Archive for the Technique Category

The Flashlight and the Gun

Posted in Princples and Theory, Technique, Weapons with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by bigstickcombat

If you own a gun, a flashlight isn’t necessarily something you can dismiss now that you’ve got real 

Nebo Redline Tactical Flashlight

firepower. You see, a cardinal rule of self-defense shooting is : NEVER SHOOT ANYTHING YOU HAVE NOT CLEARLY IDENTIFIED.

Violation of this simple rule causes countless tragedies that are totally unnecessary. One Monday morning at work we got the call for an early, unscheduled faculty meeting. This is never good, because it almost always means something bad has happened over the weekend. In this case, the fathers of two students had gone deer hunting over the weekend. One hunter shot at movement in the brush, which he thought was a deer. Tragically, he had shot his friend to death.

Imagine living with the burden of having shot your own friend to death. What is so sad is that this was completely avoidable.

Now suppose that you get up one night, grab your gun, and see an ominous silhouette in the shadows of the kitchen, so you shoot. Only then do you discover it is your daughter coming in late from a party, the wife who couldn’t sleep and decided to take some medicine, or the son who was hungry and raided the fridge.

If you have a gun in your home, here is a simple and life-saving rule: NOBODY MOVES IN THE HOUSE WITHOUT TURNING ON A LIGHT. This means that anyone who gets up to go to the bathroom or fridge, who decides to check on the dog, who comes in late from a party, etc., turns on a light at the earliest opportunity and turns on lights wherever he or she goes.

Your flashlight now becomes critical to identifying threats and potential targets. There are several methods for wielding a flashlight and a pistol at the same time.

The Harries Method

The Chapman Method

The Rogers Method. In one variation, the fingers hold the flshlight like a cigar. The purpose of this grip is to enable you to get several extra fingers on the pistol grip.

The Modified FBI Method. The idea is to hold the light off center, so anyone who aims at the light will likely miss you


The Neck Position. This is a modified FBI. Note the hand is ready to strike, and there is cover at the head and neck.

(These pictures were found here, where you can go for further info.)

The Karate Chop: Weapon or Joke?

Posted in Technique with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Hillbilly Ninja

The use of the karate chop in the movies (or as Austin Powers would say, “judo chop”), in TV fight scenes featuring Captain Kirk, and the Hai Karate aftershave,  has lead to the move being popularly regarded as a joke.

Even the Hillbilly Ninja, a staple of the Jerry Springer show, was a practitioner of the “judy chop.”

How effective is the karate chop, or maybe I should call it the edge of the hand blow, or knifehand blow.

According to Bradley Steiner (, the knifehand blow is the premier unarmed self-defense blow.

The open hand chop (alternately referred to as “the chop”, “the judo chop”, “the edge-of-the-hand blow”, “the side of hand cut”, etc.  is the single best and most important hand strike in unarmed close combat and self-defense

The open hand chop using the edge of the hand, and the open hand chinjab smash using the heel of the hand are the “primary two” natural hand weapons that every student of unarmed close combat and self-defense must learn…And the most proven of all the war-proven techniques is the open hand, edge-of-the-hand blow. With it, a properly instructed twelve year old girl can send a 200 pound man reeling to th ground. The blow is simple, quick, easily learned, easily retained, and can be employed and applied in more situations and predicaments than we have the patience to list here!

It is almost amusing to think that karate (in its many forms, versions, and styles) is normally taught as a combat art, yet the primary “natural hand weapon” that receives just about all of the trainee’s practice time is the clenched, normal fist. In sparring and in competition it is clear that the clenched fist is the safest blow to permit individuals to employ “freestyle”. We recall, for instance, numerous times when we were a student of taekwon-do and when, totally by accident, our self or another student would “connect” with a good, solid punch. We were black belts. Yet our “deadly” punches created, at worst, a minor injury (bloody nose, maybe) or, most often, not even that; just a mere momentary annoyance!

