agility, footwork and tactical application

This post is intended to dovetail with my previous post about applying simple, martial arts based footwork to firearms training.

My good friend Paul (who has posted here before) teaches a martial arts class and runs a martial arts blog too. He has been putting together some videos explaining the core concepts of the style that he teaches. His most recent post/video covers the concept of base footwork patterns:

My previous video about simple footwork patterns as applied to handgun deployment is but a subset of this more martial arts based video series he is putting together. While footwork patterns are not necessarily proprietary to martial arts…a step and turn is a step and turn…I am interested in exploring where basic concepts can intersect.


an explanation of the differences between strategy and tactics….


Image by tompagenet via Flickr

…can be found in this article over at Low Tech Combat .

Too many people use the terms ‘strategy’ and ‘tactics’ incorrectly or even talk about a particular ‘thing’ or topic as being both a good strategy and tactic. Usually, this is actually referring to a tactic but the person likes to throw in the word strategy because it sounds cool, they don’t know better or believe it somehow implies a deeper thought process and means more…

He’s right and his post goes on to give a solid explanation of what the two of them are and what they should mean to you. Go read it.


fancy footwork (not really) #2

I have posted about footwork here before. In that last post I had mentioned how martial arts footwork “tips” and patterns could be incorporated into a LE/Mil/RBSD scenario. In this post I would like to address how footwork again can be applied, this time when deploying a firearm. Watch the following video:

The static draw and lateral step are fairly simple concepts; the “cover and turn step” to face the rear is what I would like to talk about.

Note that when turning to face a threat behind me that I always step FORWARD with the weapon side leg before pivoting. This gives me the the advantage of adding distance from the threat while I am moving the weapon away from an attempted grab instead of into one.

This pivot and turn is taken directly from some Kenpo and Filipino Martial Arts instruction that I have taken. I think it’s a good example of how simple concepts from martial arts can be incorporated into “regular” training. You don’t have to be on a quest for a black belt or looking to deploy exotic oriential weapons to take useful techniques and incorporate them into your firearms training.



how dedicated are you?

Image via Wikipedia

Hayashizaki temple is dedicated to the master of the same name who lived in the sixteenth century and created the art of iai (the art of drawing the sword). During the Edo period, a great number of adepts spent time at this temple in order to fulfill a kind of vow: to go beyond the bounds of their art by devoting one or several days exclusively to the practice of iai in order to honor the gods and make progress by surpassing their own limits. Nakayama Hakudo, one of the greatest masters of iai of the twentieth century, spent a day at this temple fulfilling such a vow. In a period of twenty-four hours, he succeeded in drawing his sword ten thousand times. To achieve this, he practiced constantly, without sleeping, only drinking rice congee from a bowl placed within reach of his hand. In the temple’s registry, a considerable number of persons are listed who drew their swords between thirty and forty thousand times. The three adepts who went the furthest stayed for seven days and drew more than ninety thousand times, which is to say more than an average of thirteen thousand times a day. If we may go by the experience of Nakayama Hakudo, we can say that these adept, could pretty well not have slept in the course of seven days of continuous effort. Nakayama explains that when he trains in his dojo, he succeeds on the best days in drawing two thousand times, but then the next day he has to put in twice the effort to arrive at the same result.  Are we capable of imagining what sort of effort it look for the person who kept up at least this sort of effort for seven days? These facts help us to gauge the gap that exists between our way of thinking and living and that of the warriors. All the traditional techniques that we have inherited in the budo tradition were created through this kind of exceptional exertion of energy, which adepts persevered in over several centuries. Following the tradition, they sought fusion of mind and body by going to the limits of physical effort, until they reached the point of having the feeling that it is through the mind that the body is able to continue with its movements.

-Kenji Tokitsu, Miyamoto Musashi His Live and Writings, pg 290-291

I read this passage today and it made me think…how many of us show that kind of dedication to our craft? Can you imagine spending seven days to accomplish 90,000 pistol draws? Or devoting an entire day to doing 10,000 practice reloads?


dry-fire training tool

A shot-timer is a (relatively) inexpensive piece of kit that can add the dimension of time pressure to your dry-fire training.

A simple electronic device that features a readout, microphone, alarm speaker and a few buttons; a shot timer provides the shooter with a start signal on the press of a button (it can also be set to a random start signal) and then displays results that will tell you the time from the start signal to your first shot, the time between shots and the overall time from the signal to your final shot.

