Stabbed! by Julie Werhnyak


Stabbed! By Julie Werhnyak
Retired police officer, professional trainer, speaker, author

“Every day I donned my Tempe police uniform I spoke some version of the same mantra. “I expect and accept I will be involved in a lethal encounter today and I will do everything I can to ensure my survival.”

With 19 years on, that March day in 2015 was no exception. However, something FELT different that day. I couldn’t shake the eerie, persistent feeling that something terrible was going to happen.My wife Karin was our audit and compliance sergeant and our paths rarely crossed at work, but they did that morning. As I left her office she called me back and said, “Just be careful, ok?” This was quickly followed by her telling me she loved me. I later learned Karin had a bad feeling as well.

That morning on patrol was uneventful until my second radio call. Another unit and I were dispatched to a check welfare. The caller said a female acquaintance left a message for help earlier that day. The caller was now at the woman’s apartment and heard talking inside. When he knocked on the door, he thought he heard her scream.I arrived first on scene and contacted the caller. When asked, he said he was unaware of any history of family violence between the young woman and her boyfriend. He added, he is actually, “a really nice guy.”

Officer Latasha Hampton arrived as I continued gathering information. She immediately expressed an uneasiness about the call and advised she would be turning on her recorder. The two of us knocked and announced more than 17 times. We spoke with neighbors who reported not seeing or hearing anything out of the ordinary.My attempts to call the 23-year-old woman went unanswered. I left a voice message asking if she was ok. I then had dispatch text the same message and add that we were not leaving until we knew she was.Latasha summoned me to the back of the apartment. She was standing by the sliding glass door and said she heard music turn on and off several times. We listened. “Do you hear that? I hear him unraveling duct tape,” she said.

I ran back toward the front of the complex while calling for more units. As I rounded the corner, I saw a man with a panicked look on his face. He said, “Officer, officer, I received a text from my daughter. All it says is ‘I love you.’ Not that that’s not nice to hear, but I’m concerned.” This panicked filled man was the woman’s father. I assured him we were concerned too and we would do everything we could to make sure she was okay. “I’m hearing muffled screams from a female inside…it’s muffled as if something is covering her mouth,” Latasha radioed. I knew I had to act fast to break through the locked metal gate that protected the wooden front door. I didn’t have a halligan tool but the woman’s father had a tire iron that he handed to me.

While working to pry open the security gate, Latasha yelled hoping the woman could hear her, “Hang on, we’re coming to save you.” Within seconds Latasha radioed, “22, I hear her screaming inside!”

Back up officers arrived with the tools needed to breach the doors. We formed a stack. The sergeant made short work of the security gate with a halligan tool and another officer hit the wooden door with the battering ram. It didn’t open but the lower half shattered to pieces.I crouched to enter, peering into the apartment. Never was I so keenly aware of the drastic difference between the harsh brightness mid-day Arizona and the darkened interior of a home. The lights were off and the window shades were drawn. The sliding glass door on the far side of the apartment shed enough light to create a backdrop for the silhouetted scene that was unfolding.The suspect was standing over the victim. He reached high overhead and dropped his weight, swinging his arm as if he was striking her. Once. Then a second time. I realized I was not hearing any contact. He swiftly spun, looked in my direction and ran out of sight.“He’s running! To the right!” I said as I cleared the door. I hugged the left wall of the narrow entryway and waited for other officers to enter behind me. I held on the corner to the kitchen that was approximately 4 feet ahead of me and to the right. Both the entryway and the kitchen opened to the family room.

“Where is he now?” the sergeant asked as he entered. I didn’t know but believed he may have gone to escape or barricade himself. I pointed and said I thought he went to a back room. I began slicing the pie around the corner to the kitchen, anticipating a long threat. As I took one more step, the suspect, who was directly around the corner, leaped from the kitchen wielding a large hunting knife overhead. Evil itself had leaped from the darkness.

My immediate thought was, “Oh Shit!” not out of fear, but of knowing I was about to be stabbed. Try as I might, I knew I could not get out of the way. Crystal clear thoughts rushed through my head. I thought, “he killed her and now he’s trying to kill me.” Immediately followed by, “that knife is coming at a very strange angle.”The scene was now playing out in slow motion. At least in my mind. I began canting my body and moving to the right while simultaneously trying to block the blow with my left arm. My right arm was extending. My gun touched his body as I squeezed the trigger, firing my first round. At the same time, the knife penetrated the front of my neck, just above my left clavicle.

I sensed an invisible wave of energy between us that launched me backward. As I sailed through the air. I fired my second round and crashed to the ground. My head hit the tile floor and my shoulder was hurt. Other officers also fired at the suspect.

I instinctively sprang to my hands and feet and scrambled back out the hole in the shattered door. I ran for cover and radioed,

“2-Paul 13, I need an ambulance…I’ve been stabbed.”

I was bleeding profusely. “He hit my carotid artery,” I thought. I focused on slowing my breathing and wondered if fire could save me. Thankfully, another officer was there to stay with me, comfort me and render aid. He called Karin and put her on speaker phone. When I told her I was stabbed, she said: “I know, are you ok?” Turns out she was listening to the call unfold on the radio from her office.

The suspect died at the scene. The victim was found bound, beaten and stabbed multiple times. She survived and later said Latasha’s words gave her hope.The knife missed my carotid artery by less than an inch. I was hospitalized for three days due to complications from the stab wound. I also suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury that required surgery.Several media outlets reported the “strange twist,” that the officer stabbed was a martial arts expert. There is no “strange twist.” The fact is that action is faster than reaction and if someone is hiding around a blind corner, in the dark and they jump out to stab you, you will be cut.

It’s What You Do Next That Matters! It was a miracle, and not a coincidence, that I survived being stabbed. I remained calm because I was Physically, Mentally and Spiritually Prepared, in the best shape I could be on that day and had fueled my body for optimum performance. In addition, I was 100% Present in the moment, which enabled me to fully utilize my extensive training.I also survived because I Had a Plan. I always made a conscious effort to identify my cover and concealment. In this case, I knew exactly where to go when I made my tactical retreat. Another part of my plan was to get outside the perimeter so Fire could treat me in the event I was ever critically injured, just as I did in this case.

My survival is also attributed to the police officers, dispatchers, firefighters, EMS personnel and hospital staff who were 100% Prepared and Present that day as well. I will be forever thankful to all of them!

While my training prepared me for the incident itself, nothing could have prepared me for the aftermath; the chaos, both mental and emotional. I sensed I had lost my footing and was overwhelmed by the onslaught of attention from friends and acquaintances, to media outlets and strangers. There were people who didn’t know what to say and others who didn’t know when to stop talking. It felt highly intrusive.There were times where nothing that had anchored me before the stabbing seemed available to me as I struggled. All I had previously known as normal no longer existed. Karin and I were about to enter a journey of recovery we had not prepared for.  (Part 2 coming soon)

Protecting the Belt: Impact Weapon Retention

It has always mystified me that Filipino stick people virtually never consider from whence their stick comes from. I don’t mean the rattan farm. I mean from their body’s carry site. Like knives, the stick is just…in their hand. Poof! Magic. How did it get there, in hand, to do all their dastardly moves. Usually, it’s a belt.

