Watching judo practice and tournaments, watching the stepping and positioning of opponents and the time it took, I use to make a remark years ago that “all judo throws work quickly after you break the guy’s nose.” And many folks looked at me like I was crazy or something. But I wasn’t. I meant it. You’ve seen grapplers step and step and torso-twist and circle arms for a position for a take down. You’ve seen wrestlers, wrestle and wrestle to get that submission. But, once you severely stun the opponent, opportunities suddenly, can quickly occur in all forms of fighting, standing and on the ground. Put boxing into judo. Put ground n pound into wrestling. Unarmed or with weapons, close and afar, once stunned, they are diminished. Weapons? Yes. Through the years in policing and training with Simunitions, and other sims ammo that goes “boom,” I have learned that he who gets that first gunshot off, sends not just a bullet but a very shocking explosion at the opponent, so often disrupting their return fire plans, especially when close. Most range shooters are never on the wrong end of a barrel and don’t grasp this advantage. Why do you think the police and military use stun grenades?
What exactly is the Diminished Fighter Theory? It’s a helpful phrase I coined decades ago about how you need to diminish an opponent in a fight. This is far from a new idea, its common sense and most folks get it, but still the idea doesn’t often float down and melt into many systems and practice. Just look at the martial arts of the world and watch what they do.
Sometimes they come to you diminished. They are drunk, drugged, out-of-shape, etc. Sometimes, not. Then, when we fight, we fight an opponent’s athleticism, their pain tolerance and their adrenaline, and therefore even the lesser performer might rise beyond expectations. So, we have to diminish them. I’ve used the analogy also for years about how we would hate to fight “Bruce Lee on 3 cups of coffee.” Bruce, fresh. Alert. But throw chair at his head, and he’s Bruce on two cups. A lamp at his head? One cup. And so on until he becomes…”manageable.” Diminished. When we stand before a giant that we have to fight into handcuffs, it seems to be an impossible task. But if you diminish him enough, not only can you cuff him, you can tie his shoelaces together. Your first serious diminishment make knock the opponent cold. Which would be great, but you can’t count on it. Settle for stunning.
We fight their:
adrenaline (which also helps their pain tolerance)
Any fight training they might have
Diminishment. But the theory is only a side issue to the Myth of the First Event. What is this “first event?” A fight of any kind has several physical events. Everyone has an idea on what the first physical event is. The first significant, physical thing that happens in a fight. What then is the “Myth of the First Event” all about? The confusing myth that few seem to understand? Understanding/contemplating these “must/can” questions –
“Must every martial move work in the very first event of a fight?”
“Can every martial move work at the first event of a fight?”
Must every? Can every? No, and no. I would venture to guess that in the big picture about 70% of all martial and martial arts moves that people strain and train to learn are not appropriate in the first instant of a fight against Bruce Lee on 3 cups of coffee, or versus many normal people for that matter when the fight first starts. And by 80%, I might be very generous. Unless you are talking maybe about boxing? Boxing and a few others can be very “first event-ish.”
A fight of any kind has several events. Like primary – the first, then secondary, obviously the second thing, and third and so on. Yet the martial world, arts, tactical or otherwise has seemingly tons of moves, compared to this one, two, three option. Where do they all fit in? (Please do not burden me here with quips about bunch of pre-fight jargon, as this essay is only about the physical fighting part). These tons of moves are taught by many international instructors. These instructors make video clips like mad, showing parts of these tons of moves. But most of these movements are NOT the first events of a fight, but often seem to be shown in these internet videos as firsts. They are, or rather should be second, third, fourth on and on, etc.
These clips are then judged by millions of viewers. “That won’t work!” viewers declare as well being far, far, far worse in belittling, scathing tirades. But they might not realize that many of those moves should be reserved and are quite worthwhile against the ½ diminished or fully diminished fighter. Wrong time! Wrong demo. Out of context. But still, I think most all viewers innocently rate things on will it work in the first event of a fight and they just don’t realize it. But they forget or don’t understand that the moves they criticize often have potential in the following events, the following seconds. I still see clips of secondary moves done in the right time, and still ridiculed as “not going to work.” Perhaps these critic has never really be clocked in the mouth and head hard enough to understand the value of these follow-ups.
One might organize training methods in like sort of a Tier 1 and Tier 2 approach. Tier 1 is very small collection of first event, really diminishing moves…like BOFFO! A great smack to the head, to the brain/computer, for example. Then once diminished, Tier 2 stuff can be better implemented. You have a diminishing event as early as possible so that many follow-ups might work, follow-ups like locks, controls, take downs, finishes, etc. You would assume people know this? But listen to them. Watch what they do or say.
I know this deeply because I have lived in these Tier 1 and Tier 2 worlds, in the police world we were and are forced to do Tier 2 stuff first, then when faced with undiminished resistance, only then can we move up to Tier 1 responses and even that is legally problematic and frowned upon. Do you see what I mean? It’s ass-backwards for police, if you will. This has hung a huge yoke upon police training over the decades. An, ass-backward disorder, but such is the life and the gamble of the police officer. But struggling in the backwards world helped me better understand the order.
And, also take heed…with all this talk of diminishment, this is NOT an excuse to follow-up with stupid or unnecessary things after the diminishment! Not at all. I am constantly seeing extra, exotic, even whacky movements – moves that hypnotize the easily “hypnotize-able.” Things too fancy. Things extra and unnecessary. In our courses we are “Force Necessary, not Force Unnecessary,” but this should be true in your fighting system too. You have to trim the fat. From what I see? Most don’t, electing to do complex, flashy crap.
In summary, the myth of the first event is misjudging all moves to be great in the first event of fight. The myth also explains that a great many moves are still very worthwhile to know, practice and execute, but in the second, third and so on events against a diminished fighter. Not all things are meant to be used in the first event. Many things are still good and important, they are just…”Tier 2.” A stun is a stun – a distraction. A diminishment in plain language is a diminishment. You don’t have to inject a bunch of OODA Loop jargon to understand and explain this.
Don’t use Tier 2 in Tier 1 times.
Don’t blanket ridicule and throw out Tier 2 material because they didn’t work in in the first event. They are meant for…later.
Recognize what is Tier 1 and Tier 2. Before you ridicule a video, an instructor, or a course and declare what they are doing is worthless, consider the context of the clip, and consider if it might work against a diminished fighter a few seconds later in the fight. (And your critique might be right! The instructor might not understand the Tier 1 and Tier 2 equation?
It was gruesome. Memories of pain fade, but not those of parents much. Out of respect for the surviving parents, I will pass on revealing the details of this child murder here, the death, rape and mutilation of a young girl, even though it was long ago. Suffice to say that we’ll start here, when this freshly, arrested killer was first incarcerated in our county jail, so that I might focus on only telling the tale of the greatest pistol shot I have ever “seen,” while the gunsmoke was still in the air, or more specifically, ever investigated, and one that has all the elements of a helleva, Texican lawman tale. It was the 1980s…
The day after the arrest, the brutal killer, Reilly Rice was in the county jail and due his very first visit to the judge for his judicial warnings, what is often called a preliminary arraignment. In our old, county jail building, just up the street from our city police headquarters, one judge had offices on the first floor, making such visits a handy process, as the jails themselves were all upstairs. Getting that first-day, mandatory visit could be geographically challenging in some jurisdictions, like organizing a chain-gang, bus ride to a courthouse. Nowadays, this type of appearance is often done by close circuit TV!
Judges can be power mad, quirky or cantankerous. You’ve seen this on TV, the movies and in the last two decades, you’ve seen these “Judge Judy” TV shows. Some actually talk and act like that. On this fateful day in the 1980s, a traveling judge was in chambers and he was one that demanded all prisoners who enter his court must be free of shackles. I guess he hadn’t has his nose broken yet. But something dramatic was about to happen that would at least make him think about that idea?
Whatever the process was assigning jailers to suspects for their court trip downstairs – rotation? Dice game? Short straw? Whatever, an overweight, out-of-shape jailer named Barry Bale got the chore of marching Reilly Rice downstairs to the judge’s chamber for this un-handcuffing and visit. Alone. Yes, alone! “Such be things at the ol’ jail-house.”
At that very time in the late afternoon, Texas Ranger Weldon Lucas walked into the Sheriffs Office on the first floor. He’d been in on this investigation and was there to collect paperwork on the case to send to his Dallas Ranger Company and then on to Austin, and to clear up some loose ends. Lucas was dressed in his usual, work clothes of a Ranger – western boots, pants and matching vest, tooled gun belt and classic, engraved, model 1911, .45 caliber handgun. (See the photo below.)The famous Ranger badge adorned his vest like it had on Rangers for hundred-plus years. Lucas was a regular sight to every police agency in the region and I can’t think of a police officer that didn’t know him, or certainly know of know of him, certainly we detectives did. I had worked with Lucas dozens of times on felonies. He had full jurisdiction throughout the State of Texas, which was handy.
Appointed by the Texas governor, Rangeren’ was a great job coveted by almost all, and Lucas was one of the troop that had considerable experience in investigation before pinning on that legendary badge. He’d been a state highway patrolman, as all Rangers start out, and then worked auto theft, narcotics and organized crime. The three big State branches. Many Rangers are appointed without such stout backgrounds and are a bit behind the curve in investigation skills. I recall one Ranger being “made” that had worked only as a patrolman and then for many years in a section called “Weights and Measures.” Weights and Measures involved weighing and overseeing trucks on the highway. Jobs like this offer zero qualifications for an investigative position, but sometimes politics get in the way with Ranger appointments. Very few had Weldon’s background.
Reilly Rice was due in court. A local Dallas, television station sent a news van up to the court to film the proceedings. The reporter and cameraman positioned themselves in the hall for the 6 and 11 o’clock news shot of Reilly Rice walking into the courtroom, as no cameras were allowed inside. A reporter would enter and take notes.
A hurried, representative of the DAs office showed up, but not much legalese would be crunched in this early visit of the case. Bales took Reilly Rice down the elevator. He walked Rice past the camera crew and into the court. He took off the handcuffs, as required. The TV crew got their “perp walk shot,” and walked out of the building to their van. Weldon Lucas was talking with some deputies in the lobby of the S.O. just down the hall.
And then all Hell broke loose. Rice punched and shoved the jailer, and took off!
I was working in our detective bay, closing out the day, when that hell broke loose. There were some other investigators there also. I can’t remember who bellowed out the announcement across the room.
“Reilly Rice just escaped from the jail. Eastbound on foot.”
We stampeded down the stairs, hit the street and ran to the S.O. just a long block away. Oddly, there were quite a number of prisoners through the years who’d ran/escaped from the sheriff’s office; right out the back door usually during book-in, interview or some transfer process. The bad guys could see the irresistible green of civic center park out the back doors and windows, versus the battleship gray cinder blocks and bars inside. And they bolted. They were always caught. We ran, all of us passing on getting into our cars and driving there, thinking we would be searching the surrounding park and streets afoot anyway.
My gut instinct was to flank over into the park behind the S.O., but my eye caught a disturbance way down on the major intersection just east of the jail. Four lanes of rush hour, east/west traffic stopped cold.
I ran past the county building and saw jailer Barry Bale, sitting on the ground, all multiple hundreds of pounds of him, his back propped against a tree, hair messed up, shirt tail out, gasping for breath. He must have chased Rice all of about 15 feet and collapsed. Acting like he was near a heart attack, another jailer attended him and pointed us east. He actually shouted to me,
“They went that-a-way.”
That-a-way. Yup. He actually said that.
Then Boom! A single gunshot from…thataway. We all converged. Patrol. Detectives. EMTs. all up ahead on the northwest corner, in a small dose of short bushes and foliage of the civic center parking lot, were multiple official types working on a downed man. When I closed in, I saw that the downed guy was Reilly Rice. Ranger Weldon Lucas was standing over him, with his hands on his hips. Huffing and puffing. A patrolman showed up. Our CID Captain Bill Cummings drove up and bailed out of his sedan.
In so many words, Weldon told us he shot Rice. Okay. You must be thinking can police shoot fleeing, unarmed suspects? First off, this was Texas many decades ago. Back then there was a running joke that if you ran 8 feet from us? It wasn’t the law. It was…a suggestion. We would start shooting at ya’. That also included driving away from us too. Rice was a child raper and killer, otherwise known as a dangerous felon we could not allow to escape. Just couldn’t.
The shooting at escaping felons laws in the USA has been evolving since about 1977. The general, modern letter of the law requires that to shoot someone, it must be in defense of yourself or to interrupt the imminent serious injury of others. Seeing the back of a head, ass and pumping elbows of a fleeing felon does not constitute these imminent categories. But, many state laws include shoot/don’t-shoot and the fleeing felon problem. Many states and police agencies say that permitting the felon to escape would pose a grave and continuing danger to public safety. Shooting them is an option. Not misdemeanors mind you. Felons.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which owns and operates the Texas Rangers, then and now didn’t completely address the feeling felon matter in its policy guidelines because “Every situation is different,” DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said. “It’s officer discretion,” she said. “If they perceive that there’s an imminent threat, they can take any action they feel necessary to protect themselves.”
If you are citizen? I wouldn’t do this, by the way. And as for police officers, different states have differing laws about this. Even police departmental policies may be more strict than state law. And local county, state, and federal prosecutors and grand juries can have say on the subject. If driven by politics they may weave some charges in and around the laws. Then there are the civil law suits! Shooting your gun can always be very messy.
Speaking of messy, I examined Reilly Rice. Prone, he was panting from his own mad dash, but otherwise he seemed just fine. Not too messy. An EMT was patching up the side of his head. A head shot?
“Where’s he shot?” I asked the EMT, kneeling beside him.
“Earlobe,” he repeated.
I looked at Weldon and Weldon shrugged.
The TV news crew, there at the S.O. for the child-killer arraignment, was setting up for an impromptu street shoot. A patrol sergeant was organizing traffic control to allow the far lines to pass. The EMTS were standing Reilly Rice up and preparing to transport him…back to the jail, not the hospital. After all he was only shot in the earlobe. More county officials jogged up.
“Hock, you got this case,” Captain Cummings told me. Though this involved the Sheriff’s Office and the state police via the Texas Rangers, the shooting did occur within the city limits and it was also our city’s problem. I knew that people from the Rangers and Austin would eventually be involved in this, but there was work to do right then and there. First, documenting the crime scene, which ran from the S.O. courtroom to the intersection.
Weldon and I walked off a bit and he told him what had happened. I paraphrase here a bit because some 40-plus years have passed since that afternoon. He basically said,
“I heard the shouting that Reilly Rice had escaped out the front door.” It must have been the jailer calling out. Of course, I knew Weldon had worked on Rice case and was well aware who and what Rice had done.
“He ran into the middle of traffic and turned east. I took off after him and got in the middle of moving traffic, chasing him. He had a big lead. It was getting bigger. I felt like he could get away. I couldn’t shoot at him because it was rush hour. Cars and people everywhere. But, Rice started angling north and in front of him was that brick building.”
Weldon pointed to the two-story brick building behind us and to our east. It looked pretty big as close up as we were.
“I could see he was going to pass in front of that building and it was my only safe shot. I drew my pistol and fired one shot when he crossed in front of the building. Rice went down.”
“How far away were you?” I asked, thinking about the ejected, spent shell from Weldon’s .45 handgun.
“Up there,” he pointed up the avenue. We both grimaced at the sight of the cars being filtered into the right lane, albeit slowly, and allowed to pass the intersection by our erstwhile patrol officers. Oh well, life – and cars – move on. I least they were moving slow. A crushed shell would be better than a no shell.
My unmarked detective car was back at the station. I approached an patrol officer and asked for one of their distance measuring wheels and some chalk. This is like a walking stick, with a wheel at the bottom and distance counter. Back then, the numbers rolled like a slot machine. Some today are of course – digital. The officer pulled it from his trunk. Weldon and I started from where Reilly Rice took his dive and walked west on the avenue, marking off the feet.
I hit about 30 feet and I asked Weldon,
“Anywhere around here? “
“Nope.” My eyebrows raised.
We keep moving in between the cars and impatient drivers. Our eyes were scanning the roadway for that single spent shell. We hit about 60 feet!
Nope? How far was this shot? We continued.
“Right about here, I think,” Finally, Weldon stopped me. He looked around.
I looked at the scrolling meter. It read “97 feet.” Good God, could that be right?
And sure enough, to our right, untouched, unbent and pristine, lay the spent shell in the middle of the street.
“97, 98 feet, Weldon. Thereabouts” I told him. “Maybe 100.”
I took out the chalk from my pocket, circled the shell on the asphalt and put the shell in my pocket. I don’t want any of these cars rolling over it. I looked back at the intersection. That two-story brick building that Rice passed in front of? It was now about the size of postage stamp from here.
I looked over at Weldon and he was staring back at the intersection. “Yup. This is about right,” he said, nodding his head.
I walked up beside him. “Shit, Weldon, this is like a circus shot, like a wild-west show, shot.”
“I reckon,” he said.
“Was it a moving shot? How’d you do it?” I asked him.
“I was running. I saw my chance. I pulled my gun. Two-handed grip. I think I stopped just for a second. I think. Kinda’. I shot. Cars out here were whizzing by me.”
“Well, go on back and I’ll start taking some other measurements.”
I recorded the distances, “triangulated” them if you will, from the S.O. front doors, the shell scene and other related landmarks. Nowadays I guess they use GPS and satellite photos on big cases? Russell Lewis took land-level photos with his 35 mm camera from each important spot.
Weldon went to our P.D. and started his own statement on one of our new, electric typewriters. There was much for me to tighten up and I wanted as complete a report as complete as possible before the state bigwig, shooting team started showing up. Russell and I worked the scene. The only loose end was the bullet and the brick wall. It might take a major deal to find and recover that slug, as we couldn’t see it with a quick walk-by.
