a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.
an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking.
an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
For me, in martial-combatives studies this is quest for that somewhat, magic moment of a new understanding and progress.
Lots of people are addicted to their martial sport or art and for many good reasons like “tribal” friendships, exercise, goal achievement, etc. and they become purposely or naively entrenched in what they do. Which is fine for them, providing they understand what I just said. Where it all fits. But, however, if they were like me years ago, doing all those things, and STILL frustrated, it is a problem. I worried, was I on “on mission” or “off-mission?” I was a soldier. I was a cop. I worried about the real world of crime and war, not martial hobbies, not arts or replicating systems.
One day in the mid-1990s, I “awoke” with a big epiphany. As I have written here about before, and I went from “mixed-up” martial arts to “mixed martials.” That is what I realized, what I wanted and needed, my real “on mission,” pursuit, which in my case was the maximum, total blend of hand, stick, knife, gun (“gun” as in pistol and long gun).
Following this big epiphany, came smaller ones, like these examples:
Example 1: Finding single skill drills that work with hand, stick, knife and gun. Or as many of the 4 as possible.
Example 2: Searching for things as simple as possible, yet allowing for as little complexity as functionally possible.
Example 3: A format for individual tactics like…kicking. Take the simple front snap kick (to the shin or groin) Do it –
Standing, arms down as in a “sucker kick,” work both legs.
Standing in a ready position, like a fighting stance, front and rear legs, switch leads.
Kneeling snap kicks– experiment with this if you can. Some can. Both legs.
Grounded on your back. Both legs, with and without a “crab walk” lift. Grounded on your left or right sides. Both legs.
All of the above while holding a stick, single-hand grip.
All of the above while holding a stick, double-hand grip.
All of the above while holding a knife, saber and reverse.
All of the above while holding a pistol, one or two-handed grip.
All of the above while holding a long gun.
Total package of the front snap kick use in reality.
Oh, and NOT barefoot!
So, just a simple snap kick? Yes and no. Total use. Of course, all of these have nuances, and it takes a veteran martialist or a smart mind to develop, fix and alter. I still have to teach separate courses for hand, stick, knife and gun.
The simple universal formula of:
3: grounded (on back and sides).
4: unarmed and,
5: while holding weapons.
Five universal realities-blended. The formula foundation.
Run all rudimentary moves through this formula when plausible.
Most people want to “do their thing,” follow their isolated interests for the reasons listed way above, which is fine. I still have to teach separate courses for hand, stick, knife and gun. I am paid, like a job, to make customers happy and cover these subjects separately. But my real interests lay in the big, generic quest of the blend. This blend pursuit is more important to me, and not at all important to most others. Which is why I will never become so-called “famous” in the martial arts world. I am an outlier. In fact, most people won’t even read this.
There have been movements to martial blend, as in some Krav Magas and Combatives. Certainly handy and productive, but I think many do so without a formula foundation, and therefore with just collections of random sets of things thrown together. Or, the instructors cannot escape their root martial arts, like BJJ or boxing, and overdose their outlines with sport, mini-failures in reality, which leads us back to the “Mixed-Up Martial Arts” world,
Epiphanies. Many mental experts like to suggest, that to have an epiphany, one must leave the “work table” of your problem and like, “walk in the woods” to free the mind. Answers will manifest? However one of my favorite neuro-heroes, the great Gary Klein, with a resume too long to list here, has written “What Others Don’t See,”his case history studies on epiphanies-insights-discoveries, and he lists another 4 big ways these lightening flashes of ideas arrive adding a few more strands of other ways too.
How does the quest begin? Inventor Charles Kettering suggests, “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” I de-construct all problems by investigating the “Ws and H.” Who, what, where, when, how and why questions. This helps me. Helps you?
Discoveries change the world in many big and small ways. Search for epiphanies.
The “corporate” name for what I’ve been doing for 26 years this 2022, the big umbrella name is the “Scientific Fighting Congress.” Under that umbrella are the 7 martial courses.
1-Force Necessary: Hand
2-Force Necessary: Stick
3-Force Necessary: Knife
4-Force Necessary: Gun
5-Close Quarter Concepts group (the above 4 combined)
6-Defender: Police Judo (The top 4 with added police material)
7-Pacific Archipelago Concepts (fun & on request)
I chose the word “congress” back in the 1990s because we are a congress of martialists, free to express, but yet connected by a very basic must-know, core I have constructed from 5 decades of training, the last 4 of them I must confess, a rather unhealthy, daily obsession.
Since the 1970s, I was a street cop, a detective, a soldier, a black belt, a bodyguard and a private eye. I’ve never taken a promotional exam and remained in line operations, I’ve put plenty of people in jail in 26 years, from rowdy punk fighters to serial killers. I have been put in the hospital and I have put people in the hospital. Such are the ups and downs of this kind of life I chose. But, I am not a tough guy! NOT at all, I’m a nice guy, a mediocre athlete, a normal, good guy and I just know some things about fighting and violence you might not.
Everyone is different and I work off of the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions to win and-or survive, and-or problem-solve. The big 4 groups…
martial arts and the
…are my sources, as each group knows things about fighting, crime and war the others don’t. I pull back the curtains until I find the back, brick wall of truth.
While any idiot can kick and punch, pull a trigger and stab, I know a good fighting system is based on doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. This is what I have tried to amass. You won’t find anything artsy or sporty in what I do. I truly believe “real fighting is more like checkers and less like chess,” (another motto).
“Inspire not confine” is one of my main mottos. I hope this little speech might inspire some of you in some way?
For starters, I am not a knife or gun collector, no more than I would collect hammers, screwdrivers or wrenches. I just don’t care. You get the message. The “tool” message. I guess it comes from my Army and policing time and experiences. I am interested in efficiency. Don’t misunderstand me, I like looking at cool knives and guns, I admire them, I just don’t want them or need them. If you do collect and you have the money and time for such a hobby, then if you are happy? I am happy. The only time that my eyebrows raise is when the lines between pretty and necessary-survival are blurred (and maybe bloody). One problem often blurred is the texture of grips and handles.
Speaking of bloody, Johnny Cash once wrote about the “kicking and the gouging and the mud and blood and the beer.” There’s also guts, water, oils, sweat, bad gloves and other substances that can make life very slippery and your hands and tools very slippery. Legend has it that the Gurkhas would dip their kukris in motor oil and then train with slimy grips. And what if your hands are injured and-or are freezing? I always shake my head when I see slick, metal knife handles and gun handles.
It’s bad enough when people have stupid hand-finger positioning on grips.
A considerable amount of time, money and research has gone into making working tools like hammers, saws, screw drivers etc., very grip-able. Still you will find slick-handled hammers and tools too! But like wise tool-makers, many wise gun and knife makers and sellers have also labored to make your weapons stay put in your hands with textured grips! People like to suggest that textured gloves solve some of these problem, but will you ALWAYS be wearing gloves? 24-7?
“I want my weapons to be tools and my tools to be weapons,” – Paul Howe
I am not endorsing anyone or anything here. I am just making a suggestion, forego pretty and slick, and get the most textured grips on your firearms, knives and sticks-batons. In my Force Necessary: Stick course Level 1, Force Necessary: Knife course Level 1, Force Necessary: Gun course Level 1, I emphasize and display the vital importance of grip-handle textures. (The issue of the SIZE of handles and grips is a whole other important essay.)
