In 1986, I became fascinated by the Bruce Lee’s essay on “the stance of no stance,” idea. Whether hand, stick, knife or gun, I opted for the loose “ready stance,” and the “balance and power in motion” concept, a motion-picture-idea rather than a still-photo-idea.
Thanks to Bruce Lee, the Inosanto Family (and Ed Parker) when teaching since the late 1980s, I organized and demonstrated the Ten Probable Position-Problems to prepare people for the full spectrum of mixed weapon fighting possibilities. I was a cop then and we had to fight on the ground periodically, so even before the BJJ madness-fad, many of us trained in a diverse Police Judo, later re-named Police Defensive Tactics (both very incomplete). And, I was deeply involved with the Inosanto Family and they were deeply involved in “shooto” – “shoot wrestling.”
One might say there are three generics in “street fighting-survival” challenges. 1) standing, 2) kneeling-seated, 3) floor-ground. But inside each there are differing heights and needs, making up the ten. For me a system-art that spends too much time in one of the categories is forgetting the importance of the others. In any fight you may well transition through some of these ten. Investigate them through the Ws and H Questions, the who, what, where, when, how and why questions to best explore combatives. One such “Where” question is…”Where are you?” Standing? Kneeling? Seated? Floored-grounded?
Problem 1a: Unready Standing unprepared – the “stupid bus top.” This is a concept I learned from Ed Parker Kenpo karate in 1973. You are standing normally (like waiting for a bus). You are probably zoned out and unprepared.
Problem 1b: Ready Standing Ambush – the “prepared bus stop.” You are prepared but don’t look so to an opponent. (Think sucker punch approach, concept.)
Problem 2: Ready Standing – “Weapon” Forward or as in a right side lead. (Weapon as in hand, stick, knife, gun.)
Problem 3: Ready Standing – “Weapon” Neutral or as in hands-torso showing no lead. (Weapon as in hand, stick, knife, gun.)
Problem 4: Ready Standing – “Weapon” Forward or as in a left side lead. (Weapon as in hand, stick, knife, gun.)
Problem 5: Knee Height (or seated,) versus Standing.
Problem 6: Knee Height (or seated,) versus Knee-high or Seated.
Problem 7: Knee Height versus Someone Below You. This is the top-side of a floor-ground fight. (Might be two knees down, right knee up or left knee up.)
Problem 8: Floored-grounded On Back. This means fighting standing, kneeling and grounded enemies. Full spectrum, head to toe (think north-south-east-west).
Problem 9: Floored-grounded on Right Side. Usually this means fighting enemies that are knee-high or grounded too. Full spectrum, head to toe (think north-south-east-west).
Problem 10: Floored-grounded on Left Side. Usually this means fighting enemies that are knee-high or grounded too. Full spectrum, head to toe (think north-south-east-west).
YOU WILL BE FIGHTING “HERE”… In many a fight, certainly an ambush, you might never get a chance to strike up a defined “stance.” Still, this study reminds everyone that fighting includes all these up-and-down height categories and they should not be ignored or forgotten.
EVERYTHING you learn, must be experimented through these 10 position (stance) problems. Every strike, kick, lock, etc…can you do it there? Can it work here? There? Up and down? Yes or no? This is the goal of the seamless survival fighter. You fight where you fight, where you are. A true fighter-survivor, so-called “combatives” person, fights standing, kneeling-seated and on the floor-ground, in and out of buildings, in rural, suburban and urban areas. Dissect, identify and discard sports and artsy cancers. A combatives fighting system is about doctrine-doctrine-doctrine, the training skeleton which recognizes chaos, crime and war and best prepares people to respond.
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Too young to join the Army during the Vietnam war itself, I joined later and I wound up assisting in the evacuation of Vietnam in 1975. We got the very first plane full of refugees out and into Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
There, we, several small Military Police platoons, then had to set up the “abandoned,” infrequently used “on-again-off-again,” dusty base for police operations (police station, jail, force protection, police patrol, clean guns, WW 11 jeeps to fleet cars, etc.). And, we were quickly met with an anti-war protest at the front gates, dodging a few rocks.
Army engineers quickly built a chain-link, fenced-in, refugee “quarters” which looked just like a POW camp. As a young, stupid “man-child” that I was, they all looked like Martians to me captured in a compound. (Years later I was stationed up north in South Korea and while living there in a village, I realized that I was indeed…the Martian.)
I have zero cool stories to tell about the whole “Fall of Vietnam” episode, as I was a young and foolish kid, but years later when the bestselling book was published, I devoured this Fall of Saigon book that fully described the surrounding chaos of the fall. Wow! Another one came out, different author with a much longer title and more of an overlook history than just the “Fall” itself.
I recommend both books. Perhaps there will be a similar book on Afghanistan coming out? Same sad story. As they say, history repeating itself, repeating itself.
Afghanistan, Vietnam, (and others locales) these are all complex situations, full of human error and the curse and lessons of “mission creep.” Trump should thank his lucky stars he didn’t have to “execute” his operation as he had planned to do his version. It would still have been a bit messy. And now we have the addlepated Biden has with his ass-backwards, slipshod version. The initial “Oh, no worries” expectations of this August, 2021 Afghan pull-out was deadly idiotic. Of course the country would “fold like a cheap suit,” as many boots-on-the-ground-level predicted. The results were and are obvious.
