Hand-Centric

In police work recruits are taught to watch the hands when making contact with citizens.

In the first course I took from Paul Howe we were given a scanning hierarchy when dealing with folks we encountered. Guess what the second item on the list is? You got it, the hands.

In the first seminar I attended by Megaton Diaz he made a statement that has stuck with me over 20 years later. “Never let them touch you. If they grab you grab them back.” Megaton was speaking to the importance of never allowing our opponent to establish a grip on us, to always monitor and control the opponents hands.

It seems there is a string that threads through every potentially violent endeavor. The opponent’s hands will hurt you if you don’t control them.

In particular I can’t over emphasize the importance of monitoring the hands of an unknown contact. Your ability to apply your avoidance, deterrence, and deescalation skills are greatly enhanced by your ability to monitor the unknown contacts hands.

Uncontrolled hands for some reason, (looking at you Murphy), seem to migrate to our weapons, don’t let that happen. Control the hands, control the space/distance, get to a dominant position, and finish them.

The Entangled Gunfight

One of the first lessons Joe Smith, Hershel Davis, and Dave Wittrock pounded into our thick skulls at the Police Academy is that there is always at least one gun involved in any tussle. Every time an officer goes hands on it can at any moment become a fight over control of the officer’s weapon. (Not only the pistol, but OC, taser, baton or any other weapon on the officer’s person can be taken by the opponent and used against the officer.) This lesson has stuck with me, and driven the direction of quite a bit of my training efforts for the last 20 years.

Mas Ayoob had said many times that the moment you strap a pistol to your body you give up the right to flip someone the bird for cutting you off in traffic. That simple traffic altercation can rapidly escalate to a fight over your pistol or even a shooting. This is something Claude Werner might refer to as a negative outcome.

While some folks will quibble about the term entangled gunfight, or whether we need to learn to integrate our skills, it remains a fact; if you go hands-on with someone while carrying weapons it is indeed moments away from becoming an entangled gunfight.

It’s ironic to me that while some were arguing that entangled gunfights don’t happen the world was watching the George Zimmerman trial. I’m thinking those arguing could have benefited from some time around Smith, Davis, and Wittrock.

Bottom line, should you find yourself in a hand to hand altercation, while bearing weapons, you better treat it as an entangled gun-knife-OC-expandable baton fight… Because in an instant it can be.

Understanding Jiujitsu Conceptual Priorities

When we’re talking about Jiujitsu as it pertains to fighting there can be only one objective; to win in the most efficient manner possible.

Assuming we are starting on our feet our first objective is to win the takedown battle. We want to hit our opponent with the Earth as ballistically as possible. A secondary objective is to hit the takedown in such a manner as to be past my opponent’s legs. I start my guard pass with my takedown, while still on our feet.

Next I want to move towards my opponent’s back. Either cause him to give his back or find a way to take his back. This limits his offensive and defensive capabilities.

Lastly I want to lock in a choke and put him out. While getting to mount or knee on belly and raining knuckles on my opponent is a fantastic option, the most efficient way to end the fight is to choke him out. The human skull is fairly durable and can take a lot of punishment. Compare the number of strikes it takes to knock out most fighters versus how quickly even a highly skilled fighter succumbs to a properly applied choke. A choke also limits the possibility for me to damage my hands while trying to punch a hole in my opponent’s skull.

Once the choke has helped you achieve your objective, disengage from your opponent. Sit them up or turn them on their side so they can regain consciousness. Now get out of Dodge.

Not so coincidentally this strategy works regardless of whether we’re on the street or in a sport environment.

Simple =/= Easy

“It’s as simple, and as difficult as that…” – Jerry Miculek after a mind blowing demonstration of shooting skill. My downfall has been to expect simple things to be easy. After all, the explanation was simple; do these steps, (usually 2-3 steps at most). The execution proved to be anything but simple. It was like hard physical labor.

 

We all know shooting is as simple as holding the sights on the intended point of impact until after the round leaves the muzzle. Now do that 6 consecutive times in under 2 seconds from the holster on a target at 7 yards and keep all the rounds in the A zone. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

 

A sweep or throw is pretty simple. Load them on a leg/knee. Knock that leg/knee out from under them. Now do it against a resisting opponent. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

 

We all know this, and I realize I’m preaching to the choir but sometimes the choir needs to hear the message. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy.

 

Swing For The Fence, II

In the first post of this series we talked about some fundamental technique. In this post I want to expand upon some of those elements. In the first post I wrote about techniques that work well if we have a bit of distance between ourselves, and our opponents. This time I want to share with you a tactic that works well when we want to keep our opponents off of us, and maintain striking distance particularly when using a shorter impact weapon.

