30 August 2012

Too important to keep my mouth shut anymore Part II

For many years, I have been polite when it comes to talking about the fact that traditional martial arts and marksmanship training fail the litmus test when it comes to surviving real life violence.  Those days are over.  I have decided to stop joking about it because people’s lives depend on knowing the truth.  I am sure people who have made a particular martial art or the shooting sports as their religion will get their panties in a bunch, but before you do, understand that I am a traditional martial artist and practice marksmanship.  Both take years to master and are a lifelong pursuit of understanding and perfection I will never give up.  That said, few people will have the benefit of unlimited time and money to prepare for a deadly confrontation that can come at any time.

The good news is that by understanding human psychology, anatomy, and physiology, along with using what we continue to learn about violent attacks, you can leave the comfort zone and enter the confidence zone; all of this without spending thousands of dollars and hours.  Your training time has got to be spent training for what is most likely first, and then worrying about what could happen.

Here is what I say to the police officer, which do you do more of, shoot people or go hands on with them to put them in cuffs?  Train accordingly.

Here is what I say to the armed citizen, have you ever been involved in any altercation that did not escalate from a verbal altercation before it got physical?  Train accordingly.

Here in Part I, I will start with the problems associated with square range, live fire training when it comes to the reality of gun fighting.

I stopped buying gun magazines about a decade ago, and every so often I will be in a bookstore and pick one up and immediately remember why.  One of the most common articles is about one fighting pistol class or another.  You know a middle aged white guy, wearing a 511 tuxedo, firing a customized 1911, using a two handed isosceles grip, putting rounds into a stationary target in bright daylight, while standing still; usually with an instructor also in a 511 tuxedo holding a shot timer over his shoulder.  His custom leather is easy to see since he is usually not wearing a concealment garment. 

I am not sure that even if I did my best I could paint a better picture of the opposite of reality when it comes to situations I have been involved in, read about, investigated, or interviewed people about.  Everyone can agree that the majority of shootings occur in low light situations. Then why does low light shooting make up such a small fraction of training.  And when low light shooting is done, it is usually done with a light in the reaction side hand, because we know it is so likely that you will simultaneously draw your pistol and light during a spontaneous shooting that begins from a visual cue, instead of a buzzer.  It should not be that hard to do since everyone wears their range costume every day of the week.  Even if the majority of your holster work is not done from concealment, I am sure that if you have to draw from concealment, there isn’t any way you will get a hand full of polo shirt over your gun.  And if you do, you will not have any problems dealing with it.

When you think about facing a deadly threat, what is it that makes it deadly?  For many shooters, it is usually a gun.  You know, the classic man with a gun, out in the open, against the perfect backstop.  Have you thought about having to shoot an unarmed man off of you while you are on your back because he is smashing your head against the ground and you are losing consciousness?  Do you want the first time you have to do this to be for real?  I mean you have trained to shoot after being knocked flat on your ass, and not just laying down and then start shooting…right?

Remember to get on those sights.  Never mind the fact that over and over again in force on force training with simunitions and airsoft we find that at distances within seven yards you don’t have the space or the time to get the pistol to eye level. 

After years of training and thousands of rounds of shooting with a two handed convulsive firing grip, you should not have any problem taking your support hand off the gun to block or evade a knife or tire iron, or even holding a loved one behind you, or for that matter feeling your way around cover.

Make sure you spend hundreds of hours practicing your reloads, and malfunctions with the threat 3 yards away, instead of taking the pistol and smashing his skull in with it.

OK, OK, enough with the sarcasm.  In just the last year, between my work with military, police, and citizens, I have had approximately 1200 lab rats to learn from.  Given the fact that I have absolutely no control over the personality, background, and physical characteristics of people who turn up in classes, here are the things that stand out at least in my mind, as to what happens when people are stressed.
     Even though most people will go out of their way to have their back to the wall, under stress they will back pedal until they fall backwards on their ass or run into something.  Small things like vehicles and trees.  Upon busting their ass or running into something, they get this shocked look on their face for at least a few seconds before they recover…or in some cases quit.

·       Even when aggressed by a man with a knife running at full speed, many people will stand still, feet planted, and draw into a perfect two handed firing grip, and dump an entire magazine towards the threat.   This is 100% the byproduct of square range training where any movement off the line is prohibited.

·       When shooters have both hands on the gun and are experiencing tunnel vision, they will move towards cover and stop thinking they are close to or behind it, only to realize they are several feet or yards away from it.

·       Even at distances less than five yards, students who experience a malfunction will call a mental time out, and just stand there working on the problem as if the threat will wait until he is done.  Many will just look at their pistol in disbelief.  

·       Even though I jokingly encourage them to do so, I have yet to have a student fire rounds into COM of a live threat during a spontaneous attack at 7-10 yards from another live human, and then intentionally transition to a head shot.

·       While wearing headgear and being  punched in the head with  boxing gloves, students hands come up to protect their head in response to the shock and pain, not down to their gun.  Often it seems as though they forget they are wearing a gun.

·       During a spontaneous attack in low light conditions, I have yet to have a student simultaneously draw a light and a pistol.  If they have a weapon dedicated light, I have yet to have one be able to turn the light on.

And I am sure that many are reading this thinking that I am reporting these findings because I am just not getting people who have had high end professional training.  The truth is that people, who have the most gun training, even at the most prestigious schools whose names you would recognize, do no better or worse than their counterparts with little to no prior training.   At least in the beginning, they are usually pretty pissed off about it too.  Then they come to the realization that at least now they have the missing link, and know what they need to work on.

For those of you who have invested in a lifelong pursuit of excellence when it comes to mastering the pistol, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but instead now concentrate on how to totally dominate the three seconds of hell that is the reality of a deadly force situation.  Just keep in mind that there will be no pretty targets or trophies, just deposits in an account, that one day you will hopefully be able to draw on allowing you to come home to those who love you.

For those with little to know previous training, you are in luck, you can front load your training with the skills and reactions that will allow you to survive.  Just don’t forget to do all the other traditional stuff, take your time, and build good habits.  We also know that at altercations that take place farther away, the more marksmanship will be needed.

This and the subsequent “Too important to keep my mouth shut about it anymore” articles will be first posted on my blog, on my Facebook, and on all the forums I frequent.  I look forward to conversations about my findings, as well as comments from those who have trained with me.

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