some form of credit arrangement with a commercial gas station. This way the next shift takes over the car with a full tank of gas. If its take home police car, then the officer can refuel at his or her desecration.

     When I worked patrol in the US Army in several states and countries, not only did we fill er' up, but we were expected to hose er' down. Clean the car. Unless the temp hit freezing, we grabbed a hose at the "Mike Poppa" – the motor pool – and did a quick clean off of the car when getting gas.

     At first, these chores were a personal affront to my immature, ignorant, self back then. Starting in the military police in garrison patrol duty, (garrison duty as in police work like in a major city, not in the "field") I perceived myself as an armed and elite agent of the law and thought for sure, subservient, attendees would flock to my squad car and service it when I pulled into the motor pool. Gas. Wash. Oh, not so. We did it all. In my next assignment in South Korea, 90% of it was foot patrol, or standing around looking cool at various assigned places. When we used me jeepa jeep we actually did have such caretakers from time to time, like Koreans with their palms out for cash, to either drive us around most of the time, or spit-shine the jeeps. To you young-uns' out there? These were not the Humvees of today. Oh, no sir. These jeeps were right out of an old War World Two movie. I have had a misadventure or two in these jeeps but those are the fodder for other stories. And I still have a fondness, a nostalgia for them.

     By the time I went to work in Texas, the Hochheim "elite-ness" had been totally kicked and spit right out of me. No longer was I special and delusional about my position in the universe. You realize in the Army that you are a totally, expendable, grunt. With this lot in life, I learned to whistle gladly as I pumped my own gas, and hummed contently as I took the squad through the hosing or car wash whenever it was needed, for I was a professional  in both social sanitation and vehicular maintenance. I just wondered what part of the totem pole I was? The part under the dirt? Or the part just above the dirt? No matter what, it involved dirt.

     These petrol fill-ups are usually within one hour of the shift's end. And, on evening shift and certainly midnight shift when the world was blissfully in stage-three-REM sleep, these fill-ups are often congregations of squad cars getting gas, and, or waiting in line at the same time. This invariably leads to gossip sessions, comedy corners, bullshit speeches, major league complaining and many crazy shenanigans like stun gun duels, baton fights and If the fuel compounds were remote enough? Trick shooting and target contests, Many “cool” sergeants just joined us in this sessions, but some anal retentive patrol sergeants would watch these gas pump meetings from afar with binoculars, hiding in the dark, taking notes and charge officers with wasting precious, city time. I mean, come on! What harm could a little 6 am, on-duty, trick shooting contest bring? Even with shotguns! Hey, come on! We replaced the ammo, Lieutenant? Captain?

     Generally speaking the local, Texican police colloquialism for such horse-play at our pumps was a simple, catch-all phrase – "grab-assing." Grab-ass became an official term connected with the gas line, but could be inserted when needed when officers foolishly misbehaved and were caught. You had to be caught at it of course, else it never existed. We learned this institutionalized nomenclature from the periodic and official warnings in squad meetings from the staff.

Solemn looks and wags of the finger and –

     "This grab-assing at the pumps has got to quit."

     "No more grab-ass at the pumps."

     "We are setting up surveillance at the pumps to put an end to this grab-assing."

     "This is the end of this grab-assing."

     "If we catch you grab-assing at the pumps, we'll…"

And the occasional, soon ignored mandate –

    “THree car limit. No more than three cars at the pumps at any time, to cut down on this grab-assing.” (We would groan at this because we needed at least four to party.)

     The Einstein algebriac equation seemed to prove that cosmic, grab-assing statistically begins at the collection point of four officers. Its just science! Now, you understand that no one was officially, actually, really grabbing anyone’s real ass, (though there were incidents of male and female huckle-buckling in the further, darker reaches of the gas pumps, service compound. I wouldn’t know ANYTHING about this huckle-bucking!) But, a scientific combination of three or more of us congregating there at any time meant the potential for…grab-ass.

The Night in Question….

     Near the end of one unforgetable, midnight shift, at about 5:50 am, four of us wound up getting gas at the city pound at the same time. FOUR! Me, Glenn Bell was there, and two other officers. One name I forget. One, I will change his name to Ron Bapkins because his damn fool move is about the only, really super dumb-ass thing he has ever done, (well then again, I have seen some of the women he's chased…but I digress). Anyway, our numbers – now four – was one person over the department commandments for the official possibility of grab-assing.

     I happily hummed a Waylon Jennimngs tune as I started pumping gas. Glenn was pumping his gas at the next row with this other officer waiting nearby. Bapkins was behind me in line and leaned against the front end of his car. Bapkins, a smoker, was holding a book of matches. Yes. And he was striking them for…fun…and tossing them on the ground. At the gas pumps. For…fun!

grab-ass 2

     Yes…gas pumps…while gas being pumped…lit matches. Yes. Yes, I know what you are thinking. But remember, we are not ourselves. We had entered into the bleak and twisted, mind-dumbing, twilight zone of Pump Station, Grab-Ass.

     I started to complain to him. He taunted me.

     “Wha? Ho Che Mein? Chicken? CHICKEN are ya?”

     Bapkins grinned, possessed by the Evil Specter of the Grab Ass. and he started tossing lit matches closer and closer to me.

     “Are you nuts, are you…” I yelled at him, but it was too late. A tossed match came too close. Too close! For some reason as it flickered through the air the entire rear side and trunk of my car sort of…blew up before me. The air actually became a rolling ball of flame before my eyes.



     I jumped back, pulled the pump handle out with me, and thank goodness, releasing the gas pump handle shuts the gas flow off, but not before I shot some gas over the back of the car. I know a potential, freaken fireball when I see one! And – the gas cap WAS OPEN! The rear of my prowl car seemed to be on fire, like a layer of fire in a redrish wave. The fire dancing around the gas cap and back trunk area of the car.

     If the car blows up. One pump station blows up. Three other pump stations blow up. I could see that in one primal, instinctive instant, the whole outfit would explode in something right out of spy movie.

     I swear my eye lashes were singed! My ape man brain said "Fire! Run! Run! Foolish primate! Face on fire! " and I took off at a dead run.

     Bapkins took off at a dead run in another direction

     Officer Unknown took off at a dead run in yet another direction.

     But Glenn? No. Glenn, senior officer on the scene, feeling responsible for my car and the other three sedans, the pumps and who knows what all next that would explode, charged in, at a dead run! He obviously had an evolved brain beyond ours, I guess?

     My keys were in the ignition. Glenn jumped into the driver’s seat of this flaming car. He started the car and stomped the gas pedal. The engine roared. Over my shoulder, I saw him, driver's door held open for quick escape (perhaps the blast would throw him clear?), roar my fiery car across the compound parking lot some forty or fifty feet. He jammed the car in park and dove out of the car, hit the pavement, rolled and ran for his life. He somehow drove my flaming car away from the gas pumps! I think that Glenn knew he would be blamed for the mess.

     Bapkins got his fire extinguisher out. We jogged to my car like a grunting pack of monkeys, unable to speak, thinking the rear quarters and trunk would at least be irreparably charred. He dosed the car.

     As we paced and mumbled like nervous chimps, the flames that licked the back of my car slowly…slowly…extinguished. We were amazed.

     "Fire…gone!" one of us mumbled. Indeed, the fire went out.

     Officer Unknown got an emergency blanket from his trunk and wiped the deck lid. The charred black came off! Wiped right off and the pure police white goodness remained and shined though. We exchanged glances and mumbled. Oh, oh but to return it to this pure, police state again! Especially poor arsonist Bapkins wished for this! Whose fault doth lie upon his window break! He'll have his Shake-speared but good! And with the scientifically proven, Grab-Ass Equation of four or more officers present?

     Alas! We too shall roll with this tide as once again, we are proven to be little more than mischievous monkeys stuffed into polyester blue, playing with matches near 1,000 gallons of gas and staring curiously down the barrels of our guns, tempting fate itself on a daily basis.

     But can monkeys accidentally type an encyclopedia? Glenn wanted us all to avoid these slings and arrows. He told me to get to a car wash fast, as dawn was breaking. He would join me and we would see what we could clean off before being summoned in for day shift change. Quarters? Did we have quarters? Yes, we pooled our quarters.

     Perhaps…just perhaps we did not need to report this mishap to the supervisors! This would save us from the indignation of reporting to the police chief's office next morning and having him…yell at us…”on the carpet”…and wag his finger at us…and…and suffer the psychological damage of this horrifying experience! Save us from the walk down the day-shift admin hall, that hall of shame gauntlet and have everyone sneer and whisper and cluck their tongues at us and, and…oh, the horrors! The charge against us?

     "Grab-assing" at the pumps!” Almost blowing up the damn pumps. And after so many warnings.

     Fearing this shame and embarassment, and creating a legend for story-tellers, Glenn and I raced to the nearest car wash and plunked in quarters. As senior officer, Glenn took control of the wash wand as the severity of the clean-up job was not to be left to a mere patrolman such as myself. Too much was at stake. This job required zest, zeal and experience and he was clearly the Tarzan of the group. And I'll be damned if the black soot didn't come right off the squad car! It was somehow as good as new. Pristine again! Oh, wonders of wonders.

     Car and souls again washed clean, at 6:50 am we turned over our squads in to the next shift and no one was the wiser that Bapkins almost blew up my car and the surrounding compound. And that Glenn Bell had performed one of the most heroic, selfless acts I had ever seen. And it had to be held top secret.

     Secret Until now. For you see, the Grab-Ass Statute of Limitations is about 35 to 40 years. Even if none of us work there anymore. The regime in charge itself must have either passed away or at least be in assisted living facilities before the event can be revealed. Their power! You don't understand their long-lasting power! One or two of them, I fear, will be positioned at Pearly Gates, in the admission process! We kept this heroism secret for decades!. But now you know. The world knows.

     Glenn told us the next day or so that he discretely talked to some buddies at the Fire Department. The FD experts said they guessed only some of the gas was affected/lit and mostly gas fumes were actually on fire. The fumes would produce this look, linger on the car while it flashed away, and explain the soot that we wiped off. But, great balls of fire were great balls of fire and the potential was great.