The timer relies on the sound of a gunshot to work. Dry-fire training won’t create a loud enough report to register so you will need to use the devices “par time” feature. The timer can be set to give a start signal and a stop signal after a length of time you set.

You can practice any type of dry training using this feature. In the video below I was practicing my draw and my reloads with a 1.7 second par time.

Before you start, it is wise to do a number of smooth, no pressure, concentrate on form, repetitions. Speed is a COMPONENT of training, not the entirety. You can’t miss fast enough to win. The idea is to try and push yourself to the speed/form breaking point.

If you have enough time to execute your technique without sacrificing proper form then reduce your par time. If you find yourself fumbling and in poor form, increase your time. I’m probably to the point where I will reduce my par time on the draw and fire to 1.5 seconds, but the reload drill is hovering at the “just right” speed. Sometimes I’m almost there, sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it’s fast but I’m just yanking the trigger.

If you have a computer that you can use for the purpose, you can save the money spent on the timer and go to some of the dry-fire websites that have time signals, moving targets and transition drills all on your screen.

Now go out and push yourself.


learning good things from bad (or at least questionable) people

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film)
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you are interested in the sort of things that I like to write about here you quickly discover all sorts of “interesting people” are out there trying to make a buck off of all things “martial”…some of them by doing questionable things.

I have posted about just a few of them here because I prefer to try and keep the blog focused on other things, but I have recently been reading/participating in a few discussions that brought the topic to the surface.

Anybody who is looking for instruction/information/training in the martial arts, firearms, etc. will quickly discover a whole cast of characters, some of them amusing, some of them dangerous and some of them simply charlatans.

People passing themselves off as Ninja masters with law enforcement, tactical and military experience can be found to teach you everything from empty hand combat to “tactical firearms”. Until you discover that while the guy has some martial arts experience, everything else was nothing but inflated security guard credentials and “homebrew” firearms credentials issued from a LEO buddy’s garage.

Then there are the guys self titling themselves “operators” . The types who claim years of military, LE and SWAT experience and tout thousands of “operational deployments” and a past as an NCO in a Combat Infantry Unit. Some of these guys were actually able to ride high…articles in Black Belt magazine, books, videos and seminars about “Reality Based Self Defense”. Then a simple google search reveals that the guy only did 8 months active duty as a radio operator before getting a politician to excuse him from his enlistment, the law enforcement was a short stint as a reserve officer, never on a SWAT team, 8 months as an Air Marshall (those thousands of “deployments” were flights..of which the actual number were probably more like “hundreds”…or less) and so on.

And then there are:

“Former Special Forces” vets opening firearms training schools….

Twenty-something year olds claiming to be “operators” who teach LE/Military/Special Forces etc….

And if you consider the fact that our (USA) country is involved in multiple military operations it seems likely the future will be full of “operators”, snipers, Spec Ops soldiers and SEALS selling their expertise in how you too can become a trained killing machine, loved and admired by women and feared by other men.

Back when I started this journey the internet didn’t exist, but I am certain that the things mentioned happened back then too, modern communications has just made them easier to spot. However, I believe the net has also given people the ability to easily promote themselves, so to some extent technology is driving and accelerating a lot of this.

Now… add to the mix people such as former LEO’s that were tried and convicted of fraud, money laundering and theft who, after getting out of jail opened a (somewhat well known) firearms training organization. Consider the well known weapons training academy who, while teaching valid techniques is also the subject of a class action lawsuit alleging fraud  over their “Amway style” training package/real estate deals.

In this group you can also add the elderly martial artists masters who spent years crafting a military record of WWII glory, covert operations, POW rescues and personal POW escapes…till the age of the internet started to unravel the whole affair. This type of person has legitimate martial arts skills but has cloaked it in a morass of non martial arts fabrications.

The question this all leads to is, “what is worth overlooking for learning valid skills”? Can you…should you…overlook a trainers “baggage” as long as you are learning “good stuff”? Is what these people have really impossible to find from a source with fewer issues?

Hoch Hochheim, a former Army Investigator, retired LEO and martial arts instructor wrote the following on his discussion board:

…Do we, should we learn things from bad people. How much? How deep?

