Friday, June 9, 2017

Shivworks AMIS, Live Fire Exercises, Part 2

We are going to move forward assuming you have already read part 1 .

In this post we are going to focus on agility, specifically making hard turns at speed in tight spaces. AMIS grads will be familiar with the need to be able to take corners hard, change directions without losing speed, and keeping our footing. In Part 1 while the movements did include turns the space to do so was large and the focus was more on absolute speed with large areas to accelerate into.

Here in Part 2 we will be focused on clean cornering, restricting the room to move within, and acceleration in short bursts. The set ups are built to focus on this.

"I couldn't have become a great goalkeeper without power, agility, and quickness."
~Hope Solo

Diligentia - Vis - Celeritas 
(Accuracy - Power - Speed)

Our first set up.
The small white barrel to the left is Position A, and the end of the row to the right is Position B. The white fault line on the ground represents the limit of the shooters movement (over penetration). The steel target is slightly inboard from Pos B, such that you cannot see it immediately when taking the corner and it does not become visible until you are 3/4 of the way down the line of travel.

Exercise 2-1 walk through
Shooters perspective


Exercise 2-1
Start hands relaxed at sides at Pos A, on signal draw and hit target, advance to Pos B and hit again. Our focus is on taking that corner efficiently. As I approach the corner I look at where I intend to plant my foot. I want to turn my hips sharply at the corner. I achieve this by slightly lowering my center of gravity, stepping with the outside foot to the spot I have chosen, my weight shifts down into the planted foot as I pivot my hips and drive forward pushing off the ground from the planted foot. I keep the gun high and compressed and run it straight out as I decelerate and locate the target.

Exercise 2-2
Starting at PosB, hands relaxed at sides, Toes touching the fault line. On start signal hit once from Pos B, move to and hit once as soon as possible when approaching Pos A.
You will notice I run this muzzle back as I run up range, this will be familiar to AMIS grads when bypassing the "don't shoot - yet" , and leads to good practice on getting the gun back up high into the eye line especially making a right turn as a right handed shooter inside the compressed space created by the corner. I'm looking to get my second hit as soon as its visible passing the barrels as I approach Pos A. I should have my eyes up and rapidly looking around that corner as I approach it. 

Exercise 2-3
I will remove one barrel aprox 2/3 of the distance down the first line of travel. This creates a third shooting position the shooter must "Port and Bypass". In the AMIS coursework the shooter is called upon to be able to navigate past uncleared space when being driven by circumstances. Think about a loved one screaming for help at the end of a hall, and you need to pass an open door to get there. You cannot just run past it blind, but neither can you stop and methodically clear the space in an emergency.  We want to look at and point our gun at this space as we pass it. Creating this port along the travel lane will require the shooter to throttle down their speed enough to be able to see and address that space. Requiring a shot there is proof that we have effectively looked at this space and had our gun pointed at it. Again, this is not contextualized, there is no decision making here, only the raw athletic and visual skills required to perform the task.

Exercise 2-4
One port is good but two ports is gooder!
The second port adds both the need for finer control of our momentum, good balance, and stability as we lose and regain visual on the target while running the gun in and back out along the horizontal line of presentation. Remember we are working on Agility today! 



Exercise 2-5 set up
Now we will change our path again. Position A will again be the small barrel to the left, B will be inside the structure at the blue barrel, C will be to the right within the fault line. We will gain both a hard left and right turn. I want a narrow door way to navigate on the first turn, the shooter is not to run into or make contact with the barrels. Using these pretty common range barrels that doorway is one barrel wide. We will need to be nimble. The target should not be visible until we are within arms reach of the new second shooting position. Notice the white fault line at the final position, again I want to be able to stop without over penetration based on a visual index.

Exercise 2-5
Starting at Pos A on start signal draw and hit once from each position A-B-C.
This will give us good agility work as we pivot both left and right with shorter travel lanes requiring hard acceleration and precise footwork in compact spaces. Keep focused on the visual lessons of Part 1 where we are looking through the corners with a distant focus looking for the next target while developing intensely accurate footwork.

The focus on this session as prescribed is agility. The ability to be both fast and accurate, not just with our shooting but with our movement. We also have the opportunity to develop our visual skills as discussed in Part 1 , and practice maneuvering in structures where we need to reach a certain location to see something gives us good practice at our Spacial Intelligence. There is also good secondary work here on footing. There is nothing quite like running full steam and trying to stop on a piece of thin carpet sliding on hardwood or running over some garbage to make one appreciate good footing. Range conditions will generally dictate our footing, here I am running on loose gravel, mulch, and spent brass wearing minimalist shoes mainly because I forgot my good range shoes (Adidas Turf Hogs). Little things like developing an intuitive sense of balance, learning how and when to appropriately lower our level, and having a high degree of control over acceleration and deceleration will pay huge dividends when it comes to keeping our footing sound.

