Random Thoughts: A Mindful Miscellany

from Marcus Wynne

REPOST FROM 2015: Random Thoughts on The Gunfight That Never Was or “The Old Man Gotta Be The Old Man”

with 4 comments


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)
• Training
• 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….

Written by marcuswynne

July 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Marcus,

    I must have read this ten times when you first posted it. I played it in my head forwards and backwards, changing some things, running a couple of alternatives, etc. Partly it’s because I was just making the move from battlefield to street back then and partly because I myself am getting a bit older . It’s as good now as then.

    As a young LT I always thought the primary use of military history was to develop “vicarious experience.” I loved books like von Schell’s “Battle Studies” or Rommel’s “Infantry Attacks” because they provided a chance to see through a commander’s eyes as he assessed a situation and took action. Although I didn’t know the science for it then, I would often visualize myself into the scene, making the calls. It stood me in good stead over the years, well, except for when I knew what was going to happen but my prognostication differed from the oh-so-rigorous output of the formal decision making staff process. “Shut up, CPT/MAJ/LTC Henderson. Who do you think you are?”

    Related note: Do you know Don Vandergriff? He’s possibly the world’s expert on the impact of organizational structure and dynamics on the performance of teams – particularly military teams. He’s written a number of critically acclaimed books on the topic. Part of his work for years has been developing and teaching innovative ways to transfer the skills of tactical decision making to tactical leaders sans the Darwinian process of actually trying things out on the two-way range. He works Marine Corps Combat Development these days. You might look up his stuff. I bet there’s a commonality of effort that might be fruitfully explored.

    Regards, Eric

    Eric D. Henderson Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Ret.) Leavenworth, Kansas

    On Wed, Jul 10, 2019 at 11:19 AM Random Thoughts: A Mindful Miscellany wrote:

    > marcuswynne posted: ” 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 ha” >

    Eric Henderson

    July 10, 2019 at 4:43 pm

    • Hey Eric! Good to hear from you. Thanks for your as always excellent commentary. The truth is I think I have either read or corresponded with Mr. Vandergriff — I was doing something with Naval Research and they handle all the advanced education/learning stuff for Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children and the Navy — might have been then I will research him. You really are onto something that gets glossed over or completely ignored (in America especially I’ve found) in firearms and tactical training aimed at civilians especially, but secondarily in LE/.mil.

      when I worked with Lofty Wiseman, right after he retired as the Regimental Sergeant Major of 22SAS (he ran the Training Wing for a long long time) he said something I’ve never forgotten: “You don’t learn experience in a classroom.” The context of that statement was that an instructor needs to be able to speak from experience in explicating what he’s teaching — and to be clear whose experience he’s referencing. There’s a whole lot of younger instructors with minimal experience going in harm’s way who are very articulate and “learned” without any experience in the APPLICATION of what they are teaching. It’s a strange phenomenon. And many of them (that I encounter) seem to be disdainful if not openly disrespectful of the “Old Guys” who came before them.

      The .mil guys are less guilty of that, the LE guys pretty much do the same as the civilians (in my opinion, based on my observation).

      And so they discount the experience in APPLYING the skills that the older dudes (and more than a few dudettes) have. It’s funny — in the US, many instructors ignore or disparage “older instructors” to the point that men like Larry Vickers have to post a video “Why I’m fat” or Clint Smith “Why I’m relevant” — that shit pisses me off, and shows the ignorance of the YouTube generation. As far as I’m concerned and anyone who UNDERSTANDS what LV has done in the service of this country, LV could be Jabba The Fucking Hut — I’d fetch him fucking donuts and shut up while he talks. Same thing with Clint Smith — he’s relevant because he’s done the skills in a wide variety of venues, taught them across the board and sticks to doing exactly what has worked for thousands of years — apply the basics under stress in a fluid and dynamic context and dominate and kill your opponent.


      It’s a strange thing about American “gun culture” that leads to disparagement by our peers overseas. In israel, as an old handicapped instructor, I got ushered to a nice chair, brought coffee, and had people asking intelligent questions for hours. The old dudes there when they can no longer physically do what they used to, are kept around as counselors, advisors, coaches — in everything from managing stress to looking after operator families to testing equipment to being a sympathetic “been there done that” ear. Same thing in Norway, Sweden, UK, South Africa, etc.

      Every place but the US.


      Rant over, LOL. I had my Minnesota GRUMPY OLD MAN hat on, and I still can’t catch Ann Margaret, LOL.

      I’m actually working on a project to mitigate that, since I believe don’t bitch about something if you don’t have a solution. I’m going to organize a project to go around and do oral interviews with the legends of personal combat while we still have them around: Lofty Wiseman, david Scott-Doneland, Ed Lovette, John Bender, Dave Spaulding, Larry Vickers, Clint Smith, ad infinite.

      Old Guys only. And only the best coffee for my OG crew!

      Thanks for tuning in Eric. You are one of the good ones! and sorry for the rant, caught me on a crabby day, LOL.

      cheers, m


      July 10, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    • CODA to my rant: I left out the two guys who inspired me to tackle that project: Bob Taubert and Frank White. You mention either of those names to most “gunfighting dudes/dudettes” you generally get a profound “huh?” Bob less so since he still writes under the name Bob Pilgrim for the gun rags and websites etc. Bob was one of my mentors and teachers back in the 80s and early 90s and his training and insights have saved my life and others (as has the training I’ve received from all my mentors, most notably Ed Lovette). Bob wrote RATTENKRIEGE which remains one of the classics in CQB training — written by one of the guys who INVENTED CQB. Frank White is lesser known, and anybody who purports to be a student of gunfighting needs to read his online compilation of life lessons learned in blood at: http://www.americanwarlibrary.com/deawatch/white/deafw.htm

      I’ve been advising informally these two about writing a book distilling their Street Fighter wisdom into a legacy book.

      Their gunfighting insights are unique and valuable because they bridge military, law enforcement, plain clothes and singleton operations — all of which is very relevant to the needs of the armed civilian, as tom Givens and Ed Lovette and Greg Ellifritz have pointed out…most LE/.mil handgun training takes place in an end use presupposition that doesn’t apply to civilians. DEA and other .gov organizations that operate in plain clothes without support have a better database of gunfights with lessons that pertain to the ACTUAL needs of the civilian shooter.

      Anyway, rant over. Those two are high on my list — very recommended reading, the DEA WATCH “Street Fighter” report. Frank’s pistol is in the National Firearms Museum — how many instructors of “gunfighting” have that, LOL?

      okay, rant over. cheers, m


      July 10, 2019 at 7:20 pm

  2. […] Random Thoughts on The Gunfight That Never Was or “The Old Man Gotta Be The Old Man” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: