(My main theme here is usually about combatives, crime and policing, but I would be remiss not to mention my connections with the ROK Marines while in South Korea.)
The textbook manuals will define the ROK Marines as: “The Republic of Korea Marine Corps, also known as the ROK Marine Corps, or the ROK Marines, is the marine corps of South Korea. The ROKMC is a branch of the Republic of Korea Navy responsible for amphibious operations, and also functions as a rapid reaction force and a strategic reserve.”
“Korean soldiers were highly motivated. Because of their own struggle with Stalinist North Korea, they hated communists. They were also tough. Each man was trained in the art of tae kwon do, with 30 minutes’ practice forming an integral part of morning physical training. They were also subjected to harsh discipline. Time magazine reported in 1966, “Captured Vietcong orders now stipulate that contact with the Koreans is to be avoided at all costs—unless a Vietcong victory is 100 percent certain.” – National Interest Magazine
1975. The first days of the first week I was in country, up north in South Korea, HQ asked me to deliver some papers to Camp Red Cloud. They gave me our intrepid KATUSA – Mister Lee as a driver, and together in an old, open US Army jeep we made the long drive east. Once at the base, Mister Lee took us to the Red Cloud headquarters. On the open grounds outside stood a formation of Korean soldiers and a sergeant yelling and beating the holy hell out of a soldier. The troop stood as best he could, arms down and at a wobbly attention. Finally. the blows knocked him off right off his feet. Down, he was kicked.
“What’s going on over there?” I asked Mister Lee. “Ohhh, ROK Marines. Dey crazy. Dat Marine fucky up somehow.” Mister Lee said.
And that was my first introduction to the ROK Marines, other than having some of them, along with South Vietnamese combat vets, teach a few courses in basic training. Upon my return to our little crappy forward operating base, (FOB) as I was a “cherry” (new) I quickly learned that we also had ROK Marines stationed right with us too!
We, me, the MPs there were to do police work and help provide force protection for this FOB, but the grunt work of guarding was done by KATUSA (Korean Augmentation To the United States Army, a branch of the Republic of Korea Army that consists of Korean drafted personnel who are augmented to the Eighth United States Army), K-9s (dogs), MPs and ROK Marines. One big happy (?) family.
Missile jockeys operated on top of a mountain inside our camp and from that elevation, with binoculars one could see into North Korea and at times watch their knuckleheads doing PT or snaking around over there.
“The beatings will continue until morale improves!” And I continued to see periodic ROK beatings in their morning formations. We never knew what they did wrong, but they must have “fucky-ied up” in some way. The ROK officers and NCOs spoke some English but the typical ROK Marine did not. So while we saw them a lot, and they ate in our mess hall, we never got to know them beyond the occasional smile, a wave, and a thumbs up.
Part of our job description was to also patrol the outside of the base, check the perimeters, etc. and the ROK Marines did that routinely. We MPs did not have to go on every run, but we were supposed to go with some regularity, and keep abreast of the breastworks, so, with some regularity we went. On one trip, they found a cache of buried weapons, hidden by stupid commie sympathizers for North Koreans to sneak in and dig up. (I think a K9 smelled it out, as I recall). The commies were always sneaking in, or building tunnels under the DMZ, etc. Those days, the 60s and 70s were considered very dangerous times in Korea.
(Years earlier, the NKs perpetrated North Korea attempted assassination, “The Blue House Raid,” also known in South Korea as the “January 21 Incident.” It was just one raid launched by North Korean commandos to assassinate the President of South Korea, Park Chung-hee, in his residence at the Blue House. President Park was unharmed.)
Taking us out, taking our missiles out, or sneaking past us to go south was always a problem. We sat in the valley first invaded by the Red Guard back in the 1950s. One part of my MP job I discovered was to run an M-60 machine gun team on the northwest peak of the camp that touched that very valley. (When the feces hits the oscillated blades, we are all infantry.)
On one of these walk-arounds, the ROK Marine Sergeant (also named Lee) mentioned to me that old classic observation, usually attributed to the Japanese., “America will never be invaded,” he said. “It won’t, you think?” I said. “No, too many guns.”
Some of these inspections were run in the dark, a m. hours. Just cuz. Just cuz they could and really they should. The boogie-men come out at night. And as we passed a few guard posts, Sgt. Lee would stop us at a distance and stealthfully get near the post. He would at times catch the ROK Marine there asleep and steal something from them, sometimes their M-16s!
The next morning the ROK Marine would be chastised and then beaten in the formation.
I often wondered what these Marines thought when they woke up and saw their M-16 gone!
(Many decades later, a ROK Marine sergeant showed up at one of my California combatives seminars, held at the original UFC Gym. He was sent there to attend and invite me to teach knife combatives over there. The deal was cut, but their unit had to postpone because of missions. I have no great desire to return to South Korea, but I will. Because – “Have Seminar-Will Travel.”)
The rituals of death. Understanding them may save your life. But, when you try to research the term, all you are most likely to uncover are after-death, practices of various worldwide religions and funerals, like tossing a handful of dirt on a coffin to name but one. I guess the trouble with the research quest is the word “ritual” – so quickly associated with religions. Dig a bit deeper (no pun intended) and you’ll find a few ceremonial pre-death rituals like when archaeologists discovered that the Incas got their children sacrifices drunk before their deaths on coco leaves and alcohol. Still after much digging, not much is mentioned about before the death.
