Further Adventures with Coffee and Soap.

Last weekend I decided to make some more coffee soap. I made some refinements to the techniques I used last time.

·Combine your various bits of soap in a microwavable bowl. Old soap can be crumbled. Newer or larger pieces are shaved into flakes.
·Add some coffee grounds and mix.
·Add sufficient water to cover the mixture. A little too much water is better than too little. Instead of water you can use any cold coffee that is with the grounds, or a mix of water and coffee. Neither water nor coffee need to be cool, for that matter.
·Place bowl in microwave and heat for a couple of minutes.
·When the soap appears to be softening and melting remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the contents to ensure coffee and soap are mixed.
·Dump the mixture into a sieve or colander to remove the excess liquid.
·Place the drained mixture on a sheet of Clingfilm. Wrap in Clingfilm and use to roll the mixture into a long sausage.
·Flatten the sausage to form an elongated bar.
·Allow to cool naturally.
·Once cooler, cut the bar into smaller, more handy, pieces. Cutting the end of the bars square lets you stand the soap up on its narrow end, presenting more surface to dry.
·Leave the soap to further cool and dry. It will be ready to use the next day.
Coffee soap does not produce a lot of lather but has a gentle abrasive effect. Give it a try!


Seven Targets on The Head

In a previous post I described the concept of learning in “chunks of seven”. Therefore, today’s post will be on seven target areas on an aggressor’s head. If you have read some of my books you will know that the head has numerous target areas. The seven I have selected have been chosen for their effectiveness and accessibility. Some have also been included since they are not as well-known as other targets.
1.Bregma. The bregma is an intersection of sutures on the skull. For our purposes it can be regarded as the apex of the skull. Vulnerable to downward blows, unless the enemy is bent forward. Use a striking technique suited to bony areas.
2.Glabella. The glabella is between and just above the eyes. When you see a TV evangelist knocking people over with “the power of god” he is actually striking the glabella. Not a miracle, just physics and physiology.
3.Eyes. The eyes are protected by reflex actions and these can be exploited to make an attacker back off. Suddenly covering the eyes can be a useful “low-impact” technique. Feint at the eyes with a swift finger jab. See my books for a variety of techniques.
4.Temples. For defensive purposes, the temple can be regarded as the area on the side of the head at a 45 degree angle up from the eye. This is sometimes described as a weak area of the skull. The bone here is not significantly thinner but it is flatter and even slightly convex, making it less effective at shedding force. Attacks include the palm heel, hammer fist and elbow.
5.Chin. Blows that jerk the head backwards or to the side are more likely to result in a knockout. The palm heel uppercut, aka “chin jab” is a good technique, as is an upward elbow strike. If the foe is bent over a knee strike may be used.
6.The Mind Point: “Qianzhen”. This is on the side of the jawbone, just in front of the earlobe. Feel around with your finger and you will locate a sensitive spot. A good target for palm heel, hammer fist or elbow strikes. Even when hit with the large surface area of a padded boxing glove a strike here can cause a knockout.
7.Ears. Slapping both the palms onto a foe’s ears is a counter to various grabbing attacks. A palm heel strike to just one ear can also be effective. Ears can be painfully grabbed, pulled and twisted. An attempted rape or grappling attack may position an ear where it can be bitten. The ear marks a “target rich” area. If you cannot hit the temple, strike the ear or just above it. Right beneath the ear is a cavity with a major blood vessel and sensitive nerves.
Since I was limiting myself to just seven targets there were some alternates that did not make the final list.
The nose remains a good target. It is easily accessible and a relatively light blow can cause considerable pain and disorientation. It can be struck upwards, downwards, from the sides and inwards. In close range fighting it is going to be the primary target for a head butt. An upward palm strike to the nose will not “drive the bones into the brain” as many fiction writers maintain. It remains a good defensive technique, however.
Upward blows aimed at the nose have a change of hitting the mouth. Being hit in the mouth is unpleasant, but it also carries the risk of the striker’s hand taking a nasty injury. For this reason I selected the chin rather than the mouth for the above list.
A strike to the back of the head can be disorientating and potentially can be fatal. I would have included this area in the above list but attacking this area is relatively well known, so I opted to include the bregma instead.



Another Win for Polaris!

