20 May 2013

Sap- Selection, Carry, Deployment, and Use

Before we get into the selection, carry, deployment, and use of saps, I want to remind you about who this information is coming from.  I am far from the 25 year old steely eyed barrel chested freedom fighter rookie cop I once was.  I am older, fatter, and slower.  I spend most of my time seeking comfort and avoiding aggravation.  At this point in my life, I am far beyond arguing with idiots and my interest in personal protection is that it enables me to go about my life in the most efficient manner.  

Basically what I am saying is that most of the time I am a path of least resistance type of guy, and if I use force on someone they went out of their way to make that happen.  This last part is an essential part of what I teach.  OK, that is out of the way, moving on-

Selection- I see the sap as the ultimate CQB tool based on the several reasons. One is that regardless of what people may fantasize about, many do not have the stomach to shoot someone, and even fewer to cut someone.  The second is that during self-defense scenarios people are more inclined to use a tool that is less likely to make holes in another person.  The third, and ultimately the most important, is that the fastest way to stop someone from attacking you is to attack their central nervous system and their structural system.  A penetrating injury to the circulatory system from a bullet or blade may eventually cause death, but can take a long time to stop the violent action.  Our natural weapons are excellent for attacking the central nervous system and the structural system, but can also cause injury to ourselves.  Using a sap removes this issue and increases force on a small surface area increasing trauma.

By now, especially if you read the primer piece for this article, you are wondering why I am only using the word sap and not mentioning blackjacks.  Well, the reason is simple, whether you are a policeman or a citizen; morally you need the ability to use a measured response.  For the policeman, that means using the least amount of force necessary to affect the apprehension.  For the citizen, it means using the least amount of force necessary for you to be able to safely remove yourself from the situation.  In both cases, it is the actions of your attacker that decide what the level of that force is.  Too often police and citizens do not carry an intermediate force option, or even if they do carry it, they don’t view it as an option.  The point I am trying to make is that I believe many people are shot as a result of a dynamic escalating situation that could have been squashed early on with open hand combatives, batons, or a sap.  Deadly force cannot be your knee jerk response because it does not provide a measured response, and neither does a blackjack.  Blackjacks are great for knocking people out with central nervous system strikes to the head which is deadly force, but less useful for striking large muscle groups and joints without doing serious, permanent physical injury which is part of the definition of deadly force.  

However, the sap has the ability to be used as a deadly force option, or for a measured response, depending on the situation.

Personally, I am a fan of any beavertail type sap.  The sap pictured in this article is a “Fatty” from David Doer form D3Protection.  It is six inches long and is filled with 10 ounces of powdered lead.  As an aside, this particular one is done in brown leather from a Caiman Crocodile.  It also features a pocket clip for concealing inside the waistband.  The primary reason I prefer this sap is because of its size to weight ratio.  To the uniformed onlooker, smaller saps disappear in your hand and it appears that you hit the person open handed.  The beavertail design gives you options for use we will talk about later.

Carry- in MCS, we encourage folks to carry all tools for dealing with people problems between the pocket seams to the front, or in other words from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock.  Support gear is carried pocket seams to the rear, or 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock.  The farther your gun, knife, or sap is behind the pocket seams the farther behind you that your elbow must travel, the farther and higher your elbow travels the farther it is away from protecting your head, and the further your head comes down, breaking your balance.
Deployment- as with any self-defense tool, there are types of deployment; prefight and in-fight.  Regardless of the tool, many people fixate on prefight deployment.  Your best chance to employ prefight deployment is to make a habit of having the tool in your hand whenever you feel that you are in an environment in which a scenario in which you could use it is probable.  Now, you can see where having primary deadly force options of guns and knives as the foundation of the tools you carry is problematic. 
Interpersonal conflict takes place at three distinct ranges:  standing free range movements, usually in the form of punches and kicks; the clinch, which is often when you see throws and trips; and lastly ground control.  This is a very natural progression that you see over and over.  So, it would stand to reason that if pre-deployment is a luxury, that a plan for in-fight access dealing with all three ranges of combat is required to deploy any tool.

Any attack, except for a firearm, will require the attacker or attackers to be within arm’s reach of you or within arm’s reach in addition to the length of edged and impact weapons they are using.  Basically, if you can touch them, then they can touch you.  Unlike the muzzle of a gun or the blade of a knife, as long as the sap remains in your hand, there is very little chance of doing yourself any harm.  Not having to worry about sharp edges or a muzzle makes deployment during free range movement pretty straight forward.

About the clinch, remember about carrying your sap in front of or just behind your pocket seams?  For every quarter of an inch it is past that, you will be cursing yourself.  We are hardwired to clinch with both hands, instinctively knowing that if we move a hand down to our waistband it will be a hole for our enemy to fill with an attack.  This has never been so clearly demonstrated as in our Folder into the Fight Drill, where the good guy is being bopped in the head with boxing gloves and mistakenly takes a few to the head instead of doing something violent to gain distance first, takes a beating trying to get their knife out.

