Category Archives: About Force Necessary

Force Necessary provides training for military, police and citizens in high risk professions teaching them how to use only that force necessary to win during physical confrontation.

Less Than Lethal Knife Fighting

Less-Than-Lethal Knife Tactics

At times, missions, rules of engagement, the law, and use of force standards require the capture, containment and control, not the death of an enemy. This is once called by professionals as “non-lethal” measures, but military and law enforcement specialists recognize that the term “less-than-lethal” is a smarter, and a more comprehensive phrase than “non-lethal” – as various tactics and equipment designed not to kill and called non-lethal, might still actually kill despite the intent, design and name. This renders the term “non-lethal,” into an operational misnomer and confusing liability.

A comprehensive knife program also covers less-than lethal applications. This is important for the mission and legality. Your knife course must drop all the death cult, over-the-top, violent, macho imagery (unless you are a member of an elite military unit where such imagery is psychologically smart -which is NOT the majority of us). The knife is “just a tool,” as the old saying goes, but a tool with stigma. The following tactics are less-than-lethal and can be substituted for lethal movement.

We know that the knife strikes with:

  • 1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
  • 2-the tip
  • 3-the edge or edges
  • 4-flat of the blade
  • 5-the clenched hand-fist grip on the handle

Less than lethal applications of this are:

  • 1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
  • 2-if single-edge, a dull edge for striking.
  • 3-flat of the blade.
  • 4-hand grip as a punch.

Less-Than-Lethal 1: Verbal Skills and the Art of Surrender

Your presence, your weapon presentation, your speech, your threats, your disarm, in the onset of a fight may cause the enemy to surrender. At times, getting in and getting the tip of your knife up against the enemy, along with a verbal threat, may coerce him to surrender.


Less-Than-Lethal 2: The knife pommel strike

The pommel strikes, saber or reverse grips are other less-than-lethal strikes unless it cracks the skull. Or, your pommel has a “Klingon-spiked-end” which renders a whole range of pommel use, useless.


Less-Than-Lethal 3: All support hand strikes and kicks

Striking and kicking the enemy are less-than-lethal moves.  The enemy has dropped his weapon and is theoretically an unarmed man and in many situations, both military and civilian cannot be killed.


Less-Than-Lethal 4: The knife hand grip punches

The practitioner can turn his knife grip into a punch with the flat of his fist, forgoing the stab or slash, with a saber or reverse grip.


Less-Than-Lethal 5: The closed folder

The practitioner may fail to open, or close his or her tactical folder and use the closed folder as a “palm stick,” impact weapon.”


Less-Than-Lethal 5: Knife slashes on secondary targets

With a working knowledge of anatomy, a practitioner may slash various “secondary” targets like muscles and so forth that may cause an enemy to surrender or collapse, without a fatality.


Less-Than-Lethal 6: The flat of the blade strikes a stunning blow and grappling

Many militaries teach the flat of the blade strike to the head of an enemy to stun and bewilder them, as a set-up for further action. When a less-than-lethal mission becomes mandatory this flat strike becomes an option for striking, as well as a considerable amount of pushing and pulling of grappling. 

In Summary… Of course the use of the knife is always stigmatized trouble. It is a nasty weapon, but every one who dares “study” the knife for the military, for enforcement or self defense, one who engages in a knife system, should be aware of its full potential, and that includes the “who, what, when, where, how and why” to minimize its damage.


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The “Second (or Third) Round is Yours” Sports Theory

I really enjoy the numerous youtube videos of people being attacked and the victim unleashes a smart boxing combination and the badman drops like rock. The smart integration of boxing, kickboxing, Thai combinations are worthy studies in self defense combatives, not the whole systems remember, mind you, just what’s smart. Just what applies. (Untrained people – mostly everyone – respond differently than trained people, but we can’t go off on that whole topic here.)

“There is no second round in the street,” might be an old and corny expression for some, but some folks need to hear it once, or once in a while, to get them back on track for what they want, and what they are forced to do in classes and programs.

Attrition is defined as – “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.” It’s a word used in military battles and war, and here in sport fighting “physical attrition” is a strategy.

