Archive for the American Arts Category

Follow Up to the Front Quarter Nelson

Posted in American Arts, Technique with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I last posted one of my nephew James’ favorite counters to the tackling opponent, the front quarter nelson.

Just today I was at the news stand when I noticed in the techniques section of an MMA magazine, one renowned fighter’s counter to the double leg tackle was essentially what James illustrated. He shoots an overhook (over the opponent’s left arm) and pushes down on the opponent’s head with his right while sprawling.

Today I’d like to show James’ follow up technique to the front quarter nelson.

James (on left) exerts tremendous downward pressure on the opponent’s neck, who resists and fights to bring his head up.

James goes with his opponent's efforts to raise his head.

James suddenly reverses direction and hits his opponent with a crossface.

He now throws his opponent to his back.

Down for the count.

Note that the crossface depicted above could be a clothesline to the opponent’s throat.


Jeet Kune Do: Getting Down to the Essence

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by bigstickcombat

What Does the Referee Position Have to Do with Jeet Kune Do?

I have talked earlier of wanting to see how GM Dan Inosanto boils down all that he has learned. Some have said that there is too much knowledge, it can’t be done. Indeed, if you look at all of the martial arts information available today, plus the ever-increasing goal of martial artists to be well-rounded in all phases of combat, then it all seems staggering.

That’s why so many styles are a laundry list as long as a Manhattan telephone directory of all of their styles and techniques. But too many styles are useless. There is a point at which too much technique becomes counterproductive.

Sure, it’s great for the owner of the school, because he’s got 15 years of material, and the checks keep rolling in. Student retention is high because there’s always something new, and there are plenty of “advanced,” “secret,” “black belt,” techniques that are being dangled just beyond the student’s nose, which he can get to with just 7 more years of monthly dues, mat fees, membership fees, belt fees, test fees, etc.

My teacher GM Estalilla of Kabaroan, puts it this way. “Suppose the student is going off to battle tomorrow. What would you teach?”

Let us look at the art of freestyle, high school/collegiate wrestling. There are literally hundreds of techniques. How could you sort it all out? How could you teach the essence in just a day or two? (I’m not talking mastery, but an introduction to the essentials, coupled with techniques a student could learn today and use in the parking lot on his way out if attacked.)

First of all, get rid of the referee’s position. In wrestling when the wrestlers go off the mat, they return and one wrestler is on all fours, with the other in a dominant position. We can calculate that the referee’s position is unlikely to happen in real life. Eliminating the referee’s position eliminates dozens of techniques, such as a sitout, switch, standup, etc., and the takedowns of the opponent on all fours.

Someone could argue, “Wait, but what if I get pushed down to all fours and the opponent is above me…” Let’s stick to what is likely. Let’s look for the high percentage moves and train those.

Get rid of pinning moves. On the street, our goal is not pinning. Furthermore, I don’t want to be on the ground. This eliminates the cradle, the tilt, the grapevine, Iowa ride, etc. If need be, I can use a choke or a lock in this position. 

No. I don't want to be on the ground. My goal is not to pin anybody. On the street I don't get points.

Next, look at the remaining wrestling moves. Which ones can be used if I hold a weapon, like a knife? Which ones lead into, or follow up from, a strike? Which would work against an armed opponent?

Which are the most effective? What are the techniques that champion wrestlers master, and use to help them dominate opponents?

With this sort of thinking, I think I can boil wrestling down to about 7 techniques. Am I going to beat a champion wrestler? No. (At least not at wrestling, that’s what the backup blade is for.)

Will everyone agree with me as to the 7 essential techniques? No. But at least we are now thinking about what is vital, what is the essence.

Nobody knows where Bruce Lee was going with Jeet Kune Do and grappling, but I have to think this was where he was headed: How can I strip it down, and strip the extras away, so that I get down to the most powerful, effective, direct, and essential techniques?

Tackle Defense: Front Quarter Nelson

Posted in American Arts, Technique with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2010 by bigstickcombat

My nephew James earlier demonstrated the cross face and sprawl as a defense against a double leg tackle. In that case the opponent moved to, and placed his head outside of, James’ lead right hip.

Now he demonstrates the front quarter nelson against an opponent who shoots to the other side, leading with his head to James’ left hip.

Opponent on Right Starts to Shoot

James (on left, in yellow) Throws an Overhook and Pushes His Right Palm Against the Opponent’s Head.

James Interlocks His Left Hand on His Right Wrist

Tremendous Downward Pressure Is Exerted on the Opponent’s Neck, Negating Any Forward Movement.

On the street, the defender can drive his opponent’s head into the pavement.

You can see the move here at about the 33 second mark, even though the wrestlers aren’t the best. Note, though, that this hold causes a world of pain, and the victim is pretty much done for.

