Another confession? I am but a tactical tourist. Oh, the shame. The stigma.
No, not like a person who travels the world like a smart tourist with ultra-light, waterproof clothes and my museum and restaurant guide in the ready back pocket. No, not that kind of vacation tourist. I am just a guy going through my daily, suburban lifestyle with very little survival gear. Sometimes I dare enter urban areas, too, … gulp … yes, you read right! URBAN areas and with very little combat gear. You know, places where people apparently must have Ph.D.s in URBAN fighting just to survive through the day!
How many guns, magazines, knives, lights, medical kits, maps, compasses need I carry on my body to go out the door and into the real world? My real world? On an “everyday carry?” What is your “real world?”
Through the years, we have heard the term “tactical lifestyle” from very common folk, and along with it the brag –
“I, (or we) live a … tactical lifestyle.”
And that does sound cool. But several of us in the training business, and with actual experience in military, security and policing have to wonder sometimes if people know what they are saying and doing compared to the big picture. Do these proclaimers actually know where they fit in the “action-guy chart”? Fit, inside the full spectrum of war and crime and a tactical lifestyle?
My friend Mick Coup in the U.K. came up with another term – the “tactical tourist,” years ago. A visitor to the world of tactics. In and out. But also never really “in” for most consumers/folks. Mostly out, looking in and misunderstanding their status.
I have seen various under-channels, or sub-channels, in the cable TV systems around the USA. TV shows on hunting, guns, and self-defense – mostly about guns for sport, but they have gun defense shows too. Or, we see similar news or features on YouTube and on Facebook. Hey, how about all those gun magazines? The other day I counted fifteen different gun magazines on a shelf in a common supermarket. Fifteen! More than any other genre like fitness or even women’s makeup, or gossip rags. Fifteen! (Shows you where the commercial money is.) Like the TV shows, inside the mags are numerous articles about extreme safety and survival ala gun themes (after all, they are gun magazines). Some folks call them “gun porn.” The editors and writers pontificate, and readers worry and fret over gear and the four basic, generic problems really,
– the “street” gun fight,
– the “anywhere” armed robbery,
– the day or night burglar/home invasion,
– the mass shooter.
Oh, maybe a kidnapping thrown in? Recently they fret over the mass shooter, due to our times. From these 4 or 5 problems, tons and tons of deep and deeper, redundant material spews forth. Like a muscle magazine covers “the curl” ten thousand times from ten thousand body builders. It’s a curl! These publications and shows say the same things over and over again. That, and gear. Gear, gear, and more and more gear. And if you take a bubble bath? You’d better have gun underwater with you. And that special grade of under water-proof ammo.
But the gear. Oh, the gear. Firearms expert Massod Ayoob said recently:
“There seems to be an unwritten law on the gun-related Internet saying, ‘If you carry less than I do, you’re a pathetic sheeple, and if you carry more than I do, you’re a paranoid mall ninja.’ Forgive me if I can’t buy into either of those attitudes.”
So where do you draw the line in the gear you carry every day? Certainly most of the readers here and of those magazines and watchers of gun TV shows are everyday, very normal people doing everyday normal things in life. Yet these cable, magazine, and media folks are really loaded for bear with guns, ammo, lights, knives, med kits, and like…that bracelet thingy that unstrings into an emergency length of rope for … for … emergency repelling? Garroting a sentry? I have seen a complete belt that unravels into a survival emergency cord. All this for a morning coffee run? A dentist visit?
It is a bit of a fad on Facebook to photograph one’s “everyday carry” – the things a person carries every day, the “EDC” to be prepared for everything between sudden Armageddon down to an obnoxious panhandler. Guns, knives, ammo, cords, phones, and Ninja key chain. Spray. Odd-shaped, hand-held plastic devices you must also carry to strike recalcitrant people. And another gadgets to twist people in grappling locks. That tactical pen! A pen made of harder stuff than usual pens, but still writes! Maybe even in outer space! These seem to be the common carry for the best-prepared and macho soul. Not one, but two of some of these things. Everyone else must then marvel then at these photos of your brilliant, thoughtful EDC – at the tactical brilliance of the collection in your pockets, armpits, boot, belt and crotch, I guess. Wow! He is really ready to go out and buy that muffin! Hope he makes it back alive.
In one of those cable TV features, they once covered a segment of a completely over-armed woman – with a med-kit in the small of her back – in a short walk from her front door to her mailbox out front. Some folks go purchase milk prepped like they are being dropped into Cambodia for a week. Do you wear a medical kit in the small of your back when going to buy a birthday card in a gift shop two miles from your house? Some folks I’ve heard of wear pistols all day long inside their own houses. The fear of the home invasion or that sudden gun battle right outside. I can’t discuss this readiness subject without mentioning the extremely odd Americans standing around on street corners or in Walmarts with AR-15s and shotguns strapped on their torsos or hung from unnecessary, tactical vests with lanyards.
“But … but, Hock, when you need a gun….” Oh, here comes the “need-a” speech that covers ALL gear, ALL-the-time carry. But before you go all hyper-sensitive on me, there’s nothing wrong with carrying a “pistola” around. Carrying a gun is not the point here. Or a pocket knife. But how many? How much more? But…along with an MRE? And a food poison kit in case the MRE is bad? Is there a water purifier pen stuffed in your sock? Don’t laugh! I know a guy who has one when he flies. As if, when he survives the plane crash, he can find and crawl to bad water? You carry a small flashlight. What about batteries for that light then, and when will those back-up batteries expire? Some suggest a mandatory, less-than-lethal product along with your gun, your knife and your hand grenade. Like pepper spray. Lethal and less than lethal. How much stuff and backup stuff and backup to the backup stuff do you think you need? Where do you draw the line on the gear?
“Where do you draw the line on the gear you carry?”
“Greywolf,”a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan and has almost three decades of military and military contracting experience of Greywolf Survival, says that the expression “two is one, one is none” is a fallacy. He says people follow it blindly because it sounds cool. He advised that much thought should go into what “redundant” gear you carry. I think he is correct.
For example, in the past if I was on a special task force with a mission, say a Fugitive Round-Up Task Force or a robbery stake-out, I would “dress more for the proverbial bear.” I would double this and that. Haul around something special. In some ways, the proverbial “two is one, one is none” approach. Just in some practical ways. But then as a normal, everyday detective, or patrolman, I would carry considerably less. Way, way less. Way less than some of the citizens, cable TV stars, and magazine authors and their followers suit up for in a quick run to buy Frosted Flakes or aspirin. When you do one thing, then you realize what you need or don’t need for something else.
When I was in the patrol divisions here and overseas? Yeah – I had my mandatory Batman/Sam Brown belt, which held considerable less techno than today’s options, but I also had support gear in the patrol car. We all made a calculated guess on what we wore, what was left in the trunk and what we took with us from the trunk, call-to-call-to-call. How far will we probably travel from the car? Do I need the carbine on every call? Absolutely not. A parachute? No. Experience and training can offer darn, good guesses. The pros still do this every day.
For example, as cops we know to carry a flashlight because even at clear-sky, high noon we find ourselves in a dark, dingy basement.Does a citizen need a flashlight in their pocket to buy ham sandwhich at noon? Really? I always had a hand axe in my trunk, because if the call or the situation developed where I might need one (like wall penetration or rescue), I would dash back to the car and get it. I did not walk around 24-7 with an Army Ranger Tomahawk on my belt (and by the way, the local Home Depot has real cheap and wonderful rubber-handled axes – at a fraction of the cost over those tantalizing Conan war axes for sale).
If we/they are smart, we answer these questions on many levels, big and small:
Who are you, exactly? Who do you think you are going to fighting?
There’s a lot of people writing wonderful things about former Denton County Sheriff Benny Parkey. I could add many more things because we go back quite a ways. Too much to say. Lots of people sharing photos of them with Benny. Here is one of us in the 1990s. I feel like I need to vent over this.
We worked together for years on the same detective squad. When some people say if Benny was your friend he always had your back. “Regular” people have certain definitions of “having your back,” but Benny really has had my back many times. Benny is one of the few people I could list on one hand that if I was in real trouble, or if my family was in real trouble, I could call him, day or night and he would show up with a gun. And I mean that, and I am also sure he would have still shown up if I called him the very last week of his life. Yeah. Somebody would have driven him, but he'd a come.Think about it. You know he would have.
But we worked cases. Did karate. Chased bad guys. For years. We were dedicated “street” workers, saying and swearing to each other we would never take any promotion test and become supervisors. I eventually left the P.D. to run my training company. Then I caught wind in 2004 or so, that he was…running for sheriff? I called him and asked him about it. We met for lunch to talk about it and he said,
“well, I decided I don’t want this detective job to be the sole mark of my life.”
Okay. So, I jumped in. Tried to help where I could. He won in a tough election battle and run-off. The next election he ran unopposed. Then the next election a flashy skunk ran against him. And I swear, he ran with a bunch of lies and scam presentations and Benny lost. I think if it weren’t for this outsider, showboat buffoon from nowhere, Benny would have run unopposed again, because everyone in the county knew to leave the well-liked Benny alone. But anyway, while he was there in office he was a terrific Sheriff. And he did terrific things. Then his wife died and he was… well, grace personified. Then sweet Jesus, somehow HE got bad sick with a cancer. I was mortified. We all were. And he was gracious and calm to us about it all.