In sports, it is indeed the coaches job to map out a strategy to your first or next fight, give you a game plan. You know that in amateur and pro fights, where a history and film exists on your next opponent, these histories are studied and strategies evolve. A properly prepped, fighter, MMA, BJJ, UFC or otherwise needs to walk in with a strategy, a plan. And in this process, the plan is made and you might hear from your coach, “Do this, then do this and this, and the fourth round is yours.” “You…make your move,” Kind of talk. Or ideas about tiring him out in among the battle plan. “First round? Check him out, probe. Probe with the jab. See how he reacts. Second round do ‘this or that’ with the discoveries from your probing. Third round is yours, as you will…”

Coaches say – tire him, move around, also deliver body shots too and kicks too in kickboxing, to weaken and confuse the opponent in round one and round two for the theoretical victory in Round 3.

In one example of body shots, there were numerous successful (and unsuccessful) boxers who spent rounds pounding the upper arms of their opponents so that eventually their guard, through multiple rounds, would eventually drop, their beaten arms down for their eventual, head shots, so that the… ” ______ (fill in the blank) round is yours.”

I think it would be odd for a coach to simply say, “knock him cold with a head shot in the first two seconds. That is all. Now go jog and hit that bag.” Fighters do indeed knock people out quickly, but aren’t they always handed an overall, planning, staging, strategy, etc.? Despite the delaying plans, bingo!

For many fighters, this plan is laid out in the first meeting for training for a specific fight. This fighter then and quite possibly gets this message buried in his head for months, “Third round is mine. Third Round is mine.” Even in the first round, he is fixated on the third round, deep in his head.

This type off delay-progression, advice was advice I had been given for decades by various boxing, kick boxing, and even Thai boxing coaches.

The transition of these delay ideas and advice can get blended over and into, for lack of a better term, “self-defense-street-fighting” courses. Training by short-sighted, self defense course trainers and coaches can, have and will get these borders confused. I was told these off-mission tips at times in several self defense courses that included boxing, kickboxing and Thai methods. For examples:

  • I was in a very, popular, modern, street-fighting system back in the 1980s, in a course considered a pioneer program back then, that emphasized, “the probing jab.” In fact, the association newsletter was called “The Probe.” The head guy would often take months of money from certain “monied” people and make them study the jab only…for four to six months. The…probe. Yes, jabs only for many months? Imagine that. Then you graduated to the cross punch – for who knows how long – $$$$? People did not stay with him for that long when he tried that approach. Yet, he did many other things too, effective things too, but some of his people got caught in this “jab scam.” Once again that odd mix of overdoing some boxing strategies in with some survival strategies.
  • The military police academy boxing coaches, assigned to create a fighting spirit with a boxing program, taught off-mission, sport boxing concepts and strategies that weren’t the smartest things for street survival. I am convinced these instructors did not understand what I am saying here. Despite the generic “toughness” mission, they were immersed in boxing, taught boxing only, with boxing strategies. Wrong place. Wrong time.
  • Martial arts can get easily confused, innocently blending sport strategies with self defense themes, and vice-versa as self defense courses can get sporty-artsy.

The “who, what, when, where, how and why” questions arises again.. Briefly, as these questions run deep…

  • Who am I, who is teaching and who am I really going to be fighting?
  • What do I need to learn? What are they teaching here? What do I really want? What are my real goals? What are they turning me into? What am I wearing? What happens when I am not fighting a mirror-image of myself and regular thug?
  • When will I use this? When is this legal?
  • Where am I going with this course? Where will I use this training?
  • How will it work?
  • Why I am doing this in the first place? Why are they telling me and making me do these things?

I called these off-mission, missteps – “sport cancers” to be on the lookout for in all transitions from sports to the non-sports world. This is actually quite hard to dissect, especially buried within small steps. Even after 40 years I STILL spot things that I, or we, should not be doing. Enlightened coaches look for these, but I must tell you I don’t find many such enlightened coaches. Many are so immersed in what they do systemically, via their mindset, via hero or system worship or franchise dues, they will not or can’t detect the discrepancies and will not or cannot rebel against them.

“There was no second or third round in the street fight,”…to use a corny phrase. These street fights/arrests I was in and ones I had to break up and later investigate had little time for the experimental probing jabs, trick footwork or secondary blows to wear an opponent down through time, and other “second-third-or-more round,” ring sport, strategies.”

