In this age of widespread interest in de-escalation and verbal skills to defuse any and all encounters, this is a tale about how convoluted and difficult a quick, on-the-spot verbal solution might be. It’s a short story from a case I worked on.
A driver pulled his truck up into a handicapped parking space to drop his wife off at a post office. He did not put his truck into “park.” She got out and walked away. He reached down, did something for a second, and was about to back out of the spot, when a man walked by the front of his truck, scowling and yelling at him, waving a hand in the air.
The driver rolled down the window and said, “What?”
The man yelled in outrage about the driver parking in a handicapped spot. The driver, aghast at the outrage said, “I am not parked. I am leaving. I just dropped someone off!”
The man started cursing and closing in. “I had to park over there,” and he pointed down the lot. “You can’t park here!” “I’m not parked here!” he said again. But then he now was, as the driver put his truck into the parking gear and got out, telling me later he thought that the man would come over and kick in and dent his truck, or reach into the open window after him.
The driver got between the man and his truck and said, “WHAT is your problem?” (oh, what a classic line! The classic answer is – “you’re my problem” and so on and so on. The very common low-brow script of a fight). And so it goes. You know the dialogue of this bad movie from this point on. You already know it. I often tell you that these pre-fights words are like movie scripts and usually quite predictable.
The complainer swings at the driver. The driver fights back. There are witnesses. The police are called and the man gets arrested for assault. Later this complainer files an assault case back on the driver and it becomes a “he-said, he-said” deal.
My sad part of the story is that one morning in a detective squad meeting, I got both cases dropped on my desk. My CID Lieutenant says, “this ain’t going away.” Meaning these two guys are calling us and complaining about each other and how each were in the right. And of course, one of the two had even called the chief. Another day in Detective Heaven.
I started with this angry man, the complainer. I asked him to come in and give us a written statement, which he jumped at the chance to vent. He showed up for the appointment, loaded for vocal bear, and in a small, interview office I let him unload. The guy was panting when the oratory was over. I did not say a word.
“Okay,” says I. “let’s get that whole story down on paper.” I had to read him his rights and now the story was officially counted. And line by line, we got it all down as I typed his words as he said them. He calmed down and his remarks took a turn to another topic. The real cause and motivation of his complaining. Handicapped people and handicapped parking…
“What’s the ratio of handicapped people compared to non-handicapped people?” he asked. “I don’t know.” Now he was getting mad at me. “Well you should know. People like you in your business should know.” “Hmmm” “I know this much,” he continued. “I know that there are too many handicapped parking places. There has to be too many of them compared to regular people. If you go down to Kmart you’ll see all those good, front parking places are reserved for the handicapped. What a dozen? Dozen and a half? Are there that many handicapped people parking there, compared to others? A regular person has to hike to the store.”
I did not answer. Then I said,” you want me to mention your parking spot concerns in the statement?” “Hell yeah! Maybe someone will read it for a change?”
This theme rolled on. I realized that the guy wasn’t mad at the driver because the driver had pulled into the handicapped slot for a second. He wasn’t protecting the rights of the handicapped. This guy was mad at handicapped people! And how many parking places they got. He was ripping mad because of proliferation of handicapped parking! It would really be difficult, it is really difficult to de-escalate such an encounter without…ESP.
It’s always wise to explore de-escalation. Sure. But, there are a lot of people “out there” teaching de-escalation. In my opinion, most of them (and I know many of them) are very logical, very nice people but have never really stood before face-to-face rage. Real rage and its bizarre twists. Seen its ugly face. Or stood before someone who fights every Friday night, who just wants to fight for fight’s sake, and its Friday night, 11:30 p.m.!
Back in the 1970s, the 80s and even the 90s, this phrase “the car as a coffin” was a warning, a cop-training-phrase, a “word to the wise” about being stuck in the car and being killed while stuck by an outside shooter. The advice was to…
“Get out of the car! Because the car is a coffin.”
When things got hot and you predicted bullets could/would fly, or while bullets were indeed flying, you have to try and get out of the car. Get out of the car because the car is an enclosed coffin. So, we got out if we could, because you know, sometimes you can’t! We got out the driver’s side, or we planned on traversing across the front seat to escape, low and crawling, to get out the passenger side if need be. OR, I have had friends successfully dive under the dashboard while under fire.
But alas, that was the good ol’ days of big cars. Who can dive for cover under a dashboard in today’s cars or worse, today’s patrol cars? They have some small patrol cars today, and some big police SUVs too. But, have you seen the front seat of a police car lately? It resembles a miniature version of the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise. Computer systems, like a Robby the Robot, if you will, sits in the middle of the front seat. You CANNOT traverse the front seat anymore! And in civilian cars, the popularity of the console traps you in the driver’s seat more than ever.
I followed this golden rule, but even when you believe in it, you can still get caught there in an instant. Like I did this one disturbing Saturday, summer night in 1980.
“Sixty-one,” the dispatcher said.
“Go ahead,” my reserve police partner Joe Reilly said.
“Domestic. Brothers fighting in back yard. The Starnes brothers. Mother called it in. 15 Jasper Street.”
“Ask if the two brothers are wanted,” I told Reilly.
“Dispatcher, check wants and warrants on the brothers.”
“In progress. They’re clear.”
Damn. The Starnes brothers. Bout half-crazy, trouble makers. Almost twins, born so close and virtually look-alikes. In just about the same kinds of twin trouble. Drugs. Fighting. Burglaries. It wasn’t too late yet in the evening. About 8 p.m. Too early for the real trouble these neighborhoods brewed. We drove through the busy streets on the warm night. We didn’t need to look 615 Jasper up on the map. We’d been there before.
When we pulled up, Reilly and I got out and heard the loud argument in the backyard, behind the long, old white house. We walked up the driveway beside the house, passed through the metal, chain-link gate and into the yard.
The mom was there in a house dress, arms folded. A neighbor we knew by sight, a very big dude was calmly standing by and when he needed to, pushing the brothers apart. The bothers were neck vein, popping mad over something.
“Hey!” I said loudly. “What’s going on?”
The mother spoke up and relayed the problem which frankly, I don’t recall to report here. We all talked it over for a moment, and I appreciated the presence of the neighbor. But, upon our very arrival, the brothers wanted to disappear. Afraid of being arrested again? Something else? I don’t know. It seemed like our very appearance ended the fight.
Brother Buddy Starnes was shirtless and wearing very tight, light-colored jeans. This is important later.
Just about the time I was officially wrapping up the conversation, Buddy left prematurely. Looking back now, it was obvious he had something to hide or be worried about. He turned and walked away well before I finished, and I, casually, walked after him down the driveway. Reilly lagged back just a few seconds more to finish up with the mom.
I felt Buddy’s exit was a little too soon, but I really didn’t know what to do about it. He led the way down the driveway to the street, and I looked him over from behind. There weren’t any clothing prints of weapons that I could see in those tight pants.
“Buddy, next time, don’t leave until we’re through,” I said.
I wasn’t trying to be bossy, or a prick, but I wanted to say something to…to see what he would say or do.
He looked over his shoulder at me and gave me a real dirty look. Which, you know, “sticks and stones,” and a look never hurt me. But he strutted off onto the street heading in the way of a crowd of folks up the next avenue.
I walked around the front of the patrol car, opened the door and sat in behind the wheel. The very instant my butt hit the seat? I caught motion in the corner of my left eye.
Buddy was strutting back to me, his right hand borrowing into his tight right pocket.
Shit. I instinctively, instantly pulled my revolver. The window was already down, and I laid the 4 inch barrel of my magnum on the top of the door. Barrel right at him. It’s big and he saw it.
“WHAT you pulling?” I growled.
He yanked his empty hand out of his pocket and stood there. Expressionless. Looking at the hole in the barrel of my gun.
Now, I tell you I stared hard at the pocket. It was flat, flat, flat and his jeans were very tight. I made a snap decision that he could not have anything at all in that pocket, or any pocket for that matter.
“Get the fuck outta here,” I told him in a very quiet, sinister way.
Expressionless, he waited in a stare down with me and the gun, then turned and walked away in his original direction. I did not holster my Python. I just watched him walk off.
Reilly slipped into the passenger side, sat and was shocked at my position. Gun out, barrel on the door.
“I don’t know,” I told him. “He turned back on me, and it looked like he was pulling something from his pocket.”
“But I can’t imagine he had anything in that pocket. Those pants are skin tight.”
I put my gun away, started the car and drove off. Not even a half a minute later…
“Sixty-one, are you still on Jasper street?” the dispatcher asked.
“Just a block away,” Reilly answered.
“Man shot on porch. 12 Jasper. Ambulance in route.”
What? I whipped the car around and blasted over to 10 Jasper. We slid up in front, ran up the to the porch where an older woman was tending to man lying on the porch. He was down and shot in the chest. I propped him up just a bit. We told her to get us a towel, and Reilly made for the trunk for our first aid kit. We plugged the hole. Applied pressure.
The old man could talk. He said he was sitting on his porch when “that boy” without a shirt in tan pants walked by, out in the street, looked at him and then shot him.
“Was that Buddy Starnes?” I asked while the ambulance sirens closed in on us.
“It coulda been, but I don’t sees real well. Real far. At night.”
The bullet hole didn’t look very big on his chest, but a chest wound is a chest wound. The EMTs got there and took over. Reilly and I jumped back in our car and I checked in with the dispatcher. I put Buddy Starnes out on the air as the shooting suspect.
We and other units scoured the streets for Buddy. Reilly and I made every nightclub in the district. Asked everyone on the street. For hours. Nothing. And boy-howdy, I knew I screwed up. I made a snap decision to let that little piece of shit walk off. He did have a thin gun after all, must have, probably a small, semi-auto in that pocket. That bullet was meant for me. But since he couldn’t shoot me, he, frustrated, walked off a few houses away and shot that old man. I should have stepped out, and patted him down. But, I let a visual-search-only, trick my judgement.
I met with the detective on call that night, and I told him what had happened. He also hunted Starnes with us in his own car. I can’t remember which detective it was. He asked Reilly and I to write supplements to the shooting crime report when we got back to HQ.
