Last month I taught a seminar at Doc Sheldon’s Private Training Center in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. The place is loaded with equipment and I saw a cable machine. As an aside I showed some folks the workout I’ve never stopped doing with cables since the 1980’s, that I thought was fairly common knowledge. Others surrounded us, but no one there had seen it before and they found it inspiring. So for the record, here it is.
We all know the big five, generic essential punches:
Jab (high, medium, low)
Cross (high, medium, low)
Hook (high, medium, low)
Overhand or descending overhand
There were eras in the US military that never taught an official jab or official cross, but rather just called them “right punch” or “left punch.” They thought that shoulder and foot positions weren’t important or situational and uncontrollable. I however have always seen a difference and used the training concepts of jab – foot/shoulder forward and cross – rear foot/rear shoulder because I see the need for such isolated practice.
Technically on a cable machine, you are always “pulling” on the handle and pulling cable weights up the “tower” of the machine. But to define this particular exercise process I explain that when you stand facing the machine, the cable is pulling you into it, pulling your hand into the machine. When you are facing away from the machine, you are pushing the handle away from the machine. This is how I like to define the exercises for clarity. Push-Pull. Face-away, push. Face in, pull.
I would like to add quickly that you can use these same cable machine methods with palm strikes for all you anti-punchers out there. But only in the “pushing outward” method. You have to close your hand to grip the handle with facing in to the machine. Don’t hyper extend your wrist. Use reasonable weights. Emphasize the palm heel as much as possible.
If you shadowbox with hand weights – yes – you are abstractly building the path for punching. Abstract because you have to remember that your hand, arm and shoulder are battling gravity with that hand weight. The more the weight and the more the hand extends, the more you are building/fighting vertical gravity and building those related up-down muscles. With a cable machine there is no up/down gravity, just the machine pivot point behind or before you at the prescribed height. Some people shadow box with mere 1 or 2 pound weights and this is so light there is not much “gravity” fighting at all. But more hand weight? You are losing goal, effectiveness. Vertical building? Or, horizontal building? Horizontal unless of course, you are uppercutting or doing low origin shovel hooks.
You won’t get Conan muscles doing these cable exercises. Maybe Conan O’Brian muscles? But I think this method develops striking power and speed. I do a set of 25 reps with each strike listed below, when this series comes up in my rotation, which can be once or twice a week (for 40 years give or take sickness, medical operations, and travel). It takes about 20 minutes of non-stop motion. The next day my arms are very sore and my lower back muscles, with all the torso twisting, are sore. It can be aerobic, but if you switch your feet a lot with the uppercuts and hooks, it adds to workout.
People like to do various exercises with those big rubber bands, but they can be limiting in range when attempting all the below listed strikes, and you have to hook them onto something! Will the hook be the right height? How? Meanwhile, the ubiquitous cable machine will offer the range and the height and quick-change resistance.
It’s all about the push-pull. Long ago, fitness and sport experts suggested that you must develop the pushing and pulling aspects of functional movement. One way is breaking movements down in isolated exercises. For example, in football practice years ago, they made us run up and down hills. Running down the hill as fast as you can, made you run faster than you ordinarily are. You can feel the extra speed as you struggle to keep up with yourself flying down hill. You also experience what it feels like to be faster than you normally are. Remember that feeling. Emulate it. The same is true when you work strikes with a cable machine. When you face the machine and punch, the cable weight pulls and should makes you move faster. Just a little! Like running down the hill and falling, don’t overdo this and yank yourself into an injury. Strike and let the cable weights make you a bit faster. And, when you retract, you get that benefit also.
With this advice, I stand facing the machine and facing away, back to the machine. I do not do these with heavy plates, but you can build up to anything you want, I guess. Just try to remember:
Don’t hurt your wrists!
2. Whether punches or palm strikes get the right positioning for your hand, the best hand-to-handle position. When punching, try to get your knuckles involved in the pulling and pushing. When palm striking, try to get your palm heel involved in the pushing. (You can’t face the machine and “pull” the palm strike because your hand is open.
3. Always try to keep your free hand up and open. Don’t get sloppy and let that other hand drop.
4. Keep your mouth closed, teeth together as a matter of routine. You can still expel “martial” air.
Now, some exercise suggestions
The Jab and Cross (Punch or Palm) Set the pivot height at shoulder length, face away from the machine and do-
A set of right jabs pushing handle.
A set of left hand jabs pushing the handle.
A set of right crosses pushing handle.
A set of left hand crosses pushing the handle.
Try some bent-arm low punches, “thrusting gut” punches too. They seem to get ignored. Set the pivot point gear low and do them.
Descending Overhand (Punch or Palm)
A set of right overhands pushing handle.
A set of left hand overhands pushing the handle.
A set of right cross overhands pushing handle.
A set of left hand crosses overhands pushing the handle.
A set of right overhands pushing handle with a slight hook.
A set of left hand overhands pushing the handle with a slight hook.
A set of right cross overhands pushing handle with a slight hook.
A set of left hand crosses overhands pushing the handle with a slight hook.
Add a slight hook to this and this exercise helps with a very popular and successful MMA style strike. You may have to reduce the weight a bit as the wrist goes a little funky with the turn and slight hook. Experiment with the weight.
Hooks (Punch or Palm) (High Hooks or Low Hooks)
A set of right hooks pushing the weights.
A set of right hooks pulling the weights.
A set of left hooks pushing the weights.
A set of left hooks pulling the weights.
(You can use a lot of footwork doing these)
Uppercuts (Punch or Palm)
A set of right uppercuts pushing the weights.
A set of right uppercuts pulling the weights.
A set of left uppercuts pushing the weights.
A set of left uppercuts pulling the weights.
(You can use a lot of footwork doing these)
Combinations (Punch or Palm)
Set the gear-pulley-pivot points at:
various distances apart
invent combinations of the above, in both push/pull directions!
Some other points:
Of course you should still hit bags, etc. As I have aged, hitting things that don’t give-way (and I don’t wear big boxing gloves, nor wrap my wrists, as I don’t want to become dependent upon them.) cause me follow-up wrist, shoulder or back pain. There are various pieces of equipment that “give” sufficiently.
Cable machines also have straps for your ankles and the rest of your legs. You can also rig yourself up for cable, kick (and knee) work. Through the years I have done snapping, hooking kicks/knees with cable machines. But, as I have gotten older with bad hips and deteriorating backbone discs, I can no longer do these under the cable weight without follow-up pain. This essay is just about striking.
You will be looked at by gym trainers as unsafe, uncool and crazy. But after you start doing the uppercuts, blowin’ and goin’, changing footwork with each punch, they tend to leave you alone. In this vein, I am sure there will be a fitness guru here that responds to this essay and tells people I am killing you with this idea. I just don’t think so.
As usual, as natural, you will do this and get over-confident and keep adding the weight plates. More, more, then more. Then you will hurt yourself. Then you will heal, recoup, rebuild, add, add again, get over confident, hurt yourself, heal, recoup…re….you get the picture. This is the life we have chosen. This is the lifetime routine. Get use to it or die fat and out of shape.
These exercises have been very beneficial to me. It’s one more thing I can do in a typical, solo gym workout that leans toward functionality. Some of you may be doing these your whole life too? But I thought I would write this for
those who are new at this,
those who won’t do them,
those who didn’t care to before and might try it now,
those who “say” they do them, but not as completely as I have listed here,
or for folks who’ve never thought of it.
Australia’s Peter Sciarra on using cable for knee strikesClick here
Loose lips may sink ships, but loose jaws lead to pain and medical operations.
Or…How can we remember to close our mouths in the assaults, or honor duels of life?
One of my early detective cases in the 1980s was to unravel a country-western, bar fight. About 6 guys were involved. Some were arrested on the scene by patrol. In patrol I/we sorted out the scene and rarely saw the aftermath. But investigators have to become aftermath experts. I caught the case because there were serious bodily injuries, otherwise it would just be another, unassigned, ignored, knucklehead fight passing through the system. Participants would bond out on simple misdemeanors and the disorderly conduct and bruises would fade away. But, sometimes there were serious bodily injuries. I hated to get these cases through time because they were always complicated and messy to – oh, what’s the pop word today – oh yeah…”unpack.” You know, who started it? Who hit who? It’s a messy suitcase.
I set up an appointment for a statement with a mumbling knucklehead on the phone and he showed up at the station. I quickly saw why he was mumbling. His jaw was wired shut! He took a simple hook punch and crackola! Worse, the doctor had to knock out a tooth so he could suck squashed food through a straw. I thought the tooth removal was extreme, but I guess that’s what they did decades ago. Make space for the straw. Adios premolar. He said he had to carry wire cutters in his pocket in case he vomited. And could like…drown in his own vomit. Talk about an emergency. He said he would be wired for almost two months.
This was not my first or last jaw-broke arrest or some-such case, but I think it was my first “aftermath” interview with a broken jaw person. Through the years I worked numerous, “simple” punches in the face that turned into serious injuries cases, AKA felonies. I have many of these stories but today I seem to be fixated on broken jaws.
Jaw wiring sounds and looks so bad I was surprised years later to see how many people have their jaws wired to loose weight (and how the modern docs avoid the old tooth removal idea). This diet is extreme, and people still need to have wire cutters very handy.
“But eating is only part of the problem. There’s also a strange claustrophobia that comes with having your jaw wired shut. Try closing your mouth and clenching your teeth together lightly. Now imagine that you can’t move from that position – not even a little bit, not even for a second – for the next six weeks.”- MMA champ Cub Swanson
A very common prognosis is 6 weeks wired up, depending on the fracture. WebMD states that men are about 3 times more likely than women to sustain a broken jaw. The American Bar Association reports broken jaws come from:
50% from criminal assaults. I believe these stats are also common in other countries. What can we do about this? I always look to the laboratory of combat sports for great resource info. But, as in all sports, this is of course, why God made mouthpieces. (I tend to use the decades-old term mouth “piece” and not the modern term mouthguard. Mouth pieces today gets confused with lawyers, musical instrument parts and other stuff.)
Give me one moment of your attention as we run the classic facts. Stay with me now…
“Mouthguards are a low-cost way to protect the teeth, lips, cheeks, and tongues,” the docs say. The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for, are you ready, “the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, …”Their advice ends in three dots, so there are even more hobbies that can’t bother typing them all? Is sex in there? And we can’t forget that even fighters with big gloves and mouthpieces get broken jaws in the ring (see the link below for some in-depth reporting on this and sad stories).
WebMD and Colgate reports – “There are three types of mouthguards. Stock, and boil-and-bite mouth guards are usually found in most sporting goods stores. Athletic mouth guards can vary in comfort and cost. A custom-made mouth guard fabricated by a dentist or orthodontist is considered by many to be the most protective option. The most effective mouth guard is resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable, be easy to clean and should not restrict speech or breathing.”
SISU says, “Mouthguards can also protect others from your teeth. Even if it doesn’t hurt you or you don’t feel it, you can easily injure another player with your teeth. If another accidentally smacks their elbow on your teeth, it’s highly unlikely for your teeth to break skin if you are wearing a mouthguard. “
OKAY! Whew, we have officially covered the usually boring, safety briefing stuff. Now lets get…real…(those three dots again). Martial stuff. We are not playing soccer, but rather punching, palming and elbowing and even kicking the lower parts of heads as a matter of routine.
