Training With Vehicles: Where To Start


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How much time do you spend training in and around vehicles? Except for the enlightened few, you probably haven’t given it much thought. If you don’t believe me that you should train in and around vehicles, check out this guest post I wrote for Low Tech Combat about Why You Need to Add Vehicles to Your Training

Skills to work on

If you want to fill the void in your training to be better prepared for dealing with vehicles there are a few skills you need to work on:

Driving skills – How to control your vehicle in both day to day driving and dealing with hazards. Defensive driving skills will help you avoid collisions and losing control.

Counter surveillance – Getting to your vehicle without being followed is an essential skill in a parking lot. The best way to avoid a fight around vehicles is to identify the threat beforehand and maneuver to a more favorable position.

Embus and debus – Getting into and out of your vehicle efficiently. When you are in a stationary vehicle you are in a disadvantaged position that should be avoided as much as possible. Learning how to deal with other people and vehicles as you get into and out of your own is also valuable.

Shooting into, out of, and around vehicles – You should be prepared to engage targets with your pistol from inside the vehicle, doing so without harming your passengers. Shooting through windshields can dramatically change your trajectory, and shooting over and around vehicles is more difficult than you think.

Close quarters fighting inside a vehicle – If you ever end up in a fight inside a car or truck you need to know how your grappling and clinching skills work inside the confines of that vehicle. Close quarters shooting skills are critical if you want to be able to fire multiple shots at your assailant without shooting yourself.

 Close quarters fighting outside a vehicle – When you get attacked in the triangle (the space created between an open car door and the door frame) you need to know how to handle it. This is a bad place to be in.

Where to get these skills

If you haven’t already started training these skills, you should either find a way to do so yourself or find someone you can learn from.

Training in and around vehicles is an important part of your self-defense palette.

One instructor I cannot recommend highly enough is Southnarc. His ECQC (Extreme Close Quarter Concepts) class briefly covers fighting in a vehicle. He calls the module of this class VBJJ or Vehicular Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You learn not only how to make use of the vehicle while grappling with your adversary, but how to make use of weapons you might be carrying while preventing your opponent from using theirs.

Another great Southnarc class is his new VCAST (Vehicle Combatives and Shooting Tactics) class, which covers the vehicle material in even greater depth – just about everything short of tactical driving. I have taken both classes and highly recommend them both if you want to learn how to defend yourself in and around vehicles.

Between these two classes you have good coverage for just about any skill you might need inside or outside of a stationary vehicle. When it comes to a moving vehicle you are likely best served by finding a good defensive or tactical driving class. While learning how to do the fancy maneuvers like reverse 180s and the PIT look like a lot of fun, what most of us really need are a few lessons on collision avoidance, and maintaining and regaining control of a vehicle.

Defensive driving lessons on things like collision avoidance are easy to find, and relatively inexpensive. Many insurance carriers will even give you a break on your premiums for having taken one of these classes. Considering the amount of time we spend in vehicles, learning these techniques is a no-brainer.

If you live in a bubble and never ride in or encounter vehicles in your life, you can safely ignore training with them. The rest of us really need to spend some time training in and around vehicles.

Why I Train

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When I was a young kid, my first inspiration for training was (believe it or not) watching the Power Rangers on TV. After watching this show, I went to my parents and told them quite firmly that I wanted to study Karate.

While I obviously grew out of my Power Rangers phase, I am still training 18 years later. Karate became a part of my life that is so cemented in my being that any attempt to extricate it from my life would probably kill me.

I have also always been a gun fanatic. I just didn’t always know it. By my parents’ recollection I used to turn just about anything I could find into a gun in my youth. If I didn’t have a toy gun to play with, I would often just build one out of Legos. It was never something I really thought about too heavily, but when I turned 21 my affair with firearms would really begin.

Curiosity quickly gave way to obsession. Unlike the average gun enthusiast, I’m not purely about having a metric ton of cool guns and gear (although I do have a soft-spot for black rifles). I like having a collection of cool toys as much as the next guy, but more than that, I find myself ever drawn to training with them. The best times I have spent with firearms have been in classes, particularly in the classes with the lowest round counts.

My first course was Southnarc’s ECQC. We trained pre-fight verbal skills, clinch work, in-fight weapons access, wrestling in vehicles, and only one afternoon on the range. I probably shot 150 rounds in a three day course, and I had a ball. Training for some reason draws me like a high powered magnet. I can’t resist.

