Hand-to-Hand Combat

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

A recent analysis of US Army post-combat surveys found that hand-to-hand combat is surprisingly common:

Hand-to-Hand fighting is a common scenario, and often involves weapons.

“216 out of 1,226 Soldiers (19.0%) reported using hand-to-hand combat skills in at least one encounter. The Soldiers’ descriptions indicated that hand-to-hand combat occurred in a variety of tactical situations and that the most common skills employed were grappling techniques (72.6%), followed by the use of weapons (e.g., rifle butt strikes; 21.9%); with striking as the least reported skill (i.e., punching and kicking; 5.5%). These results further reinforce that hand-to-hand combat remains a relevant demand and the US Army should continue such training with an emphasis on grappling skills practiced across a variety of performance settings.”

Having hand-to-hand skills gives you the ability to use different levels of force as needed, instead of defaulting to lethal force.

“The primary focus of combatives training is to develop fighting ability and skills that Soldiers need in an operational environment (US Army, 2009). Combatives is an important component of a Soldier’s ability to employ different levels of force as the intensity and demands of the operational environment change. Additionally, combatives training develops the aggression and confidence necessary for Soldiers to close with an enemy and “seize the initiative to dominate, disable, or kill”

Grappling, either on the ground or in the clinch, is inherent to hand-to-hand fighting in the real world.

“First, grappling was an ever-present aspect of a hand-to-hand combat encounter. Although striking and weapons use were not absent from hand-to-hand combat encounters, Soldiers reported that grappling with an opponent was an integral aspect of any encounter.”

If you are carrying a weapon openly, or if your concealed weapon becomes exposed, you will be forced to fight for control of the weapon in the event of contact distance attack.

“The second lesson incorporated from the PAIs was that Soldiers in OEF and OIF reported that their hand-to-hand combat encounters revolved around a contest over the Soldier’s weapon (e.g., rifle). It appears that a Soldier’s opponent regularly attempted to wrest control of the Soldier’s weapon during hand-to-hand combat encounters.”

Any training for self-defense must establish fundamental skills and be geared toward the threats most likely to occur in your lifestyle.

“Finally, the fighting skills needed for success in a hand-to-hand combat encounter required development through a deliberate process that included: (a) initially establishing basic fighting skills followed by, (b) expanding such skills within a training setting that reflected the demands and context of the operational environment.”

You need skills that can be instantly and reactively adapted to account for the unpredictable nature of hand-to-hand combat. Also, you need to practice these skills against resistant opponents so you can learn to “read and speak the language” of the fight.

“A recent study (Jensen & Wrisberg, 2014) interviewing 17 Soldiers about their experiences of fighting in hand-to-hand combat suggests hand-to-hand combat occurs in a swift and unexpected manner. The results of this study reveal that hand-to-hand combat takes place in an open skill environment (Wrisberg, 2007) characterized as dynamic and unpredictable, which requires Soldiers to develop skills that can continuously and rapidly adapt to the ever-changing demands of the performance setting… …Training in such open environments necessitates skill development that teaches Soldiers to recognize key performance cues and adapt their skills to the quickly changing demands of the environment, many times influenced by a willful opponent.”

Fighting for your life while in physical contact with a determined threat is extremely stressful.

“Furthermore, these authors found that although hand-to-hand combat was one of the least frequently reported combat stressors, it was one of the seven (out of 30 possible combat stressors) most psychologically stressful combat experiences reported by Soldiers.”

How should the police handle a large man who won’t comply?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

So, how should the police handle a large man who won’t comply at all with their orders?

He’s not violent, but he won’t do as they say, and he’s big enough that they can’t make him do anything without themselves getting violent. In this case, a smaller cop used a headlock to pull the big man down.

He briefly turned the headlock into a choke as he went to control Garner’s free hand. When you’re arresting a criminal, should you loosen your grip when he says, “I can’t breath!” How about, “You’re hurting my arm!” Do you think anyone has ever, oh, I dunno, fibbed to the police about such things before? And then hurt a cop or got away?

