Attacking the Neck for Restraints, Takedowns and Chokes
A martialist must have a working knowledge about the anatomy, physicality and the law when it comes to wrapping arms around the neck for any reason, a walk-away, takedown and/or any choke. Here is quick, mandatory report on what you should know on the subject in general.
First, I would like to establish my anecdotal experience. I am from an era, starting in the 1970s in martial arts and police work where chokes were very popular and roughly trained. A choke was a go-to, common enforcement move and in 26 years I have choked out about 10-12 or so people. That is not a lot, As an obsessive martial artist, training and experience has helped me use alternatives to choking. But I have witnessed and partaken in some 40 or more. Every suspect quickly recovered as we were taught to monitor the suspect’s responses. And I have been attacked by a few chokeholds, most during during arrests (read on for the worst). And in those olden training times, it was not uncommon to be accidentally choked out (and knocked out) sometimes in class. Times have changed.
Chokes were treated very flippantly in those olden times. Sadly, in the recent decades that followed, for whatever reasons – be they a lack of knowledge-training, etc., simple chokes have caused damages and deaths that have enraged into socio-political, national and international uproars. You do not want you or your students, compatriots and-or employees to be a part of such uproars. Results may include imprisonment these days, by ignoring the facts. Chokes are risky yes, but, still, a martialist must have a working knowledge of chokes and non-choke, neck grabs.
While such sport-choke and related sport neck takedown methods are useful to practice and know, they are small in comparison to self defense, crime, law and war problem-solving. So, this subject-study will include civilian, enforcement and military realities, as well as generic, applications of arm wrap, chokes and neck grabs.
Due to popularity and fandom of martial arts sports, most of the neck-related, training attention, time-hubris is spent on sport tap-out chokes down on the mats to win matches and pro fights. This sports version eats up “all the oxygen” (if you will pardon the pun) in youtube videos and internet searches. Several martial arts will claim there are “100s” of chokes, but no. Instead, there might be hundreds of chess-like approaches and situations to inch into these chokes. The choke itself is “checkers simple.” Blood and air.
And important – all neck attacks are not chokes…however, neck attacks are loosely, flippantly called “chokes” or “chokeholds” by many. We’ll be looking at the common arm-related ones not crushing-hand chokes, but crushing hand chokes might cause similar injuries as arm wraps.(It should also be noted here that choking by the hands not arms is a very big domestic violence problem. That’s another essay. But generically speaking, the injuries are very the same.)
The big two… for our rear arm wrap attack and takedown essay and yes – as well as grounded problems, here are two main neck arm-wrap-grabs for rear chokes and takedowns. See the drawings below, single arm and double arm wraps. You will find there are numerous nicknames for chokes. Some do help identify the move-position. Blood chokes are often called “sleepers” because the “chokee” thinks he is really just neck-uncomfortable and still okay… and… and… he’s out. While an air choke will probably cause the chokee to “air swim,” like he is drowning on dry land.
What are the legal and medical definitions? Law Insider defines a neck restraint as “the use of any body part or object to attempt to control or disable a person by applying pressure against the neck, including the trachea and-or carotid artery with the purpose, intent, or effect of controlling or restricting the person’s movement or restricting the person’s blood flow or breathing, including chokeholds, carotid restraints, and lateral vascular neck restraints.” (For the record, a “Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint® (LVNR®) is a control technique applied to the sides of the neck, using a combination of physiological factors to restrict blood flow to the brain which may cause the subject to lose consciousness.)
Dr. Google defines choking as a strangulation. “Strangling cuts off the flow of oxygen to the brain in one or more ways. Strangulation compresses the carotid artery or jugular veins, resulting in cerebral ischemia. Cerebral ischemia is caused by disruption of the blood supply, and thus oxygen, to the brain, particularly the cerebrum. Global ischemia is caused by cardiac arrest, shock, carotid occlusion,hypotension, asphyxia, or anemia. Focal cerebral ischemia is usually related to cerebral vascular atherosclerosis. Strangulation is defined as asphyxia by closure of the blood vessels and/or air passages of the neck as a result of external pressure on the neck.”
Non-choke neck grabs, restraints and takedowns can look like attempts at unconscious choking, but can be just temporary control measures. You can just remove-escort or takedown people via the neck area without choking them. Or you can follow up a takedown that includes a choke. With your decision to squeeze-choke the neck, your legal and medical strangulation clock is ticking…
Tick-Tock…. In May, 2023, a former U. S. Marine interrupted a disturbance and threats on a New York City subway with a choke, one that according to witnesses the hold lasted 15 minutes. The person died. The Marine disputes the time length and denies lethal intent, but nonetheless the man died. This caused a serious socio-political incident and put the Marine under indictment for murder. One must be very cautious when doing any neck wrap choke-contact for criminal and civil problems. Did a restraint slip into a prolonged blood choke or an air choke? Did the hold last too long?
Very Well Health reports that, a “A medical evaluation is crucial if someone’s been strangled. An injury to the trachea may not appear to be serious right away, but swelling in the tissues around the trachea can lead to a secondary restriction of airflow a few minutes after the neck is free.”
So how long can you squeeze? Police files report officers that have blood-choked suspects held for 30 seconds have died. That’s a short time. But shorter times are on record. There are other times the suspects hang on, struggling for longer. The old and general advice with a blood choke is to monitor the opponent. You can feel when someone “goes to sleep.”
How long is long then? “A 17-member panel of submission experts (including BJJ black belts, experienced grapplers, former MMA athletes, and medical professionals) analysed 81 UFC matches between 1993 and 2020 that ended in strangulation submission due to a LOC (as opposed to tapping). Each examiner reviewed each film (blinded to the other’s interpretation) to determine the time between full application of the technique and LOC. The mean time to LOC was 9.0 seconds, with a standard deviation of 2.5s. (Note: this had to have included ground chokes and this section of Level 2 takedowns is only covering standing rear arm wrap chokes. Still we can glean related information.) These results were consistent with previous studies in compliant volunteers, indicating that skillful application of a choking/strangulation technique will cause LOC regardless of defense mechanism…the triangle choke (probably down on the mat) displayed a significantly faster time to LOC of 7.2 seconds.” – Sam Gilbert
Crushing the trachea can cause death. There are incidents on police records of officers who are relatively untrained in this subject matter and they have accidentally crushed the trachea. The damage can range from minor vocal cord weakness to fractures of the larynx or trachea. These fractures can cause air to escape into the neck and chest, leading to significant respiratory compromise and even death if not treated quickly.