I saw him for lunch a few times these last years, knowing full well he was bad sick but just never fully realizing how soon things would end. I mean, not long ago, like two weeks ago? He was walking around saying he would soon need a cane.
He wrote to me very recently that his days were numbered, he would soon, “slip the veil,” as he put it and said "goodbye." I am pretty inept about such things and I didn’t really know what to say to that, except to talk about a future lunch. A lunch that never came.
Benny Parkey. Class act all the way- Texas style. Special. And he did indeed leave his mark as a great Texas Sheriff, didn’t he. To me though, personally, he will always be a real bloodhound investigator and friend – as Gus complimented a feller in Lonesome Dove once – “he sure was good company at suppertime.” Which symbolizes a mighty compliment.
(Benny, me and Lonnie Flemming working a murder back in the 1980s.)
This year's trip to China was sponsored by the Beijing Mercedes Benz, Chinese Red Bull and the Universal Tactical Alliance. Multiple days in which we taught police, some rare military folks showed up, citizens and then a day for various members of the news media – those that fear the usual problems of traveling both locally and abroad in hot spots, etc. About 125 people all toll over several days.
Me, Tim Llacuna and Rawhide Laun before that standard…you know…media wallpaper kind of thing.
Beijing Mercedes Benz provided us with cars for car scenarios.
Universal Tactical Alliance, a Beijing-based security company has a fantastic, versatile location providing security services and training for law enforcement, military and medicals subjects. They also travel abroad to Thailand to run shooting courses in both live fire and simulated ammo.
What's a seminar without a little pain from Rawhide? But, he had to be in shape for the subsequent car fights and counter-hijacking sessions. As Wally Jay would say "two-way action!" We have a rear armbar hammerlock and a finger twist.
Above and below, the irreplacable Tim Llacuna does a little fine tuning.
Covering car jacking scenarios with some beautiful Mercedes Benz cars
Killing a little time talking smack with the boyz, while at UTA HQ.
And we also made it to the Great Wall of China. It was indeed a great, great wall to see in person. As you can see, Tim was pretty excited when we first got there.
…and we ate at the Number 1 rated restaurant in all of China.
"Oh, what hath I wrought upon the world?" – William Shake-a-spear.
Hundreds of photos were taken and will be eventually passed on to us. They took a series of photos of me holding cans of Red Bull in various poses and posing around the Mercedes sedans in action-guy positions. I eventully may see the ads, I guess.
Too many folks to thank. Two foundationial guys organizing all this – especially Liu Shang and Owen Dai. They amassed and coordinated quite a multi-facited event.
(note: This essay years ago, garnered me the greatest amount of hate mail ever. Granted I wrote this as a somewhat sarcastic, at times tongue-in-cheek, freestyle. But the hate poured in. (I saved them all). The best was one calling every “student” I had worldwide as stupid and uneducated because I knew nothing and I just tricked stupid people. )
To me, a knife is a knife. Sure there are many different kinds of knives, some better at some things than others. But in a primitive level, a knife is a knife. So, when some folks pop up “on the martial market” suggesting , and even at times arguing that a smaller, paring/fruit knife is suddenly real good for knife fighting, my answer is “ahhh…yeah, okay, so…”
I would never have excluded paring knives as a potential weapon. Of course not. Perhaps I have worked way too many police cases where kitchen knives, big and small, have been used. Of course they can be weapons. Always have been.
There seems to be a little fad/craze recently about using paring or fruit knives for fighting, instead of bigger knives or tactical folders, if even as some sort of a trick. A legal trick? A street fight trick? You know, those little kitchen knives just about everyone has and uses. A knife here in the States, you can buy for about a dollar or two in the common, Dollar Stores, or Walmart, or in every grocery store. One guy told me that when he lands from a plane ride, he runs to a cheapy store or supermarket right away, and buys a paring/fruit knife for self defense. Good idea? Although I don’t know how he’ll carry it around, but its good for the hotel room and…thereabouts. I don’t know. Why not? More on this “paring-knife-carrying-around” in a bit.
And I do worry about the classic hotel room defense problem too, especially in weapon-free countries I work in. I don’t exactly travel to the best and safest places all the time. I was in Africa one night, and the power went out, various people filled the streets outside and…well, that’s another story…
But do take a look at these paring knives. They are pointy, sharp and cheap and you probably can get them anywhere. Not a bad idea. Cheap knives. Expensive knives. I saw a fixed-blade knife in a big knife show one weekend back in the 1990s. It was very cool. It was about $175. Then my wife and I were in a kitchen store in an outlet shopping and they had kitchen knife sets for sale. From a distance, I saw a set with similar designed wooden handles. I looked closer, I swear, I swear, the middle knife in the set of 8, looked EXACTLY like the $175 knife I saw at the show. The whole kitchen set was like $19.99. Ever since then, I have been really pessimistic about the cost of knives and branding, etc. Sure, probably the knives were made differently. But how much? And what do you want to do with them. Who, what, where, when, how and why? Specifically, this equation – “Who-knife,” “what-knife,” “where-knife,” “when-knife,” “how-knife” and “why-knife?”
While we spend a lot on special “fighting” knives, we need to mention it is long known, world-wide, in law enforcement circles that simple kitchen knives of all sizes are used a lot – like in …70%, 80% or 90% – (I’ve even heard once 95%?) of all knife attacks in the civilized world. The rest of the world? Good chance you are going to be attacked by a knife-like, handy “tool” they use in the jungle, woods, garages or farm fields. Thereabouts. And then of course, next there is the use of the “tactical knives” to take up the statistical slack. In or out of the field, the military rarely uses a knife in combat, but rather as a handy tool, and when it does, it won’t be a little kitchen knife. I have a friend who works security in Mexico who translated a famous, underground phrase into English for me –
“You will be killed by a 5 peso knife.”
5 pesos or $500, I am not a collector of knives, per say, so I do not collect them just for the sake of admiration and collection – if you know what I mean. And I mean to say that I do really like the looks of some knives, but to me, they are just tools. I don’t collect pairs of pliers either. Or hammers. Do you see what I mean? That is how boring I am. Simple tools. Use-able. I understand that some people really do love collecting knives. Fine with me. Have fun with it, I say. If you want to spend $1,000 and get a super-duper, steel blade that will stab and penetrate an Army tank? Go for it. I’d like to look at them too. Hold them for a few seconds and flip them in my hand. “Size” them up. And so forth. But, I’m just not going to buy it. Buy it and then…what? Stick it in a drawer somewhere in my house?
Instead, I suffer horribly from, my malady, is the collection of knife TACTICS. Knife moves. Knife movements, Knife techniques. Knife situations. Not the collections of knives for the collection, adulation sake.
Most of you already also know how I feel about carrying knives officially called like, Close Quarter Combat 7 or, SEAL Team, Throat-slitter 6, …or studying knife courses with crazy names. (Remember the more macho you really are deep down? The least you need to show it.) Its all fun and games with macho, militant knives until you actually use your “Klingon CQC De-Bowelizer” in a fight. Or, you have graduated from knife courses with violent names like “Beserker,” or “Destructo.” What about that “Prison-Stick em” course with special “prison-stick em’ knives? Or, you proclaim you are a “bastard child of the knife mafia.” Worry about the name of your knife and the name of your knife course. Police and prosecutors will. We/they will take a hard look at this and add it to the demise of your freedom. Please trust me on this. I have worked these cases. The name of your knife and the name of your knife course, like your comments on social media, works for you or against you. Whack-job tattoos. Grow the fuck up. If you think you are defending yourself in some ultimate knife course, how well will you defend yourself AFTER you stab the crap out of someone, with all this mess in your background? I recently saw a webpage of one of these out-lander knife “families” and someone wrote a little ditty about “cutting someone balls off and sticking them in the newly-knife-emptied eye sockets.” YOU…are a sick fuck. YOU…are why the rest of us carry knives and guns.
But, back to the fruit/paring knife which started these ramblings off. Will the world treat you better if you have a paring knife and not a commando hatchet “in your pocket?” In the real world, a paring/fruit knife is still but a knife. Can you walk around with a paring knife and be safe from police scrutiny? Whatever knife, in the end, a knife is a knife. To a cop who pats you down, a knife is a knife. We know about the record high use of kitchen knives. So, to futher confuse the police and society, the idea was/is floated on the internet of sticking said fruit knife into a piece of fruit, all inside a plastic bag, into your pocket?
And walking around like that, pretending an eventual, later hunger pang, with all that bulky, wet, rig bulging in your pocket, (as suggested by some young Mexico cop? Or, as I am also told the fruit/knife/bag idea was originated some by other people years and years ago?). But wait! I heard this years ago with walnuts. Stick the small knife tip inside a walnut and have some of these nuts loose in your pocket.
“Oh noooo, London officer, Sydney officer, (______ insert city officer) I just like nuts.” The rig might be better in a little paper sack? Or maybe better – a metal lunch box? Then you get to look like Charlie Brown walking to school all the time.
Using that wet pocket carry for “plausible deniability?” Nahhh. You know, I just don’t think so. Maybe in some rural area of Mexico? Or a picnic area on the coast of Greece? I think they are really S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G this pocket method of carry in a desperate ploy to sound innovative. To me? Not so much. Being a cop and being around cops for most of my adult life – a cop sees a knife. A knife is a knife. What happens next will all fall into local length laws, knife laws, personalities and the situation, etc. A police officer or detective doesn’t say,
“oh look, how cute. A harmless, fruit knife in a pomegranite.”
