View Full Version : The Benefits of Conceptual Training (Long)

November 24, 2007, 11:54 PM
The Benefits of Conceptual Training

First things first, I am not anti Modern Techniques. I have spent years and years studying and practicing them. I feel that they have prepared me very well for a “proactive” gunfight. My focus has now moved on to the “reactive” gunfights. This is not an insult to Col. Coopers work….it is a continuation of his work…..it is complimentary to his work. Now with that said, let’s get to the meat of the issue.

I am constantly questioned by the die hard Modern Techniques (MT) advocates about the wisdom of teaching as many things as I do. They often see it as “way too much” material and “way too complicated.” I could not disagree more!

As I was learning the MT I kept seeing “gaps” in the training. These gaps concerned me from day one and I figured that the gaps would be filled in, in the more advanced courses. This never came to pass. It was obvious to me that the MT were very limited, especially in the context of “the fight.”

As I began to look around in order to fill in these gaps, I discovered what the problem was with the MT. The problem was that it was a limited batch of disjointed techniques. These limited techniques were forced to fit into situations that simply did not make any sense. I knew right away that there had to be a better way, because this went against every prior experience that I had ever had in my life. To me the MT was comparable to learning to box from a slow, plodding, heavy handed, heavy weight. As an athletic, lightning fast welterweight, learning from a slow, plodding, heavy handed, heavy weight made absolutely no sense at all. The techniques were just too limited and did not fit into my strengths at all. I was told that “this is all that you will ever need.” I did not believe that for even a minute.

A fight is a fight, it does not matter what kind of a fight it is. Fist fight, knife fight, gun fight…..the bottom line is that it is a fight. If as an individual, you were blessed with God given talents and strengths, why would you ever abandon those attributes? The answer to that is that you would not and do not abandon them, no matter who tells you “this is all that you will ever need.” The idea that all I could handle was a few, limited, disjointed skills is absolute lunacy to me. There is not one event in my life that has ever told me that I could not handle transitioning through a fluid situational response when the chips were down. The idea of dumbing something down so that I could perform it under stress is as foreign to me as a traditional Lithuanian dance.

The reality of the fight is that “situations dictate strategy, strategy dictates tactics, and tactics dictate techniques.” Any fighting system that has the techniques dictating anything should raise a huge red flag. The statement above means that we must be as well rounded and versatile as we possibly can be. The question is, how do you incorporate all of this well roundedness and versatility into a simple fighting concept? The answer is that we train in “concepts” that work within the correct context of the fight.

What is the context of the fight?

This is a question that blows the Hicks law right out of the water. One of the most common things that you will ever read on a gun forum is “It is situational.” The exact context of the fight opens up a very limited choice of responses. This is a simple concept that can be seen in any basic boxing match. No one in there right mind throws a hook or uppercut from way outside and nobody in their right mind throws a looping overhand power shot from a clinch. The situation dictates the logical punching combination. This is no different from any real fight. No one in their right mind point shoots at thirty yards and no one in their right mind uses the sights at three feet. The specific context of the fight opens up the logical concepts that you have trained in. The illogical responses are never even considered. They are never a part of the decision making process. This conceptual approach allows for a vast integration of a variety of skill sets. This well rounded integration allows for the best response for each and every situation. But each skill set has its logical place inside of the context of the fight. Once again, illogical skill sets are never even on the table.

Due to my MT experience, I have always had a problem with the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) concept. I feel that this concept has been bastardized into “only do as my guru does” catch phrase. This closed minded negativity has done an awful lot of damage due to the retardation of the advancement of the art. A much more appropriate concept would be more like this “Keep it as simple as it needs to be within the correct context of the fight.” Now this makes sense and can not be confused with dogma or guru worship. But of course we would not have that cute little acronym to desperately cling to when the heretics begin discussing “integration, matrix, or continuum.”

As we look to train in our “concepts” I feel that it is best to look at things as a continuum. A continuum is defined as “a continuous nonspatial whole or extent or succession in which no part or portion is distinct or distinguishable from adjacent parts.”

Since the situation dictates everything, we need to understand that “the situation” (the context of the fight) is the defining element. We have to understand that there is a “fight continuum” and inside of this fight continuum there are lesser continuums that help establish the concepts inside of the correct context of the fight.

