24 January 2015

Reasons not to trust your life to Pepper Spray

The above picture is an accurate representation of the stand off type situation in which a person would have the time and opportunity to utilize pepper spray.  The problem is that it is a situation made up for marketing purposes.

Selection- we're not talking about the brand or model of OC to carry, but rather the selection of the tool itself.  As strange as it sounds, some either carry OC themselves or provide it to others because of the inability or reluctance to carry a firearm.  Others carry it as an intermediate force option in support of a firearm.  When it comes to tools as part of your personal protection program, you need to consider what percentage of the time you will be able to have the tool with you.  If you spend time flying, in some schools, or in government buildings, you will likely be prohibited from carrying OC.  So if you were carrying it in support of a firearm, now you will have neither.  If you were carrying it in place of a firearm, now you are "unarmed".

Carry-  As you can see in the picture many people just carry OC clipped to their keys.  In the case of women, likely in the bottom of their purse.  I have found that most guys who carry OC prefer to have it in their pocket, on their belt, or clipped to the visor of their vehicle.

Deployment- As with all other tools, this is the stumbling point.  I have never argued about the effectiveness of OC making someone uncomfortable, only its ability to stop a dedicated attacker who can get their hands on you.  Police most often use OC in stand off situations or spray a suspect while they are being controlled by another officer.  Your best bet to actually be able to spray an attacker would be to have the OC in your hand when attacked, actually not just in your hand but with your finger on the trigger since under combat stress you will likely not be able to feel the trigger.  The issue is that if you are in a situation in which you feel it necessary to have your finger on the trigger of your OC, there are probably other things you should be doing with your hands instead.  Another issue is that spontaneous attacks often come from the rear and flanks.  In most cases in order for you to spray an attacker, you would be facing them and they facing you.

Use- So you have your OC in your hand and someone confronts you from the front and you spray them, regardless of the quality of the spray these things come into play.

Movement- situations are dynamic and one or both of you will be moving.  Hitting a moving target is hard enough when you are standing still.  Keep in mind that unlike every other weapon such as bullets, edged weapons, and impact weapons, OC will only have an effect if it hits the attacker in the face.  In all my years as an OC instructor and police officer, I have NEVER seen anyone move while they spray someone.  As far as I know, there is no training anywhere where students are taught to move as they spray.  The #1 key to survival is movement.  So, at the worst time in your life the tool that you are using will cause you to do the worst possible thing...stand still.

Distance- common sense tells you that the farther away the "target" is away from the nozzle the bigger the spread of the stream.  Of course there is the fogger, we will get to that.  Most people who carry OC will never test it to see how far it goes, so they will have no real idea of how far it will reach.  Once again while you are trying to judge distance you are standing still.

Wind/Blowback- both stream and fog are effected by wind whether it is created by the natural wind around you or the wind created from dynamic movement.  Once spray is released it has no master.  It will work on you as well as the attacker.  The first part of the OODA loop is Observe.  It is hard to observe when your eyes are slammed shut with the effects of OC.  Not only will this effect your ability to defend yourself, but also your ability to navigate out of the area, or even to drive.  Do you ever travel with kids, or older people, or anyone with respiratory issues?  Would this cause you to hesitate to spray?

So now you are probably asking OK, so what should I carry?  The information above is my reasoning for not allowing my wife and daughter to carry OC or recommend it for others.  First of all in keeping with the MCS training paradigm you need to use Awareness and Avoidance skills and habits.  If these are exhausted, you will know you are in a situation where only Aggression will allow you to prevail.

We are all about using pens and lights as improvised impact weapons.  Legitimate tools that have an obvious use.  Tools that you can have in your hand without attracting any attention.

Realizing that few will seek training for various reasons, here is the least you need to know.  Have something in your hand whenever possible.  If someone grabs you repeatedly, strike them in the head/face/neck until they stop.  Break contact and call 911 when you feel it is safe to do so.  Don't trust your life to the way the wind blows.

23 January 2015

Learning from the most famous edged weapons video

This is what I call a precautionary or Boogie Man video.  This one being the most famous when it comes to edged weapons.  It features Dan Inosanto, a student of Bruce Lee and Filipino martial arts master attacking police officers with an edged weapon.  First, watch the video all the way through, even if you have seen it before.  Remember all you can.

