It’s said that speed is fine, but accuracy is final.
But there’s something further upstream that will have a MUCH bigger impact on whether or not you survive a lethal force encounter.
If you’re like most shooters, you’re taking advantage of the beautiful summer months to get outside and shoot more and maybe even get professional training.
This is good…very good…and I want to encourage you to practice and train whenever and wherever you can.
But when it comes down to a life or death situation, great technique—whether it’s with a firearm, impact/cutting tool, or empty hands—won’t get the job done on it’s own.
Great technique will definitely help, but there’s something further upstream that’s required to be able to put great technique into play.
Here’s what I mean…
One of the guys I work with is a nationally/internationally known competitive shooter and instructor.
He’s FAST. He can go from beep to bang and put accurate rounds on target with a pistol in under a second.
Last year, he trained with another shooter/trainer that I work with and they were doing scenario based force on force training.
Initially, it was taking him 8-15 (fifteen) seconds from when a lethal force attack was happening in his field of view until he actually got off his first shot. Think about that for a second. He went from getting his first shot off in under a second when responding to a beep to taking 8-15 seconds to get his first shot off when responding to an actual threat.
He’s not alone. Retired Navy SEAL Larry Yatch’s SEALed Mindset studio has run scenario based force on force training almost every day of the week with thousands of students over the last few years. They see this exact same phenomenon with concealed carry shooters, competitive shooters, law enforcement, and military (even people at elite levels of all backgrounds). But why?
The issue lies in the fact that 99% of training and practice that people do focuses on tactics and techniques to get the gun into the fight faster, and put accurate rounds on target faster. In the self-defense world, the focus is on effectively striking your opponent as fast as possible.
For most people, getting the gun into the fight faster isn’t where the greatest opportunity for improvement is. The biggest opportunity for improvement is training the mind to realize that it’s in a fight and deciding to act faster.
With the example I gave of the shooter with a 1 second drawstroke taking 8 seconds to fire, it means that it took his mind roughly 7 seconds to observe that there was a potential threat, identify that it was actually a threat, and finally decide to take action and start the 1 second drawstroke.
Many people in the tactical world refer to John Boyd’s OODA loop (Observe, orient, decide, act) but they only take advantage of a fraction of the power of the OODA loop.
The idea of the OODA loop is that, in a fighter jet dogfight, the pilot who can accurately cycle through the OODA loop the fastest will win. Put another way, the pilot who observes a threat fastest, orients that threat with past memories and training, decides on a course of action, and acts (correctly) thin the shortest amount of time—repeatedly—wins the fight.
In fighter pilot school, they learn to cycle through their OODA loops faster and faster by being exposed to similar situations over and over again. As they master the responses to specific situations, they identify the threat faster and the responses become conditioned responses that the unconscious mind can not only execute immediately, but generalize and use in other situations.
The key is getting enough exposure that they’re able to bypass the conscious process of going through the OODA loop and let the unconscious mind handle the entire process.
Ken Murray talked about this in his AWESOME book, “Training at The Speed Of Life” when he highlighted the fact that, in the absence of scenario based force on force training, most officers don’t get to the point where they can think on the fly in a lethal force encounter until after their 3rd justified use of lethal force.
Repeated exposure/stress inoculation calms the mind and allows the mind to filter out noise and focus on what’s important. Because the mind’s filters have been programmed to only pay attention to what’s important, there’s less to process and the mind can cycle through the OODA loop faster. Because the mind is relying on memory and previously built neural pathways (unconscious) instead of figuring stuff out on the fly (conscious), the end result can be cutting several seconds off of your response time to a violent attack.
So, what’s the solution?
First, you can prepare your mind through multiple lethal force encounters. This is, obviously, not a preferred method of stress inoculation, but if that horse is already out of the barn, you might as well get as much mileage from the experience that you can.
Second, you can prepare your mind through multiple simulated lethal force encounters. You can do this, to a limited extent, with airsoft, video training, and paintball, but using Simmunitions, UTMs, and shock vests are higher leverage solutions.
There’s a good chance that your mind will be a mess the first couple of times that you run through force on force drills. A lot of this is because you’re in unknown territory. When your mind is in unknown territory, the filters come off and the mind tries to suck in as much sensory input as possible and tries to map it with existing memories and neural pathways to figure out things to do and things to avoid to maximize your chances of survival. The calmer you are, the smoother this process goes. The more excited and amped up you are, the rougher it is.
At the same time that your mind wants to suck in as much sensory input as possible, the conscious mind is being overwhelmed. The conscious mind processes sequentially, or one bit of information after the next…like crossing a gorge on a rope. When it gets overwhelmed, it either shuts down the entire system and you freeze or it starts trying to filter input to the brain. Sometimes, this takes the form of tunnel vision. Other times it takes the form of audio blocking. But until the mind has had a few exposures and it’s been trained to know what’s important and what isn’t important, it can be a roll of the dice what input your mind pays attention to and what input it filters out.
As you get more exposure to force on force scenarios, your mind will calm down. Each time you’re in a force on force situation, it represents more and more familiar territory. The number of unknown and surprise elements goes down. It will still be “stressful,” the outcome will still be unknown and your attacker may still surprise you, but the biochemistry is familiar, as are the changes in hearing, vision, time distortion, stomach, bladder, and how your body responds when you tell it what to do.
This leads to less adrenaline being released, more control of your fine motor skills, a wider field of view, and the ability to “think” more.
In addition, as you do scenario based force on force, you’re creating more and more memories and conditioned responses for the unconscious mind to pull from in the future. If the conscious mind works like a single person crossing a gorge on a rope, the unconscious mind works like multiple people crossing the same gorge on a cargo net and has up to 1 million times greater processing ability than the conscious mind.
And, because of the biochemistry involved and full use of the unconscious mind, you develop neural pathways MUCH faster with force on force than with traditional training.
When you give the unconscious mind an accurate threat profile to respond to, it will observe and identify it almost instantly after only a few repetitions.
And when you give the unconscious mind a conditioned response to respond with when a lethal force threat profile presents itself, it can decide and act on that conditioned response almost instantly.
Where do you get this kind of training?
That can be difficult…especially if you’re not military or law enforcement. And not all schools that “do” force on force training do it well. A few instructors that I can recommend are Ken Murray, Matt Seibert, Randy Watt, Peyton Quinn, Eric Johnson, Larry Yatch, and Beau Doboszenski and next week I’m going to be sharing a truly unique training opportunity (in October) that I put together with Larry Yatch & Beau Doboszenski that’s unlike anything currently available outside of SEALed Mindset.
Have you done force on force training in the past? How did it change you? What did it change?