One of my colleagues presented me with a padlock that had been cut from a locker. The end of the shackle was still locked into the body of the padlock. Much to my annoyance, I was unable to pick the lock. I think I must have tried most of my lock picks on this padlock, but it refused to yield.
I received the Polaris kit this weekend so I decided to try it against this padlock.
I decided to start with the four-hump Bogota. While this is a reasonably-sized padlock, the key-way where the pins are is very narrow. The Bogota was not making enough contact. I decided to move on to the four-hump Sinusoid, rake no.5. A bit better, but still not opening. Rake no.7, the five-hump Sinusoid. This felt very different and the rake was clearly finding its way into the narrow key-way. A few seconds of rocking and scrubbing and the lock opened. This was a nice example of the tactile aspects of lock picking. Often you can feel what is “right” or “nearly right” and use this to guide your selection of rake or pick.
Yet another conquest for Polaris!

Polaris Lock Rakes

I will admit, I have been looking forward to these ever since I heard about them several months back.
Last night a review copy of the Polaris lock rake kit arrived.
Here are some initial impressions:
The Polaris is the baby of Chris Dangerfield of UKBumpkeys. It is available from UKBumpkeys or their North American outlet,
Polaris went on sale a couple of days ago and apparently are selling fast! Currently available at an introductory price with a 5,000 word ebook on raking techniques.
I was expecting the usual sort of pouch that lock picks come in. Instead, the envelope contained a rather elegant-looking black wallet. As I opened the flap it was obvious that it had magnetic fastening.
Polaris Lock Pick Set
Once opened, you are confronted by a suede-type interior and a neat row of polished rakes, each in its own pocket. A flap to cover the points is thoughtfully provided, which is a nice attention to detail. On the far right, an eleventh pocket holds a pair of turning tools, one TOK and one BOK.
Each rake is nicely polished and proudly marked “DANGERFIELD – POLARIS”.
Each rake is also numbered, which is a feature I approve of. It can be useful to know you have already tried “no.4” or that “no.3” worked best on a similar lock in the past.
Polaris gives you ten rakes, and a very nice selection they are too! All rakes are 0.025"/0.635 mm thickness.
Regular readers will know that I have wanted to try a double hump Bogota. Rake no.1 is a double-hump Bogota! No.2 is the more common but very useful three-hump and no.3 is a four-hump. These all made quick work of most of my test locks.
Recently I have worked on several locks that seem to respond best to a technique that is intermediate between single pin picking (SPP) and raking. I use a rake but need to concentrate on a particular group of pins. The two-hump proved useful on these locks, having a bit more room to move about. On the other hand, the three-hump seemed a fraction faster on locks susceptible to conventional scrubbing and rocking.
Rake no.4 looked very similar to the four-hump Bogota but the peaks are more rounded. This is a cycloid rake. It resembles a Bogota but with slightly lower and more rounded peaks. No.5 is more symmetrical and you might think of it as a form of snake, worm or serpentine rake. It is actually a four-hump sinusoid. These are both useful for locks where the Bogotas are too tall.
No.6 and 7 are five-wave cycloid and sinusoid and appear to have a slightly lower wave-height, making them useful in locks that 4 and 5 are too high for.
So far, a nice, intelligent selection of rakes that nicely complement each other.
Polaris Lock Rakes
No.8 is a bit of a change of style since it is a ripple or jag, also known as an “L” or “city” rake. I think of this one as a “classic city”. I have at least two other kits with rakes of exactly the same profile. When I first started lock picking I was not particularly keen on jags. I did not then appreciate that they were not for techniques such as zipping or scrubbing. The correct way to use a jag is rocking. The no.8 is a fraction taller than some of the other city rakes I have. This is easily addressed with a little filing, but I doubt this is significant since jags tend to only be useful in taller, straighter keyways. When a jag does work, however, it tends to work very fast indeed! No.8 is no exception!
No.8 is the only straight-backed rake in the set, making it useful if you want to count the pins in a lock. Interestingly, I was able to use the straight back to rock open a mushroom-pinned practice lock.
You may have noticed that most lock pick sets seem to share the same assortment of picks? I have never seen another kit with rakes like no.9 and 10. When I first saw them I thought of them as double-sided jags. Chris Dangerfield likens them to jiggler keys.
Like more conventional jags, these can quickly open some locks by rocking. I have also had successes using them for gentle scrubbing. No.9 and 10 are fairly wide in places but I have opened some narrower, twisty locks by using the curves of the rake to probe around. Novel, but useful designs. Note that most of the rakes in this kit can be treated as double-sided. If they do not work one way up they may work inverted. Always worth trying.
I like the turning tools in this kit. Raking can be difficult with a TOK tool when used in the top of the keyway so try using it at the bottom. This suits some lock ways better than the other tool. When I first opened the wallet I was a little disappointed there was not more room for additional turning tools. Part of the reason for this is the turning tool pocket is on the wallet flap, so space is a little limited. You can probably fit a few more BOK tools in the pocket, and it would be useful to have a selection of different widths and thicknesses. Perhaps Dangerfield will release an add-on set?
I like the magnet feature of the wallet. It adds a certain “majesty” to opening it. It may have practical applications too. Turning tools and rakes can be “stuck” to either of the outer panels, useful when you need a hand free but cannot return the tool to its pocket. Will the wallet stick to a metal panel such as a locker door? Yes it does! It sticks to my fridge too!
The kit comes with a 5,000 word ebook on raking techniques. I don’t know if that is a permanent component or just for the introductory offer. Since my set is a review sample I did not get the ebook. Knowing Chris’ experience and enthusiasm for raking I expect it to be well worth a read.
In conclusion, this is a really, really nice rake set. Classy to look at but also with a really useful selection of rakes. It has all of the rakes you might wish for and also some effective novel designs. It is, as advertised, just a rake set. If you want to learn SPP you will need some hooks and half-diamonds. A Serenity and a Polaris kit would be an awesome combination! I plan to add a snake-rake to my Polaris set.
I would say, “add these to your Christmas list”, but I understand these are moving fast so the introductory offer may not last that long!

