Category Archives: skills

martial art or art form?

This old post seemed appropriate in light of the conversation my previous post is involved in.

I find Kyudo an interesting art and an interesting subject for discussion of the term “martial art”. While Kyudo has its roots in combat archery and does use a weapon, it is obviously a spiritual and meditative pursuit rather than a combative skill. While Kyudo is called a “martial art”, I doubt that any Kyudo practitioner has delusions of being “combat effective” or believe that they are training in an art that will provide them with “street survival” skills. However I do believe that there are practitioners of various stylistic, meditative and “traditional” arts that DO believe such things. These are the people who believe that working on their “Chi” rather than their punching skills or physical conditioning will help them survive a confrontation. They are the people who think that a fight will somehow adhere to the protocols they follow at the dojo. These are the people who equate “martial art” with “combatives”.  A Kyudo practitioner is not the same as a historic Japanese combat archer. A sport fencing master is not automatically someone who could survive a real sword fight and a master in a “martial art” who has never faced a resisting opponent should not be presumed to be more likely to prevail against someone who has.

what is an expert?

Im in an interesting discussion over at:

The following is something I posted there:

“Expert” is a subjective term. Having been through ALL sorts of training from martial arts, military, LE, SWAT, Federal LE schools I can attest that there are experts and there are EXPERTS.

Seeing that more of my training now centers around the “tactical” and firearms. In this world you have experts like Todd Jarret:

Todd has no military or LE background and I doubt he has ever had to shoot anyone. That being said, LE and Mil actively seek his instruction/expertise in what he does.

On the other end of the spectrum are guys like Kyle Lamb:

Former Army Delta. “Blackhawk Down” veteran…Iraq war Vet..etc. Has shot people, has been shot at…numerous times.

While Jarret is probably faster and more “expert” than Lamb when it comes to driving a gun, Lambs instruction is coming from an ENTIRELY different source. Shooting is shooting. Jarret and Lamb are both drawing, aiming and shooting firearms…what makes one “different” from the other?

This isnt to imply that I think one is “better” than the other. LE/MIL seek them both but what they provide isnt identitical.

So what is an “expert”? I myself have been through all sorts of training, Ive won some awards and tactical/firearms competitions. Im former mil, SWAT officer, a veteran police I am an “expert” of sorts compared to others. But Im nowhere near the “expert” these guys are and likely never will be…

the mystical and the mundane

I’ve often wondered how people (especially martial artists) can consider this:

an Art with all the benefits we ascribe to martial arts (discipline, mental clarity, improved concentration, moving meditation…etc.).

While they dismiss this:

As simply “shooting”…a hobby enjoyed by “gun nuts”, right wing extremists, rednecks and “preppers”.

Not that Iaido is NOT an “Art” or that it doesn’t have those benefits mind you, but the physical mechanics of drawing a sword are not “mystical”. The discipline of a trained firearms user is little different IMO. I laugh at the idea that a sub 2 second failure drill is somehow “less” than a clean sword cut.

Don’t confuse people out shooting at tin cans with skilled shooters. There are plenty of people out swinging martial arts weapons in their back yards with no training (as we all know)…they do not seem to taint the entire pool of martial artists though.

fine..gross..lets call the whole thing off

Another interesting post over at Vuurwapen Blog. Andrew talks about one of my favorite “tactical sacred cows”…the whole “you won’t be able to do that fine motor skill in combat” meme.

I was first told about “fine motor skills” while in the military; the explanation I was given was that anything to do with using my fingers under stress was a bad idea. That doing so would not work, that I just wouldn’t have the dexterity. I was told to use the bigger parts of my hand, or my fingers bunched together, to do any sort of weapon manipulation. This, they said, was a “gross” motor skill that would be better under stress, which apparently makes your fingers turn to jello.

However, I was also taught by other people to do things like punch buttons on military radios and put tiny needles in small veins, both of which require dexterity. In addition, both are skills which might be critical to saving lives under stress (or taking them, in the case of calling for fires). I also found, on my own time, that I could manipulate safeties and slide releases just fine with my thumbs.

The author goes onto explain that in his opinion the issue all comes down to ones familiarity and recent experience with a weapon system. I agree 100%. If you are unfamiliar with a weapon, finding the small buttons and levers under stress will indeed be more difficult than grabbing a slide and slingshotting  it home. However, if you know the weapon like it’s part of your hand, it’s stupid to loose time doing “gross motor movements”.

I did some comparisons of handgun reloads back in this thread:

To be honest, I now use the slide release lever so unconsciously that I doubt I would ever do the overhand slingshot technique under stress.

Carbine Standards

The summer reloading/shooting season has opened. :)

I have been trying out Redback One’s Carbine Standard.