First of all the video is dated, but that does not mean it does not have merit.  It says in the beginning that it is unscripted.  Well the poor SOBs that either volunteered or were voluntold to be involved in this knew a couple of things.  First, they were stripped of their live ammo and weapon and who knows whatever commonly carried tools before being put in the scenario.  Neither they or the suspect was wearing pads or any other protective gear and the scenario was done with hard walls and floor.  By the switching out of the pistol, they were more or less instructed that the pistol was likely to be the force option at play.   As in-service police, all of these officers had been involved in training involving drills and scenarios before and nobody likes to lose or look like an idiot.  This is why they all have their hand on their pistol even during initial contact which pretty much makes it a given that they will draw their pistol in response to furtive movement, even if they do not see a weapon.  A simple metaphor for this would be that they already have a 1/2 wrench in their hand without knowing what size they need.  The problem is that a wrench will not help them, they are thumb screws.  The tool already in their hand is more of a hindrance than a help.

Even though the lighting conditions seem to be good, there is little to no chance that the officers involved would be truthful if they said they saw the weapon.  They already had their hands on their gun and attempted to draw in response to the suspect rushing them.  If he had a knife they could not see, they now took their strong hand essentially out of the fight because muscles contract under stress, which means that there was little chance they would break that hand free to fight once it is already involved in carrying out their initial response which was drawing their gun.  If he does not have a knife, they are drawing a gun on an unarmed man and will be likely putting themselves in a situation where they may use an inappropriate level of force because it is already in their hand.

The video does say that you need open hand skills in this situation.  The problem is that even though this video is dated the time police spend on firearms training vs open hand skills, much less actually combatives, is pretty lopsided.  Defensive tactics courses produce more loss time injuries for police than firearms training, so they are limited in their realism, if they had any to begin with.  Sadly, many are just watered down arrest and control instead of arrest out of control.  Also, your OC and Taser will not help you in these situations.  Police need to know how to fight.

You can see the strong reliance on traditional firearms skills when the officers approach.  They are very bladed with their pistol away from the suspect.  It also looks like most were probably Weaver shooters.  As soon as they are stationary and that hand is on the gun, the outcome is predictable, whether or not the suspect had an edged weapon or not.  With their strong side back, they are mentally and physically locked into moving straight back and as you can see banging into to things or in the real world falling backwards over curbs or their own feet.  They back peddled due to being rushed, not from the sight of a weapon.  Everything to their left, their attacker's right, disappears.  You need to move in sharply to their left.  This is their non reaction side which makes it harder for them to track you.  I realize it is counter intuitive, but the only way to survive an ambush is to counter attack it, and remember what you probably will see is a guy rushing you, not a guy with a knife.

Gun guys are trapped on this GAIN DISTANCE thing.  If you are Tactical Teddy and your back is always against the wall, where exactly are you going to get this distance from?  Stop looking to gain distance in a fight, especially if you cannot see a weapon.  By gaining distance, the only thing you are doing is giving them the time and space needed to deploy a weapon.  Instead, be looking for physical barriers, anything to put between you and them.  But stop back peddling, you only own the ground you can see in front of you.

Now let's talk about those I keep seeing on the interwebs whose neighbor's brother in law's buddy is a US Marshal and he says that 21 feet, or 30 feet are not enough and they are changing it to 45.667.  The weapon stand off is a fantasy, one that is quite popular.  The fantasy is a stationary suspect standing with an exposed edged weapon at a distance allowing you to draw your pistol and issue verbal commands.  With the exception of firearms, all weapons, personal, impact, and edged require the suspect to touch you.  That means getting close to you by using a guise or close enough for them to rush and overwhelm you.  So when involved in your when/then not if/when scenarios in your head, they better happen at conversation distance and that is what you better be training for.

At the end of the video they make a statement to the effect that 21 feet is needed to get rounds COM on the attacker.  My question always is what mechanical effect will those rounds have against someone rushing you at full speed?  If in exchange for those rounds you stand your ground and have a guy who is dead but does not know it yet stab you in the chest....who wins?

What will save your life at the close distances from others where we live our lives is violence of actions.  Unless you have a reason not to, move forward towards their left, to their outside, attack their head, elbows, and knees as needed.  You might not know there was a weapon involved until they drop it or you feel it after it is all over.  Don't let your defense be predicated on seeing a weapon.

13 January 2015

How to stop an active shooter with a knife

The need to be ambidextrous with edged and impact weapons.

