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Arizona in Autumn. Rifle and CQB.

We’ve got two open-enrollment classes scheduled in October, in the vicinity of Prescott, AZ.

9-11 OCT, (FRI/SAT/SUN) we will offer a three-day Combat Rifle Class. The following weekend, 16-18 OCT, (FRI/SAT/SUN) we will offer a three-day CQB/Fighting in/around Structures class. Cost for these classes is $500/class/shooter. For students who are interested in attending both classes, we will offer a $100 discount off the total cost.

Combat Rifle
This is a beginner-to-intermediate level course on running your gun effectively, under field conditions. Beginning with basic square range work out to 200+ meter, focused on the fundamentals of marksmanship and effective gun-handling, this class advanced to critical decision-making skills development and discrimination and stress-fire shooting, before moving into application of the fighting rifle in a two-man team environment.

CQB/Fighting In/Around Structures

This course has not previously been available for open-enrollment courses. The course starts with close-quarters marksmanship realities and shooting in non-permissive environments, before moving into external movement in built-up areas, and room-clearing methodologies, before moving into methods of hardening structures to slow entry by hostiles. This class involves multiple iterations of both dry-fire and live-fire entries into single- and multiple-room structures in daylight and low-light. It also includes Force-on-Force entries, under varying conditions.

For enrollment-specific information, please contact HH6 at

For content-specific questions, contact me at

Auxiliary Operations: Got Personnel?

The auxiliary, in traditional, Maoist-type insurgency/irregular warfare, can be seen as the support echelons of the resistance army. That is a gross oversimplification in many ways, since the auxiliary performs a multitude of functions, including providing reserve combat/security forces, but in general terms, the comparison works, so we’ll run with it.

Among the functions filled by the auxiliary are the staff functions of a conventional military force, such as keeping track of the available personnel, intelligence collection and analysis, transportation, PSYOP and Information Operations (IO), an evasion recovery operations, including the conduct of safe house operations, as well as the more obvious logistics support functions. Too often, in the race to be “unconventional,” preppers and survivalists focus on being as different from the conventional military as possible, and “living off the land,” in “cells.” There’s a lot to be said for that. Unfortunately, too often, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, and cellular organizations still need organization and leadership to get anything done. Within the “new-again,” “non-generational warfare,” “tribal” model that we advocate here at MG, as opposed to the more traditional, Maoist-influenced school of thought we were brought up in, these necessary tasks still remain in place.

Personnel Accountability—The S1 Shop

One of the most important roles that the auxiliary plays for resistance movements is that of a recruiting element that can not only act as a contact for volunteers and potential recruits to the movement. Using the auxiliary for this role provides a degree of compartmentalization to keep potential spies and infiltrators away from active guerrilla units and underground operatives.

In the tribal model, of course, avoiding the confrontational nature of going out and looking for the fight, the threat of infiltration by regime informants and LEO is far less of a concern than many make it out to be—unless you’re doing stupid shit like soliciting explosives from strangers, or financing your training and preparedness budget by running cocaine or illegal drugs—there is still a need for the ability to “interview” and vet potential members who established members bring into the fold.

While the acceptance of preparedness seems to be growing within mainstream American culture, let’s face it, we’re still a very small minority. Most of don’t—and should not—make it a practice to walk up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry we meet, and start interrogating them on the state of their stockpiling of beans, bullets, and band-aids. Broaching the subject can actually be an awkward endeavor, even with established social or business contacts and friends. With new acquaintances, it can seem a particularly daunting process.

The subject of “recruiting” like-minded individuals into a preparedness group has been a topic of discussion on Internet forums and blogs for at least as long as I’ve been reading about the subject. Even in the professional UW role, the topic of safely recruiting personnel from a local indigenous population can be a discussion fraught with concern and confusion. These conversations can range from the best places to recruit, to methods of approaching the conversation.


The most obvious solution of course, is also one that has historically worked very well even in more modern, Maoist-type insurgencies. That is, word-of-mouth recruiting amongst the friends and family of already established members of the organization. This can work well, especially from a security standpoint, but only if the members of the organization understand completely, the importance of only discussing the option with truly trusted friends and family. Trying to recruit their drinking buddy that they met last weekend, because “he’s good dude, and has shared values,” is a recipe for infiltration by bad people. As obvious as that seems, it still happens. Even a “friend” that someone has “known” for five or six months, or even a year or more, may not be a suitable candidate, depending on the depth of the relationship.

Outside of the obvious “kith and kin” source of like-minded recruiting, we tend to make the subject of recruiting like-minded people a lot more complex than it needs to be. Just off the top of my head, I can think of three obvious places to find them: the gun store, the range, the surplus store.

The obvious argument against those three however, is that when the fit, 20- or 30-something male walks up to another person in one of those places and starts talking guns and preparedness, the new acquaintance’s mental alarms will be ringing like klaxons.

“Oh shit! This dude is a fed! He’s gotta be a cop! I bet he’s a UN spy!”

What if, however, the person that approached the subject wasn’t an aggressive-looking young dude who looks like he survives on a diet of barbells, punching bag, and testosterone milk shakes? What if it was the kindly old duffer instead, looking like Grandpa, who approached the young guy, asking for advice on how to shoot the new-fangled space-gun AR15? What if it is the professional-looking female, in business attire, looking for someone to provide some guidance on personal protection shooting with this Glock she just bought, after some co-workers at work recommended it as a defensive pistol, and now, she’s a little concerned because she read something about a lack of external safeties? In either case, they have the ability to begin developing a conversational relationship with the potential recruit in a non-threatening, non-hostile manner, opening the door to more focused questioning.


Wow, you really know your stuff about this AR15! Were you in the service?”

“Yes Sir. I spent a couple years with the 82d Airborne.”

“Hey, that’s great! I was a paratrooper too, back in my younger days!”

Now, they’ve got a shared frame-of-reference and a relationship developing.

“Hey, that’s awesome! Thanks for your service! What do you think about XYZ going on in the military today?” (Suggestion….if you ask this, shut the fuck up and LISTEN to what he’s saying. You may decide you think he’s a brainwashed automaton with no independent thinking skills, but you asked HIM. Trying to change his mind now is not conducive to developing a solid picture of what his beliefs are.)

