Shock and Old

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War on the Rocks has this article on the diffusion of basic infantry tactics, and how that, more than technology – or at least integrated with technology – is the more telling marker for success on the modern battlefield.

To quote:

“The historian David Edgerton authored a book entitled The Shock of the Old in which he argues that our society’s collective obsession with rapidly changing technology often blinds us to the older tools and techniques that actually drive most of what we observe around us. We believe this logic can be applied here. The diffusion of 100-year old combat techniques, coupled with readily available technology, may create serious threats that are not currently being considered.”

(emphasis mine. And it’s not just 100 year old combat skills, try 1000s of years old!)

This is so very true, and so very dangerous.

And it’s not just for our soldiers fighting overseas. We are seeing these tactics applied in criminal and terroristic events in the Western world domestically, and when they are employed, the danger level for our police officers rises considerably. Even a solo actor, using fire-and-manuever tactics and weapons skills wrought havoc in Dallas. When applied by trained pairs or groups, they were devastating in France. And while we have yet to see a Beslan or a Mumbai here in the States, it’s coming.

Historically, when criminal actors have used tactics, firearms and fighting skills, and a willingness to close with the enemy (i.e. the police), they have done a great deal of damage.

Today, when some law enforcers seem to have difficulty isolating and closing on even a disturbed kid with a rifle, what is going to happen when they are faced with a trained adversary?

Some companies do offer training to law enforcement for this kind of thing, which though it may be disturbing for some, is more and more necessary. That training should include force-on-force fire-and-manuever tactics, immediate action drills, hand-to-hand combat (both barehanded and with edged weapons from a grappling platform), and tactical casualty care. Most of these skills go back millennia, and some methodologies even hundreds of years old contain elements effective for training the body and mind for exactly the kind of “closeness” with the adversary that is demanded.

But very few officers receive this kind of training.

Instead many agencies are fearful, sensitive of “militarization” accusations and worried about the “warrior” label – until something like Parkland occurs and there is a hue and cry for more cops that should have “closed with the enemy.”

Can’t have it both ways.

Unfortunately, we also see a proliferation of trainers and commentators (I readily admit myself included!) more than happy to publicly disseminate information, tactics, and training advice on exactly how to get better at the very things that make one effective in these kinds of situations.

Like the world isn’t watching.

And most of that is us simply saying “Look at me! Look at what I know! See how Tacti-Kool I am!!”

With plenty of eager Tacti-Kool-aid drinkers lapping it up. Most of them NOT in law enforcement.

This state of affairs is concerning.

















Establish your grip, see your sights, PRESS…

Another great day of training with Keith Tyler of Tyler Firearms Instruction.

I learn every time I train with Keith, whether in the privates I’ve taken or the group lessons or targeted team instruction. He’s a phenomenal resource to have on hand. His combination of practical application of sports performance theory and shooting performance drills speaks to the part of me that is aways asking “Why?”

Even when I should be probably be concentrating on the what and how…

What strikes me is that every time I learn from Keith, he’s learned. He is constantly training and studying to improve his discipline. He talked today of taking several months each off from doing any competing or teaching in order to engage in continuing education: reading, taking classes, experimenting with the teaching and views of others on high performance shooting to glean what he can. That he is a Grand Master Open class shooter notwithstanding, he is still growing his personal expression of the art.

And that’s another lesson I learned from him today….

Outside In



Two instances last year had me thinking Outside In…

One was a night-search for a murder suspect. Clearing a trailer home surrounded by dark woods, where we thought the shooter could still be out there, and where we did not – could not – own the outside. And where someone inside left all the lights on.

The other was an intense training where, not owning the outside, and clearing with white light, saw us inside repeatedly shot up with marking cartridges from outside the structure by those watching and shooting from the dark. Ouch.

Far too often – indeed almost exclusively – when we think of clearing, what do we do? We pie and enter doorways, we own angles, we clear corners – check under beds and in closets etc. and then move on to the next room where start all over again.

How often do we pie windows, specifically from inside looking out?

