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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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.
.This is where I have fallen down. Where my knife course has fallen down. Before the fall, in the 1990s there was a “resurgence” if you will, a re-look, re-examination of older knife material (which essential was a lot of knife dueling). Some might call it “knife fighting,” but I don’t like that term. But you are still indeed, fighting with a knife when you are…fighting with a knife. Still, I don’t like many terms, images, messages, logos relating to the knife and knife fighting. By that time in the 90s, I was in police work for quite a while, both in the Army and in Texas, most of that time as a detective. I’d seen and experienced working on a lot of knife crime, as in aggravated assaults, rapes, attempted murders and murders. I myself have been attacked by both knife and ax.
I know the depressing, dark side, the wet side in juxtaposition to all the smiling people having fun, slap-dashing around in gyms playing tag with wooden and rubber knives. Knife training is often treated quite cavalierly. This doesn’t have to be the case as very serious cultures exist, like the culture of pistol training is quite serious and full of foreboding and legal scares. Careful, mature training cultures do exist, and this must certainly become true in knife training also.
In the early 90s, this edged weapon resurgence was sort of an international turning point in knife training. A reboot if you will? It first resurrected the old military knife courses and the semi-legendary names of yesteryear. They weren’t “kuraty” superstars. A sophisticated look at them however, revealed, they weren’t so sophisticated. So several of us, using the newer sports training methods of the time, and bolstered by years in Filipino martial arts or other historical backgrounds, stepped up and made “new” knife courses. Gone was the martial arts uniforms, belts, etc. We wore jeans with pockets and regular clothing belts. Street clothes.
Some of the 90s knife pioneers? James Keating. Tom Sotis. Kelly Worden, Bram Frank, Bob Kasper, yours truly, to name just a few, but there really were only a few of us. Paul Vunak is a late 80s pioneer in many areas. (Still, some of these guys were overdosing on knife dueling.) We wore shirts, jeans and shoes. I even taught at times in a suit and tie. Skeptical, we didn’t trust the old stuff and we didn’t trust the established martial arts either, even the Filipino applications of the knife are often tricky and too “duely”. (Do you want to walk around wearing a vest with 12 knives? Seriously.) Be free. Think free. Be skeptical. Are you a replicator? Or an innovator?
Still, the old just helps the new. This was also part of a bigger “breakaway” from establishments that was going on in that decade. The world was seeing MMA (or at least ground wrestling) on TV like never before. And somehow a collection of old stuff, dressed in athletic pants, painted in the “Israeli mystique” – Krav Maga – was really shoved down the throats of Tae Kwon Do schools as mandatory, by clever (and insidious) shaming, business groups, like NAPA in the 90s.
The “Mixed Revolution” was in the 1990s martial air! Jeet Kune Do was spreading into a heyday. Inosanto JKD/MMA was already doing Thai and ground, and so much more. Ever hear of “Shoot?” But, I guess the Israeli mystique was greater than the Bruce Lee mystique?
Mystique? Yes. Ever so important in advertising, sales and manipulation. That’s how we pick shoes, cars, purses and pistols (politicians, religions and…) Manipulation. More on that later…
My knife course had a few odd, infancy names in 1990 and 1991, but it was quickly called “When Necessary? Force Necessary: Knife!” But that 5-word title was a little long and clunky and it was shortened to just 3 words – “Force Necessary: Knife!” I do prefer the longer, clunky name, as it completely explains exactly what I mean to say. Only use that force necessary when absolutely necessary. But I got around the country and quickly, the whole world doing that knife material. Lots of traveling, lots of seminars. It lead to being voted Black Belt Magazine, Weapon Instructor of the Year and also into their BB Hall of Fame. (back when readers actually mailed in votes.) I also “scored-very well” in the non-arts, growing “combatives” world.
Black Belt. Tact Knifes. Hall of Fames. TRS. Such was the jargon and the martial/political stage of the 90s. Today, it’s hard to grasp that the total, martial world communication back that existed was with a mere 6 or 8 international, martial arts magazines. That’s it! Try and list them. Yes, Black Belt, Blitz, Martial Arts Illustrated, Inside Kung Fu, Inside Karate. Think of some more. Try and list them. They were the filter for us all. Talk forums developed slowly later and now, like the magazines, are almost all extinct.
