Backing up is rarely a successful option

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

If you pay attention, you’ll regularly see video of criminal attackers armed with contact weapons closing the distance by charging their victims at a dead run:

That’s a difficult scenario to handle and a lot of victims give in to their natural reaction to back up and create more distance. The problem is that the defender cannot move faster going backwards than the attacker can move going forwards. The defender often ends up on his backside as he trips. Take a look at this video of a knife attack against a St. Paul police officer for a fine example of that happening.

Backing up is rarely a successful option unless the defender is very fast and agile, the defender gets his gun into play very quickly, or the attacker isn’t truly motivated to stab the victim. A lot of these “attacks” directed against the police are really “suicide by cop” incidents where the attacker isn’t really trying to stab anyone. He’s trying to be just enough threat that the cop will pull the trigger.

If backing up doesn’t work very well, what should a defender do to counter a charging attacker who is armed with a contact weapon?

The best way to solve this problem is to set up two people, one armed with a training knife and one armed with a Simunitions or airsoft pistol. While the knife attacker charges, the person with the gun experiments, trying to move backwards, laterally, or forwards. The “right” answer depends on a lot of factors including the defender’s agility, the defender’s draw time, the attacker’s speed, and the initial stand off distance before the attacker charges.

This kind of drilling, while tiring, is exceptionally valuable. After a dozen or so reps, the defender gets a “feel” for what tactic might work best for any given attack. That knowledge is invaluable.

I’ve done this drill with hundreds of students over the years. The most successful movement pattern I’ve found is somewhat counter intuitive.

Moving FORWARDS at a 45 degree angle to the attacker’s charge almost always works. Sprint forwards at a 45 degree angle away from the attacker’s knife side. If the attacker has the knife in his right hand, you should try to sprint past the attacker’s left shoulder. Running towards the unarmed side reduces the chance that he can reach out and cut you as you sprint past him.

You have a 99% chance of surviving the encounter

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

Greg Ellifritz was recently watching a video where a guy in Thailand takes his belt off to whip another guy, and that guy pulls out a knife and stabs him in the neck:

First of all, knife wounds (both slashes and stabs) are far less lethal than gunshot wounds. It is generally only the people who are stabbed multiple times in the torso who die from knife wounds. People who are cut or stabbed two, three, or even five times tend to survive. It’s only those who are “sewing machined” that generally die. Don’t believe me? Check out the study titled “Murder and Medicine.” According to this research, firearms assaults have a 5.4% fatality rate. Knife assaults kill only 1.1% of victims. That makes gunshot wounds almost five times more lethal than knife wounds. You really shouldn’t prefer to get shot instead of cut.

Second, most of the people I know who have been stabbed or slashed didn’t know it initially. Virtually all of them perceived the knife strike as a punch. It was only when they saw the blade or their own blood did they realize a blade was involved. Watch the video embedded above. The man in the red shirt was stabbed in the neck, resulting in spurting arterial bleeding. Initially, he had no idea he had been stabbed. He first seems to notice he had been cut approximately five seconds after the attacker delivered the wound. He remains on his feet and capable of violent action for more than 30 seconds, despite massive blood loss.

Generally, puncture wounds hit fewer nerves and cause less pain than slashes even though they are generally more lethal. It isn’t unusual at all for people to report that they didn’t know they were cut or stabbed until the incident was completely over. Instant incapacitations with knives are even more rare than the famed “one shot stop” with a handgun.

How can we use this information?

If you are defending yourself by using a knife to cut an attacker, it’s important that you not give up after one strike. You shouldn’t think your attacker is going to magically vanish as soon as you stab him. Get some training to be able to find good targets (generally large blood vessels close to the surface of the skin or major muscle groups that control bodily functions) under stress and keep slashing and stabbing until the attacker stops hurting you.

If you attacked by a criminal armed with an edged weapon, keep in mind that this phenomenon works both ways. Just because your attacker has a knife doesn’t mean that you are dead. Stay in the fight. Try to avoid getting cut as best you can and work to quickly disable your attacker. Remember, knife attacks have a 1% lethality rate. It doesn’t matter if you are cut or stabbed. Keep fighting. If you can disable your attacker, you have a 99% chance of surviving the encounter.

