Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Death of a Child

It was in the newspaper today(20 Feb 14) about missing 10-year old Hailey Owens and her killer Craig Michael Wood.

The blogosphere and news media is alive with everyone trying to capture eyeballs to boost revenue by exploiting her murder.  If you’re not aware of the story you’re living under a log somewhere without WiFi.  I sometimes envy you.

I’m a regular reader of Matthew’s  blog Straight Forward in a Crooked World.  Yesterday he posted about a phone call he got from Hailey’s parents and I became aware of the crime slightly ahead of the news media cycle.

I, we, everyone feels for the parents.

Is there a better word than feel?  Emote, sympathize, cry for and with, say prayers for.  No matter how I search, I come up dry.

I feel strangely connected to people I don’t know and I can’t even begin to imagine, understand, appreciate the magnitude of their loss.  We offer words of comfort, but we know these words will never fill the void.

We forget the emotional carnage that police and searchers experience.  Read Matthew’s blog and perhaps you’ll understand why I could never be in law enforcement.  Who do they turn to?

The news of the aftermath makes it pretty clear the right person is locked in cell.  So what do we do now?

There can be no justice for Hailey, her parents and relatives or for the people who searched for her.  It’s beyond us to restore Hailey to life.  Killing Wood simply removes him from any contact with society.  It will cost the government more to turn the wheels of justice to execute him then to keep him in prison the rest of his life.

I've always been an advocate for execution by organ transplant.  A great many people could be saved by Wood’s death.  That might be the only true justice possible.

Would you refuse these organs?  I doubt it.  Given the choice of refusing a pervert’s kidney or living to see your children marry and raise a family, which would you select?  Most would say “Gimme the kidney!”

A suggestion in Straight Forward is to realize evil exists.  Not a metaphysical, intellectual assumption but real, honest-to-God evil does exist and seems to be thriving.  Maybe the response to “I want to do something” is “Do good.”  It’s not a bad answer.

I had a chance to talk to John from Shadow Tech Knives about developing fighting skills in children.  His daughter has taken to the arts and knows which end of the knife goes in and which end to hold.  I may have misunderstood John, but his daughter doesn't carry a knife to school.

“A 14-year old girl against a grown man doesn’t even out so much.”  Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth is right.  A child needs a tool to deal with an adult predator. 

If there’s a shit storm about what follows, fine with me.

If your child has the maturity, get them a Spyderco Delica and find someone to teach them how to use it if you can’t.  Tell them keep it in their pocket and if they flash it around at school or take it out to frighten someone, you’ll whip their little asses red.

Tell ‘em if it falls out while playing or innocently gets discovered, you’ll be on their side and take the heat.

And then tell ‘em if someone tries to pull them into a car or empty room or away from their friends, if someone grabs them or tries to touch them wrongly, your child should cut them like an ocean, wide and deep.

Yeah, I know.  You think I’m full of it.  But I say:  “No more raped dead children.”

Monday, February 17, 2014


Overheard at the gun show last weekend:
A: We’re having a sale on all knives having red on them or their boxes in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
B: Yeah, because nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like a knife.
A: Well, after all, they are up-close and personal!

I admit I’ve only taken a few classes on knife fighting, but I will say they are all up-close and personal. 

None of those classes have been anything like the knife fight in “Under Siege” between Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagal.  I did take a class from a demobbed Marine and frankly, a trained man with a knife is a terror.  I had two different black belt instructors, and both of them admitted they would think twice about going up empty-handed against a skilled man with a knife.

If you’re highly trained with a knife and keep that perishable skill current with weekly work-outs, you can skip the rest.  But if you haven’t, read on.

Spyderco PPT knife
The PPT from Spyderco, a great place to start!

The simplest rules of fighting with a knife are:
  1. Have a knife
  2. Cut something that isn’t you.  
  3. Know that you’re going to be cut.  

After that all the simple rules fall apart.  Too much of this is situational.

But remember, your assailant selected you because their weapon, no matter what it is - superior strength, reach, element of surprise, power, blinding speed, force of numbers -  is so great they could attack you with complete impunity.

If they believe that then I must accept that as a substantial reason to justify my increased level of force. 

The point is, don’t flash the blade, warn that you have a knife, or pretend you’re the karate kid channeling samurai Miyamoto Musashi. 

I wouldn't try bluffing or scaring them in hopes they walk away or let me go. I’d hide the blade until I needed it and then I’d use that tool to separate matter*.  Their matter.

Oh yes, when you’re free and safe, call the police and get the professionals moving.