As an experienced grappler, I can say with some authority that someone being choked out can’t say, “I can’t breathe!” — not loudly and clearly, certainly. On the other hand, a large man, with many men holding him down, whose heart starts to give out…

In fact, it’s not clear that he was choked much at all, and he’s saying “I can’t breathe!” after the medium-sized cop released his headlock, and a large cop stepped in to hold Garner’s head and shoulder down.

The negligence comes in when they treat an obese potential heart attack victim like a sparring partner who has been choked out and will come to any second now.

(You’ll notice, by the way, that the witnesses have a clear point of view that doesn’t seem connected to events: “All he did was break up a fight!”)

Female Secret Service Bodyguards

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Female Secret Service bodyguards are not as awesome at hand-to-hand combat as you might expect from watching TV, Steve Sailer notes, citing this New York Times account of the White House intrusion a few weeks ago:

As the officer stationed there tried to lock the doors, Mr. Gonzalez “barged through them and knocked her backward.” She told him to stop but he continued on to the East Room.

“After attempting twice to physically take Gonzalez down but failing to do so because of the size disparity between the two, the officer then attempted to draw her baton but accidentally grabbed her flashlight instead,” the report said. “The officer threw down her flashlight, drew her firearm, and continued to give Gonzalez commands that he ignored.”

Mr. Gonzalez entered the East Room, but then exited, heading down the hallway. Two officers stationed in the White House, assisted by two plainclothes agents who had just finished their shifts, tackled him.


Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The New York Times reports on Longpoint, the historical European martial arts (HEMA) tournament:

Unlike re-enactors or role players, who don theatrical costumes and medieval-style armor, Longpoint competitors treat swordfighting as an organized sport. Matches have complex rules and use a scoring system based on ancient dueling regulations. Fighters wear modern if sometimes improvised protective equipment, which looks like a hybrid of fencing gear and body armor. They use steel swords with unsharpened blades and blunt tips to prevent bouts from turning into death matches.

Skill and technique, rather than size and strength, decide the outcomes. Fights are fast and sometimes brutal: key to the art is landing a blow while preventing an opponent’s counterstroke. Nevertheless, even the best swordfighters earn large bruises in the ring, which they display with flinty pride.

Longpoint began in 2011 with 60 participants; now the largest HEMA event in North America, it drew about 200 this year. The open steel longsword division had 55 entrants, eight of them women.

How to Fight a Dog (and Win)

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Weapons Man explains how to fight a dog (and win), starting with these facts about dogs:

  1. Anybody can fight any dog and win.
  2. Normal dogs do not fight to the death.
  3. Adults killed by a single dog are extremely rare outliers.
  4. The only part of the dog that can hurt you is the teeth.
  5. The dog is extremely vulnerable in the neck area.
  6. If it is a fight to the death, expect to get bitten… don’t let it distract you.

Dogs fight like pack animals:

They run around and try to distract you and get behind you. A vicious dog, behind you, may go for a hamstring. Dogs make darting, slashing attacks and break contact. Dogs fight dogs naturally, but they do not fight to the death, only for dominance. A human who has been knocked down by a dog or a pack of dogs may trigger predation behavior, but one who remains upright and takes the fight to the dog will always prevail.

It helps to have protection on your weak hand forearm; you can then offer that as a target for the dog. Even without protection, offering the weak hand leaves the dog vulnerable to your strong hand. If you get him to snap at that, you have him right where you want him. Get his neck with your strong hand and overturn him.

Your objective is to get him on his back, with you astride him, and both hands on his neck. In this position he cannot bite you and you can choke him out. If you don’t want to kill the dog, you can just choke him. If you do want to kill him, crush his windpipe; end of dog. In fact, in most cases, the dog will give up when overturned by someone who has a grip on his neck.


Odds are you outweigh him; you have opposable thumbs; you are much more intelligent; you are the apex predator.

Japan Confronts Hazards of Judo

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Four Japanese students die per year, on average, from catastrophic injuries suffered doing judo under school supervision:

Over the past 30 years, 118 have died, and nearly 300 have ended up disabled or comatose.

The statistics have no parallel in other developed nations where the sport is popular. Officials at judo federations in both the United States and France said that while concussions had been common, there had been no known reports of deaths or traumatic brain injuries for young practitioners in recent decades.