Men want to engage in righteous combat

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Men want to engage in righteous combat:

They want it more than they want sex or VP titles. They fantasize about getting the casus belli to defend themselves against armed thugs that will never come, they spend billions of dollars on movies and TV about everymen in implausible circumstances where EA calculus demands they use supernatural powers for combat, they daydream about fantastical, spartan settings where war is omnipresent and fights are personal and dramatic and intellectually interesting, and they’re basically incapable of resisting the urge to glorify their nation and people’s past battles, even the ones they claim to disagree with intellectually. You cannot understand much of modern culture until you’ve recognized that the state’s blunt suppression of the male instinct for glory has caused widespread symptoms of pica that dominate our politics, media, and online interactions.

And make no mistake — our half-hearted policy of deeming all such tendencies “toxic masculinity”, and refusing men the option to engage in reciprocal or consensual violence against each other, has been a bigger failure than the war on drugs. Lots of ink has been spilled on sphere of influence conspiracy theories that attempt to interpret America’s foreign adventures as rational power-seeking behavior. But the real truth is that men naturally form gangs, political cliques, and military theologies that attempt to justify violence within their existing legal and moral landscapes independent of any external incentives to do so. What they really want from all this is not some policy outcome but the self-actualization that comes from fighting the enemy, and the dearth of opportunities for them to challenge their opponents’ honor on the battlefield in a rights-respecting way is a much more important misandrist failing than child custody bias or divorce law or anything I’ve seen red pill people argue on the internet about. Men who are down especially bad will take absurd pay cuts to join artificial and economically unmotivated criminal sects, solely so they get the opportunity to pick mortal battles with other people who’ve opted into the same social systems they have.

There is no true modern substitute for these ambitions, with all of their cultural and social significance.

If it was good enough for Heracles and Theseus, it’s good enough for us.

Monday, July 17th, 2023

When asked about a potential Zuckerberg-Musk MMA fight in the actual Roman Colosseum, Marc Andreessen said, “I think that’s all great,” and then explained why:

I was also asked whether I consider Mark and Elon to be role models to children in their embrace of fighting, and I said, enthusiastically, yes. And I further recommended to the audience that they have their children trained in MMA, as my wife and I are. Kids as young as 8 and maybe even younger are totally capable of learning both the striking and grappling dimensions of the sport. MMA teaches not just combat skills — and it does teach those — but also discipline, emotional control, respect, and a deep sense of responsibility.

The message to kids is not, this is how you beat people up. The message is, this is how you protect yourself — and as important, this is how you protect your family, your friends, your community. You use these combat skills in the service of others — you never start a fight, but when someone is threatening someone you love, or even an innocent bystander, this is how you end a fight.

To a lot of people, this sounds like a message out of time. Surely in the modern world, one would never need to protect oneself or one’s family with actual interpersonal physical violence?

I would love for that to be the case, but unfortunately, the world is evolving in such a way where that is becoming less true every day. Many of the biggest and most important cities in the United States have decided they don’t need law enforcement, and street level violence is on the rise, as anyone in those cities with functional eyes can see. People get attacked in the street, or in carjackings and home invasions, daily, in plain sight, and little to nothing happens. It’s terrible, but it’s true.

And so, yes, if there aren’t going to be police to protect you and your loved ones from real world violent assault, there is a practical need to know applied self defense. And hand-to-hand fighting — MMA — is the core self defense skill.

Another benefit of MMA training, he continues, is physical fitness:

We all know our culture is in the grip of an obesity crisis — according to the CDC, “Obesity in the United States now affects 100.1 million (41.9%) adults and 14.7 million (19.7%) children.” This is a terrible situation that curses people to shorter and unhappier lives. President John F Kennedy saw this coming in his time (!):

We are underexercised as a nation. The remedy, in my judgment, lies in one direction. That is in developing programs for broad participation in exercise by all of our young men and women, all of our boys and girls. The sad fact is that our national sport is not playing at all, but watching. We have become more and more, not a nation of athletes but a nation of spectators. There are more important goals than winning contests — and that is to improve on a broad level the health and vitality of all our people.

