Force on Force: No Pain, No Gain

| February 8, 2016 | 3 Comments

I am a huge believer in force on force (FoF) training. Good force on force training allows you to use as much of your pre-, in-, and post-fight skill set as possible. Sometimes we go through scenarios and find ways to resolve them without using force, other times we have to use our bodies and tools. This is an experience that is difficult to otherwise obtain.

I’ve attended almost 100 hours of force on force training since 2012. I’ve done so with four different schools, and alongside approximately 100 different students. This does not include weapon retention training or hand-to-hand training unless it was specifically “competitive and non-consensual,” to borrow terms from Shivworks.

One of the consistent things I’ve witnessed — and I used to do this myself — is the fixation on not being hurt by force on force projectiles.

I wear a sleeveless undershirt, a thin, long-sleeved shirt, and then a short sleeved shirt. I also wear forearm compression sleeves because I have orangutan arms and otherwise the last two inches of my arms are exposed. Despite wearing three shirts, I feel the shots I take and have the bruises to show for it.

I’ve attended classes where students wore soft body armor to avoid pain, but more commonly it’s a loose sweatshirt over two or three shirts. Sometimes a student will throw a jacket on top of everything else.

It is one thing to wear safety gear – full mask, neck protection, gloves, etc. However, wearing multiple layers of thick, heavy clothes and/or body armor keeps students from consistently feeling the impact of force on force munitions.

I believe this reduces our learning, or encourages bad habits, for several reasons.

Force on force action happens very quickly. Participants, bystanders, and instructors won’t see everything. Don’t rely on being able to see if you hit someone or not. Conversely, don’t rely on seeing when you are hit. You, and the students you are interacting with, are more likely to feel shots if everyone wears less.

I’ve seen a student get shot multiple times and swear they were never hit. I watched my rounds hit him four times in the CNS and the video I took confirmed it. Too many layers plus the rush of the moment kept him from feeling the impact. Without video, it is possible that I would have doubted my abilities, or made decisions to change my technique that would have been based on false data.

We attended a low light force on force class last Saturday. It was extremely difficult to see. Because I could feel their shots, I was able to tell students if they hit me or not.

Teaching ourselves to avoid pain seems like a dangerous habit to me. Getting hit with Airsoft or Simunitons is painful. However, the pain of is temporary and bruises heal. I am concerned that avoiding this low level of pain conditions us to avoid any pain at all costs. We will get hit, stabbed, or shot during a violent encounter. We should do what is reasonable to condition ourselves to fight through pain, not avoid it.

Force on force classes are uncommon, but is some of the most important training we can do. We must maximize what we learn during these rare moments. It is our responsibility to give feedback about being shot, stabbed, or struck.

Wearing additional clothing and equipment protects our bodies for the moment, but the lost experience diminishes us forever.

The pain is worth it.

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About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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3 Comments on "Force on Force: No Pain, No Gain"

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  1. CR Williams says:

    You want enough over the skin to feel the hits and where they are occurring while avoiding breaks in the skin. We sometimes compare the training wounds but I personally would rather not have any to show off. I only have so many band-aids.

    You also don’t want to be taking so much punishment that you are reluctant to participate in this kind of training in the future. This should be a training and learning event, not an exercise in endurance or a test of how much pain you can take. Remember the goal of the exercise and work on attaining that goal and not a different one.

    It is a fine line sometimes, but not one that cannot be maintained.

  2. Evan L. says:

    To be fair though, It also makes sense to wear clothes in a similar manner to what you might actually be wearing. Doing force on force in an outfit totally divorced from how you carry can also teach bad habits or can reduce your learning as well.

    If these people wear buttoned jackets at all times, or truly do wear a sweatshirt that they need to clear on a regular basis, that is also an important aspect of this training.

    Basically, my point is carry like you always would, you will learn the most you can about your setup by using it.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      I understand what you are saying, and I agree. We wear hoodies / jackets for over half the year here, so that’s important. We have a post planned on training in regular clothes in the future.

      However, I think that most students only attend one or two FoF classes a year at most. There is plenty of opportunity to train with baggy clothes on, but not so many FoF classes.

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