At the US Army military police academy back in the early 70s, some boxer MP cops ran a boxing program off-hours and weekends to augment the official “combatives” at the academy. As a Parker Karate guy, I signed right up. A coach handed me a little box with a mouthpiece in it and told me it’ll save my teeth and would teach me to keep my mouth shut when fighting. I didn’t know back then he meant shut for “all” fighting, not just boxing. In good theory, rep time wearing your mouthpiece should also reinforce your mission to keep your jaw closed when fighting, which we all know is a key structure for jaw break prevention.
A mouthpiece or two, usually quite nasty, can be found in all serious workout bags. In the fight world, the mouthpiece helps us, does teach us, requires us, makes us keep our mouths shut. Loose lips may sink ships, but loose jaws lead to medical operations. We would like to create the, dare I say “muscle memory” (note the quotes you anal retentive bastards), to keep our mouths shut in bare knuckle fights. But do we wear them all the time? Enough of the time, to create this habit? Do you?
People in the combat-sports-and-defense-business don’t always train with mouthpieces in. Class after class covering methods in kick boxing, boxing, Thai, Krav, combatives, etc. have people doing tons of drills without their mouthguards in place. Copious amounts of all kinds of training is worked on and during so, few even think about their mouth positions, their jaws at all, and least of all shove a piece in for every whole class. Think about this. Think of you. Think of your friends and classmates. Think about your school, organization. If you’re not actually sparring, are you wearing a mouthpiece all of the time? Some of the time? Never? Do you practice for this? Or seemingly…ignore it? Is the idea ignored in your chosen course/school?
Numerous protected fighters have still had their jaws broken.
I was in a rather popular, international, Thai Boxing association in the 80s and 90s and passed the first 5 levels of 10. There was very, very little actual Thai boxing in the ring with this famous group, but rather a ton of mitt/pad work. There was no strict, organizational rule about wearing a mouthguard in training drills. In fact, think about the sound effects you hear in Thai. With every strike, with every kick comes the standard “whoosh” or swoosh” from pursed lips. The whoosh/swoosh is articulated, not muffled. Such takes a little free mouth and jaw manipulation. No mouthguards evidenced. Tons of class time sans the piece. What then about Jeet Kune Do? Wing Chun? How much time is spent working on a stand-off “duel” like two boxers, and doing entry tricks without an iota of concern about your jaw position. Karate? Stick work?
Now, if there is equal time sparring, you have time and grade wearing a mouthpiece and teaching your jaw to stay shut in a fight. (You can still exhale air malevolently with a mouthpiece). But, it must be noted that breathing well and fully with a mouthguard is a constantly reported problem by many practitioners for all the obvious “passageway” reasons, and mouths tend to open. Jaws drop for air and from fatigue. Dangerous times!
While people can be assaulted on the proverbial “streets,” fights happen everywhere. Domestics in houses. Workplaces. Rec places …yes… country western bars, and 50% of all broken jaws come from these assaults. It stands to reason, you won’t be wearing a mouthguard when attacked. But you can practice in one and develop good , teeth-gritting, “muscle memory.”
Are you? Is your school/course geared for self defense? The piece helps keep/train our jaws to be shut, like a prop, and secure when we are attacked in the “outside” world. In real life, we don’t have or fight with mouthpieces. They just don’t seem to be handy. They are in a smelly little container in gym bag somewhere. How does this spell out for you? We have to remember to close our mouths in the assaults or honor duels of our lives.
It’s just something for you to think about. It’s a topic practitioners should consider, discuss intelligently, and have an opinion on, one way or the other.
(One quick, side story. I know a Russian bar bouncer in Australia who had a bouncer friend with a successful de-escalation trick. When the friend was having an elevated confrontation with a customer. The friend would put up one finger, reach into his pocket and pull out a mouthguard. He’d insert it. That act alone often quelled many disturbances.)
It represents a GIGANTIC transition, mistake in “real fighting,” or…or…”non-sport, fighting.” Whatever you want to call it. First off, let me say that I hate to pick on a single photo. It is often unfair. Taken out of context. All that. You have to look at the single, training photo with some big picture analysis. But I am not picking on any one person or system. This photo is representative of years of what I’ve seen. Decades even, and still do see it. That is placing your bare fists tight up against your face as some sort of standard fighting stance
Let’s jump right to my point. If you see this before you? Try and strike the bare fist glued on the face. Any strike you like. Hit it or them. It’s lunch. Lunch served up for you from yesterday’s leftovers. The original meal from yesterday? Sport, big-gloved boxing. It’s an odd leftover from that. It does not transition well.
Another main theme in the ballpark here? Let’s hyper jump right to it now also – if you are -solder-ing, LEO-ing, krav maga-ing, citizen-ing, or combatives-ing your way to self defense? Your core punching research and study must prioritize BARE-KNUCKLE BOXING! Not just sport, big glove boxing of “western” and Thai. (And even in Bare Knuckle fights, they still wrap parts of their hands and their wrists. I may not get a chance here to discuss hand and wrist wraps and how it relates to real struggles.) At any rate when the fight starts in the supermarket, or the factory floor, or the family picnic, you will not be wearing boxing gloves and your hands and wrists won’t be wrapped.
Palms, hammers, and, we are going to discuss punching here. This is NOT an essay about fist-punching versus palm strikes. Lots of folks hurt their bare hands punching and remember…LOTS DON’T! Lots of people DO NOT break their hands punching. That’s another subject. Let’s take one thing at a time. This is not that time.
I would instead like to address the many “reality” training operations that way overuse big, boxing gloves in their classes, or some big glove boxing theories, passing them off as self defense training. And the one major leftover – fists glued on face as some sort of fighting stance.
You see a lot of POSED photos with fighters and martial artists with their hands up and on, or almost on, their faces. Photographers try to get the hands and/or gloves up in the picture frame. These same people might not fight or use a stance like this, but the distribution of these photos help create the “fist on face” copy-cat motif. People will mindlessly replicate this. Even Instructors will mindlessly replicate this. And whole systems will too. Should folks without big gloves stand like this as some sort of official fighting stance? As a matter of system doctrine? I say no.
Look, if you know me, you know I am a proponent and exponent of boxing. I filmed and produced a highly regarded, fantastic, popular, boxing series with Jim McCann in Sugar Ray Leonard‘s gym in Baltimore.
I have boxed and kick boxed since the 1970s. I still make my students kick box for various skills. And so many wonderful, important, simple things come from boxing. Examine it and experiment. Not everything transitions over to a crime or war survival struggle. Like gloves. Everyone knows, takes for granted, that you won’t be wearing big-ass, boxing gloves when ambushed, fighting wars, or arresting people, or as they say, “street fighting,” but I ask you to think this through, fully realize that some sport, boxing-big-glove, associated movements have some leftover cancers. Make the training mission connection.
If you are indeed a boxer, then you must wear boxing gloves. Same with Thai. You are a boxer! In western boxing, everything is about the big glove. Every aggressive and defensive movement is centered around those big gloves. If you are not a sport boxer? Don’t wear them, or at least limit them for special purposes (more on that later.) The MMA glove is superior tool for MMA, and/or that real, street fight prep. Best? No gloves at all for prep, but with extended time periods on mitts and bags , MMA gloves can be a skin and bone saver and your training can endure longer periods.
Making the solid, bare knuckle fist. Can you make a solid fist inside a boxing glove? Where is your thumb? Through the years, boxing glove manufacturers warn you that you need to wrap your hands and wrists and you can’t make a tight fist in a glove. The glove/no-glove transition, or lack thereof? Assaults and robberies, etc, crime history is replete with the hand injury stories of sports people suddenly not wearing the sport gear. Like the time in 1988 when Mike Tyson bare-knuckle punched a guy and while knocking the antagonist into the next dimension, he broke his hand. A point to consider is boxers hand and wrists are wrapped under their gloves, and they do not make serious, like a “free-hand,” closed fists inside boxing gloves, this position becomes their muscle memory. Take the gloves off? Under stress, they probably block and punch with incomplete concerns about their hand positions (and thumbs). I know several, old-school, kick boxer, cops that broke their hands punching people in arrests. I, and we, could go on and on as we all have these stories. If you fight bare-handed as though you are wearing big boxing gloves you may have serious problems.
I first saw these bare-hand, “strike-the-cover-hand” methods in JKD, FMA and Silat back in the 1980s. We did material about palm striking, hammer fisting and punching the opponent’s bare hands when they were on the face, or very, very close to the face, and “trapping/delaying” their bare hands when on their chest area, if they seemed pin-able. But for me and I know others, the training was so segmented, we never grasped the big picture. We would put our Thai clothes on and change mentalities and methods and then do that. Change clothes again and do something else. Rules. Segmented. We would box and just do that. Rules. Segmentation. Karate and do that. These rules and segmentations are not good. No blend. No evolution. Sometime, somehow, in the 1990s, the light switch came on for me to truly blend.
When teaching in the late 80s and 90s in my regular school, I taught in a city with two major colleges. The volume of people I saw come and go was remarkable. I never taught kids, Always adults. Many were students of other systems and I saw quite a number of folks whose definition of a fighting stance was to place their bare fists right on the their faces, or just barely off their faces, as in the photos above. Plenty also placed their finger knuckles right on their upper gum line or maybe their cheekbones. I interviewed them and this was from leftover boxing or kick boxing. Leftover big glove arts. I want to make three quick points about this mistake.
Point 1: Getting hit like this is not good. I mean…think about it!
Point 2: Distance? – If you are unlucky enough to be in some kind of fight, will there be a stand-off, “duel,” square-off situation? It’s possible. Maybe. Yes. If so, if you plant your hands on your face you are letting your opponent get closer in to you than if your hands were out, toward him more. JKD’s Larry Harstell once said in a seminar, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” Your reaction time sucks enough already without allowing him to get closer in to you, shaving even more time off.
So, in bare knuckle fight theory, not big glove theory – and well, maybe in big glove theory sometimes too – hands always on your face like this is a problem. (This is also a problem with the newer, turban, head-wrapping fad/craze. Jez…folks. There are quick doomsday blocks/cover when you absolutely need it, compared to just over-doing, over-wrapping your head. Overdoing this head-wrapping turban stuff is…is just nutty and a marketing trick.) Again, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” People like to argue about fists-on-face as being fine, but they cannot win an argument on this distance issue. The “earn-the-space” distance issue alone wins the argument.
Think about how many self defense people put up the classic “fence-thingy” – hands up, hands out, palms out to keep people away. Distance theory. Your hands can sometimes keep people away. Find your comfortable, performance spot.
Point 3: He’s covered? – If you are a regimented, segmented, programmed boxer wearing gloves and you see your opponent boxer lift his or her big, padded, boxing gloves up to their face, this is some proper, padded protection. You think…”oh well, darn, he’s covered.” To some extent with big gloves this is true. But when a leftover, un-gloved person follows this same gloved habit with bare fists, the regimented boxer might see this too, as “cover,” and still hesitate to strike because he thinks…“Oh well, darn, he’s covered.” Leftover thinking from gloved boxing habits. The other guy is not “covered/protected.” No big gloves! You have no padded gives. He has no padded gloves. If you have an open path to the head and hands on face? Travel it. Hit them. Hit these bare fists on his face.
You can try (note the word “try”) and hit the “glued-hands” in a standoff position should a standoff happen, or after his strike. You deal with his strike however, then you must really worry about…”the other hand.” Where is it? How alive is it? If it’s up there on his face, maybe you can hit it with these classic JKD, Silat, FMA, etc suggestions-
1: straight punch or hooking punch to…
2: straight or hooking palms to…
3: hooking hammer fist to…
Hand are fast, Your hands. His hands. Fast. And structural mistakes can be overcome by moving your hands around quickly as needed. Lots of people quickly and smartly use their forearms for sudden protection. Fast hands might save the bare-fists-glued-on-face guys, but, fast hands are no excuse to justify stupid doctrine. Most “fighters” retreat to forearm covers and hands way back in the instant that they need them, nicknamed “doomsday blocks.” They don’t use this position as a fighting stance standard. Once escaped, they return to “normal, up-front” hand positions.