We did not listen to him in the decades that followed, but we can now. MMA training is likely the best path for widespread gains in physical fitness, particularly for children. MMA training itself is both effective exercise and motivates one to improve one’s strength and endurance. And not just in the abstract, as a pointless hamster wheel process, but for a purpose — to win fights.

Finally, consider the combination of physical fitness and the ability to defend one’s loves. The result is self-respect — not the self-respect of armchair therapy and wishful thinking, but real self-respect, the earned realization that one is strong and useful and of merit, and of value. Skilled fighters carry themselves differently, and this is why.

Elbows are very hazardous to the hands

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

James LaFond is surprised by how poorly boxing coaches understand their bareknuckle roots:

In gloved boxing, the hooker is better served in the pocket or wheelhouse and the straight puncher wants to be on the outside. In bareknuckle boxing the straight puncher can stay on the inside and do damage.

Body punches count for more in bareknuckle than with gloves.

Elbows are very hazardous to the hands in bare knuckle so:

  • Throw palm down punches under his elbows
  • Throw thumb-up punches to his chest
  • Throw palm up punches to his face [if in close, even with the rear hand], with the up jab targeting the eye

If it is legal, and your man leaves his head open, not worrying about you hitting it because he wants you to break your hand, than:

  • Slap him in the ear or on top of the head with a pivot
  • Hit with the heel of your hand in a lateral hammer-fisting motion, which can be done like a spinning backfist or as a way to catch a guy who has bobbed under your hook and is popping back up of has slipped your rear straight, by slamming the side of your fist into the side of his head while pivoting off the opposite foot and dropping the heel of the foot under the hand you are hammering with.

To set up the spinning backfist, just get him to back up a step and launch.

Shovel hooks to the chin are better than Philly hooks to the head.

The jab should be used for power, not just targeting.

Use more feints. My favorite bare knuckle feint is a loop-3:

  • Fake the lead rear straight.
  • Then fake the shovel hook and either jab hard or throw the rear straight off of that.
  • When he goes for the body, really drop those elbows on his hands.

Boxing and jiu-jitsu have always seemed more important than any training in marksmanship

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

I stumbled across an MSNBC opinion piece arguing that fitness-fascists have been recruiting and radicalizing young men with neo-Nazi and white supremacist extremist ideologies. I rolled my eyes, but I was legitimately surprised by this bit:

In “Mein Kampf,” Hitler fixated on boxing and jujitsu, believing they could help him create an army of millions whose aggressive spirit and impeccably trained bodies, combined with “fanatical love of the fatherland,” would do more for the German nation than any “mediocre” tactical weapons training.

I’m honestly shocked that I did not know this, since I’m interested in both military history and martial arts. Here’s the offending passage (from 1925):

Now if the SA could be neither a military combat organization nor a secret league, the following consequences inevitably resulted

1. Its training must not proceed from military criteria, but from criteria of expediency for the party.

In so far as the members require physical training, the main emphasis must be laid, not on military drilling, but on athletic activity. Boxing and jiu-jitsu have always seemed to me more important than any inferior, because incomplete, training in marksmanship. Give the German nation six million bodies with flawless athletic training, all glowing with fanatical love of their country and inculcated with the highest offensive spirit, and a national state will, in less than two years if necessary, have created an army, at least in so far as a certain basic core is present. This, as things are today, can rest only in the Reichswehr and not in any combat league that has always done things by halves. Physical culture must inoculate the individual with the conviction of his superiority and give him that self-confidence which lies forever and alone in the consciousness of his own strength; in addition, it must give him those athletic skills which serve as a weapon for the defense of the movement.

Naturally, anyone recommending physical fitness or martial arts is basically Hitler. (Same with vegetarians, of course.)

How does Thibault cancel out Capoferro?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

The Princess Bride features some of the earliest — maybe onlyreferences to historical fencing masters in film:

Inigo: “You are using Bonetti’s defence against me, huh?”

MIB: “I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.”

Inigo: “Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capoferro!”