I started in Ed Parker Kenpo in late 1972 and we never touched a stick. “I come to you with empty hands…” was the motto we memorized. No sticks. No stick carry site. But once in the Army Military Police Academy, I was taught the L.A.P.D. and L.A. County police baton course. It matched the NYPD version and was extensive with a ton of stick grappling back then. Now, all police stick courses are worthless, paranoid, watered-down junk, or gone.

We started the police course back then with…pulling out your stick! From your belt! So I had this grounding in stick, stress, quick draws since 1973. As with a pistol, you had to pull the damn thing out before you got to use it. It also included stick retention, because bad guys either wanted your stick or wanted to stop you from drawing your stick. Pretty important stuff.

For an example of such stress draw  importance, in the 70s, I was dispatched once to two Army units brawling (on a gravel picnic ground). At least 20, 25 guys. I was punched off my feet by a soldier who did a 70s version of the “Superman Punch.” He and others landed on top of me and Superman was beating my face. I then…then…had to draw my baton from my belt. A…stress quick draw. (Did I mention the rock-gravel ground?) It is not always the stand-off, gentleman’s duel where you pull your weapon and declare, “En Garde!” Should you spend your life with a stick magically appearing in your hand? Like a pistol.  Or a knife,

The same baton course was taught in the Texas police academy I later attended in late 1970s. I started doing Filipino Martial Arts in 1986. The various systems have HEAVY doses in stick versus stick. Which, being respectful, curious and thirsty, I followed the progressions. But in the back of mind I thought two main things.

  • 1) From whence do these sticks come from on their bodies?
  • And do I really think I will be fighting another guy, with the exact same-sized stick?   

I mean, as a cop, I have responded to a few fights with various impact weapons. Two dunk guys fighting with softball bats at a tournament. Two business partners fighting, one with a tire iron, the other with a  crowbar. Stuff like that. It can happen, sure, but not much in civilized countries.  In uncivilized countries, there is also a lot of mixed weapon fights.

I did the entire FMA courses to black belts and instructorships. I survived , committing to the idea that I was studying…an art. A hobby. With only abstract benefits. This is true of almost all martial stuff I attended. A naivety of thoughtlessly exists as you fight the other guy, a mirror image of yourself, dressed the same, same sized weapons, with the same book of techniques.  Something I like to call, the Myth of the Duel. I have arrested a lot of people, and investigated a whole of cases since the 70s and real life doesn’t play out that same-same way.

But this lack of a belt and a draw concerned me as a doctrine problem. For a 4th degree black belt in Kempo in the 90s, we had to pick a traditional weapon for demonstration and scenarios. I fortunately picked the katana. I learned that Japanese martial arts concerning the Katana carry has belt-line, long-weapon retention methods I still find useful and show with modern, impact weapons.  Drawing of the katana from the belt is a big deal in Japan. 

While we were in the Philippines, Ernesto Presas taught a 4-count, two-stick diamond pattern, nicknamed “Chambered Diamond.” You have to chamber your arms (hands virtually under your armpits) twice in the 4-count. He said, and only once, “this is how you draw your sticks!” Okay! You start with the pattern empty handed, then the chambering hands pull a stick from each belt side and you continue the pattern with the sticks. A STICK DRAW! You have to have a belt. But, that was it.

But I will tell you, 99.5% of the time, a stick draw is never mentioned in FMA. And lots of people in FMA classes and seminars NEVER have a street belt or even a martial arts belt on to draw one from. (This drives me crazy.) The drawstring, karate pants don’t cut it. I once had a major, major league FMA person a little pissed at me when he declared that there were “no belts in Filipino martial arts.” No belts? What? Huh? Said hero had never been to homeland/motherland.

In my non-artsy, Force Necessary: Stick course, I use a lot of the old L.A.P.D. course and some of the Filipino material. It is “stick versus hand, stick versus stick (a little), stick versus knife and stick versus various gun threats world.” It very much includes expandable – collapsible  batons. It has an emphasis on stick-baton, stress quick draws because as I said, that thing doesn’t just appear in your hand.

When you ignore belt or carry-site, quick draws, you forget that you must draw one and you forget to retain your stick at it’s carry site from take-aways. Weapon disarmings,

  • – begin at the carry site,
  • – happen during the draw process,
  • – happen when the weapon is presented only,
  • – happen when the weapon is being used.

On the other end of this list is you. And your weapon retention during that process. Lose it? Get it right back. Then you are the stick  grabber!  They call it “weapon recovery.”

I cover stick retention (and knife and pistol) in two study groupings:

  • Group 1: Protect the Belt.
  • Group 2: Protect the Pulled Weapon.

A lot of FMA stick vs. stick has disarms and counters (retention) but, when the weapon is produced (drawn) and-or used. And stick versus stick, and as I said, this comes in a hobby, art format. You have to work to glean and decipher useful, reality from it. Unless you are a hobby-ist, replicator?  In which case, copy on. Copy that!

I still teach Filipino material. I am happy to do it when asked. It’s fun. But I add my concerns with it, like drawing the weapon from a belt under stress. 

I ask attendees in my seminars to wear “street clothes.” Pants with pockets, even shorts with pockets. And a “street” belt.  Wear a regular belt. We need all these things to train properly. Gun people might think me crazy that I even need to ask this, as it just makes utter common sense, but I deal with differing “worlds.” But, I sometimes also have to ask gun people not to dress like they are being dropped into Cambodia for two weeks.

In the “who, what, where, when, how and why of life, “WHAT are you wearing? WHY are you wearing that? And don’t forget the belt, the draw from the belt, and retention at the belt level.


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Palace Intrigue Report #2,336: Seminar Sabotage.

The seminar business. There are all kinds of martial arts and martial seminars, from little theme sessions on up to big multi-galas. I could do a seminar on the seminar business. I have no school. I just do seminars.  I started hosting martial arts seminars in 1990. Ernesto. Remy. Terry Gibson. Paul Vunak. Some other JKD people. I was attending all kinds of seminars since 1986. When attending seminars I observed how they were orchestrated. Advertised. The successes. The failures. I spoke to the sad hosts. The happy hosts. Around the world. Then I started teaching seminars, here and there, a bit in 1993 and big time starting 1996. I know seminars!  Remy Presas told me one time, a simple line I’d never forget-

“Seminars…very tricky business.”

As Kim Cattrell reminded us in the Star Trek movie, and I do not quote exactly, “Sabotage…to deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct, for business, political or military advantage.”

Many martial school owners worry about local seminars cutting into their businesses, in their area. When an area host organizes a seminar, it means that there is someone around the corner, so to speak, opening or growing a competing school nearby, scaring the emotional and intellectual hell out of them. Remember that martial schools struggle to draw people within their 5 square mile demographic. So when Ralph Jones hosts the famous Jimmy Wonderland for a local seminar, this represents a business, problem-challenge on many levels.  A threat even. They might lose students and prestige. Students might meet Ralph and like him! Students may love Wonderland’s methods and want more!  Ironically, if Jimmy Wonderland was appearing just outside their area/region, these anxious owners might even go to the seminar. Might display that certificate on their office wall. But a little too close? Nope.