Upon self-examination, be happy with what you do and know why and what you are doing. I want you to be happy in your pursuits.

Physical attrition. We don’t have time for physical attrition. I hate to use the over simplistic term “street fight” because real encounters occur inside and outside of homes and businesses in rural, suburban and urban locations. But these so-called “street fights” were almost always hard, fast, crazy and over quickly. You were bum-rushed, or wild-man-tackled and, or sucker-punched, hit with chairs and lamps, etc…I was attacked once by a man with a big ax. No time for several probing, experimental sport jabs versus the swinging ax man.

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Boxing Gloves are for Boxers

“In Combatives, self defense and Krav Maga we should not spend exorbitant amounts of time hitting bags and mitts with big boxing gloves. It is ‘off-mission.’ We need to take things from boxing, but not with ‘big-boxing-gloves.’ When we fight crime and war we will be bare knuckle. Our bare hands and bare wrists will be unprepared. At very least train with MMA gloves.” – Hock

Any time this boxing glove topic comes up. I always wait for the comments on the open hand versus closed fist punching, etc. Closed fist punching and hammer-fists can occur on the torso, on the arms, on the neck on the lower jaw (because the jaw “gives” and the head can “give” on the neck. The danger zone is really, consistently the general, bicycle helmet area of the head/skull.

And heads drop when one detects an incoming blow. But, history is replete with successful bare-knuckle punching. Even my history (except for an uppercut once to a pointy jaw which led to a small hand surgery years later. Open hand strikes and elbow strikes are not without injuries also.) The sole point of this meme/photo being, when you train with big boxing gloves, you lose and miss a lot of important survival, experience, info and preparation. (Unless you are a boxer-boxer who boxes-boxes. Then the boxing gloves are very important.)

I know people with “cinder-block” hands. Let them hit tanks. I always think it is important for instructors, a system, to examine the hands of a practitioner and make an evaluation of “should they even punch? Should they be much of a puncher?” Rather than throw folks indiscriminately, small and fragile hands alike, into a crowd to punch away with everyone else, like I have seen in many martial arts. Most have no regard for the their student’s hands, and never looked at them, and never mention what might happen where you hit bones/people with them. Just punch, punch, punch away in the air or on soft things. Or, under the guise of self-defense, wrap and strap big gloves on them and let them for 5, 10, 15 minutes a class, let them mindlessly pepper away on a heavy bag, or…or have them hit focus mitts in endless, endless “show” patterns that don’t or won’t remotely match the actual responses of a real opponent. (People who teach kids can’t make these hand-fist assessments because their hands aren’t formed yet.)

You can work on punching impacts for survival short of having  hand tumors and arthritis in your old age. Does punching hard things make your hands stronger? “Punching walls could theoretically improve hand strength by increasing bone density over time, but the chance of breaking your hands is extremely high. A better alternative would be to practice hitting the heavy bag bare knuckle, and increase the force over time.” – 


Hit smart things. I have come to appreciate these water bag options. To me, they have a “fleshy” feel. Different sizes available. 



Another important point is bare-knuckle bag work (water or otherwise develops proper alignment of the knuckles, fists, and forearms, something totally ignored in big glove training in comparison.

Boxing gloves are for boxing, but I also use them as a tool to hit-on/distract practitioners while they are doing chores like pulling weapons, be they standing or on the ground, etc. under stress. Specific things like that. They are handy to have around for specific assignments.

MMA gloves are fine. Especially for extended use (and their open fingers allow for grappling). Big-ass boxing gloves are perfect for big-ass boxing. Even “official” bare-knuckle fighters still wrap their wrists. Sometimes I see them run a layer over their knuckles too, but mostly their wrists.

But my mission, the mission of combatives, the mission of self defense and Krav is NOT to create competition boxers or MMA fighters or bare-knuckle competitors. Nor do I make wrestling-only champs. I am not making pro boxers or pro kick boxers, people who square off and exchange blows in multiple timed rounds. In our world, we also kick a few nuts, face maul and hair pull too and throw chairs.

There are seriously off-mission, misguiding doctrines/schools out there. Be what you are supposed to be and not what you are not.
For example, I know a quite famous combatives guy, who spends a few hours covering boxing with big gloves in his combatives seminars. Attendees mindlessly do and accept. Not good. It’s only good if in his fliers, his ads for those seminars, he advertises-

“Self defense combatives AND a very special session on sport boxing.”