MIB: “Naturally. But I find that Thibault cancels out Capoferro.”

Inigo: “Unless your enemy has studied his Agrippa!” [does great big somersault] “Which I have!”

Thus inspiring a legion of potential historical fencers to look up Bonetti, Capoferro, Thibault and Agrippa. Huzzah!

However, the actual choreography turns out on further study to bear no resemblance whatsoever to the fencing methods of the historical masters in question. This should come as no surprise, given that the goals of stage and screen combat are that no-one should die, and everyone should see what is happening: and the goals of real combat are to kill the enemy, which is best accomplished if no-one can see what’s going on. There are skills common to both, of course, such as control of measure and weapons handling, but the core intent could not be more different.

The Princess Bride was a book for 14 years before it was a film:

So, from the 1998 edition (pp 130-135) here are the actual references:

They touched swords, and the man in black immediately began the Agrippa defence, which Inigo felt was sound, considering the rocky terrain, for the Agrippa kept the feet stationary at first, and made the chances of slipping minimal. Naturally, he countered with Capo Ferro, which surprised the man in black, but he defended well, quickly shifting out of Agrippa and taking the attack himself, using the principles of Thibault.

Inigo had to smile. No one had taken the attack against him in so long, and it was thrilling! He let the man in black advance, let him build up courage, retreating gracefully between some trees, letting his Bonetti defence keep him safe from harm.

Quite different, I’m sure you’ll agree. But this was 40 years ago, long before the resurgence of historical swordsmanship in the 90s: where was Goldman getting his information? The next reference is also interesting:

“Inigo…was not entirely familiar with the style of the attack; it was mostly McBone, but there were snatches of Capo Ferro thrown in…”

I assume McBone is McBane (though why the change when the other masters are spelled normally: a little joke, perhaps?); has Goldman read Aylward’s The English Master of Arms?

That’s Guy Windsor, author of The Duellist’s Companion: A training manual for 17th century Italian rapier, who produced a short video on the topic:

One should never be killed by a stranger

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

In Glory Road, our hero faces another skilled swordsman — “an ugly cocky little man with a merry grin and the biggest nose west of Durante” — who does something he had heard of, never seen:

He retreated very fast, flipped his blade and changed hands.

A right-handed fencer hates to take on a southpaw; it throws everything out of balance, whereas a southpaw is used to the foibles of the right-handed majority — and this son of a witch was just as strong, just as skilled, with his left hand.

Goldman improved on the idea.

When the big-nosed fencer gets run through, he grasps the blade:

“No, no, my friend, please leave it there. It corks the wine, for a time. Your logic is sharp and touches my heart. Your name, sir?”

“Oscar of Gordon.”

“A good name. One should never be killed by a stranger. Tell me, Oscar of Gordon, have you seen Carcassonne?”

“No.”

“See it. Love a lass, kill a man, write a book, fly to the Moon — I have done all these.”

A toy, suited only to make pretty scars for girls to admire

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

Our Slovenian guest recently suggested that I take a look at the traditional German sword-fighting art called Mensur, which reminded me that I’ve discussed Germany’s odd fencing fraternities before, but I didn’t mention where I’d first heard of their unusual style of fencing, in Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road, his not-quite-fantasy novel, where the protagonist, fresh from fighting in Southeast Asia, comes home with a scar across his nose — “little brown brother hadn’t sterilized his bolo” — and the surgeon says, “You’re going to get well, son. But you’ll be scarred like a Heidelberg student.” Our hero decides to try going to Heidelberg:

Hell, I would fight a couple of student duels and add real Heidelberg scars to back up the dandy I had. Fencing was a sport I really enjoyed (though the one that counted least toward “sweeping the gym”). Some people cannot stand knives, swords, bayonets, anything sharp; psychiatrists have a word for it: aichmophobia. Idiots who drive cars a hundred miles an hour on fifty-mile-an-hour roads will nevertheless panic at the sight of a bare blade.

[...]