Agility and complexity of stage design is one reason I prefer USPSA as an avenue for skill development over other types of shooting sports. The ability to focus on the raw athletic and shooting skills needed without trying to play make believe on the range lets us develop a high level of skill in the fundamental abilities required to dominate the environment. But we should not confuse this raw delivery system with the application of the skills under pressure in a live complex and ambiguous environment.  Application should take place with live role players in realistic settings, and complex problem solving. I will look at this further in another post.

Fast Is Fast !

Shawn Lupka

Friday, June 2, 2017

Shivworks AMIS, Live Fire Exercises, Part 1


The 2017 Shivworks Pittsburgh Armed Movement In Structures (AMIS) course has recently ended. It is always deeply fulfilling for me to work under the guidance of my mentor, Craig Douglas. For the first time in this course I presented a short block, about 30 minutes with Q&A, on live fire exercises for the shooting skills that are presented in class. The local training group has worked on this extensively and it has come up repeatedly over the years. While some of the work seems rather straightforward to me coming from a competition shooting background it was clear that for many shooters training in this way was not something they where acclimated to. My hope here is to clearly define a few options for these exercises and to communicate the concepts of skill isolation and focus in a way that allows translation into contextualized training.

These are presented devoid of context, do not read into them as situational training. They are for the express purpose of isolating specific key attributes. The marksmanship required is not a high standard, do not try to make them harder just for the sake of making things harder, we want the focus to be on the skills as presented. If you need to fix your accuracy issues go shoot bulls, seriously.


"Cardboard doesn't shoot back, and if it did this barricade won't stop bullets. It's just an exercise, so get your reps."


Let's talk first about a few key attributes and their application.

Vision
Simply put, you cannot deal with something you are unaware of. If its a shooting problem, we need to locate the target before we can shoot it. The AMIS coursework is intensely visual. The practitioner must seamlessly alternate between slow methodical clears where they are trying to pick out shadows and the tip of a shoe through multiple rooms and portals to sudden changes of focus into close corners or behind obstructions while moving. It can be a very high cognitive load, and many become overwhelmed at the level of detail and cannot process what they are seeing fast enough to make decisions. 

Movement
We must be able to call on explosive movement in a precise manner with sudden starts and stops. Footwork is key. The ability to break into a full gallop at a moments notice and brake on a dime is a key attribute that is expressed in context during in-extremis room entry, port and bypass on exposures, and limiting our exposure time in areas where the field of threat is unmanageable. We need to be violently agile on demand.

When moving within a structure a high level of intuitive understanding of geometry is a key attribute. We need to be able to understand, to imagine, what the space beyond that door frame may look like. We need to be able to see a window and know where someone outside that window can see when they look into the room. We must understand how far into a space we can penetrate before we are ourselves exposed to uncleared space from off angles and where those lines connect.

These exercises are designed to help strengthen those attributes within a shooting context.

Set up 1
This set up allows the most variety of use and me and the crew work this heavily.
Position A is the white barrel furthest up range, near the camera from this picture. Position B is the white barrel to the left, and C is to the right.
A is 20 yards directly in front of a steel target , B and C are 11 yards to the front of the barrels from the target measured on the diagonal. B/C steel at 12 yards (rough shooters position behind barrel to target) is aprox to A zone USPSA hits at 7 yards if I recall my math correctly. If you need to change the distances due to range limitation or targets available keep in mind the focus of the exercise. There needs to be enough distance between positions for you to get into a full on run, and the target should be such that you can hit it at speed but not sloppy (from the near barrels think A zone at 7 yards).
If you do not have barrels to use a target stand with cardboard targets attached to the outside left and right and one low in the middle for stability will work just fine. I really prefer to use steel B/C size targets for this or large pepper poppers. Immediate feedback and less time to reset lets me get my reps in efficiently. If your going to use paper I suggest using a negative target by cutting out the A zone of a USPSA target and reducing the range to a level that is appropriate to your skill level. If you need to stop dead in position and take careful aim to make your hits your not going to be working on the attributes we are focusing on here. If you cannot yet make the hits at all without either dramatically reducing range or stopping completely to take your time to shoot then the fundamental marksmanship issues need addressed first. We cant race before we can drive. this set up works exceptionally well with .22 conversion kits as we are not placing multiple hits on target and the focus is on the vision and movement.

