Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A final post for Halloween.



            A few years back I am watching a movie with my then newish girlfriend.

            “We should go camping!” she suddenly announces.

            “Are you not paying attention here? The killer always goes after the young couple in the tent!”

            “We will take our Kukris! When Jason turns up, Ha! No more Jason!”

            How can you not love a woman like that?

Edwardian(?) self-defence

            I came across this on scribd.
            How to deal with a hoodlum using a Flying Mare. You can tell that he is a hoodlum since the bounder isn’t wearing a jacket.


            I’m sure some idiot will claim she was just asking for it dressed like that!

Something for Halloween

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Some Quick Thoughts on Some Body Weapons.



            The palm-heel is probably one of the most useful body weapons that you have. It is a technique that nearly anyone can use, can apply great power and it useful for both hard and soft targets. Suppose you encounter an aggressor wearing a motorcycle helmet and an opening occurs for you to hit his head? If you use a punch there is a good chance you will damage your hand. Most people, however would be confident at striking the helmet with a palm heel and can probably hit with enough force to jar his neck or knock the attacker off balance. If you can do that, think how effective a palm-heel strike would be against his unarmoured jaw, kidney or top of the sternum.

            Palm-heel is one of your primary weapons and should be used whenever possible and practiced until its use is second nature.


            Hammer-fist is a somewhat neglected weapon in many martial arts but is one to master. Hammer-fist can be used in many of the applications usually suggested for a back-fist or knife-hand strike. It is more powerful and more versatile than a back-fist and easier to use effectively than a knife-hand. Its larger impact area means that it is often recommended for applications where permanent injury is undesirable. Many Police officers are taught to use the hammer fist or palm-heel instead of the knife-hand when striking the brachial plexus or vagus nerve, for example.


            The main applications of the knife-hand are against the limbs, neck, kidneys and between the ribs. In many manuals the knife hand is shown with the fingers apparently straight and the thumb sticking out. I suggest you experiment with the palm slightly cupped and the thumb tip placed just behind the middle joint of the first finger.

            Practice knife-hand by striking it against the palm of your other hand. This also conditions that hand for palm-heel striking.


            Back-fist is a staple of many martial arts but is in fact a somewhat limited technique. Hammer-fist is an easier, more versatile and more powerful technique and generally more useful. To use back-fist effectively requires “Loose wrist, Tight fist”. The hand needs to be clenched tightly on impact but the wrist needs to be relaxed to produce and in and out snapping action. Striking area is the first two knuckles and if you are relaxed enough the front rather than the back of the knuckles will hit.

            Because it is a relatively low powered technique for most of use it is not good against large volume soft targets like the torso. Main soft targets are the nose and the larynx. Most targets for the back-fist are boney areas such as the mind-point of the jaw, eyebrow temple, sternum, philtrum etc. Since it applies a relatively small bone against larger bones good technique is essential. In most self-defence techniques where you see a back-fist used see if a hammer-fist can be used instead.

One-Knuckle Fist.

            One-knuckle striking techniques such as Phoenix eye fist or middle-knuckle fist are seen in many martial arts. These techniques are best used with a circular rather than linear punching technique, particularly against harder target areas. Bend your wrist slightly so that the forearm, hand and promimal phalanx form a smooth curve.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Praying Mantis Video

            A rather nice video on some Praying Mantis techniques.

            The Mantis Hook and Pluck technique are both covered in my book, along with other principles seen here. The one modification I would make here is to use a palm-heel strike rather than a closed fist punch to follow the elbow pluck (Tsai). Heads are hard and boney and better attacked with a palm-heel rather than a fist.


            Caught the movie Ong-Bak last night. I know it has been out nearly a decade, but I’d not seen it before. Very entertaining and well worth a watch if you enjoy a well done action movie.


Early morning exercise.

            Today will be a long day. Had to be in to work early, will be staying late, and will be in early again tomorrow. The mornings are getting colder and darker, so getting out of bed and doing some exercise before leaving for work is a test of will-power. Will-power is a crucial element in getting fitter and is something you develop along with your muscles, so not only did I manage to squeeze some exercising in this morning, but I added a bit more.

