Dark Holes

“All Dark Holes Have Guns.”

Ken Good, Strategies of Low Light Engagements.

Reflecting on this during events of the last few weeks. Ken talks about dark holes having guns when he is explaining the second principle of lighting, Operate from the Lowest Level of Light.  He and his crew developed the idea working in the darkened below decks of ships: I’ve trained on ships as we have a small commercial port in our city and include this as part of our yearly training rotation in the event something occurs there: the surfaces are very hard and irregular and the holes are very dark and there are a lot of them.

We deal with dark holes in our day-to-day as well. Take a look at the front of your house, for example. In the light of day, walk outside and take a look at how many dark holes you see staring back. How many of them could someone be standing in, a few feet back from the window, and watching you while completely unobserved?

Or at night, how about with your security lighting? You pull into the driveway and the motion light goes on, lighting up the front of your garage, the interior garage light goes on, and the person inside a darkened upper story window can watch you in the Pool of Light while they are unseen by you.

Live out in the country? The long driveway through the woods, to the clearing, by the creek?

Your home is an Island of Light surrounded by a Dark Hole, which has eyes, and could have guns. I have the experience of that all the time, inserting at o-dark-thirty prior to warrant services- even watching folks shooting heroin at a drug house just prior to the announcement of police, they completely unaware anyone was outside the window. Once of them even looked outside directly at the team walking up, and saw nothing. And once I had the surreal experience of standing outside a window in the pitch darkness of a starless night, with no outside lighting at all at a house surrounded by pastures, looking into the lighted bedroom where a suicidal man was laying behind a bed, wedged between the edge of the bed and the sliding mirrored doors of a closet. We were a few feet off the window and in complete darkness, but could see his feet, and his position through a partial reflection in the mirror. And that he had a rifle and that the muzzle was probably in his mouth. We could not see his head or face but only the top edge of his arm and shoulder and leg, and his feet were directly visible from the other side of the bed. Never knew we were there.

There are more – tinted windows in vehicles are dark holes, potentially very dangerous ones. Or shiny ones, where reflection and glare prevent seeing inside. Like sometimes at a storefront, and depending on the angle of observation. Always remember just because we can’t see outside-in doesn’t mean they can’t see inside-out.

Window coverings as well are either opaque or covered holes, and one can peek through a hole in blinds while standing right up against them while no one outside can see in.

Just an observation  – there, I did it twice in one post – of things that we must repeatedly remind ourselves of. Or make those around us aware of, whether family members from a self protection point of view or fellow professionals dealing with reports of violence and guns inside darkened environments.  I’d recommend Ken’s book as a good place to start for more information on operating with and within the dark and the light. But the best of practice is in keeping such things in mind in the every day.


Fear and Fortitude

“Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood.”

William S Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Fear exists at the core of so much of  what we do. Most in our modern society have little need to summon physical or even moral courage when there are truly meaningful consequences: death or serious injury or the loss of livelihood or social status or support systems for standing up for what is right.

Two books addressing the development of the kind of courage needed to do just that, particularly in soldiers and “other professions that go in harm’s way” are:

Conquering Fear – Development of Courage in Soldiers and Other High Risk Professions


Power of Courage in Combat and Danger

both by Halim Ozkaptan Phd, Gen. Crosbie Saint (Ret.) and Col. Robert Fiero, (Ret.).

Essentially they are the same book, the latter an expanded version published later, with Appendices and more background information. It -let’s actually call it the same book – is specifically addressed to Army leaders interested in the elements of fortitude, and instilling, developing, and maintaining it in combat troops.

Essentially it boils down to character and courage – the “strength of mind allowing one to endure pain or adversity courageously,” which of course applies to anyone hoping to manifest personal integrity in times of danger. Liberal use is made of historical quotes providing examples defining the topic, offering perspective and wisdom from times past, and confirming that we have known for a long time how to develop fortitude in people…

It’s just that the prescription is hard to swallow.

The book breaks it down into leader training, individual training, and collective training. Specific to military applications, most of what is discussed is universal. There will be nothing groundbreaking for those in the Multi-disciplinary/Interdisciplinary tactical training world, spanning as it does the elements of sound character traits and actions of the leader, inculcated personal ethics and knowledge, and skills and physical attribute training. All are spoken of in general, though a few specifics are mentioned in passing: specific symbolism, rites of passage, and esprit de corps; the difference between leadership and management (spot on, this bit!), sports and games (“boxing, judo, wrestling and pugil sticks”…sense a theme?), maneuver training, etc. Each is attached to a particular realm: leader, individual, and team training, and all are geared toward allowing the individual warrior to manage fear under duress, as well as just going about life with integrity and resilience. The effects of military life and of managing fear over time and with repeated exposures are addressed at length.