RedBack One Carbine standards

Preamble: The following shooting standards have been designed to prepare students for advanced training with Redback One. These standards will serve as Go/No Go for enrollment to RB1 advanced weapon training. Students should strive for 100% speed and accuracy, however the entry standard will be 80%. These standards will be conducted ‘Cold and on Demand’ on day 1 of all RB1 Advanced Weapons Training. Failure to meet these standards may result in removal from the course. The final decision will be made by the Senior Instructor running the training.
Instructions for shooting the RB1 Carbine Standards.
  1. All strings are shot from the ready positions detailed in each serial.
  2. Distance: as per requirements in each serial.
  3. Target: RB1 silhouette (preferred).
  4. Scoring zones: head box & A zone as detailed, 8” chest circle.
  5. Total score possible: 80 points
  6. Passing score: 64 points
Scoring the target:
  • Each round in scoring zone = 1 point
  • Each round outside scoring zone = 0 points
  • Rounds fired after time limit = 0 points
Serial 1 – 7 meters (Low Ready)
  • 1 round to the body – 0.80 sec
  • 2 rounds body, 1 round head – 2.00 sec
  • 6 rounds to the body – 2.00 sec
Serial 2 – 7 meters (High Ready)
  • 1 round to the body – 1.20 sec
  • 4 rounds body, 2 rounds head (A zone) – 3.00 sec
  • 1 round body, 1 round head, 1 round body – 2.00 sec
Serial 3 – 7 meters (Low Ready)
  • 1 round body, transition, 1 round body – 4.00 sec
  • 1 round body, reload, 1 round body – 6.00 sec
  • 1 round body, transition, 1 round body, reload, 1 round body – 11.00 sec
Serial 4 – 7 meters (High Ready)
  • 10 rounds body, reload, 10 rounds body – 12.00 sec
Serial 5 – 10 meters (Low Ready)
  • 3 rounds body, transition, 3 rounds body – 6 sec
Serial 6 – 10 meters (Weapon unloaded on ground)
  • Load weapon and fire 1 round to the body – 5.00 sec
Serial 7 – 20 meters (High Ready)
  • 2 rounds body (standing) – 2.50 sec
  • 4 rounds body (standing to kneeling) – 4.50 sec
  • 6 rounds body (standing to prone) – 8.00 sec
Serial 8 – 25 meters vertical cover (High Ready)
  • 2 rds body strong side cover, strong shoulder, 2 rds body weak side cover, support shoulder – 6 sec
  • 5 rounds body strong side cover, transition 5 rounds strong side cover – 16 sec

This is my second go at it and the first time I had to read the stages and shoot them that alibi is out of the way.

Result. I wasn’t tallying points just yet, I was just metering myself on my time and rounds on target so… this time I had all rounds on target with 5 outside of the “A zones” on an IPSC target. Most times were within standard but many were slow by a fraction of a second and a few by a second or more. Overall not a discouraging start, next time I will start tracking my score and see how I improve over time.

full-time attitude

English: A Picture of FBI SWAT officers. Origi...
English: A Picture of FBI SWAT officers. Origionally from (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having just completed a tactical leaders course I found myself revisiting a thought that crosses my mind from time to time about police tactical units and training. By a pretty large percentage, most police SWAT teams are “part-time”, meaning that the officers train 1-2 days a month and otherwise work as patrolmen, detectives, etc as their “full-time” job.

The thing that I seldom see addressed, in SWAT courses, literature or even over a beer with others in the tactical circles, is the issue of “off-duty” training. There’s plenty of talk about what “should be trained”, how vital PT is and how perishable weapon skills are, but WHEN is seldom addressed. Face it, formation running or group PT during a training day is nothing more than a team building exercise if your operators are not conducting physical conditioning on their own. Weapon proficiency of a SWAT standard isn’t going to be honed with the range time a part-time team gets. If a tactical unit member wants to seriously consider himself an “operator” he needs to have a “full-time attitude”. Just putting on your ACU’s and going off to your monthly training isn’t enough. Being “elite” isn’t a uniform or duty assignment, it’s what you DO. If you are only thinking about improving yourself 1-2 days out of the month than you are “part-time” between your ears.

The problem is…not all team members have the time, facilities, money or (sadly sometimes) the interest to pursue weapons training on their own “dime”. Add to it the fact that many departments (or certain key members within departments) are so risk/lawsuit averse that they wont give the departments stamp of approval to any training activity not supervised by department trainers and the result is many operators only shooting when their department provides it. Sure they get more trigger time than their co-workers who are not on the team, but not enough IMO.

Many of the best shooters I have met were good because of their personal interest in shooting/hunting. They would probably be good shooters even if they had never become cops. Fortunately many of those “types” are drawn to tactical teams within PD’s, but there are other SWAT coppers who, while not as “gun-nutty” as their brethren, would still love to shoot/train more often but are not provided with any sort of official support from their PD’s.

