Starting from the ground up: A big issue is the stance. Properly positioning the feet and legs, serves as the foundation for everything from there up. Without a good base nothing else is going to be efficient. Keep in mind there’s big difference between a fighting stance and a shooting stance. A fighting stance is aggressive, assists you in recovering from recoil – or a punch/shove – and permits you to move in any direction while shooting if required. The physical – an aggressive stance – will also affect the mental – your mindset. Just the act of acquiring a fighting stance mentally changes your attitude. “I’m ready to fight,” the body is telling the mind.
The next “step” is footwork. Footwork is essential in everything physical. Basketball, tennis, boxing and fighting all require proper movement. A huge amount of training and practice is put into learning how to move correctly. Plus, moving is number one on the list when responding to danger. You move to escape. Moving forces the threat into a reactive mode – O.O.D.A. Loop. You move to create distance – always a good idea, to get to cover or to obtain a clear angle of attack on the threat. All this is done while drawing the pistol; some is done shooting as you’re moving, which requires a stable platform. The vast majority of your defensive training and practice should include movement.
Marksmanship. The ability to shoot accurately under any and all conditions is something we all work on for the rest of our lives. And we’re not talking about going to the range every so often, standing still and firing tiny groups on stationary targets. Sure, this is our introduction to the fundamentals – aim, hold, press and follow through – but after that we need to work on defensive marksmanship. Not everyone has access to moving targets – although it’s easy to build your own – but all defensive drills should be with movement. Negative targets worked from various distances are great. Up close you shoot fast. As the distance increases you fire slowly. The goal is to put all hits through the hole, varying speed according to distance. I end my practice with surgical marksmanship – small targets at medium distance.
Communication is one of the fundamentals, and yet seldom practiced on the range. You issue verbal commands to the threat. The sooner you tell them what to do, the quicker they may comply – the psychological stop. Or, the sooner you know it’s time to ramp up your response. Communication is required to co-ordinate actions with your team. This doesn’t mean everyone is armed; family, friends and/or bystanders may be part of your response. Without practice – actually incorporating verbalization into your drills – you’ll likely succumb to lock-jaw during the confrontation.
Finally, and probably most important, is “awareness.” The two things I say on the range the most, by far, are, “Slow down,” because everyone goes too fast, and, “Scan,” because once the shooting begins everyone gets tunnel vison on the target. Staying aware prior to the fight, or “left of bang,” is key to escape/avoidance or preparing to fight. Awareness after the fight is just as critical. Students will visually lock onto the cardboard target on the range; just imagine what this will be like in a real-life situation. It takes practice to overcome tunnel vison, loss of hearing and the other stress related reactions we experience. Once the immediate threat is down or gone you’ve got to tune into your surroundings.
These fundamentals are often ignored when training and practicing. They have to become habit. Being prepared is just like religion; you have to practice it constantly. Then, before you leave to step out into the world remind yourself, “Today, if the fight comes, I am ready.”
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, which is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. Visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.