As a collection of general principles for developing fortitude through constant attention to training the inner self as well as leader and warrior skills, or as a resource for anyone who is in a position to lead others into combat, this book has much to offer. It could stand some editing, and once again, while nothing earth-shattering is presented there is often value in having our belief systems – and life path – confirmed.


It should be said…


“It should also be said that it is not good for others and does harm to ones’ self to simply remain tranquil and speaking like a three year old child, never becoming angry, bearing rancor, or deploring matters when one should.

This also goes for letting situations pass by when one should definitely speak his mind to another, in the end becoming known by all as overly accommodating.

It is a good thing to keep one’s mind tranquil, yet to speak what one should when there is a situation that should be reprimanded, and thus not become known as completely mindless.”

-Shiba Yoshimasa

Cop Criticizes Gracie Survival Tactics

At Jiujitsu Times a Facebook Fracas is being highlighted when Fletch Fuller, a BJJ black belt and veteran LEO and trainer, took GST to task…

While personally I’d like to see a bit more substantive a critique, I do like an officer challenging the status quo, and there is a strong element of marketing in the GST Breakdowns. Props to Rener for putting his money where is mouth is and inviting Fuller to free training AND paying for the flight – I’d jump at that.

That honestly could have a positive outcome for BOTH sides.

I’ve never done GST, I know some who have, and heard different things. Personally watching some of Rener’s Breakdowns and what he shows, I think some of GST is fine, and some needs some tactical tweaking: you never see him in actual gear, he still uses submissions and gives up position where it is not tactically sound (making it not so different as ping-pong is from golf), etc. Nothing new to anyone reading here.

But Rener at least seems open to an exchange of ideas.

A question arises: Rener writes:

Fletch Fuller Unless you’ve done GST with me or Ryron, you haven’t done GST. The course is free regardless of whether you love it or not. Also, we’ll pay for your flight and your hotel. You have nothing to lose.”

Uhhhhh, if that is the case what then are the GST certified instructors teaching? What, then, are they being certified in?

The comments on the JJ Times article at least are hilarious. I avoid Facebook, and can only assume they are likewise there.

I applaud both men: Rener Gracie who, despite whatever marketing angle there is, seems to legitimately care about LE and society enough to publicly bring up some critical issues regarding police training that do not receive enough attention from those within the police community, and offer a workable alternative…

And Fuller, a veteran cop and trainer who cares enough to publicly bring up his concerns. One can only hope more comes of this.

My challenge to Rener would be this: As you have “put up” and challenged Fuller to learn more about GST, you can do more and become a reserve police officer. Your intelligence and enthusiasm on this subject, as a layman, is a worthy endeavor and perfectly in keeping with the spirit of jiujitsu as a defensive art. I think the LE world could only benefit as you gained direct experience and felt what it was like to face the challenges we do not on the mat, but on the job.

NW CQC Debrief: Tulsa PD Fight

Tulsa PD takedown of armed subject – this is very well done and a testament to why police officers need to be training in realistic, combat-effective, armed environment grappling that works against resistance and opposing will. One wonders why such training is not required in PDs across the nation considering outcomes like this one.

In many place this man would have been shot, absolutely justifiably, and to an uneducated public it would have looked bad. Great hay would have been made of it and public demonstrations to follow. Note that even when being controlled he was able to creep his hand toward his gun. This is what people do in real life, and that makes this a lethal encounter. 

They had probable cause to shoot him  – but they did not need to because they train in valid skillsets! Many officers will look at this and say “I woulda shot him” or even “they shoulda shot him.” They would point out that the risks of losing control of the gun even for a moment could have meant one or both of those officers could have been shot. This point of view has some merit, but we have to remember to take into account skill levels and ability to control a situation. It is absolutely correct that some officers, maybe most, should have shot this man, mainly because they would not have the ability to control the situation the way these two did.