Basic neck structure injuries too… As I have mentioned not all neck-related, rear pull takedowns involve blood and air restraint, choke-to-unconsciousness intent. In terms of using the neck for takedowns and counters, in some cases you must worry about damaging the neck skeletal structure. But non-chokes are not without some medical, legal and civil law dangers.
The most damaging neck takedown I have seen and had done on me, thankfully incorrectly, is what was once called the “Ranger Takedown.” In the remote northern areas of South Korea, a criminal Army Sergeant snatched up my throat from behind with a single forearm across my neck and jumped back, as diagrammed here to the left. In the taught move, the Ranger lands on his chest. The enemy soldier lands on his back. Neck? Snapped or very badly broken. I landed instead down on my side, saving my neck, with his forearm across my windpipe. he continued to choke me. Since his hand was somewhat next to my chin, I broke a finger on his wrapping arm causing him to release me. For such escapes, always breaking a finger is not possible and will not always work, but it did for me that time.
I tell you this to explain the worst-case scenario of what a single arm, (or double arm,) rear neck-wrap takedown can do at its most “bone-damaging.” You can still single or double arm throat pull, slower, and NOT land flat down into this death move, but rather make space and pull him slowly down on his back, with you remaining bent-half-standing or kneeling. Blood choke if you must, but let go at the right instant.
Other related neck structure injuries? I know of a few rather world famous, life-long MMA champs that have stents placed in their trachea due to decades of rough training simulated chokes, and real competition chokes. This operation is called a tracheostomy.
Dr. Earl Morgan, Forensic medicine (and a Judo Black belt) adds…”In all of the combative grappling sports the “choke” hold rules require varying degrees of cervical spine protection. Of course, what makes repetitive chokes in combative grappling so safe (in class) is the health and conditioning of young martial artists. My college judo coach cautioned me to seriously consider allowing chokes in anyone over the age of 40. At the time I was in my 20’s and had no idea what the big deal was. He also spoke of the ‘40-year syndrome.’ This is where you turn 40 and suddenly you have all the aches and pains from all the ways you abused yourself when you were young, whether with drugs, alcohol, athletics, manual labor or other factors, it doesn’t matter. He was a much wiser man than I realized.”
Worrying about the counters… Through the decades in training various counters to chokes and side neck guillotines, I noticed that complying savvy workout partners, always let go of their friend-trainee’s necks when they are flipped or tripped. I don’t think many real-world opponent’s will let go of your neck, instead they reflexively hang on (to anything!) as they lose their balance. This means serious neck cranks, not seen or warned in training class. This innocent-helpful, classroom, “let go” practice leads to misleading and dangerous reality results. There is a lot that can happen between step 3 and step 4, in the drawing to right-above. After issuing similar safety concerns publically about this in the past, I received numerous reports of minor to major injuries from people countering chokes in classes. (I also heard from macho, low I.Q., half-wits denouncing me as a wus. Do they denounce Bass Rutten as a wus too?)
Even MMA great Bass Rutten wisely warns on record and on film, after demonstrating counter-choke flips like the ones shown on the right and above, that you might break your neck if the choker holds on as he flips. Needless to say a taller, stronger, heavier enemy probably won’t be so easily flipped over you. And, your body drop to flip him over could leave you… “hanging.” All practitioners should examine suggested choke counters for neck safety.
Banning chokes...I have been paid by some police agencies through the years to write subject-matter-expert studies on the validity of neck restraints and chokes. In some jurisdictions worldwide police agencies have continued to defend the use of the carotid restraint hold for decades, claiming that it is safer and more effective than using a police baton, taser, or pepper spray. Other jurisdictions have banned its use entirely while still other jurisdictions have ruled that it may only be used in extreme situations where deadly force is justified.
Most enforcement agencies worldwide have banned this “choke’ tactic (or any neck contact for that matter) for many years now. Some allowances exist for when the officer is faced with deadly force. Yet, in a strange Catch-22 circle jerk, these last-resort, life saving choke options are still NEVER TAUGHT, for fear of…being publically seen-caught just teaching the dreaded chokes!
There are some departments that allow these no-choke, neck-grabs and even neck-squeezing controls on unruly suspects and detainees, and a tiny percentage of people continue to suffer temporary and-or grave injury and death. Due to these virtually devastating socio-political problems from these “I can’t breathe” accidental deaths, and due to the rodeo-like wrestling of suspects, a blood choke can often accidentally twist and slip into a throat choke-crush. Because of this slipping mishap, I must warn police administrations against the common use of chokes in less-than-lethal situations. This usually translates to an admin – “leave the whole neck alone unless you are being killed” policy. Don’t blame me for my warning. Train your troops!
At least think about this...In a military context, other than when trying to capture prisoners, a choke is a strangulation meant to kill the enemy. But for citizens? These same legal-test concerns hold true for citizens. Civilians must be justified under a reasonable dire threat to windpipe choke someone. If you can’t comprehend the facts here, or be able to consider, discuss, teach and articulate them, you and yours might someday be in moral, ethical and legal (jail and lawsuit) dilemmas.
(This essay on non-choke and choke related neck wraps rear takedowns appear in Level 2 of my Force Necessary:Hand course, thus the essay here, which appears in the outline and my upcoming Unarmed Combatives book in 2024.)
I am again hearing the start of Presidential nominee campaigns and that one cute repeated question, “What is your favorite Constitutional amendment?” I sometimes wonder how I suddenly would answer that question. In a strange way it’s like asking,
- 1: Strategy
- 2: Morality
- 3: Legality
- 4: Ethically
- What is your mission?
- What is your doctrine?
- What is your end-user product?
- What are you trying to “make” of yourself and students advertantly and…inadvertantly?