It seems we human through the ages, always knew we need to keep training to keep sharp, and if you keep that single motto alone, probably all your performance bases are covered. I mean to remind that even cave men practiced their spear throwing, they had to, and then we moved on. Life has gotten way more complicated than tossing pointy sticks and just about every job, chore, hobby and skill has multiple layers of mental and physical performance that are stabilized, honed or slowly disintegrate. The concept of “perishable skills” has evolved into our vocabulary after we stopped just cave man grunting.
The first time I heard about “perishable skills” was in police training a very long time ago. But we all heard the phrase “use it or lose it” and versions of advice thereof for decades. Older-timers heard of it for centuries. The term “perishable skills” is another fancy way of saying use it or lose it.
In policing, topics like driving, handcuffing, verbal skills, firearms, strategic communications and less than lethal are skills have been deemed perishable, that LEO’s must stay “up” and current on. But there’s never enough money or manpower to enforce rigorous training cycles. In the worlds of combatives, martial arts and combat sports, we center in on hand, stick, knife and gun methods.
How long before perishable perishes? In hot pursuit of training ideology, various US state police and military, even in the business-world, training criteria has segmented the disintegration times into three categories:
perishable skills (half-life of less than two and a half years),
semi-durable skills (half-life of two and a half to seven and a half years), and…
durable skills (half-life of more than seven and a half years).
How were these timetables developed? By whom? For whom? But, organizations have to start somewhere and justify their timetables. We were once inundated with the “10,000 hour to expertise” training-experience rule and this idea was most recently promulgated by Gladwell’s “Outliers” book, but then we quickly learned from about a ton of experts that everyone is different and “hours-to-expertise” differ greatly, person-to-person. Just look this subject up on the web. (And quit quoting the 10,000 hours rule, people!) I too would like to suggest that such time limits are arbitrary and discretionary because all people are different. This established, we might therefore, logically think that “hours-to-perish” is also different too for different people. Everybody is different on both the up and down sides.
At or near the end? There has been considerable study in these performance matters and the topic of tennis is often used in sports performance testing and analysis. So, I will use a quick tennis analogy. Imagine a lifelong super tennis champion, like Serena Williams or Federa. They age, they just lose a step, even though they are constantly working out and playing. Eventually they must retire as fresh kids rise up. They retire to a tennis club and become resident tennis pros. There they teach tennis and so forth. It is hard for me to imagine that a 60, even 70 year old Serena or Federer would not still beat almost ALL “normal” tennis people in the neighborhood, country club. I think this because they have indeed accumulated so much time in the enterprise that even Serena and Federer, at their near-worst, are still above-average, darn good tennis players. Aspects have perished, but since they were once so high up, that even with significant perishing, they might still pretty darn good for a long time.
I could go off on an in-depth tangent, deep-dive on this topic and I have in various books, essays and articles, but in summary, it’s simple, I (and we-many) think that perishable skill timetables are highly situational in topic and person. The subjects of multi-layer teaching (in what I nicknamed “triple canopy” teaching – (1) books, (2) films and (3) classes/seminars) and the tricks of retention are related to perishability and are other subjects for other pinpoint essays elsewhere.)
Ol’ René Descartes started that little ditty, “Cogito, ergo sum,” Latin for – “I think, therefore I am.”And we are human and therefore will stop thinking someday. Perish the thought! We’ll slow down and stop…playing. So, “I perish, therefore perishability is inevitable.”
But while we are still alive, kicking and unperished, we can use that caveman idea that we humans need to keep tossing spears, keep training to keep sharp and this simple caveman idea instantly covers all your bases. It’s always nice when extensive research still matches with, and backs up, your definition of common sense.
You still might end up a pretty good ol’ pro at the old Caveman, Spear Pro Shop and Country Club.
Your Signature Moves and the Pareto and the Mental Model?
Mental models are descriptions of reality that apply across every area of our life, usually don’t get outdated, and provide good results by helping you make better decisions. What is an example of a mental model? One of the most famous and valuable mental models is called the Pareto Principle. Use the 80-20 Pareto Rule to create your signature moves
You probably know it as the “80-20 rule.” This mental models says that most of your results are going to come from just a small percentage of your effort or work.
Vilfredo Pareto, the man who “discovered” this principle noticed that 80% of the land in his area was owned by 20% of the people. He looked in his garden, and saw that 80% of the peas were in 20% of the pea pods. Then he realized that this was something like an organizing principle of life.
This phenomena applies across many domains including productivity, happiness, business, health, etc. Here are a few examples:
20% of relationships lead to 80% of happiness.
20% of exercises lead to 80% of health benefit.
20% of items on your to do list lead to 80% of productivity.
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
In the “fight world” competition fighters have a small collection of go-to signature moves (and strategies). Opponents study those moves by way of films, personal observations and interviews to win. But what of war and crime? You might say that militaries have overall, signature strategies. But what of defending yourself against criminals? Criminals and the classic bullies have no films to study on you, to prepare for your signature moves.
I am not talking about hobby sports and arts here. Just survival. I would venture to say that you need some personal signature moves that best suit you, compiled after you do an extensive study in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. This is why the cookie cutter, martial arts systems are not the best manufacturers of the survival, self defense product, and they can be very one-dimensional. Thai fight Thai. Boxers box. Wrestlers wrestle with no strikes. Etc. One dimensional, offering abstract skills to deal with the harsh, mixed-weapon chaos of the world. (I might add that I do not like the words “self defense” and “fight” or “fighting,” as they can be misleading and hackneyed when discussing survival. Still, I must use them for the lack of more succinct nouns.)
You know me, the eternal skeptic, and maybe the percentage might be 18% or 25%? But I do get the overall idea. This model is much more complex and it can be applied to infinitely more, but this basic concept allows you to quickly acquire what counts. In our “fighting world,” just look at the UFC and see what is actually and consistently done, juxtaposed with the total martial arts systems, techniques and methods of the world and history. Who, what, where, when, how and why?
I resolved this signature concept by insisting that people study to develop their signature moves for their size, shape, strength, age, coordination and predicable situations-and then later, non-predicable situations. It’s the biggest part of the “Who” question.
“Who are you…really!”
“Who do you think you will really be fighting?”
“Who are you legally, as in the eyes of the law? (Pee Wee Herman or Hulk Hogan?)”
I frequently confess in seminars that “I can never tell you how to fight.” That is your job and the job of your local instructor, if he or she has sufficient “Martial IQ.” Not my job as a traveling seminar circus. I must shoot for concepts. You must experiment, pick and choose your so-called signatures. That is why in my hand, stick, knife and gun courses, I want to expose people to a college-like, experience-collection of many good things. Work on them, select wisely and collect what you want, need and can do. You cannot and should not embrace them all, because, here is where we get into the age-old debate of “too many techniques.” Too many techniques to choose from and therefore slows you down, it is claimed. I don’t think there is one universal “too many line” to draw because every person is genetically different. in terms of retention and education-ability. I have decided to create an exposure course (like college). You pick your majors and minors. You experience diversity and savvy. Study systems, but study systems to defeat them, not become them. I do think one might become “Martial Sick,” just adding and adding and adding until you vomit. There are indeed some things that are so smart, so simple and universal.