Dr. Robert Nishime, chairman of sports medicine for USA Judo, the sport’s federation, is a Japanese-American who has spoken to victims’ families. He said that the Japanese cultural trait of not giving up, called gaman, might explain why a concussion, which can be subtle, could be played down by the instructor or the child. The danger is that another head trauma soon after the initial injury can cause “second impact syndrome,” which can be devastating.

So, the Japanese art (or way) of judo is uniquely dangerous in Japan.

Feel-Good Story out of Houston

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

I enjoyed this feel-good story out of Houston:

Electric Knives

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Young men want to test their courage, but most good tests of physical courage are also great ways to get killed — or at least injured.

If you modify a dangerous sport to make it safe, it’s no longer a good test of courage.

Some hobbies successfully ride the edge between too-dangerous and not-scary — most forms of grappling are mildly dangerous and, in competition or when you’re new, fairly scary — but other martial arts have lost their edge — literally.

Fighting with foils or rubber knives isn’t scary. Fighting with more substantial weapons can lead to broken bones.

Burton “Lucky Dog” Richards has done his share of fighting with rubber knives and wooden sticks, and here he talks about the benefits of using a Shocknife in training:

The downside is that a Shocknife costs $500.

But you can make your own from a cheap electric fly-swatter:

  1. Make sure any residual charge is bled off by tapping the racket into something metal and grounded, making sure that both mesh sides touch. Remove batteries. Unscrew the housing.
  2. Pry apart the plastic “racket” portion and snip off the leads to the three attached wires, or simply cut them as long as possible. Discard racket.
  3. Since this is supposed to simulate a knife, the leads will need to attach to something of a similar shape. The template should also be non-conductive. I found a piece of wood to be the best option, since it was easy to adjust to the desired shape. Take the overall length of the weapon into mind- how long does the training weapon need to be? With the body at 8 inches, I cut the wood template to a little under 3 inches.
  4. [...]

“Please don’t be stupid with this thing.”

Evolved to Take a Punch

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

When humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists — but faces have evolved to take a punch:

When humans fight hand-to-hand the face is usually the primary target and the bones that suffer the highest rates of fracture are the parts of the skull that exhibit the greatest increase in robusticity during the evolution of basal hominins. These bones are also the most sexually dimorphic parts of the skull in both australopiths and humans.

In this review, we suggest that many of the facial features that characterize early hominins evolved to protect the face from injury during fighting with fists. Specifically, the trend towards a more orthognathic face; the bunodont form and expansion of the postcanine teeth; the increased robusticity of the orbit; the increased robusticity of the masticatory system, including the mandibular corpus and condyle, zygoma, and anterior pillars of the maxilla; and the enlarged jaw adductor musculature are traits that may represent protective buttressing of the face.

If the protective buttressing hypothesis is correct, the primary differences in the face of robust versus gracile australopiths may be more a function of differences in mating system than differences in diet as is generally assumed. In this scenario, the evolution of reduced facial robusticity in Homo is associated with the evolution of reduced strength of the upper body and, therefore, with reduced striking power.

The protective buttressing hypothesis provides a functional explanation for the puzzling observation that although humans do not fight by biting our species exhibits pronounced sexual dimorphism in the strength and power of the jaw and neck musculature. The protective buttressing hypothesis is also consistent with observations that modern humans can accurately assess a male’s strength and fighting ability from facial shape and voice quality.

Faces break more frequently than fists

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

You can easily break your hand punching someone — it’s called a boxer’s fracture for a reason — but fists work:

Although it is true that hands do sometimes suffer serious injury when humans fight, epidemiology of interpersonal violence does not support the suggestion by King (King, 2013) that the fist is a fragile and ineffective weapon. In modern societies, interpersonal violence is the most frequent cause of fracture of the facial skeleton (Lee, 2009), and the fist is the weapon that is most frequently used to fracture the bones of the face (Le et al., 2001). A Swedish study on interpersonal violence reported 63 facial fractures and 57 concussions inflicted by fists, but only eight fractures of the metacarpal or phalangeal bones (Boström, 1997). Thus, human fists are effective weapons and, when humans fight, faces break more frequently than fists.