Variation of Front Quarter Nelson

Dennis Martin on the Tactical Folding Knife

Posted in American Arts, Real Life Combat, Weapons with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I’d like to direct you to a fascinating web page on the tactical folding knife, written by Dennis Martin. He comes across as a very knowledgeable guy, with a ton of first-hand experience, as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of third person accounts of real life self-defense.

While in South Africa I’d heard a story about a guy using a Spyderco to cut through a car roof. I mentioned this in Springbok Arms gun shop during a chat about knives, and one of the customers, whose name was Ron as I recall, told me that he was the guy. An engineer for South African Airways he used his Clipit for numerous work-related cutting tasks. On his was home from the airport once Ron came upon an accident, and stabbed the Spyderco through the car roof, then ripped it open like a tin can, freeing the trapped driver. The knife was ruined afterwards, but did the job.
In another case, a chap we’ll call Chris, stops his car at the “robots” [what the South African call traffic lights]. A mugger opens the rear door, gets in and takes Chris in a chokehold, levering him backwards severely. Fighting desperately, Chris manages to access his Spyderco, open it and flails blindly backwards. By sheer luck he rams the blade right into the mugger’s skull, penetrating with instant, lethal, effect. I don’t know the exact model, just that it was a compact Spyderco.

The Spyderco Civilian and Trainers

Mr. Martin Discusses the Merits of the Spyderco Civilian Hooked Blade Knife

Although I found the Civilian interesting, it wasn’t until a senior SAPS Officer, Colonel Mike, alerted me to just how effective that radical knife could be. The blade is visually intimidating. This can be a deterrent, and enable you to win without fighting.


Mike, one of our course graduates, was on a Bodyguard assignment, and entered the elevator of a hotel at the car-park level. The two characters who followed him in fitted the profile of local street scum, and he went to Condition Orange. One stood facing him, and as the doors closed his partner produced a craft knife and started to open it. Mike had already palmed his Civilian, and commenced proceedings with an elbow-smash to the jaw of the closer threat, then flicked open the Spyderco. At the sight of the curved blade the knifeman dropped his blade, and almost beat it to the floor, cowering in a foetal position on top of his compadre. Mike transferred the Civilian to his left hand, drew his Glock 26, and covered the pair until the elevator reached his floor.

As mentioned above the stated function of the Civilian was to allow a minimally trained officer to get out of a hostile situation fast. So the fundamental technique envisages the Civilian being used passively, just covering up, or, shielding, the aggressive limb will meet the blade, and will be on a curve whichever the direction of force. “Curves equal cutting”. The limb will “cut itself” as it attacks

Regarding fragility, well this case demonstrates that the Civilian tip does the job….

A guy we’ll call Dan, has picked up company payroll from bank. He is carrying his Civilian in his hand, but not as a tactical precaution, more like you carry your keys and twirl them. He is attacked by two gunmen. The first grabs his arm. He opens the Civilian and goes in with a lowline ripping strike. The point enters the inguinal area, rips right through and cuts his belt off from the inside! Man down, instant fatality. Dan slashes at the second robber as he legs it… just missing his back.

Should You Carry a Second Knife?

There are a couple of reasons to carry a second self-protection knife. If you are pinned down in a grappling situation, you may be laying on top of your knife, with the full weight of two bodies preventing you from accessing it. A second blade carried on the other side, can be the solution. Another idea is to carry a deep-cover knife as a last ditch weapon, in case you are taken prisoner and disarmed.

Defensive Knife Technique

Thrusts Are Essential to Stopping an Attacker

Another factor was that in my ongoing research I was fast reaching the conclusion that slashes were not the best fight-finisher with a compact knife. To stop an amped-up, committed attacker you need thrusts penetrating the body cavity, inducing involuntary collapse.
To illustrate how slashes are not always the answer, another case from RSA: Anthony, a graduate of our VIP Protection Course, and a professional self-protection instructor is leaving the gym one night. As he walks across the car park he has his Glock in a moon-bag, looped over his shoulder. Out of the shadows he is pack-attacked by three muggers. He quickly draws his Spyderco Harpy and goes to work slashing the thugs as they try to grab him. After a bit Anthony pauses and tells them “I’m cutting you, look you’re bleeding” The would-be muggers check themselves, realise they are indeed in a knife fight, and hastily run off.

The Saber Grip Is Not as Effective as the Hammer Grip

By the way, Bob [Kasper] designed the serrated thumb-rest specifically to accommodate the Sabre-grip, as, at the time, he was heavily favouring this Styers-influenced technique. However, after engaging in a lengthy program of intensive, reality-based knife training, Bob found certain weaknesses with the Sabre grip. He went into print and published his new conclusions, reversing his previous view. This is the mark of a top instructor, who puts tactical truth before personal ego. Although, the KFF was suited to the Sabre grip this in no way limits the use of other grips. The standard, or, “hammer” grip works fine, as does the Reverse grip.