Some instructors will say “get 5 things.” “Come to my ‘5 Things’ school.” But then they one-dimensionally speak of only unarmed things. What of stick things, knife things, gun things? Five, then 5, and 5 and 5 more? What of standing through ground problems? That’s a matrix of mixed things! That’s a whole lot of simple things. I struggle with this numbers games by seeking the drill/exercises that are multi-purpose. Learn one movement, change the position and weapons. I must be ever vigilant in finding these short cuts for you. That’s my job. My mission.
In the end your signatures are also facing perishability. Will you do these things, say…for the rest of your life? Or, will these signature things slowly erode away. Perishability is another topic for another time, but will your signature become dim and unreadable. And in this vein, let me mention quickly that you need to review your signature moves every 5 or 6 years or so because as you age, you may not be able to execute them as well, or at all.
We fight criminals, enemy soldiers and our “drunk uncles.” I could go on with a lot of anecdotal stories, lessons and name-dropping here, but I think you get the point? Please take a deep dive in the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. Exercise and experiment with unarmed and mixed weapons. Collect things for you, yourself. Improve your “Martial IQ” and your “Martial Savvy”with skepticism and awareness. Don’t get yourself, “Martial Sick.”
This is all about YOU. Not me. Not the perpetual-ization and worship of systems and their god-heads. YOU! Get some signature moves for situations.
The rituals of death. Understanding them may save your life. But, when you try to research the term, all you are most likely to uncover are after-death, practices of various worldwide religions and funerals, like tossing a handful of dirt on a coffin to name but one. I guess the trouble with the research quest is the word “ritual” – so quickly associated with religions. Dig a bit deeper (no pun intended) and you’ll find a few ceremonial pre-death rituals like when archaeologists discovered that the Incas got their children sacrifices drunk before their deaths on coco leaves and alcohol. Still after much digging, not much is mentioned about before the death.
If you broaden your own the definition of “rituals,” of death, it starts you thinking. You might recall the many other kinds of political and religious killings, ones before the flame, the shot, the needle, the hanging, the guillotine, the firing squad, the electrocution, etc. We remember some pre-death, rituals with them. Before such events, we have been exposed to ritualistic habits like, “the last meal.” The “last cigarette.” The blindfold, “any last requests?” “any last statements?” These are also rituals of death, before the act. Why do people bother with them?
Think about the ritualistic procedures in the United States over a prisoner execution. There are many ritualistic steps and protocols. Think about how people reluctantly gather in to witness the execution. In the olden days, people gathered for the public hangings, nowadays seating is assigned at the prison death chambers to watch a person die. I feel as though any of the death row prisoners would much rather be surprised by a shot in the back at in the head at some late point than go through all that extraneous legal, ritual, nonsense. And, consider this irony, there have been postponements in prison executions because the prisoner was too sick on his death date. Too sick to die? “Let’s clear up that flu before we kill him.”
All these numerous rituals alone, suggested to me that most humans have a certain significance, a regard about death and often do things, also in crime and war to hesitate, postpone, celebrate or commemorate death. A ritual, however slight or small, might be created. It often seems to be in our human nature.
I would like to write about here a very particular situation when someone is cornered, captured, kidnapped and-or taken hostage. Short-term or long-term, and about to killed. As a police detective most of my adult life, and a graduate of a police, criminal profile course, I came across numerous cases, mine and others, of victims executed, or received threats of execution in the final act of rape, kidnapping, robbery, assault and so forth. And what about in war? Such as when someone is taken prisoner, or cornered? What did those last few seconds look like? What small ignored, rituals existed or still exist by killers. If we knew what the killers did, we might better prepare people to read upcoming signs and try to counter them.
In recent times now more than in the past, instructors like to present lists of pre-assault cues with all the anger, tip-offs. That list is long (and far from new – as the first one I saw was back in the military police academy in 1973.) What of pre-crime clues? They are different and largely ignored as people tend to dwell on the pre-assault cues. With pre-crime there might be a no-anger greeting, usually presented by smiling con men criminals setting you up with a minimum tip-offs, or not. Maybe just an overwhelming, sudden ambush? In this same vein of study, but not like the pre-assault, and pre-crime, are the verbal, physical and situational, last ditch rituals of…pre-death. Situational? The overall situation also counts like a ticking time bomb.
So, I became fascinated, in crime and war’s last moments, especially the last few seconds, the last few steps of these killing actions. What exactly went on? And to see if there are any big or small “rituals” even in these instances. They may or may not be spontaneous. The crime may be pre-meditated, but the actual physical act of violence itself unplanned. What happened? Learning this as a self defense, martialist instructor for civilians, police and military, might warn and prepare people for last resort counters to these problems. My real goal here is to inspire and provoke thought on these matters.
For example, Think of all the pistol disarms taught . Think of the more rare, long gun disarms. Think of the knife disarms. Think of the strangulation escapes. Lots of…”techniques,” as they say. But hardly anyone understands or covers the total “who, what, when, where, how and why” (the Ws&H) the victim wound up in this terrible moment, these terrible, critical last, few seconds. The context. The situation. What last ditch, last resort things could be done to counter the murder attempt?
The techniques? I have told this story for decades as an example of the “classroom disarmer,” of a student who learned two pistol disarms techniques earlier in the day at a martial class. He goes home and tells his friend how great the disarms were. The friend says “wow, show me,” and he gets a “clicker,” replica pistol and stands before the student, face-to-face, gun aimed at the student’s head, execution style. The student and friend stare at each other, like western showdown that actually hardly ever happened. The friend is a live wire, watching anxiously for ANY slight sign, a “tell,” (tip-off or clue) that a disarm attempt is coming. The student tries one of the disarms, j…u…s…t barely moves and…CLICK. The student tries and tries and can’t do either of the disarms. Disillusioned, he confesses, “I guess they don’t work.” This evaluation could be very wrong because forgotten is the unusual, multi-faceted crime and war situations people are thrust in. Gun men are often preoccupied running their overall crime scenes and rarely if ever, are they in this sterile, “face-to-face,” “anxiously waiting-for-the-disarm” waiting to pull the trigger, classroom situation.
Ws&H questions for examples…
The Who Question? For the purposes of brevity, let’s loosely list a few general “who’s-who” to get you thinking about this topic. (Remember I am not a psychologist and you must investigate these typologies yourself.)
Psychopath. Someone who might kill in an instant, without remorse, without ritual.
Psychopath who terrorizes. Someone who might kill and wants to enjoy terrorizing someone. There might be a ritual involved.
Realistic actor. Someone who is not a psychopath, but is somewhat “forced” into killing you due to circumstances. He might be resigned to the act.
Reluctant actor. Someone who is not a psychopath, but is really reluctant and really “forced” into killing you due to circumstances. He might be angry or depressed and resigned to the act.
Impulse actors. Various criminal studies state that many criminals have poor impulse control.
We could of course, slice and dice these very generic characterizations forever. But anyone of these might have tip-off tells of what they will do, verbal or physical. Perhaps your best predictive luck or chances are with the realistic and reluctant actors. If a true, cold-blooded psychopath decides to kill you, they might well do so in an instant. No rituals. No tells…just boom. Imagine a hostage situation where there is food for 7 people and he has 8 hostages. Boom, a random death upon discovery of the problem. Now there’s food for 7. If a non-psychopath has to kill you, he might say or do something…specifically at the moment…that is ”ritualistic.”
