The novel concerned the training of CIA case officers. One scene, in particular, was based on a real conversation I once had with a guy who said he had trained CIA case officers in hand-to-hand combat.
... The instructor was a former inner-city street cop. God forbid, I thought, looking at his brute face, you should ever find yourself on the business end of his nightstick. He called himself the Bulldog, and his eyes lit up demonically every time he described the satisfying sound of a miscreant crumpling in agony to the ground. He told us to line up against the wall. “How many of y’all have studied martial arts?” he asked. “Ju-doo, Ay-kee-doo, that sorta stuff?” About a third of the class raised their hands. “Well, you get into a real fight, that stuff ain’t gonna be no use to you.”He explained: “Someone’s comin’ at you with a broken-off beer bottle, you better believe me, you’ll forget everything you ever learned about acting like a crouching crane or a hidden lizard.” He raised his arms like wings, wrists limp, in an absurd parody of a crane, and snorted. “Tunnel vision. They call it that for a reason. You see that mother comin’ at you and you’ll lose your fine motor skills and your depth perception. Everything’ll look like a tunnel. And the only thing you’ll see in that tunnel’s a broken-off beer bottle. Biggest damn beer bottle in history. I promise it.”The reptilian brain takes over and the panic reflex kicks in, he said. People with no experience of violence can no more remember how to administer a roundhouse kick or precision jab than they could invoke Jedi mind control. The advantage will always be to the opponent accustomed to violence. Looking at the Bulldog as he lazily masticated his gum and slapped his fist against his palm, I knew he spoke the truth.That day we learned one crude tactic and practiced it a thousand times: It was a single blow to the brachial plexus. The advantage to the system was precisely that it was crude; there was nothing to remember by way of proper form or technique, just a good solid club to the complex of nerves at the base of the neck, and if you could remember it, a thumping kick to the nerve bundle between the foot and shins. ...
Now, I hadn't thought much about hand-to-hand combat when I wrote that scene. It sounded good when he said it.
In retrospect, though, I wonder. A club to the brachial plexus? If you're only going to learn one crude technique, I can't see how that would be the best one. It's not really the easiest or most obvious target if you're trying to strike a fatal or an incapacitating blow, is it?
I have since then been kicked in the shins a lot -- really a lot -- but it's never remotely deterred me. Getting punched in the nose, on the other hand, sobers me up pretty fast. I'm not sure there is a particularly sensitive nerve bundle between the foot and shins; and if there is, it's not easy to hit. Someone would have done it to me by now if it were.
I suspect what he said about tunnel vision, the reptilian brain and fine motor coordination was probably right, though.
Anyway, please buy the book. I'd really like it if you did that.