If you broaden your own the definition of “rituals,” of death, it starts you thinking. You might recall the many other kinds of political and religious killings, ones before the flame, the shot, the needle, the hanging, the guillotine, the firing squad, the electrocution, etc. We remember some pre-death, rituals with them. Before such events, we have been exposed to ritualistic habits like, “the last meal.” The “last cigarette.” The blindfold, “any last requests?” “any last statements?” These are also rituals of death, before the act. Why do people bother with them?
Think about the ritualistic procedures in the United States over a prisoner execution. There are many ritualistic steps and protocols. Think about how people reluctantly gather in to witness the execution. In the olden days, people gathered for the public hangings, nowadays seating is assigned at the prison death chambers to watch a person die. I feel as though any of the death row prisoners would much rather be surprised by a shot in the back at in the head at some late point than go through all that extraneous legal, ritual, nonsense. And, consider this irony, there have been postponements in prison executions because the prisoner was too sick on his death date. Too sick to die? “Let’s clear up that flu before we kill him.”
All these numerous rituals alone, suggested to me that most humans have a certain significance, a regard about death and often do things, also in crime and war to hesitate, postpone, celebrate or commemorate death. A ritual, however slight or small, might be created. It often seems to be in our human nature.
I would like to write about here a very particular situation when someone is cornered, captured, kidnapped and-or taken hostage. Short-term or long-term, and about to killed. As a police detective most of my adult life, and a graduate of a police, criminal profile course, I came across numerous cases, mine and others, of victims executed, or received threats of execution in the final act of rape, kidnapping, robbery, assault and so forth. And what about in war? Such as when someone is taken prisoner, or cornered? What did those last few seconds look like? What small ignored, rituals existed or still exist by killers. If we knew what the killers did, we might better prepare people to read upcoming signs and try to counter them.
In recent times now more than in the past, instructors like to present lists of pre-assault cues with all the anger, tip-offs. That list is long (and far from new – as the first one I saw was back in the military police academy in 1973.) What of pre-crime clues? They are different and largely ignored as people tend to dwell on the pre-assault cues. With pre-crime there might be a no-anger greeting, usually presented by smiling con men criminals setting you up with a minimum tip-offs, or not. Maybe just an overwhelming, sudden ambush? In this same vein of study, but not like the pre-assault, and pre-crime, are the verbal, physical and situational, last ditch rituals of…pre-death. Situational? The overall situation also counts like a ticking time bomb.
So, I became fascinated, in crime and war’s last moments, especially the last few seconds, the last few steps of these killing actions. What exactly went on? And to see if there are any big or small “rituals” even in these instances. They may or may not be spontaneous. The crime may be pre-meditated, but the actual physical act of violence itself unplanned. What happened? Learning this as a self defense, martialist instructor for civilians, police and military, might warn and prepare people for last resort counters to these problems. My real goal here is to inspire and provoke thought on these matters.
For example, Think of all the pistol disarms taught . Think of the more rare, long gun disarms. Think of the knife disarms. Think of the strangulation escapes. Lots of…”techniques,” as they say. But hardly anyone understands or covers the total “who, what, when, where, how and why” (the Ws&H) the victim wound up in this terrible moment, these terrible, critical last, few seconds. The context. The situation. What last ditch, last resort things could be done to counter the murder attempt?
The techniques? I have told this story for decades as an example of the “classroom disarmer,” of a student who learned two pistol disarms techniques earlier in the day at a martial class. He goes home and tells his friend how great the disarms were. The friend says “wow, show me,” and he gets a “clicker,” replica pistol and stands before the student, face-to-face, gun aimed at the student’s head, execution style. The student and friend stare at each other, like western showdown that actually hardly ever happened. The friend is a live wire, watching anxiously for ANY slight sign, a “tell,” (tip-off or clue) that a disarm attempt is coming. The student tries one of the disarms, j…u…s…t barely moves and…CLICK. The student tries and tries and can’t do either of the disarms. Disillusioned, he confesses, “I guess they don’t work.” This evaluation could be very wrong because forgotten is the unusual, multi-faceted crime and war situations people are thrust in. Gun men are often preoccupied running their overall crime scenes and rarely if ever, are they in this sterile, “face-to-face,” “anxiously waiting-for-the-disarm” waiting to pull the trigger, classroom situation.
Ws&H questions for examples…
The Who Question? For the purposes of brevity, let’s loosely list a few general “who’s-who” to get you thinking about this topic. (Remember I am not a psychologist and you must investigate these typologies yourself.)
Psychopath. Someone who might kill in an instant, without remorse, without ritual.
Psychopath who terrorizes. Someone who might kill and wants to enjoy terrorizing someone. There might be a ritual involved.
Realistic actor. Someone who is not a psychopath, but is somewhat “forced” into killing you due to circumstances. He might be resigned to the act.
Reluctant actor. Someone who is not a psychopath, but is really reluctant and really “forced” into killing you due to circumstances. He might be angry or depressed and resigned to the act.
