The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Two interesting pieces from modern Instructors

Two pieces by highly respected modern instructors, Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller. They deal with both weapons and historical combat and their applicability to modern and unarmed arts. Actually as Marc's is quite long I will post it on its own and I'll post Rory's seperately.

First up Marc MacYoungs  post.

Self-Defense: Deadman's 10, Hollywood BS, Fence and Not Getting Killed
by Marc MacYoung on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 9:47pm
I hate moral dilemmas.

On one hand the guy had just kicked me in the balls, and I really wanted to gouge out his eye and skull fuck him to death.

On the other hand, the radio I was carrying was my own personal handheld and had cost me a lot of money. Throwing it down so I could use both hands to create a occipital vagina would break it. Being in my heart of hearts a cheap Scottish bastard, I handed the radio to someone I vaguely knew, who was standing there.

During the momentary delay -- and due to the fact that I had called in the situation before I stepped in -- instead of going to town on the dude, I saw Harvey rear up behind the guy. I say rear up because not only was Harvey seven feet tall, he was a weight lifter. The dude was big in all kinds of ways.

He also was a member of our 'Goon Squad.'

Harvey reached down, encircled the guy's neck with his arm and lifted him off his feet. The guy's little legs were kicking and flailing.  In the spirit of teamwork and communication, he told me, "I got him, Animal."

It was about that time that "Fat Jimmy," another Goon, arrived. Jimmy grabbed the guy's legs and pulled saying, "I got him." There ensued a tug of war between the two Goons, each claiming they 'had him.' (It was kind of cute, the way his eyes were bugging out, and he was gurgling.) I, in the meantime, was calmly telling my co-workers to put him down because "he's mine." This resulted in Harvey playing tug of war with one arm and holding me back with the other.  With me, at 5 foot, 8, was probably a funny scene, but I had homicide on my mind and was otherwise occupied.

Around that time, a supervisor arrived and said it was time to turn the nice gentleman over to law enforcement for assaulting me. I wasn't going to get to play show and tell with his vital organs, no matter how much I wanted to. I gathered up my radio, and we all went to security headquarters where I made a statement, and the nice man got a free ride in the sheriff's car. As I was standing there watching him be driven away, I remembered something.

I walked up to the security boss and said, "I just realized something."
"I got kicked in the balls."
"I was wondering when you'd remember that."
"I'm going to go off somewhere and cry now."
"You're on a break. Take as long as you want."

Basically, I was so amped up on adrenaline and rage that it took me about 15  to 20 minutes to remember that I'd taken one to the 'nads. When I did remember, it didn't suck, it chewed. It wasn't that there wasn't pain, it was that I was able to defer payment until the situation was resolved.

Once resolved, I still had to pay the piper. But it didn't matter to the karate guy who'd kicked me in the nuts.It mattered a lot to me.

To this day, I clearly remember seeing King Karate's expression as he realized his front snap kick to my family jewels was not having the expected result, and there was nothing between him and me but air. Air that I was going to come through after my radio was secured.

How many times had his instructor told him and had he told himself that a kick to the groin would work to stop an opponent?  And there I was, more concerned about saving my radio after he'd nailed me a good one. Then I was going to very calmly rip his lungs out for drilling me in the nuts.

Although there's debate over who said it first, there's an sage and humorous quip, "It ain't that people are ignorant. It's just they know so much that isn't so."

This is especially true in:
A) this day and age of media, marketing and Internet
B) when it comes to violence.

Hollywood, the martial arts, sporting events and Internet warriors on forums, who have done a great disservice when it comes to getting accurate information regarding violence out to those who need it.

By making such sturm und drang about 'real' fighting and ultimate, killer commando, combative systems, they've eclipsed the actual problems and provided tons of 'isn't so' ideas about  personal safety and what it takes to handle violence.

The absolutely worst one is that the best defense is a good offense -- especially at close quarters.

I was told that there is an Old West gunfighter term called "the Deadman's 10."  Whether or not it is an actual historical term means absolutely squat. What is important is the concept. A concept that you're not going to hear too often in your uber-aggressive combative system or deadly martial arts training. Yet, it becomes critical the closer you are.

Basically Deadman's 10 is after you've fatally shot someone it's the 10 seconds that person has has to return the favor and kill you, too. This before the damage you caused overwhelms him. Truth is, even with wounds deemed 'immediately fatal,' this so-called 10 can last between 10 and 120 seconds. Marshall and Sanow in their book, "Handgun Stopping Power," read reports of it lasting up to 90 seconds.

But I know of other situations where the aggressor kept on going longer. (I recently heard an interesting number that the fatality rate of single gunshot wounds treated in the first two hours is roughly 4 percent. That is someone who is shot, might break away and head to the hospital. Or they could finish the job of killing you before they go to the hospital.)

I tell you this because, no matter how much you think you 'know better,' Hollywood has messed you up for understanding what you have to do to stay safe in close range. Worse, it's also screwed up what your teacher thinks he knows about the subject. As in, he can't teach you what he doesn't know or understand himself. Even if an instructor would admit to not knowing something, he can't tell you what he doesn't know he doesn't know. (Called Unk Unks, for unknown, unknowns: )

Here are some ways where you might have gained various misconceptions. If you've ever seen a movie where someone is shot, and they are blown backward, that's BS. It defies Newton's Third Law of 'for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.' In other words, if there was enough force to blow the shootee backwards, it would also blow the shooter backwards.

If you've ever seen a movie where a thrown knife stops someone in their tracks before they shoot, that's also BS.

Equally unrealistic is an enraged and attacking person collapsing immediately upon being shot with a pistol. While a rifle bullet has the force to potentially create a shock wave to cause a 'brown out' or temporary black out of the nervous system's (reticular activating system) handguns seldom do. (Unless there has been specific targeting to destroy structure, but that is a structural 'collapse' rather than 'shock.')

People, when they are shot, don't get blown back. If anything, they collapse because the power is temporarily shut off. When it comes back, if the damage isn't too great, they start moving again. (Think of what happens when you shoot a deer during hunting season. It often staggers and gets up to run)

So why am I focusing on shooting? Well, to give you a basic idea about an important issue that has been lost from most systems selling themselves as combatives and self-defense. An issue that, unless you address it yourself, if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation, you'll be another corpse next to the guy you killed in 'self-defense.' Namely yours.

Basically with a rifle, you are relying on distance (range), time and damage to protect you. THAT is your defense. If you shoot someone out at a distance, the space between you and the damage are HOPEFULLY great enough that he will not be able to rally an effective counter attack during the Deadman's 10 (time). At this range, there is very little you can actively do defensively. (Sure, you can shoot from cover, or you can keep moving to make a harder target, but that really is pretty minimal stuff.) Your defense is nothing but air and hoping the damage you did to him is enough that he can't effectively shoot you, too. This is the ONLY situation where being entirely offensive serves as your defense.

Up close, the Deadman's 10 is an enormous issue, even with guns. With less effective methodologies (like punching and kicking) it's even more critical -- especially when it comes to you unarmed against an armed attacker. You have to actively take steps to take away your attacker's ability to inflict damage on you before, during and AFTER you've delivered force into him

This flies in the face of all kinds of training. Training that presupposes that if you lay into your opponent with your killer kung fu, deadly combatives, ultimate mixed martial art system, the guy is just going to fall down and curl up.

And I'm talking about all kinds of variations of flawed training.

Back when we had to do kata hopping from one foot to the other because the earth's crust was still cooling, the myth was the 'one punch kill.' You didn't have to worry about defense because after you drilled the guy with your ultimate punch, he was going to be lying unconscious and broken on the floor.

Now, the new, 'better educated,' smarter-than-that superstuds know that's wrong and doesn't work. Nope, they're so much smarter than the old guys because now they know they have to keep a continuous barrage of lethal punches to make it work.

Except for one thing, barrages work until the other side returns the favor. When that happens, it becomes a matter of trading punishment until one or the other falls down. A barrage works on the same principle of zero defense and relying on your offense to keep you safe.

After attending what was then Denver's premier martial arts 'challenge,' I quipped that apparently the 'winning' strategy was to stand there and let your opponent muay Thai kick you in the leg until he suffered a heart attack and fell over. This is, in essence, what these new, scientific and ultimate fighting systems are promoting as their 'better answer.'