We’ve learned – or should have – to try to see our exposure to angles from which we can be seen – deep inside a room across the hall, or down the hall, or from above or below. How often do we take the exterior window, the angles looking in, into account?


We are, actually, fairly used to being on the outside, and trying to see our angles of exposure to someone inside trying to target us.

But rarely do we do the reverse.

Certainly if I am clearing a location with a full team, and we own the outside, the windows are not much of a concern, generally. Primarily we would be cognizant of a good guy-on-good guy engagement as we can enter a room and see a muzzle outside the window. Or from over a fence in the next yard over, as in a recent blue-on-blue shooting tragedy.

But I have done far, far, more clears where the outside was not owned. Burglary calls, alarms, suspect searches, etc. where we clear the inside of a place – maybe somebody goes to the back for a squirter (someone that squirts out the back when you enter the front) – but there is no security posted outside that can cover all the windows from the outside while we clear inside.

There just isn’t the staffing for that.

How about clearing your own home* – as a home defender skilled in personal defense?  Who owns the outside then?

That’s right, the person or people intruding, or lurking out there in the dark for whatever reason. Home invasion crews are not at all unusual. Maybe your house was mistaken for a dope house and it’s being hit by a group. Maybe even a coordinated team. Though weed is legal now in the Pacific Northwest, we still see these things fairly regularly. Maybe it’s not the wrong house. Perhaps you have a medicinal stash….or you are jeweler…or a restaurant or small business owner with a reputation for taking the proceeds home at night so you can go to the bank in the morning.

Let there be Light?

Clearing with white light  is a beacon for those inside looking at you, and those outside looking in. Skillful manipulation of light will mitigate this, but it can never fully do so. Someone waiting in the dark will be able to read your light, especially if you are careless and use too much of it, or cause splash-back from lighting up an interior wall that you are standing next to.

We know what we can see looking at these guys down the hall -what would a threat outside this window see?



I thought I was pretty decent running a light – many years of training,  low light instructor certification, lots of practical application over many hundreds of clears and searches – until I went to the aforementioned training that, to put it gently, pushed in my poop.

If, as Ken Good – the author of the Bible on low light engagements has aptly put it, “all dark holes have guns,” then the windows in the rooms we are in are dark holes, aren’t they?

Hell, at night, everything around our homes, or the places we are clearing, are dark holes.

It’s better if the guns in those dark holes are ours.


* This is a nuanced subject with me. I am not a proponent of solo clears of any locations, including the home, outside very limited and particular circumstances, and I think a lot of training in this area is more entertrainment than anything else

Get Up, Get Out

Rules of the Drill:

You start seated, back against the wall. Two attackers try to crush you and keep you from moving off the wall, and away from them. You try to get up and away. No striking allowed in this one, though we do the same with gloves on, or one attacker gloved and hitting and the other trying to hold you down.

For time. Make it realistic, like 20 or 30 seconds.

This drill is easily integrated into mainstream jujitsu practice, as of course, School of Budo did here.

Danaher on Military Strategy

Photo from Jiu-Jitsu Magazine.

Renowned jiujitsu coach of the Renzo Gracie team John Danaher is interviewed in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine. On p. 51 he’s asked to elaborate on studying military strategy to improve one’s jiujitsu. He replied:

“Yes, I believe jiu-jitsu is combat on a one-on-one scale. It’s one individual against one individual. It mirrors many of the elements we find in mass combat – between armies…even between nations. So many of the profound thinkers in the history of combat concern themselves with combat on a grand scale, namely military combat. These outstanding thinkers have written about it in a very profound fashion. Many of the lessons they derive apply just as well to single combat as they do to what they talk about in mass combat.

Often if I find myself bereft of ideas or stunted in growth…I’m not progressing in certain directions..I will draw inspiration from people like this.  And very often it jolts my mind to directions I hadn’t investigated, or I had forgotten about, or I hadn’t paid enough attention to. And then, of course, you have to bring it back in a practical fashion to the sport of jiu-jitsu. It can’t just be abstract thinking. It has to be brought back to concrete results and actually enhance the performance of the jiu-jitsu athlete. So,I use them for inspiration to make me think about things differently, and then its up to me to make the abstract thoughts practical that will improve jiu-jitsu competition.”

