16 November 2014

Fantasy of the Fight- the Cheap Shot

People that have not had the misfortune of growing up in a locale where they had to fight to survive, or being in a profession requiring them to put their hands on people, often have the ridiculous notion that fighting may look something like this.

It has been my experience that with most things in life, the ones you see coming don't hurt you.  It is the ones you don't see.  In my professional police and bouncing career, the worst injuries I have suffered were never at the hands of the primary offender I was dealing with and they NEVER EVER came from the front.  They were always cheap shots from the rear or the flank.  In every instance, I was tied up with someone else when I felts someone else punching or kicking me, most often to the back of the head.

For the citizen, if trained correctly, this should rarely be an issue if you make these principles a priority.

  • Do not hold onto your attacker longer than absolutely necessary to do damage
  • You have no responsibility to "control" anyone
  • Do not let your attacker hold onto you
  • Keep moving 
  • Avoid bending over to deal with an attacker on the ground
To have someone attack you from the blind side necessitates that you have one to attack on, stay on your feet, keep your head on a swivel, and move, move, move.

15 November 2014

Gear Review- Schampa Warmskin Pharoah Deluxe

As I spoke about in my previous review of the Schampa Skull Mask ,I ride year round here in Southwest Pennsylvania where things can get a little brisk.  For me the skull mask is fine until the temps go below 40 degrees.  Then it is time to breakout the Schampa Warmskin Pharoah .

Last Sunday was the first really cold day.  When I left the house, it was 31 degrees and my average speed was approximately 45 MPH for my 45 minute ride.  That made the windchill about 13.6 degrees.  At this speed, at that temperature, the wind finds any and every gap in your riding gear.  My head, face, and neck were comfortable the entire time.  Keep in mind I wear a half helmet and do not run a windshield.

When I received the Pharoah, the first thing I thought was how warm it felt. When you first put it on, it takes a few seconds to get it all situated the way you want it. The WarmSkin material is very stretchy and needs to be pulled tight so as not to bunch up under your helmet.  WarmSkin is used for the top, sides, and back.  StormGear material is used for the face and bib to stop the wind.

When you first look at it, you would probably be inclined to put the Pharoah on
early in your dressing routine.  If you do, you will probably be sweating by the time you get on the bike and that is not a good thing. It is one of the last things I put on, before my helmet, and lastly my gloves.  When I do put it on, I pull the face mask down under my nose to help prevent fogging.  Applying Cat Crap to your eye wear helps the fog to dissipate quickly, but in my experience does not stop it from forming.  Then I tuck the front and rear bib into my other layers.

My favorite thing about the Pharoah is that it is lightweight and sleek.  There is not a lot of heavy material that bunches up.  This can be very uncomfortable.  I don't feel like I am wearing a Watch Cap under my helmet.

Final thoughts, if you enjoy any kind of cold weather motorsports, the Pharoah provides a well made, inexpensive option to keep your face, head, and neck warm in cold temperatures.  Just keep in mind that it is extreme cold weather gear and that when you are stopped you will overheat, so carry other cold weather headgear with you.  Considering my positive experiences with the Schampa Skull Mask and the Pharoah, I might just have to order some of their other headgear for this purpose.

How To- Dress warm in cold weather

I wrote this a while back but the information is still good.  Remember, clothing is just 1st line shelter.

This past weekend I attended BSA Survivor Weekend with my 13 year old son. With the exception of December, our Troop camps every month. During the winter months, we are in cabins.

Being a four season camper and enjoying the cold, I am always interested to see how the Scouts, parents, and adult leaders pack for the winter months. If the parents don’t know, and the kids don’t listen, it really shows. Being able to sleep in the cabin and then go outside for activities offers the ability for people to learn lessons instead of dying from them. 