Thus…the seminar sabotage game begins. Since the 1990s right on up to this VERY month in 2019, I am still very much a victim of these turf plots. The biggest method of sabotage? Why, another seminar! Suddenly throw a “mandatory” or guilt-attend seminar the week before, or on the very weekend of the seminar you want to sabotage. I have seen the term “mandatory” used and the “guilt-guilt-must attend,”  verbiage and message. I have lost track of how many times this has been done to me.  Multiple times a year for 24 years. Right up to this month.

The week before so bad? Yes. The seminar sabotage plot of the “week before” takes discretionary money and the pressures of family time. When your seminar comes up the following weekend, attendees extra money was spent and the spouse says “Dammit  Earl, you were gone all last weekend.”  At times, Jimmy Wonderland will travel into the very school you are going to the next weekend, with his mandatory edict.  Plus, there is this – “get there first,” kind of natural urge.

Of course, the same weekend is the same weekend. Go here, not there.  I have seen people do this and even try matching the topics.

Back in the late 1990s, it was always puzzling to Keith Miller and me that every time I was appearing in Sacramento, CA, which was sometimes twice a year, a local JKD guy – “Winston ”- was hosting Jimmy Wonderland. So, Keith and I ran a little experiment. Keith announced a date for us, well in advice. Mysteriously, Winston popped up with the same date. Prepared for this, we changed the weekend. So too, did Winston and the Wonderland date changed. We let that date set a while, and being prepared for this, we changed it yet AGAIN!  (What an experiment!)  I guess maybe Wonderland didn’t know of all this local tomfoolery by Winston, or…perhaps Wonderland himself ordered him to do so? But either way, they never changed the 3rd date and we worked around that.

Probably the worst I can think of was when a police officer in western Canada, who fancied himself an international instructor, who did little more than regurgitate failed 1990s ideas, found out I was headed to his big island.  Witnesses and the host said that he was caught ripping down the seminar fliers everywhere they were  posted.  

Stories related to this theme abound. One of my favs is the one about the two guys asking their teacher to attend a regional, Wally Jay seminar. The school head says no. Upset by this the two lads sneak to the seminar anyway. Who’s also there in attendance? That school head!  Awkward! This is a classical, martial arts,  clap-trap, but still goes on in more modern organizations. Last year a host and I were looking out the front window just before a seminar start time, and he saw a certain car go by. “That’s Grandmaster Flash,” he said. “He’s checking the parking lot out.” We had several of GM Flash’s people secretly in the seminar, I later learned. They have to hide their cars and dodge all group photos. GM Flash’s school is not too close either.

This very year, overseas, we had an area school head (cities away) call up our host and virtually demand that we save 7 slots for he and his people, for my seminar. (We had a limited space up to 25) “We’ll be there!” he promised. Then he scheduled Jimmy Wonderland for the SAME weekend. “What if I wasn’t watching the area news?” our man said. “I would have held open those 7 slots.”   He didn’t . He knew it was…sabotage…

Unlike this host, I do get a kick about some of the business naivete of some hosts. When we discover that the area Snidely has suddenly, mysteriously,  and “hmmm, not-like-him, or not-like-his-usual-scheduling,” scheduled a seminar the week before ours or on the same weekend, and your host says,

  • “Oh, oh, that must be an accident. Oh, I know Snidely and he’s such a good guy. Oh my.”
  • Or,
  • “I talked to Snidely and he said he had that one scheduled for a year.”

Kumbaya? Bubba…chances are, it’s a business sabotage. Coincidences can happen, but more than likely no. Hell no, your nice guy is suffering from business paranoia.

Other ideas:

  • Don’t bother inviting neighborhood school owners to the seminar. It’s probably a dead zone. Very good chance they won’t come or won’t tell their people. Advertise to schools just barely outside the dead zone. The locals will get the bad news anyway. Regular people don’t care. Business cares. This is not a kumbaya zone.
  • Oh, listen…on this subject…if you are the one hosting Jimmy Wonderland yourself? DO NOT SHOOT YOURSELF IN YOUR OWN FOOT!  You do not, I repeat, DO NOT have your own seminar or clinic a week or two before Wonderland’s visit! Come on!  Jeez. There is only so much time and money your people have! CLEAR A PATH FOR JIMMY! Sometimes leave a minimum of three weeks to even a month for your people to get another “family pass,” and raise some fun money.

As for me, I don’t care if you attend Wonderland’s seminars. For me, the more you are trained, the easier my job is and the more we can do, and the faster we can go in seminars. Just spread these events apart.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not the Svengali of the seminar business. Seminars are very much like a Vegas crap-shoot. You never know all the factors involved and the luck factor. One weekend I had 67 people in upstate New York, and the next weekend 6 people in Texas. Crap happens. Some of the BIGGEST world touring names have and still have disastrous turn-outs. You just don’t hear about them.

And to all you Snidelys out there? Just so you know, I know who you are. I know this Palace Intrigue report doesn’t sabotage your sabotage. But, we know. I do understand your paranoia and sometimes vindictive motives. You may trick my naive hosts, but only once. And, once alerted, we may move the date, screwing you around. Once. Twice? Three times even. You remember the “Whack a Mole” game? We can play, “Whack a Wonderlander.”

Like Remy said, “Seminars…very tricky business.”


Hock’s email is

Plan your attendance (or sabotage) early, look here for seminars

The Importance of a Death Grip!

death grip is officially defined as an extremely tight grip, First you have to grab. One of my training structures is the Stop 6 program –  the 6 common stopping points-collisions of  a typical fight (or arrest). Stop 2 covers the hand, stick, knife, gun grabs on fingers, hands, wrists, and weapons. And importantly, their counters-escapes.

The grab is made of two components in Stop 2. The Death Grip is really about two parts :

  • 1: the catch and,
  • 2: the subsequent grip of your opponent’s lower arm, wrist, hand and weapon itself. You might have a great catch but a weak grip. You might have a tremendous grip but a weak catch.

In all of the Stops, 2 through 6, a catch and grip is not a catch or grip without your thumb. Your life depends on this, especially with a knife and pistol, all defined in the Stop 6 program.

All martial and even various sports training requires much catching skills and hand gripping strength as you can muster and exercises that directly or indirectly increase such are vital. Almost all people immediately get this idea.

“If your grips fail, all your technique goes out of the window. It becomes hard to execute anything.” – BJJ Coach Lawrence Griffith

All people get this? Well, not all. Decades ago, various, yet small group of famous martial artists would suggest not using your thumb in a capture of an opponent’s limb. I stood in numerous seminars in the 1980s and 1990s hearing some martial instructors say this. Their small point usually being that your thumb or hand could be caught in some kind of lock and you would be supporting that capture with your full grip. As one famous JKD guy use to say,

“Rule of thumb? Don’t use your thumb.”

Huh? At first I mindlessly accepted that. But when I gave it a mere second thought? No. The bigger point? Minutes later when trying to stop and grip a stick or knife attack, I watched these same instructors all unconsciously demonstrate full hand grabs the wrist or forearm. They fully grabbed limbs (and clothes) 99% of the time.