Exercise  1-1
Starting at Position A, hands relaxed at sides, on start signal draw and hit target once from each station in order A-B-C-A , ending where you started.
You must hit from each position before you can hit from the next one. The only metric we care about here is total time.
What I am looking for is muzzle and gun orientation appropriate to direction of travel, ability to dig down and gain traction to accelerate with maximum effect, and ability to switch visual focus as needed and index as we move into position.
Notice specifically as I move from B to C how I am looking first at the spot I will stop on the ground, then my head finds the target, I am looking THROUGH the barricade as I enter position and drive the gun. The up and down range movements allow me to practice both muzzle front and rear techniques, this is not just an artifact of a "180 rule", I do want to practice from both positions. AMIS students will note that the up range movement mimics bypassing the "don't shoot yet" and looking back while the forward movement will resemble the chase exercise that leads to port and bypass.


Exercise 1-2
Starting in Position C on start signal draw and hit once from stations C-B-C-B
This is the same focus as 1-1 but here we have made shorter lateral movement and we we get both left to right and right to left practice. As we have removed up and down range movement and only have the shorter range shots I expect extreme focus on absolute speed and agility. You should be panting for air after you run it a few time in a row.


Exercise 1-3
Starting at location B on start signal we will draw and hit from the left side of the barricade , then middle, then right.
These movements should be less than 2 full strides but more than 1, the shooter should have limited space to move back so that he cannot keep the gun at extension. I want the gun to have to move in and out on the horizontal plane into each space. This gives us good visual practice of losing sight of and then regaining visual on the target as we drive the gun from a compressed position. I am hyper focused on the gun firing as soon as possible as it is presented and staying high through the movement.


Exercise 1-4
Starting at location B center on start signal draw and hit from center, then left, then right.
This is not just a variation on 1-3, the one movement to the left is identical, but the key movement is from the left to the right. This is a short movement but long enough that the shooter can break off the gun turn the hips in the direction of travel and accelerate violently only to stop again while picking up the target. I'm looking to see the hips turn aggressively to the right then re-square as we present and the head to be up and looking for the target before the barricade is passed.

That's a good start!
I will continue with more exercises to address other aspects of the shooting problems presented in further posts.

The exercises I am outlining are not ground breaking or new, they are just specially tailored to the specific demands of the environment. The core of practical shooting, Diligentia Vis Celeritas, keeps a strong focus on the base attributes so we have a strong delivery system in place when we need to apply them in context. For a great guide to this type of practice specifically tailored to practical shooting and dry fire I highly suggest Ben Stoeger's books.

For those familiar with the Shivworks coursework I have often said that ECQC should make one want to do jiu jitsu and wrestle , EWO should make one want to box and wrestle, and AMIS should make one want to shoot USPSA. To put it plainly if you want to be able move, shoot, handle your gun, and place rounds on target with accuracy reliably then competition shooting as expressed in USPSA is hands down the best way to practice those foundation skills. If you strip away the politics and opinions and focus cleanly on performance the path to follow becomes clear. The practitioner must come face to face with the truth. Only performance matters. It can be both the attractant and repellent to realistic opposition based force on force on training to many people.  Its up to them what to do with that knowledge. Practical shooting is but one piece of the full canvas.

Part 2, click here

Shawn Lupka
Antifragile Training



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

There Is No Subsitute


There is no substitute for mat time. None.

There are plenty of accessories, just like with lifting. Maybe my main lift is the dead lift and after that I do some Romanian variations, rack pulls, reverse's , whatever. Sure , that's cool, that helps, it  gives me volume and variety, but if all I do is the accessory work and never hit my main lift, never perfect that form, never push it? I've heard it said not to "major in the minors".

I've been pulled that same way shooting too. There's a challenging test or drill and I would shoot it over and over and over until I could rock some real impressive score, and sure it helped my shooting some and got me some trigger time, but the kick ass score on that one drill wouldn't translate to every expression of the foundation. Shooting one classifier until I can shoot it at Master level doesn't turn in a Master level match performance.

And so it is with "this thing of ours" , there is no good enough. There is no if your a B class uspsa shooter, a blue belt in bjj, and can squat your body weight for reps you automagically can use those skills or better yet combine them under duress in a chaotic and ambiguous real time event.

But here's the crux of the thing. If we want to be able to be multidisciplinary, we do need to have multiple disciplines we can base off of first! You cannot work application with no delivery system, and the foundation must be strong, stronger than whats needed in application I believe, as base skills will degrade under ever increasing layers of complexity.

Punch a Black Belt in the face he becomes a Brown Belt. Punch him again, a Purple...
-Carlson Gracie Sr.