Impulse actors. Various criminal studies state that many criminals have poor impulse control.
We could of course, slice and dice these very generic characterizations forever. But anyone of these might have tip-off tells of what they will do, verbal or physical. Perhaps your best predictive luck or chances are with the realistic and reluctant actors. If a true, cold-blooded psychopath decides to kill you, they might well do so in an instant. No rituals. No tells…just boom. Imagine a hostage situation where there is food for 7 people and he has 8 hostages. Boom, a random death upon discovery of the problem. Now there’s food for 7. If a non-psychopath has to kill you, he might say or do something…specifically at the moment…that is ”ritualistic.”
The What Question? There are numerous examples of what might be said or done.
Verbal. A psychopath may say nothing, or in the terrorizing version, enjoy saying extra-frightening things. Their rituals might be very personal and impossible to understand by sane people. A non-psychopath might ask for somewhat ritualistic things like, “Get down on your knees?” or, “Lay face down,” or “turn-around.” This is because he doesn’t want to fully see or not see your face. It is old military psychology now that you are harder to kill face-to-face for most “normal” people. The reluctant’s voice may get mean with a certain resolve and resignation. This could be because he is actually angry at himself and-or the situation.
Sounds. And this in not just about voice. There is a case in Gaven Debecker’s book The Gift of Fear when a rapist left the victim’s bedroom and turned the volume way up on the living room stereo. The victim realized this increase was to cover the sounds of her murder and screaming. She managed to sneak out of her apartment while the rapist was in the kitchen to get a knife. Translating sounds. What of the sounds of loading or cocking a firearm? Opening a trunk or a van door?
Physical. Sudden deep breaths before actions. Serious facial expression changes. Some might easily be read as a resignation that the reluctant has to kill. A terrorizing psychopath might smile with an enjoyment. It has been observed in a variety of situations that someone holding a long gun at hip level, resigned to murder, will grimace and lift the weapon to shoulder height. They might elevate the pistol from low to high. They could just shoot from the hip. These are last second tells.
The Where Question? First off, a rule of survival, never go from “crime scene A” to “crime scene B.” If you can fight and resist at crime scene A when you discover a planned transport? Do so. B is usually a prepared place of torture and-or death. A psychopath might kill you anywhere, or at crime scene B. A non-psychopath might ritualistically march you off to somewhere else, and often for no real reason. It seems to be a ritual of death to do so. The back room refrigerator of a convenience store for just one example. These marches may take you to a place where there are no sight or sound witnesses.
The When Question? The brewing situation should help a victim tell if an execution is forthcoming. Understanding the overall situation can set the clock for predicting your your planned demise. Many victim can predict their eventual doom by just seeing the face of a criminal.
The How Question? How will the murder be accomplished? Are you being marched off to a cliff? The meat locker? Does the criminal or enemy have a stick? Knife, pistol? Long gun? If so, do you know the common striking, stabbing and shooting positions? How close is the killer standing? Where are you standing? Has he approached with an “angry” strutting walk and face? How will your respond?
The Why Question? By keeping close track of your dilemma, can you anticipate why you need to be killed. Whim? Delight? No witnesses? Revenge? Understanding motives. Think of an on-premise, witness to a crime. Think of a crazed spouse, violating a protective order after many violent threats, showing up at a house with a weapon. Why must things end this way? The killer usually needs a motive, whether you understand the reasons or not. Again, studies show that many criminal have poor impulse control (especially under stressful and emotional situations).
Quick summary I would like for you to think about these Ws&H points. It usually takes about 6 passes of the Ws&H questions to collect satisfactory information. You might get down to the “when” question and you realize you need to reexamine the “who” question again. And we can’t forget that crime patterns, in your region, your city or street, can be a copy-cat ritual. Examine if you will, the many gang shootings in Chicago. How do they unfold?
What might the rituals of pre-death be?
You are cornered, captured, kidnapped and-or taken hostage. Short-term or long-term, and about to killed.
Pre-assault cues can be different than pre-crime cues.
Verbal clues like tones and words.
Visual clues like facial expressions.
Sound clues like weapons preps – racking, chambering.
Area crime patterns may be involved.
Situations that history and common sense lead to executions.
Brewing, overall situations.
Has he approached with an angry walk and face?
Last request questions.
Suddenly being treated nicely. A common – “sorry, good-bye ritual.”
Being marched to questionable and isolated places with a lack of help or witnesses.
Sudden lifting of firearms into common firing positions.
Sudden lifting of sticks, bats, clubs and tool into striking positions.
Sudden drawing of weapons.
…continue to develop your own lists.
On the rituals of suicide. I have probably worked more suicides than murders through the years and they might have their own meaningful rituals and death scenes. Some organized scenes were fascinating and not appropriate for this essay theme. But, recognizing the organized suicide scene and any ritual evidence is important to classify and conclude the case, but again, suicide ritual is another subject.
But I must mention that in the police world, we are long cursed with “suicide by cop” situations. There is suicide by civilian or military also. Whether cop, citizen or soldier, these suicidal people get you to shoot them by presenting you with these same ritual of death moves we cover here, like drawing a weapon, lifting a weapon, marching upon you armed, with angry walks and angry faces. Perhaps over-acted to get your reaction! Recognizing apparent suicidal situations may save you great grief and expense later on.
