As human beings we are governed by certain sets of rules and principles that are the same for all other human beings. By becoming aware of and knowing these principles we can predict them, learn to manipulate them and then use them to our advantage.
I have divided these into three categories. The first of these categories is the most obvious, which compromises the physical characteristics of the human being, the way we are constructed.
The second aspect is a direct result of the first. The way that we are built defines precisely how we are able to physically interact with another human being. By defining and knowing these interactions and what reactions are produced in the enemy by your actions, you become aware of strategies and tactics that you must employ in order to prevail over the enemy.
The third aspect is the mental or psychological interactions that take place between two humans engaged in any form of combat. Although I have previously discussed a number of the psychological aspects of the effects of combat and the mental preparation for the individual in combat, in this regard, I will be talking about the psychological interaction between human beings and how it affects the outcome of physical combat.
As human beings, all of our actions and our ability to sustain life are governed by a set of fixed, immutable rules. The ones that are important to us in terms of combat are the following:
The human body is supported by a structure of bones (skeleton), tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Together they move the body. We have two legs. The legs allow us to stand upright, walk, run, move about and strike or kick. They work best going in frontal forward motion. We have two arms and hands with opposable thumbs. The arms are attached at the top of our body and extend from our shoulders. They can reach up, down, to the front and to the sides. They can punch, strike, grab, and shove. They don’t work well behind us.
We have two eyes. Basically they look forward and they allow us to process our environment. They also allow us to see where to place our feet and how and where to use our hands.
We need air to sustain our life. We need to breathe, which is the mechanical process of taking air into the lungs and removing the oxygen which is the element our body needs to maintain life on all metabolic levels. We have a nose and a mouth, which are the only ways that air can enter a normal human being.
Blood flows through our body carrying oxygen to our brain. The only way blood can get to our brain is through the neck.
Our brain controls all of the activities of the body, conscious, subconscious, and autonomic functions. These functions are directed to the body by the nervous system which runs from the base of the brain down the neck through the spinal column branching out through all parts of the body.
Why the anatomy lesson you may be asking?
Because if I am aware of how the human body acts then I can construct an offense that can attack the targets that have the most debilitating effect on the enemy.
Never do anything that is useless
Commandment #9 of Emerson’s Commandments of a Warrior
In order to incapacitate another human being you have to know how the physical body functions. And the key word is incapacitate, because, just causing pain may inconvenience but it will not incapacitate. This point will become extremely clear when we move on to discuss strategies and tactics.
So let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. The legs are necessary for almost all human motion and action. Since the legs are necessary for locomotion and are the foundation for all punching and striking (with any force) while standing, it makes sense that if you incapacitate the legs then that incapacitates the enemy. In terms of hand-to-hand combat, that is much easier said than done.
Now I know most martial arts teach that if you attack or kick the knee it will break and disable the leg, especially if done from certain angles or sides. If that were true, then no kickboxing match would last more than the first 30 seconds. And yet many last for a full 12 rounds. The truth is, without a weapon of some type it’s hard to break the knee or the leg.
However, when I mentioned the skeletal and the tendon, ligament and muscle structure, this is where it becomes important. One of the best and most effective means for disabling the leg is by attacking the back of the leg with a knife.
If you can access your knife and dive into the opponents legs in the manner of a double or single leg takedown you can cut deeply behind the knee, into the calf or into the Achilles’ tendon and disable that leg. This is actually an old apache knife fighting trick and, as a very dangerous man told me one time, “Ernest, I’ve seen a guy fight with one arm but I’ve never seen a guy fight with one leg.” The principle that is in play here is that a human being can take a lot of surface damage and withstand a hell of a lot of pain, it cannot withstand structural damage. You can hit a table with a hammer all day long and it’s still a table. Break one of the table legs off and it’s just a pile of wood.
Next is the eyes. If you can impede the vision, even a little, it has a severe impact on the opponent’s ability to fight. Whether it’s something you throw into the eyes or poke into the eyes it’s going to give you a huge advantage. Have you ever seen a hockey fight where one player pulls the others jersey over the others players head so he can’t see and then proceeds to punch away. Same principle; no vision, no fight – it works.
You must breathe to live. If you can impede the air flow into the enemy he will instinctively try to fight that off, which means he will suspend his offensive capabilities, if only temporarily, to fight just to breathe again. This may be as simple as placing your hand over his nose and mouth and pressing firmly into his face. This is not a fight winner, but merely a tactic to use when the chance arises. I’ve used this in wrestling and jiu jitsu matches when my opponent was gaining superior position on me. It has worked to distract and loosen their grip so I could get out of a jam. Does it always work? If I got a good seal, it worked every time. Did it win the fight? No. But many times it gave me a way out of a disadvantageous position. Of course, a good, strong crushing grip, around the esophagus, even if with only one hand, will have the same effect and may actually be a fight stopper.
Stopping blood flow to the brain is one sure way to stop a fight. If I get a good carotid choke hold on you, I will win the fight. If you get a good carotid choke hold on me, you will win the fight. It does not matter how big, how strong or how tough someone is, they cannot fight the effects of a good choke. They will go to sleep. If my nine year old boy puts a correct choke on me I will be put to sleep. What a carotid choke does is pinch shut the arteries/veins that supply blood flow to the brain, much like kinking a hose shuts off the flow of water in the house. And it only takes few seconds.
The nervous system controls the entire body. The brain is the computer running the whole show. As we all know if you break your neck you will probably die. The nervous system has been disconnected. Enough said on that. However, another way to win a fight is to render the opponent unconscious. A carotid choke is one way to render the opponent unconscious; the other is to knock them out. A knockout is simply a concussion, resulting from the brain bouncing off the inside of the skull. A small concussion is when you see stars. A severe concussion is when you lose consciousness and the lights go out.
I’ve taken some full on shots to the face and head and they may have momentarily stunned me but they did not incapacitate or knock me out. But when I’ve been hit on the side of chin, I’ve been K’Oed. And it didn’t take all that much of a power shot. What I’m saying once again, is that the human being can take quite a pounding and function just fine. This is of course, contrary to what some martial arts instructors may say. “The ones with the deadly punches.” But, if you watch boxing, you’ll see that almost all knockouts involve the chin, either a straight shot to the chin or a shot to the side of the chin. That’s not to say that a good hard blow to another area of the head can’t knock someone out, but if it were that easy then no boxing match would last more than 30 seconds either. So without going into great detail about developing a knockout punch, I will say that if you have the choice of targets, go for the chin. A blow to the forehead may just piss him off, a blow to the chin may put him down for the count. I’ll choose the latter.
One thing that I haven’t mentioned previously is the instinctual need to maintain our balance. Even in the midst of a punching flurry, if an individual is thrown or tipped backward or to the side, or even forward, their hands will instinctively go down to break their fall.
So, if you can tip, trip, throw or shove someone in the right way to bring them off their feet, they lose completely, if only for a moment, their offensive capability. What good does this do for you? Well it might give you the opportunity to escape. It will also stop a punching flurry. In the case where an enemy is flailing at you with a knife, it may save your life.
Remember that I stated The Emerson Commandment earlier, “Never do anything that is useless.” Well, if you know how the human body works, then you can attack the specific things that can disable the human body. For example, if you’re spending your good time learning and practicing how to execute a wrist lock, you’d be way better off learning how to choke someone out.
Ernest Emerson is the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. He is a tier one Combatives instructor, Master at Arms, noted author and lecturer, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a connoisseur of fine whiskey.
Click here to visit EmersonKnives.com. Mr. Emerson offers a 10% discount on his knives to Daily Caller readers. Use the discount code – tdc (all lower case). Click here to visit the Emerson Training Center.