Combatives, MMA, gun games and warrior-wannabes

About a million years ago in internet time, I used to frequent a forum that was frequently involved in forum wars with Bullshido, due to in a large part the fact that the population of Bullshido is composed largely of martial artists that train for MMA competition.  The members of the other forum were generally all believers in “reality based self-defense” which is a tacticool way of saying “eye gouges and dick punches”, also sometimes referred to as “combatives”.  The combatives guys would often say that they didn’t believe in contact sparring because you couldn’t use their techniques without seriously maiming or injuring someone, and the MMA guys from Bullshido would say that if you’re training for a fight, you might want to actually suit up and get hit.

By now you can probably see where I’m going with this, because I’ve seen similar arguments played out on this very website between “gun gamers” like me, and people who think that if you’re practicing for COMBAT! then playing games is going to get you killed; because in USPSA you’re not being shot at, etc.  This parallel has gotten me to wondering idly if the warriorz guys in the gun community think that training for MMA fighting is useless in a self defense context, and if the combatives guys think that IDPA, ICORE, IPSC, et al are useless in a self defense context. Of course, you still probably won’t get one of the combatives guys to suit up in the ring against Brock Lesnar, and you won’t see the warriorz guys at a run-‘n-gun match, so I guess we’ll never actually be able to objectively test their skills. Must be tough being so deadly that you can’t play with your friends.


  1. Yeah, never understood that poo-poo-ing of target shooters or run/gun competitors. Any familiarization through use is not time wasted. And LOTS of familiarization by constant use is even gooder. Ideally, you’d do all of it, 10 hours a day. Paper targets, IDPA, drills with the SWAT team, and shoothouse with the Marines. IDPA once a month is still superior to the other alternative: talking about shoot defense and range once a year.

  2. Can anyone name one instance of an USPSA B class or higher shooter loosing a gun fight?

    I say this to the IPDA people as well as the “combatives guys”.

  3. You know, I never understood the IDPA shooters who thought IDPA was somehow more tactical or something than USPSA. I shoot both, with ICORE thrown in for flavor. Of course, I can’t think of any IDPA Expert class or better shooters that don’t also shoot uspsa.

  4. “Can anyone name one instance of an USPSA B class or higher shooter loosing a gun fight?”

    Can anyone name one instance where a USPSA B class or higher shooter was in a gun fight?

    Seriously, gun games are great. They train you to draw, shoot, and reload quickly while under pressure. That’s the 90% solution right there. But Rob Pincus pointed out some problems with them a month ago on the podcast, so they’re not the end all and be all. But better to train with that than pontificate on the couch.

  5. Jeff, I bet that I could in fact find multiple instances of B class or better USPSA shooters getting into gunfights.

  6. Anything involving messin’ around with guns is time well spend by me. Or knives, or any kind of martial art, or women – but I’m digressing. Some folk simply can’t play well with others, and I don’t let those people bother me.

    I do remember how MMA got started. Basically, it was a ground swell revolt against the then-current dojo training routine. Folks were called all kinds of names by “The Establishment,” when all they were asking for was to put some of the “martial” back into the martial arts! Hell, if you did miscalculate, and actually hit someone in the head in a tournament, you were instantly disqualified, and could face lifetime disqualification if the powers-that-were thought you were a troublemaker.

    Now, some three decades later, some of these same folks are worried today’s MMA is heading back to the bad old days.

    I understand that, like in the world of martial arts, not all the people of the gun will get along. I just wish they’d spend a little less time vilifying one another, and a little more time taking up their scripture, and going out to preach responsibly unto the heathen.

  7. Now, some three decades later, some of these same folks are worried today’s MMA is heading back to the bad old days.

    They should start IDPMMA.

    No, wait, they already did that… 😀

  8. “Gun Games” are played with repetitive motions. Repetitive motions if done correctly establish permanent muscle memory. Gun Gamers typically have smooth weapons manipulation. I do not personally gun game, but I think it is excellent training reflexively, and works fast twitch muscle as well as precise fine motor movement. People have opinions, but there is hard science behind the way that gun gamers train.

