01 December 2016

Self Awareness- things can change in seconds

We spend a lot of time talking about use of force in classes.  Many citizens believe that use of force only applies to law enforcement.  That could not be any further from the truth.  The difference is that every police department has a use of force policy that all officers are educated on, but not necessarily trained on.  This is the reason so many people end up getting shot.  The majority of agencies have inadequate force on force training, much less force on force training, that allows them to work through different levels of force.  As a citizen, you will be held to a different standard but will have to answer for ANY force you used, without the benefit of a use of force policy.

For the citizen, a personal protection program and personal use of force are as unique as a finger print.  A large part of that is the ability to always have a real time assessment of your capabilities.  Because we teach Tri-phasic Combat Concepts, ( a fancy way of saying standing and striking at distance, contact distance/clinch, and ground survival with open hand combatives, edged weapons, impact weapons, and the pistol), the issue of getting knocked or falling to the ground during a confrontation often comes up.  Courts have held that if you are disabled and being attacked by an able attacker is one of the things that may allow you to escalate your level of force (if you have the skills to do so, that is).

My usual example is that if two people involved in a confrontation and one guy falls backward onto concrete. At the moment he strikes the ground, he is disabled because he cannot stand.  Unless he knows how to fall (and few do) he is likely to suffer temporary paralysis from impacting his tailbone.  This can last seconds, minutes, or forever.  So he fell down, and can't get right back up.  That is bad enough by itself, but suppose the other guy follows him to the ground.  As a use of force instructor and having busted my ass one good time on a concrete floor when I was 12, which caused the previously mentioned temporarily paralysis and excruciating pain, if this happens to me I would be thinking of how to use deadly force, with a firearm or without.

The above is the simplest way I can see this happening in a conflict.  The truth is that most personal injuries and limitations are not that dramatic.  Last Sunday after church, as is our habit, we were cleaning up around the house rocking out to 80's music on Pandora.  While dancing around, I began to play tug of war with my 15 week old Olde English Bulldogge Odin.  In a split second, I had aggravated an already herniated disk and was unable to stand up all the way.   Today, four days later, I am at about 80%.  I was worthless on Monday and Tuesday and had to have Rich teach Tuesday's class.  I was also forced to take a week off from the gym.  I was pretty PO'ed since I had not missed a workout in four months.  I plan on teaching tonight and then back to the weight pile with some adjustments on Tuesday.

Even though I was injured, there were still things that I had to do.  While doing so, I had to adjust fire in reference to my Personal Protection Program.  It was even more important that I kept Vertical Stabilization in mind.  Vertical Stabilization is incorporated into environmental awareness.  The idea is that in the event of a confrontation, you make the habit of trying to never be more than arms distance from a vertical surface such as walls or a vehicle.  This greatly increases your ability to stay on your feet while insuring that you don't fall backwards striking your head or back.  I also had to decide that I would use a higher level of force much earlier.  As I have written about before, it is always best to stay off the ground if possible.  Already injured I would have a difficult time getting up, not to mention that any impact on the ground would likely increase the injury.  After walking away, and verbal commands, open hand combatives (if withing range) are my go to if attacked.  But with my back I could not afford to twist or be pulled off balance.  So my thought would to block any attack with my hands while kicking shins as hard as I could until their head was knee level.

It took way longer to write the last paragraph than it did to adjust my program (seconds after injury).  The reason why it only took seconds was because I had a program to adjust.  Had my injury not gotten better I would have carried a cane as a force multiplier until it did.

Keep in mind that it is not just physical skills, it is also tools.  Last week we did an Intro to Low Light Tactics Course.  Many of the students don't carry firearms, or cannot carry them while at work.  As an example of how you need to adjust things based on needs and abilities I explained that when I am carrying a handgun my light is on my support side, but when I am flying it becomes a secondary impact device so it is carried on my strong side.  It is secondary unless it is in my hand.  My primary impact device is my pen in the collar of my t-shirt.  By doing this, I have an impact weapon above and below my belt line.  If someone mounts me on the ground and my other tools are covered, I can still deploy my pen and go stabby to their face.

