Vehicle Based Problem Solving; Intro

Some folks asked about vehicle based tactics, and my approach to the problem. I thought I’d share a few thoughts in this series of posts on the subject. For much of this endeavor Einstein’s recommendation to make things as simple as possible but no more simple is the best advice. This is really important when studying the subject of violence, particularly criminal violence. It’s easy to go off the rails, and down into the weeds wasting time, energy, and money. Worst case we set ourselves up to fail when we need our training the most.

 

First let’s look at some data. The US Department of Justice has compiled the following stats regarding car jackings in the US. Take a few moments to click the link, and read through this. It’s only three pages however, it contains solid information relevant to this series. Here is some of the most relevant data; a majority of the incidents involved one victim, within 5 miles of their home, more than one attacker, and the attackers were almost always males. A majority of the attackers were armed yet despite this we find the victims usually resisted. Good on them.

 

There are also a host of videos from various sources that show us real time carjackings, (also referred to as vehicular hijacking in some states), as well as armed robberies, and other violent crimes which occur in and/or around a vehicle. These sources give us a starting point from which to realistically begin to solve the problem. In this series we’ll cover some counter assault tactics that are realistic, and relevant to the private citizen.

 

What I won’t cover are things I’ve learned, and used as part of a tactical team in Law Enforcement. I have had the opportunity to receive a lot of training in vehicle takedowns, interdictions, and counter assault tactics. I’ve also had the opportunity to apply this training on the job in law enforcement as well as on protective details. The reason I won’t bother to share any of that training isn’t because of some operational security concerns. It’s because while all that stuff is a rush there is little carry-over from team tactics to the needs of a private citizen. I tend to think all that training is virtually useless when it comes to my needs as a private citizen going about my day. All of the training, and application was in a team environment with the focus on taking offensive action. Extensive planning, and rehearsal with all contingencies covered, geared up, and every tool necessary available to me. Contrast that with driving through my neighborhood with the only plan being to get to my house without incident, and the only tools I have are at most a standard issue concealed carry setup. The only team mates I have are whatever dog jumped in the car as I was leaving the house or maybe one or two of my kids. Sometimes I’ll have another an equally trained and equipped friend or two riding with me but not often.

 

So… with all that in mind you’ll better understand my approach to the problem as we get started. Nothing super sexy, no ninja rolls, no bounding, no rolling out of the vehicle with a rifle, no covering fire as our  partner drops back to gun up with the rifles in the trunk. Just simple, easily applied concepts, and principles to help us solve the problem of a criminal assault in and/or around a vehicle.

It’s Never The Tools

In the trades there is a saying; It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools. We find this to be true in the realm of self protection as well. If I were to be completely honest with myself I would have to admit quite a few of the firearms I’ve purchased have been an attempt at buying performance. For several years I would practice with a pistol, rifle or shotgun up to a point of frustration. I would plateau, and rather than just keeping my shoulder to the wheel I would wrongfully assume if I just buy a different, better model all things will be right with the world. My performance will take off again, the frustration will go away, and I will be one with everything.

 

Not even close. 

 

The cycle would simply repeat with a different tool. I was caught up in blaming my tools rather than the guy wielding the tools. Could there be times where our tools are holding us back? Sure. However, at this point in time I think it’s safe to say that any firearm from a major manufacturer will be more than adequate. In other words, if I do my part the gun will do it’s part. My search for a better tool was purely a distraction from the real work of perfecting my craft. I didn’t need to buy new gear, or read a different book, or watch a new video, and maybe I didn’t even need to take another class.

 

I just needed to work really hard on the things I already knew, with the tools I already had, and trust the process. 

 

 

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.

 

D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.

 

A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.

 

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.

What is First?

First Things First by Stephen Covey is a great book on time management. It takes us deeper into Covey’s system for managing our most valuable asset; time. During a seminar on time management one of the presenters said something that pertains to working towards our goals and objectives that stuck with me. He said; the first thing you do upon waking is the first thing. If the first thing I do upon waking isn’t taking me towards my goals, then I need to think about my goals, and what’s really important to me.