“Oh wow! I never thought about how important it would be to actually be able to get my gun out of my purse. I guess I just thought it would be in my hand when I needed it! You’re pretty good at this stuff. I’ve got some girlfriends who could benefit from this. Would you be interested in teaching some lessons? I could probably get a few of them to pay you for the lessons!” Now, not only does she have a pretext for future contact with the candidate, she even has a pretext for bringing along a second or even third person to get a read on him or her.

The point of course, is not the methods used to initiate the conversation and develop the relationship. That is entirely too contextual to specific circumstances and situations. The point is that making initial contact with a potentially/likely like-minded individual might be—will probably be—more effectively conducted by the person you wouldn’t think of having do it. Of course, if your female shooter is a IPSC Grandmaster shooter, you might want to vary the approach from the above…

Vetting Personnel

Another aspect of S1 obligations that auxiliary personnel may find themselves filling, as part of the follow-on conversations with the new “recruit” is vetting them for suitability and background. This doesn’t mean you need to be conducting a full-on background investigation or conduct clandestine surveillance, trailing them around town (although, either may be necessary…).


It can be as simple as having a series of questions to ask, based on the needs, demographics, and goals of my group. If my group is Jewish, I probably want to find out if the candidate is a member of the Aryan Nations, right? That could be…well….awkward. On the other hand, I may want to find out what his vocational and avocational background is. The ripped, muscled-up dude at the range, running the AR15 might be shooting it because he’s comfortable with it, after carrying it in the 101st, but that’s before he got out and became a male stripper who goes to the range to sober up after spending his night snorting cocaine off the navels of his gay clients. That would get incredibly awkward if your group is almost entirely fundamentalist Baptists, right? What if he’s a welder? A mechanic? A cop? A tax attorney? What if he’s a truck driver? How hard is it to find out what your new friend does for a living? Pretty easy, in a culture where people tend to self-identify by occupation.

How often do our conversation with new people run like this:

“Hey, nice to meet you, Jim! Whaddya do?”

“Oh, I’m a brick mason. What about yourself?”

The problem of course, is verifying that claim. Does the individual “recruiter” have the relevant background to know which questions to ask to verify or discredit? Is he/she going to have to bring in another group member to get into the conversation? Is relaying questions via the recruiter going to work, or will it lead to awkwardness that makes it obvious what is going on, and puts off the candidate? Maybe it’s time to invite the candidate to a friendly “neighborhood” barbecue.

“Hey, Jim, nice to meet you. So, Mark said you were a brick mason, but you grew up down in Auburn? I went to UGA. What part of town did you grow up in?”

“Wait! Jim, right? Did I just overhear you say you were a squad leader at the 82d? When? Which brigade? No shit!? I was in your brigade, a couple years earlier. Did you know SSG XXX? Big tall dude, lifted weights like it was his religion? Couldn’t run worth a shit?”

“Hey Jim, I was just talking to Mark, and he mentioned that you worked for Boise PD. I’ve got a buddy over there, that used to work with me at the prison. Do you know Rob P.?”

Organization and Record-Keeping

In traditional cellular-organized underground organizations, the importance of compartmentalization is—rightfully—emphasized. What is often overlooked by novices however, is the fact that the compartmentalization is lateral and upward vertical. The leadership cells still need to know who they have working for them, and what skill sets those individuals have. This knowledge allows them to plan operations and task-organize the main effort and supporting efforts. If every member of an organization keeps their abilities secret, for “OPSEC!” except they have guns and “can shoot,” they are automatically limiting their usefulness to the organization, and limiting its ability to accomplish anything.

The prerequisite for record-keeping of personnel information of course, needs to emphasize the security of the information. This ranges from reassuring members of the organization that the people responsible for securing it are trustworthy, to selecting personnel for the task that are less likely to be recognized/identified as members of the group. Perhaps the powerlifting gunfighter is not the best choice for this role. Grandma might be a better choice.

The importance of this record-keeping by the auxiliary can be recognized in the planning process by the operational arms of the group, during the METT-TC analysis of impending operations. Objectively understanding the available skills and abilities of the membership of your group allows you to develop an accurate estimate of the friendly Troops situation. If a specific plan calls for XYZ skill, and the planner/leader can contact the personnel section and get connected with someone who happens to have XYZ skill, then the mission can commence. If no one in the group has XYZ skill, or has never shared their knowledge of XYZ skill, then the plan has to be scrapped for an alternate plan that may offer less chance of success.


Ultimately, the S1 role for the auxiliary provides a stellar example of roles within an organization that people can fill even if they are not a pipe-hitting, skull-stomping Alpha Male gunslinger with a fetish for face-shooting. In order to take advantage of this absolutely necessary role however, individuals and groups alike must begin recognizing that the need for security/secrecy must be balanced by the requirements of being operationally effective, through knowledge of the various vocational and avocational skills that individuals bring to the organization.

Skull-Stomping Sacred Cows: Weakness is Cowardice.

I see a lot of commentary from people, in comments here, on Facebook, and various sites across the blogosphere about their willingness to die on a hill. There is nothing inherently wrong with being willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of your tribe, or the values you hold dear. The problem is, most of the people proclaiming this willingness are completely, utterly, totally full of unmitigated bullshit.

Sacrifice, among other definitions, is most relevantly defined as “to give up something important or valued, for the sake of other considerations.” Self-sacrifice is defined as “giving up of one’s own interests or wishes in order to help others or to advance a cause.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, or with extending those definitions to the idea of dying for the greater good of the community. The problem arises when we look beyond the basic meanings of the words, into what the words actually mean—where they come from, and what they represent.

Sacrifice is from the Latin “sacrificium,” built of “sacra” meaning “sacred rites,” plus the root of “facere” meaning “to do.” So, a sacrifice is performing a sacred rite. Ultimately, a sacrifice is a means of exchange with the divine. It’s a barter arrangement. “I offer Thee this, and I ask Thee grant me that.” For Christians, of course, the ultimate expression of this was Jesus dying on Calvary. He died in exchange for the forgiveness of the sins of mortal men.

