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The Power of Positions

April 17, 2015

The ongoing resurrection of the ancestral health movement has led to a lot of valuable lessons for survivalists and preppers, from both a health, nutrition, and longevity standpoint, as well as from a fitness and conditioning standpoint. One of the most important developments, from my perspective, has been the “barefoot” or “minimalist” running movement. Despite a solid sub-12:30 two-mile run time throughout my time in uniform, and occasionally achieving the 100 points of a sub-11:54 two-mile run, I was never a good runner.
Running hurt. I suffered shin splints, fractured tarsal and metatarsal bones, torn up ankle and knee cartilage, and spinal compressions. When I first started hearing about alternative running methods a couple of years ago, I was all ears, especially when they promised reduced incidence of injury, increased speed, and more efficiency.

One of the key names in the “minimalist” running movement has been Dr. Nicholas Romanov, a former USSR running coach who developed a method of running called The POSE Method. This is a method that believes the old cliché of “everyone knows how to run best for them” is ridiculous. As I converted to the POSE method, I quickly found out that—for me at least—Doc Romanov was spot-fucking-on. By adapting his method and changing HOW I ran, it changed how well I ran. Six months after beginning the transformation, I ran the fastest mile of my life, clocking a 5:34 one-mile run time (and remember, this is a guy who HATES to run!).

Because of this revelation, whenever I come across anything Dr. Romanov writes, I pay close attention.

In his latest book, The Running Revolution: How to Run Faster, Farther, and Injury-Free—For Life, published last year, there wasn’t anything that was a mind-blowing novelty, as far as technical applications of the POSE Method goes. There was however, a couple paragraphs that really jumped out at me. They were important enough that I didn’t just highlight them (pretty much every non-fiction book on my shelves—and there are literally thousands of them—is heavily highlighted, if it is worth a shit), I underlined them in ink as well, to really make them stand out.

In the paragraphs, Dr. Romanov is describing his epiphany that led to the development of The POSE Method. What jumped out at me was the TRUTH inherent in it for everything that I do and teach, at both an individual and a collective level.

My coaching revelation came through observing how other athletes trained—martial artists, wrestlers, and also ballet dancers. Ballet was particularly easy to study living in Russia where the art and tradition were developed to perfection. I had friends who were ballet dancers, and I was able to watch both their training sessions and performances. My observations of some of the world’s greatest ballerinas left me with a burning question: Why is it that the movements in ballet and even karate and wrestling are so perfect? Could it be narrowed down to the number of repetitions of simple exercises? The answer came on as a sudden flash of inspiration. Simplicity itself is the key.

I realized that training in ballet, martial arts, and wrestling is done as a series of precise poses. Through these poses and drills, the perfection of movement is achieved and integrated into a flow…”

(Emphasis added—J.M.)

There’s a whole lot of truth there, whether we’re talking about individual skill sets like PT, combatives, shooting, or IMT, or whether we’re talking about collective skills tasks like Break Contact and Hasty Ambush. Physical skills are a series of precise poses. The movements between those poses SHOULD be the most contextually efficient means of moving from one pose to the next.

John, what the FUCK are you blathering about today?”

Let’s start with rifle shooting, since of all the skill sets I discuss in this blog, that’s the one the most readers are likely to have at least a passing familiarity with.

We know that good rifle marksmanship is predicated on solid, stable, durable positions that allow for a natural point-of-aim, and the ability to hold the position long enough to break an accurate shot, as well as allowing for rapid follow-up shots. Anyone who’s complete a two-day Appleseed shoot can tell you that, and—hopefully—even demonstrate good positional fundamentals. Right?

What happens between moving from one position to the next though? What if you get in your perfect prone position, and realize that you don’t have the ability to engage the enemy from there, and need to take a knee? What happens if the spot you chose to adopt your firing position doesn’t allow for you to adopt a solid prone position? You need to move and/or adjust your position. Without knowing what position you’re starting in, and what position you’re moving into however, you’re just flopping around on the ground.

Having clean, crisp, solid fundamental positions—or “postures” if you prefer—allows you to modify them if needed. More importantly, if you KNOW what the next position is, say moving from the standing to a squatting position, you can determine what the most efficient motor pattern is going to be that will move you into that position.