 

The challenge in impact weapon fighting aka stick fighting has always been to keep our opponent in that sweet spot, that perfect range where we can apply the most force to our target. Hitting them at the peak of our swing so they experience the joy of that pain train crashing up their spine, and into their brain, shutting them down or at least making them want to quit. Every shot we can land of that order is a deposit into the making-them-quit bank account. However, on the receiving end we are looking to crash through that range or stay outside of that range while pot shotting their lead arm, and leg.

 

Enter Piston Striking. This is a simple tactic that keeps your opponent right there in the sweet spot. Think of how a piston works. If one piston is up, the piston on the opposite side is down. Watch this if you need a mental image. Even if you don’t need help understanding how pistons work, watch this because it’s pretty cool. You’re going to mimic this action with your arms. Your non-weapon bearing arm comes out in a straight shot essentially stiff arming your opponent, keeping them off of you, while the rotation of this shot cocks your weapon bearing arm by rotating your weapon bearing arm back. Fire the weapon bearing arm striking your opponent with the impact weapon while retracting your non-weapon bearing arm. The movement is still on the X so your firing a 1-2 combo however, in a rotational path due to the nature of the impact weapon. This is a non-stop salvo. You want to be firing lefts-rights repeatedly, one after another. Non-weapon bearing arm popping your opponent off of you, and keeping them off of you while the weapon bearing arm is landing clean shots with the impact weapon.

 

For a simple training progression I would suggest starting on a heavy bag in what would usually be boxing or striking range. Practice slowly throwing a jab with your non-weapon bearing hand then throwing a strike with your weapon bearing hand similar to a cross as you retract your jab. Begin with 5-10 rounds to work on your sense of range, and timing. This is where having solid Boxing mechanics comes into play. There is a lot of carry-over from throwing hands with bad intentions to striking effectively with an impact weapon in this range. After some time on a heavy bag, it’s time to work this tactic using Thai pads. Have your training partner feed by trying to slowly crash the range, making you work to keep them off of you with straight shots with the non-weapon bearing arm while landing shots with your impact weapon. Again, work 5-10 rounds a session, getting a feel for the timing, and distance now with a live feeder. Once your good to go with a feeder it’s time to add some more resistance. Using soft sticks agree with your training partner to stay in this range. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a full on sparring session. If you crash the range have a set time to work to get yourself unentangled. If you can’t get unentangled, break clean, and restart. Have your training partner simply work to crash, so you can focus on keeping him or her off of you, and in that sweet spot where you can land clean shots. Use your imagination and continue to add resistance until you go to integration phase where you incorporate this tactic into full sparring to test your ability to apply this against full resistance.

 

Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it, and how it works for you.

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.

 

Keeping the chassis aligned

In August 27th and 28th I had the amazing opportunity to teach my MDOC course for the folks at SBG Athens, GA. (For a review of that course, click here!) During this course I was in a lot of pain due to some old injuries. Fortunately for me, as well as the folks that call SBG Athens home, Steve Fogle is on staff and has studied Donnie Thompson’s body tempering methods.

Using something called an X-Wife, a heavy kettlebell, a bow-tie, Voodoo Floss, and a chinning bar Steve was able to work wonders on my shoulder in less than thirty minutes. At first I thought there is no way this guy can be serious. This hurts, in a good way, but this seems like something someone would do as a prank. I assure you, it was not a prank and the temporary discomfort was more than worth it for the improved range of motion and strength. For the first time in months my shoulder felt good and I was able to lift my arm over my head without pain. I would highly recommend you find someone well versed in Body Tempering.

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What should you do if you can’t find someone skilled in Body Tempering? Order some Voodoo Floss, (I do not benefit from your purchase of this product), watch their instructional videos found on the Voodoo Floss link above and get to work. Also search for a massage therapist that specializes in Myofascial Release. I’ve benefitted greatly from Myofascial Release work. I also see a Chiropractic Doctor in my area who has done wonders for my chassis. It helps that Dr Sikorsky is also an Ironman competitor, as well as a student of Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian JiuJitsu so he understands the stress we place on our bodies. Dr Sikorsky also knows I’m not taking six weeks off from practice so telling me to rest is a waste of breath, fix me so I can keep training and show me how to work around the injury. As an athlete himself, he understands this drive.

 

Injuries, adhesions, broken or out of joint bones, and assorted injuries are just part of this lifestyle. Do not allow these things to take you away from doing what you love. Keep the chassis aligned and tuned so we can keep training as long as we breathe.