If the fruit knife is illegal by local law, the length and so forth, then the knife is just plain illegal, even if stuck in an avocado in a plastic bag in your pocket, or stuck anywhere else. This will not fool anyone unless the police deem the carrier is like a certified Forest Gump type. Or maybe the investigating authorities are dimwits? The situation will rule out.
You can of course, carrying your sheath-less paring knife inside your pocket with a little clever Origami (folded paper ala Japan). It won’t be a sheath-sheath, but you won’t sit down, say, and stab your thigh. Will it come freely from the paper sheath or require two hands to clear the knife? If the knife, this…this paring, fruit knife…is “legal” in size and so forth, you don’t need the fruit, the plastic bag, a nut, or the “hungry-later” tale. Still, even with the bagged knife, the police, the prosecutor, your lawyer or your embassy might think you a shallow liar. (It was suggested somewhere that …”spies”… carry their murder weapons in such a manner to fool the local, hapless gendarmes.) I would first, instantly think you a liar. Two strikes. Strike one – you got a knife. Strike two – you are lying to me. Try that in New York, England, Australia or parts of Canada and see what happens, or in some USA cities. London, England is now on a massive, anti-knife, witch-hunt, ban. But if the knife is legal. It’s legal. Stuck in no matter what. Stuck in a sheath. A walnut, with a pocket full of walnuts. A peach. The overall situation counts. As they say – the “totality of circumstances.”
I think part of the mystique is also, that you will more easily fool and stab someone suddenly with the knife in fruit and in a bag? You know – street, trick them? Think hard about that one. You are threatened. You smile, and slowly extract your bag/fruit/knife rig out for a quick, refreshing bite. Does the loan-shark, or crack dealer, mugger, or psycho not see…a KNIFE! Just exactly where, why and when would you do this or ANY such fruit trickery? Do you want to walk around all day long like this, day after day, after day with a wet, fruit bag in your pocket? What set of circumstances and situation calls for this knife/fruit/bag idea in YOUR life?
Can you stab a guy with such a short knife with its tip in fruit, all while inside a zip-lock bag? Think about this people! When “God made his little green apples,” some of those apples are hard. How hard is the fruit you using like Loki to confuse the police? Better be some soft peaches. And let’s not get into the lesser penetrations of really small, naked, knives, least of fruit-laden ones.
Worse, as soon as the fruit trick gets out on the world-wide-web of clever tricks and plans and was published? Well, it’s out on the internet as a clever trick!
The arresting and prosecuting parties can look on the net and your facebook page, your social media, your favorite groups, (are you a bastard child of the edged weapon, grim-reaper, balls-in-the-eye-sockets, costra nostra?) your tattoos, etc and see its a “world-wide,” web trick.
Changing subject course a bit again (sorry) while I am rambling, while we are pondering/kicking-around, common, last ditch tools, especially in your hotel room, I can’t help but think of scissors? Last ditch? Scissors, the kind that can be disconnected at the joint/hinge as in the photo below? I travel all over the world with scissors. You can’t really walk around with scissors either in many countries. Your motivation could and will be questioned, though I know people who have scissors in a leather scissor carrier on their belts – using the old excuse that they are “needed for work.” (by the way, the next cop question is “where do you work?” And prove it.) I always have certain pairs of scissors in my hotel room, at very least. And…thereabouts. Some open and come apart, like in the photo here. Open em’ up, a little like one of those damn balisongs, and split em’ apart if you can. You got two edged weapons. Small, tough scissors blades hinged together, can actually feel just like a push dagger and small scissors are not illegal to possess. Just don’t put them in carry-on luggage.
Recently, I learned from a contact that in a factory in Canada, there was a series of knife assaults. The knives were issued by the factory because they were tools needed for the job. Management, frustrated with the crimes, collected all the knives and issued scissors instead. In a meeting, one of the employees stood up and took the scissor halves apart and held one half in each hand. He said, “look, they took away my one knife, and gave me two knives instead!” The contact said the halves, blades and handles were quite excellent-shaped, individual edged weapons. There are many scissors on the market that cannot be taken apart, but some can. (Oh, and by the way? No, I am not suggesting that people give up their knives and carry scissors, as some readers with low reading skills here have misinterpreted and smeared me on the net).
In the three decades I worked in patrol and investigations, I recall numerous times when scissors were used in fights. Domestics and self defense. I myself can’t recall a “scissor” murder I worked on or helped out on, but I am more than confident there have been in the annals of crime. I don’t remember anyone ever opening the scissors up and taking the blades apart though, which would enhance the “knife-like” use. I have also inspected crime scenes where the victim had the chance to grab scissors and did not, unable to psychologically identify them as a weapon. I recall one horrendous rape scene. A woman escaped into her bedroom and locked the door. While the intruder/rapist worked to open the door, the woman had time to gather something to defend herself. She didn’t. The man burst in, beat her and raped her. I was called to the scene. There atop the bed stand was a metal pair of scissors. Numerous other things were available too. She didn’t “identify” scissors (or a lamp, whatever,) as a weapon.
Knives. Scissors, Edged weapons. But once you use a commando knife, a paring knife or scissors in a fight, whatever, the time bomb of arrest, prosecution and lawsuits begins ticking. Clever “plausible deniability” becomes maybe what next? Aggravated assault,” maybe? And, or maybe “murder”? What actually happened? Who, what, where, when, how and why? Situational. When the police discover you have taken courses in “Cartel Knife Fighting” it starts to work against you.
Edged weapon innovation. Every few years a knife maker asks me to design a knife. I pass. I really would not know what to design? What could possibly be a new knife design? I mean, I can pick up some restaurant steak knives and some feel like magic, don’t they? How to be different, to design something different? I would probably suggest to the knife-maker the simple commando knife, only not completely double-edged, dodging that law. Maybe a pair of take-apart scissors, or a weird looking screwdriver or something that. No sales for those, though. And therefore, they’d say no.
If someone made tactical, combat scissors? Then that gig/secret would be “up” and the trick “outed” too on the web, wouldn’t it? The…combat scissors! Think about the combat cane. The combat baseball bat that has been converted into a black plastic weapon. Tricks out! We know it. We see it. Even discussing this here, teaching the message here, sounds like part of the conspiracy to fool the authorities.
Probably for sales, the scissors would have to be stamped on the side – Hock’s Tactical Combat Scissors by the company,with a mean looking design/logo. Maybe a skull of some sort? Maybe with…a tongue out and about to be snipped off by combat scissors? Yikes! Why else make them if you can’t sell them to the tactical/practical crowd? That logo could also potentially be a tattoo?
But legally, it would be safer and smarter just to name them, Aunt Sarah’s Knitting Club Scissors, – as etched on the side. And no, I am not suggesting that people get scissors, get a small sewing kit, put them in a plastic bag and carry them around in their pockets to fool the gendarmes. But if so, maybe the police would look at them and say,
“oh, what a cute little pair of Aunt Sarah’s knitting scissors!”
All fun and games until someone gets stuck in the eye with a pair! (as any good Aunt Sarah would certainly warn us against, once she saw us playing with them…)
(oh and by the way? the official “Hock’s Combat Scissors” tactical scissors thing is a joke. I thought I would add this disclaimer because some stupid people have read this and criticized me for my ‘”combat/tactical scissors” idea. Dear Low I.Q. reader – it’s a joke.)
“…wait now, these are not your grandfather’s mitt drills! Read on!”
Focus mitt/pad drills are healthy exercises for practice and an important slice toward the big picture. Right lead. Left Lead. Standing. And of “late”- ground. Most people in training just do the classic boxing school versions. In the late 1980s, I saw Larry Hartsell do these and he added "body, slap-mitt-versions" – standing and clever ground versions. These slaps were not seeking/intercepting the punches as so often seen, but rather body slaps that forced the trainee to cover up first and then counter-strike. This was not completely new for young, ignorant me, but he did a whole host of impressive and creative applications. I just called them Hartsell Slap Drills since in his honor, because they are here and there through time in other systems and have differing nicknames. These ground ones Hartsell did were done before the "UFC-World" before the "BJJ Invasion" and certainly before the popularity of "ground n pound." Punching and striking while grounded top-side, grounded bottom-side and grounded side-by-side.
Larry checking a present, yet not moving, "other" hand.
To explain one Hartsell Slap Mitt Drill example quickly, a trainer slaps the left side (torso, arms or head ) of a trainee with a right-handed mitt. The trainee drops or raises his left elbow/arm/shoulder and absorbs the blow. The trainer then pulls the mitt back and over on the center line about stomach high. The trainee then hook punches this mitt with his right hand. I realize this might be hard to imagine without photos or a film. Look below at this sample we shot for a book in 2001. These can be down with the jab, cross, hook, uppercut and overhand, standing, kneeling and on the ground.
So…right, left? Jab, cross? Let’s take the common punch. Did you know that many military courses for many decades did not designate the difference between a jab and a cross? They just called it a “punch.” A "punch" from the right side and a punch from the left side, no matter the blading of the body was just called a punch. This simple approach does help through various drills, but in other courses, certainly modern ones, people (me too) like to fine tune training and use the lead shoulder jab and the rear shoulder cross definitions when possible, because they do offer differing training drill opportunities. Of course if you are doing boxing-based programs you absolutely need the “jab-cross” distinctions. But when “MMA-ers” get down on the ground and ground n’ pound? There really are no right or left shoulder forward leads. Just…punching.
