Usually, one breaks their hand when punching the “Bicycle Helmet,” top area of the head. The opponent ducks or ducks-and-turns his head and you, whether thrusting or hooking, when your bare fist hits the “helmet” area, your hand gets jacked up. But here is an odd story of my busted-up finger not near the helmet. (Here, Tom McGrath of the UK is helping me demo this underarm delivery uppercut in Belgium, the centerpiece move of the essay.)
One night I was arresting someone, and he decided to fight me. And in the tussle he threw a pretty lame thrusting punch or push, or perhaps a bad blend of both at me. Anyway, I wound up in this underarm uppercut position – which is a popular training position – and I punched him in the chin. Pretty decent shot as he was bewildered enough for me to yank that arm around his back and handcuff him.
BUT…I remember the sharp pain in my middle finger. While booking him into the jail, it swelled up and of course I knew the lump wasn’t cancer. I knew it was from the guy’s damn, pointy jaw and the solid position his head was in. Well, the swelling went down in a day or two. Pain went away. Another come-and-go.
Through the years though, cysts appeared and disappeared in that space in the space between the middle finger and pointy finger and up the middle finger. Small-sized and medium-sized. I thought it weird, but they eventually came and went away too. Then one month, one lump got so big that I really couldn’t do much with those fingers. When I couldn’t put stamps on envelopes, I decided to see a hand doctor.
Diagnosis? That punch from many years back put a hairline fracture in my finger bone from the knuckle to first joint. The fracture edges were rough with growing bone spurs and the spurs caused cysts. Cure? Hand Operation! Remove the growing octopus of a cyst and shave the bone. Nothing to fix with the hairline fracture which I gather was naturally, “glued” somewhat together from time. (Yes, the cyst in a jar he showed me looked like a min-octopus.)
We hear a lot about broken hands-fingers from fights, and I have had a few classic hand swellings from punching people on the job, but when punching I never had common breaking problems many other cops (or people) had, which was kind “blind-concept punching,” I guess you could call it. From training I just aimed lower and held a tighter fist (tips from old ku-roty). I just had this lasting one problem, one I think rather uncommon for me, from an uppercut, down below the “helmet.”
I don’t want to start a long scientific punch vs. palm strike dissertation here, nor create the martial hand damage medical list. I am not against bare-knuckle punching. Other than the “helmet area,” heads usually do “give” when struck, jaws give, necks allows for movement, but there’s much less give in that bicycle helmet area. People see…INCOMING! and reflexively drop their face. Where the nose once was is now the “helmet head!
Fists must be tight, not loose as bad habits create inside boxing gloves. (Bad habit, ask Tyson.) When we fight for real, we won’t be wearing gloves and a mouthpiece and bare knuckle fighting is a real-deal, end challenge. Prep for it yes, but I don’t think we should destroy our knuckles and hands hitting hard things that don’t give-way somewhat, as done for decades like with old school karate-kung fu people. (I know old-timers that cannot hold a cup of coffee in their hands today from makiwara boards and the like. There were times when monster knuckles were badges of honor.)
Tone that down! You don’t want to meet the “Situs Brothers – Arthur and Burr” in your 50s and 60s. Rather we have to “strike” a compromise, pun intended.
I also think instructors should take a look at their practitioner’s hands and inspect the size, shape and potential for real-world punching. Some people ae structured to punch tanks, others have little thimbles for fists and should not trust punching anything, despite the endless focus mitt and bag drills they are forced to do. In the end, your job is to build customized, personal success as a doctrine, not replicate cookie-cutter dogma results. One size does not fit all. One system does not fit all. One sized fist training does not fit all.
Anyway, all’s well with that finger now. Hey, remember the bicycle helmet area advice! Aim lower. Tight fist.
If you are a FMA “stick versus-stick-fighter,” I think, about…ohhh…80%…85% (?) of the stick material typical taught, thee so-called by many – “fancy stuff,” fancy follow-up stuff is meant for the seconds AFTER your opponent is busted in the head (no soft sticks and-or no helmets) or busted somewhere painfully vital, that will diminish his speed and brains. The head shot (or any real diminishing blow) is the missing link between sparring and the follow-ups.
Do you know this, realize this, can you articulate this as doctrine to the shallow naysayers who belittle follow-ups? I think this “diminished fighter” message should be one of an FMA system’s “Ten Commandments.”
