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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Realities of Interpersonal Combat: How Are You Preparing?, by Officer Tackleberry

I will start this article with a question: What are you doing on a regular basis (i.e. daily) to prepare yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually, to not just survive, but prevail during a violent encounter?
This is a question I ask myself on a regular basis.  I have also posed this same question to my hand-to-hand combat students.
There is no question that interpersonal violence will be fact of life for many in a post-societal collapse.  But, it is a reality in today’s society that many people (i.e. sheeple) choose to ignore.
Depending on your source for statistics, the number of instances of violent crime reported [in the US] in 2008 was more than 5,000,000.  Yes, there are six zeros after that 5!  That figure astounds and saddens me, but doesn't surprise me.
My full-time job is a police officer with a suburb of a major city that regularly meets or exceeds the number of violent acts from the previous year.  These acts of violence are prominently displayed in local newspapers and on radio and television.  Yet, for many, they refuse to accept this reality and thus refuse to prepare to for it.
Security Awareness
Security awareness needs to be a way of life for all of us because prevention is the best defense.  Now, I am not talking about paranoia, but preparation and practice.  One such example of being security minded is locking your doors once you are in your house or car.  How many times have you seen someone get into their car and talk on their cell phone or do some other task while being totally oblivious to what's going around them?  Maybe you have even done this yourself.
Speaking of locking your doors, how many of you consistently make sure that the door from the garage to your house is always locked?  I can't even begin to guess the number of burglaries that I have been on where the offender(s) found the victim's garage door open and the offender(s) then gained entry into the home via the unlocked man door.  As part of your daily OPSEC for your residence, make sure the garage door is shut and the man door is locked.
Let's take the last scenario one step further.  Just this past summer I saw several incidents in which the offender(s) pushed the center of the garage door back far enough to reach the disconnect cord for the electric garage door.  Once the opener is disconnected from the chain, they quietly lifted the garage door and stole valuable items from the garage.  Also, in one case they gained entry into the home because the man door to the garage from the house was unlocked.
A personal security tool that you can purchase for yourself and keep on you at all times is a small LED flashlight.  Streamlight, Surefire and Dorcy are just three of the quality brands that are out there.  You want a small metal one that’s not much longer than the width your hand so I am not talking about one of those big, 3 or 5 “D” cell Mag-Lites, even though those are good options for your vehicle and home. Having a flashlight already in your hand allows you to check in and around your car when you’re in dark parking lots or garages and performing OPSEC on your personal property.  You can also shine this light in the eyes of a potential assailant, causing temporary blurred vision and disorientation.  If you choose to get a flashlight, try to get one with a tail-activation switch option and that has replacement batteries and keep at least two extra batteries with you at all times.  Most people, even cops, forget to charge their lights and the lights don’t work when they need them the most.  Also, consider getting a light with the scalloped or serrated edges around the lens area.  It makes a great impact weapon should you need it.
Entire chapters can be written on personal and property security awareness.  But, suffice it say, security awareness needs to become a way life because, especially post-WTSHTF, your life may literally depend on it.
Hand-to-Hand Combat
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I am a Hand-to-Hand (H2H) practitioner and instructor.  My primary form is an Israeli H2H system that I have taught to both civilian and law enforcement.  I also teach security awareness and self defense seminars for women in the community.
I have studied several different styles of martial arts over the past 25+ years and have seen many drawbacks of traditional systems.  Most traditional systems are heavy on tradition but light in the area of combat applications.  This fact is well known and recently there has been a plethora of "new" systems out there that refer to themselves as reality-based martial arts (RBMA).
I personally believe that everyone should learn how to defend themselves with both empty hands and weapons.  Even now, depending on the size of your area, the number of officers on duty, and some other factors, our response to your 911 call could be anywhere from two minutes to an hour.  Even if our response is only two minutes, when fighting for your life that may seem like an hour.  Post-WTSHTF, police response may be non-existent. 
RBMAs have tried to step in and market themselves as the "answer" for your H2H needs.  But, there are some serious dangers involved that you need to be aware of.  First, it seems like most of the instructors or "creators" of these systems are former Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Special Forces etc.  Please take the time to learn the instructors true credentials, check references, and observe a few classes.  Also, be wary of the home study courses that claim that you will be able to defeat any attacker in seconds if you just purchase their products.