So how much is good enough? I don't think that matters. Good enough for what? We cant predict precisely what our needs might be. We might be able to make some generalizations of risk profile based on profession and environment, but beyond that, esp for the armed citizen, sometimes just being aware and willing are enough, and sometimes the boogeyman comes knocking.

I stay hungry, I'm always pushing for more. Why? Its not cause I'm concerned about the boogeyman, it's not because I don't feel I'm "good enough" or any other sort of insecurity and fear. No. I keep at it because I keep getting better. Because this puzzle is deep and fights you back. Because I'm a better person for it. And because the better I get at understanding the paradigm the more able I am to help you down that path and be a part of good people taking self ownership, finding confidence, and overcoming adversity.

If you want to walk that path you know where to find me.

Shawn
www.stouttrainpitt.com


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Purple Belt Thoughts

I recently received my purple belt in BJJ and our school is notoriously conservative at promoting people. I was a blue belt for just over 3 years, and this is 5 1/2 years total training time there with a prior year at another school that didn't have a real bjj program at the time.

So this is a fairly short time to make it to purple at our school where blue for 4-5 years is the generally accepted norm if your  training regularly.

My coach, Warren Stout, always says some words about the people he’s promoting and it struck me that he spoke about the improvements I have made quickly and how while sometimes you want to just come in and get some mat time or roll with your friends he always sees me studying and drilling and taking a lot of care in improving. Due to that I've had some questions from people and some great interactions revolving around training methods with my teammates.

I do not claim to be any sort of expert, and I feel like purple is just the beginning of starting to get deeper into my base, but I do feel confident in my thoughts on learning in general and applying them to this area so I'd like to share those thoughts and ask for feedback from the community, especially those who have come down through this space before me and can give me guidance as I try to move forward. If I'm off on anything or there are considerations I haven't perceived I ask for your help.

 
General thoughts:

Having strong mentors is fantastic, using them is what makes the resource work though. The people who gave me so much support and guidance thus far have been amazing to me. They have always given freely of their time  and experience but it is always up to me to ask for that help. No one hunted me down to answer questions I had not asked. I would have quit entirely had not Jeff Bloovman given me an epic beat down and Craig Douglas not reached out to me. Craig has guided me and supported me beyond my ability to express, but it has always been on me to do the work, to ask the questions, and to keep showing up.

Something is better than nothing. I have friends who never got past just getting started, who ask about how I train so damn much. I wish they would just show up two days a week. Over a year or so that's better than nothing, and its better than the inconsistent three days this week , no days the next and so on. When I started two or three days a week kicked my ass! I couldn't get out of my car when I got home, everything hurt every day. Over time it got easier and easier to do more. But it started with just something, with just two days. I imagine if I was convinced it had to be all or nothing I would have gotten nothing, never gotten started, and never had the opportunity to enjoy training like I do now. This is where it starts, taking that first step, doing as much as I can, and giving it a chance.

Consistency over time.  Cecil Burch told me early on a parable about consistency over time, about laying one piece of paper on a desk each day not seeming like much but over time it will be a book. Over time the volume of training hours I have put in has grown as I’ve learned to manage my time and energy better but I have stayed consistent. I have taken no time off, no breaks, no pauses except for the small injuries I have had and even then I stayed active showing up to watch, studying video, or modifying my training. In my promotion picture my hand is all taped up because I have been training with some sprained tendons in my hand for a few weeks. I trained with no hands for solid week with my finger in a brace, then one handed for a week after, and had just then started training carefully with it taped. In the mean time I broke a toe. I did not miss one day. I worked around it as I was able, and had terrific training partners I trusted who worked with me. I have plenty of friends who started when or before I did who have taken breaks, sometimes of their own choice, some not, and plenty who have lost interest for times. That’s fine, I have committed to staying locked in. If my interest wanes I double down, if I’m tired I double down, if life gets in the way I adjust as best I can and get that work in. I may not enjoy training today, but I will enjoy the fruits of my labor when they ripen. I trust the process and drive forward.

Volume Volume Volume. There is a big difference between saying I train 5-6 days a week and I train 10-12 hours a week. I started to log actual mat hours last year and try to find ways to increase that number. We may both train one day, but if I come for a one hour class then stay for an hour of open mat after and you only come to class I am getting double the volume. That adds up. I will caution against doing more than the body and mind can handle in one session, but also against doing less. The only way to get better at doing more is to do more. I found out quickly if I could get in a half hour before class and drill with someone I could increase my hours dramatically over time (see consistency).  On Wednesday nights I do no gi open mat, then there is an hour until I teach my class, I grab a corner of mat space and a partner and drill or work back through anything interesting from open mat I need to dissect or sharpen up on  before I teach.
 
