In a previous life I was hard at work in the study of CQB, and was an Assaulter in my department's special weapons team. During that time I trained with a senior SWAT sergeant at LA County's SEB named Gary Rovarino*. Gary was not only gifted in his craft, but also a student of karate which gave us a common language and made us instant friends. At a regional school he was teaching, Gary defined tactics brilliantly -
"Tactics is the art of maneuvering against an opponent, and toward a specific objective".
To add to this, tactics is the physical and dynamic embodiment of strategy.
Strategy is a thought process and involves thinking and looking forward to objectives. Tactics are physical and involve taking action to cause things to happen. To put it in practical terms, strategies are conceived at the Pentagon, and tactics are developed by the Marines. To examine tactics we first need to establish strategies. And in the context of our discussions, strategies for the lone operator, CCW-equipped, regular guy.
Presented with a potential for danger or threat, we have two possible strategies: Disengage or Dominate.
There is nothing in between. There are no "grey" areas. You either avoid the fight if possible (and it is not always) or you take the initiative and dominate it. The guys that want to find half measures, or have a tentative manner are usually the ones we read about, now with a memorial page somewhere and a GoFundMe page for his survivors. In simple terms...fight hard, or do not fight, there are no grey areas.
To disengage, all we need is a suspicion. Something is strange or out of place...something makes us feel uncomfortable. And you may not be able to explain exactly what that is, but the "something" should not be ignored if the strategy is to leave. To do this well we need that relaxed awareness of our world and all that occupy it that the samurai called "zanshin". Different from the active, searching, attitude of the American "mind-set", this is more casual and not divided up into segments or colors. It is simply there. Watchful but not tense, aware of everything to a degree and accepting the information without initial judgement. It is based on the bane of the "progressive", profiling. We profile people, locations, events, and times of day. To those whom this makes feel uncomfortable, we offer no apologies. As has been said recently, reality doesn't care about your feelings.
To disengage before the fight or threat, this is all that is necessary. Awareness of peril and the conviction to act upon what you see, hear, smell or sense.
The other strategy involves dominating the fight. Duties as a professional, as a parent, and truly as a man worth the name, dictate that disengaging, even if sometimes possible, is not always desirable. We hear of armed off duty police breaking windows to escape an active shooter. We hear of grown armed and ostensibly trained men hunkering down safely while a mad man carries out a mass murder. Am I judging them? Damn right I am. Barring outside factors such as ambiguity of situation, family present, etc., Having the skills, equipment and ability to intervene in such an event and not doing so is a shameful thing.
In our flowchart we have a question we ask - Is escape or deescalation possible and moral?
Breaking a window to escape and leaving defenseless women and children behind may be possible for any strong man, but it is an immoral act of cowardice. So there are times when you elect to stay and fight the fight. The end game of that fight is to neutralize the adversary. Incidentally, the adversary that may or may not know you have self selected to engage him. If you do elect to stay and fight, the strategy must be to dominate the fight, not to control it. You cannot control an aggressive armed opponent by any other means than gunfire, so think about what you are willing to do to dominate the fight.
Here is a research project for you - take the last five gunfight/active shooter events that you are aware of. Pass the information through the flowchart I posted the last article, and solidify your understanding of your strategies. In the next segment, I will discuss the tactics that allow you to prosecute your selected strategies. No secrets.
Next Time - The Secrets: Tactics to Applications - Part 2
* I wish more in the gun world gave credit to their teachers and influencers rather than simply plagiarize them, as is all too common.