But, what of citizen self-defense, security, police and military? Are stand-up, sport, boxing mitt drills alone the best we can offer them? No. We can add more stuff such as the "while held" and "while holding" versions just to name two. Here are some things I do, that I have "invented" or added. First off, we must mention you can experiment with all the strikes, not just punching. And, there are thrusts and hooks with each. Here are the strikes and the some situational mitt options.
Position 1: The Arms-Down, Bus Stop (or sucker punch) Stance – Do a series of right and left strikes. Some folks also like to chase a mitt a bit from this position, as in taking a step in to hit.
Position 2: The Conversational Stance – Long-called, the “Italiano” strike from high, moving conversational hands. Do a series of right and left hand strikes
Position 3: The Surrender Stance – Strike from this hands-up, surrender position. Some people brag that they will never have to do this because they will never let anyone get this close, of if someone got this close, they would jump to a fighting stance, etc. R-i-i-i-g-h-t. Life is a surprise. Life is an ambush. And while you may be Spiderman, your students might not be ever so alert. Do them a favor and let them do these. This is often part of a weapon confrontation, but not always. Do a series of right and left hand strikes. (this s also a sucker punch strike)
Position 4: Right lead Mitt Drill – Do front and rear strikes. Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.
Position 5: Left Lead Mitt Drill – Do front and rear strikes. Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.
Wrap a trainer’s right arm with your left arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his left. Strike.
Wrap a trainer’s left arm with your right arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his right. Strike.
Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this, and move, puch and pull, shove trainee
Position 7: “While Held” Mitt Drill – the trainee's arm is held/wrapped by the trainer
The trainer wraps your left arm with his right arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his left. You strike.
The trainer wraps your right arm with his left arm. The trainer holds up a mitt with his right. You strike.
Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this, and move, push and pull, and shove around.
Position 8: Grounded Topside Ground Mitt Drill
The bottom-side trainer feeds the mitts.
Topside trainees legs are outside the grounded trainer’s torso for a set
Topside trainees legs are inside the grounded trainer’s legs for a set
Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this.
Position 9: Grounded Bottom-side Ground Mitt Drill
The top-side trainer feeds the mitts.
Topside trainers legs are outside the trainee’s torso for a set
Topside trainers legs are inside the trainee’s legs for a set
Add Hartsell Slap Drills to this. Move and shove around.
Position 10: Grounded Side-by-Side Mitt Drills
Trainee down on the right side. Strike
Trainee down on the left side. Strike
Add Hartsell Slap Drills
Position 11: Knees? – Do you want to experiment with all of these, knee-high? In this format? Go right ahead.
Position 12: Improvise! Who, what, where, when, how and why do people need to strike sometimes?
Of course the mitt can be fed horizontally and with a thrust, simulating that kind of a thrusting strike, but not to be confused as a feed for an uppercut. I am not a fan, as they say, of these prolonged, over-programed mitt drills. I think people with a good eye, can tell by looking at them, that they are too structured and just way too long.
I was in a Thai system for awhile that really over did mitt drills, and almost never sparred. I think this is an "training equation" mistake. Nowadays, there are fitness-boxing classes that only hit mitts and bags by design. No one there wants to, or expects to spar. Whatever, as long as folks know what they have signed up for. But, a few extra situational positions and mitt drills can add a lot of physical exercise and experience to survival and sport fighting. And you can do some of these on a heavy bag too.
Vietnam. I was a little too young to be caught up in that maelstrom. I enlisted in the tail end of the conflict, (later, in 1975, I did assist in the evacuation). But, in technical terms, on the D.O.D. books, I am somehow clerically considered "Vietnam Era" on paper records, even though I am not an actual Vietnam war vet. I did get to serve with many vets of the official war and many tell a story on the typical Nam tour of duty length. You can still find these official numbers below in easy research.
An average "bungle in the jungle" tour of duty lasted 12 months, and one year is still the common trip length in many overseas situations. There were studies written on this and the Nam subject. The studies broke the 12 month Nam tour down into three effectiveness periods. The first period of approximately 4 months, the classic "FNG" (commonly known as the "fucking new guy") was considered to be a rookie, new and rather worthless. The next 4 month period was his best as he slipped into the educated, operating groove, was properly alert and reasonably experienced. And the last few months were said to be his downhill slide! "Worst?" Because he was getting “too use” to the danger, less alert and more complacent.
Now look, these were actual studies and articles from the Army that I read myself years ago. You and I know some individuals may be different than this, but this was their overall assessment. How many kept reenlisting to stay there, tour after tour? A fair share did, and with a little R and R in Thailand or Hawaii and they were back. But in general, the average troop was at first – a little too scared and inexperienced. Second, in the groove. Then, third not scared enough. What does this have to do with adrenaline you ask? A lot. Adrenaline and fear factors into each of those periods and the overall assessment. Stand by.
To sell a cure? You first need a good, scary poison. Adrenaline has become that poison, a boogeyman in martial training the last three decades. The very term itself – adrenaline is a bit of a catch-phrase for several, chemical hormones. It would be hard for me to pinpoint when the craze happened or who did the very first smear campaign. But, some people back then, must have read these and other reports, and saw an opportunity to sell martial training from a different marketing, angle. Who? In general, it was the first wave of these so-called, reality-based, self defense (RBSD – a redundant term I still dislike) people with their then, newer and cooler programs.
Amongst this crowd, they preached that every hesitation or false step, every human error, every problem a person had small or big, whether they were ambushed or not, came as a result of the evil adrenaline, robbing your vision, your hearing, your ability to think, act and perform. Adrenaline they claim, made you a big, slow, numb, gross motor dummy, pooping and peeing in your pants, etc. with very "boo," This concept, this pitch was used to dumb-down training, dumb-down expectations, lower achievements and programs to a barest minimum…and sell them. Quicker is better because all people are reduced to babbling idiots in fights anyway.
So yes, the first wave of the adrenaline wonks appeared on the scene about two, almost three decades ago. They came at you hard, with the “real deal,” "insider' sales pitch and a “holier-than-thou” smell. "Step tight up!" Their underlining cause was, “there was no way your bubbling, boiling lizard-blood could be manhandled into a performance above that of a baboon. If you'll just dumb-down everything like we tell you, you might just live to see the sun rise and stay out of a fetal position.”
“Step right up ladies and gentleman and see the wonders of human biology destroy your chance to survive any encounter. But Wait! Wait! Right here in my hand is this elixir. The cure. If you adopt my form of training you will survive. Drink my potion, you will overcome this Frankenstein and fight off your enemies with a new found confidence and skill.”
To sell a universal cure? You need a universal poison. That poison was adrenaline. But is adrenaline really such a poison? Ask any number of doctors, like Dr. Veronique Mead for one. "The adrenaline response has a number of very specific effects aimed at maximizing survival, mediated by circulating epinephrine and cortisol (Braunwald et al., 2001). These effects include a state of heightened alertness, increased energy with which to meet a potentially difficult situation, and augmented muscle strength (Ganong, 2001). In preparation for battle, chemicals are released into the blood to facilitate clotting, and blood vessels in the skin are constricted to prevent heavy blood loss in the event of wounding (Ganong, 2001). Similarly, blood pressure and heart rate increase and the kidneys retain water, all in support of tissue perfusion and the maintenance of fluid volume in the event of sweating or blood loss (Ganong, 2001). In addition, the spleen deposits red blood cells into the blood stream in order to increase oxygen delivery to muscles (Juhan, 1998), and pupils dilate to let more light into the eyes in order to increase visual acuity (Ganong, 2001)."
Okay! Got that? Quite medical. All of this got screwed around to the negative. "Zero-to-sixty" shocks can be negative, sure, but zero-to-sixty somehow became the standard definition. Also, people have misconstrued terms. Audio exclusion, for example, doesn't mean "losing all hearing," or "going deaf." It can mean (and technically does mean ) "focused" hearing, or tuning out distractions. Same thing with vision. When you focus in on the TV set you are not seeing the pine tree plant in the corner of the room. The same thing in a gunfight. When you focus in on the gunman or the gun in his hand, you fail to see the garbage can on the street corner. That does not mean adrenaline is robbing your vision, or stealing your hearing.
Long term, like an overall tour of duty, or short term like a very sudden, surprise blast of activity, if you are over-adrenalized, your performance may not be so good, such as the new, green soldier. If you are reasonably adrenalized, your performance is peaked, and if you are under adrenalized, your performance might be less than hoped for. This below chart comes right out of sports performance textbooks. Performance trainers and coaches have long understood the relationship between what they have called “sports arousal” (adrenaline) and the experience of the athlete.
In this physical performance chart prepared by professional sports trainers Daniel Landers and Stephen Boutcher If someone is barely aroused, he is barely adrenalized and not at all stimulated by much adrenaline, if any? He is not excited enough to benefit from the adrenaline boost. Nor should all the proposed ill-effects that naysayers attribute to adrenaline be present. So, you cannot blame adrenaline for actions of the under-aroused. If he screws up? He's on his own. All the proposed negative effects of adrenaline really occur at the very far end of the curve, when the person might suffer from a high, "over" stimulus, matched with a host of other factors too, like physical health and situational factors. In fact, in this whole continuum, poor performance and high over-arousal constitute a small, extreme part of this bell-curve chart that not everyone reaches.