    When I spent those three days with Todd Jarrett and the rest of young competitors, their athleticism was very apparent. I wrote about it here:

  9. Simunition training is about the only so called “real” force on force shooting training, but as of now I’m not aware of anyone offering that to civilians. It does allow you to actually test your skills against “bullets” coming back at you.

  10. Even Force-on-Force with Simunitions (or airsoft or paintball), although extremely valuable, has the limitation of not being “real”. Everybody still gets to go home at the end of the day.

    In the end, it’s the same limitation as bare-hand techniques; it’s hard to practice breaking bones without breaking bones, and it’s hard to practice shooting someone ’til they’re dead without killing them. All you can do is practice as best you can and hope it works.

  11. If you bring the proper mindset to IDAP and IPSC it can be valuable training.
    Work each course of fire like a live scenario, use proper tactics for movement, and use your real life carry gear.
    NOTE: This means you don’t have a chance in hell of winning the meet.
    If you run IDPA or IPSC like you are trying to win, you are not using the meets to reinforce your real life skills.
    I personally think there are rules involved with both styles that are not conducive to real world training. They both run cold ranges.

  12. Dang, son – when I read Tam’s piece on this what went through my head was the Bullshido vs. RBSD crowd. *g*

  13. “Jeff, I bet that I could in fact find multiple instances of B class or better USPSA shooters getting into gunfights.”

    Maybe, but you haven’t yet and the whole “present me with data” statement pisses me off regardless of the discussion.

    It seems to me that the whole point of a “find this” on any message board or blog is to make a certain point of view default and force the other side to do all the research work. Except that the side that makes the pseudo-reasonable request usually hasn’t done anything to justify that position other than earn the backing of groupthink.

    I just find that argument to be intellectually dishonest. If you think you’re right, you ought to be backing your reasoning up with hard data not forcing the other guy to back up his.

  14. I guess I should have added “if I cared to”, because I don’t. I know plenty of cops that are competition shooters, and some of these cops are legit gunfighters, serving on their department’s tactical, narcotics, or other high risk units. But it’s not my place to name drop them, because talking about other people’s gunfights without their consent is rather uncouth.

    And no, I’m not going to ask their permission either, because satisfying a stranger on the internet isn’t really high on my priority list.

  15. Jeff the Baptist,

    Can anyone name one instance where a USPSA B class or higher shooter was in a gun fight?

    Jim Cirillo.

    The very mention of whose name should put this argument to bed to anyone who is even an armchair scholar of the topic.

    BTW, you invoked Rob Pincus’s name before as though you were playing trump. I like Rob. I believe Rob is a great trainer. But Rob hasn’t been in any more gunfights than you have.

    Jim Cirillo thinks you should compete. (In as many and whatever disciplines you could.) You should hunt. You should shoot every chance you get. And unlike a lot of people in this field, Jim killed more men than smallpox, so I give at least a smidgen of credence to what he says.

  16. No offense Joe, but what would it prove if the answer was “Yes”. Example: “Bob Smith of FBI SWAT, and famous ups USPSA competition, died today during a raid of a drug cartel warehouse. We at USPSA mourn his passing and honor his sacrifice.”

    Does that prove anything? Did the gamer skills get him killed or did they keep him alive long enough to get three of the bad guys before they got him? Was it a “skills based failure”or did the scene commander make a bad call? Or maybe Bob was the point man, and his luck just ran out. Sometimes you can do everything right and still lose.

    So, what does a “yes” to your question prove? Nothing. So now you see how valuable an answer of “no” is.

    Or course the real kicker is that the skills that keep you alive in one fight can get you killed in the next.

    Oh, and for the record, I happen to like the games.

  17. “BTW, you invoked Rob Pincus’s name before as though you were playing trump. I like Rob. I believe Rob is a great trainer. But Rob hasn’t been in any more gunfights than you have.”