CID worked up a case on Starnes. The old man lived. It was a .32 caliber bullet that didn’t do much damage at all. Within a day or two, the detectives found Buddy, but they never found the gun. He confessed to shooting the old man because he said he’d always had trouble with him as he was growing up. A cranky old neighbor motive?
But deep down, I knew what happened. I first ticked Buddy off. He wanted to shoot me in the car but I got the drop on him. And since I let him walk off, he shot that old man instead.
Months and a few years later, I would stop and talk to this old man a time or two, when I saw him on the porch in that same chair.
Even years later as a detective. He frequently reminded me that he and Buddy had problems since Buddy was a kid, and that is why he was shot, but I still feel like I was a precursor to his shooting. I know I was. What…what do you say to this guy, to make any kind of amends? The old man died in the 90s. I still think about it sometimes. A missed chance. A missed chance!
“The car as a coffin.” My good, trusty friend and working Texas cop, Jeff “Rawhide” Laun, told me that even now, 40 years later, they still use that phrase in police work and training. Even though they are now more captured today on the driver’s side of their cars with the techno systems in the middle of the front seat. No crawling across the front seat to escape! No dropping out the passenger door! No diving under the dash! You are stuck. The coffin shrinks.
But, this was as close as I got to being stuck in a car and shot. My friends have been shot at while inside cars and those are other stories. But, no matter how well I understood, and how much I believed and worried about that classic training line – “the car is a coffin” – in a single instant, I still got stuck in there.
I am alive today because several times over the years I got my gun out first and fast. I am not some kind of a quick draw artist, not at all. I am…just quick-to-draw. My gun just “appeared” when I needed it. Practice, I guess? If you have to shoot through the glass of your car? Shoot. Don’t worry about the finer points of trajectory and how the bullets will go slightly up or down due to the angle of the car glass. You don’t have time to run the math. Just shoot. Make a hole and shoot through that hole!
Should I Even Dare to Use a Knife to Defend Myself?
A motto for my Force Necessary: Knife course is “Use your knife to save your life!” It’s also for desperate times and situations. Mine is a politically correct slogan that sets the stage for the carry-and-use doctrine.
The knife can be used for less-than-lethal purposes and lethal purposes. Yes, less-than-lethal despite its reputation. The edged weapon is not well looked upon in the legal systems of the civilized world. I must warn you that if you use one to defend yourself you usually will be harshly regarded and will be working under an emotional and costly deficit to clear yourself of legal trouble.
Carrying alone can be a problem. Most pocket and belt carry knives are illegal in many countries and in some cities and states in the United States, unless you have a very common sense reason to do so, such as your job. If you run across the street to grab a cup of coffee, from your factory job, you may be grilled by authorities about your pocket knife. (This has happened.)
Knife who, what, where, when, how and why?
Who are you to carry a knife? What do you do that requires a knife? Where do you do this knife-as-tool work? When do you need a knife on your job or work? How will you use this knife on your job or work? Why such a knife?
These are some of the legal questions authorities will consider, investigate and ask about your knife-carry in these knife-restricted areas.
There is also a citizen-based, “never-knife” and “anti-knife” knife movement, if you will, in certain self defense and combatives programs. Many of these groups are in countries where knife carry is illegal. I get the message from several Krav Maga schools also, which is a bit surprising. I hear –
“I’ll never have a knife!”
“I’ll never need a knife, I have my unarmed skills.”
“Even if I disarm a knife, I’ll just throw it off.”
“Carrying Knives are illegal where I live. I won’t have one.”
“I don’t need knife training. Everyone already knows instinctively how to use a knife.”
“People who like and use knives are crazy, like criminals.”
“There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?”
“Have you seen the kinds of people that carry and train with knives? they’re a cult. A crazy, wacky cult!” …and so on.
Knives are quite ubiquitous. There are in the kitchens and probably the garages of every home in the world. They are in every restaurant in the world, and every business in the world that requires a minimal amount of handy work. There was a stabbing the other day in a Walmart. A man got a for-sale knife off a shelf and used it. These facts render some of the above quotes moot.
And I might address the “There are no self defense knife use statistics where I live. Why bother then?” comment. I usually hear it from people/instructors/school owners who live in countries where knife-carry is nearly of fully illegal. There are consistent numbers of knife and gun crime but not knife self defense. Could that be that knives are just not allowed on the streets for the normal law abiding citizen? The no-knife mentality bleeds over to forgetting the knife, like Judo people forget to punch.
Still, despite the stigma, I carry on with my own knife course – Force Necessary: Knife. Here’s why and perhaps some of the talking points I use, maybe you can use for your positions. The following is how and why I justify a “nasty, violent” knife course.
First off, I understand your anti-knife concerns. I really do. I have wrangled with these issues. I have no particular fascination with knives themselves. I feel the same way about guns and sticks. I do not collect them, in the same way I wouldn’t collect wrenches or hammers, or all tools in general. These things to me are tools. Some folks do collect knives and of course that’s fine and fine hobby. But since I feel this way, this detachment, I might offer a very practical viewpoint on the subject, along with, needless to add, my decades of investigating knife crimes might add some value too. We live in a mixed weapon world and therefore I accept the challenge of trying to examine this…hand, stick, knife, gun world. Carry and possession laws aside, it’s still a hand, stick, knife, gun world. It’s a world of war and crime and that includes weapons. We fight criminals and/or worse, we fight enemy soldiers. Sometimes we escape them. Sometimes we capture them. Sometimes we have to injure them. And, sometimes we have to kill them.
A person (who lives anywhere) should know how to use a stick, a knife or a gun, despite the laws possessing them. I am not talking about legal or illegal possessing here, as in walking around with an illegal weapon in your pocket. I am just talking about use. Using it. Knowing. Messing with it. Familiarization.
The big picture. Martial instructors with statistics of things that almost never happening? A whole lot of things hardly ever happen in some areas. There are 330 million people in the United States. Millions in other countries. And the odds of being a victim of any hand, stick, knife or gun crime is quite small in comparison. Keep this in mind when we discuss one hand-fighting-only instructor in the USA who declared it was waste of time to bother learning long gun disarming. “Long gun attacks never happen,” he said. “You would be smarter to get on a treadmill than learn long gun disarming.” He said these very things the same week a guy walked into a church with an AR-15 and killed people. Annually, consistently, people use long guns like hunting rifles and shotguns in crimes. The problem exists. Since it exists, the problem requires solutions and one movement is in the available, existence of long gun disarming training.
Stats also that say that knife defense hardly ever happens too? That beatings with impact weapons hardly “never happen.” That fistfights and unarmed beatings hardly ever happen. I agree in the big picture. I think you would discover though that even simple, unarmed fights are also extremely rare when compared to population size and the billions of personal interactions people have every day.
So then, if an actual, unarmed fight, or an actual unarmed attack/crime is so very, very rare in comparison to the population number, the interactions numbers, why do we then bother to practice any self-defense at all? If hardly anything happens? Why bother with your Krav Maga?
Crime rates are small compared to the over-all population. Most of you reading this now will never be in an unarmed fight, never a knife fight, never be shot, or never be a victim of crime. Still we work on these problems because on some level we know, it has happened, will happen and could happen to you and yours. It sort of – needs to be done.
I ask this of the “never-knife,” people, the “never long-gun” person, the unarmed-only trainer. Why bother doing anything then? Does your “no-knife” logic carry over to “no-hand,” “no-stick, “no-gun?” None of it happens a lot anyway. Why bother?
A study of the FBI crime records disclosed that through the years, 40% to 90% of the people the police must fight, are armed in some fashion. That’s a lot of weapons out there in the civilian world. But, of course, in the history of crime and war, a knife (and sharp, knife-like things) has been used, dare I say, countless times in combat. Since this “no-knife-no-matter-what” essay aired on social media back in 2016, Brits, Europeans and Australians have presented examples when desperate people have used knives to save lives and have been acquitted, even within their strict laws. Even guns have been used in self defense and shooters were acquitted in “no-gun’ worlds. In the end, the “totality of circumstances” (a legal term) and common sense should usually win out. We hope! Should you ever, even dare to use a knife to save your life? It will certainly be ugly. There will be ramifications.
I do get a kick out of the knife simpletons who say, “just stick the pointy end in someone.” Well, there are mental and physical and situational and legal issues to work on and work out. I also find it interesting that many of these same folks spend thousands and thousands of dollars to own and learn how to stick the…”pointy end of a bullet,” into someone. A simpleton might say back to them, “What? Just point the barrel and pull the trigger. Stick the pointy end of a bullet into someone.” I would never say that about shooting and I won’t say that about the knife either.
Mental. Physical, Situational. Legal. I hope I don’t have to mention a long list of examples here. Training with a knife creates a desensitization of it’s use, something most people need. They need the speed, strength and coordination to overcome an opponent and their reflexive arms. What are the positions and situations of use? And my God, the legal issues! One could write a book about these vital things (oh…I have!)
And I would be remiss not to comment here on the subject listed above on “lost,” dropped or disarmed knives in this essay. You might not have a knife, but he does! And in your unarmed combatives class, your Krav Maga class in “no-knife” countries still practice knife disarms ad nauseam. You break the guy’s nose and execute Disarm #22. It worked! Two things happen to the knife –
The knife either hits the floor, or,
The knife is now in your untrained hand.
What happens next? One naysayer says he will just “throw that knife away” and continue to fight on versus one, (two or more) bad men unarmed. What size room are you in, anyway? And just because the knife (or gun) is on the floor doesn’t mean the bad guy can’t lunge down in a second’s flash and get it back. The lethal threat is not over because the knife has hit the floor at your feet. It’s still within lunge and reach and the deadly intent has been established with his assault.
Knives! Look…hey…they exist. They are everywhere. To save your life and the lives of others, use them when and where you got them. Its a hand, stick, knife, gun, world. If you call yourself a self defense, combatives, survivalist, you must have a working knowledge of hand, stick, knife, gun world.
Warning though, if you use a knife, even legally, you will still be rung through the legal ringer. First the knife carry-and-use stigma. Then your background, your comments on social media, your “unusual” (they will call it) interest in weapons. Your knife brand name and your knife social group. Your tattoos. Everything will be used against you. And you will spend a lot of money with lawyers. I have written about these obstacles extensively elsewhere. Violence sucks and this will suck too.