The positive effects of adrenaline are well accepted, and these effects are not unlike the much longer 12 month, Vietnam, performance study. This chart above will apply to police work, as well as sports, or any dangerous endeavor. We eventually get complacent. We get lazy. We get careless. By understanding both charts, the short term and the long term, an understanding and a training model develops. It is largely about desensitization. First it's good. Then it's bad. In the beginning, you get this best only through experience and then second through repetition training in a realistic setting. But you cannot get too desensitized.
"In the beginning, it is all about desensitization. First it's good. Then, it's bad. You get this best through experience and then through realistic repetition training. But you cannot get too desensitized!"
It is scientifically clear that performance is best when a subject is aroused than not aroused, and best when he is moderately adrenalized/aroused, the center of this bell curve. This is true of my own personal experience. I have never felt more alive and more alert, and more clear thinking in many, if not most of my dangerous police times. Being adequately nervous is a good thing. They once asked Frank Sinatra when in his 80s, if he still got nervous when stepping out on a stage after six decades of performing. He answered, "of course I do. I need to be nervous." Of those dangerous and, or challenging moments in policing? I miss them greatly. I miss them the most.
Poor performance may occur from a host of specific reasons. Pain. Surprise. Confusion. Shock. Ambush. Exhaustion. Anxiety in the long term. Emotional rather than intellectual decision making. Distraction….a whole host of short-term and long term wear and tear-down of a "tour of duty." All situational reasons that may interfere with action. NOT JUST ADRENALINE.
NOT ALWAYS ADRENALINE. To lump all performance problems into one cause is to do a disservice to training doctrine. Once you recognize this truth, you can treat the real, individual poisons. A police officer may not think clearly just because she's worked a double shift. A soldier may freeze just because he was cleverly ambushed. A citizen may not put their key in the door of their home fast enough when being stalked, not because of adrenaline, but because they have simply never practiced putting their key in their door very fast. You may not reload your gun fast enough simply because you haven't practiced doing it on the ground, sideways and in the mud, as well as fast. It's different. Doing things differently.
For myself, and I know for others too, it is also a "zero-to-sixty" issue. How dull and unprepared were you, the very few seconds right before to you were confronted with a shock or action? Zero-to-sixty responses are tough. I have always done best when I have been a stage or level of being "half-adrenalized," for lack of a better description. This 1/2 stage invokes other topics like awareness and breathing and things so long, we shouldn't cover them in this essay.
Here's an example or a "twenty, or thirty-to-sixty" situation. Racer Tom Rockwell said, "When I raced motorcycles the adrenaline would start to flow on Wednesday for a Sunday afternoon race. What that meant on the track was that I had all the time in the world to make split second decisions when things went south. Your whole life doesn't flash before your eyes; it just seems like there's time to review it all."
To best prepare for the race tracks of life? Use the who, what, where, when, how and why of life, use the latest intelligence to construct the problem scenario. Dissect what might happen. Use experience and research, and repetition training to explore the most probable occurrences on down to the least probable. This is the reverse engineering I have talked about for the last three decades. One of our oldest mottoes is "fighting first, systems second." (And as Einstein said, "keep it simple, but not too simple!" And what was simple to Albert, baffles the rest of us. Simple is a relative term. Need I repeat that? Simple, is a relative term to you and you capabilities, stressed out or not.)
Training will help, but that's not all – "Culture, upbringing and environmental conidions will wire the frontal lobe in a unique pattern that determine can individual's response to extreme stress," says Dr. Kenneth Kamler, author of Surviving the Extremes.
Many factors influence response. Another major and final point on this subject – can everyone be a
There’s an old story going around about me and a kermabit. The tale goes that during a seminar, lunch break, in the 1990s, a guy walked up to me and showed me his kerambit, and I looked at it, opened a nearby window and threw it out the window of a two-story building. This isn’t true. I would never do that to a guy’s property. I can say confidently that not only would I not be so rude as to throw his property out a 2-story window, I would never throw my own kerambit out a window either – because I would never own one in the first place.
Being somewhat in the business of knives, I am all too often shown kerambits and asked questions about kerambits. You know, the curved bladed knife that looks like a single animal claw. Some folks think they are God’s gifts to knives. And I am shown and see way too many karembits. I see photos and photos of them in the web. God, they look cool. All kinda science-fictiony. Klingon-like. Deadly. Tiger-paw looking. I can honestly proclaim I have never seen a kerambit I didn’t think was very, cool looking.
Lord knows I don’t want to be attacked by one. But I don’t want one. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. Because of the Karembit Handicap. I hope I can leave this up here on the web as a source for people with these questions for me and questions in general about the true value of the knife in the big picture. I hope I can offer some reasoning and answers about the subject. The following are my personal beliefs and how I have come about them. If you love you some karembits? That’s fine. Enjoy a happy, healthy life. For me? Out the window they go! Figuratively of course.
As a questioner, as a skeptic, never a fan-boy, not naïve, I just don’t fall for people or systems. Worshipping a system-head or a system is a recipe for potential mistakes and failure. If you never question your revered leader, you fail to evolve. So does he and the system he does. Or folks never question gear of the revered. Do you think you must fight with a Klingon knife because you worship the culture, look, feel and history of Klingons? Or are you really looking to fight and survive with the best edged weapon? Are you so mystified by a culture that you can’t see the faults? I know Systema people who like it so much, they start believing in and supporting Communism. I know Kung Fu people who change their religion. Communism and Zen Buddhism should have nothing to do with kicking a guy on the nuts or selecting the best knife. If you want to learn how to fight with hands, sticks, knives and guns? Keep hero-worship OUT of the picture. Keep system worship out of the picture. I think this imperative. I constantly see folks doing unnecessary things just because Dijon Superfly does them, and they are too blind to question. I think you can respect a system head and, or a system, but worship is not good. How much do you salivate?
The kerambit handicap. I cringe every time I see an attendee with a kermabit trainer in a seminar. I know that this person will have an extra and harder time doing even the most simple, obvious, historically successful knife moves. My knife training course is built to be as simple as possible, as fast and effective, with the obvious and simple tools, which are the straight blades. Curved blades complicate simplicity.
Am I just untrained and dumb in the wild and wooly ways of the karembit? I frequently get hate mail over this from fan-boys and faddists, people apparently in some sort of odd, over-love with their knife. Someone will always suggest that I am ignorant and suggest that maybe I should take a kerambit course and see the wonders and magic of the knife. Dear Dipshits, I was force-fed balisong and kerambit material since the late 1980s, since before many of you reading this were born, or as they say, were mastering potty training. Force-fed in multiple training trips to Negros Island and Manila, the Philippines, and many times since there and here since. These knives were part of curriculum we had to learn all the way to Filipino black belt, along with a lot more of straight knife material. I will always prefer the straight knife to the kerambit, and well – just forget about the odd, opening process with the balisong. I mean, seriously, why bother? (Unless of course you are an weapons, historian of some sort. I am not.). As soon as I held a kerambit in my hand, it felt wrong and much of what they asked me to do was clearly unnecessary when compared to all the other straight blade training. As a former Army and Texas cop and an investigator most of my adult life, from arrests, cases and forensic training, I learned the straight knife is far superior and can do everything better and simpler than any curved knife, just about any time. The curve of the blade is a handicap. The more the curve, the more the handicap.
I recall the first time it happened in a New England seminar in the 1990s. A rather famous, Silat guy showed up with his curved plastic trainer. He had difficulty doing even the most simple, primitive knife things all day long. He couldn’t stab deep which is forensically the most successful, quicker kill method. It was plain to see that when slashing, his curve and tip would get stuck in body parts. Did he know he had to improvise and construct more steps, more “work-arounds,” to get the job done? I don’t know because he just flow drilled around the reality like there were no obstacles. Some do see this truth. Through the years the curved blade trainees still appear in my classes. The curve group often has to pow-wow off in the corner to make a simple thing work, because they are mentally and physically confined from the shape of their knife. Their adaptations always involve extra work-arounds and extra training and extra movement to do something otherwise done simpler with the straight blade.
What do I mean by simple, proven moves? One simple example? Studies by the Marines in 1980s – while researching World war II knife tactics in the South Pacific, the USMC study group discovered that the uppercut stab to the groin/intestines, and, or the diaphragm/heart and, or even up inside the jawbone – the common hooking uppercut was a very successful. Successful, but oddly, not really emphasized and in most cases not taught. Yet, Marines instinctively still did them. Naturally. Natural. This research led to the implementation of these very natural moves in training courses. Instinctive. Natural. Simple. Now, can you do this natural, saber grip uppercut into these areas with a karembit. No. You can’t plummet a kermabit, even one with a bottom side out grip, as deep and powerful into these vital parts as a saber, straight knife. Aside from results, the saber, straight knife movement is more natural, and the kerambit will require extra training and still won’t garner the same success. Don’t get me started on all these examples as this will become a book and not an essay.
Now look, you can cut somebody with a torn-open, tin can. I also don’t want to be attacked by a torn tin can or anything sharp. Broken glass bottle. Nope. A spear? Hell no. But the question remains is, yes, a tin can will cut you, but is it the smartest thing to use? Do we need the Tactical Tin-Can course? No. You just get a knife. Get the best knife. A straight knife that stabs with deep efficiency potential and slashes without getting stuck in bodies and some clothing and can also, easily perform dozens of life-saving and survival chores.