Now? Nowadays, I don’t know where the martial arts communication filter exists, specifically. The…web…the gazillions of webpages? The gazillions of podcasts? The gazillion of….Instagrams? Facebook? Yesterday’s business card is today’s webpage. And any dipshit can pay to have amazing looking webpages. The battle for exposure takes a business up and down many extremely, frustrating, costly roads.
Of course with all businesses, this 1990s knife movement kicked off a new interest and a fair number of new knife courses popped up through and to, by 2005-ish, often by less experienced, less organized people, and in my opinion doing less comprehensive programs. But this business evolution is to be expected. Invent a new “widget?” There’s a knock-off. Then knock-offs with an “S.” In the big picture of training and education however, not widgets, this can be a positive thing. Awareness. Curiosity. Growth.
So, when did I fall? It happened slowly and then one day you are down looking up. How’d I get down here? Not enough Instagram pictures? Some 25-odd years later, in about 2015, on a popular public forum someone asked me what I thought of Johnny Swift’s new, knife, quick-draw article. Of course it was named something super-spiffy like “Armageddon Instrument Production,” but it’s just knife quick draws. Brand new, Biblical-worthy advice Swift preached, and published in the new amazing world of web-jargon magazines called something like “Organic Micro Evolution of Edged Prophetic Dynasty.” (I just made that magazine name up, but how far am I off? Have you seen these seminars names lately? Aren’t you impressed, or can you see right through the pretentiousness?) Twenty and 30 year-olds salivated!
I read Swift’s ground-breaking, testament as featured in “Retrograde, Skill Supremacy, Fusion Elite Magazine” and I replied on the public forum –
“Oh, I have to like Swift’s article. It is virtually, word-for-word, from my 1992, Knife Level 1 outline.”
My review/remark caused a lot of guffaws and a few smart ass remarks, among the 20 and 30 year old readers, most of whom were so submerged in modern “dynasty jargon” and up to their beards in mystique, and lost in the gazillion web world, they’d never even heard of us older guys from the 90s. I mean, who am I to comment like this on their latest fad-boy genius? I added that I was not suggesting that Johnny Swift plagiarized my outline, as it might have innocently been co-opted, or the older info has become so, ever so embedded into the “knife world” it was deemed as open knowledge. I get that. Sure. That happens. (That level 1 outline is/was free to the public and has been distributed for literally 3 decades, and my knife books have been for sale since about then too.)
I reminded the guffawers that the spread of education is a good thing and that at very least, I only partook in that process. I said that the old just helps the new, and you have to remember the old, so history doesn’t repeat itself. As a great gun instructor Dave Spaulding likes to remind us, “It’s not new. It’s just new to you.”
One guy was clever enough to say, “Well, sorry I missed you when I was 5 years old.” Ha! I told him that was a pretty damn, funny retort. It was. But missed me? Dude, I never left. But actually he never knew I was around to begin with. That is part of the mysterious “fall.”
I added in that discussion with Mr. Wise-ass that the spread of education was a good thing, and I only partook in the process. Seriously, I frequently read as new, many old catchy terms, ideas, expressions I published and advertised decades ago.
My really big mistake in the knife world, training business is…I think, not emphasizing the knife training course only. Alone. My obsession was/is with covering the bigger picture. Hand, stick, knife, gun. That’s “where it’s at” for me (is that phrase too 90s? Yikes, maybe too beatnik 60s?). The 1990s evolved into the 2000s and my step-by-step into what I really wanted to do all along since the 90s. My goal is to create the best hand, stick, knife and gun courses. It’s a mixed weapon world. Each subject I have is a carefully constructed 4-pillar, foundation. But I think when you shoot for this holistic picture, each separate pillar seems to get a little lost, a little less appreciated, a little less noticed. It also makes me appear to be less specialized. This ain’t true. There’s a big mixed weapon matrix:
But anyway, back to the knife! Inside a comprehensive knife course is:
* Knife vs hand.
* Knife vs stick.
* Knife vs knife.
* Knife vs some gun threats.
* Standing, kneeling, sitting and on the ground.
* Saber and reverse grip experimentation.
* Skill developing exercises.
* Knife combat scenarios and situations.
* Legal issues and smarts.
* Who what, where, when, how and why questions
* Criminal history knife stories.
* War history knife stories.
I do get a kick out of the occasional lame-brain who pipes up and says, “Knife training? Just stick the pointy end in the other guy.”Especially when these same complainers spend about ten thousand $$$ a year – plus – shooting at gun ranges. Why not just stick the pointy end of the bullet in the other guy, too, Brainiac? Is it all really that simple?