     While me, Bapkins and Officer Unknown, Misters See-No-Evil, Speak-No-Evil, Hear-No-Evil were busy dashing for our primal lives. I remember seeing Glenn blasting away from us in my flaming car, trying to outrace destruction. (That's me in the middle).

     Oh and you want to know some irony? Years later, Glenn became the fire chief of a smaller city. I’ll bet he did a fine job too.

     Now, pass me a banana. Hey, which end does the bullet come out of this gun thing again?



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The Greatest Shot I’ve Ever “Seen!”

     It was gruesome. Memories of pain fade, but not those of parents much. Out of respect for the surviving parents, I will pass on revealing the details of this child murder here, the death, rape and mutilation of a young girl, even though it was long ago. Suffice to say that we'll start here, when this freshly, arrested killer was first incarcerated in our county jail, so that I might focus on only telling the tale of the greatest shot I have ever "seen," while the gunsmoke was still in the air, or more specifically, ever investigated, and one that has all the elements of a helleva, Texican lawman tale. It was the 1980s. 



     The day after the arrest, the brutal killer, Reilly Rice was in the county jail and due his very first visit to the judge for his judicial warnings, what is often called a preliminary arraignment. In our old, county jail building, just up the street from our city police headquarters, one judge had offices on the first floor, making such visits a handy process, as the jails themselves were all upstairs. Getting that first-day, mandatory visit in could be geographically challenging in some jurisdictions. Nowadays, this type of appearance is often done by close circuit TV! 

     Judges can be power mad, quirky or cantankerous. You've seen this on TV, the movies and in the last two decades, you've seen these “Judge Judy” TV shows. Some actually talk and act like that. On this fateful day in the 1980s, a traveling judge was in chambers and he was one that demanded all prisoners who enter his court must be free of shackles. I guess he hadn't has his nose broke yet. But something dramatic was about to happen that would at least make him think about that idea. 

     Whatever the process was assigning jailers to suspects for their court trip downstairs – rotation? Dice game? Short straw? Whatever, an overweight, out-of shape jailer named Barry Bale got the chore of marching Reilly Rice downstairs to the judge's chamber for this un-handcuffing and visit. Alone. Yes, alone! "Such be things at the ol' jail." 

     At that very time in the late afternoon, Texas Ranger Weldon Lucas walked into the Sheriffs Office on the first floor. He'd been in on this investigation and was there to collect paperwork on the case to send to his Dallas Ranger Company and then on Austin, and to clear up some loose ends. Lucas was dressed in his usual, work clothes of a Ranger – western boots, pants and matching vest, embroidered gun belt and classic, engraved, model 1911, .45 caliber handgun. The famous Ranger badge adorned his vest like it had on Rangers for hundred-plus years. Lucas was a regular sight to every police agency in the region and I can't think of a police officer that didn't know him, of know of him, certainly we detectives did.

     Appointed by the Texas governor, Rangeren' was a great job coveted by almost all, and Lucas was one of the troop that had considerable experience in investigation before pinning on that legendary badge. He'd been a state highway patrolman, as all Rangers start out, and then worked auto theft, narcotics and organized crime. Many Rangers are appointed without such stout backgrounds and are a bit behind the curve in investigation skills. I recall one Ranger being made that had worked only as a patrolman and then for many years in a section called “Weights and Measures.” Weights and Measures involved weighing and overseeing trucks on the highway. Jobs like this offer zero qualifications for an investigative position, but sometimes politics get in the way with Ranger appointments. Very few, had Weldon's background. 

     Rielly Rice was due in court. A local Dallas, television station sent a news van up to the court to film the proceedings. The reporter and cameraman positioned themselves in the hall for the 6 and 11 o'clock news shot of Reilly Rice walking into the courtroom, as no cameras were allowed inside. A reporter would enter and take notes.

     A hurried, representative of the DAs office showed up, but not much legalese would be crunched in this early visit of the case. Bales took Reilly down the elevator. He walked Rice past the camera crew and into the court. He took off the handcuffs, as required. The TV crew got their “perp shot,” and walked out of the building to their van. Weldon Lucas was talking with some deputies in the lobby of the S.O. just down the hall.
And then all Hell broke loose. 

     I was working in our detective bay, closing out the day, when the hell broke loose. There were some other investigators there also. I can't remember who bellowed out the announcement across the room. 

     “Reilly Rice just escaped from the jail. Eastbound on foot.” 

     And we were gone. We stampeded down the stairs, hit the street and ran to the S.O. just a long block away. Oddly, there were quite a number of prisoners through the years who'd ran/escaped from the sheriff's office; right out the back door usually during book-in, interview or some transfer process. The bad guys could see the irresistible green of civic center park out the back doors and windows, versus the battleship gray cinder blocks and bars inside. And they bolted. They were always caught. We ran, all of us passing on getting into our cars and driving there, thinking we would be searching the surrounding park and streets afoot anyway. 

     My gut instinct was to flank over into the park behind the S.O., but my eye caught a disturbance way down on the major intersection just east of the jail. A cluster of people. The others saw it too and I veered back with them. Four lanes of rush hour, east/west traffic stopped cold. Next we saw an ambulance pull up which really jammed up traffic. This shut down the north/south traffic. 

    I ran past the county building and saw jailer Barry Bale, sitting on the ground, all multiple hundreds of pounds of him, his back propped against a tree, hair messed up, shirt tail out, gasping for breath. He must have chased Rice all of about 15 feet and collapsed. Acting like he was near a heart attack, another jailer attended him and pointed us east. He actually said to me, 

     “they went that-a-way.” 

     That-a-way. Up ahead on the northwest corner, in a small dose of short bushes and foliage of the civic center parking lot, were multiple official types working on a downed man. When I closed in, I saw that the downed guy was Reilly Rice. Ranger Weldon Lucas was standing over him, with his hands on his hips. Huffing and puffing. A patrolman showed up. Our CID Captain Bill Cummings drove up and bailed out of his sedan. 

     In so many words, Weldon told us he shot Rice. Okay. You must be thinking can police shoot fleeing, unarmed suspects? First off, this was Texas many decades ago. Back then there was a running joke that if you ran 7 feet from us? We would start shooting at ya'. That also included driving away from us too. Rice was a child raper and killer, otherwise known as a dangerous felon we could not allow to escpae. Just couldn't.

     Shooting at fleeing felons. I have. I have either tried to scare them into stopping or tried to kill them and missed. But these warning shots or "scare" shots have been deemed illegal almost everywhere by now, but they sure have worked for me more often than not. Hate to see them go. Great peace-keeping tool, but they are gone.
     The shooting at escaping felons laws in the USA has been evolving since about 1977. The general, modern letter of the law requires that to shoot someone, it must be in defense of yourself or to interrupt the imminent serious injury of others. Seeing the back of a head, ass and pumping elbows of a fleeing felon does not constitute these imminent categories. But, many state laws include shoot/don't-shoot and the fleeing felon problem. Many states and police agencies say that permitting the felon to escape would pose a grave and continuing danger to public safety. Shooting them is an option. Not misdemeanors mind you. Felons. 

     The Texas Department of Public Safety, which covers the Texas Rangers, then and now doesn't completely address the feeling felon matter in its policy guidelines because “every situation is different,” DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said. “It's officer discretion,” she said. “If they perceive that there's an imminent threat, they can take any action they feel necessary to protect themselves.” 

     If you are citizen? I wouldn't do this, by the way. And as for police officers, different states have differing laws about this. Even police departmental policies may be more strict than state law. And local county, state, and federal prosecutors and grand juries can have some say on the subject. If driven by politics they may weave some charges in and around the laws. Then there are the civil law suits! Shooting your gun can be messy.
     Speaking of messy, I examined Reilly Rice. Prone, he was panting from his mad dash, but otherwise he seemed just fine. Not too messy. An EMT was patching up the side of his head. A head shot? 

     “Where's he shot?” I asked the EMT, kneeling beside him.



     “Earlobe,” he repeated. 

     I looked at Weldon and Weldon shrugged. 

     The TV news crew was setting up for an impromptu shoot. A patrol sergeant was organizing traffic control to allow the far lines to pass. The EMTS were standing Reilly Rice up and preparing to transport him…back to the jail, not the hospital. After all he was only shot in the earlobe. Our crime scene guy, Russell Lewis showed up and began photographing the scene. More county officials jogged up. 

     “Hock, you got this case,” Captain Cummings told me. Though this involved the Sheriff's Office and the state police via the Texas Rangers, the shooting did occur within the city limits and it was also our city's problem. I knew that people from the Rangers and Austin would eventually be involved in this, but there was work to do right then. First, documenting the crime scene, which ran from the S.O. courtroom to the intersection. 

     Weldon and I walked off a bit and he told him what had happened. I paraphrase here a bit because some 30-plus years have passed since that afternoon. He basically said,

     “I heard the shouting that Reilly Rice had escaped out the front door.” It must have been the jailer calling out. Of course, I knew Weldon had worked on Rice case and was well aware who and what Rice had done. 

     “He ran into the middle of traffic and turned east. I took off after him and got in the middle of moving traffic, chasing him. He had a big lead. It was getting bigger. I felt like he could get away. I couldn't shoot at him because it was rush hour. Cars and people everywhere. But, Rice started angling north and in front of him was that brick building.” 

     Weldon pointed to the two-story brick building behind us and to our east. It looked pretty big as close up as we were. 

     “I could see he was going to pass in front of that building and it was my only safe shot. I drew my pistol and fired one shot when he crossed in front of the building. Rice went down.” 

     “How far away were you?” I asked, thinking about the ejected, spent shell from Weldon's .45 handgun. 

     “Up there," he pointed up the avenue. We both grimaced at the sight of the cars being filtered into the right lane, albeit slowly, and allowed to pass the intersection by our erstwhile patrol officers. Oh well, life – and cars – move on. I least they were moving slow. A crushed shell would be better than a no shell. 