So, despite all the negativity, I still maintain the Force Necessary: Knife course as a storehouse of information and research on the subject. Somebody has to do it. Knife versus hand. Knife versus stick. Knife versus knife. Knife versus gun threats. Standing on down to floor/ground. Legal issues. Use of Force. Rules of engagement. Psychology. History. (Certainly not just knife dueling.)
I will leave you “never-ever-knife” folks with this thought. This question. It’s 4 am and you hear two thugs breaking into your back door. Your spouse and kids are asleep. Presuming you are unfortunate enough, deprived enough, not to have a gun handy, do you reach for the biggest kitchen knife you can get your hands on? Or, will they get to your big knife first instead, as so many home invaders and rapists like to use your kitchen knives, so they aren’t caught with a knife in transit. If you don’t even think about getting a kitchen knife in that very dark moment? You are a very poorly trained, self defense, survivalist. If you do realize you need to get the biggest knife you can find? You may have just joined that crazy knife cult you so quickly dismiss!
On the east side of our city, there ran a series of waterways, storm channels to handle the bad Texas rainstorms. I know some cities don’t have any of these drains, but I guess everyone has seen storm channels in the classic movies and TV shows about Los Angeles. Just like theirs in the City of Angels, ours was an “open top” system, quite wide at parts, deep in sections and branched off into all parts of the city.
The channels were usually dry unless it rained heavily. But like in this photo here, there was usually a skinny stream from somewhere. I have seen them flood and overflow. I have had a few foot chases thru and in, some fights, arrests, and a couple of mishaps down in the dirty ditches. Here’s one such tale.
I once chased down and cuffed a child rapist through those channels, but my first real adventure down below in the water channels … catching an armed robber, way back in the late 70s. There was a series of armed robberies plaguing us on the east side of town, and the detectives were doing the best they could with stakeouts and interviews to break the cases. Solo actor. Big revolver. Black male. In his 30s. Afro. Cheap bandanna over the lower half of the face. We were all convinced that the suspect was a local. No one ever saw a getaway car, and each time the occasional witnesses said the man just melted off into the back lots and alleys behind the businesses.
Several nights a week back then, I rode with another patrolman named Clovis George, a very sharp and real funny guy, a prior border town/city cop down Mexico way. Even back then, the Texican border towns were all hotbeds of all kinds of criminal activity and, yes, drugs, too. The interstate that split our city ran from old Mexico straight up the center of the USA. A drug route then and now, but that’s a whole other story. Clovis had seen a lot of street-level action down there on the border. The George family was big in our city, and he returned home after several years to settle down. Our city produced one Miss America,Phyllis George, and she was his cousin.
Another one of these armed robbery calls went out late one weeknight while we were paired up in one car; and it had us and other cars running every which way hay-wired, trying to find the suspect either running or driving away in a getaway car. Not a clue. A clean escape yet again.
When the dust settled, we drove to a taco outfit and got tacos and some ice tea, sat on our squad car hood, and ate, contemplating the world as it blew by us. We also contemplated the armed robber.
“I’ll bet that squirrelly bastard is jumping down into these dry channels and running right home,” Clovis said between bites.
“I’ll bet we could jump in at one key point and cut him right off,” I said.
Sounded plausible to me, so we made a plan. A large percentage of criminals lived in the nearby projects in our beat, and we drove around to calculate possible routes from Tell Ave. businesses to the government housing districts. We knew the CID stakeouts were spotty and all above ground and vehicle-based. No way the detectives could cover all those locations every night, night after night. So if we were free and patrolling and heard a report of another east-side, armed robbery on our radio, and if our man was indeed a storm channel jumper, we would guesstimate the time and location where the robber would be running, jump in the drains at some point, and stake out that spot.
Well, within a few nights, a chicken restaurant was hit by our lone suspect. Handgun presented. Money grabbed. Mask. In and out. And Clovis and I raced to our own planned stakeout. We parked the squad car and, in a huddled-over combat run, slipped into the open channel by a viaduct at a bend in the system where we couldn’t be seen from afar. There was less than a small stream of water in there. In less than one minute, we heard some splashing and footsteps, and we exchanged surprised expressions like … “well, damn! That could be him!”
And sure enough it was. He rounded that corner huffing and puffing with a paper bag of money in one hand and a revolver in the other. We spread out and hit him with our flashlights’ beams. We pointed our pistols and started shouting,
“Drop the gun, or we’ll kill ya!”
“Drop it or yer dead right there!” Words to that general effect. You know what I mean. And they were true warnings.
Our man dropped his pistol and bag and put his hands up. Bandanna in his back pocket. We cuffed him, hauled him up the side, and “took him in,” as the expression goes.
CID was kind of thrilled. And they took over. Our suspect was not a local as it turned out. He was in from Arkansas visiting locals and thought he’d run up some traveling money while in town. Mask. Gun. Money. Flight. Matching size and clothing description. Wow. Nice little arrest. Hey, three cheers for the Clovis George idea of ditch jumping, all over some tacos and tea.
Through the years, Clovis and I were also detectives together, too. First him, and then me. Starting back in the early 1980s, I had a bit of a reputation for getting a lot of confessions; and Clovis often asked me to partner up with him when he had extra troublesome witnesses and suspects in his cases. Plus, I was his choice when he served an arrest warrant on some of his cases because we knew how to work in unison.
So, we worked these numerous cases together. Always had a blast, too. I remember he had an affinity toward the Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson suit line. He thought he was really styling it in a Carson brand suit. You know what? He was!
We went out with our wives to various country and western establishments in those days, some Tex-Mex locales, and drank way too much as I seem to recall. Admin often made the mistake of sending us to various investigation training schools in Austin, whereupon we had entirely too good a time above and beyond the classes. We’d drive to Austin on Sundays to be in position for class on Monday mornings. On some of the trips we’d bring a small camper’s black and white TV set with us to try and watch the Cowboy’s games in the car on the drive down. It was a war with the rabbit ears for antennas, trying to catch the local channels as we passed through cities on the interstate. Back then, you could legally drink and drive in Texas (not be drunk – just you know – sip up until), and this adventure always included beer. One guy drove and the other guy operated the rabbit ears. What a team! (Imagine doing that today. We would both be serving life sentences.)
Clovis took a few promotion tests while in CID and went back into uniform as a supervisor. He continued his professional career rise, while I, never testing for any rank, remained back in line operations working in the trenches, not unlike the stinky water ditch system where we made the aforementioned arrest.
Then he had a severe heart attack in the early 1990s. He recovered and became a supervisor for our communications division. He also became an avid runner. Then he suddenly died in 2002. The heart again. Couldn’t outrun those genetics no matter how hard he tried. I was working out of the country at the time and missed the funeral.
Many years later our agency developed a truly amazing, modern police academy. They dedicated the police library part in his name, which I thought was just a damn fine idea. Here’s a picture of one of the best Police Chiefs you can find, Lee Howell, dedicating the library with Dana George.
Clovis George was a really good guy, a good friend, and we had a lot of laughs, tacos, beers, and margaritas. Plus, together, we handcuffed a number of felons, too. What more could you possibly ask of a friend? What more?
Who, what, where, when, how, and why do people draw their weapons once inside the fight? AFTER the fight has started? After the first collision? When do they or don’t they draw their knives and guns, or maybe their clubs? Brass knucks? Or other weapons? We have already documented the three major weapon-carry sites here in prior essays and outlines:
Primary Carry Sites – think quick draw;
Secondary Carry Sites – think backup;
Tertiary Carry Sites – think lunge and reach, off the body
These are locations on or near the body we need to anticipate for weapon pulls when dealing with suspicious people. Their hands access these weapon sites. (This is where we pack em too!)
“Watch the hands, it’s the hands that will kill you,” is the old police adage. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you just stare at their hands during an encounter, but you just keep track of their hands.
But if someone is armed and gets into a grappling/fist-fight, why and at what point in the fight does the weapon draw happen? When do they do it, or why don’t they pull their knives or guns AFTER the fight has started? As a Army and Texas detective, I have investigated tons of assaults, aggravated assaults, attempted murders and murders, plus have received continuous police training on crime and here is what I think.
1. No pull – they actually forget they are armed
2. No pull – they know better
3. Pull – they get mad enough
4. Pull – they start to lose
5. Pull – dominant fervor
1: No pull – they forget. Yes, people get in fights and can forget they are carrying a weapon. When we arrest them and discover a gun or knife on them and ask them, “Why didn’t you use this?” They sometimes answer, “I forgot I had it.” This is a common occurrence.
2: No pull – they know better. Some people understand that the situation they are in doesn’t warrant or justify the use of their knives or guns. They don’t “rise to the occasion.” Some seasoned criminals know this. Smart guys and, of course, cops. Cops are carrying all kinds of weapons, get in all kinds of scrapes, and never pull the weapons from this sense of understanding and control.
3: Pull – they get mad enough. Everyone understands this. You are in a fight and perhaps take an extra serious blow or experience something that further enrages you. You forget the law and your common sense and pull that knife or gun out.
4: Pull – they start to lose. Everyone understands this, too. You are in a fight and sense it ending very badly for you. Predicting the disaster, you pull out the weapon.
5: Pull – dominant fervor. An official name for this category has arisen in the last few years, which recognizes a certain personality type. When they are in the final stage of winning or have won, they hate for it to be over. They want to further punish the opponent. So rather than leave, they want to enjoy themselves and the victory. Enjoy the moment. If they have the enemies pinned against the wall or ground or in their clutches, out comes the guns or knives. They get shoved in the loser’s face with celebratory words. They may carve up the people a bit. I recall a case I worked once where the winner cut the loser’s face and said, “Here, wear this for awhile.” Consider this as a “victory lap.”
Recently, I was talking with Queensland, Australia, police officers at a training session. They had just investigated an armed robbery…
Messing around with Judo, working out with friends, watching judo practice and tournaments, studying the stepping and positioning of opponents and the time it took, I once made a remark years ago in this class, that –
“all judo throws work quickly after you break the guy’s nose.”