Even prayer is a form of sacrifice. You “give up” some of your time, to communicate with your deity. Dying on the hill, whether it is to give your friends time to escape from danger, or simply to reduce the danger to friends and family in the future, by killing as many cannibalistic San Franciscans as you can, before they get you, is the ultimate sacrifice you can give. It’s offering EVERYTHING you have, in exchange for the safety of your people. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hell, there’s probably nothing more noble than that (in my personal belief, there IS nothing more noble than that).

So, what’s the problem? Why the fuck is John talking shit again?

If you’re not willing to make the lesser sacrifices of training and preparation, you will not make the ultimate sacrifice. Period. Full-stop. End-of-story.

Training—whether it’s PT, handgun, rifle, combatives, patrolling, etc—is a form of sacrifice. You are giving up some of your time, that one thing in life we cannot get more of, and some of your comfort (at least, if you’re training validly), in the hope that, sometime in the future, when you need the attributes developed, that they will be there, and you will be favored with victory. Whether you believe in Yahweh, Odhinn, Zoroaster, or any other deity; or you believe in rational science, it’s all the same. If you make the sacrifice now, you hope you will be repaid your offering later.

Here’s the crutch though….if you’re unwilling to make small sacrifices now, you’re categorically NOT going to make the ultimate sacrifice later. You’re too much of a coward. That’s right. Weakness is cowardice. 18 or 80, thin or fat, whole or crippled, being weak (and no, for a change, I’m not just talking about PT here) is a choice. It’s a choice to follow the easy path. It’s a choice to abjure the discomfort and sacrifice of training, in favor of intellectual masturbation about the future you.

No one expects a 79 year old woman, suffering from osteoporosis to go squat 2x her body weight. No one expects her to run a Kalashnikov and perform a reconnaissance patrol. Chances are, you’re not a 79 year old woman suffering from osteoporosis. The level of ability that will be YOUR pinnacle will be influenced by age, sex, previous injuries and infirmities, and a host of other factors. Guess what though? ANYONE can be better than they are now. Your unwillingness to push yourself to new heights of achievement is a symptom of cowardice. It’s a fear of discomfort. It’s a fear of the unknown.

We spend a lot of time talking about the practical values and importance of training. Training is far more than that though. It’s MORE important than that. Training is about introspection. It’s about digging deep inside yourself, and finding the spirit of self-sacrifice within yourself. It’s about finding the part of you that is willing to give anything to protect the tribe. It’s not easy to find, despite the blustering machismo of too many mouth-breathing assholes. It is discovered at the moment of failure, in ANY training evolution, when you nut up and say, “fuck it, I’m not done yet!” and you drive on until you surpass failure.

If you’re not willing to go there; if you’re not willing to suffer, physically and mentally, to the point of failure—and then keep on suffering—you’re not going to sacrifice yourself.

So, if you’re the guy who claims, “I’m too XXXXX to train! I’ll just sit on a hill and take XXX number of ‘them’ with me?” You are full of shit. You are a coward. If you’re not willing to make small sacrifices NOW, you’re damned sure not going to make the ultimate sacrifice then.

There will be those who read this, that discredit it as “John is just spouting his typical elitist bullshit. He doesn’t understand that we’re not all former SOF guys!”

Those people are wrong. This isn’t about being SOF. This is about being human. Survival is about tribalism. Tribalism–both within tribes and between tribes–is about merit. That’s elitism and that’s okay. The only people who support egalitarianism are those that know–at some level–that they lack merit.”

The Ol’ One-Two

“I don’t need that karate crap! I’ve got Glock Fu!”

We’ve all heard the bluster-filled bullshit of the fat slob at the range, as he locks into his piss-poor imitation of a svelte, circa 1979 Jeff Cooper shooting stance, with his custom 1911A1, and proceeds to practice his “defensive shooting” with slow, aimed fire at 21 feet. 50 rounds later, he has displayed an exemplary lack of understanding of what the Colonel was actually teaching, as well as what the fuck actual interpersonal violence looks like…but hey, at least he has a decent group (hopefully), since “speed is fine, but accuracy is final!”

You would think, with the prevalence of high-quality, relatively inexpensive training available in this country, from instructors, trainers, and teachers who have “been there, done that,” that we’d be past the nonsense by now. Outside of the cognitive bias of Dunning-Kruger, there is no reason that anyone with the foresight to carry a defensive firearm in America today, cannot get solid, legitimate training in the application of that weapon in the anti-personnel role. Whether you’re a cop, a prepper, or just a concerned citizen, THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT TRAINING EFFECTIVELY.

No sane person wants to rely on physical, unarmed combatives for self-protection. That’s why we own—and carry—firearms. Fist fighting is to the everyday carry (EDC) pistol, what the EDC pistol is to the carbine in your truck, and what the carbine in your truck is to close-air support from an A-10: less than desirable, but a tool that will keep you alive, and in the fight, until you can create the spatial and temporal gaps needed to get to the better weapon.

Any long-time reader will know, I am an advocate of grappling-centric combatives systems like judo, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) and the Special Operations Combatives Program (SOCP). Despite the whining pleas of those who lack the drive, discipline, or even just the opportunity, to train in those very physical systems, they offer one significant advantage over striking-centric systems—they are inherently, utterly empirical. You can either choke a motherfucker out, or you cannot. There is no in-between. There is no subjective gray area.

At the same time however, there’s a great deal to be said for the value of knowing how to throw bombs with your striking. From left jabs that crack jaws and knock out teeth, to straight rights that crush orbital lobes and leave gray shit leaking out of ears, being able to legitimately punch hard—with “heavy hands” as one of my old coaches used to say—will go a long way towards solving problems before you ever even need to go to guns.

If we accept the truth of the idea that “bad guys look for easy marks,” then being able to initiate a conversation by making it so that he needs to eat through a straw for the next six to eight weeks solves a lot of potential issues, doesn’t it? A solid foundation in basic boxing skills will go a long way towards achieving that.

Competitive boxers, of course, spend years in training before they become successful, and even at the most basic level, competent coaches will have their protégées, spend a few months shadowboxing, working the heavy bag, and on the focus mitts, before they ever step into the sparring ring. For us mortals, lacking the intrinsic physical attributes of swarthy youth in their teens and twenties, plus family obligations, work commitments, and even competing training requirements, five or six hours a week—or more—in a boxing gym just isn’t a realistic option.