    My unmarked detective car was back at the station. I approached an officer and asked for one of their distance measuring wheels and some chalk. This is like a walking stick, with a wheel at the bottom and distance counter. Back then, the numbers rolled like a slot machine. Some today are of course – digital. The officer pulled it from his trunk. Weldon and I started from where Reilly Rice took his dive and walked west on the avenue, marking off the feet. 

     I hit about 30 feet and I asked Weldon, 

     “anywhere around here? “ 

     “Nope.” My eyebrows raised. 

     We keep moving in between the cars and impatient drivers. Our eyes were scanning the roadway for that single spent shell. We hit about 60 feet! 

    “Anywhere here? 


     Nope? How far was this shot? We continued. 

     “Right about here, I think,” Finally, Weldon stopped me. He looked around. 

    I looked at the scrolling meter. It read “97 feet.” Good God, could that be right? 

     And sure enough, to our right, untouched, unbent and pristine, lay the spent shell in the middle of the street.
    “97, 98 feet, Weldon. Thereabouts” I told him. "Maybe 100."

     I took out the chalk from my pocket, circled the shell on the asphalt and put the shell in my pocket. I don't want any of these cars rolling over it. I looked back at the intersection. That two-story brick building that Rice passed in front of? It was now about the size of postage stamp from here. 

     I looked over at Weldon and he was staring back at the intersection. “Yup. This is about right,” he said, nodding his head. 

     I walked up beside him. “Shit, Weldon, this is like a circus shot, like a wild-west show, shot.”  

    “I reckon,” he said. 

    “Was it a moving shot? How'd you do it?” I asked him. 

    “I was running. I saw my chance. I pulled my gun. Two-handed grip. I think I stopped just for a second. I think. Kinda. I shot. Cars out here were whizzing by me.” 

     “Well, go on back and I'll start taking some other measurements.” 

     I recorded the distances, "triangulated" them if you will, from the S.O. front doors, the shell scene and other related landmarks. Nowadays I guess they use GPS and satellite photos on big cases? Russell Lewis took land-level photos with his 35 mm camera from each important spot. 

     Weldon went to our P.D. and started his own statement on one of our new, electric typewriters. There was much for me to tighten up and I wanted as complete a report as complete as possible before the state bigwig, shooting team started showing up. Russell and I worked the scene. The only loose end was the bullet and the brick wall. It might take a major deal to find and recover that slug, as we couldn't see it with a quick walk-by. 

     Two high-ranking Rangers were there at my desk the very next morning and I had a good, solid report for them to kick off with. As we went over the details, I got a call from the Sheriff's Office CID, Captain Ron "Tracker" Douglas. He told me the latest news.
     “Hock, Reilly Rice hung himself last night. He's dead.” 

     “Hung himself! How? Where?” 

     “He was first booked in wearing his own socks. We let them keep their socks. You know those long, white tube socks? He got one end around his neck, tied of the other end on bunk bed and hung himself.” 


    “Deadier' than hell. Dead right there in the cell,” Tracker said.


     Shocking for sure, but I really didn't care. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he wasn't officially convicted on the case, but the case was airtight with a confession that lead to other evidence. I mean, the son of a bitch was a child rapist and killer. And “death by sock” was too damn good for him in my book. Too damn good. 

     “You gonna' call Weldon?” I asked Tracker. 

     “Already have,”

      And we hung up. 

     “Well, gentlemen," I told the Rangers at my desk, “looks like our ear-pierced, shooting ‘victim' hung himself in the jail last night.” They exchanged glances. They collected my reports and their very next visit was to see Ron Douglas at the S.O. 



Weldon Lucas later became the Sheriff of Denton County and quite a controversial figure. 


     I next made it a point to try and find the bullet itself. Honestly, I would have loved to dig the bullet out of that brick wall and tie Weldon's perfect shot package into a bow. I made two trips out there with two heights of ladders and a metal detector trying to find the slug. It was tedious work but I just couldn't find it and would need a third trip with a damn fire truck or utility cherry-picker to do it. But, how high could the slug be? I think not that high. I could arrange for a basket but it would be a pain. Around the time I started making calls for one, nobody cared anymore. There was no further case to pursue as the county and the state declared it a closed investigation and justified shooting. The local D.A., the state, no one found any fault with the actions of Ranger Weldon Lucas taking that single shot and winging, or “lobing” the dangerous, fleeing Reilly Rice. That bullet remained in the wall until the building was torn down years later? Who knows? Did it miss the wall? No matter where it went? It went nowhere anyway. 

     When I think about it, it was the greatest shot I've ever seen, given the circumstances. I'm sure there are many record-breaking, amazing, military sniping shots on the books, quick-kills and all, but think about it. Think about this one and why it is so unique. 

* The shooter was a Texas Ranger (already cool) 

* The shot was taken in the middle of moving, rush hour traffic. 

* It was about a 100  foot, high-stress shot with a pistol.

* Weldon still had the foresight to wait until Rice had a safe background. 

* Rice was a confessed, dangerous, escaping felon/murderer. 

* Rice was a moving target. 

* Rice was shot only in the earlobe and it knocked him down.
* Rice didn't even require a hospital visit. The escaping Rice was returned to jail with an ear bandage. How and what could he sue Weldon and the State about? What Texas jury would award escapee Rice for damages, for an ear piercing? 

* The state police had no defined policy for shooting dangerous escapees. 

* The passing bullet did no further damage. 
* Any possible, crazy, residual legal problems were over when Rice hung himself in the jail. 

     We know it would be impossible for Weldon to actually aim at an earlobe in a split second like that at 100 feet. Impossible. Sure, but all the events played out so very well and with minimal, post-shoot problems, it makes for the best shot I have ever "seen." 

     And I must add – for a while there was a running joke in the county. We wished that all prisoners would be issued extra long, tube socks upon their jail book-in. Who knows what they would do with them? 

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Fear and Darkness All Around You – The Flaky, Shaky, Snaky Business of Bail Bonds and Bounty Hunters

People have often asked me, especially a few years back when the TV show was very popular,  

     "have you worked with Dog the Bounty the Hunter?"   

     "did you know The Big, Bad Dog?"

     "Have you been a bounty hunter?"

     In a word, no to all questions. I have hunted many, many fugitives, finding them all over Texas, the USA, Canada and Mexico, as chronicled in book Don't Even Think ABout It and the upcoming sequel Dead Right There. I don’t recall finding criminals in the other countries. In fact, I can't think of a time when I ever worked with any so-called, full-time, official and black leather, "bounty hunters."


     Can someone be a full-time employed, official bounty hunter? On the whole, I don't think so. And if so? Not for long. Some folks have tried and maybe still try? Clean it up a bit and call it “fugitive recovery,” or a “bail enforcement agent.” I have also been contacted by private investigators while as a police detective, in their pursuits in finding various "skipped" folks but they are being paid for some other bigger reason, other than just bail location/reward money. This situation was reversed years later when I was a PI. For example, families have hired me to find missing (fugitive) relatives, knowing that once found, they would be arrested. Or to find criminals needed to testify in civil court. These are longer stories than I shouldn't include here in this one essay, but as a private investigator I have never been hired to just find someone who jumped bond, just because they jumped bond. There were strings attached.

     Least of all, I have never worked with one as colorful as likes of the Dog. The reason citizens know about the Dog is he and his pack are so utterly, unusual and over-the-top they became great fodder for reality TV. I’ve watched the show myself when it’s on. I use to see it all over the world on various cable channels. Reruns abound. The newer episodes of Dog and Beth! The Dog was and is big! It's a perfect little recipe for just what it is – from the bad-ass, Ozzy Ozbourne theme song to the group prayer at the end. Perfect schtick. The show of course is "pre-fab" and half-scripted as most reality shows have to be.

     But the bond and this bounty hunting thing. Do they make some money? Are they all, also PIs? Security companies? Or just anyone without training and licensing? How can this be so cool and even confusing? Why are so many arrested people set loose from court anyway? And who are bondsmen? Are all bondmen bounty hunters? What are bounty hunters?

     The Bail bonds business. It’s an odd business. Nationally on average, for most years, some 20 percent of felony defendants on bail fail to appear back in court. There are no handy stats on misdemeanor suspects who fail to appear. When this failure to appear happens, an warrant warrant in ussued. This issuance evokes all kinds of authority from officials on down to "citizen arrests."

     In the USA, most normal citizens don't even understand the bonding-out process of their justice system. What little they know of comes from fiction novels and TV and movies. For the layman or the foreigner, in the USA when someone is arrested, they may be released from this custody by promising to appear in court on a later date. This promise is bolstered and underwritten by money. As we know, the denero makes the world go round. Setting up this “monetary promise” to re-appear is a complicated process, like a business contract, and that is why God made the licensed, approved, bail bondsman. The court system cannot be bogged down with doing this and running a side, "human banking or pawn shop, style business." Plus, we don't have the space in jail to keep all these people for the pending months involved in prosecuting them. The arrested party calls a bondsman day or night to get out of jail.

     Both the bail bondsmen and the suspect stand to lose a lot of money if they run off. Cash, cars, house, jewelry, boats, artifacts, antiques…you might be surprised what bondsmen will take in immediate payment of their services or will come collect of you fail to appear.

     Most skippers/jumpers are eventually caught, and people usually think it was by some kind of sleuth, bounty hunter lone wolf or team. But regular law enforcement factor into this capture posse. If a subject has jumped bond, there is an arrest warrant. Once a bail jumper has been located, many chasers just call the police in to do the dirty work of the hands-on arrest. They sit back and watch the action.

     The owners of bail bond companies are usually “interesting” people. The arrested get a call from the jailhouse. The arrested call family or friend and ask for help with getting money and meeting bond rates. The bondsman meets with the subject at the jail and conducts an extensive interview. Once out? There is often another extensive interview at the officer or elsewhere. Lots of paperwork. What does the arrested party own to offer up and promise to return to court or lose? Cash? A car? A jet ski? Jewelry? A house? Sometimes, momma puts up the house. (Sometimes momma loses the whole house. I can think of several lawyers who also wrote bonds, and bondsmen who now have a small, real estate empire from collecting "momma's houses" through the years).

