The Cutting Edge of Force on Force Training

Using Airsoft replicas and wearing safety gear to prevent injuries, students discover what works – and what doesn’t -- in the most realistic possible way.

Using Airsoft replicas and wearing safety gear to prevent injuries, students discover what works – and what doesn’t -- in the most realistic possible way.

Force on Force (FOF) training is at the top of the firearms training food chain.

Left: Karl Rehn and Chuck Rives spar with a Spyderco training knife, a blunt replica that allows instructors to safely demonstrate dangerous skills. Right: Chuck Rives demonstrates how to block an attack and disable the attacker’s arm.

Left: Karl Rehn and Chuck Rives spar with a Spyderco training knife, a blunt replica that allows instructors to safely demonstrate dangerous skills. Right: Chuck Rives demonstrates how to block an attack and disable the attacker’s arm.

Many folks buy a gun for the bedroom or the truck. They may get a concealed carry license or permit. They may go to the range and punch holes in a nice paper target. However, one might want to progress beyond this beginner stage.

You can take classes on shooting techniques and discuss gun mechanics and stopping power. These are great, but don’t really handle how you would react in a dynamic critical incident. Current research suggests four built in emergency responses:

  1. Freeze: a state of attentive immobility
  2. Flight: panic stampedes and reason fades
  3. Fright: incapable of voluntary action–plays dead
  4. Fight: full sympathetic overdrive, but hard to control

All these strategies (if you can call them that) might work, but you want to control them. You don’t want to just stand there when you should get out of Dodge. You don’t want to run in a panic and go the wrong way. You don’t want to play dead and take a round as the killer walks by. You don’t want to engage in sympathetic or contagious shooting as you fight–hitting an innocent. You want to control your actions with your frontal cortex and channel the power of the cortical and sub cortical automatic systems. You want to act efficiently in a critical incident.

Why Force on Force?

Left: Necessary tools: realistic replicas, such as this Spyderco training knife and Blackhawk Glock 17 dummy gun, allow participants to role play without risk to themselves or others. Right: A tale of three vehicles: the first and last contain good guys, while the center vehicle (blue) holds a pair of evildoers who attempted to hijack the car behind them. Should the good guys shoot it out, or just drive away?

Left: Necessary tools: realistic replicas, such as this Spyderco training knife and Blackhawk Glock 17 dummy gun, allow participants to role play without risk to themselves or others. Right: A tale of three vehicles: the first and last contain good guys, while the center vehicle (blue) holds a pair of evildoers who attempted to hijack the car behind them. Should the good guys shoot it out, or just drive away?

Pack and Mail #2

Pack and Mail #2

Pack and Mail #2

Clerks 1 and 2 are family members, co-owners of the business. They are from Ethnic Group B, but the majority of people in the area are from Ethnic Group A. Two gang members from Ethnic Group A decide that they do not want people from Ethnic Group B moving into their neighborhood, and plan to rob the store and intimidate all the customers.

  • Clerk 2 (green) is armed, Clerk 1 (green) is not.
  • Customer 1 (blue) is armed and will enter, ask where the bathroom is, use the bathroom, check his PO Box and depart.
  • Customer 2 (gray) will enter with heavy, large package on a dolly, unarmed. Reacts slowly; must be told to do something three times before actually doing it.
  • Customer 3 (gray) is filling out shipping forms to send an important envelope. Complies quickly with bad guy demands.

Customers 1, 2, and 3 enter.

  • BG1 and BG2 enter (red). BG1 goes to clerk, pulls gun, demands money and stamps. BG2 pulls gun, robs customers of money, jewelry, and tells them, “Don’t ever come back here.” Knocks over displays and tears the place up.
  • During this time, Customer 1 (armed) is probably in the bathroom, but may have come out into the PO Box Area.
  • Clerk 2, as the business owner, is likely to fight back if possible. Customer 1 will only fight if his/her life is in danger, not to protect the business.

This analysis suggests the strong need for an armed citizen to get beyond the simple mechanics of gun usage and get ready for the psychological aspects of the gun battle. This is the role of force on force training and its realistic role playing.

