A 1901 execution at the old Bilibid Prison, Manila, Philippines
I have to put the disclaimer and warning at the beginning of this article. The reason is very simple. Even a Martial Artist operating on an Expert Level of control of hands, elbows, knees and feet can underestimate the destructive power of weapons if they are not intimately used to them.
Weapons multiply force, that is why they are so dangerous to the human body. Even if you are used to choking techniques, a simple leather belt used to hold up your pants, if placed around the neck, can cause severe damage if used with the same force as a choke not using a mechanical device like a belt.
And yes, when you use a belt or a rope, it is a mechanical device used to multiply the force of a choke. It has no moving parts, it is still a mechanical device when attached to your hands.
What I would strongly suggest you do if you wish to train how to defeat these rear attacks is to construct a padded post to practice on.
If you use a live training partner, once the loop goes over the neck, STOP! Any attempt to throw or take down could cause severe injury, the vital structures of the neck are easily damaged, any number of incredibly serious injuries could occur, up to and including paralysis and/or death.
And, keep in mind, with a cutting garrotte, there is absolutely, positively NO WAY WHATSOEVER to practice safely with it so do not even attempt to do so.
I cannot be held responsible for your own negligent attitude, I’m writing this, I’m not doing it with you, you understand… You are strongly advised to seek Professional, safe Instruction in whatever methods you wish to study.
You are on your own, I do not advocate or condone you practicing these things. They are, in a very real way, put up here for historical purposes and for very advanced Martial Arts practitioners, including Marines and Soldiers who might find the history and information useful.
Do NOT practice these things unless you are using an inanimate “Dummy” or a padded post.
Is The Garrotte a Legitimate Self-Defense Tool?
Some people have a heavy opinion on this issue. They have opinions as to the legitimacy of the garrotte as a tool of self-preservation. Others have strong opinions as to the definition of “garrotte.”
[I’m not going to debate the spelling, I’m using Col. Rex Applegate’s spelling of the word and whenever you see me use something different, it’s a typo.]
Some people say, “Well, the garrotte is a…” and then they define it to the exclusion of anything else. The simple fact of the matter is, a “Garrotte” was an execution device that was utilized in Spain up until the mid-1970s. A few other countries used it now and again. And there were many different types of garrottes used as execution devices.
When someone says, “The garrotte is only a killing weapon…” Technically, they are correct, but they are not usually speaking of the execution device that was once used for Capital Punishment, therefore, they are incorrect in reality.
The number one deciding factor is intent. How you use it. You can use some “garrottes” as a Flexible Weapon with no intent whatsoever to kill.
The garrotte had a couple of different forms. One had a metallic collar that was placed around your neck and the collar had a threaded hole that a bolt was inserted through. On the other end of the bolt was a large “T” handle for the executioner.
The condemned was seated in a chair, the collar placed over a wooden post and the head of the prisoner, then, the executioner began to tighten the contraption until your neck was crushed or your vertebrae were dislocated, broken or crushed.
Later versions had a blade that ran through the bolt for what was thought to be a “mercy killing.” The blade was slipped between the vertebrae, severing the spinal cord.
In a pinch, the improvised garrotte could be a seat, wooden post, strong cord and a metal bar. The noose being affixed around the post and neck of the condemned, the bar could be inserted and the cord twisted until death occurred. Much like using a tourniquet and stick.
These are “garrottes.” The important thing to remember is, if someone says, “No, that’s not a garrotte, this is a garrotte…” And they are speaking in absolutes or anything other than an execution device, they’re incorrect. More on that later.
So, if we exclude the execution devices, what is left? If we do exclude the execution devices, any flexible or semi-flexible weapon that cuts the air off by compressing and/or crushing the trachea, severs (up to and including complete decapitation) the trachea and other vital structures (carotid arteries, jugular veins, vagus nerve, etc.) or breaks the neck, we have a list of items that have been used as a “garrotte.”