Cotton worn as a base layer- my four season rule is that the only cotton you will find in my gear is a bandanna. The problem is that cotton absorbs moisture and does not release it. In warm weather, this causes rashes. In cold weather, it promotes hypothermia and frostbite. It also becomes incredibly heavy when wet. The number one cotton culprits are socks and underwear. These all cover areas that are prone to perspiration (arm pits, crotch, and feet) even in cold weather. You sweat during activity and freeze during rest. The next issue is jeans, and about 90% of Scouts and parents were wearing them, and the other 10% were wearing other types of cotton pants. We had plenty of snow on the ground and of course the kids had to play in it. They were sweated up from the inside out, and wet from snow from the outside in. Like I said, being close to the cabin meant it was easy to return and change, so the worse penalty they paid was being a little cold. If they had to spend one night outside, it would have been lost toes, fingers, and maybe death. 

Wicking Layer- the base layer against your skin has to be made of a material that is incapable of holding moisture, such as nylon or polypropylene. Today the most common example of this is Under Armour, but you can find stuff that is much less expensive and works just as well. I wear Alpaca socks. They draw moisture away from my feet. If you don’t have quality socks, wear a cheap pair of women’s nylons under your socks. They too will draw the moisture away from your socks, not to mention prevent blisters. Your wicking layer should fit like a second skin.

Insulation Layer- in my experience, lots of people make the mistake of wearing a cotton hooded sweatshirt as their insulation layer. If you are wearing an effective wicking layer, it will draw all the moisture out to your insulation layer. This can turn your insulation layer into a soaked bath towel. This is where I prefer a light fleece, or a heavy wool sweater, depending on the severity of the weather. You want a fiber that is light and airy that allows the warm air from your body to be trapped between it and the top layer. This air combined with the “dead space” between it and the top layer is what keeps you warm. This layer should be loose, but not baggy. The colder it gets, or the more inactive you are, the more insulating layers you add. This is like the insulation in your attic. The colder your climate, the more you need.

Windproof Layer- This is your top layer. Usually, you see people combining this with an insulation layer in one heavy layer such as a coat. This layer should also have a hood. Having tried literally dozens of top layers over the years, ranging from inexpensive to way too expensive, the best I have ever found is the Classic Anorak from LL Bean. I got mine in 97’ and it still looks like new. You can fit an amazing amount of layers underneath if you need to. Good windproof layers should have elastic draw strings around the waist, hood, and sometimes midsection. The cuffs are usually elastic, or fold over and secure with a Velcro tab. These things allow you to retain the heat from your body, and keep the wind out.

Your clothes are the first line of shelter and need to be thought of as such.

Venting- In cold weather you need to constantly be monitoring your body for comfort and moisture, and adjust accordingly. The first step in doing so is your head gear. Your head is very vascular, close to the surface and the heart. If you begin feeling warm, remove your hat.

If you still find yourself too warm and beginning to sweat, loosen up the elastic draw strings and cuffs on your Windproof Layer. Many Windproof Layers will also have arm pit vents, which are excellent for venting.

After venting, the next step is removing your Windproof Layer, and just wearing your Insulation Layer over your Wicking Layer. If you find it more windy than cold, consider wearing your Windproof Layer over your Wicking Layers.

Next to being self-aware, the biggest issue is being dedicated to taking layers on an off to maintain comfort and avoiding extremes. After some concentrated effort, it becomes second nature. Keeping dry, while avoiding the wind, will keep you warm.

When it comes to cold weather, I am an anomaly. Much to my wife’s chagrin, even in the winter, I have the window at least cracked with the fan on. Because of being an average of 10-20 degrees warmer than others, I wear Deluth Shorts year round, even when I am in the woods, if I am not wearing a kilt. When it does get too cold for my legs, I put on a wicking layer and then windproof pants.

This past weekend it never got too cold for shorts. While outside, I wore a Wicking Layer, and my Anorak on top. This kept me comfortable with nighttime temperatures dipping into the mid 20’s. My go to Insulation Layer is Under Armour Fleece.

When it comes to shoes, I will just say this, the biggest problem I find is people wearing heavy rubber boots with cotton socks. This means no air in, no air out, which equals wet feet. The heavier the boots, the more stationary the activity they are intended for. I wearMerrell hiking boots all year round.