But, not focusing just on the knife is a marketing problem. I don’t advertise or highlight “just the knife” like other courses do. This is one point where I have really fallen down and why my knife course has fallen down through the years.
Another problem for me? No “flags.” I have no crutch system, no flag to fly, like Pekiti, JKD, Brazil-Mania, Krav. Silat. Arnis. Bruce Lee. UFC. It’s just little ol’ me flapping in the wind. I can’t draw in extraneous-system-people, capture super search terms, as some of those are obligated to attend, even arm-twisted by “the system” they’re in. Brand names are…brand names.
Plus, I avoid and dodge macho, death messages, grim reapers, and death images mystique. I would never advertise that I am “always bladed.” And I am not in any “mafia.” I am life-long cop. I fight the Mafia. I am not in any “cartel,” or a “cult” etc. Look, I can make the distinction between something that is a little fun and ironic and something/someone that is sick and weird. It takes a little investigation too, to not jump to conclusions, but sick and weird is sick and weird.
Various other ultra-violent, whack-job messaging should be reserved as a primer mentality for very serious, military, combat groups. THEIR psychology. Their prep. Not cops and certainly not every day, walk-around citizens. Mimicking them makes you look like a wannabe punk. Look at the lawsuits filed on cops and citizens. Go ahead, have a little death-engraved-logo on your cop gun and see what happens when you shoot someone. Have a patch or tattoo of a grim reaper with a knife, or a skull with a knife through it, and see what happens when you have to use a knife. We the police, the prosecutors search your history when you are in an assault, knifing or shooting. Mature survival is enduring the end game – as in the legal aftermath, is a big part of a well-thought-out, course. (Again, mature gun easily people understand this.)
Not like this silly fucker in New York for example – I read one New York City, very popular, international knife “cartel-liberty” group headline paragraph:
“I love it when I carve someone’s balls off and put them in his empty eye sockets.”
Shit man, you probably work in a fucking supermarket. And you think and talk like this? You need to be on watch list. These idiots give us all a bad name. But images and expressions like this, or near like this, this mystique, does attract a certain sick customer, usually young, or young in the brains anyway. (After my public complaints and comments on this, this moron took that line down.)
No Mystique? Which leads me back to the first paragraph. We know the established advertising fact the “the grass is always greener on the other….” side of the street? Other country? The sewers of Spain. The temples of Thailand. The monasteries of China? The borders of Israel…the…and so on. Me? I appear to be just a bland, white guy with some info. I don’t even have any tattoos! Many well-known knife people are Filipino, just cause, because…they are Filipino. They may have never been to the Philippines, but they have an exotic sounding name.
And the serious military angle? Even with them, take a look at the most sophisticated, revered, respected, top-flight, Special Forces vets and most play it quiet cool like a gray man.
Lackadaisical about making rank and instructors. I don’t really run the classic franchise business as seen in self defense, BJJ and Krav, other combatives courses, and Lord knows, classic martial arts. I am often lackadaisical about promoting people and making instructors. Other systems do this like precision clockwork, where I fail to emphasize this. It does hurt the proverbial martial, business model.
In the same vein, I shun all titles like guro, grandmaster, sensei, etc. “It’s just Hock,” I say, which also does not fly well with some organizations who base themselves on this structure. Also, street clothes please. It’s almost like I am insulting them? I’m not trying to. You do whatever you need to do to survive.
After the fall. However boring, I still do see some “knife people” all around the world. There are “normal” people, martial artists, historians, survivalists and hobbyists, gun people out there, interested in generic, evolved, knife material. There are. And that is who I mostly see when the knife topic comes around. Since I disdain the crazies and the fringers, they usually avoid me too. I know they know, I don’t like them.
I always do a few hours of knife in every seminar and I do have the occasional knife weekend seminars when and where I realize I need to catch up with people’s rank requests. And, normal people can always, sort of, hide their knife interests inside a classic martial arts name. To me the knife is inside of, part and parcel of, hand, stick, knife, gun crime and war, survival education.
So, me. Boring. No mystique. Not isolating the knife enough. Not promoting people fast enough. No skulls. No flags. No carved out-eyeballs. No macho. Just generic methods. Here is where I have shot myself in the…well, stabbed myself in the foot, in the knife training business, even though just a few of us are those innovator pioneers and turned the tide in the 1990s into what it all has become today. For better or for worse. Maybe you young fellers will learn from my mistakes?