     For a fee and a possible loss of worldly goods later, the subject signs a contract and promises to appear later in court. The Bondsman is also gambling and playing a percentage game too and stands to lose a lot should the subject disappear. A good bondsman collects extensive identity information well beyond the common police arrest report for their civil paperwork. The authority stems from a 136-year-old, U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that people waived their civil rights when they signed a contract with a bondsman. All the contacts, friends, phone numbers, addresses, jobs, all things the bondsman knows from experience he might need later in a hunt.

     A good bondsman collects extensive identity information well beyond the common police arrest report for their civil paperwork. The authority stems from a 136-year-old, U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that people waived their civil rights when they signed a contract with a bondsman. All the contacts, friends, phone numbers, addresses, jobs, all things the bondsman knows from experience he might need later in a hunt. Anyone can make the bond for someone. Lawyers can do it. Friends. Family.

     Each jurisdiction in the USA has its own rules on bonding, usually set by a local committee/board of the city, county, state, federal jurisdictions, governed by the state in basic standards. Ordinarily, the board consists of a local judge or two, bail bondsmen, the local Sheriff, politicians and some others. Some boards are very forgiving if the subject "jumps," as in flees or fails to appear. Some other jurisdictions will set a deadline and demand the full bond amount from the bond company. This could be a lot of money. Either way, should a suspect fail to appear? A warrant is issued for the subject. The real power of the hunt, comes from this "failure to appear" style, arrest warrant from a judge. Any so-called “bounty hunter” should first ensure that this warrant gets listed on the NCIC police computer system before their hunt begins.

     Most bondsmen have slowly evolved in one way or another into the business. They rarely show up in town with a suitcase, a smile and a new license. They don’t graduate college and pop up to start a bond business. They didn’t aspire to be one since childhood. They are usually already entangled in the local, legal business in some manner, see the success and say, “I can do that too.” They’ve worked with a local bondsman. Maybe a family member of a local legal system person. Ex-cop? Somehow they knew something about the incarceration business.

     And most bondsmen are not bounty hunters, not as imagined, not like the Dog, not like in the books, movies and TV. They will go looking and calling for their missing people, but they do not carry business cards that read “bounty hunter.” In a way bail-bondsmen are like human pawn brokers. In many USA states they even look and dress flashy like pawn-brokers and have a tendency to own and sell vast amounts of odd things through the years, seized from bonds and jumpers. 

     And, very, very few strangers show up in town as a “bounty hunter” and open a storefront, you know – "Acme Bounty Hunting." Most states have strict laws about bounty hunting. In Texas a bounty hunter must be a private investigator, but on the other extreme, in some states like Michigan, there are no rules at all. Zip. Zero. In Michigan, no rules mean a growing wave of inexperienced wannabes. These laws change and you need to check them.

     In unregulated states like Michigan, working bondsman know where this newer wave in bounty hunting and hunters comes from…

     “It’s the Dog, following the Duane "Dog" Chapman. Duane Chapman ruined the industry," said Aaron Carr, 36, a Sterling Heights, a Michigan bounty hunter who also must also work a Sears stock orderer. "Dog's a convicted felon. He has no business being in the industry," Carr complained to a Detroit News reporter in March, 2009. "Many people entering the field do it part time and don't hang around for long."


"Many people entering the field do it part time and don't hang around for long."


     Reporter Francis X. Donnelly conducted a survey of 20 of the 65 names listed on a web directory of officially advertised “bounty hunters” in Michigan. Most of them were out of business and quickly. “The ones that remained had other jobs like cooks, teachers, computer repairmen, cable TV installers, social service counselors, and the bail bondsman. They earn 10 percent of the bail paid by the bondsmen, which usually nets them a few hundred dollars per fugitive. Something like that.”

     Only by being a combination of both bail bondsman and bounty hunter, can most hunters survive full-time. People like TV’s Dog. The Dog is paid by the television show, His TV show is his first or second job. They wrote the original bond. They clean up the mess when the guy disappears.

     It’s another loophole in most private investigation state laws and bounty hunting laws. The bail bondsman can investigate and locate/hunt his skipped clients as matter of regular bond business. he doesn't need a PI license. But, if he pays someone else to do this, say in Texas, this "other" person must be a licensed private investigator. In Arizona, the law requires bounty hunters just get written authorization from a bail bondsman before trying to capture a fugitive. In Kentucky, bounty hunting is generally not allowed at all because the state does not have a system of bail bondsmen, and it releases bailed suspects through the state's Pretrial Services division of the courts. So, there is no bondsman with the right to apprehend the fugitive. The police do it like they would any other warrant.

     As a matter of practice, it is always good for detectives to know and have a give-and-take working relationship with area PIs and bondsmen. I tell you this as a police advice because we use to ask bondsmen for inside info when hunting a suspect for a new or old crime. We would research or recall the prior arrests of our suspect and see who bonded him out in the past. Their files would often contain more people, places, phone numbers, etc. that we needed to troll around and find our guy. They needed us frequently. They would come to us hat-in-hand for help – facing a huge court payment for a jumped client. If we had the time we'd help hunt for their bad guys. Many times they were career criminals and needed to be in jail. We'd use that "failure to appear" warrant as a power base to help out when and where we could. An arrest warrant is an arrest warrant. We like serving arrest warrants. It’s what we do.

     These crimes and relationships can get really messy. One time years back, we arrested an international Thai, drug smuggler on a visa in Texas. Heroin. It was a major op for us, originated by us that eventually included the DEA and State Narcotics. It went down as planned, a simple-drop-off/pick-up, and we caught the smuggler “red-handed” as they say. The Thai was arrested and as a matter of routine, given a bail hearing. The bail was crazy high, but can you imagine this guy from Thailand even getting a bond at all set by any judge! Well, over a million something as I recall. I think the judge thought no one would/could make such a bond.

     But, once in the hoosegow, our man, as was his right, looked over the bail bondsmen ads in a phone book by the phones. He picked up the phone and contacted a local bail bonds woman nicknamed Spotlight Sally.

    We all knew her. “Spotlights Bonds.” She was a former Dallas stripper, stage-named, Spotlight Sally with quite the biography and therefore had a certain familiarity with the law and order business. She even married a cop in our region. She moved to our city and opened “Spotlights Bail Bonds.” She was one of those insiders who said, “I could do that,” about the bond business and she started her own bond company. She reminded us of a Dolly Parton type, if you will.

     But, sort of a different league with international drug smuggling, huh? Ya’ think? She took the bond challenge! She was given contact information from Thailand (we were not privy to this in the beginning).  She was quickly wired the required, very, very substantial, down payment money from international ports unknown, with promises of all the rest. All the paperwork boxes were checked. The DA protested, but the guy was set free.

     As next imagined, the Thai was never seen again! And we were all busy moving down the road working other cases. Spotlight Sally went into a tailspin as the court, deadline date loomed, freaking out over the total bail money she had promised the court. Desperate, she begged our detective division for help. She called Sgt. Howard Kelly, who was our "Jethro" of "NCIS" at the time, if you know what I mean. Kelly snatched me up and we paid a serious visit to her modest, small office. She sat with us in her Dolly Parton hairdo, in her tight jeans, boots and a country-western, plaid shirt and told us the rest of the story. The Thai connection. Meanwhile, we knew the real folks behind all this smuggling caper were off in a Thailand palace of sorts? Tripping over machine guns and giant stacks of cash?

     On her desk was the Thai file. Thick in paper, but when passed to us, shallow in workable content. It was thick enough to do a little hunting around with though. We got with our narcotics guy who cracked the original smuggling case – an old hand and friend, who had risked his life and almost died several times in his career, and for the sake of his peace and quiet, I will not name him here.

      We eventually found the Thai fugitive alright. His corpse. He was killed by a hired hit man. And…we eventually caught the hit man too, thanks to another joint agency operation. He was sort of a regional criminal who did a whole host of crimes. I testified in federal court to help with his demise. He died in the Texas Pen with the names of his Thai employers a secret and how they contacted him.

Police photos 1980s, hock hochheim

(Sgt. Howard Kelly and me, circa the 1980s. When I grew up? I wanted to be just like him, except for the Conway Twitty haircut.) 

     I am not sure how all that promise-to-appear money worked out in court for the our nice, Spotlight bonding lady. If the fugitive is murdered I think the system will not punish the bondsman and ask for the full bond.

     Sometimes these things are not as simple as a weekly Duane Chapman, Dog episode. Different leagues. Oh, and none of these heroic bounty hunters popped in on this one. Like Ozzy Ozbourne said,

    “There's fear and darkness all around you…” 


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Hear me Out! Hearing Loss in FMA

Every once in a while, in a seminar, depending on who is there and what they want to do, we break out the Filipino double sticks. This is a rarity for me as few folks in today’s world want to do such stick work, certainly in comparison to the 1990s when they were all the rage. Everybody today wants to do "reality" fighting and MMA, Krav-like stuff, and Brazilian wrestling.

tissue ears 2

There are really two main reasons to do FMA double stick work. The exercise/fitness/coordination reasons and for historical research/tradition. Okay, well, make this two and one-half reasons. Another half-reason might be that there are some people who just get addicted to them. For plain ol fun. I don’t mind doing them to make people happy for the two and half reasons. (I "sing for my supper," as the old expression goes).

And in the big picture the stick drills are not unlike punching/focus mitt drills on some level, as those patterns can get crazy too. I do get a kick out of people who ridicule certain FMA “dead drills” and turn around and do their own made-up, dead drills, and are too ignorant to realize they are doing the same essential "dead-ness" thing only different. One way to shut them up is just call them all “exercises” and not “drills.” Are there any “dead exercises?” Do we mock chin-ups? Push-ups? Dead Lifts? As dead exercises? After all, mitt drills, stick drills whatever – they are all EXERCISES that contribute to the end game.