Fortunately, we’re probably not going to facing competitive boxers, so our training requirements are somewhat less intense. We do still need to spend some time working on those basic skills, because there are bad guys out there that work them, even if not at the level of a Cesar Chavez or Mike Tyson.

Boxing In the Real World

The fact is, whether you manage to knock a fucker out with your “ol’ one-two,” or not, in situations that do require the use of a weapon, the application of basic boxing blows, delivered with speed, precision, and power, can create the spatial and temporal opportunities yo need to get your weapon into the fight. When an incident “begins” at conversational distance, your 1.5-2.0 second draw from concealment is not going to be fast enough, unless you have some plan in place to preclude the enemy from impeding your efforts. It’s been my experience—as well as that of a lot of far more capable people—that punching a motherfucker in the mouth can go a long way towards achieving that.

Combined with the use of well-developed, basic footwork and movement techniques, solid punching skills will provide you the space and time to win the drag race to the gun. NOTHING SAYS “INTERRUPT YOUR OODA LOOP” QUITE LIKE CHOKING ON YOUR OWN TEETH!

Training Tactics and Strategies

Outside of hours each week spent in a dedicated boxing club, getting your ass beat by those swarthy youngsters, what tools and methods are available to us, that we can use to develop some rudimentary striking skills form the sweet science? The most important is the heavy bag.

I can’t recall where it was, but just the other day, I was reading something about a lot of old time boxers like Jack Dempsey, who forswore the use of training aids like focus mitts, in favor of sticking with the heavy bag. I don’t know the accuracy of that (I don’t even know when focus mitts were developed, although I do notice a lack of mention of them in many old time boxing manuals), but I do know that, despite the fact that I own several pairs of focus mitts, and some muay Thai kicking pads, my heavy bag gets a significantly greater portion of my training time than those do. The heavy bag gets one hell of a lot more training time than all the other accouterments combined. It’s just so much more multi-functional. I can work the speed and precision that I work with focus mitts, on the heavy bag, but I can work power on the heavy bag that just doesn’t work with the mitts. I can even incorporate footwork and very basic defensive countermeasures on the heavy bag.

My heavy bag is a 100-pound model. I don’t think anything heavier is really necessary, and I’m firmly convinced that nothing lighter offers the fundamental advantages for the requisite power development. Admittedly though, this could be a cognitive bias on my part, since I’ve been hitting 100# bags since before I weighed a hundred pounds. I modify my heavy bags by placing wraps of tape around two spots on the bag. The first is on the same level as my jaw, and the second is at the level of my solar plexus. By focusing the aim of my blows on those two target levels, I can work on developing precision in punching, to accompany the power.

To increase punching speed, I set my shot timer (although, the timer function on a cell phone works really well too) for a given span: thirty seconds, one minute, etc. Then, I just stand still, and for the duration, I throw as many FULL-POWER, AIMED punches as I can, before the time runs out. It doesn’t matter if you throw ten, or one hundred punches in that span, as long as they are aimed, and are delivered with all the power you can muster. Beyond that, what matters is that you managed to get more punches in today, than you did yesterday, and that you manage more tomorrow than you can today.

Adding Boxing to Your PT Program

Perhaps the simplest way to incorporate some solid boxing training into your current program is to simply tack it on to the end of your daily PT program—because, you ARE doing PT daily, right? This is actually one of the great advantages of the great advantages of the incorporation of boxing training into your combatives training—you can get a lot of advantage out of the training, even all by yourself.

Besides the obvious cardio, strength, and stamina advantages, you can actually develop legitimate functional skill from solo training. While there is certainly value in solo training the body movement mechanics of ground fighting, those inherently require a training partner to get the most value. With your boxing skills however—while you WILL ultimately need some partners for sparring with—you can’t go and drop bombs every time you spar, or you’ll run out of sparring partners in a hurry. That’s what the heavy bag is for. It doesn’t mind getting the shit beat out of it daily. The best boxing coaches I’ve known would put you on a shadowboxing and bag work regimen for 3-6 months before you ever stepped foot into the sparring ring anyway. As my buddy, boxing coach and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cecil Burch says, “shadowboxing is dry-fire for boxing.” The same can be said of heavy bag work. It’s the boxing alternative to the square range drills that build the foundational knowledge and skill needed to make force-on-force and field work successful.

Here’s the program I use and recommend:

Add your bag work on to the end of your normal PT session. Whether you’ve just finished a powerlifting training session, or a Crossfit-type conditioning WOD, it will only add 15-20 minutes to your total training time. My powerlifting sessions generally run 45-90 minutes, while my WOD generally run 20-60 minutes. If you just cannot afford the additional 15-20 minutes, you COULD possibly replace one conditioning WOD per week with the boxing workout. While this is definitely sub-optimal, if done properly, it can work. Working the heavy bag is a smoker.

Start out with 5-6 rounds of one minute each, with a one-minute rest interval. If you’re new to bag work, that’s probably all you’re going to be able to manage while still achieving speed, precision, and power in your punches. For the first 2-3 weeks, focus on one punch per round (there are literally, THOUSANDS of quality tutorials on how to execute the punches correctly on Youtube. There’s probably tens of thousands of shitty ones, but finding a quality tutorial shouldn’t be particularly difficult). For the first round, throw the left jab (for right-handers. For southpaws, it will be a right jab, etc). Just throw the punch, recover, and repeat, for the duration of your round. For the second round, throw the straight right, over and over and over. Follow with the left hook and the left and right uppercut.

While you can incorporate the right hook—I do—a very convincing argument can be made that the right hook has no place in boxing. There’s little, in traditional, Queensbury Rules boxing, that it offers that the straight right doesn’t do better. I like it and practice it because it allows me to throw heavy with my right, while staying deep inside of clinch range.

After a few weeks of this; once you’re throwing the punches correctly, driving from the ground, through your hips, using good biomechanics, so that you’re achieving speed, precision, and power, start working combinations. I use a half-dozen very basic combinations, and I cycle through them, over and over and over. It’s much like combat shooting. Advanced skill is nothing more than a sublime mastery of the fundamentals. I’ve done these basic combinations so often that I can probably execute them properly in my sleep (my wife likes to claim that I DO throw them in my sleep…).