Another type of RBMA is one that relies heavily on ground fighting, such as Gracie or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or on joint locks, such as traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, Aikido, or some blend thereof.  The goal of these systems, especially in the beginning stages, is to learn to defeat and/or control another one-on-one.  There are too many variables in a violent encounter to justify spending time wrapped up tight with just one person. 
You should train in a system that teaches you to defend common attacks, encourages aggression when appropriate, limits ground work at the beginning levels, works in multiple attacker scenarios on a regular basis and teaches empty hand vs. weapons at the lower levels.  Some of the styles I mentioned do these same things but normally at a much higher rank level which translates to much longer training time.  At our school, you will see all of the above within the first 6 months of training.  I am not saying the system I train/teach in has all of the answers because such a system doesn't exist.  However, one comment I hear consistently is how the participant felt they were ready to defend themselves after the first lesson. This was how our system was designed and is why the Israeli military and police use it to this day.
I know that there are many proponents out there that believe mixed martial arts (MMA), judo, boxing, Thai boxing and wrestling are competent RBMAs, and they are for what they are designed for.  However, these specific RBMAs are limited by rules, safety equipment, number of opponents (which there is only 1), and lack of non-personal weapons.  Don’t get me wrong, these specific systems bring a lot of good training characteristics to the party and I have participated in several of them myself.  But, the point is that you need to train beyond the limitations of these systems. 
Now, some personal thoughts about your family members training in H2H.  If your budget allows, I believe each household member should receive competent H2H training.  Encourage your spouse/significant other to train but, when it comes to your children, especially younger ones, I think you should mandate it.  My wife has attended a womens' self defense seminar and we recently discussed her attending another one.  While she doesn't take formal classes on a regular basis, she likes Tae Bo so I encourage it.  Tae Bo done on a regular basis provides her with physical fitness, is fun for her, and allows her to practice some of the moves she had learned.
As far as children are concerned, I believe that quality self-defense training is a must.  According to a study I read a couple of years ago, there are more than 250,000 assaults in public schools every year.  Based on my experience, I believe that the actual number for this is about 25-50% higher.  I know many schools don't report these incidents because they believe that it will reflect negatively on them.  I know that the training my children have been through has greatly helped them.  One of my children has had issues with a bully and has had to defend himself from an attack where the other child was choking him with both hands on his throat.  This same child was also saved from a nasty fall on concrete when he executed a perfect break fall after he accidentally tripped over an object when playing.  A real good resource for preparing your children is the DVD titled, "I Am Not a Target".  We found a copy of it at our local library and I highly recommend it.
One key aspect of having you and your family trained in a quality H2H system is that everyone should be able to recognize pre-assault indicators.  This way, if one of you doesn’t see the indicators, someone else in your family may and then they warn the rest of the family and/or attack the assailants.  This especially vital in a post-WTSHTF period when it might just be your family against "the world".
Don't Cheat Fair!
I have a specific saying and philosophy when it comes to self-defense: The only fair fight is one that I win!  I have applied this saying to both my personal and professional life.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned not just surviving, but prevailing during a violent encounter.  You must think and train with the understanding that you may be the only thing standing between your loved ones and their potential pain, suffering, or even death. 
What are you willing to do to stop a violent assault against you or loved one?  Are you willing to scratch, bite, or dig your thumb in someone's eye?  Are you willing to hit someone with a lamp, run them over with a car, plunge a butcher knife into them, or stab them in the neck with a pen?
These are questions you must ask yourself ahead of time and be mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually prepared to do what is necessary to prevail.
One aspect of not cheating fair is using your environment.  Take a look around at the area you are in right now.  What items do you see that you could defend yourself or someone else with?  What could become a barrier between you and your attacker?  What could you strike or stab an attacker with?  Is there anything that you could throw on an attacker that could cause pain, like hot coffee?  If you are at home, how quickly could you get to a firearm should you have picked one out for home defense?  Knowing your environment is a security awareness concept that you should be practicing constantly.