Quality FOF training for the concealed carrier consists of well-scripted scenarios designed to duplicate real world and realistic critical incidents that a civilian might face. They test your awareness of your surroundings. They test your ability to deal with the incident. You may not have to shoot it out or intervene (unless you are scripted to do so). You have to deal with the aftermath, such as when the law arrives or what do you do with a bad guy.

Good force on force scenarios should:

  • Habituate you to the fearful nature of the stimuli.
  • Give you confidence that you can handle a situation.
  • Give you the cognitive/perceptual schema and heuristics to pick up and understand relevant stimuli in the incident.
  • Give you a set of automatic and cognitive responses that you can activate in a manner called unconscious competence.
  • Help you learn to control unwanted and counterproductive automatic responses.

Studies have shown police training with simulators and FOF have better hits, more situational awareness, and less mental workload under stress. For police, it has been argued that participating in quality FOF training should enable officers to better justify their actions in a shooting. The same would seem to be sensible for civilians.

The classes

I take any reasonable chance I can to get in more FOF training, and it is enjoyable. Luckily for me, Karl Rehn and crew at KRTraining offer a comprehensive set of training classes from the beginner to the advanced student. Karl’s Advanced Training classes, intended to be taken after beginner handgun training, take one through advanced technical handgun skills up to Advanced FOF.

The goal is to improve the student’s ability to perform in realistic, real-time, live action situations involving one or more opponents, one or more bystanders, and one or more dependents (friends and family members who the student is protecting), and to improve the student’s ability to handle situations in public locations as well as in the home.

Karl offered Advanced Training-7, which focuses on public encounters, the weekend before Thanksgiving, with an additional mini course entitled Defensive Knife Overview before the AT-7 segment. The knife course was taught in the morning by Chuck Rives, who is an affiliate instructor for Mike Janich’s Martial Blade Concepts.

Mr. Rives is an emergency manager for a federal government agency and teaches law enforcement. The foci were martial knife grips, angles of attack, and the use of natural body weapons in conjunction with the knife. The paradigm was to enable a practitioner to effectively defend himself against hundreds of different attacks by mastering a few basic defensive movements and provide a good probability of target incapacitation.

Knife training

Why knife training? You see many gun people with a “tactical” pocket folder. Just like a gun, it’s good to know how to use it. In many cases, you can carry a knife where guns are banned. You can surreptitiously deploy a knife for a close encounter where you couldn’t draw a gun.

We learned how to defend against five quadrants of attack. The goal in each response was to divert the opponent’s blade and disable the striking arm by severing the tendons and muscles that control the hand and then destroy the opponent’s mobility by severing similar targets in the upper thigh. So, one might block the opponent with a position called the waiter block and then with the knife hand cut the quadriceps, turn back to cut the triceps, and end with cutting the muscles from the inner thigh to out.

The goal was to reduce the threat’s ability and then escape. This is a very similar doctrine to firearms-based self defense. We aim to stop the opponent and take avenues of escape, rather than explicitly trying to be lethal. Of course, either implement can disrupt your blood supply. However, this kind of knife defense doesn’t disrupt the central nervous system for an instant stop. The goal is to escape.

One important point after a course like this: you have to practice the movements quite a bit to be proficient.

Firearm scenarios

Driver will be taken to crime scene #2 and never seen again.

Driver will be taken to crime scene #2 and never seen again.

Vehicle Scenario – Based on the career of Serial Killer Henry Lee Lucas and Partner Otis Toole

Setting: parking lot at trailhead of a public park, at dusk. Only one car remains in the parking lot. The passenger-side rear tire is flat.

  • Driver starts scenario kneeling by passenger-side rear tire. Driver’s gun is on floor of driver side, driver door is open.
  • Henry and Otis pull up in the parking lot. Henry is driving. Otis gets out of the car, walks toward the driver, and offers driver a ride back to town.
  • If driver leaves vehicle and moves forward to talk to Otis, or if driver looks away or provides an opening, Otis will pull a gun and demand that driver get in the truck. Once driver gets in the truck, scenario is over. Driver will be taken to crime scene #2 and never seen again.
  • If driver is alert, insists he needs no help, and retreats to driver’s side of vehicle, Otis will back down and depart, but driver must be assertive, not aggressive. If driver is too aggressive in language and actions, Otis will fight because he has been “disrespected.” Driver needs to present firm confidence, not panicked “backed down into a corner” behavior for Otis to retreat.
  • If the situation ends up as a gunfight between Driver and Otis, Henry will get out of his vehicle and engage the driver also. For Otis or Henry to stop shooting, they must be hit a minimum of three times center mass, then they will stagger back toward the car, attempt to get in the car and drop, either on ground or in/out of the car.

