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.

25 November 2014

Neutering of Police-The Cause of Ferguson.

Prior to the news conference last night it was unclear whether or not Officer Wilson knew that Brown had just committed a strong arm robbery which is a felony.  In his statement Wilson states that he was responding to the call and saw the proceeds of the robbery in the hand of Brown as he was walking down the street with another suspect.

As a retired urban police officer who served as a field training officer and now teaches officer survival here are my comments.  If confronted with that exact situation I would, and would have advised another officer to stop his vehicle, use it for cover and order both suspects to the ground at gun point and waited for additional units to arrive and approach and handcuff them.  The problem however is that police in many places would hesitate to do this.  In some jurisdictions they don't handle enough of these types of calls and may tend to be more lenient and lackadaisical in their approach.  More often though it is not done because the officer is concerned with getting in trouble from his supervisors or receiving a complaint for being aggressive and heavy handed.  Had Officer Wilson done this there would have likely been two reactions of the part of the suspects.  They would have either complied and got down or they would have taken off running.  In either case the officer would have had  a better idea of who he is was dealing with and waited for back up.  Two vs one is a disparity of force by itself even without the size of Brown vs Wilson.  It is important that the officer set the tone and take control from the start of the contact.  This allows the officer time to make better decisions and exercise more force options.  Once all hell breaks loose that is no longer an option.

Skip to the point where Officer Wilson and Brown are fighting in the vehicle.   With few exceptions most defensive tactics for law enforcement are a joke and pale in comparison to the reality of the job.  Officers need to understand that deadly force is deadly force and that if in your mind you are justified to use deadly force using their sidearm they are just as justified to jam a thumb into the suspects eye socket or punch them in the throat.  At contact distances officers who have not received combatives training or have no confidence in what they have received will fixate on using their hands to get their gun out while they are getting punched in the face until they loose consciousness.   As I have said over and over it is not about the gun it is about the fight.  Whether you are a police officer or armed citizen, if someone is trying to disarm you there you need be able to retain that sidearm and that may very well require force other than the firearm.

This is by no means an indictment of Officer Wilson.  We here at MCS are relieved at the decision.  However it is an indictment of a society that expects police to make an omelet without breaking any eggs.  Police officers need to know how to fight and society needs to understand that their job requires them to.  Once again we can see how well the hug a thug hands off approach works when dealing with thugs, criminals, and looters.  This politically correct bullshit led to Ferguson burning.

Drop all the sensetivty training bullshit and train officers to fight without OC, Tasers and guns. -  George

16 November 2014

Fantasy of the Fight- the Cheap Shot

People that have not had the misfortune of growing up in a locale where they had to fight to survive, or being in a profession requiring them to put their hands on people, often have the ridiculous notion that fighting may look something like this.

It has been my experience that with most things in life, the ones you see coming don't hurt you.  It is the ones you don't see.  In my professional police and bouncing career, the worst injuries I have suffered were never at the hands of the primary offender I was dealing with and they NEVER EVER came from the front.  They were always cheap shots from the rear or the flank.  In every instance, I was tied up with someone else when I felts someone else punching or kicking me, most often to the back of the head.

For the citizen, if trained correctly, this should rarely be an issue if you make these principles a priority.

  • Do not hold onto your attacker longer than absolutely necessary to do damage
  • You have no responsibility to "control" anyone
  • Do not let your attacker hold onto you
  • Keep moving 
  • Avoid bending over to deal with an attacker on the ground
To have someone attack you from the blind side necessitates that you have one to attack on, stay on your feet, keep your head on a swivel, and move, move, move.

15 November 2014

Gear Review- Schampa Warmskin Pharoah Deluxe

As I spoke about in my previous review of the Schampa Skull Mask ,I ride year round here in Southwest Pennsylvania where things can get a little brisk.  For me the skull mask is fine until the temps go below 40 degrees.  Then it is time to breakout the Schampa Warmskin Pharoah .

Last Sunday was the first really cold day.  When I left the house, it was 31 degrees and my average speed was approximately 45 MPH for my 45 minute ride.  That made the windchill about 13.6 degrees.  At this speed, at that temperature, the wind finds any and every gap in your riding gear.  My head, face, and neck were comfortable the entire time.  Keep in mind I wear a half helmet and do not run a windshield.

When I received the Pharoah, the first thing I thought was how warm it felt. When you first put it on, it takes a few seconds to get it all situated the way you want it. The WarmSkin material is very stretchy and needs to be pulled tight so as not to bunch up under your helmet.  WarmSkin is used for the top, sides, and back.  StormGear material is used for the face and bib to stop the wind.

When you first look at it, you would probably be inclined to put the Pharoah on
early in your dressing routine.  If you do, you will probably be sweating by the time you get on the bike and that is not a good thing. It is one of the last things I put on, before my helmet, and lastly my gloves.  When I do put it on, I pull the face mask down under my nose to help prevent fogging.  Applying Cat Crap to your eye wear helps the fog to dissipate quickly, but in my experience does not stop it from forming.  Then I tuck the front and rear bib into my other layers.

