Cutting Edge Training

America’s Combatives and Liability Trainer Training With Real-World Impact

Not Here

by George on May 4, 2012 05:24

There's courage involved if you want
to become truth.  There is a broken

open place in a lover.  Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp

compassion in this group?  What's the
use of old and frozen thought?  I want

a howling hurt.  This is not a treasury
where gold is stored;  this is for copper.

We alchemists look for talent that 
can heat up and change.  Lukewarm

won't do.  Half-hearted holding-back,
well-enough, getting-by?  Not here.


How does anything that Rumi wrote apply to tactics, combatives, the brutal struggle to overcome assault and to accomplish the mission you have laid out for yourself, even at the cost of your own life?  Perhaps you might wish to read it again from a different perspective.

To find the tactical truth, or the combatives truth, or the shooting truth—any warrior truth—you must have courage to question your cherished beliefs about your tactics and combatives skills, as well as the limits to your capabilities you have accepted as truth.  Without insight into why the tactics you choose function, how they developed and what problem they were intended to solve, you have no idea of the context of that tactic.  The combative system you dutifully work out in—sweating and twisting and thumping and being thrown and striking and pressing triggers by rote, all without understanding the underlying principles that will actually permit you to employ it in combat—will fail you unless you have the courage to question and validate everything you do within the context of pain, blood, death, loss, defeat, and victory, for that is the only context in which combatives should be considered.

Are you playing a sport and thinking it is applicable to combat?

  • Training scars are created that may be fatal:  Jujitsu players and wrestlers routinely leave their groins wide open while “fighting” in training—there are many in the profession at arms who think putting someone in the “guard” in a real life and death fight is a good idea.
  • Aikido is a highly instructional method of learning balance during movement and a stylized response to someone striking at you with a sword, but is universally void of practicality for almost everyone in real life physical conflict.  Actual Aikido techniques applied to real life combatives problems universally fail all but the most accomplished practitioners.
  • Shooters playing shooting games use “barricades” by resting their weapon on the edge of the object, with most of their body in full view of the paper target, never thinking about a "two-way range."

Are you willing to break open your accepted tactical and technical truths until hurts?  There must be a willingness to examine every minute detail of the system you love, holding it up against the contextually-correct situation it will be tested in during combat.

          “The event can in some ways be considered as an abrupt and brutal audit at a moment’s notice, (where) everything
           that was left unprepared becomes a complex problem, and every weakness comes rushing to the forefront…(The)
           brutal audit uncovers unforeseen weakness in resilience—the capability to recover.  Resilient action that enhances
           recovery from setback is built out of a broad repertoire of action and experience, the ability to recombine 
           fragments of past experience into novel responses, emotional control…”
                                                                                                      --(Pat Lagadec, “Preventing Chaos in a Crisis”).

Combat is the most brutal audit there is for anyone’s combatives training.  The “broken open place in a lover” Rumi writes of is that searing, haunting drivenness to find that which is not truth, which will not survive the reality of one or more men attempting to take your life without politely and patiently waiting until you are ready or are finished with your series of complicated moves.  It takes bravery to question the very foundation of your beliefs in what works and what does not.  As a trainer, people prevail —or they get hurt and killed—based on what I share with their instructors.  As an instructor, you are ultimately responsible for every word, move, tactic, and skill you teach.  As a warrior, you live or die based on what you accept from your instructors, and consequently, so do other people because of your actions or lack of them, your effectiveness or lack thereof.  Choose well, for your life and the lives of others rest upon that decision.

How can it be that any trainer or instructor does not have the sharp compassion in their heart to break down everything, working from the fight backward, deconstructing the needs of the warrior to ensure he or she can actually apply it in an unforgiving environment where people suffer horrible injuries and die?  Teaching a skill, technique, or tactic because you like it or you have a vested interest in it, that looks good on the mat or on the range but is impossible for your warriors to perform in that fierce crucible of conflict is immoral at best, and not worthy of the trust others have in you.  As an instructor, you may have ninja quality reflexes and Greek god-like skills and attributes.  However, there must be compassion in the decision of what survival and combative skills to teach for those of us who are mere mortals, those humans in the uniform with all of the limitations and weaknesses and, yes, strength of heart and mind and the ability to overcome all odds that God put into us if only we would use it?