Not my point here though, even though most people won’t read down this far and will comment on the photo alone. HA! Hearing loss is. I really want to talk about hearing loss and damage doing these things along with single and double sticks. Double sticks are worse because that bang fast and create more noise. I am damaged goods. We all are in this “bidness” for decades. I have brain damage and body damage and even my damage has damage. I also have pretty serious hearing damage. I need my hearing aids. Docs say that much of it comes from shooting guns (oh, and not on the range). Experts say that hearing loss can resort to specific, brain damage as some parts of the brain will like numb-out and die-away from the lack of nerve stimulation. (Oh I am sure Jimmi Hendrix and Cream had something to do this problem also.)

As law enforcement officer and 40 year Arnisador Chad Edward recalls for us "…gunfire, engines, power tools, sticks. Yup, most of us are old enough to remember being thought a wimp for using eye and ear protection." As far back as I can remember with firearms – the 1960s – we always had ear protection on the range. In the 70s? Yes. Military and police ranges required ear protection. Hunting? No. And of course, the rare occasional action-guy moment? No.

And another reason for my problem? Sticks! Hitting sticks since 1986. On these rare times we break out the double sticks in seminars, I am often without hearing protection and I am quick to remove my hearing aids and pack my ears with whatever I can, because the clacking hurts. Double stick noise is worse than single stick noise because they bang fast and create more noise. "Double the noise." But warning! This will sneak up on you. You think its okay, but it might not be. 

Mick Vodnoski, another Arnisador says: "I have to agree, those sticks banging together make a lot of noise. Do it for long periods of time could easily cause some hearing damage after awhile. There's been times after training with those sticks that I'll have a headache from all the noise after class."

I am at a point now where the raw clacking actually hurts. Stick on stick clack is not a cannon shot and it takes very little cover to cushion the sound waves. If I don't have ear plugs, even some tissue or toilet paper stuffed in my ears works fine.Now, it does depend on where you are and the acoustics, but I would suggest for your quality of life down the long and winding road, you think about your ears, your students' ears, and hearing, and not just when shooting. You might have hearing protection on your Batman utility belt, but what about your students when you are banging sticks? This problem sneaks up on you.

You agree?
Huh? What chu say?

tissue ears 1


1: The Decibel Meter for phones. I don't want you, or ask you to go hog-wild crazy on this subject, but you can get a meter for your phone, "…an app on your smart phone that can measure decibels pretty accurately. You could measure it with your phone at your next stick class. 85 decibels is usually the standard requiring hearing protection. A gun shot is in the neihborhood of 160 db." – Click here 

2: Sound waves and the ears – Click here

3: Noise and ear damge fact sheet – Click here


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The Biology of Ambush! Fight, Flee, AND FREEZE!

     "This fight or flight reaction is not an 'all or nothing'; it operates on a continuum. A mildly, moderately, or profoundly emotional experience elicits a mild, moderate, or profound autonomic reaction, respectively." – Dr. V.S. Ramachandran, world-renown neuroscientist



     "Fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight." Heard that tune before? Chances are you have. Chances are every instructor you've ever had has regurgitated that mantra before you. It is quick and catchy, almost like a song really, and so easy to remember. A snappy alliteration. You probably have locked the three-word, two-prong, catch phrase deep into your “these truths we hold to be self-evident” inner sanctum. The special place things go that never get questioned. The doctors we quote here later call it “ingrained assumptions.”

     Since the early wars with stones, clubs, spears, and swords, the militaries of the world have grappled with issues of bravery and fear on the battlefield, but the whole "fight or flight" catch phrase really seemed to begin as a psychological category in the very early 20th Century. The issue was rubber-stamped into posterity in 1929 by one Dr. Walter Cannon with his original formulation of human threat response – "the fight or flight.” I repeat – 1929. Cannon stated that "when frightened, we flee or fight."

     Fright – defined as fear excited by sudden danger, from something strange, sudden, or shocking. Sudden ambush. Some of the greatest armies of the world were defeated by ambush, as well as some of the best solo fighters. The University of Washington uses a popular “angry bear” example to explain this, an example dating back to the 1930s and copied by so many "downliners" to describe the shock/surprise event.



     “It is a nice, sunny day. You are taking a nice walk in the park. Suddenly, an angry bear appears in your path. Do you stay and fight OR do you turn and run away?”




Simple enough as one, two. But somewhere lurking free in our understanding is yet another vital “F-word,” freeze. From the cavemen confronted by the saber-tooth tiger on the prehistoric veldt to the soldier in Afghanistan, they, and we gathered here, all see and understand the … big freeze. We all intuitively know that we must include “Fight, Freeze, or Flight,” in the first milliseconds of an ambush of any type. These three Fs are utterly and intrinsically connected to this. Okay, we know this, so what does the latest research show? Modern experts agree and can also now define and refine that not all freezing comes from fear or fright! You may freeze when shocked for several biological reasons that have nothing to do with bravery, courage or lack thereof.

       I began reading about these other two Fs – Fright and Freeze in the 1990s. I grew impatient with the constant repetition of Cannon's lonely two words, Flight or Fight. Also impatient and tired with the over-simplistic, two-prong Fs, in 2004 on the issue of psychosomatics in the American Journal of Psychiatry, five doctors specializing in psychiatry (see list below) petitioned peers to change the fight or flight mantra. In an article entitled, "Does Flight or Fight Need Updating," they began a challenging, yet common sense dissertation on the subject:

     “Walter Cannon's original formulation of the term for the human response to a threat, "fight or flight," was coined exactly 75 years ago in 1929. It is an easily remembered catch phrase that seems to capture the essence of the phenomena it describes. It accurately evokes two key behaviors that we see occurring in response to a threat. This phrase has led to certain ingrained assumptions about what to expect in our patients and, because of its broad usage, what they expect of themselves. It is a testament to the foundational significance of Cannon's work that the term he used continues to shape clinical understanding and to influence popular culture's understanding of stress as well. But the phrase has not been updated to incorporate important advances in the understanding of the acute response to extreme stress. Specifically, the term ignores major advances in stress research made since it was coined. Both human and animal research on the pan-mammalian response to stress has advanced considerably since 1929, and it may be time to formulate a new form of this catch phrase that presents a more complete and nuanced picture of how we respond to danger."



They go on: “The phrase 'fight or flight' has influenced the understanding and expectations of both clinicians and patients; however, both the order and the completeness of Cannon's famous phrase are suspect. 'Fight or flight' mischaracterizes the ordered sequence of responses that mammals exhibit as a threat escalates or approaches. In recent years, ethnologists working with nonhuman primates have clearly established four distinct fear responses that proceed sequentially in response to increasing threat. The order of these responses may have important implications for understanding and treating acute stress in humans."

     The article reminds their peers that people freeze in place for reasons other than fear/fright. One might freeze from a hyper-vigilance and/or by just being overwhelmed by surrounding stimuli, not fear. Therefore, the act of freezing can be clinically different than fright. You can freeze from…

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

01 Book Cover-med


Every Day Carry – Where Do You Draw The Line?

 Another confession? I am but a tactical tourist. Oh, the shame. The stigma.

     No, not like a person who travels the world like a smart tourist with ultra-light, waterproof clothes and my museum and restaurant guide in the ready back pocket. No, not that kind of vacation tourist. I am just a guy going through my daily, suburban lifestyle with very little survival gear. Sometimes I dare enter urban areas, too, … gulp … yes, you read right! URBAN areas and with very little combat gear. You know, places where people apparently must have Ph.D.s in URBAN fighting just to survive through the day! 

     How many guns, magazines, knives, lights, medical kits, maps, compasses need I carry on my body to go out the door and into the real world? My real world? On an “everyday carry?” What is your “real world?” 

     Through the years, we have heard the term “tactical lifestyle” from very common folk, and along with it the brag –

     “I, (or we) live a … tactical lifestyle.”

     And that does sound cool. But several of us in the training business, and with actual experience in military, security and policing have to wonder sometimes if people know what they are saying and doing compared to the big picture.  Do these proclaimers actually know where they fit in the “action-guy chart”? Fit, inside the full spectrum of war and crime and a tactical lifestyle?

     My friend Mick Coup in the U.K. came up with another term – the “tactical tourist,” years ago. A visitor to the world of tactics. In and out. But also never really “in” for most consumers/folks. Mostly out, looking in and misunderstanding their status.

     I have seen various under-channels, or sub-channels, in the cable TV systems around the USA. TV shows on hunting, guns, and self-defense – mostly about guns for sport, but they have gun defense shows too. Or, we see similar news or features on YouTube and on Facebook. Hey, how about all those gun magazines? The other day I counted fifteen different gun magazines on a shelf in a common supermarket. Fifteen! More than any other genre like fitness or even women’s makeup, or gossip rags. Fifteen! (Shows you where the commercial money is.) Like the TV shows, inside the mags are numerous articles about extreme safety and survival ala gun themes (after all, they are gun magazines). Some folks call them “gun porn.” The editors and writers pontificate, and readers worry and fret over gear and the four basic, generic problems really,

  – the “street” gun fight,

  – the “anywhere” armed robbery,

  – the day or night burglar/home invasion,

  – the mass shooter.

     Oh, maybe a kidnapping thrown in? Recently they fret over the mass shooter, due to our times. From these 4 or 5  problems, tons and tons of deep and deeper, redundant material spews forth. Like a muscle magazine covers “the curl” ten thousand times from ten thousand body builders. It’s a curl!  These publications and shows say the same things over and over again. That, and gear. Gear, gear, and more and more gear. And if you take a bubble bath? You’d better have gun underwater with you. And that special grade of under water-proof ammo.

     But the gear. Oh, the gear. Firearms expert Massod Ayoob said recently:

     “There seems to be an unwritten law on the gun-related Internet saying, ‘If you carry less than I do, you’re a pathetic sheeple, and if you carry more than I do, you’re a paranoid mall ninja.’ Forgive me if I can’t buy into either of those attitudes.”

many guns

     So where do you draw the line in the gear you carry every day? Certainly most of the readers here and of those magazines and watchers of gun TV shows are everyday, very normal people doing everyday normal things in life. Yet these cable, magazine, and media folks are really loaded for bear with guns, ammo, lights, knives, med kits, and like…that bracelet thingy that unstrings into an emergency length of rope for … for … emergency repelling? Garroting a sentry? I have seen a complete belt that unravels into a survival emergency cord. All this for a morning coffee run?  A dentist visit?

