It’s always fun and exercise to mix and match martial arts. I did it for years too. Rather…mindlessly too. I knew it had abstract benefits for reality, and frankly, mix and match was good for my school business and student retention. And we all know doing just about any martial arts is certainly better than sitting on the couch. But I still only “kept” what I could to glean in the “what works” essence for police work. Fifty years later, this filtering is still an investigation I am addicted too. I still find little and big things to alter and totally remove.
But some things I knew right away, decades ago were “street-wrong.” Like a few “boxing glove cancers” for one of the categories of no-no’s. This photo above and those like them, drive…me…crazy when I see them. This is obviously a police training session. Could be a rookie academy or an in-service class. They are mindlessly replicating a sport, face-cover from boxing as a routine stance. Police, military, combatives and self-defense people should not be exactly, mindlessly emulating boxing, (wrestling too), sports or arts as a doctrine principle for crime and war, survival fighting. Each martial, application-blend needs to be investigated.
In crime and war survival, not this peek a boo. It’s a boo-boo. To support my observation of common sense I will use two recognized authorities.
Foremost, the great champ. Bass Rutten, – who is in a world of small MMA gloves not boxing gloves – described this peek a boo “stance” and face cover as, “It’s a ‘meat block.’ I will punch and kick right through that.” Okay. Well, that about sums that up!
Secondly, JKD great Larry Hartsell agreed, as I heard him say in seminars. He said it was a big, boxing glove position. Hartsell, a former state trooper and Vietnam combat vet, also advised that, arts aside, from a JKD “street fight,” perspective, keeping your hands up and right on your face as a standard, also allows the opponent to get closer into you, even closer than when hands up and out, further shaving off your reaction time. “Make him EARN that space,” he said with his hands up and away from his face. This was a great quote that really stuck with me. Of course, Hartsell also taught the art-sport of boxing, kickboxing and Thai – all wearing big gloves. Hartsell taught those sports-arts and you will see photos of him in that formal process, too.
Allow me to go one step deeper here in this subject. If you train in a sporty-art system that emphasizes the “peek a boo,” and you see an opponent, a criminal or whatever take up this or any tight face cover pose in front of you, you might be brainwashed into thinking, “Oh darn! That guy is ‘covered,’ I can’t punch him,” from much big glove training. Actually though he is not safe. Punch those hands on or around his face as though his hands are not there (yes, yes, palm strikes and hammer fist too. Yes.). Be like Bass!
Arms and hands can move very fast, and people might overcome a myriad of strategy mistakes with sheer speed. But, fast hands are not an excuse to teach thoughtless, off-mission, doctrine.
Many reality systems, retreat to a doomsday position and protect their heads with forearms WHEN NEEDED. It is NOT their full-time, formal fighting stance. They retreat momentarily into it. (Don’t get me started on these mandatory, “turban-arm-wrapping-head” systems. Another topic for another time.)
Which leads me to the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions and doctrines. Are you teaching-doing sports or reality? As I said, it’s always great fun and exercise to mix and match martial arts. But beyond fun and exercise…what is your real mission? Are you making the mistake of mindlessly mixing sport-art things up with survival? What are you trying to do?
In Summary, are you, as an instructor or practitioner of police, military, combatives and self defense systems…are you creating and-or enforcing the best doctrine for your mission? I groan EVERY time I see this bare knuckle version of the peek a boo stance. It actually hurts my soul! I groan. Bass Rutten, just…just smiles. For him? It’s…lunch.
In seminars I frequently mention JKD’s Tim Tackett (he is my favorite, smartest, outspoken, pure JKD person) and how I collected from him in seminars and personal sit-down discussions, the Bruce Lee YMCA Boxing program. Bruce Lee always had groups of professional students, actors, lawyers doctors, etc., who could not show up to work with broken noses and black eyes on any given morning, so Bruce developed an action-plan-interactive, training boxing program to limit this. This title was also a nickname and was taught outside the YMCA of course, evolving through the years.
Through the years, (1986 on) I had seen bits and pieces of it (usually the more popular segments) from Inosanto, Hartsell, Vunak, Terry Gibson and other JKD Family members but there were many other moving parts not covered by them due to the great variety in JKD concepts. Tim Tackett filled in the gaps and explained it fully for me. I got the bigger picture.