It’s always good to mention and/or thank your prior teachers once in a while. I always do. But, before you young knife guys make any sarcastic jokes about me again (and Kelly and Bram, et al?) Keep in mind…your modern instructors might have “peeked” at all my and our long, established materials, and would not confess to it. I might just be your grandfather. Our materials have become such standard doctrine that these young guys don’t even know of us.
Messing around with Judo, working out with friends, watching judo practice and tournaments, studying the stepping and positioning of opponents and the time it took, I once made a remark years ago in this class, that –
“all judo throws work quickly after you break the guy’s nose.”
And many friends 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 allforms 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 to some degree.
Weapon worlds? Yes. Of course. 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 tremendous “first shot” advantage. Why do you think the police and military use stun grenades? It’s a form of “bullet shock.” In short, the first guy does a desperate, sloppy draw and shoots, missing his opponent. The second guy squints, his cheeks flap, draws, shoots under this pressure-blast and he misses. And so goes the common formula. You wear hearing protection when you stand BESIDE a shooter. Try to imagine being right in front of one, with no “ears” on.
Many knife victims are more shocked at seeing a knife, than feeling it as many do not even know they were stabbed or slashed at first, reporting instead that they were lightly hammer-fisted or punched. Yeah. Look it up.
What exactly is the Diminished Fighter Theory? It’s just 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 routine practice. It is not “written-up” in the mission-statement or outlined in doctrine. Many martial arts like to advertise that “this art is self defense too!” Well, not really. Abstract yes. Helpful? Probably. But what is your real mission? Hobby? Tradition? Exercise? Sport? All four? The “What” question. Are you all over-over-the-board and don’t know it? (I confess that I spent many a decade all-OVER-the-martial-arts-board, minus proper definitions and direction. It was NOT a waste of time, just abstract.)
I report this here after over 40 years in the martial arts and 26 years in line operations in law enforcement, bodyguarding and investigations, whereupon I have arrested some 900 people. Some of these people were very “cranky” on up to a rare few that tried to kill me. So, I hope what I suggest here gets your attention. This is not just about simple martial arts “punching.” This theory is about hand, stick, knife, gun, crime and war, inside and outside structures on rural, suburban and urban areas.
We fight enemy soldiers, criminals and “drunk uncles” (family and friends). Sometimes they come to you already diminished. They are drunk, drugged, out-of-shape, untrained, etc. Sometimes, not. Once in front of you and things get physical, then, when we have to fight their…
adrenaline (which also helps their pain tolerance)
Any fight training they might have
We fight an opponent’s athleticism, their pain tolerance and their adrenaline, and with these elements even the lesser performer might still rise beyond our expectations.
So, we have to diminish them. I’ve used the sarcastic 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. You get the picture. The idea. 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 may knock the opponent cold. Which would be great, but you certainly can’t count on it. For me, in all these years working I have only knocked out one person with a first punch. I have seen a few of my co-workers do so. It certainly happens, but…in a mixed weapons world, you probably might have to settle for, and make plans for, the initial stun-diminishment. Fortune favors the prepared. But diminishment is NOTjust about hand striking.
“Punch a black belt in the face once, he becomes a brown belt. Punch him again, purple….” – Carlson Gracie Sr.
Levels of Stun: Levels and forms of stunning doesn’t just happen from a “punch,” a slap, a flash of a knife, or a close gunshot, and-or explosion. Stunning and subsequent diminishment is in any good ambush, wall slam or a takedown-throw when then the opponent first crashed to ground zero. And, I might quickly add here that you or your opponent may quickly “run out of gas,” another form of common diminishment, something that “emotional control and pacing” can help you with. There are indeed methods to enhance these things. Also, with this acknowledgement, you must include methods that “prepare for, and recovery from… stunning” in your lesson plans. It is tough recovering from a total ambush, but there are otherwise, “steeling yourself” methods. That’s another topic. It’s all part of my oldest motto, “Expect chaos. Train for chaos. Thrive in chaos.”
Officially recognize and place this diminished fighter concept )big and up front) in your martial training, and your martial arts training. There are many connected subjects to this topic I write about and teach through the Stop 6course and the vital blueprint of the Who, What Where, When, How and Why(Ws &H) questions. This is just a quick slice.