Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Emerson Combat Series: Hand Gun To Empty Hand And Back – Integrated Fighting Skills

Ernest Emerson Contributor
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By Ernest Emerson, The Guardian Shepard

You awaken with a start from a sound sleep.  Your wife asks frantically, “Did you hear that?  Someone’s in the house!”  “Stay here – call 911” you answer as you reach to your nightstand drawer.  Inside is your loaded, 45 pistol, you keep for self-defense.  It feels heavy in your hand as you lift it from the drawer.  You turn to your wife, “Stay Here!” and realize that your mouth has gone as dry as parchment.  Creeping down the hall in the darkness you round the corner into the living room and run face first into the intruder.  Your gun hits him barrel first directly in the chest and you both stumble backwards. You shout, “I have a gun!”  You pull the trigger – nothing happens.  He charges forward…

What happens now?  Your weapon has malfunctioned and now you have an opponent who is trying to kill you.  After all, you tried to kill him.  This is a different kind of fight, different from anything you’ve ever experienced in the dojo, in the ring, or in the street.  This is a fight to the death and it is a creature unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.

Now, what are you going to do?  You are faced with an opponent who is going to try or take the weapon away from you, use it on you, or just try to kill you with his bare hands. He feels that he is fighting for his life.

Well, first what happened?  Weapons can malfunction.  The safety may have been on.  The gun may not have been loaded.  Bullets can misfire.  You may not have had a round in the chamber or the weapon may have been knocked out of battery, into a non-firing condition.  Whatever the cause, be aware of these principles:

  1. Do not give up the weapon – I’ll show you how to bring it back to a firing condition.
  2. Do not give up the weapon – It’s a 2-3 lb. piece of steel and it hits like a ball peen hammer.
  3. You’re going to have to use your empty hands skills even though you’ve got a gun.
  4. Never – Ever give up.

In this situation your overall strategy is to first stop the bad guy from killing you.  Second, prevent the bad guy from getting your weapon and thirdly, clear your weapon and bring it to bear on your opponent.  First, what are weapons retention skills?  These are the skills or techniques that help prevent the bad guy from touching your weapon in the first place.

If due to circumstances beyond your control, the bad guy does get close enough to grab your weapon, you must be able to counter his attempt to disarm you. This brings the phase we call Weapons Transition Skills™, which describes the ability and skill to move swiftly and efficiently from one weapon to the next, seamlessly.

There are several concepts that come into play at this point.  First, just because your gun did not fire doesn’t mean it’s not a weapon.  Just think about hitting someone in the head with a crescent wrench and you’ll know what I mean.

Secondly, just because you have a gun it’s certainly not the only weapon you have.  You’ve still got your punches, kicks, knees, elbows head butts and bites, to name a few.  You may even have a knife clipped in your pocket.  It sounds easy on paper, but realize that most people get hung up on clearing their weapon and forget how to fight.  In fact, a lot of time people end up in a tug of war over the weapon.  It is a natural tendency to hold onto something if someone attempts to grab it away from you.  When it’s a gun, the tendency is overpowering.  The term “death grip” will apply here.

This can be good and bad at the same time.  It’s probably a good idea to want to keep your gun because of all the obvious reasons.  However, becoming solely focused on holding onto the weapon with both hands, for example, takes away your ability to fight back.

Let’s take a look at this tug of war. Remember, the bad guy will probably have both of his hands on the weapon, also.  That’s good.  At least you know where his hands are, and if he doesn’t want to get shot he’s going to holding on for dear life.  That’s good, too.  Let’s use it to our advantage.

You don’t want to be matching arm strength against arm strength.  Pull the gun close into your body.  Wait, he’s much stronger than you.  Simply step forward toward him so you aren’t fighting against his strength, and the gun is now where you want it, close to your body.

Now, you can put your hips, legs, and body weight against his arms.  Simply by twisting or spinning to one side or the other will pull him off balance, loosen his grip, and if you’re lucky – take him to the ground.  The spin can be executed in either direction depending on which is better at that moment.  (If my left leg is forward I wouldn’t spin left) You’ll feel which way to go.  Now, I’m not talking about a gradual rotation, I’m talking about a violent rotation of the hips just like you’re executing a hip throw.  At the same time you are pulling to the right with your hands on the gun.  Now is also a perfect time to go for the eyes, a ridge hand to the throat, or a palm heel to the chin. You might even be able to sneak in an elbow to the face.  You can come back with a pistol slap to the side of the head.

In this scenario he has grabbed the pistol from underneath and is pushing it up.  Go with the flow.  As the gun is pushed up, rotate slightly to the right (you can go left – doesn’t matter).  Deliver a straight stomp kick to his locked out leg right at the knee.  As he starts to collapse strike a back ridge hand to the throat and then a violent hammer fist/forearm down across his elbows.  When he releases the pistol use it as a club against the back of his head.  Step back and tap and rack your pistol.

Too many times people separate Martial Arts skills from gun fighting skills.  Yet I believe it is safe to say that there are probably quite a few readers of this article who have guns in their home for self-defense.  Shooting at the range is one thing, but using your gun in the close confines of your home requires a different set of skills.  A gun is just another weapon, and when it doesn’t shoot, it’s still a weapon, and a damn formidable one.  If you have a gun in your house for self-defense, you should incorporate these integrated fighting skills into your training routine.  I always recommend that any of these techniques be practiced with a dummy, plastic or rubber gun.  Never use a real firearm for practice of these integrated weapons skills.  It’s not necessary and the risks of an accident are just too high.

Always remember this: there is one golden rule for survival in combat.  You never want to try something for the first time in a life or death situation. That’s why we train and why realistic training is so valuable.

It is vital to be aware of two other important principles that you need to be aware of and ready for at all times so you never lose control of the situation.

They are:

1. Things can go wrong, they will go wrong and they will go wrong at the worst possible moment. Your gun can misfire, you could trip and fall, or the bad guy could beat you to the punch. So you need to be ready to switch to your next decision or move without a moment’s hesitation. Realistic training prepares you to deal with things when they go wrong. Use every wrong thing that happens in training as a learning experience.

2. You are never unarmed. You are the weapon. Anything you have in your hands is just a tool to make the job easier. Even if the bad guy takes the gun away from you, you still need to fight – effectively and with all your might. Never let yourself fall prey to the “I need a weapon to be armed” mentality that so many get caught thinking. Remember, you are the weapon, the gun is just one of your tools.

You never want your firearm to be taken away and used against you or your family.  These skills, From Handgun to Empty Hand and Back may just be the ones that prevent that from happening.


Ernest R. Emerson is a knife-maker and personal combat instructor.

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