The bottom line is that you need to consider your needs and abilities and not worry about what DEV Group is doing.  You need to make everything work for you.

21 November 2016

Mental before physical

The other day I got a message from a buddy on Facebook.  He is a policeman in NJ and I worked with him when we were both Combat Skills instructors for the US Air Force Air Adviser Program at Ft Dix NJ.  He said he was contacting instructors across the country for advice on putting together a 40-hour control tactics instructor course.  I said I would think about it and get back to him, but in the meantime, I would suggest a block on mental and physical readiness.  He wrote back saying that most of the time people either have it or they don't.  That is often true, but it can be redefined.

Anyone including military, law enforcement, and the Citizenry who by profession or just choice chooses to prepare for interpersonal violence that they know not the time and place of must develop proper mindset. Many incorrectly believe that the fighting mindset is the foundation of that mindset.

In law enforcement, we talk about going making sure you go home at the end of your shift.  That is important, but it is more important for every person to arrive home at the end of their day as mentally, spiritually, and physically whole as possible.  It all comes down to longevity and balance.  If you make it home but are so wound up that you cannot enjoy your family and friends along with what you have worked for, why bother?

To stay mentally sharp and physically ready, you must adopt a when/then and not an if/then mindset.  You need to learn to use your intuition and past experiences to anticipate events and people's actions.  Find efficient and economical solutions to challenges you face every day from rude and passive aggressive coworkers to what time to go to the gym to be able to get on equipment you want when you want it.

In Steven Covey's best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, my favorite chapter is #3 "Putting first things first."  He discusses the four quadrants that I will bastardize here for my own purposes.

Quadrant 1- Crisis (both real and manufactured)
Quadrant 2- Handling things to prevent them from becoming a crisis.
Quadrant 3- Being interrupted by other people's manufactured crisis that takes you away from quadrant 2.  Basically distracted by others.
Quadrant 4- Time wasters such as TV and Facebook.

Almost all crises are manufactured by the action or inaction of an individual or group.  Sage advice says to change the things you can and recognize the things that you can't.  The same goes here.  Not only do I try to spend the majority of my time in quadrant 2, but I prefer to associate with others that do the same.  These people are seldom caught off guard or taken by surprise.  As mentioned, they use their intuition and experience to predict uses and already have strategies in place to deal with them.

The majority of our society not only lives in quadrant 1, but they are addicted to it.  There are things that they routinely face that they treat as if they have never experienced it before.   They respond with emotion, usually rooted in fear.  They become fixated and fail to see the options that surround them.  If this is the way they live their daily lives, how would you expect them to respond to something they have never encountered before?

Sometimes to teach someone something else that works for you, you have to step back and unravel why and how it works for you.  To me, every day starts off with me running back taking the ball.  The only thing I have my eye on in the end zone as I concentrate on holding on the ball.  Problems and challenges big and small are defenders trying to keep me from that end zone.  Some are big and slow and some are small and fast.  My head is on a swivel to keep me from being blindsided.  Some I can outrun,  some I just spin out of their grasp, and some I just rush through.  I do my best to stay in the middle of the field and not run or get knocked out of bounds.  If I do get tackled or blindsided, I do my best to keep my knees off the ground.  If the ball is fumbled, I do my best to recover it.  If I get tackled or lose the ball, I don't dwell on it because I will get the ball again tomorrow.  I don't let bad carries stack up on my mind because it would take my mind off the next carry.  You have got to be resilient and willing to take the ball.  The more you carry the ball the better you learn to anticipate and make choices based on intuition and build successful habits.

Personally, I am a very methodical person.  When I was doing drug interdiction on RT 40 in Maryland between Baltimore and Philly, I stopped lots of cars.  From choosing the location of the stop to the way I approached the car, I always did it the exact same way.  I was the one who set the tempo of the stop.  I created the lines and they were very narrow.  When a suspect crossed them in the smallest way, it set off my alarm bells.  The more familiarity you have with an environment or a practice, the faster you can identify things that are not right.  You have to be confident, calm, and ready to respond to what you are hearing, seeing, and feeling.