Why do I train? I don’t serve in a career that puts me in harm’s way. I’m a software engineer, not a soldier or cop. I don’t live in a high risk area either. I’m very unlikely to ever need the skills that I put so much time into practicing, though one never knows. It is better to have the ability to protect yourself and not need it than to need this ability and not have it.

I think that the desire to train can also be thought of in a historical context. Throughout the ages, mankind has sought out and studied warfare. At first the art of war was necessary and war was almost continuous. As time went on, individuals still chose to study and train, but it wasn’t necessarily because they expected to use these skills. Instead these capabilities gave people the ability to choose their own fate.

If you look at just about any period in history, the well armed and well practiced individuals were the only ones who could reliably lay claim to their own freedom.

I train not because I have to, but instead because I want to. I enjoy training, the sweat, the exhilaration of deflecting and returning blows, the smell of gunpowder in the morning.

Ultimately I train because it is a constant journey. You cannot reach perfection in the fighting arts. It is just not possible. I train because no matter how hard I work and study, there is always something more to learn. My training may have reached a point of diminishing returns, but it is a noble pursuit.

Why do you train?

Glock’s LE Only Training Options

A few days ago I was perusing Glock’s website in an attempt to see if they had posted anything new in conjunction with the shot show. Glock recently updated the look and feel of their website, including a new page with all of their pistol offerings. On this page I noticed two things that I have never noticed before from Glock.

Glock's G22P

Glock has two pistols chambered in .380 Auto, the G25 and G28, which are compact and subcompact models respectively. These two pistols are offered only to law enforcement officers. Why? I’m curious to know why these aren’t available to citizens. I personally have no desire to own one, but I’m sure there are individuals who would love to have a Glock chambered in .380 Auto.

More significantly I noticed Glock’s Training and Practice models. I’ve known about the cutaway model and I have been on both ends of the Glock 17 T FX in classes. What I didn’t know existed were the Practice and Reset models.

The Reset Model is essentially a Glock 17 with a resetting trigger. The intended application is primarily for use with shooting simulators. A laser impulse generator can be placed in the barrel. The laser impulse generator is activated by a hit from the firing pin. I can almost see a reason why these would be restricted to LEO only. The fact that it can still accept ammunition means that it is still a firearm, but the red frame makes it look more like a toy. Glock is probably just covering their ass from law suits.

The Practice model on the other hand is a non-firing model. The barrel is blocked and the firing pin appears to be deactivated. It is the ultimate dry-fire practice tool. Since it cannot fire live ammunition it makes for a much safer dry fire experience. Why would this be restricted to Law Enforcement only? To me it doesn’t make sense. I assume the price tag would be similar to if not higher than that of a standard Glock 17 or 22, but there would definitely be some interest from the training community.

I haven’t yet found a good reason not to sell the Practice model, G25, or G28 to the general public.

 Would you buy one? Have an idea why they won’t sell these to the public? Post a comment a let us know.

Beginning Training Series: Getting Started With Weapons

Today I will be discussing training with weapons as part of my series on beginning training.

The defining factor for most self-defense situations is that they are unequal initiative, disproportionate armament type events. You are likely to be surprised by your attackers and/or they will be more heavily armed than you. You can mitigate the initiative problem by learning to be more aware and avoiding dangerous situations. We can also mitigate the problem of being outgunned by studying the use of various weapon systems and adding them to the kit we carry with us every day.

There are four main categories of weapons you might consider for self-defense: firearms, edged weapons, blunt weapons, and non-lethal weapons.

Before you read on, remember that it is your own responsibility to know the local laws and regulations pertaining to any weapon you might want to carry.


If you want to maximize your ability to defend yourself across all situations, you should strongly consider adding firearms to your training regimen. Firearms are tools that extend your reach and allow you to solve problems in ways your empty hands or other weapons just don’t allow. They are the eternal equalizer that can shrink physical gaps between you and your adversaries.

Training with firearms is not something that should be taken lightly. While they can be very powerful tools, they can also be very dangerous. In the hands of an untrained individual, firearms often have disastrous consequences for oneself or loved ones. I would recommend seeking out instruction if you are a beginner, rather than diving in blind. Find an instructor at a local club or range, or an experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Learn the basic safety rules and how to handle a firearm safely.

I would strongly recommend learning with a .22 first. This allows you to learn safety and proper operation with minimal recoil so you develop good habits. Personally I spent about a year shooting nothing but a .22 pistol before moving up in caliber. I attribute most of my trigger control and marksmanship ability to not jumping the gun (no pun intended) on stepping up to the next caliber. Habits are harder to break than they are to make, so start yourself off by creating good habits that you won’t need to break later.