My goal here in this essay is not to teach weapon disarms, but rather to translate events, see clues and tip-offs, or “tells,” before counters are life-or-death needed. Of course you must exercise all unarmed combatives to solve these problems. Standing, kneeling, sitting, grounded on top, bottom and sides. All must include knowledge of weapon operations, yours and his. All positions must include striking, kicking and what might be called “dirty fighting” or “cheating.” These survival topics transcend typical martial arts found everywhere.
The rituals of death. They are not just about what goes in a funeral mass or at the cemetery after you die. It is also about the last things killers often physically say and-or do, just before they try to kill you, and how you must learn them to stay out of the deep end of a cemetery.
(And I remind you again, I am not a psychologist. Keep researching this and make your own lists. I only wish to provoke thought and planning.)
“I think people need to learn how to hand, stick, knife, gun fight first, then dive into your bobbies, sports and arts later. Get the pure protection, combatives done as a priority.” – Hock
Doing the training process in order that I mention in the above photo and quote has become much easier now than in decades past when a person (such as me) had to slog through 6 or more arts and systems to filter out the real core, generic survival, offensive/defensive material, while adorned in a bevy of different uniforms, rules, hero worship and system worship. Wants and needs. It comes down to a series of “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions.
Whose the best on the subject and will teach you?
What materials? What do I REALLY need? Want? Art? Science? Both?
Where can I go to learn what I want?
When are these classes and courses available?
How will I filter this?
Why am I doing this in the first place?
Wrong place? Wrong people? Wrong mission? In the late 80s, Steven Seagal burst on the scene and broke a guy’s arm in the first few minutes of a movie. I saw “Above the Law” in a theater and knew that very instant that Chuck Norris and Claude Van Damme were done. Chuck went straight to TV and Claude disappeared for awhile to reemerge in B and C movies.
The movie changed and -or motivated a lot of minds. One old friend named Ted for example told me back then, “I wanted to fight like Seagal. I turned my car into the first martial art school I drive by every day and signed up.” But, Ted pulled into a Tae Kwon Do school and very quickly realized he was financially contracted to the wrong place with wrong people, the wrong system for his mission. He had no “who, what, where, when, how and why” going for him. No one there was doing this…this …”Seagal-Fu” as in Aiki-jitsu- Aikido. My point being is that he started something out of an ignorance. What did he want, anyway? And what did he need?
Though I’d been in Parker Kenpo about a year before I went in the army in the early 1970s, the military and police experience really forged my who, what, where, when, how and why mission needs. I needed stuff. Needs that I never saw efficiently fulfilled in one, two, three or more arts. It was a long, hard slog back then to filter. It still isn’t easy really and truth is a daily investigation. But I WANTED what I NEEDED. Not needed to do what I wanted.
Today, Krav Maga is everywhere, though I am not always happy with many versions. It was the genius of Darren Levine who resurrected it into an international business back in the 1990s. He soon lost his “shirt and pants” doing it with insane over-pricing, and he has regrouped a bit since, but you can thank him for your local Krav school, and Krav notoriety, as Krav splintered and splintered and splintered away from him. And, It seems that “combatives” can be found here and there, though again, I am not always happy with the many versions. But, these are groups of folks that have already tried to filter the generics of established systems for you and save you time.
In the same vein, I find the modern-day, MMA of kickboxing, and ground fighting WITH strikes and kicks on the ground, to be diverse, superior and way more on survival mission. No frills. Just winning and what works. Money is at stake! Reputations! It is better than boxing alone. It is better than wrestling alone. But then, still, they have some sport rules and no cheating, no sticks, no knives, no guns!
The overall, international success of Krav, combatives and MMA tells me that a whole lot of people did not, and do not want, to get bogged down in arts, uniforms, abstracts, and that otherwise long slog of off-mission, distracting requirements. I have seen this is the disappearance of, and the slow decline of, old-school, martial arts schools around the world.
Hand. Stick. Knife. Gun. Standing through ground. The laws of your land. Savvy. Awareness. Studies of crime and war. It’s been an evolution I too have been part of, evolving and teaching for 24 years now. A movement. My personal suggestion and advice is one of common sense. Try and get those foundational defense, offense survival stuff first and then move off to more confining hobbies later. Needs first. Then wants.
“Fighting first first, systems second!” Remember that quote? I have used it for 24 years since I emancipated myself from all systems. But, like a college counselor ordering a college kid to take all the college courses in precise order – 101, 102, 103 – and then they simply can’t do that because of filled classes and scheduling, a student takes what he or she can at the time. You too, may have trouble completely doing all unarmed and mixed-weapon combatives first and then arts second. While it is easier these days for you to get right to what you want than in the past, you may have to do this training side-by-side? Generally people are busy with life and can only chip away at this stuff, anyway. Do something rather than nothing. Get off the couch.
Do something. Again, I always say I want people to be happy. Just know where you fit in the big picture. If you told me,
“Yeah Hock, I completely understand what you are saying, but I just want to do traditional ______. I just really love the culture and the country of _______. ”
I am thumbs up with you. Or, one might add to that “love” list,
“Hock, I get it, also just enjoy developing the overall personalities of children.”