After lunch, we turned to the firearms-based Force on Force scenarios.

The FOF segments involved various situations you might encounter. The first setting was a FedEx store, where students could be a customer, clerk, or bad guy. Your armament and scripted role (you must follow the script) can vary. We used realistic airsoft guns (which have quite the sting, and if up-close can draw blood), solid plastic replica guns, trainer Spyderco knives and inert OC. All participants were searched twice to avoid bringing real weapons into the scenarios.

In one incident where I was the victim, according to the script, I took the last close parking space by pulling in front of someone who should have gotten the space. On entering the store, I went to the clerk to mail a present to my grandchild, where the clerk announced the office was now closed. A gentleman came in (the one whose space I took). He gets in my face and screams that he has missed mailing this package for his boss and will lose his job. He waves both hands around and blocks my exit. I am armed.

Here’s an important point: these incidents are very close-up. So, what did I do? I first started to profusely apologize. I said that I was sorry and I would make it right. “I will call your boss and tell him it was my fault.” I put my right hand up to his chest, level with palm out. This has several purposes. It is a calming gesture. However, it is a precocked push or strike into your face. It kept me inside his reach. Also, my left hand is resting on the grip of my gun in my pocket (something to be said about the secret nature of pocket carry).

I could strike and go into a retention draw and shoot (glad I learned that). Still talking and apologizing, I slowly angle myself such that I can get to the door. In debrief, Karl asked my attacker why he didn’t get more violent. He said he couldn’t as I was so apologetic. I really wasn’t, it was just acting. I was ready to shoot him.

Now, could I shoot him? Not for yelling at me. If he did get violent, my old age would work for me if I had to shoot. There would be a disparity of force between me and this young guy. FOF experience is good, as it led not to a panic response and a bad shoot. I had the talking and physical/shooting response all working in my cognitive responses.

There were quite a few others. Several interesting scenarios revolved around having a flat tire, and Otis and Henry come to “help.” See the description in the box and the pictures for how this did not go well for the guy in a previous class trying to get his spare. The role player didn’t fare that well. He was taken by Otis and Henry Lee. In another example, we had three SUVs in a row. The first and last were good guys. The middle contained two bad guys who attempted to hijack the car in back. So, do you try to shoot it out or just drive away?

In one class, the driver came out of his car, got into a firefight with my partner; both took rounds. For some reason, the folks in the first car, rather than keeping their heads down, had to observe. One young man stuck his head out to see what was up and got shot. The other hid behind his hood and got into a firefight. What’s the lesson? Keep your head down; don’t join the firefight if it isn’t yours. The illustration shows a hijacker taking control of a victim. One mistake is to get out of the car to fight. It is better to duck down and drive–even on a flat.

To conclude, such training gives you abilities and shows you the risk of actions. It is very easy to say that you will take out the bad guys or you will be sure to hit (as you are always able to make head shots at the square range), or you will have space to draw and time to do so. Not if someone is on top of you.

You cannot always maintain personal space in today’s crowded world, so you have to deal with this. Hopefully, a person with a knife will be more than 21 or 30 feet away. Mr. Rives demonstrated how devastating a close range knife attack can be. However, with higher level courses, you gain the ability to understand an evolving incident, not be paralyzed, and act effectively.


CONTACTS:

KRTraining (Karl Rehn)
www.KRtraining.com
801 Dellwood Street Box 171
Bryan TX 77802
(512) 633-8232
Martial Blade Concepts
(Michael Janich)
www.martialbladeconcepts.com
Martial Blade Concepts, LLC
PMB 206
1716 A North Main Street
Longmont, CO 80501-7413
(303) 995-8848