Now, let's talk about biting and eye gouging.  How many of you have ever been bitten real hard?  I have and it was one of my children.  She was 18 months old and she sunk her teeth into my neck the first time I started to dunk her into a pool.  She bit me so hard that my girlfriend had to physically pry open her jaws to get her off of me.  I remember two distinct things: first, it was some of the worst pain I had ever experienced and secondly, it didn't bleed.  I know some people are scared that by biting another person, they may contract some kind of disease.  Yes, that is a valid concern.  But if you’re dead because you wouldn't cheat fair, does it really matter?  Also, if the attacker intends the attack to be a sexual assault, what are you most likely to get a disease from, the completed sexual assault or some blood from a bite?  When you bite, go for a major muscle area like the chest, shoulders, side of the neck, back and thighs.  Try to stay away from appendages such as fingers, ears, nose, or genitalia.  These areas, while being fairly sensitive, will separate from the body with enough force, which helps the attacker with the pain factor, and these areas have the tendency to bleed a lot more.  Why take the chance with blood if we don't have to?
As soon as you mention sticking your thumbs in someone’s eyes, you see people’s demeanor change.  It’s a gross thought that cause many to squirm.  When my wife was in her self defense class and the instructors mentioned eye gouges, she looked at me and said that she couldn’t think of any reason why she would do something like that to another person.  I quickly asked her what she would do if someone suddenly grabbed our son from her.  I immediate saw a physical change in her demeanor.  Her eyebrows furled, her shoulders raised and her fists clenched.  She just visualized a reason she absolutely would stick her thumb in someone’s eye.  A good account of someone doing this very thing in combat can be found in the book, “House to House”, which is about the Battle of Fallujah.
Weaponry Options
No discussion about interpersonal combat would be complete without talking about weapons.  I will focus this part on weapons that are used for close quarters combat.  These weapons will be classified as blunt, chemical sprays, edged, electric discharge, firearms (mainly handguns) and improvised weapons.
When I think of blunt weapons, I think of any object that can be swung fast and hard as to cause blunt force trauma.  Some common blunt weapons are ball bats, sticks, telescoping batons (ASP, Monodnock), kubotans and hammers.  If you carry or intend to carry a blunt weapon for personal defense, you need to practice regularly by striking fairly stiff objects such as a heavy bag or rolled-up carpet.  Many people are surprised how a blunt weapon feels in their hands when striking a hard object.  I know of several instances of where officers have had their batons go flying out of their hands when they have struck a suspect.
Chemical sprays seem to be a choice that many people, especially females, make.  Actually many chemical spray products are specifically marketed to women as self-defense tool.  Chemical sprays have their place but some things to keep in mind is that it is not instantly incapacitating to an attacker, you will likely be contaminated as well and you need to practice regularly to know your particular spray device works.  Several manufacturers sell an inert spray that can be used for training or you can buy a second can of the same kind so you can practice. 
Use of edged weapons is an area that I know I am weak in, and I continue to learn more about. It is also an area filled with many options, misconceptions and a plethora of experts.  Edged weapons are scary to face and personally, when empty-handed, I would rather be facing a pistol or other weapon in close quarters than an edged weapon.  When learning about edged weapons, make sure that sure that your training includes defense against and the offensive use of the weapon.  Spyderco and other manufactures make training knives that look just like a regular one but that don’t have a sharpened blade.  The first time that I trained with this knife it was intimidating to me because it looked so real.  Another training option I recommend is to take several pieces of heavy duty cardboard and glue them one on top of the other until it’s about 4-5” thick.  Now you can slash and stab the cardboard several times.  This will help you to decide if the knife you have chosen will work with the impact of combat.  Once you find one that can hold up to this kind of training and not tear your hand up, keep that one for training and buy a second one for everyday carry.
In my humble opinion, electric discharge devices such as stun guns, Tasers, and similar devices are the most over-hyped and misunderstood self-defense options out there.  Based on my experience and research, these devices don’t always work when needed and, especially stun guns don’t instantly incapacitate an attacker.  Add to the fact that these devices are battery and technologically-dependant, and I believe that they are very impractical, especially in a post-WTSHTF world.
For many people, the firearms option is an absolute must.  If you choose this option then you need to constantly train with it. Shooting is a very perishable skill.  Also, shooting a few rounds into a paper bull’s eye target is not training, it just helps you to get familiar with the gun. Try to shoot human silhouette or similar paper targets.  Shooting competitions, especially the IDPA, are good ways to work on your skills under the stress of competition.  Your training should include force-on-force scenario training with Airsoft, Simunitions, and/or paint ball.  Airsoft guns are a great basic training options for children and others that are not familiar with and/or are initially scared of guns.  You can work on grip, sight picture, sight alignment, trigger control, basic marksmanship and gun safety. While nothing replaces shooting real ammo, air-soft is a great option that I use myself at a mere fraction of the cost of shooting real ammo and I can do it in my home. Just make sure to get a CO2 or green gas operated gun and not a spring operated one that has to be cocked with every round.  You need to train different retention options with your gun, whether the gun is deployed or still in the holster.  You also need to train to shoot one handed with either hand and train to use your flashlight and your gun together for low-light situations.