An Orderly or Tactical Retreat, (safely walking or running away!) Stay or retreat? A retreat has several definitions, like “retrograde” movements or a more modern “tactical retreat.” Usually, these definitions suggest that one retreats from a superior force in battle. Military. In today’s civilian world, remaining to fight and take action, may become a physical, legal (criminal law and civil law) nightmare and monetary problem. Winning and the law are often at odds.
Whatever the terms, retro, orderly or tactical, it still means you leave, escape, withdraw, whatever, with the best plan to do so. For a smaller, personal situation an orderly retreat is leaving a confrontation, safely and without being chased, at all, or much.
“Just run away!” these pseudo experts will say. But, just how far can you run? How fast? How long?
The law will ask, if there’s trouble, why did you go there and why are you still there? Can you leave people behind? Will you be leaving family, friends and comrades behind? Can you leave? Should you leave? Sometimes you can’t leave. Your choice is highly situational. Think of any violent situation from a fistfight to a crime, to an active shooter, on to war and ask these questions about staying or leaving?
- Who are you and who will you stay or retreat from?
- Who will you leave behind?
- What is happening that causes you to stay or retreat?
- Where is this happening that might cause you to stay or retreat
- Where will you retreat to?
- When is this happening that might cause you to stay or retreat
- When will this be over?
- How will staying or retreating unfold?
- How will this end?
- How far and fast can you run? Can he run?
- Why is it important enough to stay or go?
How exactly will you retreat? If you stay, there will be violence. If you go? Best go in an orderly fashion. When you add the term “orderly,” it speaks of significant specifics. What is this “orderly” version? An orderly retreat?
For one classic explanation, we can learn from Alexander the Great. His army suffered very few casualties and inflicted death upon some say 1.2 million soldiers more in comparison. The differences in death tolls were remarkable.
In his beginning battles he had some large causalities usually from chaotic retreats. When his troops hit their perceived “breaking point,” hey turned and they scattered, most were killed from behind, running in disorderly retreats. Long known, psychological factors reveal that it is easier to “kill from a distance” and to “kill from behind,” without seeing a person’s face, without seeing a “personality.” (This relates to crime also.) Then, Alexander adopted he Macedonian Phalanx, an infantry formation some historians say developed by his father Philip II, then some say the Sumerians. It consisted of blocks of heavily armed infantry standing tightly shoulder to shoulder in files several ranks deep. The blocks advanced. The blocks retreated by remaining in a tight Phalanx, still facing the enemy and moving backwards in formations, rather than splitting up, turning their backs and running away. This organized or orderly retreat principle has held true in crime and war.
Simply turning and running away, sounds like good advice, but how far and fast can you run, and such may make you easier to be killed, and may ignite an anger, and/or ignite a hunter-chase mentality in a criminal or a enemy soldier. Departing, withdrawing as smartly as possible is better choice.
Turning and leaving. In the martial word, just turning from a too close opponent standing or down on the floor-ground, is “giving up your back” and means something specific to martialists – exposing your back is an invitation to be choked. In crime and war your turned back make you easier to be beaten, captured or be killed. When you turn to leave, it should be done by first backing away in some manner to a safe distance and then turning to leaving.
When you turn to leave, it should be done by first backing away to a safe distance and then turning. That’s about the best universal advice we can offer for an orderly retreat, everything else is ever so situational. How do you do this retreat all the time? There is no one universal answer. It is highly situational. After studying the Ws and H retreat questions, then examine these options.
- 1: Back away, still facing the opposition with de-escalation words? That may work sometimes.
- 2: Back away, still facing the opposition saying nothing? That may work sometimes.
- 3: Back away, still facing the opposition with threatening words? That may work sometimes.
- 4: Pre-emptive strike. Then back away, still facing, then turn. That may work.
- 5: You are thrown down. You get up, then pick one of the four choices above. That may work sometimes.
- 6: You beat the holy hell out of the opposition. Then pick one of the choices as to if and when to leave. That may work sometimes.
- 7: Your draw and presentation of a knife or a gun has a good success rate of freezing the opposition. How about any expedient weapon? Then pick one of the choices above to leave. That may work.
- 8: This course is an unarmed course but pick up a nearby expedient weapon. This has a good success rate of freezing the opposition. Then pick one among the choices above to leave. That may work sometimes.
If no physical contact is made yet, we are still in the Stop 1 parameters and leaving the projected fight scene before it starts, is a quintessential Stop 1 situation-problem. But the option to leave may occur in any of the Stops, Stop 2 through Stop 6.
My old friend and advisor Colonel “Hack” Hackworth, vet of WW II, Korea and Vietnam, and at one time, the most decorated U.S. Army soldier, always had a “go to hell,” plan – for when things went to hell and that plan always included the best escape under the worst circumstances. He told me,
“Hock, sometimes you gotta’ blow the horn,” (the horn being thetrumpet of retreat.) “Always have a go-to hell plan, and another one when that one goes to hell too.”
“For he that fights and runs away, May live to fight another day.” This is attributed to Demosthenes, an epic Greek orator. Sometimes even heroes with the most hardcore, “never say die,” mottos are smart to retreat. Every stand-off, showdown and ambush is different. There is no one equation to retreat It’s all situational. All we can suggest is that if you can, if not escaping an active shooter or a bomb, you conduct an orderly, smart retreat should you decide to retreat. Face the person with words and command presence, a knife, or a stick, or a gun and back away. When a considerable distance is achieved then you might turn and leave. Sometimes with a weapon, you might even successfully order the aggressor to leave and he might comply under threat.
There is no one way to prescribe any one universal orderly retreat, but it is important to understand the concept, teach the idea, and develop and practice some real, “go to hell,” plans.
My first Guro Dan Inosanto seminar was in 1986 and he told a story about his high school football team. (I forget the pro players he mentioned). He said that he was a running back and kept crashing into the defense. The coach asked him why did he run the ball that way? Inosanto replied,
- “I want to be like my hero ‘Joe Jones.’”
- “Dan you’re 5’5.” Jones in 6’3”. Pick a smaller hero,” the coach said.
