Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To Punch or Palm Strike

Got this question from John...

     "Hi Hock, just got your punching module download, busy watching it, have got a question though. When do you punch? Not talking about before, after or during his attacks, as you say on the film, but instead when do you punch and when do you palm strike? I think I get it about "the target determines the weapon," but is that all there is to it? Really enjoy your stuff by the way. All the best John."

      Thanks John. No matter what I say here will be argued and controversial for some folks. There are people fixated on the palm strike and vice-versa. But here goes. The old rule of thumb is, "hit something hard with something soft, hit something soft with something hard."

      I am not one of these "anti-fist-you'll-always-break-your-hand" stalwarts. While I have hurt my hand punching people's faces? Not always, and I have never flat-out broken my hand. Though I've had to have surgery a few years back correcting damage from hitting someone's pointy chin with an uppercut. The chin! (and no, I could not have used the beloved "chin-jab" from my side position.) I have had numerous friends with broken hands from punching people to the head, most were cops. I suspect they did not "know" how to punch, but some of them did know how and still had problems.

      I think the really dangerous part to punch on the head is the bicycle helmet area of the skull. Otherwise lower, the jaw usually does give when hit. The head even gives on the neck when hit. But that skull top, once reflexively dropped or turned down to the side when incoming punches are perceived, are the really dangerous times for the fist. The bike helmet area!

      Other point? The individual's hand or fist. How big is their hand? How solid and tight the fist? Some people are never meant to punch. Some, with cinder-blockion-fists should only punch! I think every student in a class, needs to hear this fist/palm inspection and briefing
at least once. (As an aside? Fighter's hands inside boxing gloves are not making tight fists. This is a problem for some people when suddenly have to go bare-knuckle/glove-less. Remember when Mike Tyson hit that mugger with a bare fist and broke his hand? MMA gloves are so much better. I think people should limit wearing classic, boxing gloves to a bare minimum. I understand they are needed for some drills and exercises. I too use them for that, but I think people overuse boxing gloves, like when hitting heavy bags. Use MMA Gloves!  Now, if you're just a boxer and you know it? Then sure - use the boxing gloves.)

      Other point? The aim. If you aim at the nose, as many systems naively suggest, when and if the head drops, the forehead/bike helmet area is hit instead. BAM! So aim lower. And that high, hook punch? He turns and drops his head and you have that classic knuckle splitter problem. So aim lower still.

      Other point? Whenever an arresting fight would begin for me? If I had to get into a ready-fighting-position? I always kept my hands open, as opposed to the option of the fighting stance with closed fists, so I started with an "anything goes," open-hand, kind of platform. From there? All options open, to include grappling.


Another point? Many proponents of the palm strike condemn the fist punch as ever-so breakable. "use palm strikes only!" they demand. But, you could also hurt your hand and wrist doing palm strikes. I have had some serious aches and pains with palm strikes too. Hyper-extended wrists, etc. So have a few of my martial veteran friends. I know! Desk-bound critics will declare you hit on the wrong part of the hand. But with two parties in motion, stuff happens.
      People will occasionally mention punching the teeth and what a shame that is. But you can also palm strike the teeth area and get some from toofus injuries. Fact is when you use your body to hit somebody else's  body, you might hurt your body in some manner.

     Yet another point? Fists? Palms? Which causes more damage? Would they be on par to each other for causing injury? Hmmm. Honestly I don't know for sure. Palms to ears are great (flat palms are fine - you don't need these extra "cupped-palms-versions.") But that is another situational question. I worked a case once where a guy was shot in the head 4 times and walked out of the hospital that night. The rounds did not penetrate the skull and just traveled around the scalp. They plucked the slugs out and sewed him up. After you think about that? How can we effectively list damages and effects on a chart within the chaos of life, bodies and weapons? If I can't promise that shooting a guy in the head will kill someone? What else can I promise. You never really can predict what a shot, a stab, a punch, a kick or a palm strike will do to someone. You can hope! You can guess. You can bet, but you really cannot be sure. 
      And more still? There's probably more but I am just typing away freestyle here with stuff right off the tip of my tongue. No doubt this will kick off more opinionated discussions.

      Looking for that "magic bullet advice" on how to instantaneously decide between the two? I will ever be able to tell anyone once in a fight, once over him or under him, or standing before an opponent, in that split-instant, when and where they should decide to select a palm strike or a fist punch. That is so situational. 