If it were a “my way” world and money were no object, I would love to see things like these available;

-PD ranges ran like civilian gun clubs where officers could go at anytime and shoot with department provided ammo/targets/gear.
-Departments providing their operators with take home training gear like SIRT Pistols, and/or training magazines, timers and dry-fire curriculum.
-The ability to use ranges, simulators or other department facilities without the approval of a Captain, two lieutenants, a sergeant and a letter from your mother. “If you build it they will come”…

In the end though, there are no excuses. There are things you can and should be doing ON YOUR OWN to keep up your skills.

the stuff that’s out there (aka caveat emptor)

The popularity of tactical firearms training is on the rise. Thanks to the internet, people looking for instruction in weaponcraft have many sources to refer to and training groups are easy to find with a simple “Google”.

That being said…do your due diligence. Research the people you are considering training with and compare them to other sources. Take a look at this video:

This is the same group/guy mentioned over a back in 2010.

One would think that with all the stuff available for the watching on the net, that these people would have been exposed to videos like this:

Nuff said?? I know that not all the students are going to look as sharp as the instructor, but compare the stuff they are teaching and how they are teaching it.

Now…when if you come across a web page advertising instruction in “tactical firearms” and see the teacher has all sorts of tactical/LE/military credentials, and you see the first video as a sample, wouldn’t you be skeptical when you know that guys in the second video are out there teaching too?

jack of all trades?

Japanese helm and armor, from Metropolitan Mus...
Image via Wikipedia
I just read this passage from the Hagakure:

There are many people who, by being attached to a martial art and taking apprentices, believe that they have arrived at the full stature of a warrior. But it is a regrettable thing to put forth much effort and in the end become an “artist.” In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

The way I read it, Yamamoto Tsunetomo was saying that some people look at teaching, practicing or dedicating themselves in a martial art as the pinnacle of “warriorship” but that becoming an “artist” and being a “warrior” are two different things.

He furthermore says that when learning “artistic technique” it is good to learn only enough to be proficient, but he says that only having a broad knowledge of matters of importance is “vulgar”.

I am a bit confused by this passage. The first part, where he says that it would be “regrettable” to become an artist, I think I understand. It seems to me that he is saying “look..a warrior USES martial arts to accomplish his goals…martial arts do not define the warrior. Don’t get so involved in practicing the martial arts that you forget what your job is.”

I tend to agree with that sentiment. I have stated repeatedly in my writings here that I think that simply teaching or training in a martial art doesnt place you in the “warrior class“. If you want to BE a warrior, you have to get out there and put your ass on the line FOR something. Enlist, become a Fireman, an EMT, a cop, join the Peace Corps…get out there and DO something. Even if you have no martial arts experience I believe that you are closer to being a “warrior” than someone who goes to the corner dojo twice a week.

The people who hone their martial skills, the citizens who attend every firearms school from Blackwater to Gunsite…they are training in the “warrior arts” or perhaps trying to live “AS a warrior”, which is perfectly fine and honorable. Many of them are simply enjoying a hobby, some are preparing themselves to be self-sufficient in defensive skills, and myrid other legitimate reasons. Then there are some who think that practicing the skills of the warrior somehow “makes” them a warrior, but paying to learn all the skills and techniques of a Navy SEAL isnt the “same as” BEING a Navy SEAL.

So I agree…being an “artist” and being a “warrior” are different things. Then again, perhaps I am simply interpreting this writing to match my opinion because Tsunetomo goes on to say:

In artistic technique it is good to learn to the extent that you will not be lacking. In general, a person who is versatile in many things is considered to be vulgar and to have only a broad knowledge of matters of importance.

I can read the first part  in two ways. Either he is saying; “when you are an Artist you can “get away with” learning enough so as to not be lacking”. Or he is saying; “when you are a warrior who is learning an artistic technique it is best to not waste your time honing it too much to the detriment of other skills”.

I think that the last sentence tends to support the first interpretation. As if the writer is saying “well..if you are an Artist then learning enough to get by in many skills is all well and good, but being a generalist is vulgar.”

That tends to run contrary to my understanding of what “artist” means though. I would think that the “artist” would be concerned with refining and honing every minutiae of technique, while the warrior has many skills he/she needs to do their job.

Then again perhaps the authors “artist” was different than our modern interpretation of the term. Maybe he was saying; “Martial Artists are interested in learning anything and everything to do with their art so they tend to learn just enough to be skillful in those many things. The Warrior should not worry about gaining many mediocre skills, he should focus on becoming expert at his necessary skills (i.e. swordsmanship, archery, horesmanship etc.).”

To make a modern military analogy, this is like saying a “military artist” would be someone who tries to learn about everything; artillery, airborne operations, naval operations, intelligence, infantry tactics, armor etc. As such the “military artist” gains a broad but shallow knowledge of all these skills. Its as if Tsunetomo is saying “dont be a Military Artist…focus on your infantry skills. You may not know squat about Tank Warfare but you will be an Infantry expert.”

I wish that Tsunetomo was around so I could ask him to clarify. Does anybody else have an interpretation of this passage that differs from mine?

Any way you interpret it, this passage raises some interesting thoughts about the relationship between your “mission” and your training goals.