And many friends looked at me like I was crazy or something. But I wasn’t. I meant it. You’ve seen grapplers step and step and torso-twist and circle arms for a position for a take down. You’ve seen wrestlers, wrestle and wrestle to get that submission. But, once you severely stun the opponent, opportunities suddenly, can quickly occur in allforms of fighting, standing and on the ground.
Put boxing into judo. Put ground n’ pound into wrestling. Unarmed or with weapons, close and afar, once stunned, they are diminished to some degree.
Weapon worlds? Yes. Of course. Through the years in policing and training with Simunitions, and other sims ammo that goes “boom,” I have learned that he who gets that first gunshot off, sends not just a bullet but a very shocking explosion at the opponent, so often disrupting their return fire plans, especially when close. Most range shooters are never on the wrong end of a barrel and don’t grasp this tremendous “first shot” advantage. Why do you think the police and military use stun grenades? It’s a form of “bullet shock.” In short, the first guy does a desperate, sloppy draw and shoots, missing his opponent. The second guy squints, his cheeks flap, draws, shoots under this pressure-blast and he misses. And so goes the common formula. You wear hearing protection when you stand BESIDE a shooter. Try to imagine being right in front of one, with no “ears” on.
Many knife victims are more shocked at seeing a knife, than feeling it as many do not even know they were stabbed or slashed at first, reporting instead that they were lightly hammer-fisted or punched. Yeah. Look it up.
What exactly is the Diminished Fighter Theory? It’s just a helpful phrase I coined decades ago about how you need to diminish an opponent in a fight. This is far from a new idea, its common sense and most folks get it, but still the idea doesn’t often float down and melt into many systems and routine practice. It is not “written-up” in the mission-statement or outlined in doctrine. Many martial arts like to advertise that “this art is self defense too!” Well, not really. Abstract yes. Helpful? Probably. But what is your real mission? Hobby? Tradition? Exercise? Sport? All four? The “What” question. Are you all over-over-the-board and don’t know it? (I confess that I spent many a decade all-OVER-the-martial-arts-board, minus proper definitions and direction. It was NOT a waste of time, just abstract.)
I report this here after over 40 years in the martial arts and 26 years in line operations in law enforcement, bodyguarding and investigations, whereupon I have arrested some 900 people. Some of these people were very “cranky” on up to a rare few that tried to kill me. So, I hope what I suggest here gets your attention. This is not just about simple martial arts “punching.” This theory is about hand, stick, knife, gun, crime and war, inside and outside structures on rural, suburban and urban areas.
We fight enemy soldiers, criminals and “drunk uncles” (family and friends). Sometimes they come to you already diminished. They are drunk, drugged, out-of-shape, untrained, etc. Sometimes, not. Once in front of you and things get physical, then, when we have to fight their…
adrenaline (which also helps their pain tolerance)
Any fight training they might have
We fight an opponent’s athleticism, their pain tolerance and their adrenaline, and with these elements even the lesser performer might still rise beyond our expectations.
So, we have to diminish them. I’ve used the sarcastic analogy also for years about how we would hate to fight “Bruce Lee on 3 cups of coffee.” Bruce, fresh. Alert. But throw chair at his head, and he’s Bruce on two cups. A lamp at his head? One cup. And so on until he becomes…”manageable.” Diminished. You get the picture. The idea. When we stand before a giant that we have to fight into handcuffs, it seems to be an impossible task. But if you diminish him enough, not only can you cuff him, you can tie his shoelaces together. Your first serious diminishment may knock the opponent cold. Which would be great, but you certainly can’t count on it. For me, in all these years working I have only knocked out one person with a first punch. I have seen a few of my co-workers do so. It certainly happens, but…in a mixed weapons world, you probably might have to settle for, and make plans for, the initial stun-diminishment. Fortune favors the prepared. But diminishment is NOTjust about hand striking.
“Punch a black belt in the face once, he becomes a brown belt. Punch him again, purple….” – Carlson Gracie Sr.
Levels of Stun: Levels and forms of stunning doesn’t just happen from a “punch,” a slap, a flash of a knife, or a close gunshot, and-or explosion. Stunning and subsequent diminishment is in any good ambush, wall slam or a takedown-throw when then the opponent first crashed to ground zero. And, I might quickly add here that you or your opponent may quickly “run out of gas,” another form of common diminishment, something that “emotional control and pacing” can help you with. There are indeed methods to enhance these things. Also, with this acknowledgement, you must include methods that “prepare for, and recovery from… stunning” in your lesson plans. It is tough recovering from a total ambush, but there are otherwise, “steeling yourself” methods. That’s another topic. It’s all part of my oldest motto, “Expect chaos. Train for chaos. Thrive in chaos.”
Officially recognize and place this diminished fighter concept )big and up front) in your martial training, and your martial arts training. There are many connected subjects to this topic I write about and teach through the Stop 6course and the vital blueprint of the Who, What Where, When, How and Why(Ws &H) questions. This is just a quick slice.
It was gruesome. Memories of pain fade, but not those of parents much. Out of respect for the surviving parents, I will pass on revealing the details of this child murder here, the death, rape and mutilation of a young girl, even though it was long ago. Suffice to say that we’ll start here, when this freshly, arrested killer was first incarcerated in our county jail, so that I might focus on only telling the tale of the greatest pistol shot I have ever “seen,” while the gunsmoke was still in the air, or more specifically, ever investigated, and one that has all the elements of a helleva, Texican lawman tale. It was the 1980s…
The day after the arrest, the brutal killer, Reilly Rice was in the county jail and due his very first visit to the judge for his judicial warnings, what is often called a preliminary arraignment. In our old, county jail building, just up the street from our city police headquarters, one judge had offices on the first floor, making such visits a handy process, as the jails themselves were all upstairs. Getting that first-day, mandatory visit could be geographically challenging in some jurisdictions, like organizing a chain-gang, bus ride to a courthouse. Nowadays, this type of appearance is often done by close circuit TV!
Judges can be power mad, quirky or cantankerous. You’ve seen this on TV, the movies and in the last two decades, you’ve seen these “Judge Judy” TV shows. Some actually talk and act like that. On this fateful day in the 1980s, a traveling judge was in chambers and he was one that demanded all prisoners who enter his court must be free of shackles. I guess he hadn’t has his nose broken yet. But something dramatic was about to happen that would at least make him think about that idea?
Whatever the process was assigning jailers to suspects for their court trip downstairs – rotation? Dice game? Short straw? Whatever, an overweight, out-of-shape jailer named Barry Bale got the chore of marching Reilly Rice downstairs to the judge’s chamber for this un-handcuffing and visit. Alone. Yes, alone! “Such be things at the ol’ jail-house.”
At that very time in the late afternoon, Texas Ranger Weldon Lucas walked into the Sheriffs Office on the first floor. He’d been in on this investigation and was there to collect paperwork on the case to send to his Dallas Ranger Company and then on to Austin, and to clear up some loose ends. Lucas was dressed in his usual, work clothes of a Ranger – western boots, pants and matching vest, tooled gun belt and classic, engraved, model 1911, .45 caliber handgun. (See the photo below.)The famous Ranger badge adorned his vest like it had on Rangers for hundred-plus years. Lucas was a regular sight to every police agency in the region and I can’t think of a police officer that didn’t know him, or certainly know of know of him, certainly we detectives did. I had worked with Lucas dozens of times on felonies. He had full jurisdiction throughout the State of Texas, which was handy.
Appointed by the Texas governor, Rangeren’ was a great job coveted by almost all, and Lucas was one of the troop that had considerable experience in investigation before pinning on that legendary badge. He’d been a state highway patrolman, as all Rangers start out, and then worked auto theft, narcotics and organized crime. The three big State branches. Many Rangers are appointed without such stout backgrounds and are a bit behind the curve in investigation skills. I recall one Ranger being “made” that had worked only as a patrolman and then for many years in a section called “Weights and Measures.” Weights and Measures involved weighing and overseeing trucks on the highway. Jobs like this offer zero qualifications for an investigative position, but sometimes politics get in the way with Ranger appointments. Very few had Weldon’s background.
Reilly Rice was due in court. A local Dallas, television station sent a news van up to the court to film the proceedings. The reporter and cameraman positioned themselves in the hall for the 6 and 11 o’clock news shot of Reilly Rice walking into the courtroom, as no cameras were allowed inside. A reporter would enter and take notes.
A hurried, representative of the DAs office showed up, but not much legalese would be crunched in this early visit of the case. Bales took Reilly Rice down the elevator. He walked Rice past the camera crew and into the court. He took off the handcuffs, as required. The TV crew got their “perp walk shot,” and walked out of the building to their van. Weldon Lucas was talking with some deputies in the lobby of the S.O. just down the hall.
And then all Hell broke loose. Rice punched and shoved the jailer, and took off!
I was working in our detective bay, closing out the day, when that hell broke loose. There were some other investigators there also. I can’t remember who bellowed out the announcement across the room.
“Reilly Rice just escaped from the jail. Eastbound on foot.”
We stampeded down the stairs, hit the street and ran to the S.O. just a long block away. Oddly, there were quite a number of prisoners through the years who’d ran/escaped from the sheriff’s office; right out the back door usually during book-in, interview or some transfer process. The bad guys could see the irresistible green of civic center park out the back doors and windows, versus the battleship gray cinder blocks and bars inside. And they bolted. They were always caught. We ran, all of us passing on getting into our cars and driving there, thinking we would be searching the surrounding park and streets afoot anyway.
My gut instinct was to flank over into the park behind the S.O., but my eye caught a disturbance way down on the major intersection just east of the jail. Four lanes of rush hour, east/west traffic stopped cold.
I ran past the county building and saw jailer Barry Bale, sitting on the ground, all multiple hundreds of pounds of him, his back propped against a tree, hair messed up, shirt tail out, gasping for breath. He must have chased Rice all of about 15 feet and collapsed. Acting like he was near a heart attack, another jailer attended him and pointed us east. He actually shouted to me,
“They went that-a-way.”
That-a-way. Yup. He actually said that.
Then Boom! A single gunshot from…thataway. We all converged. Patrol. Detectives. EMTs. all up ahead on the northwest corner, in a small dose of short bushes and foliage of the civic center parking lot, were multiple official types working on a downed man. When I closed in, I saw that the downed guy was Reilly Rice. Ranger Weldon Lucas was standing over him, with his hands on his hips. Huffing and puffing. A patrolman showed up. Our CID Captain Bill Cummings drove up and bailed out of his sedan.
