"The truth is diversity, versatility. Preparedness. You simply fight where you have to fight. Learn it all, but don’t become any one thing! Don’t capture yourself as a ground fighter or a kick boxer. Be the bastard ! Study to learn how to defeat these things, not to become them. Be free! And then most importantly on top of that, cheat!" – Hock Hochheim
W. Hock Hocheim has a long standing global reputation in the teaching of efficient combatives. His name has periodically come to my attention over the years, but it was only when I began teaching Mo Teague’s Hard Target System that I started looking at his material. As fate would have it, I ended up corresponding with one of his senior US instructors and co-teaching with one of his senior UK instructors. Hock just seemed to keep ticking all the boxes the majority of the “Reality-Based Self-Defence” instructors barely touched. Despite being on the scene longer than all of them, he was leaps and bounds ahead on the use of rational inquiry in training. Furthermore, his experience was vast and extensive. His 23 year distinguished career in law enforcement began in the US Army. He then went on to a lengthy and distinguished career as a Texas police officer and then worked three years as a private investigator. Over these two decades, Hock experienced many violent situations, many of which influenced the way he teaches combatives today. During this time he gained multiple martial arts and combative instructor qualifications. He spent the large amount of holiday time he earned travelling to Southeast Asia to receive intensive training and instructorships in various martial arts disciplines. Even in those days he was ahead of most of the martial arts community in many respects; he was one of the first to bring back official instructor qualifications in the Southeast Asian “knife and stick” systems.
Today Hock teaches all over the world and is regularly booked to teach military, law enforcement, security and civilian personnel. His combination of no-nonsense direct methods, clinical scientific approach, copious references to personally experienced case studies (often giving names and locations for verification) and, above all, his wry sense of humour mark him out from the majority of his peers.
Day one of the two day event began with pistol disarms. We practiced disarms from various different angles and from various different gun grips, including hostage situations. Drills were performed standing and on the ground, and we also worked on retaining the gun. Hock has a detailed syllabus of approved disarming techniques, but essentially they boil down to common sense basics. Unlike many gun disarms I have seen, Hock also takes into account the mechanics of a firearm and what is likely happen when you try to take one off someone.
A point that resonated with me was Hock’s promotion of correct attitude. He encourages armed officers to adopt certain personalities when aiming a gun. Lack of confidence can mean the death of the officer, so it is important to control the psychology. A nervous or robotic sounding gunman might give a criminal an increased psychological advantage. Hock explained he liked to choose the actor Jack Nicholson – “You just don’t know what Jack might do. He might shoot you for fun!” Behavioural science is a much neglected area in combat training and yet we have known its importance for centuries.
Day two focused more on knife, stick and empty hands. Hock is very much in favour in cultivating natural responses to attacks, working firstly on evasions before turning to blocks. The evasions, he explains, helps promote the elasticity of the defender. A key point I liked about Hock’s drills was the way he never allowed the need for a pattern to overtake common sense. For example, evading slashes and stabs to the legs were not replaced by a block when it came to running through the blocking series.
Hock then took us through his “35 Stick Essentials”. These were based around seven lectures (please note these titles are not necessarily Hock’s official ones):
Understanding the Bigger Picture
The Four Main Stick Grips
Learn all the Appropriate Tactics
The Three Striking Points of the Stick
The Four Ways a Stick Attacks
The Combat Clock Mandate
The Clock Blocks
Hock’s approach is certainly principle-centred as opposed to my pet hate, technique-led. For example, understanding his Clock Mandate is a great way to base all attacks and defence. It completely distils the huge range of complexities that currently exist in Filipino and Indonesian stick forms.
An interesting aside I could relate to and is a regular bugbear of mine, is the way people do not acknowledge the way training equipment and environments takeover techniques and tactics. For example, sticks were largely introduced into training to replace the potentially more harmful edged weapons. We see this in western as well as eastern combatives. This has led to the development of stick-fighting. Techniques have evolved through participants using sticks and often against other sticks. Furthermore, as safe drilling starts taking the place of live testing, students inevitably start striking the weapons as opposed to the people holding them. However, even when this is put under pressure with seemingly limited rules, fighters start adopting habits that would not make sense in a real life encounter. For example, some fighters in low armour competitions will use their head, protected by a fencing mask, to jam blows from incoming strikes.
The day’s training was completed with the 36 takedowns using a stick. Hock added more controversy to the issue regarding grips. Some coaches teach students not to encircle the thumb whenever they make contact or grip. It is a rule followed by grapplers who can either get thumbs trapped or be on the receiving end of a painful counter lock. Some coaches put over the point that this type of gripping leads to the gripper being reluctant to let go. However, Hock argues the importance of encircling the thumb when it is on a weapon arm. It important that arm is kept under maximum control at all times.
Telford’s Kyushinkai Martial Arts Centre is not new to hosting quality martial arts events. This seminar was the second time within a year that Hock has taught at the centre. Mo Teague, Geoff Thompson, Peter Consterdine, Paul Sutherland, Trevor Roberts, Master Sken and Iain Abernethy are just a selection of the top names from the UK that have graced the floors, mats and cage. I love teaching there and my Vagabond Warriors seminars made full use of all the facilities available, including their new upstairs conference room and the functional fitness items. The centre was founded on traditional values, but has a strong progressive attitude. Regularly check out their websites of upcoming seminars, workshops and courses.