Monday, April 20, 2015

Its The Little Things

"I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing."
~ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

Yes, it is the little things. Minor modifications that have huge implications. There are some different thoughts on this in the training community. My favorite logical fallacy is the one in which the tactical firearms trainer asserts that because the sport shooter in USPSA may engage multiple targets from a stationary open position with an opening in a barrier (read: doorway) that sport shooting will "get you killed in the streets" since standing in a doorway while engaging in a gunfight with several opponents is generally regarded as a bad tactic. 

Believe me, no one is going to need to tell you to get behind cover once bullets start flying.  Find any video online of a shooting in a public place and you'll see the vast unwashed masses run over hill and dale diving behind anything they can find. If we want to be literal your dry wall house and range prop of a door isn't stopping bullets anyway.  

What we hear often in combat sports is that some minor detail will totally change the outcome of a fight, and so then the entire sport must be useless.  This is the "you cant tap out on the street" crowd. Politely speaking, fuck those guys.  All I hear is that they never train so hard that real injury and risk is present, or that they never push to a place where they cannot continue and so they don't need a safety valve. Anyone who taps out on a regular basis can tell you, this is the surest way to get tougher, this is the antifragility in the system. No one keeps their hands up until they get punched in the face.

I'm not going to exhaust myself dispelling every absurd statement I've heard in this regard, especially when my good friend and coach Cecil Burch does such an excellent job of this.  I'd like to take some time to discuss some of the modifications we do need to make, and why.

"What you'll note is a distinct absence of head control."
Craig Douglas,  spreading the good word nearly every weekend somewhere near you

Having said that, there are some changes we need to make to our base MMA skills as we learn to apply our martial arts to real world concerns. One of the first we come across is a distinct paradigm shift in our grappling with a emphasis on hand control. Its the hands that bring weapons to bear, that grab a bottle off the bar or a brick off the ground. Its the hand reaching into that waistband that comes out with a steak knife or handgun. Its the hands that kill.

I'm not saying head control is bad, or we need to delete it from our grappling.  What I am saying is that I have only two hands, and so if I have one on his head that likely leaves one of his free unless I have otherwise tied them both up. This is a small change that has huge effects.

The foundation is the same, the strongest part of our combative approach is the base.  Posture, pressure, position.  Sensitivity to balance and aggression are not items we build by watching youtube videos or contemplating really hard.  This foundation can be built, and built strong, at a decent gym with a good instructor and training partners.  People are doing it every day.

What we need to do is work on that 5% change.  That part that brings on a sense of urgency when we lose track of a hand or gets us moving behind the engine block as we are setting up for our shot. Its a simple proposition really.  Take the base skills, apply competitive pressure within a contextually sound model, and expose the holes. Take two experienced grappler's , and have them fight over a  nok knife. Pressure exposes the truth, and the adaptations will reveal themselves.

Take two good shooters, and have them take turns hunting one another within a structure with simunition or airsoft guns and audit the experience.  Expose the foundation to the changes present when we plug them into the correct setting. I take an open source approach. I want to know what works.  I need to find those gaps, the holes in my game, and fill them.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mike Pannone, Course Review, April 2015 Pittsburgh PA

Mike Pannone 2-Day Handgun
Pittsburgh PA
April 11-12 2015

The first things Mike said to us as class began:
"There is a lot talk about competition shooting getting you killed in the streets.  I'm here to tell you there is no street or sport.  There is only skill and application. The skills are the same, we just have to adapt them to the application."

I may or may not have pumped my first in the air and muttered a "fuck yeah".

I had heard good things about Mike in the community from a variety of sources. He certainly has a compelling story, and I knew it would be a good shooting course, but I didn't expect him to be such a breath of fresh air.

Over the course of the weekend we shot a variety of challenging drills where Mike was always sure to explain to us in detail the why.  He laid out the intricacies of his curriculum, the reasons we where shooting the courses of fire, and what he wanted us to get out of them.

The coursework was full of what he called "conscious contradictions"  forcing students to perform skills driving often in opposite directions, make rapid observations and changes, and staying mentally engaged.  I found it challenging while offering learning points for all levels of shooters, and we had a wide range of people out for this class.

Mike's advise on students questions about close quarters fighting was direct and to the point:

"You need to get a SIM gun and a helmet on and get out on the mats and fight somebody for that gun."