Camouflage Headgear: Textilage.

Recently I have been working on a number of camouflage-related projects. There is a bit of an inherent problem with this. Good camouflage is difficult to photograph. Decades ago I was told: “If you want to know about camouflage, read a photography book about how to take good photographs then break the rules they give you!” You will understand this better in a moment.
Today’s project was an attempt to experiment with some ideas about headgear. If your helmet still looks like a helmet when its cover is fitted, it is not camouflage! Why are helmet nets designed to be flush with the helmet rim, I wondered. Good camouflage guides tell you to break up the regular shape of the rim. If the net hung down irregularly it would provide better camouflage. It might also keep some insects away and have other benefits. Done right, it would be easier to construct too.
My first problem is that I did not have a helmet. I decided to camouflage a boonie hat instead. I would construct the net in such a way that it could easily be transferred to a helmet or other headgear. I selected a hat with “chocolate chip” desert camouflage. I wanted whatever was beneath the net to be light for some negative space effect. There is also good contrast between the major elements of this pattern.
My second problem was trying to locate a suitable net within my very limited budget. I eventually hit on the idea of using a cheap string vest. I would have preferred a sand-yellow, beige or coyote-brown example but could only find khaki-drab. I suppose if you are making several you could dye some white vests. The holes are probably a bit small for some natural foliage, ¾ of an inch or 20mm being preferable.
Cut a piece of the vest in an irregular, roughly rectangular shape big enough to hang past the rim of your headgear.  It should be short at the front but can be longer at the sides and back. Attachment is simple. The boonie hat already has a looped headband. Pass strings or tapes through these, through the net and tie with reef knots. For a helmet utilize the foliage bands of the issue helmet cover, or cut slots in the cover.
You now have a hat or helmet with a net draped over it. It is not camouflaged yet! One purpose of the net is to hold natural foliage, selected from what commonly grows in your area of operations. Light stuff is simply threaded through the net. Heavier stuff may need more support. This is often achieved by placing a rubber band around the helmet, beneath the net. This can be cut from a bicycle inner tube, surgical glove, elastic or similar materials.
Natural materials are supplemented by bits of cloth. For want of any better term we will call this “textilage”, since it is typically made from textiles and adds texture. Most of the materials used for this example were from a bag of off-cuts sold for the purpose. Be nice if more companies started doing this. Most of these bits are PU-nylon or condura in MTP camouflage. Some more variety and desert patterns would have been welcome, especially if the intention is to camouflage for sandy and urban environments. Other materials used include pieces of cut-up sandbag, medical gauze dyed with acrylic paint or tea, bits of cotton sock (also dyed) and jute string. Simply thread through the net and tie with an overhand knot. Shorter lengths that tend to stick up are used on the top of the hat, longer lengths that droop on the rest. Not that individual textilage bits do not need to be camouflaged. Anything in a suitable neutral or natural shade can be used.
You will end up with something that looks nothing like a hat or helmet, and that is what we are aiming for. Try your hat on and do some fine-tuning. You do not want anything within your visual arc that is obstructive or distracting. Pay attention to the peripheral areas of your vision.
OK, so what did my hat end up like? I only have one head available to model the hat, and it is not very photogenic. My attempt at a selfie was not really that successful, but it does show the distinctive brim shape of the hat is well disrupted.
A top view of the hat. The flash has revealed the pattern of the hat much more than it appears to the naked eye. I could have brought a cheaper, monochrome hat. The effect may be different if you have a lighter-coloured net or larger mesh.
Side view of the hat, very effectively hiding a chrome Phantasm ball.
Front view, no flash. Note how materials at the front hang past the brim less but still disrupt. If your helmet has an NVG mounting the net will hide it but can be raised so that it can be used.