As a combat vet Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill recently said, “name any general and he will be surrounded by 15 ass-kissing, yes men.” Career generals with…careers. REMFs (rear echelon M__F__s) leaders and detached civilian politicians live on another planet.
Where is Mars and who are the Martians anyway?
More history and photos on this…
On again, off again? Chaffee was busy through the years. Elvis Presley was once processed in Chaffee.
This is not me on the stairs. There were many planes coming in after our first plane. This is a news photo of our MPs helping folks.
Our MP contingent (just a few platoons) did all this, and were replaced within weeks by a whole MP company from Fort Hood, Texas. We had to return to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. The relief from Ft. Hood arrived! A whole company of MPs, with gear and equipment in a long convoy. This is a news photo from there and this is also exactly how I remember their arrival.)
Through the following years, many refugees were processed though Chaffee and condition improved as they were quartered in the old Army style barracks as seen in this photo. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture. From 1975 to 1976, Fort Chaffee processed 50,809 Vietnam War refugees, including Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian and Hmong people. Many were granted permanent, legal residence in the United States as political refugees. One story on this… https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/jun/20/44-years-later-refugees-revisit-1st-u-s/
HANDS-LANDS – Touching the “hands” of the master. Touching the “lands” of the master. Hands-Lands.
(This was a spirited discussion on FMA Discussions. Many say you MUST go to Philippines to “get it.” Many say no. Not needed. I said…)
I started attending Remy Presas seminars in 1986 and I was just another person in the crowd. One attendee was also an Ernesto Presas guy who asked me if I knew Ernesto. I did not and he pulled me aside into a curtained-off meeting room from the big seminar. Two others were there too and we started doing Ernesto stuff. This guy trained me in Ernesto’s material for years, which is different than Remy’s. Four or five years later we wound up in the Philippines. Once back in the USA, at the next Remy seminar, attendees told Remy I was over there for three weeks and even stayed at his old Negros house, etc. He liked this, called me over and wanted family gossip and so forth and only then did we made the solid connection, because he knew I was THAT committed to go over there. I started hosting Remy for years, etc.
Later at a Remy-Dallas seminar at Steve Selby’s school, Remy made a speech about training and with whom and “Touch hands with the master,”or as he would say it, “Touch hans’ TO de’ master.” He pointed to me and said, “Hock has gone twice to de’ Philippines already. I don’t know why? Because…I am here!” Everyone laughed as did I, shaking my head. You could tell by his smile that he making a joke. But why go?
The pro-go Filipinos in the FMA Discussion seem to want you to see the lands, walk barefoot on grounds, breathe the air, eat the food, dive deep in the history otherwise you won’t really “get it.” Like live there? “Going native” – is “to adopt the lifestyle or outlook of local inhabitants. Furthermore, must we also “go native”with all these martial arts we take? While Bruce Lee said all these things were just “Kicks and punches,” must we go down a national rabbit hole and become Colonel Kurtz? I went a little native in South Korea. Lived in the village, etc, but didn’t become a Kurtz. The military grants you time and grade in obscure locations, otherwise you are in-and-out tourists.
Tourists. I often look at folks traveling to the homelands of their martial arts. So many go to Okinawa, Tokyo. South Korea. A friend of mine even went to NORTH Korea for a Tae Kwon Do pilgrimage! (He said it was scary.) All serious Thai Boxers go to Thailand (although in my “heyday-times” of Thai -1990s- many also went to Scandinavian countries for Thai). I think it’s a pilgrimage some want to take. I think it is situational and circumstantial. After my P.I. trips, we got Ernesto coming over the states with gigs and the P.I. trips were long and expensive for me (and my job). The circumstances, the situation, the need was over. But I will confess, me having “gone over” several times was a big marketing help for me.
People like to travel and touch for really unique reasons, lest of all over martial arts. I have a good friend in England who worships the Spaghetti Westerns of Clint Eastwood. He and his wife visited the small town village in Tabernas Desert and the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park in Spain where they were filmed. He has small glass jars of the sand from there as souvenirs. The human drive to visit.
Look at all the people running to Israeli for religion and Krav! The Japanese see Americans going over and dressing like they are ninjas and they laugh. One Japanese-American told me it would be like Japanese coming to America and dressing up in Civil War clothes and taking part is a Civil War recreation. WHY!?
I like for people to be happy and if they want to go, and afford their journeys if they can and should go. I would like to go to Frank Sinatra’s house in Palm Springs. I might not get a glass jar full of booze, but I would like to sing a song there in the backyard.
What of the name-game and FMA? This is actually a whole other FMA discussion subject, somewhat related though, but the real success stories in FMA, those with sought-after instruction and with bigger groups are really all Filipino people. Or they have a name-game-stretch-connection, with Spanish or exotic sounding names yet have never gone to motherlands. Dan Inosanto, a real important FMA pioneer, has never been to the Philippines that I recall. How many land-locked, Americans just have exotic foreign names and have large groups? (They could be good or bad but still get the immediate attention.)