Sellers of Kerambits have much sales-pitch, yadda-yadda about the cancer-curing perfections/wonders of the curved shape. They proclaim that just about everyone on the planet already uses, benefits and really needs the really curved knife. EVERYONE uses and loves the kerambit, everyone except the real people you see, you know, work with and read about and watch in documentaries, etc. I suggest you challenge every line of the sales pitch because in the end, it is not the selection of the practical. In actuality…
Butchers don’t use them.
Surgeons don’t use them.
Cooks don’t use them.
Hunters don’t use them.
Fishermen don’t use them.
Soldiers & Marines in the know don’t use them.
People don’t use them to camp.
Workers with real labor jobs won’t use them.
People don’t eat with them (this is a big point).
Prosecutors and police love to see you use them.
If they are so perfect and superior, why are they not used by all humanity most of the time? Try giving a farmer, a factory worker or a camper just a kermambit and see how long that idea lasts before they trade out for a straight blade. Give a carpet layer a kerambit and he will quickly resort back to his carpet knife. Many, if not most, of the big name kerambit twirlers have never been in the military. They just don’t know that a military knife in the field must be very versatile and able to perform many everyday chores, as well as possible fighting. (And by using them, I mean predominantly use them. I am sure in my incoming hate mail over this, someone will name a special circumstance where someone drops his regular straight knife and reaches for a curvy hook knife to catch an oddball body, fish or animal or autopsy part.)
The biggest point in the above list, to me is that the human race has evolved to hunt, grow, prepare food and eat with a straight knife. Ever try to eat a steak with a kerambit? Cut and butter bread? I have a friend who likes to tease me on this point and threatens to send me a video of him eating a steak with his curvy kerambit. I’ll bet he can! I’ll also bet he can eat a steak with a torn, tin can. The point is, not that you can or can’t, but rather – what is the smartest tool to use. And we can’t forget, kitchen cutlery has reeked international havoc in self-defense, crime and war. In civilized countries over 99% of all knife violence is with simple, kitchen cutlery. A pretty good success rate for the straight blade.
Chopping off limbs with the Kerambit. Did we mention butchers above? A good friend of mine, consumed by all things “distant” and eastern, oriental and Indonesian, was telling me that a butcher he knew, using a very stout, big kerambit with a sharp outside edge, could flip/spin the curved knife and chop off the limbs of large animals in his shop. It took some practice, but he could. The message for me was that the kerambit could, if worked right, with the right momentum, chop off big things in a power spin. CHOP! I just nodded my head. Whatever. But such takes more work, awkward applications, etc. and stouter kerambits with a sharp outside edge. If it were a big folder? How do you have a sharp, outside edge and carry it? Not in a pocket, but in a sheath…in case you know…you have to lop off a hand. I am quite sure the butchers of the world will still prefer regular straight knives and clevers for more efficient, consistent success. What will be this butcher’s tool of day-to-day preference. The easy one. And then I must ask, will you always carry around this oversized kerambit with the complete outer side sharp? Whose forearm do you imagine you will be cutting off in your day-to-day? In YOUR world? Jaime Lannisters?
And needless to add, take a guy with a straight, blade knife in a saber grip versus a guy with kerambit and let them duel. Who do you think has the advantage? Spar it out. Take two Superflys and spar this straight vs. curved kerambit. I can tell you from doing that for decades and organizing/ref experience that the saber grip straight blade has the advantage. Not that dueling is the end-all knife encounter, a final judge, oh no, but dueling can and does happen. And listen to this – this is telling – even the Superflies still teach and use a whole lot of straight knives too. Most teach more straight knife than curved knife. Why bother? If the Kerambit was God’s gift for knife work? Wouldn’t they give up on straight blade material all together?
But they look cool, so Klingon and purty! And Dijon Juan Superfly is soooo cool with his flow drills on youtube!
“Oh my Dijon! Oh my….and…and Dijon does so many arm manipulations.” Do you think you will really hook and push around so many angry, adrenalized arms with a kerambit as Dojon Superfly does in a cooperative flow drill on Youtube? And by the way, a straight knife can push arms around too.
Back to Spinning the Kerambit. The ring in the handle alone does not a kerambit make. I have seen some folks calling a straight knife with a ring in the handle a kerambit, just because of the ring. No. It has to have a curved blade to be one. Now, to what degree of a curve, I can’t precisely say. I think you know one when you see one. The ring is for mostly for retention and…spinning. On spinning, another dubious kermanbit characteristic- the Kermabit sellers page says,
“Karambit spinning is showy, flashy and useless without significant training, practice and understanding of the application. New users should not spin karambits until they’re intimately familiar with their blade, its balance, the way it fits into their hand in various grips and while in motion AND, most importantly, until they’ve received instruction.”
Further, “…many people don’t use the smaller muscles in the hands and it takes time to build them up.”
Confessions from a top kerambit salesman! And there you have it from the source. More stuff to do. More muscles to build. More unnecessary stuff to do.
Straight, bent, curved. The curve of the knife. The more curve, the worse. There are knives on the market that have some bend to them, some just a slight bend, bended/angled with no curvey claw. Some right-angle bends remind me somewhat of carpet knives. The sharp, 90 degree bend of the carpet knife, its position to the handle, is superior to the more curved kerambits, otherwise thousands of carpet layers would have invented kerambits or they would all use kerambits. They don’t. Some folks, like carpet folks, work projects that require that sharp point, at the maximum position of their hand grip for the job. As a detective I have worked some serious assaults involving carpet knife attacks.
Stress Quick Draws Issues. A comprehensive knife program covers stress quick draws. It seems all modern knives now try to have some pocket catching device that facilitates a quick folder opening. But some don’t. Sometimes people get their folder out but in the heat of the fight, can’t open right away. The folder then becomes a palm stick until its opened. The selected knife when folded should protrude from the top and bottom of the fisted hand, and it should support the hand inside the fist for punching. I have a pretty big hand and have tried punching heavy bags with various kerambits. Due to the curved blade, the folded knives are quite wide and they all hurt to punch with. Probably I might find one not as wide someday, but with all the other negatives surrounding the kerambit? I don’t go about searching for it. But this wideness when punching is another survival reason/problem to avoid the kerambit.
One of the great advantages of the reverse or ice pick grip of a straight blade is it’s ever-so-natural, stab application. There seems to be an inert, intuitive hammer fist application with a reverse grip stab. Think of the power of just a hammer fist. It alone breaks many boards, many ice blocks, many pieces of cement. Imagine that force delivering a straight knife stab! But wait! Now hold a kerambit in its reverse grip application, as in the curved end looping out of the bottom of the hand. Gone is all the hammer fist intuition. Gone is the simple, practical, stab and its extra power shot potential.
The somewhat bent edged weapons list might include the infamous kukri. The kukri is not a curvy kerambit. It has its own heft and is used much like a straight edged weapon.
Straighter? “Benter?” Curved? These bended ones are better than the curvy ones, and seem to have some ‘hammerfist-like” and “punching-like,” natural applications. But, the more the bend? The more the pointy curve? The more problems. To use them as efficiently as a straight knife, which cannot be completely done, you have to add-on, learn more, have extra tricks to stab and slash. And, speaking of hammer-fists, the hammer fist is a very natural movement, with very natural target acquisition, and really supports the reverse or ice-pick grip, straight-blade stab. Why ruin that principle with a curved blade that sticks out and then forward from the bottom of hand, killing the hammer-fist instinct. So…more Kerambit training is therefore needed. More extra training.
As mentioned in the above military photo, it gets stuck in people and things. The curved point is called a hook, because…it hooks. I see the kerambit practitioners simulating cuts with figure 8 patterns and X patterns in the air, or in front of partners. No contact. Do they not realize that with contact, their point embeds into the person and the bones and the clothing, gear, etc? X pattern over. Figure 8 pattern over. And now they must learn an extraction technique, unique to that knife. Extra stuff to learn. (this is also true with the tomahawk/axe craze. On first impact? THUNK! NO more slap-dash, dancey, prancy axe moves, just a big-ass axe sunk into a skull or chest. Extraction! Use foot if needed to push-pull)
The most curved knife “out there?” The classic rescue knife. One carried just to cut seat belts and ropes. You can’t even clean your nails with this one. I think that anyone can see this is really limited in overall use. The more the curve, the less you can do. I am sure when you need a seat belt cutter? You really need a seat belt cutter. So, get one and cram it on your belt. Squeeze in that two inches more next to your shark repellent, and radiation pills, for those times you really need stuff like that. (Oh, and yes, a “regular” knife can cut a seat belt too, and I’ll bet has many more times than a specialized seat cutter.)
And lastly, need we discuss the stigma again of this Klingon-looking knife. It is bad enough to use any knife for self defense, but this knife, by its very appearance also causes negative, legal prejudices to the police, the prosecutors, the courts and to juries. Think of it in terms of pistols. Would you rather defend yourself with the “Widowmaker” pistol? Or..the “Peacemaker” pistol?” Yes, these…things…count. In a recent self defense courtroom trial, Assistant District Attorney in Texas Aaron Bundoc also said of the defendant’s self defense use of the kerambit, “It was not a self-defense tool as Hernandez alleged.” He said “…a Kerambit is a combat weapon designed to gut and butcher people.” Just ONE example.