I am writing here about maximizing potential strategies and doctrine. Know your goal. Know the best way to achieve it. Remove abstracts, or at very least reduce the abstract. In training, it is almost impossible to completely remove the abstract…because…it’s training. So, reduce the abstract where you can. This is a constant challenge.
Bare fists on face? I once again must resort to one of my hero’s remarks, champ Bas Rutten when he said on this subject “Ah, the meat-helmet defense. Would you put a focus mitt up to your cheek and let me punch it? No, because it’ll still KTFO.”
Several traveling seminar instructors these days, I think are running out of ideas, and have started to add/teach pure, BIG-GLOVED boxing. I think this is a mistake unless they openly advertise –
“Self Defense Weekend! Plus – 2 hours of Sheer Sport Boxing.”
Okay then, mission properly advertised honestly and well stated. You’ll do self defense stuff and pure sport boxing. Or, how about –
“Self Defense Weekend! Plus – 2 hours of Applying Boxing Methods to Street Fighting.”
The word “applying” is key. There will be changes! Nicely advertised. But maybe with MMA gloves, we hope?
“BOXING! The Best Self Defense!”
No. Not alone. No. Every week the UFC is on TV, this message is sent out to the world. Even neophytes can see this.
But this is not just a mistake of a traveling seminar person. This mistake appears in regular “self defense” classes in schools. If you do pure, big glove boxing as part and parcel of your self defense class you are off-mission. Not good. Not smart – especially when you could so easily fix that with no gloves or MMA gloves and a few short explanations. Many Krav schools have also added/introduced big glove boxing on mitts, bags, etc. to fill class time? Exercise? And appear to be more combative? Is this the best use of class time?
Folks, let’s not forget the mechanics of hitting. Hitting mitts and bags with big round, padded gloves is different than with MMA gloves or bare handed. It…feels…different. It feels different on your hands and in your wrists. Also, using your knuckles as striking point tools are easily lost inside the bulbous, boxing glove. Spending a whole lot of your self defense time hitting gear with big boxing gloves is just “off-mission.”
The MMA glove is better because in fights you need to hit AND grab and grapple. And for so-called “reality fighting,” on the “doctrine chalkboard,” MMA today is superior to “BJJ” and “Boxing,” because it already includes both as a mission. But if you just want to wrestle, or box? Fine! You do what you want and like. It’s your choice, your hobby, your fun, your exercise. Even your addiction. And addiction doesn’t always allow you to think straight. Just know what you are doing. Who, what, where, when, how and why. Know where it fits in the big picture.
I mentioned “special purposes use” earlier. I do love to see the boxing gloves on the walls where I teach. I need them sometimes as a progressive, handy tool. When do I slip big boxing gloves in when teaching? I do still use them when I think its appropriate. One example would be some ground fighting. Hero on the ground, trainer on top of him punching down. We are trying to get the bottom guy to do a move or maybe draw a knife or gun under some stress. I will ask the topside guy to wear one or two boxing gloves and give the bottom guy some safer, distracting flak. And, there are indeed times, when I think its appropriate, people need to just flat-out box for a host of skill developing reasons I seeking to work on, and the big gloves are a safer device in a progression to a bare knuckle goal.
So the “stance?” When I warn people about the fist-on-the-face-thing, they ask, “well, where should your hands be?” For a quick response? “Not there!” A vast, and I mean vast, majority of boxers, MMA and otherwise systems have their hands up and a bit forward and off from their faces, in the upper window of combat. I’d say, a vast majority. And most keep them moving a bit anyway. A so-called fighting stance is about balance and power in motion, not a still photo, position. I could probably show 8 different photos here representing tons of boxing and non-boxing fighters with their dukes up in varying heights somewhat away from their faces.
For me, for my “business” (and yours?) I am not developing boxing-boxers. I am trying to study and utilize Boxing and Thai. I am trying to help the spread of “self defense” survival in a bare hand, stick, knife, gun world. Are you? What…is…your…mission? If you don’t already, please consider the necessary changes from sport boxing to the “hitting below the belt,” no rules fighting you claim to teach. One such examination involves the use of, or limited use of, or non-use of, the big boxing glove.
(Update: This essay was shared and re-shared from here over 150 times, with a couple of thousand comments. People are still finding it and commenting. ALL positive but for TWO! Only two separate, panantukan instructors claim that it is smart to start all fights from their face cheeks. They believe that their hands are faster if fired from the face cheeks. I couldn’t help but look up a video or two that one of them made and sure enough, it seems like one guy’s fashioned his entire system, for years, based on the fist on cheek fighting stance. It would seem when overwhelming comments from veteran experts – oh, like Bas? – and some science and common sense comes along, one might change/evolve. But no…)
(This is not going to be popular. I will get hate mail.)
I went to eat lunch with an old friend the other day, a 40 year vet, cop and when we climbed into his SUV squad car, I spotted a cool-looking ball cap on the back seat amid some cop-clutter. I picked it up and the design and shape was great. The text read something about a fire department. “Nice hat,” I said. “Yeah, got it free at training event. But, I won’t wear a fucking fire department hat.” We both laughed. I got that. I know what he means. It’s a dysfunctional family history. An abject jealously. Do you know about it?
…you have to understand I am an old cop. When I told my friends I was going to retire years ago, one said, “You can’t! You bleed blue!” Nice sentiment. But after 20 years of retirement, I cut my face shaving the other day and it was indeed…leaking red blood. Still, I have a stout DNA connection to that job. I still stay connected to the people, the issues and I am very introspective about police shootings. So, while I still have a “older, distracted dog in the hunt,” I am out of the business. As Delta, Blackhawk Down, vet Paul Howe puts it in his book, “I was once an AG – action guy. Now I am just a Former Action Guy, or a…FAG.” So, as a FAG, I can speak more freely about public safety subjects. This exact subject here? The nuances of the term – First Responders. Then second, some embarrassing disclosures about the some cop vs fireman feuds that most people don’t know about, and how that intermingles with the pop ” first responder” heyday.
There a million and a half ways to screw up every day as a cop. Not to mention being sued, fired, beaten and shot at. It is hard for any cop to stay out of trouble these days. Even abstract trouble. Even silly trouble. And when you feel the consistent heat or wrath from the admin or the public, the old veteran sergeant would repeat the running joke line about cops and firemen.
“You’re a cop. If you wanted to loved? You shoulda joined the fire department.”
The fire department. And there you have it. For decades now, did you know that in many cities in the USA there are underground rumblings of cops vs. fireman? Many cops have a jealousy, a resentment about firemen.
It really starts with the public idolization, and then government budget battles, and the fact that while cops are out getting spit on, or cleaning vomit out of the back seat of their cars, firemen are making spaghetti dinners and inventing new fishing lures. Some run family businesses. They work out, watch TV, and even get paid to sleep. Look at the satirical clock photo. So through time, lot of police officers have just a little resentment about firemen. I guess I should say firefighters, but whatever.
Yeesss, through the years we work together when dispatched, but this little resentment lingers here and there. A police commander from Wisconsin, writes “In law enforcement we call firefighters Second Responders. The firefighter motto “Sleep til you’re hungry, Eat til you’re tired”. Oh yeah, and if you can’t sleep, wash your wife’s car.” A 40 year vet from Los Angeles P.D. wrote me and said. “Right on brother. Those words (this essay) could have come right put of my mouth.” North, south, east and west this little jealously feud exits.
Merriam Webster notes that the first serious definition of “First Responder” appeared on the scene in 1970 and read: “Definition of first responder- a person (such as a police officer or an EMT) who is among those responsible for going immediately to the scene of an accident or emergency to provide assistance.”
No…firemen? Then, and I don’t know exactly when, maybe since 911, the term “First Responders” became hip, patriotic and popular and for quite some time now, the term grouped police, fire and ambulance folks. Ambulance folks can be fire department people or private contractor people. People with “lights and sirens.” I think when the public hears the term “First Responders” they now think of the big three. After all, when we are all shot, stabbed, crushed or broken, we sure do like to see those EMT people arrive and quickly. When there’s a fire, you sure need firefighters.
The public – you – being wonderful, have done wonders for the big three, since you have lumped us together. Golf tournaments, benefits, fund raisers…what else? You name it. “Help our first responders!” Even some politicians have shined in the uplifting. It seems through the years the term “First Responders” has taken on a life of its own. Almost become flippant. Cavalier. The new Avengers! Police. Fire. Emergency Medical annnnddd Captain America!
We do all need them, and by some broad definition, they all respond very quickly. Get there “first.” But speaking of hats, let me put my police ball cap on. Statistically, who actually gets “there” first? And to what exactly? A car wreck? Heart attack? Robbery? Shooting? A fight? Usually, it’s the PO-lice. Despite bad response times, we are already “out and about.” And have a nasty knack of getting there first. Police First Responders. These days when I review a police officer shooting, I often shake my head and mutter, “cannon fodder.” They get shot, and-or killed just arriving to a scene with some frequency, trying to figure out the situation and the people.
Cannon fodder for those of you outside the business is defined as “an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded or treated by government or military command as expendable in the face of enemy fire.” If you dissect a lot of police shootings, you see that first responder COPS, are often mere, unlucky cannon fodder. Getting there first. The garbled message of “shots fired” or “need back-up,” hits the airwaves and technically, the back-up, the…second and third responders if you will, come better prepared for a critical incident. Eventually the ‘first responder” EMTs come fourth or fifth, or – I might add – or, they don’t enter until the area at all until it is safe enough. Again, nuance. What is the actual, physical, timeline order of response of responders? I guess it is a bit clumsy to cheer for the “FGOG of R! ” – that being the “First, (second thru fourth) “General,” Overall Group of Responders.”
Everybody knows that the police do a lot more other than responding to stuff. Like, what happens BEFORE the response? Police have to do things like traffic stops and arrests and take action in suspicious circumstances when and where they INITIATE dangerous situations and outcomes. Is that even an official, “first responder definition” in the “first responders” world? I guess in an abstract way they are “responding,” to something, but un-dispatched, and they are actually kicking something off aren’t they? Not dispatched-sent to a problem. So not only are police professional responders, they are also “initiators.” What’s the response time to initiation? Zero seconds?
I will put it to you, that being an “initiator cop” and a “first responder cop” is a helleva lot more spontaneously difficult, complicated, dangerous, diverse and tricky than being a first responder fireman or EMT, with not just their lives but their job security on the line. Read the news lately? So, this is my personal take on the toughest job in the First Responder categories.
I am not trying to suggest that the of job of fireman or EMT wasn’t and still isn’t dangerous. I do remember a time, decades ago when EMTs and firemen charged into hostile neighborhoods to help folks and got a broken, black and white TV set dropped on their heads from the 5th floor. Or, when they charged into a shooting and got hurt. But soon, there were protocols in place for many fire and EMT responders to lay back and wait until they deemed entry was safe. Who – makes – it – safe? The folks with the guns. The PO-lice. But yeah, bad stuff still happens to them. Please do read the links below.
