Just because something really sucks doesn't mean it works.
Remember USM J. Jone's three rules: Anything you teach must work moving or standing still, must work when you are adrenalized and, number one, anything you teach must have a tactical use.
Combat sports train hard, but they train within a ruleset. Does that make it wrong? Does it balance out? Check this-- I'd much rather have a student who knows that he trains within a ruleset than one that pretends he doesn't. I've been asked too many times not to do certain things in schools that declared they were 'real street fighting' 'reality based' and 'no rules.' It is the subconscious rules that will get you killed.
Train within a ruleset and you will forget to cheat. The harder you train the more ingrained, the more subconscious, the rules have to be. So you will forget to cheat. Until the bad guy reminds you. Then you can cheat. And since competitors train hard and expect to get hurt if they are unprepared, their fundamentals tend to be pretty good. And fundamentals come first. Get those down and then cheat.
That said, there are some things that are dangerous to practice live. The koryu follow-throughs on the hip throws. Finger locks (a pair of two-hundred-pound guys rolling around playing with tiny joints will break things). I think when someone racks up the permanent injury rate, knee locks and heel hooks may be disallowed in sports the way judo took them out long before I was born. The rabbit punch (inward and upward to the first cervical vertebra). Throat chops and spears. Eye gouges.
And eye gouges is the one I want to talk about. Because they usually don't work. Not that they aren't harmful. I have permanent damage to my left eye from a finger gouge. But...
Eye gouges present the possibility of blinding (unlikely) or partial blinding. Since deadly force includes the concept of 'grievous bodily harm' and blinding falls under that definition, eye gouges are deadly force. You need to be able to justify deadly force if you use one. Here's the deal: If I need deadly force it's because I want to stop the threat now. The situation needs to be over. IME, eye gouges don't do that.
The first time I was deliberately eye-gouged it was in a 'friendly' sparring match. And it did work to the extent that I let go of a perfectly good strangle hold. The second time, I knew better, and just tucked my head into his neck. The third time (not sparring) I kicked him off me and got back to my feet before his friend (actually brother, according to the police report) could engage again. The fourth time, a baby wanted to play with her sleeping dad's marbles and tried to get one out of my eye socket. The closest I have come to being blind in one eye (and it was touch and go) was done by a baby.
So, on the good side, it doesn't take any strength or skill. A baby can do permanent injury to a grown man.
But it also doesn't work. It's a deadly force technique that reliably gets two things:
1) A flinch. Most people will pull their head away from something digging in their eye or eyes. And that's good.
2) Anger. You've just told this person what level you are willing to take it to.
Trust me, if deadly force is necessary, you don't friggin' announce it. Maybe to prevent force, e.g. you hear a noise in your home late at night you might consider announcing you are armed. But like any announcement, you gamble the advantage of surprise against the threat's willingness to escalate. Your call.
Once you have used an eye gouge, the threat will get angry. Will realize what you are willing to do. Will remember, if he was sport-trained, that cheating is on the table. Will feel an urge to punish you. Some of you have been in a fight where the goal escalated from winning or gathering a resource to teaching a lesson. You know what that entails.
As bad as it was, and I have to assume it was pretty bad if your instinct was to gouge eyes, it will now get worse. Think of it this way-- If some stranger gouged your eyes, would your reaction be to quit fighting? Or to fight for all you are worth?
And that is one of the training artifacts. In almost any training venue, it is safe to stop fighting. There are many things that stop training fights that fail to stop or even escalate assault situations. One of the reasons that eye gouges have their reputation, I think, is because they do stop friendly matches.
Two other things, details if you will. It is highly likely that there is some sampling error here. Most of my ugly fights have been with someone who had prepared to try to take out an officer. My threats were likely more dedicated and had more to lose than a similar threat choosing a potential rape victim. The pain of an eye gouge may well make a less dedicated threat run. My experience doesn't make things true for other people in other situations.
Second-- Never done it but it is theoretically possible (and I have heard a lot of people teach this but none of them have done it either) to stabilize the head (like against a wall or the floor) and drive your thumbs or a tool through the eye, through the thin bone at the back of the orbital socket, and into the squishy brain. That would probably, in fact, be a fight-stopper.
Just because something hurts a lot and has permanent crippling effects (which sounds good, right?) doesn't automatically mean it has a tactical use. Doesn't automatically mean it will work for what you need it for.
As always, just my opinion and from my experience.
Jan 31st 2015 - If you are in the Bay Area ... This Saturday, 4 - 6pm ish. Book reading/discussion/Q and A on 'The Liar the Cheat and the Thief' + play, at Soja Martial Art...
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