Go for it. How about,
“I agree, Hock, but for me, my dream is to be a champ in the UFC.”
May your dream come true! You already know the high regard I have for modern, clean MMA. Unlike the aforementioned Ted, you all get the big picture and can articulate about it. Just know the big picture of “needs and wants.” All martial arts do have abstract benefits. And there are some established, “martial-artsy-named” schools that really try to get survival materials in the curriculum.
So…dance in some kung fus? Throat punch in some combatives? Art? Science? Nuts and bolts? Investigate and figure out what you really need and what you really want to do. Use the “W’s and H” questions. The choices and opportunities are more clear and obvious than ever before.
Finally, a litmus test question – look at it this way. Speaking of college, If you were sending your daughter (or son) off to a big city, college, would you want her to know, so-called “traditional karate?” So-called “Brazilian wrestling?” “Stick versus stick dueling?” Or, so called “unarmed and mixed-weapon, combatives?” What does she really NEED to know, first and foremost? What do you want her to learn, first?
I would like to tell 5 quick, pistol/holster retention stories
Retention story #1:
Several years ago I taught at a major US city police academy, an in-service combatives course. Running there also was the rookie class. There was a woman in this rookie class that was consistently having her pistol taken during defensive tactics classes. Instructors told me she’d purchased a high level (many tricks to draw) retention holster. There were so many twists and turns, pushes and pulls, that she herself could not draw her own gun. Their final qualifications were coming up and she absolutely refused to give up her new safer holster, even though she literally could not pull the gun out on demand! I left before there was a conclusion. My best guess though, is she changed holsters.
Retention story #2
I was teaching a Chicago seminar once that was attended by a large group of area police officers. One of the scenarios I taught was drawing and shooting after your strong-side/gun-side arm had been incapacitated as in injured or shot. You cross-draw, pull your gun with your support hand, taking care not to accidentally insert your pinky into the trigger guard, a common discharge problem from this angle. You either shoot the pistol upside down (can you do this with your pistol?) or use a knee pinch to get the gun right-side-up. We do this standing and on the ground with simulated ammo as the practitioner actually has to shoot a moving, thinking person closing in and/or shooting back. Next came a short break and I saw all the officers over in one corner of the gym, their support arm stretching and reaching unsuccessfully around their backs to pull their pistol. Only the skinniest, most limber, police woman could do it. I asked them what they were doing, and they told me that their guns and holsters were department issue. The holster retention device would not allow for such a frontal, angle removal. That holster company feared that gun takeaways would usually occur from the front. In order to pull the pistol from that model holster, a shooter had to grab the gun pull/angle it back, and then out. This holster prohibited the easy, common sense draw I, and so many others, teach. (And, what about drawing while seated in a car?)
Retention story #3
In the 1990s I was teaching an Air Force SWAT-style team and the San Antonio SWAT team. I was, once again doing simulated ammo scenarios and was doing one on the ground, on my back. I asked for a gun belt and an SAPD officer quickly gave me his. On my back, when time to draw and shoot, I could not remove the pistol from the holster. We all gathered around closely to inspect this. The SWAT officer’s holster had several retention tricks built in. His holster, that company, had also decided that most pistols were removed from the front, requiring a pull backward first, then out. Since I was flat on my back, I could not pull the gun back. No one, all seasoned vets, in the class had thought of this, least of all this SWAT officer until this experiment. One would think that a holster company would put such news on the packaging label and advertisement.
“WARNING! You cannot draw this weapon when down on your back!”
We learned that to draw from such a 3 o’clock, hip holster, you had to roll half-over, or lift your body into a half a crab-walk position.
Retention story #4
“Back in the day,” as a detective, I was working with a fellow investigator on a case when we heard of a very nearby armed robbery on the police radio. We were so close, we actually saw the suspect run from the store. We drove as far as we could to chase him, then had to bail from the car and go on foot. A few fences were jumped and the robber got into a cement factory with a large, open gravel lot, and big trucks. We’d split up, but we both saw the robber stop by a truck as we could see his legs under the truck. We split further apart, circled the truck and drew our guns as we closed in. My partner pulled his .45 out on the run. He pulled the pistol AND paddle holster out and pointed it at the bad guy. He made a violent jerk and the holster flew off the pistol. The robber, facing our two guns, surrendered. We laughed about it later because we were a little crazy back then, but we also learned a lesson about holsters.
Retention story #5 The Sandpit Travesty. One of my officer friends once, lost his pistol and was shot and killed by a fugitive. Without revealing any personal details, this SWAT officer had a retention duty holster on regular duty, but when on a SWAT assignment had a “drop” holster as shown previously, a low, thigh, tactical holster, minus any retention. His pistol was taken in a ground fight and he was shot in the head. Since sad events like this, retention devices started appearing on the most “tactical” of holsters, (even Taser holsters,)
His agency went on a PR, press junket to prove how much they cared about the subject, suggesting that holster retention was so well trained. They filmed a news segment for TV with their officers training in a sandpit. A trainer grabbed a trainee’s holstered pistol and tried to remove it. The trainee held on and basically the two engages in a stupid, standing wrestling match – four hands on a holstered rubber gun. Sometimes falling down in the ruckess.
