Friday, 31 August 2012

Get in the Car

I’m trying to keep up the tradition of posting something a little more light-hearted and irrelevant on a Friday.

“Get in the Car!”

“I won’t fit in the car….”

Verbal judo

“I’m a very forthright person. If I think something I say it”

            Several times I have heard that, usually being said by a young woman who seems to regard it as a virtue. If there is one thing that I have learnt over my many years it is the virtue of knowing when to hold my tongue. If I spoke my mind every time a though popped into my head I would doubtless have been in more fights, been fired several times and most certainly still very single!

            Recently I wrote some observations about placatory behaviour. This doesn’t mean you go through life as a doormat, just that you expand your range of options. Quite frankly, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. There are times to tell someone that they are an unreasonable jerk, and there are times to bite back that comment, force yourself to smile and assure the jerk that you appreciate how busy they are and how they are going out of their way to do their job….

            If you wish, think of it as verbal or social judo. You end up getting what you wanted, but no one gets hurt or upset. They may even think it was their idea. This is the true art of fighting without fighting.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Hazing, part 2

            Somewhere in my place there is a magazine with an article on becoming a professional bodyguard. The one thing I can remember from this article is the advice to wear sunglasses. Sunglasses make it harder to see what the bodyguard is actually paying attention to. It is also mentioned that they protect the eyes from anything that might be thrown at them.

            A few days ago I wrote about the tactic of Hazing and some of the threats that may be directed against the eyes. Eye protection is mandatory on most shooting ranges and for many sports. US soldiers also now use shooting goggles in combat. Given this trend it is perhaps surprising that protective eyewear still hasn’t become standard for police and prison officers. It is hard to think of a group of people more likely to be subjected to various assaults to their eyes.  
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Devil in the Details.

            I was watching a video of a well-known knife-fighting instructor and one of the sequences he showed reminded me of Long Har Ch'uan. That really wasn’t that surprising since LHC drills are designed to teach the essence of efficient defence. What really caught my interest was that I was struck by a sudden nagging impression that something was wrong.

            The sequence was as follows, and is illustrated assuming the attack is coming from the foe’s right hand. You “give a little wave” –make an outward parry with your left hand. Take over the defence against the right with an inward parry with your right hand. You then perform a “dip and slip action” on his right hand that takes you to his outside gate on his right side.

            If this had been a Long Har Ch’uan drill it might have been as follows. Parry the right with an inward parry with your right. Take over the parry with an outward parry with your left. Use your right to make an outward parry on his right arm and take you to the outside gate.

            The two sequences seem similar but “the devil is in the details!” On the second parry the knife-fighter is turning his right flank towards his opponent while his right hand is occupied with the right. He is on the inside gate so there is nothing to stop the enemy using his left hand against any available target. In the LHC sequence we started off with an inward parry while on the inside gate but immediately switched to an outward parry with the left, freeing the right hand for further action. The right hand was used to move to the outside gate but it could have been used to defend against any attacks by the left hand if necessary.

            If you parry an enemy’s attack he may not leave his arm there for you to manipulate. A fairly common reaction will be to withdraw the parried limb and make an attack with the other hand. Thus in LHC we are taught to have the other hand ready for other actions when making an outward parry and to convert inward parries into outward parries to free up the other hand.  An even simpler LHC sequence in the above example would have been:- “give a little wave” –make an outward parry with your left hand and simultaneously smash your right palm heel into his face.

            For more on the principles the training drill of Long Har Ch’uan can teach please read the section in my book or consult the older compilation of Erle Montaigue’s works edited by myself.


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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Posturing or Placating

            Until a few years back I used to run first year classes at a major university. As an incurable people watcher the first few weeks of the first term were always entertaining. Something interesting I observed when it was time for the first large practical class. This was a stressful time. There is a big room of people you don’t know and you are not sure what to expect. I would usually be standing near the door and would be one of the first things the student would encounter. I am big, ugly and look like I own the place. Here is what I noticed.

            Young males would enter the room, obviously nervous and uncertain. On seeing me they would puff themselves out and try to walk with a swagger. Didn’t fool anyone and I would often have to repress the urge to laugh.

            Young women, on the other hand would usually smile at me and would often say hello. Interestingly many of the more mature male students also would acknowledge or greet me.

            What has this got to do with self-defence? Quite a bit really, since the first stage of defence is to avoid a fight entirely. The young male response was to posture, the female to placate and establish a rapport. Something to think about.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

FBI Baton

            Thinking about the previous post and the scenarios of Police officers faring so badly against a suspect with a knife the question arises “Did these cops try to use their batons?” If the knife was drawn first I can see that the suspect could be all over the cop before he can draw the baton or gun, but it the baton is in hand one would expect the knifeman to take a couple of hard hits to his knife arm or shoulder. Here is the FBI manual on the baton.
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Monday, 27 August 2012

21st post! Invisible Knives.