Even though I have been over there – this is why I do not flash myself around as some kind of special super-duper, FMA Person. I will never be an FMA real deal. I am happy to help others get an understanding, etc, if they are interested, but I am just a white boy in Texas. I can only think of a very few white boys with consistent, international FMA success, oh like Bill McGrath and Deiter Knuttel from Germany. Otherwise you gotta’ be Filipino or have a Spanish sounding name and,or seem to be Filipino or could be Filipino. Or else, you better be seriously attached to one. The truth (skill) bears out later.
Origins and names…this is a universal, martial idea-draw. As a parallel, looking at ads and videos would you want to take Brazilian Jujitsu from a Tim Smith? Or a Jose Gonzalez? Who has the immediate advantage? Most would instinctively go with the Jose. (Makes me think, speaking of other parallels – how many Yankees are going down to Brazil to learn BJJ, to go “native” in that native homeland, or have all the experts moved up North?).
On “Going native,” furthermore, must we also “go native” with all these martial arts we take? I do think back through the years of Systema people getting so wrapped up in it that they started becoming communist. Posting pictures of Putin and remarking in pro Russia statements. How some Silat people became Muslim? And then even radical Muslim. I’ve seen it. Krav people becoming Jewish. Like Bruce Lee said – all these things were just, “Kicks and punches,” must we go down a native rabbit hole and become Colonel Kurtz? Studying how to kick and punch should not ordinarily alter your politics and religion.
Touching the “hands” of the master. Touching the “lands” of the master. Hands-Lands.
There’s some Presas gossip lately that I was the only “recent” (many years) person to get Remy and Ernesto “together.” But it was just on the phone! To clear things up, here is the story…
“It’s a Brother Thing?”
There was and is always a lot of talk about the various feuds between Remy and Ernesto through the years. How friendly were they? Could they work together? (They did a few times VERY early on.) We have covered some of this history and you have to scroll down through the Presas Tribute Page I started to find the stories. But, I can write about one of their last, if not THEE LAST interactions here…
Remy married Canada’s Yvette Wong. She was a terrific girl and a Tai Chi instructor who had a Tai Chi video distributed by Walmart. Many of us met her in the 1990s and we all were very impressed with her. I was. Soon he had kids with her! I can still picture Remy pushing a baby carriage.
Then…then…disturbing…he suddenly picked up with a Dallas area woman that was, frankly…a mere shadow of a woman compared to Yvette. WHAT? We asked. HER!? Really? And he wound up living at her house very near to where I lived. Near the DFW airport and near me. We could just go out for coffee! But, we all really felt sad for Yvette and the kids up in Vancouver. I had Remy’s new phone number with this Dallas girl, and while it was nice to have him so nearby, but jeez you know? Yvette!
Ernesto came through the USA again after that. It was about…I think…199…7? And once again stayed with me for a while for our seminars as well as passing through to some of the others. He would use me as a stayover for several USA cities as thr DFW airport was so centrally located. On this trip he mentioned Remy a few times and how much he really missed him and wished he could talk with him. Ernesto was really a “true-blue” family/loyalty kind of guy. Well, hell…I had Remy’s local phone number and he wasn’t that far way. I told Ernesto-
“I have his number. He lives now in the next city from here.” (they might even…gulp…meet?) He wanted to talk to him. Hmmm, this is tricky for me to be in the middle of this. But, I got the number out and dialed it. It was a weeknight and I got Remy on the phone. Ernesto stood looking out the balcony. Nervous. Waiting.
“Remy…hello…yes…hey, I have Ernesto here in my apartment. He says, he says he really wants to talk to you.”
“Ern…esto?” Remy said.
“Ahhh, is something wrong?”
“No. He just wants to talk with you.”
Whew! I handed Ernesto the phone and he sat at my kitchen table and they talked. I tried to make myself busy around the apartment. From what I could hear from Ernesto’s part, it was going very, VERY well. Sounding very friendly. They spoke in Tagalog and some English. Laughed. I was feeling good about this. This call lasted about 30 minutes, during which Ernesto told Remy that he was his brother and he loved him. The phone call started winding down. It was going so, so well!
Then…then…Ernesto asked (he told me right after)-
“Can you…can you helpa’ me, become more pamous’?”
Well, crap. I knew question was not good. Something Remy did NOT want to hear. And from Ernesto’s face, I knew there was a mistake at the end of the call. Remy apparently, immediately got mad. It almost seemed like this help request was the real secret reason for wanting to talk with him. Which it wasn’t. I guess the conversation was going so well, Ernesto just asked. The decades old, sort of rivalry they had reared up again. The whole, younger brother vs older brother thing, doing the same business thing.
Ernesto hung up after that request and shook his head. I don’t know what Remy said but it was not good.
“It was good to talk to him.” Ernesto said. “But, he becomes mad at me at the end.” He told me about the seminar question and the conversation.
