24 August 2016

Video- Striking with knuckles

I will also be writing an article, but here is a quick video for primer.  Remember, this is for educational purposes only.  Striking someone with any item can cause serious permanent physical injury or death.

23 August 2016

Knuckles 101 Part I Selection, Carry, Deployment, & Use

The following article is for informational purposes only.  With few exceptions, the impact tool commonly known as brass knuckles or knuckle dusters are prohibited for carry by state and local laws.

There are basically only two types of weapons; edged and impact, both by design and improvised.  Even a bullet is a hybrid that goes really fast.  The three primary ways to cause trauma to the human body are burning, cutting, and crushing.  Injuries, both from accidents or from interpersonal violence, are largely from contact with objects and surfaces, usually  blunt force trauma.  These injuries effect mostly the central nervous systems and the structural system of the body.

The study of Combative Anatomy reveals that the fastest way to stop the aggressive action of another is by counter attacking their central nervous system with personal weapons i.e.; fists, elbows, and knees or impact weapons such as pens, flashlights, knuckle dusters, saps, and blackjacks.

For the sake of this article we will be focusing on the use of "brass knuckles" or "knuckle dusters".  Their effectiveness comes not from the weight of the material they are constructed out of, but more so their ability to concentrate energy on a small area increasing trauma by taking advantage of efficient or "natural striking".  More on that later.

Selection- collecting "knuckles" is a great pastime for close quarter combat weapon enthusiasts.  There are many designs available, both old and new.  Years ago I designed what I consider the perfect set of knuckles called the Jaw Jacker, which are still available from Alpha Innovations.  They are made out of polymer, and have rounded protrusions on the top of each of the four knuckles and on the top (thumb side) and bottom (pinkie side).  Also incorporated into the design is an innovative "leaf spring" that flexes during contact during a strike.

Classic knuckles are made of just about any metal available to the maker at the time, brass
Knucks recovered from a suspect I picked up on a warrant.
He told me he had been using them to jack other drug dealers.
Notice the padding added after he injured his hand using them
the first time trying to wear them as rings. They are too big on me
and he was much smaller than I am.
obviously being very common.

Many often complain that they have never been able to find knuckles that fit them. This is because they are trying to wear them as “rings”.   This is not how they were intended to be used.  They are intended to be worn between the first and second knuckle placing the palm brace in the meat of your hand.

If one was to wear knuckles ring style and had the occasion to strike a hard surface, it would likely result in the fracture of one or more fingers or other bones of the hand.  For those who have been unfortunate enough to experience hand fractures from striking people or objects, they will tell you just how fast the swelling begins.  Sometimes almost instantly.  If this were to occur, the knuckles would be stuck on your hand and would most likely have to be cut off.

Today, many of us who make the carrying of weapons part of our daily routine will probably never have the time or opportunity to use them.  Unless you happen to have something in your hand at the time of the attack, your initial response will be open handed, and from there most likely a handgun if so armed. As a matter of fact, I am of the mind that if you have to use any force at all during a situation that your awareness and avoidance skills have failed you.  Of course this is not accurate for the cop on the street who is initiating contact.

The good guys and bad guys of the past who led to the outlawing of once commonplace tools of knuckles, saps, and jacks used them often.  My point is that had it been common practice to wear them as rings there would be more stories about injuries to the user than that of the effect on the person struck.

So for academic purposes only, a set of knuckles should be selected based on how well they fit between your first two knuckles as well as the palm brace in your hand.  Ideally they would not be too big or too small for your hand…but just right.  Too small and they would be hard to put on.  Too big and they will give your fingers too much room to move around increasing the possibility of injury.

Jaw Jacker designed by George F Matheis Jr and manufactured
by Alpha Innovations.  This is the original prototype.  Production
models are black.
Carry- another reason why they were not worn as rings was because they were most often carried in the strong side pockets of the trousers or jackets.  I would imagine they were sometimes carried in the strong side back pocket for convenience.  As a general rule, tools for dealing with people problems should be carried between the pocket seams to the front.  Accessing gear behind the seams can be difficult from disadvantaged positions such as sitting in a vehicle or on the ground.  There is no doubt that many robbers carried them alone, but the cops of old carried them in support of their pistol, along with the jack, sap, or baton.  The ability to slip them on an off in the pocket one handed was important.  If you try to wear them as rings you will find that unless your hands are quite small you need your other hand to seat them.  The ability to slip them on quickly was important to cops and robbers alike.  The ability to quickly drop them back in the pocket before retrieving handcuffs was as crucial for the police as being able to ditch them somewhere was to the criminal.

Deployment- as with all weapons, the how and when to deploy is the missing link in the use of knuckles, more so now and them.  A cop could punch a fella in the face without repercussions and two guys could go at each other without the law becoming involved.  In both cases, the gentlemen of old were probably more prone to entering a physical conversation with a set of knuckles already in hand. That is not the world we live in today.  If you happen to live in a place where knuckles are legal or you improvise by using a large carabiner, you better be justified.

Probably got it right by accident.
Use- the #1 thing to consider with use of knuckles is that they seldom resulted in death.  The police of yesteryear did not have to concern themselves with ineffectual "green zone”"strikes on large muscle groups with impact weapons.  They used the knuckles, saps, jacks, and batons for a shot to the head, collar bone. or elbow to gain enough time to drag ne'er-do- wells back to the call box to wait on for the wagon.  Many talk about using the jab along with knuckles.  The only way this works is if you and the other person you are in close patterned movement such as seen in boxing.   As soon as you rush toward them or they rush towards you, human anatomy and physiology dictates your arms will swing.  This is why the roundhouse or hay maker is the most common first strike during a fight.  It is also why trained "knife fighters" who drone on and on about how you should stab in a fight will frantically swing when forced backwards.  Human nature takes over and the arms go out to the side for balance.  This hard wired natural protective response takes precedence over the attack from the front.  Deep down inside we know that it is better to be standing up during a fight than flat on our back.  If you have the time and opportunity to use knuckles offensively as a preemptive strike, you may be able to jab.  More likely you will be using your knuckles in fight and hammer fisting and "dusting" your attacker.  Check back soon for Part II- Knuckles 101 Efficient Striking later this week.

18 August 2016

Combative Fundamentals- Grab before the punch defense

15 August 2016

How a police involved shooting created MCS Part I

Those who know me in person or are familiar with my musings will likely agree that I am.... how would you say it in a nice way...."passionate".  All this self defense stuff is not a hobby for me, it is life and death, especially after a cold winter night in February 2000.

It was the start of a typical wintertime midnight shift, a cold, clear Sunday night.  I was supposed to be off but had been talked into covering for another officer.  The agency's jurisdiction was divided by Interstate 40 in Harford County Maryland, just about smack dab in the middle between Baltimore and Philadelphia.

On the way to the station, as was my habit, I stopped in at WAWA and picked up a cup of coffee.  After putting my key code into the door, I made small talk with the off going shift.  There was nothing much going on.  During a brief roll call I noticed that one of my shift mates Larry only had one spare magazine on his belt.  When questioned about it, he said he had been off since Friday when he had court and it was in his car.  I was not impressed, about that or the fact that even though there was snow on the ground he was wearing those damn ass shiny shoes instead of boots.  Working that night was me, Rick, Jesse, Mark, and Larry.  The first two were corporals and that others officers just like me.

After roll call we all headed out in different directions, no doubt with different things on our mind.  Mine was on Frank, my newborn son who was resting at home after going through his first open heart surgery at Johns Hopkins.  He had died there, but they brought him back and saved him.  I had been off for a while and had not been back to work full time for very long.

