Scientific Self-defence.

A term that wartime combat manuals seem to be very fond of is “scientific”. Many of them claimed to teach a scientific method of self-defence. Science is an often misused term.  Science is basically a tool for collecting and verifying knowledge, usually by means of observation and experimentation. Such observations and experiments tend to use proven rules to reduce sources of error and give us a greater confidence in the conclusions we draw. When we are trying to find the cause of something we attempt to eliminate as many parameters as possible, and while we are testing something we try to subject it to as many variables as we can.
Many years ago I knew a couple who had studied Aikido together. After a while he lost interest but his girlfriend continued to take classes. Often she would return home with some new technique she had learnt and tried it out on her boyfriend. It seldom worked.  It had worked fine when sensi had demonstrated it, she had got it to work with her partners in class, but it didn’t work on the boyfriend. He didn’t know what was supposed to happen. In any situation that involves several humans there are social conventions, some of them conscious, some of them subconscious. Showing up sensi or the Drill Sergeant is not a good idea. There is also peer pressure. In a class there is often a level of subconscious compliance. Most of us don’t want to act like dicks and sabotage our partner’s technique. In a real self-defence situation your opponent is going to be trying to disrupt you in every way he can come up with.  
To further look at this idea of being scientific, let us look at a technique shown in many self-defence books. Even the usually very practical W.E. Fairbairn shows this one in several of his works.  The scenario is that one of your arms has been grabbed by you foe with both of his hands. You make a fist and pull on this fist with your other hand, dropping or raising the elbow of your grabbed arm to exert pressure on your attacker's thumbs, and break free.

The theory behind this is sound, but does it work if we eliminate the factor of practice partner compliance? The obvious way to do this would be to give the student grabbing the arm a real incentive not to lose. Place a really substantial wager on the outcome and see if the technique can still work. To further increase the accuracy of our testing try the technique with a wider variety of individuals of varying body types, ages and genders.
The next factor we need to consider is that of realism. How likely is it that this attack will actually be used. Why is the attack grabbing your arm with both of his hands, and what is he trying to achieve by doing this?
We also need to consider efficiency. Even if the technique will work most of the time, is it the best technique to use. Is there something simpler and possibly more effective the defender can do.  The attacker has both his hands occupied but has left you with one of your hands free.  Various strikes can be made to his arms or head, and my book details some of the vital areas where these can be most effective.
My message behind this post is that when considering self-defence beware of the compliance factor and try to be truly scientific. As you test techniques have your training partner try to come up with practical counters. You have to be fair and realistic with this. If you are trying at technique at a slow speed he cannot respond with a full speed move.
Let us consider another self-defence scenario, one rather more likely than the two-handed wrist grab. Kicking is often advocated as a practical counter to an opponent with a knife.  Roll up a magazine to use as a knife and practice. One student tries to land a kick on a realistic target, the other tried to cut or stab him with the magazine. What types of kick work? Can you execute a particular kick from the inside gate or do you need to be on the outside? One hypothesis is that roundhouse, side thrust and front thrust kicks are the only practical attacks but must be directed against the front leg from the knee down. How do different stances of the knife-user affect this?


Fighting the English Commando!

            Many of the self-defence books I have on file originate from the Second World War era and are interesting on many levels. One particular book stands out, however, since it was written by the Germans. "ABWEHR ENGLISCHER GANGSTER-METHODEN" translates roughly as “Defence against English Hoodlum Methods”. It is an interesting book, and while the author was trying his best, it is fairly obvious he doesn’t have much idea.

I discuss the many problems with the two-handed cross-block in my book. The author of this book uses two-handed blocks extensively. Throwing your hands up to protect your face is a fairly natural reaction so there is some merit in trying to use it for self-defence. The cross-block takes a natural reaction and tries to make it rigid and mechanical, which slows it down. Here we see the classic cross-block against an overhead stab. Good job this Tommy has a dagger, if he had been using the standard issue 17" sword bayonet he would have stabbed Fritz in the face. The text instructs the German Soldier to defend with the cross-block and counter attack with a kick to the shin. The photos often create the impression that these two actions happen at the same time. Try blocking a powerful overhead thrust while standing on one leg.

If someone tries to stab you in the neck the text tells you to duck forward and kick them in the leg. In the dark, with a hand clamped over your mouth.

Judging from the books I have a frequent occurrence during the Second World War was being bear-hugged or having someone stand in front of you with their hands on your throat. The German counter to a frontal strangle is not one I have seen anywhere else. More commonly you see the rising wedge, descending elbows or the cross-grip and rotate. This rather reminds me of James T Kirk’s favourite double handed smash!
Fritz has thrown up both hands to protect from a karate chop and now counter-attacks with a spear-hand to the throat. This would be a logical sequence if it were not for the fact that the spear-hand is a technique that requires more practice and conditioning than most individuals receive. As a distraction technique against the eyes this may work. Against any harder target there is a real chance of injuring the fingers. Fritz should cup his hand a little so that if his fingers do bend they have a chance of bending the right way.

