The Force on Force Paradigm Book Review

| August 15, 2016 | 1 Comments

The Force on Force Paradigm is an 80-page book by Gabe Suarez of the Suarez International training group. Suarez was involved in a shooting while serving as a police officer in the 90s. This incident changed how he thought about firearms instruction, and served as a starting point for the discoveries he made via force on force (FoF) training.

The Force on Force Paradigm is a collection of his thoughts and experiences.

General themes

All of Gabe’s books are short and easy to read, so I am not going to summarize the book for you. However, here are the top themes covered in The Force on Force Paradigm:

  • The weaknesses of “stand and deliver” firearms training when fighting against motivated, mobile opponents
  • The importance of moving during a violent encounter
  • Manipulating weapons under stress, simplifying malfunction clearing, and why diagnostic / equipment specific approaches are less favorable during stressful conditions
  • Advantages of appendix carry over behind-the-hip carry
  • Expanding the concept of “get off the X” to “managing the X,” both as a defender and as a counter-attacker
  • Most importantly: why it’s important to validate all of this against other human beings while they are also trying to “win”

My Impressions

This book makes the biggest impact on someone brand new to fight-focused training. Gabe describes why being dynamic in technique, action, and will is critical when fighting against another human (or several). These theories are supported by Suarez’s time as a cop, his experience as a firearms instructor starting in the late 90s, and his Suarez International FoF program from 2005 onward.

The technical content is critical, and presented in a straightforward manner that is easy to read. There’s the usual Suarez Swagger injected throughout the narrative, but that’s okay by me. It keeps the material from being too dry.

Concepts like initiative, how to move, drawing from appendix, etc. may seem too basic for some. I feel like most of my readers already believe in what SI and other fight-focused schools are doing, and as such won’t get as much out of this book as the fight-focused initiate.

That does not mean these concepts are unimportant. 

It just means that most of you are already believers in what’s inside the book.

There is a some discussion about instructors and instructor style. I found this  particular relevant today, as the number of LEO- or military-based instructors are proliferating.  There is a sentiment that the techniques taught by people with these backgrounds trump techniques taught by people who are not from these background.

The chapter on “describing the elephant” is great at explaining why it’s important to train with different people from different backgrounds who can teach you different things.


From a historical perspective, I enjoyed reading about Suarez’s journey to what he teaches and why. I also like that he (as well other instructors I respect) is willing to admit when he was wrong. Suarez’s discussion about the “side step” in the 90s is a great example. He taught something that seemed better than standing still — but once the FoF started it was clear the side step wasn’t enough. Admit the technique wasn’t effective, try something else, move on.

Should you buy it?

There is an increasingly wide divide among fight focused trainers. Some use qualifications and timers to induce stress and benchmark their students. Others use force on force training. I am a solid believer in FoF over qual- or timer-based training.

The conundrum of The Force on Force Paradigm is that by the time someone would read it, they’re already sold on the idea of FoF training. I nodded along with all of Gabe’s thoughts because I’ve already been through 200+ hours of fighting against other people in training settings.

I would love to see this book in the hands of people who have yet to take any force on force training. Ideally, it should be read by someone before their first self defense class of any kind — hand-to-hand, knife, impact weapon, or gun.

Think about the process most people go through when getting a gun for self defense:

  1. Experiences, sees, or reads about something scary
  2. Makes a firearms purchase decision based on peer pressure (people they know, Web sites, YouTube personalities, TV/movies, etc)
  3. Budgets only for the firearm, minimal gear, and limited ammunition
  4. Goes to a controlled, static shooting range where they cannot draw from a holster, cannot move, and shoots at a motionless paper target at 21 feet or closer
  5. Gains confidence in shooting holes in a paper target.
  6. Go back to Step #4 and repeats. For years. Maybe forever.

I was one of these people, and there’s at least one student like this in every basic firearms class I have ever attended. There is a complete ignorance about the pre-, in-, and post-fight phases of a self-defense encounter. The reaction when people realize that quick draw and trigger press is minuscule compared to the entire self-defense process is like being told Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

“What do you mean I can’t draw fast enough to beat someone in FoF? Who puts the chocolate coins in my stocking on Christmas??”

The Force on Force Paradigm is extremely valuable to this audience. The book clearly, and repeatedly, drives home why serious students get out and fight against other students and instructors.

The people who need this book don’t know that they need it, and they won’t buy it. I am afraid that the people who would buy this book already know what’s inside of it.

I propose that intermediate and advanced students should buy this book to give to others. Read it, take from it what you can, and pass it on. We owe it to our friends and family who are interested in self-defense to start them on the FoF road sooner than later.

I would really, really like a bulk-buy / partnership program where instructors can buy a bunch of these at a discounted price. I’d like to see these included at entry-level classes and self-defense seminars. That’s the best time to get people interested in FoF. They’ve just found out Santa Claus isn’t real and they are looking for answers. This book will help.

For $15, The Force on Force Paradigm is an inexpensive way for you to help someone else. “Spread the sunshine,” as DTI instructor John Farnam says. You’ll learn a few things, but the person you give this book to will learn a lot more.



I received this book for free as a thank you for my review of another Suarez International book, Killing the Active Shooter. I was not asked to review this book in return, nor was there any explicit or implied compensation for my reviews. These are my honest thoughts.

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.

1 Comment on "The Force on Force Paradigm Book Review"

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  1. Martin says:

    I heard a podcast interview with Gabe Suarez a few years ago that he would like new students,after having some basic gun handling and safety training, to do force on force. That way before they get deep into the range training to experience those basic concepts like moving dynamically off the X. I have seen in force on force guys just stand there and try to draw their pistol while an attacker comes at them with a training knife. The first time they are like “Holy crap he was on me before I could draw my gun!” Next time they decide to move and it works out a lot better for them. Same thing when they try to draw their gun against an attacker who has already drawn on them. They get shot every time. Or maybe they take a step sideways and get off a shot but again get shot in return a short moment later. As obvious as this is to those of us who have done FoF, there are many folks out there with lots of range time who don’t get this. They are spending time trying to shave another tenth of a second of their draw to get faster hits when they should simply learn to MOVE.

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