Once you have complete control of the basics, you can move on to learning how to properly draw the firearm and employ it in defensive situations. You owe it to yourself to seek out a good instructor, whether local or not, to help you master these skills.

Keep in mind that the only responsible way to carry a firearm is to make the time to properly train yourself in its use. Put in the time at the range, but don’t forget that dry fire is an excellent way to improve your skills for a small fraction of the cost. Also remember that you should always be prepared (both mentally and physically) to use any weapon you choose to carry.

Edged Weapons

Edged weapons are a category that includes primarily various types of knives. Edged weapons can often be easier to legally carry in some localities, and are usually far easier to conceal. Training with knives is often overlooked. Many of us carry knives and haven’t sought out much instruction in their use. I am guilty of this myself, having limited training with them. You should try to find some instruction, or at a minimum find a good book or DVD on the matter.

Blunt Weapons

Another category of defensive weapons is blunt weapons or impact weapons. These include everything from batons and expandable batons to kubotans, black jacks, etc. You must not take for granted that you can posses or carry these weapons, so make sure you are familiar with your local law.

As with knives and guns, you should make sure you make an effort to learn the proper use of these weapons if you intend to carry one. Most common are things like kubotans or defensive styluses which can easily be carried on a key chain. It should be easy to find an instructor who will teach the effective use of such a weapon – you should seek one out and attend a seminar or class if you carry one.


This catch all category includes a variety of self-defense weapons that are intended to be non-lethal options. Tasers, stun guns, and pepper spray are all marketed as great self-defense weapons with minimal risk of killing your attacker. They are often marketed as not requiring much if any training, but if you rely on them you should still find instruction. No tool is a perfect solution, you should train with anything you intend to use to protect your life. Again you need to worry about local laws because, surprisingly enough, these non-lethal options can be illegal in many places. I grew up in Massachusetts, and pepper spray requires a license to carry in that state!

Also note that something like pepper spray can be a great tool to add to your repertoire even if you carry other weapons. It is always a good idea to have options, and a non-lethal option might allow you to avoid immediately escalating to guns or knives in some situations.

These are all various options you have when considering adding weapons to your defensive repertoire. If you are just starting your foray into self-defense, or if you are ready to take it to the next level, you should seek out instruction in various weapons systems. Even for those of us with substantial martial arts training, empty hands are not perfect weapons. Augment yourself with weapons and proper training, and you increase your likelihood of survival.

What weapons have you trained with, and how do you include them in your daily carry? Let us know by posting a comment!

Training Considerations When Selecting a Pistol

I strongly believe anyone who legally can should learn how to employ a pistol to its greatest effect. If you can legally carry one concealed, you should make every effort to do so. Self-defense boils down to controlling your environment. A pistol lets you control more of it when the chips are down.

 There are plenty of articles out there to compare and contrast the differences in various rounds: would the ultimate concealed carry pistol be a 9mm or a .45? There are plenty that compare sizes: should you carry a full size service pistol, or a subcompact? And there certainly are plenty of online flame wars discussing which is the best brand and model. Reliability, accuracy, and features are all points of many lengthy discussions.

 While all of those things certainly do factor into what pistol you plan to entrust your life to, there is something else that I believe is even more important: does this pistol facilitate training? The most important thing you need in a pistol is the ability to train with it. If you cannot train with your weapon of choice, it’s a toss up whether you can actually use it effectively when you need to.

 Can you train with it safely?

 This is a fairly silly question, but it does need asking. Can you train with this pistol safely? Some people decide that an inexpensive Makarov or other inexpensive classic that isn’t drop safe is the best firearm for them. I’ve heard plenty of stories about a dropped pistol discharging and injuring its owner. If you plan on training aggressively, you want something you can safely drop. If you can’t safely train with your pistol, maybe it’s time to go gun shopping.

 Do you enjoy training with it?

 While a carry firearm is a tool, if you do not enjoy training with it, you won’t train with it. Simple as that. If the gun is easy to conceal but is too small to be fun to shoot, you’ll carry it, but you’ll never spend the time with it on the range that you need to.

 Can you find an inert training replica?

 While it isn’t 100% necessary, finding an inert training replica (a blue gun for example) of your carry gun is a great way to be able to train without risk of damage to the gun, or damage to your training partners. If you practice any gun grappling, it is certainly safer to train with an inert gun than a real one. I also find that an inert replica works great for practicing presentation of the firearm.

 Can you find and afford the ammunition?