Dan did pick and with that advice and he broke many state-wide, California high school running back records. He also added once that his coach made them run up and down steep hills in practice and to run down the hill as fast as possible. Since it was a hill, you ran faster down than on flat ground. Inosanto said it was “a bit like flying.” The coach told them to “remember that feeling of that speed. Mimic it.” (You usually learn a lot of related things at an Inosanto seminar.)
There are dreams of advancing, then there are tools to become advanced. Who knows those tools? I’d never thought much about these things before then. I also, needless to say, wanted to mimic Dan in terms of his knowledge, teaching and overall “cool.”
Improving. I mean, we all knew back then to weight lift to “get stronger,” and to run for endurance. What else? Well, repetition was important. But then who or what were we repeating? Mimicking? What of dedicated inspirations, guidance? Sure there was the Bible and Zig Zigler back then, but I’d never thought about codifying these diverse training ideas, inspirations and tools before 1986. They came very scattered. I was not alone.
I grew up in the New York City area where one could play baseball and football endlessly through countless organized leagues of all ages. I was playing baseball until I was 18 years old, among guys in their 20s and 30s in money-sponsored teams. (I left the area at about 18.) During these times, I and all others were under the influence of numerous coaches, and none had any real savvy about serious, performance coaching, a “teaching I.Q.,”even in high school where baseball, football and wrestling were big. Sure there were tips and some mistake-fixing yes, but not like today.
They’d say, “Playing is learning,” and we hear similar with martial expressions like “Learn to fight by fighting.” But that tops out too at-with your natural level of athleticism. Remember the prematurely athletic teen that was always the superstar high school quarterback? But 99.999% of them end up working in a factory. They topped out in high school. How to advance? Most coaches back then could not perpetuate such advancement. It seemed like much “mimicry” was a main teaching tool back then. “See how ‘so-and-so’ does it. He’s successful.”
One of my goals was to play third base – “the hot corner” – in baseball. A place known to receive a lot of fast ground balls and line drives. The throw was long to first base. It was a hard position, but I wanted to play there. And I did, especially after my long and lanky teen self had troubles as a catcher, because I was very long and very lanky. Many sports and spots depend on your size and shape. Fact of life. I then mimicked 3rd baseman Clete Boyer of the Yankees and I did well enough. One day I saw Boyer dive full-out to catch a fast foul ball. It was foul! Why not let it go? I realized that inside Boyers mind, at the crack of the bat, he was going to catch EVERY ball that came his way. Every one. He couldn’t stop to think at the hot corner, just – BALL! CATCH! He couldn’t help himself that the ball went foul. He HAD to get it. That idea inspired me. Moved me. An epiphany. No coach ever told me that stuff, told us this stuff. So, I mimicked Clete Boyer, but without step-by-step “teaching technology,” I would never surpass a certain level. It seems epiphanies – those rare emotional, intellectual touchstone, inspirational moments – are rare.
Teaching I.Q.? Teaching technology? Take Willie Stargell for exampIe. I also followed Stargell of the Pittsburg Pirates. I stumbled upon a book about Stargell – there were several – and for the first time this particular writer discussed a performance shift in his aging career. He’d had an amazing career but suffered the usual slowdown with age. The Pirates were looking to move him to first base and maybe even benching him some. But that winter, many, many decades ago, Stargell attended one of the first baseball training camps, which at the time, way back when, were new and ignored, but Willie paid in.
The coaches and Willie identified every single thing in baseball he might face, every little episode, every event. Catching a ball this way or that way. Running from first base to second base, first to third, etc. To my memory they identified some 30-40 specific events, very big and very small. And, during that off-season at this ground-breaking camp, Willie did every one, 100 times each, almost every work day, under their watchful eyes. As a result, he had a rebirth in performance and played several more years successfully. He went back every off-season until other factors, mostly age, interfered. Wow. Another epiphany for me. Tools. Steps. Skill exercises, big and small. Set me to thinking about diverse applications in teaching. Teaching technology, so to speak.
Thank goodness since then, this skill development, this training methodology really caught on, widespread, even down to grassroots, neighborhood league coaching. Officially! (When I coached my kids’ baseball teams I made it a point to take players aside and work on specifics in sessions.) For the last few decades we see this influence in every sport. Records of almost every sort have been broken. The talented continued to improve, The mediocre became better. The lost became at least, found. I also noted such advancements in high school, college and pro football. In the last decades we hear professonal football players talk about the difficult leaps in training from high school, to college to the pros. These methods are all another good form of mimicry too. Mimic the pros’ training methods, not just performance.
Are you way too lanky, tall and skinny to be the baseball catcher? There are reasons most succesful catchers are shaped as they are. We have to remember we are all different. Basic boxing is much the same, but Mike Tyson should not fight like Muhammed Ali, and vice-versa. Dan Inosanto should not run the football like Joe Jones. Don’t over-train in tennis to be a basketball player. Reduce the abstract. Isolate the skill steps and build them. In the Who, What, Were, When, How and Why questions I live for, this is a big “who question.” Who are you? Shape, size, age, strength, etc. Who do you mimic?
Who are your heroes and to what end? Coaches and teachers in these essentially cookie-cutter, sports and martial arts programs must be careful and recognize these differences. Is your “ku-roty” or combatives or self defense teacher a super-star athelete, power-lifter that oh-so does-looks the part? And…you’re not…can you recognize these reaities?
This is why I am obsessed with identifying and teaching the universal, versatile, achievable, core, survival basics foremost. What can most people do? Grasp? Get that stuff done. Work on the probable problems first, then the improbable. Then with good coaching I.Q., recognize natural attributes, steer developments and push people to their private mission success. Its one thing to play a lot of “baseball,” it’s another to excell at third base. At some point, customization must step in.
There are dreams of advancing, then there are tools to become advanced: Two very different things. A major way one advances is with speed, flow and skill drills-exercises. You can’t over do these as many do, else you become a “drill master.” Ask these classic questions:
- Who are you and who can help you?
- What is your push about and what methods exist for your push? What should you realistically expect?
- Where can you work on this push?
- When can you do this? (Willie did off-season!)
- How far and fast can you, should you, push the envelope?
- Why are you motivated?
- Continue to ask and answer these and related questions.
