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Aggression Handles by Mark Hatmaker

Pop Quiz: What do the following have in common?

  • Early UFC-Phenom Kimo Leopold
  • Fortune 500 Power Suits
  • My Great-Grandfather, Jerry Harber
  • Cargo Shorts
  • Frenchmen in the court of France’s King Louis XVI
  • And hockey jerseys

As the title tips, the common theme is handles.

Let’s start with my great-grandfather Jerry Harber, a man I never had the opportunity to meet.


1940’s Coal Mine

My great-grandfather, dug coal (along with his sons and my grandfather, George Washington Goins – gotta love that name!) in the mines at Rocky Station in Lee County, Virginia.

We all know coal-mining was and is a tough dangerous job.

January 13, 1941

In the tight-quarters of minework space is at a premium and in a tragic few moments, my great-grandfather moving in a squeeze, had one of his pantlegs get caught in a large drill-mechanism. The drill seized the fabric of the pants and fed up the leg until the gears latched onto his belt.

Desperate efforts to release him (some of his sons among the attempted rescuers) were to no avail. The drill, with a cut-off switch far down the line, was unable to be stopped in time and Jerry Harber was beaten to death against the wall of the mine due to the fluke of a pantleg being caught. (Big tip of the hat to my mother Sue Hatmaker for running down the tragic details for me.)

Now, less morose matters, that French history reference.


King Louis XVI

Manners, fads, fashions, being unpredictable and mostly impractical beasts saw the court of Louis XVI filled with men wearing elaborate finery and sporting long hair which they tied into queues (a braided ponytail in today’s parlance.)

Marechal de Saxe (Maurice, Count of Saxony) was an esteemed and valorous German soldier who became the Marshall General of France. He was a man of practical military mind. He viewed the fashionable queue as a mistake; in fact, he deprecated it dearly declaring it dangerous in war, as it provided a handle to the enemy.

Flash-Forward to the 1990s and the second advent of Mixed Martial Arts competition. We saw more than a few quite able fighters either scuttle their chances inside the cage or at least hamstring them with the sporting of long hair within a competition where grabbing long-hair was permitted; as a badly shaken Royce Gracie exploited with the aforementioned Mr. Leopold.

The Count’s lesson, on one hand, is simple, any of us could make it without the benefit of his vast military experience, and yet, look around us — how many of us heed this advice?

How many of us are able to step outside the unpredictable vagaries of fashion and forgo what might prove problematic in times of distress?

A good look around proves that most of us would rather “fit in” than be fit for battle.

Let’s see if you fall into any of these categories.

  • Do you wear a necktie?
  • Carry a purse, backpack, laptop bag with a strap slung over a shoulder?
  • Do you wear a loose jacket, coat, hoodie when weather does not dictate such measures?
  • Do you wear loose, baggy cargo shorts or ultra-low riding capacious pants of any sort?

While we’re discussing perhaps less than utilitarian fashionable choices:

  • Do you wear flip-flops or other less than ideal footwear? (Mea culpa.)
  • While we’re flogging this horse: Do you wear high-heels?
  • Gents, let’s flog that horse again, do you wear slick-soled dress-shoes?
  • How about wallet chains or suspended keyrings?
  • Is your belt for fashion or utility?

In short, a head-to-toe inventory of what we commonly choose to wear backed with an assessment question of “Is this a combat handle for a predator?” will go a long way to cure what possibly ails.

These questions are not meant to discourage us from following the fun of fashion, or dressing up now and again. There is no urging here to go all American Indian, as many warring tribes stripped nude (hence the term “buck naked”) before battle—even in the dead of winter to provide zero handles to enemies.

What we are seeking to do with these questions is to at least awaken ourselves to the fact that like Kimo’s ponytail, Leonardo DiCaprio’s man-bun, or the queues of the court of Louis the XVI, we all provide handles.

Few of these handles are truly necessary.

With that in mind, we must assess our balance between “Hmm, perhaps fewer neckties worn is a good idea” and “To hell with it, I look good in a man-bun.” (Probably not.)

So, what’s your handle?

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23 thoughts on “Aggression Handles by Mark Hatmaker”

  1. My chained keys will spring the clip. I usually see trouble and will un-clip them, they have a choke collar for a chain.
    Break what is offered to you!
    Dislocate elbows, shoulders, and fingers etc. should anyone lay hands on your stuff.

  2. So true. British Police are equipped with special neckties which give way under strain, exactly to avoid getting strangled with them. But then wouldn’t it be cheaper for them not to wear neckties?

  3. You sent me an email about buck naked as if to educate me … I am part Cherokee and my girlfriend is full Cherokee, I am well schooled in native American history going back thousands of years, even history most natives don’t know of before coming to this continent.

  4. Not really meaning to be a wise-guy… but doesn’t going into battle buck-naked provide a rather vulnerable “combat handle”?

  5. Thank you Mark for keeping us thinking about the little things that we overlook, but should always be aware of because just thinking about it makes us less likely targets.

  6. If you have to wear a tie wear a breakaway or clip on. That way if someone grabs it, it just pulls off. You don’t get choked.

  7. I remove my ponytail holder when I go for a walk. I do not want it to be an easy grab & flip me tool for an aggressor. My neck is not strong enough to use a ponytail grabbed onto, to flip an aggressor.

    If I am wearing a jacket or hoodie, I zip it tight & use the hood so I can not be trapped 1/2 in,1/2 out of it, if it is grabbed.

    I hold on going up & down stairs. I do not walk with hands in pockets. I want mine at the ready.

    I really like that shoes I can run in have been made to look like dress shoes since 1999.

  8. I wear keys attached to a D ring sewn into my tactical kilt. They rip away easily and can be picked up after the encounter. I don’t hang out in places that predators hang out in. I wear a ponytail, but in a fight I see myself more as the predator than an easy target. I carry several knives and I’m willing to cut anything if need be. In a street fight there is no “out of bounds” or Marquis of Queensberry.

  9. I have a vice bikers wallet with chain but I walk around with that chain stuck in my hip pocket as well as the billfold but I have the clip on the Chain fastened to my belt and I have some people grab the chain and I’ll street fight I’ve actually seen them use the chain on their billfold as a weapon to strangle somebody

  10. Bride used to quote high no one to me when I was wearing a ponytail “Just enough to pad the helm and not enough to grab.”
    Eventually, I shaved it off.

  11. I just have one of those handles, The dangling Key’s but I see your point. Actually I never thought about that but thanks for pointing this out to me.
    Your friend Kevin Mauney.

  12. I go by the handle Stormy and for good reason. This was a moniker that my Dad passed to me after having been in my share of fights mostly brought on by my temper. Not the chicken reference that some fall for, but the bully one. Still wont Kneel for some bigmouth telling people what to do. As a result ive always held to the scouts motto, be prepared and stand for something rather than fall for anything. Seems like scenarios just run though my head all the time so I’m always seeking better ways to do things and fightfast always delivers. BTW thanks for allowing me to try out the clave musical instrument – it really is a great carry alternative and really sings! Respectfully, Stormy one of your longtime FightFast testers!

  13. I have heard that honey badgers will castrate a larger opponent and wait for ’em to bleed out. Maybe buck-naked provides a very dangerous handle–to any opponent. 😉