I rather looked forward to trying a Heidelberg duel. They pad your body and arm and neck and put a steel guard on your eyes and nose and across your ears — this is not like encountering a pragmatic Marxist in the jungle. I once handled one of those swords they use in Heidelberg; it was a light, straight saber, sharp on the edge, sharp a few inches on the back — but a blunt point! A toy, suited only to make pretty scars for girls to admire.

That verbal description doesn’t quite paint the picture:

German Academic Fencer

The whole thing seems a bit contrived, but it has a certain logic to it:

A form of noble duel — mensur fencing — was widespread in Germany during the 16th century among young people, particularly in the student community. (The word originated from German Mensurfechten — fencing in confined space). Duelists wore protective eyepieces with metallic netting. The chest and neck were protected by a leather chest guard and a thick scarf. They wielded prototypes of the saber — “schlagers” with sharply pointed ends. Opponents faced each other and took turns at hits, aiming for the only unprotected body part — the opponent’s face. When fatigue set in or one of the opponents let down his guard, his opponent broke through his parries, leaving a cut on his face, which eventually scarred over. As we know, scars are said to give a man’s face character. As a result, both duelists left satisfied: the winner with a sense of triumph, and the loser with a sign of courage on his face.

[...]

During the first half of the 19th century and some of the 18th century, students believed the character of a person could easily be judged by watching him fight with sharp blades under strict regulations. Academic fencing was more and more seen as a kind of personality training by showing countenance and fairness even in dangerous situations. Student corporations demanded their members fight at least one duel with sharp blades during their university time. The problem was that some peaceful students had nobody to offend them. The solution was a kind of formal insult that did not actually infringe honour, but was just seen as a challenge for fencing. The standard wording wasdummer Junge (German for “young fool.”)

The Nazis suppressed the fencing clubs, which is mildly ironic, since dueling scars now evoke the image of an SS officer, like Otto Skorzeny:

Otto Skorzeny

The ninja tradition is an invented tradition

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

The ninja tradition centered on the neighboring areas of Iga and Koka is, Stephen Turnbull concludes, an invented tradition:

The ninja has become a familiar figure in popular Japanese culture as the world’s greatest exponent of secret warfare. He infiltrates castles, gathers vital intelligence, and wields a deadly knife in the dark. His easily recognizable image is that of a secret agent or assassin who dresses all in black, possesses almost magical martial powers, and is capable of extraordinary feats of daring. He sells his skills on a mercenary basis and when in action, his unique abilities include confusing his enemies by making mystical hand gestures or by sending sharp iron stars spinning towards them.

There is much popular support for the historical truth that is supposed to lie behind this familiar image. It is reminiscent of the passions displayed by the members of a religious cult, because like any cult the ninja’s loyal followers staunchly defend both his worth and his authenticity. Yet even the most devoted fans of what might be called “the ninja cult” will acknowledge that a certain amount of exaggeration has probably taken place. Similarly, only the most dogged ninja skeptic would dare to argue in an equally passionate manner that the idea is a total fabrication. The usual approach, even among scholars, is simply to accept the original ninja myth as a genuine historical phenomenon that has for centuries been greatly romanticized and, more recently, highly commercialized.

This modern exploitation of the ninja has proved highly profitable, eclipsing anything derived from Japan’s other great warrior tradition of the noble samurai, to whose example of loyalty the ninja provides a dark antithesis of secrecy and deception. The samurai have also been subject to exaggeration and commercialization in recent years, but whereas examples of the samurai tradition are to be found all over Japan, the modern ninja cult has one unusual feature in that its exploitation is concentrated in a very small area. This is the former province of Iga (now part of Mie Prefecture) and the place with which it shares a border, an area of modern Shiga Prefecture called Koka. The two places once had much in common and are often linked in the historical narratives. Nowadays Iga-Ueno City has by far the most developed ninja-related infrastructure, making it is the best place in Japan to visit a ninja house and a ninja museum, to enjoy martial arts displays, and purchase a wide range of ninja souvenirs.

[...]

