Big Rocks – Setting the Stage

After my last blog post, I received a lot of questions asking me what Big Rocks people should be focusing on. First off, I am going to concentrate on the H2H aspect in answer. While I could pontificate about the other categories (shooting, strength and conditioning, pre-fight threat containment, diet, etc.), I prefer to stay in my lane where I have the most experience. I am blessed to have a bunch of friends and peers that are much better at those other things. If someone wants to know about Big Rocks in those categories, I would be happy to let you know you to go listen to. For now, we will look at H2H.

We will start at the very beginning and look at the problem, and then we will look at the mindset I believe you need to deal with the problem. Once we establish those parameters, we will be able to analyze just what exactly we need to do. Technique, methodology, drills, concepts, and all similar items must wait until we have defined the problem. Otherwise, we may be in danger of designing an answer to a non-existent problem merely to prove that we are bad asses or some sort of Yoda, just to feed our ego.

The primary problem in a fight is staying in the fight. In other words, staying conscious and physically capable of fighting back is the first thing we need to concentrate on. If we ignore that, we risk losing the fight (and possibly our lives or well being, or the lives of our loved ones) before we ever get to unleash our awesome offensive arsenal. Furthermore, we need to first focus on staying in the fight when we are caught unaware that a fight or assault is about to happen.

Yes, yes, I know that we all need to be “switched on” and tactically aware at all times. I also know that not one human being on the planet can do that 100% of the time 24/7/365. It is flat out impossible, especially in our modern urban society that places such a huge demand of our attention in so many different ways.

The simple fact is that all of us can get caught flat footed by a surprise assault. The sooner that we accept that, the sooner we can start building the best responses to that shock attack, but we must at all costs not delude ourselves that it can happen.

And defining that problem leads us to building the appropriate training mindset. Being attacked when you are not ready for it is a worst case scenario. Therefore, in my opinion, we need to make sure our fundamental training is oriented towards dealing with a worst case scenario. It is the height of stupidity to spend all of your training on techniques that only work when you know what is going on. For example, take a look at this technique. It looks really cool, and if it works the way it is intended, would be totally functional. However, there is one huge flaw:

That flaw is that the technique will only work if you are aware that an attack is imminent. Watch at about 1:03. The good guy is not even processing that the assault is happening. He has already launched his counter. Guys, if you are that physically gifted, you should not be reading this. You should be making millions of dollars playing professional sports because your physical attributes are in the elite 1% of people in the entire world. If you are instead merely mortal, and if you are not able to be completely aware of everything all the time, than counting on that technique is worse than useless, because you will never be able to fire off the technique, regardless of how deadly it is, and regardless of how many repetitions you have spent practicing it. Period.

So, therefore, our mindset in training should be to cover the worst case stuff first. Let’s dig the hole really, really deep, and work on getting out of that. If we have that dialed in, then anytime we deal with a less than worst case scenario, we are already in a good place to deal with it. The converse (spending the bulk of your time practicing when the problem is not as terrible) is absolutely not true.

To sum up our setting for H2H Big Rocks – we need to focus on methods that allow us to stay in the fight, no matter what and no matter how bad the situation is, and we need to start our training dealing with the worst case scenarios we might find ourselves in. We start our work there.

Build Your Training Around Big Rocks

Sometimes when we start looking at all the things we need to work on to be truly prepared in a self-defense context, we can get overwhelmed.

First, we face the sheer scale of areas we need to ensure that we are functional/capable in : distance pistol work, contact pistol work, H2H, fitness, awareness and pre-fight management, nutrition, legal ramifications and issues, edged weapons, impact weapons, less lethal things like OC spray, and other important parts. And then, we have a huge amount of different subsets within that framework : with fitness we need to think about strength, cardio, pre-hab/re-hab work/and mobility; with pistols we have to work malfunctions, reloading, shooting with one hand, shooting with the weak hand, shooting while moving, shooting while looking for cover, etc. ; with H2H, we have stand up striking, vertical entanglement, horizontal entanglement, with and without weapons, and against single or multiple opponents; with pre-fight management we need to think about situational awareness, de-selection, managing unknown contacts, ad nauseum. All the components can be broken down in a like manner. All in all, we can easily be overcome with everything that needs to be done and addressed.

Trying to navigate all that we need to do can get tricky and difficult.

One of the pitfalls that can happen when we try to figure out our training schedule is we can find ourselves  focusing on the little things while not spending time doing  the big things. We spend too much time on things that are unlikely to matter, or the chances of needing them are extremely unlikely while ignoring the skills that may happen a lot.

My close friend and experienced LEO and fellow instructor Larry Lindenman introduced me to a term that has huge ramifications for this situation and can possibly bring a lot of clarity. . He wrote an online post on the forum where he used the terms “Big Rocks” and “Small Rocks”. What Larry was discussing was from a nutrition and diet standpoint, but it applies to everything across the board. Essentially, our training is like a river. The flow of the river can be affected by rocks in the river bed. However, small rocks won’t really do much to the river flow, but big rocks can not only affect the flow, they can even change the course of the river itself!

What happens far too often is that we spend time throwing small rocks into the river, and don’t spend any effort or time throwing in the  big rocks. In Larry’s original example, he talked about how people spend a lot of time and money looking at the latest trendy nutrition supplements, but eat their regular meals made up of awful junk like potato chips or Big Macs. His point was clean up your daily diet before worrying if that bottle of “Ripped Energy Awesomeness 2000” will help you recover from a workout.

Along the same lines, we need to be making the same choices in the rest of our training. Perhaps as a private citizen, I should not spend much time shooting carbines and taking carbine classes if my pistol shooting skills suck. And since as a private citizen, I have a far greater likelihood of using a pistol to defend myself over a carbine, the pistol is my “Big Rock”.

When it comes to H2H, we probably should be focused initially on what are the most common types of attacks and develop a skill set to handle that. I probably should not be practicing ways to eliminate sentries on a battlefield if I cannot keep someone from taking me to the ground and pounding me into paste.

I am all for having fun in training. And if you like carbine work, or pretending you are a WW2 commando and you want to take out that Nazi sentry, I have no real issue with that, PROVIDED that you are not ignoring the big rocks. If you have not practiced drawing your carry pistol from concealment under a set time frame, but you are blasting through 1,000 rounds of ammo  a day through your AR, I would respectfully suggest your big rocks are lacking.

Ensure that the biggest rocks are taken care of before wasting the little bit of training time you have available.

Video – Half-guard in the WBE, pt 1

I have been a bit lax in posting, so here is a video clip to make up for it. This is part 1 of a three part series that establishes the foundation for using the position known as half-guard to regain the initiative and go on the offensive against an opponent in a weapons based environment.