Look, what do I care about people, their fixations, fascinations and hobbies? Why should you care what I think? Some people love history and weapons. Some people like to crack bull whips, while the whip is on fire! Get a hobby! Get a kerambit and mess with it. Do all that extra training. Place it on a rotating pedistal in your den. One in each pocket and on a neck chain. Get the t-shirt and ballcap. Follow the Dijon. Smile. Live long and prosper. These are just my personal beliefs and opinions. I know I never want to be attacked or cut by a kerambit, or a torn, tin can or a rescue knife. Hell, I hate paper cuts. But to me, a kerambit is a handicap to sheer simplicity and ultimate practiaclity. People are just too damn hypnotized by the shape, culture, history, hero-worship and system-worship.
What did they tell us in school years ago, when writing an essay? “Contrast and compare.” If you really contrast and compare, without bias and fixations, fandom and fads? What do you come up with? Being that we here are Force NECESSARY, and not ForceUN-necessary, I will never bother with, or waste my time teaching, a kerambit course. Do please, howevere continue to show me your kerambits. They are all very cool looking. And I certainly will not throw them out of any window. Only, you know…figuratively.
While I would probably watch this gal juggle marshmallows for hours, WHY is she spinning this Klingon, unnecessarily curved edged-weapon around and Lord knows she cuts herself badly in the end …
A) No need to spin this stupid aberration of a knife around, and..
B) there is no good reason to spin this damn thing around.
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“If I die in combat zone. Box me up and ship me home.”
You’ve all heard that ditty? Maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have as a cadence – a song – we all sang while marching and running in the military. It has been bastardized, or satired and altered for various messaging. One paraphrased version we don’t see much anymore, but old-timers will remember, was popularized on some t-shirts and posters years back. It was about dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up, the words accompanied by art of a rip-shirt, commando. This splitting-up is a very good idea for several reasons, but I don’t think the commandment reaches deep enough in citizen and police training methodology.
It is a common theory in shoot-outs that drawing and using a second gun is faster than reloading your first one. This of course depends on where you are carrying that second gun, but the advice is classic and comes from veterans. Did you arrive at this scene with a second gun? Can you find a second gun at the scene? More ammo? Such is great in a firefight.
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, if you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
One such subject is what to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun. One dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up, you can put various kinds of guns in various conditions on a bench at the shooting range and make people pick them up, make-ready, load them and shoot them (which has been done forever by clever people by the way), but the true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, being-hunted situation is hardly practiced on the range.
Technically, this is weapon recovery. Weapon recovery is typically discussed in inner circles when your pistol has been disarmed from you and how you must recover it. You instantly charge in to get it back while the taker is hopefully fumbling with it. Recovering disarmed weapons is a missing link in most martial art systems when students work pistol disarms. Students take the gun from an attacker, the students usually quite oblivious to fact that that a real world, bad-guy may mad-rush in to get the gun back at a hundred miles an hour. These students often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it (some instructors demand that the student tap the magazine and rack the side), not expecting the vicious counter attack and weapon recovery.
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just disarming and the recovery of your gun. There’s the recovery of your comrade’s weapon and even the recovery of your enemy’s weapon.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped by accident, taken or dropped/lost in combat. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but my hunch is they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 45 years, but I’ve seen my friends/co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we see them drop on youtube. We also see photos and hear about such fumbles in both normal and stressful times. We see them dropped in simulated ammo scenario training. We even see them dropped at live fire ranges.
What about a fumble during a draw or inside a grappling fight? I once saw a range master, and trophy winner cop, standing before an armed training partner in a scenario. Both with gas guns. The draw! And the police instructor vet lost his pistol in the air, mid-draw. He had never drawn right in front of an armed man with a pain-delivering gun two feet before him.
I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The person:
Drops the gun, or
Convulsively fires the weapon, or
Aims and shoots back, or
Gun does nothing. The gun remains unfired in their hands.
What about the dropped weapon of a shot, severely wounded or dead compatriot? Or enemy? A “drop dead gun,” just laying there. This year, 2020 marks the 24th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, created and supervised simulated ammo shooting scenarios of some sort. Some are short and involve two people. Some are much longer and involve numerous people, all are in numerous situations and locations. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Inside and outside. Daytime. Nighttime. People get shot by whatever simulated ammo we get to use for the training session. In the briefing, I ask the people, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take two serious shots, or shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…”they be dead.” Playing this part is important, as you will soon read.
As the organizer, over-seer of these scenarios, as the “ref” if you will, I see so many things in all of these shoot-outs. I see things people really do when in various predicaments. These occurrences, these experiences are quite remarkable and extremely educational. And one of the many things I consistently see is teammates, running past and around their deeply wounded, still or dead, yet still armed partners. Whatever kinds of weapons we are using, Airsoft, gas, markers, Simuntions, whatever I can get wherever I am, these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances. I want to advise, “pick up that gun!” as they run by their fallen compatriots. Sometimes they have the time to do so. But, I do not want to bark orders or suggestions to interfere in the middle of the firefight exercise. I’ve see many folks run right by other available guns and ammo. As an “invisible” ref, I wait until the after-action review to bring the subject up and still they often forget to do it the next time.
Once in a while I see a practitioner who instantly knows to snatch up his dead buddy’s gun. Either, it is something trained and remembered, or they are just that naturally gun-and-ammo-hungry to simply know this and do this instinctively. They swoop down and snatch up the weapon as they go by. This is an event that never happens in live fire range training, but rather could and should happen in real life, and bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible.
I might add quickly here, that weapons are sometimes attached to people by lanyards and slings, something that can be very life-saving for the original holder, but also may flummox your partner’s attempt to get your weapons once you are down and out. Know your partner’s gear. Look them over. Know your team or squad mates stuff.
Different gear? Different guns? Different ammo? In many organizations such as with the military or police, certain weapons are mandated for all in policy for good reason. If we all have the same gun, we all have the same ammo, magazines and we can pick up, exchange, provide, etc., weapons. It can make for good sense. I am not advocating for the “one-gun, one-ammo” policy, I am just reporting on it here. There is something to be said too for personalized guns, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus this background, police management, etc. may not consider this, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concept. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic.
Minus police and military experiences, If you just teach or do live fire on a range, essentially that being that “clerk,” with no emotional attachment to experience, you must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive “gun minutiae” within your teaching (haven’t gun magazines really been publishing the same redundant information, redone and re-shaped for decades now? Over, and over and over. Why? Why, do they stick in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations to dissect and train about?).
Two answers to these teaching and training problems. One is to continue educating yourself on real experiences. What precisely has happened to you? Your friends? Your teammates? Your neighbors? Victims? Cops? Military? Learning second or third-hand is better than not learning at all. Who can possibly experience the common spectrum of such problems? No one. We all must keep this education up. Second? Simulated ammo scenarios. Simunitions or likewise, otherwise, at some level. Take your “power point” tips and your segmented, live fire examples and move them into physical experience with safe ammo. Move them over into a stressful, interactive, situational scenarios with simulated ammo. Such are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. The experts call it “deep learning.” In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive shoot-outs.
There has been something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” subject, as people contemplate the active shooter problem and consider picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This concern has manifested in a slight increase in related speeches and some abstract, live fire exercises. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun experience or limited gun backgrounds, have also organized some active shooter response classes. But when working out and testing the unarmed response methods, the attendees all bum-rush a stuntman in a helmet holding a rubber gun. I would wish that they, at least once, let the actor carry in a sims-ammo, (and this could be with very safe ammo) machine gun and let him cut loose on the crowd so that the attendees could truly experience the hideous, quick, devastation one can do with such firearms to a group. Perhaps this might be too demoralizing? Or change the strategy.
Remember that when you snatch up another’s gun? You might well not know how many rounds are left in it! Oh, and in certain crime and war circumstances, when citizens pick up the dead bad guy’s gun and the police arrive? Do I need to remind you? You look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Act, surrender accordingly.
But, be it that sort of “mass shooting,” or a crime or in war, in the case of the drop dead gun and simulated ammo training, a prep speech can first be made about the weapon recovery from downed and dead rescuers, teammates or bad guys. It has been my experience that once suggested in this briefing, many people do think of it when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better.
The gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead. So, the next t-shirt or poster rant and chant?
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
Don’t Headhunt? The “Third Round is Yours” Theory and Other Delays to the Finish
Don’t head hunt!
The Third Round is Yours!
Closest Weapon to the Closet Target!
Don’t head hunt too much. This was advice I had been given for decades by various boxing, some kick boxing, and even some Thai boxing coaches. I think they always really meant to say, don’t “overdo” headhunting, as in spending all of your time, effort and strategy trying to strike high only and the head. Strike other places too, as well as kick in kickboxing and Thai. You do these other things to hurt the guy, confuse the guy, wear him down, etc. in that particular sports arena. (By the way, this is not a debate on fist versus open hand strikes. Another topic in another place. )
I am fully aware that some of you may have different coaches and trainers that told you otherwise, or maybe never mentioned this subject. But don’t act shocked, I have had some coaches across a pretty wide spectrum and the “don’t headhunt” advice is not too rare. Many boxing coaches are also interested in spreading the art and sweet science of Boxing, which includes many things delivered in combinations and sets within a number of rounds.
Even when rare, the “don’t always headhunt,” and similar timing advice fits best inside the sport world, where there are rounds, time and wear-down strategies and declarations by trainers mapping out the fight that the “third, (or whatever) round is yours.” In the contest world it suggests things like this –
“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…”
That’s the idea in the most general of terms. For many fighters, this is laid out in the first meeting for training for a specific fight. This fighter then quite possibly gets 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.