Here’s a big picture list of dangerous jobs in America. Life working in the US of A is dangerous…
1-Fishers and related fishing workers 2-Logging workers 3-Aircraft pilots and flight engineers 4-Roofers 5-Refuse and recyclable material collectors 6-Structural iron and steel workers 7-Driver/sales workers and truck drivers 8-Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers 9-Supervisors of landscape, lawn & groundskeeping workers 10-Electrical power-line installers and repairers 11-Miscellaneous agricultural workers 12-First-line supervisors of construction & extraction workers 13-Helpers, construction trades 14-Maintenance and repair workers, general 15-Grounds maintenance workers 16-Construction laborers 17-First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers 18-Police and sheriff’s patrol officers 19-Operation engineers and construction equipment operators 20-Mining machine operators 21-Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 22-Athletes, coaches, umpires and related workers 23-Painters, construction and maintenance 24-Firefighters 25-Electricians
Score cops 19th. Fire is 24. EMTs not on the list. The news doesn’t report the deaths of fisherman or garbage-men, like they do in police and fire work. This creates a false sense of “danger status.” I have seen a CBS news report once that combined police and fire, and ranking the combo as 15 on the danger list. Take out the cop stats though, and firefighters drop a lot, with another news report stating that being pizza delivery man is more dangerous than firefighting. You know…traffic accidents. (Maybe pizza men need lights and sirens too? What do you think?)
A lot of this great firefighter safety has to do with experience, advancing technology and methodology. Job smarts. If EMTs are ever in the top 72 dangerous jobs? Let me know. I might have missed that year. I recall that vehicle accidents and injuries lifting people and so forth, are problems. Plus the occasional whack-out, knucklehead.
But seriously, danger is not the only review of first responder operations. Being ready to go and getting there ASAP to help is. And the subject of danger is associated with bravery and heroism. Avengers assemble!
More roofers die. But we respond. Still, it is nice to see the overall appreciation, the “Our First Responders” flag waving. Nice to stand on the elevated platform. But an insider’s view? The police “collective” does look to its right and left on the heroes platform and sees the “Fire Collective” and the “Medical Collective” and we can have a deeper, insider opinion on the depth and definitions of the term, “First Responders.” But did you now there are even more First Responders on the platform. It’s getting crowded.
Did you know that despite the common, current “big 3” impression, a newer, dictionary definition of First Responders is “someone designated or trained to respond to an emergency. Such as a lifeguard.” They offer up a lifeguard as the only example? Think about how many ways that new definition can be split into various job titles. Then think about the definition of the word “emergency.”
U.S. Homeland Security Presidential Directive, HSPD-8 piles on: “The term “first responder” refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers as defined in section 2 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as well as emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations.”
A lot more people on that hero platform that are not getting shot and burned up. People with no lights and sirens! Oh well, even the Avengers keep growing and growing too, I guess. But that starts sounding like a whole bunch of first responders.
Of course anyone at any time can be hero. When asked who my heroes are, I always say “cops, soldiers, doctors.” These are very broad terms. I don’t feel bad about not mentioning lifeguards, plumbers or tractor operators. I do feel just a little bit bad by not mentioning firefighters, though. Just a little. But I am still not going to wear the above aforementioned fire, ball cap, either. It’s just a long, dysfunctional family history thing. Even though I don’t bleed blue blood anymore. It’s red, and if I see a lot of it coming out of me? I will damn sure quickly call an EMT.
Remy Presas frequently told this story in seminars. Many of us have heard this “leff story.”
After witnessing several bolo (machete fights) which I chronicled earlier on the Presas Group Page) , and after the somewhat underground “sport” of bolo fights began to disappear from deaths and maimings, rounded sticks replaced the bolos in fighting for money. (Not sticks shaped liked swords but rounded ones – something else I wrote about on the Presas page.) Remy fought these fights for money in boxing rings, cockfight arenas and wherever betting groups might gather. He told us that after a while, numerous people approached him to teach them and their sons how to stick fight.
“But I am leff,” he told them. Left-handed. “And dey were right.” He said he could not teach them. They pushed the requests.
“But de money became so good…I become right.” He started to teach them the stick with his right hand. Much of it was longer range stick dueling (“of course, you could just hit de man in de head with a stick.” – he would often say, when discussing complicated moves.)
And as Remy has said often, the double sticks help teach the “other side” anyway.
In short, really short – lefty versus righty has always been a big thing in sports. The southpaw boxer. The lefty pitcher versus the righty hitter in baseball. Lefties are 1 in 10 people. This is an advantage for them simply because most sports folks and fighters have built up a “versus righty” repertoire, a library in their head, even like in their “subconscious” of what tiny steps and moves a righty does to hit, kick and position them. The most subtle increments are stored in the brain. We use them as tip-offs. We see less of these reps from a lefty, as there are less lefties.
“I become right. I become good.”
And he made a lot of money teaching righties. But still fighting too. (and he had a few jobs too. Working at a family shipyard and…not known by many, a barber.)
He would say in seminars about the money stick fights…
“Round one, I am right.” Ding. Round two, I am right. Ding. Round three…I am leff. I win!”
His eyebrows would raise. We all would laugh. We got it.
Remy became as ambidextrous as possible. In close quarters, he could switch hands effortlessly and really foul up your brains. He taught this inside the newer tapi tapi. He taught this on the single stick versus double stick drills, as you must go single stick right and left-handed versus the double sticks. (Ernesto did this too.) These were Presas “leff” priorities which I can’t say I found “up front” in many other FMA systems.
(I remember one Inosanto seminar many, many years ago in Irving, Texas where, for about 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday, we did left-hand sumbrada. It freaked all the experts out.)
This is where I have fallen down. Where my knife course has fallen down.Before the Fall. In the 1990s there was a “resurgence” if you will, a re-look, re-examination of knife material. Some might call it knife fighting, but I don’t like that term. But you are still indeed, fighting with a knife when you are…fighting with a knife. Still, I don’t like many terms, images, messages, logos relating to the knife and knife fighting. By that time in the 90s, I was in police work for quite a while, both in the Army and in Texas, most of that time as a detective. I’d seen and experienced working on a lot of knife crime, as in aggravated assaults, rapes, attempted murders and murders. I have been attacked by both knife and ax.
I know the depressing, dark side, the wet side in juxtaposition to all the smiling people having fun, slap-dashing around in gyms playing tag with wooden and rubber knives. Knife training is often treated quite cavalierly. This doesn’t have to be the case as the culture of pistol training is quite serious and full of foreboding and legal scares. Careful, mature training cultures do exist, and this must become true in knife training also.
In the early 90s, this edged weapon resurgence was sort of an international turning point in knife training. A reboot if you will? It first resurrected the old military knife courses and the semi-legendary names of yesteryear. They weren’t “kuraty” superstars. A sophisticated look at them however, revealed, they weren’t so sophisticated. So several of us, using the newer sports training methods of the time, and bolstered by years in Filipino martial arts or other historical backgrounds, stepped into the ring and made “new” knife courses. Gone was the martial arts uniforms, belts, etc. We wore jeans with pockets and regular clothing belts. Street clothes.
Some of the 90s knife pioneers? James Keating. Tom Sotis. Kelly Worden, Bram Frank, Bob Kasper, yours truly, to name just a few, but there really were only a few of us. (Vunak is an 80s pioneer.) We wore shirts, jeans and shoes. I even taught at times in a suit and tie. We didn’t trust the old stuff and we didn’t trust the established martial arts either, even the Filipino applications of the knife are often tricky. (Do you want to walk around wearing a vest with 12 knives?) Be free. Think free. Be skeptical. Are you a replicator? Or an innovator?
Still, the old just helps the new. This was also part of a bigger “breakaway” from establishments that was going on in that decade. The world was seeing MMA (or at least ground wrestling) on TV like never before. And somehow a collection of old stuff, dressed in athletic pants, painted in “Israeli mystique” – Krav Maga – was really shoved down the throats of Tae Kwon Do schools as mandatory, by clever (and insidious) shaming, business groups, like NAPA in the 90s. Revolution was in the 1990s air! Jeet Kune Do was spreading into a heyday. Inosanto JKD/MMA was already doing Thai and ground, and so much more. Ever hear of “Shoot?” But, I guess the Israeli mystique was greater than the Bruce Lee mystique? Mystique? Yes. Ever so important in advertising, sales and manipulation. That’s how we pick shoes, cars, purses and pistols (politicians, religions and…) Manipulation. More on that later…
My knife course had a few odd, infancy names in 1990 and 1991, but it was quickly called “When Necessary? Force Necessary: Knife!” But the title was a little long and clunky and it was shortened to “Force Necessary: Knife!” I do prefer the longer, clunky name, as it completely explains exactly what I mean to say. Only use that force necessary when absolutely necessary. But I got around doing that knife material. Lots of traveling, lots of seminars. Even around the world. It lead to being voted Black Belt Magazine, Weapon Instructor of the Year and also into their BB Hall of Fame. I also “scored-very -well” in the non arts world. Before the fall, I was…yes…a player, as Spike Lee might say, “Wazzzup, playah?” (Hey, this was the 90s we’re talking about!)
Black Belt. Tact Knifes. Hall of Fames. TRS. Such was the jargon and the martial/political stage of the 90s. Today, it’s hard to grasp that the total, martial world communication back that existed was with just 6 or 8 international, martial arts magazines. That’s it! Try and list them. Yes, Black Belt, Blitz, Martial Arts Illustrated, Inside Kung Fu, Inside Karate, try and list them. They were the filter for us all. Talk forums developed slowly later and now, like the magazines, are almost all extinct.
Now? Now I don’t know where the martial arts communication filter exists, specifically. The…web…the gazillions of webpages? The gazillions of podcasts? The gazillion of….Instagrams? Facebook? Yesterday’s business card is today’s webpage. And dipshits can pay to have amazing looking webpages. The battle for exposure takes a business up and down many extremely, frustrating, costly roads.
Of course with all businesses, this 1990s knife movement kicked off a new interest and a fair number of new knife courses popped up through and to, by 2005-ish, often by less experienced, less organized people, and in my opinion doing less comprehensive programs. But this business evolution is to be expected. Invent a new “widget?” There’s a knock-off. Then knock-offs with an “S.” In the big picture of training and education however, not widgets, this is a positive thing. Awareness. Curiosity. Growth.
So When Did I fall? It happens slowly and then one day you are down looking up. How’d I get down here? Not enough Instagram pictures? Some 25 odd years later, in about 2015, on a popular public forum someone asked me what I thought of Johnny Swift’s new, knife, quick-draw article. Of course it was named something super-spiffy like “Armageddon Instrument Production,” but it’s just knife quick draws. New, Biblical advice they preached, and published in the new amazing world of web-jargon magazines called something like “Organic Micro Evolution of Edged Prophetic Dynasty.” (I just made that magazine name up, but how far am I off? Have you seen these seminars names lately? Aren’t you impressed, or can you see right through the pretentiousness? ) So anyway, I read Swift’s ground-breaking, testament as featured in “Retrograde, Skill Supremacy, Fusion Elite Magazine” and I replied on the public forum –
“Oh, I have to like Swift’s article. It is virtually, word-for-word, from my 1992, Knife Level 1 outline.”
My review/remark caused a lot of guffaws and a few smart ass remarks, among the 20 and 30 year old readers, most of whom were so submerged in modern “dynasty jargon” and up to their beards in mystique, and lost in the gazillion web world, they’d never even heard of us older guys from the 90s. I mean, who am I to comment like this on their latest fad-boy genius? I added that I was not suggesting that Johnny Swift plagiarized my outline, as it might have innocently been co-opted, or the older info has become so embedded into the “knife world” it was deemed as open knowledge. I reminded the guffawers that the spread of education is a good thing and that at very least, I only partook in that process. I said that the old just helps the new, and you have to remember the old, so history doesn’t repeat itself. As Dave Spaulding likes to remind us, “It’s not new. It’s just new to you.”