Okay then. Explained. Couple that with an intro reminder speech before the boxing session. Then he is on-mission. No mixed doctrines. Or say the lesson plan calls for “classic boxing applications for self defense moves” (in which case, take off those damn big gloves!) Back on mission.

I have attended a few Joe Lewis (the kickboxer) seminars and he has a great line, “Nothing replaces ring-time.” Which I repeat. Getting in there and kick boxing a bit (not just boxing alone) and I agree with this experience. We do that as part of every Force Necessary: Hand test, but again, I am not making pro kick boxers. I don’t expect to see an Olympic sports performance. (I suggest people fool around with MMA over just boxing alone and just BBJ alone. MMA is bigger and better and does both. Take tips from it.)

Worth saying twice, there are seriously off-mission, mindless, misguiding doctrines out there. Be what you are supposed to be and not what you are not. Who, what, where, when, how and why. It is a hand, stick, knife, gun world, inside and outside of buildings in rural, suburban and urban environments. 

Popular Science wants to inform you on how to properly, bare-knuckle punch  Click here 

How to condition your knuckles: A guide to harden your fists for fighting. Click here


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More on this type of info, get Hock’s Fightin’ Words. Click here


The Dead Grenade That Wasn’t Dead

(In my true police/detective books, I wrote an essay called, “Most Dead Ever,” a compilation of the calls and cases I went on where the tally was high to horrific. Here is one…)

1970s. North of our Army base in the U.S. was an enormous artillery range. Troops were constantly blowing up all kinds of big and small ordnance. For those not familiar, “ordnance” is defined as:

“All munitions containing explosives, nuclear fission or fusion materials, and biological and chemical agents. This includes bombs and warheads; guided and ballistic missiles; artillery,
mortar, rocket, and small arms ammunition; all mines, torpedoes, and depth charges; demolition charges; pyrotechnics; clusters and dispensers; cartridge and propellant actuated devices; electro/explosive devices; clandestine and improvised explosive devices; and all similar correlated items or components explosive in nature.”

A Dud defined: A dud is all of the above that didn’t go boom.
Now, enter the ordnance, the grenade. And enter then, the dud hand grenade story. Officially also – “DUD-a thrown grenade that failed to detonate after the expected fuze time has elapsed.”

As I said, artillery troops were always out on the northern ranges, blowing all kinds of stuff up. And a small percentage are duds. As the later investigations discloses – One fine morning, out on a said field, a young private stumbled upon what appeared to be a very old hand grenade. He closed in on it and looked it over. No pin. No lever. Hmmmm. A dud, he presumes. What fun!

He threw some rocks at it. His buddies giggling nearby. Nothing. Deadness. He hit it with a stick. Then he kicked it and jumped back. It bounced across the rocky, dry terrain. He picked it up, tossed it up and down a few times and then stuck it in his jacket pocket. What a coup. What a toy.! A dud grenade!

The unit took a long, one-hour bouncy ride in the back of a deuce-and-a-half truck. The private pulled the grenade from his pocket and declared to those around him, “Look what I found!”

The others leaned away, aghast. But it became clear by his manipulations and juggling, it had to be a dud.

Once at their multi-story barracks building, they bailed out of the trucks, unloaded and hit the showers. The private went to his multi-person quarters and tossed the grenade on his bunk. He combed his wet hair, got in casual clothes – civvies – picked up his dud grenade and walked to the day room (TV, pool tables, a rec room, etc.) for some fun and games with his new toy.

He got to the day room door and peeked in. He saw many of his friends day-rooming about in there. Some were with him on the training day, and some not.

“GRENADE!” he yelled. He tossed the dud grenade into the middle of the room, then he ducked back into the hall, just for effect. Big joke.

The so called dud hit the floor and exploded. It blew with all its originally designed and planned intent. BAM! In the middle of the day room.

Our private and other nearby troops in the hall and other rooms ran to the door. The room was a bloody mess. Shreds of the room still floating in the air, they said. One or two seemed dead. Others wounded. Dying. Splinters everywhere. Lots of blood and guts and whines, yells and screams. The first instinct of bystanders was to call for an ambulance. Someone did, and the hospital called the police.