Perhaps to an ignorant novice, this seemed like terrific, tough-guy, training? But it is not. No one threw a punch, kicked a nut, yanked head hair, popped an eye, or broke a bone. A bad guy wanting to kill you will do all these things. An officer, wanting to stay alive will do all these things. All the things that can not happen full speed in training, but can be partially simulated, yet still are totally ignored. And like you learn to forget to punch in Judo, bad training makes you forget how to survival fight. This is not preparing an officer, or any one toting a gun, to respond properly to a disarm attack.
And that is why, this sort of sandpit style training is a stupid travesty. And it doesn’t have to be in a sandpit either, as you’ll find stupid anywhere.
Words of wisdom – Military vet and weapons instructor Mike Woods sums up by saying, “Buyer Beware. So, if you’re shopping for a holster – as an individual or as an agency buyer – you need to go beyond the ratings and advertising hype by fully understanding how the various security features work. You also need to ask hard questions about the specific tests and criteria that a manufacturer uses to rate their products. Until the industry unites around a single standard, it’s not enough to assume that Brand X’s Level III rating denotes a comparable level of security, durability and quality as Brand Y’s Level III rating. Your choice of duty gear is too critical — and your safety too important – to be influenced by clever marketing. Ask tough questions, get the details, and make sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples.”
Protecting the belt! There are many such stories. Keep your eyes and ears open for them. And, keep experimenting. Just think about handgun/holster retention. In 26 years in line operations, I have had only 5 attempts on my holstered pistol. There are many attempts on record all over the world. It happens. Statistically your odds on an attempt may be like one in 40,000? But if it happens to you? It’s one in one.
Drop it! In police work we are told to never have anything in our gun hand, in case we suddenly have to draw our pistols. But we know that is impossible. Even when writing a simple traffic ticket, both hands are busy. Fortunately, citizens do not live by this advice, this constant edge, as they go about their daily business. But, dear citizen, what if…?
Much later, police trainers then passed around the idea, the realization, that when you drop your hand to pull your gun, you have to open your hand to grab your gun anyway. So, police, military or citizen, if you have something in your hand? Clip board. Grocery bag. Cup of coffee. Cheeseburger. You are going to open your hand anyway. You just have to learn to drop the item as your hand descends to your weapon carry site.
This actually takes a bit of “dropsy” practice. Practice while holding what you think you might hold, then drop and draw. Use live fire first, then switch to safe, simulated ammo of course versus a real live person, but you can make some live-fire reps on targets at the range first, (providing you are somewhere you can draw from a holster, as those no-draw, range rules are increasing. If restricted, all the more reason to at least do this with simulated ammo and dodge those cumbersome range rules.)
Oh, and when making an emergency call? Always use your off-hand to run the cell phone. (I have a simulated ammo scenario for that process too.)
Sometimes we discover that we can chunk the item at the bad guy’s face. But, that option is not always available due to time, space and situation. Lots of people ASSUME they know what their first or next confrontation will be like, and think that a good guy should always throw their hats, coffee, etc. at the bad guy before they draw. Such is an idea with a pre-emptive draw, maybe. It is very situational. But if the bad guy is drawing first, you are already behind the eight-ball of action-beats-reaction, and taking the step of tossing something first, then drawing makes things worse for you. Don’t believe me? Check it put with simulated ammo training.
(The Mexican Hat Toss is a “chunking” old-school classic. I learned this from old FBI agents who were taught to toss their mandatory fedoras at a suspect when appropriate. As the hat flew as a distraction, the pistol came out. They were never photographed doing this, nor was the method in any “public release,” to keep the trick a secret.)
So in your “Drop It” scenario training, have a holstered pistol on your carry site. Hold something in your gun hand. Drop, draw and shoot. Get the drop routine running in your head and hand.
Then it is vital to eventually, as quickly as possible, have a real person in front of you, doing something dangerous for you to properly draw your simulated ammo weapon for the right, justified and legal reasons, not a bell, not a whistle or timer, not flash cards, nor a paper target. A person! (One example of trouble? He crouches for a draw! Hand going to a primary, secondary or tertiary weapon carry site. Anyway, remember an opponent suddenly crouching is always a bad indication of trouble!). Learn, experiment and make a list as to what moves would cause you to legally draw.
Thus, the desperate need for more interactive, safe simulated ammo training. (Simunitions NOT needed here because why would you hurt your training partner 25 times with painful Sims, while he is trying to help you train! Safer methods and ammo required and smarter.)
Live fire is always half your training battle. The other training half is shooting moving, thinking people who want to shoot you, or who are in the act of shooting you with safe ammunition.
Knives have personalities. The generic look. The generic history. Slashing look. Stabbers. The personal attachment look. What is the personality or your knife?
I think there are several factors in knife personalities.