 

If one of my goals is to improve my Jiujitsu escapes from bottom then the first thing I should be doing upon waking is something that takes me closer to this goal. Get out of bed, and get the coffee brewing. While I’m waiting for my coffee I can do hip escapes/shrimps,  bridges/upas, sit-outs or any number of solo drills that prime my mind and body to think all day about my goal of improving my Jiujitsu.

 

This also applies to any other goal in the multidisciplinary practice. If we want to improve our pistol skills then the first thing I should do is dry practice. If I want to level up my standup game then I should be shadowboxing as soon as I’m awake enough to move around. The mental act of starting to work on reaching my goal as soon as I’m awake is important. It sets the tone and pace for the day. Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives has spoken and written quite often about using every available minute for our daily practice as we are all on a time crunch. Those moments while waiting for our coffee to brew, or the shower water to regulate is a few more minutes or reps.  It’s a simple way to get into the mental state of using every available moment when we start our day working on our goal.

 

As I recall the presentation on time management, and reaching goals I think about how many times I have started my day looking at what others are doing. I surf social media to see what my friends, and family are doing, check emails, or my RSS feed. While these things are all interesting, there is a good chance none of these things are helping me reach my goals. I have effectively told myself what others are doing is more important than my goals, and what I want to do. It might sound self serving yet, I think it’s okay to focus on ourselves and our goals for the first few moments of the day.

 

Think about your goals. Think about how you start your day. If those two things aren’t congruent maybe it’s time to put yourself and your goals first, at least for the first part of your day. Try it for a few weeks, and see if it doesn’t move you closer to reaching your goals.

 

What Would You Do?

*Disclaimer – My attorney really appreciates when I stay out of these discussions. However, a few friends have sent this one to me and asked my opinion. I won’t get into any kind of discussion that will cause Tim or Suyash to call me. I promise.*

Usually when friends ask my thoughts on a use of force or response to resistance incident that makes the news they will ask, “what would you have done?” It’s difficult to answer these questions because I’m not there, and having done this for some time I’ve watched a lot of people jump to conclusions on either side only to find there is more to the story. For those reasons, and more I tend to avoid these discussions.

However, I will discuss training issues I see, (admittedly from the luxury of my Monday morning quarterback position), and how I think this could be handled better in a world of good, better, and best options. Also understanding that my perspective is skewed because I’m pretty good at Brazilian JiuJitsu, Wrestling, and Judo so I’m confident in my ability to out grapple most people I encounter, and the ones I can’t out grapple I can still hang with for a little while before they catch me. I realize that might sound arrogant but it’s just a fact that also colors my perspective when it comes to these things.

Okay, lets dive in…

 

1) I wouldn’t use a baton/impact weapon at that point. The suspect is on the ground, still resisting, (I think), but not throwing punches. Now is the time to switch gears and establish control. More pain in the form of strikes won’t, and isn’t gaining compliance. We have to guard against fixating on the tool driven action we’re performing. When it’s time to transition we have to be ready to transition quickly to a more effective tactic. The strategical objective is to get the suspect into cuffs, not ineffectively swing a baton.

 

Coach Chris Haueter covering the fine points of the knee ride with me circa 2002. Although I’ve been perfecting this position for quite some time even a rudimentary understanding of this position would help officers control the vast majority of the folks they encounter in a use of force incident.

2) He was set to knee ride, which is a dominant position. Use it. We use it all the time in JiuJitsu for a really good reason. It allows me to maintain control and have mobility in case a bystander gets involved. They weren’t getting involved beyond verbally so on to the next step. BTW, I’ve used the knee ride on actively resisting people to pin them, and wait them out. If I can knee ride athletes that train everyday to get out from under that pin, I can knee ride someone that never trains to get out. Criminal offenders for the most part are not athletes and in this video there seems to be a size/weight disparity that favors the officer so use it. Knee ride until they burn out/gas out, and they’re done fighting. Which leads me to number 3.

 

3) Control one of the arms using a Kimura/double wrist lock, using that hold to lock down her upper body turning her while moving the arm behind her. First cuff goes on.