The What Question? There are numerous examples of what might be said or done.
Verbal. A psychopath may say nothing, or in the terrorizing version, enjoy saying extra-frightening things. Their rituals might be very personal and impossible to understand by sane people. A non-psychopath might ask for somewhat ritualistic things like, “Get down on your knees?” or, “Lay face down,” or “turn-around.” This is because he doesn’t want to fully see or not see your face. It is old military psychology now that you are harder to kill face-to-face for most “normal” people. The reluctant’s voice may get mean with a certain resolve and resignation. This could be because he is actually angry at himself and-or the situation.
Sounds. And this in not just about voice. There is a case in Gaven Debecker’s book The Gift of Fear when a rapist left the victim’s bedroom and turned the volume way up on the living room stereo. The victim realized this increase was to cover the sounds of her murder and screaming. She managed to sneak out of her apartment while the rapist was in the kitchen to get a knife. Translating sounds. What of the sounds of loading or cocking a firearm? Opening a trunk or a van door?
Physical. Sudden deep breaths before actions. Serious facial expression changes. Some might easily be read as a resignation that the reluctant has to kill. A terrorizing psychopath might smile with an enjoyment. It has been observed in a variety of situations that someone holding a long gun at hip level, resigned to murder, will grimace and lift the weapon to shoulder height. They might elevate the pistol from low to high. They could just shoot from the hip. These are last second tells.
The Where Question? First off, a rule of survival, never go from “crime scene A” to “crime scene B.” If you can fight and resist at crime scene A when you discover a planned transport? Do so. B is usually a prepared place of torture and-or death. A psychopath might kill you anywhere, or at crime scene B. A non-psychopath might ritualistically march you off to somewhere else, and often for no real reason. It seems to be a ritual of death to do so. The back room refrigerator of a convenience store for just one example. These marches may take you to a place where there are no sight or sound witnesses.
The When Question? The brewing situation should help a victim tell if an execution is forthcoming. Understanding the overall situation can set the clock for predicting your your planned demise. Many victim can predict their eventual doom by just seeing the face of a criminal.
The How Question? How will the murder be accomplished? Are you being marched off to a cliff? The meat locker? Does the criminal or enemy have a stick? Knife, pistol? Long gun? If so, do you know the common striking, stabbing and shooting positions? How close is the killer standing? Where are you standing? Has he approached with an “angry” strutting walk and face? How will your respond?
The Why Question? By keeping close track of your dilemma, can you anticipate why you need to be killed. Whim? Delight? No witnesses? Revenge? Understanding motives. Think of an on-premise, witness to a crime. Think of a crazed spouse, violating a protective order after many violent threats, showing up at a house with a weapon. Why must things end this way? The killer usually needs a motive, whether you understand the reasons or not. Again, studies show that many criminal have poor impulse control (especially under stressful and emotional situations).
Quick summary I would like for you to think about these Ws&H points. It usually takes about 6 passes of the Ws&H questions to collect satisfactory information. You might get down to the “when” question and you realize you need to reexamine the “who” question again. And we can’t forget that crime patterns, in your region, your city or street, can be a copy-cat ritual. Examine if you will, the many gang shootings in Chicago. How do they unfold?
What might the rituals of pre-death be?
You are cornered, captured, kidnapped and-or taken hostage. Short-term or long-term, and about to killed.
Pre-assault cues can be different than pre-crime cues.
Verbal clues like tones and words.
Visual clues like facial expressions.
Sound clues like weapons preps – racking, chambering.
Area crime patterns may be involved.
Situations that history and common sense lead to executions.
Brewing, overall situations.
Has he approached with an angry walk and face?
Last request questions.
Suddenly being treated nicely. A common – “sorry, good-bye ritual.”
Being marched to questionable and isolated places with a lack of help or witnesses.
Sudden lifting of firearms into common firing positions.
Sudden lifting of sticks, bats, clubs and tool into striking positions.
Sudden drawing of weapons.
…continue to develop your own lists.
On the rituals of suicide. I have probably worked more suicides than murders through the years and they might have their own meaningful rituals and death scenes. Some organized scenes were fascinating and not appropriate for this essay theme. But, recognizing the organized suicide scene and any ritual evidence is important to classify and conclude the case, but again, suicide ritual is another subject.
But I must mention that in the police world, we are long cursed with “suicide by cop” situations. There is suicide by civilian or military also. Whether cop, citizen or soldier, these suicidal people get you to shoot them by presenting you with these same ritual of death moves we cover here, like drawing a weapon, lifting a weapon, marching upon you armed, with angry walks and angry faces. Perhaps over-acted to get your reaction! Recognizing apparent suicidal situations may save you great grief and expense later on.
My goal here in this essay is not to teach weapon disarms, but rather to translate events, see clues and tip-offs, or “tells,” before counters are life-or-death needed. Of course you must exercise all unarmed combatives to solve these problems. Standing, kneeling, sitting, grounded on top, bottom and sides. All must include knowledge of weapon operations, yours and his. All positions must include striking, kicking and what might be called “dirty fighting” or “cheating.” These survival topics transcend typical martial arts found everywhere.
The rituals of death. They are not just about what goes in a funeral mass or at the cemetery after you die. It is also about the last things killers often physically say and-or do, just before they try to kill you, and how you must learn them to stay out of the deep end of a cemetery.
(And I remind you again, I am not a psychologist. Keep researching this and make your own lists. I only wish to provoke thought and planning.)
Preemptive Strikes and Weapon Brandishing, or “Officer, The Guy in the Red Hat Started It.”
Preemptive strikes and brandishing. How are these two subjects connected? In an unarmed preemptive strike, you are detecting an impending attack upon yourself. You are making an educated or uneducated guess, smart or not smart, and you slug the other guy first before he slugs you. With brandishing a weapon, you are detecting an impending attack upon yourself, and with an educated guess or not, smart or not, you somehow display your carried weapon with just a peek or a flash of a jacket or vest, or…do a full pull out of a pistol, knife or stick.
In my Stop 1 Showdown-Standoff training module, and in the Level 1 of the hand, stick, knife and gun courses I teach, we cover sudden, unarmed attacks, and a whole lot of weapon draws. Stop 2 through Stop 6 and Levels 2 through 9 cover the mixed weapon, standing though ground, follow-ups. But…so, in the auspices of the Stop 1 boundaries, and in the Levels 1, it is imperative to discuss these two violence initiating subjects. Who does the physical initiation?
Unarmed Preemptive Strikes The topic of preemptive striking and kicking a pending attacker has always been suggested in martial systems. So many folks think this is the best idea. But there are a few drawbacks. Just a few. “Red hat” drawbacks, I’ll call them. In recent years there have been a lot of YouTube videos of superstar, fad martial artists beating the snot out of a training partner who is just standing still, hands hanging down, before them. Presumably there has been an argument to kick this off? The two are close and our hero springs forward, slaps, pokes, shin kicks and smacks the other guy down in a pile, in one second. The surrounding crowd is thrilled with his amazing skill. So amazed, I hear that he charges some $800 for a two day seminar. Where’s the “red hat” come in? It just helps define whose-who and whats-what. If the superstar is wearing a red hat, witnesses will report to the police,
“Officer, those two guys were just talking, and the guy with the red hat hit the other. He started it.”