In so many words, Weldon told us he shot Rice. Okay. You must be thinking can police shoot fleeing, unarmed suspects? First off, this was Texas many decades ago. Back then there was a running joke that if you ran 8 feet from us? It wasn’t the law. It was…a suggestion. We would start shooting at ya’. That also included driving away from us too. Rice was a child raper and killer, otherwise known as a dangerous felon we could not allow to escape. Just couldn’t.
The shooting at escaping felons laws in the USA has been evolving since about 1977. The general, modern letter of the law requires that to shoot someone, it must be in defense of yourself or to interrupt the imminent serious injury of others. Seeing the back of a head, ass and pumping elbows of a fleeing felon does not constitute these imminent categories. But, many state laws include shoot/don’t-shoot and the fleeing felon problem. Many states and police agencies say that permitting the felon to escape would pose a grave and continuing danger to public safety. Shooting them is an option. Not misdemeanors mind you. Felons.
The Texas Department of Public Safety, which owns and operates the Texas Rangers, then and now didn’t completely address the feeling felon matter in its policy guidelines because “Every situation is different,” DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said. “It’s officer discretion,” she said. “If they perceive that there’s an imminent threat, they can take any action they feel necessary to protect themselves.”
If you are citizen? I wouldn’t do this, by the way. And as for police officers, different states have differing laws about this. Even police departmental policies may be more strict than state law. And local county, state, and federal prosecutors and grand juries can have say on the subject. If driven by politics they may weave some charges in and around the laws. Then there are the civil law suits! Shooting your gun can always be very messy.
Speaking of messy, I examined Reilly Rice. Prone, he was panting from his own mad dash, but otherwise he seemed just fine. Not too messy. An EMT was patching up the side of his head. A head shot?
“Where’s he shot?” I asked the EMT, kneeling beside him.
“Earlobe,” he repeated.
I looked at Weldon and Weldon shrugged.
The TV news crew, there at the S.O. for the child-killer arraignment, was setting up for an impromptu street shoot. A patrol sergeant was organizing traffic control to allow the far lines to pass. The EMTS were standing Reilly Rice up and preparing to transport him…back to the jail, not the hospital. After all he was only shot in the earlobe. More county officials jogged up.
“Hock, you got this case,” Captain Cummings told me. Though this involved the Sheriff’s Office and the state police via the Texas Rangers, the shooting did occur within the city limits and it was also our city’s problem. I knew that people from the Rangers and Austin would eventually be involved in this, but there was work to do right then and there. First, documenting the crime scene, which ran from the S.O. courtroom to the intersection.
Weldon and I walked off a bit and he told him what had happened. I paraphrase here a bit because some 40-plus years have passed since that afternoon. He basically said,
“I heard the shouting that Reilly Rice had escaped out the front door.” It must have been the jailer calling out. Of course, I knew Weldon had worked on Rice case and was well aware who and what Rice had done.
“He ran into the middle of traffic and turned east. I took off after him and got in the middle of moving traffic, chasing him. He had a big lead. It was getting bigger. I felt like he could get away. I couldn’t shoot at him because it was rush hour. Cars and people everywhere. But, Rice started angling north and in front of him was that brick building.”
Weldon pointed to the two-story brick building behind us and to our east. It looked pretty big as close up as we were.
“I could see he was going to pass in front of that building and it was my only safe shot. I drew my pistol and fired one shot when he crossed in front of the building. Rice went down.”
“How far away were you?” I asked, thinking about the ejected, spent shell from Weldon’s .45 handgun.
“Up there,” he pointed up the avenue. We both grimaced at the sight of the cars being filtered into the right lane, albeit slowly, and allowed to pass the intersection by our erstwhile patrol officers. Oh well, life – and cars – move on. I least they were moving slow. A crushed shell would be better than a no shell.
My unmarked detective car was back at the station. I approached an patrol officer and asked for one of their distance measuring wheels and some chalk. This is like a walking stick, with a wheel at the bottom and distance counter. Back then, the numbers rolled like a slot machine. Some today are of course – digital. The officer pulled it from his trunk. Weldon and I started from where Reilly Rice took his dive and walked west on the avenue, marking off the feet.
I hit about 30 feet and I asked Weldon,
“Anywhere around here? “
“Nope.” My eyebrows raised.
We keep moving in between the cars and impatient drivers. Our eyes were scanning the roadway for that single spent shell. We hit about 60 feet!
Nope? How far was this shot? We continued.
“Right about here, I think,” Finally, Weldon stopped me. He looked around.
I looked at the scrolling meter. It read “97 feet.” Good God, could that be right?
And sure enough, to our right, untouched, unbent and pristine, lay the spent shell in the middle of the street.
“97, 98 feet, Weldon. Thereabouts” I told him. “Maybe 100.”
I took out the chalk from my pocket, circled the shell on the asphalt and put the shell in my pocket. I don’t want any of these cars rolling over it. I looked back at the intersection. That two-story brick building that Rice passed in front of? It was now about the size of postage stamp from here.
I looked over at Weldon and he was staring back at the intersection. “Yup. This is about right,” he said, nodding his head.
I walked up beside him. “Shit, Weldon, this is like a circus shot, like a wild-west show, shot.”
“I reckon,” he said.
“Was it a moving shot? How’d you do it?” I asked him.
“I was running. I saw my chance. I pulled my gun. Two-handed grip. I think I stopped just for a second. I think. Kinda’. I shot. Cars out here were whizzing by me.”
“Well, go on back and I’ll start taking some other measurements.”
I recorded the distances, “triangulated” them if you will, from the S.O. front doors, the shell scene and other related landmarks. Nowadays I guess they use GPS and satellite photos on big cases? Russell Lewis took land-level photos with his 35 mm camera from each important spot.
Weldon went to our P.D. and started his own statement on one of our new, electric typewriters. There was much for me to tighten up and I wanted as complete a report as complete as possible before the state bigwig, shooting team started showing up. Russell and I worked the scene. The only loose end was the bullet and the brick wall. It might take a major deal to find and recover that slug, as we couldn’t see it with a quick walk-by.
Two high-ranking Rangers were there at my desk the very next morning and I had a good, solid report for them to kick off with. As we went over the details, I got a call from the Sheriff’s Office CID, Captain Ron “Tracker” Douglas. He told me the latest news.
“Hock, Reilly Rice hung himself last night.”
“Hung himself! How? Where?”
“He was first booked in wearing his own socks. We let them keep their socks. You know those long, white tube socks? He got one end around his neck, tied of the other end on bunk bed and hung himself.”
“Dead?” I asked.
“Deader’ than hell. Dead right there in the cell,” Tracker said.
Shocking for sure, but I really didn’t care. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he wasn’t officially convicted on the case, but the case was airtight with a confession that lead to other evidence. I mean, the son of a bitch was a child rapist and killer. And “death by sock” was too damn good for him in my book. Too damn good.
“You gonna’ call Weldon?” I asked Tracker.
And we hung up.
“Well, gentlemen,” I told the Rangers at my desk, “looks like our ear-pierced, shooting ‘victim’ hung himself in the jail last night.” They exchanged glances. They collected my reports and their very next visit was to see Ron Douglas at the S.O.
Weldon Lucas later became the Sheriff of Denton County and quite a controversial figure.
I next made it a point to try and find the bullet itself. Honestly, I would have loved to dig the bullet out of that brick wall and tie Weldon’s perfect shot package into a bow. I made two trips out there with two heights of ladders and a metal detector trying to find the slug. It was tedious work but I just couldn’t find it and would need a third trip with a damn fire truck or utility cherry-picker to do it. But, how high could the slug be? I think not that high?
I could arrange for a construction “basket-lift” but it would be a pain. Around the time I started making calls for one, but nobody cared anymore. There was no further case to pursue as the county and the state declared it a closed investigation and justified shooting. The local D.A., the state, no one found any fault with the actions of Ranger Weldon Lucas taking that single shot and winging, or “lobing” the dangerous, fleeing Reilly Rice. That bullet remained in the wall until the building was torn down years later? Who knows? Did it miss the wall? No matter where it went? It went nowhere anyway.
When I think about it, it was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen, given the circumstances. I’m sure there are many record-breaking, amazing, military sniping shots on the books, quick-kills and all, but think about it. Think about this one and why it is so unique.
The shooter was a Texas Ranger (already cool).
The shot was taken in the middle of moving, rush hour traffic.
It was about a 100 foot, high-stress shot with a pistol.
Weldon still had the foresight to wait until Rice had a safe background. (Which was about the size of a playing card from the trigger pull site.)
Rice was a confessed, child-raping, child-killing, dangerous, escaping felon/murderer.
Rice was a moving target.
Rice was shot only in the earlobe and it knocked him down.
Rice didn’t even require a hospital visit. The escaping Rice was returned to jail with an ear bandage. How and what could he sue Weldon and the State about? What Texas jury would award escapee Rice for damages, for an ear piercing?
The state police had no defined policy for shooting dangerous escapees.
The passing bullet did no further damage. Any possible, crazy, residual legal problems were over when Rice hung himself in the jail.
We know it would be impossible for Weldon to actually aim at an earlobe in a split second like that at 100 feet. Impossible. Sure, but all the events played out so very well and with minimal, post-shoot problems, it makes for the best shot I have ever “seen.”
And I must add – for a while there was a running joke in the county. We wished that all prisoners would be issued extra long, tube socks upon their jail book-in. Who knows what they would do with them?
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There’s an old story going around about me and a karmabit. The tale goes that during a seminar, lunch break, in the 1990s, a guy walked up to me and showed me his karambit, and I looked at it, opened a nearby window and threw it out the window of a two-story building. This isn’t true. I would never do that to a guy’s property. I can say confidently that not only would I not be so rude as to throw his property out a 2-story window, I would never throw my own karambit out a window either – because I would never own one in the first place to toss it.