Folding Knives Are Not the Best Choice

Having done quite a bit of this type of training I came to the conclusion that the Tactical Folder is not the best bet to defend your life. Under intense psychogenic stress the first place affected as the neural surge and adrenal dump prepare the organism for the life and death battle, is the fingers. With a folder you’ll be trying to dig the weapon out….with the fingers. You’ll be trying to flick open the blade….with the fingers. Finally you’ll be trying to then shift to a more secure grip….with the fingers.
These days my chosen self-protection knives are all fixed blades. The Kasper Companion, a Push Dagger, or, a Hideaway. The tactical folders discussed above are all great knives. There are many other superb TFKs, and I own a substantial collection, but the ones above are those I selected to look after me in various interesting places, and, more than once, they provided peace of mind in a tense situation. I still own them, and loan them to guys on courses. I had a great time training with them, but in my opinion, the folder has evolved into a modern pocket knife. There is still a place for an easily carried, handily accessed knife for those workplace, garden, household and general tasks.


In the cases cited above, the good-guys managed to use their TFKs with sucess under intense stress. However, we don’t have a library of cases where guys failed to get their folders into action, but there is no doubt this has happened. In training and planning for our self protection we must play the percentages, and folders are not the primary choice for a weapon to be deployed under conditions of intense pressure, at extreme close range. In my opinion, as far as self-protection is concerned, the arc of the TFK is over.

How to Stop the Tackler –Crossface

Posted in American Arts, Technique, Videos with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I asked my nephew James, the champion wrestler, what his primary defense is against the opponent who shoots. He replied the cross face, which he demonstrates here.

We square off and I (on the right) prepare to go for a double leg tackle.


I shoot for the outside of James' lead leg. Note how his arm drops to counter.

James' forearm comes up across my face.

James sprawls, throwing his legs back and placing his weight on me (by lowering his hips). It's hard for me to counter, even if I drive or get both arms on one leg, because he is twisting my head in the other direction.

This video shows the basics of the crossface and sprawl.

Remember, in Bruce Lee’s fighting stance, he kept his lead right arm low, with the elbow resting on his hip. Could this be useful against the shooting opponent?

In this video (at the very end of the clip) a wrestler uses a crossface like the aikido entering throw irimi nage, at least as practiced by Steven Seagal, who uses it to great effect.

Steven Seagal Performs Irimi Nage


Knocked Centsless Coin Purse Palm Sap

Posted in American Arts, Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , on November 28, 2010 by bigstickcombat

D3 Knocked Centsless Palm Sap

I have written about the relatively obscure palm sap earlier.

I came across another example of a palm sap. It is the D3 Protection Knocked Centsless palm sap. There is a video tutorial here.

Keep in mind that carrying a palm sap can get you into trouble, while a coin purse is perfectly legal.







Striking Area Knocked Centsless Coin Purse Palm Sap


Finger Band for Knocked Centsless Coin Purse Sap

Review of the Spyderco Pikal Knife

Posted in American Arts, Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Spyderco Pikal Folding Knife

The Spyderco Pikal folding knife was designed from the ground up as a fighting knife. Furthermore, the knife was specifically designed around a set of techniques.

The Spyderco Pikal was designed by the people at Shivworks, who have no-nonsense, rock solid technique. As far as I can tell, the group is composed of law enforcement and corrections officers. Nothing focuses the mind on the ugly reality of edged weapons like working in a prison. (If you go to the bottom of this page, they have some free pdf tutorials that are some of the grittiest I’ve seen.)

There are also some online video tutorials (here and here) that outline how to draw the knife, as well as a simple set of techniques to use it. The Pikal is meant to be held in a reverse icepick grip, with the blade facing in toward the wielder. The techniques are sound and very effective, the sort of thing a beginner could pick up and use in no time flat.

[The group claims that “pikal” is “to rip” in Bisaya (Cebuano), but it’s not. My research says maybe Ilonggo. Suffice it to say that when I trained with Master Ed Planas, the saber grip was called “saksak” (“stab”) and icepick grip was called “pakal.”]

Spyderco Pikal in Reverse Icepick grip

The guys at Shivworks make a very important point that their techniques are easily used in emergency situations with impromptu weapons, like pens. My thinking is increasingly headed in the direction of icepick grip. If you look at all of the common emergency or semi-impromptu weapons, they are stabbing or puncture weapons, not cutting weapons. If all of your training is with knives, and your techniques is designed to employ blades, you may come up short when employing an emergency weapon such as a pen, pair of scissors, awl, ice pick, screw driver, etc, because they have no cutting edge.