Taking the Hits


Some readers may not be familiar with the term “Force on Force,” or in the shorthand often used, “FoF.”

Force on Force is a training modality. It does not mean that one opposes physical force with greater physical force. That can happen in FoF training, but if such a thing is not efficient, it’s not the goal.

Think instead in terms of “opposing force on opposing force.” That means an individual or group within the training is specifically working in opposition to another individual or group (or an individual vs. a group). The level of resistance, or opposing will, can be progressive and graduated, but if one side is specifically shooting at, trying to hit, trying to grapple, or otherwise using opposing tactics – competing for time, for space, for position, etc. – against the other, it’s force on force.

Using simulated projectile weapons that don’t fire (like blue guns), or not actually trying to hit or physically wrestle with the other side, isn’t force on force.

In my experience, some balance of non-FoF with FoF is ideal for training practical and tactical skillsets if one expects them to be available under pressure. Depending on what hopes to gain from a particular training will determine the ratio. When considering the total amount of training, though, nothing less than about 25-30% of the aggregate should be conducted using some level of FoF in order to gain the maximum benefit, and for training to most readily transfer to tactical application. I have never met anyone, whether in firearms, tactics, or hand to hand training realms, who had not done Force on Force and was still able to match someone who had done so in a training context.

This may not always be true in actual application, as far more variables are present than can ever exist in most training. Often, a training context must actually be made more unrealistic in order to better simulate realism. Experienced FoF trainers, the good ones, will know exactly what I mean, but to put in in different terms, you have to mitigate the “gaming” that occurs in most training by making some elements of gaming it impossible through ostensibly “unreal” restrictions.

Some of which pertain to safety. Because to get the most out of FoF training, you have to take some hits.

I spent the last few days assisting a FoF-intensive course as a role player. I like to do this for several reasons. For one, it’s more FoF reps that I get, even when I have a somewhat scripted role. I get to work against the dynamic, unexpected movement of one or more students (in this case teams with advanced tactical training), I get to work against a hail of incoming fire (that UTM HURTS!), and I get to engage under conditions of anticipation, pain, and anxiety.

Stress changes things, and makes every rep we get count for more.

For two, I see some “advanced” tacticians and practitioners who don’t do enough of it. Or maybe they’ve “had enough” of it. They did that, now its time to step back and let others do it while they set up training and run the class.

This is a mistake. When you no longer hone it, you lose the edge.

And three, I still work in a team environment. We have a habit, a tradition even, of having prospective members attend our training in order to assist us, while at the same time getting a sense of how things “work” in our group. Very often, these folks are used as role players in FoF work. At times they end up in my classes, which are FoF heavy, both in hand-to-hand and firearms courses.

So I take it as a point of pride, of integrity even, that when the prospects finally join the team, or when they are used for role playing in other training, to take the hits for them.

Being willing to do what you ask others to do is so very important, and so very often lost after too many people feel they have “arrived.” That they have done “enough.”

In certain martial traditions it was the senior practitioner, often the teacher, that took the hits, and took the falls, for the juniors. This not only allowed the senior to check the juniors’ developing technique, it meant that the senior could elicit appropriate behaviors from the student by providing the appropriate model (and cues) with which the student could directly observe and feel. Similarly, as skill and speed improved and distance grew shorter, margins for safety decreased, this while using hard oaken weapons or steel blades and highly injurious hand to hand tactics. A senior was ostensibly in a better position to mitigate misjudgments in timing, spacing, or position with more experience.

I find this is still true today.


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