All these points could apply to the development of the ninja, but if the ninja are indeed an invented martial tradition they are by no means alone, because military societies are particularly vulnerable to the creative approach. For example, the popular image of the pirate derives almost entirely from the American author and illustrator Howard Pyle (1853-1911). Pyle regarded the look of ordinary eighteenth century sailors as too dull for these romantic figures, so he added elements drawn from the Spanish folk costume of his day, especially headscarves knotted behind the head, large hooped earrings and wide trailing sashes, to a somewhat mistaken notion of authentic seafaring dress (Konstam, 2011, pp. 26-27). Nor is Japan exempt from such a process. The story of the vendetta carried out by the Forty-Seven Ronin of Ako derives almost entirely from an unashamedly fictionalized play that was staged shortly after the incident on which it was based (Turnbull, 2011, p. 5). Even the modern understanding of bushido, the virtually sacred “way of the warrior,” owes much to Bushido: The Soul of Japan, a book first published in 1900 by a Japanese Christian living in America (Nitobe, 1905). As bushido is such an important concept for defining the way of the noble samurai it is ironic indeed to consider that the cult of the underhand ninja may predate it by almost three centuries.

I must however declare an interest. It is not uncommon to regret the excesses of one’s youth, and to have produced a book where enthusiasm sometimes overwhelmed common sense is part of my own history. In Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult (Turnbull, 1991) I translated the historical sources that were then available and interpreted them as I understood them at the time. However, I allowed myself to become a little overdependent on compilations of these sources, in particular the books by Sasama (1968) and Yamaguchi (1969), neither of whom makes clear the age and reliability of the material they include. In their books contemporary descriptions of secret warfare are juxtaposed with accounts that were written well after the establishment of the ninja myth and therefore liable to have been influenced by it. In this article I shall therefore re-examine the evidence with a degree of academic rigor that may have been lacking in 1991.

For the purposes of this article, I propose that if the ninja have any basis in fact the following three criteria must be satisfied:

1. A unique corpus of military techniques involving secrecy existed in Japan during the
Sengoku Period.
2. The exercise of these techniques was confined to certain skilled individuals rather
than being spread more widely within Japanese society.
3. These skilled practitioners were identified in particular with Iga and Koka, from where
they sold their services to others.

[...]

I therefore conclude that the authenticity of the Iga Koka ninja tradition fails against all three of the suggested criteria in terms of the existence of secret warfare, the elite practitioners of it, and its narrow geographical location. Undercover operations were performed throughout Japanese history but were carried out by skilled warriors who did not belong to a hereditary tradition. Iga and Koka did not have a monopoly, nor is there any evidence for a transmission from there to other provinces after 1581. In fact the opposite is true. If the presence of shinobi in an account indicates that secret warfare is taking place, then Iga and Koka are remarkable not for how many references there are to them but for how few. The ninja of Iga and Koka therefore present a classic example of an invented tradition in terms of Hobsbawm and Ranger’s definition. There is a deliberate “attempt to establish continuity with a suitable historic past” whereby ancient records have been re-interpreted and exaggerated to reinforce a highly localized understanding of a military phenomenon (Hobsbawn and Ranger 1983, p. 1). Hobsbawn and Ranger (1983) also identified the “use of ancient materials to construct invented traditions of a novel type for quite novel purposes” (p. 4). This seems to be what has happened at Shimabara.

I do not however believe that the Iga-Koka ninja myth or the modern cult that developed from it represent a total fabrication. All invented traditions have a basis in fact, no matter how tenuously the links may be made between the developed tradition and recorded history. In Iga and Koka there must have been some genuine belief in a unique local expertise that was bolstered by folk memories and old soldiers’ tales, and the best that can be said for their plagiarism of other people’s exploits is that it supports one great ninja stereotype: they were very good at stealing things! Yet even if the Iga-Koka ninja cult draws upon little more than the manipulation of folk memories and historical records, any tradition that takes shape in about 1620 and continues to the present day is worthy of more attention and respect as a cultural property than is commonly given to other aspects of the samurai tradition. As the Iga and Koka ninja tradition is older than the 47 Ronin and even predates bushido it should not be dismissed but celebrated as Japan’s oldest martial invention and, through its modern cult-like manifestation, as Japan’s greatest martial fantasy.