Handcuffing ensues. Of you. I am not saying that preemptive strikes are a bad thing, they might be wonderful at times. It just can be tricky in the big picture (especially with witnesses around.)
Weapon Brandishing In simple terms, is just pulling a stick, a knife or a gun always sheer brandishing? When is it? When is it not? Like with an unarmed preemptive strike, what is the pre-draw situation? Federal law defines brandished as:
“…with reference to a dangerous weapon (including a firearm) means that all or part of the weapon was displayed, or the presence of the weapon was otherwise made known to another person, in order to intimidate that person, regardless of whether the weapon was directly visible to that person. Accordingly, although the dangerous weapon does not have to be directly visible, the weapon must be present.” (18 USCS Appx § 1B1.1)”
In Canada, a weapon is referred to in legalese as an “object.” So, one must do a dog-and-pony show on what “object” was used in the situation. Pencil? Screw diver? Tooth pick? Potato chip? Thumb? (Thumb? Actually, few, if any – there’s always one wacky place – regard unarmed tactics as a “weapon,” and the myth of karate-people required to register their hands as lethal weapons is just that – a myth.)
The US Carry webpage says, Brandishing a weapon can be called a lot of different things in different states. – “Improper Exhibition of a Weapon.” – “Defensive Display.” – “Unlawful Display.”
Retired special operations Ben Findly advises, “…‘brandishing’ or ‘improper exhibition’ or ‘defensive display’ or ‘unlawful display’ (or whatever your state and jurisdiction calls it) depends specifically on your state and jurisdiction. Very generally, however, for an operating definition “brandishing” means to display, show, wave, or exhibit the firearm in a manner which another person might find threatening. You can see how widely and differently this can be subjectively interpreted by different “reasonable” individuals and entities. The crime can actually be committed in some states by not even pointing a firearm at someone. In some states it’s a misdemeanor crime and in others a Felony. So, focus, think rationally, know your state’s law, and be careful out there.”
In other words, say you are the one wearing the red hat again. Things go bad and you try to scare off trouble. You pull your jacket back to show a weapon. Or, you pull a weapon to scare off this problem person, what will the witness say?
“Officer, they were just arguing and the man in the red hat pulled out a big ___!”
Fill in the blank. Knife? stick? Pistola? Handcuffs ensue.
A quick review of several state, weapon brandishing laws include words as legal terms like: – rude, (was the gun-toter obnoxious and rude?) – careless (was the knife-toter waving it around?) – angry, (was the stick-toter yelling and red-faced?) – threatening manner…
…threatening manner? What? For many the whole point of aiming a stick, knife and gun at a brewing bag guy is to be threatening! What then is the line between a smart preemptive strike, a smart weapon show or pull and a crime? How can we make it all become justified self defense? As a cop of three decades, I am alive today because I pulled my gun out a number of times, just before I REALLY needed it. This idea can work.
The remarkable researcher and police vet Massod Ayoob says, “When an unidentifiable citizen clears leather without obvious reason, folks start screaming and calling 9-1-1, and words like “brandishing” start being uttered. Thus, circumstances often constrain the law-abiding armed citizen from drawing until the danger is more apparent, which usually means the danger is greater. Therefore, often having to wait longer to reach for the gun, the armed citizen may actually need quick-draw skills more than the law enforcement officer.
A. Nathan Zeliff, a California attorney reports, “Brandishing – drawing your firearm pursuant to a lawful act of self defense should not be considered “brandishing”. However, if it is determined that you drew your firearm and the facts and circumstances show that you drew or exhibited the firearm in a threatening manner, and that such was not in self defense or in defense of another, then you may face charges of brandishing.”
I am not to sure this brandishing topic comes up all that much? Or not enough. So, here’s some collective words of wisdom on the subject. A collection of advice looks like this:
1: Prepare for problems by using the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why questions.
2: Avoid possible dangerous arguments and confrontations when possible. Conduct yourself with smart, self control. Leave if you morally, ethically can.
3: Obtain a valid, concealed carry license for all your weapons.
4: Keep your weapon concealed. Do not open carry it.
5. Do not display a stick/baton, knife or pistol, or threaten deadly force unless you, or others are threatened with imminent death or serious, bodily harm .
6: Do not in any way reveal your stick/baton, knife or gun, point to it, indicate that you have a them.
7: Attend a fundamentals of fighting with and without weapons training and learn the use of deadly force laws in your city, county, state and country.
Witnesses and “pointed-at, victims” can be stupid, bias and vindictive. They have cell phones and big mouths. And, don’t get caught wearing the red hat!
It has always mystified me that Filipino stick people virtually never consider from whence their stick comes from. I don’t mean the rattan farm. I mean from their body’s carry site. Like knives, the stick is just…in their hand. Poof! Magic. How did it get there, in hand, to do all their dastardly moves. Usually, it’s a belt.
I started in Ed Parker Kenpo in late 1972 and we never touched a stick.“I come to you with empty hands…” was the motto we memorized. No sticks. No stick carry site. But once in the Army Military Police Academy, I was taught the L.A.P.D. and L.A. County police baton course. It matched the NYPD version and was extensive with a ton of stick grappling back then. Now, all police stick courses are worthless, paranoid, watered-down junk, or gone.
We started the police course back then with…pulling out your stick! From your belt! So I had this grounding in stick, stress, quick draws since 1973. As with a pistol, you had to pull the damn thing out before you got to use it. It also included stick retention, because bad guys either wanted your stick or wanted to stop you from drawing your stick. Pretty important stuff.
For an example of such stress draw importance, in the 70s, I was dispatched once to two Army units brawling (on a gravel picnic ground). At least 20, 25 guys. I was punched off my feet by a soldier who did a 70s version of the “Superman Punch.” He and others landed on top of me and Superman was beating my face. I then…then…had to draw my baton from my belt. A…stress quick draw. (Did I mention the rock-gravel ground?) It is not always the stand-off, gentleman’s duel where you pull your weapon and declare, “En Garde!” Should you spend your life with a stick magically appearing in your hand? Like a pistol. Or a knife,
The same baton course was taught in the Texas police academy I later attended in late 1970s. I started doing Filipino Martial Arts in 1986. The various systems have HEAVY doses in stick versus stick. Which, being respectful, curious and thirsty, I followed the progressions. But in the back of mind I thought two main things.
From whence do these sticks come from on their bodies?
And do I really think I will be fighting another guy, with the exact same-sized stick?
I mean, as a cop, I have responded to a few fights with various impact weapons. Two dunk guys fighting with softball bats at a tournament. Two business partners fighting, one with a tire iron, the other with a crowbar. Stuff like that. It can happen, sure, but not much in civilized countries. In uncivilized countries, there is also a lot of mixed weapon fights.
I did the entire FMA courses to black belts and instructorships. I survived , committing to the idea that I was studying…an art. A hobby. With only abstract benefits. This is true of almost all martial stuff I attended. A naivety of thoughtlessly exists as you fight the other guy, a mirror image of yourself, dressed the same, same sized weapons, with the same book of techniques. Something I like to call, the Myth of the Duel. I have arrested a lot of people, and investigated a whole of cases since the 70s and real life doesn’t play out that same-same way.