Pablo Casals is 81. He agreed to have Robert Snyder make a movie short, “A Day in the Life of Pablo Casals.” Snyder asked Casals, the world’s foremost cellist, why he continues to practice four and five hours a day. Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
 

Larry Lindenman told me to “practice in the dead spaces”. Sometimes that means getting up from my desk at work to do air squats, sometimes that means practicing a grappling stance and movement for a sec or two throughout the day, and other times I find a lot of useful reps by using useful movements as warm ups. I lift usually 2-3 days early before work during the week (and one day on the weekend) and when I wake up and splash some water on my face at 530AM I warm up with some quick ground movements. I tell new people in my class all the time that doing a set of hip escapes, hip heists, sit outs, and technical get ups every day will only cost you 10 minutes but it will both get you moving and over time get your body better at core movements.

Regulating intensity levels. If I’m going to train as much as possible I can’t go 100% every day. Some days I need hard competitive rounds, but those are generally fewer by magnitudes. As I improve I find this is easier, both because I'm better capable of dealing with a variety of partners and because I can use less energy to do more work. As an example one week may look like:
Monday: train at home 45 min drilling/ 45 min positional sparring (light)
Tuesday: Drill before open mat (light) , open mat (med to high), Fundamentals class (light)
Wednesday: Open mat (high) drill an hour before I teach (light) , after my class try to get a couple rounds in if I can with whatever I left in the tank sometimes mma rounds rolling with little gloves (high)
Thursday: Shooting day (rest)
Friday : Advanced Gi class (high)
Saturday: Early morning with the killers open mat(HIGH), drill (light), then teach
Sunday: Back at it with open mat early (High), or lately if I’m shooting Sunday I try to also schedule some drilling at home (light)

Paul Sharp told me there’s no win/loss record at open mat. That hit me immediately at the time. I see it all the time, train to improve but compete to win. I do need some hard competitive rounds but if I’m going to improve I have to learn new movements, test strategies in real time against tough opponents, and get out of my comfort zone. That’s a lot of getting beat. Suck it the fuck up. This also means it is not worth getting injured during training. If a new white belt gets my neck all twisted up as he’s going for a spazoplata its ok to tap, its ok to tap once there is no technical way out. If I have to resort to escape through superior athleticism (not something I really have to begin with) then I have already lost. I’ve learned to frame most training as playing a game, yes it’s a violent game, but it’s still a game.

Don’t get injured. This is a meshing of the “no win/ loss at open mat” and “managing intensity levels” above. It’s a contact sport, I cannot 100% avoid all risk. I can avoid needless risk and people who I don’t trust. There is a difference between people who will go hard, smash me, crush my soul and people who will break my arm if I don’t tap in time. What little I may gain from rolling with those people is not worth an injury that may take me off the mat for 6 or 9 months or worse. This goes both ways, I am fully dedicated to not hurting my training partners.  My #1 goal needs to be to not injure anyone or get injured during training. So long as that happens even if I don’t improve that day I can continue to train and be exposed to the chance of improvement later.

Study. One of my earliest mentors on the mat, Mike Flor, told me if he was going to do this thing he was going to take it seriously, he was going to treat it like going to school. Private lessons I did with him came with a printed curriculum of what we covered. He would take notes after class, he would truly study. This approach has in my opinion been the biggest factor in me improving. I try not to come in without a plan, and I spend time thinking about and studying that plan. I know ahead of time that for example right now I’m working on a series from lasso guard when my opponent brings up his near knee behind my lasso thigh. I will drill the permutations  of this position in my drilling sessions that week and focus my rolling on getting there and getting that reaction from my opponent and executing my plan. I will make note of my successes and failures, study those, ask for feedback from the more experienced, and go back at it again. I very rarely come to open mat just trying to get some rounds in. I like to tell myself, out loud, before I get to the gym, “ok, today you’re going to get to X position and work that series” , “today is leg locks on blue belts and up, and getting to the back on white belts” etc.

Video study. I spent close to a year studying Romulo Barral’s  spider guard DVD set. I would watch one excerpt at a time and drill it and work to pull it off before moving onto the next. I had a friend who was out for 9 months with an injury come back, he asked me when he got back what I was working on, I told him oh this spider guard series. He said “you were working on that when I got injured!” . Yep, and I think I’m starting to get it! While working on that DVD I also found it incredibly helpful to watch his competition videos. I would study and look for the techniques in real time and review and replay the exchanges to see what the real timing against high level players looks like.

