For the past few years we have mentioned the importance of mindlessness, or the ability to react skillfully, perfectly and spontaneously to a threat.  We have also discussed the way to attain those skills, to develop the pattern-less/system-less ability to improvise to an unexpected event.  Those attributes, by the way, are the keys to winning the reactive fight.  I don't care how well or accurately you shoot.  If you do not have the ability to move on demand, quickly and dynamically as you draw the weapon and counter attack, you will lose and you will die.  We show that time and time again in our force on force sessions.  In the reactive realm it is all about timing and about not getting shot.

As we focused harder and deeper on the development of the gunfighter it became clearer that the method to get our gunfighters to the level we wanted them to be was not via more range training, nor more force on force. 

The methodology had been laid out a long time ago and it was something that some of us had learned as children in Karate training.  It was by the process of learning basics, connecting natural and fight-proven movement patterns, strategies and concepts in a kata form, learning the applications of all the movements concurrently, and then testing all of it via the crucible of our force on force exercises. 

When that realization was made, it changed our view of how to get our serious students to the level of skill we wanted them to achieve.  It changed everything.

Now first a word about "Karate".  When most Americans think of Karate they envision some 300 pound dude with a candy stripe belt teaching a dozen grade-school aged kids in a strip mall.  That is not Karate.  The Karate that I learned was a brutal system of full contact personal combat.  Training injuries were common, and the physicality of the training would probably be untenable in today's society.  Real karate as it was conceived in Okinawa and as I learned it, is for becoming a strong and dangerous fighter, and not for anything else that may be contrived for socially acceptable marketing today. But moving on.

The biggest impediment to training as I know it today is that many western students are physically unfit, lack physical coordination to move naturally, and are extremely "tool focused".  They all want to shoot their guns thinking that is training, when all it is is manufacturing reloadable brass cases.  Rather than seeking a high round count class and trying to make their heavy feet stumble along while they shoot, they would be better served by putting the real firearm aside and relearning how to move naturally.  Once that was understood in the combat/gunfight context, those skills would be studied in the force on force application (analog to "kumite"). 

Then and only then would live fire be of any importance, of benefit, or of any consequence.  That process worked for decades to train some of the best fighters on earth. Why weren't we doing the same for the martial art of the pistol? 

That all changed earlier this year when I developed Diagonal Lines, the first pistol kata.  It was followed up by Brent Yamamoto's contribution - Watch Your Back, another kata with a different theme and application.  And those were followed up by two others -  Changing Levels and Crashing Elbows.  These all have a specific theme and strategic lessons that are applicable to the gunfight application.

As we move into 2019 and the future, the focus of my teaching will shift from range-based shooting classes to pistol kata based, force on force supported, gunfighting classes.  Classes where there will likely be no live fire at all.  These will give a repeatable structure to the training and daily practice that did not previously exist.  And it will develop better, fitter and more agile gunfighters. 

And developing great fighters, and not merely shooters, is the underlying objective.