Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Flick Kick

            Today’s blog will be about the “Flick Kick”, which is sometimes just called a Boot kick since it works best with a shod foot, particularly one using a boot where the sole projects a little. The Flick kick is used on targets below knee level, such as the shin and calf muscles.

            Turn your lead foot so that its outer edge is towards the target, then swing the leg in an arc to hit the target. The obvious way to use the Flick kick is from a side on stance but you can also deliver a Flick kick to targets that are in front, behind or at your corners. Practice kicking to the eight points of the compass.

            The Flick kick is a low version of the side purring kick we discuss in the book, but can also incorporate elements of the Side Thrust kick. The Flick kick can also be thrown as a low crescent kick if your foot is not directly in line with the target. You can also make it as a variant of Savate’s Coup de Pied Bas that hits with the outer edge of the foot.

            A good way to train for the Flick kick is for a friend to hold a walking stick as a target. Use tape or similar to mark it at knee level and keep you strikes below this mark. Have him move around and kick at the stick whenever it is on the ground and you can manoeuvre to bring it into range.

Pizza Fights Back!

            A couple of years back I began to notice something. Eating pizza was often followed by a period of what we will politely call “digestive upset”. It didn’t matter what sort of pizza it was or what outlet I brought it from, there was a better than 90% chance that I would be in for a rough night.

            One thing that this could clearly not be was lactose intolerance. My father worked for a dairy during my childhood so I was raised drinking lots of milk, had cream on every desert, yogurt was always in the fridge and he even used to make his own butter. I drink a latte nearly every morning and have no trouble eating cheese or yogurt. Other foods with melted cheese on such as jacket potatoes do not cause me problems either. Bizarre thought it seemed, I seemed to have developed an allergy to just pizza.

            On the one hand, I had always enjoyed pizza. On the other hand pizza is often incredibly overpriced for what is essentially bread and cheese, comes in portions that encourage overeating and is often so full of fat you can squeeze oil out of it. Removing pizza from my diet has probably helped with the new leaner and more muscular person I have become in the last year.

            A few months back the local market had some bacon and cheese ciabatta bread so I treated myself to some for Sunday morning breakfast, warming it up in the microwave. I discovered that my digestive tract considered bacon and cheese ciabatta close enough to pizza to give me grief. This however, was another piece in the puzzle. Talking to the vendor I asked what cheese was in the bread and he confirmed that it was mozzarella.

            Logically, this suggested the possibility that either I was intolerant of cooked cheese, intolerant of mozzarella or intolerant of cooked mozzarella. I could narrow this down further with a couple of experiments but that would involve making myself sick, so I think I will pass on that for now.

            I did some further research and eventually came across websites were other people had problems with food that contained cooked cheese. Seems that if you cook cheese rather than just melt it it goes through chemical changes and some people (including myself apparently) are sensitive to these compounds.

            I had never heard of an intolerance to cooked cheese before, so if, like me you have problems with pizza know that you are not alone and there does seem to be a logical explanation as to why you can eat cheese but pizza fights back.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Zaghnal and Mini-Hawk

             "Zaghnal and Mini-Hawk" sounds like a pair of cartoon characters!

            Some googling on another subject turned up these interesting implements. The first is a late 19th century Indian Zaghnal with a 7” blade and 21” loa.


            The second is a “mini-hawk”. If you disregard its size it is quite a nice design and would be a useful thing to have if working in a warehouse.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013


            Another movie moment for today’s post, but this time a more credible one that shows the filmmakers were actually familiar with their subject.

            Last night I was looking for something to watch when I found a channel showing the original  Django film from 1966. In the final scene Django has had both his hands broken and we see him trying to remove the trigger guard of his Colt so he can rest it on a gravestone. To really appreciate what is happening her one needs to have some understanding of how guns of this type work.

           Like many American handguns of the time, the Colt that Django is using is Single-action. What Single-action means is that the hammer needs to be manually cocked before each shot. You pull back the hammer, pull the trigger and it fires. While this may seem a relatively slow system it was not long before inventive humans were finding ways to work around this.

            What, for example, would happen if the trigger has already been pulled when the hammer is pulled back. With no catch to hold it back the hammer will fly forward and fire the round as soon as it is released. Some gunfighters realized you did not need to hold the trigger back with your finger and instead permanently wired back the trigger so that the gun would fire as soon as the hammer was pulled back and released. In the movie the “Wild Bunch” I believe Ernest Borgnine’s character comments about William Holden’s character having a revolver with a wired back trigger. In Rio Bravo Stumpy wires back the triggers of his hammer shotgun, holds back the hammers and warns his prisoner that should he get shot the gun is going to fire.

            It was also realized that the hammer of the gun did not need to be cocked with the thumb of the shooting hand. One hand could hold and aim the pistol while the other hand slapped the hammer back in a technique that became known as “Fanning”. Fanning allowed a single-action revolver to be fired rapidly. The young Clint Eastwood was genuinely proficient with firearms, competing in fast draw competitions. Clint’s characters give some fine examples of fanning. One of my favourites is when he takes out a room full of French officers in “Two Mules for Sister Sarah”. I couldn’t find that clip, so here is another one. The gunplay starts at the two minute mark.

            From the above, it should become apparent what Django was doing. By removing the trigger guard he can press the trigger back against the grave marker. Then he just needs to use his ruined hand to fan the hammer.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mortar vs Fighter

            Movies sometimes test our credibility. Sometimes this is because the makers do not know better. Other times it is dramatic licence were inconvenient reality is ignored in favour of the story. We are all used to six guns and double barrelled shotguns firing a dozen times without reloading. The other night I saw an example of this that was just jaw dropping.

            The movie was called Reign of Gargoyles. It was a World War Two story where Nazis bring gargoyles to life and they run amok, attacking B-17s and anything else. That storyline is not the incredible bit!

            There is a scene when the heroes are being strafed by a German fighter aircraft. The young hero runs out to lure the fighter in close and his comrades then shoot the fighter down. With a mortar! Better still, one character is asked beforehand if he can shoot the plane down with a mortar and answers he can if it is drawn down low.

For those of you not familiar with heavier weapons, a mortar of the type shown would have had a muzzle velocity of about 150 m/s. Actual flight speed would be lower and mortars have a very slow, curved trajectory. Flying at low level, the German fighter might not be moving at maximum speed, but probably be traveling at least 150 m/s itself. Add into this the firer’s reaction time and the delay while the mortar bomb drops down the tube to fire, and you will see that it would actually be easier to hit the aircraft with a thrown baseball.

The odd thing is, a couple of weeks back I did come across an anti-aircraft mortar round from World War 2. (the movie uses a standard HE bomb)
This round ejects an aerial mine consisting of an explosive charge on a long cord suspended from a parachute.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Water Caltrops

            I came across this image the other day. I had heard of the Water Chestnut (Genus Trapa .) and that it could be used as a caltrop but had not seen them in such detail.

It is a pretty fearsome looking object and it is perhaps no surprise that one of the alternate common names is “Devil Pod”.

            I remarked to a friend that they looked like something from Aliens and his comment was that they were not sexual enough for that. I pointed out that they do look a little like the Uterus and Fallopian Tubes diagrams in biology textbooks.

Saturday, 23 February 2013



                A friend (Dean) sent me this interesting article on how Al Qaida are attempting to evade drones.

            I forwarded it to my friend Nate, and he sent back this amusing skit:-

"It's the first time someone has bought such a large amount," said the mat seller, Leitny Cisse al-Djoumat. "They didn't explain why they wanted so many."

“The large elephant grass mat.”
“That’s Somali. You can use that as an area rug or a tablecloth.”
“The bundle of sticks."

"These are brand new, we just got them in. You can use them to prop up a rug and make an awning. You can't miss. Anything else?”

“Yucca weave mat with watertight weave.”
“Hey, just what you see, pal.”
“The square grass mat.”
“You know your grass mats, buddy. Any one of these is ideal for beautifying your home. So, uh, which will it be?”
“I’m gonna close early today. There’s a 15-day wait for me to weave the big rugs but the small ones you can take right now. ...And you have these to fill out too.”
(begins strapping mats to his car)
“You can’t do that.”


Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gun Control and Morality.

The Dalai Lama said acts of violence should be remembered, and then forgiveness should be extended to the perpetrators.
But if someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, he said, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun. Not at the head, where a fatal wound might result. But at some other body part, such as a leg.”


In my book I include information on the use of firearms in self-defence, and defence against firearms.

The book is about defending oneself and one’s loved ones from aggression, and the use of firearms is a legitimate option for this. I have no interest in long and pointless arguments about gun control so if you want to discuss that topic go elsewhere. Many of you will have already made your minds up, one way or the other and no amount of reasoning, argument or evidence will change your view. For those of you that still have an open mind I offer the following points to meditate on.

Laws are not wishes. Passing a law against guns will not magically make all guns disappear. There was plenty of violence before guns were invented and in cultures where firearms are rare.  History proves such laws disarm the law-abiding citizens and make things safer for the criminals who have kept their guns. Criminals tend not to be very observant of the laws of the land. Admittedly, unbiased information about gun use is hard to come by but I have read that an estimated 350,000 lives a year in the USA alone are saved by legitimate use of legal firearms. If there was a medical treatment that could save 350,000 lives per year we would all be campaigning to make it available.

Most attempts at gun control and restriction of gun ownership have often been followed by increased use of guns in crimes. I am talking about real crimes here, not a gun owner suddenly becoming a law-breaker since the gun he has had twenty years becomes illegal overnight. Australia tightened up its gun laws a few decades back and I recall reading in the first year after armed robbery alone went up 44%! At about the same time Florida began to allow legal concealed carry of firearms and car-jackings went down. The slim chance that they might get a victim that could defend themselves rather famously caused some car-jackers began to target tourist hire-cars since they could expect the occupants to be unarmed. While this was tough on the tourists the majority of Florida residents were considerably safer due to a small number of them being legally armed. Gun control measures do not contribute to increased public safety.

A common tactic in trying to implement gun control is to try and target particular sub-groups, an obvious application of divide and conquer. One of the currently popular strategies is to go after so called “Assault Rifles” or “Assault Weapons”. First of all, the majority of such weapons are not “Assault Rifles”. An Assault Rifle is a selective fire weapon usually chambering an intermediate power cartridge. The majority of civilian weapons called “Assault Rifles” are semi-automatic weapons, some of which, but by no means all of them based on military designs. Many of the guns this term is misused for are lower-powered pistol-calibre carbines. “Assault Weapon” is an even fuzzier legal idiocracy. It assumes that features such as a bayonet lug or pistol grip make a weapon more lethal than one of “traditional” configuration. If we look at a AR-15 and Mini-14 semi-automatic both fire the same round and even use the same magazines, but the Mini-14 is a “good gun” and the AR-15 “evil”.

Arguments are made that deer rifles are “acceptable” and “Assault Rifles” are “bad”, yet the deer rifle has at least twice the range of an assault rifle. “You don’t need an assault rifle to hunt deer” –true, but if you have to deal with a dangerous animal or defend yourself a semi-automatic rifle is one of the most sensible options. It is more accurate than a handgun, so you have a greater chance of hitting your intended target rather than endangering the innocent. It is easier to operate under stress than a manual weapon such as a bolt action deer rifle or pump shotgun.

