Article submitted by Mark Hatfield. Force On Force A class review and other thoughts. Realistic Testing and Developing Defensive Shooting Skill.
“Rain, Cold, Wet feet immediately, Shivering, So many welts looks like I have measles, Bruises, Pain, Failure, much failure. Good class, many lessons learned.” With that statement I informed a friend that I had returned from the class ‘Force on Force’, offered by Suarez International, taught by Randy Harris, a man with a rather substantial background in this field.
One famous trainer has said that most people who train spend 95% of their time on only 5% of what needs to be learned. Many others have put it that we tend to more of the stuff which we already do well but neglect the things we need to do but which is uncomfortable or we do not do well.
Many people never get to experience this type of firearms training. In great seriousness they perform more complicated versions of what they do, striving for more speed or precision but never get to test realistically how they would perform if it happened ‘for real’. Can you learn to be effective without this type of training, yes, but to not do it if possible is kidding yourself. Sometimes people don’t want to test themselves for secretly fearing they will not do as well as they want to pretend they are. This class realistically shows you where you are and how to get to where you want to be.
Imagine you are in the parking lot returning to your car, someone approaches you then draws a weapon. Imagine you are asked for the time, the questioners previously unseen accomplice then pops up from behind a parked car, their gun already pointed at you. Imagine at night two men approach you trying to keep you in-between them, they ignore your order to stop, they quickly close in, you realize what is about to happen. It is one thing to get ready for the start signal, then turn and draw your gun and fire hitting paper or steel targets in XXX seconds, it is quite another thing when the targets are moving, you are moving, and they are shooting at you or charging with a knife. You don’t know if the whole thing may just have been an innocent harmless normal encounter until it has started and you are already under the gun. No matter what other training you have, no matter how ‘good’ you are, you don’t really know what will work, if you could survive until you test yourself as realistically as possible. That is the purpose of this class.
No ‘real’ guns are used in this class, only those using plastic pellets. Masks designed for this purpose are required, gloves and a couple layers of clothing are recommended. One attempts to find a replica ‘Airsoft’ style gun which is as close as possible to their ‘real’ gun and carry it in the same manner as their normal carry method.
It would be easy to ‘cheat’ in this class by using holsters or equipment which one would not be using specifically for self-defense or ordinarily concealed. The class would then just become a game and have no practical value.
Some of the things I learned or noticed about myself:
Although beginning the class already sore from something else and having weather which didn’t help any, much of my performance was as I expected though with some surprises.
I already practice movement as used in this class and practice it equally on both sides of my body, to both directions, yet when under pressure I had a strong tendency to move only to a particular side. To move to the other side required a deliberate decision to do so.
In the beginning, if I was ‘shot’ before I could shoot I would stop as though the ‘game’ had been lost and ended. I had to remind myself to keep going and continue the fight, this is especially important in a real fight. In one early test I slipped, fell, and dropped my gun. I was about to stop but reminded myself to crawl the foot or so to retrieve the gun and shoot back at my ‘attacker’. Having this attitude is extremely important.
Even when not having excess body fat, I have a far thicker torso than most people my height and even when lean, weight far more than other people of my height, add to that my increasing age, creakiness, and other issues I am simply not as mobile nor can I move as ‘explosively’ as many other people. I still can improve upon what I am able to do but have to accept other limitations and learn to adapt to them. In some of the scenarios where I was ‘under the gun’ I knew I could not escape or react fast enough to avoid being ‘killed’. The distance involved did allow any attempt to disarm the attacker so I did as they said and waited for a possible ‘opening’ to do something. I survived because of this. Other students sometimes ‘died’ because they attempted to escape or counter attack when it was not practical.
When face to face with an attacker who was just beginning to access a weapon and sometimes while held at gun point, I was able to move away as well as I had hoped though there is much room for improvement. There are several methods of doing so and it is known people tend to have strong preference about what works well for them or not. In my own practice I had learned that one very common method did not work well for me, call it method ‘A’ so I used another. Over time that method changed into one of the other methods, call it method ‘C’. During this class I found that while method ‘C’ was best for me up when close to an attacker, if the confrontation started at a greater distance then I instinctively used method ‘A’ and it worked better for that situation.
With multiple aggressive moving attackers it is very easy to automatically focus on one and lose track of the other. While I have had a number of multiple attacker situations in other training situations such as in a ‘martial art’, none had the ‘realistic’ feeling as this nor was as ‘dynamic’.
There was a conflict with my other training with persons involving no weapons or contact weapons. When an advancing attacker got to four to five feet away I realized I was expecting that they would close the distance and I would counter. When they stopped at that distance and went for a gun my thought process was interrupted and not ready to evade and counter or close the gap and counter.
With more than one attacker I learned that I need to begin my response much earlier that I would have thought. This type of knowledge is also very important to know if you should have to explain and defend your actions in court. A big advantage of this training is in actually SEEING someone preparing to attack and attacking you. The sooner you can recognize the attack the better. I and others noticed a big improvement in our response even after the first few drills of the first day.
Some of the situations did include innocent bystanders. In some, a person distracting you was the partner of an attacker, in others, the ‘distractor’ was innocent.
The course did include teaching methods of movement, response drills, awareness, and more. Some might think that it is an ‘experts’ level class but it is designed for shooters of all levels. This is not just something where you can learn the techniques then practice by yourself at home, while this is true for only the techniques, what is learned is much more than that and requires training partners. Perhaps compare it to trying to learn tennis by hitting tennis balls against a wall, a useful practice but nothing like playing against a training partner. The same thing applies to defensive shooting. If you have training partners who can do this with you it should be part of your training. I have checked the class schedule for when this class is being given again, I have put it on my calendar and expect to take it again later this year, ‘measles’ and all.