Beat the shit out of him until he collapses; this before you collapse because he's beating the shit out of you.

In the safety of the ring and dojo, this theory sort of holds up. It does so because, as much as you may think you're being all powerful with these blows, sports-allowed moves  seldom cause injury. In fact, the parts that could cause injury have been intentionally edited out. This allows you to hit with full force and not break your opponent.

Reread that last sentence, it's important.

Yeah, yeah, I get all kinds of "well, in the art I study..."   Let's take Krav Maga as an example. In the late '80s, I had a chance to play hands-on with an ex-Israeli commando. Putting it mildly, the guy made me squeak. He twisted and torqued me in ways that, had he finished the move, I would have shattered. It really was combat application stuff. It reflected key elements that I'd seen in WW II, Vietnam Era and other systems that had been used to fold, spindle and mutilate human beings. Namely that I couldn't effectively counterattack while he was doing bad things to me.

Now before anybody's dick swells so big they feel you can cut them off at the knees and call them a tripod, let me tell you something else.

When I walk into the Krav/Crossfit schools, what I am seeing taught as Krav Maga doesn't look ANYTHING like what made me squeak. What I am seeing is sports-based mixed martial arts with a cool sounding name. Not something that could cause damage like what that guy was doing way back when. And especially not something that is going to save you from the Deadman's 10.

In short, either I am a total retard, who doesn't know jack about shit, OR someone sold you mixed martial arts combined with physical fitness AS a deadly esoteric combat system.

One that, if someone is seriously coming in to kill you, might just allow him success -- even if you DO manage to hit him hard.*

I'll close this section and segue into the next by paraphrasing George Silver, a late 16th and early 17th century swordsman. Basically it's: "These newfangled schools of sword pay no attention to defense and, therefore, they die like flies. Then they point to these deaths as proof of how dangerous their art is." (I highly recommend reading his "Paradoxes of Defence" [published 1599] and "Brief Instructions Upon My..." [published 1898, actual writing date unknown] to see how much of the same behavior is still going on regarding flawed instruction being sold as 'ultimate.')

It's important to note the British spelling of 'defence.' That's because the root of the word fencing is derived from it. The "Art of Fence" is the art of both offence and defence -- at the same time. I call a single action or multiple concurrent actions that both deliver force into your opponent (attacks) and protect you by disrupting his ability to attack 'fence.'

If you look back in the old 'manuals' about sword and other types of fighting, you'll notice something interesting. Although often drawn from the 'wrong' position (ma-ai for you purists) about two-thirds to three-fourths of the actual attacks are NOT with the sword. Ankle locks, leg traps/pushes, disrupting his structure, punches, elbow strikes, head butts, twisting your opponent's limbs and body ... they are ALL there. More than that, they are all happening at the exact same time. In fact, the sword is only killing the guy while all the other actions are destroying his ability to counter attack during the Deadman's 10.

Wow, what a concept. Bind the guy up in such a way that he can't stick his blade into you after you've stuck your blade into him. Who'd have thought that a bunch of medieval knuckledraggers could have figured this out on their own? I mean without the guiding light of scientific process, elite military origins or ancient oriental wisdom?

I make this snarky comment because -- while those are marketed as 'the superior sources' when it comes to 'ultimate' fighting systems -- they usually lack this fundamental element that a bunch of dirty, smelly westerners not only knew and used, but were writing about and illustrating 600 years ago.*

Fence becomes a REALLY important idea up close. Because there are very few things you can do that will work 'immediately' like you see in the movies. As such, you have to be doing something about staying safe during the Deadman's 10. And that is assuming you've actually done something effective enough to qualify. Otherwise, you're just in a trading-blows-fest, hoping the guy will squeal 'uncle' before you do.

Wanna guess how well that works when the other dude has a knife in his hand? Or when there are five of them?

There are several ways to create fence and going into the details of those ways are beyond the scope of this article. But I can give you a standard. Every MOVE, not every technique, but every move within a technique should meet three criteria:

1) It secures your perimeter.

This means it protects you, keeps him from delivering force into you and allows you to control what happens in your space. In short, if the purpose of a block is 'don't get hit' and you're getting hit,  you need to fix something in what you're doing. (I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts it's not getting off line from the attack.)

