We recently took a Kali combatives seminar with master Apolo Ladra.
Check out the video below for an overview of the style of Apolo Ladra:
As you can see, Kali can use empty hands, blades and sticks. It is the national martial art of the Philippines. Apolo volunteered to us that he looks at the stick training as a way to introduce students to the blade. “We didn’t drive out the Spanish with sticks,” he said. “We used machetes.”
The course I took was open to anyone from 13-years and older. The class was a mix of teens and adults, mostly karate practitioners and beginning Kali students.
We have to include ourselves in this description. We have very little formal Kali training. Although the little training we’ve had allowed us to get a glimpse of what can be possible through some hands-on demonstrations and individualized attention from Apolo.
First of all, Apolo Ladra is a fantastic instructor. He is engaging, funny, and adept at teaching to the level of the individual student. He can take complicated concepts and techniques and make them easily understood.
What is also extremely attractive is his answer to the second and third question — the counter to the counter to the counter. You know, the questions that always come up, “Yeah, but what if he does this?” “What if he grabs your wrist?” “What if, what if?”
Apolo’s mastery of the subject matter is evident in that he effortlessly shows you the counter to the counter. And then shows you the additional counter to the counter while bringing you back to the original technique or concept he was first teaching.
This is important as a student, because you get this ah-hah! moment where you see what we are trying to accomplish. Getting back to the original technique or using a technique we just learned is extremely important in building confidence that the technique or concept is sound.
Apolo Ladra’s teaching style and presence make for an very enjoyable seminar.
The concepts were very easy to pick and an apply in a short time.
Apolo’s demonstrations with his assistant instructor showing how the techniques flow into advanced self-defense techniques.
The drills allowed you to see how the techniques worked.
The seminar was useful for all ages and abilities.
The seminar was a “learning” seminar that gave ample time for drilling and practicing the techniques with a partner. It was not designed as a “smoker” session which tested your fitness levels. Nor was it a “competitive” session that pitted you against other students in sparring or grappling.
The length of the seminar was right for getting a good amount of information while keeping up your concentration.
It’s hard to find any — except for intermediate and advanced practitioners would not benefit from the basic level of instruction. But, keep in mind, this was billed as a seminar helping a school introduce Kali to area and their students.
This article originally appeared on the Defend University web site and detailed a number of items which apply to everyone carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense from an instructional module in a high level executive protection course.
This particular course had representatives from the military, law enforcement and the security industry. There was also a very skilled martial artist taking the course as a way to get into the executive protection business. Many of the students have experience at the highest level of the special warfare and special forces business.
The lessons learned by the experiences that happened during this course are the same that instructors will see time and time again — and they have direct applications for any one carrying a handgun for self-defense or for the defense of others. What this class presented to these students was a good dose of stress (much of it probably self-inflicted since they wanted to pass the shooting module to graduate from the course), movement and drawing from concealment.
Shooting a handgun quickly and accurately involves perishable skills. All of the mechanics that go into smooth, effective and accurate handgun shooting are fine motor skills — and that means they don’t hold up well over time without practice. I witnessed operators with world-class experience right out of the hottest combat zones having a difficult time presenting and shooting their handguns well. I’m not saying they were terrible — they were adequate, but I could tell visually that there was a lot of rust in their technique and it was not what you would expect from this strata of operators. Their comments to me indicated they were not happy with their performance. The comments were not so much an excuse, but more of an explanation like “sheesh, I’ve not really shot my handgun in the last 18 months” or a lot of head shaking and muttering under their breath. It’s obvious there was room for improvement. (To be fair here, it’s a whole different story with other courses I’ve done with active military personnel that involve carbines. Obviously, the M4 is their sword and the one that they spend their time shooting and not handguns.) All of the students’ targets improved significantly as the course went on, some from getting back into the groove of their potential skill level and other because they were benefitting from the instruction and coaching.
Shooting is not a natural behavior. It’s a skill that requires putting together multiple actions over a short period of time. There is a grip, presentation, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and follow through. Then there are other aspects like ammunition management and the re-holster. That’s a lot of thoughts and actions in what should be a simple sequence. It’s a bit like golf in that regard. To become a superior golfer, you need instruction. To become a superior gunfighter, you need instruction. Practice and then get more coaching. Practice what you’ve been coached on. The most proficient shooters where those who have been taught an efficient drawstroke and delivery of rounds on target. They have practiced and can smoothly repeat the action over and over again. The self-taught and uncoached students were inconsistent and seemed to be searching for an answer to their inconsistency during the course. This second group of students did benefit significantly from the instruction (my point in #1 above), but they were still outshown by those who had good technique to begin with.
