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.
With advancing age and advanced age, one’s reliance on “kuraty” wanes. Someday I know I will be limping around with only my snub-nose, hammerless revolver in my jacket pocket as my only and last resort, despite all the years of training. And what of those who’ve never done any “kuraty?” These inevitabilities make one think about handy support, self defense weapons. Like the small handgun and one might be…the mysterious, intriguing…blackjack.
Andre Wong of Police One defines: “The sap, slapper, or blackjack is a heavy leather pouch, eight to twelve inches long, filled with lead and sometimes a flexible steel rod. Unlike a baton, a sap’s size and shape allowed it to be concealed inside an officer’s pocket. Saps may not look as intimidating as a gun or a baton, but thinking they’re not dangerous would be a mi stake. A sap is dense enough to break bones when the user has room to swing, and the leather edge is rough enough to cause a dull, ripping laceration to the face when used as a jabbing instrument. Slappers would be ideal for use in ultra-tight quarters like a fight on the ground against a large suspect.”
I noticed a number of folks selling and teaching these tools of late. And numerous training videos. I see a lot of artistic, photo displays of weapons on Instagram, and most include saps laid amongst knives and pistols, etc. Given the laws of most states in the USA and countries around the world, I am not too sure you want to be “caught” carrying one, or using one. I am not too sure many of these teachers, photographers or makers have ever used a blackjack in a fight? Not that, that is a mandatory rule. Smart people can invent and teach smart things. Or, have they considered the vast legal ramifications of wearing and using a blackjack?
The law? Here’s just one example, from the People’s Republic of California and the many states that swap legal weapons lingo: California Penal Code 22210 PC makes it a crime to manufacture, import, sell, give, or possess leaded canes or batons (or other weapons in this category). The offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A conviction is punishable by up to 3 years in jail or prison. A leaded cane is a: crutch, staff, stick, or rod (later defined as any blackjack) that is weighted with lead so it can be used as a weapon. The statute also applies to short and weighted objects that can strike a person.”
Okay! Then, well, so much for California. You heard it’s illegal, but it sort of “brings it on home,” when you read the actual laws. I fail to see the word illegally “teaching” in there, though. Exponents, fans and sellers say that in most states you can own one (at home), but warn not to carry one or use one. ETSY sells them as “novelty paperweights.” Others advertise them as “change purses with stout handles,” with coinage inserted via a zipper on the striking end for weight. This fools no one.
Police carry. I was officially issued and carried one in Texas policing for many years in the 1970s and mid-1980s, though I rarely hit anyone with it as I was trained and training in empty hand systems so much, I used that first and foremost whenever I could. I noticed that others less trained, whacked the crap out of people with them. I have seen people stunned and knocked out by them, and upraised fists smacked by them – instant, significant reaction. In the U.S. Army Military Police and in Texas we were also issued batons, which again, I didn’t actually use much, though rules were pretty “stick-free-wheeling” in the MPs. (We were even taught to quick-search a body with a stick, rubbing it all around the potential weapon-carry spots, which now…would probably be considered rape of some sort.)
Where did we tote that thing? Believe it or not, in the golden, olden days, usually in our back uniform pocket! Able to be easily yanked out by any miscreant! In my small world I’ve never seen that happen, although stats tell us that lots of resisting people did and do like to grab our stuff and it has probably happened. I have had some attempted gun grabs (one on the ground) and handcuff grabs. Some uniforms had sewed-in sap pockets on the thighs. I hear that some uniform companies still add these “sap pants pockets” (costs more) as a matter of routine…but remain empty.
Empty? Many police agencies, mine included, decided one day in the 1980s to collect up all the blackjacks and hide them away in dusty closets. Night sticks also slowly de-evolved into expandable batons, then for many agencies all “sticks” also completely disappeared (along with those BIG flashlights).
Blackjack Training Issues and Problems. I sometimes consider slipping a “Blackjack Module” into my Force Necessary: Stick course, because it is an impact weapon. I often consider too, changing the name of Force Necessary Stick, to Force Necessary: Impact Weapons. But, it doesn’t “sing” so well as the core, four single nouns, “hand, stick, knife, gun.” Imagine that added, elongated song title of nouns –
“Hand, Stick-Flashlight-Blackjack-Sap-DanBong, Knife, Gun.” That makes for a long album cover name. Even adding the term “impact weapons” replacing the solo word “stick” rambles on, “Hand, ‘Impact Weapons’ (instead of just ‘Stick’), Knife, Gun” is still too long for me. It is hard to replace the simple, message “impact” (yes, pun intended) of single-syllable caveman, “Hand. Stick. Knife. Gun.”
With blackjacks I have other reservations other than just too many syllables and nouns in the title. Mostly those weapon laws, yes, and then “supply and demand” problems. First off, they are illegal to run around with almost everywhere to begin with, lest of all a box of them. But then so are samurai swords and that hasn’t stopped classes on them! Just don’t walk into a Walmart wearing a katana. People like to study all kinds of stuff from esoteric to practical.
If I taught the sap subject, I would need to travel worldwide with a supply of, a bunch of actual saps or training saps at seminars for attendees. You see, no matter how much we ask, people do not show up with the subject gear. Local schools do not have a boxloads of saps in their closets either.
In my world I’d need like…25 or 30 of them. And do you now much stuff I already fly with? Boxes of stuff. Why so many? There’s not much worse than having a specific, weapon-topic seminar, or a session within a seminar, showing up and no one or almost no one has that specific training weapon. I could tell you stories. You are talking to a guy who’s been stopped in Australian airports because I had a box of wooden pistols. What safety, look-a-like, substitute could I fly and drive around with such a box of stuff, that would be blackjack-like and yet, not get me tossed in TSA or the local hoosegow for illegal weapons? Just one real one in my luggage or to and fro the seminar could be legal trouble.
Making the blackjack subject matter a mandatory part of the FN:Stick course, makes these support accommodations on me mandatory too.
The padded knife-dueling tool shown here is an option but it is not perfectly shaped, removing the nuances of the weapon. (This is also a knife problem when trying to emphasize the knife’s edge with a rounded replica.) And…no strap! You have to experience the scenarios with the straps-lanyards.
In the spirit of “reducing the abstract,” Nok – Tak Knife sells a soft cleaver knife, with flat top that might better substitute for a sap. About $40. Again, no strap. And I am quite sure, someone reading this will supply a photo of replica training blackjack, with the quote like, “Dracula’s Obscurities sells foam saps for training!” And of course, more news that John Doe can make them in his garage. Great news for the sap training world.
If I did teach this topic, I would not replicate the mediocre police blackjack material of yesteryear, but rather teach the subject through the basic and advanced “Combat Clock,” I’ve used for 27 years now. The basics? “Slash and stab” at 12, 3, 6, 9 or high, right, low, left. Advanced? All numbers of the clock, standing through ground. And then the nuances, the nuances of that particular weapon. One such nuance would be sap-targeting, another is if you turn the standard, flat top, blackjack sideways, it is more stout and less “giving.” Another is suddenly grappling with one strapped to your hand or wrist – one must experience the “judo” and “jujitsu” moves of the world with one strapped-wrapped to you. I might also add that a blackjack handle within your closed fist helps reinforce your hand a bit when punching. There’s more of course.