Two high-ranking Rangers were there at my desk the very next morning and I had a good, solid report for them to kick off with. As we went over the details, I got a call from the Sheriff’s Office CID, Captain Ron “Tracker” Douglas. He told me the latest news.
“Hock, Reilly Rice hung himself last night.”
“Hung himself! How? Where?”
“He was first booked in wearing his own socks. We let them keep their socks. You know those long, white tube socks? He got one end around his neck, tied of the other end on bunk bed and hung himself.”
“Dead?” I asked.
“Deader’ than hell. Dead right there in the cell,” Tracker said.
Shocking for sure, but I really didn’t care. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he wasn’t officially convicted on the case, but the case was airtight with a confession that lead to other evidence. I mean, the son of a bitch was a child rapist and killer. And “death by sock” was too damn good for him in my book. Too damn good.
“You gonna’ call Weldon?” I asked Tracker.
And we hung up.
“Well, gentlemen,” I told the Rangers at my desk, “looks like our ear-pierced, shooting ‘victim’ hung himself in the jail last night.” They exchanged glances. They collected my reports and their very next visit was to see Ron Douglas at the S.O.
Weldon Lucas later became the Sheriff of Denton County and quite a controversial figure.
I next made it a point to try and find the bullet itself. Honestly, I would have loved to dig the bullet out of that brick wall and tie Weldon’s perfect shot package into a bow. I made two trips out there with two heights of ladders and a metal detector trying to find the slug. It was tedious work but I just couldn’t find it and would need a third trip with a damn fire truck or utility cherry-picker to do it. But, how high could the slug be? I think not that high?
I could arrange for a construction “basket-lift” but it would be a pain. Around the time I started making calls for one, but nobody cared anymore. There was no further case to pursue as the county and the state declared it a closed investigation and justified shooting. The local D.A., the state, no one found any fault with the actions of Ranger Weldon Lucas taking that single shot and winging, or “lobing” the dangerous, fleeing Reilly Rice. That bullet remained in the wall until the building was torn down years later? Who knows? Did it miss the wall? No matter where it went? It went nowhere anyway.
When I think about it, it was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen, given the circumstances. I’m sure there are many record-breaking, amazing, military sniping shots on the books, quick-kills and all, but think about it. Think about this one and why it is so unique.
The shooter was a Texas Ranger (already cool).
The shot was taken in the middle of moving, rush hour traffic.
It was about a 100 foot, high-stress shot with a pistol.
Weldon still had the foresight to wait until Rice had a safe background. (Which was about the size of a playing card from the trigger pull site.)
Rice was a confessed, child-raping, child-killing, dangerous, escaping felon/murderer.
Rice was a moving target.
Rice was shot only in the earlobe and it knocked him down.
Rice didn’t even require a hospital visit. The escaping Rice was returned to jail with an ear bandage. How and what could he sue Weldon and the State about? What Texas jury would award escapee Rice for damages, for an ear piercing?
The state police had no defined policy for shooting dangerous escapees.
The passing bullet did no further damage. Any possible, crazy, residual legal problems were over when Rice hung himself in the jail.
We know it would be impossible for Weldon to actually aim at an earlobe in a split second like that at 100 feet. Impossible. Sure, but all the events played out so very well and with minimal, post-shoot problems, it makes for the best shot I have ever “seen.”
And I must add – for a while there was a running joke in the county. We wished that all prisoners would be issued extra long, tube socks upon their jail book-in. Who knows what they would do with them?
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Another confession? I am but a tactical tourist. Oh, the shame. The stigma.
No, not like a person who travels the world like a smart tourist with ultra-light, waterproof clothes and my museum and restaurant guide in the ready back pocket. No, not that kind of vacation tourist. I am just a guy going through my daily, suburban lifestyle with very little survival gear. Sometimes I dare enter urban areas, too, … gulp … yes, you read right! URBAN areas and with very little combat gear. You know, places where people apparently must have PHDs in URBAN fighting just to survive through the day!
How many guns, magazines, knives, lights, medical kits, maps, compasses need I carry on my body to go out the door and into the real world? My real world? On an “everyday carry?” What is your “real world?”
Through the years, we have heard the term “tactical lifestyle” from very common folk, and along with it the brag –
“I, (or we) live a…tactical lifestyle.”
And that does sound cool. But several of us in the training business, and with actual experience in military, security and policing have to wonder sometimes if people know what they are saying and doing compared to the big picture. Do these proclaimers actually know where they fit in the “action-guy chart”? Fit, inside the full spectrum of war and crime and a tactical lifestyle?
My friend Mick Coup in the U.K. came up with another term – the “tactical tourist,” years ago. A visitor to the world of tactics. In and out. But also never really “in” for most consumers/folks. Mostly out, looking in and misunderstanding their status.
I have seen various under-channels, or sub-channels, in the cable TV systems around the USA. TV shows on hunting, guns, and self-defense – mostly about guns for sport, but they have gun defense shows too. Or, we see similar news or features on YouTube and on Facebook. Hey, how about all those gun magazines? The other day I counted fifteen different gun magazines on a shelf in a common supermarket. Fifteen! More than any other genre like fitness or even women’s makeup, or gossip rags. Fifteen! (Shows you where the commercial money is.) Like the TV shows, inside the mags are numerous articles about extreme safety and survival ala gun themes (after all, they are gun magazines). Some folks call them “gun porn.” The editors and writers pontificate, and readers worry and fret over gear and the four basic, generic problems really,
the “street” gun fight,
the “anywhere” armed robbery,
the day or night burglar/home invasion,
the mass shooter.
Oh, maybe a kidnapping thrown in? Recently they fret over the mass shooter, due to our times. From these 4 or 5 problems, tons and tons of deep and deeper, redundant material spews forth. Like a muscle magazine covers “the curl” ten thousand times from ten thousand body builders. It’s a curl! These publications and shows say the same things over and over again. That, and gear. Gear, gear, and more and more gear. And if you take a bubble bath? You’d better have gun underwater with you. And that special grade of under water-proof ammo.
But the gear. Oh, the gear. Firearms expert Massod Ayoob said recently:
“There seems to be an unwritten law on the gun-related Internet saying, ‘If you carry less than I do, you’re a pathetic sheeple, and if you carry more than I do, you’re a paranoid mall ninja.’ Forgive me if I can’t buy into either of those attitudes.”
So where do you draw the line in the gear you carry every day? Certainly most of the readers here and of those magazines and watchers of gun TV shows are everyday, very normal people doing everyday normal things in life. Yet these cable, magazine, and media folks are really loaded for bear with guns, ammo, lights, knives, med kits, and like…that bracelet thingy that unstrings into an emergency length of rope for … for … emergency repelling? Garroting a sentry? I have seen a complete belt that unravels into a survival emergency cord. All this for a morning coffee run? A dentist visit?
It is a bit of a fad on Facebook to photograph one’s “everyday carry” – the things a person carries every day, the “EDC” to be prepared for everything between sudden Armageddon down to an obnoxious panhandler. Guns, knives, ammo, cords, phones, and Ninja key chain. Spray. Odd-shaped, hand-held plastic devices you must also carry to strike recalcitrant people. And another gadgets to twist people in grappling locks. That tactical pen! A pen made of harder stuff than usual pens, but still writes! Maybe even in outer space! These seem to be the common carry for the best-prepared and macho soul. Not one, but two of some of these things. Everyone else must then marvel then at these photos of your brilliant, thoughtful EDC – at the tactical brilliance of the collection in your pockets, armpits, boot, belt and crotch, I guess. Wow! He is really ready to go out and buy that muffin! Hope he makes it back alive.
In one of those cable TV features, they once covered a segment of a completely over-armed woman – with a med-kit in the small of her back – in a short walk from her front door to her mailbox out front. Some folks go purchase milk prepped like they are being dropped into Cambodia for a week. Do you wear a medical kit in the small of your back when going to buy a birthday card in a gift shop two miles from your house? Some folks I’ve heard of wear pistols all day long inside their own houses. The fear of the home invasion or that sudden gun battle right outside. I can’t discuss this readiness subject without mentioning the extremely odd Americans standing around on street corners or in Walmarts with AR-15s and shotguns strapped on their torsos or hung from unnecessary, tactical vests with lanyards.
“But … but, Hock, when you need a gun….” Oh, here comes the “need-a” speech that covers ALL gear, ALL-the-time carry. But before you go all hyper-sensitive on me, there’s nothing wrong with carrying a “pistola” around. Carrying a gun is not the point here. Or a pocket knife. But how many? How much more? But…along with an MRE? And a food poison kit in case the MRE is bad? Is there a water purifier pen stuffed in your sock? Don’t laugh! I know a guy who has one when he flies. As if, when he survives the plane crash, he can find and crawl to bad water? You carry a small flashlight. What about batteries for that light then, and when will those back-up batteries expire? Some suggest a mandatory, less-than-lethal product along with your gun, your knife and your hand grenade. Like pepper spray. Lethal and less than lethal. How much stuff and backup stuff and backup to the backup stuff do you think you need? Where do you draw the line on the gear?