In another group I belong to an buddy posted an article on the need to train to be ambidextrous with edged and impact weapons. Here was my response as it pertains to most of us-

Few people here are ever going to be the attacker, but rather the counter attacker / defender. Basically someone else is leading the dance and you follow in a way that continues to allow them to lead or you change the dance and lead. MCS is predicated on the fact that 93%+ people in the western world are right handed. That means that we spend over 90% of our time training against right handed attackers. Both to take away their ability to attack in the first place by constant tactical positioning and moving to the outside of their strong side. Now I know we are talking about weapons, or more importantly having the time and opportunity to use them in defense. IMHO the idea of using a knife in self defense is a possibility and not a probability. If you have anything it will be a stick or other impact weapon. I have hit lots of people with a baton, often not getting the reaction I was anticipated. In a real altercation if I had to choose between hitting someone with a stick in my off hand, in the back of my mind would be the idea that I might have to use my pistol with it next because the result would likely be feeble. I understand it as an academic pursuit to those who engage in traditional arts. For me again it comes down to probabilities vs possibility, YMMV. I train in open hand, stick, knife, and pistol as a system with open hand making up about 75% of what we do because my experience and expertise tells me that not only will it likely be my initial response but if it is effective it may be all that is needed.

12 January 2015

Probabilities vs Possibilities- Bullshit and Fairydust

The other night the wife and I stopped by the local bookstore and I figured I would get my blood pressure to spike by looking at all the gun/knife/tactikewl magazines.  The above magazine was in the front of the pack.

The best way to cause inaction, no matter what the task, is to overwhelm someone.  This is an excellent example of that.  This magazine should have been called Remote Possibilities.

Yesterday I visited with a friend who wanted my input on putting together a security program at his church.  The church is located in York PA which is not the best area.  He told me about a conversation he had with his Pastor about some things he wanted to do in reference to security.  He explained to the Pastor that personal protection and preparedness were on his mind no matter where he was or what he was doing, even at church.  I am the same way.  The two constant themes playing in the background of my mind are my faith and personal protection and preparedness.  It is not a hobby.  It is not intellectual chin rubbing. It is at the core of how I live my life.

So whether you have the same mindset or are new to the game, here are some thoughts.  Identifying and mitigating probabilities have an amazing way at reducing exposures to possibilities.

Washing your hands to prevent you from getting the common cold will reduce the chance of you getting Ebola.

You will use some good fabric bandaids more often than Quick Clot.

Making the habit of wearing gloves is preferred to having to incur hand trauma.

A quality knife designed to excel at cutting things will do an OK job when it comes to cutting people.

Concentrating on probabilities before possibilities will save you time, money, and energy as well as increase your sense of well being and chances of survival.

Let some other guy buy the Tyvek suit and gas mask instead of food and water.

13 December 2014

American History in Black & White

Some may know that I am a third generation Army Veteran.  My father is the President of Rolling Thunder Chapter 3 New Jersey, and I ride with the American Legion Riders Post 543 Red Lion PA.  Between the two of us we attend our fair share of rides for different charity causes as well as Veterans events, both together and with our own clubs.  The biggest one I have ever been to is Rolling Thunder in Washington DC this past May.  Some estimated it at 17,000 motorcycles.  A large number of attendees are Vietnam Veterans.  Now you would figure that since the majority of these Veterans were drafted you would see a cross section of races.  But the truth is that most attendees are white and there are also a large number of folks from various Hispanic decent.  What is largely absent, which has been my experience with every Veterans event that I have attended both in NJ, PA, MD, and DC is that there are seldom any black Veterans or black supporters of Veterans attending.  The black citizens that I I do see at these events are almost always around 60-70 years old, which means they were alive in the middle of the fight for civil rights and desegregation.

For about the past 8 years or so, I have lived about 45 minutes from one of my favorite places on earth, Gettysburg.  On average, I would say that I visit there about 8-12 times a year.  It is my belief that the Civil War was over states rights and not slavery, but I am not here to argue that point.  What is not contested is that the North winning the war led to the abolishment of slavery.  In all the years I have visited Gettysburg, as with the Veterans events, I have seldom if ever seen any black people.  I have never understood this for two reasons:  first, thousands of blacks fought in the civil war, and second, it is the outcome of this war that freed them as a people.

Every year in August my kids and I attend WWII weekend in Reading PA.  During that three days, the Reading Airport is turned into the 40's.  Units from the US, Germany, Italy, Russia, and others are represented.  Out of all the reenactors and attendees, I don't recall ever seeing a black person there.