Fad or Fad Not? In the big picture, I suspect that the subject matter is a fad. I am not a passing-fad-boy. And, I don’t mindlessly replicate fads or fad makers. Fun, but a fad and at this point, I can’t see it as much of a big, crowd-drawer or a big, crowd-pleaser in the big picture of the so-called “civilized world” – in that the damn thing is illegal most everywhere. Of course, I could be wrong and blackjacks and saps might sweep the globe. And in a “free state,” if asked I guess I would cover the topic.
Despite the legal hassles, still the lore and the look of these little scrappy, tough bastards are intriguing enough to stay alive for “free staters,” collectors, gawkers, historians and self-defenders.
Moving. Still. Parking lots and roads, all involve cars, still and moving, and both places are potential hotter spots for U.S. crime, not necessarily super “hot” spots as you might assume, but “hotter” spots. Parking lots and roads are places where all kinds of people of all types, pass by each other and interact in some fashion, if only visually.
In Part 1 here… I have tried to collect a lot of info on parking lot crime and related shootings for years now. For those of you reading this outside the United States, I hope you can glean some security ideas that may or may not relate to your country, but may help in developing equations for safety. For one universal problem, we all fall prey to the “frequency illusion” which leads us to believe that some things we focus on, or the media focuses on, happens more than others because…because we are looking-focused for that one thing, such as in crime in general and for this topic – crime, shootings, in, out and around vehicles on parking lots.
Usually, in reality, most all research is shallow and fallible. Experts take small samples and extrapolate them into bigger results. Keep this elusiveness in mind when reading what I have collected here. And I warn, this essay is NOT about auto burglaries, or auto thefts, or advising lot owners how to build safer parking lots. It’s about people in, out and around vehicles and shootings. There are attached areas like hallways, stairs and elevators, and if a person has left the immediate area of their autos on lots to these attached locations, they have left the scope of this essay.
Big Pictures. Big Pictures. You can open up any news page or search on the topic “parking lot shootings” and a lengthy list of individual crimes appear. Every shooting is a drama and trauma (and probably a lawsuit). Is this as rampant as this seems? The list is long and if you don’t recognize and dismiss the Frequency Illusion you’ll probably decide to cart a machine gun to MacDonald’s, as all parking lots (and life) are a war zone.
First, as a skeptic, I like to examine the big picture in any topic, so often neglected either by bias or ignorance, starting with the necessary topics to help define the subject:
total teen and adult driver population, (this gives us a comparison, crime versus populations, and numbers of drivers)
total retail transactions, (this tells us estimates of how many people might drive to and park at a retail location.)
total car ownership, (suggests parking lot potential use.)
local gun legal and illegal gun ownership laws.
types of parking lots, residential, restaurants, retail, etc….
reported parking lot crime (actually, parking lot crimes, and out and around cars and shootings.
there are other local, nuanced factors of course…
According to laws in every state in the U.S., an area of the law known as “premise liability,” businesses have a duty to protect its customers from violent crime while they’re on store property, crime that can reasonably predict.
Next, the actual numbers so we can see the big picture. In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau counted 331.4 million people living in the United States and more than three-quarters (77.9%) or 258.3 million were adults, 18 years or older. Out of this figure, in 2023 there are a projected 243.4 million licensed drivers in the U.S., which includes 89% of US adults. Hedges and Company, a popular marketing firm reports that in 2023 there are a projected 243.4 million licensed drivers in the US. In many states, teens under 18 are also driving. The CDC says there are over 8.3 million teen drivers.” Finally, the Federal Highway Administration estimates there are 275,913,237 vehicles in the U.S.. Not all folks drive of course, but can we say so many if not most do.
That’s a lot of big picture numbers so let me list them out:
331.4 million people living in the United States in 2020. (More in 2023.)
243.4 million adult licensed drivers in the US. (in 2022)
8.3 million teen drivers. (in 2022.)
That’s about 252 million total drivers. (in 2022.)
There are estimated 275,913,237 vehicles in the US.
Pew Research reports there are approximately 77.5 million adult gun owners in the U.S.. There are some 436 million guns.
Summary – Lots of drivers, guns, cars and lots of parking needed.
And They All Park, Somewhere. Parking lots and parking garages – do we really need to define what they are? I think not. I think we all know the full range of parking options, those covered and uncovered. How many lots? There is no way to really collect business parking lot and garage numbers in the US with accuracy, but we can surmise there are a lot of them. A whole lot. All these cars, drivers and passengers park and walk to and from vehicles every day. I hesitate to suggest precise, parking lot attendance numbers, other than it must be enormous.
Walmart Parking Lots. One Crime Case Study. The big store system everyone brags they hate…yet go to and and park. Let’s look at one of the most popular retail locations in the U.S. as a big sampling, case study, and use it as a means, an equation and method to consider how we might evaluate all parking lot crime in general. Handily for us, Walmart-haters have produced articles on “Walmart crime.” The numbers sound scary. Sounds like a lot, but the authors never compare crimes to total sales transactions or customers counts – again – the typical ignorance of the big picture, which will ruin their biased message about Walmart crime.
in 2022, Walmart reports on average in their 3,573 Supercenters in the U.S., each serves about 10,000 customers every single day. These numbers come from sales transactions. That rounds out. to 10,000 sales times 3,573 stores = to be about some 3,650,000 sales a day – over 3 and half million customers a day.
Dare we then cipher out 3,650,000 daily customers times 365 days? 1,332,250,000? So many of them equal a vehicle trip and parking as I think we can safely judge that almost all Walmart transactions probably represents a car and parking. That’s a lot of parking on Walmart parking lots. A lot of people and no matter how we crunch those numbers, we can surely assume a whole lot of people parked on Walmart parking lots. Then, were there 5 million crimes? 2 million? 1 million? Millions of shoot-outs? Thousands maybe? Hundred? Murders. Kidnappings, rapes and robberies? Lions and tigers and bears? Not hardly. Read on…
Now…crime at, and-or on, Walmart property? (2016 must have been a bad PR year for Walmart as the haters jumped on for a lot reasons…)
Time Magazine reported in “2016, police in many communities get more calls to Walmart shopping centers than anywhere else. For some stores, police are called multiple times a day. The problem appears to be far larger for Walmart (open 24 hours) for competing retailers like Target. And the crime ranges from mostly standard shoplifting and petty theft to the occasional rape, stabbing, shooting, murder, or meth lab hidden in a 6-foot drainage pipe under the store parking lot.”
This Week magazine reported that “Impoverished communities are more likely to be afflicted by crime in general, and these days a Walmart store is often the biggest retail hub.”
In 2016, Tulsa Oklahoma PD described the violent crimes over several year period – “Most of the calls to the northeast Supercenter were for shoplifting, but there’s no shortage of more serious crimes, including five armed robberies so far this year, a murder suspect who killed himself with a gunshot to the head in the parking lot last year, and, in 2014, a group of men who got into a parking lot shootout that killed one and seriously injured two others.”
Bloomberg reports that in 2016 there were “More than 200 violent crimes (coast to coast), at Walmarts, including attempted kidnappings and multiple stabbings, shootings, and murders, have occurred at the nation’s stores.