Practice with your concealment equipment. This is probably the number one problem I observed during this course. A good number of the students have not regularly shot from concealment. Police officers and military members are almost always overtly armed and carry a duty rig that is configured the same all the time. Security personnel and citizens almost always do their shooting on the range. But carrying covertly or concealed means you will have some sort of garment covering your holster. In fact, many people carry a different type or sized handgun for concealment than they do for duty or the range. Many people then use a different type of holster for concealed carry than they do for duty, range or competition. Let’s look at this — shoot all the time on the range with one handgun and one holster on a belt, but now carry a different handgun in a different holster under a garment for self-defense. See where I’m going with this? I saw some serious flubs on draws caused by unfamiliarity with the concealed carry. I saw draws that got tangled up in shirttails. I saw two students fumbling with the safeties and magazine release buttons on unfamiliar pistols. I saw a student literally draw his holster — his paddle-style holster was still attached to the pistol when he drew it. It had come right out of his waistband. I also talked with one operator who carried a compact .45 semi-concealed on his plate carrier in Afghanistan only to find out one day that it had become rusted sometime during his deployment. Practice with what you are going to carry. Shake down your set up. Does it work? Does it work under stress? You should probably rethink your handgun system. Instead of having different types of handguns for different activities, take a look at having the same handgun in different sizes, i.e. duty, compact and subcompact. For Glock people that could mean a Glock 17 full-sized handgun for duty or range; a Glock 19 compact model for concealed carry or a Glock 26 subcompact model for deep concealed carry. In this example all of the models use the same caliber (9mm) and are the same size with the exception of shorter barrels and grips for the compact and subcompact models. If you are a .40 caliber fan, then you could repeat this system with a Glock 22 full-sized handgun for duty, a Glock 23 compact for concealment and a Glock 27 subcompact. Staying with one handgun system means the same manual of arms, the same sight picture and the same “feel” for all of the handguns.
Your super-stressful self-defense incident should not be the time to be figuring out your equipment. It should not be the time to find out that you haven’t kept up your skills.
There will be no warm up.
You will not have time to get ready — you will have to be ready.
TSG signed up to take a course with J.J. Racaza called Speed Marksmanship held at the Clark County shooting facility in Las Vegas. Some of you might know the name from the television series “Top Shot” and some of you might know his name from the competition world.
But what most don’t know is that he has spent a substantial part of his career dedicated to the Department of Homeland Security in operating and training.
That combination of competition and practical firearms perspective made this course extremely interesting.
First things first: this a high-level class. It is not for beginners. The subtle concepts will be lost on those who have not attained an advanced level of skill. Seriously — if you are not willing to explore the advanced concepts of trigger control for 6 hours, this is not the class for you.
The exciting aspect of this course was the focus on breaking through the “normal” concepts of shooting and give you a doorway into the physical and mental aspects of the world’s fastest competitive shooters. It is designed to ruthlessly push your boundaries and force you onto a whole new level of shooting. And J.J. does this in a really, really engaging way.
That being said, J.J. emphasized the “marksmanship” aspect of the course title. It doesn’t matter how fast you are shooting if you are not hitting your target. He reinforced this concept during some of the competitive challenges during the course — only the times with hits were counted. In other words, students with extremely fast misses were disqualified leaving slower students who achieved hits as winners.
Here is a video from the course showing J.J. coaching Brad. The goal of the drill is to increase the speed of the shot transitioning from the near paper target to the far steel target.
As you can see, J.J. is saying Brad had a “delayed press” on the first string. He is coaching him to begin prepping the trigger even as he transitions from the paper target to the steel one about 15 yards beyond. The coaching yields a dramatically improved time for the second string.
Speed Marksmanship Course Concepts
The fundamentals mastered.