My favorite thing about the Pharoah is that it is lightweight and sleek.  There is not a lot of heavy material that bunches up.  This can be very uncomfortable.  I don't feel like I am wearing a Watch Cap under my helmet.

Final thoughts, if you enjoy any kind of cold weather motorsports, the Pharoah provides a well made, inexpensive option to keep your face, head, and neck warm in cold temperatures.  Just keep in mind that it is extreme cold weather gear and that when you are stopped you will overheat, so carry other cold weather headgear with you.  Considering my positive experiences with the Schampa Skull Mask and the Pharoah, I might just have to order some of their other headgear for this purpose.

How To- Dress warm in cold weather

I wrote this a while back but the information is still good.  Remember, clothing is just 1st line shelter.

This past weekend I attended BSA Survivor Weekend with my 13 year old son. With the exception of December, our Troop camps every month. During the winter months, we are in cabins.

Being a four season camper and enjoying the cold, I am always interested to see how the Scouts, parents, and adult leaders pack for the winter months. If the parents don’t know, and the kids don’t listen, it really shows. Being able to sleep in the cabin and then go outside for activities offers the ability for people to learn lessons instead of dying from them. 

Cotton worn as a base layer- my four season rule is that the only cotton you will find in my gear is a bandanna. The problem is that cotton absorbs moisture and does not release it. In warm weather, this causes rashes. In cold weather, it promotes hypothermia and frostbite. It also becomes incredibly heavy when wet. The number one cotton culprits are socks and underwear. These all cover areas that are prone to perspiration (arm pits, crotch, and feet) even in cold weather. You sweat during activity and freeze during rest. The next issue is jeans, and about 90% of Scouts and parents were wearing them, and the other 10% were wearing other types of cotton pants. We had plenty of snow on the ground and of course the kids had to play in it. They were sweated up from the inside out, and wet from snow from the outside in. Like I said, being close to the cabin meant it was easy to return and change, so the worse penalty they paid was being a little cold. If they had to spend one night outside, it would have been lost toes, fingers, and maybe death. 

Wicking Layer- the base layer against your skin has to be made of a material that is incapable of holding moisture, such as nylon or polypropylene. Today the most common example of this is Under Armour, but you can find stuff that is much less expensive and works just as well. I wear Alpaca socks. They draw moisture away from my feet. If you don’t have quality socks, wear a cheap pair of women’s nylons under your socks. They too will draw the moisture away from your socks, not to mention prevent blisters. Your wicking layer should fit like a second skin.

Insulation Layer- in my experience, lots of people make the mistake of wearing a cotton hooded sweatshirt as their insulation layer. If you are wearing an effective wicking layer, it will draw all the moisture out to your insulation layer. This can turn your insulation layer into a soaked bath towel. This is where I prefer a light fleece, or a heavy wool sweater, depending on the severity of the weather. You want a fiber that is light and airy that allows the warm air from your body to be trapped between it and the top layer. This air combined with the “dead space” between it and the top layer is what keeps you warm. This layer should be loose, but not baggy. The colder it gets, or the more inactive you are, the more insulating layers you add. This is like the insulation in your attic. The colder your climate, the more you need.

Windproof Layer- This is your top layer. Usually, you see people combining this with an insulation layer in one heavy layer such as a coat. This layer should also have a hood. Having tried literally dozens of top layers over the years, ranging from inexpensive to way too expensive, the best I have ever found is the Classic Anorak from LL Bean. I got mine in 97’ and it still looks like new. You can fit an amazing amount of layers underneath if you need to. Good windproof layers should have elastic draw strings around the waist, hood, and sometimes midsection. The cuffs are usually elastic, or fold over and secure with a Velcro tab. These things allow you to retain the heat from your body, and keep the wind out.

Your clothes are the first line of shelter and need to be thought of as such.

Venting- In cold weather you need to constantly be monitoring your body for comfort and moisture, and adjust accordingly. The first step in doing so is your head gear. Your head is very vascular, close to the surface and the heart. If you begin feeling warm, remove your hat.

If you still find yourself too warm and beginning to sweat, loosen up the elastic draw strings and cuffs on your Windproof Layer. Many Windproof Layers will also have arm pit vents, which are excellent for venting.

After venting, the next step is removing your Windproof Layer, and just wearing your Insulation Layer over your Wicking Layer. If you find it more windy than cold, consider wearing your Windproof Layer over your Wicking Layers.

Next to being self-aware, the biggest issue is being dedicated to taking layers on an off to maintain comfort and avoiding extremes. After some concentrated effort, it becomes second nature. Keeping dry, while avoiding the wind, will keep you warm.

When it comes to cold weather, I am an anomaly. Much to my wife’s chagrin, even in the winter, I have the window at least cracked with the fan on. Because of being an average of 10-20 degrees warmer than others, I wear Deluth Shorts year round, even when I am in the woods, if I am not wearing a kilt. When it does get too cold for my legs, I put on a wicking layer and then windproof pants.

