It’s Just A Knife

When it comes to gun safety we’ve got it down. Most folks can recite the four rules of safe gun handling, and spot a safety violation immediately.

The same can be said of our driving skill set. Most know the rules of safe vehicle operations and we can see an unsafe driver a mile away.

When it comes to knives, whether it’s for personal protection or it’s utilitarian, we see a lot of behavior that would at best be described as apathetic. I have cringed as I’ve watched folks use their pocket knife to open a box or package by pulling the knife towards their body. Never a good idea. This is usually made worse by the fact that their knife is incredibly dull, as a result they are now driving the blade with great force towards their own body. Imagine how many ways this can and will go wrong. Now think about the outcome if we are hiking miles deep into an uninhabited area and have to cut something? Sure we have our expedient med gear on us however, this scenario is going to get complicated if it involves temporarily losing the use the use of a limb or worse. Again, never a good idea. It’s also completely avoidable by simply practicing safe knife handling.

We routinely see folks handle training guns as if they are live guns, (which is a great idea), yet handle training knives as if they are, well, made of plastic. This is where unsafe knife handling practices begin. We should treat the knife, to include training knives, with the same care as we treat a firearm, vehicle or anything else in this endeavor that could cause serious bodily injury or death. We want to build safe knife handling skills, and through good repetitions make these safe skills habit.

Here’s a summary of safe knife handling rules;

  • Always handle your knife with respect. The knife giveth and the knife taketh away. Particularly when you are hunting, fishing, hiking, and/or camping miles away from the nearest medical facility.
  • Cut away from your body, not toward it. Only always.
  • Let dropped knives fall. Murphy’s law dictates you will cut yourself badly trying to catch a dropped knife. On a hiking/fishing trip a few years ago I dropped a favorite, and expensive, knife while trying to cut a tangled line. I tried to catch the knife before it went into the river. I collected a nice cut and still lost the knife. It would have been better to lose the knife then have to deal with an injury miles out from the nearest aid station.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Bad things happen when we exert too much force due to a dull knife. Also, if you have to use that much force maybe your chosen knife isn’t the right tool for the job.
  • When handing a knife to someone it’s best to set the knife on a flat surface. They can pick it up. If you can’t do that then handing the knife to them handle first, with the blade facing outboard from the palm of your hand is your second best option

These are just a few safe knife handling rules we can implement immediately into our daily practice. Build these habits by applying these same rules to training knives as well. It’s never just a knife.

Plan? Forget the Plan

As multidisciplinary trainees we are trying to cover a lot of ground as efficiently as possible. We want to be as proficient as possible in everything from verbal skills to driving to expedient medical skills, and everything in between. To accomplish this we have to plan our work and then work our plan. Organizing everything into bite sized chunks, setting, and reaching goals is an absolute necessity. If we don’t approach this endeavor in such a manner, we can quickly spin in circles or spend most of our time on things we enjoy rather than things we need to develop. A plan keeps us on task.

 

However, there are times where it is beneficial to scrap the plan. Have you ever had a moment during a practice session where things really started clicking? A moment when you had a breakthrough? Has that moment happened at the last few minutes of a scheduled training session? If we stick with the plan we have to end the practice session right when we are hitting that Flow state and that seems counter productive. Unless we are on a time crunch, I would recommend forgetting the plan and flow with the go. Even with a time limit on the session unless there is something pressing I would stay with the flow. The purpose of our training plan was to bring us to this point where we begin to do things we previously couldn’t do… why would we want to stop? 

