Danaher on Military Strategy

Photo from Jiu-Jitsu Magazine.

Renowned jiujitsu coach of the Renzo Gracie team John Danaher is interviewed in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine. On p. 51 he’s asked to elaborate on studying military strategy to improve one’s jiujitsu. He replied:

“Yes, I believe jiu-jitsu is combat on a one-on-one scale. It’s one individual against one individual. It mirrors many of the elements we find in mass combat – between armies…even between nations. So many of the profound thinkers in the history of combat concern themselves with combat on a grand scale, namely military combat. These outstanding thinkers have written about it in a very profound fashion. Many of the lessons they derive apply just as well to single combat as they do to what they talk about in mass combat.

Often if I find myself bereft of ideas or stunted in growth…I’m not progressing in certain directions..I will draw inspiration from people like this.  And very often it jolts my mind to directions I hadn’t investigated, or I had forgotten about, or I hadn’t paid enough attention to. And then, of course, you have to bring it back in a practical fashion to the sport of jiu-jitsu. It can’t just be abstract thinking. It has to be brought back to concrete results and actually enhance the performance of the jiu-jitsu athlete. So,I use them for inspiration to make me think about things differently, and then its up to me to make the abstract thoughts practical that will improve jiu-jitsu competition.”

If you’ve read your Musashi, it sounds like he’s reading Musashi… Otherwise this is an example par excellence of the usefulness of not only of military strategy, but of the martial tradition – in which jiujitsu (jujutsu) holds an honored place. And it’s usefulness isn’t simply for sport competition, but in terms of tactical and self-defensive performance as well.





Knife Defense Takedown

Craig Douglas posted this refinement of the Underhook and Bicep Tie clinch in knife defense at the Shivworks Alumni page here:


The Hook N Ties are my favored Enhanced Close Quarters clinch as they are conducive to many takedowns. Seeing this refinement Craig offered, I saw a great opening for combining knife defense with a leg sweep takedown based in the same body mechanics and postural manipulation this position provides.

Here they are:

Front and back views:


Some description on the mechanics from the back view, showing how the underhook and postural mechanics work:


Give Yourself a Hand

Neck Fracture of the Fourth Metacarpal Bone.png

Boxer’s Fracture is a colloquial term for a fracture of one of the metacarpal bones of the hand. Classically, the fracture occurs transversely across the metacarpal neck, after the patient strikes an object with a closed fist. Alternate terms include scrapper’s fracture or bar room fracture. ”  


When I teach striking for self defense and defensive tactics I advise against striking with a closed fist, particularly the head, for various reasons related to safety and tactical performance – and in defensive tactics, sometimes the simple optics of the act. I’ve seen and heard of too many folks dealing with hand injuries, including several officers who punched resisting suspects in the head and lost time at work or later had to have surgery,  to take the potential for a hand injury lightly.

Outside of that personal experience, a cursory review of available popular information shows a particular class of fracture literally referred to as a “Boxer’s Fracture.”

Then Googling “boxers and broken hands” or “MMA fighter’s broken hands,” one notices that even the best trained, most highly skilled professionals also occasionally have problems breaking their hands in fights – sometimes even when wearing gloves

Things that make you go hmmm….


But thinking back on those old-timey  bare knuckle boxers, they  didn’t bust their hands up like that, did they? And those fights could go on for forty or seventy rounds or even longer! How could they fight that long, with bare knuckles, and not hurt their hands?

Well, it seems they boxed very differently than the sport is conducted today, with a particular array of techniques and approaches to striking:

Bare knuckle boxing is still being conducted, and has even been offered as a potential alternative to gloved boxing due to the inherent and more lethal danger of hitting people hard and repeatedly in the head when wearing padded hand protection.

Then what about self defense?

In an unarmed scuffle, if you are at all tough, a broken hand will not likely mean that you will be unable to continue fighting, or even prevail in the encounter, so isn’t the point kind of moot?

Well, no. The essential nature of self defense is not, and should never be confused with, mano-a-mano brawling, in either the ring or the street. Self defense includes so many other elements and potentials that must be taken into account if we are engaging with appropriately integrated and transdisciplinary combatives.