Yeah. You have to think that Remy spent his whole life slowly developing contacts and having seminars and working, working, working to establish this…list. The hard way. The old, “original” way. A path-blazing way. Very few people were doing seminars back then. He and just a few others kind of “invented” the seminar path, when you think of it. And to…to give it away or give a portion away, is very difficult. Even to your brother.
Many of us use to think how cool it would have been to have at least one big, Presas Brothers weekend seminar. If I were involved, I could have organized it in Kansas City, center of the country for all to get to. But it would and could never happen. I do believe if Ernesto had not asked that final question, while things would have been so friendly and so fine, and a good memory of what I think was maybe their last conversation, Remy still would NOT actively help him or do something with him like a seminar.
In the end I don’t think that Ernesto needed the help anyway. He was doing fine. What would a Remy and Ernesto seminar be like? Look like? Would Ernesto people like to delve so deeply into Tapi-Tapi? Would Remy people like to get back into longer-range, hardcore, diverse head-banging and do so much mano-mano and knife, etc that Ernesto did? Would something happen, or be said and would the two would stop talking again? Even…fight!
It’s just a….a macho brother-thing of two macho brothers trying to do the macho “seminar” thing.
In seminars I frequently mention JKD’s Tim Tackett (he is my favorite, smartest, outspoken, pure JKD person) and how I collected from him in seminars and personal sit-down discussions, the Bruce Lee YMCA Boxing program. Bruce Lee always had groups of professional students, actors, lawyers doctors, etc., who could not show up to work with broken noses and black eyes on any given morning, so Bruce developed an action-plan-interactive, training boxing program to limit this. This title was also a nickname and was taught outside the YMCA of course, evolving through the years.
Through the years, (1986 on) I had seen bits and pieces of it (usually the more popular segments) from Inosanto, Hartsell, Vunak, Terry Gibson and other JKD Family members but there were many other moving parts not covered by them due to the great variety in JKD concepts. Tim Tackett filled in the gaps and explained it fully for me. I got the bigger picture.
I do think that experts have put their spin/interpretation on the course through time. For example, somewhere along the line of time, kicks started to appear which of course is not boxing-boxing. And for small changes, often, people do the moves, then switch trainer-trainee, back and forth (you-go, I-go, you-go, I-go.) I have seen people instead do three each and switch, which I prefer because I stupidly lose track of who’s-who. (you-you-you, me-me-me). And I too vary the set arrangements and add in a kick at the end of the set. Or, use the movement concept with a kick or kicks, as Tim often showed that the idea worked well with kicks too. (As we all WELL can imagine, Bruce Lee would approve of adaptations, changes and evolutions that fit and work.)
I still carry around a handwritten, messy collection of notes from Tim. When I show the scratch pad list from my backpack to attendees, some want to photograph each page! BUT…the 9 handwritten pages of notes of personal acronyms, abbreviations and sketchy drawings, are out of order to others and I think are meaningless to anyone else.
So instead, I try not to sound selfish and I tell them that Tim Tackett recorded much of his notes and additions-observations on this on a DVD! This would be infinitely smarter to watch then translating my chicken-scratch.
I am an exponent and proponent of boxing for all its benefits, but for my Force Necessary self-defense, survival perspectives (my only true goal) I am more interested in implementing bare knuckle boxing experimentation minus the boxing gloves, as I think both the glove size and padding interferes with reality. (Finger freedom, MMA gloves are better if gloves are needed.) The Lee YMCA program easily goes bare knuckle and works with focus mitts. And people can exchange some body blows too within it and no one shows up at work the next day looking like a barroom brawler.
I have done a number of book interviews and martial interviews and while asked a variety of questions, they are often very much the same. And after being an obsessed writer, and writing for decades, I can usually drudge up a snappy answer that has been somewhat constructed in the past. This is not at all unusual for guests. This last election I listened to wanton politicians on radio and television, and one host asked every candidate, ”What is your favorite part of the Constitution.”
This enquiry set me back more than usual. What if I was ever asked THAT question? Would I have a snappy answer? No, I wouldn’t. Thinking about it, what would I say?
So…fragmental segments popped into my mind. Parallels like baseball? Yes, baseball. What if someone asked me, “What is your favorite rule in baseball?” What would you or I say? The infield fly rule? What constitutes a the “balk” of a pitcher? No, baseball is…big. The game is the game with all the trappings. And you sort of learn the rules, by an osmosis. You play. You learn.
I have graduated two police academies a military one and a Texas one, and there were classes, tests and final exams covering the Constitution. I even passed the Texas state private investigator’s test and that test had questions about the Constitution. So, all that text was run past my brain again and again. The law is very political, historic and complicated thing as it dissects logic and while police cannot argue before the Supreme Courts, we have a working knowledge of what we can and cannot do. At least we are supposed to if we have half a brain. To be hired, you should have this capability, a “constitutional IQ.” And this is not always the case, as I have worked beside buffoons and under buffoons. Statistical buffoonery is the bane of all humanity and all organizations.
There is a federal constitution and there are state constitutions. They are not supposed to contradict each other. To me, its a framework for fairness and solutions.