I kind of glossed over improvised weapons in the “don’t cheat fair” section.  Use your environment to your advantage.  I have seen this done in both bar fights and by women who have defended themselves from domestic assaults.  I have seen people who have been hit with pool sticks, bottles, mugs, pool balls, 2x4s, chairs, and cooking pans.  In many cases the injuries were quite severe.  Some other options are pens, vehicles, screwdrivers, garden implements and household brooms or mops.  One great option is a small fire extinguisher that you keep in your home and/or vehicle.  These are fairly small and lightweight so they can be wielded as an effective impact weapon plus if you spray it an attackers face, it is hard for them to breath and see.  An option I hear touted a lot is putting a key between your fingers and strike that way.  For this to work, you must hit a vital area, which is very hard to do in a dynamic situation.  Plus, I believe that the impact will cause significant enough damage to your hand at impact that they keys will leave your hand and cause severe injury to you.  To see so for yourself, fold a towel over several times and put it over a small pillow that’s lying in the floor.  Now, slowly strike downwards into the towel/pillow combination.  I think you will find that just a soft strike like this can sting your hand.  A good option for your keys is keep a small chain or lanyard on it, like the ones that you see people wear around their necks.  In a self-defense situation, grab the lanyard and swing your keys in a circular motion towards the attacker like a mid-evil flail.  When choosing a lanyard or similar option, get one with as much metal as possible, especially the clip that attaches to the keys.  You want something that will hold up to the impact that will result from a strike.
A common theme for weapons is that you need to regularly train with whatever options you choose.  Consistent, quality training is must that will pay off when you need it.  Do a lot of research and networking to find competent instructors and training venues.  While nothing can equal the stress of actual combat, choose training options/venues that put you under stress, which helps prepare you for combat.  This is why force-on-force training is so critical.
Your Mind: Your Greatest Resource
Preparing your mind and your body for the realities of combat should be a constant journey, not a destination.  For average citizen, seriously hurting or killing another person is not a normal behavior and I thank God for this.  This is why we are able to have a somewhat “civilized “ society.
The military and law enforcement know that this is true and that’s why measures are taken in training to help soldiers and police officers overcome this normal resistance.  Humanoid 3-D targets, human-shaped steel or paper targets, video simulators and force-on-force training are just some of the methods used to help remove hesitation/resistance.
Along with previous mentioned training methods, you should be thinking of scenarios in your mind and how you would react to them.  We do this in law enforcement all of the time.  But, it is no longer referred to as “if/when” thinking.  This method is now referred to as “when this happens, this is what I will do”.  When you leave “if” in the equation, there seems to be room for doubt and many people are still surprised when a violent event occurs.  By using the “when/what” method of preparation, you are more likely to be surprised when a violent event doesn’t occur.
Also, you need to be thinking outside the box.  An example of such thinking is feigning compliance should someone get the drop on you and has a temporary advantage over you.  This is especially true in sexual assault situations.  Feigning compliance may cause the offender to lower his guard enough for you to launch a counter attack or it may cause him to take his eye off you long enough for you to grab an improvised weapon.  Another example in the area of sexual assault is that the attacker may get close enough for you to suddenly bite or scream into his ear.  How many of you have picked up a child who suddenly screams just about the time you get the child to your face level? It scares the heck out of you.  Screaming when in close to an attacker is a great force multiplier.
There are some great training books that will help you to prepare for the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of being involved in combat.  First and foremost on the list is the Bible.  One Biblical example is David, who was a great warrior who served God and protected His people.  The books "On Combat" , "On Killing" and “Sharpening the Warriors Edge ” are also great resources.
But, even with everything I have said previously, I believe that the strength to defend yourself or a loved shouldn’t come from just you because the human is a created being and thus has limitations.  The strength that you should rely on comes from God and the hope we have in His Son, Jesus, as our risen Lord and Savior.  As a Christian, I pray for God’s strength and protection on a regular basis and I hope that you do too.
I pray that this article is useful and informative to you.  I pray for our nation and our leaders.  I also pray for God’s blessing and protection for each of you and your families.