Lots of folks prioritize sparring as the initial, most important encounter (I think it is very important) but then many belittle a lot closer quarter stick moves (the 80%) like disarming, stick grabs, trapping, grappling, etc. as impossible because “oh, you can’t do that when actually stick sparring.”
Some follow-up material examples:
Checking the guy’s other hand, or maybe-
Catching his stick, or maybe-
Disarming with any of the 5 big disarms, or maybe-
Going 2, 3 deep to finishing blows or kicks, or maybe-
Any takedowns-throws, or maybe-
A standing to ground capture or finish, or maybe-
A stunning blow or two sets up everything in the martial world, why not here too? A good stunning, crack on the bare head changes everything, opens up the follow-up world. Stick sparring with protective safety gear does protect against a real, full diminishment. A head shot from a soft stick to a helmet or say – to a hockey-gloved hand is not a real-deal, it’s a practice deal (unless you are playing for points?). And such protected play probably won’t replicate the damage you really need to move in and do the 80% stuff. Folks want to believe that stick sparring is the “realest of deal-ests,” but it fails here at the missing link point. This “diminished fighter” concept must be recognized in FMA stick doctrine so that you can indeed do some of the 80% material against a wounded opponent. Wound him enough you might even tie his shoe laces together.
Some of our great, super-athletic, gifted, obsessed FMA-ers can go deep at “Superman speed” and execute some of that 80% collection without a head shot (of course this depends on the skill of the opponent, a rookie might be easily invaded). But fighting the diminished fighter is an important step to winning-surviving. I am not so gifted, not Superman and probably most of you aren’t either so we would need to (theoretically-simulate) bust some heads to move in and trap, catch, disarm, stick-grapple, etc.
FANNNNN-CY!This missing link which usually allows for a range change and finishes is just common sense but I am not sure all FMA-ers, new or old, know, teach, and proudly pontificate on this commandment. We cannot really hurt our friends in training. We SIMULATE the head shot (or whatever serious blow)! We segment the training. We don’t emphasize or fully recognize enough the missing link between segments that makes the second segment…work.
(Yes, that is tissue in my ears in this photo above. Sometimes I get stuck teaching without hearing protection in a room full of banging sticks. Decades of this banging contributes to a hearing loss, which I have. Warning! Hey, keep score of your ears.)
(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.
For decades now, I have spotted “sloppiness, bad structure here and there in training, be it during my old Texas school of the 80s and 90s, or years on the road in seminars. Dropping hands. Sloppy finishes of strikes, or striking sets. For some people this is not a problem as they return to integrity after each move.
Others? Not so much. I have taped a boxing glove to a stick, stood behind a feeder and clobbered trainees that don’t cover themselves well when punching and kicking mitts, pads, shields. The recalcitrant, seeing me behind the trainer, seeing this pending boom, suddenly seem to cover well, but often when I walk away? The sloppiness might return?
I can only hope that when before a real threat, they also worry not about a boom stick, but about a real punch, and they also cover so well? But, boom stick or not, in training mitt drills, in kicking shield drills, they/you must maintain good integrity and structure for good habits.
Just about everyone knows by now, that “bare-knuckle” punching upon parts of the head can be damaging. Specifically I like to remind people that it is the “bicycle helmet” area of the skull, especially prominent, especially manifesting, when an opponent naturally ducks or ducks-and-turns versus your punches. You hit the “helmet.” Broken hands. Split knuckle breaks. Etc. (Boxing gloves hide all this angst.)
Otherwise, lower, the jaw moves and the head can move when punched, helping to “cushion” your punches – jeez – is cushion is a good word for it? “Gives,” maybe? The head “gives,” or “gives-way” with lower punches. (Think about why we wear mouthpieces.)
There are just times when the neck gets solid, coupled with the ducking “bike helmet zone” and punching folks break their hands. I really don’t want to dissect this, you know, start the tiresome, age-old debate about palm-strikes versus punches again here…what I really want to specifically mention here is, tell a simple tale about uppercuts to the jaw. What if the head, neck, jaw, even shoulders tighten up versus an incoming uppercut, punch?