            A few days ago I came across this interesting article. The whole thing is worth reading and thinking on, but I will reproduce a few key points here.

“... in early 1992 I conducted an empirical video research study. I had 85 police officers participate in a scenario based training session where unknown to them, they would be attacked with a knife. The attacker, who was dressed in a combatives suit, was told that during mid way of the contact, they were to pull a knife that they had been concealing, flash it directly at the officer saying "I’m going to kill you pig" and then engage the officer physically. The results were remarkable:

  • 3/85 saw the knife prior to contact
  • 10/85 realized that they were being stabbed repeatedly during the scenario
  • 72/85 did not realize that they were being assaulted with a knife until the scenario was over, and the officers were advised to look at their uniforms to see the simulated thrusts and slices left behind by the chalked training knives

..... It also explains why one officer, who had actually caught the attackers knife hand with both of his hands and was looking directly at the knife, stated "I didn’t see any knife" It was not until I showed the video that he believed there was a knife.”

            There are other reasons why you might not see a knife in addition to stress and adrenaline. Knives are often used at night or in dark places, the attacker may be actively concealing the knife or may not draw it until he feels he needs it.

            Many self-defence books like to tell you that in a real fight there are no rules and then give you specific techniques for an unarmed foe, one with a knife, one with a club and so forth. The “Pat, Wrap and Attack” system of controlling the weapon delivery system that Darren Laur mentions seems technically sound, but is based on the assumption that you are aware a weapon is involved.

            This leads me to the following conclusions:-

  • In a real fight always assume that a weapon might become involved. Just because you do not see a weapon does not mean that it is there.  Deliberately going to ground and wrestling may get you cut.

  • All of your primary offensive and defensive techniques must be practiced as though your partner had a knife in his hand(s). Strikes and parries must be withdrawn or they will get “cut”. Use evasion and manoeuvre in preference to blocking and parrying.
Naturally after reading the above article and deducing these conclusions I read through the book to make sure none of the techniques I suggest contravened these ideas. They didn’t
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Sunday, 26 August 2012

You got his knife arm! What next?

            I grew up with a brother four years my junior. In that distant politically incorrect era our toys included a pair of plastic knives. I can recall several games where my brother had a knife and I grabbed his hand to wrestle it from him, just like the heroes in the old movies I was growing up watching. At his young age my brother did not understand this is what heroes were supposed to do. He would reach over with his other hand, take the knife and then “stab” me.

            Fast-forward forty years or so and I see knife-defence courses telling Police officers to seize the knife arm in both hands. Whether or not this is the optimum tactic and how easily or not it can be achieved will not be debated here. By design or chance you may indeed end up holding a knife arm with both hands. If a three year old can work out the tactic of changing hands (“foisting”) so can your assailant so you had better do something before he does.

            What you can do exactly will depend on the relative positions of your hands and his arm. Are your thumbs on the radial or ulna side of this arm, the inside or the outer? Is this arm held high or low? Are you standing or on the ground? You do not have time to start changing grips so must execute any technique from the hold you have. Our objective is to take his knife away from the reach of this free hand and preferably put him at a further disadvantage.

            There are essentially three directions we can take his arm:- up, down, and out.

Downward involves swinging the arm down in a vertical half-circle, twisting it, moving your body and changing your grip if needed. The arm will finish in either a straight arm lock or a bent arm hammer-lock. These are powerful locks that can cause dislocations and breaks and may bend the attacker forward.

Taking the arm out involves moving it horizontally out. This may or may not involve twisting the arm along its long axis. This is powered by rotation of your waist and moving to his outside gate, taking the knife well away from his other hand. If the leverage from his arm can be used to throw him, do so. If possible, keep control of his arm so you can apply pressure to it with your leg.

Taking the arm upwards is a little more involved and is easier from certain relative positions than others. Use this method if it is quicker or easier than the other options. The target position is to have the attacker’s knife arm bent at the elbow with his hand behind his neck. There are several ways to do this. If his hand was already raised we circle around him to take the knife back and behind him.  We continue the pressure to lean him backwards to destroy his balance and use or leg or body to help him fall. It is also possible to apply this lock by making an outward turn, turning away from him and taking his hand over your head and on behind his shoulder blades. This action is reminiscent of a judo throw and can be used to throw the attacker down. It is possible that the attacker could reach his knife hand with his other hand so like the other moves you must apply this with vigour to take him down as quickly as possible.
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Saturday, 25 August 2012


            Years ago I was in a Capoeira class and training with a young lad I had not seen before and I assumed he was a new student. We were doing a simple practice session of Ginga when all of a sudden he threw a roundhouse kick at me. Random surprises like this are a bit of a tradition in Capoeira but you do not really expect them from a newbie. Turned out this guy had taken a few classes at another location.