“Where do you draw the line on the gear you carry?”
“Greywolf,” a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq, and Afghanistan and has almost three decades of military and military contracting experience of Greywolf Survival, says that the expression “two is one, one is none” is a fallacy. He says people follow it blindly because it sounds cool. He advised that much thought should go into what “redundant” gear you carry. I think he is correct.
For example, in the past if I was on a special task force with a mission, say a Fugitive Round-Up Task Force or a robbery stake-out, I would “dress more for the proverbial bear.” I would double this and that. Haul around something special. In some ways, the proverbial “two is one, one is none” approach. Just in some practical ways. But then as a normal, everyday detective, or patrolman, I would carry considerably less. Way, way less. Way less than some of the citizens, cable TV stars, and magazine authors and their followers suit up for in a quick run to buy Frosted Flakes or aspirin. When you do one thing, then you realize what you need or don’t need for something else.
When I was in the patrol divisions here and overseas? Yeah – I had my mandatory Batman/Sam Brown belt, which held considerable less techno than today’s options, but I also had support gear in the patrol car. We all made a calculated guess on what we wore, what was left in the trunk and what we took with us from the trunk, call-to-call-to-call. How far will we probably travel from the car? Do I need the carbine on every call? Absolutely not. A parachute? No. Experience and training can offer darn, good guesses. The pros still do this every day.
For example, as cops we know to carry a flashlight because even at clear-sky, high noon we find ourselves in a dark, dingy basement. Does a citizen need a flashlight in their pocket to buy ham sandwich at noon? Really? I always had a hand axe in my trunk, because if the call or the situation developed where I might need one (like wall penetration or rescue), I would dash back to the car and get it. I did not walk around 24-7 with an Army Ranger Tomahawk on my belt (and by the way, the local Home Depot has real cheap and wonderful rubber-handled axes – at a fraction of the cost over those tantalizing Conan war axes for sale).
If we/they are smart, we answer these questions on many levels, big and small:
Who are you, exactly? Who do you think you are going to fighting
(note: This essay years ago, garnered me the greatest amount of hate mail ever. Granted I wrote this as a somewhat sarcastic, at times tongue-in-cheek, freestyle. But the hate poured in. (I saved them all). The best was one calling every “student” I had worldwide as stupid and uneducated because I knew nothing and I just tricked stupid people. )
To me, a knife is a knife. Sure there are many different kinds of knives, some better at some things than others. But in a primitive level, a knife is a knife. So, when some folks pop up “on the martial market” suggesting , and even at times arguing that a smaller, paring/fruit knife is suddenly real good for knife fighting, my answer is “ahhh…yeah, okay, so…”
I would never have excluded paring knives as a potential weapon. Of course not. Perhaps I have worked way too many police cases where kitchen knives, big and small, have been used. Of course they can be weapons. Always have been.
There seems to be a little fad/craze recently about using paring or fruit knives for fighting, instead of bigger knives or tactical folders, if even as some sort of a trick. A legal trick? A street fight trick? You know, those little kitchen knives just about everyone has and uses. A knife here in the States, you can buy for about a dollar or two in the common, Dollar Stores, or Walmart, or in every grocery store. One guy told me that when he lands from a plane ride, he runs to a cheapy store or supermarket right away, and buys a paring/fruit knife for self defense. Good idea? Although I don’t know how he’ll carry it around, but its good for the hotel room and…thereabouts. I don’t know. Why not? More on this “paring-knife-carrying-around” in a bit.
And I do worry about the classic hotel room defense problem too, especially in weapon-free countries I work in. I don’t exactly travel to the best and safest places all the time. I was in Africa one night, and the power went out, various people filled the streets outside and…well, that’s another story…
But do take a look at these paring knives. They are pointy, sharp and cheap and you probably can get them anywhere. Not a bad idea. Cheap knives. Expensive knives. I saw a fixed-blade knife in a big knife show one weekend back in the 1990s. It was very cool. It was about $175. Then my wife and I were in a kitchen store in an outlet shopping and they had kitchen knife sets for sale. From a distance, I saw a set with similar designed wooden handles. I looked closer, I swear, I swear, the middle knife in the set of 8, looked EXACTLY like the $175 knife I saw at the show. The whole kitchen set was like $19.99. Ever since then, I have been really pessimistic about the cost of knives and branding, etc. Sure, probably the knives were made differently. But how much? And what do you want to do with them. Who, what, where, when, how and why? Specifically, this equation – “Who-knife,” “what-knife,” “where-knife,” “when-knife,” “how-knife” and “why-knife?”
While we spend a lot on special “fighting” knives, we need to mention it is long known, world-wide, in law enforcement circles that simple kitchen knives of all sizes are used a lot – like in …70%, 80% or 90% – (I’ve even heard once 95%?) of all knife attacks in the civilized world. The rest of the world? Good chance you are going to be attacked by a knife-like, handy “tool” they use in the jungle, woods, garages or farm fields. Thereabouts. And then of course, next there is the use of the “tactical knives” to take up the statistical slack. In or out of the field, the military rarely uses a knife in combat, but rather as a handy tool, and when it does, it won’t be a little kitchen knife. I have a friend who works security in Mexico who translated a famous, underground phrase into English for me –
“You will be killed by a 5 peso knife.”
5 pesos or $500, I am not a collector of knives, per say, so I do not collect them just for the sake of admiration and collection – if you know what I mean. And I mean to say that I do really like the looks of some knives, but to me, they are just tools. I don’t collect pairs of pliers either. Or hammers. Do you see what I mean? That is how boring I am. Simple tools. Use-able. I understand that some people really do love collecting knives. Fine with me. Have fun with it, I say. If you want to spend $1,000 and get a super-duper, steel blade that will stab and penetrate an Army tank? Go for it. I’d like to look at them too. Hold them for a few seconds and flip them in my hand. “Size” them up. And so forth. But, I’m just not going to buy it. Buy it and then…what? Stick it in a drawer somewhere in my house?
Instead, I suffer horribly from, my malady, is the collection of knife TACTICS. Knife moves. Knife movements, Knife techniques. Knife situations. Not the collections of knives for the collection, adulation sake.
Most of you already also know how I feel about carrying knives officially called like, Close Quarter Combat 7 or, SEAL Team, Throat-slitter 6, …or studying knife courses with crazy names. (Remember the more macho you really are deep down? The least you need to show it.) Its all fun and games with macho, militant knives until you actually use your “Klingon CQC De-Bowelizer” in a fight. Or, you have graduated from knife courses with violent names like “Beserker,” or “Destructo.” What about that “Prison-Stick em” course with special “prison-stick em’ knives? Or, you proclaim you are a “bastard child of the knife mafia.” Worry about the name of your knife and the name of your knife course. Police and prosecutors will. We/they will take a hard look at this and add it to the demise of your freedom. Please trust me on this. I have worked these cases. The name of your knife and the name of your knife course, like your comments on social media, works for you or against you. Whack-job tattoos. Grow the fuck up. If you think you are defending yourself in some ultimate knife course, how well will you defend yourself AFTER you stab the crap out of someone, with all this mess in your background? I recently saw a webpage of one of these out-lander knife “families” and someone wrote a little ditty about “cutting someone balls off and sticking them in the newly-knife-emptied eye sockets.” YOU…are a sick fuck. YOU…are why the rest of us carry knives and guns.
But, back to the fruit/paring knife which started these ramblings off. Will the world treat you better if you have a paring knife and not a commando hatchet “in your pocket?” In the real world, a paring/fruit knife is still but a knife. Can you walk around with a paring knife and be safe from police scrutiny? Whatever knife, in the end, a knife is a knife. To a cop who pats you down, a knife is a knife. We know about the record high use of kitchen knives. So, to further confuse the police and society, the idea was/is floated on the internet of sticking said fruit knife into a piece of fruit, all inside a plastic bag, into your pocket?
And walking around like that, pretending an eventual, later hunger pang, with all that bulky, wet, rig bulging in your pocket, (as suggested by some young Mexico cop? Or, as I am also told the fruit/knife/bag idea was originated some by other people years and years ago?). But wait! I heard this years ago with walnuts. Stick the small knife tip inside a walnut and have some of these nuts loose in your pocket.
“Oh noooo, London officer, Sydney officer, (______ insert city officer) I just like nuts.” The rig might be better in a little paper sack? Or maybe better – a metal lunch box? Then you get to look like Charlie Brown walking to school all the time.
Using that wet pocket carry for “plausible deniability?” Nahhh. You know, I just don’t think so. Maybe in some rural area of Mexico? Or a picnic area on the coast of Greece? I think they are really S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G this pocket method of carry in a desperate ploy to sound innovative. To me? Not so much. Being a cop and being around cops for most of my adult life – a cop sees a knife. A knife is a knife. What happens next will all fall into local length laws, knife laws, personalities and the situation, etc. A police officer or detective doesn’t say,
“oh look, how cute. A harmless, fruit knife in a pomegranate.”