The most basic of course, is the “ol’ one-two.” Every boxing sessions should start withis combination, over and over, for the duration of at least one round. It’s the foundation combination for all good boxing. As my good buddy Paul Sharp says, “the truth is you will do a lot of damage to the majority of the population simply by having the ability to throw a hard jab-cross combo.” Like the man said, mastering the one-two will solve most problems that can be solved by punching.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dive in deeper. “Most problems” isn’t “all problems.” I follow the one-two round with a second round, running the left jab-straight right-left hook combination. Boxers refer to this as the 1-2-3. It’s both a very basic boxing combination, and relatively complicated to pull off, since the shifts in balance that are required can be tough if you’re not coordinated, but they have to happen, and fast, to make the combination work. For the duration of the round, every time I throw this combination, I’ll alternate between throwing the hook to the jaw/ear, or the ribs (or more accurately, because of the level of my aiming strip, to the armpit. That punch, delivered there, will fuck your whole week up, and give you nightmares for a month afterwards).

For the rest of my training session, I alternate between left jab-left hook, and left jab-left hook-straight right. I also spend a lot of time working combinations in the clinch distance. To train these, I stand close enough that I can press my forehead into the bag. If the bag moves, I move with it, keeping that forehead pressure on, as I work my combinations, except when I need to make space for a specific blow. For example, right uppercut to the body-left uppercut to the body-left hook to the head. In order to get my body behind that left hook, I need to snap my head up and back as I throw the punch. As soon as it lands though, I’m driving my head back into contact with the bag in my clinch position.

After performing the one minute rounds for a few weeks, we step up to 3×2 minute rounds, still with one minute rest intervals. Then, after a couple more weeks, we step up to 2×3 minute rounds, again with the one minute rest intervals. Then, each week, I’ll add one minute on to the end of the workout, until I’m doing 5-6×3 minute rounds, always with the same one-minute rest intervals.

As an alternative, occasionally, I’ll break the last round up, back to one minute rounds, and really push my speed, trying to get as many fast, accurate, powerful punches as I can, within that one minute. After a week or two of this, I’ll go back to the 5-6×3 minute rounds, and quantify that the improvements have carried over to the longer time frame.

Working Footwork on the Heavy Bag

It has been said that footwork is the foundation of fighting. It’s true. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we refer to that position of balance between mobility and stability as “base.” The concept applies just as much to boxing as it does to ground fighting. If you lack mobility, you’re going to get your head knocked off. If you lack stability though, you’re never going to be able to deliver solid punches that land with power. Without that requisite stability to develop power, you’ll just be playing patty-cake. While I don’t mind playing patty-cake with my kids, I’m not interested in playing it with a grown man.

Developing and practicing your footwork on the heavy bag is essential. Moving, and staying with the bag while you’re punching, but moving away when you’re not, is the foundation. It’s the age-old concept of “stick-and-move.” Shit, it’s guerrilla warfare 101, isn’t it?

Here’s how we teach it:

From a position facing the bag, get your hands up to protect your head, and start a nice, relaxed bob-and-weave movement. Throw your combination off the bob-and-weave. As you finish your combination, pivot off the line towards your left, and immediately hit your bob-and-weave, and throw the combination again. This time, as you come off the combination, pivot off the line to your right. You can also choose to always pivot left for one round, and always pivot right for the next round. The key is that you’re trying to make the stick-and-move intuitive, without giving up the initiative and forward drive of the fight by moving straight backwards. You will never be able to move backwards as fast as the enemy can move forward. Remember, “mobility kills.” The guy with better mobility kills the opponent. The dude with less mobility gets killed. It doesn’t matter the scale of the fight, or the weapons involved.


At some point, of course, you’re going to have to spar. You simply cannot internalize and master the defensive and counteroffensive aspects of boxing without getting out there and banging. Hitting a heavy bag develops crucial attributes, but you have to fine-tune them on an opponent. It’s the boxing equivalent of square range work, versus getting out in the woods, or into the shoot house, and putting those skills to practical work.

Most importantly however, from the boxing-specific standpoint, until you’ve eaten a punch—or a hundred—you don’t know how to fight. It doesn’t matter if you “plan” on always sucker-punching your opponent from an ambush. At some point, you’re going to try that on a guy who isn’t a pussy. He’s going to take your best shot…and giggle about it. At that moment, you’d better have eaten a few punches, so you know that you can. Further, it might not be you who does the sucker-punching. When Sam the Street Skell bounces a straight right off your jaw, you need to have experienced catching a punch with your chin a few times in order to shake it off and get back into the fight, before he finishes you.


A basic level of combatives ability is essential if you intend to be able to fight, to protect kith and kin. A sub-second draw is great, and running a carbine at an expert level is great. When the situation doesn’t allow for either of these two choices to solve your problem though, being able to knock a fucker out, with a well-placed series of punches that carry the weight of thousands of repetitions on the heavy bag, might be the answer that you do need. Remember, $150 for a 100# heavy bag at the local sporting goods store (and they’re WAY cheaper on Craigslist! I think I paid $50 for mine), is significantly cheaper than reconstructive surgery—or a funeral.

Make no mistake, punches can kill. I know more than one guy who spent a significant amount of time in prison because he punched a dude, the dude went down, bumped his head, and didn’t get up again. It’s far better if you’re the guy throwing that shot than if you’re the guy catching that shot.

Skill Is The Foundation of Mindset

My good buddy, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, boxing coach, and developer of the Immediate Action Combatives/Jiu-Jitsu program, the inestimable Cecil Burch, makes some valid points, that apply, not just to combatives, but to PT, shooting, SUT, and every other fucking thing we discuss.

Quit claiming you’ve got “mindset” on your side, unless you’ve done the work that builds that mindset.

…and you should get to one of this courses.

Why We Suck, And How To Fix That

The Foole doth thinke he is wise, but the wiseman knowes himselfe to be a Foole.” –William Shakespeare

In 1999, Cornell University Department of Psychology professor, David Dunning, and a graduate student, Justin Kruger, published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that was titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” The effect they described has subsequently come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This Effect plays a vital role in the preparedness community, even though most people are completely unaware of its existence.

Incompetent people do not recognize—scratch that, cannot recognize—just how incompetent they are…” –David Dunning

There are numerous possible causes of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The most obvious is simple ego. No one wants to think of himself as a complete fucking retard, or even simply as being below-average. Thus, we tend to inflate our own self-assessments. We also tend to be judgmental pricks, so it is easier to recognize ignorance and incompetence in someone else, reinforcing the illusion that we are above average.

