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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.