I pulled on to the lot of 53 West Bel Air Ave.  A project on the east side of town, my assigned post for the night.  Still sipping on that cup of coffee I heard the radio crack.  "Dispatch-70"..."70"..."Dispatch-70, 10-25 Colonels Choice reference individual failing to pay"..."70, 10-4"...."27 (me), direct".

Just as I was turning onto Rt 40 West I heard "Responding units be advised the patron has now displayed a 10-32 (man with a gun)"  Even  though that was a very common call, I got a feeling in the pit of my stomach that something was different this time.

As I turned onto Carol Ave where the Colonels Choice Restaurant was located on Rt 40, I could see who I believed to be the complainant leaning into 70's (Mark's) car window.  Mark pulled his car to the side and we both got out of our cars.  The complainant then walked up to me and said "he ran behind that motel and he has a Dirty Harry gun".  About this time Jesse and Rick were pulling up.  Without saying much, all four of us began to walk across the street towards the hotel.  With frozen snow crunching under our feet, we split into two man teams.  Mark and I were on the left, and Rick and Jesse on the right.  We started to go down the back of the hotel, and Rick and Jesse were about 10 yards from us along a privacy fence.

We could not have walked more than a few yards when I heard Rick yell "show me your hands". At this time I saw the suspect standing behind what at the time I thought was a propane cylinder (turned out to be a water tank) and in his hands I could see a gun silhouetted against the night sky.  But I did not think "gun."  I thought Colt Python because I could see the ventilated rib.  I began to yell 10-32...10-32" and in slow motion he began to bring the gun down into about a 4-6 inch gap between the building and the tank.  Defaulting to my SWAT team training, both Mark and I were members, I had my left hand on Mark's right shoulder with my pistol extended past him.  As the gun came down, Rick fired and his round hit the tank and ricocheted into the building.  I could plainly see the silhouette of my gun between me and the threat when I pulled the trigger.  The suspect then disappeared and all hell broke loose.  I pulled Mark back against that wall so hard it shredded his uniform sleeve.  I had no chance to get on the radio because everyone else was.  As I got back to my car, I could hear more gun fire.  It sounded like a running gun battle.

After I got back to my car, I pulled it up on the shoulder of RT 40 West and popped my trunk to access my Mossberg 590 12 GA.  Before long I was joined by the other officers who said that the suspect had run into a wooded area we were in front of.  By that time it seemed like every cop in the county was coming with blaring sirens.  Before long the State Police helicopter was overhead lighting everything up like a Christmas tree.  At some point I was told we were going in after him.  I made a conscious decision to download my shotgun of the slugs it was loaded with and switch to OO Buck hoping it would fare better in the brush.  Before I knew it, with the helicopter overhead, we were being lead down a dirt road by a K-9 handler from the county who had another female deputy with him. They were followed by Rick, Jesse, me, and Mark.  We cautiously moved down the road which had woods on both sides of it.  I guess we were about 75 yards in when I saw the K-9 Handler turn almost all the way around backwards and yell "drop the gun".  The dog had totally missed the suspect who was laying on the ground about 5 yards to our left.  As I looked all I could see was the muzzle of the gun.  Gunfire once again split the night air, rounds of 40 S&W, 9MM, and two rounds of my OO Buck.  The suspect slouched for a second and then aimed the gun at us again.  In that second, Jesse had begun to move forward of my muzzle and I yanked him back with my left hand with the shotgun still on my shoulder.  Somehow in the same second I managed to fire two more rounds of OO Buck and everyone except for the female fired again.  As a matter of fact she never fired at all. When the dust cleared, she had a flashlight in each hand.  Something in the second volley blew the gun out of his hand.  I would later find out that one of my pellets blew the thumb off his gun hand.  As we all covered him Rick moved around and grabbed the suspect's legs and pulled him out of the bush, away from the gun.  Someone picked up the gun and said "it's a BB gun".  I yelled "fuck, fuck, fuck".