You know, the curved-bladed knife that looks like a single animal claw. Some folks think they are God’s gifts to knives. And I am shown, and I get to see, way too many karambits. I see photos and photos of them in the web. God, they look cool. All kinda’ science-fictiony, Klingon-like. Deadly. Tiger-paw looking. In fact, I have come to believe that, they are so scary looking because they remind us of animal claws of critters we are naturally afraid of.
Straight, bent, curved are the choices. The curve of the knife. How curved must one be to qualify? Quite a bit. The more curve, the worse. There are knives on the market that have some bend to them, some just a slight bend, bended/angle. You know one when when you see one.
What did they tell us in elementary school years ago, when writing an essay? “Contrast and compare.” Then what of the Karambit Handicap. It’s a gambit. I hope I can leave this up here on the web as a source for people with these questions for me and questions in general about the true value of the curved knife in the big picture of use, simplicity and survival. I hope I can offer some reasoning and answers about the subject. The following are my personal beliefs and how I have come about them. If you love you some karambits? That’s fine. Enjoy a happy, healthy life. I hope you NEVER have to use one, (or any knife) in any fight.
First, before the hate mail comes in, understand my self-defense-only mission. I don’t collect knives and guns, no more than I would hammers and screwdrivers. But, being in the business of knife instruction, I am often shown karambits and asked questions about karambits. I can honestly proclaim I have never seen a karambit I didn’t think was very, very, cool looking.
Now look, you can cut somebody with a torn-open, tin can top. I also don’t want to be attacked by anything sharp. Broken glass bottle. Nope. A spear? Hell no. A Karambit? Good God, no. But the question remains is, yes, while a tin can will cut you, is it the smartest thing to use? Do we need the Tactical Tin-Can course? No. Think of this on a scale. You must get a knife. Get the best, versatile knife. Like a straight knife that stabs with deep efficiency potential and slashes without getting stuck in bodies and some clothing and can also, easily perform dozens of handy, life-saving and survival chores from chopping wood to cooking.
As a questioner, as a skeptic, never a fan-boy, not naïve, I just don’t fall for worshipping a system-head or a system. It’s a recipe for potential mistakes and failure. If you never question your revered leader, you fail to evolve. So does he and the system he does. Or folks never question gear of the revered. Do you think you must fight with a Klingon knife because you worship the culture, look, feel and history of Klingons? Or are you really looking to carry, fight and survive with the best, most versatile, edged weapon? Are you so mystified by a culture that you can’t see the faults? I know Systema people who like it so much, they start believing in and supporting Communism. I know Kung Fu people who change their religion west to east. Communism and Zen Buddhism should have nothing to do with kicking a guy in the nuts or selecting the best knife. If you want to learn how to fight with hands, sticks, knives and guns? Keep hero-worship OUT of the picture. Keep system worship out of the picture. I think this imperative.
Am I just so untrained and dumb in the wild and wooly ways of the karembit? I frequently get hate mail over this from fan-boys and faddists. Someone will always suggest that I am ignorant and suggest that maybe I should take a real, karambit course from Dijon Scoop and see the wonders and magic of the knife. I was force-fed balisong and karambit material since the late 1980s with multiple training trips to Negros Island and Manila, the Philippines, and many times since there and here since. These knives were part of curriculum we had to learn all the way to Filipino black belt, along with a lot more of the straight knife material. (and well – just forget about the odd, opening process with the balisong. I mean, seriously, why bother? Unless of course you are a weapons-historian-collector-artison of some sort, and I am not.).
As soon as I held a karambit in my hand, it felt wrong, off taget and much of what they asked me to do was clearly unnecessary when compared to all the other straight blade training. As a former Army and Texas cop and an investigator most of my adult life, from arrests, cases and forensic training, I learned the straight knife is far superior and can do just about everything better and simpler than any curved knife, just about any time. The curve of the blade is a handicap. The more the curve, the more the handicap.
I cringe every time I see a seminar attendee with a karambit training knife. I know that this person will have an extra and harder time doing even the most simple, obvious, historically-successful knife moves. My worst-case-scenario knife training course is built to be as simple as possible, as fast and effective, with the obvious and simple tools mostly found, which are the straight blades. Curved blades complicate simplicity. I recall the first time a karambit-teer showed up in a New England seminar in the 1990s. He was a rather famous, Silat guy (great guy, very friendly) showed up with his curved plastic trainer. He had difficulty doing even the most simple, primitive knife things all day long. He couldn’t stab deep which is forensically the most successful, quicker kill method. It was plain to see that when slashing, his curve and tip would get stuck in body parts. Did he know he had to improvise and construct more steps, more “work-arounds,” to get the otherwise, simple job done . Through the years the curved blade trainees still appear in my classes. The curve group often has to pow-wow off in the corner to make a simple thing work, because they are mentally and physically confined from the curved shape of their knife. Their adaptations always involve extra work-arounds and extra training and extra movement to do something otherwise done simpler with the straight blade.
What do I mean by simple, proven moves? One quick, simple example? Studies by the Marines in 1980s – while researching World War II knife tactics in the South Pacific, the USMC study group discovered that the uppercut stab to the groin/intestines, and, or the diaphragm/heart and, or even up inside the jawbone – the common hooking uppercut was a very successful. Successful, but oddly, not really emphasized and in most cases not taught. Yet, Marines instinctively still did them. Naturally. Natural. This research led to the implementation of these very natural moves in training courses. Instinctive. Natural. Simple. Now, can you do this natural, straight knife, saber grip uppercut into these areas with a karambit. You can’t plummet a karmabit as deep and powerful into these vital parts as a saber, straight knife. The karambit will require extra training and still won’t garner the same success. All forensic specialists will list deep stabs as very deadly.
Perhaps the biggest point to me is that the human race has evolved to hunt, grow, prepare food and eat with a straight knife. Ever try to eat a steak with a karambit? Cut and butter bread? I have a friend who likes to tease me on this point and threatens to send me a video of him eating a steak with his curvy karambit. I’ll bet he can! I’ll also bet he can eat a steak with a torn, tin can too. The point is, THE EXTRA WORK INVOLVED! Not that you can or can’t, but rather – what is the smartest, easier tool to use. And we can’t forget, simple kitchen cutlery has reeked international havoc in self-defense, crime and war. In civilized countries over 99% of all knife violence is with simple, STRAIGHT kitchen cutlery. A pretty good success rate for the straight blade.
The Dueling Test. And needless to add, take a guy with a straight, blade knife in a saber grip versus a guy with karambit and let them duel. Who do you think has the advantage? Spar it out. Take two Superflys and spar this straight vs. curved karambit. I can tell you from doing that for decades and organizing/ref experience that the saber grip straight blade has the advantage. Not that dueling is the end-all knife encounter, oh no, but dueling can and does happen. And listen to this – this is telling – even the beloved Superflies still teach and use a whole lot of straight knives too! Most still teach more straight knife than curved knife. Why bother if the Karambit was God’s gift for knife work? Wouldn’t they give up on straight blade material all together?
“Oh but my Dijon! My Dijon does so many arm manipulations-catches with the curve.” Do you think you will really hook and push around so many angry, adrenalized arms with a karambit as Dojon Superfly does in a cooperative flow drill on Youtube? And by the way, a straight knife, saber or reverse grip can push and pull arms around too.
Stress Quick Draws Issues. A comprehensive knife program covers stress quick draws. It seems all modern knives now try to have some pocket catching device that facilitates a quick folder opening. But some don’t. Sometimes people get their folder out,but in the heat of the fight, can’t open right away. The folder then must become a palm stick until it can be opened. Your smart- selected knife when folded, ends should protrude from the top and bottom of the fisted hand, and it should support the hand inside the fist for punching. I have a pretty big hand and have tried punching heavy bags with various karambits. Due to the needed space for the curved blade, the folded karambits are quite wide and have all hurt to punch with. This “wideness” and pain when punching alert is on my “what-knife-to-pick” checklist and another survival reason/problem to avoid the karambit.
Spinning the Karambit? a simple ring in the handle alone does not a karambit make. I have seen some folks calling a straight knife with a ring in the handle a karambit, just because of the ring. No. The blade has to have a significant, curve to be one, ring or no ring. Now, to what degree of a curve, I can’t precisely say. I think you know one when you see one. The ring is for mostly for retention and…spinning. On spinning, another dubious karambit characteristic or which even the Karambit sellers page warn:
“Karambit spinning is showy, flashy and useless without significant training, practice and understanding of the application. New users should not spin karambits until they’re intimately familiar with their blade, its balance, the way it fits into their hand in various grips and while in motion AND, most importantly, until they’ve received instruction.”
Further, “…many people don’t use the smaller muscles in the hands and it takes time to build them up.”
Confessions from a top karambit salesman! And there you have it from the source. More stuff to do. More muscles to build. More unnecessary stuff to do.
Spinning and chopping off limbs with the Karambit? A friend of mine, unusually consumed by all things “distant” and eastern, oriental and Indonesian, was telling me that a butcher he knew, using a very stout, very big karambit with a sharp outside edge, could flip/spin the curved knife and chop off the limbs of large animals in his shop. It took some practice, but he could. The message for me was that the karambit could, if worked right, with the right momentum, chop off big things in a power spin. CHOP! I just nodded my head. Whatever. “TOOK…SOME…PRACTICE.” But such takes more work, awkward applications, etc. and stouter karambits with a sharp outside edge. If it were a big folder? How do you have a sharp, outside edge like this and carry it? Not in a pocket, but in a sheath…in case you know…you have to lop off a criminal’s hand. I am quite sure the butchers of the world will still prefer regular straight knives and cleavers for more efficient, consistent success. What will be this butcher’s tool of day-to-day preference. The easy one.
Is it skill-with-weapon-alone? Martial artists like to argue that all you need is skill with just about about weapon that will win the day. “Don’t be so picky, Hock! It’s the skill with the weapon that really counts.” And Captain America makes a garbage can cover a deadly weapon! The only problem with that is, none of your pupils are Captain America (or Musashi). And you are not Captain America. And if you are? At 38 years old, you won’t be at 48. “It’s skill with the weapon that counts”…this is a very martial artsy thing to say, and to over-believe. And a lame excuse that could lead to the acceptance of lesser weapons. “I’ll just work harder and forever with this one. After all, it’s not the best, but…but skill. MORE SKILL!
Leaders, decision makers certainly in the military and policing, obsess about finding and authorizing the best weapons they can, not settling. (They often fail in their selection process because these leaders are often there from the “Peter Principle,” promoted beyond their means and are inept.) But at least they know they have to try, equip and train. Citizens too must fully investigate their guns and knife choices too, void of hyperbole theory, fads and…looks. Develop your best skill with the BEST WEAPON choice.
As retired cop and martialist Bret Gould reminds us, “And as we get older, many forget , it was Sam Colt that made men equal. It took superior ability and training to be a samurai only to be killed by a peasant with a gun. The equalizer.
End Users. Sellers of Karambits often have much sales-pitch, yadda-yadda about the cancer-curing perfections/wonders of the curved shape. They often proclaim that just about everyone on the planet already uses, benefits and really needs the really curved knife. Everyone except the real people you see, you know, work with and read about and watch in documentaries, etc. I suggest you challenge every line of the sales pitch because in the end, it is not the selection of the practical.
Butchers don’t use or mandate them.
Surgeons don’t use or mandate them.
Cooks don’t use or mandate them.
Hunters don’t use or mandate them.
Fishermen don’t use or mandate them.
Soldiers & Marines don’t use or mandate them.
People don’t use or mandate them to camp.
Workers with real labor jobs won’t use-mandate them.
People don’t eat with them (this is a big point).
Prosecutors and police LOVE to see you use them.
If they are so perfect and superior for the end-user, why are they not used by all humanity almost of the time? Try giving a farmer, a factory worker or a camper just a karambit and see how long that idea lasts before they trade out for a straight blade. Give a carpet layer a karambit and he will quickly resort back to his classic carpet knife.
Some right-angle bends remind me somewhat of carpet knives. The sharp, 90 degree bend of the carpet knife, its position to the handle, is superior to the more curved karambits, otherwise thousands of carpet layers would have invented karambits or they would all use karambits. They don’t. Some folks, like carpet folks, work projects that require that sharp point and a hard, direct bend, for the maximum position of their hand grip for the job. As a detective I have worked some serious, slashing assaults involving common, carpet knife attacks.
Losing the natural, hammer grip stab. There seems to be an inert, intuitive hammer fist application with a reverse grip stab. Think of the power of just a hammer fist. It alone breaks many boards, many ice blocks, many pieces of cement. Imagine that force delivering a straight knife stab! But wait! Now hold a karambit in its reverse grip application, as in the curved end looping out of the bottom of the hand. Gone is all the hammer fist intuition. Gone is the simple, practical, stab and its extra power shot potential. .
Getting Stuck. The hooked blade, like an axe…gets stuck in people and things. The curved point is called a hook, because…it hooks. I see the karambit practitioners simulating cuts with figure 8 patterns and X patterns in the air, or in front of partners. No contact. Do they not realize that with contact, their point embeds into the person and the bones and the clothing, gear, etc.? X pattern over. Figure 8 pattern over. And now they must learn extraction techniques, unique to that knife. Extra stuff to learn. (this is also true with the tomahawk/axe craze. On first impact? THUNK! NO more slap-dash, flowy, dancy, prancy axe moves, just a big-ass axe (or knife) sunk into bone structures.
As a Karambit fan replied, “Oh yeah, not that the Indonesians didn’t use them successfully for hundreds of years… Well, Mr. Fan, what is the difference between “successfully” and something “more successfully?” I think the karambit was a minority knife among the straight or straighter blades. And indig, Indos used some of them within whole tons of straight and only slightly curved knives and swords too.
If so wonderful, I wonder why they ever they bothered with the straight ones? Anyway, the first time I saw a bunch of the regional weapons in the 1980s, I noted how many of the straight ones had pistol-like grips which was interesting and comfortable. The most famous area one is the Kris, small and big. Straight but wavy. The story goes that the waves cut more, but while I was “over there,” I learned that each wave had a religious meaning. The shapes of Indo-edged weapons were “talismans with magical powers, weapons, sanctified heirlooms, auxiliary equipment for court soldiers, accessories for ceremonial dress, an indicator of social status, a symbol of heroism, etc.” You hear a lot of historical stories about the how and why of these shapes, some not related to actual fighting at all.
“The Kris remains the most distinctive sword of Southeast Asia and the Philippines and was extensively used. The sinuously waved, straight blade Kris is said to represent the tail of stingray, a dragon, or the winding body of a snake.” I do think the karambit was a minority knife among the majority of straight or straighter blades, such as the Kris.
And lastly, need we discuss the legal stigma again of this Klingon-looking knife. It gets legally bad enough to use any knife for any self defense, but this knife, by its very appearance also causes negative, legal prejudices to the police, the prosecutors, the courts and to juries. Think of it in terms of pistols. Would you rather defend yourself with the “Widowmaker” pistol? Or…the “Peacemaker” pistol?” Yes, these…things…count. In a recent self defense courtroom trial, Assistant District Attorney in Texas Aaron Bundoc also said of the defendant’s self defense use of the karambit, “It was not a self-defense tool as Hernandez alleged.” He said “…a Karambit is a combat weapon designed to gut and butcher people.” Like it or not, (as with guns) or knives, the jury listened.
Look, what do I care about people, their fixations, fascinations and hobbies? Why should you care what I think? Some people love history and weapons. Perhaps you are an artisan? Some people like to crack bull whips, while the whip is on fire! Get a hobby! Get a karambit and mess with it. Do all that extra training. Place it on a rotating pedestal in your den. One in each pocket and on a neck chain. Get the t-shirt and ballcap. Follow the Dijon. Smile. Live long and prosper. These are just my personal beliefs and opinions.
For me, a karambit is a handicap to sheer simplicity and ultimate practicality. People are just too damn hypnotized by the shape, culture, history, hero-worship and system-worship. If you really contrast and compare, without bias and fixations, fandom and fads? What do you come up with? Being that we here are Force NECESSARY, and not Force UN-necessary, no karambits for me please. But please do however continue to show me your karambits. They are all very cool looking. And I certainly will not throw them out of any window. Only, you know…figuratively speaking.
Extra! While I would probably watch this gal juggle marshmallows for hours, WHY is she spinning this Klingon, unnecessarily curved edged-weapon around and Lord knows she cuts herself badly in the end…
Over 1,400 plus how-to photos. From standing to the ground, from grip-to-grip, situations to scenarios, the most comprehensive knife book on combatives you will find anywhere, at any time! Training! Exercises! Tactics! How to Train! Plus True Military Knife Combat Stories! 300 pages.
“If I die in combat zone. Box me up and ship me home.”
You’ve all heard that ditty? Or, maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have had it as a cadence – a song – we all sang while marching and running in the military. It has been bastardized, or satired and altered for various messaging. One paraphrased version we don’t see much anymore, but old-timers will remember, was popularized on some t-shirts and posters years back. It was about you dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up by survivors, the words accompanied by the artwork of a rip-shirt, commando. This splitting-up is a very good idea for several reasons, but I don’t think the commandment reaches deep enough in citizen and police training methodology.
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
It is common advice in shoot-outs that drawing and using a second gun is faster than reloading your first one. This of course depends on where you are carrying that second gun, but the advice is classic and comes from veterans. Did you arrive at this scene with a second gun? Can you find a second gun at the scene? More ammo? Was there a “second” gun, loose and back on the ground that you just ran right by?
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, gun-survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, should you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
This year, 2022 marks the 26th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, (barring Covid madness) created and supervised simulated ammo shooting scenarios of some sort. Some are short and involve two people. Some are much longer and involve numerous people, all are in numerous situations and locations. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Inside and outside. Daytime. Nighttime. People get shot by whatever simulated ammo we get to use for the training session. This reality can be very demoralizing. But, it happens.
In the briefing, I ask the participants, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands and carry on a bit. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take one or two serious shots, like shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…“they be dead.” Playing this dead part, however demoralizing, is important, as you will soon read. Loose, or with lanyards and slings, you and your gun are laying there for all to seize.
Remember this is a very situational thing. How many guns and how much ammo did you bring? How long will this last? What to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun – one dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. Comrade or enemy? You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up. On the live-fire range, you can put various kinds of domestic or foreign guns in various conditions on a bench and suddenly make people pick them up, make-ready, load them, etc. and shoot them (which has been done forever by a few clever instructors by the way, but not enough, but done). The true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, hunter-hunted situation is hardly if ever practiced on the live-fire range. Too dangerous? A sims only endeavor?
Loser-Taker Disarming. Technically, disarming should end with concerns of “weapon recovery.” Weapon recovery is often ignored in training. Recovering disarmed or dropped weapons is a missing link in most hand, stick, knife and gun martial, art or otherwise, systems. On the subject of weapon disarming training, two folks play parts. One the gun-loser, one the gun-taker. Most ignore the fact that either one could be the good guy or the bad guy, and typically the good guy gets to disarm-take from the bad guy in most typical training. This one-sided, prioritizing hinders good-guy, weapon recovery skills, but…look around you, this is the usual format, isn’t it?.
What if you are the good guy loser? When your pistol has been disarmed from you, holstered or out, you MUST recover it, hopefully while the taker is fumbling around with it, to get it aimed back at you. In practice, gun-takers often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it into position, etc. Still the good-guy-loser must get his weapon back from bad-guy-taker, and instantly. Rush him! Now! (It is also a great training idea to have the bad-guy-loser instantly rush the good-guy-taker for the good-guy-taker to realize he has to instantly grapple with this reality heat. Are you following me with the whose-who?)
(Some instructors demand that the taker should perform impossible checks, fixes and repairs in those few split-seconds right upon acquisition, not expecting a vicious counter attack, weapon recovery from the loser. And in the real world, was the taken gun a replica? Out of battery? Empty? These are issues for another distinct, subject-centric article just about these very things.)
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just good-guy, bad-guy, taker-loser disarming. There’s the rarely mentioned recovery of your downed comrade’s or enemy’s weapon, what this essay is actually about.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped. I run only situational, simulated ammo gun courses, never teaching marksmanship. I once saw a range master, and trophy winner cop, standing before an armed training partner in a scenario. Both with gas guns. The draw! And the police instructor vet lost his pistol in the air, mid-draw. He had never drawn right in front of an armed man with a pain-delivering gun. Gas gun hit the floor. Just the first time. Next time, he adjusted.
