Random Thoughts: A Mindful Miscellany

from Marcus Wynne

Archive for June 2014

We Lost Another Great One —

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Here is the official announcement of Louis Awerbuck’s death. He was one of the Greats, and a pioneer in the American field. He shared an enormous wealth of experience without hesitation to those that asked. I saw him last in San Jose, CA when he was teaching a class there — waved and left him a note since he was busy. “Thanks for the training, Louis — I’ve used it well.”

God rest you and keep you, and may you find peace.


Written by marcuswynne

June 27, 2014 at 1:52 pm

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The Attache James Bond Wishes He Had, or the Jack-Sack that Jack Bauer Would Kill For

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When I was a tyke, back in the Dark Ages when there were only 3-4 TV stations, and James Bond was the one and only (pre-Sir) Sean Connery, Q hooked up Bond with the ultimate briefcase — a classy leather attache case that concealed, among other things, a suppressed machine pistol. I’m sure it was influenced by Mitch Werbell’s case, which concealed a Mac-10 and a Cobray suppressor, but then I diverge on one of my historical rants.

Back to Cool Guy Attache Cases.

I’ve gone on before about Hill People Gear, the brain child of the Brothers Hill. http://www.hillpeoplegear.com — As a long-time outdoorsman, including a stint as a professional backpacker in the airborne infantry, I appreciate good (great) gear. And HPG does astonishingly great gear. See my previous gear reviews on their Mountain Serape, etc.

HPG products have caught on in a quiet way with some of the professional grey men our military and government deploys in various places — primarily because the gear is simple, clean, robust, elegantly designed, and, when appropriately outfitted, very low key and unobtrusive.

And you can run all kind of goodies in plain sight in one. I’ve seen one with a rifle plate slid into the computer sleeve, and the First Spear fabric that lines the main compartment rigged with holsters, radio pouch, spare mags, and a very cool three-cigar carrier I kinda wanted to steal, if I wasn’t afraid that the owner would hurt me.

My own decidedly low speed, high drag configured bag is pictured below.


As you can see from the book inserted for size comparison, not a big bag…


…and even when fully packed with EDC stuff and all my business and computer bumf, not too thick…


…the computer cut out…


..main panel opened up, fully loaded…


…and the Ranger School Day One, Block One, layout…

What do I like about it? It’s a lean, clean bag. The compact size forces load discipline on the user. I tote around a computer, back up drive, cell phone, cables, back up batteries, and then all my EDC gear you see there. The bag size and cut forces me to ask myself if I really need to throw one more thing in there. It’s fairly loaded, but honestly, I have everything I need to run my business(es) anywhere in the world, and can deal with any contingency that might come up, from nuclear war to a random date with a lovely woman, with the EDC selection laid out there.


Get yourself one while you can. Attache of choice in certain locations in and around Virginia Beach, Harvey’s Point, Fort Bragg, MacDill AFB and other choice environs.

Written by marcuswynne

June 26, 2014 at 2:41 am

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A Kinder, Gentler, More Politically Correct Technique for Shoot/No-Shoot

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(See previous post on Shoot, No-Shoot)

Seems some liability conscious individuals are concerned about trying a training exercise that involves deliberately shooting targets you’re NOT supposed to shoot as a method to refine the cognitive/neurological process involved in high speed target acquisition and threat discrimination.

Sigh. Liability and bureaucrats = training drag.

Here’s a solution to train how to discriminate faster; said solution is kinder, gentler, more politically correct and will make even the fussiest attorney happy (okay, maybe not) —

GOAL: Train the brain to discriminate between shoot/no-shoot targets faster, up to the limit-of-human function while engaging in three-dimensional combat.

HOW: Take a 3×5 index card. Put a bright red dot approximately one inch round in the middle. Or use a felt pen and draw it in. Back the target off about 5-7 yards depending on your skill baseline; if you can put all your rounds in one ragged hole at 7 yards, start there; if not, move the target to the place where you can do that. If you can’t do that at 3 yards, go back to basics and work that till you can.