…anyone aspiring to be prepared for combat, had better be damn sure that he’s training for combat. If you have not already done so (and if you are one of our students, or one of Mark Bryans’ students, then you’ve certainly been doing so since you began training) then begin TODAY to throw your focus upon developing an untelegraphed,  powerful, speedy open hand chop to an assailant. It’s not the only hand blow of merit (there are actually considerably more, when you make a comprehensive study of unarmed close combat and hand-to-hand fighting) but it is the King of the Hand Blows For Self-Defense. It’s a great place to start building real world preparedness! In a serious or life-threatening situation (which is the ONLY kind of situation in which a civilized, rational human being should regard as justifying the employment of violence against another human being) chop to the adversary’s temple, side of neck, or throat. Chops across the solar plexus, into the crotch, across the back of the neck (brain stem area), into the kidney,  are also excellent, when the targets offer.


Many of the Old Texts Feature the Knifehand Blow

The open hand chop is versatile and reliable. It can be applied much faster than any hold or throw and does not depend upon set positions or stances or even much skill or strength to be effective. It depends upon proper execution, and the element of surprise. For a female, a child, or an elderly person, the blow is a “first resort option”, and no attacker should be treated with even the slightest mercy when he targets someone whom he perceives to be such an “easy victim”. In a situation where two attackers must be contended with, a fast chop TO THE THROAT of one, will quickly reduce the odds, and probably have a dramatic effect on the remaining maggot’s morale! Two or more attackers is always a deadly threat.

You can profitably train in conditioning the open hand chop by striking anything from dummies and heavy bags to striking posts and steel bars. It is worthwhile to do this, if you’ve the inclination and are very serious about long-term development of abilities. However, even an unconditioned hand that is utilized correctly can impart sufficient trauma to a vital area when using this terrific blow; so train in this technique with determination and confidence!

I met Instructor Ralph Grasso via a stick fighting forum. He offers some interesting and solid advice on the application of the knifehand blow, and even goes so far at to intermix it with boxing punches. So the knifehand and closed fist punching may not have to be an “either/or” proposition.

Training the edge-of-hand blows against a boxer

Personally I have trained with boxers and used the edge-of-hand blows against a welter weight boxer (10-0 record) in N.Y.P.D. He told me that after this experience his arms were finished. I have also effected arrests with edge-of-hand strikes.

When I work edge-of-hand blows against a boxer, I don’t target specific areas of the arm instead I strike the surrounding area. To make this work, you must move like a boxer yourself and use le tranche accordingly.

My edge-of-hand blows never travel outside the length of my shoulder line until impact: they are actually shorter than a boxers punch.

The key to delivering these strikes is to relax the arm while keeping your vertical, horizontal and diagonal edge-of-hand strikes within range of your shoulder line. This principal maintains a natural defense in conjunction with the offensive action of the tranche. Whatever the opponent throws; be it a right cross- it gets hit, an upper cut- it gets hit. Keep in mind that you are not parrying but striking violently at whatever enters within your range. You do this while driving forward.

Against a boxer there are three training methods in utilizing edge-of-hand strikes. They are; ‘outside left’, ‘outside right’, and ‘inside’. When working to the outside of the boxers jab , you force him to step over and over extend his rear cross. The ‘short’ horizontal edge-of-hand strike, combined with drop-steps, drives the enemy’s jab across his mid line, while the vertical edge-of-hand hacks down inside his right cross.

I have experimented with this, using boxing gear and baseball shin guards : it is systematically trained slowly at first against lead jabs, progressing to jabbing and crossing. When confident expand to cover defense against feinting, punching, adding in upper cuts at full speed. The defender then gets taught elbow guards and how to combine them with edge-of-hands to destroy the knuckles, forearms and biceps.

Remember, don’t specifically target the knuckles, wrists or elbows when guarding or chopping at the opponents punches. Also avoid trying to ‘gunt’ a moving arm or fist with your elbows this takes fine motor skills and in real combat, against an aggressive and mobile adversary, will be virtually impossible. Instead use a simple turn of the waist to cover your body with your elbow guards. If you do manage to catch a punch on your elbow then that’s an added bonus- nothing more.

Please visit the page to see Instructor Grasso in action, particularly an interesting stance and application versus boxing strikes, which I view as the most practical application I’ve seen of the “karate chop” against an opponent who is trying to rain non-stop blows on your jaw –not the typical “freeze frame” karate vs. punch technique. This technique seems similar to the one demonstrated on the Kali Tudo 3 trailer of the Dog Brothers.

You can see a karate black belt taking out a pimp with a knifehand blow to the neck here.

The Essence: Learn a Double Leg

Posted in Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , on December 17, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reader Tommy outlines what he regards as a minimalist, essential curriculum. Keep in mind that

Note the Penetration and Forward Drive

most of us work and have lives that preclude being in the gym 6 hours a day and conditioning for another 4 hours.

Also, the more techniques you have, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to have decision paralysis. “He’s punching! I’ll block, uh, parry…no, I’ll just evade, then, –no, scratch that, a side kick, or maybe a round kick…” BLAM!

The fewer and more straightforward the options, the greater your odds of success. I think that has been part of the reason for the black belt who gets demolished on the street: one guy is thinking side step, block, parry, punch, knife hand, round kick, snap front kick, rising block, while the other guy is thinking “right fist to face, repeatedly.” Who is going to suffer decision paralysis?

Here is Tommy’s outline:

If your training time is limited it looks like this:

1. Train your hands (a good stance, cover, and straight punches with good footwork-basically boxing) and maybe one or two low-line kicks that are non-telegraphic and high %.

2. Do some in close work (e.g. clinching, elbows, knees, head-butts, etc) . Learn to fight on the inside without having to go to the ground.

3. Learn to defend a shoot/ takedown. Keep it on your feet.

4. Learn to get back to your feet as quickly as possible, using any means necessary. The longer you stay on the ground the more likely you are to die.

Once you have all this down pretty solidly (~ 1000 rounds of sparring) then you can add in a few little extras like chokes, locks, throws, whatever…

I think this is a good outline of a curriculum.

What's Wrong with This Picture? Are You Really Learning to Defend Against a Double Leg?

One of the essential techniques to learn is the double leg takedown. Not so much so you can use it, but so you learn how to defend against it. Also when you or your partner is throwing a double leg, you want to make certain you’re defending against a good double leg, not some go-through-the-motions tackle so that you can delude yourself into thinking you’ve got a solid defense.

Tito Ortiz teaches the double leg takedown here.

The “Rebel Grandmaster” teaches a double leg takedown defense here. Hmmm. Something seems a little off.

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.

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

Poser of the Week: How NOT to Stop a Tackle

Posted in Commentary, Poser of the Week, Technique with tags , , , , , , on December 6, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Do NOT Buy a Used Takedown Counter from This Man

When I first saw the video “Takedown vs. Wing Chun,” I knew something was wrong. The defenses against a double leg takedown just didn’t seem right to me, and several of the strikes, like the opening kick, struck me as weak and ineffective.

One hint is that the video has 86 dislikes and 17 likes (and how many of those likes come from Sifu Satin Pants, Sifu Satin Pants’ family, and Sifu Satin Pants’ friends?). Many of those comments come from people who say, “I do wrestling/MMA, and this is wrong.” Others come from people who say, “I do wing chun, and this is wr0ng.”

So I called my nephew James, the champion wrestler, and got his take. I am already at my main point –Get over your ego and ask for help. I am not an expert on grappling. I am not knowledgeable about takedowns and takedown defenses. I am trying to educate myself, and the first step is to say, “I don’t know. Please show me.”

So when my nephew came over for Thanksgiving, I taught him some empty hands and the basics of Big Stick Combat. Then I asked James to show me takedown defenses. I probably bugged the hell out of the guy, asking him questions, “What’s your favorite technique? How do you stop a double leg? Show me a Russian tie.”