I would see in seminars, mine and others, an unchallenged, playful catch or stop with just a curved hand, with the thumb beside the fingers…among friends. NO! Now, this no-thumb-helping move stops almost nothing and an attacker can move but an inch and instantly swoop under the curved hand to hit, stab or shoot. The thumb grip stopped this.

Today, once in a while, I still hear this advice echoed around the world. They are down-line lineage from these people and it takes a little “slap to the brain” to shake them out of it. Not using your thumb to grab is a thinking disorder mistake.  When doing throws and takedowns you use your full grip. In ground fighting you use your full grip.

And through the years I have run across self defense instructors who proclaim that fights never start with arm/wrist grabs. These short-sighted people have a tendency to view fights as bar fights, I think and are not schooled in the world of crime. They make fun of old school jujitsu and other systems that tend to start their programs with escapes from “common” grabs. BUT! CRIMES on the other hand, (no pun intended) like kidnappings, rapes, robberies, home invasions, assaults to murder entails such grabs. Victims are grabbed, pulled and pushed around. Tied up and taped. Handcuffed. And grabbing motions are also like weapon draw and drawn weapon interruptions.

Back in Training Mission One  and in all the courses, I list the four ways a human limb attacks you, hand, stick or knife…

  • 1: A thrusting motion.
  • 2: A hooking motion.
  • (Delivered either as a-)
  • 3: A hit and retract, or…
  • 4: A committed lunge.

It will always be hard to catch a thrust or hook, sure, but all kinds of untrained and trained people do in crimes and fights. But more importantly, look at the last two. The hit and retract and committed lunge. The hit and retract is a natural counter to a grab as it snaps back, and very difficult to seize. We have drills for that. While at times the committed lunge is caught and then driven foolishly into  your catch-grip, actually helping your catch-grip. 

Some notes on the Catch and Subsequent Grip

  • Size. Be aware of the size of your hand in comparison to the limbs of others. (We police have many stories about this as we have had to arm wrestle people into cuffs.)
  • Alignment. In the pistol shooting world and unarmed striking experts tell us to align with the forearm as much as possible. The palm strike, when thrusting, is called the palm heel strike because it can align with the forearm. In karate and various striking systems, they tell us to align the top two knuckles with the forearm. Folks suggest getting a pistol grip that aligns with the forearm, even though we can’t always shoot that way. In an Army gym decades ago, a power lifter told me to bench press using the bar on my palm heels as much as possible. You push a car with your palm heel, not your fingers.

It is a good idea to practice for that sort of alignment with a catch, to save your thumb from hyper-extensions and worse. Other steps like this are accomplished in sports and you can can develop this movement too. We have drills for this.

  • Firearms. The topic of grabbing a long gun or pistol comes up and deserves an entire chapter.  Any such photo of a firearm grab usually draws a comment of a too-hot-to-handle barrel.  You have to be shooting a lot to make a common long gun or pistol a scorcher to the touch. Depends on the weapon.  Think about the circumstances of you, who, what, when, where, how and why, defending yourself against a weapon that was run so long that it gets to hot to maintain a death grip on to save your life. Plus, there are so many circumstances, like a street crime, a robbery, a threat-only, a prisoner escort, an interrupted guard-sentry on duty, where the weapon is cold, or “warm,” that the subject must be discussed. I think an emergency grab of a pistol or long gun must be attempted at times and many of those times, the gun is not as hot as a flame torch.  (How many modern troops today wear gloves anyway?)

Further in, as in Stops 3 through 6, there are arm wrap catches (even leg catches, but this is about Stop 2 problems, just a bit further out than 3, 4, 5 and 6. In Stop 2 segments we cover the hand, the stick, the knife and the gun, catch and grab. And their counters-escapes!

Need we list all the exercises for grip strength here in this short essay? I hope not because so many exercises develop it.  Just search around. Oh and rule of thumb? Use your thumb. Wisely.

Contact Hock at


Coming soon, the updated (from 2003) refined, reprinted new, second edition  of Training Mission One in both book and e-book formats

Drop It!

Drop it!
In police work we are told to never have anything in our gun
hands, in case we suddenly have to draw our pistols. But we
know that is impossible. Even when writing a simple ticket, both hands are busy. Fortunately, citizens do not live by this advice, this edge, as they go about their daily business.
Much later, police trainers then passed around the idea, the realization,  that when you drop your hand to pull your gun, you have to open your hand to grab your gun anyway. So, if you have something in your hand? Clip board. Grocery bag. Cup of coffee. Cheeseburger. You are going to open your hand anyway. You just have to learn to drop the item as your hand descends to your weapon carry site. This would help civilians also.

This actually takes a bit of “dropsy” practice. Practice in class while holding what you think you will hold, use the usual cues of serious trouble before as instigators, then drop and draw. Use simulated ammo of course, but you can make some live-fire reps on targets at the range, providing you are somewhere you can draw from a holster.

Oh, and when making an emergency call? Always use your off-hand
to run the cell phone. We have a simulated ammo scenario for that process too.

Sometimes we discover that we can chunk the item at the bad guy. But, that option is not always available due to time, space and situation. Lots of people ASSUME they know what their first or next confrontation will be like, and think that a good guy should throw their hats, coffee, etc at the bad guy before they draw. Such is an idea with a pre-emptive draw, maybe. But if the bad guy is drawing first, you are already behind the eight-ball of action-beats-reaction, and taking the step of tossing something, then drawing makes things worse for you. Don’t believe me? Check it put with sims ammo.

So in your “Drop It” scenario training, have a simulated ammo pistol on your carry site. Hold something in your gun hand. A trainer pulls a weapon in front of you. Drop, draw and shoot him. Get the drop routine running in your head.

Through it all, it is vital to have a real person in front of you, doing something dangerous for you to properly draw your weapon for the right, legal reasons, not a bell, not a whistle or timer. A person! Thus, the desperate need for interactive, simulated ammo training.

Hock’s email is

Coming soon, a new revised hand, second edition Hand, Stick, Knife, Gun Training Mission One book…and the rebirth of the old Training Mission book series.

Thee…”Sam Elliot Decision”

Years ago, I saw a western with Sam Elliot. I can’t remember the name. Two guys came to kill him at a cabin. He shot them. One survived and Sam immediately hauled him in the cabin and started treating him for his gut-shot wound. A shooting aftermath element all gun people need to consider more and more these days…

Former Dallas PD officer Amber Guyger, came home late at night from a 12 hour shift, drove into and walked through her dark apartment building, a place where some 15% of residents have reported going to the wrong apartment. She entered an unlocked door, saw a guy in “her” living room and shot him dead. Its a big deal in Dallas. A big deal because the the poor victim watching TV on his couch was by all accounts, a terrific young black guy. And we are smothered with Black Lives Matter agitators here. So, its a terrible mistake, and she will pay.  She was eventually found guilty of murder. But, this case is not my message today though.

She testified! Under prosecution questioning – and her testimony was the fact that she did not apply any tactical medicine methods to the guy. She had some very handy too. She did call 911, etc but didn’t do much for him right away. This received many grimaces in court. It suggests a negativity. An uncaring intent. A racism. It fortifies a guilty verdict. Trouble for an on-duty and off-duty police officer. At very least, it is, unprofessional.  How cane that be? And what about for a citizen?