The Reaction Continuum

One of the first continuums that we need to accept is the reaction continuum. This is the concept of our initial reaction which is usually based on who has the initiative. You can either be in a dominant position, of equal initiative, or behind in the reactionary curve. Your reaction must be dictated by who has the initiative and to what extent that they have it. The MT did a fine job of teaching us what to do when you were in a dominant position….but is severely lacking in regards to the other positions in the reactionary curve.

The second biggest factor in the reaction continuum is the proximity of the threat. This will dictate whether you can “go to guns,” whether you have to “go hands on,” or whether you have the ability to get to cover or use “positioning” to mitigate the threat.

The reaction continuum also dictates the initial direction that you move, the level of explosiveness of which you move, the clearing of the cover garment, and the accessing of the firing grip on the handgun.

The Movement Continuum

The reaction continuum leads us into two other continuums that happen simultaneously, the movement continuum and the draw stroke continuum. The direction, the explosiveness, the speed, or even the need for movement is dictated by the context of the fight. The MT did fine with teaching us how to make hits with “stand and deliver” and “controlled movement,” but did nothing for us in regards to truly dynamic movement. Our movement needs to be dictated by urgency caused by your placement inside of the reactionary curve and the proximity of the threat. The amount of initiative that the adversary has will dictate where you need to be inside of the balance “to hit and not be hit.” There are times where making the hit out weights making the adversary miss and vice versa. This will all be very apparent as the situation comes down.

I feel that it is best to prioritize your movement for “your” most likely encounters. Civilian defenders and typical Street Cops priorities can be very different from that of someone in the military or in a special unit. As an instructor who specializes in the training of civilian defenders and Street Cops, I tend to do most of my training inside of ten yards. I also but a high priority on movement to the forward oblique’s but, I also feel that every direction should be covered……every direction, with varying speed, with the use of “see what you need to see” skills, while integrating directional changes, weapon transfers and movement pivoting. The goal is to be well rounded, versatile, and comfortable with whatever movement is needed in the specific situation.

November 24, 2007, 11:55 PM
The Draw Stroke Continuum

The draw stroke should be based on common sense. There will be times where squaring up to the threat and using a default linear draw stoke makes all of the sense in the world. But we have to realize that there are also times where it makes absolutely no sense at all. I feel that the physiological response to square up to a threat is something that we should attempt to train out of ourselves. It may be useful at times, but it may have deadly consequences at other times. Taking the time to square up locks you into the kill zone. This hesitation (no matter how small) can be very detrimental. We all know that the quickest point between two points is a straight line, with this in mind, draw directly to the threat. We also all know that the quickest way out of the kill zone is to use existing forward momentum with explosive forward movement (from the 10:00 – 2:00). With this in mind do not take the time to orientate to the threat to draw before you get off of the X.

Where do you shoot from inside of your draw stroke? How many hands do you have on the gun?

Once again these questions are dictated by the situation. You may need to shoot as soon as you have clear the holster and indexed on to the threat due to the urgency of the encounter. You may have time to come to full extension at the line of sight. You may find the best answer some where in between those points. You may have the opportunity to draw to your two handed default drawstroke. You may not even be able to bring your support side hand to your gun because it is busy doing even more important functions such as fending, blocking, striking, balancing, manipulating other tools, manipulating the environment, being used to facilitate efficient shooting and dynamic movement.

The Sight Continuum

See what you need to see, to get the hits that you need, within the correct context of the fight. Your ability to get to and use the sights will be dictated by many factors. These same factors will also dictate from what position that you need to shoot from…..you may not even be able to get to full extension, or to the line of sight. The wise man will learn to make hits through out his completely versatile draw stroke. The factors involved are once again the defining element of the correct context of the fight…. initiative, urgency, proximity, and necessary movement. I have covered this in depth in numerous articles.