One Point of View: The Debate
I was once involved in a debate with a person who insisted that a “True Garrotte” would be a “cutter.” Meaning, a piano wire or guitar string garrotte. The wire being so fine that it would cut into the structures rather than compress/crush them.
If we trace the lineage of these hand held devices back to the origin of the word, as I did above, we see the “Original Garrotte” did nothing of the sort. The “Original” killed by compression and/or crushing and sometimes neck fracture.
Yet, I consider the “cutters” a form of garrotte because there is modern history to back that up. However, the “cutter” type of garrotte is not a “true” garrotte. It’s just another type of garrotte.
Back before delicatessens had slicer machines, the cheese was usually cut by a wire. Yes, a “Cheese Cutter” was basically a wire with two handles. As far as I can tell, this is where the “Modern Cutter Garrotte” came from. The source is Melton’s “Clandestine Warfare.”
The British SOE and American OSS used these devices, to what degree I do not know. Some wire garrottes with machined and knurled brass handles (for enhanced grip) were manufactured and issued. They are in the OSS Weapons Catalog, as well as other references…
Gigli bone saws were also used as “Survival Saws” as well as “Cutter” Garrottes during World War Two.
“The Garrotte. Thugs in India have long been known for their method of strangling, called garrotting. It can be executed with a rope, strong cord or a piece of twisted cloth about three feet long with a noose in one end. This is a garrotte. Properly applied, it produces a deadly, silent strangle.
Slip the noose over the forefinger of the right hand so that the loop lies down across the palm toward the little finger. Close the right hand and pick up the free end of the cord with the left hand, so that the thumb and fingers are on the inner side of the cord and the end is even with the little finger.
Approach the victim from the rear and, opening the right hand, throw the loop over his head with the left. Use the left hand to draw the noose through the right hand until it is nearly taut about the neck.
Then close the right hand about the noose at the back of the victim’s neck and twist as you would in applying a tourniquet. With your hand against the back of his neck and your right arm stiff, the victim is held at arm’s length and is unable to free himself from the strangling cord or to reach his attacker.
A hard pull to the rear at this point will make the victim fall backward and cause his chin to fold down over the cord, thus adding his own body weight to the pressure of the strangle.” ~Col. Rex Applegate, Kill or Get Killed
In the illustration above you can see the finishing position of what Applegate describes. The right hand is INSIDE the loop, when the loop is pulled tight around the neck and your hand, a fist is made with the open hand then the fist is cranked counterclockwise.
Much like a stick in a tourniquet. The palm is open and oriented UP, then closed into a fist and oriented DOWN.
What Colonel Applegate was describing was the method and weapon of the ancient Thugee Cult of India. This is where we get our slang word of “thug.” The word “Thug” comes from the Hindi verb, “thaglana,” which means, “to deceive.”
I do not know if the garrotte described above contained a rupee or not. There is another line of thought that there was more than one way to strangle with a scarf [rumal]. And that was, a rupee or rupees [coins] were tied into the end of the scarf to give it weight so it could be thrown around the neck and then the strangle was initiated.
In fact, more than a line of thought, there is proof of this from the period of British Occupation of India when the British suppressed the Thugee Cult and executed and imprisoned thousands of Thugs.
Throwing the Japanese Fighting Chain, which is weighted, in such a way that the chain is propelled around the neck is also throughout Japanese Martial Arts that focus on the Manrikigusari/Kusarifundo.
In “Kill or Get Killed,” Applegate then mentions the “Stick Strangle.” This is a triangular method where the stick is held in reverse grip and inserted under the chin from behind (or from the front)…John Steyers covered this Stick Strangle in his book, “Cold Steel.”
Then, he addresses other methods of strangulation:
“The Cord Strangle. Another type of strangulation, as old as history in the Far East, is accomplished with any light cord or wire of good tensile strength, about 18 inches long. The thinner the cord or wire, the quicker will be the effectiveness.