Finding my game. Wow, this could be a whole book! I prob spent the first year of blue just learning how to pass, then I spent months focusing on one guard then another. I didn’t want to perfect any of them, but I didn’t want there to be huge gaps in my knowledge either. I don’t need to master deep half, but I should at least learn how it works and what it feels like. I would say ok, this month I’m doing nothing but knee cut passes, or half guard, and along the way I found some things that fit my purposes and that I really enjoyed and discarded stuff that used to be my game. The second year of blue belt was almost entirely this type of experimentation and switching of focus. While I did not get better in my ability to win against those of my partners that focused more, I do feel I was able to broaden my understanding of jiu jitsu and also find things that were not before on my radar.

Get some solid training partners. I cannot drill, study, and stay consistent over time without good partners. My friend Jeptha said once about finding people near enough your size and skill that you can be evenly matched and always pushing each other, and that this was one of the biggest factors in his improvement. When I heard that I took it seriously. To have a good partner first you must also be a good partner. I try my best to not only get my work in, but to do as much as I can for others. Injured and need a dummy play light bottom for you while get back to just moving on the mat? I’m grateful for the opportunity to help. Took some time off and need to work back in? Hit me up! Need someone to get swept 50 times in a  row while you work your timing? I am your man! I cannot take take take and not give back.

The arms race. Good consistent partners who push me and know my game force me to become ever more technical. I learn spider, they learn a spider pass, I learn to counter that pass, they learn another. As we both chase each other we get sharper and sharper, then when you meet that guy who doesn’t know that first pass they never get a chance to hit your second or third line of attack. They know my game, they know where I am strong and where I am weak and they are constantly anticipating my every move. These matches become both incredibly fun and extremely technical. This is the embodiment of the chess match that is jiu jitsu in my mind. All my pieces are on the table, I don’t get success by surprise or power, I get it only by perfect execution, set ups, and counters.  This strengthens the core of my game to a point where when someone is caught by surprise I have an overwhelming advantage.  

Extra credit points. Seriously. Any day I train when I have legit reason not to I get double points. Long day at work, overtime, just got back from a  trip that morning? Get them bonus points! Christmas morning? I’m training. Anytime no normal human being could possibly expect me to train? I’m getting that work in! Those little extra rounds, the one more round once everyone is gone and I’ve been there rolling and teaching from 5-9? That last round with the brown belt who comes in only for the late class and everyone is gone? Triple points! I’ll take em!

Love it. I remember why I started, but also why I continue, and I remind myself when I get caught up in my head that even if there were no belts, no outside recognition, that I would train just as hard. It isn’t always fun, it’s still often intimidating, I get crushed, I fail, I’m tired, I’m sore, sometimes I feel like I take two steps back, but I don’t stop. I used to say I won’t let anyone out work me. That’s bullshit. You may work harder than me, you may be capable of working more than me. Doesn’t matter. I’m not stopping.
 
Shawn Lupka
Antifragile Training
 
Shout outs:
www.stouttrainpitt.com  , Warren Stout, my academy, Team Renzo Gracie
www.shivworks.com , Craig Douglas
www.iacombatives.com , Cecil Burch
www.armeddynamics.com , Jeff Bloovman

Sunday, March 12, 2017

You Make Me Better


Last Wednesday nights class was focused on using a small knife to keep an attacker off of you. As with most of the curriculum its mainly sourced from my mentor Craig Douglas aka southnarc , and its tough, demanding physically, and ultra-violent. 


There is a eclectic group. I have a couple law enforcement officers, a fern loving ecologist, men, women, a father and son, some BJJ guys, and some very new folks. Most of them have done my class before, even if not this lesson. So I know that they know there will be some form of live training at the end. I know they see the pile of Fist Helmet's , boxing gloves, and Nok Knives at the side of the mat.

"The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony ans sweat and devotion ... and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself - ultimate price for perfect value."
-Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers 

I gather the class and grab two of our most seasoned guys to start us off. Lay out the exercise. Gloves and helmet on one, training knife for the other. I stick the knife bearer in the corner of the cage with one direction, GET OUT. Its brutal training for a violent world.

And I am in awe.
I am filled up deeply with respect for anyone who does this work. Those that show up for it over and over again. It breaks down all my biases, all my first instincts about people when you see 7 foot muscle bound men back out of conflict and petite  young women grin and rush into the breech go out the window. It sharpens me. Their questions, their feedback, their work and sweat and blood. I breathe their breath in the helmet , I feel the fear they have to tame, I know their path as my own. And I am honored they allow me to hold their hand and guide them down it. And over and over they push me further than I thought I could go. I owe them only my very best.