I cannot fight like you, because you are unique.  So, too, you cannot fight like me because my approach to fighting is necessarily and universally individual.  We have different abilities, experiences, schemas, strength, flexibility, mental and intellectual capability, emotional stability under threat, injury and health levels, and training.  When I try to fight like you, I fail.  This is something one discovers only through the pain and humiliation of failing—if allowed to survive the event by the victor.  While you may be exceptional in all areas of combatives, there must be compassion for those of us who are “average.”  For while most people consider themselves above average, it just ain’t so.  There are far more average people in uniform than exceptional or above average, and for every person who is above average, there is one or more who is below average and struggling just to stay in the game.

While training need not—and should not—be “dumbed down,” it must be achievable by each person you teach.  And within that sharp compassion for those you train, it takes courage to find that place inside your precious beliefs to question the content of your lesson plan.  What you teach may work for you because you are stronger than most people—but that cannot work for me.  It may well be that you are extraordinarily calm under pressure—the “Ice Man” incarnate—but that, too, cannot work for me in the midst of that weird adrenaline haze and crystalline clarity of combat.  It may work for you because you love it and you train incessantly, fascinated by the complexity and the special feeling it gives you to know how to counter the counter of the counter to the first technique, but that cannot work for me because, well, I’m not you, and I may not be that fascinated and it may be that I would love to know and even equal your skill level but I don’t train that often, if at all, even when you nag at me for my own good that I need to practice.

In this deconstruction and microscopic examination of your combatives training system, is there any frozen or old thinking you still accept as truth?  Wisdom is often old, because what is wise is ageless in its applicability to any age—every generation either continues to prove its validity or is forced to relearn its lessons.  Frozen thinking, however, results when we either do not think to question our dogma because “we have always done it this way,” or because it is easier to just accept what the latest expert says rather than to take the responsibility to think on our own, or we are lazy because we are comfortable and no longer feel the need to explore and grow in our skills and knowledge base.  You may be frozen in your thinking if think that:

  • Martial arts is “fighting” and prepares you to win in a fight.
  • MMA and fighting in the octagon is preparation for combat on the street and suitable as training for anyone in uniform.
  • Shooting games are preparation for winning gunfights.
  • You teach a “technique” that takes more than two-tenths of a second to complete or has more than two steps to accomplish, because anything costing more time or requiring more movements in a fight depends upon the other guy’s cooperation to be successful—and not many people are interested in giving you that opportunity.
  • You teach 45, 145, or 1,145 techniques in your defensive tactics or CQC program, and think any technique will work in combat (within that overwhelming swirl of fear and rage and frustration and dread and excitement) without 10,000 to 25,000 conscious and contextually-correct repetitions of each technique that must be recalled instantly given the fluid and dangerous nature of the fight and exactly executed in-time, on-time to effective.
  • Teaching the law or ROE is something lawyers do, and is not necessary for a survival skills instructor to be a Subject Matter Expert.   Why do my students need to know the context of the application of force?
  • Defensive tactics problems can be solved exclusively through DT solutions, that firearms problems can only be resolved through firearms solutions, that tactics are for SWAT or the classroom or the field, and not part of the mat or range.

The first time a cop I knew was murdered I was pierced by a “howling hurt.”  That howling hurt came again the first time a police officer I had trained was murdered.  There’s a place inside of me where those howling hurts live still—as well as the other howling hurts suffered over the years of murders and medical retirements and discharges of good, honest heroes—and I touch that terrible place each time I stand in front of a class realizing that the warriors sitting or standing before me may actually listen, believe, and use what I teach in an attempt to keep their lives and in the defense of other peoples’ lives.  So teaching is a place to offer everything and hold nothing back, and to realize there is no silver bullet, that all the glitters is not gold, and every assumption about how to keep myself and others alive is just that, and must be examined and turned inside-out, then examined again and again.

Because change is life.  Life is growth, and any system upon which I depend for my safety and my family’s, and that I teach other people who will depend upon it for their life and their family’s, must grow and change and improve as we understand more deeply what constitutes effective training and efficient action during chaos and blood and pain.  Science is helping us learn what is valid, and helping to disprove what is myth.  A growing body of experience, born of pain and effort gives us still more information.  Do we have the fire in our bellies and the commitment to excellence to make the effort to grow and to change and to challenge those cherished beliefs we all hold about “my” system and the way “it should be done”?

Fighting isn’t about gold—it is about copper and steel and lead and bone and sinew and guts.  It is about purifying the lessons, distilling them down to the underlying principles that are easy to grasp, universal in their application, and functional when needed, especially when you are hurt, tired, and very scared and need them to work.

Half-hearted holding-back, well-enough getting-by?  When I read this piece by Rumi I see in the wisdom of his words the truth that I believe all trainers and instructors of combatives—and the warriors who employ those methods—must take to heart.  When lives are on the line, when any person's rights are in question, when any person trusts what we teach, how can we someday stand before God without having had stood in the white-hot furnace of self-critique and contextual relevance when not doing so fills caskets of those willing to risk their lives in service to others? Lukewarm in the lessons and skills being taught, learned, and employed just won’t do.  Not here.



In Search of the “Magic Bullet?”

by George on October 4, 2011 06:14

A very informative PowerPoint by the FBI’s Defensive System’s Unit has been going around the Internet (again).  The subject is an OIS (Officer-Involved Shooting) involving three police officers from Pennsylvania ambushed by a single suspect.  The specifics of the shooting for this discussion, while interesting, are not too important:

  • The officers carried .40 caliber Glocks loaded with Speer 180 gr. Gold Dot ammo, and Hornady TAP 75 gr. .223 caliber (and SWAT employed 55 gr. TAP) from their AR15s.
  • The suspect carried a single .45 caliber handgun.
  • 107 .40 cal and .223 cal rounds were fired by two officers.  The third was wounded in the initial ambush.
  • The assailant fired 26 rounds, and reloaded his magazine from loose rounds during the firefight.
  • The suspect was hit 17 times, with 11 rounds exiting his body.
  • The suspect’s right arm (humerus) was broken by a .40 cal. bullet after all .223 ammo was expended.
  • The incident lasted approximately three-and-one-half minutes.
  • Even with all of his wounds, the officers were forced to fight the suspect into handcuffs before he expired.
  • The suspect had trace amounts of marijuana in his system. 

What is important are the conclusions the officers and agency came to as a result of the shooting:

  • The .40 caliber ammo “failed” and “did not cause incapacitation” which is the opposite conclusion the FBI came to:  the .40 caliber ammo was effective, and the .223 ammunition "failed" based on their gelatin "standards.'

The question was then asked by someone in the long line of forwards, “If the ammo did not fail why did they have to fight the (S) (Suspect) after he was hit 17 times?...Wonder what the real truth is…"

To answer this question, we must remember there are only four ways to stop a human being:

  1. Mechanically.  His bones are broken and he can no longer stand up.  If he continues to be motivated (see "Psychologically" below), though, he may continue to fight/shoot even though immobilized and on the ground.
  2. Electrically.  His CNS is disrupted (brain, spine, or motor nerves are disrupted).  Dr. Martin Fackler, M.D., stated that "any bullet entering the brain" immediately disrupts a human's ability to act.  Hits to the spine cut the body's ability to send motor nerve impulses to the hands and legs, causing the body to fall.  If the spine is severed high enough, the hands stop functioning. 
  3. Hydraulically.  He bleeds out sufficiently to cause unconsciousness.
  4. Psychologically.  He doesn’t want to be in a gunfight/fight any longer and quits.
  • NOTE:  This is not about "killing" the subject.  It is about stopping the "imminent threat" of the individual.  If he dies or does not is not relevant to the importance of stopping the threat by fire.

So, with the above in mind, there are only three requirements necessary to end a gunfight when the opponent doesn’t want to (and won’t) quit (psychological):

  1. Bullet placement.
  2. Bullet placement.
  3. Bullet placement.

What is the most reliable way to stop someone? Put a bullet through the brain or spine.  The problem with either or both of these targets?  They are small targets.  They are relatively easy to hit on the square range with rounds going in one direction only and with sufficient time.  However, when bullets are in the air (these being bi-directional during an exchange of fire) with a corresponding overwhelming perception of high threat to one’s self, those "easy" shots on the shooting range generally become very difficult.  The higher the perception of threat, the greater the difficulty. 

The easiest human target to hit?  Upper thorax and/or pelvis.  The problem?  These targets requires him to bleed out (unless the spine is hit through the thorax), which may take your lifetime before he can no longer fight.  

  • NOTE:  A pelvis hit with rifle fire is semi-reliable to fracture hip or pelvis (mechanical) and is likely to put him down as well as make him bleed out (hydraulic), whereas a pelvis shot with a handgun generally does not break the pelvis or hip, but is often fatal due to bleeding out (hydraulic). 

So you want to stop a bad guy from shooting you?  

  • Hit him in a place in his body that disrupts his ability to continue to be an imminent threat.  This wound affects the mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic function of the body.  Until that happens, he can keep going until he wants to stop. 
  • A "psychological stop" cannot be predicted or counted upon. 
  • A "hydraulic stop" can take a very long time (every tenth of a second that he continues to fire is "a very long time" when the bullets are coming at you).  During that time, he remains a threat to your life, and may kill you.
  • The only reliable stop is the "electrical stop," but it requires a bullet strike through very small, hard to hit targets.  
  • The concept of “accuracy” is context specific.  On the square range, tight groups on the target is the premium.  In shooting at an imminent threat, it is actually beneficial to have a three to five inch spread between rounds to maximize the wounding potential, resulting in injury to a wider range of organs. 
  • “Speed is fine; accuracy is final” (Wyatt Earp) is as true as anything can be.  Striving to be “first” is important, but what does that mean?  Getting the first shot off is impressive, and may be fatal to you.  Strive to be the first to hit the target in a vital area.  Hitting is the name of this game, as slow as you have to to hit and no faster.  
  • The more hits you have on important structures (brain, spine, upper thorax, femoral triangle, pelvis, etc.), the more quickly he will likely stop.
  • Discipline your training and slow your rate of fire to ensure sufficient hits with combat accuracy.  Forget "hammered pairs," "double-taps," and other "game" related activities.  Continuously fire on the Threat until he is no longer an "imminent threat to life." 

We hear in the question, “If the ammo did not fail, why…”, a question that everyone wants to resolve at some point in their shooting life:  what is the “best” ammo to use to save my life?”  One simple answer is, "The round you have in your chamber right now."  Even if you had a magical magazine that held an unlimited number of rounds, that would be a good of example of every blessing being a potential curse:  would that "unlimited" number of rounds result in an unlimited number of hits, or would it assure that you would get on that trigger like never before and hope that a wall of bullets would do the job?  The best strategy is to fight with the round in your chamber and put that one bullet through a target that disrupts his imminent threat. Then fight with the next.  And the next.  Strive to hit him with every round until he goes down and is no longer a threat.

We all want the “silver-life-snuffer-magic-bullet."  This isn’t going to happen with present technology (OK, .50 cal BMG round, but I’m not carrying a Barrett in my hip pocket—Dang!).  While some handgun bullets may be statistically better than others, most bullets are going to do the job sufficiently well to eventually kill an assailant (it should be remembered that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office approved the use of hollow points because it was proven that hollow points stopped fights more quickly while full metal jackets were more  likely to eventually kill the suspect).  As Cutting Edge Training teaches in our firearms and knife classes, “All bullet wounds and knife wounds eventually stop bleeding.”  If you want to do it faster, there are the three requirements necessary to ending a gunfight that must occur (see the list above if you don’t remember).  

Stop blaming your ammo for any alleged failure to stop.  A .22LR in the right spot is an immediate fight stopper.  A .22Short pistol in the hands of a motivated and skilled shooter is a scary opponent.  If you have reliable ammo (it feeds every time, and goes “bang” when it should), forget about the ammo you are carrying.  9mm vs. .40 vs. .45?  Big holes are a little better than little holes.  However, we are talking about a difference of only 1/10 of an inch between the 9mm and .45.  The only difference in effectiveness is where that bullet is placed and what it passes through in the body.  A .45 through the outside of the thigh with no bone involvement will not stop the fight faster than a 9mm through the heart or the eye.  Bullet placement...Bullet placement...Bullet placement...  Forget “shooting” and begin “hitting.”

That my friend, is “what the real truth is.”