            My recent cold and needing to eat more has undone most of the progress I had made on reducing the waistline so this morning I tried an exercise I don’t think I have attempted since I was a schoolboy :- touching my toes! Much to my surprise I could do a most acceptable toe touch without any noticeable knee bend. I went on to do a full set of thirty so I guess my gut is not as big a problem as I feared.

            On a hard day like today such minor accomplishments are to be savoured!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Surviving a Slasher Movie -the Sequel!

           In keeping with the time of year I thought that I would examine counters to another staple of slasher movies (and self-defence books!) the Overhead Knife attack, sometimes called the “John Wayne Indian Attack”. As I discuss in my book, this is not a particularly good way to use a knife but is often shown in self-defence books since it allows the author to show clever countermoves. In the movies it makes for a nice dramatic shot, as can be seen in this rogue’s gallery. While the Overhead has many flaws as an offensive technique it is one that does get used in real life. Many domestic murders are apparently committed using this attack, where passion tends to override technique. The same basic action is also used for club or machete attack and the same counters can be employed. (that is why the photo of Jason is here, and I couldn’t find one of him with a knife, although he has used this attack). Knowing how to counter attacking action is therefore quite useful.
            First up is the counter that you will see suggested in the majority of self-defence books, which is known by various names such as the “reverse armlock”. The attack is blocked with the left arm, often with the left hand grasping the knife wrist, then the right arm comes up behind, grips the defender’s other arm and executes a lock that can be turned into a throw.
            Here we see another view of the same technique from another angle. This photo is taken by Combat Judo by Robert L. Carlin. Carlin at least has the sense to mention that such an attack would be relatively unlikely from a trained enemy.
            Yet another view, this time executed from an overhead cross block. If you have read my book you will know about the flaws of this technique, particularly against edged weapons. While this provides a stronger initial block than using just the left hand it does leave your head and body in the path of the attack should the block fail.
            An alternate counter, again from the Cross block. If the attacker had be stabbing in an ice pick grip his sword bayonet would have probably reached the defender’s face! The follow through of moving to the outside and attacking the arm is worth noting, and would have been possible if the defender had instead used an outward parry with his right arm, taking himself out of the line of attack.
            The “Miller method” is from Biddle’s “Do or Die”. The attack is blocked with the left arm and then right is passed behind the stopped knife arm, hooked over it and used to make a throw. Unlike the Reverse Armlock the two arms are not used together. One arm stops the attack and then the other throws the attacker.
            In “Kill or Get Killed” Biddle’s contemporary, Rex Applegate was rightly critical of many of the above methods. He felt that trying to catch the knife wrist in your hand, as many manuals suggested was too prone to failure. A powerful blow, as this was likely to be would overcome the thumb. Using the forearms to block could numb the arm and also be prone to failure. Many of these methods rely on initially using the left arm, which Applegate pointed out is less co-ordinated for most individuals. Add into this equation that knives are often used in poor light conditions so the defender may not be able to see the arm well enough to execute a fancy counter.

            As can be seen, Applegate’s preferred method involves using the right arm in an outward parry, taking the defender to the outside gate. Various counters follow from this position. You can use the arm level technique shown in the second cross block illustration. You can punch with your left below his armpit or into his kidney. Or you can throw your left hand over his face and throw him back over your left leg.

            In fact, I would recommend that since you will be powering your right outward parry with your waist you use the same action to raise your left arm too and swing it in toward the aggressor. Applegate illustrates an outward parry and finishing on the attacker’s right side. You may not have room to do this so also practice an inward parry with the right too. Use your principles of Long Har Ch’uan here too. As you move the attacking arm to your left (swinging your body out from under the attack) bring your left arm up vertically to take over the parry. This will free up your right hand, which will be in a good position for a hammer-fist or knife hand attack to the attacker’s head or neck.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Surviving a Slasher Movie

            A couple of years back I was watching “True Blood” with my relatively new girlfriend. I had not paid much attention to the show in the past but Caroline had got me into it and I am now a fan.