Guns are neither good nor evil. I came across a hysterical article advocating that ammunition production should be controlled and that every year enough bullets are manufactured to put 32 in every man, woman and child in America. That America is not currently an uninhabited wasteland littered with human bodies riddled with dozens of bullets each tends to disprove the lady’s theory. If someone is killed by a car we look at the case on its individual merits and punish the driver if their actions were negligent or malicious. No one calls for a banning of all automobiles. Blaming inanimate objects for the problems in our society just distracts us for actually doing something positive about those problems

Gun Control laws are an obvious example of politicians trying to appear that they are doing something constructive when they are actually achieving nothing. Even worse, they are victimizing and demonizing a law-abiding social group to do so. If such an action was taken against an ethnic or religious group there would rightly be an outrage. Regardless of your stance on gun ownership, from a moral point of view we should all be opposed to laws that do not achieve what they are supposed to and that hurt innocent people.
An updated version of this essay forms a chapter of my book, Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal.


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Horizontal Throwing.

            Throwing objects in self-defence is a legitimate tactic if your life is in danger. Some missiles may be capable of injuring an attacker but a more likely consequence is that you will distract them long enough to press home a counter-attack or affect an escape.  

            In my book I describe a number of throwing techniques, some of them not that well known. In this post we will look at an addition technique,  that of horizontal or side-arm throws. Horizontal throwing is harder to master than vertical throwing and generally has less range and power. On the other hand, it has several features that make it more applicable for self-defence. One of these is that horizontal throws are less telegraphic than most vertical techniques, which increases the surprise element and distracting ability of a missile attack. Another element is that a horizontal throw can be combined with drawing a missile from a place of concealment. If a supply of projectiles are held in the other hand a number can be launched in a short period of time, the action of moving the throwing hand back to take another missile naturally setting up for another horizontal throw.

            To throw an object such as a pencil, nail or knife it is held in the palm, parallel to the fingers, as is described in the book for push-throwing. Bend the elbow so your hand is near the opposite shoulder or hip, palm downwards. The action you are going to make is rather like a horizontal karate-chop. Your arm should be relaxed during the motion and you should avoid the temptation to hurry the movement. Lock your gaze on your intended target.  Smoothly let your arm swing straight and let the missile leave your hand when your fingers are nearly towards the target. At the same time, sway your body towards the target to add momentum. If you are throwing consecutive missiles you will rock back and forth as you throw and “reload”.  Some sources talk of the missile being “pressed” towards the target and this is probably a better description of the release you are aiming for rather than thinking of this as a throw. Unlike some of the other throws described in the book this technique adds very little stabilization to the missile so is more suited to “nose heavy” objects.

            To throw missiles such as coins or washers the same basic action is used but the missile is head slightly differently. The object is held horizontally between the thumb and second finger, with the forefinger on the edge to apply a little drag and induce some reverse spin. Lock your eyes on the target and in a smooth, relaxed and unhurried manner swing your arm out straight so your thumb points towards the target. If the missile you are using has a sharp edge you may need to hold it between thumb and first finger and adding some spin-stabilization may require a little bit of a snapping action on release.

            You will need to practice this to get the correct feeling and timing. Generally the missile is released just before or as your hand reaches the same vertical plane as your target. Depending on distance you may have to aim above your intended target rather than pointing your hand right at it.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Gladiator: Benn vs Eubank

            Something a little different today. Many years back there was a one-off TV special that had two professional boxers training as Gladiators. This clip shows the final fight between them. For those of you unfamiliar with them, there was a very real rivalry between them, if not actual dislike, and the combat is quite spirited.

            The main technical point of interest in this combat is the clockwise spinning tactic that Benn (in silver) performs several times. The first is at about 43secs, another around 58sec, 1:37secs and a couple more times later. The move blocks Gold’s sword with the shield and takes Silver into a position to strike Gold’s right side or back.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Shuriken Styles

            Came across this image so I decided to post it as a follow on to the previous article discussing Shuriken.
         A cross-shaped shuriken, as described in the previous article and used in the movie is a Juji Shuriken, so named because a cross resembles the Japanese character for the number ten. So some four-point shuriken are in effect called "Figure Ten Shuriken".
        Three-point Shuriken are called Sankou, which means "Three Rays". They may also be called Mitsubishi which means "three diamonds". Now you know why the car company uses the logo that it does.
        The square shuriken with concave edges seems to appear in movies a lot. This type are called Senban Shuriken. Many modern shuriken on sale are of this type since they are probably very simple to manufacture. Concavity and therefore acuteness of the points will vary and they may or may not have sharpened or beveled cutting edges. A similar design to these are the Taisha Ryu Shiken Shuriken. These look very similar but have thickened tips and sharpened edges and are apparently made from quite thick and heavy plate so inflict considerable cutting and penetrating damage.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Throwing Weapon Targets

            I watched the movie “The Challenge” last night. It’s not a bad movie and worth checking out if it appears in your TV listings.