    I wasn’t playing it as a trump. I was pointing out that GunNuts has actually hosted people who have taken the “you can overgame” position. I would hope it means that if Caleb and Breda bother hosting someone for us to listen to, they at least think that person had something worth saying. That doesn’t mean it’s the only valid opinion or it should shut down debate. In fact it should probably encourage it.

    And thank you for actually taking a few seconds to come up with a good name. It is a very good name.

  18. I do think that what Robb and Jim and other trainers have to say about “overgaming” is valuable, however I don’t necessarily agree with them. But for folks interested primarily in self defense shooting those guests are good to have on the show.

    As a continuation though, one of the things that has always irked me about the whole debate is the assertion by the warriorz that playing games gets you killed because it teaches bad habits. The problem is that they don’t name any of the bad habits that are going to get me killed. Aince the fundamental skill of gun gaming is getting fast and accurate hits, I have a hard time believing that a sub 6 second El Presidente is going to get me killed.

  19. Tam, just how many National Championships did Jim Cirillo win?

    Now my info on Mr. Cirillo is limited, but as I understand it he would be in agreement with what Mark stated earlier.

    We can look at the games a bit like race car driving. The skills needed to be a good driver on the street need to be maximized on the race track. The better one becomes on the race track the better one becomes on the road, to a point. Let’s say 90% of the skills carry over. If those are the skills you work on, your race experience will make you a better driver all around. However if you want to be competitive you need to max out the other 10%. The problem now is how that 10% not only does not help road driving but can actually be a hindrance. Not only are theses “extra” skills going to bring the wrath of Smoky but they can get someone killed. On the road, no one else is looking out for you.

    Of course, there is also the whole matter of using your turn signal. 😀

    Whenever discussing the games, people often mention how Todd does this or Rob does that, but is that what Jim Cirillo did? What about all those cops Caleb mentioned?

    The games are ran to have a good game. When watching Julie Golob compete, I cannot help but think how much it all resembles a “live action video game.” Does not mean it is worthless, just, well, I’m never going to run into a room at full speed, stand like a statue and shoot ten targets in a row.

    The games have “walk throughs” where the players see the targets and understand the course to follow. Now I understand this is for safety but it shifts the decision making process from DURING the shooting to making the choices BEFORE the shooting begins.

    Gee, it would be nice when defending myself to know where the threats are. Hell, it be nice knowing just HOW MANY threats there are!

    And that is the REAL argument here. Are we running the games for the purpose of running the games, or are we competing to be better gunfighters. Rob Leatham is honest enough to tell people that a race gun has NO business being a defensive gun. As Mark, above, pointed out, if you treat the games like practice, and practice how you fight, you have no chance of winning the games. Regardless, they are many people you do just that.

    This is not a question of “self defense practice OR winning a game.” You can do both (just not at the same time). The guy who is “practice fighting” and the guy who is “in it to win it” are going to use different methods.

    Many times when we discuss the games we look at the champs and ask what they do. The Todd Jarretts, Rob Leathams and Julie Golobs of the world are fantastic shooters. But their skills are for their situations. Saying outright, or more often implying, that everybody should always do what the champs do is missing the point.

    Sorry for the long post 🙂

  20. For the record, I am “in it to win it” when it comes to playing games. That should be obvious though. Besides, not playing to win is like sleeping with your sister; sure she’s got a chest full of goodies, but that’s just illegal.

  21. Quote: Caleb:
    “Besides, not playing to win is like sleeping with your sister; sure she’s got a chest full of goodies, but that’s just illegal.”

    Fortunately, we aren’t Aztecs and don’t kill the losers. BTW, what was your ranking at Bianchi this year 🙂 😉

    Seriously, this is the heart of the problem, different people have different goals. You max out your skills, I max out mine. There are two things people can do with the games, in short, score points or practice fighting. The problem comes when the rules favor one group over the other.

    This is why Bill Wilson and crew made IDPA. IPSC could be for the point scoring crowd and IDPA “could” be for the gunfighter crowd. I sat “could” because someone had to follow the letter of the law while playing mary hell within rules.

    So rather than “fighting smart” you are expected to “shoot fast”.