I am 70 years old now. I have been training and teaching all over the world, meeting with and working out with all kinds of people. Listen to me for a great and important tip. Your “who” changes with time…oh…what…every 5 years or so? Can you still do your once favorite moves? That high kick? That sacrifice fall on the mats, lest of all on cement? Can you still clearly see that front sight on your gun AND-OR your target as well, or are they blurry blobs? Can you still hit that fast ball? Do you need to alter-evolve, dismiss some of your favorite things? Can your 50 year-old self, mimic your 20 year old self? Take stock every 5 years or so of what you do.
There’s a lot to this “mimicry” subject.
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The Fallen Drill, Live Fire and Sims Fire, Standing, Falling and Fallen Target Practice
He moved! A universal problem in many martial arts, mixed weapon fighting, combatives and survival firearms training is that people move. When people are struck, kicked, stabbed, slashed, shot, etc., they…move. They move from your set-up for the first strike, – yes, just the perception of your first attack be it facial expression, words, stance, chambering, drawing a knife, stick or gun, may cause them to move on cue just before you strike. Or they move after the first hit, the second strike or the third…
In many systems you’ve been trained for a set of attacks or shots. Sets of two? Sets of three? Stop and reload? These reactive movements on his part are often ignored or forgotten in training drills. Still we hit, stab or shoot the mitts, or a heavy bag, or a paper target in sets. In many of these sets the body targets are vague and not well defined.
These routines are organized by you, or by an instructor of a system. How smart are you? Are they? Is it? What is your-their “martial IQ? Do you or they ever calculate logical probable. post hit movements?
The faster you attack, the better chance the second strike-shot on the target might be where you planned it, such as maybe with a super quick, two-punch combination to the nose-face? Or say, two or three very quick trigger pulls on a gun? Yes maybe, and no maybe.
But as an instructor we must warn our practitioners about these reflexive-reaction, spoiler-movements, and advise them that many of the elaborate focus mitt drills, martial art combinations and shooting drills might be SNAFU-ED when the enemy naturally, reflexively, responsively moves. Warned that their first or next designed target spot may well move and you might have to chase it a bit. Or, ignore it and adlib something else.
I constantly see long, complicated focus mitt drills that have zero relation to realistic body reactions of those hit. These long drills become like demonstration dances to impress onlookers and make one sweat for a workout. I am not saying they are all worthless, no, just that they could be planned smarter. They could be composed to guess where the opponent might be after step 1 actually landed. Where then should step 2 logically be? In the unarmed world, good sparring gets this chaotic introduction done. You learn to chase targets. Adlib to take what you see, get..
I have been in numerous martial arts where we memorized 3, 4, 5 or more moves on an attacker who is just standing still like a statue after his own first punch at you. You block and respond, beating the statue-man to death in many moves. But the opponent is not reacting to the 1st, 2nd or 3rd strike or kick, the training partner-uke remains upright and still, until the scenario calls for his takedown. You then takedown, trip or throw the statue enemy. In this regard, it was an old school concept that the takedown you chose, is the one that best facilitates the direction he is already falling in after you’ve cracked him some great strikes. You don’t or shouldn’t change or stop his falling direction. You…facilitate his falling direction. So in this old-school rule of AIki-Jitsu and old Jujitsu, they recognized the opponent was…moving after being struck.)
I was always flabbergasted at various knife systems through the decades that memorized numerous elaborate 3, 4 or more body template, patterns of stabs and cuts. “Stab the heart, then deep cut down to the kidney, then stab…” First off, dear detached-from-reality person, the body has bones in it and second, the enemy…has probably…MOVED after your very first stab! His kidney is no longer where it was in your splendid, one-dimensional, flat, frontal template. Your 3-4 step templates are basically, misleading, distracting…BS.
The enemy movements will be…
- frozen for a second?
- arms up in your attack path,
- stepping forward, sides or back away,
- leaning, (slipping, dodging)
- fallen down.
Frozen? Yes, he might be frozen in place, especially if your first attack alone isn’t strong enough to move him. We all know about the “flight, freeze, fight” studies, so to be thorough we must list it. But he probably will move.
In short, you probably have to chase the targets. The solution is to construct training responses that try to predict with some certainty where said enemy will move in response. To counter these practical problem in doctrine, an instructor with sufficient “martial IQ” must prep the students with these realities. This does sort of ruin and-or, de-emphasize the whole list of required, memorized 4-5 step statue fighting some martial arts demand. The instructor should warn – “After this strike, it is possible, probable that said person might not be where you expect them. His jaw is not there anymore. His liver is not there like in the set…he moved.”
Guns! Wrong End of the Barrel. I hope by now I have established the idea that people will move and may not be were you expected them to be from training drills? Since I teach hand, stick, knife and sims ammo GUN, I have to ponder this problem in the pistol and long gun world, which is what I really want to dissect-remind here.
The Gun Blast! Yes it is true, some people. somewhere. sometime will absorb some fast small caliber shots and keep approaching or freeze? Will they? And for how long to overcome the elements of just the gun blast alone? I mean, just stand beside someone shooting a firearm on the range without hearing protection. Take note of the force and sound expelled. Now imagine that aimed at you. I would like to mention that the sheer sound and blast of a gun would-could cause people to…MOVE, cringe, startle, curl, bend, jolt, shut eyes, dive, fall…
Will Bullets Move People? A number of gun folks like to discuss and argue about the force of a landed bullet. Science tells us it must land with about the same force as the recoil in your hand. Yet bullets landing on certain anatomical parts into certain positions seem to make people move more than recoil, and flesh and bone destruction can make them fall, least of all from multiple, successful bullet impacts. These reactions may ruin your second or third shot plan. Shot folks, or shot-at folks will also and quite probably move. These movements differ from the standard flat, full-frontal target picture you have been practicing your marksmanship on.
Handgun (and rifle) Combatives. I believe that people are not fully, really learning firearm combatives unless moving, thinking people are shooting back at them, or at very least threatening them close up in a deadly force situation like with a knife or tire iron. This experience absolutely requires interactive, safe, simulated ammo training.
Some old gun hands have called the shooting range a “one-way street,” and you need a “two-way street experience” to maximize your combative skills. It is somewhat horrifying to learn how easily you can be shot, even with the best one-way street instruction. I mentioned earlier “Good sparring gets this introduction done.” Interactive simulated ammo scenario exercises get this two-way street done too.