Thank you


Friday, November 4, 2016

Memento Mori

Remember That You Have To Die



Let us beware that saying death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

My friend Mark wrote a post back in 2015 dealing with this topic that I greatly enjoyed. It was something that had been on my mind for a while, had come up in our circle, and I had actually been working on a draft of a post about it at the time he released it. Putting it out formally, and following his suggestion on filling out a graph turned this from something that maybe I thought about sometimes or had feelings about into something I was facing every day, and its had a profound impact on me.

I'm going to get a little deep here. I'm not writing for an audience, I'm writing for myself, and I intend to drag out some of my personal thoughts and philosophy out into the daylight stark naked and laid bare. 

Remember Death
The first part of that is Remember. As in think about, comprehend, meditate upon. It was always easy for me to say, yeah, I know I'm going to die one day, but then go about my daily life caught up in the trivialities of existence. The minutia of the day. 

Not that the little things aren't important, they most assuredly are. Go to work, pay bills, sit in traffic, I mean I'm not about to walk off into the woods and turn into a flash of light here cause time is a flat circle and I've transcended earthy existence. The cable bill still needs paid, and I've heard it said if its not practical its not spiritual. I'm all about being practical. 

But I need to remember. I need to remind myself, daily, that I'm mortal. I only have so much time left, and no guarantee on how much. I truly have only this moment, and now its gone. If I make that a part of me, then I start to hold a perspective on life that, to me, is beautiful. 

Knowing that I'm mortal, and that the thread can be cut at any time is it worth my time to put up with people who's company I don't enjoy? Should I argue over a parking space? Life could end tomorrow, will it have been a good use of that most limited of resource, time, to get frustrated in traffic? Or better still, should I avoid the chance of having my mind changed or being exposed to opposing opinions? I'd rather not meet death having never given myself the chance to hold a different viewpoint. 

Filling out this graph every week, and seeing it every day keeps it on my mind. It makes me face it, constantly, and think about whats important to me.

I remember post 9/11 watching an interview with a woman who's husband was murdered that day. She spoke about how it was a normal morning, just routine stuff, and he left for work like every other day. And then he was gone. It was heartbreaking to me. Every morning when I leave for work I kiss my wife and tell her I love her. She's still sleeping, it usually wakes her, it prob used to annoy her more the first few years but I suspect she's gotten used to it by now. I'm not going to miss the opportunity to tell her I love her, to kiss her, as if it might be the last time. 

Life is brief, precious, and rare. I don't want to take any day for granted. I remember, I meditate on, I face the fact that I must die, and its beautiful. I won't squander it.

I think of also the dead in my life, and how they continue to touch me. My grandmother, who gave me a safe place to be a child during a rough childhood, who let me play and cooked me food, and stayed up late with me giving me coffee too young and watching Johnny Carson while telling my grandfather Mike to shoo off and leave the boy alone. I love her. I love what she did for me and how she affected my life. I remember her, and I remember cooking with my son and telling him about Stella, and about how she would always put a pinch of sugar in the sauce to add love.

I think of my dear friend Frank. A man who spent time in the penitentiary, who had a child that wouldn't speak with him ever again, who grew up gay in a time when that was formally considered a mental disorder. A man who turned his life from one of destruction into a thing of love and giving. He gave me so much, he guided me, he taught me, and he was the mentor who gave me tough love and stark truth when I most needed it. He helped bring me through my young adult life and become the man I am today. And while he is physically gone from this earth he continues to influence and guide me to this day.

I shed some tears for them writing this, but its not with sadness that I remember them. It is with great joy knowing that they loved me, and knowing how proud they would be of me today. When I contemplate my own death, this is what I want to leave behind.  

And this is how I come to face that boogeyman, that inevitable end, the great unknown. Not with fear or pain, not in denial, or with trepidation. But with acceptance and appreciation for what I have now, today. With a commitment to be the best version of myself I can be, to not carry around pain and hatred or drag myself down with the weight of a heavy soul. I tell my friends I love them, I give from the heart, not because some old book tells me to, or some guy claims to tell me the true path. No, because I live my life by what I know is right by me. 

This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man/ Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
~William Shakespeare 




Monday, August 15, 2016

Bob Vogel Private Small Group Class Review 08/14/16


"People always say dry fire is boring, but you know whats not boring? Getting better."
-Bob Vogel

www.vogeldynamics.com


I had Bob scheduled for a 2 day class here in Pittsburgh before the Alias drama blew up and took my schedule with it. It was to be my first time training with him and truly the shooting class I was most looking forward to this year. So when it cancelled me and two of my closest shooting buddies decided to book him for a one day at his place in Ohio for just the 3 of us. This is the first time with all the hosting and everything in several years that I have paid for shooting instruction out of my own pocket and been a straight up student, it was worth every penny.