    The same thing happened to USPSC. Jeff Cooper and co. started a “learn how to gunfight” contest and now the sport has morphed into something completely different. Even Rob Leatham once said that he didn’t mind the compensators but once you start putting scopes and everything else on, it stops being a gun and becomes on instrument. An instrument for hitting targets to be sure, but Rob Leatham didn’t seem to like it like that. Too far away from it’s gunfighting roots.

    Quote: Caleb:
    “The problem is that they don’t name any of the bad habits that are going to get me killed “


    When someone is shooting at you is is best to either get out of the way or at least make a smaller profile for the bad guys to shot. Say what you will about James Yeager, at least he understands the value of lateral movement. Caleb, when was the last time you took a step to the side before shooting? You don’t do that because it adds precious tenths of a second to your time.

    That really is my only real beef I have with the games. It is ALL time based. If adding a split second here or a split second there doubles my chances of survival in a life or death situation, who cares if it takes longer….

    I remember a post of yours where you were critical of how some IDPA guys want reloads after every 6 shots, often on the clock. Good for the wheel guns, unless you have a seven or eight shot and the semi-autos lose out as well. There is something to be said for having reloads not count against your time as long as you don’t take all day at it.

    Here is a food for thought question; if you were on a swat team, what would be the first thing you would change about you shooting style?

  22. I was 16th out of 34 in my division. I was playing to win all the way, but I was also hopelessly outclassed by the better shooters.

    Now, if I was on a SWAT team, the first thing I would change would be that I’d be shooting a carbine, not some silly-assed handgun. I would also try a lot harder to not shoot hostages.

  23. Clint,

    Now my info on Mr. Cirillo is limited…

    Please understand that I am not saying this to be confrontational or dismissive, but this and too many other things you’ve said in here either betray a lack of information on the topic at hand or evince a false dichotomy (ie. “Competition is running around with a dot-sighted blaster, while combat is… well, whatever.)

    All competition is going to have rules. For instance IDPA, which is Caleb’s primary venue of competitive shooting, penalizes one for not using available cover on a stage. However, they dock points for not shooting targets in order of “tactical priority”, when my “tactical priority” is “the first threatening mofo I see that I think I can hit catches a bullet“. If IDPA was going to be ultra-realistic for the civilian shooter on the street (like me) it would time how fast I could dive behind solid cover and dial 911.

    Competition is not to practice tactics. Nobody is ever going to be in a situation where they need to charge through a maze of plywood doorways and yellow tape while fending off pieces of cardboard. Competition is there to practice hitting what you are aiming at while under time and peer pressure, sometimes while on the move or from unorthodox positions.

    Most of Jim Cirillo’s competition was PPC and Charles Askins shot bullseye and neither of those men seemed hampered by their stylized forms of competition. After all, trigger control is trigger control and sight alignment is sight alignment and busting a cap is busting a cap, and learning to do those things on the clock and under a critical eye is invaluable.

    For the record, the questions that were important to Cirillo when standing up a unit of trigger-pullers and door-kickers were as follows:

    1. Are you a competitive shooter?
    2. Have you competed in major matches and won awards?
    3. Can you perform well under pressure or fear?
    4. Are you a hunter? Have you shot big game?
    5. Do you like outdoor physical sports?
    6. Do you collect firearms? Do you reload ammo?
    7. If you are over 28, are you married? Do you have children?
    8. Do you like people? Do you attend civic affairs?

    If you can answer “yes” to at least seven of these questions, you can make it. If you make all twelve, you will likely walk away from almost any armed confrontation.

    Remember one important fact: even if you do fit the above profile in all aspects, you still must be able to train at least two hours per week, with someone else administering unknown judgment firearms courses under time limits and psychological pressure.

    Jim Cirillo; Guns, Bullets, and Gunfighting, pp. 59-60.

  24. For the record Jim Cirillo told me personally he killed 13 men in gun-fights while on the NYPD Stake-Out squad. He claimed only 11 of those ‘kills’ because he had plans for the upcoming weekend. (I’m serious. He ‘gave’ those kills to others on the squad.)