One guy was clever enough to say, “Well, sorry I missed you when I was 5 years old.” I told him that was a pretty damn, funny retort. But missed me? Dude, I never left. But actually he never knew I was around to begin with. That is part of the mysterious “fall.”
(That level 1 outline is/was free to the public and has been distributed for literally decades, and my knife books have been for sale since then too.)
I added in that discussion that the spread of education was a good thing, and I only partook in the process. Seriously, I frequently read as new, many old catchy terms/ideas/expressions I published and advertised decades ago.” )
My really big mistake in the knife world, training business is…I think, not emphasizing the knife training business only. Alone. My obsession was/is with covering the bigger picture. Hand, stick, knife, gun. That’s “where it’s at” for me (is that phrase too 90s? Yikes, maybe too beatnik 60s?). The 1990s evolved into the 2000s and my step-by-step into what I really wanted to do all along since the 90s. My goal is to create the best hand, stick, knife and gun courses. It’s a mixed weapon world. Each subject I have is a carefully constructed 4-pillar, foundation. But I think when you shoot for this holistic picture, each separate pillar seems to get a little lost, a little less appreciated, a little less noticed. It also makes me appear to be less specialized. This ain’t true. There’s a big mixed weapon matrix:
back to the knife! Inside a comprehensive knife course is:
*Knife vs hand (NOT empty hand vs knife! That’s unarmed combatives and belongs “over there.”
*Knife vs stick
*Knife vs knife
*Knife vs some gun threats
*Standing, kneeling, sitting and on the ground.
*Saber and reverse grip experimentation. (BOTH! You knuckleheads!)
*Skill developing exercises (shhhh…drills!)
*Knife combat scenarios and situations
*Legal issues and smarts
*Criminal history knife stories
*War history knife stories
(I do get a kick out of the occasional lame-brain who pipes up and says, “Knife training? Just stick the pointy end in the other guy.” Especially when they spend about ten thousand $$$ a year – plus – shooting at gun ranges. Why not just stick the pointy end of the bullet in the other guy, too, Brainiac?)
But, not focusing just on the knife is a problem. I don’t advertise or highlight “just the knife” like other courses do. This is one point where I have fallen down. Why my knife course has fallen down.
No Flags. Oh, and I have no crutch system, no flag to fly, like Pekiti, JKD, Brazil-Mania, Krav. Silat. Arnis. Just little ol’ me flapping in the wind. I can’t draw in extraneous-system-people, and some of those are obligated to attend, even arm-twisted by “the system” they’re in. Brand names are…brand names.
No Mystique? Which leads me back to the first paragraph. We know the established advertising fact the “the grass is always greener on the other….” side of the street? Other country? The sewers of Spain. The temples of Thailand. The monasteries of China? The borders of Israel…the…and so on. Me? I’m just a bland guy with some info. I don’t even have any tattoos!
Plus, I avoid and dodge macho, death messages and death images mystique. And I am not in a “mafia.” I am life-long cop. I fight the Mafia. I am not in any “cartel,” or a “cult” etc. Look, I can make the distinction between something that is a little fun and ironic and something/someone that is sick and weird. It takes a little investigation too, to not jump to conclusions, but sick and weird is sick and weird.
Various other ultra-violent, whack-job messaging should be reserved as a primer mentality for very serious, military, combat groups. THEIR psychology. Their prep. Not cops and certainly not citizens. Mimicking them makes you look like a wannabe punk. Look at the lawsuits filed on cops and citizens. Go ahead, have a little death-engraved-logo on your cop gun and see what happens when you shoot someone. Have a patch or tattoo of a grim reaper with a knife, or a skull with a knife through it, and see what happens when you have to use a knife. We the police, the prosecutors search your history when you are in an assault, knifing or shooting. Mature survival, enduring the end game – as in the legal aftermath, is a big part of a well-thought-out, course. (Mature gun easily people understand this.)
And the serious military angle? Even with them, take a look at the most sophisticated, revered, respected, top-flight, Special Forces vets and they play it cool like a gray man. Not like this silly fucker in New York for example – I read one New York City, very popular, international knife group headline paragraph:
“I love it when I carve someone’s balls off and put them in his empty eye sockets.”
Shit man, you work in a fucking supermarket. And you think and talk like this? You need to be on watch list. These idiots give us all a bad name. But images and expressions like this, or near like this, this mystique, does attract a certain customer, usually young, or young in the brains anyway. Grow the fuck up.
Lackadaisical about making rank and instructors. I don’t really run the classic franchise business as seen in self defense and Krav, other combatives courses, and Lord knows, classic martial arts. I am often lackadaisical about promoting people and making instructors. Other systems do this like precision clockwork, where I fail to emphasize this. It does hurt the proverbial martial, business model. In the same vein, I shun all titles like guro, grandmaster, sensei, etc. “It’s just Hock,” I say, which does not fly well with some organizations who base themselves on this structure. It’s almost like I am insulting them? I’m not trying to. You do whatever you need to do to survive.
After the fall. However boring, I still do see some “knife people” all around the world. There are “normal” people, martial artists, historians, survivalists and hobbyists, gun people out there, interested in generic, evolved, knife material. There are. And that is who I mostly see when the knife topic comes around. Since I disdain the crazies and the fringers, they usually avoid me too. I always do a few hours of knife in every seminar and I do have the occasional knife weekend seminars when and where I realize I need to catch up with people’s requests. And, normal people can always, sort of, hide their knife interests inside a classic martial arts name. To me the knife is inside of, part and parcel of, hand, stick, knife, gun crime and war, survival education.
Boring. No mystique. Not isolating the knife enough. Not promoting people fast enough. No skulls. No flags. No carved out-balls. Here is where I have shot myself in the…well, stabbed myself in the foot, in the knife training business, even though just a few of us are those innovator pioneers and turned the tide in the 1990s into what it all has become today. For better or for worse. Maybe you young fellers will learn from my mistakes?
Don’t get me started on the history of my hand, the stick or the simulated-ammo, gun courses. But, before you young knife guys make any sarcastic jokes about me (and Kelly and Bram, et al?) Keep in mind…I might just be your grandfather.
The first pistol I ever fired was in 1969. After that I’ve had 26 years of formal police and military training, intermixed with “outside” courses and courses after, above and well beyond the original 26 years. While I have qualified expert several times in the Army and Texas police work, and for a brief period was even on a police shooting team, I was much, much younger and frankly, could see much better. I am not and have never been what you might call a “crack shot,” and now I get by. Today, I can positively attest that I can pass the “Barn Test.” I indeed hit the broad side of a barn. I have also investigated a thousand or two crimes and hundreds of violent crimes in military and civilian police work, and then some as a private investigator. I have attended numerous police forensic courses, some taught by the greatest medical examiners in the Unites States reviewing their cases. I have learned many things about shootings, and have strived to create the best, training doctrine. To paraphrase that kid in that movie, “I’ve seen dead people.” As well as survivors too.
(11 years ago in Finland)
Today, my sole interest is interactive shooting with any kind of simulated ammo we have handy. In situations. (You must learn to shoot the doorknobs on barn doors elsewhere, not from me.)
One pistol outline I wrote is about three, what I call, “breaking points” in shooting pistols in gunfighting/combat situations. Dissecting and probing these 3 breaking points have been helpful to me in experimenting and teaching pistol material.
And since I mentioned shooting doorknobs, finally as a last disclaimer before we start, I will not and do not teach target range, marksmanship. I shouldn’t. I can’t and to be painfully honest, I find it extremely boring. It’s not for me. I am only interested in teaching interactive, safe ammo, situational skill drill development and scenarios. There are a ton…well, at least a few pounds worth of great marksmanship instructors out there. If I start naming some, I will no doubt accidentally leave a few out and that would be a mistake and a disservice. Go find them. Go shoot on the range forever.
“One Break,” is the breaking point on a pistol trigger. Gun scientists will say “the “blade” of the “trigger system” is the exposed portion of the overall triggering mechanism. That is the part where the shooter applies finger pressure to fire the gun. Mere mortals simply call this – the trigger. The trigger “breaking point,” is that precise point in which the pistol cracks-off/fires. I will also avoid stepping into the world of hyper-mechanical, gunsmithery and if you need to know more about this clockwork? Ask someone for the details.
But, the finger-trigger squeeze is a big deal in hitting stuff. The further away from the bulls eye or bad guy, the more the trigger squeeze becomes a big deal. The trigger squeeze topic enables me to touch upon what interests me on this subject, as in the finger position.
For me, I know what it is like to be under great stress and grab a sudden “handful of gun,” which can mean a range-imperfect attachment to the grip, and a range-imperfect finger inside the trigger guard. Your hand can become…a blob. I know, I know, I know, the “square-range” people will insist that you must complete so many more bazillion reps to insure the acquisition of the pistol each and EVERY time is a pure, robot-replicated magnificence. The grip. The finger pad tip on the trigger. To a certain point, this cause is true and helpful, but the world is a chaotic place and drawing, and combat is usually in awkward positions and places.
Not doing that picture perfect grip and trigger touch when falling down a flight of stairs, leaping from your car, or while being choking? Many will suggest adding another bazillion reps. But really that next bazillion should be done in that awkward position/situation. Reduce the abstract.
We have situational pistol grabs affecting the finger on trigger position. Through the decades, I have learned that every hand is a different size and every handgun is a different size and fingers different lengths. You have to learn to bond with your hand on that gun to maximize this attachment. I mean, a hand is a hand and pistol is a pistol, yes…but…size matters. My challenge in recent decades is working with my pistols from desperate, realistic situations. This involves for me, more finger on the trigger and in the trigger guard. My best finger position is different on my 5-shot snubby than my .45.
That big “handful” of gun. It can be hard to be “first-padding” your trigger when your blob clutches your gun from your holster. I know some of you are vomiting now, but this consideration is a deeper, personal step in my training, “my-hand-my-gun-my-finger.” Nowadays, think of these range-safety, insurance rules, the growing amount of places where a person cannot draw from a holster to rehearse the grip and draw, offering even less of an opportunity to work on this hand acquisition stuff. You didn’t do it enough before and now “they” are making the opportunities even less. But you can still try to “squeeze in” the best trigger squeeze (and finger positioning) practice at the range.
The group-think/group-teach range method is the heart and soul of the shooting business and the operating methodology of civilian, police and military instruction. It simply must operate in assembly-line, range instruction mode, and not so much “your-hand-your-gun-your squeeze” personalized, problem-solving. This equation also takes you back in time to your handgun selection. But, some agencies and militaries issue guns and you have no choice in the matter. Your income may offer you no choice. Factors other than finger position and trigger squeeze may offer you no choice. This pistol selection is another topic.
When possible, in emergencies, I have noticed I did not have the advised fingertip pad on the trigger. My trigger finger was much deeper. And I learned later I could shoot well with a deeper finger. This idea was quietly spoken years ago, because it was taboo to say otherwise. But many big name, super vets have come out in very recent years supporting the realistic “more finger on trigger” idea. And I appreciate the support. It was lonely out here in outer space. When people like Pat MacNamara and Tom Givens started writing about this finger insert problem, I know it it gave me the confidence to voice my opinions too. And now? I see this idea everywhere. This expression “the size of the gun, the size of your hand” is popping up everywhere.
Your best squeeze might not be your group’s best squeeze. Your personal achievement is getting that “straight back” pull, with your size hand, your size finger and your size gun, in what you perceive to be a the oh-crap, moment-grip. It might be that, the first “pad” of the finger squeeze (very unnatural for most folks), might instead be the middle of the finger for you. Or even the bend of your finger. In all the pistol qualifications I’ve done, when at long distances, when trying for higher scores, I always seemed to shoot unnaturally. How about you?
