Who is training? A cranky one-eyed fat man, 60 years old, stroke damage to left arm/hand, various disabilities, advanced shooter; 50 year old female world class martial arts instructor, excellent physical condition, intermediate shooter; 41 year old executive protection professional and MMA fighter, excellent physical condition, intermediate-advanced shooter.
What is the goal of training?
- Promote the attribute of fluid transfer from hand to hand
- Promote cross-lateral neurological activity in the brain to increase the context of the experiential learning and promote greater retention under stress for embedded shooting skills
- Refine accuracy and speed
- Promote trigger control during multiple shots
Why are we training this specific goal?
Effective real-world use of the combat handgun requires the ability to engage multiple moving targets with either hand under stress. All three participants practice Dave Harrington’s Iron Cross drill, one of the best dry-fire/live-fire drills to promote ambidextrous firing of the combat handgun from non-standard (i.e. square range 90 degree fire angle range safety restricted) positions…these are the positions that one encounters in real fights in the world. We want to drill this attribute for it’s generalization to all aspects of integrated fighting.
What are the limitations on the training?
Public range: cannot shoot from holster, cannot move outside of the immediate booth, may not engage more than one full size target.
Financial limitations mandate no more than 100 rds (two boxes) of commercial ammunition.
What are the presuppositions for the design?
- Participants are capable of safe handling of weapons
- Participants are aware of range limitations as to movement
- Participants have previous experience (martial arts, stick, knife, empty hand) with transitioning from hand to hand with a primary weapon; cross-lateral movements are embedded in their physical skill set and have been tested under stress both real-world application and high-stress training.
Course logistical requirements:
- Target hanger capable of being set at different ranges from 3 yards to 25 yards.
- 6 inch pie plates
- 3×5 index cards
- Sharpy Marker
- PACT timer/iPhone stopwatch
- Pistol, 3 magazines, 100 rounds of factory ammunition
START COLD, NO WARM UP.
Target is FLETC Transtar with a six-inch pie plate taped on the head and upper chest. In center of six inch pie plate is 3×5 card.
25 yards. From ready position with both hands, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either head or upper chest target. Mark target hits.
From ready position with right hand, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either target. Mark target hits.
From ready position with left hand, fire 5 rounds in 10 seconds at either target. Mark target hits.
3 yards. Cloverleaf drill. With both hands fire one shot at target of choice. Transition to right hand only, fire one shot into existing hole; transition to left hand, fire one shot into existing hole. Fire as fast as you can while moving smoothly. Record time with stopwatch.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. Cloverleaf drill. As above. Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. From ready position with both hands, fire 3 shots in 2 seconds at target of choice. Goal is to keep everything on the pie plate, preferably on the 3×5 card.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. From ready position with strong hand. Fire 3 shots in 3 seconds at target of choice. Goal is to keep everything on the pie plate, preferably on the 3×5 card.
Repeat 3 times.
7 yards. Cadence drill. Both hands on gun. Fire 15 rounds in <11 seconds in this sequence: 1 to the head, 2 to the body, 3 to the head, 4 to the body, 5 to the head. Goal is to keep a steady cadence with no hesitation between shots. Record total time with stop watch or Pact timer.
7 yards. Transition from hand to hand. 3 magazines of 5 rounds each. Start with strong hand, fire one shot at target of choice, transition to off hand, fire one shot at target of choice, continue to transition and reload as needed (note if slide locks back in off hand, drop magazine with off hand and reload with strong hand; if in strong hand reload as necessary. Range does not allow holster work so stage magazines on booth shelf.) Record time and accuracy (all on pie plate, preferably on 3×5, total time elapsed, focus on smooth transition and no hesitation…flow drill)
7 yards. 15 round Bill Drill or Shaw NOW drill. 15 rounds < 11 seconds. As fast as you can on pie plate.
3 yards. Cloverleaf/head shot. For time – at beep fire both hands one shot, transition to right fire one, transition to left fire one, transition to both hands and fire one head shot. Accuracy and time.
TOTAL 100 rounds.