An empty hand fight, or even resistive arrest, could go to weapons at any time, a change in the nature of the confrontation could necessitate a need for a fighting tool: lethal or less lethal. And while I may be fine continuing to pummel someone’s face with my own mangled hand, I’m not so sure I’d want to be attempting to access a Taser, or a knife, or draw and manipulate a pistol, or try to retain my weapon with that self-same damaged hand. Particularly if the need to now deploy such a tool means the stakes of the confrontation have just gone way up – not to mention the stress that goes with that turn of events.

And let’s say during this continuing confrontation, I have a weapons’ malfunction. While I may still be able to fire a pistol with a broken hand,  do I really want to be trying to clear, say, a double feed with one?

Even a reload could be problematic…

Further, should I incur other injuries from the now lethal threat, how will my ability to treat them be impacted by having a broken hand? Self-application of tourniquets, tight enough, is tough enough, without additional difficulty presented by a hand injury.

And if I had to administer aid to another? A friend, or loved one?

Not to mention the issue of blood borne pathogens. One of the marked disconnects in the defensive communities’ understanding of real life confrontations is the need to be concerned for bleeding on the part of an assailant and ourselves. Punching people in the face just seems to cause more bleeding from both the target and the abraded knuckles of the striker. While at times some bleeding may be unavoidable, given the choice to use tactics less likely to result in the rapid introduction of nasty contaminants into an already chaotic and uncontrolled encounter, it would seem the better option.

Mindful of all these things, I’ve reconsidered relying on  techniques that have a recognized propensity for causing hand injuries, even to very experienced fighters when they have been without gloves, and even when some of those fighters are wearing them, in favor of those other options.

Initiation to the Art of War

In the continuing effort to introduce readers to the deeper history of jujutsu (jiu-jitsu), this is an interesting piece, that should give an insight into the “first” jujutsu school: the Takenouchi-ryu.

Available via PDF download:

Initiation to the Art of War: A Preliminary Text of the Takenouchi School.

See also from the same author:

Art of Gentleness: Concepts and Origins of Japanese Jujutsu

The author notes that with judo and aikido, jujutsu-related arts are of the “greatest overseas impact” of traditional Japanese arts to the world; while in some sense BJJ might be seen as “basically just judo” in this equation, I think it has become a different expression of jujutsu in itself, even returned to Japanese shores, and should be counted in this company as well.

The Other Three Corners…

What we really should be building toward is not so much being multi-disciplinary, but multi-dimensional tacticians.

Ever notice that most teaching and writing in the tactical and self defense fields is far more about the training itself than about the utilization of that training?  Often this revolves around building physical and technical skills, and a mental attitude geared more to self development and personal fulfillment rather than personal protection.

It’s modern pop-sport-psychology. Kind of the Tactical Tony Robbins approach…

Of course, being committed to being skilled, being fit, and being mentally resilient are necessary fundamentals, and it is important to have quality teachers across these multiple disciplines as we endeavor to achieve a comprehensive approach.

But each is really only one or two dimensions when it comes to actual field or street application and performance, leading to being one (or two-) dimensional tacticians. We cannot define comprehensive performance via measures predicated on things like A-zone hits and how fast they are achieved, to who throws or taps who, or punches thrown and punches landed. Those are metrics for closed, highly regulated systems not reflective of the open, kinetic environments which present with an array of very different psychological stressors. I’ve known technically skilled people to perform poorly under uncertain, rapidly evolving, and highly stressful tactical situations, and I’ve known people with lesser mat and range skills perform brilliantly under the same.

So don’t be one dimensional. And don’t expect that courses that teach or measure solely physical and technical performance are teaching anything more than just that, a critical evaluation of but a single dimension.

We have to go beyond that, and do so early in our training trajectory.

Confucius said:

“I never try to make people open up [to the world of learning] unless they already have a pent up excitement about it. Then if I give them one corner [of a problem or point of study], if they do not come back to me with the other three corners I will not involve myself with them again.”

(In Analects)

It’s up to us to bring the other Three Corners back…



Under the Blade

Rocky R

The carry and use of the knife came up again in conversation this past week with some colleagues. Some think of me as a “knife guy,” though I don’t think of myself as such, and don’t think the “knife community” of martial artists and makers would consider me much of one, either. Next to many of the people in that community, I know next to nothing.

Not that I am uninterested – blades are a critical piece of gear, and I take a personal and professional interest in them – and carry one every day next to a pistol, two or more when working, fixed and folder, depending on assignment. And I believe that edged weapons demand particular attention from a defensive standpoint.