Kimura aka Double Wrist Lock while in the S-Position. This is a photo from a SWAT Magazine article written by Ed Lawrence. Photo credit M Abonce

4) Turn again while maintaining control of the cuffed arm and she’ll go flat on her stomach, in the ISR Matrix series the guy’s call this the S-Position. S stands for safety. It’s safe for me, because from there I have a lot of control over the suspect, I can assess my surroundings to make sure no one else gets involved, and it’s safe for the suspect because they can’t do anything. They’re pinned. They can squirm but they’re not going anywhere. At this point in my career I’ve cuffed a metric ton of people from that position, quite a few of those people were much larger than me. 100% of the time there was no fight left in them because mentally they knew it was pointless since they couldn’t move.

 

5) This is why I keep beating that JiuJitsu drum. Everything I wrote above could be performed against a resisting opponent by any Blue or Purple belt in any JiuJitsu gym anywhere in the world. That’s not an exaggeration. Maybe even most seasoned White belts. Heck man, by the time I was a Blue belt I rarely used the tools on my belt because I had this supreme confidence that once I made contact with the suspect I would be able to outperform them, get them under control with minimal effort, and get them cuffed up. 99.99% of the people I ran into on the street that resisted were nowhere near as hard to deal with as most of my daily training partners. I felt no need for most of the tools I had to carry, and only did so because it was dictated by SOP.  Again, this might sound arrogant yet it’s the truth, I’ve never encountered anyone outside of the gym or competition that was a problem. To paraphrase Rickson Gracie; for someone trained in Jiujitsu a fight or use of force incident is the ocean, the JiuJitsu trained is like a shark and most people can’t even swim. 

 

6) What training would I recommend for most Police Officers? I’m biased because I am one of the co-creators of this system, (although I am no longer involved), I think the ISR Matrix is one of the best systems out there. We filmed the first series in the late 1990’s where we preached the message of pressure testing, incorporating Brazilian JiuJitsu and MMA into Police Officer’s training. I also highly recommend Cliff Byerly of Hill Country Combatives. Cliff has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is highly dedicated to seeing the standard of training in Law Enforcement pushed to a higher level.

Just for giggles here is the original ISR Matrix trailer filmed in the late 1990’s. I make an appearance or three in this clip. Enjoy.

 

Thanks to Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training for encouraging me to make this a blog post.

Banged Up

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general.” – Mark Rippetoe

At this point it’s virtually impossible to find someone that hasn’t read or heard this quote from Rippetoe, and for good reason. There is a lot of truth found in those words. In a recent social media post Ryan of Full Contact Runner on the subject of injuries Ryan talked about the frustration experienced when folks act as if the cause of our injury or illness is related to, and made worse by this lifestyle. As if we are somehow more susceptible to injury, and illness than someone that spends those same hours sitting on a couch. While we are definitely more likely to be injured, (as this lifestyle is a contact sport), it is still preferable to any other way of life. Most importantly, and something these critics fail to realize, is the simple fact that this lifestyle sets us up to recover from any injury or illness much faster, and with less complications. Because of this lifestyle we are strong therefore we are harder to kill, harder to knock down, and when knocked down we’re harder to keep down.

  • Using myself as an example; in 2007 I shattered my kneecap on a gig. It took surgery, and 8 months of therapy to get back in the saddle. I was told there were things I wouldn’t be able to do again, to include key aspects of my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2010 I injured my lower back doing extensive damage to the discs and vertebrae at S1, L5, L4, and L3. I was told I would need major surgery, and would have to medically retire from my profession. I proved that to be untrue.
  • In 2011 I was hit with intense abdominal pain that went on for months. I ultimately ended up in the hospital with acute pancreatitis. I was in a bad state, and it resulted in surgery to repair the damage. I was told this is probably going to be something I would live with for the rest of my life. I’m able to manage this because of my lifestyle.
  • 2014 I had a brain hemorrhage with intra-cranial pressure/swelling. It was awesome. Probably the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. I should have died. I didn’t. I was told I would have permanently altered gait, and other issues. I don’t.
  • During training cycles I’ve broken ribs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, teeth, my jaw, nose, and a metric ton of soft tissue injuries.