“It is somewhat horrifying to learn how easily you can be shot…”
Since I almost never teach live fire marksmanship and leave that to the patient experts, I concentrate on simulated interactive shooting. In a perfect world seminar, I always prefer to partner up with live fire experts whenever possible and ask them to do a live fire version of what I will teach later with simulated ammo, but I have a few live fire drills for a predicted response to shooting an enemy that moves and-or falls. Here’s one – thus the “Fallen Drill.”
The overall premise is, you shoot the armed bad guy and he begins to fall. He’s still armed. Still looking at you. You shoot him on the fall, and you shoot him when he’s grounded, should he seem cogent. The live fire version featured in the top photo above requires a little rigging of targets and the target stands.
By the time they get to my turn, practitioners have already done their important marksmanship training, and now we are shooting real people with the sims guns. We are shooting real people and the “scoring” is “miss or kill,” you might say.
Bullseyes or human figures? Since some instructors do obsess about scoring, scoring, scoring any and everything, we have the mode on the left. Note these have no weapons. Me no “likey.” I prefer folks shoot at armed human, photo, figures. And these bullseye targets are full, frontal flat and I am uncomfortable with that too.
For combatives, photos of real people, (not drawings) angled and holding weapons on the targets, is “reducing the abstract.”
I and a few others have written through the years about the sheer stupidity of forcing police and military shooting training to shoot unarmed, non-human shaped targets, to be politically correct. This is counter-productive and ignorant. This is a giant step backward in combat shooting. The training rule of “reduce the abstract” applies. While typically round, and-or non-human shaped targets are used for pure marksmanship development and competitions, when you get into the combatives training, human-shaped figures (photo pictures of real people are better than drawings). It is also not good to shoot at targets like this photo below, that are unarmed and threat-less.
We should not be practicing to shoot unarmed people! (About 99.9% of the time, as it is situational. And next we should not be shooting at unarmed people targets. It’s not good training for the brain and reflexes. Firearm combatives training targets should always include a weapon to prep-instill the instantaneous, mental recognition, justification for lethal force. It’s bad enough we spend so, so much time shooting at bland, non-human-form bullseyes and various odd shapes. When doing combat shooting training, at very least “arm” the realistic target!
Anyway, I invented this “Fallen” live fire and simulated fire exercise in isolation. You and others may have something like it already too, as most inventions are made in isolation. If so? Good for you. Now let’s pass it on…
Oh and remember, he moves, but so do you! Which is a whole other subject essay.
Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com
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Every competent person, every competent organization has or should have a refined “mission statement.” It’s where you start. Like so many operations, and in a training company like mine, the mission statement is how you build and direct doctrine, avoid dogma, confusion and even hypocrisy. People-companies within their sphere must seriously define, the – “what we do.” One way to really help define what you do is to also seriously define what you won’t-don’t do.
Mission Statement Consequences? – Keep in mind, there will always be both good, planned consequences and unintended (bad?) consequences. Be flexible enough to make sense of things, changes and challenges.
In the 1990s, interested only in the generic, mixed-weapon world of hand, stick, knife and gun, self-defense survival (and enforcement-security), I decided to refine my Force Necessary mission statement to also explore what I don’t do, what I cannot make, and what I would not produce. This is a truth-and-honesty mission statement for me and for my “customers-practitioners.”
By simply understanding won’t you are not, you are not trying to limit yourself, you are trying to be realistic and stay…on a mission. The “no” reasons, the “why,” for each topic listed below might take a few lines, a paragraph or perhaps in some cases a book chapter to explain, but not a whole book to explain. But, no such details are pontificated here for a such a short essay as this.
- I don’t teach firearms marksmanship. I am familiar with the landscape, but I leave that to the many great folks that do that so well. I’d rather spend all that time in interactive, person versus person, simulated ammo training. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, nor should you. I can send you to experts I know, or suggest that you get the best veterans in this field you can find for bullseye shooting, if that is your goal.
- I do not make champion kick boxers.I am familiar with the landscape, but, while nothing replaces “ring time,” as Joe Lewis warned us, we must experiment with kick boxing methods, please note the word “champion.” I will never make you a sport, champion kick boxer. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, nor should you and I can send you to experts I know, or suggest that you get the best veterans in this field of kick boxing you can find, if that is your goal. (By the way, how many advertised coaches actually do produce champions anyway?)
- I do not make champion boxers. I am familiar with the landscape, but while nothing replaces “ring time,” we must experiment with bare-knuckle-boxing methods, please note the word “champion.” I will never make you a champion boxer. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, nor should you. I can send you to experts I know, or suggest that you get the best veterans in this field of boxing you can find, if that is your goal. (as you might begin to spot themes here? One such theme is a dedication to the short cuts of cheating. Cheating the rules.) (By the way, how many advertised coaches actually do produce champions anyway?)
- I do not make champion wrestlers. This incudes BJJ. I am familiar with the landscape, but again, while nothing replaces “ring time,” and while we must experiment in with wrestling-grappling methods, please note the word “champion.” I will never make you a champion, sport, wrestler-BJJ person. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, nor should you. I can send you to experts I know, or suggest that you get the best veterans in the field of wrestling you can find if that is your goal. While I look with awe at many of these fine people, and forever look to steal only survival information, I find the very, very simple basics important. Beyond that, I find much of the tap-out nuances fun, but off-mission. (By the way, how many advertised coaches actually do produce champions anyway?)
- I do not make champion MMA fighters. I am familiar with the landscape, but “Ring time!” And yes, while we must experiment in MMA methods, please note the word “champion.” I will never make you a sport, champion MMA person. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, nor should you. I can send you to experts I know, or suggest that you get the best veterans in the MMA field you can find, if that is your goal. While I look with awe at many of these fine people and atheletes, I forever look to steal only survival information. I find the very simple basics important. (By the way, how many advertised coaches actually do produce champions anyway?)
