On-the-Job Training vs. the Violence Simulator

Simulators require a large investment both to produce and utilize, so for most endeavors that require a high level of skill you just learn as you go. This is referred to as on-the-job training (OJT), and if you’ve got the time, it’s a great way to gain useful experience.

The exception to OJT is a working environment that is so dangerous your lack of experience is likely to get you killed during the initial training phase. When the rate at which conditions will kill you exceeds the rate at which you can gain first-hand experience, then a simulator is preferred.

Flight simulators have been around for a long time, but they didn’t really take off until the 1970s when the training required to operate large commercial jets became so extensive and so dangerous that the death toll began climbing not only for potential pilots, but for all the instructors on board who were required to mess with the plane’s components and evaluate the trainee’s performance from takeoff to landing. If you wanted to test a pilot’s ability to handle an engine failure during takeoff, an instructor would shut it off, without telling the pilot what was happening, to see how they would handle it.

Ask yourself this: If an engine were to go out on your next flight, would you rather have a pilot who got lucky once in training or a pilot who had an engine go out a thousand-plus times in a simulator?

Modern flight simulators were expressly created to allow pilots to crash their planes over and over again until there was no doubt in their minds what was going to keep them alive… and what was going to get them killed.

Whenever a new pilot has a question about a long-standing belief they don’t have to take another pilot’s word for it—they can just take that question to the simulator and make it or break it in the safety of the laboratory.

This is the reason why we don’t spar, by the way. Sparring is useful in sport where the outcome is not critical (meaning people don’t die if you get it wrong) and the event being trained for is not designed to be life-threatening. Boxers, for example, can learn their trade as they go, through sparring, because the goal of the work is not the hospital or the morgue, but to win a game with agreed-upon rules—rules specifically designed to keep them as safe as possible during the contest. If they were each handed a machete instead of a pair of gloves… we’d have far fewer professional boxers.

Before an elite military unit ever blows a door and takes down a room full of tangos they have spent hundreds or even thousands of hours slowly practicing with unloaded weapons. They eventually graduate to a type of simulator called a “kill house” where they practice taking down a room at super-slow speed with unloaded weapons over and over again until they can perform correctly at full speed. Then they start over again at a snail’s pace with loaded weapons.

Why don’t they train from the beginning with live rounds against real combatants? Because they would either get lucky or get dead. Nothing to learn doing it that way.

Our training methodology is built around the simulation of life-or-death violence, and getting you to the point (inside of an hour) where you can “fly” the simulator on your own. Once you’re the proud owner of your very own Violence Simulator (VS), there’s nothing that we tell you that you couldn’t find out for yourself, or verify to your own satisfaction, with enough time spent in that environment with the object of interest (at least one other human machine).

Any question about the material that you haven’t yet run though your VS is not a valid question. Most queries are based on a misunderstanding of applied physics and physiology and cannot withstand the scrutiny of your own VS.

So don’t take our word for it. Grab your reaction partner and run your VS until you’ve crashed and burned so many times that you know exactly what is going to keep you alive and what’s going to get you killed.


— Taylor Good

Criminal Violence and Self-Defense: On the Intersection of the Natural Order and Civilization

Violence — The use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy.

Criminal violence — The intentional use, or attempted use, of physical force by a human against another human, so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy the other human.

Self-defense — An intentionally committed use of violence, by one individual against another, which can be justified by evidence of the executioner’s perceived threat of bodily injury or death immediately prior to the execution of the violent act.

Most articles of this nature are written from a legal perspective, e.g., what does the law say about injuring someone before they injure me? When can I—? and what if he—? I’d like to start a little before that. (Being a blog, my apologies to all sociologists, legal scholars and evolutionary biologists for my shorthand butchering of your life’s work.)

In its purest incarnation, violence is a just survival tool. Using violence to kill for food, or to injure or kill another predator to survive in “nature” is merely an objective means to an end. That end would be the preservation of life or life-sustaining resources (food, water, shelter, reproductive capability) for the winner at the immediate or eventual expense of the loser.

Under natural law, a battle to the death between predators of the same species remains a viable reality at any given moment, with no social construct to frame the engagement. Spotted hyenas killing each other over resources engenders no questions of morality or legality. The outcome of such a battle is determined solely by the objective reality of physics and physiology. Do or be done. No gods, no governments. Only action.

