Training is Everything - Everything is Training
While stationed in Panama, with the 193rd Infantry Brigade there was little hand to hand combative training, within the military system. Patrolling, basic rifle marksmanship, running, explosive demolitions, rappelling, we had our share of that, and more. But hand to hand combatives like knife and sick fighting, bayonet drills, never. There was a little pugil stick training action, but not much and not often, so we developed our own programs for knife and stick combatives.
Approaching the challenge in our training with a sense of purpose, with seriousness, there was a need for knowledge. Starting at Soldier of Fortune magazine we ordered a series of books that would form the basis for our training program, we started with the series written by Michael Enchains, (November 16, 1950 – September 8, 1978). Echanis had been a security contractor working with the Nicaraguan National Guard. I had first become familiar with his work when he was the martial arts editor for Soldier of Fortune magazine.
Frustrated with the impractical knife-fighting tactics in the Army manuals, we were looking elsewhere for training tips and techniques. Soldier of Fortune magazine had well written interview with Echanis that turned out to be the answer we were looking for..
We knew his personal story from Soldier of Fortune magazine, how Echanis’s experiences as a Ranger in Vietnam and of his working as an Instructor at For Bragg with the Special Forces had help him develop a training process, we thought those were impressive references. I ordered the three books he had written, Special Forces/Ranger-UDT/SEAL Hand-to-Hand Combat/Special Weapons/Special Tactics.
Echanis’ direct approach to combatives encompassed using weaponry, favoring the most practical and efficient available, which included both escrima sticks and knife. Those books set the general course for our close-combat training regimen. They provided the basis for the battlefield tactics we practiced, emphasizing the knife and stick fighting techniques that he wrote of. We trained with a sense of realism and intensity, in part because of the circumstances of his death in 1977, in Nicaragua fighting the Sandinistas, just north of where we were.
He had died in the same Border War we were training for
There were a couple of Air Force people at the base gym that had a similar desire to train hard. One of them had done a tour in Thailand, where he’d studied Muay Thai Boran. We integrated some of those techniques and developed a realistic, combatives training program in 1980 and ’81, based upon the methods and techniques of Muay Thai and those that Echanis wrote of, which were based on the techniques of hwa rang do, the Korean martial art . That program remains the basis for my personal close quarter combatives style, to this day.
The system we needed had to be simple. We culled the techniques down to the basics. There is the right downward slash, the left downward slash, a downward attack that cuts the top of the head, an upward cut into the groin and midsection, and the thrust.
The basic knife fighting stance was our basic fighting stance. The fighter is in normal fighting position, holding the knife held in the rear hand, centering on in the middle of his chest. The empty hand is held out in front and is utilized for grappling or disarming techniques.
The right downward strike is initiated with stepping forward then slashing the blade down on the opponent’s shoulder, the mental picture calls for cutting through the body, from shoulder to hip. The left downward strike is identical. As the training advanced we would change the knife hand, moving the blade off from the right to the left
To attack to the top of the opponents head, again initiate the technique by stepping forward, as you raise the knife up over your head, then come down on the center of the opponent’s head. Coordinating the step and the slash,, imagine that you are cutting from the skull to the naval.
For the upward strike, the technique calls for the blade to rotate out and in toward your body. It travels in an arc then comes up, into the opponent’s groin. then continues cutting all the way to his chin. From stem to sternum.
The last technique is the thrust. To accomplish it step in, then drive the point of the blade into the opponent’s belly, with the idea of the blade coming out between his shoulder blades.
Once the basics were down, we’d begin working with partners, with rubber knives.
The opponent would strike from his right, with the blade coming at your left side. Attempt blocking his blade with your own. At the same time, use your empty hand to control his wrist, redirecting the strike away from your body. Then, still controlling his wrist, slash it with the blade. Retain control of the opponents wrist and then target under the arm pit. Cutting the wrist usually disarms the enemy. The slash under the armpit will cause him to bleed out.
To counter an opponent’s thrust, first step in, again blocking with your own blade, this time it is held vertically. Use your knife to push his blade down, and away from your body. The combination of his motion and yours, his forward momentum and your own forward movement should put you in position to rotate your knife up into an attack position. Allowing you to stab him in the lower abdomen. Use your free hand to grab him and then pull him into your thrust.