Tie a loop at each end of the cord, or tie small wooden blocks on the ends, so that a secure grip can be taken. Approaching the man from the rear, throw him off balance, as with the stick [strangle], with your right foot against the inside of his right knee.
With a hand on each end of the cord (the cord held taut), bring the cord over the victim’s head and back against the throat. Cross the hands at the rear of the neck and apply pressure both ways. Strangulation is quick and silent…” ~Applegate
You will notice that Col. Applegate describes the cord/wire as being taut when going over the head. During the approach, the arms would not be crossed. After the garrotte is thrown over the head, the arms would then cross at the wrists/forearms.
Imagine holding your hands out in front of you as if you are preparing to clap your hands together. Then, with your right palm, touch your left elbow and simultaneously, with the left palm, touch your right elbow.
The forearms are parallel to one another. That is the motion you make. This also takes a shorter cord/wire to use effectively. The wrists/forearms are crossed after the loop has been thrown over the head, not before.
This is actually a weaker garrotting method than having the arms crossed on the approach as is currently taught in the U.S. Army’s Combatives Manual, 21-150 where the arms are crossed at the wrists/forearms on the approach.
Then when the loop is thrown over the head of the enemy, the arms are jerked apart. This is much stronger.
There is another, older way of achieving the same position without approaching with the arms already crossed. It was depicted in the U.S. Navy’s World War Two Hand to Hand Combat Manual for Naval Aviators, the famous “V-5” manual. This is shown below.
Notice that as the years passed, not much changed. This is the U.S. Army’s Field Manual 21-150 marked December 1971. Showing the same, basic method.
In this method, your left hand makes a cross-body movement and is positioned at the back of the enemy’s right shoulder.
The right hand holding the other end of the garrotte is then looped over the head of the enemy in a semi-circular, counterclockwise motion and then the arms are pulled apart.
Take downs, Using the Enemy’s Weight
There are four basic ways to take someone to the ground immediately following any of these maneuvers.
#1 Pulling straight downward and back.
#2 Kicking the back of the knee and pulling back and down.
#3 Knee strike to the lower back and a pull backwards and down.
#4 A quick turn of the body where you are back to back with the enemy and the enemy is hoisted off of his feet to complete the crush. This is the movement that can possibly result in decapitation if a “cutter” garrotte is used.
So, is the garrotte a legitimate tool of Self-defense? That was the original question. The answer to the question is, it all depends on what type of garrotte you are going to use really.
I cannot imagine going through the trouble of carrying something with such a single purpose as a “cutting” garrotte. That is a specific type of weapon and the only outcome from the proper use of one is death of the opponent, and that is going to be carried out from behind almost exclusively, as in Sentry Removal.
Any belt, length of rope, cord, a telephone cord, whatever is at hand, can be a garrotte. You can carry a very strong bandana or scarf with that being carried with the intent to be used as a flexible weapon. A jacket or light coat can be used as a garrotte, like the belt, it is a common, every day item. The every day items that are all around us points to flexible weapons being really viable and valuable Self-defense tools.
Anything other than a “cutting” garrotte can be used with lethal or non-lethal intent. So, if you make an improvised garrotte from 550 ParaCord, what you do with it will be the deciding factor.
Now, we can break this down and go to Part Two, “The Flexible Weapon.” Before we do, here is a series of pictures showing just a few methods. Some are not “Classical Garrotte” Techniques. They are still very important. It also shows what can be done totally unrelated to a rear attack, or, a response if the enemy turned to face you. What if someone were trying to Garrotte you from behind? This shows you how the weapon might be used against you if you thwarted the rear attack and you turned to face the attacker.
Always remember, the only way to defend against a weapon and develop real, demonstrable skill, is to know how the weapon is used. It is for that reason I wrote this article.