Anyway, this first breaking point I like to think about here is when the trigger pull fires the pistol. How much finger? The challenge remains how do you physically translate this personal affair into sufficient training methods and class time in an assembly-line, world of group instruction?
“Two Break,” is the physical breaking point, spatial decision to go from one-hand to two-hands, or vice-versa. There is a close quarter measurement in inches, feet and yards where you must hold your pistol back and with one hand away from an enemy. Some call this a “retention” position – which is a fine name for it.
But, we all really would agree that shooting with two hands is way more solid and wiser, UNLESS YOU ARE TOO CLOSE TO THE ENEMY. And close statistically happens a lot. Experts say about half the time, give or take, we are “close.” Define close? I don’t want to argue exact footage here, or the percentages either, but you will hear experts spout that 40% to even 60% of all pistol shootings are…quite close. Yet, trained folks still like to shove the gun out, extended, into a two-handed grip vs paper targets, training partners and real bad guys. Also, lets add “up high” too, high enough as in eye level, to get that mandatory, sight picture.
Too close, way out and high. We can’t shove the gun out too and high too close to the bad guy. And a bazillion more reps will not solve this situational problem. Yet, “muscle memory” (please note the quotes on that phrase) have us shove the gun out and up anyway.
Now, I am not making up a problem that doesn’t exist. I have been doing, teaching very close, simulated-ammo situations for decades and I see this a lot in training people, also in training photos and instructional films. Magazine articles and books often depict a two-handed grip too close to an enemy. How did this two-hand, extended grip become mindless, mandatory muscle memory for so many civilians, police and military, no matter the distance? I have an idea. They call it…training. Actually, training too much for events least likely to occur. Two much distance shooting and the absolute, almost biblical adherence to two-hand, sighted instruction.
Here’s a dangerous example. I started to witness this “muscle memory” in the 1990s. When showing lots of civilians, police officers and soldiers pistol disarms, I started seeing that when the good guy disarmed the pistol from the bad guy, said hero would usually/often next take this newly acquired pistol into a two-handed grip and virtually shove the gun right back at the bad guy, sometimes near or even inches from his face! This put the precious gun right back inside the bad guy’s range to take back and, or disarm. We know better than to do this, but it still happens.
Common, modern police training suggests the danger zone is “two giant steps and a lunge,” from a suspicious person. Give or take, huh? Someone excited can really spring off and perhaps surprise you from further out than that. Making things worse, many trained and even untrained, instinctual fighters will instantly chase their lost gun. Some call this “weapon recovery” and that’s good name for it. So they chase their just-lost-lost gun and you have helped him by shoving it back in his can-do range. Do not return his lost pistol back into his recovery space with a mindless two-hand, extended grip. As an aside, when I correct this? The heroes will agree instantly, almost with a “duh,” self-head-slap, but after 5 or 6 more reps…they FORGET…and return that pistol right to the bad guy’s face with a two-handed grip. It is hard to alter this repetition training.
How to fix this in training? For an example, let’s round off a number to easy-math, 100 rounds per training session here. You typically start the day very close to the paper target and do some shooting. Maybe so close you get to slap the paper target with your free hand. Or elbow the paper target and draw and shoot. One-hand, shooting stuff. You are in the pistol-back, retention grip position. It’s really hard to screw up at that distance. Center mass torso shots. You’re killen’ it! All so easy. Too easy! The staff has to start moving you back. Next, maybe 5, feet? In fact, it’s still too damn easy! You are performing like John Wick! And the rangemaster knows this and he has to challenge you, by God! Okay, you’ve shot your 5 or 10 beauty rounds, too close and too perfect. Your gift, high score shots are over, Mister!
So, out of those 100 rounds, you might shoot 10 very close? 10%. Even though a high percentage of shootouts are quite close like this, the rangemaster starts moving you back very early in the gun day. He’s supposed to make it tough! You move back and then start shooting immediately with two hands, back, then back, then back some more. This is now become and all two-handed, of course. At the end of the day, you’ve shot 10 rounds with one hand. rather close, and NINETY rounds with two hands and back and back and back. Run the numbers of a 500 round course. 50 rounds close. 450 rounds two-handed. How about a 1,000 rounder day? A major preponderance of 2-hand shooting. We have created an all-purpose, “muscle memory,” two-hand grip, shooter. Grab the gun, go to two-hands.
An idea involved in this distancing method also is, if you improve your distance, bulls eye shooting (with two-hands) it will automatically improve your bulls-eye shooing in closer distances. Yes. Yes, it will, but it also is furthering and creating the two-hand monster when in a one-hand world. The rangemaster has kind of, inadvertently, created a two-handed monster.
So, later in real life, then the crap hits the distributor, what do you expect the replicating robot to do? Thoughtlessly, mindlessly draw and shoot with two hands of course, very often too close to an enemy, who can slap the gun aside, grab, arm wrap, try a disarm, whatever. What else can we expect from them? We…made…them…do…this. And without simulated ammo training versus a real person, we have not taught them the feel and savvy of distance versus a real person.
I believe that a properly trained, responsible gun-totter, must be free to make a conscious decision, each and every time they pull a gun, to end up with a one-hand or two-hand grip, based on the geography of the situation, NOT from the mental detachment, or target practice boredom or the bad math of a civilian, police or military rangemaster. In much further experimentation, practitioners must experience – feel – the distance of an attacker. Feel the distance. Like a football running back versus a linebacker. Or a football receiver versus a defender. That kind of intimate feel. The physics of a fight. It can be surprising how far away is actually safe for a two-hand grip. In other words, you might think that a two-handed grip is okay and you are still too close to his sudden dash and lunge at your gun. People still use the term “force on force,” training, but whatever you what to call it, you have to do a lot of situational training.
One-hand grip. Two-handed grip. Two-handed grip to one-handed grip. One-handed grip to two-handed grip. In summary, this breaking point is your personal footage when you really need and can safely hold a pistol with two hands or one hand. Perhaps people need to spend a little more time live fire shooting closer with one hand. Closer, in direct relation to the who, what, when, where, how and why they predict they will be shooting. We all vocalize this, and know this, and say we know this, but the challenge remains how do you physically translate this into sufficient training methods and time, in an assembly-line world of group instruction?
“Three Break” is that physical breaking point where you have the time and space to go from an “emergency aim” to a serious, dedicated, front and back-sighted aim. “Emergency aim.” Oh boy, a tenuous term, huh? One might want to say something like “point-shoot” instead, or something fast and frisky. The gun world has become such an anal retentive, obsessive hole of hair-splitting viewpoints, and growling complaints. It can be a minefield to leap around with these terms. And what a “claymore” the term “point-shooting” is, huh? But I think you know what I mean when I say “emergency aiming.” People have been close to enemies, barely put up their handgun and shot them successfully. Maybe from hip or rib height? No sight acquisition. No two-hand grip. They did officially “aim? So to speak. Kinda’? But not by the rigid definitions of many an instructor as they did not completely acquire the front and rear sights in that one perfect, breathless union.
You can better understand the meaning of this by two extreme examples. In one, a ground fight – a guy is over you with the tip of a Bowie knife about to pierce your eyeball. You have his knife limb in a death defying grip, and you pull a pistol and shoot him in the torso. Not much “sight-acquisition” going on there. Not much two-handed grip, jibber-jabber. The second example is that of a sniper, working to shoot a seated despot general having several tequilas on a jungle patio. Lots of prep time. Breath control. Terrific finger position on trigger. Windage check. Okay, well…yeah…that’s with a rifle, not a pistol. But you get my overall drift.
The clock and the yardstick. Time/No-Time? Space/No-Space? Sights/No-Sights? I think that real life often happens somewhere closer to the no-time clock. And then often too, in no-space or not much space, yardstick.
I recall a time, a rant-rage period, when gun guys preached the absolute, mandatory acquisition of sights each and every single time you shoot. It was/is MANDATORY. I remember an instructor (with no real world experience by the way) who ran a somewhat successful range business, lecturing this point. EACH and EVERY time the sights must be accessed or you are wrong, wrong, wrong no matter the situation. Otherwise, you are screwing up the space-time continuum of the universe. I recall these instructors also demanded a two-handed grip EVERY time too. Maybe this rant-rage-speak, this type of advice, is still as around in some gun circles? I don’t know. Maybe I have tuned them out. But, these people need to read the news more. Look at youtube shootings. (Many of these naysayers, did naysay BEFORE the proliferation of youtube shooting films. I wonder if they still sing the same tune now?) I don’t know what planet they live on.
On this subject, Warrior Poet Society, Ranger war vet John Lovell observes that his range class shooters, when doing for force-on-force, shoot low a whole lot – “The shooters were quite literally AIMING LOW. Again, WHY IS THAT? I have a theory on why we miss in fights but not on the range. When we are afraid and are presented with a threat, we REFUSE TO ALLOW anything to block our view of that threat. This means, your fear response refuses to allow your sights and gun to block any part of your view.” So, the gun is lower and the shots are lower. I can see that (no pun intended).
I would like to add that after some 25 years of organizing simulated ammo shooting, people often shoot at what they look. A lot of opponent’s guns and gun hands are shot. That might be where they are looking and might also be, that when shooting center mass, the guy’s gun hand is up and gets in the way. But, Hips are shot when the other guy tries to draw his pistol.
In summary, this third breaking point is deciding when you can unofficially aim, or officially aim. The challenge remains how do you physically translate this into sufficient training methods and time, in the common, assembly-line world of group instruction? One universal solution to these problems is do more live fire, close up. Shoot more with one hand. Another big, big solution for me is to do way more safe ammo, interactive exercises. Way more. Lots more. You learn and better relate to the chaos, and actually experience the distances.
I know I have pissed off a lot of gun instructors through the last 23 years, even some recently, when I’ve said, “you are not really learning how to gunfight unless you are shooting at moving, thinking people who are shooting back at you.”Simulated ammo. Pissed or not, growling and grumbling aside, this idea really marches on. Thank goodness this has been a growing trend. You’ll find it in civilian, police and military training. Not enough, but it’s growing.
A “gun day” training. I suggest people shoot their real guns. Then after a point, after shooting to familiarize yet again with their real guns, next spend some considerable time doing safe ammo training versus a training partner. You might choose a 20%-80% split? With the 80% being scenarios. Or 50%-50%, Whatever, but if you are not doing a LOT of interactive training, you are missing out on a lot of vital, preparation opportunities. This stuff should not be ignored, and should not be done rarely like a novelty. Some people think I am endorsing paint-ball games on basketball court, when I talk like this. No. Something better organized (though a little paintball might go a long way with moving our stiff and fatty asses.)
The Three Pistol Breaking Points. Pistol shooting training can be a personal process. You might think of a few more breaking points to suit your ideas and outlines. Go for it. But within the Three here are:
* Hand sizes are different. Gun sizes are different.
*Understand the stress grab and drawing from awkward positions.
*Find your best finger position for a squeeze, gun-by-gun.
*You cannot/should not always shoot with two-hands.
*You cannot/should not always shoot with one hand.
*You cannot always shoot with an acquisition of sights.
*There is probably a good chance you are doing too much shooting with two-hands in comparison to close quarter incidents/statistics.
*Through experiments, know the best distances for single and double-hand, pistol grips.
*Train with simulated ammo in likely situations.
None of this is an excuse not to become the best marksman you can be. This is just some stuff to think about, and stuff I worry about from a training doctrine perspective. Using the three breaking points nickname have helped me focus on these subjects.