I do think that experts have put their spin/interpretation on the course through time. For example, somewhere along the line of time, kicks started to appear which of course is not boxing-boxing. And for small changes, often, people do the moves, then switch trainer-trainee, back and forth (you-go, I-go, you-go, I-go.) I have seen people instead do three each and switch, which I prefer because I stupidly lose track of who’s-who. (you-you-you, me-me-me). And I too vary the set arrangements and add in a kick at the end of the set. Or, use the movement concept with a kick or kicks, as Tim often showed that the idea worked well with kicks too. (As we all WELL can imagine, Bruce Lee would approve of adaptations, changes and evolutions that fit and work.)
I still carry around a handwritten, messy collection of notes from Tim. When I show the scratch pad list from my backpack to attendees, some want to photograph each page! BUT…the 9 handwritten pages of notes of personal acronyms, abbreviations and sketchy drawings, are out of order to others and I think are meaningless to anyone else.
So instead, I try not to sound selfish and I tell them that Tim Tackett recorded much of his notes and additions-observations on this on a DVD! This would be infinitely smarter to watch then translating my chicken-scratch.
I am an exponent and proponent of boxing for all its benefits, but for my Force Necessary self-defense, survival perspectives (my only true goal) I am more interested in implementing bare knuckle boxing experimentation minus the boxing gloves, as I think both the glove size and padding interferes with reality. (Finger freedom, MMA gloves are better if gloves are needed.) The Lee YMCA program easily goes bare knuckle and works with focus mitts. And people can exchange some body blows too within it and no one shows up at work the next day looking like a barroom brawler.
I will start this essay off with the proclamation that I am an exponent and a proponent of boxing/kickboxing, all to the extent that or can be used in bareknuckle, non-sport self defense. When you fight you will not have boxing gloves, nor a mouthpiece. But, do these photos disturb you? They should.
They represents a GIGANTIC transition, mistake in “real fighting,” or…or…”non-sport, fighting.” Whatever you want to call it. This photo is representative of years of what I’ve seen. Decades even, and still do see it. That is placing your bare fists tight up against your face as some sort of standard fighting stance, misapplied from the Boxing “peek-a-boo.”
When teaching in the late 80s and 90s in my regular school, I taught in a city with two major colleges. The volume of people I saw come and go was remarkable. I never taught kids, Always adults. Many were students of other systems and I saw quite a number of folks whose definition of a fighting stance was to place their bare fists right on the their faces, or just barely off their faces, as in the photos above. Plenty also placed their finger knuckles right on their upper gum line or maybe their cheekbones. I interviewed them and
this hand-face positioning was leftover from boxing or kick boxing. Leftover big glove arts.
In boxing, everything is based around the big glove/ Every aggressive and defensive movement is centered around them. This does not automatically transfer over to bare hands.
Let’s jump right to my point. If you see this before you? Try and strike the bare fist glued on the face. Any strike you like. Hit it or them. It’s lunch. Lunch served up for you from yesterday’s leftovers. The original meal from yesterday? Sport, big-gloved boxing. It’s an odd leftover from that. It does not transition well. Hit the face via the fists.
Palms, hammers, and, we are going to discuss punching here. This is NOT an essay about fist-punching versus palm strikes. Lots of folks hurt their bare hands punching and remember…LOTS DON’T! Lots of people DO NOT break their hands punching. That’s another subject for another Training Mission book. Let’s take one thing at a time. This is not that time.
I would instead like to address the many “reality” training operations that way overuse big, boxing gloves in their classes, or some big glove boxing theories, ignorantly and innocently passing them off as self defense training. And the one major leftover – fists glued on face as some sort of fighting stance.
You see a lot of POSED photos with fighters and martial artists with their hands up and on, or almost on, their faces.
(note also the flagging thumb sticking up in this photo, another boxing glove leftover cancer.) Photographers try to get the hands and/or gloves up in the picture frame. These same people might not fight or use a stance like this, but the distribution of these photos help create the “fist on face” copy-cat motif. People will mindlessly replicate this. Even Instructors will mindlessly replicate this. And whole systems will too. Should folks without big gloves stand like this as some sort of official fighting stance? As a matter of system doctrine? I say no.
I have boxed and kick boxed since the 1970s. I still make my students kick box for various skills. And so many wonderful, important, simple things come from boxing. Examine it and experiment. Not everything transitions over to a crime or war survival struggle. Like gloves. Everyone knows, takes for granted, that you won’t be wearing big-ass, boxing gloves when ambushed, fighting wars, or arresting people, or as they say, “street fighting,” but I ask you to think this through, fully realize that some sport, boxing-big-glove, associated movements have some leftover cancers. Make the training mission connection.
If you are indeed a boxer, then you must wear boxing gloves. Same with Thai. You are a boxer! In western boxing, everything is about the big glove. Every aggressive and defensive movement is centered around those big gloves. If you are not a sport boxer? Don’t wear them, or at least limit them for very special purposes (more on that later.) The MMA glove is superior tool for MMA, and/or that real, street fight prep. Best? No gloves at all for prep, but with extended time periods on mitts and bags , MMA gloves can be a skin and bone saver and your training can endure longer periods.
I first saw these bare-hand, “strike-the-cover-hand” methods in JKD, FMA and Silat back in the 1980s. We did material about palm striking, hammer fisting and punching the opponent’s bare hands when they were on the face, or very, very close to the face, and “trapping/delaying” their bare hands when on their chest area, if they seemed pin-able. But for me and I know others, the training was so segmented, we never grasped the big picture. We would put our Thai clothes on and change mentalities and methods and then do that. Change clothes again and do something else. Rules. Segmented. We would box and just do that. Rules. Segmentation. Karate and do that. These rules and segmentations are not good. No blend. No evolution. Sometime, somehow, in the 1990s, the light switch came on for me to truly blend.
I want to make some quick points about this mistake.
Point 1: Getting hit like this is not good. I mean…think about it!
Point 2: Distance? If you are unlucky enough to be in some kind of fight, will there be a stand-off, “duel,” square-off situation? It’s possible. Maybe. Yes. If so, if you plant your hands on your face you are letting your opponent get closer in to you than if your hands were out, toward him more. JKD’s Larry Harstell once said in a seminar, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” Your reaction time sucks enough already without allowing him to get closer in to you, shaving even more time off.
Point 3: He’s covered? If you are a regimented, segmented, programmed boxer wearing gloves and you see your opponent boxer lift his or her big, padded, boxing gloves up to their face, this is some proper, padded protection. You think…”oh well, darn, he’s covered right now.” To some extent with big gloves this is true. But when an un-gloved person follows this same gloved habit with bare fists, the regimented boxer might see this also, as “cover,” and still hesitate to strike because he thinks…“Oh well, darn, he’s covered right now.” Leftover thinking from gloved boxing habits. The bare-hand guy is not “covered/protected.” No big gloves! You have no padded gives. He has no padded gloves. If you have an open path to the head and hands on his face? Travel it. Hit them. Hit these bare fists on his face.
So, in bare knuckle fight theory, not big glove theory – and well, maybe in big glove theory sometimes too – hands always on your face like this is a problem. Again, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” People like to argue about fists-on-face as being fine, but they cannot win an argument on this distance issue. The “earn-the-space” distance issue alone wins the argument. Think about how many self defense people put up the classic “fence-thingy” – hands up, hands out, palms out to keep people away. Distance theory. Your hands can sometimes keep people away. Find your comfortable, performance spot.
Sometimes, this cover doesn’t work even when wearing gloves
Hand are fast, Your hands. His hands. Fast. And structural mistakes can be overcome by moving your hands around quickly as needed. Lots of people quickly and smartly use their forearms for sudden protection. Fast hands might save the bare-fists-glued-on-face guys, but, fast hands are no excuse to justify stupid doctrine. Most “fighters” retreat to forearm covers and hands way back in the instant that they need them, nicknamed “doomsday blocks.” They don’t use this position as a fighting stance standard. Once escaped, they return to “normal, up-front” hand positions.
I am writing here about maximizing potential strategies and doctrine. Know your goal. Know the best way to achieve it. Remove abstracts, or at very least reduce the abstract. In training, it is almost impossible to completely remove the abstract…because…it’s training. So, reduce the abstract where you can. This is a constant challenge.
Bare fists on face? I once again must resort to one of my hero’s remarks, champ Bas Rutten when he said on this subject “Ah, the meat-helmet defense. Would you put a focus mitt up to your cheek and let me punch it? No, because it’ll still KTFO. (knock you the fuck out)”
Several traveling seminar instructors these days, I think are running out of ideas, and have started to add/teach pure, BIG-GLOVED boxing.
Self Defense/Combatives Seminar: Learn to Box!”
I think this is a misleading mistake, unless they openly advertise –
“Self Defense Weekend! Plus – 2 hours of Sheer Sport Boxing.”
Okay then, mission properly advertised honestly and well stated. You’ll do self defense stuff and pure sport boxing. Or, how about –
“Self Defense Weekend! Plus 2 hours of Applying Boxing Methods to Street Fighting.”
The word “applying” is key. There will be changes! Nicely advertised. But maybe with MMA gloves, we hope?
