“I believe in the unequivocal primacy of mindset over all other combative resources and the cultivation and implementation of a congruent mindset, be it applied combatively or otherwise.” - Chase S.
“An enduring commitment to the survival and well-being of those I value (myself and others) through deliberate training and analysis, resolute problem solving in the face of danger and stress, and candid reflection thereafter.” - Chase S.
The Combat Mindset Clear and Congruent Intentions
By Chase S.
Mindset is undeniably a fundamental component of combat; I would argue, a component that the optimal execution of both tactics and skills rest upon, yet in my experience, the component most ignored by many who claim to embrace a martial lifestyle. Is this because it forces each of us to consciously validate the reality and consequences of what we hope to avoid, but nevertheless train for?
Conceptually, this reminds me of a grossly overused euphemism I believe creates a dangerous precedent with the proliferation of its usage in the context of combative shooting: the term “zombies.” A sweeping trend of the past few years has countless members of the shooting community embracing the term zombie as a substitute for a human being who poses a threat to their safety.
In an attempt to sound less threatening, less paranoid and perhaps even jovial about matters of life and death, “military style” rifles are called “zombie” guns, ammunition intended for optimal lethality is referred to as “zombie” ammunition, a potential state of civil crisis has been dubbed the “zombie” apocalypse, etc.
Many reputable weapons and ammunition manufacturers, some with large military contracts, have even released entire product lines bearing the zombie theme to capitalize on this demographic.
As harmless as it may seem, for those of us intending to live a martial lifestyle, we do not train to fight fictitious creatures; we train to appropriately engage those human beings that threaten with violence our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. Combat is not euphemistic, and while it is absolutely undesirable, if we are to engage in any form of combat with acumen, we must acknowledge its inherently raw composition. Our training and, I would even argue language, which is a reflection of mindset, must echo the same.
Why then, would we detract from the quality of our combative training by doing things such as shooting at targets depicted as zombies? In fact, a better question may be centered on why we would shoot at traditional targets at all. Unless, in the unlikely event popular fashion steers toward clothing with bull’s eyes printed on them, are we not doing ourselves a disservice by conditioning ourselves to associate “threat” with a cardboard IPSC “A” zone?
For many, particularly the uninitiated, combative training takes on a whole new psychological meaning when an actor is confronted by another person, or even the representation of one. Something changes when someone is looking back. Consequences take on a new gravity and just as importantly are more difficult to ignore. It should be self-evident then that wrestling with these consequences before they are thrust upon you, if ever the case, would prove valuable.
Following this logic, when I train combatively, I incorporate a simple, common sense method of target selection that facilitates a healthy combative mindset; I shoot at a lifelike representation of a human being. Outside of actual force on force training I find this to be an optimal approach. The method I came up with to accomplish this is economical and unceremonious.
There are two primary components to the targets I most frequently shoot. The first component is a face. I simply do a quick search of the internet for different faces of people, format them to a lifelike size and print them out. The inclusion of a face is as much, if not more about psychology as it is shot placement. I feel it is important to have a wide demographic representation to encompass the broad range of individuals we may encounter on any given day. This means varying ages, races, socio economic appearances, physical conditions, and genders, amongst other considerations.
In my experience, of all the aforementioned considerations, gender and age are amongst the most often neglected, many times intentionally. At the beginning of 2013, outrage erupted at the revelation that the Department of Homeland Security placed a $2 million contract with Law Enforcement Targets, Inc. (LET) for their line of ‘No More Hesitation’ targets, which featured depictions of unorthodox adversaries including the elderly, a pregnant woman, and even a child. Shortly after this was made public, LET apologized and rescinded the product line.
Bryana Johnson, a columnist for the Washington Times wrote, “In the unlikely event that a domestic law enforcement official is faced with the unexpected threat of an eight year old or a threatening mother in the presence of her toddlers, hesitation is not only the natural response, but the moral and correct response.” I wonder how concerned she would be for such a transgressor’s wellbeing if it was one of her loved ones that armed child or mother was attempting to kill. An important question we should all ask ourselves is, what do I value and what am I willing to do within reason to protect that which I value? That answer will differ for all of us.
While I’m not arguing that we should regularly shoot pictures of women and children or relish the experience when we do, I am arguing that a woman with a gun is potentially as dangerous as a man with one and our combative training should reflect that. While we are challenging our moral imperatives, so too is a youth or a senior. It may not be difficult to use lethal force against a lumbering “undead” corpse who is longing for brains. How about a 13 year old with a mental illness and a rifle? Although unlikely, one of the two above scenarios is an actual possibility. Can you confront this reality?