You’re probably wondering what’s the point of listing injuries and illness? To make a point which is; the common theme in every injury or illness was at some point, often multiple times a Doctor or other medical professional would tell me that the reason it wasn’t worse, and my recovery was faster than expected was because I arrived at that crisis point strong, healthy, and in great condition. I’m not alone in this, every one of my friends that have gone through any type of injury or illness relate the same story. Doctors and medical professionals telling them they made it, or they will recover because their strength levels when it started were so high. That’s the other side of this injury/illness coin the couch surfers don’t understand. The injuries we suffer in this game aren’t as bad as they would be if we were weak. The illnesses we go through in life, (by the way, both of my health crisis were unrelated to my lifestyle), would be much worse, and maybe even unsurvivable if we didn’t have a reservoir of physical and mental strength going into the situation.

So remember that the next time a critic points out that you’re “always” hurt, or you seem to be more susceptible to injury or illness that “never” seems to affect them. First, their perception might be skewed, to say the least. Second, while the injury part might be true since if we never get punched in the face what are the odds that we’ll get concussed? However, illnesses which is to some degree genetic hit all of us regardless of whether we follow a healthy lifestyle or not. Folks that never smoke a day in their life are diagnosed with cancer, and folks that never drink a day in their life come down with liver disease. It’s just the cards we’re dealt. The difference is a strong body gives the physicians, and other medical professionals more to work with to fight the illness, or even a traumatic event that landed us on the hospital bed in front of them. Get strong, stay strong, and ignore the critics.

 

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A powerful depiction of our role in helping the doctors and medical staff help us. Give them something to fight with, get as strong and healthy as possible. Thanks to Ryan of Full Contact Runner for sharing this photo. If your not following Ryan on social media check out his Facebook page at Full Contact Runner as well as his excellent blog of the same name.

 

Mental Game

Some folks refer to the mental side of this pursuit as mindset, and we like to add a little heat to it by adding the words; combative, or tactical, or maybe even killer. That’s cool stuff, and I dig it yet I still prefer to refer to this as mental game simply because I approach this aspect just like any other piece of the multi-disciplinary endeavor; we can build it once we have a plan, tools, and materials.

First ask yourself if you see this endeavor as something epic? You might be thinking c’mon dude, this is just jiujitsu or just shooting or just lifting weights. That’s the first issue we have to address. You have to see this as your personal hero’s journey because that is exactly what this endeavor will be. You will fail. You will be injured. You will want to quit. You will be frustrated. You will see friends surpass you. You will lose, maybe more than you win. Did I mention you will want to quit? You will want to quit, sometimes daily. If you have read the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell this is familiar to you. If it has been a while since you read Hero’s Journey then I would recommend reading it again, and put it into your rotation of books to be re-visited at least once a year.

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A cool depiction of The Hero’s Journey from the Buck Institute for Education. It’s based on the work of Joseph Campell.

Okay, so maybe you still don’t buy into this being a hero’s journey. That’s cool however, I think you will come around to this way of thinking, and once you do everything else we talk about regarding mental game will be easy to digest.

I want you to think about the aspects of your life that have been made better by this endeavor. I routinely meet or hear from people that have lost a considerable amount of weight, and kept it off, after years of struggling with this issue. People also share with me about putting on muscle, and dedicating themselves to healthy eating practices that allow them to be in the best condition to date. I hear from people that struggled with substance abuse, never able to kick that habit until they began this journey. Eating disorders, body image issues, folks that were severely traumatized by events in their life, these are all people I have talked with and were kind enough to share with me their stories of overcoming these challenges through the lifestyle changes that come with this endeavor. This wasn’t the only thing that helped folks get to a better place however, this was a key component in helping folks get to a better place.

We all know this practice is about falling, getting up, falling, and getting up again. Each time we get up we’re armed with a little more knowledge then we had before we fell. Now we have a little more understanding of what to do, and what not to do. We’re a little better. This is your hero’s journey. Get that in your head. Start seeing it as epic. What you’re doing here in this endeavor will affect everything you do outside this endeavor. You might never need to fight a malevolent attacker. However, the skills you build in this thing might be exactly what you need when it’s time to dust yourself off, stand up, and go at life one more time.