Monday, February 1, 2010

Praxis: More on the bayonet controversy from an ex-paratrooper.


At the this risk of being seen by some as flogging a dead horse, I present the following thoughts from an ex-82nd Airborne paratrooper on LTG Hertling and the bayonet controversy. He makes some valid points not previously discussed. The fact that he agrees with me is entirely coincidental. ;-)


Seems to me that whether you like it or not, and whether you have a bayonet on your rifle or not, you may well end up using that rifle as an impact/cutting weapon because it will be what is in your hands at the moment things go bad. When you are in close quarters with the enemy, either in a rural or urban setting and your rifle runs empty or malfs, you will likely not have time to drop it/sling it across your back and draw your blade or your hawk/blade combo. You will just have to dance with what is in your hands. If you were smart, like Lt. Adamson, you would have that blade already on your rifle, where it belongs when things might be close and personal. But even if you weren't that smart (or even if the brass didn't give you the option) and have only the rifle without bayonet in your hands, you will still have to use that rifle as an impact weapon because you simply won't have time to do anything else. I doubt Lt. Adamson had time to draw a blade. Sure, if you have a pistol as well, you can drop or sling the rifle and go for your pistol, but still you may not even have time for that if it is really close and fast.

The moves you learn for the bayonet will still work even without one on the rifle(a birdcage flash-hider to the throat, eye, or solar plexus can nicely set up that thunderous butt stroke to the head), and those moves carry over well to other objects you may have at hand, such as entrenching tools. And even without a bayonet those moves can also help when/if you find yourself wrestling for control over your own rifle with an enemy who has appeared out of no-where and is trying to disarm you. You should know how to to parry and slash with the barrel regardless of what's on the end of it and you should know how do buttstrokes (which can also be to the groin and knees and anything else when dealing with a disarm attempt).

As some other comments said, why not train bayonet right along with everything else? What's the big deal? How much more can it cost? With all the billions our military spends on nonsense, they can spend a little more on giving our boys a fighting chance when it's up close and personal. If necessary, lengthen the time of basic by one more week and teach them how to really FIGHT. Strange that the general wants troops to train on how to use weapons at hand, but not the rifle that will be in their hands.

As for the utility of actually fixing bayonets, you have already amply illustrated how useful a bayonet is to have already on your rifle in thick cover, such as a swamp, jungle, tall grass, or in urban house to house, etc. where you may have to stab and slash at a second's notice when your rifle won't fire or when you are fighting to maintain control over your weapon in the face of a disarm attempt. All of that should be obvious (to anyone but a tanker!).

But whatever the terrain, the same factors can happen when you are on a raid and intentionally cross through the objective, such as to snatch prisoners, intel, gear, or to free prisoners. That can also happen when you are on an ambush. After you light em up you may then assault through the kill zone to collect enemy gear (weapons, ammo, radios, etc.), to search bodies for intel, to possibly take prisoners if anyone is left alive, etc. Having a blade on your rifle can come in mighty handy when doing that.

Would I also carry a tomahawk? You bet. For those times when stealth is a must and you don't even want to be tempted to fire, or for when you are completely out of ammo and have time to sling your rifle and draw your hawk, you bet! The Trainer is right, it is a fearsome combo. And just a little training in the Filipino martial arts can make you a pretty damn effective hacking, slashing, and stabbing machine with a hawk in one hand and knife in the other.

But having the ability to put that knife on the end of your rifle, and the basic training to stab, slash, parry, and buttstroke, is also a damn good idea. Again, why the urgent need to drop it?

Train it all, and make it an integrated training that flows from one form of combat to another.

Seems to me the good general is falling into an either/or way of thinking and it is not confined to bayonet. For example:

"Hertling also wants combatives or hand-to-hand fighting to de-emphasize grappling or basic wrestling moves. Instead, soldiers need to learn to fight with their hands and use anything they can grab - whether it is a knife or stick - as a weapon, he added.

Recruits need to learn how to use their hands, the St. Louis native said. "A greater majority of recruits have never been in a fistfight," he added."

Huh? Why not teach them how to wrestle/grapple and also how to strike with empty hands and improvised weapons? Military combatives were woefully inadequate when it came to grappling until the Gracie Jiu Jitsu craze hit. But then it kinda went too far the other way, with an emphasis on grappling first and foremost, without enough hard-core striking (elbows, forearms, headbuts, chin jabs, eye gouges)..

There needs to be a balance. They need both. Why? Because basic grappling is incredibly important, even if you have possible access to a cutting or impact weapon. You will likely wind up fighting over that weapon since the guy you are wacking/stabbing will try to grab it. You may also have to wrestle to get to your weapon out in the first place (such as when your rifle is empty and you go for your blade, with the enemy trying to stop you from drawing it) and keep him from getting to his, all the while striking where and when you can. And when you know how to grapple, you will be better at staying on your feet and avoiding being taken down and stomped to death. Even when your first choice is to stay on your feet, grappling training will make you better at staying up. And crap happens. You may trip, slip, or be knocked down, so you'd better know the basics of fighting on the ground.