            We were watching the episode where Sookie realizes that Rene is the killer, and Rene realizes that Sookie realizes etc. As you can see, she grabs a shotgun, only to find Rene has unloaded it. Wisely, Sookie realizes an empty gun is still a pretty solid club and knocks him down while he is feeling clever. She then skips over the fallen killer and runs out into the sun, so Vampire Bill can save her. The reason I remember this scene so well is as Sookie runs for the door my girlfriend exclaimed

“No! Hit him again you fool!”

            I have to admit, I looked at her somewhat bemused and revelled in the fact that my lady had a very sensible head on her shoulders and could probably look after herself better than many.

            It being October, I have had an urge to watch horror films, particularly slasher pics, since Horror channel is doing a season of them.

            Killers in these movies often seem to trip over. Jason falls and stumbles a few times in Friday the 13th Part 2. Ghostface in the Scream movies not only falls and gets knocked down, but even knocked unconscious.

            If you find yourself in a situation similar to Sookie or any of these other heroines, remember the Broncho kick. In the words of WE Fairbairn in “Get Tough”:-


Your opponent is lying on the ground.

1. Take a flying jump at your opponent, drawing your feet up by bending your knees, at the same time keeping your feet close together (Fig. 11)

2. When your feet are approximately eight inches above your opponent's body, shoot your legs out straight, driving both of your boots into his body, and smash him.

Note. - It is almost impossible for your opponent to parry a kick made in this manner, and, in addition, it immediately puts him on the defensive, leaving him only the alternative of rolling away from you in an attempt to escape. Further, although he may attempt to protect his body with his arms, the weight of your body (say 150 pounds), plus the impetus of your flying jump (say another 150 pounds), will drive your heels into your opponent's body with such terrific force that you will almost certainly kill him. Steel heel-plates on your boots will make his attack even more effective.

Practice this kick on a dummy figure or on the grass as in Fig. 12.”

            In “Kill or Be Killed” Rex Applegate prefers that kicks against a downed target be made with just one foot, since there is a risk of losing your balance if landing on a target with both feet. On the other hand the jump into the air can generate tremendous power and is a good way of convincing the smaller framed person they have sufficient power to take a larger attacker out of the fight. A compromise may be to use the leap to generate power and attempt to land with one foot on the ground and the other impacting the attacker.

            If more women knew this simple technique Slasher movies would be a lot shorter!


Quarterstaff Flourishes

            As promised, a quarterstaff derived technique which can be adapted to various other weapons, including those that are shorter.

            Suppose you are in one of the ready positions detailed in my book and you see a chance to strike the aggressor on the clavicle. Attacking the clavicle is a nice non-lethal attack that is likely to put him out of action. Raising the tip of your weapon prior to bringing it down on his collarbone is slow and rather telegraphic, so what can you do?

            The answer is to drop the point and use it to describe a circle in the air in front of you, intersecting your intended target. Not only is this more efficient than an up and down motion, it can be used to move around an enemy’s guard.

            Such a technique is well suited to unedged weapons such as a quarterstaff or nightstick since it doesn’t matter which side of the weapon makes contact, but it can be adapted to edged weapons too if you have sufficient awareness of blade orientation.

            Try practicing this technique by using your weapon to draw a four-leaf clover shape in the air, similar to that shown below. The illustration below shows defensive actions and this should suggest that parries and circular counter-attacks can be combined. This technique can also be used for empty hand techniques.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Jet Li Bagua -how to beat yourself up.

            For various reasons yesterday was a bit of a cruddy day, so when I got home I downloaded the Jet Li movie “The One” as some much needed diversion.

            The plot involves Li fighting a bad version of himself from an alternate dimension. What was interesting was that the good Li used Ba gua (Pa-kua) as a fighting style, while the bad version uses a more linear punching style that I think is Hsing-I, but might be something like leopard style, so apologies if I get that wrong. There is a rather nice moment in the final showdown where good Li has been trading punches with bad Li and decides to switch to Ba gua. Here is a clip of the sequence.

            Of particular interest is the move around 2:11. This “under the arm” move utilizes the motion I describe for the turn from the closed step as detailed in my book, a move similar in principle to the Kuk Sool Won technique against wrist grabs (also in the book)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Knuckle Duster variations

            Since I am close to my scanner today I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the more unusual knuckle duster type weapons. The first three are all from Serge Mol’s excellent book “Classical Weaponry of Japan” and are (not surprisingly) Japanese.

            First is a weapon called a Tesshō. The spikes can be used to strike or to improve the grip while grappling. What is interesting here is that the design would make conventional punching techniques difficult. This weapon would mainly be used for hammer-fist and back-fist strikes.
            Second weapon is known as a Mussahi Kaiken or Nago Ryŭ Kaiken. The more common use of the world Kaiken is a type of dagger without a handguard, commonly associated as a weapon for Japanese women.
            Story is that when the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi retired he stopped wearing his swords and carried a walking stick instead. Many of Musashi’s victories had been won with wooden weapons so he was hardly harmless. Even old and retired there were still young bloods who wanted to make a name beating Musashi so he also carried a variety of concealed weapons. One was this weapon resembling an axe blade with a hand grip. This was carried wrapped in paper and tucked just inside the fold of his jacket.
            The third Japanese weapon is the Nago Ryŭ Tekkan or Bankokuchōki. This is a heavier and more substantial weapon than most Tekken (“Iron Fists”) and is claimed to be designed to be effective against enemies wearing armour. In that light it is perhaps surprising that there are no apparent features to concentrate force.

            Indian knuckle weapon called a “hora”. Made from horn.

            Some interesting variations in construction. The wood version looks particularly useful.

            Some Okinawain Tekko were made from horseshoes. These are obviously not designed with concealment as a priority. The horn-like projections could doubtless be used for defence against longer weapons.
            A horseshoe inspired keychain. Very practical.

Improved Knuckle Duster

            Following my previous post on shortcomings of the most common design of Knuckle Duster it was inevitable that I might amuse myself trying to improve on the design.

            I learnt last night that knuckle dusters are legal in France, but require the user to hold a licence, which seems reasonable. Since in most parts of the world they are still illegal my improved design will probably remain a theoretical exercise in engineering and stay only pixels. For those that are interested, here is my first attempt, knocked out in about ten minutes.

            The two finger hole design may be a little quicker to put on and more forgiving on varying hand sizes or wearing gloves. Several variants are possible on this basic design, with four oval finger holes or more rounded points.

Friday, 12 October 2012


            This blog, and research for the book often take me off on some odd and interesting tangents, and this might be considered one of them!

            I came across some interesting comments on Knuckle Dusters, which lead me to do some research. In many countries Knuckle Dusters are highly illegal. In some places being caught carrying one will get you in more trouble than carrying a loaded gun. I’m not going to discuss whether restrictions on inanimate objects rather than the use of them is a valid approach, this post is about engineering, and fashion!

            Run a quick websearch and you will see that there are numerous uses of the knuckle duster in the fashion industry. Jewellery, belt buckles, handbag clasps, coffee cup handles and even high heels? There are also a large number of knuckle duster shaped paperweights for sale as “conversation pieces”. While there is considerable variation in knuckle duster design, the majority are of the same basic shape. This is particularly true of the fashion and conversation items. To look like a knuckle duster it must meet preconceptions of what most people think a knuckle duster looks like.

            Let’s consider actual functional knuckle dusters for a moment. To judge a weapon we need to actually view it in context. I’m going to work on the following assumptions:-

·         The Knuckle Duster will be used for strikes that include, but are not limited to, punching.

·         The Knuckle Duster will be used as a concealed weapon. It will be carried hidden in normal clothing and should be capable of being brought into action quickly and smoothly.

·         The Knuckle Duster is intended as an intermediate force weapon. I am assuming that if the intention is to kill a weapon such as a knife of larger club would be used instead. This is probably the weakest of the three assumptions. Many Knuckle Dusters have spikes or sharp points and even the blunt basic models can inflict serious and even fatal wounds with relative ease.

            There is a school of thought that Knuckle Dusters should not be used for conventional punching. “Invisible Weapons” by Jenks and Brown suggests what they call a raking motion. In the photos this looks like you are using your knuckles to rap on a door. Don Rearic suggests “punch in a tearing and glancing manner and not necessarily straight on. In other words, you would hit with something similar to a vertical, rolling punch instead of something like a reverse punch.” While this is doubtless sound advice, many users will attempt to make conventional punches and a well-designed set of Knuckle Dusters should allow this option without injury to the hand. Knuckle Dusters should also allow the use of Kongo type techniques too. In the Jenks and Brown book the inward rake would be followed by a backhand hammer fist type strike. Jenks and Brown’s book suggest carrying a Knuckle Duster inside the waist band, a few inches from the belt buckle. The first finger hooks into the top ring and pulls the weapon out so the rest of the hand takes hold. Knuckle Dusters will also be carried in various pockets.

            In light of the above, let use have a look at the "traditional" Knuckle Duster (above). Most have a T or π shaped part known as the brace. This transmits force from the palm of the hand to the target. In a properly designed Knuckle Duster the fingers and real knuckles play not part in actual striking, serving just to keep the weapon in position. If you consider the shape of most braces you will realize they feature unnecessary projections that are likely to get caught on pocket linings or other clothing when an attempt is made to draw the weapon. The design below seems more logical.

Let us look at the finger rings. I am told that well designed Knuckle Dusters have oval rings. Circular finger openings are more likely to injure your hand. What is the point of using a Knuckle Duster if you are still likely to hurt your hand punching. On that topic, we need to consider the mechanics of punching. In his book  Jack Dempsey notes that the line of force when you punch aligns with the knuckle of the little finger. Since this is quite a small delicate body part fighters are trained to hit with the larger knuckle of the ring finger. Many other fighting styles also train to hit with the lower two knuckles of the hand. Karate hits with the second knuckle or first two knuckles but this is because turning the fist horizontal shifts the line of force.

Many Knuckle Dusters have projections or even spikes to concentrate force, yet generally they have these aligned with the fingers rather than the gaps between. It seems logical to me that there should be a point between the third and fourth and first and second fingers as well? And you might as well put one in the middle as well. If we look at this photo of a Knuckle Duster we see a lot of airspace between the rings that could be more usefully filled without compromising the envelope of the weapon. Possibly the protections on the first and last fingers should be angled to reflect these parts might be used for glancing blows.

Punching isn’t the only technique that can be used with Knuckle Dusters. The hammer-strike can be very effective but the design of most Knuckle Dusters necessitates the impact being made with the edge of a finger ring. As a long time advocate of the Kongo I would prefer a striking area more in line with the palm as would be the case when using empty hand and Kongo techniques. I do not think extending the brace area to project from the hand would greatly hinder the overall concealability of the Knuckle Duster.

This is a photo of a typical pattern of Tekko, and eastern equivalent to the western Knuckle Duster. Obviously concealment was a lower priority in the design of this weapon but it will be noted that it is effectively a Kongo/Yawara stick with a knucklebow. Note also that the three studs align with the gaps between fingers rather than the fingers.

Friday's funny.

            I really dislike that is has become acceptable to prepare for Christmas earlier and earlier each year, so I rather enjoyed this.

Thursday, 11 October 2012


I came across an interesting theory the other day. The gist of it is this:-

            If a fist is improperly formed it will have a space within it. At the instant of punching with that fist energy will be wasted compressing this space. More importantly, this space will break the continuity of between the fingers and the larger bones of forearm, so more of the energy that the fist absorbs will remain in the hand, increasing the chance of injury. If you are holding something within your fist, such as a roll of quarters, a flashlight, a Kongo or even a rolled magazine this airspace is eliminated and energy can more freely be transmitted from arm to hand and back.

            I can’t see any majorly obvious flaws in this theory. The same source advocated that properly designed knuckledusters transmitted force directly from the palm of the hand to the target, the fingers only serving to keep the weapon in position.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Peripheral Vision.

            An aggressor is before you and there is no place to run. He has a knife or broken bottle in his right hand. Where should you be looking to gauge his next move?

            An obvious answer may seem to be to keep your eyes on the weapon, since that is the bit that can harm you. In truth many other parts of his body can attack you and some foes will use the weapon to fixate your attention so they can land an attack with another body part. Watching the eyes “the windows to the soul” may seem logical but some fighters will use these to feint, distract and deceive. In the Bando section of the book the technique of looking at one part of the body and attacking another was described. Some Asian martial arts include mesmerism techniques, tricking the foe into a staring competition to make him vulnerable.