Lastly, one of the all-time hall of fame impractical self-defence techniques. Put your hand up in front of your eyes to stop someone poking them with two fingers. The photo seems to imply you should do this while on one leg, but we will be charitable and assume the kick comes afterwards. If someone comes running towards you from fifteen feet away with two fingers held up ready, you may have time to get you hand in front of your nose. The finger jab is usually a close range, very fast distraction technique, not to forget that commandos would attack at night. If someone attempts an eyejab, move your head to one side while knocking their hand in the other. Do this against any attack to this region, don’t wait to see if it is an eyejab. 


Police Search Light

Sometime back, I was reading a book on either kubotan or yawara sticks for police use.
The author was stressing the fact that while searching a suspect the weapon could be kept in hand ready for instant use should the suspect make an aggressive move.
It occurred to me that this author had actually missed a trick here.
A suspect’s pockets can be full of all sorts of nasty things including infected needles, so initially examining the interior with a stick-like object rather than your tender flesh isn’t a bad idea.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea if one end of that stick mounted a small magnet.
That train of thought reminded me that some models of pocket torch have a magnet on their base, allowing them to be stuck onto metal surfaces such as car bodywork.
A small torch is quite a handy thing to have while searching a suspect too.
My original idea evolved into a small torch with a magnet mounted at one end.
It needed to be robust enough to be used as a striking weapon like a kongo. It needed to be slender and long enough that it could be used like a wand to search suspects. Thin but long would also facilitate many of the kubotan lock and restraint techniques.
Unlike many of the available compact flashlights, it would need a switch or button so that it could easily switched on and off without changing grip.
Given that many cops use flashlights in an “icepick”-style grip there might be virtue in giving the design dual controls.
The obvious place to carry such a tool is a breast or sleeve pocket, so the light should probably have penclip too.
A relatively new innovation in tactical flashlights are crenelated bezels.
The first examples of these I saw looked rather like cookie-cutters and I was a little dubious since they seemed designed to increase the severity of damage without contributing much to the self-defence capabilities of the flashlight. I could see some immoral lawyer claiming it caused cruel and unnecessary damage.
Three Prong Flashlight Bezel
There now seem to be a wider variety of more sensible designs. I like the three-pronged example above. If the flashlight is placed bezel down it would cast quite a bit of light over the surface that it was standing on, which might be useful.

Ginga Gif

            One of the advantages of a blog is I can now post animations and similar stuff that I could not place in the book.
Here is a nice gif of someone performing the Capoeira movement “ginga”. If he had a partner they would literally be dancing circles around each other.

A few posts ago I discussed how a possible counter to the low knife attack Styers and Cassidy show would be to remove the targeted leg out of reach and then bring it back in a snap kick. Ginga is the method I would personally use for this. As soon as my rear foot touches the ground I am used to bringing it back into a kick very rapidly.

Some more novel applications of ginga are included in the book.

Cord Carrying Method from Hojo-jitsu

Hojo-jitsu was an art used by Feudal Japanese Police for binding a suspect. I use the term “binding” since there seems to have been a cultural stigma against tying someone with knots, even a suspected criminal. Instead a long rope was used to wrap the suspect. See my page on tenouchi for some of the techniques. There was a large variety of wrapping techniques depending on the suspect's social class, crime and other factors. Some of this had a practical level. The wraps designed to restrain women were designed to avoid injury to parts such as their breasts, for example.

Wrapping a long rope around a struggling suspect, possibly in a dark Edo alley, obviously took a high level of technique but also the correct tool for the job. I don’t expect many of my readers to use Hojo-jitsu for self-defence but from Hojo-jitsu we get a very convenient way of carrying a long cord. This is a useful thing to know for camping, boating and many other active pursuits.
  • Take a 15 to 20m length of paracord.
  • First of all, double one end of the cord for about 10" and tie a overhand knot to form a loop of about an inch. Tie another knot further down so that you have a second loop big enough to pass a hand or foot through. With these loops pre-tied in your cord you can quickly haul someone from danger or form a lariat. These loops can also form the basis of other rescue knots. Contrary to what you may see on some websites, these loops should be fixed, not sliding.
  • Hook the thumb of your right hand in the larger loop, just under the lesser loop.
  • Now begin to wind the cord in a figure-eight pattern around your thumb and outstretched little finger. Keep on doing this until you have about two metres of cord left.
  • Slip your thumb and finger out of the wrap and coil the remainder of the cord in a helix around the figure eight wrap until you reach the smaller loop.
  • Pass the free end of the cord back, tuck it under the last two turns of the coil and pull tight.
You now have a compact bundle. If you pull the loop the cord should feed out freely.
Some travellers like to carry five or six 10 and 20ft lengths of paracord instead and divide it amongst pockets and pack. You can carry this in addition to the long hank described above.