The Grip and Trigger Continuum

I have eluded too these two aspects of the fight on a few occasions. Luckily the position in the continuum will automatically be found by the physiological response of the encounter. Once again, this will be dictated by the correct context of the fight. It really is as simple as the closer and the more urgent the encounter is the tighter you will squeeze the gun and the harder and faster you will work the trigger. Do not confuse this with poor shooting skills. It may not fit into “The Fundamentals of Marksmanship,” but it is firmly rooted in the physiologically sound teachings of point shooting. As the distance increases and the urgency lessons, the grip and the use of the trigger will automatically move away from the physiological teachings of point shooting towards “The Fundamentals of Marksmanship.” This is just a physiological fact that one should accept and learn to benefit from.

Train Conceptually, understand the dynamics of a life threatening encounter, never let your techniques dictate your response, keep an open mind, be as well rounded as possible, let your versatility be your number one strength, use visualization as you train in your concepts to ingrain appropriate responses at a subconscious level, do not accept the limitations set down by others…..but never underestimate the value of the fundamentals.

Rob Pincus
November 25, 2007, 01:42 AM
Good Post, Roger.

One of the problems that I run into at the higher levels of training is the students desire to oversimplify. When the Army and Navy (and some LE) Teams are at VTC and we're doing CQB work, for example, I see a lot of desire to work with choreographed responses that tend to fall apart under dynamic stress in a realistic environment. Rather than keep a hold of a laundry list of responses from the teams particular flavor of CQB (SFAUC, CQC, Whatever), I break the process down to simple fundamental principles and we work on not violating those "rules of CQB" through the process of hitting realistic environments, dealing with mission plausible circumstances and doing it all in a dynamic way. This creates a better learning environment that emphasizes the Principles that underly the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). When a student learns and understands the principle that underlies the SOP, they become much more capable as they can then apply those principles in situations that weren't specifically choreographed.

In firearms training, it comes down to this: If I only have 30 seconds to teach someone how to defend themselves with a loaded firearm, they get "Extend-touch-press: In the line of sight, press the trigger straight back, keep shooting until the bad guy stops.". If I have 3 days, they're going to get a basic introduction to the physics, bio-mechanics and physiology that make Extend-Touch-Press work, in addition to other techniques and principles that will work across a broader spectrum of plausible situations.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of Mechanics based "instructors" who are really high level skill guys who's depth of understanding doesn't really go beyond the mechanics in the first place. Concept is incredibly important to real learning and understanding... especially the kind of understanding that allows the student to progress even without the instructor standing over his shoulder.... It is this kind of understanding also allows the skills to be put in a context, not just practiced in isolation.

People can progress to a certain level by studying/practicing the mechanics only, but programs and people only develop to the highest levels when they understand the concepts and principles that dictate the techniques.


November 25, 2007, 05:46 PM
Very nice Rob!

Concept is incredibly important to real learning and understanding... especially the kind of understanding that allows the student to progress even without the instructor standing over his shoulder.... It is this kind of understanding also allows the skills to be put in a context, not just practiced in isolation.

This is how I know that I am on the right path. My students and I have a certain "connection" after my course. This connection allows the students perpetual growth inside of the concepts that I have introduced them too. The real learning for the student happens after my course, as they "grow" the things that I have given them. As they grow what they learned they contact me about the growth and inform me what else they have discovered.

So the bottom line is that my curriculum is the product of *many* peoples input. It is the product of everyone that I have ever trained with.....whether that is as a student of as an instructor. We have to understand that no one group of people have the corner on the "common sense" market. Some of the very best stuff that I teach come from highly experienced professionals as well as from very insightful civilians.

Many times I get a student in my course, that I absolutely know that they are going to help advance the art. I know this due to a certain level of insightfulness inside of their posts. This insightfullness can come straight out of experience or straight out of a recognizable X factor. As it stands I have never been dissappointed by this phenomenon.

Instructing is learning...always a student!

Rob Pincus
November 25, 2007, 06:45 PM
Absolutely... Student feedback, questions and comments should be part of any programs development!

November 30, 2007, 11:46 PM
The Zigzag Drills and the Balance of Speed and Accuracy

As we train in concepts and continuums we need to develop drills that keep us in line with these principles. Personally, I’ve been using a zigzag drill to reinforce the concepts. I have not put the drills to use in any of my courses yet, but that may change very soon.