            When he tried another kick I was ready. I stepped away and let my trailing leg nudge his support leg, just enough to wobble him and let him know I could have dropped him hard if I had wanted. The look on his face was priceless.

            “You just avoided the kick and hit me with the same move!”

            The move I used was a variety of Esquiva  and here is an illustration of one of its applications.
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Friday, 24 August 2012

Fat Burning Foods.

Fat burning foods sounds about as likely as screwing to become a virgin, but someone somewhere will believe anything it seems.

Grapefruit and Watermelon -very tasty, but full of sugar, which is something the body converts to fat to store -apparently this is not as well known as I thought.

Berries -sugar again. Berries are something birds eat to fatten up for winter. Silly birds would apparently put the pounds on if they left off on the berries.

Celery famously uses more calories to eat raw than it contains, but 75% of the world's population hate the taste. Putting celery in a meal without finding out if the person it is intended for is one of the majority makes you a very bad host. With so much of the world hungry should we grow something that has little food value and most of the world hates anyway?

Greek Yogurt. Just Greek Yogurt apparently, not any other yogurt, but it doesn't have to be low-fat Greek yogurt. (most low fat yogurts have lots of sugar in instead so are still high calorie).

Eggs. Yup, nothing remotely fatty about them, obviously fat burners.

Fish. Fish never has any oil or fat in it at all. That is why Eskimos are so skinny.

Green Tea, Coffee and Water. Not sure about fat-burning, but probably low in fat and sugar. Unless you go for the double cream with syrup.

Quinola and Oatmeal. These are seeds and grains, yet another thing birds eat to get fat.

If you really want to burn off a bit of fat, read my article here
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                Hazing does not refer to institutionalized bullying but to category of defensive techniques called Kasumi in Japanese. “Haze” in this context refers to smoke, mist, or most accurately, the “fog of war”. Like the other form of Hazing it is also a form of harassment.

                Hazing covers a variety of different techniques that all have the same consequence:-they disrupt the victim’s ability to see. Seldom considered in the gym or practice hall, such techniques may be used against you in a real fight. Hazing techniques include:-
  • Throwing particulate matter. Ninja threw or blew special powders into an enemy’s eyes. In many environments dust, dirt, sand, gravel or snow is readily available for similar purposes. If a foe has a hand clenched this is a possible attack.
  • Throwing Weapons and other objects. Shuriken were often thrown towards the eyes as a distraction. Other Weapons or less overtly bellicose objects can also be used. Wallets or coins may be thrown in the instance of a robbery.
  • Throwing liquids. A drink can be thrown into the eyes as a distraction technique. Strong alcohol or hot drinks can have an added effect. The glass or cup may them be used as a Weapon. Repulsive though it may seem, spitting at the opponent has also been used.
  • Jabbing or flicking the fingers at the eyes is another hazing technique. If the fingers do not make contact they may still provoke a flinching reaction that can be exploited.
  • Cuts to the forehead that bleed into the eyes may be considered to act as hazing.
  • Blows to the nose that cause the eyes to water may also be considered to be a form of hazing.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Defending against the Rush

