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Are you a resident of La-La Land?  As in living in some fantasy world where everything is good, nothing can go wrong, or "that can never happen to me"?

Unfortunately many people live in this world.  And therefore grossly unprepared to cope when things go horribly wrong.  Case in point - Acapulco.  Let's say you happen to decide on a well-deserved vacation to this tourist hot spot with your spouse, SO, and/or family.  Then this storm comes, the SHTF and things go from bad to worse.  Looking past the obvious needs for food, water and shelter, can you protect yourself and loved ones?  
 
Chances are you haven't been able to travel with a firearm.  Do you have basic empty hand skills?  How about if you need to kick it up a notch?  Can you
wield a stick?  What about a knife?  Or machete? There are some that question the need to spend time on these  "traditional" martial arts in the time of modern firearms.  But I'd sure like to have some basic understanding on how to keep a crowd at bay or protect my family with anything I could get my hands on.

But where would I even get those weapons?  Where's the housekeeping closet in your hotel?  Do they have brooms or mops?  Many have handles that are metal, but even wooden ones are better than nothing. Have you eaten in the resorts fancy restaurant?   I'll bet they have wooden handled steak knives.  Wouldn't be a bad idea to "acquire" one of those in advance, just in case.  If not, do you know how to get to the kitchen?  Chef knives, cleavers, carving knives - anything sharp and pointy.  Is there a local hardware or supply store?  Maybe not at a resort/tourist town, but if you're out in town, keep your eyes open.  In many other countries a machete or brush knife is a common household tool.  Also might be worth acquiring one in advance. Think that's unrealistic?  Think about Rwanda in 1994 (not that long ago).  500,000 - 1,000,000 killed, many with
machetes.
 
So, not to be paranoid, but use your head and be prepared.  As demonstrated in
Acapulco and elsewhere around the world, most places are only 72 hours from
chaos when the "normal" social systems break down from any reason. Get some training.  Firearms are good if you're so inclined and have legal access.  Stick skills like those offered by the Dog Brothers or machete/sword skills as proposed by James Keating.  Hopefully you'll never have to use the skills you develop, but it's better to be prepared.  Besides, it's fun and adds another dimension to your current skill set.
 
In closing, stay out of La-La Land, face some cold, hard facts and be prepared.  

Now get out there and train.


 
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Since February 23rd is “International Dog Biscuit
Appreciation Day
” it seemed like perfect timing for some “Dog Bone” Self-Defense.  Your average dog biscuit or chew toy is a perfect size and shape to be used as a kubotan, yawara, or “Palm stick” in a self-defense
situation (your average cat toy, or even the cat itself, is not worth much of anything).  
 
What made me think of this was a guy I knew that trained in his family style of karate (he was Okinawan).  His father used to carry a small wooden dowel (~ 5” x ½”) that he had let the dog play with/chew on.  He carried it in his back pocket as a palm stick and if he ever forgot about it or was asked what it was, he just said “Oh, that’s my dog’s chew toy”.  Friendly and non-threatening enough to be carried onto planes, into schools, or any other non-permissive environments.  
 
Palm sticks are used in a variety of cultures/martial systems.   Whether it’s called a yawara, kubotan, Koppo, Dulo Dulo, or Olisi Palid, they follow general principles in application.  They can be used as a “fist load” to increase the mass and/or decrease the compression of the fist which increases the amount of force that can be transferred onto/into the target. 
Depending on the length of the palm stick, either end can be used to strike sensitive targets.  The stick can also be used to grip or squeeze the opponent’s limbs and is often
useful for joint manipulations/compliance.   

A variety of objects can be used as a palm stick (see photos below).  Most can be made from objects already available around the house or in the garage.  Of course, there’s the true dog biscuit or chew toy.  Or a wooden dowel.   Or the Cold Steel Koga (although these look like weapons and in my opinion aren’t very discreet.  TSA is likely to get their boxers in a bunch if that’s found in your briefcase).   Or a “true” Kubotan.  Or an ASP canister of pepper spray.  

Tactical Pens (or any sturdy pen) work great.   Cold Steel’s Sharkie is a weapon hidden in plain sight, but why buy it from Cold Steel? Why not use a dried out (or fresh) Dry Erase marker?  The narrow tip on the cap makes a great focal point for strikes.  If you’re worried about the cap coming off, just crazy glue it on to make it permanent.   Or a Hi-Liter.  Or a flashlight (of any size, but as they get larger, for example C or D cell, they’re more of an impact weapon).

I think that with very little effort you can find ½ dozen items that can be used as true or improvised weapons.  Once you find some, take the time to hit some focus mitts with them in your hand.  Most empty hand techniques translate easily, but some quick familiarization and applied resistance would increase your comfort level.    And don’t forget to give Old Yeller a biscuit.  Woof!