Aside from Amber, it is becoming more and more apparent through the years that if you shoot someone in self defense, the “law” – civil or criminal, is going to wonder and ask you why you did or did not, or even expect you to jump in and save their life, right away after you shot them. Police or otherwise. Even military.

Think about the Navy SEAL recently accused of all those war crimes and killing a wounded  teenager-combatant for one. One of the contentions was he did not treat the wounded teen properly.

Nowadays we spend a lot time on tactical medicine, but for whom exactly? Back in the 90s one of my gun levels was tact medicine, taught by an tactical ambulance EMT. Years before the trend developed in what? 2010-ish?  Med-Tech improved so much we had to drop the old 1990’s film. But think about it for a moment. The general thrust has been to heal yourself and family and co-workers. Not the criminal. Training was, that the bad guy had to be handcuffed, dead or not. His weapons collected. An ambulance was called. Not much, if any, attention given to the grounded criminal. In a way, in a biological, psychological way, I think we can understand how people shooting a robber- attacker, are reluctant to help them. The SOB might get kicked rather than get a tourniquet! 

The first I heard of this concern, this “decision” was during the infamous Los Angeles bank robbery decades ago, in the 90s, by the two guys tacted-out, vested and with machine guns. When the second robber was shot, there was news footage of the aftermath.  The cops stood around. The family of the robber sued LAPD for ignoring their son’s treatment after being shot. Due to the carnage they wrought, there wasn’t much sympathy. But, of course, LAPD settled.

Years ago, I saw a western with Sam Elliot. I can’t remember the name. Two guys came to kill him at a cabin. He shot them. One survived and Sam immediately hauled him in the cabin and started treating him for his gut-shot wound. And I thought – you know – that’s what a really cool, good, “put-together” person does. It was a role-model message to me back then. It started me to thinking about this. Is it safe to move in, kick the bad guy’s gun away (or pick it up) look the bad guy over, and maybe…do something? Do nothing? Too scared to? Don’t care to? Too scared to look? Don’t care to look? Scared or cared?  Think about it.

Anyway, my message is even if you shoot anyone, least of all kill Hannibal Lector himself, someone, somewhere will be looming around – prosecution, defense, lawyers, families, political groups – torturing you for not immediately performing a heart transplant to save him. I don’t think this reality has fully hit total ground zero with all the gun people in USA. Just calling 911 may not be enough. It’s situational.

Some of my gun trainer friends say they teach rescue care . They say, treat yourself first. Then friends-comrades-family. Then third, take a look at the shot bad guy. You have to monitor him anyway. Again, that’s situational. I am not laying out a list. I am just making a point to think about. Be able to articulate why you did or did not choose to treat the shot person.  Don’t just say, “Well he was trying to rob me, so F____ him.” That works at the bar, or the buddy BS session.  And I do really appreciate gallows humor, but It might not hang well in at the Grand Jury, the criminal court, or the civil court. 

Each case, each shooting is different. What I am saying is, is this one…your first one? Your next one? What of a “Sam Elliot Decision?” You will have to articulate at some point, with understandable, common sense, why you did or did not do something.  There will be situational reasons for or against. But, better think about it, this… “Sam Elliot Decision.” That’s why we call it…a decision.

(Oh, Amber?  She got ten years in the pen. I’m sure her lack of immediate treatment came into play, as the prosecution made a big deal about it.)

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Ankle Breaks in Gunfights

Through the 1970s to the 1990s, I noticed a tripping accident was fairly common in line operations, police work. Ankle juries. Line ops is often synonymous with chasing people and dashing to active crime scenes. Running. Running over the urban, suburban and rural terrain, and looking far off not on the objects and contours on the ground before you.

So that’s a bad enough invitation to an ankle twist or break or fall. But another thing I noticed and not just in my agency and the surrounding agencies, and then nationally – another unique accident. Police cars parking hurriedly beside curbs and other crap, and officers bailing out of cars, looking off to problem people and places, and catching their ankles on stuff. Sprain, Or break. Or fall. (I also heard similar stories from the military, where by the nature of what they do in total, the ankles are weak links in action.)

In one week, we had CID captain bail out and break an ankle, and a veteran patrol officer bail out and break his ankle because of curbs. Both were passengers by the the way. So the while driver could guess-see where he was going, the passenger was stuck with what he got over on his side.  The captain’s gun was out. The officer was pulling his gun. Think of the residual mess a discharge would have made. Could have made. There are a number of discharges each year with falls. Fingers off the trigger!

That strange week was when I began to take notice of the problem. Many moons ago.  This type of thing, a car bail-out, least of all a foot chase could happen to any ambitious person, gun or not, police or not. Military or not. (People have this problem on the supermarket parking lot!)

Look around. But, one more thing to do in preparation is to develop more resilient ankles. Not just calf raises up and down, but rotating your foot and rocking it side to side under a weight pressure.  Leg work out, even running create a better ankle to withstand surprises in the future. This alone might not be the cure. In the 1980s while I was working out regularly and doing karate and old school jujitsu, I went through a whole period of jacking up my ankles.  Stupid little accidents, like going down stairs too fast a little sideways. Then, perhaps mysteriously, with the same or “worse”  regiments, I never had those problems again, even with some near spills and twists which should have. Maybe I was overdoing back then? Smarter workouts help. I and others are convinced that working out your legs (that’s ankles too) help protect your ankles. (I might add here that the two cases I mentioned above…neither worked out.)

Since all that, I take a quick look down. Or look fast and remember where I will be when I pull up somewhere. Sometimes it could just be junk, muck or a giant puddle out there. Warn your partner if you have one. Even today, as a “former-action-guy,” I warn my wife when I think I get to close to the curb or a mess for her to get out carefully when she is the passenger.

I think emergency folks need to…curb their enthusiasm… when first getting out of a vehicle at hot scenes (and work out for as long as you can in life).

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Some Gunplay. Nights of the Mad Pay-tre-ons.

Country and Disco. Rednecks and Hippies. Back then when I first patrolled the streets in the 1970s, be it in the Army or out, I … profiled … or rather nicknamed the guys I would see roaming the bars and restaurants at night. When the dancing parlors shut down each night, waves of “Country and Disco” folks would gravitate into the 24-hour diners. Some also gravitated into our jails. It didn’t take long to realize you were more likely to have trouble with a guy dressed in black with a felt cowboy hat than one duded up like a hair-sprayed member of the Bee Gees. Profiles in wardrobes. To our dispatcher, they were all “pay-tre-ons.”

Some of the bouncers in the country and Western clubs were rough and rowdy people, and I have written some of their stories before. Like them or not, we got to and had to work with them, and they were indeed the first line of eyes and ears for a lot of stuff. They tipped us off, they pulled us out of scrapes, and they watched our backs. We watched theirs. When I was a detective later on, they helped clear some cases, even murders, for me.

One night at the Duster’s Club, two bouncers I’ll just call Ralph and Randy were whistled over by a barkeep pointing to a loud patron who was starting trouble. As they approached the disturbance, the patron turned, yelled, and held them at bay with an open palm.