 If you cannot find ammunition or afford it, then you cannot train with the gun. I prefer a 9mm myself because the ammo is less expensive than .40 or .45 and I feel it still gets the job done. Generally it isn’t too hard to find practice ammunition in these common calibers. Some people decide to carry a small .32 or .380 and find that ammunition is scarce. I would rather carry something that doesn’t require a pilgrimage to find ammo.

 Are there .22 conversions or training models available?

 Regardless of the round your carry gun uses, it’s cheaper to practice with .22 than it is to practice in the caliber you carry. There are limitations to how these conversions and clone models can be used in your training, but they certainly can help to increase the volume of your training. Check out this article by Todd Green on the pros and cons of .22 trainers.

 Are there Airsoft replicas available?

 Another great training method is to use an Airsoft training replica of your firearm. This allows you to practice force on force scenarios without having to shoot your training partner. Training with Airsoft of course isn’t perfect, but availability should definitely be in the back of your mind when selecting a carry weapon.

 Can you dry fire it?

 Dry fire is a great way to practice your skills. It’s the cheapest practice you can get. It can do great things for your marksmanship, speed of presentation, and efficiency reloading. Not all firearms can be dry fired, but just about every modern center-fire can be. Make sure you check when deciding what pistol is right for you.

Of course there is plenty more to think about when selecting a pistol. Remember that no matter how reliable or accurate your pistol is, if you can’t train with it, you may very well be useless with it when you need it.

Who Needs Training, I Have a Shotgun

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One of my biggest pet peeves about self-defense and training is that so many short-sighted individuals think they have a catch-all solution. They believe that some piece of equipment or special technique will save them from anything that they might have to deal with, rather than acknowledge that defending oneself or one’s home requires persistent practice and a variety of skills.

I don’t need to practice, I have a shotgun

My favorite is the shotgun excuse. I’ve never been a fan of shotguns myself. They can be great toys and can be applied to great effect in some situations, but to me they are not the precise implement of death that a pistol or rifle can be.

People who own only a shotgun tend to believe that it’s all they need. Since it shoots a pattern instead of a single projectile it reduces the need for accuracy. This in turn leads people to not train. If you believe a shotgun is the best tool for the job, so be it. But if you pick up a shotgun, shoot it a few times and then put it away, you are being foolish. You must constantly train with any weapon you intend to use. A special weapon is not a replacement for your training.

I don’t need to learn that, I’ll just shoot them

The other great fallacy is believing a gun will solve all of your problems:

“I don’t need to know how to fight hand to hand, know how to employ a knife, or be able to grapple because I have a gun.”

This ridiculous conclusion is made far too often. The real world does not afford us the ability to choose when we have to fight. In fact life can surprise us when we least expect it. Most muggings happen at close range, and when the attacker has the initiative. This means you’ll probably be more in need of those close combat skills than you think.


This is only a small sample of the kind of thick-headed excuses for not training.

What other short-sighted excuses have you seen for not training?

Exaggerating the Basics

Aim small, hit small.

Have you heard the line before? It’s a very basic concept that amounts to aiming at a smaller target (or a smaller area on a large target) in order to increase your overall accuracy. But this concept stretches far further than that.

Why do we want to aim small when we train? Adrenaline.

Unless you’re at that public range with the dope with no muzzle control, your adrenaline level is minimal when training. The pressure is relatively low when you are working on the basics. But what happens when you need to recall these skills on the street?

Adrenaline is a funny ‘feature’ that we developed long ago as humans evolved. It gives us great strength and speed and helps us survive many life or death situations. Unfortunately for mankind most of our evolution occured before the genesis of modern combat. Fine motor skills only became relevant to our life and death struggles relatively recently. Adrenaline does some funny things to our fine motor skills, and just about everything in shooting is fine motor skills.

We train with smaller targets or by following this “aim small, hit small” philosophy because it leaves room for error. If we hold ourselves to higher standards when training, then we can afford the inevitable involuntary degradation that occurs when our training meets the real world.

Hits count, and you need to guarantee them when your life or the lives of others depend on them. Can you really afford to be just good enough on the range?

Putting it to practice

For shooting it is pretty clear how to apply this concept to your training. The simplest way is to mark your full size silhouette with a smaller bullseye. Even a circle drawn with a magic marker will do. When training only accept hits on this smaller circle rather than anywhere on the silhouette. This smaller target will require you to slow down and make sure you hit. If you can hit a smaller bullseye quickly, it stands to reason that you should be able to hit the shilouette when the shit starts flying.