- I don’t teach any other official martials arts except very essential, Filipino Martial Arts “on demand”- when asked. I am happy to do so, and when I do, I trim it down to rawest-raw, universal, generic essentials. I do not regurgitate whole systems. Though I have black belts in several martial arts, I only use parts of them. (And truth be known, also, I do not do katas and katas are often part of perpetuating these other systems. So…I send you to my friends for classic stuff.)
- I don’t follow any sport rules. I am only guided by the “law-law,” use of force, ethics and the rules that keep you and me out of jail. “Using only that force necessary”…heard that before? Which is the very name and filter of my courses.
- I don’t do any katas. I have other fighting things to do with that time I think is more productive. So I don’t do or teach katas. Zero.
- I don’t do unnecessary, artistic moves. You know them when you see them, well, I’ll take that back, maybe most won’t know them, and be amazed, infatuated and seduced instead? One should look efficient and ugly when fighting. If I-you appear pretty and artistic in action, that should be by accident. Trim this fat. Combatives is checkers not chess.
- I don’t do emergency or tactical medicine beyond some very initial, raw advice. There are plenty of really, terrific medically-trained, veteran EMTs and doctors available for this. I’ve never settled for 2nd or 3rd or 4th stringers instructors, and I can send you to experts, or suggest that you get the best veterans in the emergency medicine field you can find, if this is your goal. (Get veteran EMTS, medics and “Docs,” they are the BEST!).
- I don’t teach kids. VERY rarely when asked, yes. But 99% of the time? No.
- I don’t require uniforms, just wear “street” clothes as in the clothes you think you will be fighting in. What will you be wearing when forced to fight? Wear that. No pajamas. No bare-footy. No Spiderman body suits. Your police or military unforms and gear, or your street clothes. Reduce the abstract.
- I do not long-lecture on anger, fear and pain management like I am some kind of an expert psychologist. I am familiar with the landscape, but I only brief these issues and quickly steer people to real experts. I can lecture on many topics like crime and criminals and fighting and writing, I am comfortable with history and war, but I don’t have P.H.D.s in the complicated, mind game.
- I do not, will not worship a martial arts system and a martial arts system leader. Such worship is a mind-trap and counter-productive. If I am not mistaken, Bruce Lee said the same thing. Be free to question, skeptical, distrust and investigate everyone and every idea. You can like them, respect them, have coffee with them, but not worship them. (Nor should I be over-trusted or over-worshipped.)
- I don’t want to be called any titles. I am just a guy that’s “been around a few blocks” with a bag of tricks. And we are getting together, scratching our heads, experimenting with the mixed-weapon fighting problems of crime and war.
- I don’t put up with any racist crap. That’s white on black, black on white or any color-on-color crap. One of my American heroes is Martin Luther King. What he says, goes, and works for me.
- I do not and will not ignore your past martial experience. You have climbed off the couch and done stuff! I like that.
- There’s a few more but this is getting too long. I could offer many examples in each category, dramatizing my ideas, but I think you get the idea of the reverse concept. This actually is not about me! This is about what such a list looks like and about you and your list.
A martial arts customer-practitioner needs a mission statement too and most NEVER-ever have. They just walk into schools like “dumb and dumber,” looking for things that the school doesn’t offer, that they saw in a movie last week. Revealing your different reality doesn’t always fit with the join-up, lobby sales-pitch.
Just in the teaching business with a school? Exist in that classic 5-square mile, demographic in a hunt for customers? You are at ground zero. As school-owners, don’t follow me and my “don’ts! Remember I have no school, my market is different, so don’t mimic me. Keep the kids and the uniforms and the dragon posters! Stay alive! And look, many people “change hats,” right within their diverse school. Then you should have a mission statement for your karate class, one for FMA or BJJ class and any other mission-hat-statement for your self defense class. I do want you to be happy and healthy, pursue your interests and hobbies and be successful. If you are happy? I am happy. But you still need appropriate mission statement…hats. It’s all a hat trick!
There is a not-so-old expression (and at my age I know what an “old” expression is) the new kids call – “staying in your lane.” What you are not, helps you understand what you are and helps you stay in your so-called “lane.” (This is true of life in general too.)
But for me exactly? If you are questing for the above traditional, sport and art goals, I can only quote Bob Dylan,
“It ain’t me babe, no, no, no, it ain’t me babe, it ain’t me your looking for babe…”
Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com
In the big picture of fast and furious, speedy, adrenalized stick fight, where does the single stick disarm exist? How can it? Let’s take a look. An important way I think for starters, is to first examine the overall Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) subject of stick versus stick disarming. I identify really only FIVE stick vs. stick disarm categories…in the universe!
- 1-Impact Disarms (pretty self-explanatory).
- 2-Stick-side snakes (the stick and stick limb circles clockwise or counter-clockwise)
- 3-Support-side arm snakes, (empty hand limb snakes (circling clockwise or counter-clockwise)
- 4-Strip and keeps (because you caught and kept the stick, then push-pull it away from him)
- 5-Strip and sends (because you caught his weapon limb, and push-pulled the stick off-off-off)
- (Note: Collect disarms and stick them into categories for organization)
- (Note: Take note to see if instructors sneak a simulated, stunning blow in, as soon as possible within the disarm steps. Stunning really helps.)
- (Note: Some intermingling gets involved but usually the real core, successful move can be identified by the successful one. You’ll know it when you see it.)
Thus far for me, all the disarms in the universe, the galaxy (!) fit well into one of these 5 general categories above. Impacts and lots of circles and push-pulls, huh? Which is another way to help teach and summarize-explain the subject. List the raw movement concepts within the 5 disarm categories. Here are the three raw movements inside all the disarms categories.
- Disarm Raw Movement 1: Hits! Impacts (a hit to arm, the knee or head, torso, even a hard hit on a stick, can cause a drop),
- Disarm Raw Movement 2: Circles! (both arms clockwise and counter-clockwise circles)
- Disarm Raw Movement 3: Grabs, push-pulls and pulls-pushes. (Grabs on weapon, grabs on weapon-bearing limb)
I have had the opportunity to dissect and teach this list of 5 disarm categories (and their 3 movements within) around the world for years now and some, even semi-famous FMA instructors refused to believe this 5-list rendered, simplicity.