You can drive it underground, but you cannot stop it

Wednesday, February 26th, 2020

On 16 November 1911, the Daily Mail published a piece on Boxing as a Sport, A Defence by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who as a sports-man has often “donned the gloves” and as a novelist has written one of the best living stories on boxing (“Rodney Stone”), yesterday expressed the opinion that it is impossible to eradicate the love for boxing as a sport in this country.

Such decisions as that given at Birmingham in the Moran-Driscoll case, he told a representative of the Pall Mall Gazette, would only be to drive boxing underground: “You can drive it underground, but you cannot stop it. Instead of having contests in the presence of the public, the Press, and the police, you will have it underground. You can have it in the back parlour of a public-house, but you are going to have it somehow. It is better, surely, to have it in the daylight, where, if there has been any brutality, there will at once be a shriek of ‘Foul’ or ‘Shame.’

“It is certain you will not stop it. That is absolutely impossible. I confess I do not understand where the line is going to be drawn between boxing and a veiled prize-fight.” It was only our individuality and love of sport which gave us a chance of bringing out our manhood, but if one sport was to be cut down in this way it would do us a great deal of national harm.

Daily-mail-1911-11-16-p5-boxing-as-a-sport

Opponents were reluctant to reach for him

Friday, February 21st, 2020

I remember watching this fight live, back in the day:

There came a brief pause in the action and the two men stared at each other. Vitor Belfort had tried his usual bursts and hit nothing but air. The champion, Anderson Silva stood in front of him, leaning forward at the waist. Silva was baiting him again. Everyone knew by now that the champion’s magic was in convincing the sloppy strikers of MMA to charge at him, then picking them off as they overextended. The humiliating defeat Silva had handed to Forrest Griffin two years earlier served as a reminder of just how not to fight the middleweight king.

The fact that Silva was stood there, just on the end of Belfort’s reach and just a step away, meant that he was planning something. Belfort suspected that all Silva wanted in the world right now was for him to lead. If Silva’s opponents would not chase him freely, the champion would start giving them his face, sticking it out on the front of his stance. Vitor Belfort wasn’t going to make the mistake of reaching for Silva’s head and allowing Silva to pull back and whip the rug out from under him—he had worked too hard to round out his game and fight his way back into the UFC as something more than a straight line, 1-2 puncher. No, now was the time to use his own craft and to show a patience that was not usually associated with the Belfort brand. At least, Belfort might have thought all of this if the ball of Silva’s left foot hadn’t smashed into the point of his chin from beneath and buckled his legs. Belfort crumbled straight down where he stood like a falling building.

For Silva, it was a throwaway strike. One he had already used against Dan Henderson and others. The front snap kick came smoothly out of his forward lean, which was intended to draw his opponent into attacking him. The front snap kick to the face is a hard technique to time on a moving opponent. The target area is small, and while the kick can benefit enormously from entering through the blind angle—below the opponent’s field of vision—you have to be close enough to the opponent for it to travel this path.

Because Silva had a reputation as an almost superhuman counter-fighter, opponents were reluctant to reach for him even if he gave them every provocation. The forward lean that you so often saw in Silva’s fights was a simple boxing tactic known as presenting a false distance—where the head is undefended and within striking range, but is also out in front of the fighter’s centre of gravity. Reach for a man who is presenting this false distance and he has all the space to pull back to his upright stance, plus all the distance that he could lean back from his regular position. Belfort was very much in the right in not reaching for Silva, but he ended up lingering on the end of Silva’s kicking range and suffering for it.

The Silva–Belfort front kick was awarded knockout of the year by most online publications, and the UFC listed it at the top of their list of the one hundred best knockouts in UFC history. Over the coming years the front snap kick and the front kick to the face both became common features in mixed martial arts. That was Anderson Silva in a nutshell: he made a lot of moves that never knocked anyone out, and consequently no one noticed, but the moment he scored one of those many, many highlight reel finishes, everyone went wild trying to copy what he had come up with.