Culture of the knife Personality – One is the culture of the knife. Certain edged weapons have a history, a geographic flavor. Just think of the Japanese Tanto. The Kris. The Bowie knife. The Italian stiletto. The medieval dagger. The double-edged, commando knife. One in the martial business, or the knife aficionados, or makers recognize the aura/genre of many knives. This cultural attraction alone might be a main reason someone buys to collect, or buys to carry a knife. Somehow, some way, the look captures one’s fancy, imagination, expectation or whatever connection to books, movies, TV or past affiliation. Sort of a mysticism we mentally project upon a simple inanimate knife. After all, what makes us select the cars, pants, churches or sports teams we do? We are tribal, particular and peculiar from our hats down to our shoes. Hats and shoes as in style that is, not in size. We can’t change the size of our head or our feet. We can change the size and shape of a knife, but will the size be appropriate for our…”heads” and ”feet?”
Slashing, hacking and stabbing personalities – The shape and size of the knife tells an experienced handler what it can do best. Some are better hackers. Some long, thin ones are better stabbers. Some are wide and are better shaped for slicing. Like a carpet layer needs a certain angle for exactly what is needed, so do all knife users. A novice to so-called, knife “fighting,” a new-be to say, construction work, will not know what kind of knife does what best. Experience and education is called for.
Personal, knife personality examples – I knew a Green Beret, Vietnam vet who passed on standard Army/government issue knives and preferred his old own Bowie Knife, replete with a carved stag handle. It was a family heirloom you might say, and therefore more important to him than any generic, legend of Jim Bowie. He said it gave him a certain power, a certain mojo from which he garnered mental and physical strength. This is a personal touchstone, reminiscent of many cultures, such as some of the native Americans might carry a medicine bag of mojo. Same-same.
Another friend of mind sought an old-fashioned, traditional looking (and hard to open) pocket, folding knife with stag handles, with multiple blades, because his dad had a similar one and it was lost through time. Both, more “personal, private” personality, touchstone selections. Still, with game points awarded for symbolic and personal mojo, on the battlefield or for back porch whittling, the knife size, shape and handle must fall within a scope and range of usable practicality and common sense. Switch this over to a parallel concept – you wouldn’t a pack a flintlock pistol around for self defense, just because you love the early American history era. Extrapolate this idea over to other weapons and survival.
What personality knife do you really need? – Not just want for whatever abstract reason, but need? I think we have to return to the classic, Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions I use all the time to best determine this.
Who are you to need a knife?
Who are you to carry a knife?
What do you really need or want a knife exactly for?
What do you exactly expect to do with this knife?
What training do you have to make this a wise choice?What are the local laws for such a knife? What state and, or country do you live in?
What happens next? You use the knife and what will the police and prosecutors think of the name and look of your knife?
Where will you carry this knife? Job? Protection? Handiness?
Where on your body will you clip, or sheath or cart your knife?
When will you need this knife? Work time? Off-time? Daytime? Nighttime?
How will you acquire this knife?
How will you use it? Do you know how?
Why will you select a specific knife?
Another, longer “what” question. The chicken or the egg? What came first for you? Or, what will come first, if you are just now thinking about knives? That mysterious adulation of …“the knife,” and then a knife training course? Or did you need a knife first for a task first, then seek a training course? This consideration might help clear a path for your knife selection and proper training. The collector, the historian, the practical user, the adulator? Who are you?
But that last line of questioning…the “why.” Why will you select a specific knife? I suggest that you do not make a selection based on looks, genres, eras and or culture alone. I think you should select a knife on its ultimate practicality. Of course if you are a collector looking for this or that showpiece – “I own one! It’s a beauty!” – have fun! (I am not much of a collector of things so I cannot relate to this, but of course, I do understand the hobby.) Or, if you are fanatic about say, old European sword and dagger fighting. Whatever. Get those weapons and mess around with them. Have fun and exercise. Shoot flintlock firearms (just don’t carry them as a self defense weapon).
Knives have personalities – The generic look. The generic history. The personal attachment. If you plan to actually carry and use a knife? Whether on the job as a telephone lineman, a surgeon, a soldier or a cop, or just a citizen with a hankering for a knife, think of them as tools and well…think of them as shoes. You’ll be wearing them too, and like your hat and shoes, you can change the style, but you can’t change the size of your head and feet. Get the appropriate tool/knife. See clearly, be fleet of foot for the trails and paths of life, Kemosabe. Don’t stumble around with the wrong size, else you’ll trip, fall and fail. And like “running with scissors,” running with the wrong knife can be a minor or costly mistake.
On the east side of our city, there ran a series of waterways, storm channels to handle the bad Texas rainstorms. I know some cities don’t have any of these drains, but I guess everyone has seen storm channels in the classic movies and TV shows about Los Angeles. Just like theirs in the City of Angels, ours was an “open top” system, quite wide at parts, deep in sections and branched off into all parts of the city.
The channels were usually dry unless it rained heavily. But like in this photo here, there was usually a skinny stream from somewhere. I have seen them flood and overflow. I have had a few foot chases thru and in, some fights, arrests, and a couple of mishaps down in the dirty ditches. Here’s one such tale.
I once chased down and cuffed a child rapist through those channels, but my first real adventure down below in the water channels … catching an armed robber, way back in the late 70s. There was a series of armed robberies plaguing us on the east side of town, and the detectives were doing the best they could with stakeouts and interviews to break the cases. Solo actor. Big revolver. Black male. In his 30s. Afro. Cheap bandanna over the lower half of the face. We were all convinced that the suspect was a local. No one ever saw a getaway car, and each time the occasional witnesses said the man just melted off into the back lots and alleys behind the businesses.