There will doubtless be a Gracie Breakdown of this – if there isn’t already. I won’t read that, but maybe others will and see how a side-by-side comparison measures up not just in terms of technique but tactical awareness…

NW CQC Breakdown:

  • Initial contact establishes probable cause – or at least suspicion enough to detain due to the smell of marijuana. This is not as big a deal any more where I work but obviously remains the case in Oklahoma. Establishing and knowing your PC at the outset is very important as it breeds confidence.
  • Second officer has male step out – he is articulating furtive movements toward the waistband. His partner, though dealing with the first male, doubtless hears this – he looks over at him. For experienced cops this is now on the radar, even when dealing with someone else.
  • Asks “You got a gun on you?” Excellent question, despite the lie the suspect tells it means everyone on scene is aware of what is happening and cues first officer again.
  • Suspect breaks and tries to run, officer maintains connection and takes him down, suspect goes to ground first – much better than officer falling to ground first.
  • First officer puts his man down – already handcuffed, which is about the fastest cuffing job I’ve ever seen!- and comes over to help.
  • The officer grappling (back officer hereafter) takes the suspect’s back, hooks in, and begins to sink a rear strangle. While not particularly advisable in a one-on-one encounter, with a partner this makes sense because it is more controlling.*
  • Instead we have two cops who are working very well together – note that the top officer, after grounding his subject, comes in and knee pins one of the suspect’s arms while controlling the gun hand – AND he continually checks back to the car where the other subject’s are, monitoring the situation. Great tactical awareness.
  • He is also communicating very clearly “He’s got a gun, he’s going for it!” and gives updates. He wisely chooses not to relinquish control to go for his Taser (this is high level combat cognition, folks) and communicates that to his partner.
  • Top officer communicates he can’t get to his radio – yet he is not overly task-fixated on communications like so many tend to be. He is taking care of the higher priority problem.
  • Top officer communicates to a bystander that suspect has gun, and she should stay back. Once again, situational awareness in operation. He can do that because he has the skills and calm to handle the situation.
  •  Back officer gives repeated open hand blows to suspect’s face. In so doing he prevents injuring his hand, and he does not cut the suspect or his own hands which punching has a tendency to do – and which would have created a bloody mess, biohazard concerns, etc. The blows are effective and get the suspect to bring one hand up, at least. All the time he is issuing verbal commands to the suspect to stop resisting that are calm, controlled, and clear. Even a bystander begins telling the suspect to “calm down!” Bystanders don’t do this with screaming, out of control cops wilding on top of a guy.
  • Note how the officers communication, their verbal commands, and their control of the situation allow them to actually grow calmer as the situation progresses, though an imminent lethal threat exists. The strangle is still not completely effective at first, making a continuing threat real, but their calm keeps them completely in control.Calm is Contagious!
  • Almost looks like the suspect is trying to tap at one point. Or he’s just flailing.
  • Suspect can be heard gurgling and says “I can’t breathe.” This is now – due to media coverage of uses of force – an incredibly loaded statement. In non-lethal situations this is an indicator and should be adjusted for, as it does appear that the strangle is getting closer to a bar choke due primarily to the suspect’s protracted struggles. However the suspect is still demonstrating resistive tension, and with the presence of the gun, and his continual reaching for it despite repeated verbal commands, this remains a lethal force situation and if it did become a bar choke, it is an entirely legally justified use of force.
  • Guy goes in and out of consciousness a bit – note that he still presents a threat because he is still able to give resistive tension. If I can resist tensing my whole body, I can do something that takes little energy, like squeeze a trigger…
  • They get the gun off him, and cuff him in front – not ideal but in that kinda situation you take what you can get! Then re-cuff in back.
  • Eventually he is taken into custody, he seems a little dazed like “what just happened?” He’s also probably surprised he didn’t get shot. Suspect appears to be giving some kind of Miranda like statements to the officers, even!
  • Note the calm explanation of the officer at the end, talking to the other parties laying out the Probable Cause, why they did what they did, gaining their approval and agreement, etc. This is GOLD. I have long made a practice of this after force encounters and I’m sure it is has saved me from some complaints. Not only that, it often gets people on your side, people actually commiserating with you “you had to do your job,” and apologies, even from the suspects you just used force on. Many officers do not do this, and it is a valuable tool on the job.

Once again, well done, gentlemen!  Thank you for demonstrating a very high level of skill and professionalism under harrowing circumstances.

*Why would this move not be advisable otherwise? Please note that even with two officers on this suspect, he was able to get his hand on his gun. Note that he was being strangled, and was still a viable – shootable – threat through much of this fight. If a single officer was fighting this man, and had both his hands occupied with a strangle, the man would have been able to pull that gun and shoot.