“You stay outta this!” the man screamed.
Ralph thought the man was drugged more than he was drunk.
“Say, padnah,” Randy said, “come on, we just need you to leave, hear?”
“Fuck you, skunk!” the man declared, “I ain’t cha padnah!”

With that, the man pulled a big revolver from under his jacket and pointed it at them and shoved it straight out at arm’s length. Randy and Ralph ducked and backed away, and the customers nearby shrieked and ran. But overall, this place was noisy and big, and the shock wave didn’t rumble through the whole crowd. The rest of the place just two-stepped right on by. Kind of like life, really, when you think about it.

The man charged the bouncers swearing he would kill them. The barkeep called the police. And that would be me. I was about two miles away.

“Pay-tre-ron at the Duster with a pistol,” the dispatcher told me on the car radio. This “country-sounding” dispatcher, not a mental giant, always mispronounced the word “patron,” calling them “pay-tre-ons,” like they were some kind of an alien race. Our running joke for night shift when this dispatcher was on duty was – “wonder if we’ll be invaded by the Pay-tre-ons tonight?”

“Ten-four,” I said and, of course, there was no backup available. Everyone was busy with his or her own Saturday-night alien invasions.

As I pulled up into the Duster parking lot, to my surprise, I saw Randy and Ralph kneeling beside some parked cars in the parking lot. They were peeking over the trunks and hoods to the north to a cheap motel beside the nightclub. They ran to a wall and motioned me over.

“He’s in there!” Randy told me as I walked up to them. He pointed to the motel. I stared, ducking down, too, because … I can take a hint.
“Who?” I asked. The guy with the gun? I thought he was in the Duster.

“He ran out the door and across the lot. Ralph and I follered behind him. Come here,” Randy said, and brought me to the corner of the motel. “He is in that room.”
“He’s madder than hell. He is on drugs,” Ralph said. “I swear he was gonna kill us. He’s got a big-assed revolver. He pointed it at us and at half a dozen people in the bar.”

He singled out the room window for me; and I could see a light was on inside, and there was a lot of movement inside. The curtain was partially open. I worked my way around the corner while staring at the room window for any action. And then I slipped down the motel’s south wall and up the west wall until I was right beside this window.
This was an old-fashioned, cinder block-constructed motel. Each room had a horizontal window with a sliding glass, windowpane, and a curtain. The window was partially open. No screen on the window. I peered inside.
An angry man was pacing the small room from the bathroom door to the front door. Back and forth. He was quietly cursing to himself, clenching his fists, and waving his arms. On the corner of the dresser by the front door was this “big-assed revolver.” I pulled out my .357 Colt Python, my own big-assed gun, in case he decided to continue his angry walk out the door holding that damn thing and shooting up the place.

I stepped back and saw Randy and Ralph looking at me from across the parking lot. The loud and busy interstate highway ran behind them. I made a big circling motion with my hand and then pointed to a spot on the far side of the door, a signal for them to go up the service road and down the far side of the motel. I was all alone here and needed their help.  But if my quick plan would work, I needed them; and they were itching to help.
I watched the man pace. When Randy and Ralph got into position on the far side of the door, I got into mine. At a moment when the man was near the bathroom door and far from his gun, I reached into the partially open window, hooked the curtain, shoved the window and curtain open as far as I could and pointed my Python at him.

“Police! Freeze!” I barked. Which he did. His eyes cut over to his pistol.
“No! Don’t even think about it.”

Outside, Ralph tried to open the door, but it was locked.

“You will walk over to the door with your hands up. You will unlock the door,” I told him in the most menacing voice I could muster. “You keep your hands up. If you touch that pistol, I will cut you in half.”

He looked hard at me. He understood that message and marched over to the door. As he got close to his gun, I inched my pistol in just a bit more for a better angle. Yes, I would have cut him in half. He unlocked the door.

As soon as the knob jiggled, Ralph and Randy barged in with quite a double tackle on that guy right onto the bed. I thought the bed would collapse, but it didn’t. They immediately proceeded to pommel and beat the tar out of him. I casually stepped around the wall and into the room, got his gun and stuck it inside my Sam Brown belt . I took a quick peek into the bathroom for anyone else. Accomplices. Beaten-up girlfriend. Dead guys or gals. Yeah, no telling, as that stuff happens. But the stinky bathroom was empty that time. Meanwhile, the beating on the bed continued.

“Okay, okay, okay,” I said, trying to tone those guys down just enough to get a space to handcuff the guy. The suspect was busted up a bit by now. But way back then, which I still affectionately refer to as “the good ol’ days,” the jailers received and booked-in near-dead prisoners all the time, and never so much as offered an aspirin to them. Today? Today,  they get new teeth, a manicure, special trip to the hospital, and a scholarship.


(I’ll just put this photo up here, just cuz I think it’s special.)


Off to jail. Detectives on Monday morning would work the rest of this. Get statements. The guy, a Texan but an out-of-towner, had no prior criminal history. I charged him with possession of a firearm in a bar, which was a felony then, and for the assault of pointing that pistol at Randy and Ralph. Etc. Why’d he do it? Hell if I know. I just did my part of the job. As usual, I never saw nor heard from that suspect again. He must have plea-bargained himself a deal.

I guess today, decades later, all this would have to be handled differently than “1970s Texas-style.” Today, a SWAT team would be called for a 4, or 6 or maybe 10 hour, negotiated stand-off. And well, those bouncers would’ve been able to beat the guy up either.  Times have changed.

Yup, I never saw him again. Just a whole lot of folks like him. The world was full of those damn “Pay-tre-ons.” It was an invasion. He went back to his home planet. 


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Gun Killer Instinct. Gun Survival Instinct

(This is a chapter from Hock’s upcoming book External Focus Gun Fighting, due out in 2020)

There are plenty of people who have shot plenty of other people without any training at all. Consider the history of self defense, crime and war.  The motivation? Fear? Anger? Justice? Revenge?  Did the shooters have or did they not have, an inbred, strong  killer instinct? A powerful, innate drive for survival? Is this there or not there in people?  How much so? Is such trainable or untrainable?

This essay is not an in-depth, psychological study on the amygdala, killer or other instincts, but really just about shooting people that need to be shot, at the instant they need to be shot. I have already collected many psychological sources in my Fightin’ Words book for your added study. I, and marksmanship instructors, or martial “guys,” artsy or otherwise, are not a great source for such PHD-plus, endeavors. In short, I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on television. We shoot the brains, not dissect them. So, I refer you to qualified, mental experts. (Also, I do not teach marksmanship, leaving that to those experts. You should become the best marksman you can be.)

I look at this subject here, only in regards to motivate people to defend themselves and offer a related, over-view of what parts the killer instinct and survival instincts are at play, via training.  

Colonel Jeff Cooper once said that if you don’t think you can shoot someone, don’t put on the gun. That’s just a starting point for some self realization. There are numerous people who know they cannot shoot anyone and couldn’t do it. There are numerous people who know they cannot shoot anyone, but they were wrong because later they have. There are people who think they can, but couldn’t. Those that think they can and have. And those that don’t ever think about it all and just go shooting at ranges. For them its an abstract question. They can’t personally relate to actual experience and aftermath and just don’t think much about it. 