These revelations should cause us to reevaluate our perceptions about combat not insulate them. Acknowledging that reality and adapting our training accordingly is legitimate. Occasionally training with this in mind may help you do so without completely desensitizing yourself. The point is not to become comfortable with shooting a woman or child, or anyone for that matter, but to become familiar with the possibility of those circumstances and able to remain resolute should they arise.
The second component I incorporate to create a lifelike target is some type of garment. As with a face, clothing also humanizes our target. This could be a shirt, a jacket, a coat, or a dress. Open up your closet, go through the boxes in your attack or ask a family member or friend if they have old clothes they would donate. If you have no old garments you can bear to part with, they can be found cheaply at a local thrift shop or Salvation Army.
As previously mentioned, there will not likely be a bull’s eye on an attacker’s clothing during a gunfight. As such, if we train ourselves to look for a geometric reference point to aim at, as opposed to an area of the body, we may consequently disrupt the flow of our response. Using the high center chest of a garment as a reference point overcomes this potential training scar.
To evaluate my performance, I insert a paper target inside the garment in the location of the high center chest. Even after the garment is rife with bullet holes, I can switch paper targets on the inside and continue to observe and track my most recent shot placement. While this is obviously still an inanimate object, what I see when I engage the target is much closer to what I would see in an actual combative situation. Visualization helps me draw closer yet.
Keep in mind, the purpose of this article is not about targets, but rather how we think about our training. I believe the zombie trend I referenced earlier highlights an inconsistency in that thinking. My example of target selection simply illustrates one method I employ that I believe provides a superior alternative.
The zombie trend, as it relates to combative firearms is indicative of inconsistent thinking because its only purposes are to serve as either a novelty or a euphemism. A more in depth analysis may be better left to a sociologist, but we must ask ourselves why this trend was able to take root in the first place.
Those that embrace various iterations of zombie themed weapons and accessories as a novelty suggest to me that they approach the act of combat as if it were trivial. When an object which was designed and functions as a weapon becomes toy-like, the resulting inconstancy makes the object more difficult to appreciate as either a weapon or a toy. Yet, it is still a weapon; being toy-like, does not make it a toy.
What does it say about a culture that a weapon can so easily be perceived as a novelty? It says to me that the culture is so far removed from the austere realities of nature that it has the luxury to refuse or is unable to substantially acknowledge their existence and is thus unable to intelligently interact with them. Like the dependent master in Hegel’s dialectic, this temporary exemption from rigor afforded to us by the abundance our society has achieved has caused us to atrophy and weaken.
This, in and of itself, is not without consequence. Note that the exemption from rigor is never permanent. Failing to acknowledge or interact with forces which are oppositional to our well-being does not mean they do not exist. It simply leaves us ill-equipped to confront the inevitable imposition of those forces on our lives.
Those that embrace the zombie trend, but do not regard combat as trivial, suggest to me they utilize it as a euphemism. There is a stark contrast between looking forward to wielding deadly force and being prepared and willing to do so. We must remind ourselves that at the very least, the latter is reasonable and perhaps even necessary to ensure a viable status for ourselves within the world we live. To deny that is inconsistent with the fundamental tenets of combative training.
If we desire to live a healthy life, we must think, speak, and act reasonably and with balance, without, or at the very least, despite the fear that our willingness to accurately identify a state of affairs will be mislabeled as fanaticism. We must not refrain from recognizing what is, for fear that a rational observation will be confused with or manipulated into an endorsement of what should be. Accordingly, we should all regularly and candidly evaluate the value of our beliefs.
If you determine a belief detracts from a healthy lifestyle or is inferior to an alternative, discard it or assimilate that alternative respectively. If your belief is reasonable and balanced, and the most optimal option you can identify, stand by it. Each time we acquiesce to oppositional forces we not only betray ourselves, but also passively contribute to a shift in our culture, making it more and more difficult to authentically express ourselves and actively live the lifestyle we believe we ought to live.
I believe shooting and training should be enjoyable. I hold no pretenses that every time we shoot, or take our family and friends to the range, a rigid air of solemnity ought to loom over the experience. However, to the extent we intend to train combatively, we must not conceal that fact from ourselves. A willful blindness to this reality will certainly hinder, if not entirely obstruct the proper implementation of any skills or tactics one has invested resources in developing.