Write times/picture of targets in range training book/iPhone record
Note subjective impressions of
a) increased fluidity in transition from hand to hand
b) increased accuracy while increasing speed
Specific cognitive/neurological improvements:
Cross-lateral transitions of the weapon platform requires increased coordination between the brain’s hemisphere through the corpus collosum; promotes retention of the skill set while moving and in dynamic situation; increases stress inoculation due to pace/uncertainty; enhanced ability to engage with either hand while working in a 3-dimensional fighting environment. Enhanced/reinforced cross lateral processing of brain function generalizes to greater ability to utilize either hand in non-trained for events as well as promoting better whole body agility and proprioception.
Specific applications in:
CCW self-protection scenarios – allows for enhanced one hand use enabling flashlight, close quarters protection of weapon/weapon retention, control of pets or children that may require switching hands.
Executive Protection applications – allows for enhanced one hand usage so as to enable better control of protectee or penetrating crowds and clearing lines to engage targets,
I’m fond of knives. I’m half Welsh and half Filipino, which according to some of my witty friends makes me a maudlin drunken poet who sings beautifully in the shower and is given to violence, on occasion, with edgy/pointy things. Maudlin, yes; drunken, no; poet, on occasion; sings beautifully? I wish..; given to violence? Hardly. I abhor violence.
My Filipino blood sings with steel, though. Maybe it’s because the first living thing I killed was with a knife, at the ripe age of 3, when my grandfather Eustachio (according to village legend, a man-killer times 14 with his knife) held my hand on the grip of his knife as he finished a big boar for our neighborhood pig roast. Or the many chickens I helped my grandma kill for supper. We were never romantic or idealistic about the knife; it was and is a tool — for utility or for killing.
Here’s an excellent link to a Filipino knifer and the real-world non-martial arts view of the knife as daily tool for work or killing, courtesy of Greg Ellifritz’s excellent blog at http://www.activeresponsetraining.net : http://forcenecessarytv.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-knife-is-for-killing.html
But I digress. Today is all about Spyderco and my friends Sal Glesser and the astonishing Joyce Laituri. A good friend and training colleague from the Israeli Naval Commandos sent me this picture today; it’s the Philippine Ambassador to Israel, Neal Imperial. He’s a knife practitioner, and at my request, Sal and Joyce sent a beautiful Szabo folder as a gift to the Ambassador to carry and use in his training.
My relationship with the Spyderco family goes way back. I think the first Spyderco product I ever purchased was the one I still use the most: a Spyderco SharpMaker. It is simply the finest, easiest to use sharpening set-up there is. I have dozens of expensive whetstones, files, hones, sharpening rigs, sander set ups, and there is NOTHING I’ve used in over 50 years of carrying a knife that is easier to use and keep a hair-popping edge with than a Spyderco SharpMaker. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=77
Shown here with the Michael Janich designed Yojimbo, an excellent Wharcliffe utility/fighter. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=707 I can’t wait to get the fixed blade version, the Ronin. https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=49
In the 80s and the 90s, being a young gun-slinger on an erratic income, I shopped hard for the best quality for the best price in all things. One of my partners from those days opined: “Marcus, all you got in the world are fancy knives, fancy guns, fancy women, and a duffel bag of books.” Well, I’m not too fancy in anything these days, especially fancy women, but I always was fond of Spyderco for the combination of extraordinary quality coupled with a very reasonable price point…and the best customer service ever.
In the 90s, when I wrote regularly for mags like COMBAT HANDGUNS, SWAT, POLICE, POLICE MARKSMAN, GUNS AND WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, BACKPACKER, OUTSIDE, and other magazines, I was a go-to reviewer for knives, clothing, and outdoor gear. My long-standing relationships with various military, police and specialized security operations meant that I could (still can, on occasion) get good gear directly into the hands of people who would buy them in quantity to equip those who go in harm’s way. A recurrent feature at that time was the latest from Spyderco. Sal and Joyce, especially Joyce, the Goddess of Spyderco Steel, always made sure I got blades to review, and blades to put into the hands of those who went in harm’s way. Spyderco was always part of my load-out when I rolled to work, as you’ll see here:
I was young and foolish then, here with my brother-in-arms Dennis Martin of CQB Services, on the job in sunny Africa:
One thing Spyderco has ALWAYS done on their own, as well as when I requested, is support our serving military, especially our operators, as well as those friendly foreign operators, by sending knives to those who go in harm’s way. They did an amazing job of putting this logo on the knives below for some very good people:
These Scandinavian special operators appreciated the Spyderco blades Joyce and Sal sent with me on a training job:
In some Scandanavian Naval Special Warfare operators’ hands:
And being used in the real-world while rendering first aid:
A lot of my American readers/friends roll with Spyderco; this Naval operator sports an Ed Schempp Rock Salt quite well during deployments. Provided to him by Spyderco:
So what do I roll with personally?
