Meditations on stance

Anyone who is willing to listen, read on. If you already know better, then pass on by. And quit bleeding on my floor.

Listen to me: Get. Your. Sodding. Hands. Up.

There is no way on either side of the Bifrost Bridge that you can defend yourself with your hands by your side. Period. Full stop. End of statement.

Had an individual get thumped on the snot locker today — and he knew it was coming. Saw the threat displays, saw the measuring glances, saw the work-up, the whole enchilada.

And he stood there, hands hanging by his side. Why? Because “He didn’t want to escalate things.”

Well, my little Hor d’Oeuvre on the Table of Life, looks like things didn’t really give a damn if you wanted them to escalate or not, you think?

It’s a simple thing. If you are dealing with unknowns, or if you are in a situation where things might just go rodeo, take your left hand and lay it on your chest — ’bout elbow height. Little higher or a little lower doesn’t matter — whatever makes you comfortable.

Now, take your right hand, cup it a bit and place it over the back of your left hand. I like to extend my thumbs and touch the tips together, but that’s a personal thing.

This does two things. The first — and most important — is that it places a psychological barrier between you and whomever you’re interacting with. Most of the population — whether consciously or no — will react to this barrier by moving so that you are on the edge of their comfort zone.

The second thing this does is move your hands from their useless place beside your legs and up to where they’re actually useful for defence.

From the chest, your hands can raise the short distance to protect your head and face. They can drop to protect your abdomen and groin. You can drop an elbow or raise an elbow to do the same. You can do any number of useful defensive things — as long as your hands are where they need to be, and not down between your hip and knee.

I want you to do something. I want to find someone you trust and stand face-to-face with them, about an arms length away, both of you standing with your arms hanging loosely by your sides.

Now, whenever the person standing opposite you gets the urge, he should flick a hand past your ear — either hand, his choice.

When he does, I want you to tap his arm before it clears your ear.

Bloody damned difficult, yes?

Now, do the same, but you have your hands folded on your chest, arms relaxed.

When you see him move, I want you to move your hands so that your middle fingers arc up your chest, past the outer end of your eyebrows and stop with your middle fingertip pointed at your temple and a couple of inches out. Think of it as a really sloppy salute that comes off your chest.

Easier, yes?

Away from your partner, practice in front of a mirror. Pretend the person in the mirror is rushing in to grab your legs and pull you down. From your chest, shoot both hands past one of his ears and shove/pull down on his shoulder/neck with your forearms. Now, live practice this and you’ve just sprawled a leg take-down.

Or you can shove your left hand into the face of the guy in the mirror, dabbling a finger-tip or four in his eyes, as your right hand skins your handgun out of the holster. Get a Red Gun or something similar and live practice it.

Fire both hands off your chest into the face of the guy in the mirror, scream “Get back!” and jump back.

With a little pondering, a good imagination and live practice, you can come up with any number of simple, direct defences based on just having your hands on your chest.

The beauty of this is that no innocent thinks that you standing there with your hands folded on your chest is even remotely aggressive.

When Reno does this, he plays with his wedding band — all any citizen ever sees is a big, sleepy guy probably thinking of his wife. But his hands are up where they can do him some damned good.

Hands up — Good. Hands hanging by your side — Bad.

Thus endeth the lesson.



26 thoughts on “Meditations on stance”

  1. LawDog, I’m glad you brought that up. And it seems to me there’s some karate moves that can originate from the hands being diaphragm high.

    The part about left hand in the perp’s face while the right hand draws the gun… even a guy like me with a bum right shoulder can use that tactic.

    See what you think of this idea too while we’re on this subject. Something I’ve thought of is if someone comes in on me, I could simply reach up into their throat and grab a good handfull and squeeze. My right hand may be free to draw my sidearm. My rationale, which may or may not work, is that they break off the attack because they’re too busy dealing with my hand in their throat to keep attacking. I don’t know. What do you think?

    mustanger98 on THR

  2. Anonymous, grabbing by the throat is less effective, in my experience, than the eyes, but it can be pretty damned good.
    I used the handful of throat technique back in high school, and it does work well if it’s unexpected (‘specially if it lifts ’em off the floor).
    On the other hand, the eyes help prevent an armed opponent from trying to ignore the throat long enough to shoot/stab/etc. you. It’s a lot harder to hit someone while they’ve got fingers in your eyes. I’d go for the eyes. If you can be absolutely sure they aren’t armed (you can’t), the throat is great, since the fight will necessarily last longer and take more oxygen.
    Just my $.02, despite the fact that absolutely no one asked me.

  3. drew, Thanks for the insights. I’d have to step into ’em, grab the throat, and squeeze *hard*. For me, there’s no lifting them off the floor. Unexpected could be good, though I’m really not up to hand-to-hand. I was mostly just hoping it’d buy me some time. I think I better go for the eyes. We’re not talking about a situation where we necessarily have time to get the belt (with the heavy brass buckle) off and make ’em worry that way.