But this lack of a belt and a draw concerned me as a doctrine problem. For a 4th degree black belt in Kempo in the 90s, we had to pick a traditional weapon for demonstration and scenarios. I fortunately picked the katana. I learned that Japanese martial arts concerning the Katana carry has belt-line, long-weapon retention methods I still find useful and show with modern, impact weapons. Drawing of the katana from the belt is a big deal in Japan.
While we were in the Philippines, Ernesto Presas taught a 4-count, two-stick diamond pattern, nicknamed “Chambered Diamond.” You have to chamber your arms (hands virtually under your armpits) twice in the 4-count. He said, and only once, “this is how you draw your sticks!” Okay! You start with the pattern empty handed, then the chambering hands pull a stick from each belt side and you continue the pattern with the sticks. A STICK DRAW! You have to have a belt. But, that was it.
But I will tell you, 99.5% of the time, a stick draw is never mentioned in FMA. And lots of people in FMA classes and seminars NEVER have a street belt or even a martial arts belt on to draw one from. (This drives me crazy.) The drawstring, karate pants don’t cut it. I once had a major, major league FMA person a little pissed at me when he declared that there were “no belts in Filipino martial arts.” No belts? What? Huh? Said hero had never been to homeland/motherland.
In my non-artsy, Force Necessary: Stick course, I use a lot of the old L.A.P.D. course and some of the Filipino material. It is “stick versus hand, stick versus stick (a little), stick versus knife and stick versus various gun threats world.” It very much includes expandable – collapsible batons. It has an emphasis on stick-baton, stress quick draws because as I said, that thing doesn’t just appear in your hand.
When you ignore belt or carry-site, quick draws, you forget that you must draw one and you forget to retain your stick at it’s carry site from take-aways. Weapon disarmings,
– begin at the carry site,
– happen during the draw process,
– happen when the weapon is presented only,
– happen when the weapon is being used.
On the other end of this list is you. And your weapon retention during that process. Lose it? Get it right back. Then you are the stick grabber! They call it “weapon recovery.”
I cover stick retention (and knife and pistol) in two study groupings:
Group 1: Protect the Belt.
Group 2: Protect the Pulled Weapon.
A lot of FMA stick vs. stick has disarms and counters (retention) but, when the weapon is produced (drawn) and-or used. And stick versus stick, and as I said, this comes in a hobby, art format. You have to work to glean and decipher useful, reality from it. Unless you are a hobby-ist, replicator? In which case, copy on. Copy that!
I still teach Filipino material. I am happy to do it when asked. It’s fun. But I add my concerns with it, like drawing the weapon from a belt under stress.
I ask attendees in my seminars to wear “street clothes.” Pants with pockets, even shorts with pockets. And a “street” belt. Wear a regular belt. We need all these things to train properly. Gun people might think me crazy that I even need to ask this, as it just makes utter common sense, but I deal with differing “worlds.” But, I sometimes also have to ask gun people not to dress like they are being dropped into Cambodia for two weeks.
In the “who, what, where, when, how and why of life, “WHAT are you wearing? WHY are you wearing that? And don’t forget the belt, the draw from the belt, and retention at the belt level.
Years ago, I saw a western with Sam Elliot. I can’t remember the name of the western. Two guys came to kill him at a woodsy cabin. He shot them. One survived, and Sam immediately hauled him in the cabin and started treating him for his gut-shot wound. I realized I had a nickname for a situation that might help people remember an aftermath element all gun people need to consider more and more these days…
Years ago, then and now former Dallas PD officer Amber Guyger, came home late at night from a 12 hour shift, drove into and walked through her dark apartment building, a place where some 15% of residents have reported going to the wrong apartment. Call it bad “forensic architecture.” She entered an unlocked door, saw a guy in “her” living room and shot him dead. Its a big deal in Dallas and hit the national and even international news media. A big deal because the the poor victim watching TV on his couch was by all accounts, a terrific young black guy. And we were smothered with Black Lives Matter agitators here in North Texas and controversy. So, its a terrible mistake, and she paid. She was eventually found guilty of murder and got a ten year sentence.
She testified! Which is an oddity. Under prosecution questioning and in her testimony was the fact that she did not apply any tactical medicine methods to the save the guy. And she had some very handy too in a police backpack she was carrying. She did call 911, etc. but didn’t do much for the dying right away. This received many grimaces in court. It suggests a negativity. An uncaring intent. A secret racism is claimed. It fortified a guilty verdict. This is just one example of what I am talking about
Even the military can suffer from this. Think about Navy SEAL Gallagher recently accused of war crimes and killing off a wounded teenager-combatant for one example. One of the contentions was he did not treat the wounded enemy teen properly. (Read about it in The Man in the Arena)
Trouble for the military, the on-duty and off-duty police officer. But, in a criminal or civil court what then for a citizen? Aside from off-duty Amber, it is becoming more and more apparent to me through the years that if you shoot someone in self defense, the “law” – be it civil or criminal, the carefully selected jury, the media, is going to ponder in a later calm and cool courtroom and want to know, want to ask you why you did or did not try to save the life after you shot them. Could you? Should you? Would you? Can you articulate why?
Past training for the police? We in the business have always had some medical and first aid training, however simplistic and poor, as far back as my involvement starting in the early 1970s. Not much was said about situations and who deserves what kind of treatment. And when? The practice was that the wounded (or dead) bad guy had to be handcuffed. His weapons collected-secure. We had to close in, guns up and take care of this business. I have done this dozens and dozens of times, (more with prone, “unshot” suspects) but it’s dangerous, and I cannot expect citizens to do this all the time. An ambulance was called. Not much medical attention, if any, is given to the grounded, dying criminal. We had to and still must “make the scene safe,” and we couldn’t let the EMTS in close without securing the body and the scene.
Anecdotally, in the 1980s we shot an armed robber of restaurant one night. Now it being 35 years ago, I do not remember if he was dead yet, but we took his rifle and handcuffed him behind his back, and…let him be. Ambulance called. Neighbors watching complained that we let the guy die. His mother sued the department for not treating her kid. Nothing much came of it because it was Texas and 35 years ago. If the city settled? I don’t know. I can safely say, none of us thought of treating the guy.
This “no treat concept-decision,” was more publicly challenged after the infamous Los Angeles bank robbery decades ago, in the 90s, by the two guys tacted-out, vested and with machine guns. When the second robber was shot, there was news footage of the aftermath. The cops stood around. The family of that robber sued LAPD for ignoring their son’s treatment after being shot. Due to the carnage they wrought, there wasn’t much sympathy at all. But, of course, LAPD settled $$$.
This official scene-securing is not a civilian requirement. In a way, in a biological, psychological way, I think we all can understand how people shooting a robber/attacker, are reluctant to help them. “The SOB might get kicked rather than get a tourniquet!” Don’t just say, “Well he was trying to rob me, so F____ him.” That works at the bar, or the buddy BS session. And while I certainly really do appreciate gallows humor, your words might not hang well in at the grand jury, the criminal court, or the civil court.
Police, military, citizen or otherwise, nowadays, serious gun owners spend a lot time on tactical medicine, but for whom exactly? Medical technology improved so much, so quickly, in the last few decades. I remember the wonders of quick-clot! But think about it for a moment. The general thrust of these courses had been to heal yourself, family and co-workers. Not really, not ever the criminal.