 
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This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Year of the Snake, one of the 12-year cycle of animals appearing in the Chinese zodiac.  According to HanBan.com, “People born in the Year of the Snake are reputed to be thoughtful and wise and to approach problems rationally and logically, seldom instinctively.”  
 

These are also characteristics found during the effective use of the “Snake” series of disarms (although we’d also like them to become instinctive).  There are some that refer to the live/empty hand application as “snake” disarms and when using the weapon a “vine” disarm.  For our purposes, we will refer to them both as a form of “Snake” disarm, since they follow a common principle – the weaving or intertwining/wrapping of your limb around your opponents limb/weapon in order to effect a disarm or immobilization.   These can be applied empty hand to empty hand (for example versus a wrist grab), empty hand
vs. weapon, or weapon vs. weapon. 

Scenario 1 - Hand vs. Hand
If the attacker grabs my R. wrist with his L. hand, I have 2 primary options.  I can start to circle my hand either Clockwise or Counterclockwise.   If I circle CW, usually I get a release or I end up in an outer wrist lock/throw position (kotegaeashi).  If I circle CCW, I either release or position myself for an inner wrist lock position.  Students ask –  Which way should I circle?  It really doesn’t matter.  If you get flustered or confused, just start circling.  At some point they won’t be able to maintain their grip and you should achieve a release.  What if they are significantly stronger, bigger, taller, etc.?  First, don’t let them grab your wrist and clamp down (Duh).  But, assuming they have grabbed you, then you might have to take their mind off of the grip by applying some form of“diminishment”.   Any strike to the face/nose/eyes, a kick to the knee or groin, either of which may accomplish the release without any further snaking. Lacking that release, it may give enough time or distraction to allow you to work on a snake release.  As a wise trainer once
said: “All jiu-jitsu/locks/holds/throws work after you break someone’s nose.”

Scenario 2 - Empty hand vs. Weapon
If an attacker strikes with his R. hand using a stick/club towards the L. side of my head (Angle 1 strike) and I am unarmed (and assuming I have to stay to defend and can’t pull a Sir Robin and “Run away!”), then I should jam or block his swinging arm with both of my palms.  I can then use my L. hand to perform a CCW snake around his wrist, then making a “hitchhiking” motion with my arm.  This should leave the stick either trapped under my arm or ejected.  
 
Scenario 3 - “Weapon” vs. Empty hand
Using the setup from #1, if someone is grabbing my R. wrist with their L. hand (or R. hand, it doesn’t matter) and I happen to be holding a Tactical pen in that hand (in this case a Timberline Lightfoot Tactical LCP, although I also really like the Schrade Tactical), I can use the same CW or CCW snaking motions and use the pen for added leverage or pain compliance.  If it’s especially pointy you get the added benefit of sticking it in their arm (Hey, they grabbed you, remember?).   This same approach can be used if you are holding a knife (as a weapon, although I suppose someone could attack you while you’re chopping onions for dinner) and they grab your wrist.  The length and the edge of the knife now give you added leverage and pain compliance tools at your disposal.  Circle the tip of the knife either direction while sawing and levering down on their wrist. Chances are they’ll let go.  
 
Scenario 4 – Weapon vs. Weapon
If we’re both armed with sticks and they attack with an Angle 2 (high backhand) towards the right side of my head, I can block it with my stick, tip pointing up.  As I start to snake the tip of the stick CW around their stick hand, I feed the end of their stick into my Left hand, trapping it.  As I continue the stick snake, I will reach a point where I can push on
the back of their hand with the stick, while pulling on their stick with my hand, accomplishing the disarm.  (It’s easier to do than describe).

Those are just 4 basic scenarios that demonstrate the versatility of the “Snake” disarms.   With a “rational and logical” approach to your practice of these techniques, you too will appear “wise” in the ways of the Snake.  
  
{Note – the Rattlesnake picture was taken during a hike last October near Bear Meadows Natural Area, Rothrock State Forest, CentralPennsylvania}


 
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Do you like casserole?  All your favorite things mixed up and baked into wholesome goodness?  Easy to make, easy to eat, and easy to clean-up.  What’s not to like?

 
So at last night’s workout, we had a little casserole of chaos.   Several of my favorite drills all stirred up and strung together into some martial arts fun.

 

Ingredients:
12-Step Solo Focus Mitt drill
Burpees
Padded impact weapons
Heavy Bag
Partners

Step 1) Partner A stands on far side of room with single Focus Mitt.  On command, performs 12 Step Solo focus mitt drill (based on a Stinger workout by my friend Pete Kautz).  If you don’t know that specific drill, make up your own consisting of assorted palm strikes, punches, elbows, knees & kicks on a focus mitt that you are holding.

Step 2) When finished with the 12-step, drop focus mitt, sprint to other side of the  room in front of the heavy bag and do a burpee.