Killer Instinct and Survival Instinct
“A ruthless determination to succeed or win.” “The Killer Instinct is defined as a cold, primal mentality that surges to your consciousness and turns you into a vicious fighter. … This mentality results from mastery of the killer instinct.” To many people, it’s related to the business world or to sports. We hear it for example, in the stock market and tennis. Or, any endeavor when the opponent could be “finished” and the person does or doesn’t “finish” them. If they didn’t, some critics would say they “lacked the killer instinct.” There were several KiIler Instinct, and Overkill books written in 1980s and 1990s advocating the universal use of this mindset and approach when fighting anyone, anytime, with or without weapons. And off to jail they will probably go. 

What of the Survival Instinct? Described as – “An ability to know what to do to stay alive.” This is not such a serious term as killer instinct. Survival is socially acceptable. It is almost biological, common sense. Killer is a bad word, subliminally connected to bad acts and actors, a negative even when necessary.

Now let’s add the word “gun” in front of it. GUN Killer Instinct. GUN survival instinct. These are pretty serious terms to be throwing around. Emotional. Ethical. Legal. The terms have to be considered by the major “food” groups. It is part of the “who” as in “who are you?” of the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions I like to use.
Group 1: Citizens.
Group 2: Police.
Group 3: Military
Group 4: Security

So, it seems more palatable, more legal even to use the term survival instinct than killer instinct. Perhaps for some students/practitioners that’s a smarter term to use. When you fight someone, both without weapons, death should be on the far end of the hurt em’ list, but when holding a knife or a gun, killing is not so far down the spectrum. It all better be smart and legal.

The Hesitation. The Concern.
Periodically through time, a martial instructor, certainly a self defense, and/or combatives shooting instructor will be asked,
”Who am I to shoot someone?”
“What will I do? Will I freeze?”
“I just don’t know that I can kill someone.”
“Will I have that killer instinct?” 
“How will I know I can pull the trigger and shoot and kill someone?”

If you have never been asked about these questions, or received such observations, I don’t know why. Perhaps you only see a group of men in their 20s, 30s, even 40s at the shooting range and they might not reveal such inner thoughts? I am not sure group of trainees in the military, once at the shooting range are given a lecture on the “will the kill?” I have no such memory? Do you?  They just shoot-away? “Yer’ in the Army now, and we kill people,” is a given. But I have heard these questions from time to time and not just from men, but from women too.

Can people “switch to kill” when needed? Killology poster boy Dave Grossman has sort of made a living, a cottage industry discussing this, and to much controversy and debate. A debate I do not want to get into here. In terms of guns, there are some speculations that only a few members of a theoretic, trained military unit actually do the killing.
But, a whole lot of somebodies have been shooting people. Suffice to say that through time, a whole lot of people have been clubbed, speared, arrowed, stabbed, shot and killed at rather close range in self defense, in crime and war, despite an alleged inbred against violence. Grossman admits that the Army improved its shooting rates from some 20% in WW II to 90% by the Vietnam War with simple, training changes. (These numbers are usually not very accurate, by the way).

I can quickly sum up the principle of that change in two sentences for the curious. When my father was in basic training for WW II, he shot at paper, bulls eye targets and they dropped him on the D-Day beaches. When I went through Vietnam era training in Ft Polk, LA, we shot at bulls eyes too, but also shot on an amazing Tiger Ridge, “jungle” range trail, with pop-up, human-shaped targets dressed in VC clothes and NVA uniforms, among streams, rocks, trees and bushes. The trail went up a hill and there were close and long-range shooting.  When you shot the target, it fell.

This was a step toward reality and a classic desensitization process. This beat all kinds of paper target shooting to me, and left me with a life-long, lasting memory/inspiration. More on that subject here in a minute. (We see a lot of military training cities for Middle East/Southwest Asia scenarios these days and many think the idea is new. Not so. For example, the Ft Polk, Tiger Ridge, Vietnam village I mentioned was built in 1965, offering scenarios with blank ammo.) 

“Motivate training through anger, not madness. Motivate training from fear not paranoia.”

Motivate training through anger, not madness. Motivate training from fear not paranoia. How do you instill confidence, proper restraint along with “killer” instinct/survival instincts, and layer in skill? For yourself? Or for your people? I would like to offer some suggestions and ideas I have learned and taught. You could start by explaining the process with nature and nurture, then explain repetition training, pinpointing and desensitization. Lets start with…

Hard-Wired and Hard Forged
Hard wired? Nature magazine published a popular article based on some extensive research into violence. “Humans have evolved with a propensity to kill one another that is six times higher than the average mammal,” so say the scientists of 2016’s The Phylogenetic Roots of Human Lethal Violence. “The researchers compiled information about more than four million deaths among more than 1,000 mammals from 80 per cent of the mammalian families, including some 600 human populations from the Palaeolithic era to the present day. They then used this information to create an evolutionary tree of different mammals’ propensity towards violence.” They go on to say, “However, aggression in mammals, including humans, also has a genetic component with high heritability. Consequently, it is widely acknowledged that evolution has also shaped human violence.”

As far as survival instincts, Dr Jim Taylor, Ph.D. in psychology and sports psychology, reports that, “Our emotions have also evolved to our greatest survival benefit. So-called “hot” emotions, such as surprise and disgust, are experienced instantaneously and powerfully. These emotions signal an imminent threat to our survival which then initiates urgent action in response to its cause that increases our chances of survival.”

Hard Forged. So when people ask these “what if,” questions of themselves, and ask these questions to you, I like to suggest some things I have used successfully. There is this “DNA” hard-wiring to fall back on, whether we call it killer instinct or survival instinct, so I remind them of the aforementioned “DNA,” as a natural head-start, reaction that may help them.

Then I remind them the power of repetition training. Pile on the reps! I tell them that the more they burn responses into their “muscle memory,” the better chance they will mindlessly snap to them, without thinking (or freezing). The tip takes away the mindfulnesss of the act and frees them up a bit. I order them to get back to work! This usually builds confidence and it is true advantage. Fortune favors the prepared. (Freezing – ambush…another topic, is a big subject covered in the Fightin’ Words book.)

“Pinpointing.” I recall once a woman in a class confessing her lack of confidence. She told me that she was scared she would not properly defend herself, that she might not be able to hurt someone, least of all shoot them. I was looking at her face as she spoke. Then, there was a change in her complexion, a grit to her teeth. Her eyes widened. She growled, “But if they were hurting my kids!” And there it was, the connection. I told her, “remember that feeling.” Remember that “space.” Why would you take solid action just to save your kids when you are their one-and-only mother. They need you. Protecting you is protecting them too. Remember this feeling. This rage. It is in you!” It was indeed in there. In her brain. It just needed a little re-wiring to reach that “survival spot” in her brain. A little quiz, a question and answer session with a person about, “Okay, WHEN would you think you COULD shoot someone? What  is that situation? What would they have to be doing?” Pinpoint that situation and place in their mind’s eye, and tell them to remember that feeling. That thought. Work out from there.

Desensitization and Repetitions of What?
If you are just sport, target shooting for the sake of sport, target shooting, then you can ignore all of this. On the important subject of desensitization and use of weapons, you have to prepare for firearm combatives by learning how a firearm operates on up to shooting people in situations. You can do so by progression.