 

One of the moments that helped me realize it’s okay to stray from the plan happened during a squat session. My planned session was 10 sets of 2 reps using 75% of my 1 rep max. After the third set my training partners noted that my squat speed was really fast, and the weight appeared light. I agreed, and we decided to add weight to the bar. Before the session was over I was working multiple sets of 2 with heavier weight than my previously projected 1 rep max. I experienced a breakthrough in technique, and strength. For whatever reason everything was working together, and all systems were go. I said to my training partners, and coach that we were deviating from the plan. I was concerned this might derail my training plan. My coach told me that the purpose of the plan was to get me to this point so now is not the time to stop, let’s keep going, and ride this wave for all it’s worth. We can always re-write the plan based on this breakthrough. That’s when something my coaches have always said finally sunk in; the plan is just a template. Keep it fluid, learn to adjust on the fly, and when those breakthrough moments happen ride that wave. We’ve all experienced this in different ways during our training evolution like that dry fire session when everything was going smooth, we forgot how many reps we had done or how many were left to do. We lost track of time, and just worked. When those moments happen it’s time to forget the plan. We can re-write it later. For now, it’s time to flow with the go. 

How Do You Know? 

An important question to ask ourselves as we self-audit is; how do I know? 

How do I know this information is legit? 

How do I know these things work? 

How do I know I’m adept?

There is only one way to know. Experience. We gain experience by taking action. 

The action of daily practice. The action of training evolutions. The action of real world application. 

Talking about it, even in-depth technical discussion will never give us the understanding, and ownership that taking action and gaining experience will. Once you experience it, you own it. 

“If we didn’t experience a loss, we would never know what we are capable of.” – MuhammadAli 

There is a price to pay for experience. Losses. Injury or worse. This is also the price of ownership. Some folks are afraid of this part, and will miss out on valuable opportunities because losing sucks. However, you know what doesn’t suck? Having a definitive answer to the question: how do you know? 

“Self knowledge is best learned, not by contemplation, but by action. Strive to do your duty, and you will soon discover of what stuff you are made.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

The scars on Coach Richard Hawthorne’s shoulders speak volumes on the subject of experience. Years under the bar gaining experience, owning it. If you want to know how Coach Hawthorne knows, look at his shoulders. Picture by Craig Douglas, and used with permission.

Take action. Do the work. Then you’ll know. 

What Would You Do?

*Disclaimer – My attorney really appreciates when I stay out of these discussions. However, a few friends have sent this one to me and asked my opinion. I won’t get into any kind of discussion that will cause Tim or Suyash to call me. I promise.*

Usually when friends ask my thoughts on a use of force or response to resistance incident that makes the news they will ask, “what would you have done?” It’s difficult to answer these questions because I’m not there, and having done this for some time I’ve watched a lot of people jump to conclusions on either side only to find there is more to the story. For those reasons, and more I tend to avoid these discussions.

However, I will discuss training issues I see, (admittedly from the luxury of my Monday morning quarterback position), and how I think this could be handled better in a world of good, better, and best options. Also understanding that my perspective is skewed because I’m pretty good at Brazilian JiuJitsu, Wrestling, and Judo so I’m confident in my ability to out grapple most people I encounter, and the ones I can’t out grapple I can still hang with for a little while before they catch me. I realize that might sound arrogant but it’s just a fact that also colors my perspective when it comes to these things.

Okay, lets dive in…

 

1) I wouldn’t use a baton/impact weapon at that point. The suspect is on the ground, still resisting, (I think), but not throwing punches. Now is the time to switch gears and establish control. More pain in the form of strikes won’t, and isn’t gaining compliance. We have to guard against fixating on the tool driven action we’re performing. When it’s time to transition we have to be ready to transition quickly to a more effective tactic. The strategical objective is to get the suspect into cuffs, not ineffectively swing a baton.

 

Coach Chris Haueter covering the fine points of the knee ride with me circa 2002. Although I’ve been perfecting this position for quite some time even a rudimentary understanding of this position would help officers control the vast majority of the folks they encounter in a use of force incident.

2) He was set to knee ride, which is a dominant position. Use it. We use it all the time in JiuJitsu for a really good reason. It allows me to maintain control and have mobility in case a bystander gets involved. They weren’t getting involved beyond verbally so on to the next step. BTW, I’ve used the knee ride on actively resisting people to pin them, and wait them out. If I can knee ride athletes that train everyday to get out from under that pin, I can knee ride someone that never trains to get out. Criminal offenders for the most part are not athletes and in this video there seems to be a size/weight disparity that favors the officer so use it. Knee ride until they burn out/gas out, and they’re done fighting. Which leads me to number 3.

