Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movement with Purpose

Before I proceed let me be clear . . . movement in a fight of any type is beneficial and will help you prevail! I say this as I do not want to be misunderstood by people wanting to raise their own profile on the internet by picking apart sections of this rant and not looking at its totality. This is intended to create critical thought …something I’m finding to be as rare as common sense on a topic that is too important to self- protection.

Movement in combat is considered an "advanced" technique by many trainers and institutions, but if you watch videos of people involved in combat...both participants and innocent bystanders's something that seems to happen automatically. People comprehend bullets are flying you don't want to be there! That said the concept of combatant movement in a gunfight is not a new concept. Wyatt Earp discussed it during a newspaper interview late in his life..." I was a Deputy U.S. Marshal at the O.K. Corral fight, so I was coming forward and they was usually going back. You shoot straighter coming forward!" Earp is right and those who have been trained in shooting on the move know it works best when moving straight ahead. You can shoot both fast and accurate, something that is not the case when moving back or laterally. In order to hit with a level of accuracy that will stop a threat in any direction other than straight ahead, the movement becomes so slow that using it to avoid being shot is just wishful thinking. Don't think so? Just watch the nation's best shooters…both gifted AND skilled in the craft… use the technique during a match and ask yourself "would I be moving at a speed that would allow me to save my own life?"  Keep in mind you will probably be moving slower than these top tier shooters!

Such wishful thinking can also be applied to other forms of "tactical" movement. A recent example would be a female police officer I had in one of my classes. She had been taught that anytime she was not shooting she was to be moving. Since she had been trained to do this on a crowded firing line her movement while she drew her gun, reloaded or cleared a malfunction looked more like a tree swaying in the wind. This minimal motion also slowed her manipulations...something like 4 seconds to do a simple magazine exchange or 10 seconds to clear a stoppage. When I called this to her attention her response was "movement will keep you from getting shot, thus I continue to move!" I guess it comes down to what is considered useful movement.

The more I have considered shooting while moving, the more I have come down on the side of shooting then moving/moving then shooting. I have been studying armed conflict my entire adult life, interviewing many people who have been involved as well as relating my few experiences to what I have heard and I have come to the conclusion with the exception of a forward attack, we should probably be shooting accurately or moving quickly if we want to prevail. Such movement needs to be aggressive, rapid or speedy...which ever word helps anchor the concept in your just moving back and forth or in a circle will not work and teaching such movement while leading shooters to believe they will avoid incoming fire is a deadly training scar. While movement in combat is situationally dependent I have come to believe there are three primary reasons for doing so:

 1. Moving quickly until you are prepared to deliver accurate outgoing fire of the quality that will incapacitate the person trying to kill you…”cover by outbound fire” as it were.
 2. Move to a location where you cannot be seen. While true cover would be the best option, but being hidden from your attacker's field of view is certainly useful.
3. Remove ourselves from the kill zone completely.

This said, reality sucks as you might be standing in a location that will not allow movement...a cop standing in a crowded living room, an armed citizen between two cars in a parking lot (FYI...I had a mugger once tell me this was his favorite position for his victims) or a member of an entry team moving down a hallway. These situations would require stand and fight, run away or attack in the classic shooting on the move forward technique. There is no way to know what the correct choice is until it is taken.  Observe, orient, decide and act? Might be kinda’ slow, don’t you think?

Rapid, aggressive movement is both a technique and a tactic and must be used without hesitation to work. What we have known since the days of the Spartans is the person who can adapt to the unfolding situation fastest is the one who will likely prevail! Quick, meaningful movement is part of this adaptation as it gives additional time and time is life! Is there a place for the minimal movement, like single lateral steps, I described earlier? Yes, it is a training tool to begin the process of learning how to move while running your gun. Lateral side steps while drawing, moving back and forth on the line while reloading and other related skills are the initial stages of teaching movement in conflict but they are not the end technique. For this technique to become a tactic, movement must accomplish an end goal, not just be something that makes you feel "tactical".

Movement must be undertaken with purpose, with an end goal to gain advantage in mind. To just move for the sake of moving might just slow you down or affect your ability to shoot well.  Shooting with a rapid stop and then moving again quickly is a taught technique, something that was be instructed, earned and anchored. If you don’t know how, then you are seriously short-changed in your combative skills…

Stay safe, alert and “check your 360” often! 

1 comment:

  1. I've attended 2 classes this year that reinforced everything you just said.

    The first one was a pistol class, where the "tactical shuffle" was in full effect. We couldn't even step off-line in different directions due to the firing line. I always practice both directions at home, because you never know where your obstacles will be. Shuffling back and forth while reloading doesn't really make sense to me. If you just left a spot, because it was dangerous, do you really want to return to it?

    The next class I took was NLTA, FoF. Serious eye opener. In one drill we were 4v4, about 20ft apart. One side had their pistols aimed at the chests of the other side, who had pistols down at their sides. I was the latter. I was the only one to avoid getting "shot" while shooting the other guy. I was on the end of the line and took a giant step left while swinging the pistol as I went.

    I didn't perform as well shooting the bad-guys that day as others did, but I got shot less by an order of magnitude. I moved more, and in different directions. Too many times, I saw guys square off and trade shots. They locked in on each other.

    Shooting is a valuable skill but it is only one component of fighting. Thanks for the great reminder!