            A couple of years back I came across a Youtube video that was called something like “Close Range Knife Defense”. This one was notable since it involved several young men having a great time fast-drawing their guns and shooting down imaginary attackers. Their speed and skills were impressive, their tactics deplorable.
            Even if you can kill a charging attacker instantly he is still likely to travel several metres. This may be enough to knock you down. If he had a knife this may arrive point first, resulting in you being injured or killed by a man already dead. The chances are you will not achieve an instant kill every time. Even if your attacker is fatally wounded he may use the final seconds to knock you down, stick his knife in you or thrust his thumb in your eye. You may not fatally wound him. Even the best of us miss occasionally when shooting under stress, drawing gets caught up on clothing or weapons misfire or malfunction. If the charger was unarmed you are still in trouble. If he knocks you down he can stomp you to death or take your weapon to use against you.
            I have tried to emphasise in my book that defence and evasion must come before counter-attack. If you have a weapon sheathed and you are attacked your first response should not be to try and attempt to draw the weapon. You cannot outdraw him if his weapon is already drawn. In a fast-draw competition the odds are not good either since the attacker will have the advantage of intitiative. Even if your weapon is already in hand it is prudent to combine using it with some evasive/ defensive action. If an enemy appears suddenly before you you don’t have time to see if he is going to charge you or open fire on you. Don’t stand were you are, move! Better a moving target than a sitting duck.
            Let us return to our original example of the young men with pistols. If their drill had been realistic they would have executed some form of evasive action before they drew and fired. By having one of their number play the aggressor and using some toy guns this could prove a fun but very useful practice sesson.
            In martial arts considerable attention is paid to blocking and parrying techniques but generally these are concentrated on defending against hand strikes and kicks. Some attackers will not move into a set distance and start throwing kicks and blows. In our example above we considered a knife-armed attacker charging a gun-man but there are many other situations where one party may try to rush and overwhelm another. Fighters who favour groundwork will want to get close to their opponent and get them to the ground as quick as possible. Defending against an enemy that charges seems to be something some martial arts would rather not think about. Yes it is crude and brutal. Whether it is unskilled or not is irrelevent. It is a real and likely threat and can be very effective, particularly if you have never bothered to practice against it.
            What defences are there against a rush? The primary one remains the use of evasion. The ginga movement from Capoeira that is included in my book is very good for teaching side-stepping and other evasive footwork. Also useful is the hip-twist move that is the basis of in-quartata and certain kicking actions. If your dodge does not take you sufficiently out of harm you must combine it with a parrying action. A charging opponent will have a lot of momentum so blocking his force directly is not a practical option. We need to parry to redirect it. Parrying his hands or forearms is not likely to have much effect. There is no point in knocking these aside if the body behind still knocks you down. Parry against the upper arm, shoulder and torso regions. Use both your arms to make contact. The p’eng hinge action detailed in the book can be easily adapted for this action, as can several other techniques such as the double-handed push, the shoulder check and the outside crane.
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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Karate Weapon Museum

                A rather nice collection of Japanese/Okinawan weapons.  I particularly like the Kongo type weapons listed as Yawara-bo, Tenouchi etc.

                These Tecchu I like since they allow the option of aligning the point with the axis of force of the forearm.
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Like verses Like

            Yesterday I talked about the problem of compliance when judging the self-defence potential of a technique. Today I will share some thoughts on another problem, that of “Like verses Like”. Sometimes a technique will work, but only against someone fighting in the same style or a particular style.

            Wing Chun fighters are correctly taught that the best targets lie on the centre-line and are taught to attack and defend accordingly. I have seen at least one author assert with great confidence that “your enemy will attempt to attack your centre-line”. If he is trained in Wing Chun, he undoubtedly will. Many fighters not trained in Wing Chun will attempt to gain the outside gate in preference where many perfectly good targets can be more easily attacked. The first move of the Yang Tai-chi form has the student raising their hands up and then lowering them. One of the combat applications of this move is to place the hands on an enemy’s shoulders and jerk them down and back, often dropping them at your feet.

            Other styles also fall into the trap of “Like verses Like”. Some Tai-chi books seem to assume that a common tactic by enemies is to grasp your wrist. Grabbing wrists in a real fight can be harder than you might expect. If an enemy does grab your wrist he will probably immediately use it to pull you off balance or throw you, leaving little time for the elegant and devastating counter move. Some grappling-orientated styles pay little attention to learning effective punching techniques and assume they will face the same quality of punching they encounter in training. They expect to duck under a punch, clinch their opponent and then throw him to the ground to use their favoured techniques. Watch any real boxer and you will see that if they miss a punch they tend to throw several more in rapid succession.

            In his interesting article here Marc MacYoung maintains that certain knife-fighting styles are most effective against attacks made in certain styles. I have been thinking about this recently as I have been reweighing the often suggested advice to counter a knife user with kicks to the leg. Usually the Side-kick is used. One of the assumptions here is the knifeman is fairly static, not rushing right at you attempting to stab anything his knife encounters. How much of this requires the knifeman to be in a certain stance? Photos of this defence usually have the target leg advanced and bent. Low leg kicks tend to be most effective if weight is on the leg, but many combat stances tend to keep weight off the lead leg. What if the knife user knows nothing of “proper” knife fighting stances and is just standing normally? Can you reach his leg with your kick without your upper body coming into knife range? What if he steps forward as you commit to a kick?  I am quite tall and long-legged but I am sceptical than many of my kicks could reach a knife man without coming into range of his knife. Circular sweeping kicks seem safer than the Side-kick. Kicking from the outside gate is safer but from this aspect I don’t need to attack his lower leg –I have the coccyx, back and thigh as targets. I can even not kick at all and use the Tai-chi trick of jerking him off-balance.