Judging from these three examples I would have to conclude that black people, although a huge part of our history, not only as citizens or Veterans, have little to no interest in our collective history.

The reason I am writing this is because I believe that race relations in this country are at a boiling point, and the government is the one adjusting the flame with their manipulation of the media and their continued prostitution of black America.

Personally I did not grow up being around many black people.  Until going in the Army I did not know more than a handful.  After becoming a police officer I found myself policing black communities and could not ignore the huge cultural differences between blacks and whites that many white people have heard of but probably not experienced.

It seems that the only time black people gather is to protest against discrimination, usually by the police.  It never seems to be to celebrate what black, whites, and other Americans have sacrificed in the history of this country to overcome slavery, segregation, and racism.  The only time white America seems to see news coverage of black Americans gathering is to complain about how they are being mistreated and about what they don't have, never about anything positive.  Now I am sure that many positive things are happening, but black race pimps and the media have no interest in covering that.  This has most recently been evidenced by how little peaceful protests have been covered in the news.

The enemy is our tyrannical, right trampling government, not each other.  Think of how we could change this country if we all concentrated on our shared history and vision for the future instead what separates us.

12 December 2014

Realistic Awareness

There is nothing quite like watching a young policeman, fresh out of the academy, interact with people.  They believe that everyone is out to kill them instead of the fact that anyone could be out to kill them.  They have no experience or intuition to draw on.  Trying to stay 100% mentally aware to the point where you are thinking about trying to be 100% mentally aware is both mentally and physically draining.  This is the reason why it is unattainable but also not the best long term habit. 

The Japansese term mushin is short for the Zen term of ‘mushin no shin” which translates to mind without mind.  Understanding this is key to survival.  It is the exact opposite as our jumpy, nervous, police officer.  When I was a combat skills instructor for the DOD we were training Air Force personnel form plumbers to pilots.  It is no secret that the Air Force, with the exception of security forces and spec ops types does not handle small arms on a daily basis.  When people are unfamiliar with something they are either reckless or so timid they are just as dangerous.  Instructors call these people “Shaky Jakes”.  They are so aware of specific things that they cannot focus on overall safety.

In my 20+ years of security, police work and bouncing I would estimate the amount of time I have actually been involved in interpersonal combat, including a shooting, and dozens of fights and hands on situations, my actual time “in combat” is less than 45 minutes.  The rest of the time was spent being aware, trying to avoid, and regrouping to do better the next time.  This fact is lost on most people.  The average person who does not have a job which puts them in a position to be involved in such things, and goes out of their way to mind their own business will likely never experience a minute of actual combat, but that is what the most time seems to be spend on.

The key however is learning to be able to free your mind of emotion, outside influences, and things that have no impact on your well-being and making a habit out of doing so.  It is during this level of consciousness that the voice of your intuition will scream at you to save your life.  This is Mushin no shin.  Practicing it is free, but difficult, especially in unfamiliar environments.

I have written before about how when I started bouncing the sound of a pool cue falling on a tile floor would make me jump out of my skin.  Before long my mind was able to file it away under noises that in and of themselves are harmless.
The problem, for most of us these days, is that our world is so full of noises and movements that either don’t require us to react, or even prohibit us from reacting, that our conscious mind is dulled to the point of inattention.  This is why now, more than ever the pursuit of mastery of mushin no shin is so important.  It is the level of awareness that may one day allow you to respond with physical force to a life threatening, or more likely allow you to subconsciously avoid dangerous situations hundreds or thousands of times during a single day.

The best example I have for teaching not only the OODA Loop but also Mushin no shin is driving.  A good driver is aware and able to anticipate the actions of other drivers, and pedestrians without conscious thought.  Another level of this is riding a motorcycle because you cannot just get away with hitting the brakes like in a car.  In a split second you need to identify a threat and the of a combination of your front and rear brakes, amount of pressure on the brakes, leaning the bike, all in relation to the distance you have as well as the road conditions.  All this is done with the anticipation of possibly having to lay the bike down.  In essence there are so many things you need to be aware of that concentrating on one of them can be fatal.  This is also not taking into consideration subsequent threats.  Task fixation kills.

The key to survival is movement, and what precipitates movement is subconscious awareness not concentration.  Concentration inhibits movements and often requires things to make sense to your logical mind before reacting. 

Learn to just be in the moment without conscious thought.  Remember this is a lifelong pursuit so don’t rush it.

apologize in advance for my bastardization of the Japanese language.  English just does not do these concepts justice.