Rope cannot be banned, and criminals can always find weapons anyway, but could you defend yourself against these methods? That is the question…
In that last series of illustrations, you can substitute a jacket or a belt and you can still see the viability of the techniques. You do not have to tote around a “Garrotte,” and always remember, the criminals don’t have to either.
Stay safe. Train safe.
[Drawings are altered from U.S. Army Combatives Manual, Public Domain]
THE UKRAINIAN MILITARY IS RELIANT ON STARLINK internet provided by SpaceX. In other words, the world’s richest man has the power to screw up the operations of Europe’s second-largest army at any moment.
How we got to the supremely weird place of Elon Musk controlling Ukraine’s battlefield communications from half a world away is an interesting story.
It goes something like this: Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, dispatching armed “little green men” from its military to the country’s east without identifying insignia while repeatedly lying to the world about it. Those Russian troops helped shoot down a civilian airliner carrying 298 people and fueled an astroturfed uprising that killed tens of thousands more. By 2015, Russia had illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Two international peace agreements were negotiated but ultimately failed to end what had evolved into a bitter World War I-style trench war.
On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and resorted to its usual wartime playbook of attacking civilians and critical infrastructure. Rightly fearing Russia would intercept their calls, Ukrainian civilians flocked to the encrypted Signal messaging app. So did soldiers.
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As the Russians jammed the hell out of Ukraine’s military radios, Signal emerged as a secure alternative to coordinate air strikes, share intel from the treeline to targeters, and call friends without fearing a cruise missile strike.
Starlink internet is now the backbone of Ukraine’s ad-hoc military command-and-control network. Aside from powering defenders’ voice and text chats, Signal and other internet apps are used to target Russian positions with artillery. And Starlink can even claim credit for helping counter Russian propaganda and supporting Ukraine’s information war: a drone can kill one Russian soldier, but video of the act is used to kill Russian morale.
SO WHY ARE UKRAINE and its western allies questioning Musk’s reliability?
On Oct. 3, Musk provoked outrage after proposing a peace plan on Twitter that called for Ukraine to cede territory illegally seized by Russia in a bid to end the war. It was a strange idea for a country whose Army had, only a month earlier, broken the attrition-style warfare that Russia preferred and turned the tide in a stunning counteroffensive, pushing demoralized Russian troops some 200 miles closer to their own homes. Notably, Musk has suggested this peace proposal for weeks and has shared Kremlin talking points with his 100 million+ followers.
Meanwhile, geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer says that Musk spoke with Putin before floating the deal “and [Musk] told me Putin (in a direct conversation with him) was ‘prepared to negotiate.’” Bremmer stood by the reporting even after Musk denied it.
It’s a game of he said, she said: one man is an intellectual who wows Economist readers with insightful analysis of Vladimir Putin, and the other is a wildly successful entrepreneur and investor whom a federal judge found had lied about considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share in 2018, which led to a jump in the stock price and a securities fraud charge that Musk settled for a $40 million fine and other penalties.
“[T]he three August 7, 2018 statements,” wrote Judge Edward Chen in an Oct. 13 order finding three of Musk’s tweets, “were false and that Mr. Musk recklessly made those representations.”
“Putin does this frequently,” said Hill, a former top National Security Council official, noting that she had personally spoken with business intermediaries of the Russian president when she was in government.
“He uses prominent people as intermediaries to feel out the general political environment, to basically test how people are going to react to ideas…” she said. “He is basically short-circuiting the diplomatic process. He wants to lay out his terms and see how many people are going to pick them up. All of this is an effort to get Americans to take themselves out of the war and hand over Ukraine and Ukrainian territory to Russia.”
This all before news broke on Oct. 14 that SpaceX had sent a letter in September to the Pentagon requesting it take over funding the cost of operating Starlink in Ukraine. Musk complained about the annual cost to provide Starlink service in Ukraine—roughly 0.045% of his estimated net worth—before reversing himself a day later.
“The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free,” Musk tweeted on Oct. 15.