    It was his performance inside a bank lobby that inspired Jeff Cooper to create the El Pres (and I don’t care what the record shows or who says what about the El Pres drill, Cirillo shot three men dead with a 6 shot .38 before the first man fell. Cooper attributes much to Cirillo’s performance on that Stake Out Squad and I believe the El Pres was one of those attributions.)

    What is even more surprising about Cirillo’s performance and performance is the equipment and the ammunition he was forced to use. Mostly it was two Model 10 S&W loaded with SWC 158 gr. .38 Special ammo. But he told me that the best gun and round in his experience was the M-1 Carbine when loaded with 110 gr. Hollow Point rounds. He said that worked better even than a .45 Auto with Hardball ammo which he wasn’t supposed to use or have on duty.

    Jimmy and I were friends, but I was never with him enough or long enough to call him a close friend. He always treated me with respect and for that I am extremely appreciative.

    In my opinion, he was the REAL DEAL and probably the Greatest of the 20th Century Gunfighters, even if my buddy Walt Rauch told him with a smile he shot all those guys “…over bait”.

    I miss Jimmy Cirillo. He was truly a Legend and a Modern Day Gunfighter.

    All The Best,
    Frank W. James

  25. “…and you won’t see the warriorz guys at a run-’n-gun match…”

    Who exactly are you talking about here? None of the “Warrior Ethos” trainers I can think of tell people to avoid gun games, just not to rely on them or get so wrapped up in winning trophies they accumulate bad habits or do stupid things to their guns and gear.

    Like I said at Tam’s, training and competition are both parts of a balanced shooters diet. It’s a bad idea to go exclusive on one or the other.

  26. The tools, pdb, I’m talking about the tools. These are the guys that send me emails or say stuff on TFL about how ridiculous and what a waste of time IDPA is.

  27. “Nobody is ever going to be in a situation where they need to charge through a maze of plywood doorways and yellow tape while fending off pieces of cardboard.”

    Hey, I remember that episode of Doctor Who!

    But, yeah you have a point. Stuff that gun games don’t often cover well? Duck and Look Around. Moving backwards seems to be pretty shaky in my parts as well, since most of the time you’re moving forward or across the range for safety reasons. And moving backwards is really important if you need to make a fighting withdrawal. Lets face it, that’s basically my go to tactical maneuver. And if I have to execute a mag change with enemies left standing, its really going to the top of the list.

    But Tam is right (is that on a t-shirt?), tactics and situational awareness aren’t what you’re playing the games for anyway.

  28. Is the best round a 9mm, a 45 or a 40? Would you rather be hit with a 22 or missed with a 44? After that, we’ll talk about Glock vs 1911.

  29. Also, Fiftycal, don’t forget the critical, “HK: evil, or reallyevil?” debate.

  30. Caleb, my question was rhetorical, you did a great job but the Aztec thing was a joke. Besides I don’t like it when people act like one cannot have fun unless one gets first place (not anyone here BTW). Oh, and I should have said the “duck” thing was about USPSC. The fact that IDPA mandates it is why I choose that example.

    This whole thing started when someone asked a question that was both fallacious and dismissive.

    I am actually arguing a moderate position. The games are good for what they are. Just don’t make them more than that. Being a master gamer does not make one an expert fighter. There are axillary skills in fighting. Let us call these statements the “Key Point.”

    I am NOT against gaming, hell, I game. The games are training and for many of us they are “practice” that is graded. Anyone serious about defense should game for purposes of, well, what Tam said… Just don’t get so focused on the minutia that you lose track of your goal.

    I don’t understand the “real warriors don’t game” BS, and at the same time I recognize that the games have limits. The games, at least the run n gun type have certain “speed skills” that are great at shaving time off your score, but don’t really help in a fight. An example would be having a speed load technique that is fast and slick but requires a giant funnel on the mag well. If your carry gun doesn’t have a funnel, the phrase “accident waiting to happen” comes to mind.

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