*Start with eyes closed. Weapon in hand in preferred/mandated ready position.
*Open eyes. Acquire red dot on target. Shift point of aim to the EDGE of the 3×5 card and place one round directly BESIDE the 3×5 card, not touching but kissing the edge. Close eyes. Repeat, placing a series of shots around the EDGE (perimeter) of the 3×5 card till you’ve cut out the target AROUND the 3×5 card.
*When you can cut the card out at whatever range, then start running human representation targets at speed. Clock it.

BASELINE: Cold, run through a random target discrimination drill, preferably a close range hostage shot. One run. Measure time and accuracy.
DRILL: Run as above.
MEASURE PERFORMANCE INCREASE (OR NOT): Run through the same target discrimination drill for time and accuracy.

Rinse and repeat.

Then sneak off and do the original drill and tell me you don’t get faster.

You’ll be faster and better.

Good luck, and you can keep letting me know offline if you like or post here.

Written by marcuswynne

June 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm

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Random Thoughts on Dark and Dreadful, Sex and Violence, and PENNY DREADFUL

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I’m fond of dark and dreadful, sex and violence, knives and guns, story-telling and mythology. I’m also fond of really, really good acting and theatrical writing. I have a life long love affair with the theatre: I was a stage fight choreographer (I’m handy with blades…) and taught actors like the young Annette Bennett at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and dancers like Michael Smuin and his San Francisco Ballet, back in the day; I wrote plays under the tutelage of an intense Sam Shepherd and ran a small theater company, and I’ve enjoyed a long series of intimate dramas with a number of intense (and fascinating) actresses, dancers, directors and choreographers.

I’m fond of drama.

Especially the dark and twisty kind. When my friend WWE legend Lance Storm hosted my second novel WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS with his BOOKMARKS Book Club, I wrote an essay here: http://www.stormwrestling.com/bookmarks/warrior.html about my encounters with Evil (capital E type) and how it shaped my life. So examining and confronting the Dark and witnessing the Light isn’t just a mythic theme in my novels, it’s a spiritual theme in my personal and “other” professional life. My service of going in harm’s way to protect others gave me ample opportunity to examine (and own) my own Dark Side Nature. And make peace with that.

My latest narrative addiction is giving me the absolute BEST of all my passions: extraordinary writing, amazing acting wringing nuances out of the words in scenes that had me leaning forward shouting in disbelief, dark themes, good versus evil, the Light versus the Darkness…

…and the core of archetypal writing, the conflict and confrontation with the Darkness within us, the proto-myth of conflict, that when skillfully rendered leaves us unable to look away.

It’s a TV show called PENNY DREADFUL, on Showtime, Sunday nights. http://www.sho.com/sho/penny-dreadful/home

Watch it.

Not just for astonishing writing crafted by John Logan, who wrote, among other films, THE LAST SAMURAI, GLADIATOR, and SKYFALL; not just because of his language and the characters he creates out of a genre mashup that blends together elements of Victorian Gothic fiction classics and shatters our preconceptions based on the films that came before; not just because it will keep you shaking your head in amazement at the situations and the language (and for the writers out there, watch a master at work and learn….) —

Not just for singularly brilliant acting from the most well-cast ensemble in recent years, Timothy Dalton, Josh Hartnett, Reeve Carney, and the amazing Eva Green —

Eva Green? Vesper in the reimagined CASINO ROYALE opposite Daniel Craig, the woman who broke James Bond and brought an intelligence and brilliance to the nuances of Bond and Vesper’s relationship (the scene on the train, when they go back and forth reading each other’s tells and kinesics — another lesson for the interrogators and street operators who read this blog…) that overshadowed her beauty (in the very best way) and hinted at the depths of her acting skills and abilities.

She is the hub around which this series turns, and in episode after episode carries off bravura acting I’ve not seen the like of since the young Meryl Streep in SOPHIE’S CHOICE. To take the risks she does, to push the actor’s envelope and not only get away with it, but leave the viewer stunned…best actress on television right now, bar none. Maybe the Meryl Streep of her generation if she keeps working with writers/producers like John Logan.