As Dr. Dunning pointed out in an article last year, for Pacific-Standard, “We Are All Confident Idiots,” however, the core case of the Effect is simple damned ignorance. “An ignorant mind is precisely not a spotless, empty vessel, but one that is filled with the clutter of irrelevant or misleading life experiences, facts, intuitions, strategies, algorithms, heuristics, metaphors, and hunches that regrettably have the feel of useful and accurate knowledge.”

This false “knowledge,” predicated on irrelevant—or even simply misinterpreted—experience and education, leads to confirmation bias of the worst sort. We have “life experience” so we must know what the fuck we are talking about, right? We’re professionally educated, so we must “know,” right? Well…maybe…

The problem is, too often, if one or two experiences appear to confirm our beliefs, we then rest easy in our confident knowledge, and cease to continue pushing. We’ve done “XXX” so we don’t need to keep training and pushing ourselves. This is why we see “experts” in “XYZ” set of skills in the preparedness world, despite a complete lack of credible experience or education, and demonstrably false lessons being taught as “gospel,” even in the face of contradictory evidence. This is why we see guys in the training industry teaching the same TTP they learned twenty or thirty years ago, who have refused to adapt and modify their knowledge base, despite contradictory evidence from more recent, more widespread experience.

In “gun talk,” this is the “unconscious incompetence” level of learning. We just don’t know what we don’t know. We’re so ignorant, we cannot even recognize that we are ignorant.

Before someone jumps in with, “But, John, you’re an arrogant prick yourself! You’re always talking shit about our training!” You’re right. I am—in no way, shape, or form—immune to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. NO ONE IS IMMUNE! Even Dr. Dunning admits that he is not immune to it.

However, there are ways to overcome it, assuming we are not willing to rest on our laurels, and believe we somehow have all the answers, and do not need to continue seeking. One of these methods is learning accurate self-assessment. We need to develop the ability to clearly see—and actually appreciate—what we do not know.

One of these is the establishment of standards of performance. If I set the IDPA Classifier in front of you, as a standard metric for performance with a concealed-carry pistol, and tell you, “The standard is to classify ‘Master,’” then you have a standard metric to test yourself against. If you cannot achieve that (it’s actually not particularly difficult to achieve. I did it a few weeks ago, and was fishing for my spare magazine in a cargo pocket, instead of a belt-mounted mag pouch…). If I tell you, “The standard for rifles is to be able to hit a C-Zone steel silhouette, from the standing, at 100 meters, in less than 1.5 seconds,” then you have a quantifiable standard to attain.

This leaves no room for argument, or self-delusion. You can either achieve the standard, or you cannot. It’s all very black-and-white. This is nice, because as Americans, we tend to appreciate things that are black-and-white. Grays are too nebulous for our comfort.

The problem of the Dunning-Kruger Effect still rears its ugly head though, in the establishment of those standards. What defines an acceptable performance metric? Someone who served in Iraq, was never in a gunfight outside of one of the metropolitan areas of that country, and never saw the opportunity to make a shot on a bad guy, past 100 meters, may consider 100 meters to be an acceptable standard of performance. At the same time, there are a lot of papers coming out of the Army War College, with Afghanistan veteran officers, many with competitive marksmanship backgrounds as well, who are positing that anything less than everyone being able to shoot at 500 meters, is an unacceptably low standard.

Lots of trainers in the civilian world think that anything beyond 7-10 meters, with a carbine or pistol, is unrealistic for the civilian gun owner, training in the “home defense carbine.” The very establishment of standards of performance is just as fraught with the dangers of Dunning-Kruger Effect as not having standards is.

The same applies to physical training, combatives, land navigation, and more. We have to determine a base metric for “acceptable” levels of skill, but we need to recognize that even those may be inadequate.

The solution is critical thinking. We need to be able to apply logic and empiricism, correctly, and predicate our conclusions on humility (trust me, humility is NOT one of my virtues, I get it, this is HARD!). In short, we need to be skeptical, certainly of what someone else publishes, but mostly, of ourselves and our conclusions and abilities.

Accurate, objective self-assessment can be developed, but it requires work and humility. Instead of assuming that what we know is “Truth,” we can accept that it was “true” within a specific, limited context. Even then however, our “knowledge” and “expertise” may be grounded in false knowledge.

Using the example of the 100 meters standard in Iraq, we can see this is the case. There have been dozens of cases of shooters—and not just snipers, but common riflemen—making shots in excess of 500 meters, even in urban environments. The longest 7.62x51mm sniper shot ever, was taken at almost 1200 meters in an urban environment in Iraq. So, the “authority of experience” of someone who never even saw anyone take a shot past 100 meters there, and thus claims, “you don’t need to train for shots past 50/100/200/etc meters, in an urban environment,” is automatically suspect, isn’t it?

At the same time, the standard answer of “well, I can hit a silhouette at 500 meters, so I’m a ‘rifleman!’” is equally suspect, since a) 500 meters is considerably less than 1200 meters, and b) most fights still happen at considerably less than 500 meters, but at extremely fast speeds.

At a recent local training event, someone asked me how important the 3-5 second rush was, and if it would really hurt anything if they took a couple extra seconds getting to their next position. To answer them, we set the timer up. At 100 meters, from the standing, a couple of us managed to smoke a hit to a C-Zone steel silhouette, in less than one second. Would it have taken us longer if the target had been moving? Maybe. How much longer, though? Twice as long? Three times as long? Of course, I wouldn’t have to hit the C-Zone, either. Any hit on them would have at least slowed them down a step, allowing me a follow-up shot. So, maybe it would have taken the same amount of time—or even less—since we’d have been shooting at a larger target.

The 3-5 second rush was developed, because it was predicated on the idea that it would take some period of time for the enemy to notice you were moving, then they’d have to acquire a sight picture, before finally breaking the shot. Hopefully, by then, you would be back on the ground, behind cover, making their shot “wasted.”

So, what relevance does the Dunning-Kruger Effect have on our training for preparedness security operations?

Number One, assume that what you know is wrong, or at least, incomplete. Continue seeking new knowledge, and improving your frame-of-reference, by making it more broad.