Once you start playing baseball…start working the streets in patrol and investigations, you glean this realistic, human connection to the Constitution. It’s a “gut-level” thing. As a detective in the Army and certainly in Texas the nuances become even more clear. In fact I learned more about the law by hanging out with, submitting cases to county, state and federal prosecutors and appearing in court, once again by a working osmosis. Again that working osmosis, like playing baseball to learn baseball. What works, what doesn’t, what’s acceptable and not. And the showmanship of courts – it’s a play, a cast of characters with a surprise ending. I quickly came to believe that:
The best patrol officer is a former detective.
The best detective is a former prosecutor.
And even good prosecutors want and should ride-along with patrol officers.
The best prosecutors are former defense lawyers.
The best defense lawyers are former prosecutors.
It’s a enforcement cycle that isn’t exercised enough, if at all possible? But…there you go.
Still if asked after this consideration, “What is my favorite part of the Constitution,” I would still be a bit stymied and would babble. Where to start? It’s all so interconnected. I know some of you will jump right in and say,
“the right to bear arms because…” and
“freedom of speech because…”
I can’t answer most things in “chapter and verse.” I guess my favorite part of the Constitution is the Constitution. And I sure did like playing baseball too.
For starters, I am not a knife or gun collector, no more than I would collect hammers, screwdrivers or wrenches. I just don’t care. You get the message. The “tool” message. I guess it comes from my Army and policing time and experiences. I am interested in efficiency. Don’t misunderstand me, I like looking at cool knives and guns, I admire them, I just don’t want them or need them. If you do collect and you have the money and time for such a hobby, then if you are happy? I am happy. The only time that my eyebrows raise is when the lines between pretty and necessary-survival are blurred (and maybe bloody). One problem often blurred is the texture of grips and handles.
Speaking of bloody, Johnny Cash once wrote about the “kicking and the gouging and the mud and blood and the beer.” There’s also guts, water, oils, sweat, bad gloves and other substances that can make life very slippery and your hands and tools very slippery. Legend has it that the Gurkhas would dip their kukris in motor oil and then train with slimy grips. And what if your hands are injured and-or are freezing? I always shake my head when I see slick, metal knife handles and gun handles.
It’s bad enough when people have stupid hand-finger positioning on grips.
A considerable amount of time, money and research has gone into making working tools like hammers, saws, screw drivers etc., very grip-able. Still you will find slick-handled hammers and tools too! But like wise tool-makers, many wise gun and knife makers and sellers have also labored to make your weapons stay put in your hands with textured grips! People like to suggest that textured gloves solve some of these problem, but will you ALWAYS be wearing gloves? 24-7?
“I want my weapons to be tools and my tools to be weapons,” – Paul Howe
I am not endorsing anyone or anything here. I am just making a suggestion, forego pretty and slick, and get the most textured grips on your firearms, knives and sticks-batons. In my Force Necessary: Stick course Level 1, Force Necessary: Knife course Level 1, Force Necessary: Gun course Level 1, I emphasize and display the vital importance of grip-handle textures. (The issue of the SIZE of handles and grips is a whole other important essay.)
It seems we human through the ages, always knew we need to keep training to keep sharp, and if you keep that single motto alone, probably all your performance bases are covered. I mean to remind that even cave men practiced their spear throwing, they had to, and then we moved on. Life has gotten way more complicated than tossing pointy sticks and just about every job, chore, hobby and skill has multiple layers of mental and physical performance that are stabilized, honed or slowly disintegrate. The concept of “perishable skills” has evolved into our vocabulary after we stopped just cave man grunting.
The first time I heard about “perishable skills” was in police training a very long time ago. But we all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” and versions of advice thereof for decades. Older-timers heard of it for centuries. The term “perishable skills” is another fancy way of saying use it or lose it.
In policing, topics like driving, handcuffing, verbal skills, firearms, strategic communications and less than lethal are skills have been deemed perishable, that LEO’s must stay “up” and current on. But there’s never enough money or manpower to enforce rigorous training cycles. In the worlds of combatives, martial arts and combat sports, we center in on hand, stick, knife and gun methods.
How long before perishable perishes? In hot pursuit of training ideology, various US state police and military, even in the business-world, training criteria has segmented the disintegration times into three categories:
perishable skills (half-life of less than two and a half years),
semi-durable skills (half-life of two and a half to seven and a half years), and…
durable skills (half-life of more than seven and a half years).
How were these timetables developed? By whom? For whom? But, organizations have to start somewhere and justify their timetables. We were once inundated with the “10,000 hour to expertise” training-experience rule and this idea was most recently promulgated by Gladwell’s “Outliers” book, but then we quickly learned from about a ton of experts that everyone is different and “hours-to-expertise” differ greatly, person-to-person. Just look this subject up on the web. (And quit quoting the 10,000 hours rule, people!) I too would like to suggest that such time limits are arbitrary and discretionary because all people are different. This established, we might therefore, logically think that “hours-to-perish” is also different too for different people. Everybody is different on both the up and down sides.
At or near the end? There has been considerable study in these performance matters and the topic of tennis is often used in sports performance testing and analysis. So, I will use a quick tennis analogy. Imagine a lifelong super tennis champion, like Serena Williams or Federa. They age, they just lose a step, even though they are constantly working out and playing. Eventually they must retire as fresh kids rise up. They retire to a tennis club and become resident tennis pros. There they teach tennis and so forth. It is hard for me to imagine that a 60, even 70 year old Serena or Federer would not still beat almost ALL “normal” tennis people in the neighborhood, country club. I think this because they have indeed accumulated so much time in the enterprise that even Serena and Federer, at their near-worst, are still above-average, darn good tennis players. Aspects have perished, but since they were once so high up, that even with significant perishing, they might still pretty darn good for a long time.
I could go off on an in-depth tangent, deep-dive on this topic and I have in various books, essays and articles, but in summary, it’s simple, I (and we-many) think that perishable skill timetables are highly situational in topic and person. The subjects of multi-layer teaching (in what I nicknamed “triple canopy” teaching – (1) books, (2) films and (3) classes/seminars) and the tricks of retention are related to perishability and are other subjects for other pinpoint essays elsewhere.)
Ol’ René Descartes started that little ditty, “Cogito, ergo sum,” Latin for – “I think, therefore I am.”And we are human and therefore will stop thinking someday. Perish the thought! We’ll slow down and stop…playing. So, “I perish, therefore perishability is inevitable.”
But while we are still alive, kicking and unperished, we can use that caveman idea that we humans need to keep tossing spears, keep training to keep sharp and this simple caveman idea instantly covers all your bases. It’s always nice when extensive research still matches with, and backs up, your definition of common sense.
You still might end up a pretty good ol’ pro at the old Caveman, Spear Pro Shop and Country Club.
This “Mudda” title use to be a 1940s, 50s and 60s insult, bringing sons into fisticuffs over their beloved mother’s reputation. To this day, I still don’t get the insult. And today, many mothers wear combat boots, proudly. Their offspring share the pride. And, fashionistas do too!
I mention this pedal region insult because I was recently treated to yet another youtube street fighting video and watched two people spontaneously erupt into a sloppy fight. Both were wearing the proverbial flip-flops, slipping and sliding in them, and half-losing them. As usual the participants were stumbling and falling, from a host of reasons, but insecure, half-assed footwear contributed.
Got me to pondering about shoes. Shoes, boots, flip flops, sandals…fights, chases, climbs, leaps, escapes…a lifetime of footwear concerns as they relate to survival, fighting, sports and enforcement, military performance.
In the “Who, What, Where, When, How and Why” of life, the “What Question” covers the “what are you wearing? And shoes are part of that “what-closet” as are a few sub-questions like “when do you wear…?” “Why do you wear…?”
The guys and gals we see in these fight videos slipped on fast and easy footwear that day. Why not wear these light beach thongs today? Even the toughest-prepared-tough-guy might think that. They might have said…
“I’m just getting a bagel!”
I am sure that in the many fights captured by cell phones, the participants who slipped on lame footwear didn’t think they would be dancing around in their thongs or sandals that afternoon at the grocery store or on a parking lot. And, I am also pretty sure that some of these hardcore store-runners, chore-runners and egg sandwich seekers that slip on flip flops are also wearing a gun. Maybe even more? Knives? A flashlight? Spray? All that, but on go the flip flops. Those are bad treads on your tank in a fight. Aren’t they? Mr. Survivalist?
Regardless of being in a fight, skimpy sandals and thong, flip flops are risky. For example, the “British NHS spends £40million a year treating injuries caused by wearing the casual footwear. More than 200,000 people visit their GP or even end up in hospital every year after suffering falls or developing long-term problems. But experts are warning of the dangers of prolonged use, such as the risk of shin splints and joint pains. They say flip-flops force people to change the way they walk so that when taking a stride they put pressure on the outside of their foot, rather than their heel, causing long-term damage. And there is also the risk of serious injury from tripping over. Frequent complaints include twisted ankles, but some have broken their arms or wrists after falling because their flip-flops caught on uneven ground.” Read the full report here
Even the somewhat popular “Combat Flip Flops” made by vets, have the tagline, ”Bad for running, worse for fighting.”
Common commercial sandals have a few more straps than these thongers, not as many as say – the original Roman Centurion sandals of yesteryear. In pondering “sandal combatives,” I am reminded of the Vietnam era, “Ho Che Minh Flop-Flops,” footwear worn by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War and a nickname probably unknown or forgotten by the great unwashed today, but if you were in service during those times, you remember the moniker.
Professor Google reports – “These sandals set belonged to a member of the Viet Cong and was brought back to the United States by an American veteran as a trophy of war. Ho Chi Minh sandals are iconic for having been worn by the Vietcong during the Vietnam war.
These Viet Cong characters did a pretty god job messing with us in these cheap sandals, but tunnels, improvised bombs and guerilla warfare helped them out. The North Vietnamese Army wore shoes, but some are photographed in sandals too.”
Flip flops abounded in the era though. There was a terrible problem of “trench foot,” later called “foot jungle rot” to be sorted out back then with some powders, and sunshine with flip-flops. This was a diagnosis given those poor bastards, the “booney rats,” cast out in the jungles for days, weeks at a time.
There were of course “jungle boots.” Again Professor Google advises – “The use of ‘jungle’ or ‘hot weather’ boots predates World War II, when small units of U.S. soldiers in Panama were issued rubber-soled, canvas-upper boots for testing. A pair of jungle boots weighed approximately three pounds. Adopted in 1942, the design of the jungle boot was based on the idea that no boot could possibly keep out water and still provide sufficient ventilation to the feet in a jungle or swamp environment. Instead, the jungle boot was designed to permit water and perspiration to drain, drying the feet while preventing the entry of insects, mud, or sand.”
“In the early years of the Vietnam War, some U.S. Army soldiers used the ‘M-1945 Tropical Combat Boot’. 1965, newly-developed footwear was developed using developments since the end of World War. Although the weight increased, after American foot injuries from punji stake traps, their jungle boots used a stainless steel plate inside the boot’s sole to protect the wearer. Later jungle boots used nylon/canvas uppers instead of cotton duck. The footwear received other improvements.”
Troops of the Vietnam era (and now) also acquired some of these primitive thongy, flip-flops to wear to, fro and in the showers because the floors could be considered petri dishes. “Ho Che Minh Flip-Flops” soon became the nickname for all flip-flops and “casual wear sandals.” This flip flop style of footwear reportedly originating as early as the ancient Egyptians in 1,500 B.C, but here in the US of A, footwear manufacturers claim the flip-flop descends from the Japanese zōri, which became popular after World War II era as soldiers brought them back from Japan. But anyway, sandals, flip flops and sunshine were a big prescription for such foot problems. Given all the booby traps and nasties in the jungle, given a chance to wear foot protection, I think most would pick the foot protection over flip-flops when tip-toeing or scrambling “out there.”
In my days, the early and mid-1970s, in Army basic training and the military police academy back then we did everything in combat boots. Shiny ones. 10-mile, forced marches with full gear, obstacle courses, you name it. Boots. But we were taught some foot and shin care (shin splints being the next higher-up, problem) and we had plenty of Uncle Sam socks to change into daily if the Drill Sergeants didn’t hide them while we were gone. We ran our final physical exam 2 milers, in combat boots.
When I was a patrolman and investigator in the Army and even in Korea, I was never far from civilization and a drawer full of socks. But we were in boots (except of course my plain clothes investigation days) Day and night. Boots. We ran, we chased bad guys, climbed, we leaped over buildings…ah, no fences actually… in a single bound! We battled criminal soldiers and I always thought, wouldn’t life be lighter, faster, better in athletic shoes?
Enter my follow-up years in Texas police work. On patrol we could wear black cowboy boots or black, no design, lace, shoes in the late 70s. It was Texas and there was the insinuation that we should wear cowboy boots, but I immediately found the lightest pair of black plain shoes I could find. At K-Mart! Whereupon I continued the fine police tradition of running, chasing, leaping over stuff, climbing stuff and wraslin’ and dukin’ it out with bad guys in lighter “rubber’ shoes. Life was better, faster, smarter.
We need athletic shoes I yelled! Some of my Texican colleagues disputed my views, claiming:
“A pair of Tony Lama boots are just as good as athletic shoes!”
To wit I would reply, “Then why are they not wearing boots in the Olympics?
There was no good, further to-witting from the boot supporters.
Darwin would be proud. Years passed and a new series of lighter, athletic high ankle or short ankle police shoes came around. Black shoes of all sorts became “legal” to wear. Sneakers became standard-issue for the military after Congress passed a 2017 defense provision requiring the military to provide American-made, athletic shoes to recruits directly. Troops were supplied with running shoes. Boot “technology” improved also. Darwin would indeed be proud.
Martial artists are usually barefoot. The usual three reasons given are to “toughen the feet,” and “tradition” and really, mainly – “to save the expensive mats.” If I am forced to go shoeless when teaching in a matted school, I will at least wear socks. First off, no one wants to see my Dumb and Dumber feet. I don’t want to see yours. Secondly, statistically I will be fighting with my shoes on. “Wear what you will be wearing when training!”
Did you know, that “deep-in-the-weeds survivalists” suggest you should always wear the best athletic shoes when taking a plane trip. These experts say that should you survive a plane crash you need the best, solid, tight footwear to escape the split, burning hulk.
Weyland Billingsley checks in with more – “When I teach disaster classes for the Red Cross, I always tell people to wear real shoes. If you are going to a “safe room” for a tornado or hurricane, wear sturdy shoes, jeans and a long sleeved shirt. Otherwise you will be picking your way through a debris field in flip flops and shorts. (Others advise strapping on your bicycle helmet.)
I am not here to sell these new, great hiking sandals. They are like “near-beer,” as in “near shoes,” and are quite tight-fitting and protective. Given this general concept shouldn’t we all be wearing great shoes all the time? Even when buying bagels? There are after all, people who wear their guns inside their house to be safe and I have seen TV gun shows where residents walk out to their mailbox with a pistol AND an emergency medical kit on their carefully considered belt. Should I live like this? Should you? Should I be sleeping with my escape shoes on every night? Certainly with a pending storm, or going to a frisky neighborhood, or maybe even on a plane.