*What is a knife blade but a matter separator tool?

Monday, February 10, 2014


Every once in a while OODA raises its ugly head.  What’s the OODA loop?  I’m glad you asked.

Simple OODA loop
It's a simple loop. Start at Observe with something obtained from the surroundings.  Use Orient to provide stuff you know, think or suspect.  At Decide we choose an action, and Act is doing the act.  We then observe the results and ....

The reality is OODA isn’t ugly.  It’s just that we try to make it the answer it to everything.  I’ve seen it mostly from business consultants, the ones that were previously teaching The Book of Five Rings, written by swordsman Miyamoto Musashi or Transactional Analysis developed by Eric Berne to industries searching for a magic bullet.

You’ll see it in combat training, martial art schools and in books on how to sell.  But what is it?

The OODA loop was developed by “40 second” Boyd. 

Okay, done snickering?

John Boyd was a US Air Force pilot who claimed in any dogfight he could start with you on his six and in 40 seconds he could be on your six and in gun range.  He lived up to that name.

The OODA loop was part of his attempt to explain not the mechanics of putting the plane in that position, but the combat mindset needed to win. 

People talk about running the loop faster than your opponent or competitor, about getting inside the loop, cross-cutting the loop like it was a Rube Goldberg mechanical device.  You turn the handle and stuff comes out.  In reality it’s an internal process by which we change our behavior to get the outcome we want.

Look at kids playing a pick-up softball game and they ask for your help.  Somebody has to play center field.  What do you tell someone who’s never played center field?  Do you tell him to see the hit, calculate the path of the ball, to run to that position where the ball will land, then catch the ball, use the glove on their hand supplemented by other hand to accomplish this?  That comes later as their experience and understanding grows.

What you do is give him a glove and tell him to stand in the field and if the ball flies out to you, catch it without it touching the ground.  If it touches the ground, pick it up and throw it to your teammate standing on the diamond.  

Then you start teaching about playing shallow and playing deep, shifting to the right or left dependent on the batter.  You spend time playing catch to develop those skills and then you start hitting pop-flies and grounders to him.  The player starts to recognize consistent actions as indicated by the batting style, posture, temperament of the batter and pitcher’s ability.  That’s part of the excitement of playing any sport: learning to correctly read the field and act accordingly.  And we still have a lot to go before we get a good pick-up ball game on our hands.

That’s also why the OODA loop isn’t shown in its entirety.

OODA loop with complex connections
This shows some of the factors and connections Boyd tried to map out for a better understanding of the combat mind.

It’s too overwhelming to start from scratch.  Boyd, himself drew a much more complex loop because he listed all the factors and the components of each factor.  His loop construction took up entire chalkboards all the way around the classroom.

The message to us is we don’t have to memorize and practice all these steps because we’re doing most of them already.  In Gavin de Becker’s Gift of Fear, he argues by the age of 30 we have more than 27 years of experience in human nature and we sense abhorrent behavior.  The book even gives you several pre-indicators of a possible criminal attack.  The problem is we don’t listen to that inner voice telling us to avoid a person or situation.

Part of that inner voice is Boyd’s loop rolling through its cycles in our subconscious.  Part of it is our experience telling us we’ve seen or read about outcomes predicted by this behavior.  It isn’t a guarantee.

I just watched a 60’s spy show where the agent gets on the elevator heading to the floor where the bad spies have their HQ.  Three large, beefy, grim-faced men get on the elevator behind him and bracket him back and both sides.  Clearly he’s been caught.

The elevator opens on the floor and the bad guys are waiting for him, naturally.  Our hero steps out and meekly surrenders, he’s completely outnumbered.  The other men stay on the elevator and keep traveling upward:

“Not your men?” He asks.
“No, they are insurance agents on the floor above us.”  She replies.

It took the audience by surprise and helped further the plot.  In this scene, as in real life, not everything is as it appears.

But don’t ignore that inner voice because we’re too civilized.

Our parents, teachers, coaches, ministers have emphasized positive social behavior, and we don’t want to injure a stranger’s feelings, or make someone we hardly know think less of us.  We want to keep the lines of communication open so we sometimes compromise our behavior.  We want to get along so we go along.

Tactical Content?
Fold in the gift of fear with your OODA loop.  Listen to that inner voice that asks “Why is someone coming out of nowhere to flag down my car?”  Start observing hands, body positions, how they’re dressed and what their clothing says about them.  Start thinking, “If I’m mentally uncomfortable, what should I do to make myself comfortable?”  And if it isn’t unreasonable, do it.  