So, how do we solve that problem?  Easy, people become fixated with wrestling with the upper body.  The best example is watching three or four cops wrestling with a guy with everyone trying to hold onto his arms with the intention of taking him to the ground.  Instead, we just teach one to just grab the legs and pull taking them to the ground.  In the clinch, we use the same principle to create the time and space to deploy your weapon.  But instead of grabbing the legs, you use your instep to kick into the attacker’s shin before raking down.  This causes them to hollow out as their chin and hands move towards the pain.  This results in them putting most of their weight onto their toes, which retards forward movement, allowing you to deploy your sap.
On the ground, the two worst positions to be in are flat on your back with the attacker high on your torso or flat on your stomach with the attacker in the same position.   Being on the ground and on the bottom is often one of the most needed places, and the easiest places to deploy a weapon.  The reason is that the attacker is usually fixated on keeping you down on the ground and that requires both hands.  If both hands are tied up, that means there is a good chance that one or both of your arms are free.  Train for this circumstance. The biggest concern here is that your head is likely getting punched and then bouncing off the pavement.  In both cases, bring one of your biceps to your face.  If you are on your back, it will protect you from taking punches from the front as you keep your chin to your chest to keep it off the ground.  If you are on your stomach, it will keep your face off the ground but do little to protect the blows from behind.  There is not enough room in this article to cover this fully.  I will just say that you need to do whatever you have to do to get up to kneeling and then to standing.  If you can get your sap into play, do so.  Also understand, that in my opinion, that if I am involved in an altercation on the street and I fall or am taken to the ground, and my attacker follows me there and continues to attack instead of letting me up, it may be a deadly force situation.  This of course has to be based on the totality of the circumstances.

Use- use of the sap.  What everyone has been waiting for.  First, let’s talk about targets and then types of strikes.  I break targets down into Green, Yellow, and Red.  Green targets are the large muscle groups of the arms and legs.  These include the upper arms, lower arms, and upper leg.  We don’t ever count on pain making someone stop.  As previously said, we attack the central nervous system and the structural system at the same time.  With Green targets, you have the choice of using the flat or edge of the sap.  A good pop with a sap will cause a leg or arm to go completely dead from shocking the central nervous system as well as overwhelming pain receptors in the muscle groups.  Doing this with the flat of the sap is going to be more than sufficient in most cases.  If not and before moving to Yellow targets, you can use the edge of the sap.  This increased concentration of force on a small surface area, especially as a subsequent strike, will cause most people to buckle and rethink their course of conduct.  Green strikes, especially to the arms, would be my first choice as an immediate response to someone grabbing me.  A blow to the inside of the forearm is very effective.

Yellow targets are best when you are not comfortable waiting to see the full intention of your attack, or if Green targets are not working.  Yellow targets include the wrist, elbow, collar bone, groin, and kidneys.  If your attacker is wearing heavy or loose clothing, your best initial strike is a Yellow strike to the groin since you are in front and it is likely the most accessible even in cold weather.  Even a faint will cause them to hollow out and offer you their chin.  As with the Green strikes, you can use the flat or the edge.  Both will have immediate and obvious effects.  Few soft targets will buckle someone faster than a shot to the liquid filled kidneys.

 Now we will move onto Red targets.  These are all considered deadly force and should only be used if you would otherwise be justified in shooting or stabbing them, if so armed.  The entire head is a Red target, but especially the area just about the eyes (fuse box) and the top of the head where all the sutures grow together.  A strike here with a sap could very likely cause death or serious permanent damage.  Likely about the only measurable difference between hitting with the edge instead of the flat is the tearing of skin on the skull.

As previously stated, it is the measured response that a sap provides that cannot be found with any other tool that is as effective as a deadly force option.  Legal issues aside, that is why it needs to be an option to the citizen that cannot afford a firearm, but refuses to give up their ability to use deadly force in defense of their life.

As far as police go, they need a deadly force option that only requires human motion to be effective in very tight quarters in which they lose their lives.  I am a huge fan of the expandable baton, but would in a minute trade it in for a six inch sap.  Probably because I am also a fan of using the ASP closed, it is much more discreet, packs a punch, and lends itself to the same techniques I used with the sap.  Familiarity through trial and error breeds confidence.  An officer that makes a habit of striking large muscle groups when needed, learns fast when he needs to strike a collarbone or in the head.  Unlike with a baton where all police are taught to strike large muscle groups, and when they fail to be effective, the officers fixate and continue to use the same angle of strike against the same target.  That increases excessive force complaints.

Every strike we use with the sap can also be done with the open hands.  Obviously this takes more skill to develop accuracy and power, but not to use the same angles.  The open hand strikes that lend themselves to sap work are the slap, backhand, palm heel edge strike, and thumb knuckle strike.  For our Green targets, we would use the thumb knuckle strike hand making contact with the back of the last knuckle on the thumb, and the backhand as if snapping a towel.  For Yellow targets, we would use a combination of them all.  

Note that the strikes we use most often come from under the line of sight of the attack and from within our silhouette.  They both improve power using economy of motion and make it harder for the attacker to process what is going on because of the speed of movement.

With or without a sap, be sure to keep your hand relaxed and flexible allowing the power to travel down the arm as if you are snapping a towel or a whip.  This way energy is not just transferred to the target, but through it.

By doing some force on force, you will quickly see that within arms reach you often end up in a position to hit these targets with the strikes mentioned.  People always ask if you can do X, Y, or Z and the answer is yes.  I am not trying to share “the” way, but “a” way that you may find helpful to add to your personal protection system.

Photos courtesy of Pho-Tac

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