Now when James showed me a crossface and sprawl he may have been thinking, “Geez, anybody who’s been two weeks in wrestling knows this.” I don’t give a crap whether I look like a martial arts hotshot or not, I’m going to learn.

Back to the video. What’s wrong with these takedown “defenses”?

According to James:

1)  The shooter starts from too far out. James tells me, “We’re taught not to shoot unless you can touch his chest.” When your opponent starts his double leg takedown with a running start from across the room, it’s easier to see it coming.

2)  The shooter just seems to be diving and grabbing the legs. A wrestler (or an enraged drunk) is going to be driving through with that tackle. The tackler’s objective is not to hug your calves, but to drive you into the pavement.

3)  The shooter has both knees down. “If you go down to one knee, it should be for just a split second,” James explains. The shooter in the video goes down to both knees. From this position, he can’t finish (mount an offense) without resetting.

4)  The defender stays straight up. James is absolutely certain, “If you’re caught standing straight up, you’re done.” It is simply a matter of physics –if someone gets under your center of gravity with forward momentum, you’re bound to fall. Try a sprawl.

5)  My Take. It seems to me that the defender has too much weight on his back foot. This is not a good position to be in against a tackler.

One easy (and lame) defense of these farcical counters runs something like, “You’ll most likely be attacked by someone who is falling down drunk and who has zero martial arts training.”

If someone were to claim that a technique on my blog is not realistic I could counter by saying, “Yeah, but if I were attacked by an 80 year old woman with cerebral palsy who has just chugged a fifth of cheap gin, that technique would work,” but no one would be fooled.

So what am I saying, that these wing chun defenses wouldn’t work against a champion MMA fighter, or a Tito Ortiz on steroids, or a 7 foot tall maniac who’s been wrestling as long as Tiger Woods has played golf? No, I am saying these will not work against anybody with any smattering of knowledge. Look at the videos of wrestling camps, or go to a high school wrestling practice, and you’ll soon realize that there are thousands and thousands of trained wrestlers out there. Add to that the new MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu craze, and those numbers swell even further.

The easiest person to fool is yourself. Don’t get sucked up into the “perfect system” with all the answers. Don’t be too proud to admit you don’t know and to learn something new.

Real Life Combat: Empanadas vs. Robber

Posted in Real Life Combat, Technique, Weapons with tags , , , , on December 5, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Mexican Empanadas

DEMING, N.M., Nov. 30 (UPI) — Police in New Mexico said a would-be robber was stopped by a female clerk armed with a loaf of bread and a box of pastries.

Deming police said a masked man who did not display a weapon tried to run off after snatching the cash register from the Amigo’s store at about 3 p.m. Wednesday and soon found himself on the receiving end of a thrown loaf of bread and a box of empanada, The Deming Headlight reported Tuesday.

The robber dropped the register and fled in a gray or primer-colored car with several other people, police said.

While the story may seem like nothing more than a mindless bit of amusement, there is actually a useful technique here. In this case, the projectile is not a throwing knife or a ninja star, but whatever you happen to have at hand. The purpose of this projectile is not necessarily to kill or even to injure the opponent
(although that’s always a plus), but to create a gap that you can exploit.

Imagine you are carrying your MacDonald’s takehome when someone steps out from behind the corner with a screwdriver.

1)  Throw the bag at his face.

2)  He either raises his hand/s to block it, or flinches, but a gap has been created. He is reacting to your offense.

3)  As soon as the bag leaves your hand, follow with a low line kick to his knee or groin, preferably on the side away from his weapon hand.

4)  Run.


Bonus Round:

As an employee at a bakery/restaurant, what is a semi-impromptu weapon that you could legally and inconspicuously carry? For instance, a box cutter is an essential tool at a restaurant, where boxes are often dropped off by the dozens. No one is going to yell, “Look out, the bus boy has a box cutter!”

Below are a couple of the common tools used at a restaurant, either of which could be carried or stashed without problem.