Obviously the techniques will become more complicated and complex the more they are practiced.
"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." Bruce Lee
With regards to open hand or unarmed fighting we developed a style that was loosely formed around the techniques found in Muay Thai and principles of Bruce Lee, ‘Be like water’.
Head Butts - Elbow Strikes – Punches - Knee Strikes – Kicks
The basic head butt is part of a versatile part of a fighters repertoire. That it is forbidden under the rules for fighting established by the Marquess of Queensberry merely exemplifies its effectiveness.
In the combat scenario we used the two men would stand face to face. Keep your hands centered, inside the width of your shoulders and up towards the center of your chest, as if in prayer. The opponent reaches for your head or shoulders, as he does, your own hands, from their interior position, move to the back of his head. Seizing his head, then pull him forward, increasing his own momentum, and smash his face with your skull. The combined momentum, his and your own have been directed at his face, the nose or chin which are the most vulnerable targets. As we worked the technique it became apparent that by bending the knees, thereby presenting a smaller less intimidating posture, you could position your head below the opponents chin. Then as you strike, power forward, straightening your knees and coming up, onto your toes. It is a simple technique, one that is both effective and easy to practice
We would work the six basic punches: Left jab, straight right, left and right upper cut and left and right hook.
Everything works off the left jab, when used effectively your entire body moves forward. Your hips will twist and your shoulders turn into the jab. The fighter must coordinate the parts of his body to work as one, drawing power from the legs, moving it through the hips up into the shoulders and then down the left arm, where the energy becomes focused at the first two knuckles of the fist, as it makes contact with the target.
Up at ‘Stoner Rock’ we installed a ‘makiwara’ which is an Okinawan term for a post in the ground with rope wrapped tightly around it, which becomes the target of attack. Repeated strikes at the makiwara and your knuckles will turn red, if all of them become inflamed, then the technique is flawed. The objective is for the first two knuckles of the fist to make primary contact with the target. Focusing the impact on just those two knuckles concentrates the focused energy of the entire body on two square inches. it is comparable to being stabbed with the butt of a rifle barrel.
The straight right punch transfers energy in the same way as the left jab. With both strikes it is important to turn your fist ‘over’ as you are making contact with the target. The essence of the techniques are the same. Focus on turning into the punch, twisting at the hip, turning the shoulder, and landing on the first two knuckles of your fist, with a twisting motion as the strike lands. The primary target is the nose, followed by the chin, eyes and Adam’s apple.
Defensively, keep your chin tucked into the shoulder for optimum protection, do not ‘Lead with the Chin”, if you do be prepared to be hit in the chin and possibly knocked out, by a counter punch.
The technique for an uppercut called for bending the knees and dropping your center of gravity, the blasting upward, driving the fist into the target’s belly, floating ribs, chin or nose. As with the jab and straight right, rotate your fist as you strike, and use two knuckle targeting.
Utilizing the hook, really twist the hips and get a good turn to your body as you throw the punch. Different styles of combatives differ on rotating the fist on a hook. Asian martial arts maintain that the fist should rotate on all strikes. Professional-boxers don’t rotate the fist on a hook. Whichever technique is chosen, still concentrate on targeting, focusing on landing the first two knuckles on the target.
Steve Canyon, the Air Force veteran of Thailand said that in Muay Thai Boran there were sixteen basic elbow strikes. Heeding the wisdom of Bruce Lee, we whittled it down to three, the overhead, uppercut, and hook.
The overhead elbow is a simple technique, just rotate your elbow from a normal fighting position, and do a big interior circle, keeping the elbow between the shoulders while brining it high up over your head. The technique culminates by bringing it down on your opponent’s head.
As you bring the elbow down, turn your body into the strike, utilize all your weight, concentrating the energy at the point of your elbow. When the basics of the technique are mastered, elevate your game by lifting your foot at the beginning of the elbow’s inward circle, then bring it down either to the ground or, preferably on the opponent’s foot, just as the elbow makes contact with the target.
The body movements of the uppercut elbow mimics those of the uppercut punch. First drop low by bending at the knees, then quickly elevate striking the target, the underside of the chin.
The hook elbow flows in the same way as a hook punch. Targeting the opponents’ temple, the jaw or nose, it is even possible to slice the skin of his forehead, with the subsequent blood obscuring his vision.