I hope this keeps some people warm and comfortable.

13 November 2014

How MCS was created Part IV- Paul Castle

Like every other American, I was deeply impacted by 9/11.  That grim day however put into motion a chain of events that would put me in contact with two individuals that had it not been for 9/11 I would not have met; Dave Williams and Paul Castle.

After 9/11, a Military Police unit out of the Tennessee Army Reserves were mobilized and sent to of all places Aberdeen Proving Ground where I had served as a young MP, and now policing on the other side of the gate.  At the time, the DOD had a police academy on APG and I was an adjunct instructor.

Our SWAT teams used to do joint training days and on one of these days I would meet a man who would soon become one of my closest friends.  David Williams family has been serving this country since the civil war.  If my numbers are correct David's wife has sent her husband and sons off to war 9 times since 9/11.  One a Ranger and the other a Marine.  David himself has had an amazing military career including a CIB, and serving as a Black Hat at the US Army Airborne School at Ft Benning GA.  His accomplishments are too many to list here.  When we met, he was a robbery/homicide detective in Decatur AL.  We hit it off right away and became fast friends.  While he was on APG and our schedules would line up, he would spend entire weekends with my family.  When I was working, he would often ride along.  For some time he also studied at the dojo.

During one of our conversations ranging from everything from the bible to military history, he told me about an instructor and a system that I had to look into.  He told me about Paul Castle and Center Axis Relock.

After he spoke so highly of Paul, I reached out to him about doing a class.  Within a few weeks, Paul was in town doing a basic Center Axis Relock hosted by APG DOD Police's SWAT team. Our SWAT team attended.

From my first conversation with Paul I knew we would also be lifelong friends.  Having already been through several firearms instructors courses, I immediately recognized that Paul understood what I did, and that was that the way we were training officers how to shoot was not based on how our bodies actually respond to stress.  Paul, like me, was addicted to understanding how the human body responded during life and death situations, and that this knowledge was key to training people how to survive.

Not that Paul's typical courses were not intense enough, but the fact that we were
Paul Castle.
all SWAT guys caused him to turn things up a bit.  The basic course was three days.  Paul recruited a handful of us for a two day instructor's course the following two days.  That class was a think tank like I had never seen before.  He wanted to make sure that if you were teaching it you knew the how and the why.  Something that I had found desperately missing in all my previous training.  Since Paul created CAR, it was like drinking water from the spring where it came out of the ground.

People who have trained with me will tell you that I am a very physical trainer and I believe that everything is connected.  When I am teaching pistol, I will go right to open hand or stick.  This is something I learned from Paul, smooth transitions between all tools based on a common mindset.

While Paul was in town, I introduced him to Sensei.  They too hit it off.  Paul was to the gun what Sensei was to the open hand.  What made it so amazing was that Sensei had pistol skills and Paul had open hand skills.  What I teach is a hybrid of what I learned from these men.

A year later Paul invited Sensei and myself to the CAR Master Instructors Course at FT McCoy Wisconsin.  Once again to my surprise my agency sent me.  Arriving there made me think of a movie where the best of the best are assembled for a specific mission.  As I would find out, we were.  That was the only Master course Paul would ever hold.  He certified others as Masters but never held another class like this.

Over that weekend I met other SWAT cops, SEALS, boat team guys, people who could not say where they worked.  What I recognized in all of them was that they too thought outside of the box and recognized Paul and CAR as being well outside the box.

When we were not in class, we were sharing.  That is where I got my first real introduction to what some would call knife fighting.  There was a fella there who came off as kinda goofy, but it was a front.  He schooled me on the offensive use of the blade.  He also introduced me to the knives of Al Polkowski, which turned into another amazing friendship.

The week was both intense and fun.  I have to admit I came back feeling like a Jedi.  But I also understood until this day, that regardless of how you try to explain it to them, most people want to train in a way that makes them feel good, not in a way that forces them to react to the worst possible scenarios they could end up in.