Will the Real Dr. Winston Clancy Please Stand Up? (Or… How to Throw a Man Out a Helicopter Over the Gulf of Mexico)
After I retired I did a 3 year stint in private investigations in Texas. Then Jane got a job in northern Georgia. I was licensed in Texas, and knew no one in Georgia, so I did not renew the TX license. (Jeez what a money racket that licensing was! I write all about that in my police books). People are morbidly interested in my “private eye” days.” The topic sometimes comes up and they ask, “Were those days like the Rockford Files?”
I tell them “Oh yes. Exactly, except there were no car chases, gun fights or sex. ” But there was certainly some “Rockford” weirdness. Like this – one of my PI cases.
Through the years I’d met an architect from the Miami area I’ll call Phillip for the purposes of protecting the so-called innocent. But ol’ Phillip was not so innocent. He was longtime married in Florida; but when his national business took him through the Dallas-Ft. Worth area for various periods of time, he would often appear at various functions with a knockout Dallas cougar, blonde, hanging off his arm. Back then a “cougar” meant the animal, but by today’s definition this babe was for sure a “cougar”.
Hey, I liked Phillip. He was a macho guy, an alpha male. He was a skin diver, a hang glider, a sky diver, and an overall adventurer. Carefree. Careless. He would often ask me and mine to accompany a group to a show or a concert. In the limo, he would often lean over and ask me, “Are you packing?”
I would squint a bit, half shake my head, and give a quarter smile. “Yeah,” I’d whisper. I usually had my .45 or a small revolver. He’d get a kick out of that. I didn’t know why. I never did quite figure out the guy and why I was his sometimes pal when in town; was it me and my charm? Or because he liked having me and a gun around? Phillip. Carefree. Careless. Careless? One year he corralled me at a big north Dallas house party of the well-to-do with a certain pleading eye that was not so carefree.
“Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” “Sure.” With a Seven and Seven in my hand and a beer in his, he steered me over to an empty front room of the house. He told me he’d lost over two million dollars. And he was not alone. Several of his East Coast friends and associates let slip about the same amount. He and those other friends and associates had invested millions in a Texas oilman-driller named Dr. Winston Clancy and his latest “sure thing” oil well. This was his latest oil well drilling project in west Texas. Let me be more specific. Phillip had even introduced those friends to Clancy and gotten them involved.
“I am pissed. My friends are pissed at me. And I mean I can’t have some of those people pissed at me. The well was a scam. A con.” “What people?” “People with money. People with bad friends. Some think I am in on the scam!” “What do you want, Phillip?” I asked. “I want to find the son of a bitchin’ bastard,” he growled. “And if I find him?” “Hmmm, yeah, well. Let’s take one step at a time. You find him first.”
Okay. I’d go that far. We’d see what happened next. I couldn’t, I mean I shouldn’t get involved in any violent debt collection. Shouldn’t…
“Okay, when can you fill me in on everything you got on him?” I asked. “Tomorrow. Can you meet me tomorrow?”
He turned toward the big archway. “Michael!” he shouted into the living room. Michael, the stock salesman, walked up to us. “You have a business card on you?” “Ah, yeah,” and Michael opened his wallet and gave him a card. “Okay. Thanks,” Phillip told him; and with a light, friendly push, he steered him back to the party.
“Can you meet me here tomorrow at 2 p.m.? This is a local office where I set up shop,” he said, and he handed me the business card. It was a finance office in north Dallas. “Okay.” “Hock, this is no favor. I am going to pay you for this.” “Okay.”
And the party resumed. Phillip acted very normal, very typical the rest of the night, his usual gregarious self. But I noticed his attention span drop when others were talking a bit too long. He often stared off with the blank expression of a guy in a jam. What “friends” might go after old careless, carefree Phil?
I showed up at the finance office the next day dressed appropriately, but not too much, just good jeans, boots, white shirt, and a blue blazer. That’d get you inside anywhere in Texas, in a millionaire’s club or a slum crap game.
Phillip was summoned to the lobby by a beauty behind the front desk, and we entered a stately conference room. Phillip stepped out. I got a cup of coffee, top-notch of course, unlike that law office mud; and he returned with a stack of books and files. We went over his mess. “Here is a book he made of his prior successes.” He handed me a large hardcover book like a textbook with color pictures. Or more like a school yearbook to my mind. There was a profile on Clancy with a color photo of our con man with a white cowboy hat standing before a wall of photos. One photo was of a luxury yacht. I looked on. Clancy had a plush office all right, full of leather furniture, statues, paintings of cowboys and cattle, and a giant, ornate dark wooden desk. The walls were full of oil well pictures. Problem was, he apparently was, as we say down here, “all hat and no cattle.” Problem was, it was as realistic as a cardboard set of J. R. Ewing’s office from the old TV show Dallas. The rest of the book was a series of successful wells drilled all over. Snapshots of the drills and the roughnecks displaying good all-American hard work and sweat. Photos advertised the eventual pumps, the happy and rich landowners, and the happy, happy investors raising drinks and grinning from ear to ear. I thumbed and fanned through the pages.
“Some of those stories were real, the thicker chapters, and some were not. A lot were not,” Phillip said. Clancy claimed he had an amazing success rate in finding oil in the ground. Winston Clancy looked the total oilman package: that hat, Western clothes, and expensive Western jewelry. He bragged to Phillip that he’d earned a doctorate in geology at SMU in Dallas, and Phillip got some of his Florida and New York friends involved with that “sure thing.” Clancy even flew to Miami and met them all at a dinner party at Landry’s Steakhouse. Winston had the schematics, maps, geology reports, and what-all to convince people that his next well was sure to be a gusher. A gusher! Glasses were raised in a toast. Riches to all!
In the end, Clancy walked away with millions in investment money from his far west Texas oil well project. “In the beginning, we got monthly progress reports and some photos with them. A look at the site. Breaking ground. The well under construction. Then those reports came every two months. Then three….” “Then none,” I said. (This tactic was not new.)
This actually was not new at all. I’d worked cases like this before as a police detective. Bad news for Phillip, though. You caught the guy, and you put him in jail. The guy got convicted, and the scammed money was already spent or well hidden. The courts made him pay a dribbling amount of restitution to the victims. They never got real recompense. Clancy got out on bond or served a short prison hitch, and he was out. But then, I was no longer in the “catch and release” game. I could play other games.
I found some of the news reports in the stack. Eight-inch by 17-inch sheets of paper, folded in half, and stapled together. Picture quality not good. Must have been run on a basement copy machine. Envelopes? “You have any envelopes?” “Somewhere.” He sat up, leaned across the table, and shuffled through the pile. He found one. An actual stamp was used on the envelope. Postmarked Dallas. “All these have the same postmark?” “Don’t know. Threw them away when I got them.” I got a bunch of details from Phillip and the pile. “Let me take this book,” I said, grabbing up the advertising, rah-rag yearbook. “Okay.” “I’ll get with you if I find anything.”
I left the office with a plan. I drove straight to Mockingbird Lane. Why, you ask? Because that book was made just last year, printed by a book company on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. I’ll just call them Scuttle Press for this story. The name was in the fine print in the opening pages and on the spine. “I sure need to talk with a salesman,” I told the receptionist at Scuttle. “Yes, sir, may I have your name?” “Hock.” “Yes, sir, Mr. Hock.” As I suspected by looking around the stately lobby full of samples, this outfit would make any book. School yearbooks, textbooks, anything. A smiling face met me within minutes, and we walked off to his office. “This is going to sound crazy, but I need to find someone. I have found myself in an oil deal. The land is rich with oil, and we need a driller. A real wildcatter. Someone with Exxon gave me this book and told me flat out to find this guy for the job!” I slid the book across his desk. He spun it for a look. “Y’all made this book for him!” “Is … is his address not in here?” “He’s moved.” “Oh.” “I have to find this guy. Is there any way you can help me? Any info on him? A phone number? New address?” “Well, I don’t know, that would be….” “The whole purpose of your making this book for this man was to advertise his business! That was what he wanted you for. I, sir … I am business!” “Let me see what I can do for you.” He took the book and left the office. I think he fell for my tall Texas tale. About 10 minutes later, he appeared with some copy machine papers. “All we have is this Dallas address. That might be the one he moved from. And this phone number. Those books were delivered to that Dallas address.” “Oh, oh, thank you,” I said. I got the sheet of info and the book and left Scuttle Press with the scuttlebutt.
The phone number? A Houston prefix. After a while, you got used to a lot of phone numbers from working cases; and this one was in the Houston area. But was I going to drive straight to this Dallas address and find this swindler?
It was rush hour now, and Dallas could be a bear like any big city. When I got to the house, I sized it up. Not a super nice house or neighborhood. Nice enough, but not super nice. Not oilman nice, anyway. I walked up to the door and rang the bell. Nothing. I took a peek into the front windows. You guessed it. Empty. Empty and no “For Sale” sign to be seen. I wandered around the backyard. No signs of life. There was always next door! “Hello, I was looking for the folks who lived next door.” “They moved a few months ago,” the lady who answered the door told me. “They? He and his wife?” “Yes, I think, I don’t really know if they were married or not.” “Uh-huh. Do you know where they moved?” “I don’t, but Melinda across the street was friends with the lady. She might know where Melissa is.” Melissa? Okay, long story short, with the same story of me hunting for an oil expert, Melinda told me that the Clancy clan left for Houston. There was more to the neighborhood visit, but it turned out to be unimportant for you to know. Suffice it to say, I learned a great deal about “Mrs. Clancy,” and the city of Houston was second on my list to visit.
First trip on the list? First I absolutely had to drive out to the supposed oil well site so that I could confirm, with my eyes and without a doubt, there was no well. Back at my home office, I called a Texas Ranger I knew in Austin who I worked with when he was a local highway patrolman and who owed me a few over an old missing person’s case. I gave him the Houston phone number, told him I was investigating a statewide oil scam crime, and asked for his help. This was a Texas-sized problem, and I would fill him in on the end result for his intel when I was done. I needed the address of that phone number plus any and all the horsepower he could muster up on the house where the phone was installed. Residents. Utilities. Etcetera.
Two days later, I was on my way out to west Texas. Easy run. I found the tract where the well was supposed to be and, well, no well. I snapped a few photos of nothing. No permits were filed at the county. I made the long drive home with real confirmation of the scam. I waited for the Ranger’s call and got it a few days later. The house belonged to a Melissa Keefus. Utilities, too. Two cars were registered to the house, both in Melissa’s name. But some other info from the house, stuff I won’t mention here, had the name William Alex Sanford. The Ranger said Sanford’s mug shot matched the photo of Clancy I had faxed him. Yeah, that’s right, mug shot. The name belonged to a con man on parole with mucho prior arrests for swindling and fraud. This was the real Dr. Winston Clancy.
Right after that, I took one of two drives to Houston to this Clancy-Sanford house. Another decent neighborhood, but no millionaire digs. And good news for me, the garage was on the front of the house. If it had been out back, I’d have had a little trouble parking back there and waiting for their cars to come and go; and at the same time, I’d have missed any action at the front. I had a truck and a four-door sedan at my disposal, the sedan being the most boring and overlooked car. I watched the house at various times of the day. And at the end of the two trips, I tallied up several sightings of Melissa and one of the mysterious Doctor himself, Mister Clancy.