The Seven Low Blows

This blog has had less posts on self-defence than I originally envisioned. One of the reasons for this is that “Attack, Avoid, Survive” and “Crash Combat” cover the subject comprehensively.
I was discussing “Miller’s law” recently. This is the idea that the average number of related “data chunks” a person can recall is seven, plus or minus two. It seems prudent to keep this in mind when creating lists of ideas or concepts to memorize.
In keeping with this vein, I present the “Seven Low Blows”:
1.    The kick to the groin. We all know that a kick to the front of the pelvis can be decisive, regardless of your gender. Your attacker knows this too and landing the blow may not be as easy as some self-defence manuals make out. The classic groin kick is probably the front snap kick. Drawing the kicking foot back or stepping forward with the other foot will telegraph your intentions and is to be avoided. My personal inclination would be to use a front thrust kick. This is a kick I can perform with speed and accuracy. Hammer the front of the pelvis rather than kick his gonads up out his ears. A roundhouse kick might connect, and may be useful if the foe has his hip turned in to protect his groin. I would be cautious about using a roundhouse in this way and you may be better off attacking another target such as the near leg.
2.  Coccyx aka “tailbone”. This can be a very decisive target, resulting in serious injuries that will be slow to heal. The primary kick to hit this is a horizontal roundhouse. Kick slightly higher and you can hit the kidneys or the vertebrae where they join the pelvis. Don’t try to kick higher than this
3.  Front of the knee. Another devastating attack than can cause life changing levels of injury. None of the attacks described in today’s blog are for playing or sparring! Primary attack is the side thrust kick. It is easy to put a lot of weight and force behind this kick so it can also be directed against the thighbone. A useful variant of the side-kick is the “Moro” or oblique kick. See my books for details.
4.  Side and back of the knee. These can also be attacked with a side-kick. Alternately, use an oblique roundhouse/ snap kick against these areas. The side of the thigh, just above the knee can be attacked with the same techniques.
5.   Shin, calf and foot. The region below the knee can be attacked with a nearly vertical side-kick. This is a kick that works well with footwear. Scrape the side of your boot sole down the front of the shin and finish by stomping down on the top of the foot. A useful technique for escaping from grabs or holds. May be applied to the calf muscles at the sides and back of the leg.
6.  Knee strike. Blows with the knee can be delivered in situations where other kicks cannot. Often your foe will be holding onto you or you onto them when you use your knee. The groin is an obvious target but do not forget that the side of the thigh and the coccyx can be struck too. If a foe is bent forwards knee them in the nose, forehead, temple, hinge of the jaw, ribs or kidneys.
7.   Half-moon step. This is a stepping technique described under “Sanchin” in “Attack, Avoid, Survive”. It utilizes balance and movements you will have honed learning the crescent kicks. This step uses a semi-circular movement to move past an opponent or slip your leg behind their lead leg. This can set up a push or strike to trip or unbalance them. The arc of the foot movement may be inward or outward. One of the first practical applications for Sanchin that I learnt was to slip past an advancing opponent and then stamp backward at their calf. The motion itself can be used as a low strike. Aim it at the ankle-bone or the Achilles tendon, but be aware these may be protected by the footwear. You may also use this movement to step on or pin the foe’s foot.