This article is neither about a specific rule nor specific ways of doing specific things. Like anything in life there are dozens of paths to one destination, it´s all about efficiency and safety that sets the difference. These ‘rules’ are more of a reminder of things that many forget or they are not aware of. In this series of articles, we will discuss 10 of the most important, unwritten, rules of CQB. Warning, this article is very in-depth and provides a lot of information. Click here for Part 01 or Part 02
5.Avoid shoulder transitions.
Remark: This rule is referring to a full shoulder transition in close proximity.
The Human brain is like a forest. When you were a kid, it was dense & grassy without any paths or traces. As you grew up learning new skills, experiencing and interacting with your environment you began to work and do things in a consistent pattern – basically creating distinctive paths in your brain to perform or complete different tasks (how to load a gun, for example). the more you identically repeat the task and receive feedback about that certain task, the faster, quicker and instinctive finding that way from A to B in your “brain’s forest” to that task it is going to be. As you probably experienced before, when walking outdoor, humans like to walk comfortable visually and welcoming paths. If we take this statement into the forest metaphor, the less you practice, the less feedback you receive (among few other crucial processes) the less clear or welcoming the path to a certain skill is going to be. In addition, less used or experienced skills are rendered less usable unless being deliberately chosen, something that is a luxury when human limitations kicking in.
Basically, that is how your brain works. A dense forest with neurons going back and forth, but we will get back to this later.
Not sure why, but I keep seeing people struggle to perform different cool ninja like shoulder transitions every time they stack up on a door preparing for entry or alternatively when they start to slice the pie from the ‘’ weak side’’….check the video below.
…Wait, I get it. They try to reduce their exposure to the cross upon entry / slicing the pie.
The majority of people will do a fancy transition either just before, during or after they move through the threshold (A critical moment of itself) normally, once they crossed they will start transitioning back again to their default shoulder, essentially dismissing any kind of ready to shoot position.
Issues with switching shoulders in room entry context:
- Multi tasking – Additional cognitive & motorical processes in addition to what we normally use (in short explanation). Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention. During entry it is unrealistic to expect a human being to do 10 things at once. Non behavior complaint. You will practice away with it in calm settings, but not in reality.
- Response – Reducing significantly the ability to be responsive to any target while transitioning, not only because of handling but also due to the body posture and mechanics, and the offset of the gun.
- Stoppage – In case of a stoppage, the brain will require longer time to process the problem (IDing the stoppage) and deliver a motorical solution which is already known for the user, but this time done from, let’s call it different prospective. (think of it as a mirror confusion).
- Weapon retention – Up to discussion, but it is often sloppy when reacting from 3m and in to opponent with a cold weapon or someone running outside of the room. Especially since 3m is basically the combative bubble. 100% retention of the weapon is crucial.
Issues with switching shoulders behind cover / barricade in close proximity to threat.
In addition to the mentioned above, IF the threat is imminent, aware & fixated on you in extreme close proximity, mobility & consistency takes priority over cover (depending). Shoulder transitions in such situations are nothing but a dogmatic fixation of 1 +1 equals 2. Wasting time on weapon manipulations that are not related to the functionality of the gun will not help and will only offer disadvantage, and besides it is against your instincts.
Once our brain perceives danger, one circuit lays out sensory information about the danger, for example the sight of a gunshot victim or the sound of someone racking a pistol slide, to the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain.
The cerebral cortex evaluates this information and makes a rational judgment about it (based on several factors, including level of experience VS training).
The other circuit relays the sensory information to the amygdala, which sends impulses to the autonomic nervous system. This system triggers something we identify as acute stress response (aka: fight, flight, freeze) even before the cerebral cortex (as mentioned above, the thinking part of our brain) has made sense of the information.
Once activated, it increases heart rate, routes blood to muscles, releases stress hormones and glucose into the bloodstream among other sets of ongoing physiological changes, all to ensure your ability to handle this edge situation. But what is more interesting for us in the tactical context is, that today we know that self-preservation in fact overrides training. It simply means that during high – mid stress situations several areas, especially the long term memory of the brain, do not get deactivated. In simple English it means that under stress you will retract to the most experienced and rewarding skill/tool that you trained and you are familiar with. Nothing sexy or fancy, just default.
6.Validate your tactics.
Did you know that the majority of CQB concepts that are being taught as a default were never studied or validated entirely by empirical research to actually back up what those tactics claim to achieve?
Now you know
In other words, it means those concepts were taught and developed by individual knowledge sources and not by an empirical research. These sources likely to include a combination of intuition, personal experience, tradition, and authority. So what’s the problem, you are asking? The problem is that it essentially means that this knowledge could either be correct due to a feedback given in real world setting (for example, performing a raid against and armed active threat who decided to shoot) or inaccurate bias feedback that the person unintentionally views as correct due to the fact that he never met actual resistance to his chosen tactics due to inappropriate training framework (lack of FOF, stimulus, etc.). Eventually it means that the common tactics that are not validated through empirical research have 50 percent chance of being correct or wrong. 50 percent means broken. Have you seen a phone that has a screen that does not work but is still being used? Nope, because it is broken.
Below are three additional extremely important videos that we use to highlight tactics vs behavior. Note that the common principle for all those videos is that the immediate use of dynamic entries collapses within the earlier signs of resistance. Note the shift into survival based improvisation.
The issue I have with the western, standard CQB tactics (dynamic immediate entries by default for example) is that it is a concept technically developed & practiced against paper targets in a symmetric range setting, trying desperately to match up with reality.
In reality, violent collision like a firefight (I remind you, CQB context!) is a very raw, extremely dynamic & horrifying event which normally lasts a matter of seconds. In those seconds, the threat is moving, taking decisions on the fly that are rooted deep in different psychological mechanisms or behavior patterns that will result in an unexpected behavior that might not be expected in comparisons to the average ‘’good guy’’ motivations or in simple, the way he perceives interaction with opponents (take Terrorism/Suicidal VS Crime, for example).
With that being said, it is crucial if not mandatory that every tactic should be going through a physical, reward training validation process whether it is a student picking up a new way of doing things in a basic course or whether it is an instructor tweaking up a method, etc. Running into a kill house with paper targets and doing all those tactically trained slick badass movements is something that is just not going to happen. There is enough evidence, not only my own experience, but dozens of debriefs and videos.
You learned something new? Test it with performance with realistic parameters. Don’t let people summarize a procedure with 10 minutes talking and one hour shooting on the same target on the same corner on the same role. It is all about human feedback, not paper mirrors.
Thank you for reading,
Stay tuned to the next part !