If you’ve read your Musashi, it sounds like he’s reading Musashi… Otherwise this is an example par excellence of the usefulness of not only of military strategy, but of the martial tradition – in which jiujitsu (jujutsu) holds an honored place. And it’s usefulness isn’t simply for sport competition, but in terms of tactical and self-defensive performance as well.




Give Yourself a Hand

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Boxer’s Fracture is a colloquial term for a fracture of one of the metacarpal bones of the hand. Classically, the fracture occurs transversely across the metacarpal neck, after the patient strikes an object with a closed fist. Alternate terms include scrapper’s fracture or bar room fracture. ”  


When I teach striking for self defense and defensive tactics – with the exception of a hammer fist in certain configurations – I advise against striking with a closed fist, particularly the head, for various reasons related to safety and tactical performance – and in defensive tactics, sometimes the simple optics of the act. I’ve seen and heard of too many folks dealing with hand injuries, including several officers who punched resisting suspects in the head and lost time at work or later had to have surgery,  to take the potential for a hand injury lightly.

Outside of that personal experience, a cursory review of available popular information shows that there is a particular class of fracture literally referred to as a “Boxer’s Fracture.”

Then Googling “boxers and broken hands” or “MMA fighter’s broken hands,” one notices that even the best trained, most highly skilled professionals also occasionally have problems breaking their hands in fights – sometimes even when wearing gloves

Things that make you go hmmm….


But thinking back on those old-timey  bare knuckle boxers, they  didn’t bust their hands up like that, did they? And those fights could go on for forty or seventy rounds or even longer! How could they fight that long, with bare knuckles, and not hurt their hands?

Well, it seems they boxed very differently than the sport is conducted today, with a particular array of techniques and approaches to striking:

Bare knuckle boxing is still being conducted, and has even been offered as a potential alternative to gloved boxing due to the inherent and more lethal danger of hitting people hard and repeatedly in the head when wearing padded hand protection.

Then what about self defense?

In an unarmed scuffle, if you are at all tough, a broken hand will not likely mean that you will be unable to continue fighting, or even prevail in the encounter, so isn’t the point kind of moot?

Well, no. The essential nature of self defense is not, and should never be confused with, mano-a-mano brawling, in either the ring or the street. Self defense includes so many other elements and potentials that must be taken into account if we are engaging with appropriately integrated and transdisciplinary combatives.

There is a potential for an empty hand fight, or even resistive arrest, to go to weapons at any time, as a change in the nature of the confrontation could necessitate a need for a fighting tool: lethal or less lethal. And while I may be fine continuing to pummel someone’s face with my own mangled hand, I’m not so sure I’d want to be attempting to access a Taser, or a knife, or draw and manipulate a pistol, or try to retain a weapon with that self-same damaged hand. Particularly as the need to now deploy a weapon means the stakes of the confrontation have just gone way up – along with the stress that goes with that turn of events.

And let’s say during this continuing confrontation, I have a weapons’ malfunction.  May have had that malfunction because I was shooting with a broken hand. And while I may still be able to fire a pistol with a broken hand,  do I really want to be trying to clear, say, a double feed with one?

Even a reload could be problematic…

Further, should I incur other injuries from the threat, how will my ability to treat them be impacted by having a broken hand? Self-application of tourniquets tight enough, is tough enough, without additional difficulty presented by a hand injury.

And if I had to administer aid to another? A friend, or loved one?

Not to mention the issue of blood borne pathogens. One of the marked disconnects in the defensive communities’ understanding of real life confrontations is the need to be concerned for bleeding on the part of assailants and ourselves. Punching people in the face just seems to cause more bleeding from both the target and the abraded knuckles of the striker. While at times some bleeding may be unavoidable, given the choice to use tactics less likely to result in the rapid introduction of nasty contaminants into an already chaotic and uncontrolled encounter, it would seem the better option.

Mindful of all these things, I’ve reconsidered relying on  techniques that have a recognized propensity for causing hand injuries, even to very experienced fighters with and without gloves, in favor of other options.