It is indeed the coaches job to map out a strategy to your 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, those 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 this “do this, 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. 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.” Fighters do indeed knock people out quickly, but aren’t they are always handed an overall, planning, staging, strategy, etc, not all of it is game plan is headhunting.
I think the non-head-hunting idea from coaches was meant to say – 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 spend rounds pounding the upper arms of their enemies so that eventually their guard would consistently drop for their eventual, head shots, so that the ” ______ (fill in the blank) round is yours.”
The transition of these delay ideas and advice can get blended over and into, for lack of a better term, “street fighting,” training by short-sighted self defense course trainers and coaches. I was told these off-mission tips at times in several self defense courses and that included boxing 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 newsletter was called “The Probe.” The head guy would often take months of money from people and make than study the jab only…for four to six months. The…probe. 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. Yet, he did many other things too, effective things too, but some of his people got caught in this “jab rut.” Once again that odd mix of using some boxing strategies with some survival strategies.
The military police academy boxing coaches, helping create a fighting spirit with a boxing program, taught off-mission, sport boxing concepts.
Martial arts can get easily confused, innocently blending sport strategies with self defense themes, and vice-versa – self defense courses can get artsy. “Karate/martials arts” can be confusing. We did self defense and then kick-boxing in Kenpo Karate in the 1970s. They are quite different and no one ever really explained that to me. I called them “sport cancers” to be on the look out for in all transitions from sports to the non-sports world. Enlightened coaches look for these.
Ignorant at the time, this was not a mental dilemma for me until I started working as a cop and grasping the idea that –
“There was no second or third round in the street fight,”
…to use a corny phrase. Nor second round for that matter. These street fights/arrests I was in and ones I had to break up and/or investigate had little time for the experimental probing jabs, trick footwork to wear an opponent down, and other “third round, ring strategies.” They were usually hard, fast, crazy and over quickly. You were bum-rushed, tackled and sucker-punched, hit with chairs and lamps, etc…I was attacked by a man with an ax once. No time for several probing, experimental jabs versus the ax man.
“The closest weapon to closest target” idea.
To me this falls a bit into the “third round” category, because it promotes lesser shots on lesser targets. Who knows who originated the “closest-closet” concept, but I will take a good guess and tell you it is probably not who you think it is. It goes waaaay back. It sounds so good too, doesn’t it? But, what does it precisely mean? Exactly? Define weapon. Define target.
Taken literally, if I am struggling with with you, and we are bent in a weird position, and my elbow is near the right cheek of your butt. Is that my closest weapon to your closest target? And I elbow your…ass? If this idea is unacceptable, then shouldn’t the motto read,
“your best weapon to his best, closest target?”
If you accept the term “best,” into the motto, because elbows to-ass-cheeks is kind of worthless, it changes a lot of the original, cool intent, doesn’t it. Even the word “better” changes the intent of the close-close motto. Better? Maybe the motto could read –
“your better weapon hitting a better target.”
It suggests that of you wait just a second, a better or the best target may turn up. I don’t want to get overly semantic here, but this “closest to closest” quote never impressed me. Many cutting-edge, sports performance experts promote the idea of “waiting,” when approriate, if just for a half a second or so, for the best point in time to maximize/execute their effort. (Do read the book, Waiting, full of this research.)
Many Filipino martial arts emphasize the arm “destructions,” as in hits on the arms. But, you should only hit the arms when you can’t reach and hit anything better, like the head and neck. The off-mission mistake begins when this is not explained and students are brainwashed into playing unnecessary bongos on arms when better targets are available.
I spent some time with a retired, South African commando, Ben Mangels who recently passed away. He said that “military knife fighting is about the neck and the head.” He said this due to the vests and the gear common to enemy soldiers. He also said that “head and neck” striking ideas relates to empty hand and survival fighting. Head hunting and neck hunting is good hunting.
Avoid hitting the the bicycling helmet area of the head with your fist. Hit lower.
To me, headhunting is important. So, too is neck hunting. Even though as a cop I couldn’t prioritize this until my struggle legally escalated to that justifiable point. Shaking the computer (brain) and quickly, and hard, is such a great idea. Hitting the neck, its whole circumference, can be so good too. No need here for an anatomy lesson I hope. Blood on the sides. Wind in the front. Electricity in the back. Boom! (And I include chokes in neck hunting category, too.)
I’ve made the smart ass remark for decades, “what the best martial arts technique? A punch to the nose. What’s the second best? Two punches to the nose.”
Everyone laughs, it’s a generalization, but it makes a point. As I said earlier, I think these boxing and kickboxing coaches always mean to suggest, don’t “overdo” headhunting, not quit it. There are many, many boxers, MMA and kickboxers who emphasize the head and are quite successful. Who doesn’t think Mike Tyson was a head hunter?
The overall boxing and kickboxing strategies? Strike in combinations and heights – as well as kick in kickboxing and Thai. You do all this other stuff to hurt the guy, fake, confuse and set up the guy or gal and/or wear he or she down through the designated rounds. I get it. I do. This still boils down though, fighter-by-fighter and their favorites and styles, and the sports/rules they follow in the end. Through however many rounds.
“Don’t head hut,” “wear-him-down strategy,” The “third round is yours” and “any close weapon to any close target” ideas are not ideas for fighting crime or hand-to-hand, trench war. So, for the citizen, cop, soldier, survival fight, I personally believe very much in prioritizing head hunting and neck hunting, standing or on the ground. That solid head shot? Solid Side-of-the-Neck Shot? The choke? Hard to beat. Better or best weapons to better or best targets.
All roads lead to the head hunt? The neck Hunt? You could say. Serious business. Do not stop boxing or kick boxing. It is a positive in so many ways. It is important. My brain damaged head misses doing it, and I’ll be 70 too soon. But pay close attention and think about who the coaches are what all the coaches say. Be on the lookout for sport cancers, big and small.
"It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." – Bruce Lee
I took this advice very, very seriously. Did you?
Well, the deal is, the trick is…and it’s a zen thing…a journey thing…you have to keep learning and getting wiser about all things. At some point we hope to get "a handle" on the subject. Get a wise handle on the overall subject. And then we can spot the extraneous, the unnecessary, the redundant. Its takes education to do so, and after all, most of us cannot tell what is and what is not needed in new cars to make them run. Trained engineers know this.
And there a few assumptions that automatically go with this.
– You are always learning new stuff.
– You achieve a certain level of wisdom on stuff.
– You have a matured filter to discern stuff.
This is the kind of advice/line that helped me organize almost all of my pursuits. For example, I am very interested in the various kinds of psychologies. But I would rather study the overall “psychology of psychologies.” I am interested in overall religion, but I am more interested in the “religion of religions.” The big back step, pulling back the curtains. Finding the back wall where the Wizard of Oz pulls all the strings.
What does this mean? To be more specific, an example on this pursuit – why does humanity need religion? Why do we make them? Why do we need them? Once made, how are they alike and unlike? Why? The religion of religions. Once you study the “religion” or religions, I think people understand overall religion much better. Many people who have done this, wind up with no organized religion and live the life of a deist or atheist. Or, you can become a religious charlatan who knows how to connive the last bit of money from the elderly, because “the church” needs a new jet plane.
In the martial world, I am interested in the good universal things that work and solve problems. These good things exist inside almost all systems, but they usually are abstract and burdened and at times mislead by the fluff, geography and personality of the system. For me, I don’t care where it comes from, Israel, Indonesia, the sewers of Spain (ha!). Come from a certain tribalism and a need for it. Group appeal. Human nature builds these social groups for just about everything, from football teams to the quilting clubs. But, if you are looking for the "martial," you have to let all that extra `fluff-stuff go, file it away, and sometimes just kick somebody right square in the balls (a kick that is universal by the way).
I don’t mind at all kicking the tires of various martial arts, doing them, having some fun, experimenting, absorbing (there’s that word again!) tipping the hat to some. But for me personally, in the end, I am really only interested in the “martial of the martial arts.” I have used the term, "reduce the abstract" for decades, but it is the same as "hacking away the unessentials."
Works and solve problems, but then for whom? What I need is not always what you need to survive. To function with the above guidelines, I have to live under the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions/format. If you are going to absorb what is useful FOR YOU? Who are you exactly? And so on. And if you are a teacher, who are your students….and so on? What is your motivation? Theirs? Social group? Exercise? Fun? War? Peace? I just ask for – know why you are doing what you are doing and where it fits in the big picture. That is all I usually ask for. Just know.
People think this is just about simplicity. I think it is and it isn't. How zen. Simple or simplicity is relative. A superior person may find different levels of achievement, different levels of simplicity than the rest of us. What is simple for some is complicated for others, either from natural skills or training. It really is a scale. Instructors must recognize this. And time. Instructors must recognize the time involved with teaching and learning things.
The Bruce Lee statement is kind of a zen riddle. Some people get confused by it. But because of it, I have whittled myself into a box. A bland, "hand, stick, knife, gun" box. Boring names. No pizzazz. No uniforms. No system head worship. No exotic locations. Tough to…“sell,” as a business plan. But, I am a martial deist, or martial atheist. I am also heavily influenced by the needs of my Army and police work times.
Even Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do has whittled itself into several boxes.