So anyway, the Ukrainians’ battlefield edge is now a huge vulnerability.
“For the time being, let’s be happy that he is paying for it. But we need to be on the safe side,” a European Union official told Financial Times. “The Ukrainians are very worried that he will still cut it off.”
Eddy Etue, a U.S. Marine veteran serving with the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force in southern Ukraine:
“I think his almost immediate backpedaling and commitment to pay says he’s not as out of touch as we thought he was,” Etue told me of Musk while observing Iranian kamikaze drones crashing into nearby buildings.
Asked what would happen if Starlink were cut off, Etue said, “It will just be shitty cell signal for both sides. We’d lose the high-speed interweb advantage.”
Doug Livermore, a U.S. Army Special Forces officer and non-resident fellow at the Joint Special Operations University and Irregular Warfare Initiative:
“SpaceX was able to rapidly provide communications support at a critical time in March/April when the U.S. government was struggling to respond. Arguably, the speed with which the private sector, exemplified by SpaceX, was able to respond shows the real advantage of the ‘private’ part of these partnerships,” said Livermore. “However, it also shows the danger, as private industries are vulnerable to profit margins and other external actors.”
Joe Cirincione, a longtime national security analyst and author:
“I love my Tesla, but Musk is methodically destroying his brand,” Cirincione said in reply to a tweet Musk later deleted. “How can you have confidence in his companies when he regularly publishes unhinged, [uninformed] rants flirting with fascism?”
Peter W. Singer, a national security strategist and military consultant:
“The richest man in the world and the former and maybe next president of the United States have repeatedly advocated the policy positions of the two biggest authoritarian foes of the U.S.” said Singer, meaning Russia and China.
“The National Security community and media just can’t seem to wrap their heads around this shift. And even more, what it means for the future of both U.S. politics and security. No single weapons program, no matter how awesome, is more important to our national security and democracy than how we deal with the larger issues of authoritarian threats to and influence on our politics.”
Ask any infantrymen in a line company about the value of a machine gun, and you might get a long, complicated answer based on years of training and practical experience. Or… you might get Private Snuffy telling you, “Machine gun good, machine-gun fire lots of bullets.” They’d both be right.
In the modern infantry, machine gunners utilize their weapons to lay down a wall of lead to pin down or destroy an enemy force. So, it may come as little surprise that the Marines appreciate these weapons so much that machine gunners get their own MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) separate from your average rifleman.
Remember the Maine. To Hell With Spain!
The Marines’ affinity for these lead-spreader makes sense, as the Corps helped shape the use of machine guns in modern conflict way back in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. After the U.S.S. Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, calls of “Remember the Maine! To Hell With Spain” rang out across the country. And as luck would have it, the Marines were uniquely positioned to fight in this sort of war. Cuba, after all, is an island, and Marines excelled at ship to shore operations.
As such, the 1st Marine Battalion responded to the call and landed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on June 10th, 1898. They landed unopposed and were the first American military unit to plant the flag of the United States on Cuban soil.
They did this before the Army had even left the United States. The relative peace they encountered upon their arrival didn’t last, and the Marines knew it wouldn’t. With them, they carried the new 6mm Lee Navy, a fantastic and modern rifle for the time. Alongside it, they carried the Colt-Browning Model 1895 machine gun, also in 6mm Lee Navy.
Both weapons were high-tech at the time. The rifle featured a straight-pull bolt and used a unique and rapid loading clip system. The M1895 was an early machine gun that gained the name potato digger due to the operating lever that cycled out of the bottom of the gun. The Colt-Browning was superbly modern and weighed 35 pounds, which was light compared to the 60 pound Maxim guns that were also available in this era.
At the time, the Army was still using mule pulled Gatling guns, and when compared, the M1895 might as well have been a space-age piece of technology. Its lighter and smaller nature allowed the Marines to actually carry the guns during various portions of the Battle For Guantanamo bay.