 

3) Control one of the arms using a Kimura/double wrist lock, using that hold to lock down her upper body turning her while moving the arm behind her. First cuff goes on.

Kimura aka Double Wrist Lock while in the S-Position. This is a photo from a SWAT Magazine article written by Ed Lawrence. Photo credit M Abonce

4) Turn again while maintaining control of the cuffed arm and she’ll go flat on her stomach, in the ISR Matrix series the guy’s call this the S-Position. S stands for safety. It’s safe for me, because from there I have a lot of control over the suspect, I can assess my surroundings to make sure no one else gets involved, and it’s safe for the suspect because they can’t do anything. They’re pinned. They can squirm but they’re not going anywhere. At this point in my career I’ve cuffed a metric ton of people from that position, quite a few of those people were much larger than me. 100% of the time there was no fight left in them because mentally they knew it was pointless since they couldn’t move.

 

5) This is why I keep beating that JiuJitsu drum. Everything I wrote above could be performed against a resisting opponent by any Blue or Purple belt in any JiuJitsu gym anywhere in the world. That’s not an exaggeration. Maybe even most seasoned White belts. Heck man, by the time I was a Blue belt I rarely used the tools on my belt because I had this supreme confidence that once I made contact with the suspect I would be able to outperform them, get them under control with minimal effort, and get them cuffed up. 99.99% of the people I ran into on the street that resisted were nowhere near as hard to deal with as most of my daily training partners. I felt no need for most of the tools I had to carry, and only did so because it was dictated by SOP.  Again, this might sound arrogant yet it’s the truth, I’ve never encountered anyone outside of the gym or competition that was a problem. To paraphrase Rickson Gracie; for someone trained in Jiujitsu a fight or use of force incident is the ocean, the JiuJitsu trained is like a shark and most people can’t even swim. 

 

6) What training would I recommend for most Police Officers? I’m biased because I am one of the co-creators of this system, (although I am no longer involved), I think the ISR Matrix is one of the best systems out there. We filmed the first series in the late 1990’s where we preached the message of pressure testing, incorporating Brazilian JiuJitsu and MMA into Police Officer’s training. I also highly recommend Cliff Byerly of Hill Country Combatives. Cliff has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is highly dedicated to seeing the standard of training in Law Enforcement pushed to a higher level.

Just for giggles here is the original ISR Matrix trailer filmed in the late 1990’s. I make an appearance or three in this clip. Enjoy.

 

Thanks to Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training for encouraging me to make this a blog post.

Banged Up

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe

At this point it’s virtually impossible to find someone that hasn’t read or heard this quote from Rippetoe, and for good reason. There is a lot of truth found in those words. In a recent social media post Ryan of Full Contact Runner on the subject of injuries Ryan talked about the frustration experienced when folks act as if the cause of our injury or illness is related to, and made worse by this lifestyle. As if we are somehow more susceptible to injury, and illness than someone that spends those same hours sitting on a couch. While we are definitely more likely to be injured, (as this lifestyle is a contact sport), it is still preferable to any other way of life. Most importantly, and something these critics fail to realize, is the simple fact that this lifestyle sets us up to recover from any injury or illness much faster, and with less complications. Because of this lifestyle we are strong therefore we are harder to kill, harder to knock down, and when knocked down we’re harder to keep down.

  • Using myself as an example; in 2007 I shattered my kneecap on a gig. It took surgery, and 8 months of therapy to get back in the saddle. I was told there were things I wouldn’t be able to do again, to include key aspects of my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2010 I injured my lower back doing extensive damage to the discs and vertebrae at S1, L5, L4, and L3. I was told I would need major surgery, and would have to medically retire from my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2011 I was hit with intense abdominal pain that went on for months. I ultimately ended up in the hospital with acute pancreatitis. I was in a bad state, and it resulted in surgery to repair the damage. I was told this is probably going to be something I would live with for the rest of my life. I’m able to manage this because of my lifestyle.
  • 2014 I had a brain hemorrhage with intra-cranial pressure/swelling. It was awesome. Probably the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. I should have died. I didn’t. I was told I would have permanently altered gait, and other issues. I don’t.
  • During training cycles I’ve broken ribs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, teeth, my jaw, nose, and a metric ton of soft tissue injuries.