If the fruit knife is illegal by local law, the length and so forth, then the knife is just plain illegal, even if stuck in an avocado in a plastic bag in your pocket, or stuck anywhere else. This will not fool anyone unless the police deem the carrier is like a certified Forest Gump type. Or maybe the investigating authorities are dimwits? The situation will rule out.
You can of course, carrying your sheath-less paring knife inside your pocket with a little clever Origami (folded paper ala Japan). It won’t be a sheath-sheath, but you won’t sit down, say, and stab your thigh. Will it come freely from the paper sheath or require two hands to clear the knife? If the knife, this…this paring, fruit knife…is “legal” in size and so forth, you don’t need the fruit, the plastic bag, a nut, or the “hungry-later” tale. Still, even with the bagged knife, the police, the prosecutor, your lawyer or your embassy might think you a shallow liar. (It was suggested somewhere that …”spies”… carry their murder weapons in such a manner to fool the local, hapless gendarmes.) I would first, instantly think you a liar. Two strikes. Strike one – you got a knife. Strike two – you are lying to me. Try that in New York, England, Australia or parts of Canada and see what happens, or in some USA cities. London, England is now on a massive, anti-knife, witch-hunt, ban. But if the knife is legal. It’s legal. Stuck in no matter what. Stuck in a sheath. A walnut, with a pocket full of walnuts. A peach. The overall situation counts. As they say – the “totality of circumstances.”
I think part of the mystique is also, that you will more easily fool and stab someone suddenly with the knife in fruit and in a bag? You know – street, trick them? Think hard about that one. You are threatened. You smile, and slowly extract your bag/fruit/knife rig out for a quick, refreshing bite. Does the loan-shark, or crack dealer, mugger, or psycho not see…a KNIFE! Just exactly where, why and when would you do this or ANY such fruit trickery? Do you want to walk around all day long like this, day after day, after day with a wet, fruit bag in your pocket? What set of circumstances and situation calls for this knife/fruit/bag idea in YOUR life?
Can you stab a guy with such a short knife with its tip in fruit, all while inside a zip-lock bag? Think about this people! When “God made his little green apples,” some of those apples are hard. How hard is the fruit you using like Loki to confuse the police? Better be some soft peaches. And let’s not get into the lesser penetrations of really small, naked, knives, least of fruit-laden ones.
Worse, as soon as the fruit trick gets out on the world-wide-web of clever tricks and plans and was published? Well, it’s out on the internet as a clever trick!
The arresting and prosecuting parties can look on the net and your Facebook page, your social media, your favorite groups, (are you a bastard child of the edged weapon, grim-reaper, balls-in-the-eye-sockets, cosa nostra?) your tattoos, etc. and see its a “world-wide,” web trick.
Changing subject course a bit again (sorry) while I am rambling, while we are pondering/kicking-around, common, last ditch tools, especially in your hotel room, I can’t help but think of scissors? Last ditch? Scissors, the kind that can be disconnected at the joint/hinge as in the photo below? I travel all over the world with scissors. You can’t really walk around with scissors either in many countries. Your motivation could and will be questioned, though I know people who have scissors in a leather scissor carrier on their belts – using the old excuse that they are “needed for work.” (by the way, the next cop question is “where do you work?” And prove it.) I always have certain pairs of scissors in my hotel room, at very least. And…thereabouts. Some open and come apart, like in the photo here. Open em’ up, a little like one of those damn balisongs, and split em’ apart if you can. You got two edged weapons. Small, tough scissors blades hinged together, can actually feel just like a push dagger and small scissors are not illegal to possess. Just don’t put them in carry-on luggage.
Recently, I learned from a contact that in a factory in Canada, there was a series of knife assaults. The knives were issued by the factory because they were tools needed for the job. Management, frustrated with the crimes, collected all the knives and issued scissors instead. In a meeting, one of the employees stood up and took the scissor halves apart and held one half in each hand. He said, “look, they took away my one knife, and gave me two knives instead!” The contact said the halves, blades and handles were quite excellent-shaped, individual edged weapons. There are many scissors on the market that cannot be taken apart, but some can. (Oh, and by the way? No, I am not suggesting that people give up their knives and carry scissors, as some readers with low reading skills here have misinterpreted and smeared me on the net).
In the three decades I worked in patrol and investigations, I recall numerous times when scissors were used in fights. Domestics and self defense. I myself can’t recall a “scissor” murder I worked on or helped out on, but I am more than confident there have been in the annals of crime. I don’t remember anyone ever opening the scissors up and taking the blades apart though, which would enhance the “knife-like” use. I have also inspected crime scenes where the victim had the chance to grab scissors and did not, unable to psychologically identify them as a weapon. I recall one horrendous rape scene. A woman escaped into her bedroom and locked the door. While the intruder/rapist worked to open the door, the woman had time to gather something to defend herself. She didn’t. The man burst in, beat her and raped her. I was called to the scene. There atop the bed stand was a metal pair of scissors. Numerous other things were available too. She didn’t “identify” scissors (or a lamp, whatever,) as a weapon.
Knives. Scissors, Edged weapons. But once you use a commando knife, a paring knife or scissors in a fight, whatever, the time bomb of arrest, prosecution and lawsuits begins ticking. Clever “plausible deniability” becomes maybe what next? Aggravated assault,” maybe? And, or maybe “murder”? What actually happened? Who, what, where, when, how and why? Situational. When the police discover you have taken courses in “Cartel Knife Fighting” it starts to work against you.
Edged weapon innovation. Every few years a knife maker asks me to design a knife. I pass. I really would not know what to design? What could possibly be a new knife design? I mean, I can pick up some restaurant steak knives and some feel like magic, don’t they? How to be different, to design something different? I would probably suggest to the knife-maker the simple commando knife, only not completely double-edged, dodging that law. Maybe a pair of take-apart scissors, or a weird looking screwdriver or something that. No sales for those, though. And therefore, they’d say no.
If someone made tactical, combat scissors? Then that gig/secret would be “up” and the trick “outed” too on the web, wouldn’t it? The…combat scissors! Think about the combat cane. The combat baseball bat that has been converted into a black plastic weapon. Tricks out! We know it. We see it. Even discussing this here, teaching the message here, sounds like part of the conspiracy to fool the authorities.
Probably for sales, the scissors would have to be stamped on the side – Hock’s Tactical Combat Scissors by the company,with a mean looking design/logo. Maybe a skull of some sort? Maybe with…a tongue out and about to be snipped off by combat scissors? Yikes! Why else make them if you can’t sell them to the tactical/practical crowd? That logo could also potentially be a tattoo?
But legally, it would be safer and smarter just to name them, Aunt Sarah’s Knitting Club Scissors, – as etched on the side. And no, I am not suggesting that people get scissors, get a small sewing kit, put them in a plastic bag and carry them around in their pockets to fool the gendarmes. But if so, maybe the police would look at them and say,
“oh, what a cute little pair of Aunt Sarah’s knitting scissors!”
All fun and games until someone gets stuck in the eye with a pair! (as any good Aunt Sarah would certainly warn us against, once she saw us playing with them…)
(oh and by the way? the official stamped -engraved, “Hock’s Combat Scissors” tactical scissors thing is a joke. I thought I would add this disclaimer because some stupid people have read this and criticized me for my ‘”combat/tactical scissors” idea. Dear Low I.Q. reader – it’s a joke.)
There’s an old story going around about me and a karmabit. The tale goes that during a seminar, lunch break, in the 1990s, a guy walked up to me and showed me his karambit, and I looked at it, opened a nearby window and threw it out the window of a two-story building. This isn’t true. I would never do that to a guy’s property. I can say confidently that not only would I not be so rude as to throw his property out a 2-story window, I would never throw my own karambit out a window either – because I would never own one in the first place.
Being somewhat in the business of knives, I am all too often shown kerambits and asked questions about karambits. You know, the curved bladed knife that looks like a single animal claw. Some folks think they are God’s gifts to knives. And I am shown and see way too many karembits. I see photos and photos of them in the web. God, they look cool. All kinda’ science-fictiony. Klingon-like. Deadly. Tiger-paw looking. I can honestly proclaim I have never seen a karambit I didn’t think was very, cool looking.
Lord knows I don’t want to be attacked by one. But I don’t want one. Don’t need one. Don’t have one. Because of the Karembit Handicap. I hope I can leave this up here on the web as a source for people with these questions for me and questions in general about the true value of the knife in the big picture. I hope I can offer some reasoning and answers about the subject. The following are my personal beliefs and how I have come about them. If you love you some karembits? That’s fine. Enjoy a happy, healthy life. For me? Out the window they go! Figuratively of course.
As a questioner, as a skeptic, never a fan-boy, not naïve, I just don’t fall for people or systems. Worshipping a system-head or a system is a recipe for potential mistakes and failure. If you never question your revered leader, you fail to evolve. So does he and the system he does. Or folks never question gear of the revered. Do you think you must fight with a Klingon knife because you worship the culture, look, feel and history of Klingons? Or are you really looking to fight and survive with the best edged weapon? Are you so mystified by a culture that you can’t see the faults? I know Systema people who like it so much, they start believing in and supporting Communism. I know Kung Fu people who change their religion. Communism and Zen Buddhism should have nothing to do with kicking a guy on the nuts or selecting the best knife. If you want to learn how to fight with hands, sticks, knives and guns? Keep hero-worship OUT of the picture. Keep system worship out of the picture. I think this imperative. I constantly see folks doing unnecessary things just because Dijon Superfly does them, and they are too blind to question. I think you can respect a system head and, or a system, but worship is not good. How much do you salivate?