I was one of the units dispatched. I was assigned that day to the patrol district next to this one, or maybe as a rover? I just can’t remember.  When I arrived, I was not the first. The district police car and the patrol sergeant’s car were there and several ambulances. At the moment, I was not clear exactly what had happened, nor was our police dispatcher clear either. We only knew that some kind of a “bomb” went off on the third floor.


A sample photo of the actual building, another day.



Hearing of a possible “bomb,” as I parked, I looked up to survey the building. I didn’t know what to expect. Was the huge barracks building bombed? By whom? By what? I saw broken glass in some third story windows and curtains flapping in and out with the wind.

Soldiers were standing outside, looking up too. As I got close to the main doors, someone told me a grenade touched off up there. I entered the building, climbed the stairs to the third floor, and saw the commotion in the hallway.

When I stepped in the room, it looked like some 8 or 10 guys were pretty hurt. Another two or three were slightly hurt. Some laid dead still, mashed and abandoned. The room looked like, well, like a small bomb went off in it! I wandered around and tried to help out where I could, but the paramedics had done their triage assessment and were hard at work. Plus, some of the unit cadre were Nam vets and were already pitching in with the EMTs.

I walked out of the room and asked some Sergeants in the hall what had happened. They pointed to the kid who threw the “dud” in. I spoke with him. Our patrol sergeant walked up and listened to us talk it out. The kid was practically crying and in real shock. The district MP (military police) came over to us.

The Sarge pulled us aside and told the district MP to arrest the kid.
“For what Sarge?” the district MP asked. “What charge?”
“I don’t know. For something. Charge him with something,” he said. “We have to arrest him for this. Manslaughter. Something. Negligent something.”

Then the Sarge’s portable radio announced that, “CID was in route.”
“Ten-four,” he said into the radio, and told us, “Good. Okay. We’ll let CID decide what to do with him.”

We stuck around until two CID investigators (our FBI, more or less) arrived. We filled them in and pointed out the kid. They looked around and marched the kid off to one of the nearby offices. And we were ready to leave. As the Lone Ranger would say, “Tonto, our work here is done.” A few hours later I had to go and give blood at the hospital. Three or four troops died, best I can recall.

I have thrown a few grenades. I have even qualified as expert on the old Army, grenade throwing range. I got the targeting knack quickly. It was like throwing a football only heavier, so I aimed higher than the target to offset the weight, be it a window or whatever set up we were supposed to blow up.  I always joke about how cavalier vets and movie actors are about these small bombs hanging off their uniforms, in comparison to the very first ones they hand you and you baby them like they are nitroglycerin. 

But they are certainly no joke. Very generically speaking, the grenade kill zone is 5 meters or 16 feet. The injury range is 15 meters pr 50 feet. Shrapnel can go even further. A hand grenade, especially an older one, ’70s and pre-’70s had a varying reputation back then. Some called them as devastating and some didn’t. There are lots of fascinating, jaw-dropping stories. They weren’t all always perfect like the distances  above. I guess it was situational.

But that “dud” took a toll on the day room and the unit that late afternoon, and also took a toll on my memory. 



“If you did not drop it? Don’t pick it up!”



More on this…

Military warns – Leave unexploded ammunition and war trophies alone!


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Get these two popular true crime memoirs books in one omnibus!  E-book or paperback, click here




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To Sumbrada, or Not to Sumbrada, THAT is…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ten Deadly Mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Fightin’ Words! – Paperback, Kindle, E-book, click here

Not Now…While Being Beaten in the Face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where’s Your Gun, Rambo? In the Car?

“This is outrageous.” – civilian
“How can police be this stupid to abandon their guns unprotected in a car?” – civilian
“I’m wondering why you would ever leave a gun in the car if you’re not there?” – civilian
“I never leave my gun in the car.” – civilian
“My gun is on me 24-7.” – civilian

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

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

Hey, it was a lucky recovery, but that loss only happened once in all my years of cop guns, cop cars and crime, over some 10,000 nights of parking. When you think about the overall total 40 some-odd, years that various and multiple guns have been inside my cars off and on,  20,000 nights? The odds were and are pretty good that they remain safe. (There are indeed some pretty goofy news stories about cops forgetting their big and small guns. )

What about the rest of the US cops? There are some 2 million law enforcement officers (depends on the definition) in the US. And there is no sure way to know how many take-home cars there are, but we can safely guess are thousands and thousands and thousands of patrol, detective and admin cars are take-home, on the drive-ways and streets of America at night. “Abandoned,” as some civilians might critique. Some car salesmen in a news article suggested a quarter of a million police cars are take-home cars. Some in garages? Two main ideas for the take-home programs are visibility (parked outside) and quick response. There are some studied that police cars parked in residential areas deter crime.