Note the highlighted word, “occasional” above. Those occasional violent ones are the ones that could, might involve a potential gun defense. And the… “More than” two hundred violent crimes? When you dissect the “more than” line…is that one more – 201? Five more – 205? If it reached fifty more, 250 would they still say “more than 200″? This bias verbiage to shock you, but whether it’s 200 or 300 crimes, that’s nothing much within 3,650,000 customers in 3,573 locations a day from coast to coast. Is this a real parking lot crime wave?
You can start to see how parking lot crime is reported and presented, minus the big picture numbers. And, in the Tulsa story, armed robberies (parking lot or inside registers? As the interior registers would not officially be parking lot crimes, but fleeing suspects on a parking lot are indeed a problem – they almost always have getaway vehicles desperate to escape.)
3,573 stores X 10,000 sales-customer a day per store = 3,650,000 daily sales-customers.
365 days X 3,650,000 daily sales-customers = 1,332,250,000.
1,332,250,000 = how many cars on the lot?
Bloomberg says 200 violent crimes in 2016, parking lot or otherwise?
What of Restaurants, Businesses, Residentials and “other” Then? Finances On Line, report that 163 million people eat out once a week. Times that by 52 weeks. That is… 32,760,00,000, which includes a lot of varied parking, couldn’t we assume? We can’t say exactly for sure how many, but there are a lot of people parking on parking lots to eat out. How about all the other business parking lots? And we cannot forget the private parking lots of businesses, houses, and apartments.
Statista.com reports that In 2021, that is within this total of millions and millions of parking events, around 16,617 robberies took place in parking garages or parking lots in the United States. No related report if they involve or justify parking lot shoot-outs, being robberies an armed victim, might be motivated to produce a gun.
Finally, The U.S. Department of Justice reports, “it appears thatthe risk of being attacked in a parking facility, is 4 in 1 million,and is really quite low. Interestingly, about 20 percent of violent crime in parking facilities is committed by persons known to the victim.”
This violent “20% known” involves gang wars, revenge, co-workers, affairs, domestic violence and all the other related “known” crimes we see in the news. By the way, where do you fit in this 20%? Is such a thing brewing in your life? Increasing your odds?
(Note: I’ve come across various sources with confusing odd, numbers that didn’t add up and deleted them from my number lists. Some were inflammatory as they sold courses and parking lot safety gear.)
So, On the Subject of Shooting? My purpose with boring you with these massive numbers is simply to remind you that there are lots of cars, drivers, guns and parking, and not a lot of lot crimes in comparison. Miniscule in comparison to many millions of daily parking events. With the Walmart parking lot study and the U.S. Department of Justice’s “4 in one million” chance, parking lots in general are actually, pretty darn safe and there is a lot of daily, safe parking, and safe to-and-fro walking, every day in the U.S.. Can we extrapolate the DOJ and Walmart examination to all parking lots? Somewhat…a bit, for example, there is anecdotal information that in some places like Memphis, TN., or in like some Chicago neighborhoods, parking lots that are extra dangerous. It seems most cities have problem spots. So local geography, local crime and time can certainly be situational (see below advice). But in the big picture and with the below preparation list, odds are greatly in your favor you will not be in a parking lot shooting.
When “Four in a Million” Becomes “One in One.”? Crime numbers change every year and in every location, that includes the numbers I have produced above. If a bunch of lot crime or not, people will still have guns on them and-or in their vehicles. Also, as I asked a few lines above, “Where do you fit in that “known to 20%” category?” What’s brewing in your life that will change the odds? Well, as I like to remind folks, if it is YOU attacked! The “one-in-four-mill” odds no longer count! Then it’s a “One in One” and the word “chance” is gone. It’s happening to you. Are you armed? Can you get away? Can you scare away? Duck, cover, move? Shoot? Shoot to kill?
The “fortune favors the prepared” classic quote was not said by Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Patton, nor Dick Tracy. It comes to us from a French chemist, Louis Pasteur, who said fully, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” In summary, one should go about their parking travels with healthy preparation and real, local intelligence information, not an unhealthy, panting, hypervigilant paranoia. I always resort to the “Ws and H” questions for preparation. Here are some sample questions…
WHO are you and who do you think will attack you on a parking lot you? How might these elements prevent or become a shooting?
WHAT is going on, on the parking lot, and district and city you are visiting? Crime rates? Problems? What is “brewing bad” in your life? What will he do to approach-attack you? What will you do? What are you wearing? What is your job? What are the local self-defense laws? What gun? What and how might these elements escalate into a shooting?
WHERE is this lot, and where on the lot will you park? By the front doors? Under lights? Where are the attack points? Where do you fit in that ‘”known to” 20%” category that you might be “hunted?” Where exactly is your gun? Where might errant rounds go? Where and how might this turn into a shooting?
WHEN are you parking, holidays? Daytime? Nighttime? When and how might this turn into a shooting?
HOW exactly would you be approached-attacked on the lot? How will he act? How will you react? How will this turn into a shooting?
WHY are you going there? Is it worth it, given the questions above? Why and how could this turn into a shooting?
Each “W and H” question is a book chapter, too much to burden this small, generic essay here. I lecture on these in my “Shooting In, Out and Around Cars” seminar. You must continue to answer these big and small, vital, “Ws and H” questions for yourself, your life and locale. Use these and make up your own list of answers. I have been using the “Ws and H” questions for over 27 years to investigate and teach potential problems in crime, war (and life in general). They’ve never let me down as the best way to plan, but you need good intel.
Live Fire and Vehicles. You can train live fire methods in, out and around cars, shooting paper targets. In the end, given some “in-to and out-of” vehicle shooting nuances concerning things like vehicle construction, ricochets, and glass issues, the physicality of shootings with all opponents outside of cars will be much like shooting anywhere else, with the exception that you will be somewhat surrounded mostly by cars.
Live fire – if so, are you training for the realities of your life? I see a fair amount of vehicle-related, live-fire courses were citizen attendees are outfitted as if for a two-week war in Cambodia with auto and semi-auto rifles, pistols, training knives, knee and elbow pads, and gear full of ammo. Such military, SWAT, police, etc. courses are absolutely ten times the fun. I have run some sims ammo ones and everybody just reveals in the experience. But unless you are on the far side of some special operations team or the Secret Service, this will not relate to your trip to the Dairy Queen and the small, hammerless .32 revolver you carry in your pocket.
All the live-fire, vehicle-related courses are a one-way street of early preparation. Vital, core work to experience. And it is also vital to train with interactive, simulated ammo, shooting at enemies who are shooting back at you. It is horrible and shocking for some to see how easily you can be shot, foot, ankle, knee, leg, elbow, arm, head and torso, even after working the best live-fire, range shooting methods in, out and around cars.
United States parking lots seem to be quite safe, when one considers the big picture. But when you or yours are victimized it is hard to respect and swallow the big picture evidence. I understand this, but there is a bigger picture that blankets the realities, training doctrine, laws and policy making. Within all that, within an amazing safety record, bad things can happen. I hope you will never be involved in vehicle-related gunfight.
Road Rage and Shootings, Part 2 of this investigation, coming soon.