At the same time, question the frame-of-reference of the people you’re getting your information from. Is their experience and knowledge base relevant to your needs? Do you have the support assets they have/had, when they developed their knowledge base? Do you need to modify their approach, based on these differences? Do you really, or is that your cognitive bias and/or laziness speaking?

Number Two, assume that whatever performance standard you develop will be a MINIMUM standard. You’re not the only guy out there trying to get better, and become more dangerous. Once you’ve achieved a MINIMUM standard, raise the bar of performance. DO NOT EVER SETTLE!

I’ll give you a couple examples from my personal recent experience.

I’ve long assumed I was moderately good with my carbine, and with my pistol. I mean, shit, I was an SOF soldier for the better part of a decade. I’ve been shot at, and I’ve shot people. Shit, I’m good to go. In the interest of not succumbing to Dunning-Kruger Effect and my own experiential cognitive biases however, I decided to set up some performance metrics to test myself and those with whom I train regularly. We decided to run some basic tests at the rifle range and at the pistol range.

For rifle, we looked at the 3-5 second rush. We operated off the assumption that anyone we would have to fight would a) NOT be a fucking idiot, and b) would be at least as well trained as the average US infantryman. For a minimum standard, we decided that, out to 200 meters, regardless of the firing position you needed to use, to get hits at the given range (we tested at 50, 75, 100, and 200 meters), you needed to be able—at a MINIMUM—to get a hit within 5 seconds. It didn’t matter if you were firing a single shot, or dumping half your magazine: as long as you got a hit within five seconds, we would score it a “go.”

Within two iterations, even our slowest people were scoring their hits in under three seconds. More than one were getting hits in less than two seconds, even at 200 meters. We lowered the time standard, and said, “Okay, you should be able to get a hit on steel in less than three seconds.” We didn’t settle for the easily achievable, even though that was our initial “standard.” Pretty soon, at any distance from 0-100 meters, EVERYONE was getting hits in less than two seconds. Several were scoring their first hit in less than 1.5 seconds, and three or four of us were getting hits in less than one second. Guess what?

The performance standard got lowered again. Now, we have a standard of “you need to be able to get a hit, from your rifle, on a C-Zone steel silhouette targets, in less than 1.0 seconds, at any distance from 0-100 meters.” For those that couldn’t do that yet, they have a measurable, quantifiable performance metric to try and achieve. For those that already managed it? They have a base standard to maintain, and we’ll be pushing to drop that standard below 0.75 seconds, and then 0.5 seconds, while simultaneously reducing the size of the acceptable target zone.

Obviously, that’s just one aspect of the performance standard for rifle, but it’s a challenging one. Hitting that single hit in less than one second also allowed us to get hits on two separate targets in less than two seconds, at 50 meters. How dangerous does that make you? How fast can the other guy get his weapon into the fight at 50 meters? What about his buddy? Is he training to the same “elite” standard, or is he accepting some “standard” he read on the Internet somewhere, developed twenty years ago, that says a single hit at 50 meters in two seconds, is adequate?

For pistols, we used a two-part qualification. We used the current FBI Qualification and the IDPA Classifier, both with modifications to make them more accuracy focused, while still insisting on the time standards. Here’s a newsflash for you: lots of people can pass the FBI Qualification, as written, and LOTS of people can achieve Master on the IDPA Classifier (seriously, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!). If you’re not shooting AT LEAST, to that level, then you’re not trained, regardless of what you think.

PT is a deceased equine that I like to take a Louisville Slugger to, regularly. Is part of it that I enjoy doing PT? Sure. I like throwing heavy iron around. I like folding the heavy bag in half with punch after punch. More importantly though, I know there are guys out there who lift more than I do, and run faster than I do. There are guys out there who make my level of shooting ability look like a kid in 1992 playing Duck Hunter on Nintendo. I do PT—hard and heavy—because I need to level that playing field, as much as possible. If they can lift more than me, and/or run faster than me, then I need to be able to outshoot them. If they can outshoot me, I’d better be able to outrun them. If they are faster than me, stronger than me, and can shoot faster than me? Well, I’m fucked, but you can bet, I’m going to do my damnedest to keep trying to catch up and surpass them.

Nature doesn’t give a shit—and neither does the enemy—that I’m forty damned years old, have lots of obligations competing for my limited time, and struggle with being a lazy piece-of-shit. If I’m going to be able to protect my wife and kids, I HAVE to make time to meet the standards, and then to drive past though standards, and set tougher ones to achieve.

It doesn’t matter if I met the standards this week. All that matters is I’m better today than I was yesterday, and that I’ll be better tomorrow than I am today. Set your standards, and then blow those cocksuckers out of the water, by pushing past them.

Or, go be a pussy, but do that somewhere else.

Valkyries, Valhalla, and the Way of the Samurai: Soft Standards and the Stoic Philosophy

Contrary to popular current mythology, and the History Channel’s Vikings television show, dying in battle was not a ticket to sex with Valkyries, getting drunk on mead, and partying with Odin in Valhalla, in pre-Christian Germanic belief. The most commonly accepted view of the mythos—amongst those scholars that accept that the belief system actually encompassed Valhalla as an afterlife destination, which is far from universal amongst historians and archeologists—is that the Valkyries, the “Choosers of the Slain,” would scour the battlefield dead, and select half of them to bring to Odin’s Hall. The other half went elsewhere (Freyja’s Hall, but that’s not actually germane to the conversation here).

Thus, in the ancient Germanic warrior culture, regardless of how brave you were, how hard you fought, and how well-trained you were, there was only a 50/50 chance that you would get to go to Valhalla. Ultimately, the choice was outside of your control. So, why would a warrior train for war, venture forth gladly to the battlefield, and then perform valorous acts that almost guaranteed death in the long run, if there was only a 50% chance of getting what you wanted?

In his classic treatise on the philosophy behind the Samurai code of “Bushido,” entitled Hagakure, and often billed as “The Book of the Samurai,” retired Samurai-turned-monk Yamamoto Tsunetomo, wrote that “the way of the samurai is found in death.” He admonished young warriors to calmly accept that death would occur on the battlefield, regardless of the efforts of the individual. Despite this, the samurai trained in earnest for battlefield effectiveness from youth onward. It didn’t matter that you calmly accepted that you were going to die, you still trained hard to be as lethal as humanly possible.