Rescue knife: https://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=12
Many thanks to Sal Glesser, for making great knives and supporting those who go in harm’s way, and to the amazing Joyce Laituri, who does the best job in the industry of getting those knives out where they need to be. Thanks, you two!
Once upon a time, I spent a fascinating afternoon with John Douglas, one of the founders of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, the famed “profilers” that’ve provided grist for fictional mills from Thomas Harris’s SILENCE OF THE LAMBS to TV’s CSI. I asked him, as a parent to a parent, what had changed for him after spending so many years studying the minds, behaviors, habits, and hunting methodologies of serial offenders. John is a genial, intelligent and articulate man with a surprising gentleness in his behavior for someone who’s devoted his life to hunting the most evil of humans.
There was nothing gentle in his face or voice when he snapped, “I NEVER let them [his children] out of my sight.”
I made the point that it’s impossible to keep our kids under 24/7 surveillance, especially when they hit their teen years, and he eased back a little and agreed. The emotional response rose out of his unprecedented experience in talking to so many agonized parents…and sitting across from malevolent beings who preyed on children.
It’s a good question, isn’t it? Whether as a parent or a good-hearted responsible human being, how do you teach children to recognize and react appropriately to danger/Evil when there’s no parent around? It’s very easy to say, well, never let your kids out of your sight. And any parent reading is this is going to know…you cannot always be there.
And more to the point, sooner or later those children we love will grow up and be out in the world — do you want them emerging from under your protective wing WITHOUT the skills to recognize and react appropriately to danger? Wouldn’t that be a grievous failure as a parent as well?
Interesting dilemma, yes?
I thought I’d share some techniques here that I’ve found useful in providing children as young as 5-6 the baseline foundational skills in recognizing bad intent. I don’t have all the answers, but these techniques, drawn from neuroscience, cognitive therapy and my own training design evolutions have been found useful by parents in quite a few high-risk environments. They’re simple to teach, use, implement and reinforce — and more to the point, they don’t scare kids the way that heated fear-driven lectures on what to do and not to do might.
I’ve used these with kids as young as 4, but 5-6 is probably the best place to introduce the skill set, especially since that’s when they will most likely be going off to school, and their rapidly growing brain is at the appropriate place to accommodate this particular cognitive-neurological change.
Set up a relaxed, casual environment. I like to think of setting the stage for this learning as similar to “Come here and sit, I want to tell you a story…”
Don’t preface with a lecture. Their brains aren’t ready for that. Tell a story, ask questions, get simple answers.
Start with this: “Can you think of a time when you were really, really SUPER happy?”
Watch their faces. If you know your kids, you’ll see a change that shows they are remembering that time.
Then say, “Where in your body do you feel that SUPER HAPPY feeling…show me! Put your finger on it!”
And then they will do so. It will be different for each kid — probably their belly, or their heart region, or maybe somewhere in their face/throat. But it’s individual to each kid.
Have them PLACE their finger on that spot.
Then laugh a little bit, talk about what they remember.
Then ask this questions, “Can you think of a time where you were really, really scared? In a movie, or in a story, or something you saw?”
And carefully watch their faces, because you want them to remember an incident, but not go too far into the memory…and when you see their face change, ask “Where in your body, right now, do you feel that SCARY feeling?”
And have them put their finger on it.
Then put your hand on that spot and say, “Okay, let’s remember a happy feeling again!”
And have them put their finger on the happy feeling spot.
Hang out in that for a little bit.
Then, if you’ve taught them not to talk to strangers (unless mom or dad SAY it’s okay, and these days most switched on adults will know to ask a parent if they can speak to their child…) give them this additional protocol, “If someone comes to you that you don’t know, ask yourself ‘Do I feel something in my Happy Place…or my Scary Place?” Role play it a little bit, but gently. It doesn’t take much to introduce that. What they need to internalize is a very fast intuitive feeling: “Is this a good person or a scary person?” And ACT.
If they feel the Scary Place/Person, give them the response/plan they need to ACT: Run away, scream for help, find a grown up they know.