            To attack with his hands a foe must first move his elbows and shoulders. He may first move his feet to change position or balance. He may or may not look at his intended target. To kick he may first move his shoulders to shift balance. Which body part do you watch?

            The answer is, as many as possible. A foe may feint with his eyes but if other parts of his body indicate he is going to do something different his true intentions are more likely to be ascertained. How can you view areas as remote from each other as the hands, eyes, elbows, shoulders and feet all at once? The solution is to make use of your entire visual field.

            The visual field can be divided into your central vision and your peripheral vision. Central vision is your high resolution colour vision and the part of the visual field you use to look at anything you are interested in. It is the part you use for reading, watching television, appreciating paintings and checking out member s of your preferred gender.

What is interesting is that your central visual field is only about 13° of you visual field, with you foveal only about 3°! If you are unfamiliar with how the eye and the visual processing system work this may seem hard to believe, so go ahead and do some background reading on the subject. Vision is a fascinating topic. While the central vision takes up only a small part of your visual field the fovea alone uses something like 50% of the nerve output from the eye.

Peripheral vision is the rest of your visual field. For each eye it is about 60° on the nose side and 100° on the temporal side of the eye. The shape of your face will affect this field at different angles so the visual field of each eye varies from 135-160°. Since most of us have two eyes side by side we have a total visual field of about 200°. Try this out for yourself. Keep looking straight ahead, hold your hands out to the sides of your head and wiggle your thumbs. You can see the movement.

Your peripheral vision lacks the high definition of your central vision. Most of the photoreceptors responsible for the peripheral vision are the Rods, which cannot see colour. If you move a coloured light into someone’s peripheral vision some people will first see it as a white light, and only be able to identify the colour as it moves further into the field. A more practical application is that if you want to see something in dim light, looking past it can often make it clearer. This brings the more light-sensitive Rods to bear rather than the more daylight orientated Cones that predominate in the part of the retina used for central vision.

Another thing that peripheral vision is quite good at is motion detection, which is brings us back to the subject of this blog. Centre your vision on your foe’s upper chest and learn to use both your central and peripheral vision to detect movements of the rest of his body. If a foe attacks you do not look at the attack, then deflect or avoid it. You react as soon as any part of your vision detects it, then change your focus as you counter attack. With a little practice you will be able to make defences and attack just using your peripheral vision. By looking at his chest you can detect telltail shouder movements and are less likely to fall for tricks from his eyes. Also helps keep your chin tucked in against uppercuts. Next time your girlfriend complains you talk to her chest just explain you are practicing self-defence!

Practice using your peripheral vision more in everyday life. Pick things up without looking at them directly. More challengingly, put them down. At the crossing, operate the button without looking directly at it. Word of warning though. Your colour perception is not so good at the periphery so don’t use it to see if the lights or crossing sign have changed!

Here is the late, great Erle Montaigue talking about peripheral vision.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Press-up woes

            Researching for my book lead me to discover many interesting things. One of the things that I discovered was that the traditional push-ups we were made to do in school are not very good for your health. If you think about this a little it will soon be obvious why this is true. Bend you hand back as far as it can comfortably go without assistance and you will see that it does not form a 90 degree angle with the forearm.  Putting all your body weight on it to make it do so is not  a good idea. Push ups are a good way to build upper body strength but if you do them invest in some push-up handles or use some asymmetrical dumbbells that you can grip without them rolling away. Not only do handles keep your wrist in a more natural position, you can exercise your grip at the same time.

            Today I came across this article in the British Medical Journal. A 23yr old kickboxer  was performing a form of reverse press-up putting pressure on the backs of his hands. Not sure what the intended benefit of this variation is, but the result was he ruined a tendon along the outside of his forearm and needed reconstructive surgery and a transplant.

            Very nasty, and his competition days are probably over for a few years if not permanently.  In the book I caution against the common but dubious practice of punching with weights. There are a lot of other exercises out there that can cause you more harm than good, so be careful. Good exercise improves your condition, not reduces it.
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