If your personality is one of turbulence and looks like stormy waters, how can you notice even if a boulder is dropped into it?  But if you are still and calm like a lake, even the smallest pebble creates massive ripples.  My Sensei called this "Calm in mind, swift in action".

Whether it is the police or the citizenry, we are obsessed with new toys and technology and ignore the cultivation of the greatest wonder the world has ever known, the human mind.  Without it, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.

All the physical skills in the world cannot make up for a poor mindset.  What should we look for in police and ourselves?  People naturally recognize challenges a mile away and immediately form nonphysical options.  This habit allows them to recognize when force is the only option and to not hesitate in its use.

20 November 2016

Tactikewl Nonsense

Found this gem of a picture in one of the $8 tactical rags at the grocery store. Please don't take all the nonsense you see in magazines, TV, and Youtube seriously. Look for lack of common sense. You know things like being all tacked out to go dragging your toddler through the house in search of an intruder (much better idea than sheltering in place and using your knowledge of the house to cause a bottleneck / fatal funnel) but without shoes on,. If the little things are wrong, you can bet the big things are. Several people looked at this picture and decided to include it in this "instructional" article.. Here's your sign.

16 November 2016

Strategies for Mom's with Kids

This topic gets asked about during classes, so I figured I would post about it.  In many families Dad is seen as the protector, but the protector can only protect when he is around.  The reality is that Mom is the one who is always hauling kids around.

Moms are always going to be the #1 protector of the kids simply because of the amount of time they have them.  Self-defense skills are great, but even the good ones are more for protecting yourself and maybe other adults, not kids who are going to be a hindrance during any altercation instead of an asset.

The first thing for Mom has to be mindset.  The mindset needs to be that you are a bodyguard.  When we hear bodyguard, we think of a highly trained guy protecting someone by force.  The truth is, and any bodyguard will tell you, is that if they have to use force at all they view it as a failure.  Their two biggest tools are Awareness and Avoidance, not Aggression.  Making a habit out of the first two is a good thing, making a habit out of the latter is not.

The things a Mom with kids needs to be safe are time, space, and movement.  As hard as it can be, that means giving you extra time.  For example, when going for a doctor’s appointment, give yourself some extra time to circle the parking lot.  By doing so, there is a good chance that you may find a parking space closer or in a more populated area.  That means less ground cover with the kids which equals less exposure, or less chance of being approached because of witnesses.

The number one key to survival is the ability to move away from a threat.  This means if you are holding a little one, or have one by the hand, and for some reason feel confined or that your movement is otherwise being restricted, make a habit out of moving.  Never put yourself in a position where you are boxed in.  For example, when you take the kids to a restaurant, do your best to always sit close to an exit, especially one that you can see where it leads to.  At the first sign of a threat, grab your kids and get out.  

Now for the big one, putting kids in car seats.  During daylight is less of an issue to park around other cars, but at night it provides cover for criminals.  You want to remove someone’s ability to sneak up on you while you have your back turned while buckling in the kids.  If possible, try to park in such a way that you are not surrounded by other vehicles.  When the situation dictates, you should always have a flashlight to look around the perimeter of your vehicle to see if anyone is around or in it before you approach.  Another sound habit is to hit your panic alarm for a few seconds.  This can get a would be bad guy to leave, while at the same time attracting witnesses to you.  It is good to be heard and seen.  Take a look around, knowing how long it takes you to get the kids settled in the car, how close is the nearest cover for a bad guy to sneak up on you?

Put your older kids in the car first and tell them to be the eyes in the back of your head.  They can let you know if anyone is walking up behind you.  This is also a good life habit for them.