“BOXING! The Best Self Defense!”
No. Not alone. No. Every week the UFC is on TV, this mixed martial arts message is sent out to the world. Even neophytes can see that gloved boxing is not the ultimate solution to hand, stick, knife and gun fighting.
But this is not just a mistake of a traveling seminar person. This mistake appears in regular “self defense” classes in schools. If you do pure, big glove boxing as part and parcel of your self defense class you are off-mission. Not good. Not smart – especially when you could so easily fix that with no gloves or MMA gloves and a few short explanations. Many Krav schools have also added/introduced big glove boxing drills on mitts, bags, etc. to fill class time? Exercise? And appear to be more combative? Is this the best use of self defense class time?
Let’s not forget the mechanics of hitting. Hitting mitts and bags with big round, padded gloves is different than with MMA gloves or bare handed. It…feels…different. It feels different on your hands and in your wrists. Also, using your knuckles as striking point tools are easily lost inside the bulbous, boxing glove. Spending a whole lot of your self defense time hitting gear with big boxing gloves is just “off-mission.”
The MMA glove is better because in fights you need to hit AND grab and grapple. And for so-called “reality fighting,” on the “doctrine chalkboard,” MMA today is superior to “BJJ” and “Boxing,” because it already includes both as a mission. But if you just want to wrestle, or box? Fine! You do what you want and like. It’s your choice, your hobby, your fun, your exercise. Even your addiction. But addictions don’t always allow you to think straight. Just know what you are doing. Who, what, where, when, how and why. Know where it fits in the big picture.
Glove on a stick! An example of a training use of a boxing glove. Stand behind a trainer and poke it into openings.
I mentioned “special purposes use” earlier. I do love to see the boxing gloves on the walls where I teach. I need them sometimes as a progressive, handy tool. When do I slip big boxing gloves in when teaching? I do still use them when I think its appropriate. One example would be some ground fighting. Hero on the ground, trainer on top of him punching down. We are trying to get the bottom guy to do a move or maybe draw a knife or gun under some stress. I will ask the topside guy to wear one or two boxing gloves and give the bottom guy some safer, distracting flak. And, there are indeed times, when I think its appropriate, people need to just flat-out box for a host of skill developing reasons I seeking to work on, and the big gloves are a safer device in a progression to a bare knuckle goal.
So the “stance?” When I warn people about the fist-on-the-face-thing, they ask, “well, where should your hands be?” For a quick response? “Not there!” A vast, and I mean vast, majority of boxers, MMA and otherwise systems have their hands up but forward and off from their faces, in the upper window of combat. I’d say, a vast majority. And most keep them moving a bit anyway. A so-called fighting stance is about balance and power in motion, not a still photo, position. I could probably show 8 different photos here representing tons of boxing and non-boxing fighters with their dukes up in varying heights somewhat away from their faces. For me, for my “business” (and yours?) I am not developing boxing-boxers. I am trying to study and utilize Boxing and Thai. I am trying to help the spread of “self defense” survival in a bare hand, stick, knife, gun world. Are you? What…is…your…mission? If you don’t already, please consider the necessary changes from sport boxing to the “hitting below the belt,” no rules fighting you claim to teach. One such examination involves the use of, or limited use of, or non-use of, the big boxing glove.
Are you killing time in your Krav classes? Making self defense people punch with big boxing gloves?
The main theme in the ballpark here? Let’s hyper jump right to it now. If you are solder-ing, LEO-ing, krav maga-ing, citizen-ing, or combatives-ing your way to real world, self defense? Your core punching research and study must prioritize BARE-KNUCKLE BOXING! Not just sport, big glove boxing of “western” and Thai. (And even in Bare Knuckle fights, they still wrap parts of their hands and their wrists. At any rate when the fight starts in the supermarket, or the factory floor, or the family picnic, you will not be wearing boxing gloves and your hands and wrists won’t be wrapped. And don’t put your bare hands on your face thinking your safe!
(Update: This essay was shared and re-shared from here over 150 times on the internet years ago, with a couple of thousand comments. People are still finding it and commenting. ALL positive but for TWO! Only two separate, Panantukan instructors claim that it is smart to start all fights from their face cheeks. They believe that their hands are faster if fired from the face cheeks. I couldn’t help but look up a video or two that one of them made and sure enough, it seems like one guy’s fashioned his entire system, for years, based on the fist on cheek fighting stance. This is a serious mistake. It would seem when overwhelming comments from veteran experts – oh, like Bas? – and some science and common sense comes along, the one or two, might change/evolve.)