There are many people who had a hard on for Paul.  In my opinion, the biggest reason for this was that he was teaching something new and unique.  If you wanted to teach it, you had to go through him.  It was not open source like all the other gun stuff out there.  But what many firearms instructors fail to understand the one thing that Paul harped on, it was about the fight, not the gun.  Sadly in 2011, Paul finally lost his battle with cancer.  I miss him all the time.  In his memory I drive on.  In his honor I will continue to "evidence it".

Before I knew it Dave was back in AL and before long enroute to Iraq.  I was back working the street and dragging myself to the dojo and getting beat on by Harold.

03 November 2014

How MCS was created Part III- Knife Fighting Bullshit

By mid 2001, I was training 4-5 days a week even thought I was working 6 days on/ 2 days off with a two three day weekend every six weeks.  We rotated shifts every 28 days.  In addition to my regular patrol schedule, there was plenty of OT, court, and SWAT call outs.  Like many cops, I was running on empty and most of the time on autopilot.  When I was on nights, I would sleep until about 4 PM, get up, and my daughter and I would go to Judo.  I would watch her class for an hour and then stay for my class.  This had me getting home about 8 PM.  I would grab some dinner and hopefully a cat nap before being back at midnight.  The one part of this shitty schedule that made me happy was that I knew if I was training and learning on autopilot fighting Harold, that it meant that the skills would come to me when I needed them.  Because face it, you are probably not going to get attacked on the best day of your life.

As my training progressed, it became time for me to pick a specific Japanese weapon to concentrate on besides the Katana which was required.  I always loved edged weapons but nothing scared me more than getting cut, so I picked the Tanto.  Even with something as down to earth as what I was learning, what I learned about the knife was more about using it as a weapon and less about defending against one.

The first things I concluded from common sense, research, and experience was

1)  That you would likely never see the weapon you were stabbed or cut with.  Everyone says they thought they were being punched.  So the vast majority of time needed to be spent defending against all attacks as if there was an edged weapon you could not see.  The idea of starting your defense when you saw the knife was habit that could prove deadly.

2)  The training knives that were being used were about 2-3 times bigger than what you would face in the street.  Judging from my collection and what I could find out from other law enforcement and corrections officers was that the average weapon would be less than three inches.  On the long end you had 6 inch screw drivers and on the short end were box cutters.

So as I eluded to in Part II, they began to send me to edged weapon courses.  Over the period of about two years, I trained with several well known knife instructors.  What follows here is not a condemnation of them or what they taught, but rather how it did not fit my application.  I guess I was looking for something like Cliff Notes to Survive Edged Weapons.  During my entire career as a student and a teacher, I have been on a quest for concept based information that I could teach in a short period of time to moderately interested individuals that had a high probability of retention and use.

For the most part, I hit it off with all the instructors, some of them could really teach.  One thing they all had was that they never served in a career in which they were in a position to put their hands on people on a daily basis.  Much of what they taught was from Japanese and Philippine martial systems.  None of them ever had to write a report to justify their actions to their department or State's attorney.  Being a history buff, I really dug all the history and background but knew that my average in-service officer or rookie in field training would have their eyes glazed over before I got to the point of what I wanted them to return.  Now, teaching the citizenry, I think about the middle aged Dad who realizes he has no idea how to defend himself and decided to attend one of our classes.  He too would be overwhelmed.

The best metaphor I can come up with is it was like they were all teaching auto mechanics, but only for a specific vehicle.  Before you got to class you had to have been studying that model for some time, if you were not up to speed on that specific model you would be lost in the sauce.  Basically, they would be speaking a different language.  I wanted to learn skill sets that were applicable to any vehicle.  With few exceptions, me and the guys I attended with were usually the only ones whose jobs might put them in a position to have to use the training the next time they worked.

There are two basic things I was interested in, using a knife as a last ditch deadly force option, and defending against the most likely edged weapon attacks.