As we look at the concepts mentioned above we need to understand that these concepts are all intertwined. They are each dependent on each other and have an effect on each other. It is well established that time equals distance. This distance variable has a huge effect on “the balance of speed (speed of the shot and the speed of the movement) and accuracy.” Distance dictates the speed of which we can take the shot, the speed and necessary smoothness of our movement, the necessary visual input on the gun, and the grip and trigger continuum.

The zigzag drill brings all of these “continuum” elements together into one drill. The drill also does a very good job of working the movement skill set with directional changes, cut backs, varying speeds, gun transfers from one handed to two handed shooting, transfers from dominant hand to non-dominate hand, and foot work pivoting. It is simply another “put it all together” drill that really establishes the personal limitations inside of the fight continuum. The zigzag drill is a “progression” drill that constantly and continually changes as you move closer…or as you move further away.

The first drill starts at twenty five yards with a full capacity magazine or with a reload for those that are “capacity challenged.” From the holster, draw and move to the original 2:00 while putting one or two shots onto a human silhouette. As soon as you get those shots off, cutback to the original 10:00 and put one or two shoots on the threat. This zigzagging, with the cutbacks, will continue approximately six times as you close on the threat and put hits on board.

As you close in, the speed of the shot, the speed of the movement, the necessary visual input on the gun, and the trigger and grip continuum should be worked in it’s most efficient and effective manner…..all the while pushing the envelope on your personal limitations. As you progress through the continuums you will see the logical place to use all of your concepts. As you close in you will progressively be shooting faster, moving faster, needing to see less and less, and work the trigger harder and faster.....putting more shots on board as you move in closer. I would usually shoot all seventeen rounds out of my Glock.

I’ll post the other zigzag drills later if there is interest.

December 1, 2007, 08:55 AM
Good thread.

In any fight, people have to make use of what they have and who they are. To understand what they have and who they are will help them find solutions that work for them, individually. Your moral may not agree to a killing shot, even if you have that ability for a split second. Fat people will have to move in a way they physically can. Gun handling skill will decide how to shoot and when to shoot, which objectively is not necessarily the best way or the best time to shoot.

To know who you are and what you can do will free more options in a real fight.

People who go to one week long gun fighting schools are people who want to be told what to do and how to think. Let them. It's their time and their money and their loss.

To mentally, with the help of one's imagination, look at different attacking scenarios will help build a library of possible counter reactions.

What do you think the attack on your person will look like? What can YOU do about that?

Rob Pincus
December 1, 2007, 11:29 AM
I agree that drills like that are Great... but they work best with limited exposure after the student has developed an fundamentally intuitive understanding of Balance of Speed & Precision... changing the drill and making them complex keeps the mind working to "recognize" what needs to be done, as opposed to running a memorized/practices Course of Fire and turning it into a complex skill in isolation drill, but not really requiring the processing of new information and an intuitive determination of the amount of deviation needed. When it is all working right, the student is determining when to use two hands, when to use their sights, etc, etc, not the instructor or the CoF.


December 1, 2007, 11:41 AM
I don't know if this was your intention or not, but your comment quoted below could be interpreted to mean that you think that firearms training is "time and money lost".

The firearms training that I have had was most definitely time and money well spent - a bargain in my opinion, and well worth many times over my investment both in time and money.

Just for the record, when I have been to firearms training in the past, and when I take more training in the future, I do not "want to be told what to do and how to think". I question everything. There have been times when I was very resistant to and unconvinced about what I was being taught. I incorporate what works, and what makes sense to me, and adopt my own personal style and approach from what I believe to be the best of what I am taught.

While I may have only agreed with about 60-70%% of what I have been taught -at first-, over time I would estimate that 90%+ of what I have learned has been useful and beneficial. The instructors I have trained under were highly skilled and even when I thought they were full of bull, I kept an open mind and gave 'their way' an honest try. In most cases, I have learned that they were right! The other 5-10% that I am still not convinced, I put down to honest differences of opinion, experience or personal capability, and don't incorporate that.

sw_florida wrote:
People who go to one week long gun fighting schools are people who want to be told what to do and how to think. Let them. It's their time and their money and their loss.

December 1, 2007, 01:21 PM
Nicely down "SB"

Dave James