This past weekend it never got too cold for shorts. While outside, I wore a Wicking Layer, and my Anorak on top. This kept me comfortable with nighttime temperatures dipping into the mid 20’s. My go to Insulation Layer is Under Armour Fleece.

When it comes to shoes, I will just say this, the biggest problem I find is people wearing heavy rubber boots with cotton socks. This means no air in, no air out, which equals wet feet. The heavier the boots, the more stationary the activity they are intended for. I wearMerrell hiking boots all year round.

I hope this keeps some people warm and comfortable.

13 November 2014

How MCS was created Part IV- Paul Castle

Like every other American, I was deeply impacted by 9/11.  That grim day however put into motion a chain of events that would put me in contact with two individuals that had it not been for 9/11 I would not have met; Dave Williams and Paul Castle.

After 9/11, a Military Police unit out of the Tennessee Army Reserves were mobilized and sent to of all places Aberdeen Proving Ground where I had served as a young MP, and now policing on the other side of the gate.  At the time, the DOD had a police academy on APG and I was an adjunct instructor.

Our SWAT teams used to do joint training days and on one of these days I would meet a man who would soon become one of my closest friends.  David Williams family has been serving this country since the civil war.  If my numbers are correct David's wife has sent her husband and sons off to war 9 times since 9/11.  One a Ranger and the other a Marine.  David himself has had an amazing military career including a CIB, and serving as a Black Hat at the US Army Airborne School at Ft Benning GA.  His accomplishments are too many to list here.  When we met, he was a robbery/homicide detective in Decatur AL.  We hit it off right away and became fast friends.  While he was on APG and our schedules would line up, he would spend entire weekends with my family.  When I was working, he would often ride along.  For some time he also studied at the dojo.

During one of our conversations ranging from everything from the bible to military history, he told me about an instructor and a system that I had to look into.  He told me about Paul Castle and Center Axis Relock.

After he spoke so highly of Paul, I reached out to him about doing a class.  Within a few weeks, Paul was in town doing a basic Center Axis Relock hosted by APG DOD Police's SWAT team. Our SWAT team attended.

From my first conversation with Paul I knew we would also be lifelong friends.  Having already been through several firearms instructors courses, I immediately recognized that Paul understood what I did, and that was that the way we were training officers how to shoot was not based on how our bodies actually respond to stress.  Paul, like me, was addicted to understanding how the human body responded during life and death situations, and that this knowledge was key to training people how to survive.

Not that Paul's typical courses were not intense enough, but the fact that we were
Paul Castle.
all SWAT guys caused him to turn things up a bit.  The basic course was three days.  Paul recruited a handful of us for a two day instructor's course the following two days.  That class was a think tank like I had never seen before.  He wanted to make sure that if you were teaching it you knew the how and the why.  Something that I had found desperately missing in all my previous training.  Since Paul created CAR, it was like drinking water from the spring where it came out of the ground.

People who have trained with me will tell you that I am a very physical trainer and I believe that everything is connected.  When I am teaching pistol, I will go right to open hand or stick.  This is something I learned from Paul, smooth transitions between all tools based on a common mindset.

While Paul was in town, I introduced him to Sensei.  They too hit it off.  Paul was to the gun what Sensei was to the open hand.  What made it so amazing was that Sensei had pistol skills and Paul had open hand skills.  What I teach is a hybrid of what I learned from these men.

A year later Paul invited Sensei and myself to the CAR Master Instructors Course at FT McCoy Wisconsin.  Once again to my surprise my agency sent me.  Arriving there made me think of a movie where the best of the best are assembled for a specific mission.  As I would find out, we were.  That was the only Master course Paul would ever hold.  He certified others as Masters but never held another class like this.

Over that weekend I met other SWAT cops, SEALS, boat team guys, people who could not say where they worked.  What I recognized in all of them was that they too thought outside of the box and recognized Paul and CAR as being well outside the box.

When we were not in class, we were sharing.  That is where I got my first real introduction to what some would call knife fighting.  There was a fella there who came off as kinda goofy, but it was a front.  He schooled me on the offensive use of the blade.  He also introduced me to the knives of Al Polkowski, which turned into another amazing friendship.

The week was both intense and fun.  I have to admit I came back feeling like a Jedi.  But I also understood until this day, that regardless of how you try to explain it to them, most people want to train in a way that makes them feel good, not in a way that forces them to react to the worst possible scenarios they could end up in.

There are many people who had a hard on for Paul.  In my opinion, the biggest reason for this was that he was teaching something new and unique.  If you wanted to teach it, you had to go through him.  It was not open source like all the other gun stuff out there.  But what many firearms instructors fail to understand the one thing that Paul harped on, it was about the fight, not the gun.  Sadly in 2011, Paul finally lost his battle with cancer.  I miss him all the time.  In his memory I drive on.  In his honor I will continue to "evidence it".

Before I knew it Dave was back in AL and before long enroute to Iraq.  I was back working the street and dragging myself to the dojo and getting beat on by Harold.