The Dangers of Escaping Standing Chokes and Standing Guillotines, A Martial and Military Perspective
The world today is innocently obsessed with wrestling (okay, well, actually it’s BJJ with its own special, great mythology and the important, “tribal” uniforms, etc, and which is an addictive, terrific, fun, sport-hobby). And within the grounded, wrestling world, there are about a ton and a half of grounded chokes, cranks and escapes to study. All terrific to mess around with. If you are new to all this then go look the moves up, but most folks, smart enough to be reading this, know what I am writing about.
This essay is NOT about those things on the ground, but rather specifically, ONLY, stand-up neck wraps and some of the classic, dangerous, commonly taught counters to them. This is a safety briefing about the neck and martial studies.
Standing, your neck is grabbed in some sort of arm wrap. But in the arms of an experienced enemy or a stumbling inexperienced rookie, the grabs with a step or a misstep, can quickly damage and even kill you. And worse…with some of the innocently practiced common escapes, you can damn near kill your own self too in the very same ways the bad guy could do it to you. How? It’s all about the neck.
Physio-Life reports that “Even to a completely inexperienced grappler, it would come as no surprise that grappling can be problematic for the neck. In a sport where the aim is to control, strangle and submit your opponent, the neck is often a key pillar in a wide range of attacks…whiplash to permanent paralysis.”
In the study of mixed martial arts “Risk of Cervical Injuries in Mixed Martial Arts” by T Kochhar, D L Back, B Mann, J. Skinner, they list the guillotine drop as one of the 4 most dangerous takedown maneuvers. Dr. Google says – “What does a neck crank do? A neck crank (sometimes also referred to as a neck lock, and technically known as a cervical lock) is a spinal lock applied to the cervical spine causing hyperextension, hyperflexion, lateral hyperflexion, hyper-rotation or extension-distraction. This happens either through bending, twisting or elongating. Neck cranks-locks can cause spinal injuries. Many martial arts prohibit use of this technique given the potential for student injury.” Many do prohibit and of course, many don’t.
“Yup, already tried to escape one of these standing guillotine chokes, which ended up as a severe prolapse C5 C6 C7 followed by followed by muscle wasting in the left triceps and total loss of pectoralis minor.” reports Bjorn Wagner as one personal anecdote.
What I would like to put under the proverbial microscope here are potential injuries one does to oneself in escaping standing choke chokes and guillotines, as taught by many of the martial arts.
I had the accidental, Youtube experience the other day of watching the Gracie Wonder-Team-Twin nephews run through, oh, like 15 common escapes in 30 seconds from stand-up chokes and stand-up guillotines. My, such experienced, athletic kids the super twins are! They are indeed great, dedicated kids. They live this life daily. Full-timers. I ask quickly – are you? Do you? And yet, about half of the escape moves could get the escapee’s caught neck whip-lashed, broken and-or get them killed, especially the ones where escapees, in layman’s terms, “judo-ize” – flip-throw the chokers’ bodies over them and around into an array of sacrifice takedowns where they both, choker and escapee, happily, willingly, fall down to the mats (not onto the furniture or the hard ground or floors or cement of the real world).
Military Quicker Kills. Rarely taught. Rarely known. Rarely respected. Well, if you flip (or drop down) versus a guy whose got a death grip on your neck? You could hurt or break your own neck. Do most practitioners know how easily the standing choker can kill you, accidentally or on purpose? Or then, how you can damage yourself? It is obvious that these art folks and so many others do not know the list of the old school, rarely-taught-these-days, military quicker-kill, neck breaks. Folks seem to not realize how close their escape moves resemble military neck breaks!
Military Infantry Veteran James Brown adds-writes: “As our host Hock writes: Not many people are taught the really nasty ways to do choke-breaks. In the military, it’s pretty limited to infiltration units. When simply shooting someone in the head with a suppressed weapon isn’t advisable. Or sneaking up and zip tying their neck or stabbing them somewhere isn’t optimal, either. Most knife stuff I learned from military instructors was about sneaking up and making death quiet. A rear choke variation example: Ambush from behind. Arm sinks in around neck. Knee or pelvis lifts targets feet from the ground as second arm sets in. Then a fast and violent body drop by attacker. Target is out in about 3 seconds. Had it done to me. The air lift is critical. It takes away a second of possible response time while allowing a nasty body drop. It can also be done with a rear drag. There are also some front naked choke to neck brake patterns that are basically: One of these 6 breaks should work or buy time to get to a knife.”
These martial arts escapes can work so well “in the dojo” demos and training because:
it’s only learning-training.
both parties know what is going to happen.
There is no radical, chaotic motion that accompanies a real grab.
the martial chokers know how to roll, go with the flow and protect the escapees’ necks as choker is flipped.
the choker loosens-lets go of the trapped neck at a key moment to save his partner’s potential neck damage.
even in freestyle, the trained choker remembers what to do, “not to break the rules.”
when necks are legally caught tight enough, those caught know when to tap, even when standing, and they remain standing once tapped.
Rough Necks. Serious MMA and wrestler competitors’ necks can take a brutal beating. These are dedicated “pros,” are awesome athletes, and most both stretch and work on neck strengthening exercises. Neck strength is well known to be critical! Serious wrestlers have serious necks. Do you? Probably me – no, your instructors – no, your average military – no, police – no, the citizen taking self-defense courses – no. We will be in the 99.99999% percenters that are NOT thick-necked, professionals. (Still, “big” necks or not, there are plenty of “pro” neck injuries with takedowns and wrestling on the mats.)
Killing the Neck! These Military Neck Breaks. In the big picture, unarmed military combatives in general was and is rarely taught to the military. The in-the-field military is a weapons-based, explosives-based, equipment-based, teamwork-based world and very little time is spent on the one-versus one, unarmed topic in comparison to these other vital, more probable topics. This training time, prioritizing reality goes all the way back to the Samurai.
Why are the “military neck killers” somewhat ignored in the military? In a name-game twist, many militaries call anything close-up as “hand-to-hand combat” even with close-in weapons versus weapons. Still lots to do with weapons, just very close-in. Within today’s military combatives, neck breaks are still rarely taught percentage-wise. The methods exist of course if you can find them. Also, insiders know that for many recent years now, the militaries of the world have been hypnotized into a sport, martial arts priority. Plus, there is a real underlying mission-mandate for safe training (!) – not to get the troops hurt in any training, lest of all in the rare, short, combatives training courses.
Still, unless you are capturing a prisoner for interrogation, the military needs to kill the enemy as quickly as possible, and should you get a hold of his neck, you kill him there. There are many quicker ways to kill someone with neck grabs. For example, once a neck wrap or a choke is obtained, the choker can jump-drop back, forward or to the side and pretty much “kill-crack the neck” of the caught enemy. Needless to say a citizen or a cop fighting for their life would need these quicker kills too for survival. Briefly they are:
choker crushes windpipe (this will take a bit longer).
choker very suddenly, violently does situational-positional-directional snapping wrenches and yanks.
choker suddenly does situational-positional body drops.
other than in war, the choker had better be, logically, explain-ably, understandably in fear of their life to execute these moves. Or play dumb?
these can happen with stumbling mistakes in training and sports.
It would be smart for all to learn the military quicker kill ones for critical self-defense, yes. And no matter who you are, learn them also so as to avoid the possible mishaps in training. And when taught escapes and counters to this problem, you must assess these moves to see if they are indeed dangerous to your neck and your people’s necks.