(Hat tip to HBD Chick.)

All for one and one for all

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

A Japanese TV show put three expert fencers against 50 amateurs — and decided for some reason to put small balloons on everyone’s chest, as the only valid target:

As one commenter notes, it’s Conservation of Ninjutsu at its finest.

The Sweet Science of Punch Sound Effects

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The sweet science of punch sound effects bears little connection to reality:

For the gritty “Out of the Furnace,” released in December, the film’s sound-effects designers wanted Casey Affleck’s brutal fist fights to have visceral, fist-on-flesh punch sounds. They recorded a martial artist pounding on human flesh but also had him punch blobs of pizza dough, a slab of beef with a wet towel on it, a watermelon, and—to simulate the sound of bones cracking—dry pasta shells.

In the boxing comedy “Grudge Match,” released on Christmas Day, punches between Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone contain recordings of real boxers hitting each other in a gym. But decisive blows in the big fight scene are punctuated with the bang of a kick drum. And slow-motion super-punches include audio of a howitzer cannon blast and a prison door slamming, recordings that the film’s supervising sound editor Terry Rodman made years earlier for other purposes.


Punch sounds are always added after filming, of course, because the actors aren’t really hitting each other. Early filmmakers felt that the genuine sound of a fist hitting a face was too dull to match its visual excitement. So sound professionals invented more thrilling, phony punch sounds to dub in—audio effects that came to be known in the trade as “the Hollywood punch” or the “John Wayne chin sock.” Hams were slapped, belts whipped. In an old Western, an outlaw getting slugged might be accompanied by a recording of billiard balls clacking. For kung fu movies, bamboo stalks were whacked on boards.

“The sound of a punch that we’re familiar with is not made with any punching. It’s a wet towel slapping on a wall, sometimes with a pencil breaking added in there,” says Leslie Shatz, who worked on “Out of the Furnace.”

Checked Leg Kick

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

After their last bout, Chris Weidman worked on checking Anderson Silva’s leg kicks — and his new skills worked a little too well in last night’s fight:

Wrestler-Turned-Politician Inoki Plans Trip to Pyongyang

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Japanese pro-wrestler-turned-politician Antonio Inoki is planning another trip to North Korea:

A nationally recognized professional wrestler known for his protruding jaw and for slapping people to “instill the fighting spirit,” Mr. Inoki is popular in North Korea for being the protege of the late Rikidozan. The legendary wrestler originally hailed from Korea and is considered the founder of professional wrestling in Japan. Coincidentally, Sunday was the 50th anniversary of Rikidozan’s death in 1963.

You may be wondering, so, how did Rikidozan die, anyway?

On December 8, 1963, while partying in a Tokyo nightclub, Rikid?zan was stabbed with a urine-soaked blade by a man named Katsuji Murata who belonged to the ninky? dantai Sumiyoshi-ikka. Reportedly, Rikid?zan threw Murata out of the club and continued to party, refusing to seek medical help.

Another report states that Rikid?zan did indeed see his physician shortly after the incident, and was told the wound was not serious. He died a week later of peritonitis on December 15. It is rumored by Kimura that his murder was in retaliation for when Rikidozan attacked Kimura during a wrestling match, after Kimura delivered an errant kick to Rikidozan’s groin, ignoring a pre-match arrangement and attacking Kimura for real.

One Mind, Any Weapon

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

I recently mentioned that the US Army has dropped bayonet training and watered down combatives training.

I don’t know how I missed this video from a few years ago, but it suggests that the Marines take close-quarters combat rather seriously:

It also makes the point that mixed-martial artists, despite their cross-training, have hyper-specialized on one-on-one, unarmed combat.

The Marines they’re dealing with aren’t run-of-the-mill Marines, of course. They’re likely black-belts in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. I don’t know how much training they have over and above the bare requirements, but a black-belt in that system only requires as many hours as a BJJ blue belt (the first belt after white).

By the way, that “Last of the Mohicans” exercise looks like fun.