            This is obviously something that needs experimentation and further thought.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Trapped Muzzles.

            The previous post got me looking for an illustration of another potentially useful technique for a Soldier in a civil unrest situation. In the event that the barrel of your rifle is grabbed you can employ a variation of one of the wrist grab escape techniques I detail in the book. You take the muzzle underneath the wrist and over the outside of the forearm, using the length of the rifle as a lever in this case. In this particular example he just needs to swing the muzzle inwards to lay across the arm. The same technique can be used with a nightstick or your unarmed arm. The upper tier of photos shows a more direct approach –simply striking with the other end of the weapon.

Muzzle Thump and Clinching?

            I came across this interesting document and it is hard to know what exactly to make of it. Some techniques are quite direct and hard-hitting while some seem to be rather restrained. I like the technique of the Muzzle Thump and using the helmet. The title at the side says “No Tap out in Combat” so it is hard to see why the Soldier should attempt to clinch when he has the option of striking with his rifle butt or pulling the legs out from under the enemy. If the intention is to provide techniques for civil unrest then wrestling will get you kicked to death by his mates. I note that the knee strike is suggested for the stomach rather than the groin, which is very considerate and sporting. Likewise, the kick is directed to the hip rather than the more obvious target.

           Employing the knife/bayonet would be rather difficult in the situation shown if it is carried on the left hip as is commonly suggested in some military manuals.
Army Combative Poster
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Scientific Self-defence.

            A term that wartime combat manuals seem to be very fond of is “Scientific”. Many of them claimed to teach a Scientific method of self-defence. Science is an often misused term.  Science is basically a tool for collecting and verifying knowledge, usually by means of observation and experimentation. Such observations and experiments tend to use proven rules to reduce sources of error and give us a greater confidence in the conclusions we draw. When we are trying to find the cause of something we attempt to eliminate as many parameters as possible, and while we are testing something we try to subject it to as many variables as we can.

            Many years ago I knew a couple who had studied Aikido together. After a while he lost interest but his girlfriend continued to take classes. Often she would return home with some new technique she had learnt and tried it out on her boyfriend. It seldom worked.  It had worked fine when Sensi had demonstrated it, she had got it to work with her partners in class, but it didn’t work on the boyfriend. He didn’t know what was supposed to happen. In any situation that involves several humans there are social conventions, some of them conscious, some of them subconscious. Showing up Sensi or the Drill Sergeant is not a good idea. There is also peer pressure. In a class there is often a level of subconscious compliance. Most of us don’t want to act like dicks and sabotage our partner’s technique. In a real self-defence situation your opponent is going to be trying to disrupt you in every way he can come up with.  

            To further look at this idea of being scientific, let us look at a technique shown in many self-defence books. Even the usually very practical W.E .Fairbairn shows this one in several of his works.  The scenario is that one of your arms has been grabbed by you foe with both of his hands. You make a fist and pull on this fist with your other hand, dropping or raising the elbow of your grabbed arm to exert pressure on your attacker's thumbs, and break free.

            The theory behind this is sound, but does it work if we eliminate the factor of practice partner compliance? The obvious way to do this would be to give the student grabbing the arm a real incentive not to lose. Place a really substantial wager on the outcome and see if the technique can still work. To further increase the accuracy of our testing try the technique with a wider variety of individuals of varying body types, ages and genders.

            The next factor we need to consider is that of realism. How likely is it that this attack will actually be used. Why is the attack grabbing your arm with both of his hands, and what is he trying to achieve by doing this?

            We also need to consider efficiency. Even if the technique will work most of the time, is it the best technique to use. Is there something simpler and possibly more effective the defender can do.  The attacker has both his hands occupied but has left you with one of your hands free.  Various strikes can be made to his arms or head, and my book details some of the vital areas where these can be most effective.

            My message behind this post is that when considering self-defence beware of the compliance factor and try to be truly scientific. As you test techniques have your training partner try to come up with practical counters. You have to be fair and realistic with this. If you are trying at technique at a slow speed he cannot respond with a full speed move.

            Let us consider another self-defence scenario, one rather more likely than the two-handed wrist grab. Kicking is often advocated as a practical counter to an opponent with a knife.  Roll up a magazine to use as a knife and practice. One student tries to land a kick on a realistic target, the other tried to cut or stab him with the magazine. What types of kick work? Can you execute a particular kick from the inside gate or do you need to be on the outside? One hypothesis is that roundhouse, side thrust and front thrust kicks are the only practical attacks but must be directed against the front leg from the knee down. How do different stances of the knife user effect this?
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