These same devastating moves can happen accidentally in class, in competitions and real world fighting when you don’t seek such severe body damage and death, to your drunk friend or relative. Or, to someone you are arresting! (There are numerous accidental and incidental neck injuries and deaths in police work. You know this from the news.) Unlike in some advertised courses, not everyone you scuffle with is a Nazi commando to be executed!
Solutions to these standing choke-neck problems is a Training Mission 5, Stop 5 problem, neither of which I have filmed or written yet in book chapter form, like a chapter in a TM 5 book with 40-50 photos or more. It will be (I am only amassing TM 3, Stop 3 right now). Can’t do it all here. I got the outlines. Come to a seminar.
By the way, holding a blood choke for too long, standing or ground can be deadly. “How long can the brain survive without oxygen? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. For example, if the brain is receiving a limited supply of oxygen, it can survive longer than a brain receiving no oxygen. According to Medicine Plus a resource of the U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Brain cells are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Some brain cells start dying less than 5 minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, brain hypoxia can rapidly cause severe brain damage or death.”
Oh and lastly and again? Size and strength really does matter, especially when you are flippy-dippy, tossing people around. I know the esoterics like to say they don’t matter, but they matter. As with clothing, “one size does not fit all.”
All martial training can be dangerous. We persevere. I am not and you are probably not a full-time, 5 days a week, “Wonder Twin” – so take a hard look at standing choke and guillotine escapes “out there,” and in your classes. I am only suggesting that when presented with martial moves in and around the neck, see how they might be dangerous and see how many flippy, counter throws, takedowns and ground crashes could damage your neck and the necks of all those non-professional, non-super, non-wonder-twin athletes that you know, which is probably, just…about…everyone.
A Weeks Later, An Addendum: This essay is only about safety issues concerning grappling in and around the neck, and how some of the often suggested escapes might be neck-dangerous especially to the new and medium trained people. This is not about ALL “Judo”-BJJ-wrestling-grappling, not working.” This essay was dispatched a lot of places, very well-sheared, re-shared with thousands of likes. Very well-received. But a rare few hyper-sensitive, hyper-defensive people just “blew up.” Instantly they distort this safety issue and ignorantly leapt to protect their overall, “wrestling,” superiority when obviously, partially reading this essay and jumping to ignorant conclusions. I then, of course am an untrained idiot, a fake with no grappling experience.
Why do I think a bit about the neck? Some of my personal experiences, four for examples.
First: As explained in the essay, I am just not fond of Seoi Nage, the shoulder throw, the over the shoulder throw versus the standing choke. One time, experimenting in class, years ago, being 6’2” I have been grabbed by a 6’7”-er, working on this throw with a big heavy-set, guy and when I dropped a bit, butt extended back, to start this off, he repositioned and he “refused” to bend over. And the blood choke on me only increased. I essentially “hung there” in a worse choke than before. He chuckled. His size and weight and my size and weight absolutely mattered. Plus, I do have trouble with this move versus shorter people too. Height and weight-size is always an issue. (And a strong hesitation to turn my back to an opponent.)
Second: In South Korea in the 70s, I was tricked, and jumped from behind with that single arm wrap choke. He pushed the small of my back, then leapt backwards. He landed on his chest and fortunately for me, I landed on my side, NOT on my back because I am sure he would have broken my neck. We ended up in a north-south sort of position (on a frozen muddy, village road.) I escaped this by breaking his pinky, of all things, which he let go right away at the snap. I later knew this was a trained move, I’d seen it before somewhere and later found it in a 60s, 70s military combatives manual, back then called the “Ranger Takedown.” It is a neck-breaker. A killer! I was very lucky. My left side was severely bruised and sore from that frozen ground landing the next day. Oh, and my neck really hurt. I am not suggesting that all muggers know the Ranger Takedown, but I started thinking that chaotic moves and drops could hurt the neck. Drops like this (or accidental falls) could be dangerous to the neck.
Third: Teaching many years ago in Delaware, I was showing a frontal takedown, a pull-down. A classic. You kick and-or strike the guy to bend over, then grab his neck in a Thai-style forearm-like, clinch. Then yank him face down while stepping back. Since I had spent time with a Chin Na Chinese guy, one thing he showed us was a wavering, side-to-side, of locks and cranks, which really enhanced a bunch of them. In this pull-down, if you yank-jerk the head side-to-side in the takedown, it really accentuates the pull-down. I showed this application, THEN I warned everyone not to do this! For not even half-real, because of the neck damage. If so, try it once in very slow-motion. Well, two guys walked off to their corner, and did it too hard and too fast. The uke guy dropped to the floor, and…knocked out, had some sort of a spasm-seizure fit. Luckily, there was an EMT there training with us, and he took over. It looked really bad. The guy recovered but nis neck was killing him. He was done for the day, sat on the floor pale-faced and watched. He was a no-show on Sunday.
Fourth: In 26 years of police work, I have only choked out, oh maybe…9 or 11 people. Not many at all. The blood choke. Some of them were on the ground – as on floors (well, one was atop a couch and a coffee table, we were flat but not on the official ground-ground) and some standing. People snake around when neck-grabbed and the blood choke intent can become the wind-pipe choke by accident and they are the subject of many injuries and even death law suits. So much so, many (if not most) police agencies have disallowed ANY such neck contact, blood choke or otherwise. Holding these blood chokes for too long is also dangerous. A lot of this info is above, in the essay.
Fifth. Of note, a long-term neck injury. A well-known, international martial instructor (to name one) is getting a stint in his windpipe, having had it partially crushed and crushed too much in all kinds of training for many a year.
Anyway, my only point is – there are safety issues with neck grappling. In a world of early-phase, mid-phase and late phase, counters-escapes, there is little chance of late phase, choke escapes. Plus, research shows plenty of neck injuries exist. This is why I think about the neck and martial arts training.
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.)
Fitness and Fighting and Fitness in Fighting Seminars
Fitness is always important and I use the phrase “Gas and Dynamite.” “Gas” for endurance, fighting for a longer lengths of time, and “dynamite,” how much explosive power do you have? Add too much adrenaline in the mix and that messes things up too. Lord knows the subjects are important. Sheer strength is important too, huh?
Percentage-Fighting – Percentage-Exercising? There are numerous martial classes and seminars “out there,” that spend various, sometimes copious amounts of class times just doing common exercises. I noted for one example, that the late 1990s rise of Krav Maga sure had a lot of physical fitness packed inside each class. In those Billy Blanks days, million-dollar, fitness-with-martial-arts videos were very popular and rapidly emulated by wanna-bes. Krav is so utterly diverse now, and nowadays from so many sources unknown, I don’t know what the many, many brands of Krav are doing in this percentage regard.
Remember Tae Bo? But even during the “I want to be the next Billy Blanks days,” so many tried for, I had a rule back when I ran regular weekly school classes (1989 to 1997) that people should try to show up for class in some shape. My mission statement was:
I’m not here for you to lose weight.
I’m not here for you to become fit.
We will be covering fight material.
You may inadvertently get better fit or might lose weight.
We had fight stuff to do. That meant most basic “gas and dynamite” fitness workouts should be done on their own, off-class time. Give them a gas and dynamite, work-out list. Send them to the internet now. I was not going to run a fitness class along with, within a fighting class. You were not paying me to count reps and me watch you do an assortment of fitness exercises. Our fight time was mission-oriented, precious. Where did I get this idea?