There is a school of philosophy that was originated in ancient Greece, and codified by Roman philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca. That school was called “Stoicism.” It was probably not what you think.

In modern colloquialism, “stoic” has a meaning that is not congruent with the origins of the word within that school of philosophy. In our use, stoic is defined as enduring pain or hardship without showing emotions or complaining. When we read the ancient philosophers like Aurelius though, we see that he—by many considered the definitive writer of the school of Stoicism—greatly mourned the deaths of his sons. He grew angry with poor performance by his subordinate military commanders. Bereavement and anger are contrary to the modern use of the word stoic, but the greatest writer on the school of philosophy that gave us that word was more than willing to admit that he felt both emotions. How does that work?

More importantly, what do northern European tribal warriors, Japanese samurai, and ancient Roman philosophers, have to do with modern survivalism, preparedness, and training? Pretty much every-fucking-thing.

Whether we use the Roman term “stoicism,” or we discuss Germanic warlords, or Japanese samurai, we’re talking about the same thing. Stoicism is the calm acceptance of responsibility. It is the acceptance that I am responsible for what I am capable of controlling. I cannot control what anyone else does or does not do. I cannot control the outcome of events, after I’ve done the work.

Retired Delta Sergeant-Major Pat McNamara writes about this when he recommends performance-based training, rather than outcome-based training. We don’t worry about the outcome. We focus our efforts on what we are responsible for. It doesn’t matter if I hit a Master classification on the IDPA Classifier. What matters is whether I take responsibility for the actions—the training—that will allow me to achieve that. It doesn’t matter if I hit a sub-1:00 second draw to first shot break with my Glock. I cannot control that.

Sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

It makes sense though, when you stop trying to control anything except yourself. Rather than trying to hit a 1:00 second draw to first shot, focus on executing the draw, sight alignment, and trigger press as fast as you are capable of, while still performing each step of the process as correctly as you are capable of. If you get a 1:00 second draw to first shot, great. If you don’t, but you did everything as fast as you were capable of, but still did it as perfect as you are capable of, great.

When the bell tolls for you, and you are in a gunfight, you have exactly zero control of the outcome. You have zero control over who you will be fighting. You have zero control over what training he has had. You have zero control over his speed and accuracy. You have zero control over whether he moves at the moment you break your shot, causing you to miss. You are not in control over anything that you are not in control of. Accept it. Embrace it. Accept responsibility for what you are responsible for.

So, what are you responsible for, that will make a difference? Why bother training, if we don’t have control anyway?

You are responsible for you. You are responsible for your actions. You do have control over who your enemy will be fighting. You have control over the training you will have had. You have control over what speed and accuracy you will be able to achieve. You have control over whether you are fit enough to move, fast enough. You are in control of everything that you are in control of. Accept that responsibility.

The Germanic warrior trained hard, to be better than his foe, so that he could perform valorous acts on the battlefield, and hoped that the Valkyries noticed, and took him, if it turned out that his foe was better than him. The Samurai trained hard so that he could perform well, so that hopefully, his ancestors would recognize his honor in the afterlife.

We can set performance standards. “You need to be able to achieve X in XX:XX seconds, and then you are qualified.” That’s fine. If you’re willing to accept that, then fine. Accept responsibility for it. Perhaps it will be enough.

The better way; the Stoic way accepted by warrior cultures throughout history, and throughout the world though, is to take responsibility for yourself. Accept that you have absolute control over what you have control over, and don’t worry about the rest of it. If you take the responsibility you need to take, then you will perform. If you don’t, you will fail.

You cannot control whether you achieve X in XX:XX. What you can control is, “I will do XYZ every day. I will try to perform better and faster, every time I perform XYZ. If I do this, eventually, I will achieve X in XX:XX, then I will continue to improve.”

“Hard” standards of performance are, by definition, minimal standards. “Soft” standards are superior to hard standards. They require stoic acceptance of the struggle. They require you to continue trying to improve. “Hard” standards are about “stay safe.” “Soft” standards are about “fuck safe, stay dangerous.”

I taught a TC3 class in Idaho this weekend past. After the training one night, at supper with some of the students, we were discussing PT. You can follow any number of PT programs out there. I describe a program in Volume One of The Reluctant Partisan. Rob Shaul of Mountain Athlete, located in Jackson, Wyoming has “tactical athlete” specific training programs. Gym Jones in Salt Lake City, UT provides training for tactical athletes. Crossfit is—of course—popular with many tactical athletes.

Ultimately, if you want to do PT to improve yourself, it’s not particularly difficult. Lift more today than you lifted yesterday, and lift more tomorrow than you can lift today. Run or ruck further and faster today than you did yesterday, and run or ruck further and faster tomorrow than you do today. Any strength and conditioning specialist or personal trainer will, of course, tell you that this is a gross oversimplification. You have to factor in all the variables: nutrition, rest and recovery, etc.

Bullshit. If you walked out in your front yard right now, and picked up a 45-lb Olympic barbell off the ground and pressed it all the way over your head, and did that five times, then repeated that—and nothing else—every single day, rain, shine, sleet, or snow, adding five pounds every day, in a month, you would be fitter than you are today. If you walk outside tomorrow, and you walk two miles, as fast as you can walk that two miles, and tomorrow, you repeated it, but threw ten pounds into a backpack while you did it, and repeated that every day for a month; you would be fitter—faster and stronger—than you are today.

People bitch and whine all the time in the comments on this blog about my exhortations to do PT, shoot, and train. “It’s too hard!” “I’m too crippled.” “I’m too old.” “It’s cold outside.” “It’s too hot.”

That’s fine. Blame it on the environment. I don’t give a shit.

You can’t control whether it will be hard or easy. You cannot control your past injuries. You cannot control your age. You cannot control the weather. You can control your reactions to those things. If you choose to let them stop you, fine. Just accept responsibility for it. The difficulty of exercise and training, your old injuries, your age, the weather; none of those things are in your control. They cannot control you either. You, and you alone, are responsible for your actions. It’s not your age or the weather that’s stopping you from being dangerous. It’s being a whiny little bitch who wants to blame someone else for your failings that stops you from being dangerous.


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