And something the good General may be forgetting, if he ever learned it, is that grappling is something the boys can do full force, no restraint, on each other as part of PT. The training method is as important as the techniques. The training method with grappling lets them use their take downs, take down defenses, reversals, escapes, chokes and joint locks full speed, full power on real live resisting humans who desperately don't want to be humiliated.

When it comes to striking, the training method of boxing limits your techniques, but it also let's you go full force against a resisting opponent. I'd match a boxer up against a karate or kung fu guy any day because the boxer knows how to really HIT and he has been hit. He can dish it out and take it.

When I was in, my squad boxed and wrestled for PT. That will make you tough, and teach you how to hit, how to survive being hit, how to stay on your feet and avoid the take-down, and how to move another man around. You do that, and then add in the pugil sticks, and some basic WWII style combative strikes (chin jab, eye gouges, forearm smashes, knees, elbows and stomps), and some basic knife and stick training, and you are set.

One site you and your readers may want to check out is

Kelly McCann is a retired Marine Major who does a pretty damn solid job of integrating mixed martial arts style grappling, old school combatives empty hand striking, modern striking from Thai Boxing, with Filipino style impact weapons, and cutting weapons skills (where the basic movements can be used regardless of what is in your hands, from a pen, to a fork, to a wrench, knife, stick, entrenching tool, hatchet, machete, baseball bat, etc.). McCann has trained it all and integrates it all well. He has books and videos that will provide a very solid base in short order. If I were the good general trying to update and perfect Army combatives, I would swallow my Army pride, cut through all the red tape, and give that Marine a call.

-- Apache.


Anonymous said...

One thing I remember from my Escrima teacher was his saying that you could use most of the strikes and blocks even with a stick in your hand.

Brock Townsend said...

Agree with every iota. My favorite was the pugil stick.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, but have you tried to get a Pugil Stick carry permit?

Actually, I don't remember if it was Dan Inosanto but someone of his class pointed out that the man is the weapon - everything else is a tool.

Anonymous said...

Are folks forgetting who's going to be on the receiving end of this potential bayonet training, some time down the line?

Mike H said...

More tools for the toolbox.

Good for the whole family -s-.

My daughter and I are getting into bokun practice as a nice warmup.

jon said...

"I'd match a boxer up against a karate or kung fu guy any day because the boxer knows how to really HIT and he has been hit. He can dish it out and take it."

like the marine that doesn't piss on his hands, us kung fu guys simply learn not to get hit in the first place.

once you learn how to feel the fight, your hands are where they need to be before the mind registers the need. in fact, any body can win any fight, but the mind always stands in the way. like the fashion among men of statism over the market, the untrained mind just cannot allow the body to do what needs to be done until it has perceived and thus blessed the plan.

oh, and, we also learn how to displace tendons, close airways, dislocate joints, and remove parts of the body one might refer to as delicate, so that there won't even be a fight and we can go back to, i dunno, napping. we're just lazy, i guess.

of course, all of this begins years after learning-by-doing the basics of breathing, stretching, boxing, falling, running, jumping, standing still -- and they are not to be taken lightly. yet it's no surprise a private citizen can afford five or more years of any martial arts training, when you only get a week or two in a government boot camp. what price combat? if it's so valuable, why are we trying to fund it with socialism?

jjet said...

We simply cannot afford to waste time on teaching the use of the bayonet that could be otherwise effectively spent on the subjects so necessary to maintain a gender-neutral, sexual-orientation optional, species non-specific, ecologically-friendly army such as: "Care Of Others", "Sexual Harassment Training", "Women Do Not Make Coffee", "Upper Body Strength Is Not Important To The Soldier", and so on.

"I used to be disgusted. Now, I am merely amused."

Brock Townsend said...
"During the bitter fighting for the Pusan Perimeter, a platoon was assigned to seize a hill that had already been hit with artillery, only to butcher the last platoon sent against it. The platoon fixed bayonets and drove the North Koreans from the hill.(4) Prisoners reported that the sight of American bayonets made the difference."

Anonymous said...

"I used to be disgusted. Now, I am merely amused."--jjet

You are correct. I personally suspect the real reason for discarding the bayonet may be the desire to create a "kinder, gentler" army.


Anonymous said...

I believe you're right about all of the nonsense. Just like my gkids no longer getting PE, had to make time for all of the PC crap.

Taz said...

Good Article and comments. I would always advise keeping options open, inclusing the need for hand to hand. You never know. I have caught several people off gaurd when they appeared ready to attack because they thought I was just a thin little guy with no experience. Surpise is important in any confrontation or battle. Good advice Mike, Thanks.

Unknown said...

The machete is used all over the world, but it can be hard to find a quality machete in North America. If looking for durable machetes for hunting, camping, hiking, or agriculture; check out