In the 1980s I attended the week-long, FBI Defensive Tactics school for policing. In short, about half of each day was stretching and doing fitness exercises. The tactics material? Minimal time. I was a young, work-out nut back then and I thought, “half of this was a waste of time.” Many of the other officers were in pretty good shape too, and already doing martial arts on the side. I decided that the fitness portion was just…”percentage fitness,” off-mission. This experience made me think about the percentage times. I have no idea what what the FBI is doing now or if they even still ramrod such courses for city, county, state police.
(By the way, I also attended a similar Secret Service program that bypassed all the fitness stuff. Their core system at the time was getting to the deep sides of, and-or behind the suspect. This was in the late 1980s and frankly folks, this looked a whole lot like what the “new kids” grappling proponents are doing today, the arm push, the arm drag or slip-unders, etc. to get to the rear, lest we think this positioning idea is such newborn genius. But I digress. More on that course in another essay.)
Too Much Strain? Through the years, with an eye and ear on police fitness and training, there were-are occasional, regular, exercise-related training deaths. Like SWAT school guys, forced to run excessively in a course, keeling over and dying, for example. Most SWAT guys are just patrol folks rarely called out and not like full-time, big city “SWATTERs” training like pro-football players every day. We’ve seen reports of out of shape, cops dropping dead in tactical classes or on the range. Some in shape, dropping too! Course operators, police or otherwise, must learn that you cannot overload attendees with their personal, lofty ideas of Delta-Force, SEAL fitness that show up for a few days or week-long course! Dear folks, do arrive in as best shape as possible!
When does a quick, 5% class warm-up become a 30% or 40% or more “Cross-Fit” workout? Martial classes are already “sweaty.” There is already a certain work-out, fitness element to doing fight material in a weekly class or seminar. Depending on the subject matter, they can be tough. It is functional and directly related to the physical movements, thus the term “functional.”
Pushing a wheel barrow with rocks in not mission-related, functional. I am acutely aware of a somewhat famous instructor who has seminar attendees spend a disproportionate amount of time pushing wheel barrows full of rocks up and down hills and other similarly torturous endeavors. The actual fight workout time was therefore shortened to less than half a day! And to make matters worse, he offers the same material up year after year after year. I am aware of attendees who won’t go back. Now without a doubt, the wheel barrow trudge is a helleva workout, like pulling or pushing cars, but what if a rookie, middle-aged person shows up, is shoved in front of wheel borrow of rocks and dispatched to the hill for 10 journeys up and down and…has a heart attack? Or dies? This is not like a ten-week, military course or lengthy academy where one builds up to a performance. This is a 2-3-4 day weekend!
I just run seminars now, no weekly classes since 1997, and I will not conduct pure exercise sessions within, because of the aforementioned experiences and problems, precious training time and potential low fitness levels of some attendees. My age range of attendees might be vast sometimes, 17 to…78! In an opening speech, I encourage attendees to “not-do,” and “sit-out,” when they see something they shouldn’t try. But…so…ask yourself, when does a quick, 5% class warm-up become a 30%, 40% or 50% Cross-Fit workout? Does your new customer know this when they get your first sales pitch?
If you sell your classes as part fitness and your customers know they will be extensively running laps, doing push-ups and so forth within, to get fit and in shape as a mission, then the instructors are on-mission with their sales pitch. Bravo. But you still must worry about the students…passing out or…or dropping dead! Some coaches advertise-offer a customized hybrid of fitness, nutrition and some MA for activity. For example how many people are so-called “boxing” as in hitting bags and mitts for weight-loss and fitness and will never, ever actually box another person!
Gas and dynamite. Gas up and keep the powder and fuses handy and dry. Endurance and explosiveness. I think fitness exercise basics should mostly be done elsewhere. Fight class time? Seminar class time? We have fighting to do. I only bring up this topic here, so that I might get you think about it. Who, what, where, when, how and why? The mission statement. The percentages of what equals what?
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.
Notes on Paring Knives, Kitchen Knives for Knife Fighting?
This is my knife, there are many like it, but this one is mine.” – Paraphrasing the rifle creed of a Marine.
“This is my paring knife, I eat food with it in public, I claim to trick police and still kill criminals.” – the creed of tricky, niche knife instructors
To me, (and the law) generically speaking, a knife is a knife. Sure there are many different kinds of knives, some better at some things than others. But in a primitive level, a knife is a knife. So, when some folks pop up “on the competitive, martial market” advertising their niche wares, at times there are arguing that a smaller, paring/fruit knife is really good for knife fighting and for tricking the local gendarmes, my answer is “ahhh…well, yeah maybe, okay…”
I would never have excluded paring knives as a potential weapon. Of course not. Perhaps I have worked way too many police cases where kitchen knives, big and small, mostly bigger, have been used. Of course they can be weapons. Always have been. (One must recall that the size of a knife used when stabbing is a big forensic issue in deaths and aggravated assaults.)
There seems to be a little in-and-out (pun intended) fad/craze about using paring or fruit knives for fighting-killing criminals, instead of toting around bigger tactical knives or tactical folders, if even as some sort of a clever trick played on the local police. The trick you see…is to pocket carry the small, food knife, stabbed in a piece of fruit, all of which may or may not all be inside a plastic, zip-lock-like bag? This MUST be a James Bond trick! Huh? Toting an unsheathed paring knife around is one thing, sticking a pear in the pointy end, in your pocket is another thing.
Fruit Stuck on a Knife, In a Pocket? The hope is to attain some level of “plausible deniability,” which is rather self explanatory, and more of a government public relations expression than a legal definition. “I carry a knife to eat cut-able fruit for a quick snack, Mr. Patrolman.” This will not work for you in many anti-knife, countries, or many cities and-or states in the U.S.A..
You know the paring knife, those little kitchen knives just about everyone has and uses at home? The kind of knife here in the United States and many other countries, you can buy for about a d two or three dollars in the common, Dollar Stores, Walmart, or in every grocery store. One guy told me that when he lands from a plane ride into another state or country, he quickly runs to a cheapy store or supermarket right away, and buys a paring/fruit knife for self defense. No he is not “Gray man” or “Jason Bourne.” He sells car parts and just anticipates brutal attacks on every corner, or hotel room. Is that preparation a good idea? Too much? Too little? Whatever, although I don’t know how he’ll carry the raw blade around, but its good for the hotel room and…thereabouts. I don’t know. Why not?
And I do consider the classic these defense problems too, and at least in hotels, especially in the no-no, weapon-free states and countries I work in. I don’t exactly, often travel to the best and safest places all the time. I was in a motel in Africa one night, and the power went out, various people filled the streets outside and…well, that’s another long story…
But let’s take for a moment an official look at these paring knives. Professor Google defines one as, “… a small, short-bladed knife, used for intricate cutting, peeling, mincing and dicing. The blades are simple, sharp and precise. Length Range: From 3.5-4 inches, although some come in 2.5 inch ranges. Ideal for: Peeling and cutting small fruit and vegetables, even cracking nuts open.” Tons of them everywhere. They are pointy, sharp and cheap and you probably can get them anywhere.
Cheap knives. Expensive knives. Food prep knives. I saw a fixed-blade knife in a big knife show one weekend back in the 1990s. It was very cool and not officially assigned to kitchen duties, but for all around other knife-stuff on up to killing Nazis. It was about $175. Then that same day, my wife and I were in a kitchen store in an outlet shopping mall and they had kitchen knife sets for sale. From a short distance, I saw a set with similar designed wooden handles and blade “color.” I looked closer, I swear, I swear, the middle knife in the set of 8, looked EXACTLY like the $175 knife I saw earlier at the show. The whole kitchen knife set was like $19.99. Sure, probably the knives were made differently. But how much? (Great knives can be obtained, cheap at “Home Depots.”) Now…what does this mean? I don’t exactly know, but I must ask my standard who, what, where, when, how and why” questions:
I ask you these same questions every time I start a knife session. While we spend a whole lot on special “fighting” knives, we need to mention it is long known, world-wide, in law enforcement circles that simple kitchen knives of all sizes are used a whole lot, oh like in 90% of all knife-crime attacks in the entire civilized world. The rest of the world? Good chance you are going to be attacked by a knife-like, handy “work-tool” they use in the jungle, woods, garages or farm fields, thereabouts. I have a friend who works security in Mexico who translated a famous, underground phrase into English for me –
“You will be killed by a 5 peso knife.”
And then of course, next there is the use of the “tactical knives” to take up the statistical slack. Small percentage left though, huh? In or out of the field, the military rarely uses a knife in combat, opting for guns and grenades, but rather they are used as a handy tool, and when it does, it won’t be a little kitchen knife. As the one and only wise, Paul Howe, retired Delta Force, war vet likes to say,
“I like my tools to be weapons, and my weapons to be tools,”
Knife Tool-Knife Weapon. Whether 5 pesos or $500, I am not a collector of knives, per say, so I do not collect them just for the sake of admiration and collection, if you know what I mean. And I mean to say that while I really do like the looks of some knives, but to me, they are just tools. I don’t collect pairs of pliers, screwdrivers or hammers either.
Do you see what I mean? That is how boring I am. Simple tools. Use-able. I understand that some people really do love collecting knives. Fine with me. Have fun with it, I say. If you want to spend $1,000 and get a super-duper, steel blade that will stab-penetrate an Army tank? Go for it. If you’re happy? I’m happy. I’d like to look at them too. Hold them for a few seconds and flip them in my hand. “Size” them up, and so forth. But, I’m just not going to buy it. Buy it and then…what? Stick it in a drawer with so many others, Somewhere in my house, waiting for the next tank war?
Instead, I suffer horribly from, my malady is, the collection of simple knife TACTICS. Knife moves. Knife movements, Knife techniques. Knife situations. Knife law. Not the collections of knives.
Kitchen versus tactical. Knives and Names. Worry about the name of your knife and the name of your knife course. Most of you already also know how I feel about carrying knives called like, Close Quarter Combat 7 or, SEAL Team, Throat-slitter 6, or studying knife courses with crazy names. (Remember the more macho you really are deep down? The least you need to flaunt it.) Its all fun and games with macho, militant knives until you actually use your “Klingon CQC De-Bowelizer” in a fight. Or, you have graduated from knife courses with violent names similar to “Beserker,” or “Destructo.” What about that “Prison-Stick em” course offered with special “prison-stick em’ knives? Or, do you like to proclaim yourself some sort of a “bastard child” of some international, “knife mafia.”
Police and prosecutors will, we/they will take a hard look at this and add tour fetishes to the demise of your freedom, or life even. Trust me on this. I have worked these cases. How extreme can this be? I recently saw a webpage banner of one of these out-lander, knife “families” and one wrote a little ditty ON THE TOP BANNER about “cutting someone balls off and sticking them in the newly-knife-emptied eye sockets.” YOU…are a sick fuck. YOU…are why the rest of us carry knives and guns.
The name of your knife and the name of your knife course, like your comments on social media, whack-job tattoos, etc. works against you. If you think you are defending yourself with some macho, knife cult course, how well will you defend yourself AFTER you stab the crap out of someone, with all this mess in your background? (After this essay was first published in 2016, this idiot, or after the idiot group leader’s mandate, this sick idiot took that banner down.)
Back to he pocket-carry, fruit knife. Can you walk around with a paring knife and be safe from police scrutiny and keep safe from self-inflecting wounds? Yes, and you could of course, carry your sheath-less paring knife inside your pocket, for one cool example – with a little clever Origami (folded paper ala Japan) sheath. (See video link below.) It won’t be a sheath-sheath, but you won’t sit down, say, and stab or cut your thigh. Will the knife come out freely from the paper sheath or require two hands to clear the knife in your desperate quick draw?
Will this world of crime-war-law treat you better if you have a cute little, paring knife and not a commando hatchet “in your pocket?” In the real world, a paring/fruit knife is still but a knife. Whatever knife, in the end, a knife is a knife. To a cop who pats you down, a knife is a knife. We all already know about the record high use of kitchen knives.
I am also told the fruit/knife/bag idea was originated some by other people years and years ago. I also heard this idea years ago with walnuts. Stick the small knife tip inside a walnut and have it and some of these nuts loose in your pocket. A walnut is smaller than an apple!
“Oh noooo, London officer, or Sydney officer, (______ insert city officer) I just like nuts and use this illegal knife to crack them open.”
The nut rig might be better in a little paper sack with some other nuts awaiting shell dismemberment? Or maybe better – a metal lunch box? Then you get to look like Charlie Brown walking to school all the time. (Again, where are you walking to and from?)
Using that wet, fruit pocket carry for “plausible deniability?” You know, I just don’t think so. Maybe in some way, rural area of Mexico? Or a picnic area on the coast of Greece? I think these fruit and nut knifers are really S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G this bag, pocket method of carry in a desperate ploy to sound all insider-innovative. To me? Not so much. Being a cop and being around cops for most of my adult life – a cop sees a knife. A knife is a knife. What happens next will all fall into local length laws, knife laws, personalities and the situation, etc.
So your knife has a piece of fruit in the end, maybe in a bag? Anyway, can you:
wear baggy enough pants for all this?
stab a guy with such a short knife with its tip already in fruit? When “God made his little green apples,” some of those apples are hard. Better pick a really soft, more squishy-collapsible peach then. Think about that.
stab, with knife in fruit, all while inside a zip-lock-like bag, you holding the handle outside of the bag? As some “experts” actually suggest? Think about this people! And let’s remember the lesser penetrations and lesser success in using really small, naked, knives, lest of all, ones laden with fruit on the end, lest of all, all of this inside a bag.
also, plastic bags reduce some slashing effectiveness and knives with stuck fruits severely limit the already limited slashing surfaces and effects.
This fruit-bag trick will probably not fool anyone unless the police deem the carrier is like a certified Forest Gump type. Or maybe the investigating authorities are dimwits? The situation will rule out.
If this paring, fruit knife…is “legal” in size and so forth, you don’t really need the fruit or nut excuse, the plastic bag excuse, or the “hungry-later” excuse. Fruit -on-knife fighting. Review the pros and cons for yourself, and don’t become an ex-con by misconstruing knives and the law. There are many different knives. Which one is yours?