Just that little bit, gently installed, and gently reinforced, might help your child (or somebody else’s child) on the day when the Wolf comes, and there’s nobody else there.
ps: for the lurking cognitive neuroscience types, Google somatic markers, preconscious processing, accentusludus accelerated learning and stress inoculation, DARPA, Office of Naval Research, NASA, if you want to dig into the hard science. I focus on techniques that a 3-6 year old can learn immediately and apply. Strangely enough, I find that approach works quite well with people that work under extreme stress…if they’re willing to learn.
pps: for the lurking writers/readers, I put this in THE ACHY MAN, as a technique a crippled man teaches to a 5 year old child threatened by Achy Man and his goons. It’s a good first step to help protect children from sick cowards…though sometimes the best way to protect young lambs is to simply kill the Wolf. Jus’ saying….
A little birthday tribute to one of my faves…
Here’s my FIRST professional published article (1983, kiddies…what were YOU doing then?) which is all about Chuck Norris and his Mental Training:
I spent a fair amount of time (off and on for 40 years) going in harm’s way on behalf of others. I often had the need to conceal various tools on or about my person. I’m fortunate to have had the counsel of friends like the late Bruce Nelson, Greg Kramer (when he was still a postman), Tony Kanaly (the first holster he built after starting at Milt Sparks’s shop was a Summer Special for a Sig P220 – for me), and the legendary Andy Arratoonian. Many wise and experienced Elders of the Tribe — Lofty Wiseman, Dennis Martin, David Scott-Donelan, Gary Wistrand, Evan Marshall, Dave Spaulding, Ed Lovette, Ralph Mroz, Massad Ayoob, John Farnam, Bob Taubert, Louis Awerbuck — were generous in sharing their hard-earned experience and expertise with me. I’ve benefited from the New Generation as well, men like Craig Douglas, Greg Ellifritz, Shane Gosa, Jeff Bloovman, who’ve all shared their insights, experience and knowledge about the art and science of concealed carry.
I recently had to sort through 40 years worth of old leather and other tactical accouterments (original Bruce Nelson! Old School Milt Sparks! Ken Null SMZ! Andy Arratoonian shoulder holster! Original Jack Ass Rig from MIAMI VICE! A Seven Trees OWB for a Walther PPK!) to find something I could use for research on my most recent writing project, THE ACHY MAN.
In this book/script, the protagonist (a retired intelligence operator) runs afoul of some corrupt cops who pursue him into another state. They throw everything at him: falsely outing him as an informant to drug traffickers, hiring hit men, making several attempts themselves to kill him or intimidate him into silence with a Keystone Cops mélange of crooked cops, crooked private investigators, hired thugs and drug-addled street snitches.
The protagonist has to “gun up” to deal with the daily threats which grow more fervent when the Keystone Cops Gone Bad discover the good guy has had several of his military and intelligence buddies counter-surveil them, document their activities, hack their computers, and tap their phones – and delivered all of this in a keyword locked Iron Key to the top 25 media outlets in the country.
Panic ensues and violence escalates.
So what should the Good Guy wear?
The Ares Gear Ranger or Aegis gun belt rocks socks. It does all the work a good gun belt is supposed to do, and is solid enough to wrap around a log and drag it if need be. Why is that important? A good belt is the most overlooked accessory for a gun-toter. The belt needs to support the weight of the various tools and support items carried, and be rigid enough to lock those items in the same place so that the gear doesn’t shift around. The Ares Gear products do this in spades. The owner is a rock-solid man, and I happen to know that there are several Tier 1 Unit members that wear his belt in harm’s way. Highly recommended.
The Zenith gun belt is an excellent belt as well. It’s slightly wider at 1.75 inches than the Ares Gear, but it’s more flexible while still retaining sufficient rigidity to support multiple weapons etc. due to a kydex insert within the belt. Almost as flexible as a good leather belt. Billy at Boxer is a good guy, and at short notice shipped belt(s) to some Tier One operators rolling into harm’s way. However it’s hard to find his belts right now; the only distributor he was using was Amazon and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen any available on their site.
After much testing, Jon Hauptman’s designs at PHLster take first place.
I was late coming back to the appendix carry, though I did so back in the 70s and 80s with 1911’s and various revolvers. It was Jeff Bloovman of Armed Dynamics and “One Man Army” fame http://www.armeddynamics.com/about-us.html who introduced me to Jon and PHLster. The PHLster is the most easily adjustable and more to the point, comfortable, appendix carry I’ve ever run. The attention to detail in the design contribute to that, as does Jon paying attention to feedback from users and innovations in the field. I just ordered some of his accessories to upgrade the rig I have right now. http://www.officer.com/article/11363743/phlster-and-boxer-tactical
A word on comfort, concealment, and appendix carry: I’m no longer any kind of tactical pundit, but I do have opinions based on a not-insignificant amount of training and operational experience when it comes to carrying tools concealed. If your rig reduces you to tears at the end of an 8 hour day and you can’t wait to get it off, it’s not a good rig. There’s several factors to consider – on one end of a sliding scale is depth of concealment, on the other end is speed of access. A constant that runs alongside that sliding scale is comfort. My test for a rig, back in the day when I carried concealed in business clothes in over a hundred foreign countries and more than a few non-permissive-environments, was to keep the rig on for no less than 72 hours. Three days – on the can, in bed, in off-duty clothing, in on-duty clothing. If you can’t sleep comfortably or go through an entire 3-days worth of normal activities with a rig on, then you need to modify it or get a different one.
So back to the PHLster rig: what I like about it is that you can choose where on the scale of depth of concealment to speed of access you want to be. Properly set up, you can conceal a Glock 19 under a light, tight fitting T-shirt so that only a focused bump frisk will turn it up. Same thing with his concealment pouches. Jon is a fussy artiste when it comes to his work; I appreciate that borderline OCD in a craftsman/artist working on life-saving support gear. It shows in the fine nuances of design and refinement, and his continual evolution with his limited line-up of holsters.
Some other holsters:
http://keepersconcealment.com — Spencer is a rocking dude, and an excellent holster designer. I found his holster to be on the “speed of access” end of the scale for me. Extremely fast, but didn’t conceal well on me. I gave it to a DEVGRU operator who loves it.
http://www.blackcentertactical.com — I learned about this guy when I borrowed a rig and a tool from an active duty SF friend of mine when I was stuck somewhere and temporarily unequipped to deal with unfriendly people. I liked the rig I ran, which was for a M&P Shield, though I thought it overengineered for a lightweight gun. I later obtained one of his IWB rigs with the “INCOG” clip on it. I found the holster, while well made, to be too minimalist for me (no back body shield, sharp edges) and the INCOG clip I found neither helped conceal the weapon or firmly fix it in place, despite multiple attempts to rig it so. Even ordering a replacement clip with additional holes didn’t get it to the depth I prefer. Some good gear on his site and I may try one of his OWB instead.
http://nsrtactical.com — Ralph Mroz turned me onto these guys. I may order one of their leather/kydex hybrid holsters down the road. In the interim I got several of their concealment pouches for magazines. While reasonably priced and quick to ship, the ready to ship versions I found had way too many sharp edges for an IWB carry and even with significant modifications on my part I couldn’t get the mags to seat deep enough for the level of concealment I wanted. Again, I understand that getting a good grip on a magazine helps to reload faster; however, as I said before, there’s a sliding scale between depth of concealment and speed of access, and I prefer to set my own place with that. Worth looking through his site, especially at the IWB rigs with two struts to firmly seat it inside the waistband while allowing significant adjustment leeway as to cant/depth.
And what does the Good Guy carry as a main tool?
He’s a Marcus Wynne fictional hero, dude – he carries a Glock, customized by Karl Sokol, one of the only remaining Old Skool Gunfighter/Gunsmiths, LOL. A Glock 19 with a grip reduction that duplicates the ergonomics of a Sokol Custom High Power, with a Grip Force Adapter melted in to make a beavertail, and the real “Sokolized” work up on the innards: extractor tuned, trigger job, replacement/fitting of all innards, solid recoil rod, Trijicon HD sights…what sets Karl’s work out from many others is his uncompromising commitment to FIGHTING guns…they are reliable, accurate, unpretentious and in the holsters of gunfighters from Tier One Special Mission Units, FBI, DEA, DOS, CIA, and every other alphabet soup out there, as well as many serious armed civilians.
And since this is a Gear Guy post, yes, he modifies his magazines with Wolff springs: http://www.gunsprings.com/index.cfm?page=items&cID=1&mID=5#148 and Pearce +2 magazine extensions http://www.pearcegrip.com/Products#GLOCK
So that’s the latest – keep an eye out for ACHY MAN!
Ps: I will be re-releasing e-book versions of WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS and BROTHERS IN ARMS as well as THREE’S WYLDE in the next few weeks…stand by for that. Thanks!
If you haven’t seen JOHN WICK, you really should. Like guns, ultra-violence, martial arts, and revenge?
Go see JOHN WICK.
This clip shows some of the very best fight choreography in Hollywood. You see superior gun-handling, the integration of combatives with pistol use in CQB, knife and pistol together, even the Center-Axis-Relock being used as a CQB movement technique…all kinds of good stuff.
The script is lean and elegant. This is Keanu Reeves’s best action movie since THE MATRIX.
The movie was directed and the fights done by Dave Leitch, a former Minneapolis guy and another alumni of the Old Skool Minnesota Kali Group in the 80s and 90s. I just started going through the digitized footage of the very first “Reality of the Handgun for the Martial Artist” class I did at the Kali Group back in the late 80s or early 90s, and I believe that was the last MKG seminar Dave took before he headed off to H’wood to become the top stunt director and Brad Pitt’s body double and trainer. Now he’s the top producer/director of what is going to be another great trilogy like THE MATRIX. JOHN WICK TWO started filming not long after the opening weekend of JOHN WICK.
Very much worth watching for enthusiasts of well-done violence and gun-critics, LOL. Spare, elegant craft in the screenplay and I really liked the characters of John Wick and the supporting cast.
Especially the 60-something assassin named Marcus, played by the always excellent Willem Dafoe.
Out on pay per view, DVD and even still in some theaters.
I may have to send the JOHNNY WYLDE books to Dave Leitch; as a Minneapolis guy he might just really dig those. Madonna, back when she was married to Guy Ritchie, considered buying NO OTHER OPTION as a project for Ritchie. Nothing ever came of it, but it would have been interested. Willem Dafoe’s name came up then, too, as the actor for Jonny Maxwell.
I’m waiting back on word from a major screenwriter/producer on a decision about THE SWORD OF MICHAEL — more on that as I get it. I may be able to interest him in the film version of ACHY MAN, which is emerging as a black comedy cross between THE THREE STOOGES, THE KEYSTONE COPS (anybody remember them?) and LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS.
So we’ll see. I’m back in submarine mode before I take up my hectic travel schedule again — thanks to all of you who stop by…pay no attention to the nasty gram sent me by some irate reader…
I have a friend I rarely see. I’m always glad to see him when I do. We sit around and drink coffee, or I sit and drink ginger ale while he sips his Bolton Bourbon, and we compare notes on the fine art and science of growing old gracefully. He has some great insights. But then, he’s had a few more years practice than I.
He prefers to stay anonymous, so I’ll honor that. He’s an inconspicuous older gentleman who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Rogers from “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” He has an occasionally annoying habit of humming the lyrics from the theme song of that ancient TV show:
“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood, won’t you be mine, won’t you be mine…”
I’ll call him OM, for Old Man. He appreciates nuance and enjoys New Age stuff, so he’ll like that.
We were chatting about Accentus-Ludus and the research we’ve been doing into the neuroscience behind making “soft skills” more accessible and faster to learn. He was good enough to tell me a tale, about a gunfight that wasn’t, but might have been, in which the decisive use of soft skills settled a gunfight that almost was.
The Gunfight That Never Was
“There’s a little shop I go to a few times a week, not far from where I live. Run by a Lebanese family. All the men work rotating shifts there, 24/7. So I go in one morning, buy the Sunday paper like I always do. Have a little chat, kibitz a bit, talk about the old days in Beirut. You know, the usual.
“So this guy comes in. Twenty-something. Buff. Strung tight. Body language swaying from side to side…stalks past the cashier’s counter…looks out the side of his eyes…shifts his hand to one side pocket…then stalks from aisle to aisle in the store and heads back to the furthest corner, where he stands and stares at the milk, and shoots a look up at the mirror above his head, so he can see the whole store…
“I fiddle with the change I just received and turn so my back is to the corner where I can see out the door and the rest of the store. My Lebanese friend, no stranger to violence, started eye-tracking this guy through the store. He’s switched on because this guy’s vibe is no good.
“Mr. Just Out Of Jail stalks to the front of the store, to the only place you can stand and see behind the cashier’ counter. He looks, then turns his back and starts rummaging through the pastries. “You don’t got any Little Debbies?” he says.
“Yeah,” my Lebanese friend says. “Right there.” Mr. JOOJ looks out the other side of the store through the opposing door. Two doors in, two doors out.
I take a short walk down the aisle, pick up a bottle of orange juice to go with my paper, come slowly up the aisle back to the counter. Mr. JOOJ stalks past the counter, takes up the position I just left, Little Debbies in his hand. A woman walks in, buys a bag of chips, chats for a second or two, leaves.
Mr. JOOJ just stands there.
I say, “Excuse me, sir? You were here first. You go ahead.” Very pleasantly.
He looks at me, hesitates, gets up to the cashier counter and I have his back. He slides one hand into his side pocket, shoves a Little Debbie in that pocket while he holds the other one up. He pulls some bills out of the pocket he just shoved the donuts in. Nice shoplifting move…not such a big deal.
The little revolver he had in his pocket a concern.
So he pays three dollars for gas, and one pack of Little Debbies. Stalks out the door to his car. My Lebanese friend is showing all the tension of somebody who’s had a brush with someone who was radiating violence. “Not a nice guy,” I observed.
“He stole, didn’t he?” my friend said. “Not worth going after,” I said.
He didn’t get through the Beirut of the 80s by being a pussy. He came out from behind the counter and went to the door and shouted out at the guy. “Hey! You! I got your picture, I got your license plate! You never ever come back here, you understand?”
Mr. JOOJ feigns surprise. “What you talking about?”
“You’re on camera right now! You know what I’m talking about! You steal, you never come back here!”
Now I gotta swear a bit under my breath. I respect the man. He thinks you let somebody steal, pretty soon everybody steals. But now Mr. JOOJ, high on something, probably meth, with a revolver in his pocket, is gonna get pissed and come storming back in here.
So you know there’s no good position in here. No cover, and I already walked through. So I step out the door, past my friend. He’s cussing this guy out. I walk out like I don’t know him, looking back as though surprised. I need to get out where I can move, though there isn’t much cover out there.
My friend has retreated inside behind the counter. So I keep be bopping to the corner of the store. I have cover there, see? I’m old but I can still hit something if I need to. So the bad guy girds himself and stalks back towards the door. No gun in his hand yet.
I button hook back and go around the building to the other door. I stand outside the opposite door where I can see through the window. The guy comes in, and my buddy, now behind the counter and the acrylic partition, with two cameras on the guy, tells the bad guy to put the donuts back and leave. Mr. JOOJ has his hands up, contrite but pissed. Like a guy in the chowline in the jail getting caught. Puts the donuts back on the counter. Walks out, stands next to his car.
I stick my head in the door. “You cool, buddy?” He’s surprised. But glad. “I’m fine, my friend. Thank you.”
“Old men gotta stick together,” I say. And I wait till the bad guy gets in his car and drives away…
So some Old Guy hangs around and watches a bad guy decide not to get caught? So what?
From the perspective of soft skills informing tactical decision making:
OM has, to put it mildly, a significant body of experience in reading bodies, live, dead, violent, non-violent – he’s seen and read them all.
That experience led him to calibrate Mr. JOOJ pretty quickly as being —
• Fresh out of jail
• Under the influence of drugs, probably meth
• Contemplating violence or the threat of violence
• Scoping out the layout of the store
• Positioning himself where he could see and watch everyone in the store stay or leave
• Moving through the store to finalize his knowledge of where the money was
• Taking up a dominant control position between his car and the door, the best place in the store if you’re taking the place
• Starting to wind himself up to shove a gun in the cashier’s face, probably right after he laid the donuts on the counter and the drawer came open.
So HOW did OM know that?
• Experience (general life experience as well as specific experience in violence)
• Genetics (he possesses the “Warrior Gene” in spades, has abnormally fast reflexes even at his age, extraordinary endurance and despite wearing glasses, sees extremely fast due to superior neurological processing)
WHAT did he do?
