Emerson Combatives: Fighting Tricks Of The Trade

Ernest Emerson | Contributor

Let’s discuss the Principles of Combat, distilled down to its essential elements unchanged since man first discovered that he could walk on 2 feet, long, long ago.

  1. Introduce movement. – He can’t react faster than I can act.
  1. Turn defense into offense as quickly as possible. The best defense against an ambush is to counterattack with overwhelming firepower – US Marines
  1. Present the least vulnerable target. Turtles wear their shell on top.
  1. Disregard for the self. I can’t be hurt if I don’t exist.
  1. Control of distance. He who controls distance controls the fight. If you can’t get away, take it away.

These principles of Instinctual Triggers, when applied against another human being cannot be overcome by superior strength, size, skill or resolve. They are called Instinctual Triggers because they have to be addressed by the opponent. They cause a human being to react at the base level of survival instinct. They elicit an overwhelming response that cannot be overcome by pain tolerance or attitude and they negate the opponent’s ability to continue fighting. The opponent has to respond to the trigger and as a result loses the offensive drive of his attack. 

Instinctual Triggers 

  1. Obstruction of airways. Just the simple act of covering up the opponent’s nose and mouth will cause him to react. If you are strangling him, he will not be fighting. The only thing he will be trying to do is just get air.
  1. Obstruction of blood flow. A carotid choke when applied correctly, cannot be withstood by anyone, just as a dramatic drop in blood pressure due to an arterial cut cannot be withstood or overcome.
  1. Destruction of vision. Blind men have never made good boxers.
  1. Disruption of the nervous system. You can’t fight if you’re knocked out.
  1. Destruction of balance. I’ve yet to find a man who could punch while he was flying through the air about to land on his back.
  1. Structural damage. You can’t fight off something that’s broken because willpower cannot fix a broken bone or severed tendon. I’ve seen a man fight with one arm but I’ve never seen a man fight with one leg. 

Fighting Tricks Of The Trade

  1. Do the unexpected. The surprise attack is unexpected, and every predator makes use of it because it works. The sucker punch is a surprise attack.
  1. Ask a question or engage in talk. The human machine cannot fight (effectively anyway) if the brain is engaged or occupied in discourse.
  1. Fakes, feints and distractions. Fake a strike to the groin for example, or look at his waist and strike to the face. Throw something. Spit in his face. There are no rules. Make the fight brutish nasty and short.
  1. Do everything you do with bad intent.

What I’m about to present to you is a basis for a hand-to-hand combat system.

You get to choose your own techniques as I can’t teach you those in an article.

This is by no means a comprehensive fighting system, but represents a basic structure of principles that if applied by you to any techniques gives you the tools to survive most violent physical encounters, provided they are applied the proper attitude, power and violence of action.

Having studied and trained for over 40 years, I’ve had personal experience in a variety of fighting systems from A to Z. I achieved a level of skill and expertise including being inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame and the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. I have never been interested in the sport aspect of the martial arts, although I must admit I did compete at every opportunity that I got I’m only interested in one thing and that’s fighting. At the risk of offending some, I admit my interest lies solely in combat and learning how to do great violence against another human being as effectively as possible. So with those 40 years of “hands-on” experience, I have as Bruce Lee stated so eloquently, discarded what was useless and kept what was my own.

I’m not prejudiced about one art or another, or a blind follower of any school, instructor or dogma. I’ve been fortunate to train with the best combat instructors in the world and as good as any of them were, none of them had all of the answers. But out of all the divergent ways I have trained in, I found that there was a core of techniques, tactics and strategies common to all (or at least most of them).

Somewhere back in time for all the fighting arts developed for combat there were skills that were designed and actually worked against another human in real, deadly combat. The problem is that over the millennia as we became more civilized and as weapon systems evolved, the relevance for hand-to-hand both for soldiers and civilians alike became less a requirement for survival and more of a pastime,  hobby or sport. And socially it became crass and vulgar to engage in physical violence. Society’s rules governed a gradual change of these lethal fighting skills into the diluted, sporterized, civilized versions that are taught in schools today. If you are a student of one of those schools or styles, you need to strip away the fluff and dogma by starting to view combat through the glasses of reality.  You can start by using these two standards to judge what you’re being taught: Never do anything without a purpose and never do anything that is useless. If what you are doing doesn’t pass muster according to those two simple statements, then it is not combat that you are learning it is art.

Here is something else that I learned early on in my career. Will it work for the average man? If your instructor is 6’4″ tall and weighs 235 pounds, he can get away with a lot that you cannot. He can cheat, using his size and weight differential to do things a 140 pounder could never do against a larger opponent. If something doesn’t work for you, then why waste one second of your valuable time on it? Spend your time on what does work for you.

Judge everything you do by this simple formula:

The Perfect Technique 

  1. It betters your tactical advantage.
  2. It weakens or places the threat at a tactical disadvantage.
  3. It protects you from harm.
  4. It causes damage to the threat.

To evaluate the attributes of each individual technique, use the following criteria:

  1. The technique should be fast.
  2. The technique must work.
  3. The technique should be simple.
  4. The technique should work without modification. In other words, it should work in a range of applications against most common attacks, without having to change for different attacks or different weapons.
  5. It must be easy to learn and train.
  6. It must put you in a position to be able to follow up with more techniques.

I base my combat system on boxing and grappling. Western boxing is the most efficient and effective stand up fighting system ever developed. Add in elbows and head butts from Muay Thai and Filipino Kali, throw in trapping from JKD and you’ve got a pretty darned effective standup game. Then add the takedowns and grappling of wrestling and Gracie Jiujitsu and you’ve got the ground covered. Then bring on the brutality and violence needed to work in a real combat situation and you have a pretty good all-around combat system.

The principles and attributes I’ve just laid out are the essential elements, the essence of the system that makes up the Emerson Combat System. Learn it, train it and follow its tenets, and it will work as well for you as it has for me, time and time again.

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.

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