What I found was that the stumbling point that was being ignored was how were you supposed to get the knife in your hand.  The concentration was using the knife to fight, not the fight itself.  Most drills and scenarios began with knife in hand.  When I would ask about how you were supposed to deploy the knife during a fight, they just kind of looked at me.

It was the same look I got when I asked about defending against edged weapons open handed.  People are making a lot of money teaching "knife fighting" some thing I never wanted my name associated with.

The other thing that was also curiously absent was blocks of training on anatomy and physiology.  This is what prompted me to coin the term Combative Anatomy.

The belief that if you were in a position to use a knife to defend yourself it would likely be to cut someone off of you instead of a scene from West Side Story, was the foundation of Inverted Edge Tactics.

The need for a principle based open hand combatives program evolved into SAS (Spontaneous Attack Survival).  The first several times I taught SAS it was to police departments, corrections, and even the United Air Force Special Operations Command's Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element (DAGRE) teams.

Unlike what I learned in the dojo and at the courses I attended for edged weapons, everything in MCS is plain talk, meaning that we use all commonly understood words to expedite learning.

Stay tuned for How MCS was created Part IV- Paul Castle.

#1 Bad Habit That Most People Share

Is being dehydrated or more likely under-hydrated.  Whenever my wife or kids say they have a headache, I say "drink water".  Every time they say they are hungry between meal times, I say "drink water".  Every time they say they do not feel good, I say "drink water".  OK, you get the picture.

The popular consensus is that about 75% of people are chronically dehydrated.  Unless you are are a habitual water drinker, you are probably in the 75% because face it, it takes effort to drink those 6-8 glasses of water you need everyday, even thought I think that is not enough.

It takes time to build good habits but doing so is important since 40% of our day is accomplished through the use of habits.  We all know there are good and bad habits and drinking water is a good one.  If you are not drinking enough water, the way to start is by attaching the drinking of water to good habits and making it part of your daily  ritual.

Like most I need my coffee in the morning for the protection of others.  Before drinking the first of my two cups, I drink 32 ounces of ice cold water as fast as I can.  I also put a few drops of essential lemon oil in the water to fight bacteria that can make me sick.  Here is what that water does.

  • The cold water shocks your system and increases your metabolism
  • Water is to your body like oil is to an engine, your body will run better if it is full
  • Pre-hydrates you for the rest of the day because that coffee is a diuretic 
  • Increases the chance you will take your water bottle out the door with you
The answer to the question of whether or not to fill up your water bottle is always YES.

Drinking water is the most important survival habit you can practice every day.

01 November 2014

How MCS was created Part II- Harold and Sensei

Within a few days, the states attorney's office ruled that the shooting was a justifiable homicide.  The shooting occurred early on Monday morning and we were all back to work that Thursday night.  Some were not ready, but nobody said anything.

At the time of the shooting, I had been in law enforcement for 9 years.  During that time, I had been through two police academies and a SWAT school.  In the department I was known as someone who took firearms, training, and officer survival very seriously.  The best way I can explain the conclusion I came to after the shooting was that the training I received to prepare me for a real shooting was like driving through a residential neighborhood in preparation for driving NASCAR.  I also realized that it would be hard to get people to understand that before they needed to.  My "aha" moment was when I came to the conclusion that if the firearms training I had received was not relevant and realistic, there was a good chance that this was true for all things related to dealing with interpersonal violence.

The first thing I did was realize that trying to explain the need to back  up, look at the reality of interpersonal violence, and base training on those findings was something that few police, much less anyone else was going to be interested in.  The bottom line is that people don't care about something until it is to late.

As long as I can remember I have always been fixated on making complex things simple so that they could be better understood and retained.  In other words, get rid of the unnecessary to maximize efficiency and create a "way" of doing the things that we do all the time.

When I was a kid, there was really no opportunity for me to pursue martial arts. Not only was there no dojos around, but my parents worked swing shift.  They were concerned with providing for me more that making sure I was entertained.