     I teach and exercise people through both strikes. I issue the above warnings, and leave it to them as to the "whens and wheres," and to their own little personal arsenal they must customize for themselves. If they want to ignore punching? Ignore palm strikes? Hey, I don't care. Just experiment with it all. 

     Think about it. Work it out. Decide. Make that intelligent, informed choice is all I ask.

Email Hock at hockhochheim@forcenecessary.com
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Combat Strikes 1, 2, 3

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hicks Law, Another Visit

Hicks Law

     It deals in sheer milliseconds and choice. There are 1,000 milliseconds in one second. Can anyone truly fathom the passing of just 150 milliseconds? 430? 612? Just how fast can we get within one second anyway? You know Hicks Law by now? The more choices you have, the harder and longer it takes to choose. Misguided instructors say it might take "about half a second" to decide between choices. So, you learn three things? That's a second and a half delay. You learn 6 things?  That's 3 whole seconds? Has life or sports ever played out like that before your eyes?

     The generic, 1950's Hicks Law test is over-rated as a vital, foundation for training. I beat this drum all the time, written articles and debated. but to little avail for the deaf ears of some brainwashed groups. Hicks has been abused, misused and flat out flagged as a MAJOR sales pitch for several fighting programs since the 1990s. At its worst, misunderstanding Hicks Law has lead to a unnecessary dumbing-down of many a training program. I saw an article in the popular POLICE ONE training webpage recently, touting the devastating effects of learning too much within Hicks Law choice inhibitions. 

     In some 65 years of further studies, some directly related to response time and others indirectly, a review of Hicks Law is barely mentioned or usually not mentioned at all. When mentioned in new textbooks it sort of like mentioning that Alexander Bell invented the telephone, and then they quickly move on the amazing new world of communications.

     For example this terrific textbook by Dr Joan Vickers, Perception, Cognition and Decision Training, a most modern accumulation of research on the subject, and the best I’ve found of late, is crammed with sports and other deep response time studies; a 280 page, over-sized hardcover textbook that mentions Hicks in…TWO PARAGRAPHS. Like Bell and the history of the phone. And at the end of the second paragraph on Hicks, Dr. Vickers says on the Law…it is also important to emphasize that with practice there is a

   “corresponding decrease in response time.”

     So practice can improve your response time. So if you even practice taking the primitive Hicks colored light selection test, you can get faster response times. To me that is the true message behind mentioning Hicks. Practice. Practice specific skills and combinations, whether you are a boxer, a tennis player or a fighter pilot.

     There are many reasons for slower response time other than the body mechanics Hicks purports to study in the 50s, such as alertness before the event to name one. There are many methods to improve your speed and skills. There are textbooks full of solutions and situational training. And in the end, it is still really all about milliseconds. Just how fast can you get anyway?
Did you know that in other studies, the world’s fastest people have “failed” the Hicks little test! What does that tell you about the value of the test? The core idea of Hicks Law does exist, I just don’t think it’s as important as many systems sell it to be.

     Stay alert and ready to respond. Work out. Do speed training. Clump moves together, Etc. Anyway, read Dr. Vicker's  book, It is a vast treasure-house of information about performance in general, in sports as well as fighting and shooting training, and not just diminishes the importance the over-inflated importance of Hicks Law.

A synopsis on the book, click here

The World's Fastest Men Flunk Hicks Law, Click here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Storm Channel Jumper and a Moment About Clovis George

     On the east side of our city, there ran a series of waterway, storm channels to handle the bad Texas rainstorms. I know some cities don't have any of these drains, but I guess everyone has seen storm channels in the classic movies and TV shows about Los Angeles. Just like theirs in the City of Angels, ours was an "open top" system, quite wide at parts, deep in sections and branched off into all parts of the city.

   The channels were usually dry unless it rained heavily. But like in this photo here, there was usually a skinny stream from somewhere. I have seen them flood and overflow. I have had a few foot chases, some fights, arrests and a couple of mishaps down in the the dirty ditches. Here's one.

     My first real adventure down below in the water channels....was back in the late 70s. There was a series of armed robberies plaguing us, on the east side of town and the detectives were doing the best they could with stakeouts and interviews to break the cases. Solo actor. Big revolver. Black male. 30s. Afro. Cheap bandanna over the lower half of the face. We were all convinced that the suspect was a local. No one ever saw a getaway car and each time the occasional witnesses said the man just melted off into the back lots and alleys behind the businesses.