The karambit handicap. I cringe every time I see an attendee with a karambit trainer in a seminar. I know that this person will have an extra and harder time doing even the most simple, obvious, historically successful knife moves. My knife training course is built to be as simple as possible, as fast and effective, with the obvious and simple tools, which are the straight blades. Curved blades complicate simplicity.
Am I just untrained and dumb in the wild and wooly ways of the karembit? I frequently get hate mail over this from fan-boys and faddists, people apparently in some sort of odd, over-love with their knife. Someone will always suggest that I am ignorant and suggest that maybe I should take a karambit course and see the wonders and magic of the knife. Dear Dipshits, I was force-fed balisong and karambit material since the late 1980s, since before many of you reading this were born, or as they say, were mastering potty training. Force-fed in multiple training trips to Negros Island and Manila, the Philippines, and many times since there and here since. These knives were part of curriculum we had to learn all the way to Filipino black belt, along with a lot more of straight knife material. I will always prefer the straight knife to the karambit, and well – just forget about the odd, opening process with the balisong. I mean, seriously, why bother? (Unless of course you are an weapons, historian of some sort. I am not.). As soon as I held a karambit in my hand, it felt wrong and much of what they asked me to do was clearly unnecessary when compared to all the other straight blade training. As a former Army and Texas cop and an investigator most of my adult life, from arrests, cases and forensic training, I learned the straight knife is far superior and can do everything better and simpler than any curved knife, just about any time. The curve of the blade is a handicap. The more the curve, the more the handicap.
I recall the first time it happened in a New England seminar in the 1990s. A rather famous, Silat guy showed up with his curved plastic trainer. He had difficulty doing even the most simple, primitive knife things all day long. He couldn’t stab deep which is forensically the most successful, quicker kill method. It was plain to see that when slashing, his curve and tip would get stuck in body parts. Did he know he had to improvise and construct more steps, more “work-arounds,” to get the job done? I don’t know because he just flow drilled around the reality like there were no obstacles. Some do see this truth. Through the years the curved blade trainees still appear in my classes. The curve group often has to pow-wow off in the corner to make a simple thing work, because they are mentally and physically confined from the shape of their knife. Their adaptations always involve extra work-arounds and extra training and extra movement to do something otherwise done simpler with the straight blade.
What do I mean by simple, proven moves? One simple example? Studies by the Marines in 1980s – while researching World war II knife tactics in the South Pacific, the USMC study group discovered that the uppercut stab to the groin/intestines, and, or the diaphragm/heart and, or even up inside the jawbone – the common hooking uppercut was a very successful. Successful, but oddly, not really emphasized and in most cases not taught. Yet, Marines instinctively still did them. Naturally. Natural. This research led to the implementation of these very natural moves in training courses. Instinctive. Natural. Simple. Now, can you do this natural, saber grip uppercut into these areas with a karembit. No. You can’t plummet a karmabit, even one with a bottom side out grip, as deep and powerful into these vital parts as a saber, straight knife. Aside from results, the saber, straight knife movement is more natural, and the karambit will require extra training and still won’t garner the same success. Don’t get me started on all these examples as this will become a book and not an essay.
Now look, you can cut somebody with a torn-open, tin can. I also don’t want to be attacked by a torn tin can or anything sharp. Broken glass bottle. Nope. A spear? Hell no. But the question remains is, yes, a tin can will cut you, but is it the smartest thing to use? Do we need the Tactical Tin-Can course? No. You just get a knife. Get the best knife. A straight knife that stabs with deep efficiency potential and slashes without getting stuck in bodies and some clothing and can also, easily perform dozens of life-saving and survival chores.
Sellers of Karambits have much sales-pitch, yadda-yadda about the cancer-curing perfections/wonders of the curved shape. They proclaim that just about everyone on the planet already uses, benefits and really needs the really curved knife. EVERYONE uses and loves the karambit, everyone except the real people you see, you know, work with and read about and watch in documentaries, etc. I suggest you challenge every line of the sales pitch because in the end, it is not the selection of the practical. In actuality…
Butchers don’t use them.
Surgeons don’t use them.
Cooks don’t use them.
Hunters don’t use them.
Fishermen don’t use them.
Soldiers & Marines in the know don’t use them.
People don’t use them to camp.
Workers with real labor jobs won’t use them.
People don’t eat with them (this is a big point).
Prosecutors and police love to see you use them.
If they are so perfect and superior, why are they not used by all humanity most of the time? Try giving a farmer, a factory worker or a camper just a karambit and see how long that idea lasts before they trade out for a straight blade. Give a carpet layer a karambit and he will quickly resort back to his carpet knife. Many, if not most, of the big name karambit twirlers have never been in the military. They just don’t know that a military knife in the field must be very versatile and able to perform many everyday chores, as well as possible fighting. (And by using them, I mean predominantly use them. I am sure in my incoming hate mail over this, someone will name a special circumstance where someone drops his regular straight knife and reaches for a curvy hook knife to catch an oddball body, fish or animal or autopsy part.)
The biggest point in the above list, to me is that the human race has evolved to hunt, grow, prepare food and eat with a straight knife. Ever try to eat a steak with a karambit? Cut and butter bread? I have a friend who likes to tease me on this point and threatens to send me a video of him eating a steak with his curvy kerambit. I’ll bet he can! I’ll also bet he can eat a steak with a torn, tin can. The point is, not that you can or can’t, but rather – what is the smartest tool to use. And we can’t forget, kitchen cutlery has reeked international havoc in self-defense, crime and war. In civilized countries over 99% of all knife violence is with simple, kitchen cutlery. A pretty good success rate for the straight blade.
Chopping off limbs with the Karambit. Did we mention butchers above? A good friend of mine, consumed by all things “distant” and eastern, oriental and Indonesian, was telling me that a butcher he knew, using a very stout, big karambit with a sharp outside edge, could flip/spin the curved knife and chop off the limbs of large animals in his shop. It took some practice, but he could. The message for me was that the karambit could, if worked right, with the right momentum, chop off big things in a power spin. CHOP! I just nodded my head. Whatever. But such takes more work, awkward applications, etc. and stouter karambits with a sharp outside edge. If it were a big folder? How do you have a sharp, outside edge and carry it? Not in a pocket, but in a sheath…in case you know…you have to lop off a hand. I am quite sure the butchers of the world will still prefer regular straight knives and cleavers for more efficient, consistent success. What will be this butcher’s tool of day-to-day preference. The easy one. And then I must ask, will you always carry around this oversized karambit with the complete outer side sharp? Whose forearm do you imagine you will be cutting off in your day-to-day? In YOUR world? Jaime Lannisters?
And needless to add, take a guy with a straight, blade knife in a saber grip versus a guy with karambit and let them duel. Who do you think has the advantage? Spar it out. Take two Superflys and spar this straight vs. curved karambit. I can tell you from doing that for decades and organizing/ref experience that the saber grip straight blade has the advantage. Not that dueling is the end-all knife encounter, a final judge, oh no, but dueling can and does happen. And listen to this – this is telling – even the Superflies still teach and use a whole lot of straight knives too. Most teach more straight knife than curved knife. Why bother? If the Karambit was God’s gift for knife work? Wouldn’t they give up on straight blade material all together?
But they look cool, so Klingon and purty! And Dijon Juan Superfly is soooo cool with his flow drills on youtube!
“Oh my Dijon! Oh my….and…and Dijon does so many arm manipulations.” Do you think you will really hook and push around so many angry, adrenalized arms with a karambit as Dojon Superfly does in a cooperative flow drill on Youtube? And by the way, a straight knife can push arms around too.
Back to Spinning the Karambit. The ring in the handle alone does not a karambit make. I have seen some folks calling a straight knife with a ring in the handle a karambit, just because of the ring. No. It has to have a curved blade to be one. Now, to what degree of a curve, I can’t precisely say. I think you know one when you see one. The ring is for mostly for retention and…spinning. On spinning, another dubious karambit characteristic- the Karambit sellers page says,
“Karambit spinning is showy, flashy and useless without significant training, practice and understanding of the application. New users should not spin karambits until they’re intimately familiar with their blade, its balance, the way it fits into their hand in various grips and while in motion AND, most importantly, until they’ve received instruction.”
Further, “…many people don’t use the smaller muscles in the hands and it takes time to build them up.”
Confessions from a top karambit salesman! And there you have it from the source. More stuff to do. More muscles to build. More unnecessary stuff to do.