Okay folks. Bare with me. I have a few martial ranks through the years, (like a FMA, guro BB test in Manila). So, this is a joke but not a joke. I have a joke-meme I’ve passed around for years with two loaves of cut-open bread, a “white bread-brown bread” meme.
The idea is that “Joe Jones,” white boys will hardly ever achieve respected status in FMA. (I know a RARE few are, yes, yes, but most people look to and seek, foreign sources, certainly Filipino in FMA, but often settle for any American in the states with a “Spanish sounding” name. Or at least foreign sounding name. Exotic. Same is true for the rest of the planet. Think about it. Make a list and really think about it.
“The ‘hierba’ (grass) is always greener….”
And bland, white, Joe-Jones-Gringos (like me) take a back seat. This is not new, it’s a martial arts “universal.” Who wants to learn BJJ from a white boy from Finland? NO! Brazil! Or at least have a cool Hispanic or foreign surname! I’ll fall for that!
Eventually you will have to settle for a …”Gaijin” in your neighborhood. He or she may be fantastic, just not as well known, (and will remain unknown, which is actually the whole point of this essay).
All this is just the subliminal (and overt) marketing of life and what we seek out, like Chinese food, or Italian pizza and who makes makes the best cars? Germans or Japanese? Are ex-cons the best street fighters? Do the Israelis have the best military fighting system? Is Silicon valley the best source for all things tek? Why pick the Marines over the Army? People should recognize natural and man-made…”lures.” Who has the “best” story for what? And why? What then, catches our fancy? What do we gravitate to?
In fact, when I think about it, I have felt like a white boy (and-or wrong religion) outsider in most martial arts I’ve ever down, with all the real leaders always from elsewhere, Japan, Philippines, Indo, Russia, Israel, China, the sewers of Spain (gag)…the popular systems and arts are always from elsewhere. And me? Always the…gringo. This though I expected, it’s just an observation on martial life.
Anyway, there were numerous viewers of that “bread” meme on various pages, some very smart and substantial folks, and they laughed and liked it when I half-joked that I might therefore just call myself “El Gringo,” as part of an FMA business nickname, (I still teach FMA here and there around the world along with mostly combatives.) Just a fun, name-game and partly a bit of satire on all those grand, tuhon-guro-supremo-GM master titles that keep inching up like bamboo. For 26 years now, I just tell everyone I teach to call me “Hock” and remain on an equal, friendly footing as I believe system-head-worship is confining and not good for evolution. Bad for some of my business, but good for your evolution and freedom.
Some attendees-students still insist on titling me. It’s a tradition, you know. If you must call me something? Truth is, I’m just a gringo, a white boy, outsider from Texas who knows a few tricks of the trade. Tongue in cheek? A satire on the name-game? For FMA…call me…”EL GRINGO!”
“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes the stickman known as Gringo. This bold renegade carves a “G” with his blade, a “G” that stands for Gringo.”
(Sung to the Zorro TV theme with apologies thereto. I realize the great young, unwashed has never heard the Zorro theme song. Never saw the old show. Too bad. Then feast! Feast on this video! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQnle_3KuOE
A Bigger Picture. In the martial arts world, stick fighting is most closely associated with the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). A huge chunk of many FMA systems is indeed about the stick-versus-stick duel and closer-in stick versus stick events.
(Using a stick as an easy and fast target, as with developing the smart fanning strike shown here, is not necessarily learning how to stick duel.)
The stick versus stick dueling battle is really a pretty rough game of checkers if done right. Next inward, getting in closer is often called by many, loosely “stick trapping.” Many FMA-ers have turned this closer-in range, this “stick trapping,” into a complicated, chess match with copious options to train…forever. Many FMA-ers obsess about this closer-in, back and forth above other vital skills. To me, it’s simple math turned into unnecessary calculus. (I remind all here that I have been “doing” FMA since 1986 and I know a bit whereof I speak.)
Is this calculus necessary in the real world? First with dueling. No. Almost all of us are highly unlikely to get into the proverbial 28” stick versus (coincidentally?) another 28” stick fight in a real world, dueling “street fight.” A study of the stick in common self defense should not be centered around mirror-image, stick-versus-stick material. Second with stick trapping? No. Not this much. Obsessing with stick dueling and stick trapping should be relegated more into a category of (fun) art, sport, hobby or exercise, with only abstract benefits to self defense.
Through my decades of policing, training, cases and rather obsessive research, I have personally run across a few impact weapon “duel-related” battles like drunken, softball bat fights at tournaments, or crowbar versus tire iron fights. Things like that. Still, they are rare in comparison to the messy, mixed weapon world that actually exists in crime and war. While dueling helps various attributes, there are indeed smarter things to do, to prep for a fight in crime and war. When you remove stick-versus-stick dueling and the calculus of stick trapping from FMA systems, there is so much less to worry about and train for. It’s vital to some extent in FMA, but even in FMA, there is always other stick things to work on like stick-versus hand, stick-versus-knife, even stick-versus-various, gun threats.
I am asked to teach FMA and I do so with a great big smile as it is one of my fun interests, but I always make this quick “really?” lecture. As readers know by now, I preach the “hand, stick, knife, gun, mixed weapon, matrix.” And while my Force Necessary: Stick course must touch a bit on the impact weapon duel because it has and can happen in, I in no way emphasize it. And a great many folks emphasizing self defense and combatives agree with me on this.
Watch out! These “reality” people are “window-peepers, peeping in your windows, watching you on Youtube.” quick to judge what you are doing and pigeon-hole you as artsy and off-mission for reality. Which leads me to the quandary. For self defense combatives, can you train stick versus stick?
Yes. Some. It seems so, and not just for the rare event when dueling might happen. For the so-called, reality based training, the trainer and trainee, the work-out partners should still both often hold sticks sometimes. Sometimes? In stick training, it is much easier and faster for both partners to hold sticks for various goals. Ease, target practice and stick blocking to name three.
Ease– You do it. Partner does it. You do it. Partner does it, whatever you are working on. This probably is best done when the attack is with any weapon, could be a stick or a knife, or many empty hand attacks. Just be aware of the purpose of the exercise. Easier and faster with both holding sticks. Both are holding sticks. It looks like stick versus stick training.
Target practice – As displayed in the photo above and below, often stick strike training is best done by hitting another stick. You can use a kicking shield, yes, but it might be faster and easier switching sides by both partners using sticks. And you can hit his stick hard. Again, both are holding sticks. It looks like stick versus stick training.
Blocking practice. Learn to block just about ANYTHING coming in with great force, the force that a stick can produce.
(Target practice! And you can hit hard. He can learn to block well too.)
So even if you are a self defense, combatives person you might find yourself looking like an FMA-er and appear to be doing “too much stick versus stick” to short-term window peepers. But dueling is not your real, end mission.
In summary, a few quandary warnings to think about…
Will reality-based “window peepers” blasphemy you as artsy? (Hey, I know I will hear from many of you that you don’t care what others think. But, I am “just sayin”…)
Is a “reality” person getting too use to subliminally seeing too many stick attacks? Remember to replace that stick with a knife. A lot. (It’s still FMA to go stick versus knife!)
Use the other guy’s stick for safe, quick target practice.
Once in a while, worry about impact weapon dueling in combatives.
Be “on-mission” in practice and doctrine. Doing FMA? Do FMA. Doing generic combatives? Do that.