     Several nights a week back then I rode with another patrolman named Clovis George, a very sharp and real funny guy, a prior border town city cop, down Mexico way. Even back then the Texican border towns were all hotbeds of all kinds of criminal activity and yes - drugs too. The Interstate that split our city ran from old Mexico straight up the center of the USA. A drug route then and now, but that's a whole other story. Clovis had seen a lot of street-level action down there on the border. The George family was big in our city and he returned home after several years to settle down. Our city produced one Miss America,  Phyllis George and she was his cousin.

     Another one of these armed robbery calls went out late one weeknight while we were paired up in one car and it had us and other cars running every which way, haywired, trying to find the suspect either running or driving away in a getaway car. Not a clue. A clean escape yet again.

     When the dust settled, we drove to a Taco outfit and got tacos and some ice tea, sat on our squad car hood and ate, contemplating the world as it blew by us. We also contemplated the armed robber.

     "I'll bet that squirrely bastard is jumping down into these dry channels and running right home," Clovis said between bites.

     "I'll bet we could jump in at one key point and cut him right off," I said.


     Sounded plausible to me, so we made a plan. A large percentage of criminals lived in a nearby projects in our beat and we drove around to calculate possible routes from Tell Ave businesses to the government housing districts. We knew the CID stakeouts were spotty and all above ground and vehicle based. No way the detectives could cover all those locations, every night, night after night. So, if we were free and patrolling and heard a report of another east-side, armed robbery on our radio, and if our man was indeed a storm channel jumper, we would guesstimate the time and location where the robber would be running, jump in the drains at some point and stake that spot out.

     Well, within a few nights, a chicken restaurant was hit by our lone suspect. Handgun presented. Money grabbed. Mask. In and out. And Clovis and I raced to our own planned stakeout. We parked the squad car and in a huddled-over, combat run slipped into the open channel by a viaduct at a bend in the system where we couldn't be seen from afar. There was less than a small stream of water in there. In less than one minute, we heard some splashing and footsteps and we exchanged surprised expressions like..."well damn! That could be him!" 

     And sure enough it was. He rounded that corner, huffing and puffing with a paper bag of money in one hand and a revolver in the other. We spread out, hit him with our flashlights beams. We pointed our pistols and started shouting,

    "Drop the gun or we'll kill ya!" etc.... Words to that general effect. You know what I mean. And they were true warnings.

     Our man dropped his pistola and bag and put his hands up. Bandanna in his back pocket. We cuffed him, hauled him up the side and "took him in," as the expression goes. 

     CID was kind of thrilled. And they took over. Our suspect was not a local as it turned out. He was visiting locals and thought he'd run up some traveling money while in town. Mask, Gun. Money. Flight. Matching size and clothing description. Wow. Nice little arrest. Hey, three cheers for the Clovis George idea of ditch jumping, all over some tacos and tea.

     Through the years Clovis and I were also detectives together too. First him, then me. Starting back in the early 1980s, I had a bit of reputation for getting a lot of confessions and Clovis often asked me to partner up with him when he had extra, troublesome witnesses and suspects in his cases. We worked these numerous cases together. Always had a blast. I remember he had an affinity toward Tonight Show's Johnny Carson suits. He thought he was really styling in a Carson suit.

     We went out with our wives to various country and western establishments in those days, some TX/Mex locales and drank way too much as I seem to recall. Admin often made the mistake of sending us to various investigation training schools in Austin, whereupon we had entirely too good a time above and beyond the classes. Clovis took a few promotion tests while in CID and went back into uniform as a supervisor. He continued his professional career rise, while I, never testing for any rank, remained in line operations, working in the trenches, not unlike the stinky water ditch system where we made the aforementioned arrest.

      Then he had a severe heart attack in the early 1990s. He recovered, and became a supervisor for our communications division. He also became an avid runner. Then, he suddenly died in 2002. The heart again. Couldn't outrun those genetics, no matter how hard he tried. I was working out of the country at the time and missed the funeral. 

     Many years later our agency developed a truly amazing, modern police academy. They dedicated the police library part in his name, which I thought was just a fine idea. 

     Clovis George was a really good guy, a good friend and we had a lot of laughs, tacos, margaritas, plus we handcuffed a number of felons together too. What more could you possibly ask of a friend? What more?