Straight, bent, curved. The curve of the knife. The more curve, the worse. There are knives on the market that have some bend to them, some just a slight bend, bended/angled with no curvey claw. Some right-angle bends remind me somewhat of carpet knives. The sharp, 90 degree bend of the carpet knife, its position to the handle, is superior to the more curved kerambits, otherwise thousands of carpet layers would have invented karambits or they would all use karambits. They don’t. Some folks, like carpet folks, work projects that require that sharp point, at the maximum position of their hand grip for the job. As a detective I have worked some serious assaults involving carpet knife attacks.
Stress Quick Draws Issues. A comprehensive knife program covers stress quick draws. It seems all modern knives now try to have some pocket catching device that facilitates a quick folder opening. But some don’t. Sometimes people get their folder out but in the heat of the fight, can’t open right away. The folder then becomes a palm stick until its opened. The selected knife when folded should protrude from the top and bottom of the fisted hand, and it should support the hand inside the fist for punching. I have a pretty big hand and have tried punching heavy bags with various karambits. Due to the curved blade, the folded knives are quite wide and they all hurt to punch with. Probably I might find one not as wide someday, but with all the other negatives surrounding the karambit? I don’t go about searching for it. But this wideness when punching is another survival reason/problem to avoid the karambit.
One of the great advantages of the reverse or ice pick grip of a straight blade is it’s ever-so-natural, stab application. There seems to be an inert, intuitive hammer fist application with a reverse grip stab. Think of the power of just a hammer fist. It alone breaks many boards, many ice blocks, many pieces of cement. Imagine that force delivering a straight knife stab! But wait! Now hold a karambit in its reverse grip application, as in the curved end looping out of the bottom of the hand. Gone is all the hammer fist intuition. Gone is the simple, practical, stab and its extra power shot potential.
The somewhat bent edged weapons list might include the infamous kukri. The kukri is not a curvy karambit. It has its own heft and is used much like a straight edged weapon.
Straighter? “Benter?” Curved? These bended ones are better than the curvy ones, and seem to have some ‘hammerfist-like” and “punching-like,” natural applications. But, the more the bend? The more the pointy curve? The more problems. To use them as efficiently as a straight knife, which cannot be completely done, you have to add-on, learn more, have extra tricks to stab and slash. And, speaking of hammer-fists, the hammer fist is a very natural movement, with very natural target acquisition, and really supports the reverse or ice-pick grip, straight-blade stab. Why ruin that principle with a curved blade that sticks out and then forward from the bottom of hand, killing the hammer-fist instinct. So…more Karambit training is therefore needed. More extra training.
As mentioned in the above military photo, it gets stuck in people and things. The curved point is called a hook, because…it hooks. I see the karambit practitioners simulating cuts with figure 8 patterns and X patterns in the air, or in front of partners. No contact. Do they not realize that with contact, their point embeds into the person and the bones and the clothing, gear, etc.? X pattern over. Figure 8 pattern over. And now they must learn an extraction technique, unique to that knife. Extra stuff to learn. (this is also true with the tomahawk/axe craze. On first impact? THUNK! NO more slap-dash, dancy, prancy axe moves, just a big-ass axe sunk into a skull or chest. Extraction! Use foot if needed to push-pull)
The most curved knife “out there?” The classic rescue knife. One carried just to cut seat belts and ropes. You can’t even clean your nails with this one. I think that anyone can see this is really limited in overall use. The more the curve, the less you can do. I am sure when you need a seat belt cutter? You really need a seat belt cutter. So, get one and cram it on your belt. Squeeze in that two inches more next to your shark repellent, and radiation pills, for those times you really need stuff like that. (Oh, and yes, a “regular” knife can cut a seat belt too, and I’ll bet has many more times than a specialized seat cutter.)
And lastly, need we discuss the stigma again of this Klingon-looking knife. It is bad enough to use any knife for self defense, but this knife, by its very appearance also causes negative, legal prejudices to the police, the prosecutors, the courts and to juries. Think of it in terms of pistols. Would you rather defend yourself with the “Widowmaker” pistol? Or..the “Peacemaker” pistol?” Yes, these…things…count. In a recent self defense courtroom trial, Assistant District Attorney in Texas Aaron Bundoc also said of the defendant’s self defense use of the karambit, “It was not a self-defense tool as Hernandez alleged.” He said “…a Karambit is a combat weapon designed to gut and butcher people.” Just ONE example.
Look, what do I care about people, their fixations, fascinations and hobbies? Why should you care what I think? Some people love history and weapons. Some people like to crack bull whips, while the whip is on fire! Get a hobby! Get a karambit and mess with it. Do all that extra training. Place it on a rotating pedestal in your den. One in each pocket and on a neck chain. Get the t-shirt and ballcap. Follow the Dijon. Smile. Live long and prosper. These are just my personal beliefs and opinions. I know I never want to be attacked or cut by a karambit, or a torn, tin can or a rescue knife. Hell, I hate paper cuts. But to me, a karambit is a handicap to sheer simplicity and ultimate practicality. People are just too damn hypnotized by the shape, culture, history, hero-worship and system-worship.
What did they tell us in school years ago, when writing an essay? “Contrast and compare.” If you really contrast and compare, without bias and fixations, fandom and fads? What do you come up with? Being that we here are Force NECESSARY, and not ForceUN-necessary, I will never bother with, or waste my time teaching, a karambit course. Do please, however continue to show me your karambits. They are all very cool looking. And I certainly will not throw them out of any window. Only, you know…figuratively.
Extra! While I would probably watch this gal juggle marshmallows for hours, WHY is she spinning this Klingon, unnecessarily curved edged-weapon around and Lord knows she cuts herself badly in the end…
A) No need to spin this stupid aberration of a knife around, and..
B) there is no good reason to spin this damn thing around.
Over 1,400 plus how-to photos. From standing to the ground, from grip-to-grip, situations to scenarios, the most comprehensive knife book on combatives you will find anywhere, at any time! Training! Exercises! Tactics! How to Train! Plus True Military Knife Combat Stories! 300 pages.
“If I die in combat zone. Box me up and ship me home.”
You’ve all heard that ditty? Maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have as a cadence – a song – we all sang while marching and running in the military. It has been bastardized, or satired and altered for various messaging. One paraphrased version we don’t see much anymore, but old-timers will remember, was popularized on some t-shirts and posters years back. It was about dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up, the words accompanied by art of a rip-shirt, commando. This splitting-up is a very good idea for several reasons, but I don’t think the commandment reaches deep enough in citizen and police training methodology.
It is a common theory in shoot-outs that drawing and using a second gun is faster than reloading your first one. This of course depends on where you are carrying that second gun, but the advice is classic and comes from veterans. Did you arrive at this scene with a second gun? Can you find a second gun at the scene? More ammo? Such is great in a firefight.
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, if you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
One such subject is what to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun. One dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up, you can put various kinds of guns in various conditions on a bench at the shooting range and make people pick them up, make-ready, load them and shoot them (which has been done forever by clever people by the way), but the true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, being-hunted situation is hardly practiced on the range.
Technically, this is weapon recovery. Weapon recovery is typically discussed in inner circles when your pistol has been disarmed from you and how you must recover it. You instantly charge in to get it back while the taker is hopefully fumbling with it. Recovering disarmed weapons is a missing link in most martial art systems when students work pistol disarms. Students take the gun from an attacker, the students usually quite oblivious to fact that that a real world, bad-guy may mad-rush in to get the gun back at a hundred miles an hour. These students often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it (some instructors demand that the student tap the magazine and rack the side), not expecting the vicious counter attack and weapon recovery.
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just disarming and the recovery of your gun. There’s the recovery of your comrade’s weapon and even the recovery of your enemy’s weapon.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped by accident, taken or dropped/lost in combat. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but my hunch is they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 45 years, but I’ve seen my friends/co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we see them drop on youtube. We also see photos and hear about such fumbles in both normal and stressful times. We see them dropped in simulated ammo scenario training. We even see them dropped at live fire ranges.
What about a fumble during a draw or inside a grappling fight? I once saw a range master, and trophy winner cop, standing before an armed training partner in a scenario. Both with gas guns. The draw! And the police instructor vet lost his pistol in the air, mid-draw. He had never drawn right in front of an armed man with a pain-delivering gun two feet before him.
I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The person:
Drops the gun, or
Convulsively fires the weapon, or
Aims and shoots back, or
Gun does nothing. The gun remains unfired in their hands.
What about the dropped weapon of a shot, severely wounded or dead compatriot? Or enemy? A “drop dead gun,” just laying there. This year, 2020 marks the 24th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, created and supervised simulated ammo shooting scenarios of some sort. Some are short and involve two people. Some are much longer and involve numerous people, all are in numerous situations and locations. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Inside and outside. Daytime. Nighttime. People get shot by whatever simulated ammo we get to use for the training session. In the briefing, I ask the people, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take two serious shots, or shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…”they be dead.” Playing this part is important, as you will soon read.