If you need to move from position A, behind a pick-up truck, to position B, ten meters away, behind a concrete road divider, having developed solid positions to start from and move to, will allow you to determine the most efficient method to move from here to there.

“But, I’d just jump up and sprint!”

Of course you would, snowflake. Of course you would. But, is a rush going to be the most efficient method to get there? How are you going to get out of your prone position, and start moving, most efficiently? Are you going to perform the old “combat roll” and come to your feet naturally, having moved away from your cover, or are you going to push up, and tuck your legs under you, then start your sprint out a three-point sprint start? Which will be faster? Which will be most CONTEXTUALLY efficient.

You see, there’s lots of talk in the tactical training industry about “tools in the toolbox.” Every Tom, Dick, and Harry who comes up with some new-fangled technique from watching his little brother playing Call-of-Duty on the computer, when someone points out, “that’s the dumbest damned thing I’ve ever seen!” reverts to “Well, it’s just another tool in the tool box!”

Here’s the catch…a fucking framing carpenter doesn’t need a goddamned plumber’s pipe snake in his tool box, does he? Not in the context of the job he’s doing.

We need to understand the power of the positions, in order to determine, based on varying potential contexts, what the most efficient methods of moving from one to the next will be.

How Does That Apply to Collective Skills?

I was taught, and still apply and teach, a simple principle to the concept of the basic battle drill “Hasty Attack.” That is, the in-contact element lays down a base-of-fire to suppress the enemy’s ability to maneuver against me, and his ability to engage my people with accurate fire. Meanwhile, the maneuver element uses a covered/concealed route to move to the flank of the enemy position, and then uses fire-and-movement to close with and destroy the enemy position. That position on the flank may be anywhere from 45-135 degrees—depending on context and the available cover/concealment. The idea is to establish two solid, protected fighting locations (positions), in order to bring the enemy under fire from two different directions, reducing his survivability and his ability to respond effectively.

Some guys I’ve talked to—and some of the doctrinal manuals—teach instead that Hasy Attack is simply a matter of buddy team and/or rifle team/rifle squad bounds forward. Sort of the old “Hey Diddle-Diddle, straight up the middle” mindset.

In the method I was taught, POSITION matters. Moving from the patrol formation location—generally as the trailing element—to a position that approximates 90 degrees off the axis of the initial contact, is a matter of moving from one precise position to another. Moving between those two positions is the essence of the technique. Without understanding where those positions are, and WHAT they are, there’s no way to determine what the most efficient movement method is between the two.

Will the maneuver element be able to sprint most of the way? Will they have to use 3-5 second rushes the whole way? Crawl down a ditch? If you don’t know what positions you’re moving to, you don’t have any ability to determine the most contextually efficient movement between the two.

“What’s It All Mean?”
Of course, in the Hasty Attack example, you may not know EXACTLY where you’re going. You just know you’re going to look for a covered/concealed position on the left or right flank of the enemy position, from which to launch your counterattack. So, how can you know what the next position is?

You don’t, exactly. What you do know is, “I need to move to a flank.” Knowing THAT allows you to glance at the intervening terrain and determine whether you should go left or go right. Gee, there’s a flat, grassy meadow on the left, but there’s a really handy, low ridge about 50 meters away, on the right. Would you rather move to your next position across the open meadow—which would require, at best, that you crawl the whole way? Or, would it be more contextually efficient—remember, we need to aim for speed, surprise, and violence-of-action—to move to the backside of the ridge, and sprint like the hounds of Hell are on biting at your heels, and sprint to a suitable position?

Understanding the importance of positions gives you the ability to leverage the power of positions to make you better by making you more efficient.

If I’m in a gunfight, and I’m in the prone, behind a small boulder or a concrete pylon, using the combat roll to bring myself to my feet might not be the most efficient, since it will involve me rolling out from behind that protection, before I’m even on my feet, let alone moving fast.

On the other hand, pushing up, and then tucking my leg under me into a sprinter’s start stance means that, by the time I’m exposed to the enemy, I’m already starting my sprint to the next position. That makes me harder to hit, which improves my survivability.

Whatever physical pursuit you’re training in at the moment, look for the underlying positions, or poses, and master them. Then, figure out what the most contextually efficient method of moving between those positions will be, and you will find that you’re rapidly getting better…and by better, I mean, more dangerous. Like the t-shirt says, “if you can’t stay safe, stay dangerous.”

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