Another way I put this to practice actually saves me money. I print out smaller silhouettes and post them at the same distances I would use for the larger ones. This would have the same effect as shooting from a greater distance with the original targets. This forces you to practice shooting at a smaller target. You must try to hold yourself to a higher standard on a reduced size target or you risk the opposite effect. Keep in mind this cannot completely replace your use of full size targets at actual distance, especially when pressure testing yourself.

Applied elsewhere

Despite bringing this up as a shooting concept, it absolutely does not end there. When training a few years at a Kyokushin summer camp I had the fortune to train with Shihan Cameron Quinn. During one of the sessions he put great emphasis on the same subject. He told us not to aim for the chin with a punch, but to aim for the gnat on the hair on the mole on the chin. This is the same idea of aiming small, hitting small. Precision enhances your efficacy in all arenas of combat.

I was also trained as a student of Kyokushin to “Exaggerate your kihon(basics)”. This exaggeration serves two purposes. Firstly by exaggerating you are reinforcing correctness. When we have the opportunity to train without the pressure we should capitalize on the opportunity and make sure our technique is correct. Want to see some poor technique? Just add pressure. Additionally adrenaline has a nasty side effect of shortening muscles. This shortening means that a technique that isn’t exaggerated in practice will be tiny if not non-existent when applied to the real world in real stress. Unless you think T-rex arms are the best self-defense technique you can see really easily how this can be a problem.

This principle can be applied to just about anything that is practiced under low pressure but needed in a high pressure environment. Make sure everything is as good as it possibly can be in training so when you need it, your training won’t let you down.

How have you applied this concept in your training? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.



Pressure Testing

Training always falls into three major phases: preparation, testing, and recovery. Preparation is where most of the time is spent: improving conditioning, running drills, and building skills. Every so often your training should be tested. Validate what you have and make sure the approach you are taking is working. Finally you recover and plan to correct the weaknesses and points of failure in your training so far.

Pressure testing can be the most important part of training; without it your training can go on infinitely with little real progress. Without some sort of pressure or stimulus your training will take the path of least resistance, right into non-existence. Pressure forces you to evolve and learn, and without it false confidence forms instead of real skills development.

The exact methods of pressure testing will vary based on the discipline being trained. There are, however, some common concepts that can be applied to some degree in all areas.


Adding a partner is the simplest way to add pressure to your training. A non-compliant adversary who is trying to thwart your efforts can significantly crank up the pressure.

This concept is what prevents most of the grappling arts from succumbing to the common pitfalls of the striking arts. Have you noticed how much harder it is to fake it in the grappling arts? Grappling always requires a partner, and therefore the pressure testing loop is closed.

In the arena of shooting, a partner is more difficult to implement. You can’t easily shoot your buddy for the sake of training. Simunitions or airsoft are valid options, but on the range a partner can also be used with two other types of pressure.


Time is one of the easiest ways to add pressure to your firearms training. When you need to complete a task within a certain amount of time or for best time, it’s easy to start making mistakes. Even just racing against your own times can be a great way to make things more difficult.

A partner can create time pressure on the range when both partners are attempting to complete the same task. The race can force you to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. Someone will come out on top. This does require both partners to be relatively close in their speed or the effect is lost. If one partner is significantly faster, try a time handicap, adding time to the stronger partner’s time until both are performing roughly equally.

Adding time pressure to hand to hand training can be harder to implement. Giving yourself a time limit to reach a goal like achieving a submission or escaping from a disadvantageous situation is a great way to do this. This simulates the need to escape chokes, for example, before oxygen or blood runs out.


Just increasing the pressure can be a great way to pressure test your training. A partner or coach screaming at you as you try to perform even the simplest malfunction clearing drill can make the task much more difficult.

Another way to aid in increasing the stress level is to always pressure test with as many unknowns as possible. When training with a group, try to make the pressure testing exercises new and unique. Give the testee only the rules needed to keep things safe and let the other participants know the rest of the scenario. The test becomes more realistic as you adapt to an unknown hostile situation.

Another great way to insert stress is to cause unexpected surprises. Load your partner’s magazines with some dummy rounds. Unexpected issues like a malfunction can raise the stress level through the roof, especially during a timed session.


Remember that the reason we train so hard is to make the simple tasks unconscious. The way to win in a life or death conflict is to be able to think about the big picture while your body does what you need it to do. The only way to make sure you are hitting all the necessary skills and ingraining them deep enough is by ratcheting up the pressure.

What pressure testing methods do you use? Share your tricks and tips in the comments below!

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