After he was pulled out of the bushes, Rick pulled up the leather and jean jackets he was wearing and bent his legs towards his chest in an attempt to push blood back up into his upper body,  it looked like Daffy Duck when he would get shot by Elmer Fudd and all his blood would pour out.  All the bullet holes began to weep as life slipped away.  The State Police helicopter landed in the middle of RT 40 and the reality of what had happened over the last 15 minutes began to set in.

08 August 2016

How to- deal with angry customers

The following incident happened a few weeks ago. For some time I have been donating plasma at a facility in York PA, not far from MCS York.  It is in a nice area but the plasma center tends to attract some interesting folks to say the least.  I go there for four reasons-

  • It's easy money if you don't mind needles
  • It gives me a solid 60-90 minutes to catch up on e-mails and texts.
  • It provides the plasma for life-saving drugs.
  • I get to sit back and watch the behavior of people I otherwise would not see.
The last one is a treasure trove for someone who loves to study human interaction and behavior.

The place I go is super busy but the staff only makes about $11 an hour as a phlebotomist.  Once they are trained, they move onto area hospitals for more money.  This often leads to low and inexperienced staffing. Add to this that people get antsy standing in line, things often get interesting.  Now that I have explained the environment, let me tell you what happened.  

It was about 11 AM and I had just walked in and done the typical prescreening at a kiosk.  On my way out of the bathroom I could hear a woman yelling on the other side of the center where you stand in line until they have an open bed.  Right away I surmised that it was either about her place in line or things taking too long. All the staff at the front, as well as all the managers, had formed a crowd and were trying to deal with her. This was the worst possible response to an angry customer.   If the person has already escalated to the point of yelling and screaming, this attention only adds fuel to the fire.  

This is negotiating 101.  One person talks.  At this point, the customer will have a hard enough time listening to one person using one voice and tone much less several.  Not to mention a person who is yelling in public will likely not be quickly or easily calmed down.  This is is especially true if they have an audience of other customers/clients/visitors, and she did.

Regardless of what she was upset about, this is what should have happened-

  • If safe, a manager/supervisor (or any staff that seems to have a repartee with them) should approach the person and in a calm voice ask them to step outside or into another office to talk about the issue.
  • If they refuse, they should be asked to leave.  Call 911.  They are now trespassing.  Check your state and local laws about issuing a barred letter.
  • If they agree to go somewhere and talk, take them to a place away from others but where another staff can see you.
  • Ask them to tell you the whole story from the beginning.  This allows them to blow off steam and forces them to breathe.  The combination of being heard and getting more oxygen to the brain will aid in calming them down.  While they are talking, do not interrupt.  Typically the longer they talk the calmer they will get.  During this time, if you can get them to sit the results will occur even faster. Whether you are standing or sitting with them, make sure you are not face to face.  If at a desk, they should be seated at the side and not across the desk.  Standing next to them gives the perception that you are on their side against the world.
  • Avoid telling them that they are wrong in any way.  They will not see it that way and will block out anything else you say.
  • Ask them what they want or need.  If you can do it, do it.  If not, tell them so and let them know what you can offer.
To reiterate, if they refuse to walk to talk or you believe they pose a physical threat to others, 911 should be called.  Do not make a mistake of engaging in a back and forth with them.  It will only escalate things and get others involved.  

All staff should be trained to deal with these situations.  As soon as someone raises their voice, staff should intervene and attempt the above listed points to deescalate.  

Several months ago, I had given my card to one of the managers of the donation center and explained what I do.  Of course, they had no interest.

In this case, it turned out to be about the wait in line.  They spoke to her and she was calmed down a little bit, but through the entire donation process continued to be loud and belligerent as she attempted to recruit other donors for her cause.  What she and every other donor who saw what happened learned was that there is no standard of conduct in the donation center and bad behavior is accepted and tolerated.  Others in the waiting room or after that donation probably chose not to return.  We will never know.

This is all part of doing business and dealing with the public.  If you do not plan by having procedures in place, you are planning to fail.  That can mean anything from loss of customers to violence in your place of business.