On paper and at first blush, it is easy to simply say of course! yes! But, in reality, the situation goes deeper and becomes grey, confusing, and a moral and philosophical question. Is there a line to be drawn? Do the skills erase the background? How much will you accept? How much will you turn your head? Do you not care at all? These answers say as much about you as they do about the questionable people.

Do you take karate classes in your neighborhood karate class from a convicted child molester because, well, he is such a good karate teacher and he is so good at the katas?

Oh, that is quite clear cut, probably BUT! Some answers are not so…

Would you study from an abusive, neurotic instructor who mistreats people.

Would you take shooting courses from a convict, who kind of hides his conviction?

Would you attend seminars of someone who is a cocaine addict?

Would you take classes from known drug dealers?

Would you attend seminars of someone who you know that half of his credentials are completely fabricated? HALF! That means half are good!

Would you attend classes and seminars from someone who fabricated his military background? Even pretending to get lots of medals.

Do the skills erase the background? How much will you accept? How much will you turn your head? Where is your line?


What is the deciding factor that determines what you will overlook for that “good training”? Is it money? Is it just that the guy is close by..he’s “there”?  Is what he’s teaching really THAT much better than anybody else can show you? Is it because the instructor/style that you have invested a lot of your time, your money, and to some extent your “self” in is involved with this person?

Where do YOU draw the line?


Australian Rappel

Australian Rappelling in the Jungle
Image by airborneshodan via Flickr

Australian rappelling is the technique of descending a fixed rope in a standing position while facing the ground.

This technique is used to give the operator the ability to cover or engage a target below him with a weapon. It’s often used to cover an opening like a window or a patio/landing on a multistory structure as other operators approach the opening from the sides. Having done “Aussies” before, I’ve found that it’s easier to do if your rappel device is attached to your harness with multiple (locking) carabiners or even a stitched loop of webbing. This extends your balance point out a bit and helps prevent tipping forward and possibly falling out of our harness. A chest rig would be a good investment if you plan on doing this.

Braking is done by bringing your rope hand in towards your torso/chest and is released by extending your arm out to your side.

As your entire body weight is facing downwards there is a significant amount of pressure placed on your lower abdomen where your harness rests, and the need to keep your back and neck flexed to maintain position can be taxing. Compared to the ability to “sit in harness” that you have in a normal rappel, the “Aussie” is not a position you will want to stay in for an extended period of time.

In Australia, the technique is not commonly known as “Australian”, or even “rappelling”; instead the term “abseiling” is more commonly used and the technique is referred to as “Geneva” style

Me “back in the day”:


show or go?

I like to play around with the Balisong as a “thumb twiddling” exercise. I don’t own a sharp one, I don’t carry one on me and to be blunt I think that they are more valuable as a manual dexterity developer than they are as weapons. However, as I was sitting on the couch manipulating one it dawned on me that an analogy for martial/tactical training could be found within so I recorded a few opening/closing techniques.

The beginning of the video shows all you really need to learn to actually USE the Balisong. How to OPEN and CLOSE the knife. There are other basic techniques for reverse grip openings but these are the big two.

The end of the video shows some “fancy” openings; which while fun and if done right can be impressive to watch, are really just examples of “juggling” in my opinion. The risk of fumbling, dropping or otherwise screwing up are just too great to really consider them for actual combative applications. So why do people do them?

Well, I suppose that for very skilled manipulators the “psychological” factor could come into play…scare your opponent with your display of prowess. I also suppose you could argue that these sort of openings could be used as “oh shit” recoveries from a fumbled opening. You loose your grip and manage to catch it between fingers so the twirl could be a recovery. But IMO what I think they really are is an evolution of  “martial display” that at one time had roots in real combative applications but are now simply displays of skill that have become void of everything except “flash”.

The comparison of these knife openings, basic to “flashy” brought these two videos to mind:

Compare that to this:

While none of these men have likely ever used a Katana in an actual swordfight, I believe that one example is FAR closer to showing a realistic application of the tool versus the other…you?

And I don’t think this analogy ends with the use of bladed weapons. If you think about it, how many examples of “fantasy gunplay” have you seen floating around? I can recall a few examples I have posted here recently. How about some of the martial arts systems being taught out there? While I don’t claim to be an expert in all things martial, I do think that it’s possible to SEE the difference between SHOW and GO if you are willing to look, and are able to separate reality from fantasy.