Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ineffective Bad

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.


Gillian Russell said...

Cool article. Thanks for writing it - this all seems sensible.

I do think there are some situations where getting someone to flinch and back off for a second can be useful though. Say they actually have you pinned on the ground and you just can't move them. Getting them to flinch back by sticking your fingers in their eyes might make enough space for you to do something (bridge out, reach a rock or whatever.)

I think you're clearly right that it's likely to escalate things - just that there are some situations where the costs of not doing it are likely higher than the costs of escalation.

Neil Bednar said...

Wayne said...

And thanks for sharing your opinion Rory

Klemens Dombrowski said...

thanks! that had to be said!

the bone behind the orbita is not taht thin by the way... if you cant drive your thumb through a thick board i don't see it getting through there either. an even then the matter of deep penetration remains... aka : how long is your thumb to go through the whole orbita AND enter the brain substentially

Dave Akell said...

For some reason, I was just sharing ideas about this very thing with another explorer of all things SD the other day on FB. My take was that the eyes are ok targets, as they have the potential to cause some blindness, and that could be of some benefit. Some of the problems with them: they are a somewhat small moving target, vehemently defended by most folks. Also, not everyone has it in them to ram their fingers into someones eye socket. I would assume this is especially true of the "uninitiated", whom are the very types seeking advice on the matter. The fact they might get angry is kind of already on the table if I'm willing to go there though, I'm assuming we are well past the niceties stage. Great points as always, thank you for sharing your perspective.

Melisa Spence said...

What I was taught is that vertical downward pressure on the eyeball is unlikely to cause permanently damage, but can temporarily blind (useful) - and that horizontal outward pressure has more potential for permanent damage.

In Girl Army we teach eye gouges (the vertical kind). We base what we teach on the statistic that women who use forceful physical resistance to rape have the highest rate of being able to escape, and that there is a wide range of levels of commitment of an potential attacker, i.e. most are not looking for a fight to the death. Ethically/legally we want to teach folks techniques which are not permanently damaging. Also because folks facing sexual assault are usually defending themselves against people they know, we want to provide techniques which they will be less freaked out to use (not worried about causing permanent damage).

In my experience, the most problematic/discouraging part of teaching eye gouges is that even though it seems like a relatively harmless technique as the teacher, it can be really hard to convince people to dig their fingers into your squishy eyeballs area.

JP said...

Thanks for your great blog! It's been a source of inspiration and motivation.

One remark about the bones of orbital socket: in ER it is not rare to see "orbital blow-out fractures", but instead of breaking the bones at the posterior orbit, a powerful impact to the eye almost always breaks the floor of the orbit, pushing orbital fat to the maxillary sinus below.

Unknown said...

Escalating an assault is something I'm often asked about and is a real worry. Last year (July 19) you wrote on WSD and mentioned 'A' and 'B' strikes. Would be very grateful if you could go into more detail sometime on these , so I can pass on to young women students. Great Saturday in Swindon, thank you. Very useful and fun!

Thomas M. said...

Personally, I think of eye gouges mostly as a way to distract somebody or get a flinch reaction. Everything else is in my opinion an additional win.

However, I just recently stuck one of my fingers pretty deep into the eye socket of a friend in a training accident. I had my hands up, fingers open and stepped in to go for his face when he stepped forward (in a sparring situation).

It's not the best thing in the world if you feel your finger connect to something squishy and go "in" quite deep. At least not with a friend's face and with some speed.

The point: at least in this case he went down instandly. As in "painful cry/hands to eye/drops to knees" pretty much in under a second.

He described an extremely sharp pain and couldn't see on the eye for several minutes.
Luckily the eye seems to be undamaged.

Given: this was just a training situation and he was in no danger from stopping. Still, it took the fight out of him instantly. Just a different (more "successful") example because your article reminded me about it.

Jake said...

I had a similar experience to the one Thomas describes above in training at one point.

Long story short--training partner and I got too goofy, I stepped in, and impaled my eye on his finger. He said it felt squishy. I just remember opening my eye and realizing that I had fallen down. I dropped so hard I didn't realize it.

If he had wanted to kill me in that moment, I'd have been utterly screwed. Training environment had nothing to do with it.

Of course, for that one instance, I've also had a bunch of other accidental/incidental eye contacts where I kept training through it, or stopped because we were training and my partner wasn't a dick.

So, yeah, not entirely reliable.

Ben C. said...

SOB. my survival backup plan replied on an eye gouge when on the ground. Thanks alot Rory. I thought it was fool-proof.

But now I can start re-thinking.

Jim said...

Nothing is fool proof. Nothing is guaranteed to drop a guy -- or not drop him.

I've seen people not even notice groin shots. I've seen people drop like a marionette with no strings by a graze that didn't even look like it made contact. I've seen people barely notice an eye poke... and I've seen people useless for an hour by a near miss over their eye.

Personally, I rate eye gouges and eye pokes in the same category as pepper spray. They work best on people who think they're supposed to work -- and they work worst on people you really need 'em to work on. (I like what Jim Glennon calls OC: piss off juice. Because that's what it sure seems to do best, piss everyone off.)

Thomas M. said...

Just a thought: I think it can make a big difference if the eye is closed or not. The eye lid is in my opinion a pretty good protection and once it is down I can take quite some pressure on the eye. Especially if I'm able to "wiggle" with my head to avoid the attacker. And I think many people can't press on an eye with all their power from the beginning, which would make this easier.

On the other hand, in the incident I described above things went so fast that my finger went in between eyeball and eyelid. This was way more effective then any pressure I ever put on somebodies closed eye (but the reason might have been the higher speed and power as well, because I would obviously never willingly go for the eye of a trainingpartner like in that accident).

However, even if the "naked" eye delivers a better result, I don't think this is really useful. The eyes close so fast, I don't see me getting into an open eye on purpose. With luck maybe, but not as a necessary part of a planned attack.

This one time it happened pretty much like Jake described as well. The other guy impaled his eye on my finger when we both stepped forward.

Manolis said...

Great post as always.
I suppose that long fingernails might offer an edge on eye gouges, but on the other hand could make scratching oneself a very risky business...

Chaz Bro Chill said...

The anecdotes mentioned all seem to stem from accidents. Does anyone have experience with intentional eye gouges?

An eye seems to me to be a less than ideal target. Aside from potentially escalating the fight as Rory wrote, eyes are small, easy to protect, and set in one of the thickest and hardest bones in the body. The potential of damaging fragile bones in your hand and the likelihood of a miss both seem high.

Chaz Bro Chill said...

Though I realize now I'm only imagining eye gouging as a strike. In a grapple it would probably be easier to target and apply, resulting in a momentum swing if nothing else. I'm not sold on the thought of a TKO via orbital puncture.