Class Pros and Cons
These are impressions coming from our experience for one particular day. Remember that variables such as a different day, a different location or a different group of students can have an effect on the course experience for you. In other words, your mileage might vary. Also take into account the yin/yang aspect of a positive aspect creating a corresponding negative aspect. Increased personal attention and coaching = pro. The corresponding drag on the rest of the class = con. You decide what’s more important to you.
J.J. has an engaging personality and his teaching method is a good blend of friendly and firm. He’s the type of instructor who pushes you in a way that makes you want to perform.
Surprising amount of personal coaching and one-on-one time.
The concepts are extremely advanced which challenge you.
Instructor who DOES what he is teaching. J.J. demonstrates the concepts giving you concrete examples for some very esoteric information. Demonstrating the drills and the concepts at a very, very high level also reinforces the credibility of the instructor. In this case, J.J. makes most of it look easy. When he pushes himself towards the upper limits of his own speed, you start to see his accuracy degrading — just like students experience. In business leadership, this expression of vulnerability (J.J. showing us he is human as he begins to “fail”) establishes trust among the group.
The concepts are measured. The shot timer is out and used religiously giving students a very real barometer of performance. This is important because some of the methods, particularly for transitions between targets, are perceived to be “slower”, yet the timer proves they are actually faster.
Friendly competition and making a game out of the drills adds to the fun and keeps interest.
The length of the course might challenge your concentration and attention for a skill that demands concentration and attention.
The personal coaching time for individual students leaves the rest of the group with some down time. This is great for reloading magazines, hydrating, snacking. But it can make the overall course tempo feel somewhat slower — particularly later in the evening.
$250 for 9 hours of instruction and training. Expect to shoot about 500 rounds.
Check out more background on J.J. in the video below:
Arizona winters are some of the best in the country, but at TSG we understand that some places of the US are currently under multiple feet of snow. If you can find an indoor range that will allow rifles, you can confirm your 50 yard carbine zero at 10 yards. This will allow you to check your carbine after any changes you’ve made recently in the winter months.
Here’s the quick and dirty:
Setup a target at 10 yards or 30 feet.
Assume a stable position and fire 3-5 rounds on target
Check your results
What you’re looking for is the rounds to be roughly 2” below the point of aim. This should have you very close to your 50 yard zero on your carbine. Be sure you double check your carbine at 50 yards when you are able.
There are targets available with 1″ grid patterns specifically for sighting in rifles like the target above. These are really helpful when trying to get that 2″ offset from the point of aim to the point of impact.
If you want to get more scientific, use JM Ballistics‘ free calculator to find out what your rifle ballistics are doing more accurately.
The AR-15 platform is so popular these days; it is often referred to as “America’s Rifle” or the “Modern Sporting Rifle”. Its popularity is easy to understand as it is light weight, accurate, low recoil, and incredibly modular. There are a few aspects of the rifle that need to be understood when it is employed at very close ranges, shooting around barricades, and shooting from non-standard positions. One of these aspects is the mechanical offset between the rifle’s bore, and the rifle’s sights.
So what is “mechanical offset”? Mechanical offset is the height difference between the bore of the rifle, and the sights on the rifle. The difference is approximately 2.5” (2.6″), and can lead to problems in where the rifle is aimed (POA or point of aim), and where the round will impact the target (POI or point of impact).
Traditionally the rifle’s sights (or optic) are sighted in while the rifle is vertical, that is, the sights are in plane, directly above the bore. The POA and POI are matched at a determined distance where the bullet’s parabolic flight path impacts the target at a point where the sighting system is lined up. Because the bullet is affected by gravity, it does not fly in a true straight line, but rather arcs from where it leaves the barrel to where it finally reaches the deck.
Because the AR platform has a rather large mechanical offset, POA and POI can be significantly affected when the rifle is used in close distances. Note the POA vs. Trajectory graphic. This illustrates the differences between where the sighting system is aligned and where the round will impact while the rifle is aimed traditionally. When used in distances closer than the original zero distance, the rifle will need to be aimed higher to achieve a POI in the desired location. At a distance of zero the round will be impact low equal to the amount of offset between the muzzle and the sighting system. This distance will continue to decrease until the target is at your zero distance.
One of the biggest reasons to keep mechanical offset in mind is when shooting around barricades. Most times when you are using a barricade, you are trying to minimize the amount of your body that is visible to the target. This leads to just barely seeing over/around/under a barricade to get your sight alignment. Without being aware of the mechanical offset of your sighting system, this can lead to your rounds impacting the barricade between you and the target. At best, this can lead to inaccurate shots on target, and at worse it can lead to debris or ricochets coming back at the shooter from the barricade. This is also where a proper standoff between the barricade and the shooter is important. This will minimize debris and ricochets from harming the shooter from both outgoing and incoming rounds.
Mechanical offset will also affect your POA and POI when shooting from less traditional shooting positions. As soon as the rifle is canted, the original zero changes.
In future posts you’ll hear references about different ranges of combat.
For hand-to-hand encounters, we are normally talking about striking distance, clinching distance and grappling distance. You need to experience all three of these ranges so you are not overwhelmed by the adversary who changes the distance on you and takes you out of your element. For example, we seen many examples of pure strikers who rendered helpless after being “bum rushed” by the trained grappler or the untrained drunk. Or conversely, we’ve seen the pure grappler frustrated by the striker who could maintain an effective distance.
This same concept should hold true for fighting with firearms as well. For firearms, you usually expect long distances for rifles and carbines, medium distances for shotguns and subguns and close distances for handguns.
Just like our hand-to-hand scenarios, what are you going to do if you’ve only trained in the “expected” range of combat with your firearm and the distance is changed on you by circumstances beyond your control?
Case in point, take a look at the video below. You’ll see a firefight in a small structure in Afghanistan. What you are going to witness is a three-man team consisting of two Afghan Army members and a U.S. Special Forces operator (the one wearing the helmet cam). They are looking for bad guys in this small house and make an entry. The first Afghan Army member makes an entry and verbally challenges a person at the end of the hallway. The SF operator quickly moves into a small room on the left to clear it. When he does, gunfire erupts in the hallway.
Take a look:
Wow, nothing like having a rifle fight in a phone booth. One thing to note is that the operator clears the rooms from the hallway (we are reminded that “your brass should fall in the hall”).
What I’m trying to illustrate is the use of what most people would consider normally a medium- to longer-range weapon (the carbine) in an environment which would favor a close-range weapon.
This video illustrates the effectiveness of this operator in a short-range situation with his carbine because he has extensive training in CQB scenarios. I’ve participated in qualification courses with some of these operators who are dramatically more skilled with their carbines than their handguns. In their case, the carbine is their sword and they are deadly competent with them.
That’s using the carbine in extreme close quarters. Conversely, I had a training partner relate to me a story from the sandbox regarding another training partner who made a ridiculously long shot (way, way over 500+ yards) with a 5.56. With an EOTech sight. The range was confirmed with a laser range finder, but I’m not sure I can divulge the actual distance of the shot.
True, most of us will never be in a self-defense situation that resembles combat in Afghanistan. However, it’s conceivable you could be faced with multiple adversaries in your own home. You might respond with your carbine or your shotgun. You might find yourself in a firefight across a parking lot or from the top row in a crowded movie theater armed with only your handgun.
Use your training and qualifications to flex and stretch your comfort levels. Practice at the extremes and everything in between. Practice with all of your firearms platforms. Find out what the capabilities of your weapons system now versus during an emergency.
This post has been revised from an original version posted on the old Defend University site.
Chances are, your self-defense shooting will take place in an area where there is either low light or no light.
The estimates of shootings that happen in the dark range from 60% to an incredible 90%. I’m always leery of statistics because slight changes in methodology can have huge effects on the final results and the results are often skewed by what the party might be selling.
But, there is a preponderance of weight to the evidence suggesting that your self-defense shooting will most likely NOT be on the range during bright daylight hours (where we always practice). It will most likely be in your home at night, on the street when the vampires are out, in a parking garage or other dimly lit and dark areas frequented by predatory criminals.
Here’s a quick video with some of the highlights of self-defense shooting techniques in low light scenarios or in the total darkness:
There are numerous issues to deal with when engaging in this very neglected area of training:
First and foremost, we almost never train in the dark. That’s a bit of a problem — we rarely practice the very scenario we are most likely to face.
We gather 80% of our information visually. Anything that interferes with our sight has a huge impact on our performance.
Most of us are not used to manipulating our firearms in the dark or without looking at them.