You’re probably wondering what’s the point of listing injuries and illness? To make a point which is; the common theme in every injury or illness was at some point, often multiple times a Doctor or other medical professional would tell me that the reason it wasn’t worse, and my recovery was faster than expected was because I arrived at that crisis point strong, healthy, and in great condition. I’m not alone in this, every one of my friends that have gone through any type of injury or illness relate the same story. Doctors and medical professionals telling them they made it, or they will recover because their strength levels when it started were so high. That’s the other side of this injury/illness coin the couch surfers don’t understand. The injuries we suffer in this game aren’t as bad as they would be if we were weak. The illnesses we go through in life, (by the way, both of my health crisis were unrelated to my lifestyle), would be much worse, and maybe even unsurvivable if we didn’t have a reservoir of physical and mental strength going into the situation.

So remember that the next time a critic points out that you’re “always” hurt, or you seem to be more susceptible to injury or illness that “never” seems to affect them. First, their perception might be skewed, to say the least. Second, while the injury part might be true since if we never get punched in the face what are the odds that we’ll get concussed? However, illnesses which is to some degree genetic hit all of us regardless of whether we follow a healthy lifestyle or not. Folks that never smoke a day in their life are diagnosed with cancer, and folks that never drink a day in their life come down with liver disease. It’s just the cards we’re dealt. The difference is a strong body gives the physicians, and other medical professionals more to work with to fight the illness, or even a traumatic event that landed us on the hospital bed in front of them. Get strong, stay strong, and ignore the critics.

 

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A powerful depiction of our role in helping the doctors and medical staff help us. Give them something to fight with, get as strong and healthy as possible. Thanks to Ryan of Full Contact Runner for sharing this photo. If your not following Ryan on social media check out his Facebook page at Full Contact Runner as well as his excellent blog of the same name.

 

The (future) Multidisciplinary Practitioner

Sometimes I think about the future of this pursuit, and what the multidisciplinary practitioner will look like in 10-20 years. I’m predicting the future of this art will be filled with verbally agile, mentally, and physically indomitable, highly adaptable trainees.

We’ve been about as broad as we’ve needed to be for a very long time on the physical side of the house. We knew in the 90’s that Boxing, Wrestling, and Brazilian JiuJitsu would cover every base in the unarmed game. We knew we didn’t need to add anything except maybe some dirt if we’re dealing with a criminal attacker. Just put time in on the mat or in the ring, and develop a high degree of proficiency.

We also knew what works with edged, impact, and improvised weapons as wells as how to defend against those weapons. When it comes to firearms we’re good to go there as well whether we’re working with a pistol, revolver, shotgun, carbine or rifle from extremely close quarters work out to the effective range of the weapon.

We’ve taken the physical side of the house to a fairly high level. Where we were out of balance, and lacking was in the areas of verbal agility, and understanding the criminal mind. Fortunately for us Craig Douglas of Shivworks has spent the last fifteen years refining and codifying the verbal aspects of this endeavor. Craig has essentially done with the verbal game what we’ve done with the physical game, boiled it down to the fundamentals, and perfected the delivery of this material to such a degree that most folks can understand, and begin to apply the material within a few hours. The same thing can be said for William Aprill of Aprill Risk Consulting regarding the understanding of the criminal mind, and how criminal attacks occur. William’s work gives us an understanding, and knowledge gained from interviewing and working with violent criminal offenders for decades that we never had before. Our understanding of the concepts and principles of verbal, and non-verbal cues, the motivations of violent criminal offenders, takes our pre-assault game to a more sophisticated place then previously known or practiced. This closes the loop of soft and hard skills effectively checking all the boxes.