     It is a bit of a fad on Facebook to photograph one’s “everyday carry” – the things a person carries every day, the “EDC” to be prepared for everything between sudden Armageddon down to an obnoxious panhandler. Guns, knives, ammo, cords, phones, and Ninja key chain. Spray. Odd-shaped, hand-held plastic devices you must also carry to strike recalcitrant people. And another gadgets to twist people in grappling locks. That tactical pen! A pen made of harder stuff than usual pens, but still writes! Maybe even in outer space! These seem to be the common carry for the best-prepared and macho soul. Not one, but two of some of these things. Everyone else must then marvel then at these photos of your brilliant, thoughtful EDC – at the tactical brilliance of the collection in your pockets, armpits, boot, belt and crotch, I guess. Wow! He is really ready to go out and buy that muffin! Hope he makes it back alive.

     In one of those cable TV features, they once covered a segment of a completely over-armed woman – with a med-kit in the small of her back –  in a short walk from her front door to her mailbox out front. Some folks go purchase milk prepped like they are being dropped into Cambodia for a week. Do you wear a medical kit in the small of your back when going to buy a birthday card in a gift shop two miles from your house? Some folks I’ve heard of wear pistols all day long inside their own houses. The fear of the home invasion or that sudden gun battle right outside. I can’t discuss this readiness subject without mentioning the extremely odd Americans standing around on street corners or in Walmarts with AR-15s and shotguns strapped on their torsos or hung from unnecessary, tactical vests with lanyards.


     “But … but, Hock, when you need a gun….” Oh, here comes the “need-a” speech that covers ALL gear, ALL-the-time carry. But before you go all hyper-sensitive on me, there’s nothing wrong with carrying a “pistola” around. Carrying a gun is not the point here. Or a pocket knife. But how many? How much more? But…along with an MRE? And a food poison kit in case the MRE is bad? Is there a water purifier pen stuffed in your sock? Don’t laugh! I know a guy who has one when he flies. As if, when he survives the plane crash, he can find and crawl to bad water? You carry a small flashlight. What about batteries for that light then, and when will those back-up batteries expire? Some suggest a mandatory, less-than-lethal product along with your gun, your knife and your hand grenade. Like pepper spray. Lethal and less than lethal. How much stuff and backup stuff and backup to the backup stuff do you think you need? Where do you draw the line on the gear?

“Where do you draw the line on the gear you carry?”

     “Greywolf,”a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan and has almost three decades of military and military contracting experience of Greywolf Survival, says that the expression “two is one, one is none” is a fallacy. He says people follow it blindly because it sounds cool. He advised that much thought should go into what “redundant” gear you carry. I think he is correct.

     For example, in the past if I was on a special task force with a mission, say a Fugitive Round-Up Task Force or a robbery stake-out, I would “dress more for the proverbial bear.” I would double this and that. Haul around something special. In some ways, the proverbial “two is one, one is none” approach. Just in some practical ways. But then as a normal, everyday detective, or patrolman, I would carry considerably less. Way, way less. Way less than some of the citizens, cable TV stars, and magazine authors and their followers suit up for in a quick run to buy Frosted Flakes or aspirin. When you do one thing, then you realize what you need or don’t need for something else.

for gear article

     When I was in the patrol divisions here and overseas? Yeah – I had my mandatory Batman/Sam Brown belt, which held considerable less techno than today’s options, but I also had support gear in the patrol car. We all made a calculated guess on what we wore, what was left in the trunk and what we took with us from the trunk, call-to-call-to-call. How far will we probably travel from the car? Do I need the carbine on every call? Absolutely not. A parachute? No. Experience and training can offer darn, good guesses. The pros still do this every day.

     For example, as cops we know to carry a flashlight because even at clear-sky, high noon we find ourselves in a dark, dingy basement.Does a citizen need a flashlight in their pocket to buy ham sandwhich at noon? Really? I always had a hand axe in my trunk, because if the call or the situation developed where I might need one (like wall penetration or rescue), I would dash back to the car and get it. I did not walk around 24-7 with an Army Ranger Tomahawk on my belt (and by the way, the local Home Depot has real cheap and wonderful  rubber-handled axes – at a fraction of the cost over those tantalizing Conan war axes for sale).

     If we/they are smart, we answer these questions on many levels, big and small:

     Who are you, exactly? Who do you think you are going to fighting?

     What exactly are you really doing?

     Where exactly are you really going?

     When exactly are you going?

     How will you actually go?

     Why are you going there in the first place?

     The menu of life! You must…

For the rest of this article and other subjects, read Fightin’ Words, click here

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Benny Parkey. Adios mi Amigo

Benny Parkey Passed Away.

There’s a lot of people writing wonderful things about former Denton County Sheriff Benny Parkey. I could add many more things because we go back quite a ways. Too much to say. Lots of people sharing photos of them with Benny. Here is one of us in the 1990s. I feel like I need to vent over this.


me and benny fb

We worked together for years on the same detective squad. When some people say if Benny was your friend he always had your back. “Regular” people have certain definitions of “having your back,” but Benny really has had my back many times. Benny is one of the few people I could list on one hand that if I was in real trouble, or if my family was in real trouble, I could call him, day or night and he would show up with a gun. And I mean that, and I am also sure he would have still shown up if I called him the very last week of his life. Yeah. Somebody would have driven him, but he'd a come.Think about it. You know he would have.

But we worked cases. Did karate. Chased bad guys. For years. We were dedicated “street” workers, saying and swearing to each other we would never take any promotion test and become supervisors. I eventually left the P.D. to run my training company. Then I caught wind in 2004 or so, that he was…running for sheriff? I called him and asked him about it. We met for lunch to talk about it and he said,

“well, I decided I don’t want this detective job to be the sole mark of my life.”

Okay. So, I jumped in. Tried to help where I could. He won in a tough election battle and run-off. The next election he ran unopposed. Then the next election a flashy skunk ran against him. And I swear, he ran with a bunch of lies and scam presentations and Benny lost. I think if it weren’t for this outsider, showboat buffoon from nowhere, Benny would have run unopposed again, because everyone in the county knew to leave the well-liked Benny alone. But anyway, while he was there in office he was a terrific Sheriff. And he did terrific things. Then his wife died and he was… well, grace personified. Then sweet Jesus, somehow HE got bad sick with a cancer. I was mortified. We all were. And he was gracious and calm to us about it all.

I saw him for lunch a few times these last years, knowing full well he was bad sick but just never fully realizing how soon things would end. I mean, not long ago, like two weeks ago? He was walking around saying he would soon need a cane.

He wrote to me very recently that his days were numbered, he would soon, “slip the veil,” as he put it and said "goodbye." I am pretty inept about such things and I didn’t really know what to say to that, except to talk about a future lunch. A lunch that never came.

Benny Parkey. Class act all the way- Texas style. Special. And he did indeed leave his mark as a great Texas Sheriff, didn’t he. To me though, personally, he will always be a real bloodhound investigator and friend – as Gus complimented a feller in Lonesome Dove once – “he sure was good company at suppertime.” Which symbolizes a mighty compliment.

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(Benny, me and Lonnie Flemming working a murder back in the 1980s.) 


Back from the People’s Republic, June 2016…

China 2016

bad ass poster, 2016

This year's trip to China was sponsored by the Beijing Mercedes Benz, Chinese Red Bull and the Universal Tactical Alliance. Multiple days in which we taught police, some rare military folks showed up, citizens and then a day for various members of the news media – those that fear the usual problems of traveling both locally and abroad in hot spots, etc. About 125 people all toll over several days.


Me, Tim Llacuna and Rawhide Laun before that standard…you know…media wallpaper kind of thing.



Beijing Mercedes Benz provided us with cars for car scenarios.


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Universal Tactical Alliance, a Beijing-based security company has a fantastic, versatile location providing security services and training for law enforcement, military and medicals subjects. They also travel abroad to Thailand to run shooting courses in both live fire and simulated ammo.

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What's a seminar without a little pain from Rawhide? But, he had to be in shape for the subsequent car fights and counter-hijacking sessions. As Wally Jay would say "two-way action!" We have a rear armbar hammerlock and a finger twist.

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Above and below, the irreplacable Tim Llacuna does a little fine tuning.

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Covering car jacking scenarios with some beautiful Mercedes Benz cars 



Killing a little time talking smack with the boyz, while at UTA HQ.

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And we also made it to the Great Wall of China. It was indeed a great, great wall to see in person. As you can see, Tim was pretty excited when we first got there.

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…and we ate at the Number 1 rated restaurant in all of China.

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"Oh, what hath I wrought upon the world?"  – William Shake-a-spear.

Hundreds of photos were taken and will be eventually passed on to us. They took a series of photos of me holding cans of Red Bull in various poses and posing around the Mercedes sedans in action-guy positions. I eventully may see the ads, I guess. 

Too many folks to thank. Two foundationial guys organizing all this – especially Liu Shang and Owen Dai. They amassed and coordinated quite a multi-facited event. 

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And, we will return in June of 2017.

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Fighting Paring Knives and Fighting Kitchen Knives and “Tactical” Scissors?

(note: This essay years ago, garnered me the greatest amount of hate mail ever. Granted I wrote this as a somewhat sarcastic, at times tongue-in-cheek, freestyle. But the hate poured in. (I saved them all). The best was one calling every “student” I had worldwide as stupid and uneducated because I knew nothing and I just tricked stupid people. )

      To me, a knife is a knife. Sure there are many different kinds of knives, some better at some things than others. But in a primitive level, a knife is a knife. So, when some folks pop up “on the martial market” suggesting , and even at times arguing that a smaller, paring/fruit knife is suddenly real good for knife fighting, my answer is “ahhh…yeah, okay, so…”

     I would never have excluded paring knives as a potential weapon. Of course not. Perhaps I have worked way too many police cases where kitchen knives, big and small, have been used. Of course they can be weapons. Always have been.