What’s unreasonable?  That’s situational, but telling someone you’ll catch the next elevator with a friend instead of getting on, or that you can’t help them, or that they need to step back is always in good taste.

Start taking those tactics you’ve read about, like parking your car so the driver side has the car between you and store, and applying them.  Do you pause and look in the windows before you go into the restaurant or building?  When you open the door do you look to see what’s going on and who’s inside any room?  Take a little time and watch people.  How do they move, stand, and carry themselves?  Then look for what’s different. 

The more observations you put into the OODA loop the better your outcome will be.

There are some objections to the OODA loop.  Many of them have to do with Observe.  Since you can’t see the person hiding just around the corner, how can start your loop?

The answer is you see the corner.  In the Orient phase (just a name Boyd chose), your conscious and subconscious mind takes your previous experience, the current environment, your ability, any information about the neighborhood you have and comes up with a concept.  That concept might be, “On a 10° January afternoon in the middle of a snowstorm it’s unlikely anyone is waiting to jump me by hiding around the corner.”  

Your decision might be to (listening to that nagging gut voice) to increase reactionary distance, so you take a few steps toward the street, take your hands out of your coat pocket and lift your head up so you can see (another OODA loop) any approaching danger.

OODA loops are just a way to describe the mental process you go through.  The more experience, the more observations, the more skills, both verbal and tool-related you have, the better the loop rolls.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Carry It Like Batman

I was reminded recently of the original opening scenes of the TV program “Starsky and Hutch.”  They would jump into the red and white Ford Torino and do a check list. 

toy car
We were never sure who the real stars were, the actors or the car.

It went something like:
  • Handgun…check
  • Reloads…check
  • Radio…check
  • Flashlight…check
  • Spare batteries…check  (I always thought that was so cool.  I mean they had spare batteries!)
  • Handcuffs…check.  Let’s roll!

Of course, check lists aren’t just for TV dramas. (I have link on the side bar) ran an article describing the gear the author routinely carried when on patrol with his partner.  I can’t find the article, but as memory serves it was a little like:
Gun, reloads for same, backup gun, reloads for same, OC spray, flashlight, back-up flashlight, vest, raincoat in backseat, collapsible baton, handcuffs, second set handcuffs, shotgun, extra shotgun shells, radio, cell phone, knife….

The author was trying to get the point across that if you needed one, you really needed two.  After all, one is none and two is one.  Especially in the unforgiving environments the modern police officer finds himself.   

When my father was a police officer in the 60s they carried a lot of stuff, but nothing like today.  He carried his whistle, .38 spl revolver, handcuffs in carrier, spare ammo in belt loops, two blackjacks, wooden baton, keys for call boxes, ticket book with copper backing plate, and assorted pens including a wax pen for marking parked cars.

Keys needed by beat officers to call in a problem
Beat officers used to have to call in to report a problem or get back-up.  Major cities had boxes every so often the police could open and call into the dispatcher. 

Ticket book with copper plate?  The copper metal plate gave the leather bound citation book a stiff surface so you could write on it and made for a handy impact weapon if the ticketee decided to get frisky.  And it was still soft enough to flex a little when you sat down.  

Impact weapons were very big then because the officer had two upper tier force levels available to them.  They could shoot them or hit them.  Not everyone need to be shot and hitting them first gave you time to draw your weapon if it escalated to a shoot situation.

I also believe my father carried a backup revolver and a handful of .38 spls in his pants pocket.  In those days Chicago officers carried 158gr lead round nose.  Later radio and mace were added.  He was out of the force before vest, lights, cameras and tricorders became stock carry.
A vital part of every officer’s equipment was the belt where much of this equipment was hung.  Of course, coats with huge pockets during cold weather were also useful.  The equipment problem hasn’t diminished:

In this discussion Batman is relevant.  Like most boys, I liked Batman, perhaps more than any other comic book character.  Why?  Because he wasn’t born on another planet, had a god for a father, or gained his power by falling asleep in a nuclear reactor. 

He was an ordinary person.  Every boy I knew thought at some point during his childhood, if he applied himself, worked out and studied hard, he could be like Batman.

What’s relevant here is the unique batbelt, which carried every possible gadget Batman could need.  From batarangs, climbing line, mini-grappling hooks, lights, radios, portable lab, underwater breathing gear, camera, sleep gas bombs, batcuffs, smoke pellets to complete disguise kits, Batman could find it in his belt. 

With a batbelt we could carry all the CCW tools we might want.  Unfortunately, for the armed civilian the batbelt is fiction.  Nor can we load ourselves up like the uniformed officer.

What does the armed civilian need to carry?  And unfortunately, the answer is, it depends.

You need a loaded gun, CCW license and one other picture ID, usually a driver’s license.  I don’t care what your state says, have enough ID.

You need a reload, perhaps two. 

Even with high capacity magazines, you want to be able to bring your gun up to full capacity as soon as possible.  Mr. Murphy and his law might not be done f@#king with you and a reload is a great comfort.

You need a cell phone.  One with GPS 911 call enabled.  Who gets the professionals (the police) moving after a crime?  The good guys.  Few criminals call to report a crime.  And under stress you might not be absolutely clear on where you need the police to arrive.  GPS 911 might save you a lot of trouble.

You need a flashlight.  No, I’m wrong, you need two.  If you carry a pocket size tactical light a little convenient zipper-pull light will be useful for those times you want just enough light to find a key hole or look under the sofa.  550 lumens of searingly bright light isn’t always the answer.
Three flashlights
I carry the middle one all the time and the top one has multi-functions which I ignored.  I wanted strobe and medium high.  The low, SOS mode, blinking, medium high were never on my needs list.  Your carry light might be the middle and the little nano on the bottom.  It's good to have options.

Never leave home without a knife.  It should be able to be opened with one hand and lock open.  Having a clip so it stays where you want it is priceless.  

Two possible carry knives
Two plain-edged knives.  Whatever you carry, carry something that works every time.  Big isn't always the best answer either.  It has to be carried somewhere discreetly.
It’s your choice on serrations, partial, full or just plain.  Your community lets you carry a fixed blade?  Fantastic.  Get a little one like Ka-Bar’s TDI or Boker’s Yurko on your belt.

What else do you want to put in your batbelt?  OC spray might be a great tool.

OC spray works against people and animals
OC spray works well against both 2-and 4-legged animals, but nothing is everything.

A second knife of a different size and blade configuration might be useful.  A basic first aid kit with tourniquet and quick clot could be a lifesaver.  

Do I need to tell you we never approach anyone we shot in self-defense to administer first aid.  They may be down but not out.  You can throw them the kit and encourage them to self-rescue.  

You maybe be able to save someone injured following an incident because you’re there with gear and the professionals are still 5 minutes away.

Pad of paper and a pen are useful.  Writing down a license plate number or a description as soon as you can will help the police.

A number of national trainers have suggested a back-up gun.  Of course you need a reload for that as well. 
primary gun and back-up gun
A 9mm Kahr and my .38 special back-up, both of which my wife shoots quite well.

Depending on who you’re with and their training, the ability to hand them your back-up weapon could be a lifesaver.  Perhaps yours.  

Other trainers suggest a collapsible ASP.  I bought mine after a confrontation on outside stairs at work.  I had returned from knee surgery and my co-worker had caught someone stealing gas from his car in the parking lot.  Before I knew it the kid’s homies had arrived, other employees had gathered and I thought we would see an old fashioned rumble.  The police arrived in the nick of time.  Gimping as I was, all I had was a light-weight cane.  I got an ASP baton and training as soon as possible.

What do I carry when I’m heading out to the store?  I’ll show you my daytime outfit.  

Gun, knives reload, light and phone
The typical daylight carry.  Everything in life is a compromise. 

At night I add a second flashlight and sometimes OC spray.  No ASP baton, no tactical first aid kit, no back-up gun, you ask?  My answer, no batbelt. 

But I’m not you.  You need to carry what you think you need.  You might want to replace one knife with OC spray, add a small light to the gun, ditch the flashlight in favor of a button-battery light on a cord around your neck and carry everything else.

The limitation seems to be where do we stash all that gear?  A shoulder holster has the advantage of taking the gun off the belt and having provisions for a reload and perhaps a flashlight.  This leaves pockets free.  A fanny pack, while out of place at more formal activities, can hold gun, reload, OC, and cell phone.  

The tactical pants I favor have large cargo pockets which I can load with light, a reload, pocket gun in holster and knife.  I especially like the Tru-Spec 24-7 tactical pants.  The cargo pockets have smaller pockets inside of them which are great for holding lights and reload magazines.

But don’t shy away from the classic IWB holster and spare mag carrier.  A tactical flashlight in one pocket, knife in the other and a backup button light on a chain and you could be ready to roll with Starsky and Hutch.