For these reasons I think we will see the next generation of multi-disciplinary practitioners performing in all areas at a level previously unseen simply because their starting point is so much higher than the trainees that came before. It’s an exciting time to be involved in this meritocracy that is the home of the multidisciplinary practitioner. This thought inspires me to work harder to stay on top of my game, while seeking to improve weak areas, and continue my search for the next thing because despite my supreme confidence that we have solved the puzzle there is still that little voice inside that says; what if I missed something?

 

You Always Have One More

We’ve been talking about the mental game over the last two posts and I’d like to share a few practical methods to begin building this skill set just as we build any other skill set. Fortunately like many things we do in this endeavor there is plenty of overlap so we can work toward multiple objectives with one drill or exercise.

One of my strength training mentors loved to say, “if you have one more rep then you have five more reps.” As much as I hated to hear him say that during yolk walks or car deadlifts I also hated to admit he is right. Every single time I reach what I perceive to be the end of my efforts I find I can dig a deeper, and find more gas in the tank.  It’s painful to admit to myself that there have been times in my past training history when I had stopped long before I should have simply because fatigue beat me mentally. I was mentally weak and as a result I lost a valuable opportunity to toughen myself. Building physical toughness is good but building mental toughness is great. Everything we do on the mat, in the ring, or under the bar is about building that indomitable will, that mental toughness, and resilience that will carry over to everything else we do.

Here is a simple, immediately applicable mental toughness exercise we can do. At your next strength or conditioning session, whatever it is your doing do it beyond the point where you think you are done. If you’re doing sprints on the Airdyne forget the time/interval you’re scheduled to do. Instead go as hard as you can for as long as you can… then go 5 seconds longer… then 5 seconds longer until your legs and arms refuse to move. Only when you can’t move do you stop. Rest then do it again, and again. I predict that at a certain point you will forget how many reps you have done or how long you have been on the bike, and it will be purely about how far or deep into that zone you can go. You start to realize the physical fatigue isn’t the issue, it’s the mental game. This is where you start to build that mental game that refuses to quit, refuses to stay down, that is indomitable. Once you start to train like this you won’t be able to go back to any other way. This is where we start to learn what this endeavor is really about.

Another mental exercise is to simply roll one more time. Say you’re at open mat, and your mind says that’s enough. Your body is tired, maybe you’re a little banged up. Now is the time to build that mental game. Refuse to come off the mat. Roll one more round. Then one more, and then another. Winning or losing doesn’t matter in the gym, and it really doesn’t matter when the objective is building mental game. Mental toughness is built in those moments when we are burnt out physically, one side of our mind saying let’s go home, hydrate, stretch, do some rehab work, and then we’ll come back another day. Ignore that voice, and roll more. Start in bad position, and work from there so it’s even harder. Punish that inner voice that wanted to call it a day. Dominate it, take advantage of this moment, and build that mental game. Essentially any physical exercise or movement that allows you to work past your perceived point of failure is an excellent opportunity to develop mental game.

This is hard work however, anyone involved in this endeavor already knows that. I’ve yet to meet anyone pursuing this multidisciplinary art that is lazy. What I want to get across to you is the transformative power of this endeavor once we understand the physical exercise is only a vehicle. Yes we want to build life saving skills however, as we’ve talked about before we might go the rest of our life without ever having to fight anything or anyone. The mental toughness we build once we know that’s what it’s really about is the key to the kingdom so to speak. This mental toughness opens all the doors we want to go through in life. The refusal to give up, to listen to fatigue, inner doubt, even voices of those that care about us that don’t understand the journey we’re on, the ability to persevere despite the odds. That’s the mental game we take with us when we leave the mat, and go to our place of business. A project that needs to be done, goals that need to be met, or business competitors that want to go head to head have no idea what they’re getting into. We’ve learned to dominate, and control ourselves, taking on something outside of us is so much easier. We know we can always dig deeper, we can always push a little harder, we know we can do anything we choose to do and that’s a fantastic feeling.