Shooting an Unarmed Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2- Draw/Don’t Draw

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

Step 4- Shoot/Don’t Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Possibility 1: Shoot right away.

   Possibility 2: Bluff right away.

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

   Possibilty 4: Hit him with the pistol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   *Primary- Usually around the belt line and pockets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   5-Recreating actual crime and war events

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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2 or 3 Things in 30 Minutes…

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

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

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

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

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

Well, then, I guess…decapitation.

Otherwise? I got nothing.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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The Paul Bishop, Hock Hochheim Author Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop: Will there be a third Texas Detective book? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hock: And I thank you!

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Violence is My Middle Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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Public Service Announcement – Martial Arts and Injuries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Some of those, not so small.

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Stupid Grips on Knives – The Saga Continues…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

-Second, what about slashing, Einstein?

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

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

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


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

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

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


Some additional comments from others:

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

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

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


Hock’s email is

Coming in 2018


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



Remy Presas Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, an evening shift in the 1980s…

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

     “Whatcha doin?” he asked.

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

     “I am…” 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

     I chuckled. What a long, long shot!

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

     “A…nympho,” I repeated.

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

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

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

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

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

     “There’s a vet missing…” I said.

     “Yeah, Doc Reed Smith.”

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

     “He’s on the run.”


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

     “What about the other five guys?”

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


     We drove around the quiet, dark streets of downtown.

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

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

     Nothing! Whew! I sez to myself.

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

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

     “Damn!” I declared.

     “What?” my wife asked.

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

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

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

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

     “Any leads out west?”

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

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

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

     “I referred them to the FBI.”

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

me and h kelly_medium

Me and Howard Kelly, yesteryear and last year


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

     “Eight-nine (me).”

     “Eighty-nine, go ahead.”

     “Meet me behind the Wells Fargo Bank.”


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

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

     “Yeah. The so-called nympho spy.”

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


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

     “Uh-oh,” I said.

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

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

    “Ya think?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Secrets of Monte Carlo Axe Fighting.”

“The Bali Tomahawk.”

“Sudanese Axe Combatives.”

“Tai Chi Axe.”

“Axe Maga.”

“Krav Axe.”

Or, mine – “Kathump!”

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


Hawk 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     …nahhh, just kidding.


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

Shooting Cold. Fighting Cold. 

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

fighting cold

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

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

Chilly? Cold? Frigid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

   – drive to the range,

   – get out of the cars,

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

   – maybe sip some coffee,

   – chat with the “range masters,”

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

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

   – wander back to the shooting line and,

   – shoot…”cold.”

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

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

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

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

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

  “Dear Lord, let me crush everything?”

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

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

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

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

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

 Frigid? How about being asleep?

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

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

The damn ambush.

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

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

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

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

Immediate Action Drills: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     Am I getting warm, yet? HA! 


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