(I started this article in late 2000 or early 2001, you will see references back to various things from that time as well as 2003 as I kept adding material to the article. It was also originally titled, "The Fighting Bandana" but it became so much more than that. Please excuse any earlier references to that end.)
What most people consider to be a really bad joke is a really good idea. As I wrote elsewhere, when James Keating released material on "Fighting Bandanas," a lot of people condemned him, as destroyers tend to do, and proceeded to show everyone what a lack of depth they have...how much they didn't know...
I know for a fact that one person laughed at the Keating Bandana material and then never said another word about "silly bandanas" when his teacher started using them.
Keating is one of a handful of innovators in the Martial Arts that draws the ire of many people. Not many people in the Filipino Martial Arts Community would dare come out and say that Grandmasters Antonio "Tatang" Illustrisimo or Edgar Sulite were peddling nonsense or being absurd. And rightly so. We have lost these two fine men, but their thoughts live on in the people they trained and the material they left behind.
So, years later now, many people have been playing with bandanas, especially larger ones, and they have discovered something workable - that these things do work quite well as improvised Self-defense tools. They do have their weaknesses - like they can be cut or thrusted through - be that as it may, they are strong in other areas and you should explore their use and carry one or two of them with you.
Part of the problem with the bandana is the weakness that I cited above, that it can be cut through. This is negated to a large degree by the skill of the person using it. You cannot put the piece of cloth out there into the fight and let it stay there because someone is going to cut it. It either has to be moving or it has to be baiting and that's it. If it is motionless, it should be in close and baiting and not simply hanging out there for any five-thumbed moron to cut on.
Now, it will always remain susceptible to the snap-cutting Knifer and the jailhouse (thrusting) Knifer. These are hard things to defend against, to say the least these types of attacks are fast, deceptive and incredibly effective. I personally don't think that most people involved in "Knifefighting" give the prison-use of a knife its "due." If you are confronted with someone who learned how to use a knife in prison or learned from someone who was in prison - you have a very bad problem... Anyone that has real skill with a knife is going to hurt you if you think you are going to take them on with just a bandana. Fortunately for us, most people are not skilled to that degree. You won't know it (the degree of skill) when it happens in the vast majority of cases and that remains the main problem. The bandana is much more versatile, as you will soon read about. There is much more to Self-defense than "knife defense" too. The bandana is not a one-trick-pony that should only be considered for its weakness or attributes in this area.
It is also going to be a problem for people that look to any weapon they have in their hands as the "answer" to the "problem" they are confronted with. The "answer" to the "problem" you face is you and nothing else. It is not the firearm, the edged weapon or the bandana, you drive those things. You make them work. The bandana does not save you; you use it as a tool to save yourself.
What that means is, if you only know how to use a bandana or a belt and you lose it, or it is cut through, you have nowhere left to go. But if you use it as an aid or a vehicle to learn how to use other items and it is lost or destroyed, you're still viable. There are many different things that can then be utilized as defensive weaponry.
Ultimately, many people will say, "Bandanas and belts and all the rest of that stuff is bullshit, that's why I have a carry permit and carry a handgun." The truth in that statement is, a reliable and accurate handgun in .38 Special caliber and above, in the hands of a desperate individual with some degree of skill with it, is probably just about the best Self-defense weapon you can have. The problem is, you might not be able to have it with you in certain areas and situations, etc., plus it does one thing - it fires projectiles. When projectiles need to be fired, it's the King. Like the simple pocketknife, the bandana can do many different things and basically takes up no space whatsoever. If you do not modify and weaponize your bandana, it can even go where the simple and once totally innocent pocketknife can no longer go. This is not an argument for the bandana to replace anything, it's something you carry right along with other tools.
The Danger Zone
If you know anything about some Third World Holes, you will know that bandanas have been used by guerillas and death squads - on both sides of the political spectrum, both right and left. There is no getting around this and I wanted to address this first.
When I was a teenager, I remember reading in Playboy or Penthouse Magazine that there was this entire underground code of bandana colors and placement, out of what pocket, how it was placed there, for the gay community. This was back in the 1970s or early 1980s. I cannot remember if I was reading a newer issue or an older one. The color of bandana you chose and where you placed it became an unspoken statement as to precisely what type of sex you were looking for.
Well, you have to understand something...in some areas, the color of the bandana and possibly how you are wearing it, might send a clear message to other people. That message might not be a good one either, i.e., it might not be conducive to your continued good health. And, no, the reference above about the gay community is not placed there as some sort of "guilt by association" thing, it's just very illustrative of how a piece of cloth can mean something to various groups of people.
My website reaches so many people outside of my own country and I just wanted to place a little warning here for people in my country that travel to other countries that might have hostile elements. Or for people in other countries who may travel to those same areas.
Be very careful about the way you wear a bandana or the color of the cloth. Even in The United States, some street gangs use these as "Gang Colors," wearing the wrong thing at the wrong time and in the wrong place could get you beaten, knifed or shot. In some areas, they might even make the last few minutes of your life real exciting and use something really dramatic like a machete or a machinegun to cut you down. Your innocent red or blue bandana could mark you for death in some areas, such is the nature of Urban Warfare, even here in The United States.
So, when I say something derogatory about "Third World Holes," please realize that I understand that some of the cities in my country are not much better in some ways. When you can get shot and killed because you were wearing the wrong color bandana or something, things are out of control. The only saving grace of most American inner cities is this; you get excellent medical care if you make it to the hospital. Better than you would receive in the aforementioned, "Third World Holes."
But isn't that the very reason this website exists anyway? To show people how to survive in a hostile environment? That has always been the goal.
Sometimes, surviving is not about using a weapon or fighting, sometimes it is about knowing something ahead of time. Knowledge is power. So, you have to investigate your area - where you live, visit or travel through - to know what the deal is. Then you can prepare and act accordingly.
If you do not, someone else, simply because of a color or the precise placement of the cloth, might target you. Not good.
The Dark Underworld
Many people in what regular folks would consider the "Underworld" of crime and radical politics use the bandana or scarf. Sometimes, it is simply to conceal their identity while they are protesting or committing some crime. It gives them the anonymity their actions demand.
It might not be something so dramatic as being a member of some sort of "Death Squad." It might be something so simple as remaining anonymous so you can exercise your right to protest, a right that is being curtailed more and more with every passing year.
I don't think violent protest is the answer to anything. If you wear a bandana or scarf to protest, they already know what you are up to.
So, understand that the moment you are spotted, you are marked anyway. So, in a way, what is the point anymore? I feel immense sorrow when I see some poor guy/gal getting pepper sprayed and all they wanted to do was protest something they felt strongly about. In most cases, they are the Useful Idiots of some political movement and they don't have their heads screwed on straight. The do have a right to peaceably assemble and protest, however.
I think you have a right to protest and I think demanding people or groups to obtain "permits" is placing a limitation on that right as an American Citizen. That's like saying you need a "permit" to go to Church. "Permit" being "permission." You shouldn't need permission to exercise your Constitutionally recognized and protected Civil Rights, nor should it cost you any money for filing fees. But it does in many cases.
That right does not extend to busting out storefront windows because you're a communist and you want to protest capitalism. It does not extend to throwing rocks at Police Officers or buckets of feces, urine or whatever other vile substance you can dream up. It does not extend, obviously, to Molotov Cocktails. If you do any of those things I hope you catch a load of rubber buckshot in your ass. Lately, Enviro-Nazis have taken to setting Sport Utility Vehicles on fire at car dealerships. (This was a couple/few years before this article was published in late 2006.)
If you are adjacent to one of these areas where these people "protest," and you have a bandana or perhaps your girlfriend or wife has one, especially up around the neck or face, you might get targeted by the Rubber Ball Squad or get arrested.
Avoid areas where these people protest, listen to the news and take the information as a warning not to venture anywhere near these areas.
It has been rumored that common vinegar can lessen the effects of some chemical irritants like Tear Gas if you soak a rag, bandana or scarf in it and then breathe through it. I have no idea, but if the authorities start launching gas all over the place, it might be something to consider if you are stuck at home or in a building at work. Keep vinegar to wash out the coffee pots at work. Thankfully, most buildings are sealed well enough to the point this should not be a concern but there is always the possibility that the irritants could enter into HVAC systems.
Remember that if you live in an area and a riot has occurred as well, this vinegar-soaked bandana thing is a persistent rumor. You could utilize that to protect yourself in your home by taking blankets and stuffing them under the door and pouring some vinegar on them. If it does not work, your house will smell like a fresh salad, big deal! That is, if the authorities used so much gas that it would be a cause for concern in your home...
This is very important as some locales that have had "Peaceful Protests" from "Pacifists" have then watched the "Peaceful Protests" turn into riots of varying intensity. Some of these areas want to "control" or ban gas masks, which means they are, once again, punishing the good Citizens because of the acts of bad criminals. It is fundamentally unfair and un-American to do this and they should be ashamed of their actions but they never are. I don't know if any jurisdiction has actually banned sale or possession of gas masks, but it has been considered, if I remember correctly, by Portland, Oregon.
To me, this comes under the umbrella of "Medical Management." This is next. But because of the "Underworld" link, I placed it here.
Everyone knows about tourniquets, right? A tourniquet should only be applied when you cannot stop hemorrhage from direct pressure. The reason being, a tourniquet can shut off all blood to a limb and the result can be a loss of that limb.
A large bandana can be used to apply direct pressure and you can tie a limb off without inserting a stick or something and cranking on it hard to create a tourniquet.
In other words, use direct pressure on the wound if at all possible to attempt to staunch (tamponade) the flow of blood and only use a tourniquet if you cannot stop the hemorrhage with direct pressure on the wound.
Many wounds that exhibit arterial bleeding don't have to be life-threatening wounds if they are treated properly. Left untreated, there are many survivable wounds that become fatal.
Sometimes, the only thing your body needs is a chance to clot the blood. Many Emergency Room Physicians can tell you of instances where even arterial hemorrhage, usually thought to be a death sentence by average people, has actually clotted. Discussing this more in-depth than I already have is out of my realm, I am not a Doctor, I am not an EMT or Nurse. I also don't think you have to be classified as one of those groups of people to be competent in basic First-Aid.
Just understand the application of direct pressure. Also understand that you may suffer a grievous wound and that does not necessarily equal death.
Also, when it comes to snakebite from a poisonous snake, you can use the tourniquet to slow the flow of blood, not cut it off, you don't use a lot of pressure. This can also limit the travel of the venom through the lymph system, at least that is what I have read. If you hike or live in an area where poisonous snakes like Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouths exist, again, a Sawyer Extractor Snakebite Kit and a bandana could be a lifesaver.
These sorts of things are so incredibly cheap when you consider the price of your average casket.
In this day and age, it would be wise to carry a couple of "battle dressings" on your person; two of them would only take up the space a pack of cigarettes would. It is a dangerous time we live in. These battle dressings/compresses along with a large bandana can save your life. Such a small price to pay and takes up so little space.
It has become common in some of the better Self-defense "communities" online to suggest carrying a "Blow-Out Kit" or "BOK," for short. Battle dressings and especially the "IZZY-D" Isreali Dressing and various other items. Bandanas and cloth triangular (muslin) dressings can act as overall securements to these dressings as well.
If you are injured in a Self-defense situation, car accident or industrial accident, not to mention some terrorist incident, these things are invaluable. Sometimes, as James Keating pointed out in one of his bandana videos several years ago, the bandana can be a passive defense against breathed contaminants or from particulate matter entering the eyes.
Remember, "Self-defense" is defending yourself, seems like a no-brainer, but don't forget you have to protect your body from breathing in smoke, soot, pulverized glass, concrete, asbestos and other matter, which can lead to severe medical problems. There is more to "self-defense" than learning how to kick and punch.