Perceptions of time and space are affected by the lack of light or different kinds of lighting.
There is a natural fear of the dark that can distort your perception of the threat and play tricks on what you think you see and hear.
Perhaps most importantly, low light often makes target identification difficult or impossible.
Your Obligation to Identify Targets in the Dark
You have a legal and moral obligation to positively identify your target before you shoot. Shooting at sounds and fleeting shadows without knowing exactly who or what you are shooting is a disaster waiting to happen. This is where you hear the stories of the homeowners accidentally killing the drunk brother-in-law or the teenager trying to sneak in after curfew.
To avoid this legal and moral problem you need to know the difference between “sighted fire” and “lighted fire”:
Sighted fire is what you normally use when you get a sight picture and align the sights on the target. It can also include sighting with lit optical scopes, night sights (sights that glow-in-the-dark) or with lasers that project a dot.
Lighted fire is what you need in a low-light or no-light situations where you must use an ancillary light source or a light source you’ve brought. These can be weapon-mounted white lights or, more commonly, a flashlight (a ‘torch’ for our UK cousins) .
The sighting devices in #1 can all make it easier to deliver more accurate shots in the dark. But none of them address the problem of positively identifying your target. Even though EOTechs, Aimpoints and other lit-reticle optical sights, night sights and lasers are great at lining up your sights at night, they do not light up the target so you can tell who you are training your firearm on.
This is where you need to have a light. Seriously, if you have a firearm for self-defense you need to have a way to project a light onto your target to make a positive identification. The flashlight/torch or weapon light is a must:
It provides target I.D.;
It provides the light needed to line up your sights;
It can be used to startle and temporarily “blind” an adversary (by affecting their night vision);
It can be used to deceive an adversary of your location or movement by flashing or ‘wanding’ the light;
It solves the front/back lighting problems described below when using ambient light.
The flashlight also has utility as a tool:
It can be used as an impact weapon (providing you with a less than lethal force option).
It can be used as an attention-getting or signaling tool.
It can be used for way-finding or guiding others.
The Two Sides of Ambient Light
When you take a look at the video above, you’ll see a number of scenarios which rely on using ambient light. One is using the illumination of car headlights and another which uses just the light from vehicle emergency flashers. In these scenarios, you are using the lights from behind you to front light the target. Unfortunately, when your adversary is front lit like this you are back lit. Ambient light is like a coin with two sides — when you have one side your adversary has the other side. What you don’t see in the video is a scenario in which the targets are back lit, meaning you are front lit. Your training needs to address both sides of this ambient light coin so you can use the light — whether it be from the front or the back — to your advantage. This is crucial since it is often impossible to see your dark sights against the dark silhouette of your back lit target.
As I mentioned, the use of your flashlight can overpower either of these two types of ambient light giving you the advantage regardless of which position you are in. If he is front lit and you are back lit (the source of light is at your back like the headlight scenario in the video) your flashlight can now be used to provide a “wall of light” that originates in front of your body which masks your silhouette created by light at your back. Of course your flashlight also provides a bright front light on your target making I.D. possible and allows you to line up your sights.
Weapon-Mounted Lights vs. Hand-Held Lights
You can either use a flashlight or a light already attached to your firearm to illuminate your target. There are pros and cons for both.
When you use a flashlight:
They are more readily available;
They are less expensive than a weapon-mounted light;
You have a impact weapon that you can use as an intermediate level of force tool;
You don’t have to point your weapon to search;
You can use different holds and methods for illuminating targets, rooms and pathways.
Any hold you make on your firearm with a flashlight is less stable than a two-hand hold;
They make weapon manipulation (administrative loading, reloading, malfunction remediation) more difficult since both hands are now occupied;
You are limited in ways to do things like open doors or use your cell phone;
It is very difficult to use one with a long gun.
When you use a weapon-mounted light:
They are always with your firearm;
You can manipulate the light with either your dominant hand or your support hand;
You can use your standard two-handed grip on the firearm;
You can still have your light on the target and keep your support arm free for defending against strikes, manipulating objects, opening doors, using your cell phone, etc.
Reloads and other weapon manipulations are “normal”;
You are muzzling everything at which you point your light;
Any intermediate force strikes will need to be done with your firearm and not just your light.