  4. I’m guilty of the hands at sides thing. Thanks for pointing that out.

    A friend and I used to practice disarming each other and the sucker punch. There isn’t much time to react even when you know it is coming.

  5. Speaking in generalities gets you in trouble, but here’s one anyway:

    If your opponent has a weapon along the lines of a knife or a pistol, that’s what you need to control. If you can reach his eyes, then he doesn’t need them to kill you with either weapon.

  6. Not to be the sole voice of contention- but keeping your hand at your side being a useful stance for self defense all depends on your training. several martial arts styles that would be useful to police officers use that as a nonviolent ‘stance’ from which to defend yourself- namely, aikido, but others teach it as well.

    In my experience, though, grabbing the throat is not very effective at it means tangoing with your opponent- but a quick jab of a yoke hand to the throat can cause some pretty nifty swelling and anyone with a functioning brain suddenly becomes worried about breathing. (Note: not nearly as effective on the reasoning-impaired- read as drunk, drugged up, etc)

  7. Don, I probably should’ve been more clear. When I say to go for the eyes, I still want you watching for any weapon and/or getting distance. Punching the throat SHOULD take some fight out of the guy for a few seconds, but a couple knuckles to the eyeballs should disorient him and keep his aim off. Grabbing the throat is good for something you know’ll be all grappling. Takes the fight out of a guy fairly quickly.
    Draven, that’s a good point on Aikido, though a hands-down stance is only really useful if you actually know what you’re doing, so Mr. ‘Dog’s advice is still valid. After all, if you’ve trained, you know the use of non-traditional stances. If you haven’t, you shouldn’t be trying them.

  8. My preferred method is to throw and elbow — or a knife. Sayoc Kali rocks.

  9. Very interesting concept, LawDog! I have never thought about this. And you’re right: at the same time you get to have hands where needed AND you don’t look like you’re either over reacting or escalating things. Very good advice!

  10. One thing to add. If you’re watching someone for an attack, don’t watch their eyes. Lots of people can throw a good fake with their eyes.

    Watch the base of their neck; since most punches start with shoulder movement your peripheral vision should pick that up if you’re watching the pit of their throat.

    Plus, I never met a guy who could fake with his neck.

  11. This is even better than my “preffered” stance of hands up in front, palms forward. Happens to be the stance of on-the-feet wrestling (I wrestled in high-school, and you can do a fair amount of damage even with high-school grappling techniques, esp if there isn’t a mat to catch the other guy. Like many grappling techniques, it’s of less use if you are significantly outmassed by your oppnent, but I was on the same squad as a guy who was just into high-school heavy-weaight territory; probably could have dropped a weight class without too much difficulty. But he was MUCH faster than his opponents; so he would win matches on points – taking down the opponent and never grappling. They come back up when on padded mats, of course. On concrete, when the back of the head hits pavement instead of padding?

  12. Huh. When I read the line, “Get. Your. Sodding. Hands. Up.” I thought I was in for a lesson on how to surrender to Those Acting Under Color of Authority.

    I need to forward this to my niece and practice with her a bit.

  13. In addition, blade your stance. Don’t stand square on to the perp — move your strong side foot backwards about a 1/2 step.

  14. Excellent – as usual – Mr. Dog. Something I’d like to add as a variation is the “Jack Benny.” One thumb and pointer finger on your chin and the other hand on your left elbow – like Jack Benny did. Makes it look like you’re really interested in what they are saying, but makes for a good reactionary position.

  15. Very good advise, especially against other females. Girls usually go for your face and hair. I could have used this info while having a “discussion” with a classmate a time or two.

    Thanks, Mr. Dog.


  16. I’ve never heard it put this simply before, ‘Dog. Mind if’n I borrow explanation for some of my classes?

  17. I’ve never heard it put this simply before, ‘Dog. Mind if’n I borrow explanation for some of my classes?

    Please, be my guest.

  18. ‘stang98,
    the problem with the eyes is they are small, and surrounded with armour(bone). Plus, there seems to be a hardwired response to anything approaching your eyes. That head movement quickly offers up some bone in place of the soft targets.
    On the other hand, the throat is larger, can’t dodge like the head can, and isn’t surrounded by armour. Plus, you have to take out both, to be fully effective with a determined adversary. The drawback, or attraction, to the throat, is it is a potentially fatal target. I suspect there might not be a wide window between the force needed to disable and that required to crush the windpipe, resulting in asphyxiation. I would not bother with grabbing it, unless they are restrained in some manner from backing away from you. An impact movement has a much better chance of getting to target.

    Thanks, LawDog. Very useful technique.
    Definitely better position to start from if you need to block a football groin kick by hand. Crossed wrists/forearms are much more likely to intercept and absorb the energy than a single hand would. Probably less likely to suffer hand/arm injury in the process.

  19. Lesson received and already practicing. As a woman in this day and age, you never know what you might need when. Now, I just need to move to a state that has CCW laws. *grumble, grumble*

    Also, for those who were discussing whether going for the eyes would disable someone for a moment who might have another weapon, of course it would. Think of how sensitive your eyes are. They are one of the most sensitive(nerve-wise) places on your body, and they’re very vulnerable. Now, I’ve never gone around having someone poke their fingers in my eyes, but I was at the eye doctor yesterday, and had my pupils dilated. That nasty solution burned and stung like crazy. I can honestly tell you, all I could think about was that burning sensation in my eyes, keeping them closed, and praying it would go away. I was NOT thinking of anything else at that time. The pain was too intense. Much less, I couldn’t even open my eyes because of it. So, if someone did have a weapon, and they just had fingers jabbed in their eyes, they might be moving a bit blind for awhile.

    Now, I’m not an LEO or anything like that. I’m actually an RN, so, take the above with a grain of salt if you wish.

  20. Okay, here’s something else I just recalled… one of the instructors they’ve had on Shooting Gallery- I forget his name- was talking about if the perp got that close that you have to defend yourself, you’ve already made several mistakes. He demonstrated holding your left hand out telling them to stay back, and then when they’re that much more too close for comfort, that’s when you shuck iron on ’em. Now, my own take on that is that as they’re approaching, if you’ve already seen all the signs and your hands have already been at diaphragm level, you can throw your left hand up and draw with your right hand much like LawDog said… in that bladed stance someone else mentioned, with left foot pointed to the perp, your sidearm can come up to retention. You’re looking at the perp, left foot and sidearm pointed to the perp, and if necessary you can fire from retention looking straight at your assailant. But that’s another thing that needs practice.


  21. LD,

    I was just over at Cornered Cat’s reading up on shooting there. I hope she doesn’t mind me posting this excerpt about firearm stances here, as I bet it could help in using the hand defenses you mentioned.

    “Most modern defensive shooters use this stance when they must shoot one-handed. The weak hand is brought up close to the body, underneath the pectoral muscles, and the weak hand is clenched into a fist. Because of the body’s sympathetic nervous system, clenching the weak hand provides an increased measure of strength to the strong hand.”

    I had never before this heard about clenching the weak hand to give the stronger hand more strength. I was thinking of you, too, Mustanger with the bad shoulder. You could have your hands playing around on your chest, use your good hand and then clench the hand of the bum shoulder and give a “helping hand” to the one you’re plowing into the bad guys eyes.

    Man! I have learned so much today. I feel so proud of myself. *grinning ear to ear*

    I mean, I first shot a gun when I was 10. We were at some friends houses, and man did the hubby have a ton of guns, being a hunter and all. Well, I was allowed to shoot them, and I had a blast! And, I received the biggest compliment from Mr. Pomeroy. He looked at me in awe, and nicknamed me, “Little Miss Annie Oakley”. I would assume it was because I could shoot a gun fairly well, but I don’t know if I hit the targets. I just enjoyed shooting, and if I had a way to do it, I would do so today. Of course, I had minimal knowledge of guns then, as I still do. Just enough to keep me from killing myself or someone else, but I’m glad I have sites like this to come to, so I can learn. Thanks!!

  22. “I had never before this heard about clenching the weak hand to give the stronger hand more strength. I was thinking of you, too, Mustanger with the bad shoulder. You could have your hands playing around on your chest, use your good hand and then clench the hand of the bum shoulder and give a “helping hand” to the one you’re plowing into the bad guys eyes.”

    I never thought of that. Thanks, kiki b. I didn’t mention it this time, but I’ve said it before, that I can’t run either. This might just save me some running and shooting both. I might could clench my right hand while I use the left on the bad guy’s eyes and get him good and disoriented, then unclench my right hand long enough to draw and bring my sidearm to retention. My right hand would be re-clenched around that checkered Pachmyer wrap-around grip (index finger along the frame until I know I need to shoot), so I might could still do something with the left hand without shooting. But if the bad guy refocusses on me, hopefully he’s gonna notice the stainless front end of that .45automatic looking at him from my diaphragm-level and hopefully that’s gonna make him rethink his position.

    Now, if I’m at the range, just shootin’ to be shootin’, I’m probably shootin’ left-handed. I didn’t notice until I finished a string, but sometimes I had unconsiously/subconsciously clenched my right hand and held it about diaphram high. I just didn’t know the significance of it.


  23. Just another thing, knees slightly “soft” and feet shoulder-width is very important. More shock absorption AND more power=better evasion and/or transfer of force.

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