Putting knife-defense to the test

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Nick Drossos decided to challenge random folks at the park to “cut” him with a marker, to test his knife-defense skills:

He never intended to become a political dissident

Monday, November 4th, 2019

He never intended to become a political dissident, but then Xu Xiaodong started beating up tai chi masters:

Since 2015, Xu has been the director, producer, and host of a lively one-man martial arts talk show called Brother Dong’s Hot Takes that he self-distributes via his various social media accounts. Each episode features Xu speaking, sometimes quite passionately, about whatever is riling him up that day. One recurring bit that initially gained Hot Takes a cult following was Xu’s profanity laced call-outs of “fakes,” or pianzi, in the Chinese martial arts world.

These callouts were inspired by what Xu calls a “bad wind” of fake tai chi masters penetrating the national consciousness. This was largely thanks to government intervention. Traditional Chinese martial arts (wushu), and tai chi in particular, are a core component of what President Hu Jintao called in 2007 the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Since rising to power in 2013, President Xi Jinping has redoubled efforts to promote and spread “traditional Chinese culture”—which includes tai chi as well as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)—through a battery of subsidies, policy interventions, and good old-fashioned propaganda. Last year, it became mandatory for students in southeastern China’s Fujian Province to prove mastery of 24 tai chi moves in order to graduate from high school. Only a few months ago, state mouthpiece People’s Daily announced the establishment of the “People’s Tai Chi Development Alliance,” which purports to be aimed at making tai chi “fashionable” for young people and showcasing the accomplishments of Chinese civilization to the world.

Meanwhile, grandmasters from across China’s martial arts schools were called on to hype up tai chi in the media. In a 2013 program called The Showdown Show, the famed 12th-generation Chen-style tai chi master Wang Zhanhai showed how he could harness his energy to fling off four musclebound attackers in a single movement. On another episode of the show, the 76-year-old pressure point (dianxue) master Zhang Zhenling showed up a group of skeptical, strapping young kung fu students by causing one to double over in pain with a single touch to the ribs. (Zhang then cured the humbled student by touching a pressure point in his neck.)

Xu was unimpressed by all of this. In early 2017, he started honing in on the young Yang-style tai chi grandmaster Wei Lei, who had recently come to national attention thanks to a CCTV-4 program called Real Kung Fu, in which Wei was featured performing such feats as turning the inside of a watermelon into mush without penetrating its skin and keeping a live pigeon perched on his hand from flying away through a personal force field. Xu called Wei Lei “brainwashed” and “a dumbass.” In retaliation, Wei Lei, or one of his associates, published Xu’s personal information, including his address and phone number online. Xu, enraged, flew to the southwestern city of Chengdu, where Wei is based, walked into the tai chi master’s gym, and demanded they fight right there on the spot.

Counter a charging attacker

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

If backing up doesn’t work very well, what should a defender do to counter a charging attacker who is armed with a contact weapon?

The best way to solve this problem is to set up two people, one armed with a training knife and one armed with a Simunitions or airsoft pistol. While the knife attacker charges, the person with the gun experiments, trying to move backwards, laterally, or forwards. The “right” answer depends on a lot of factors including the defender’s agility, the defender’s draw time, the attacker’s speed, and the initial stand off distance before the attacker charges.

This kind of drilling, while tiring, is exceptionally valuable. After a dozen or so reps, the defender gets a “feel” for what tactic might work best for any given attack. That knowledge is invaluable.

I’ve done this drill with hundreds of students over the years. The most successful movement pattern I’ve found is somewhat counter intuitive.

Moving FORWARDS at a 45 degree angle to the attacker’s charge almost always works. Sprint forwards at a 45 degree angle away from the attacker’s knife side. If the attacker has the knife in his right hand, you should try to sprint past the attacker’s left shoulder. Running towards the unarmed side reduces the chance that he can reach out and cut you as you sprint past him.

This straight-line movement will cause the attacker to have to change his course to intercept you. That almost always buys you time to get your gun into play.

I advise students to sprint straight ahead until they are a couple steps past their attacker. At that point the defender should continue to move in an arcing pattern with the goal of taking the attacker’s back. In reality, the attacker will keep pivoting to adjust to your movement and you will usually be unable to truly get his back. It doesn’t matter. By now you have your gun in play and are putting rounds on the bad guy.