And it’s not that I haven’t trained the knife: over the past three decades I’ve done of course the requisite “police knife fighting” courses from several vendors, some Chinese stuff, a smidgen of Filipino stuff – with Ray Floro for a bit; but spent more time with short blades in early Japanese traditions.

I own one book on fighting with a knife. Though it suffers from its own type of tough-guy bravado, that one book says really all that needs said. All the other videos and books that passed under my eyes ended up sold or traded, because the writers didn’t know what they didn’t know, and in a few cases were simply selling outright fetishistic fantasy.

Now I’ve never been cut or stabbed, though I’ve handled many edged weapons incidents over the years where others were cut up: I’ve seen people bleeding like stuck pigs, handled folks with knives, and taken edged weapons away from a few. I’m privy to first-hand accounts from many others who have been cut or stabbed. I don’t need to read about it in books.

And in terms of the practical, tactical, legal and likely use of the knife, I have come to depart quite a bit from the knife community at large.

You won’t find me doing much in the way of sparring with a knife, or promoting the use of the knife in a pugilistic or duelish “knife fighting” manner. That kind of thing misses the point, if you’ll pardon the pun; It just doesn’t go down like that from a defensive or counter-offensive standpoint, and I believe training like that encourages some unsafe habits and patterns in students.

Some make the argument that “if you want to know how to defeat a knife, learn how to use one.” I don’t disagree. But it’s in how we learn to use the knife – and knife-sparring etc. is not that way. Knife dueling to learn practical use of the knife is the equivalent to taking taekwondo to learn how to wrestle, or doing paintball to learn how to gunfight…some shared attributes are not necessarily shared applications.

You’ll not find me advocating the use of a knife in any way as a “less lethal” tool – an incredibly misguided idea that had some popularity a while back, but has hopefully been put to bed.

And you won’t be repeatedly slashing and stabbing an unarmed attacker when training with me, unless other situational factors justifying lethal use of force can be articulated.

Those might be present: An attacker attempting to take your firearm that is clearly capable of doing so; An attacker overwhelming your ability to handle him physically, or reasonably perceived as capable of such due to an asymmetry in attributes, with a threat of serious bodily injury or death at hand; Or you are beset by multiple attackers that intend to cause you serious injury.

It’s situation dependent.

The use of knives can be justifiable for defensive purposes, and the answers above are perfectly reasonable. I’ve had one instance where I almost, just about, coulda used a knife due to factors above: but things hadn’t quite got there yet and then they changed and the knife ceased to be an option.

But few people seem to ever ask these questions when training, or they are dealt with only perfunctorily so that the “fun stuff” can begin… …and that fun stuff is usually “knife fighting.”

We don’t train with firearms that way – at least I hope not. So why completely disregard the sober reality of the lethal tool when the weapon is a knife?

If someone asks me “how, then, should we train knife?” I’d say:

If you are learning to grapple properly, standing and on the ground, in a sense you are already training to use the knife.

If you are training how to hit hard with a few basic strikes, to a few basic places on the body, to create space to get away, you are training the practical use of the knife.

You  will be doing some things in grappling and clinching and striking that you shouldn’t do when a knife is involved, but that can be addressed by…training  with a knife involved.

If you are training so that a fight often goes on, even after multiple cuts and stabs, you are training properly with the knife.  The opposite: that cuts and stabs are always “disabling,” or that they are “fight stoppers,” and that people will stop at those things?

Be aware many people won’t. 

How’s that? …the reader might ask. Are you seriously advocating grappling with a person armed with a knife?

Of course not. The appropriate way to deal with a person armed with a knife is with a lot of backup, lethal cover, containment, and less lethal options. Absent those things? Create distance, maybe with your own weapon or maybe not, and flee.

But the reality is, time and time and time again, you won’t even be aware the knife is in play until after its begun, or after it’s over. If it’s not already too late.

Or you just might pick up on the fact that the guy has a blade when you’ve already been hit, or grabbed, or he’s already on top of you, which he has to be to stab you. And then your goal may no longer be “don’t get stabbed” but “don’t get stabbed again.” Or even “don’t get stabbed a lot.”

And then – yes, I do advocate learning how to grapple when a knife is involved.

When it is real, the way it is far more likely to happen than the notional knifely-dance-of-death – the grab-n-stab, close up, bloody minded struggle  – you’ll find that the hand control, and body control, pressure and off balancing and toppling that comes with a good close-in fighting discipline is a much more realistic way to go.

And what are you really interested in training for?