Making Indian Clubs

Did you know that dumbbells were once exactly that? They were bell-shaped weights designed to let bell ringers exercise without keeping the whole village awake.“Dumb bells”
Indian Clubs are something that has interested me for some time. The current name probably originated with the Victorians. Club-shaped weights had been used in India to train wrestlers and other athletes. The British Victorians were very familiar with India and many of them were interested in sports and fitness. One of the reasons the Indian club was of interest was that it was a very good device for sword training. To have a whole troop or squadron of cavalry recruits swinging swords about needed lots of room and was potentially lethal. Using Clubs needed less room and any likely injuries were easier to treat. A bonus was that the club could be made a little heavier than a sword, making handling an actual sword faster and less tiring. It is possible that most sword using cultures had something like the Indian club but what they were called before they were called Indian Clubs I don’t know.
Recently I have been attempting to trade some of my body fat for muscle, which has been going very well and has proved easier than I expected. My girlfriend has taken to buying me smaller tee-shirts so she can show me off. It wasn’t long before Indian Clubs entered into my exercise routine. Indian Clubs are a very good first exercise. Their relatively moderate weight means they are a good warm-up and the swinging action is very good for opening up the chest and expanding the lungs ready for further exertions.
If you try to buy Indian Clubs you will probably be in for a shock. Both antique and modern examples are sold at very high prices. Another problem is that many of the examples you will see are too heavy for a first time user. Clubs have a lot of leverage and momentum working for them so generally you want a club of under four pounds for single-handed use.
The solution is to make your own Indian Clubs! This is actually very easy to do. Look on-line for a set pair of plastic juggling clubs such as these. 

Once they have arrived you will have to fill them. What you use will depend on what you have available. If you live near a beach use sand. Mine got filled with potassium chloride salt since there was a load of it going spare at work. This has fused into a single mass inside the club which suggests materials such as cement or Plaster of Paris might be good choices for fillings.
Cut off the top of the Clubs or bore a hole, fill with the required weight of filling and reseal. I used high strength epoxy, a generous length of electrical tape and varnished it for good measure. A more elegant approach would have been to drill a hole and seal over it using plastic from a container such as a shampoo bottle.
An alternate approach would have been to use suitably shaped plastic bottles. These have the advantage that you can fill them through the bottle neck. The complication is that you will needed to improve the what will be the butt of your club so it does not slip from your hand and take out a window. One way to do this would be to acquire something like a pair of golf balls. Drive a woodscrew up through the bottle cap, smear it with glue and screw the golf ball down onto the screw until it contacts the cap. Smear the threads of the cap with more glue and screw it in place on the bottle. Wrap with a foot or so of tape for good measure.
You now have a pair of Indian Clubs for a fraction of the price you could have paid! With the money you saved you can buy a copy of my book!.

Knife Fighting Fallacy.

When a dog goes to lay down, it first turns in a circle. Supposedly this behaviour was originally to flatten stiff grass that might have dug into the dog. The dog still makes its circle, even though it is now intending to lie on a soft blanket or your best chair. We mustn't mock the dog, however, since humans are just as prone  to continue with ideas when they are no longer in context, despite our reasoning minds and other advantages
Knife fights are fortunately fairly rare in our culture. Perhaps what is not so fortunate is that when I knife is used it is often in a situation when there is an armament disparity. Either on party is unarmed or faced with a much more potent weapon. This is why no education in self-defence is complete without some knowledge of how to use a knife or how one may be used against you, which is why my book includes quite a long section on knives. As I remark in the book, there is a considerable variety of opinion on how knives should be used, so schools of technique building on unarmed skills, others drawing inspiration from sword fighting. John Styers' book "Cold Steel" very much draws from the knife as a sword tradition. While the book has some very good ideas there is one sequence that stands out as a discrepancy.

Even if we allow for the common practice of distance being exaggerated to make the photo clearer, the idea behind this is not. Why would lowering you knife cause the enemy to lower his guard? Isn't it more likely that dropping your guard would cause an enemy to attack? If Styers is trying to stab the knee or shin for some reason the more likely response is for the enemy to withdraw the leg and counter attack the head or arm, either with his knife or using the leg to riposte with a kick.
This same technique appears in William Cassidy's "The Complete Book of Knife Fighting" where we are told  that lowering your guard will cause your opponent to do the same? Why? With no trace of irony the following picture (fig 66) tells us a low feint will put your opponent's head and arm within reach. In Fig 65 it seems more likely that Randall would naturally flinch back and slash at Loveless' arm.