Decades ago I had to punch a guy I was arresting. An uppercut under his arm like in this photo. My hand hit his particularly sharp jaw and instantly hurt my “middle finger.” While I was booking him into jail, I looked at his jaw. Real pointy, for what that’s worth. Years later? I had surgery to fix this finger. I have hit a few “heads though time,” closed fist punches and had no other – zero- hand injuries. (They can be done.) Once, a swollen ring finger. But nothing serious. Then, a middle finger problem on my right hand seems to have gone away with time. But this one uppercut caused years of on-again/off-again discomfort. Then surgery.
So, way back then, I began to consider and list uppercuts as a tricky head punch along with hitting the bicycle helmet area of the head. I would be remiss not to mention while on this subject that that the uppercut usually/often causes the head to whip back and forth, not leaving the head back for follow-ups, such as a high hook, unless you are super fast. A number of combatives people, trying to set up scenarios, often do not know this.
Recently one of my friends, a pro-fighter whose name you’d recognize, wearing the regulation MMA gloves, threw an uppercut to a jaw in a pro fight. He broke his hand. Here is his x-ray. He passed it to me for educational purposes and I now pass it to you. But we are not sure yet if we should release his name for a host of reasons. Maybe later. He does hit really hard. Word is the other guy saw it coming and “hunkered” down. SNAP!
File under: Uppercuts to the jaw. File under: Punches to the “bicycle helmet” area of the head. File under: Head, jaw, neck, even shoulders when punched
Hock’s email is HockHochheim@Forcenecessary.com
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First off that’s me and the “Irreplaceable” Tim Llacuna in March, 2018’s big Central California Stick seminar weekend at Ron Esteller’s Kaju. Though the Bay Area, CA seminar that weekend was listed as Force Necessary: Stick, I also promised a little segment on Filipino stick too, just to round things off. And, as a result, we got a request for…Filipino Sumbrada. And since I “sing for my supper” as Sinatra use to say, so we, by God, did us some Sumbrada.
Which…can be complicated for some folks to do such things. I am not a fan of Sumbrada, per say. I certainly do not believe it should be the foundation format for a system, as it somehow is for some, which I find short-sighted. It is but one drill in a bunch of skill drills/exercises. It has been declared a “dead drill,” blah, blah, blah and yes, to some extent I agree with these naysayers. But it is still a very universal drill for many, many Filipino systems and I…in good conscious, cannot put a PAC/Filipino practitioner out on the street that doesn’t know about Sumbrada and hasn’t fooled with it. I just…can’t. I’ve been forced, more or less, to mess with it since 1986 and that is why. It does develop a few healthy attack recognitions and mannerisms.
I first learned Sumbrada from Paul Vunak in the 1980s. Sumbrada means a few things, like “counter for counter” and sort of like “shadowing.” Sumbrada range is when the tip of your stick can touch the opponent’s head and your hand can touch the opponent’s hand. That hand contact is a very deep subject. People tend to forget that on the end of all these drills, you break the pattern. Like the Bruce Lee example, folks get busy looking at the finger and not the moon, people get too busy worrying over the pattern and forget you are supposed to free-style fight.
In that FMA-PAC course I require folks do hand sumbrada, single stick sumbrada, double stick sumbrada, Knife sumbrada, espada y daga sumbrada. And, we make folks do at least three inserts/interruptions for each, all in Level 7 of the PAC course. Sumbrada is just another exercise, among many exercises, which include wind sprints and chin-ups and beating tires and war posts, etc. Doing too much of one thing and not enough of other things is the real problem.
But the Force Necessary: Stick course is NOT Filipino martial arts stuff. There is no sumbrada in FN: Stick. The FN: Stick course is laid out this way:
Impact weapon vs hand
Impact weapon vs stick (rare, huh?)
Impact weapon vs knife
Impact weapon vs gun threats
Level 1: Impact Weapons & their Stress Quick Draws Level 2: Stick Retention Primer Level 3: Stick Blocking Primer Level 4: Single Hand Grip Striking Primer Level 5: Riot Stick (Double Hand Grip) Level 6: “While Holding,” Supporting the Stick Level 7: The Push Series Grappling & Spartan Module Level 8: The Pull Series Grappling & “Chain of the Stick” Level 9: The Turn Series Grappling & “In the Clutches” Level 10: The “Black Belt” Combat Scenario Test Level 11: Intensive Stick Ground Fighting Level 12: “Crossing Sticks” Stick Dueling Expertise Level 13: …and up…levels upon Individual request