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Reality based training and Force-on-Force exercises.

Eric Loden

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Reality based training, and force on force exercises.


Eric Loden

October 12th , 2016


           Taking your education and training beyond the classroom, and off of the “square range”. If you are a hunter, recreational, or sporting shooter please take a moment to consider that you may be forced to use your weapon in a self-defense situation at some point.



For those individuals who train with firearms as their primary means of self-defense, they meditate on this fact all the time.


Thinking your way through scenarios or the “what if’s” that might arise if faced with threat is a good starting point, but it is not enough.


Conditioning the mind to face the realities of that situation or developing what is often known as “Combat mindset” takes some time and study.


There are many great resources to consult in this arena. Some of my recommended reading list would be as follows:

·         Principles of Personal Defense by: Jeff Cooper

·         The Gift of Fear by: Gavin De Becker

·         On Combat by: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen

·         On Killing by: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman



We often say that the essential physical elements to success in a threatening engagement are the ability to move, shoot, and communicate.


These skills can be acquired through repetitions and drills that focus on marksmanship, manipulations, and movement. However, mindset guides all of these aspects. If you go to the range and treat is as only the range, you could be developing bad habits or “training scars” that could affect your performance on the street. One popular quote is “Train the way you want to fight, because you will fight the way your train.” If you train to take the empty magazine or brass out of your firearm and set it on the shooting bench, through countless repetitions you are ingraining that habit, and under the stress of a real life encounter your body will perform or attempt to perform that task.



Once the basic skill sets are acquired, the next step would be performance under some element of stress. For some, competition is stress, maybe a friendly wager, perhaps an Instructors cadence and tone of voice might be enough to put you on edge. Can you still perform to a high level while on that edge?



You can run through countless drills to become more accurate at higher speeds, then while moving, then again while moving and on a moving target, adding the use of tactics such as clearing a structure, or using positions of tactical advantage such as cover and concealment, and perhaps even add in some photo realistic targets so you have an element of critical decision making (a shoot or don’t shoot element is a must for self-defense training) there are even video simulators with clever pre-programmed dialogue to simulate conversational responses.

All of these options are great for developing all the muscle memory to perform these complex tasks or as we often call “choreography” and start to condition the mind for those split second decisions, however, no matter how incredibly complex all of these staged scenarios are they cannot duplicate the stress of a real life threatening encounter.



So, what is the next best thing? Force-on-force is as close as we can get right now. Actually aiming a firearm (in some cases a real firearm modified to fire non-lethal ammunition) at a real, flesh and blood, living, breathing, thinking, fighting to take your life human being. The added stimulus of being shot, and it hurting to a degree also tends to add a bit of stress to the encounter, we say pain has a great way of teaching you not to make that mistake again.



The closer we get to simulating the dangers of real world, real dangers start to present themselves. In order to deliver a pain stimulus most weapons used in this type of training still shoot projectiles, so appropriate protective gear must be worn such as thicker clothing, eye protection, face masks, groin or throat protectors, etc… Some systems utilize laser guns and electric shock belts for this jolt to the system. I prefer projectiles as they show you exactly where you get hit, as the laser rigs only shock you in one place even though you are hit in another.


Safety concerns continue to mount when you have individuals attempting to deliver this style of training without proper instruction in it themselves. There are many great reading resources on this subject matter as well, and if you are interested in this type of instruction, or training to be an Instructor and would like to be able to deliver this subject matter to your students please do the research and take approved classes by seasoned professionals before attempting this yourself.



When this type of training is conducted by those individuals who are not trained and qualified to be doing so, horrible things happen. There is an entire chapter “In Memory of Those Who Have Fallen” in a training manual dedicated to the individuals no longer with us due to these incidents, these are the accounts of Officers and Military individuals that have died as a result of carelessness, poorly conceived, poorly executed, or flat out reckless and dangerous training scenarios.



Some of the many safety concerns that one must consider when participating in this style of training are as follows:

·         Competency of your Instructors and their support staff.

·         Appropriate safety precautions put in place (Communications, response protocols for injuries, etc...)

·         Sterile environment (No real weapons, ammunition, or other weapons even allow near the training arena)

·         Appropriate simulation weapons (No improvised, modified, or personal equipment is allowed unless approved by Staff.) 

·         Protective safety equipment (Can vary with the simulation weapons. Eyes, Face, Groin, Breasts, etc…)



The list goes on and on, but this article was just to get you interested and thinking, for more information on this style of training, who offers it, or where to go to become certified as an Instructor please feel free to contact me. Thank you for your time. Stay safe. Train hard.



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