  • 1: Learn to operate the gun.
  • 2: Shoot bulls eye type paper targets. Very abstract. Very essential, but very abstract.
  • 3: Shoot paper targets with aggressive one-dimensional pictures. A bit less abstract.
  • 4: Shoot 3-D human-form, clothed targets. Less abstract.
  • 5: Shoot targets and incorporate imagery. In other words, imagine your paper target is a bad guy doing stuff. I am not fond of this as I don’t think most people have the ability to full-fledge, flesh-out a Cinerama vision  of an attack, without a whole other meditation class.  Even then, they are limited to their imagination skills. Still very abstract. (And a note, there is a difference between “crisis rehearsal” – as in making a plan, as opposed  to transcending into some meditation style, hypnotic trance version of…”imagery. )
  • 6: Shoot life-sized, flat screen, TV films of moving people. Less abstract, but no actual contact with real people interacting with you, what you say, what you do.
  • 7: Shoot moving thinking people that are shooting back at you with simulated ammo.  In situations. In shoot/don’t shoot development. Way, way less abstract. As close as you can get.
  • 8: The real deal, which we cannot completely replicate in training.

With each step, we get closer to reality. A desensitizing progression. Plenty of people have shot plenty of other people with no training, or with just paper target training. I am talking here about maximizing potential and creating those “external focus therapies.” (You are shooting into the complex, external world.) In this maximization, a person should/must pull a trigger at another person with some regularity. See the “round” land. Experience the event, the situation. Reduce the abstract. Doing repetitions in prepared scenarios also builds the shoot/don’t shoot savvy, a very skill niche, difficult training category people and agencies are hungry to include. (I only teach interactive, moves, pieces-parts of, exercises and scenarios with safe ammo, and have done so now since the mid 1990s. External focus.)

Shooting People
This body-shape target approach is recognized by many in and out of the industry. You might recall the outsider movement years ago to remove human-shaped, target pictures from police qualification training. Shall I call them anti-police, pacifists, protested to agencies that such target practice enhanced the dreaded “killer instinct ” and produced “killer cops.” Limp administrators here and there acquiesced, taking all human-shaped pictures and shapes from paper targets, leaving the round, bulls eye and/or a bunch of other numbers and non-human shapes on targets. This increased the abstract, not reduced the abstract.

As an aside, another strategy in opponent desensitization is the name-game. Everyone recognizes that in the military, in times of specific enemies, there is a overt and a covert mission to desensitize troops against the people they have to make war with. In the old police world, crooks were “scumbags.” They are given nicknames, profiles and generalizations to limit any trigger-pull, hesitations. Real or imagined, this is just history and psychology. How a troop survives this, is a testimony to their own personal history and psychology. For some it’s easy. Some, not so much. That’s another subject.

Shoot to Significantly Stop, or Kill?
So in many modern shooting classes as well as police schools, it is difficult to introduce the term killer instinct in a positive way. It is always wise to tell people to use the term “shoot to stop,” not “shoot to kill.” Drop the word “kill.” This advice is even entering into various military rules of engagement these days.

If you shoot someone, enforcement investigators (and I was one for decades) will do a profile on your past and you’ve better not have macho-babbled about killing people. They will use it against you in prosecution or at very least profile you in their back office strategies as a problem-priority person. Real-deal “macho-people” don’t “shoot” their mouths off on these subjects.

Your official intent, unless you are some kind of sniper, or in a total war zone, is not to kill. It is to stop. When the ignorant media asks, when the stupid citizen asks, when the sleepy jury wonders, why you didn’t shoot the lapel button off the suspect first, the common lesson plan, accepted message is to try and shoot the chest because it is big and you can’t risk missing and sending bullets everywhere. This is true. It’s the main reason we cannot take “Lone Ranger” shots at people’s trigger fingers or shoe laces in the fog of war, the mess of chaos. (We do have a variety of very close, head shot scenarios to work on though, too.) Shooting the chest is not an immediate, automatic “TKO.” Can be sometimes, but you can’t count on that.

Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Institute, explained in a position paper about “shooting to wound.” “Hands and arms can be the fastest-moving body parts. “For example, an average suspect can move his hand and forearm across his body to a 90-degree angle in 12/100 of a second. He can move his hand from his hip to shoulder height in 18/100 of a second. “There is no way an officer (person, soldier) can react, track, shoot and reliably hit a threatening suspect’s forearm or a weapon in a suspect’s hand in the time spans involved.”

In Summary
Gun fighting. Four training ways to increase confidence. Four ways to help quell those “what if -can I”’ questions.

  • 1: Hard Wired. One way is to explain that humans are hard-wired to respond to threats, as a mindless kick start to action. This helps take the pressure off of some people.
  • 2: Repetition training. With this you can guide the “mindless” responses. This also helps take the pressure off of some people.
  • 3: External focus! Desensitization. Use simulated ammo in scenario training. Having practitioners shoot with simulated ammo in situations versus moving, thinking, people shooting back or stabbing at them, others, etc., will help them better prepare them for real world, shoot-out violence. Reduce the abstract. Military and police do it. Civilians should do it and/or do more of it. If you don’t think you need to do this? Why do the military and police do it every time they have the chance, the time, the location, and the money?
  • 4: Pinpointing. Help that person identify a personal situation where they would justify shooting someone and use that pinpoint as a memory and/or discussion point to examine other situations.

And watch out for the who, what, where, when, how and why of the term “kill,” and “Killer Instinct.” Instead think about utilizing “Survivor Instinct.”


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Training Arnis in Luneta Park

I was thinking about the classic park in Manila. “Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in the Philippines. Formerly known as Bagumbayan in the era of colonialism under the Spaniards.”

For many a decade if you trained in Manila, the Philippines, a must go-to place is this park. Many, many famous people have taught and gathered here. And when we were in Manila, we were either at the Presas school, this park or at the college where Ernesto taught Arnis at those times.

It did bother Ernesto a bit at times at the park, because various FMA grandmasters would set up folding chairs and watch us. He would whisper, “You see dese guys? Dey are grandmasters. Dey are spying on me.”

This above photo is me and Shelley. Early 90s. There were only like 6 of us there, so it was pretty intense. Under his scrutiny all the time. We would go about 4 hours in the morning and about 3 1/2 hours in, there would be a break. Ernesto would say, “Take a break, then…examination time.”

This photo –  Since we were so few, we also had his black belts as partners too, who were very helpful too. With Renato “Boks” Centro.

“Examination time?” we’d say in the beginning days. He was always “testing” us, but this would be a more real test for the last part of 3-4 hours. So…there was no break. We would walk off behind some trees or bushes and work through those ten minutes to hurry-review what we did. Then some water.

“Come on, COME ON!”
“Speed motion!” 
…observation “test.

Then lunch. Then another 4 hours. 6 days on. 1 day off pace.

That top  photo again. Me, Shelley Millspaugh and the big man GM watching us.  Captain Rene, a Honduran fighter pilot is behind us. Shelley Millspaugh added: “Great memories. That first camp was as intense as you could’ve made it. I haven’t had that type of intensity since. GGM was the Energizer bunny. Never stops.”


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