"Self-defense" is not always about "stickfighting" or "fistfighting" or "knifefighting." Don't focus on the obvious, look to the other things that are less obvious and defend yourself from them as well.
We keep hearing about "Bird Flu." Is it going to kill millions, tens of millions, or perhaps hundreds of millions of people around the globe soon?
The answer to that is: no one knows for sure. Some are warning that it will be a repeat of the dreaded outbreak of the early 1900s, others say that is bunk and simple scare tactics. In my opinion, the truth is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.
It is true that it could mutate and our worst fears could come to pass. It is likewise true that various sinister groups of people use fear to control the populace.
The following picture and text are from an old history book, not a textbook, just an old history book from a series published years before my birth. Carefully consider them. This really is for educational purposes, I hope they can remain for all to see.
What is the Policeman wearing? Some type of surgical mask. What is it made out of? Likely, cotton. Could it help? Possibly.
James Keating (in one bandana video) used the example of the first World Trade Center bombing in the early 1990s to illustrate the value of a simple bandana by reminding us that those people exiting the building had soot around their mouth and nose. While the bandana is not and should not be considered a replacement for a gas mask or respirator, it might keep some of the larger particles out of your lungs. It might give you that extra edge of being able to make it twenty-five more yards to safety instead of succumbing to the smoke and dying. Consider now that we are just talking about a simple piece of cloth. The bandana should not take the place of "Evacuation Hoods" specifically designed for the purposes of evacuating burning buildings, just understand that if you don't have those more specialized (and better) tools, you can improvise and at least have some degree of protection.
Now, the World Trade Center Towers are no more. And as I watched the massive clouds of dust rush down the streets on the news, I thought back to what Jim said. Then the reports coming in of people who had inhaled powdered glass, concrete and asbestos, who had severe injuries that could have been at least limited by a simple bandana
In the next few years, you are going to see a lot of the First Responders to (and the survivors of) the attacks of September 11, 2001 coming down with a particularly nasty form of cancer, the same type that killed Steve McQueen - Mesothelioma.
The Old West Bandana
Not focusing on the "Underworld" of the Old West in America as that can be covered by statements above, let's take a look at history. I don't think we have to go over the fact that rustlers and train robbers used bandanas for masks to hide their identities.
Let's look at the bandana as an actual tool that parades as a piece of clothing
"A useful part of the cowboy's costume was his neckerchief, or 'wipes' as he called it. Neckerchiefs were usually red or blue, like the old bandana of the South, or black silk which did not show the dirt. The rodeo rider of modern days goes in for the bright colors. Rangemen usually wished to avoid colors which attracted attention. An inconspicuous rider was more apt to catch a rustler.
Usually the cowboy wore his neck scarf draped loosely over his chest with the knot in the back. If the sun shone on his back he reversed the scarf to protect his neck. When riding in the drag of a herd he pulled it up over the mouth and nose to keep out the dust. In winter he might pull it over his eyes to prevent snow blindness or to protect his face from icy winds and stinging sleet. He could also use it to tie down his hat, to serve as an ear muff in cold weather, or to keep his head cool on a blazing summer day by wearing it, wet, under his hat.
When he washed his face in the morning, an ever-ready towel was hanging from his neck. In his work he had this handy mop to wipe the sweat off his face. He could use it for holding the handle of a hot branding iron, for a blindfold on a snaky horse, or as a 'pigging string.' That is, as a string for tying a roped animal by all four feet the way a hog is tied. Likewise the neckerchief could be used as a makeshift hobble for his horse, a tourniquet or a sling for a broken arm, or a bandage."
That excerpt (in blue) is from the wonderful book, "The Book Of The American West." Published by Simon and Schuster, it lists too many Authors to mention. But that portion was in a chapter written by Ramon F. Adams.
I don't think I can add anything to that, except to say that nothing is really new. Old things like simple bandanas can be a handy thing in modern times. Most of us don't have to worry about blindfolding a "snaky horse," but that does not take away from the usefulness of the bandana.
©Don Rearic 1999-2007
Go on to Part Two of The Versatile Bandana
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