BUT! To me, for my insanity and paranoia, this also enters into the “What, When and Where Questions.” All the Ws and H questions really. When and wear do you, should you worry about such footy things? Realistically?
George Carlin once said, “Religion is like a pair of shoes…find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear yours.” I am just suggesting, think about your shoes!
Are your souls slippery…er…I mean are your soles slippery?
Are your shoes tight enough?
Are they laced up? (That’s right idiot-boy, are they laced-up?)
Will they slip around or off when you are suddenly fighting someone at the bagel shop?
Will your Dumb and Dumber feet be exposed on youtube?
Your Signature Moves and the Pareto and the Mental Model?
Mental models are descriptions of reality that apply across every area of our life, usually don’t get outdated, and provide good results by helping you make better decisions. What is an example of a mental model? One of the most famous and valuable mental models is called the Pareto Principle. Use the 80-20 Pareto Rule to create your signature moves
You probably know it as the “80-20 rule.” This mental models says that most of your results are going to come from just a small percentage of your effort or work.
Vilfredo Pareto, the man who “discovered” this principle noticed that 80% of the land in his area was owned by 20% of the people. He looked in his garden, and saw that 80% of the peas were in 20% of the pea pods. Then he realized that this was something like an organizing principle of life.
This phenomena applies across many domains including productivity, happiness, business, health, etc. Here are a few examples:
20% of relationships lead to 80% of happiness.
20% of exercises lead to 80% of health benefit.
20% of items on your to do list lead to 80% of productivity.
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
In the “fight world” competition fighters have a small collection of go-to signature moves (and strategies). Opponents study those moves by way of films, personal observations and interviews to win. But what of war and crime? You might say that militaries have overall, signature strategies. But what of defending yourself against criminals? Criminals and the classic bullies have no films to study on you, to prepare for your signature moves.
I am not talking about hobby sports and arts here. Just survival. I would venture to say that you need some personal signature moves that best suit you, compiled after you do an extensive study in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. This is why the cookie cutter, martial arts systems are not the best manufacturers of the survival, self defense product, and they can be very one-dimensional. Thai fight Thai. Boxers box. Wrestlers wrestle with no strikes. Etc. One dimensional, offering abstract skills to deal with the harsh, mixed-weapon chaos of the world. (I might add that I do not like the words “self defense” and “fight” or “fighting,” as they can be misleading and hackneyed when discussing survival. Still, I must use them for the lack of more succinct nouns.)
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
I resolved this signature concept by insisting that people study to develop their signature moves for their size, shape, strength, age, coordination and predicable situations-and then later, non-predicable situations. It’s the biggest part of the “Who” question.
“Who are you…really!”
“Who do you think you will really be fighting?”
“Who are you legally, as in the eyes of the law? (Pee Wee Herman or Hulk Hogan?)” I frequently confess in seminars that “I can never tell you how to fight.” That is your job and the job of your local instructor, if he or she has sufficient “Martial IQ.” Not my job as a traveling seminar circus. I must shoot for concepts. You must experiment, pick and choose your so-called signatures. That is why in my hand, stick, knife and gun courses, I want to expose people to a college-like, experience-collection of many good things. Work on them, select wisely and collect what you want, need and can do. You cannot and should not embrace them all, because, here is where we get into the age-old debate of “too many techniques.” Too many techniques to choose from and therefore slows you down, it is claimed. I don’t think there is a universal “too many line” to draw because every person is genetically different. in terms of retention and education-ability. I have decided to create an exposure course (like college). You pick your majors and minors. You experience diversity and savvy. Study systems, but study systems to defeat them, not become them. I do think one might become “Martial Sick,” just adding and adding and adding until you vomit. There are indeed some things that are so smart, so simple and universal.
Some instructors will say “get 5 things.” “Come to my ‘5 Things’ school.” But then they one-dimensionally speak of only unarmed things. What of stick things, knife things, gun things? Five, then 5, and 5 and 5 more? What of standing through ground problems? That’s a matrix of mixed things! That’s a whole lot of simple things. I struggle with this numbers games by seeking the drill/exercises that are multi-purpose. Learn one movement, change the position and weapons. I must be ever vigilant in finding these short cuts for you. That’s my job. My mission.
In the end your signatures are also facing perishability. Will you do these things, say…for the rest of your life? Or, will these signature things slowly erode away. Perishability is another topic for another time, but will your signature become dim and unreadable. And in this vein, let me mention quickly that you need to review your signature moves every 5 or 6 years or so because as you age, you may not be able to execute them as well, or at all.
We fight criminals, enemy soldiers and our “drunk uncles.” I could go on with a lot of anecdotal stories, lessons and name-dropping here, but I think you get the point? Please take a deep dive in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. Exercise and experiment with unarmed and mixed weapons. Collect things for you, yourself. Improve your “Martial IQ” and your “Martial Savvy”with skepticism and awareness. Don’t get yourself, “Martial Sick.”
This is all about YOU. Not me. Not the perpetual-ization and worship of systems and their god-heads. YOU! Get some signature moves for situations.