In November, 2014, Police Chief Lee Howell with Dana George, dedicated the George Police Library, in this Record Chronicle news photo.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

What's Left of Bang?

     Yeah, I think everyone must read the non-fiction "self-help" book/manual called Left of Bang. For those unfamiliar with the somewhat newer military phrase, “left of bang” means before the fight/problem and trying to predict it. Bang is…well...the bang. It’s happening. Right of bang is the aftermath. I think we all in the martial training business, as well as people needing/seeking the topics of self defense stuff, fighting crime and war, etc. have an obligation to read this book/manual. 


     New? It’s not new stuff, harkening back to the Gift of Fear, but is it new to new people and sort of newly, smartly  organized with modern jargon that catches attention. It is a very fast collection of everything put out in like, oh, the last 20 something or so years on prepping for pending violent problems. 

     They advertise that even police are amazed by the prep info, but I don’t see how, unless training is really slipping and changed that much for the worse? It's the same basics alerts I was preached to back in the 70s, but newly packaged. For example, rest assured in the 70s and 80s we were not talking about "Kinesics" and "Biometrics" under those big fancy titles, but we were still presented with what they meant and how they worked. Much of this was covered in the old Caliber Press, police seminars starting back in the early 1980s.  Maybe its just a great refresher course for cops to read and also attend the seminars? And then they give it a thumbs up? Okay. In the spirit of "nice collection," I am giving it a thumbs here too.

     The book is innocently more about war, with strings off to crime. Detecting suspicious people and places and what happens when you do. The authors somehow pack it all in there. Good, bad, and a bit of the ugly (some sour stuff here and there from Siddle-world and Grossman-world  that I and many others always shake our heads at.) 
I guess, Left of Bang is like a table-top reference book for it all.

     I obsess about the the training motto we  use, "Who, What, Where, When, How and Why" to prepare citizens, cops and soldiers for the interviews and ambushes of their lives. For me, obsessed to a really unhealthy degree about all this kind of stuff, I can’t say that there was anything new in this book. Not trying to brag, I just found nothing new for me. 

     For me. For you? If normal, healthy people are not following this type of info, (and who is, really?)  If you are a rookie? A cadet? A normal person/citizen? You and they REALLY do need to read the book. You might find it all sheer genius. There are people touring the world now trying to teach this material in seminars, revered by new rooks, newbys, cadets and the great unwashed, but this book does a much better, comprehensive job of it. 

     So, I will just say, please read it. It helps make my life easier as a teacher when the class has a working knowledge of this info. Saves so much time! But you know, read it and do question everything in it, think about it, read more on each topic, which its always good to ponder anyway when researching stuff. There are in-depth questions and the usual controversies with some topics in the book, that the authors just brush right over and accept them, and therefore expect you to accept too at face value.  Don't. Be the skeptic.

Click here for Left of Bang

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bar Fights and the Door Man, Bouncer

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    Which leads me to think and pontificate about the infamous "bar fight" and the salivating worship of the popular hero - the bouncer.

    Ever notice just how many fighting systems and instructors innocently base their program on how they perceive a bar fight to be? Never two E.R. doctors fighting over a hospital policy. Never two neighbors arguing about the dog poop. Never the angry husband showing up at the factory to beat up the boss. Mostly young men in bars. Even the verbal deescalation seems to be mostly about the hands-up, verbal and physical dodge of an obnoxious bar fighter.

     "Oh, I don't want any trouble, now sir!"

     And then, how about this utter worship of...the bouncer! It seems in numerous quarters that bouncers are some sort of revered fighters and doctors of psychology, just from (gasp) "working the door." That magic spot where you learn to fight better than Caine in Kung Fu and fight better than a UFC camp, as well as glean all the wit and complete wisdom of Oxford or Harvard doctorates in psychology and medicine.

     I recall one bouncer who started a fighting system years ago. He worked in, you guessed it - a biker bar! Oh, so tough a place, it seems. Bloodbaths every night it seemed, if you totaled up his stories it must have been the bar in the first Star Wars movie? Or maybe Road House?

     The next most dangerous place on the planet? Not in Iraq or northern Pakistan. Its the men's room at the bar. Where all the real, final dueling takes place.

     One night I was at an after-seminar dinner. One chap asked me -

    "Did you ever work the door?" 

    "A bit. In Texas while I was going to college," I answered.

    "I'll bet you have some great stories." And everyone leaned anxiously in.

     Hmmm, I thought. All the stuff and crap I've done and been involved with, and this group knows about this? And they want to hear...what now? Doorman stories! Really?

     Perhaps The movie Roadhouse added fuel to this fire? But, such is the mystique of the doorman. Such is the mystique of the bar fight.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Who Looks Like Charles Bronson?

    “Mr Lee! Where ya going?” I shouted out to one of our Korean drivers on the dirt road outside of our army base.

    “Mobie!” (translation – movie) he said and waved. “We go see Charlson Bronson!” (translation – Charles Brosnson)

    I laughed. In South Korea, at that time, the 1970s, Charles Bronson was the numba hanna (translation – number one) movie star. Not only could Bronson sort of pass as a Korean, which really counted, but he was an international action star. But this interesting situation goes even further.

    It occurred to everyone capable of semi-deep thought that if any person looked like Charles Bronson in Asia, on some psychological level, a movie fan would see this look-alike person and may immediately register that the innocent Bronson-looker had some of the action star’s traits and skills. Psychological “projecting” they call in.

    In fact, we all bet that any Korean that looked like Charles Bronson would probably not be considered an easy mark for a mugging or someone to pick a fight with. Sort of an instantaneous, subconscious decision on the part of trouble-makers. A profile. An assumption. A prejudice if you will.  And we all know, that just because someone looks like Charles Bronson doesn’t mean he was once a member of the Magnificent 7, or he can beat 7 armed gang members up in a Death Wish. We know this, but still…

     Let’s sidetrack just a bit to the movie Death Wish just for one second. A tale of a normal man taking revenge for murder of his wife in New York City. The first choice for the part was actually Gregory Peck. Peck could play the perfect, tame, citified business man transformed into a ruthless vigilante. The crux of the movie is really this transformation. Peck was a perfect choice, like Gary Cooper might have been. But with Charles Bronson, it wasn’t so perfect. We all expect revenge from Bronson. We just waited for it. Yes, the movie made millions and was very satisfying, but the storyline would have been better with Peck. In NYC movie houses back then, with crime a bit amok in that region, when Bronson shot his first thug in the movie, people in some theaters applauded and cheered. Everyone expects something when seeing the face of Charles Bronson, and then to some extent? Bronson look-alikes? Not so much with Gregory Peck.

    Animism is placing/projecting religious significance onto inanimate objects. Sun gods. Tree gods. Rock gods, whatever. Some fancy stones are deemed magical. Rabbit’s foot. Lucky charms. Etc. Placing/projecting/imaging various traits and expectations on people is a bit like that too. 

    Men see certain women that look like their favorite starlet, or just their so-called physical “type.” Women? Often the same motives as men. A relationship starts on these projections alone. Then often…surprise! 

     In the who, what, where, when, how and why of fighting? Who are you and who do you think you will be fighting? Is the guy you need to arrest, or stop, or fight off Charles Bronson, or does he just look like Bronson? Does he look like Pee Wee Herman and fight like Bronson? After training with and against thousands of people, and arresting over a thousand people I can tell you that, that assumption can be a tricky one.

    Can you take advantage of your own…Charles Bronson-ism? Who are you and who might you look like? I think so. And in many ways merely a uniform (or certain clothes) alone can influence your psychological impact, least of all how you physically look.

    There are so many examples and anecdotes of this, but here’s at least one. My colleague cop was not too tall, just a normal, average height. He said that numerous times while on vehicle traffic stops, he would get into a verbal snit with a driver. He would often go back to his car, put on his tall crowned, police hat with a badge atop it and return. The mere presence of the hat and the 3 inches of height sometimes toned down the altercation and changed the tone. Just the hat. But imagine this concept in street clothes or military uniforms.

    Some people use to say I somewhat resembled Clint Eastwood when I was younger. I don’t think so and I know other friends who resembled the Clintser much, much more than I did or do. I always felt I was plagued a bit by looking a little strange and more like Dick Van Dyke - not hardly an action star! Now as the years tumble by, I am off this look-alike chart and look more and more like an odd, canvass sack of loose nickels. 


     But, who do you look like? Who do you think your enemy resembles? Does this affect you? I like to say your opponent may fight worse than he looks, or looks worse than he fights?