     There seems to be a little fad/craze recently about using paring or fruit knives for fighting, instead of bigger knives or tactical folders, if even as some sort of a trick. A legal trick? A street fight trick?  You know, those little kitchen knives just about everyone has and uses. A knife here in the States, you can buy for about a dollar or two in the common, Dollar Stores, or Walmart, or in every grocery storeOne guy told me that when he lands from a plane ride, he runs to a cheapy store or supermarket right away, and buys a paring/fruit knife for self defense. Good idea? Although I don’t know how he’ll carry it around, but its good for the hotel room and…thereabouts. I don’t know. Why not? More on this “paring-knife-carrying-around” in a bit.   

paring knife

     And I do worry about the classic hotel room defense problem too, especially in weapon-free countries I work in. I don’t exactly travel to the best and safest places all the time. I was in Africa one night, and the power went out, various people filled the streets outside and…well, that’s another story…

     But do take a look at these paring knives. They are pointy, sharp and  cheap and you probably can get them anywhere. Not a bad idea. Cheap knives. Expensive knives. I saw a fixed-blade knife in a big knife show one weekend back in the 1990s. It was very cool. It was about $175. Then my wife and I were in a kitchen store in an outlet shopping and they had kitchen knife sets for sale. From a distance, I saw a set with similar designed wooden handles. I looked closer, I swear, I swear, the middle knife in the set of 8, looked EXACTLY like the $175 knife I saw at the show. The whole kitchen set was like $19.99. Ever since then, I have been really pessimistic about the cost of knives and branding, etc. Sure, probably the knives were made differently. But how much? And what do you want to do with them. Who, what, where, when, how and why? Specifically, this equation – “Who-knife,” “what-knife,” “where-knife,” “when-knife,” “how-knife” and “why-knife?”

     While we spend a lot on special “fighting” knives, we need to mention it is long known, world-wide, in law enforcement circles that simple kitchen knives of all sizes are used a lot – like in …70%, 80% or 90% – (I’ve even heard once 95%?) of all knife attacks in the civilized world. The rest of the world? Good chance you are going to be attacked by a knife-like, handy “tool” they use in the jungle, woods, garages or farm fields. Thereabouts. And then of course, next there is the use of the “tactical knives” to take up the statistical slack. In or out of the field, the military rarely uses a knife in combat, but rather as a handy tool, and when it does, it won’t be a little kitchen knife. I have a friend who works security in Mexico who translated a famous, underground phrase into English for me –

“You will be killed by a 5 peso knife.”

     5 pesos or $500, I am not a collector of knives, per say, so I do not collect them just for the sake of admiration and collection – if you know what I mean. And I mean to say that I do really like the looks of some knives, but to me, they are just tools. I don’t collect pairs of pliers either. Or hammers. Do you see what I mean? That is how boring I am. Simple tools. Use-able. I understand that some people really do love collecting knives. Fine with me. Have fun with it, I say. If you want to spend $1,000 and get a super-duper, steel blade that will stab and penetrate an Army tank? Go for it. I’d like to look at them too. Hold them for a few seconds and flip them in my hand. “Size” them up. And so forth. But, I’m just not going to buy it. Buy it and then…what? Stick it in a drawer somewhere in my house?

Instead, I suffer horribly from, my malady, is the collection of knife TACTICS. Knife moves. Knife movements, Knife techniques. Knife situations. Not the collections of knives for the collection, adulation sake. 


     Most of you already also know how I feel about carrying knives officially called like,  Close Quarter Combat 7 or,  SEAL Team, Throat-slitter 6, …or studying knife courses with crazy names. (Remember the more macho you really are deep down? The least you need to show it.) Its all fun and games with macho, militant knives until you actually use your “Klingon CQC De-Bowelizer” in a fight. Or, you have graduated from knife courses with violent names like “Beserker,” or “Destructo.” What about that “Prison-Stick em” course with special “prison-stick em’ knives? Or, you proclaim you are a “bastard child of the knife mafia.”  Worry about the name of your knife and the name of your knife course. Police and prosecutors will. We/they will take a hard look at this and add it to the demise of your freedom. Please trust me on this. I have worked these cases. The name of your knife and the name of your knife course, like your comments on social media, works for you or against you. Whack-job tattoos. Grow the fuck up. If you think you are defending yourself in some ultimate knife course, how well will you defend yourself AFTER you stab the crap out of someone, with all this mess in your background? I recently saw a webpage of one of these out-lander knife “families” and someone wrote a little ditty about “cutting someone balls off and sticking them in the newly-knife-emptied eye sockets.”  YOU…are a sick fuck. YOU…are why the rest of us carry knives and guns.

     But, back to the fruit/paring knife which started these ramblings off.  Will the world treat you better if you have a paring knife and not a commando hatchet “in your pocket?” In the real world, a paring/fruit knife is still but a knife. Can you walk around with a paring knife and be safe from police scrutiny? Whatever knife, in the end, a knife is a knife. To a cop who pats you down, a knife is a knife. We know about the record high use of kitchen knives. So, to futher confuse the police and society, the idea was/is floated on the internet of sticking said fruit knife into a piece of fruit, all inside a plastic bag, into your pocket?

    And walking around like that, pretending an eventual, later hunger pang, with all that bulky, wet, rig bulging in your pocket, (as suggested by some young Mexico cop? Or, as I am also told the fruit/knife/bag idea was originated some by other people years and years ago?). But wait! I heard this years ago with walnuts. Stick the small knife tip inside a walnut and have some of these nuts loose in your pocket.

“Oh noooo, London officer, Sydney officer, (______ insert city officer) I just like nuts.” The rig might be better in a little paper sack? Or maybe better – a metal lunch box? Then you get to look like Charlie Brown walking to school all the time.

     Using that wet pocket carry for “plausible deniability?” Nahhh. You know, I just don’t think so. Maybe in some rural area of Mexico? Or a picnic area on the coast of Greece? I think they are really S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G this pocket method of carry in a desperate ploy to sound innovative. To me? Not so much. Being a cop and being around cops for most of my adult life – a cop sees a knife. A knife is a knife. What happens next will all fall into local length laws, knife laws, personalities and the situation, etc. A police officer or detective doesn’t say,

     “oh look, how cute. A harmless, fruit knife in a pomegranite.”

     If the fruit knife is illegal by local law, the length and so forth, then the knife is just plain illegal, even if stuck in an avocado in a plastic bag in your pocket, or stuck anywhere else. This will not fool anyone unless the police deem the carrier is like a certified Forest Gump type. Or maybe the investigating authorities are dimwits? The situation will rule out. 

     You can of course, carrying your sheath-less paring knife inside your pocket with a little clever Origami (folded paper ala Japan). It won’t be a sheath-sheath, but you won’t sit down, say, and stab your thigh. Will it come freely from the paper sheath or require two hands to clear the knife? If the knife, this…this paring, fruit knife…is “legal” in size and so forth, you don’t need the fruit, the plastic bag, a  nut, or the “hungry-later” tale. Still, even with the bagged knife, the police, the prosecutor, your lawyer or your embassy might think you a shallow liar. (It was suggested somewhere that …”spies”… carry their murder weapons in such a manner to fool the local, hapless gendarmes.) I would first, instantly think you a liar. Two strikes. Strike one – you got a knife. Strike two – you are lying to me. Try that in New York, England, Australia or parts of Canada and see what happens, or in some USA cities. London, England is now on a massive, anti-knife, witch-hunt, ban. But if the knife is legal. It’s legal. Stuck in no matter what. Stuck in a sheath. A walnut, with a pocket full of walnuts. A peach. The overall situation counts. As they say – the “totality of circumstances.”

     I think part of the mystique is also, that you will more easily fool and stab someone suddenly with the knife in fruit and in a bag? You know – street, trick them? Think hard about that one. You are threatened. You smile, and slowly extract your bag/fruit/knife rig out for a quick, refreshing bite. Does the loan-shark, or crack dealer, mugger, or psycho not see…a KNIFE! Just exactly where, why and when would you do this or ANY such fruit trickery? Do you want to walk around all day long like this, day after day, after day with a wet, fruit bag in your pocket? What set of circumstances and situation calls for this knife/fruit/bag idea in YOUR life?

Can you stab a guy with such a short knife with its tip in fruit, all while inside a zip-lock bag? Think about this people! When “God made his little green apples,” some of those apples are hard. How hard is the fruit you using like Loki to confuse the police?  Better be some soft peaches. And let’s not get into the lesser penetrations of really small, naked, knives, least of fruit-laden ones. 

     Worse, as soon as the fruit trick gets out on the world-wide-web of clever tricks and plans and was published? Well, it’s out on the internet as a clever trick! 

     The arresting and prosecuting parties can look on the net and your facebook page, your social media, your favorite groups, (are you a bastard child of the edged weapon, grim-reaper, balls-in-the-eye-sockets, costra nostra?) your tattoos, etc and see its a “world-wide,” web trick.

     Changing subject course a bit again (sorry) while I am rambling, while we are pondering/kicking-around, common, last ditch tools, especially in your hotel room, I can’t help but think of scissors? Last ditch? Scissors, the kind that can be disconnected at the joint/hinge as in the photo below? I travel all over the world with scissors. You can’t really walk around with scissors either in many countries. Your motivation could and will be questioned, though I know people who have scissors in a leather scissor carrier on their belts – using the old excuse that they are “needed for work.” (by the way, the next cop question is “where do you work?” And prove it.) I always have certain pairs of scissors in my hotel room, at very least. And…thereabouts. Some open and come apart, like in the photo here. Open em’ up, a little like one of those damn balisongs, and split em’ apart if you can. You got two edged weapons. Small, tough scissors blades hinged together, can actually feel just like a push dagger and small scissors are not illegal to possess. Just don’t put them in carry-on luggage. 