As the organizer, over-seer of these scenarios, as the “ref” if you will, I see so many things in all of these shoot-outs. I see things people really do when in various predicaments. These occurrences, these experiences are quite remarkable and extremely educational. And one of the many things I consistently see is teammates, running past and around their deeply wounded, still or dead, yet still armed partners. Whatever kinds of weapons we are using, Airsoft, gas, markers, Simuntions, whatever I can get wherever I am, these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances. I want to advise, “pick up that gun!” as they run by their fallen compatriots. Sometimes they have the time to do so. But, I do not want to bark orders or suggestions to interfere in the middle of the firefight exercise. I’ve see many folks run right by other available guns and ammo. As an “invisible” ref, I wait until the after-action review to bring the subject up and still they often forget to do it the next time.
Once in a while I see a practitioner who instantly knows to snatch up his dead buddy’s gun. Either, it is something trained and remembered, or they are just that naturally gun-and-ammo-hungry to simply know this and do this instinctively. They swoop down and snatch up the weapon as they go by. This is an event that never happens in live fire range training, but rather could and should happen in real life, and bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible.
I might add quickly here, that weapons are sometimes attached to people by lanyards and slings, something that can be very life-saving for the original holder, but also may flummox your partner’s attempt to get your weapons once you are down and out. Know your partner’s gear. Look them over. Know your team or squad mates stuff.
Different gear? Different guns? Different ammo? In many organizations such as with the military or police, certain weapons are mandated for all in policy for good reason. If we all have the same gun, we all have the same ammo, magazines and we can pick up, exchange, provide, etc., weapons. It can make for good sense. I am not advocating for the “one-gun, one-ammo” policy, I am just reporting on it here. There is something to be said too for personalized guns, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus this background, police management, etc. may not consider this, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concept. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic.
Minus police and military experiences, If you just teach or do live fire on a range, essentially that being that “clerk,” with no emotional attachment to experience, you must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive “gun minutiae” within your teaching (haven’t gun magazines really been publishing the same redundant information, redone and re-shaped for decades now? Over, and over and over. Why? Why, do they stick in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations to dissect and train about?).
Two answers to these teaching and training problems. One is to continue educating yourself on real experiences. What precisely has happened to you? Your friends? Your teammates? Your neighbors? Victims? Cops? Military? Learning second or third-hand is better than not learning at all. Who can possibly experience the common spectrum of such problems? No one. We all must keep this education up. Second? Simulated ammo scenarios. Simunitions or likewise, otherwise, at some level. Take your “power point” tips and your segmented, live fire examples and move them into physical experience with safe ammo. Move them over into a stressful, interactive, situational scenarios with simulated ammo. Such are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. The experts call it “deep learning.” In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive shoot-outs.
There has been something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” subject, as people contemplate the active shooter problem and consider picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This concern has manifested in a slight increase in related speeches and some abstract, live fire exercises. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun experience or limited gun backgrounds, have also organized some active shooter response classes. But when working out and testing the unarmed response methods, the attendees all bum-rush a stuntman in a helmet holding a rubber gun. I would wish that they, at least once, let the actor carry in a sims-ammo, (and this could be with very safe ammo) machine gun and let him cut loose on the crowd so that the attendees could truly experience the hideous, quick, devastation one can do with such firearms to a group. Perhaps this might be too demoralizing? Or change the strategy.
Remember that when you snatch up another’s gun? You might well not know how many rounds are left in it! Oh, and in certain crime and war circumstances, when citizens pick up the dead bad guy’s gun and the police arrive? Do I need to remind you? You look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Act, surrender accordingly.
But, be it that sort of “mass shooting,” or a crime or in war, in the case of the drop dead gun and simulated ammo training, a prep speech can first be made about the weapon recovery from downed and dead rescuers, teammates or bad guys. It has been my experience that once suggested in this briefing, many people do think of it when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better.
The gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead. So, the next t-shirt or poster rant and chant?
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
At seminars, police or others, I have seen a lot of “force-on-force” work-outs. This nickname became popular in the later 1990s. The majority of these have been with rubber guns. When it comes time to draw these rubber guns under stress, or when just fighting over them, and when one person gets free of the other enough to successfully pull, point and theoretically shot the pistol at the partner/bad-guy, these folks just freeze and look at each other. Once in a while someone yells “bang!” But they freeze. They act like the scenario is over, like the trigger pulling part and the wounding or killing part is automatically over.
It’s not over. I mean, if the other guy is shot and wounded, or even if he receives a mortal shot, he can still shoot back, stab, fight back a bit, or fall upon the good guy with a weapon in is hand. The fight is not over with the mere pointing of a rubber gun. The freeze is totally unreal. The scenario IS NOT OVER! I have often said to folks:
“You like those rubber guns, huh?”
“Hey, what would you think about wooden guns?”
“Yeah, using wooden guns shaped like your guns, or shaped like your rubber guns?”
“I guess that would be okay.”
“Now, what if I told you…what if I told you these wooden guns could shoot something? A safe something? Wouldn’t that be cool? You could do all the stuff you are already doing, and – you could actually pull the trigger shoot something and see if you could successfully, actually shoot the gun, hit your enemy while fighting, standing or on the ground. And multiple shots like a semi-auto. You wouldn’t have to stop when you pointed the gun. You could actually exercise pulling the trigger and aiming under stress, explore the next events. Anytime. Anyplace.”
“I guess that would be smart. But we do that with Simunitions.”
“Oh, about once every two years.”
“Sometimes more years than that. Some people never do it. ”
“I know. Because you need special gear and a special place that won’t be destroyed by the Sims. Lots of set up and gear. Sometimes the setup and expense just pushes the workouts off and off. What if I told you could use these wooden guns – which cost about 15 bucks each – anytime, anyplace, aiming, shooting with no safety gear, easy experimentation with moves and problems. You can get a lot done, safe, and cheap.
“I guess that would be okay.”
“I am talking about using wooden rubber band guns. I am not talking about giving up routine live fire. I am not talking about never using electric, gas or Sims again. I am not saying throw away your rubber gun. It too has uses. I am just talking about wood over rubber. I am talking about the easy, safe study of moves & shooting. I am talking about more access to important experimentation. You are already using rubber. Why not wood? Why not wood that shoots something? Did I mention the wooden gun cost about $15?”
In the 1990s I was laughed at in training circles and ridiculed for using “toys.” In my defense I never used toy-toys. I used wooden, rubber band guns that fired multi-shots. There was little available and affordable to simulate any shooting back then. By about 2000 or so cops worldwide were seeing my drills and buying a lot of these wooden guns from me for their training. Of course, citizens too. Easy. Safe. Quick. Great for lots of short, realistic vignette experimentation, anywhere. Anytime. (I even had life sized M-16s that shot very well about 30 feet.) Remember, if you do use gas guns? They can break eyes, skin, windows, mirrors, chip paint and blow out lights, ding cars, etc.
There is no doubt I settle for wood because we can’t be anywhere better, and use anything better when and where we are. That, sadly, is most of the time. Sadly, many places I go, with groups of 18 or more people up to 100, not everyone shows up with these expensive guns, ammo and safety gear. Even the gas or battery-powered guns. (And the cheap, battery-powered break very easy.) I ask them to bring this equipment but they often can’t, won’t or don’t. Every week in fact. I am left with using the the wooden guns I bring.
In my External Focus Gun seminars, or regular mixed seminars of hand, stick, knife and gun, you will probably be shot 30 to 60 or so times day as you work out with a good-guy or bad-guy partner in different situations. And very close up in standing, seated and ground situations. Battery powered guns will not damage the facilities (and will not hurt cars) and you still need some thick clothes and face protection. But I still can’t frequently outfit all, half, or even a quarter of attendees with these guns. Out come the wooden guns.
I want to create a training environment where everyone is working out, not just two people while 18 other people are standing around watching, waiting their turn, for a short supply of weapons and safety gear to rotate over to them. Everyone should be working out, not watching two people work out.
Don’t let your custom fit holster stop you from doing this training. I hear this complaint or excuse. Just get a real cheap “ol bucket,” universal holster for this type of training. The emphasis is on bigger interactive goals about movements and fighting, and many skills more important than exactly how your replica pistol fits perfectly snug your custom fit holster. Rubber training guns don’t always fit into your custom holster, either. Yet people have persevered for decades with rubber gun training stuck in bad-fitting holsters. One more point for traveling practitioners, these wooden guns weigh almost nothing in your luggage.
In a perfect world, we would live in a wonderland of Simunitions mixed with live fire, in and around buildings, cars, etc., supporting each situation in crafted unison. Show me where that is? And I mean, daily, weekly or cheaply and reachable for all citizens, police and military to access? Can everyone afford to fly there? In the end, we are left with what we are left with, and most of the time, that ain’t much.
Where ever we are. Lets move the ball downfield every chance we get. Pain is not the only reason to have safer, ammo shooting gun. Not by a long shot, ducking pain is part of the training. I would like to use the best gear in the best locations were we can ignore the destruction of buildings and vehicles. But that dream is both impractical and expensive for most of the places I travel to teach. I do the best I can, with what I can at the moment to move the learning ball down the field.
If left down to it? A wooden pistol that shoots something and safely is better than a rubber gun that doesn’t.