Tune in tonight and watch it with me — the season is winding down, and tonight promises to be another astonishing turning in the third act of an epic season. It will touch on the subject of my next novel; look for that in October http://www.amazon.com/Sword-Michael-Depossessionist-Marcus-Wynne/dp/1476736898/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397946349&sr=1-1

Written by marcuswynne

June 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm

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The ABCs of Shoot-No Shoot, or How To Get Better By Doing It Wrong

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Remember learning your ABCs? Counting it off, maybe singing the letters? Can you do that right now? Yes. Do it as fast as you can. No problem, right?

Now do it backwards.

Not so easy, yeah?

Ever wonder why?

I remember my mother telling me something: “I want you to know this forwards and backwards.” Like most kids, I never realized how smart my parent was until much later in life.

Know something forwards and backwards.

So back to having difficulty in reciting the alphabet backwards, and how that exercise illustrates how the flow of learning and the sequence is so important, and how that applies to making life and death decisions under extraordinary stress….

I recently had a discussion with a very gifted friend of mine, who among other things is an extraordinarily gifted special operator. He’d been training on the range with his crew, and mentioned these type of targets http://www.atsusa.biz/product-videos/live-fire-product-videos.php I told him I’d trained on those EXACT targets back in the 80s and the 90s.

For those of you unfamiliar with these targets, you have the option to paste over certain portions of the image with add-ons like guns, knives, POLICE identification, and so on…it also allows you to paste those over on shoot targets effectively turning them into no-shoots.

The concept is that encountering a target that looks similar but lacks the specific criteria to enable a shoot decision “trains” the shooter to make accurate decisions while under stress. So there’s a significant amount of time spent in very high-speed units (and this friend’s affiliation certainly qualifies) running long hot days in the kill-house working different scenarios and iterations of a drill that in essence goes like this:

Enter, scan, identify threat/shoot/no-shoot targets, engage appropriately, carry on with whatever the specified tactical schema is.

And this specific type of training (altered targets, running constantly into a similar but different situation/scenario) goes back (as does so much in the way of brilliant training) to that maverick innovator MAJ Fairbairn while training the SOE/OSS.

Since science, specifically cognitive neuroscience and adult learning has progressed since WW2, at least in some circles, let’s examine this training technique/concept in light of that.


I learned this in the martial arts. There’s a huge difference between “doing the drill” and “applying the skill.” The presupposition in most training design (firearms especially) is that doing the drill translates into having the skill. It happens often enough that most trainers don’t question that.


The application is that the processing of the visual information becomes so efficient in providing the NECESSARY information to the decision-making part of the brain that the operator is able to decide and execute at the “limit of human function” speed while under extraordinary stress.

In accelerated learning, we call that the desired outcome.


It can, and does often enough so that it’s a useful tool. But like any other tool, it begs the question — can we make it better? Can we make it more efficient? Can we train that in faster?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So let’s take a look at the process as I understand it and design around (for the cognitive neuroscientists in the crowd, please remember I’m not a scientist; I digest science and spit out useful training insights — the references are available to anyone with sufficient Google-Fu and/or access to the appropriate data bases or a university library, and I tweak it as I see fit — everything I reference here has been tested not only in training but in operations against real bad guys with real guns and bad intent) —

The organism (operator’s) data stream relevant to making the decision as to which human to kill in a room comes from these sources: visual, hearing, kinesthetic, olfactory, “other” —

The data stream, the massive number of bits of data coming into the neurology, is run through preconscious filters, which sort out the incoming data (think of a step down valve on a main water main, stepping down the pressure and directing the water). How does it sort it? The preconscious filters are embedded in the neurology by genetics, life experience, and training.

Those preconscious filters create a “snapshot” of what the incoming data is telling the neurology. That snapshot is an approximation of what’s actually there; the snapshot then runs through a library of previously recognized snapshots (pattern recognition) and sorts further what data/snapshots have “high signal value” — in this context, high signal value includes who’s got a gun, and then whether the person with that gun is a legitimate target.

A digression on this: if someone is “trained” to shoot anybody else with a gun, what if there’s a good guy in there with a gun? Or a team mate who is not where he’s expected to be? The additional processing of data to determine not only armed status but why he/she is armed and what is he/she intending is not only possible, but demanded, by warriors operating in an ethical and moral framework.

And it doesn’t take any more time to do it right — if it’s properly trained.

You can see some examples of this in K9 training — when a dog’s handler goes down, or when a dog is injured or excited…it will default to attacking anyone even sometimes it’s own handler.

Since we’re not dogs, we can demand a higher standard of ourselves.

So let’s cut to the chase, which is how do we TRAIN this in the field.

Back to the ABCs. You learned those in a sequence. You mastered that. In a specific sequence. You recognize all the elements of that construct called the ABCs and you utilize them. So recite them fast. Then do it backwards.

Why do you stumble doing it backwards if you “know” it?

Because you TRAINED it in only one fashion. So if you can only do it in one fashion and more to the point, in one sequence or linear progression, do you ACTUALLY OWN THE SKILL?

Back to the shooting drill:

You enter. As you are entering a number of things are happening simultaneously. Your brain is processing input which include visual snapshots of what’s in the room, how your weapon is mounted, your sight alignment (optical or iron or NV or whatever), where your team mates/partner is in relation to you, awareness of any obstacles in front or around you…

You get a snapshot of a target (gun/no gun? shoot/no-shoot) and then you engage, hopefully appropriately.

The critical point: when the assemblage of data = SHOOT THIS GUY AND NOT THAT ONE.

Then you execute appropriately.

How to improve it:

Run your scenarios/drills and shoot the people you’re supposed to.
After you’ve run an iteration or two with a reasonable degree of success, do this:
Enter and shoot the people YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO.

(I can hear training administrators screaming LIABILITY and training designers screaming BULLSHIT, WASTE OF TIME) — but just follow me here, for a minute…

Why deliberately shoot the people you’re not supposed to?

Because in order to determine who you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO SHOOT, you FIRST have to determine who YOU CAN SHOOT.

In order to do the ABCs backwards, since you learned it going forwards, you have to run through that sequence in order to recite it backwards.

So if you enter in to shoot the targets YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SHOOT, you have to go through the whole cognitive process involved in deciding WHO TO SHOOT…but you have to do it faster.

So you (or your shooters), will stumble, swear, have a difficult time, justify not doing it…if it’s easy to do, you’re not learning. You’re just validating what you already know.

The sign of true and effective learning is confusion (because you don’t know what you don’t know, and if you’re not confused you’re not learning something new)
But if you run these iterations, going back and forth, till you can recite your tactical ABC backwards just as fast as forwards, your neurology will have trained to sort, identify, and act upon the essential data WAY faster than it was before.

Why? This variation forces the cognitive process all the way through the identification of no-shoot/shoot — then requires a conscious decision to engage differently. That additional step TRAINS THE BRAIN to make decisions faster with measurable incremental increases in speed.

By adding that step, the brain is forced to consciously decide to engage…the brain adds that step subconsciously so that there is an additional evaluation/decision point…then by going back it sinks that step into the sub-conscious so that it becomes automated and accelerates the decision-making/shooting process.

So, as always, don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. When you get to a level of fluency where you can be told at the door: Enter and shoot all the no-shoots, and execute with the same speed and accuracy as you do when you’re told to enter and shoot all the shoots, then you’ll have validation for the ACTUAL skill-set you want to train, which is processing the essential data at the fastest possible rate and APPLYING it appropriately…

…to save lives. Yours, your team mates, and those innocents for whom we go in harm’s way for.

Just food for thought. Get out to the range and try it. Just as simple as your ABCs…

Written by marcuswynne

June 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm

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