As you can tell from this post, this is an area which demands much attention, yet we almost always neglect it by virtue of training in the light.
Bottom line: you must become familiar with this subject for your self-defense. You must train in the environments you are likely to encounter.
Train like your life depends on it.
This post has been revised and updated since if first appeared on the Defend University website.
You are in and around your car for a large portion of your day and it’s statistically likely that you are at risk for assault or injury when you’re on the road. In fact, according to one U.S. Department of Transportation study, aggressive driving may be a factor in 50% of auto crashes.
In low risk, permissive environments, your highest risk for assault might be in the form of road rage.
If you can detect and avoid dangerous situations by the intelligent use of your own vehicle, you are far ahead of the game, even for for the other 50% of crashes that are not caused by some maniac with anger management problems.
We participated in an executive protection driving course and here’s a couple of highlights gained which you can incorporate into your own training:
Explore the capabilities of your car. Modern technology is amazing — the tires, suspension and brakes for newer, well-maintained vehicles provide you with an escape capsule that is capable of more than you think. But you have to find out the handling characteristics of you vehicle before you have an emergency situation. Find an empty area where you can practice turning and braking. Then begin to take corners progressively faster and try to stop progressively faster. Be prepared to hear your tires howl under protest and learn what it sounds like as you push their limits. Also be prepared to feel the thumping of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) engaging when you brake hard. The Mercury Marquis that were used in this course are extremely heavy at about 4500 pounds, yet they proved to be surprisingly nimble when pushed. For example, I could do reverse 180s with the big car.
Explore your own capabilities as a driver. You’ll find that once you start exploring the limits of your vehicle, you’ll run into resistance from yourself as fear and old training fight to keep you from pushing the vehicle to it’s ability. Some students report they are hesitant to increase speed or provide sharp steering input because they are afraid they will lose control or because they fear damaging the car’s engine, brakes or suspension. One student (who provides close protection for a well-known female country music star) told me she was holding back because when she heard the tires squealing, she assumed she was doing something wrong.
Be mindful of your tire contact and car balance. Car control depends on an understanding of the physics surrounding acceleration and deceleration and it’s effects on your tires. The only thing holding your car on the road — and therefore allowing you to go, turn and brake — is the contact patch provided by each tire with the road. At the highest circles of driving, you’ll hear more talk about tires and suspension geometry than you will hear about horsepower. Ironically, drift drivers seem to have an advantage here because they are pushing the limits of traction all the time. They know where the edge is, because they intentionally go over it. For many, however, it seems that that only time you know you are on the edge of losing your contact is when you are inexplicably making lazy circles without any control because you’ve lost all traction with your tire patches. You’ll learn how to use your throttle and brake to put the weight of the car where you want it to maximize contact.
Get a coach. Many people think they are expert drivers just because they’ve driven for a number of years or they have never been in an accident. But the truth is, we can all benefit from having a professional coach observe our driving and providing instruction and feedback. Hey, you have a coach for personal training, martial arts and shooting, having a driving coach is not any different.
If you have any road rage stories that put you at risk of assault or injury, please share them here with the group. As always, you comments are encouraged.
This revised post originally appeared on the Defend University website which no longer features articles.
“…Department of Justice studies have proven that an adversary armed with only a knife can advance and defeat an individual armed with a handgun from distances up to 20 feet. By the time the armed individual recognizes the threat, determines that lethal force is justified, and withdraws the handgun from the holster, the adversary can overtake and incapacitate him. Adding additional steps to employing the handgun (chambering a round or sweeping the safety), significantly delays the shooter’s ability to respond and place rounds on target. Additionally, during life threatening encounters, one proven physiological effect is that individuals lose fine finger movement, and other motor skills are significantly impacted. This inhibits the individual’s ability to operate small controls on the weapon, such as the safety lever, and can event create problems with his ability to perform such tasks as pulling the slide to the rear to chamber a round. All of these factors reduce the shooter’s capabilities to respond to the threat with rapid and accurate firepower and places him at a major disadvantage, especially against an adversary armed with a firearm. “
Lt. Col. Stephen Dade, USMC (Ret.), Marine Corps Gazette, Jan. 2012
Many of you have heard this before — the so-called 21-food rule. If you haven’t heard of or seen demonstrations of this concept, there are a lot of videos like this one available: