Eye Gouges vs. Finger Peels

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: News and Tactical Advice

  • SumoMe

Written by Greg Ellifritz




Read the story below.  It’s a prime example of everything that shouldn’t happen in a fight, but sometimes does anyway.


Victim at WIBW-TV hangs on to attacker despite punishment


The story describes a situation where an irate man attacked several people who were working at a TV news station.  The man was upset that the station would not air a story about his difficulties in working with the Department of Veteran Affairs.   Everything that happened in the story doesn’t match the typical “attack narrative”.  No one would expect any of the following:


1) The attacker was a 49 year old man…very few men in that age group commit violent physical crimes.

The crazed attacker

2) The victims all thought they were safe behind a locked door.  The attacker used a lamp to break the door down to make entry.


3) The victims outnumbered the attacker four to one, yet the attacker was not deterred.


4) There was no verbal altercation before the physical attack.  The man broke down the door and ran at a full sprint to his first victim.  That first victim  didn’t even recognize he was in a fight until his head was driven into a wall and he was stunned and reeling.


5) As the attacker was pounding the first victim, two other men came to the victim’s aid.  At that point the attacker transitioned from his physical attacks and began stabbing the victims with a knife.


6) Unlike many attackers, he didn’t get weapon-focused.  The attacker seamlessly transitioned between striking, stabbing, and even biting his victims throughout the attack.


Before we get into any more analysis of this incident, let’s take a look at the factors above.  Evaluate your training.  Do you train for any of these eventualities?  They aren’t the most likely occurrences, but this case proves that they can happen.


When is the last time you…


– Trained to fight in a very small room after an attacker simulates kicking in the door you were hiding behind?

– Trained to deal with someone armed with an improvised weapon?  Most of us train to be able to handle guns, knives, and clubs but have you ever been attacked by a guy wielding a lamp?  Try utilizing some non-traditional weapons in your next weapons disarm class.

– Trained to deal with what Tony Blauer calls “The Rage Attack”…someone running in a full out sprint trying to knock you down?

– Trained as a team with co-workers?  Many of us train against multiple attackers but fewer train to use teamwork effectively against a single attacker.

– Trained “in-fight” weapons access?  Try starting out with a physical sparring session and at some surprise moment, your partner draws a knife or gun while you are already in the fight.  It adds layers of complexity to your fight strategy.


This story alone provides dozens of interesting training ideas that you probably haven’t ever worked on.  If you get a chance, integrate some of my suggestions above into your next training session and see how it turns out.  You will be better prepared for doing so.

When is the last time you trained with a partner trying to hit you with something like this?


Now, back to the story…


So here we have a rage-filled crazy man attacking four people with a knife.  The victims are all trying to strike the attacker, take the knife from him and knock him to the ground.  None of that is working and by now all of the victims are bleeding from knife wounds.


One of the victims realizes he has to escalate the level of force he is using if he wants to win this fight.  According to the article:


“Palmer testified he put a finger in Miles’ eyes and threatened to yank them out, but that had no impact.”

I like eye gouges and I teach them in many of my classes.  The eye gouge is a simple but devastating move that doesn’t require any strength or skill.  It generally works pretty well.  But it didn’t work here.


It serves as a cautionary lesson that no technique is foolproof and that nothing works all the time.  The eye gouge is a high percentage move.  I’ve seen it be a real fight stopper.  But you can’t rely on any one technique to work against every attacker.  You better have a backup plan.


What did end up working in this case?  A simple grade-school finger bend…


“Palmer then bent Miles’ left forefinger back to his wrist, which helped take Miles to the floor”


I would never advocate a finger peel against an armed attacker, but that’s what it took to win the fight.  The eye gouge failed and the victim took the attacker to the ground with a finger bend!  That’s like something out of a Steven Segal movie!  It never happens in real life….until it does.


Violence isn’t always what we expect it to be.  Sometimes things that shouldn’t happen, do.  The best student acknowledges that reality and builds a training system to support himself when things don’t go quite the way one would expect.




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3 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Phil Wong says:

    Devil’s Advocate, checking in:

    I note that in his booking and arraignment pictures, Miles’ eyes look physically normal and uninjured, not how I would expect them to look after a hard finger gouge. Part of the problem with the finger-gouge is that many folks who have not had serious training or experience in “dirty fighting” are squeamish about simply touching another person’s wet, squishy eyeballs, let alone committing to actually gouging or popping those eyeballs out of their sockets.

    Perhaps Palmer’s threat was ineffective simply because he didn’t exert enough pressure on Miles’ eyes, and Miles could tell that he wasn’t really going to “yank them out”…

  2. Brad Hunt says:

    Can you say the eye gouge ‘failed’ if the person who used it did not actually rip the eye from the socket. I have a hard time believing the attack would have continued after that for the simple fact the attacker unable to see well enough to continue his mayhem. What am I missing?

    • Erik Ferguson says:

      Wouldn’t the fact that the person wasn’t willing or able to actually scoop his eye out under pressure be a failure point? Seems like a likely problem.