“How can it all be that simple? NO! It can’t be,” they sometimes say, “well then, what about this one?” they ask and show a disarm.
“Well that’s a strip and keep because you caught and keep this stick,” I would say.
“Well then, what about this one?” Demo…
“I would say, strip and send because shipped the stick away.”
And so on and so on, the challenges were fun to explore and always help me refine, refine, refine.
Five categories. Three raw ways to do them. Simple? Complicated? Traditional disarms are often taught and passed on in disorganized ways, usually created by artistic people with no scientific sense or teaching-organizational skills (like so many nutty katas, huh!). As a student in various FMA systems since the 1986, I have seen many of these disjointed disarm lists that miss the opportunity for smooth education, conformity and simple understanding.
For example, many disarms are glued to traditional angles of attack system. “Guro Jose” has 10 angles? And he demands – “Do this different disarm at each angle. And here they are. Memorize!” Many traditional disarms are passed along by doing…say…one mandatory disarm at their angle 5, (6, or whatever angle), when actually an angle 5 attack might be disarmed by 3 or 4 different ways. Best to pick a disarm category first and experiment doing it against all 10 angles. It will work sometimes and then not. One might call that process reverse engineering? This is a way to make your own list. Self-discovery experimentation is great, recognized, retention method.
Anyway, a search for easy, relatable explanations and mental retention must be conducted. But for many FMA systems and instructors, simplicity was-is not their mission, and after all, complexity is the fun – wow factor- cool goal. That fun, wow stuff, and-or then the regurgitation of their historic art is more important than say…the simple, sheer freedom to fix and improve things.
After the list of disarms with the 5 categories, understanding how they are executed with the 3 raw movements, it was time-saving and thorough for me to make the next list of counters to disarms. (For me, the counter study was really related to thwarting the 3 movements. What universal things could be done to counter them?)
- Any early-phase counters
- Any mid-phase counters
- Any late-phase counters
OKAY! Quick Disarm Tip: FMA stick is primarily a play within the Rectangle and-or “X’” box, and-or figure 8 circle, areas in front of your body betwixt the two opponents. Not as many training attacks come down from straight above, or up from low-low (there are a few more low than from straight down, still not enough). How did I determine this? Just examine your system and other system’s angles of attack drills to check this. One or maybe two angles of their 8, 10 or 12 angles comes straight down from above. The rest are side-to-side thrusts or slashes in that rectangle. In Guro Jose’s system, only one angle came down from above, the other 9 were other attacks. This means his system by innocent doctrine, de-emphasizes the common from 12 o’clock high, downward attack! One out of ten. On these high and low problems…
I spent a lot of time with one of Inosanto’s top 5 instructors – Terry Gibson of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who has since passed away. Seminars, hosting him, privates in the 80s and 90s. He is responsible for a very large chunk of my FMA training to name one of the Inosanto Family topics (forever grateful to him). He gave me several disarm tips worthy of passing along versus these occasional high-low, top and bottom stick attacks. Here’s one – move them to the sides:
“Hock, connect sticks high? Then force the contact DOWN to the left or right sides where there are more and easier disarms. Low? Connect sticks low? Then force the contact UP to the right or left sides where there are more and easier disarms.” (Okay! Did Moses bring that tip down on another tablet we didn’t see? It was very helpful, conceptually.)
Okay, back to making your own list and using it in sparring. Free and eclectic. You got your list! Next, can they be done fast? Under pressure? The subject of this essay! We can all do them slow, sure. But so, in the big picture of fast stick fighting-sparring, how does the proverbial stick disarm exist? Can it exist? I know a lot of veteran hardcore stick fighters and they say they hardly ever saw a semi-elaborate move. It seems that in a full-blown stick fight-sparring (but with protection-see below), all semi-elaborate moves and elaborate moves are very hard to do and hard even to see-find in usual stick sparring.
In the same way we only see…ohhh, what? Eight, ten basic, non-elaborate, fundamentals in UFC fights, over and over again, and nothing elaborate seems to manifest, because the elaborate is usually hard to insert in the world of full speed and adrenaline. (I might add the impact disarm is probably the most common?)
I have found that in order to fully understand the possibilities of disarming in full action mode, I had to cut stick fighting-sparring into two categories and understand “stun, no-stun.”
Stun, No-Stun? Protective gear or not, you can do a few more things, go a little deeper in moves, be a little more “semi-elaborate” when an opponent is stunned-wounded. (Some come to you diminished, are naturally slow, untrained, etc. like their stunned!) If very stunned? Then elaborate! Sooo, protection matters!
- Sparring Category 1: Helmeted, protective gear for sport-fun-hobby. Less stun possibilities.
- Sparring Category 2: “Street survival,” for lack of a better term. No protection! I mean, do you really think you’ll be on Johnson street, with your 28” stick and get into a fight, coincidentally with another guy with a 28” stick? The “street” reality of such a dual, 28” stick duel is mostly nonsense for most of us. Odds are in most countries, no. But remember, no helmets, no pads, more stun.
So, single-stick sparring within the Stun, No-Stun universe:
- Stick sparring WITH helmets and gear protect against such stunning diminishments, making disarms and elaborate moves a bit harder to pull off. Less stun factor. Which might explain why you don’t see many. I wouldn’t let this depress you or dismay you much, because it’s not fully a real-deal…
- Stick fighting WITHOUT helmets and gear allow for more serious injury and then that might allow for a bit more elaborate material. Of course you are crazy to train this way, full out, all the time. You and-or your brain won’t make it to 30, 35 or 40 years old? You’ll dribble when eating.
Stick sparring with sturdy helmets and protective gear frequently ends in grounded wrestling matches because of the protection and limited, reality stun factor. Much FMA stick-duel instruction is given under this art-sport umbrella. Stick sparring without any such gear at all frequently ends in an ambulance.
Disarms! Who or what, where, when, how and why…are you? These questions define your training mission, your end goal. They create the important nuances of doctrine (and disarming). I surmise that that many practitioners think about all or any bit of these points and just play around in the art for the wow, the fun, the hobby. Wow! Which is absolutely fine, I only ask folks…just…know what they are doing who, what, where, when, how and why.
Hock’s email is Hock@SurvivalCentrix.com