2) It disrupts your opponents ability to attack you (e.g., you move to a different place; you move him; you disrupt his structure, balance, orientation, body mechanics; you get out of the way of his charge; etc).

Four things about this. First, there are thousands of ways to do this. The biggest and best is getting off line (again, whether you move yourself or you move him doesn't matter). Second, this makes it so he has to do something else before he can attack you again. Like get his balance back. Third, the more things you pile on to him all at once, the harder it will be for him to figure out how to fix the problem (get his legs back under him and attack again). Fourth, don't limit yourself to just thinking about inflicting pain. Simply dodging, grabbing his limb and jerking him off balance IS AN OFFENSIVE MOVE! It also protects you. Of course, smacking him on the back of the head as you pull him past you makes it work all that much better. But the pull itself isn't painful.

3) It sets up your next, more powerful move.

By sets up, I mean the move is RIGHT THERE! For example, that dodge-the-attack -pull-the-arm -open-hand-smack - to -the-back-of-his-head move blends nicely into that smack turning into a pushing/pulling movement. A movement that keeps his head and body moving forward and past you. The 'previously' pulling hand lets go of his arm and your same arm rolls up into an elbow to his face. If you've done your range right (and are on outside gate) you shouldn't have to worry about his hands because they are reaching past you. But what if he tries to turn? Well, your body is blocking his arms and keeping him from turning back toward you ...and all of this as the elbow is smashing him.

If he's still standing, don't let go with that hand on the back of his head. Turn it into a grab -- whether hair, shirt or shoulder. Then turn your body and step to drag him over backward ... with a little push from your elbow. An elbow that is also now heading in a different direction. If he isn't down after the elbow, odds are damned good he'll fall down after you step -- especially if you drop down as you step (semi-kneel).

Each step of the way, you are creating fence to keep you safe because he has other problems than attacking you. Problems that are unique and different enough that he just can't soak up the punishment and keep on coming. He can't just charge through to get you because you are dragging him off balance and throwing him around -- AS you impact. Then he has the problem of slamming into the ground.

Take a good hard look at what you are being taught. Is it relying on the awesomeness of your all powerful blows to keep you safe? Are you overly relying on the pain you are inflicting to stop the guy? Or are you going to be like that karate guy looking on in shock when your 'never fail move' suddenly and dramatically fails?

What are you doing to make sure you aren't the second body following the Deadman's 10?

In closing, I'll tell you something to consider. Fence isn't that important in sports fighting. In fact, since nobody is trying to cripple or kill each other, it's pretty much a non-issue. Yeah, it's there in a chicken wire fence sort of way. But a key component of sports fighting is to allow you to get pounded.  The entertainment is "Which person is going to go down?" You're fighting in a way that it could be either.

That's why YOU have to start looking about developing fence yourself -- especially if you're talking about applying your training in live fire situations. In those circumstances, it's the other guy you want going down.  If you're teacher isn't teaching you about fence, but claims that he's teaching you 'self-defense,' that sucker has some explaining to do because sports fighting WILL get you into deep, deep trouble if you try to apply it in a situation where someone is seriously trying to injure you.


 * Maybe you do have it in your training, but don't just assume it's there. And sure'n hell don't just say 'we have it' and keep on teaching stuff that will get your students killed because of your comfort zone.

**Speaking as someone who has seen versions of martial arts that haven't been watered down for sports and commercialized, I can tell you that the idea of being both defensive and offensive in the exact same movement WAS once known to these systems.  It's just been lost in most modern interpretations. You're not likely to be taught a version that still has fence in a school or gym located in a strip mall. In fact, the more someone markets something as self-defense ready or combat proven, the more likely it is to lack fence and rely on physical conditioning and raw aggressiveness.

For those of you on Facebook you can find the piece here and also his page.
and if you want pictures go to it on his website.


  1. Good reading.
    Instantly the italian rapier (Fabri, Cappo Ferro), which I have worked with lately came to mind. Later also some of the german Meister Hau, came to mind. I will at least have to go over them again with my new MacYoung glasses.

    Thorbjørn Sølver Lange, Chapter Helsingør, Denmark

  2. Glad that it is proving as helpful and insightful as it was for me...