Sunday, August 30, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
He is an up-and-coming lieutenant in a foreign service. He heard a story about something I did the week before and so he tracked me down to ask about some one-on-one training time. He wanted close-quarters handgun. Or knife throwing. Sigh. We went with the handgun. Four count draw, dry fire, firing from retention, moving and shooting, scanning. Because he was a leader we also went into how to train: faults to watch for, what would happen if his men ever needed to shoot as a team.
At one point he threw up his hands and said, “I am so angry. Everything they taught us was wrong!”
If you look, you’ll see that that one statement has driven a number of recent posts.
To an extent, people read what they either want or expect to read. Many people have interpreted MoV as a scathing critique of traditional martial arts and think that I’m attacking them here. Sometimes. But I wouldn’t stick with something for (OMFG! It will be 30 years soon! How did I make it to this age?) so long if I thought I was wasting my time.
Back to the lieutenant. What he had learned at his basic training were the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship. They weren’t wrong, they were just incomplete. Beginners need to learn safety. It’s stupid to accidentally kill yourself. They need to get some feeling for success and how the weapons work, so they become a stable platform. They learn grip and sight alignment and sight picture and breath control and trigger press.
They learn these fundamentals in a context that makes it easy for the instructor to monitor and easy for the student to correct- good lighting, good footing, hearing and eye protection, safety monitors and not moving.
Those environmental basics are rare as hell in real life. Gunfire is loud and muzzleflash can be blinding in low light. Often not only is the footing bad, but it may be too dark to tell how bad. And you’d better damn well be moving unless you already have good cover. If you do have good cover, think about moving anyway because the threat should try to flank you. And cover geometry can be counterintuitive- cover is often better the farther you are away from it. Said it was counter-intuitive.
There are details that came at a price- when and how to fire from retention; why the weapon should be canted out when at retention. Details that aren’t on the beginning syllabus.
Combat shooting, whether raiding or counter-ambush, is a whole different animal than range training. Honestly, range training is probably closest to assassination skills, which aren’t that useful for good guys.
And there are things that work very well on the range that are ineffective in real life. I was a weaver shooter for decades, trained that way from a pup. But there are three significant flaws in the weaver- it is almost impossible to maintain while moving. It points the biggest hole in your body armor (armpit) right at the threat. Most damning is that according to research no one has been able to pull it off in a firefight. An assassination maybe. I wish I could reference the study (library not here!) but in reviewing all the videorecorded gun encounters he could get (which I had a hard time believing was a lot…), the researcher couldn’t find a single one where the person fired from a weaver, even if he had trained weaver for decades. (Some corroboration from, if memory serves, "Men Under Fire".)
But that doesn’t make dojo or range training wrong. I go to the range. I practice my dry-fire and failure to fire drills. When I have access to a good instructor, I go to my martial arts classes. Nothing is wrong, but it is incomplete. So when I practice my dry fire, I know what I will see when the projectile hits flesh and I know what it will do to my mind and body- because I have experienced it. Once. When I go to classes I know when I am practicing moving and when I am practicing breaking people. Often, in my experience, the instructor does not know that crucial difference.
It gets wrong for me in two ways: when the students insist that what they do is what there is. When they are taught that the real world changes nothing (One of the best grappling instructors in the world talking to a room full of LEOs: "No, we've never actually tried this in body armor and duty gear, but that wouldn't change anything." Sigh), that there is a one-to-one correlation between the skills they practice safely with their friends on their nice clean mats and being ambushed by someone who uses violence professionally or is in a rage. The other 'wrong' is when the techniques become centered around the artificial aspects. Altering techniques for safety is inevitable, but when the altered technique becomes the right way and the effective technique becomes the wrong way, it doesn’t work for me.
So I practice the pieces with as much awareness as I can of the totality, and the absolute certainty that there is a lot of that totality I haven’t seen yet and I will inevitably fail and have to improvise.
One of the best things about the recent contract was the opportunity to meet people who had been exposed to many things that I have not. When an experienced operator talks about firefights or senior members about getting blown up (colloquial for getting hit by an IED) or getting caught in a middle-eastern riot, I listen.
There are things I have trained for and read about that aren’t quite right. They seem fine until someone who has tried it under fire points out the fatal flaw. There are issues of context- (e.g. the rule for standard convoy ops/witness protection/high-risk transports is to abandon a disabled vehicle because they are bullet magnets. That’s different when your vehicle is armored. That changes a lot of protocols). There are also issues of level and intensity.
Sometimes very high-end skills are qualitatively different than regular high-end skills. It takes a paradigm shift to make that leap to the next level. A sniper doesn’t touch the rifle the way a hunter does.
And intensity. You can go ostrich and hide your head in the sand, but until and unless you can walk a 4x4 suspended between 17-story buildings as easily as you can do it at ground level, everything you have trained will be hardier, scarier, slipperier and less effective when it is real.
That’s easy to deny, too, because there is a lot of bullshit out there. Things that are told and passed on from student to instructor that don’t make a lick of sense if you think about it for even a second- like a 90% one-shot stop ratio for a handgun. For the statistic to even be possible 90% of shootings would have to be one-hit affairs, which we know isn’t true. But someone you trust told you and you had your ‘sensei is always right’ hat on and went into child mode.
That’s where I’m going with this. If your training is a religion or a talisman for you, you’re wasting your time here. If your panties get in a twist because I’m attacking a portion of your identity, you probably won’t be happy reading this stuff. Because I don’t care about your twisty panties. These are just observations from the field and connections that I’ve made. Take them, use them, skip them… whatever. Because you aren’t wasting my time. I’m writing this for me, this (whatever 'this' is on a given post) is what I am working on or working through right now. Chiron is where I do my thinking out loud.
There are lies to children. It came up in comments a while ago. If you need a bedtime story to make yourself sleep better, that’s not what I’m providing here. If you want clean, easy answers, I’m sure there is a ‘master’ somewhere willing to sell you some. I respect you as adults- to be able to deal with messy stuff with no right answers and high stakes; unsatisfying endings that would never play on a made-for-TV movie; ambivalence; the uncertainty of complexity.There are other voices writing and talking about this stuff- almost for sure someone is closer to what you want to hear.