Styers drew on the techniques of another marine, Col Biddle, author of "Do Or Die". Biddle based his knife fighting techniques on swordplay but the weapons shown used were GI-issue Sword Bayonets with blades of about 17", so techniques such as parrying were more practical. Interestingly, Biddle's book does not show the technique above.
The sequence both Styers and Cassidy show might have actually worked with swords. A sword would be long enough to threaten the leg and parrying it by lowering your own sword would have been a practical response. It might have worked with a machete or sword bayonet. With shorter bowie knives it no longer seems practical and even becomes foolish. Like the dog circling on the smooth floor we see the same actions being used even though the context no longer applies.
What is interesting is that no one involved in the modelling for either Styers' or Cassidy's books actually stopped and said "Hold on, this doesn't make sense!" That perhaps tells us a lot about human nature.


Savate by Bruce Tegner

The idea for this blog came to me yesterday while I was laying in the bath. Unusually for me I was reading in the bath. I had located a copy of a book I was curious about for a price I could afford (money is tight, please click the links :P) and it had finally arrived.

The book was “Savate” by Bruce Tegner. While there is plenty of material on the web on Savate, there do not seem to be that many printed books in English. Tegner's book had been one of the first published in the modern era and I had been curious as to his treatment of the subject.
For those who are not familiar with the name, Bruce Tegner wrote a large number of martial arts and self-defence related titles in the 60s and 70s. This was a time of widespread interest in the martial arts but very little decent information and Tegner saw a niche in the market and attempted to fill it. Some may consider his works to be “potboilers” but it has to be said that his book “Self Defence Nerve Centers and Pressure Points” is quite well written and is a sensible and rational treatment of a subject that often strays into the fantastical. His comment that: “There is a danger in regarding legend as literal truth. If you believe everything – without verification – it will dull your ability to distinguish fantasy from fact, lies from truth. A credulous person – one who does not ask questions and demand verifiable proof – is in a perilous position. As a consumer, as a voter, as a participant in a highly complex society, it is your duty and in your survival interest to be able to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, between promotional hucksterism and plain fact.” is a very sage piece of advice.
Tegner's book on Savate does have some interesting information. He often points out that the techniques shown are for sport rather than practical self-defence. There is a statement that sports and many martial arts require high levels of skill, constant training and practice and high levels of fitness and that self-defence is often needed by those who do not have these attributes.
Tegner states that in Savate competitions kicks to the upper body score more points, and that this is why high kicks are so prevalent when they are not so practical for actual self-defence.
One of the things I was looking for from this book was some information on how to perform the “Revers Lateral” kick from Savate, a reverse roundhouse that hits with the sole of the foot. Unfortunately this book has no information on how to perform any of the techniques shown. Even more surprisingly the French name for a technique is only used once in the entire book. Kicks are simply called “hook kicks”, “stamping kicks”, “roundhouse”, “toe kick” etc. Kicks to the shin region are shown, but the characteristic ankle area kick of Savate the “Coup de Pied Bas” is absent. An inward crescent kick is shown on one page, which I believe isn't a legal kick for sporting Savate. Backfist strikes are also shown which I believe also may not be ring-legal.
While Tegner seems sincere, this is not a very good offering, especially since this is the third revised edition published 23 years after the first.


What Will this Blog Be About?

According to the advice I have seen a good blog should keep to a particular interest. How likely that will be for me in practice remains to be seem. We will probably investigate a few side trails every now and them, but hopefully will never lose sight of the main path totally.
A little over a year ago I published my book, “Attack, Avoid, Survive : Essential Principles of Self Defence” You can find out more about this book at the webpage here. You can order it from and but I suggest you buy it direct from Lulu since you will save yourself a few quid.
This blog has been created to support this publication. During my research for this book I had to read several hundred books on self-defence, martial arts and the use of weapons and on this blog I will be discussing some of the issues and interesting points that have arisen. I will also be expanding on topics and subjects covered by the book, adding additional artwork and even some thoughts on additional techniques. I will also be diverting into related issues so do not be surprised if I verr off into discussions on weapons in science fiction, video games and movies. There will be book reviews too
To close, an illustration that did not make it into the first edition of the book.


CV1 Attack Point

An odd sort of pride. A comment by my girlfriend that she would "Kick any muggers in the point between their balls and bum!" and thinking "That is exactly right for the CV1 point! She learnt that from the book!"