When I got back home, I made the phone call. “Phillip?” “Yes.” “This is Hock.” “Yes.” “I found our doctor. He is in Houston.” “Oh, that is great news. Great. Tell me about it.” I gave him the synopsis. “All this will be in a report I will mail you.” “With a bill for your services,” he said. “Okay. What happens next?” “I’ll handle it,” he said. “You will? How? What?” “Not to worry, Hock.” “I had to pull in some favors to get this info. Clancy is a parole violator, and a Texas Ranger now knows about this. I promised him a full report would be forthcoming. I assume eventually his parole officer will be officially notified by the Ranger.” “Hmmm. Okay.” “What I meant to say is this. You couldn’t collect much from a guy in jail. And you would be the complainant who the parole officer must contact to see if his guy was still committing crimes. There had to be a crime report for him to work on.” “Okay.” “Anyway, this could be a bargaining chip to use with him. Against him. To get your money. I could…” “Don’t worry, Hock. I got it from here.” “Okay.”
And with that, we hung up. I sat quietly for a moment at my desk staring out the window. What would happen next? I prepared a bill and shipped it off with some photos. I got over $5,000 plus expenses. Not a bad haul for the 1990s. About two weeks later, I sent a packet as promised to my Ranger friend in Austin. He would do with it as he wished. Tell parole? Open his own investigation? Stick it in a pile in a corner? And, that was that!
Until about one year later. A dinner party, and who was there? Phillip and the cougar! He waved across the room; and about an hour in, he ushered me out to the backyard. “Thanks for all your help and that … deal,” he said with a smile. “It worked out? What happened?” “I told my Florida friends. Retired friends from New York. People who knew people. Doctor Clancy was kidnapped one night.” He smiled broadly at me. “Ah … what?” “He was kidnapped. Duct tape on his mouth and hands. Everything. They tossed him in a car and drove him down Galveston way. The Gulf Coast somewhere. They put him in a helicopter, and they all took off over the Gulf. They opened the side door of the chopper and hung his ass about half out of it. They told him to pay us back; or they would do this little trip again, only worse for him.” I smiled back at him. “They drove him right back to his car. They stayed in Houston for the week. We got our money back by the end of the week.” What could I say to that? I nodded my head and laughed. He laughed. “Happy ending, huh?” “Happy ending,” I repeated.
I would see Phillip a few more times. Then I heard he had a terrible accident hang gliding. He just about destroyed his shoulder. He was getting way too old for that stuff. I also heard he divorced his wife and took up with the cougar woman. There were a few natural deaths within that group of friends, and Mrs. Cougar returned for the funerals. All connections dwindled away.
I worked another oil well case around that time. Two rival oil companies were fighting over a well in the south. One illegally took it over and I was hired to go there and take it back. I picked up a gang of the kicked-out, rough-neckers and we cut the gate chains and ran off the illegal crew. Our guys held wrenches and tools. The other guys, pretty much knew they were there illegally and took off. But that’s another story.
Justice does come in all forms. Sometimes it comes in the cold, cold midnight wind off the Gulf boosted by helicopter blades at about 300 feet above sea level.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
This is excerpted from Hock’s true crime book. Thousands sold all over the world. Get the ebooks. Get the paperbacks. Find them, click here
I started out in Parker Kenpo in 1972. (and I was not a kid – that’s how old I am). Parker had his program together in many ways and many levels. It was revolutionary for the time. His writings and advice were as good or better than Bruce Lee’s in many ways. But alas, Ed never made those movies! (Folks forget or don’t know that Dan Inosanto and Larry Hartsell were 1960s Parker black belts, in a very, very blood and guts era.)
Anyway, one complaint of modernists versus old “kuraty” today, is over what appears to be choreographed dance steps in scenarios. Yet, choreographed combinations are practiced BY ALL, and these complainers don’t have the intellectual depth and savvy to recognize this point. Even sports teams – baseball, soccer, football teach things in combinations. My God, take a look at focus mitt drills in boxing and Thai. At their best, they are plans to respond to the reactions of the opponent. (I repeat – when at their best, because sometimes they are just constructed at random as “busy work” in classes.) In all combination experiments you gamble on the reactions and results.
Now I fully understand that doctrine has splintered and strayed for many systems, through the years. And I do share in some of the complaints. I still shake my head at many things. But Parker worried about some of these problems too. As in the quote of this photo.
This problem-solving application concept was taught in the Parker Kenpo beginnings. Somehow I never forgot the concept and used it through the years and use it today. You must be free to respond to what you see.
All training drill patterns and sequences are meant to be broken. But you have to start somewhere…or you can start nowhere and probably end up nowhere.
Through the years, I worked several cases involving dead babies. Dead babies in murders and car wrecks. Frozen in cars. A rape. Beatings. But one was by far the weirdest and most ironic.
In Dallas, Texas, in the last few years, the city had started what they called a Baby Moses program. This program was where unwanted babies could be dropped off at fire stations and safe havens with no questions asked rather than be abandoned or killed. As I watched this news feature about the new program on television, my mind flipped off into the various dead baby cases I had worked in the past. Would the Baby Moses plan have helped? All had a snapshot stain in my brain of a telling moment or two. But … one sight, one night sticks in my mind.
That case involved what was probably one of the most ironic moments of my life because it was intertwined with the law, races, friendships, death, abortion, poverty, education, and, … well, so much it was too hard to categorize it all. I will just have to tell you about it, and I promise you won’t know what to do with it either.
I will start by recalling a guy named Sam Till for you. Many of our officers knew Sam Till. Sam lived in one of the projects or “poor” parts of our city; and, yes, it was the black part of town. Sam was a Vietnam vet and a retired, high-ranking Army NCO. He was a hard-working, ambitious person and ran two successful businesses. One was a large, citywide sanitation company; and the other was a well-established funeral home. On any given day, you might spot Sam supervising a garbage truck or even loading one on a route; or he might be giving a sermon at a funeral or driving the limo to a graveyard. He often came to crime scenes and collected the murder victims or scraped together what was left of accidents and suicides. Sam, like the other funeral home folks, would transport the bodies to the lab for autopsies if needed. Sam pitched in and did it all. Yes, Sam was a black guy.
One day, he and two workers saw a crazed man beating one of our officers and trying to take his pistol. Sam and the men jumped on the criminal and saved the day and the life of the already-unconscious officer. Sam was one of the locals who renovated his house and remained in the projects as many successful people did at that time. It was where he grew up! Where he wanted to be. He was even mildly involved in city politics and become involved with various good causes. He had several good sons who stayed out of trouble despite where they lived.
During my years as a patrolman or a detective, Sam supplied me with a lot of information about people he knew and suspected of crimes. I could go to him anytime for intel and gossip. He in turn would give me a phone call if he thought he’d discovered something. I think he knew I meant well for the community. He also knew that one of the most influential people in my life was a black Army NCO named Gaston; and, therefore, I mustn’t have been much of a racist. But racism was an overall problem back then—not as bad as before the 40s, 50s, and 60s, but still bad in the 70s and 80s.
I was a fairly “new” detective in 1981 or thereabouts (technically “new” as Texas goes as I was one in Army) . I was dispatched one chilly, early evening to meet a patrolman about a “family” problem in that part of the city. When I arrived at this sprawling, older home, a patrolman introduced me to a mother and father. The parents had become burdened with a problem, and neither they nor the patrolman knew what to do about it.
I first met the officer standing outside on the walkway and alone in the dusk. “Hey, Hock,” the patrolman said. “We’ve got a problem here. I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with it.” The officer shook his head. He opened the front door and steered me in. What is there not to know? I asked myself. Then I found out.
“Sandra has not been well, and her friends have told us something,” the mother spoke up. “Sandra was pregnant. And we had no idea.” Pregnant? No idea? I saw the family color portrait on the wall. The parents were big people, and I mean really big people. Sandra, who looked to be about twelve years old in the picture, was a very, very big girl. We all sat in the living room.
“Her friend told us she was pregnant, and she had the baby,” the father said. “Sandra has not been to school in a week. She’s been throwing up … we just thought … we just thought she was sick.”
“Where is the baby?” I asked. “Is there a baby … yet?” “No one knows,” the officer added. “Sandra’s friend says she had the baby last night,” the distressed mother said. “Where?” “In there,” the father said, pointing to a bedroom. “In there. Have you looked yet?” “No, Mr. Hock, we were afraid to look.” “Any … ahh … crying or…?” I asked with trepidation. “No. Sandra is in there now. She won’t open the door.” “Well, Mrs. Rankin, this is your house; and you can go anywhere in it. Let’s go,” I said.
We all stood, and the mother announced to Sandra that we were coming in. Sandra wouldn’t unlock the door, so I kicked it open. The bedroom was quite large, yet it was stacked and cluttered with … with just about everything you’d find in a teen’s room at the time times 10. Clean clothes. Dirty clothes. Furniture. Some stuff just stacked and other things grossly shoved and tossed everywhere, all atop a dirty carpet and a few pieces of old wooden furniture. The mother started to explain to her why we were there. Sandra was now about 15 years old and still quite a large young girl, much larger than the photo I’d seen in the living room. It was possible to live around her and not detect a pregnancy? I guessed. Possible? As they talked, as she denied, I started prowling the room, lifting, and looking. And then I spotted a newborn baby pushed against the wall and buried in towels and clothes. Dead.
The parents knew I’d spotted something. I must have grunted or something. And in an instant, they charged over to look. They moaned and screamed. “Don’t touch,” I said quietly. Regretfully. “Let’s all get out of this room.”
I left the house for my sedan radio. I requested our crime scene man, Russell Lewis, to come as well as my supervisor, Detective Sergeant Howard Kelly. Kelly called the house phone, and I ran down to explain the deal to him. He would contact a Juvenile Division Detective to take over any investigation, but that wouldn’t be until tomorrow unless something unusual happened. It was my mess until then. I hung up the phone. I knew the girl would eventually be charged for something that would probably be impossible to prove or disprove back then. Stillborn? Starved? Killed? Not too sure what the prosecutors would do. But my involvement would be temporary.
Now, I am trying to keep these details brief. Russell came. We snooped around, and he took pictures. Then he left. What came next is why I write this…
A funeral home was called to handle the dead body after we processed the crime scene. Sam Till’s was next on rotation and took the call and drove right over as soon as he could.
As soon as he could, because he was still in his garbage truck! Not the usual Till funeral van, as Sam was out delivering a truck to his office and was already nearby. Sam came in and was greeted by the parents as though they were longtime friends. He sat with them. He listened to them. Sympathized with them, as Sam always did so well. There would be a proper funeral. The family left the house for the police station, where I would later collect some preliminary statements.
Then it was just me and Sam. The baby would next go to his funeral home and as soon as possible be driven to the Dallas County Southwest Forensics lab for an autopsy. Sam had a white towel in his hands, and we walked to the bedroom and up to the baby. He was talking about something to me the whole way. I don’t remember what. He grabbed this baby by the ankles, and with it hanging upside down, we went back out on the street. While we discussed whatever it was, he laid the towel down on the passenger floorboard of the garbage truck and laid the baby atop the towel. We said goodbye.
He roared the garbage truck engine as I walked to my car and unlocked the car door, but I just stood there for a second, you know? What just happened? As he drove away in the garbage truck, I stood rather dumbfounded on the city street; and I knew I had just witnessed a most ironic, twisted, odd, social statement or situation. I mean, how can I describe this? The words “dead black baby born in secrecy and removed from the slums … in a garbage truck at night.” Is that how the report could read?
I have a vivid memory of that moment in my head. Standing on the street watching the garbage truck drive away. A memory, to this very day, I just don’t know what to do with.
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
This is excerpted from Hock’s books Don’t Even Think About It. Get Hock’s True Crime – Detective Books. Click here
W. Hock Hochheim teaches hand, stick, knife and gun combatives to military, police and savvy citizens.