Damn straight.  Mike advocated strongly all weekend for shooting sports, combat sports, and competition pressure. His input was straightforward and refreshing in a world overflowing with bluster, false promises, unearned accolades, and stylized nonsense.

His level of attention to detail is unsurpassed in my experience, and he made time for individual timed and scored runs with every student and gave feedback to each participant on a one on one basis throughout the course as well as putting everyone in multiple man vs man shoot offs and drills in front of the class. Making the time for this, and spending the energy on working with each of us marks Mike as a "true believer" and one that really cares deeply about his students and the work.

I'll be training with him again.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Multidisciplinary Training in Real Life

combining or involving several academic disciplines or professional specializations in an approach to a topic or problem.

X ALL THE THINGS - Train all of the things!

Its a large undertaking, for anyone really.  To become proficient at several skill sets. There is overlap, one could argue that there is some generalization among the various skills, and its true of course. When I train my boxing that footwork and agility help with my shooting for example.  But it doesn't cover up the fact there are several separate and important skills that need trained in isolation before integration into an overall multifaceted, varied, far reaching methodology for a total protection strategy. 

Lets take a quick inventory.  In no particular order we have striking, stand up grappling/clinch, ground work, shooting, vehicles, medical, knife work, low light, in structure work, strength, conditioning, interpersonal interactive skills, and on and on and on.  That's a lot even if you don't have a job, a family, a house to take care of.. you know.. things worth going through the trouble of protecting. I cant imagine the logic of missing a child's parent teacher conference day so you can practice with your home defense shotgun.

It can seem overwhelming. Unapproachable for the normal guy.  It isn't. Do work.  Lets look at how.

First lets set the stage.  I have a job and family.  Those come first.  My schedule must start there. That means I only have so many hours per week to train, to rest, to study, to learn new skills, and to blog about it and generally be awesome.

The temptation is always to try to write some streamlined schedule where I somehow fit everything in and go seamlessly from one thing to the next.  On paper it might even look good.  But reality is messy.  We stay late at work, we get tired, the lawn needs mowed, the car needs inspected, and it can get frustrating trying to run a tight schedule with no room to move over the long haul.  And I am in this for the long haul, so my planning needs to reflect that.

I spent a long time trying to do everything, at all times.  Early on it can seem that you have to work 25 hours a day to catch up, to even get started.  But time is our friend.  I don't need to set a record today as much as I need to insure I keep moving forward.  I need to take a long view.  I start thinking about being on a 10 year plan and put it in perspective.  Its consistency that I need to nurture, build my endurance, practice patience and keep moving forward. 

“Someone once asked Somerset Maughham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o'clock sharp.” 
― Steven PressfieldThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

This perspective of starting with my reality and taking a long view on development makes the task manageable. 

What I have found works for me is consistent work across the spectrum while cycling through periods of focus on one aspect at a time.  I try not to be too rigid and set in stone plans for X months of this followed by X months of that.  What works best for me is to allow myself to enjoy the journey and embrace whatever I'm feeling at that time, as well as pushing myself into specific work when audits reveal areas that need it.

For example, this past year I had really really been enjoying my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.  I was hitting a spot where I was seeing a lot of improvement and just having a great time of it.  Shooting wasn't really doing it for me. I used to shoot a lot.  So I embraced the BJJ and rather than try to do both things at full bore I allowed my shooting to taper off and made some limited time for it mostly focused on fundamentals and skill checks to stay sharp.

I then went through a phase of doing a lot of in vehicle work, and was all jazzed up over it after being honored to act as assistant instructor to Craig Douglas ( for his Vehicle Combatives And Shooting Tactics course (VCAST). Right now I have a very exciting shooting year ahead of me with some awesome instructors, a new schedule change has allowed me to shoot more regularly, and Frank Proctor ( has invited me to join his WOTG Shooting Team.  I'm pretty amped about shooting again!  I plan on embracing it! I wont stop doing the other things, but what I will do is prioritize my time to reflect my current goals.

Keeping steady on a variety of overlapping general skills, strong focus on one area at a time, and allowing myself to love the work keeps my head on straight and making headway as life keeps coming at me.  Jobs change, children grow up, time passes, I keep doing work.