The Marine machine guns get some
The Marines carried four M1895 Colt-Browning machine guns to shore, and they became invaluable in the Battle for Camp McCalla. Camp McCalla was tactically unsound, and in hind sight it seems clear that Marine leadership fell prey to complacency. They didn’t expect a battle and didn’t bring their artillery company ashore. They didn’t dig trenches, and the camp was on open sand.
You can’t predict the Spanish inquisition, but Marine leaders should’ve predicted a Spanish attack. At daybreak, June 11th, the Spanish did just that, with guerillas attacking the camp in force.
The guerillas may have had the advantage, but the Marines had the machine guns. They fended them off and chased them until night fell. But the victory was to be short lived. The Spanish may have failed to take the beach in their first try, but they had a significant numerical advantage. By some accounts, Spanish forces outnumbered the Marines by more than five to one.
As wave after wave of Spanish guerillas attacked, the Marines dug in, got two additional machine guns set up, and unloaded their artillery.
They fought for 100 hours against the Spaniards and held their own despite their poor positioning and the overwhelming odds. On June 13th, a unit of 60 Cubans arrived to support the Marines, led by Lt. Col. Enrique Thomas. Soon thereafter, Thomas advised the Marine officers to attack the Cuzco Well, the only nearby source of freshwater, to force the Spanish into a retreat.
Machine Guns, Spaniards, and the Well
The Marines saddled up, and 160 of them, plus 50 Cubans, began their way to Cuzco Well on June 14th, 1898. They brought three of their four machine guns with them.
After fighting through the heat of the day, perilous terrain, and brutal undergrowth, the Marines arrived at the base of the steep hill around Cuzco Valley. Unfortunately, they arrived at almost the same time as a sizeable number of Spanish forces.
Their Cuban scouts were spotted by the enemy, and a race began to get to the top of the hill. In 2021, if the enemy has the high ground, you JDAM the high ground. In 1898, however, taking the high ground was the key to victory. The Spanish already outnumbered the Marines, so without securing the high ground, the American troops were as good as dead.
They assaulted up the hill, and the Marine’s M1895 Colt-Browning machine guns poured lead into the Spanish troops nearby. The light 6mm rounds made it easier for Marines to carry extra ammunition so they could afford to use their belt feds to their full advantage.
Layin’ It Down
The machine guns laid down covering fire, supporting the Marine’s assault up the hill. Historically speaking, this was the first time Marines used machine guns to support an infantry assault. But in practical terms, the Marines grabbed M1895s and ran what we now consider to be a modern machine gun drill: Setting them up, shooting, then moving to continue support.
Since it weighed only 35 pounds, the Potato Digger moved easily. The machine guns acted as force multipliers for the Marines, and in fact, were a mobile assault force unto themselves.
In the end, the Marines defeated the Spanish, killing 60, wounding 150, and capturing 18 of them. On the winning side, two Cubans were killed in combat, with two Marines and two more Cubans wounded. The Marines destroyed the well and accomplished their objective.
The surviving Spanish fighters reported they had been attacked by 10,000 Americans, though the real figure was actually closer to 160. After that, Camp McCalla saw no further attacks by Spanish forces.
The Effect on Modern War
During the Battle of Guantanamo Bay, the machine gun established itself as a fight-changing weapon. Although the lessons learned in the Spanish-American war would be echoed on a massive scale in World War I a little more than a decade later, the Marines had proven that mobile machine guns were incredibly valuable, and when used properly, can inflict physical and moral damage upon an enemy.
To this day, Marine Machine gunners run gun drills where they rapidly set the machine gun in place with bipods, ammo, etc. They then take it down and do it again, over and over, much like the machine guns at Cuzco Well. To do this day, machine guns in the offensive are used to support infantry assaults and lay down suppressive fire. This allows riflemen to move quickly and swiftly to their objectives.
What occurred in 1898 still has a clear effect on the tactics of 2021.