     Recently, I learned from a contact that in a factory in Canada, there was a series of knife assaults. The knives were issued by the factory because they were tools needed for the job. Management, frustrated with the crimes, collected all the knives and issued scissors instead. In a meeting, one of the employees stood up and took the scissor halves apart and held one half in each hand. He said, “look, they took away my one knife, and gave me two knives instead!”  The contact said the halves, blades and handles were quite excellent-shaped, individual edged weapons. There are many scissors on the market that cannot be taken apart, but some can. (Oh, and by the way? No, I am not suggesting that people give up their knives and carry scissors, as some readers with low reading skills here have misinterpreted and smeared me on the net).

Scissors as knife

     In the three decades I worked in patrol and investigations, I recall numerous times when scissors were used in fights. Domestics and self defense. I myself can’t recall a “scissor” murder I worked on or helped out on, but I am more than confident there have been in the annals of crime. I don’t remember anyone ever opening the scissors up and taking the blades apart though, which would enhance the “knife-like” use. I have also inspected crime scenes where the victim had the chance to grab scissors and did not, unable to psychologically identify them as a weapon. I recall one horrendous rape scene. A woman escaped into her bedroom and locked the door. While the intruder/rapist worked to open the door, the woman had time to gather something to defend herself. She didn’t. The man burst in, beat her and raped her. I was called to the scene. There atop the bed stand was a metal pair of scissors. Numerous other things were available too. She didn’t “identify” scissors (or a lamp, whatever,) as a weapon.

     Knives. Scissors, Edged weapons. But once you use a commando knife, a paring knife or scissors in a fight, whatever, the time bomb of arrest, prosecution and lawsuits begins ticking. Clever “plausible deniability” becomes maybe what next? Aggravated assault,” maybe? And, or maybe “murder”? What actually happened? Who, what, where, when, how and why? Situational. When the police discover you have taken courses in “Cartel Knife Fighting” it starts to work against you. 

     Edged weapon innovation. Every few years a knife maker asks me to design a knife. I pass. I really would not know what to design? What could possibly be a new knife design? I mean, I can pick up some restaurant steak knives and some feel like magic, don’t they? How to be different, to design something different? I would probably suggest to the knife-maker the simple commando knife, only not completely double-edged, dodging that law. Maybe a pair of take-apart scissors, or a weird looking screwdriver or something that. No sales for those, though. And therefore, they’d say no. 

     If someone made tactical, combat scissors? Then that gig/secret would be “up” and the trick “outed” too on the web, wouldn’t it? The…combat scissors! Think about the combat cane. The combat baseball bat that has been converted into a black plastic weapon. Tricks out! We know it. We see it. Even discussing this here, teaching the message here, sounds like part of the conspiracy to fool the authorities.

      Probably for sales, the scissors would have to be stamped on the side – Hock’s Tactical Combat Scissors by the company, with a mean looking design/logo. Maybe a skull of some sort? Maybe with…a tongue out and about to be snipped off by combat scissors? Yikes! Why else make them if you can’t sell them to the tactical/practical crowd? That logo could also potentially be a tattoo? 

     But legally, it would be safer and smarter just to name them, Aunt Sarah’s Knitting Club Scissors, – as etched on the side. And no, I am not suggesting that people get scissors, get a small sewing kit, put them in a plastic bag and carry them around in their pockets to fool the gendarmes. But if so, maybe the police would look at them and say,

     “oh, what a cute little pair of Aunt Sarah’s knitting scissors!”

     All fun and games until someone gets stuck in the eye with a pair! (as any good Aunt Sarah would certainly warn us against, once she saw us playing with them…)

(oh and by the way? the official “Hock’s Combat Scissors” tactical scissors thing is a joke. I thought I would add this disclaimer because some stupid people have read this and criticized me for my ‘”combat/tactical scissors” idea. Dear Low I.Q. reader – it’s a joke.)

Hock’s email is

Coming in 2020  the book, Addendum to the Knife



Unarmed Striking Mitt Drills (And Heavy Bag, Too!)

“…wait now, these are not your grandfather’s mitt drills! Read on!”

     Focus mitt/pad drills are healthy exercises for practice and an important slice toward the big picture. Right lead. Left Lead. Standing. And of “late”- ground.  Most people in training just do the classic boxing school versions. In the late 1980s, I saw Larry Hartsell do these and he added "body, slap-mitt-versions" – standing and clever ground versions. These slaps were not seeking/intercepting the punches as so often seen, but rather body slaps that forced the trainee to cover up first and then counter-strike. This was not completely new for young, ignorant me, but he did a whole host of impressive and creative applications. I just called them Hartsell Slap Drills since in his honor, because they are here and there through time in other systems and have differing nicknames. These ground ones Hartsell did were done before the "UFC-World" before the "BJJ Invasion" and certainly before the popularity of "ground n pound." Punching and striking while grounded top-side, grounded bottom-side and grounded side-by-side.


Larry checking a present, yet not moving, "other" hand.


     To explain one Hartsell Slap Mitt Drill example quickly, a trainer slaps the left side (torso, arms or head ) of a trainee with a right-handed mitt. The trainee drops or raises his left elbow/arm/shoulder and absorbs the blow. The trainer then pulls the mitt back and over on the center line about stomach high. The trainee then hook punches this mitt with his right hand. I realize this might be hard to imagine without photos or a film. Look below at this sample we shot for a book in 2001. These can be down with the jab, cross, hook, uppercut and overhand, standing, kneeling and on the ground.

slap mitt sample

     So…right, left? Jab, cross? Let’s take the common punch. Did you know that many military courses for many decades did not designate the difference between a jab and a cross? They just called it a “punch.” A "punch" from the right side and a punch from the left side, no matter the blading of the body was just called a punch. This simple approach does help through various drills, but in other courses, certainly modern ones, people (me too) like to fine tune training and use the lead shoulder jab and the rear shoulder cross definitions when possible, because they do offer differing training drill opportunities. Of course if you are doing boxing-based programs you absolutely need the “jab-cross” distinctions. But when “MMA-ers” get down on the ground and ground n’ pound? There really are no right or left shoulder forward leads. Just…punching.

     But, what of citizen self-defense, security, police and military? Are stand-up, sport, boxing mitt drills alone the best we can offer them? No. We can add more stuff such as the "while held" and "while holding" versions just to name two. Here are some things I do, that I have "invented" or added. First off, we must mention you can experiment with all the strikes, not just punching. And, there are thrusts and hooks with each. Here are the strikes and the some situational mitt options.

Quick Reference/Reminder Strike List:

  • Fingers (eye and throat pinch attacks)
  • Palm and open hand and web strikes
  • Forearm strikes
  • Hammer fists strikes (top and bottom of hand)
  • Elbow strikes
  • Punching strikes (jab, cross, hook, uppercut, overhand)


The Focus Mitt Drill Positions/Situations

Position 1: The Arms-Down, Bus Stop (or sucker punch) Stance – Do a series of right and left strikes. Some folks also like to chase a mitt a bit from this position, as in taking a step in to hit.

Position 2: The Conversational Stance  – Long-called, the “Italiano” strike from high, moving conversational hands. Do a series of right and left hand strikes

Position 3: The Surrender Stance – Strike from this hands-up, surrender position. Some people brag that they will never have to do this because they will never let anyone get this close, of if someone got this close, they would jump to a fighting stance, etc. R-i-i-i-g-h-t. Life is a surprise. Life is an ambush. And while you may be Spiderman, your students might not be ever so alert. Do them a favor and let them do these. This is often part of a weapon confrontation, but not always. Do a series of right and left hand strikes. (this s also a sucker punch strike)

Position 4: Right lead Mitt Drill – Do front and rear strikes. Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.

Position 5: Left Lead Mitt Drill – Do front and rear strikes. Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.

Positon 6: “Whole Holding” Mitt Drill – trainee holds/wraps the trainers arm. Trainee strikes

  • Wrap a trainer’s right arm with your left arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his left. Strike.
  • Wrap a trainer’s left arm with your right arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his right. Strike.
  • Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this, and move, puch and pull, shove trainee

While Holding Mitt Drill


Position 7: “While Held” Mitt Drill – the trainee's arm is held/wrapped by the trainer

  • The trainer wraps your left arm with his right arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his left. You strike.
  • The trainer wraps your right arm with his left arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his right. You strike.
  • Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this, and move, push and pull, and shove around.

While Held Focus Mitt photo


Position 8: Grounded Topside Ground Mitt Drill

  • The bottom-side trainer feeds the mitts.
  • Topside trainees legs are outside the grounded trainer’s torso for a set
  • Topside trainees legs are inside the grounded trainer’s legs for a set
  • Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.

FB -Grounded with Dawg. B&W


Position 9: Grounded Bottom-side Ground Mitt Drill

  • The top-side trainer feeds the mitts.
  • Topside trainers legs are outside the trainee’s torso for a set
  • Topside trainers legs are inside the trainee’s legs for a set
  • Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this. Move and shove around.


Position 10: Grounded Side-by-Side Mitt Drills

  • Trainee down on the right side. Strike
  • Trainee down on the left side. Strike
  • Add Hartsell Slap Drills


Position 11: Knees? – Do you want to experiment with all of these, knee-high? In this format? Go right ahead.

Position 12: Improvise! Who, what, where, when, how and why do people need to strike sometimes?



     Of course the mitt can be fed horizontally and with a thrust, simulating that kind of a thrusting strike, but not to be confused as a feed for an uppercut. I am not a fan, as they say, of these prolonged, over-programed mitt drills. I think people with a good eye, can tell by looking at them, that they are too structured and just way too long.

     I was in a Thai system for awhile that really over did mitt drills, and almost never sparred. I think this is an "training equation" mistake. Nowadays, there are fitness-boxing classes that only hit mitts and bags by design. No one there wants to, or expects to spar. Whatever, as long as folks know what they have signed up for. But, a few extra situational positions and mitt drills can add a lot of physical exercise and experience to survival and sport fighting. And you can do some of these on a heavy bag too.


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