Do you think that each and every night, every single officer carts every single weapon into his or her home? I’ll bet not. And still there are hardly any police car burglaries in comparison to the big national, picture. I know for a fact that hundreds of agencies in the US “assign” a shotgun to a patrol car or detective car. Take-home cars or not. Those guns are in those cars on government parking lots all the time too. (Alarms today do help.) 

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

How about you? Do you leave some guns in your car for even a few minutes? An hour? Overnight? Once in a while? Think they are safe in the trunk? Mine weren’t. And for this indiscretion I too, will be called all these derogatory invectives by these Rambo, virgin, gun-toters, the same denigrations as the ”holier-than-thou” disparaged on that hungry officer on a break mentioned earlier.

There are no reliable numbers for guns stolen from US cars in general. But the best guess is thousands. Locked cars and even unlocked cars. But the theft issue is one thing, the other is the lack of a handy handgun when you need one, because it’s, “out in the car.”
But this essay so far is just a round-about way to get me to pontificate about, and for you concealed carry people to think about…guns, cars…and…the gym. Yes the gym? Yes, the gym and your cars on the parking lot of the gym. Or how about parking on a lot and taking a jog?

I was and still am a gym rat. I was and am in a gym 4, even 5 days a week if home. My dilemma was what to do with – first decades ago, storing my big-ass .357 magnum Colt Python, then storing my .45. Oh, and my badge too? Leave them in the car? The trunk? You know the lockers in the gym were burglarized regularly and the idea of leaving them in one was too dangerous. So the lockers were out of the question. Could I…wear the big-ass Springfield Armory .45 while working out? What about those extra magazines for when MS 13 invaded the weight room? (Have there been any mass shootings in gyms? I don’t know.) Should I be one of those people that hauls around a gym bag with my hand chalk, lip gloss, shark repellent, tourniquet, 3 mags and…my handgun? Those gym bags also had a knack of disappearing off the gym floor too. Could I absolutely keep track of that bug-out/work-out bag, 100% of the time?

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

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

…or how about this crime report from a citizen “Dear Officer, some one peeled that cheap gym locker open and stole my Desert Eagle.”

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

I did a casual, little survey back in 2016 on this subject with a whole bunch of cops I know from around the world. Know where their guns were? Especially when at the gym. Locked in their cars, for most. I only found a few officers that wore a smaller gun in some manner in the gym or running (yeeessss, primary gun was – back in the car). And there were a few who did the gym bag thing. One officer got in a bind with some bad guys he’d once arrested and pulled a gun from his gym bag for a threat while in the gym. That incident was the single, gym-gun-pull incident I could find in my gossipy, non-scientific study.

But never mind the police. What about concealed carry people? What do they do with their handguns when at the gym? They have the same problems. Police and citizens! Where is that gun or gun-tottin’ gym bag when you take the shower? In that flimsy locker? In a safe in your car? Just in the car? In the trunk? If you will listen to some zealous, gun guys? That’s a no-no unless its strapped on you. Some sound like they shower with their pistols on them, or have them resting on nearby soap trays.

A whole lot of people leave their guns in their cars, even the Rambos, even if they refuse to admit it. The clever line is, “a car is not a holster for your gun.” Many states have business locations that forbid carrying guns. Does Rambo walk up, read the legally posted sign, then…leave his gun in his car?  

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Shooting an Unarmed Man?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2- Draw/Don’t Draw

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

Step 4- Shoot/Don’t Shoot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Possibility 1: Shoot right away.

   Possibility 2: Bluff right away.

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

   Possibilty 4: Hit him with the pistol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   *Primary- Usually around the belt line and pockets…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   5-Recreating actual crime and war events

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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