Step 3) When you get up (or while you’re getting up) Partner B tries to hit or stab
you with their padded weapon*.  

Step 4) Partner A evades/blocks/defends against semi-sneaky attack and counter
attacks with any kick to the heavy bag.

Step 5) Partner A performs another burpee while avoiding getting hit in the face/head
with the now swinging heavy bag.

Step 6) repeat sneak attack, evade, kick sequence.

Step 7) Return to other side of the room, pick up Focus mitt, repeat entire sequence
as desired.

This little bundle of chaos accomplishes multiple things.  The focus mitt section forces you to get comfortable in applying force to something at the end of your arm – after all, that’s the ideal distance because that’s where the opponent ought to be, right at the end of your arm.  It trains cardio/conditioning.  It forces you to change planes, and trains getting down and up off the ground under stress.  The padded weapon forces you to react and then respond with a counterattack, often before you’re ready, and without having perfectly “set” stances.  Being aware of the swinging heavy bag forces you to be aware (duh), and also often creates an isometric hold position in the pushup position, further fatiguing the muscles and making a more realistic feel when having to block, evade, or counter strike.  

All in all, a nice little drill that trains a bunch of different elements and breaks up the monotony of standing in a static position in front of a pad/bag and just working on an individual technique.   Was it always pretty or form perfect?  Of course not.  It was mostly messy, like a good casserole, but it was very filling.   Why not give it a try?

*Note - padded weapons can easily be made using ½’” PVC pipe covered in pipe
insulation wrapped in duct tape.  Make different lengths, for example I have ones that simulate the length of a 1903 Springfield .30-06 with a bayonet attached (sorry President Obama, I didn’t know that bayonets were no longer in use/fashion.  I guess our “Commander in Chief” forgot to check with the Marines), a Louisville Slugger, escrima sticks of assorted lengths, and knives of assorted lengths.  This forces you to react in different ways to the different reach involved.  I’ll do a separate post about the padded weapons with pix.
  



 
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No, this doesn’t refer to the latest sex-o-drama on HBO that combines the intrigue of the DaVinci Code with Hill Street Blues (if you’re under 40 you may have to Google it). I’m referring to the Dequerdes training “Cross”and Elbow “Shields”.  I constructed my first Dequerdes back in 2008.  It started out with the basic “T” pattern, which gives 2 high lines.  But eventually I smacked it too hard with a stick and broke off one of the arms.  So when I reconstructed it, I made an additional arm that’s seen in the picture.  This one gives the option to play against a mid-level attack.  It is interchangeable with another straight arm that can be mounted high.  With this setup the 2 vertical pieces and one arm are cemented in
place.  The only downside is that the removable arm tends to work loose after several minutes of activity and has to be repositioned. Nothing insurmountable, but I’ll probably just construct a 2nd one that has 2 fixed arms in the high positions and then make this one with 1 permanent mid-level arm and 1 high arm.  
 
The Dequerdes is an excellent training device for solo practice.  You can use sticks,
knives, empty hand, flexible weapons, practice lock flow, target specificity, and let your imagination run free.  Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time practicing various Elbow Shields and Destructions on the moving & spinning target.  It’s great for building reaction speed and precision with your elbow strikes.  You can find additional  information on both the training cross and elbow shields at either James Keating or Pete Kautz’s site.  Look for the “Dequerdes: Filipino Training Cross”and “Hellbows” materials.


 
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I’ve wanted to pick up a medicine ball to use in some interactive drills with 2-hand and 1-hand stick basics (a.la.  Joseph Simonet).  I just kept forgetting, and my daughter wouldn’t let me use her Jane Fonda fitness ball to whack with a  stick.  I had seen some articles on-line about making your own Medicine Ball using a basketball, reamers, tire plugs, shoe goo, and a host of other accessories.  But they all seemed overly complicated and time consuming.

So yesterday afternoon I found a dead soccer ball (Size 3) from one of my boys.  I
had a bag of playground sand sitting on the portable basketball hoop.  So I cut a 3” gash in the ball, rolled up some cardboard from the recycling bin to use as a funnel, and just started stuffing some sand into the ball.  After 15 minutes of jostling and tamping, I had about 10 lbs. of sand inside.  I filled the remaining space with about 8 plastic grocery bags.  I brushed the sand from the outside and taped an “X” over the opening.  After reinforcing the patch with two intersecting circles of duct tape, I was outside to train.  Having someone loft these towards your chest (or head, depending on how they feel about you at the time) is a great way to develop timing, accuracy, and movement.

Total time invested ~ ½ hour and I had all the materials already lying around.  Well worth it to add a new implement to the home training toolbox.  Now if only I can get a few whacks at the Jane Fonda ball, it would really brighten my day, if only out of respect for those Vietnam vets that had to deal with her treasonous blather while they were serving in harm’s way.  But that’s another topic for another day. 

Give it a try.  I think you’ll have fun.