• He made the decision to stick around as his assessment was that his friend was at risk. He could have called the police and reported a suspicious person – even with a good response time the whole thing would have been over before they got there. And, though he is loath to say so, he has a significant body of experience in fighting up close and personal. So in his judgment, based on his experience and training, he figured it was better for his friend if he stuck around.
• He took the dominant position in the store while he scoped out the situation
• When he saw the bad guy move to the opposite corner and start scoping out the store in the mirror, he knew what was happening.
• When bad guy moved front, he moved back, deeper into the store, but giving himself some concealment (not cover) and about ten yards of distance which maximized his superior marksmanship under stress AND put him behind the bad guy, who would have to twist his head around like a bad exorcism movie in order to watch him.
• When a woman (innocent bystander) enters, he moves up, which puts him within a long step of moving the woman out of the way and an angle from which to engage said baddy.
• In my favorite move, he drops into his polite older gentleman role and invites the bad guy to move ahead of him since, after all he was first. So bad guy can either refuse what is obviously true, or he can move forward and leave his back to the old man, and try his luck on the way out. Sweet move that both defuses, soften OM’s profile to polite old man instead of predatory bad-guy killer, and puts the bad guy on the horns of a dilemma: Refuse to move and draw attention, or move into a bad position with some old man behind him?
• Bad guy goes, but then the owner gets involved too fast for my friend to control him. And, truth be told, he doesn’t really want to control him. It’s his friend’s store, after all. But the owner’s decision escalates potential violence
• He decides he needs a better position in case bad guy breaks bad on the way in and he can gauge bad guys reaction to him, see if he’s made him as an armed good guy who’s looking to light his ass up. No reaction to him, since sweet move #2 is to act (deception, yeah?) as though he doesn’t know the owner and he’s hurrying away so as not to get involved.
• Once clear he can move to the corner of the building where he actually has cover and not just concealment (you do know the difference?) and watch Mr. JOOJ.
• When bad guy enters, instead of crowding up behind him, he cuts around the store and comes up on the blind side at the opposite door where he can see what’s going on and still have cover as well as concealment.
• Bad guy figures it’s not his day to rob this particular store, especially since the owner is back behind the plexiglass and he’s got cameras rolling and maybe the cops too, so he makes apologies, drops the donuts and leaves in a hurry.
No weapons displayed. No shots fired. No bloodshed. Nobody killed.
A word or two about OM: early 60s, combat veteran on the battlefield and on the street, totes a Karl Sokol customized Browning High Power he was issued by an Other Government Agency back in the 70s, with a Smith and Wesson hammerless .38 snub that was OGA issue back in the day, both of them in very well worn Ken Null leather holsters on a Null belt. Soft spoken, extremely intelligent with a Psychology degree from an Ivy League school coupled to a lifetime of experience in the worst places in the world. Book knowledge leavened with street smarts. He doesn’t go around looking for anything to prove, because believe me, he has nothing to prove to anyone.
So that’s his story. No violence happened. Violence avoided. Why?
Because of, for lack of a better term, what’s called “soft skills.” The skills that don’t involve hitting or shooting or cutting.
What kind of soft skills did he use?
Superior vision processing. He maintains a relaxed visual scan of his environment at all times. Fully utilizes his peripheral vision and knows the limit of his focus/discrimination visual zone and his peripheral vision.
Superior pattern recognition. Experience and training leads to recognize certain nexuses of behavior; the little pieces add up. He uses his superior vision processing to run faster pattern recognition thorugh the nexus of experience and training (remember the OODA loop?)
Superior body language acuity: Experience, training, genetics. Adding up things like posture, body movement marking, skin flushing or blanching from studying with people like Paul Ekman, Joe Navarro, or some oddball Welsh-Filipino in Minneapolis. What comes before what is normally taught as pre-violence indicators.
Time distortion/cognitive acceleration: How he utilizes his subjective perception of time and physiologically induced changes to his experience of time.
So how do you cram 40 years of somebody else’s experience into your head?
Train your soft skills like you train your draw stroke or other motor skills. Break it down into the component parts, train them, reintegrate them. Measure how much more efficient your brain is at processing that kind of data.
Rinse and repeat.
And stand by for the next generation of technology and training. Remember in THE MATRIX when Neo and Morpheus go for it, and Neo exclaims, after his accelerated transcranial stimulation download, “I know kung fu!”
We’re almost there….