            One scene that caught my notice was when the lead character was training with Shurikens. In the background we can see targets and what struck me was these targets only appeared to have two target areas. One target was on the chest, on the left side, the other over the groin. A third circle was visible higher up but this may have been an attempt to represent the mouth rather than an aiming point. The targets are too distant to say for certain, at least on my TV. This hopefully clearer picture from the Youtube edition of the movie seems to indicate an aiming point on the throat.

            The Shurikens used in this movie are cross-shaped four pointers, about four to five or more inches across. From the way the actors handle them they evidently have a reasonable weight.

            I regard Shuriken as being on the borderline of the category of self-defence weapons. In the movies, including this one, enemies hit by Shuriken conveniently fall down dead, perhaps taking a second or so to groan dramatically. In the real world shuriken are seldom as effective, even if poisoned. The unpoisoned shuriken is mainly a weapon of distraction. The use of a shuriken either creates time for you to close distance or to escape. That last statement is also true to throwing knives and many other objects that might be thrown is self-defence.

            Having put the Shuriken in context, let us think about the targets shown in the movie.

“Left side of the chest” will have many of you thinking of the heart. It is a common misconception that the heart is on the left side of the chest. It is more accurate to say the heart is more towards the left side, the heart being more central than most people think. Targeting the left side of the ribs will increase the chances of hitting areas of the heart not covered by the sternum. More importantly it will decrease the possibility of hitting the bony sternum and increase the chances of a point penetrating between the ribs. Even if it missed the heart a penetrating wound to the chest will discourage many opponents, particularly if it deflates a lung. If a shuriken hits a rib it may penetrate the bone (which will be painful), or it may glance off into an intercostal space. Shaken are multi-pointed and rotating in flight so a point encountering something it cannot penetrate may cause the next point to be flipped into a nearby area. The shuriken used in the movie were relatively heavy, long pointed weapons so would be less likely to bounce off a target if thrown correctly than many of the examples that can be purchased over the internet. Interestingly in one book I have on shuriken there is a diagram with a target point labelled “Heart” but the line points to two places, one either side of the chest.

The second target shown was the groin, with the aiming circle over the genitals. A wound to this area is also going to be discouraging, with the victim likely to become more interested in seeking medical attention than fighting. A near miss above this target will hit the Inguinal or lower abdomen area. A miss lower down may hit in the region of the femoral arteries, which will bleed copiously and sometimes fatally if penetrated.

I suspect these targets would have had a third target area used, and this would have been the eyes. A shuriken approaching anywhere in the facial region is going to be distracting and the eyes are the obvious aiming point.

Some of you may be wondering about other target areas. The neck and throat might be a fatal target if hit, and seem to be market on the movie target but with a weapon like a shuriken hitting this area may be problematic since the chin will often get in the way. The liver and spleen are less protected by the ribs than the heart/lung target points but may be difficult to target in practice. If you have to aim low the genitals are a better target. In the movie a couple of characters are hit in the back by shuriken. One is hit in the back in the rib area (on the left side!), another is hit in the kidney area just under the ribcage.
In summary, we have discussed three frontal target areas for light low velocity thrown weapons. The eyes, the left lung and the groin. While hits to these areas can create significant wounds attacks to these regions also have a good chance of disabling or distracting an aggressor, buying you time to close the distance or escape. While you may not be carrying a stack of shuriken many objects you may be holding or that are to hand in your environment can be used instead. If you can reach it and can throw it, use it if your life is in danger.

The Books