It was a 5 hour drive and cost us $250/each for the lesson. We went from 10am when we arrived until 6pm when we wrapped up with less than an hour of break for lunch (we packed lunch). Shot about 600 rounds.

First off Bob was super friendly and just a normal fucking dude. He had us in his home and besides the awards and trophies all over the place it was just like going to any friends house. I felt really comfortable immediately.

First order of business was we sat at his kitchen table and discussed our individual levels of experience. What shooting sports we played, rank, how long we had been shooting and training formally, etc. We then went over very simply discussing safety with an emphasis on muzzle control and some anecdotes about the sort of failures he commonly sees in safety and that he expected us to be fine with our experiences. We also discussed dry fire safety, the importance of dry fire, and how he approaches it.

Strong emphasis was put on starting grip work from the draw, shooting multiple rounds on multiple targets, and realistic grip pressure and working the trigger dry. The interesting part here that I hadn't been exposed to before was that Bob gets that first press click out of the glock but then for subsequent shots he moves his trigger finger the full range of motion as if the trigger was still there at the pace and pressure he would realistically. I had used cardboard to keep the gun out of battery before, or pressed the dead trigger back into the frame, but Bob is really focusing on moving the trigger finger just the same as if the trigger was not dead. Doing this combined with real grip pressure exposed some movement I had not seen in the gun before when dry or even with a sirt gun. On the sirt gun he prefers to use a real gun instead with his method, and discourages use of the laser for dry fire.

There has been some talk of the Vogel grip method and how he torques the gun. Nothing Ive read or heard on it has done it justice. Bob does a demo where you get your grip, take your support hand away and he put his support hand in its place and the amount of force you need to exert to keep that fucker in front of you is astounding. If you watch him shoot youll notice the gun cants slightly due to the torque. His explanations of how and why are detailed and complete. Im definitely going to be working on it.

First shots where slow fire bill drills at 10 yards so he could see our groups, again with generous par times from the ready, and then our first timed shooting drills where bill drills at 7 , 15, and 25 yards. Each of us went several time through, pasted and timed each run and discussed the groups. Bob had insights as far as the level of detail you need visually at these 3 ranges. My initial index and first shot really suffer at 25, I'll be focusing on this personally.

The rest of the day consisted of work moving and shooting around barrels. moving from spot to spot to spot, setting up in position (that's what I desperately wanted to get from this!) and then tracking movers. Bob had quality technical details on each portion and reviewed with us through several iterations how to lower our center of gravity while moving, how to plant the lead foot when hitting position, and how to effectively track movers. Large emphasis and big lightbulbs for me when he talked about having the confidence to shoot a mover wherever it is in the cycle and shoot it as if it was a stationary target as you track it.

The biggest personal performance piece for me was the final exercise of the day where we had a steel activator for a mover with a no shoot to the left, to the right a large popper, a partial cardboard with no shoot and a small plate and on the far left a small popper.  Bob asked us first how we would shoot this array, we are at about 10 yards. I say I would shoot the activator first, hit the large popper as its close and big then go back to the mover then run the rest of the targets. I said I didn't think at my level I would have time to hit more than one target.

Bob hit the activator, large popper, partial, small plate then hit the mover on its first pass out and ended on the small steel. Of course he did, hes a world champ. He then talked about how most people don't have a real plan for this type of problem. They shoot always trying to keep an eye on the mover, are slower, miss onto the no shoot as they rush the shots to get back, and since they don't have realistic pace in dry fire and walk through they end up over shooting or waiting on the mover, but if you can focus on each shot you have enough time that by the time you get to the mover its on its way back and since you can shoot it wherever in the cycle you see it you nail it on the way to the last popper. This tied in a lot of his input through the day on realistic dry fire as well as both shooting movers, and the part that was huge for me - the confidence to shoot each shot with focus. I said I would try what he did , and crushed it. I would never had had the confidence to think I could have pulled that off. I ran it in 5.30 with a miss on the activator on the first shot, ran it again and nailed it at 4.70 clean. That was a perfect last run of the day, and Im feeling stronger in this skill set as a result.

On a side note I really really liked his sights and he installed a set for me before we left. I was having elevation issues with the Y notch sights as time went on that would show up from time to time and had already switched back to my old cheap ameriglo FO set but the front on those was too big. The Vogel sights have a nice clean big deep rear notch with solid square lines I like, and Im told that if Bob installs them himself your hit factor goes up 10%

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