By March of 2000, two months after the shooting, I was out on patrol and assigned to Special Operations.  This gave me a more flexible schedule.  I decided to check out a Ju Jitsu dojo that was just outside my jurisdiction.  The building was long, narrow, and kind of run down but something drew me to it.  Just like I had always liked to lift weights in industrial looking gyms instead of mirror covered aerobic halls.

One afternoon I walked in and met the man who would become my mentor for the next seven years,  Sensei.  Sensei was a crusty old retired Army NCO who lived on a steady diet of black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes.  He was a small man at 5'7 160 lbs.  He held several belts including a 9th degree black belt in Yo Shin (Willow Tree) Ju Jitsu.

When I was a kid, I had talked my Grandmother into ordering me a few books on Ju Jitsu, but because of my size I had no one to try any of the moves on.  When I was in the Army, I briefly studied Ju Jitsu with my team leader at a place in Baltimore before the Sensei moved out of state.  Except for the fact that I had been making a living of putting my hands on people for the past decade or so, I was an open slate and eager to learn.

At the same time my daughter who was then 5 started taking Judo too, and would eventually become a two time Maryland Judo champion.  Judo and Sensei's personal money is what kept the doors open.  Sensei primarily taught Ju Jitsu, and he had a female black belt that handled most of the Judo kids.  See Sensei as I would find out along the way was a Special Forces medic, 18 Delta, who had been in the first Gulf War and suffered from Gulf War Syndrome.  My best description of him is as a crotchety old man who was most often in a sour mood.  But that did not matter to me because what he taught was based on not only his martial background but also based on his amazing understanding of human anatomy.  At no time that I was training with him did I ever see him look at a book for anything, it was all in his head.  Adult students did not last long because of his personality, toughness of classes, and his unwillingness to hand out belts.  I actually liked this though because it meant the people who did show up were dedicated.

With about two weeks of me beginning training, Harold showed up, a man who
with the exception of Sensei taught me the most about fighting and learning to take a beating.  Harold was in his late 40's and and at 6'5 200 lbs, tall and lanky, looked like he could not chew bubblegum and walk at the same time.  The truth was quite opposite.  Harold, a third generation Marine had made his living driving a truck, but now owned his own computer business.  Basically he was a computer savant.  He was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Corps, had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and had even tried out for American Gladiators.  He made it but they said he was too old.  He ran, lifted weights, and trained everyday like someone was trying to kill him.

Over the next 7 years there were very long periods of time that Harold and I were the only Ju Jitsu students.  Not only did that mean that our training was accelerated, but brutal.  Sometimes during the hour long classes we would practice chokes, throws, and joint locks for dozens of reps.  Pressure points did not work on Harold, nor do I think he felt pain. That was not the case for me.  I think Sensei took sick pleasure watching men our size beat the shit out of each other.

Often we did Kumite or free fighting.  The first time I fought Harold changed the way I would fight for the rest of my life.  Institutionally I tried to keep away from Harold's hands and feet, looking for a place to shoot for a take down to make use of my superior grappling skills.  That plan failed where he snapped kicked me in the chest.  I flew off the mat and into a glass display case smashing the glass.  My thick Judo Gi protected my back.  When I got myself back together, we got back to business.  From that point forward, I decided that if I was forced to be in contact with someone I would always be within arms distance and move to my left, their right.  The reason was that Harold, like 93% of people, was right handed and right footed.  By moving to their right, I crowded their best weapons and made it harder for them to set up on me.  This is now known in MCS as Constant Tactical Positioning.

Eventually, due to manpower issues, I found myself back in patrol.  I joined the SWAT team, and attended several specialized schools, around 40 or so.  In those days the economy was good and the city decided that every employee should pick a goal and pursue it.  Always being the smart ass I said I wanted to become a SME (Subject Matter Expert) in the use of edged weapons so I could create an edged weapon survival program for law enforcement.  Much to my disbelief, they actually approved it and sent me to all kinds of courses.  More on that in Part III - Knife Fighting Bullshit.