Several nights a week back then, I rode with another patrolman named Clovis George, a very sharp and real funny guy, a prior border town/city cop down Mexico way. Even back then, the Texican border towns were all hotbeds of all kinds of criminal activity and, yes, drugs, too. The interstate that split our city ran from old Mexico straight up the center of the USA. A drug route then and now, but that’s a whole other story. Clovis had seen a lot of street-level action down there on the border. The George family was big in our city, and he returned home after several years to settle down. Our city produced one Miss America,Phyllis George, and she was his cousin.
Another one of these armed robbery calls went out late one weeknight while we were paired up in one car; and it had us and other cars running every which way hay-wired, trying to find the suspect either running or driving away in a getaway car. Not a clue. A clean escape yet again.
When the dust settled, we drove to a taco outfit and got tacos and some ice tea, sat on our squad car hood, and ate, contemplating the world as it blew by us. We also contemplated the armed robber.
“I’ll bet that squirrelly bastard is jumping down into these dry channels and running right home,” Clovis said between bites.
“I’ll bet we could jump in at one key point and cut him right off,” I said.
Sounded plausible to me, so we made a plan. A large percentage of criminals lived in the nearby projects in our beat, and we drove around to calculate possible routes from Tell Ave. businesses to the government housing districts. We knew the CID stakeouts were spotty and all above ground and vehicle-based. No way the detectives could cover all those locations every night, night after night. So if we were free and patrolling and heard a report of another east-side, armed robbery on our radio, and if our man was indeed a storm channel jumper, we would guesstimate the time and location where the robber would be running, jump in the drains at some point, and stake out that spot.
Well, within a few nights, a chicken restaurant was hit by our lone suspect. Handgun presented. Money grabbed. Mask. In and out. And Clovis and I raced to our own planned stakeout. We parked the squad car and, in a huddled-over combat run, slipped into the open channel by a viaduct at a bend in the system where we couldn’t be seen from afar. There was less than a small stream of water in there. In less than one minute, we heard some splashing and footsteps, and we exchanged surprised expressions like … “well, damn! That could be him!”
And sure enough it was. He rounded that corner huffing and puffing with a paper bag of money in one hand and a revolver in the other. We spread out and hit him with our flashlights’ beams. We pointed our pistols and started shouting,
“Drop the gun, or we’ll kill ya!”
“Drop it or yer dead right there!” Words to that general effect. You know what I mean. And they were true warnings.
Our man dropped his pistol and bag and put his hands up. Bandanna in his back pocket. We cuffed him, hauled him up the side, and “took him in,” as the expression goes.
CID was kind of thrilled. And they took over. Our suspect was not a local as it turned out. He was in from Arkansas visiting locals and thought he’d run up some traveling money while in town. Mask. Gun. Money. Flight. Matching size and clothing description. Wow. Nice little arrest. Hey, three cheers for the Clovis George idea of ditch jumping, all over some tacos and tea.
Through the years, Clovis and I were also detectives together, too. First him, and then me. Starting back in the early 1980s, I had a bit of a reputation for getting a lot of confessions; and Clovis often asked me to partner up with him when he had extra troublesome witnesses and suspects in his cases. Plus, I was his choice when he served an arrest warrant on some of his cases because we knew how to work in unison.
So, we worked these numerous cases together. Always had a blast, too. I remember he had an affinity toward the Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson suit line. He thought he was really styling it in a Carson brand suit. You know what? He was!
We went out with our wives to various country and western establishments in those days, some Tex-Mex locales, and drank way too much as I seem to recall. Admin often made the mistake of sending us to various investigation training schools in Austin, whereupon we had entirely too good a time above and beyond the classes. We’d drive to Austin on Sundays to be in position for class on Monday mornings. On some of the trips we’d bring a small camper’s black and white TV set with us to try and watch the Cowboy’s games in the car on the drive down. It was a war with the rabbit ears for antennas, trying to catch the local channels as we passed through cities on the interstate. Back then, you could legally drink and drive in Texas (not be drunk – just you know – sip up until), and this adventure always included beer. One guy drove and the other guy operated the rabbit ears. What a team! (Imagine doing that today. We would both be serving life sentences.)
Clovis took a few promotion tests while in CID and went back into uniform as a supervisor. He continued his professional career rise, while I, never testing for any rank, remained back in line operations working in the trenches, not unlike the stinky water ditch system where we made the aforementioned arrest.
Then he had a severe heart attack in the early 1990s. He recovered and became a supervisor for our communications division. He also became an avid runner. Then he suddenly died in 2002. The heart again. Couldn’t outrun those genetics no matter how hard he tried. I was working out of the country at the time and missed the funeral.
Many years later our agency developed a truly amazing, modern police academy. They dedicated the police library part in his name, which I thought was just a damn fine idea. Here’s a picture of one of the best Police Chiefs you can find, Lee Howell, dedicating the library with Dana George.
Clovis George was a really good guy, a good friend, and we had a lot of laughs, tacos, beers, and margaritas. Plus, together, we handcuffed a number of felons, too. What more could you possibly ask of a friend? What more?
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.
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