As for the aggression part of the equation, that is something Mothers are born with.  Just remember that you don’t want to fight the attacker, you want to stop the attack.  Because of the kids, it is likely not an option for you to run away, or if you do it will take time.  Your counter attack must overwhelm, shock, and stun the attacker.  The best way to do this is by attacking the face with your hands or hopefully something like a pen or flashlight.  Do your best to smash the eyes, nose, and mouth with repeated strikes.  If the opportunity presents itself, use your instep to scrape down their shin before stomping the bottom of your foot onto the top of theirs.  If you have the opportunity to slam a door on them, or smash their head into a vehicle or wall, do so and do it repeatedly until you can safely get away.

In most cases, it is not the kids they want, you will be targeted because they know you are distracted by the kids.  You need to realize that you are the last line of defense and that if you get knocked out, or removed, your kids will be alone or unprotected.

Remember 911 is for reporting an emergency, not preventing one.  That is up to you.

04 November 2016

Using your keys for self-defense

Over the years I have been asked this question hundreds of times, always from ladies.  Either they learned it from a "friend" or in a self-defense class.  But in the last two days I have had at least three women ask me about it in and out of class.

The idea of an improvised impact or edged weapon, and a key can be both, is either to puncture soft tissue or concentrate force on a small surface area to increase trauma on hard bony targets.  Using keys in this fashion accomplishes neither.

None of the keys are braced against anything and are mostly at an angle.  Upon impact they will push back as hard against your hand as the target you strike.  The other problem is that people are normally instructed to use this to hit the attacker's face.  The problem is that his arms will likely be up and over yours requiring your to reach up and between them in an attempt to strike.  During a real attack your hands will most likely be coming up from your sides in reaction to the attack.

                                                                                                                                                                    Instead, use your biggest key, or better yet purchase a big blank key just for this purpose.  Pinch it between your thumb and first finger.  As they reach in for you target their ribs.  A few good stabs
there will bring there hands down.  Then you can go for other targets if you need to.  Try this on pizza boxes or better yet all the pumpkins that are laying around.

03 November 2016

Palm strikes instead of closed fist strikes- Why?

We teach palm strikes/smashes instead of closed fist strikes for several reasons.  Fist of all a closed fist is not designed for impact on hard surfaces.  Yeah, you can do it once in a while but if you make a habit of it your luck will run out.  If during an altercation you do incur a fracture it will swell up like a balloon and may stop you from using that hand due to swelling and/or mechanical injury.  It looks like crap when you hit someone with a closed fist.  On the other hand the base of your palm was specifically designed for impact with hard surfaces.  That is why you use them to break your fall when falling forward.  The palm smash is most effective from the "get back" palms facing out position and there is little telegraph.

It is all about self-defense with self preservation.  Hurt them without hurting yourself.

Verbal commands- why they need to be part of your training

It has been about three months since our combatives classes really got going at MCS York.  Now we have a great core group of men and women from all ages and all walks of life.  Backgrounds range from no training experience at all to instructors in traditional martial arts.  One of the things that we do to add realism to what we do is encourage students to use verbal commands even when doing drills, not just scenarios.  Interesting, getting people to yell, both men and women, has proven to be one of the most difficult things.  For those that have trained extensively in firearms and were taught verbal commands for that skill set, they do not transfer well to an open hand confrontation in which you have no justification to present, much less use deadly force.

Verbal commands are a very interesting thing because speech is not a natural response during the FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE response.  That is why when you are really pissed off you often stutter, misspeak, or cannot get any words out at all.

Commands have to be easy to remember, concise, and instructive.  For that reason, we most often use "GET BACK".  It is strong and can actually be shocking when people use their big boy/girl voice.  The longer and more complicated you get, the more likely people are to vapor lock and not say anything at all. Once these simple words become an ingrained part of your stress response, you can move on to other things.  Benefits of effectual verbal commands include-

  • Force you to breathe
  • Create verbal witnesses that become visual witnesses
  • Momentarily stun your attacker
  • Help you trigger your physical response
  • Gives your attacker an option to stop before you are forced to use physical force
  • Helps to unlock the physical aggression we all have inside of us
If you don't intentionally make verbal commands part of your training, you will not use them in a real situation.