We also see photos and hear about such fumbles in both normal and stressful times. We see them dropped in simulated ammo scenario training. We even see them dropped at live fire ranges. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 50 years, but I’ve seen my friends and co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we certainly see them dropped on youtube. One example, we were doing a street shooting situation in Las Vegas. A very athletic, concealed carry guy ran from car to car and dropped his pistol. The metal gun hit the street in front of him and to make matters even worse, when it landed, he KICKED it! Kicked it right under a parked car…needless to say. He was killed.
Dropped When Shot. I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The shot person:
Drops the gun, or…
Convulsively fires the weapon, no aiming, or…
Aims and shoots back, or…
Gun does nothing. The gun remains unfired in their hands.
What about the dropped weapon of a shot, severely wounded or dead compatriot? Or enemy? A “drop dead gun,” just laying there.
As the organizer, over-seer of these scenarios, as the “ref” if you will, I see so many things in all of these shoot-outs. I see things people really do when in various predicaments. These occurrences, these experiences are quite remarkable and extremely educational. And one of the many things I consistently see is teammates, running past and around their deeply wounded, still or dead, yet still armed partners. Whatever kinds of weapons we are using, Airsoft, gas, markers, Simuntions, whatever – the training weapons we can get wherever I am – these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances.
To aid in the failures, I so want to advise, “pick up THAT gun!” as they run by the fallen. Sometimes they have the time to do so. But, I do not want to bark orders or suggestions to interfere in the middle of the freestyle, firefight exercise. I’ve see many folks run right by other available guns and ammo. As an “invisible” ref, I wait until the after-action review to bring the subject up and next time? They still often forget to do it.
Once in a while I see a practitioner who instantly knows to snatch up his dead buddy’s gun. Either, it is something trained and remembered, or they are just that naturally gun-and-ammo-hungry to simply know this and do this instinctively. They swoop down and snatch up the weapon as they go by. This is an event that never happens in live fire range training, but rather could happen in real life, and should be bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible. I say oddly but, many video game players of complicated war games, obsess about collecting weapons and ammo as a mainstay, and are prone to thinking about picking up “leftover” weapons. I say oddly because they have readily absorbed a concept from a totally, abstract reality.
I might remind quickly here, that weapons are sometimes attached to people by lanyards and slings, something that can be very life-saving for the original holder, but also may flummox your partner’s attempt to get your weapons once you are down and out. Know your partner’s gear. Look them all over. Know your team or squad mates stuff. Which leads us to different issued gear topics.
Different gear? Different guns? Different ammo? In many organizations such as with the military or police, certain weapons are mandated for all in policy for good reason. If we all have the same guns, we all have the same ammo, magazines and we can pick up, exchange, provide, etc., weapons. It can make for good sense. I am not advocating for the “one-gun, one-ammo” policy, I am just reporting on it here. There is something to be said too for personalized guns and gear, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry-on with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not have take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus these background, may not consider this at all, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concepts of gear and the weapon recovery. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic. You must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might instead begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive, endless “gun minutiae” within your teaching. Why are they stuck in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations with sims ammo to dissect and experiment with?
Such experiments are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. Many experts call it “deep learning” in “wicked” environments. In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive, situational shoot-outs with simulated ammo.
Active Shooters Talk Yet Again. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun, police and military experience or at best very limited exposures, have organized some active shooter response classes. There should be something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” weapon subject, as more people should contemplate picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This pick-up-off-the-ground could be practiced with live fire too, with little imagination.
Remember that when you snatch up another’s gun? You might well not know how many rounds are left in it! Oh, and in certain crime and war circumstances, when citizens pick up the dead guy’s gun and the authorities arrive? Do I need to remind you? You could look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Phone in, act and surrender accordingly – well, the same rules as if you were armed in the first place should the authorities arrive.
Souvenirs Anyone? This discussion cannot be complete with the pick-up-weapon-souvenir concept. Usually after the battle? My father landed on the beach in WW II and made it all the way to Berlin in Patten’s army. He collected German Lugers and had a box of them mailed home. They never made it through the US Post Office. I recall in Vietnam era, folks trying to get AK-47s. Often though, in many wars, watch out! Such things are BOOBY TRAPPED!
Evidence!This a crime scene? Is the bad guy dead-dead. Control the scene for authorities or supervisors or crime scene people. Sometimes weapons are stolen by onlookers. Consider this and other problems before automatically, cavalierly picking up enemy guns (knives, etc.) Sometimes EMTs can really disorganize your organized crime scene, too.
In Some Kind of Summary. It has been my experience that if frequently suggested in a briefing and-or corrected in after-action reviews, many people may think of this when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better. Again the pick-up is very situational.
That gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead.
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”
At seminars, police or others, I have seen a lot of “force-on-force” work-outs. This nickname became popular in the later 1990s. The majority of these have been with rubber guns. When it comes time to draw these rubber guns under stress, or when just fighting over them, and when one person gets free of the other enough to successfully pull, point and theoretically shot the pistol at the partner/bad-guy, these folks just freeze and look at each other. Once in a while someone yells “bang!” But they freeze. They act like the scenario is over, like the trigger pulling part and the wounding or killing part is automatically over.
It’s not over. I mean, if the other guy is shot and wounded, or even if he receives a mortal shot, he can still shoot back, stab, fight back a bit, or fall upon the good guy with a weapon in is hand. The fight is not over with the mere pointing of a rubber gun. The freeze is totally unreal. The scenario IS NOT OVER! I have often said to folks:
“You like those rubber guns, huh?”
“Hey, what would you think about wooden guns?”
“Yeah, using wooden guns shaped like your guns, or shaped like your rubber guns?”
“I guess that would be okay.”
“Now, what if I told you…what if I told you these wooden guns could shoot something? A safe something? Wouldn’t that be cool? You could do all the stuff you are already doing, and – you could actually pull the trigger shoot something and see if you could successfully, actually shoot the gun, hit your enemy while fighting, standing or on the ground. And multiple shots like a semi-auto. You wouldn’t have to stop when you pointed the gun. You could actually exercise pulling the trigger and aiming under stress, explore the next events. Anytime. Anyplace.”
“I guess that would be smart. But we do that with Simunitions.”
“Oh, about once every two years.”
“Sometimes more years than that. Some people never do it. ”
“I know. Because you need special gear and a special place that won’t be destroyed by the Sims. Lots of set up and gear. Sometimes the setup and expense just pushes the workouts off and off. What if I told you could use these wooden guns – which cost about 15 bucks each – anytime, anyplace, aiming, shooting with no safety gear, easy experimentation with moves and problems. You can get a lot done, safe, and cheap.
“I guess that would be okay.”
“I am talking about using wooden rubber band guns. I am not talking about giving up routine live fire. I am not talking about never using electric, gas or Sims again. I am not saying throw away your rubber gun. It too has uses. I am just talking about wood over rubber. I am talking about the easy, safe study of moves & shooting. I am talking about more access to important experimentation. You are already using rubber. Why not wood? Why not wood that shoots something? Did I mention the wooden gun cost about $15?”
In the 1990s I was laughed at in training circles and ridiculed for using “toys.” In my defense I never used toy-toys. I used wooden, rubber band guns that fired multi-shots. There was little available and affordable to simulate any shooting back then. By about 2000 or so cops worldwide were seeing my drills and buying a lot of these wooden guns from me for their training. Of course, citizens too. Easy. Safe. Quick. Great for lots of short, realistic vignette experimentation, anywhere. Anytime. (I even had life sized M-16s that shot very well about 30 feet.) Remember, if you do use gas guns? They can break eyes, skin, windows, mirrors, chip paint and blow out lights, ding cars, etc.
There is no doubt I settle for wood because we can’t be anywhere better, and use anything better when and where we are. That, sadly, is most of the time. Sadly, many places I go, with groups of 18 or more people up to 100, not everyone shows up with these expensive guns, ammo and safety gear. Even the gas or battery-powered guns. (And the cheap, battery-powered break very easy.) I ask them to bring this equipment but they often can’t, won’t or don’t. Every week in fact. I am left with using the the wooden guns I bring.
In my External Focus Gun seminars, or regular mixed seminars of hand, stick, knife and gun, you will probably be shot 30 to 60 or so times day as you work out with a good-guy or bad-guy partner in different situations. And very close up in standing, seated and ground situations. Battery powered guns will not damage the facilities (and will not hurt cars) and you still need some thick clothes and face protection. But I still can’t frequently outfit all, half, or even a quarter of attendees with these guns. Out come the wooden guns.
I want to create a training environment where everyone is working out, not just two people while 18 other people are standing around watching, waiting their turn, for a short supply of weapons and safety gear to rotate over to them. Everyone should be working out, not watching two people work out.
Don’t let your custom fit holster stop you from doing this training. I hear this complaint or excuse. Just get a real cheap “ol bucket,” universal holster for this type of training. The emphasis is on bigger interactive goals about movements and fighting, and many skills more important than exactly how your replica pistol fits perfectly snug your custom fit holster. Rubber training guns don’t always fit into your custom holster, either. Yet people have persevered for decades with rubber gun training stuck in bad-fitting holsters. One more point for traveling practitioners, these wooden guns weigh almost nothing in your luggage.
In a perfect world, we would live in a wonderland of Simunitions mixed with live fire, in and around buildings, cars, etc., supporting each situation in crafted unison. Show me where that is? And I mean, daily, weekly or cheaply and reachable for all citizens, police and military to access? Can everyone afford to fly there? In the end, we are left with what we are left with, and most of the time, that ain’t much.
Where ever we are. Lets move the ball downfield every chance we get. Pain is not the only reason to have safer, ammo shooting gun. Not by a long shot, ducking pain is part of the training. I would like to use the best gear in the best locations were we can ignore the destruction of buildings and vehicles. But that dream is both impractical and expensive for most of the places I travel to teach. I do the best I can, with what I can at the moment to move the learning ball down the field.
If left down to it? A wooden pistol that shoots something and safely is better than a rubber gun that doesn’t.