Lee’s note: This is the third of a four-part series from Michael Sheesley – a true expert – a practicing lawyer, firearms trainer and lethal force expert living on St. Thomas, USVI.
HONING YOUR RAZOR’S EDGE: MOVEMENT AND VERBAL COMMANDS
by Michael Sheesley, Esq.
With the recent increase in prices of ammunition and a marked decrease in availability how can you maintain your razor sharp edge in training? Outlined in this series of articles are some ways to train cheaply (or free!), efficiently and virtually anywhere.
In the last article I discussed practicing a smooth and efficient draw. This article discusses
building the next skill set on the strong foundation of your draw.
At the beginning of the last article I discussed that a large number of “stops” in self-defense situations are psychological stops. A portion of the psychological aspect of a stop is doing things that will make you a less enticing target. You have to get inside the bad guy’s OODA loop, disrupt it and make the bad guy change their mind about making you a victim. Col. Boyd (USAF) is credited with development of the OODA loop concept. It stands for Observe, Orient, Decide and Act. Run an internet search on the OODA loop for greater detail. I will also cover this in a future article.
In greatly simplified terms when you are picked as a potential target for a robbery or other violence a bad guy has run his OODA loop and decided you are the target he is going to pick. It is ingrained biological animal nature for the predator to pick smaller, weaker victims. This minimizes the potential harm that predator is exposed to if the victim decides to fight back.
You must be able to move and utilize verbal commands in order to disrupt a bad guy’s OODA loop and stop him from seeing you as a potential victim. Movement and communication are the top two of the three things that you must do in order to survive a gunfight, actually shooting being number three on the list.
Movement is critical. Movement allows you to create distance between yourself and the threat. Distance makes it more difficult for the bad guy to use force against you. Fists, feet and contact weapons such as bats and knives require the bad guy to be within a couple of feet of the victim. A firearm can be used effectively at a greater distance but as the distance increases the amount of skill it takes to effectively use a firearm increases. Hitting a target with a firearm inside of 5 feet is pretty easy; hitting a target at 50 feet becomes much more difficult.
Movement allows you the opportunity to place cover and/or concealment between you and the threat. Cover is anything that can potentially stop the use of force. Examples of cover would be entering a room and locking the door, stepping behind bulletproof glass or putting a vehicle between you and the attacker. The effectiveness of cover is dependent on the type of weapon the bad guy is using. Bulletproof glass is ideal if the bad guy has a gun. Putting a car in between you and the attacker is effective if he is threatening you with a knife. Locking yourself in a room may be effective against a person using their fists but ineffective if the attacker is armed with a 20 pound sledgehammer. Cover takes away the ability of the bad guy to Act (the ‘A’ in the OODA loop).
Movement may also allow you to utilize concealment. A bad guy cannot effectively attack what he cannot see. If you are able to flee into a dark parking garage for instance this may allow you to play cat and mouse and effectively hide from the attacker. Reverse “concealment” is also effective. Imagine being able to run into a business or restaurant that is filled with patrons. It is doubtful that a bad guy would continue his attack in this environment. Concealment disrupts the Observe portion of the OODA loop.
Verbal commands are surprisingly effective. My favorites are “No”, “Stop” and/or “Down”. I like these because they are simple, easy to remember and repeat under stress and do not leave a big margin of error for misinterpretation. A loud forceful command of “Stop” with assertive and aggressive body positioning will cause most people to do just that, stop in their tracks. An easy way to practice this technique is to utilize it on aggressive panhandlers. Next time you are approached by an aggressive panhandler raise your arm with your palm facing outward and in a firm and loud voice tell the individual to “Stop!”. If done correctly the panhandler will stop dead in his tracks and may even look confused and apologize to you.
Good verbal commands interrupt the Orient part of the OODA loop. As defined by Col. Boyd “[t]he second O, orientation – as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.” The Orient part of the OODA loop is the ingrained, sometimes subconscious thought patterns and actions that we possess. If you interrupt the Orient part of the OODA loop you may leave your attacker confused and ineffective.
The purpose of verbal commands is threefold. First it would be nice for the bad guy to listen and comply.. The second reason we use verbal commands is so other people, if they are around, heard us ask the bad guy to comply with our demands before the use of lethal force. The third reason is to get innocent bystanders out of the line of fire.
Experiments that I have done show that attempting to move and draw your firearm simultaneously is slower than moving behind cover and/or concealment and then drawing your firearm. It is also slightly slower to give a verbal command while drawing your firearm than to simply draw your firearm. You are tasking your brain with processing multiple complex movements and speech commands at the same time and this slows the output of the actions. This is why it is critical to practice doing all these things simultaneously.
Once you have mastered a smooth, safe, efficient draw begin adding the movement and verbal commands discussed above to maximize the potential to interrupt a bad guy’s OODA loop and effectuate a psychological stop.
Train hard, stay safe.
Michael Sheesley is a practicing attorney, a firearms instructor and a partner in Virgin Arms, a FFL holder serving the law enforcement and civilian community in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mr. Sheesley regularly deals with criminal matters involving the use of lethal force and is a consultant to expert witnesses. Mr. Sheesley is a member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org