But, is it sometimes safe to move in, kick the bad guy’s gun away (or pick it up) look the bad guy over, and maybe…do something? Do nothing? Don’t care to? Too scared to look? Don’t care to look? Are you alone? Mad, scared or cared? Think about it. Sometimes, under some situations and circumstances, church or school, wedding or workplace shootings to name just four, you are thee “man”, or thee “woman,” and you may have to move in, step up. Do. Sometimes you can’t or shouldn’t evacuate.
Anyway, my message is if you shoot anyone, lest of all kill Hannibal Lector himself, someone, somewhere will be looming around – prosecution, defense, lawyers, families, political groups – trying to torture you for not immediately performing a heart transplant to save him. I don’t think this reality has fully hit total ground zero with all the gun people in USA just yet. Just calling 911 and running and hiding out in the parking lot behind a car may not be enough anymore in all situations. It is VERY situational.
Some of my smartest gun trainers and legal beagle friends say they teach rescue care. As far as medical treatment, some more thoughtful ones suggest –
* treat yourself first, then, * family, comrades, friends, then, * third, consider the shot bad guy.
So for some, the wounded criminal is somehow on the medical list to at least think about. As a professional cop or soldier, you have to monitor him anyway. You have to get close to get his weapons away from him, anyway, we have to have cuff him, anyway. Again, that’s situational. What should a citizen do? It’s also situational.
I am not laying out a mandatory list here. I am just making a point for all people to think about ethics and the interpretations of law. Should every citizen shoot and run away as suggested by numerous self defense instructors? Always? Do you shoot a school shooter in a crowd or a church shooter in a crowd , or mall shooter in a crowd and immediately head for the hills? Is the bad guy dead? Stunned? Wounded? Up again and skulking around still? What constitutes closure? What constitutes closure in this situation?
A major consideration is of course, how wounded is the bad guy? We closing-in-to-secure-police (and military) have to speculate on this as we approach. What about citizens?
Get ready for more enforcement institutions to mandate more of this medical follow-up. I first wrote this essay in 2019. Since, I’ve seen numerous and way more body cam videos of police rushing in to save the lives of the people that they just shot (black or white). They have to now! It seems everyday in the USA, legal systems are becoming more “liberal.” More suspect-driven. Prosecutors are becoming more and more liberal (thank you Darth-George-Soros-Vader). In many places it appears that the movement is turning mere gun ownership into a sin and common sense, self defense into vigilantism! (Never mind the laws of other countries. It’s too late for most).
To treat or not to treat? This is a legal (and moral?) question. Lots of my friends and police say this emergency medical treatment is far too dangerous. No way will they. Citizen, police or military, you should be able to articulate why you did or did not choose to treat the shot person these days. But proclaiming you will leave every one to die, every time, all the time, no matter the circumstances is just not smart legalese, nor smart instruction.
What I am saying now is for everyone, what of a “Sam Elliot Decision?” You will have to articulate at some point, with understandable, common sense, why you did or did not do something medical to a bad guy, if just to your lawyer so they know in conversations with say…a prosecutor about your intent. There will be situational reasons for or against. But, you’d better think about, I hope you think about this… “Sam Elliot Decision.”
We have spent a lot of time and effort to remind police and citizens to message-
“I shot to stop him, not to kill him.”
This is just a further manifestation of that messaging. To survive the civil or criminal follow-up, it is much wiser to be the person who:
“thought about helping.”
“Who wanted to try and help but couldn’t-shouldn’t.”
“Who tried and did do something.”
Rather than someone who’s doctrine totally condemned the concept. (I think this could be troublesome, especially in the future, for the person or the subpoenaed teacher. Can you hear the questioning? “So you teach that you should simply let everyone die, no matter the circumstances? Is that what you teach?)
Okay, there’s more in answering various questions coming in.
Let me close by saying this. Many training systems innocently “perceive the gunfight.” And they teach to that perception. The perception of your first and next fight is VERY important because you wind up thinking and training for that perceived fight. Many instructors worry “small” about the parking lot or home invaders and a few events like that, that of course actually do happen, but so many other crazy things happen too. Tons of crazy things. But some create these generic ABC rules off of limited perceptions and insist on this one main rule, this universal “call 9-11 and MUST evacuate for safety.” Which of course fits a few scenarios but NOT ALL OF THEM.
So, it was Thanksgiving. Distant cousin Billy is drugged up on uppers and downers and goes nuts with the big turkey knife. He starts swinging and cutting folks and you shoot him in the stomach before somebody’s throat gets stabbed. He falls down and drops the knife. The knife is removed. You call 9-11 and…leave the party like the ABCs of Instructor Johnson advised? Clear and the room and hide in the parking lot? Response time sucks, maybe 20 minutes on average. Folks at the party treat the other victim’s superficial knife wounds. They are okay and you have courageously ignored the common escape-to-safety ABCs and have remained. And all the while there’s Billy on the floor. No sirens. He’s gurgling and dying. Do you holster up and help Billy live until the ambulance arrives? Or do you let him die? (Based on a true story.) I think you should make the “Sam Elliot Decision” as this “uncle-in-law” did and help the knucklehead live for a whole host of reasons. When the EMTs arrived before the police, they were waved inside to help the bad guy. (He did live.)
I do not want to start telling these many examples that don’t fit the “A” or “B” or “C.” I write and talk a lot about your perceptions of your first or next fight. This includes your instructors perceptions of your first or next fight too. They help or taint reality. How broad are their ABCs?
You cannot think that simply calling 9-11 and leaving for “safety,” absolutely fits EVERY occasion, every time in the craziness of life.
Here’s a one minute video Lexipol advice piece on this subject for police. Many of you are not going to like it. But, I think this will grow in the legal world. Click here
“If I die in combat zone. Box me up and ship me home.”
You’ve all heard that ditty? Maybe you haven’t? It comes for most who have as a cadence – a song – we all sang while marching and running in the military. It has been bastardized, or satired and altered for various messaging. One paraphrased version we don’t see much anymore, but old-timers will remember, was popularized on some t-shirts and posters years back. It was about dying in a combat zone and having your gear split up, the words accompanied by art of a rip-shirt, commando. This splitting-up is a very good idea for several reasons, but I don’t think the commandment reaches deep enough in citizen and police training methodology.
It is a common theory in shoot-outs that drawing and using a second gun is faster than reloading your first one. This of course depends on where you are carrying that second gun, but the advice is classic and comes from veterans. Did you arrive at this scene with a second gun? Can you find a second gun at the scene? More ammo? Such is great in a firefight.
There are numerous, vitally important, physical, survival things you cannot and will not learn or get to do, if you decide to forever shoot on a paper target range and consider that practice to be the end-all to gun-fighting.
One such subject is what to do about a “drop dead gun,” or the dropped gun. One dropped by a seriously wounded or dead person. You can lecture on this, show charts, and talk it up, you can put various kinds of guns in various conditions on a bench at the shooting range and make people pick them up, make-ready, load them and shoot them (which has been done forever by clever people by the way), but the true savvy and timing of doing this pick up inside a hot, under-fire, being-hunted situation is hardly practiced on the range.
Technically, this is weapon recovery. Weapon recovery is typically discussed in inner circles when your pistol has been disarmed from you and how you must recover it. You instantly charge in to get it back while the taker is hopefully fumbling with it. Recovering disarmed weapons is a missing link in most martial art systems when students work pistol disarms. Students take the gun from an attacker, the students usually are quite oblivious to fact that that a real world, bad-guy may mad-rush in to get the gun back at a hundred miles an hour! These students often just take the gun, flip it around, fiddle with it (some instructors demand that the student tap the magazine and rack the side), not expecting the vicious counter attack and weapon recovery.
But weapon recovery is a bigger issue that just disarming and the recovery of your gun. There’s the recovery of your comrade’s weapon and even the recovery of your enemy’s weapon.
Aside from disarming, guns are dropped by accident, taken or dropped/lost in combat. Long guns and pistols are dropped with some frequency in non-combat life, of which we have no stats on, but my hunch is they get dropped from time to time. I can’t recall dropping mine in some 45 years, but I’ve seen my friends/co-workers drop theirs a time or two. And we see them drop on youtube. We also see photos and hear about such fumbles in both normal and stressful times. We see them dropped in simulated ammo scenario training. We even see them dropped at live fire ranges.
What about a fumble during a draw or inside a grappling fight? I once saw a range master, and trophy winner cop, standing before an armed training partner in a scenario. Both with gas guns. The draw! And the police instructor vet lost his pistol in the air, mid-draw. He had never drawn right in front of an armed man with a pain-delivering gun two feet before him.
I can say with some experience that four common things happen when someone holding a firearm is shot. The person:
Drops the gun, or
Convulsively fires the weapon, or
Aims and shoots back, or
Gun does nothing. The gun remains unfired in their hands.
What about the dropped weapon of a shot, severely wounded or dead compatriot? Or enemy? A “drop dead gun,” just laying there. This year, 2020 marks the 24th year that I have routinely, almost weekly, created and supervised simulated ammo shooting scenarios of some sort. Some are short and involve two people. Some are much longer and involve numerous people, all are in numerous situations and locations. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Inside and outside. Daytime. Nighttime. People get shot by whatever simulated ammo we get to use for the training session. In the briefing, I ask the people, once “shot,” to evaluate their wounds when hit. If shot in their shooting limb, then they switch hands. If shot in the leg, they limp on for a bit. If they take two serious shots, or shot in the head, I ask them to drop right where they are and essentially…”they be dead.” Playing this part is important, as you will soon read.
As the organizer, over-seer of these scenarios, as the “ref” if you will, I see so many things in all of these shoot-outs. I see things people really do when in various predicaments. These occurrences, these experiences are quite remarkable and extremely educational. And one of the many things I consistently see is teammates, running past and around their deeply wounded, still or dead, yet still armed partners. Whatever kinds of weapons we are using, Airsoft, gas, markers, Simuntions, whatever I can get wherever I am, these guns run out of ammo, gas, power or break down at the damndest instances. I want to advise, “pick up that gun!” as they run by their fallen compatriots. Sometimes they have the time to do so. But, I do not want to bark orders or suggestions to interfere in the middle of the firefight exercise. I’ve see many folks run right by other available guns and ammo. As an “invisible” ref, I wait until the after-action review to bring the subject up and still they often forget to do it the next time.
Once in a while I see a practitioner who instantly knows to snatch up his dead buddy’s gun. Either, it is something trained and remembered, or they are just that naturally gun-and-ammo-hungry to simply know this and do this instinctively. They swoop down and snatch up the weapon as they go by. This is an event that never happens in live fire range training, but rather could and should happen in real life, and bolstered in simulated ammo, scenario training whenever possible.
I might add quickly here, that weapons are sometimes attached to people by lanyards and slings, something that can be very life-saving for the original holder, but also may flummox your partner’s attempt to get your weapons once you are down and out. Know your partner’s gear. Look them over. Know your team or squad mates stuff.
Different gear? Different guns? Different ammo? In many organizations such as with the military or police, certain weapons are mandated for all in policy for good reason. If we all have the same gun, we all have the same ammo, magazines and we can pick up, exchange, provide, etc., weapons. It can make for good sense. I am not advocating for the “one-gun, one-ammo” policy, I am just reporting on it here. There is something to be said too for personalized guns, too.
When military people move into policing jobs, they often and should carry with them these overall concepts. Well, I mean, if you were an Army “clerk,” you might not take this to heart, but people trained for dangerous jobs and have experienced danger are better carriers of this idea.
So often, citizens minus this background, police management, etc. may not consider this, or not have the deep heartfelt, burn, understanding of the concept. Shooting instructors of all types may never even know to suggest this topic.
Minus police and military experiences, If you just teach or do live fire on a range, essentially that being that “clerk,” with no emotional attachment to experience, you must realize that you might be missing huge chunks of important tactics, topics, subjects and situations. You might begin to dwell deeper and deeper into repetitive “gun minutiae” within your teaching (haven’t gun magazines really been publishing the same redundant information, redone and re-shaped for decades now? Over, and over and over. Why? Why, do they stick in this redundancy when there is so much more diverse combative situations to dissect and train about?).
Two answers to these teaching and training problems. One is to continue educating yourself on real experiences. What precisely has happened to you? Your friends? Your teammates? Your neighbors? Victims? Cops? Military? Learning second or third-hand is better than not learning at all. Who can possibly experience the common spectrum of such problems? No one. We all must keep this education up. Second? Simulated ammo scenarios. Simunitions or likewise, otherwise, at some level. Take your “power point” tips and your segmented, live fire examples and move them into physical experience with safe ammo. Move them over into a stressful, interactive, situational scenarios with simulated ammo. Such are psychologically and neurologically proven better learning experiences. The experts call it “deep learning.” In other words, simply put – get off the range and do these interactive shoot-outs.
There has been something of a newer concern and movement in this “pick up” subject, as people contemplate the active shooter problem and consider picking up the guns of shot police, downed security, etc. This concern has manifested in a slight increase in related speeches and some abstract, live fire exercises. Martial arts instructors, ones who appear to have zero gun experience or limited gun backgrounds, have also organized some active shooter response classes. But when working out and testing the unarmed response methods, the attendees all bum-rush a stuntman in a helmet holding a rubber gun. I would wish that they, at least once, let the actor carry in a sims-ammo, (and this could be with very safe ammo) machine gun and let him cut loose on the crowd so that the attendees could truly experience the hideous, quick, devastation one can do with such firearms to a group. Perhaps this might be too demoralizing? Or change the strategy.
Remember that when you snatch up another’s gun? You might well not know how many rounds are left in it! Oh, and in certain crime and war circumstances, when citizens pick up the dead bad guy’s gun and the police arrive? Do I need to remind you? You look like the bad guy at first. You could be shot. Act, surrender accordingly.
But, be it that sort of “mass shooting,” or a crime or in war, in the case of the drop dead gun and simulated ammo training, a prep speech can first be made about the weapon recovery from downed and dead rescuers, teammates or bad guys. It has been my experience that once suggested in this briefing, many people do think of it when the action starts and the possibility arises. The more they do it in training? The better.
The gun may be dropped, but it ain’t dead. So, the next t-shirt or poster rant and chant?
“If I die in a combat zone? Get my ammo, guns and gear and…continue to kill the enemy.”