Under the laws of humanity, our species has collectively attempted to harness the beast known as intra-species or human-on-human violence. Humans wrote the “rule of law” to regulate and control the ad hoc, violence-driven resource management of the natural order. By force or through representation, a few have used a monopoly over violence to control resources since we began to live together in groups.

“Civilization” required that intra-species violence must be off limits for the individual, unless facing imminent bodily injury or death at the hands of another. The government would, in exchange, take responsibility for alleviating the need for interpersonal conflict over resources and keeping the group safe, while maintaining a firm grip on the harness.

The protocol modern humans have used to harness intra-species violence is known as criminal law and the organizations that implement the enumerated penalties are known as governments. The rules are straightforward: The intentional use of force to injure another is illegal; the more injury or abuse that a particular violent act creates, the greater the punishment for the offender, and the greater the range of permissive responses in kind for the would-be victim.

All well and good — but the stark reality is that the natural order did not disappear at the advent of the rule of law. Every human has the ability to disregard the ban at any time, and they often do, while others will never play along in the first place.

If you choose to reach deep down into the state of nature for the tool of violence and disregard the agreement to keep intra-species violence in check, you will be subjected to criminal prosecution.  If someone else drags you unwillingly back into a state of nature, where the natural law governs, the outcome of the battle will be determined solely by the objective reality of physics and physiology. Do or be done. Reach for that trusty friend violence, and wield the tool accordingly.

“Self-defense” will merely be the nice words used to describe your use of the tool if your otherwise criminally violent act is “justified.” Shouting, “this is against the law” while someone stabs you to death provides no immediate relief from the danger at hand. Human laws do not help when another has taken the harness off violence at your expense. No gods, no governments. Only action.       

In the end, what we’ve been conditioned to call “self-defense” is really just the reasonable use of violence — a brief excursion into the natural state because no other option was available.


— Matt Suitor

Mama Said Knock You Out:  Women in Hand-to-Hand Combat Training

When a bullet enters an eye, there’s nothing in that interaction that is affected by the gender of the person who pulled the trigger.  The universe doesn’t stop and check to see if it was a man or a woman before allowing the chunk of metal to tear through soft tissue — the only question in the cold equations is “Does the energy exceed the tissue’s ability to deform without disruption?”  Will it bounce, or stick?

Likewise, the question of gender doesn’t matter to the newly blind person, and the first responders dealing with the casualty don’t care about the chromosomal makeup of the shooter.  Gender has no bearing on the energy interaction event — either there was enough “oomph” to wreck anatomy, or there wasn’t. 

The truth about violence is that people are machines that can be broken and shut off, and the person reflected in the patterns of head-meat is inconsequential in the face of raw physics.  In other words, if you engage with the person you’re in a fight for your life; if you engage with the single square inch of anatomy it’s just about delivering a beating.

Don’t mistake the ability to deliver a beating with the ability to take a beating, or to overpower someone — which is what we think of when we think of “fighting.”  The poisonous idea that violence is about going toe-to-toe and trading blows in a contest of durability and strength — like rams butting heads — reinforces the belief it’s something women can’t do, or at least that they need special classes, tailored to their gender, in order to have any hope for survival.

While a big, strong man can “take a beating” (endure non-specific trauma) it’s a different story with a ruptured eyeball.  Or a collapsed airway.  Or a knee folded backwards.  The average adult female weighs more than enough to do all of that work — the universe only cares if the burst rating of the anatomy in question was exceeded or not.  If the cold equations math out, it’s broke.  

We don’t differentiate between genders in this work because gender has no impact on the raw physics.  A finger in the eye is a finger in the eye, chromosomal makeup or identity notwithstanding.

As of this writing, the last two people who had to use this information were female; both were in life-or-death situations, and both handled it with specifically applied blunt force trauma — two injuries each to achieve nonfunctional states — and both walked away as the winners.  They weren’t bigger, faster or stronger than the men they put down — they just knew where to apply the forces they were capable of generating.  They didn’t waste any time or effort on trying to defend themselves or “fight for their lives.”  They just hurt people — the very definition of “dangerous.”

One of the things I’ve learned in my 28 years of teaching is that while the men we train have to navigate the stupid dance of intermale aggression, it’s the women, on balance, who end up having to use violence for survival.  Women know truths about our society that men can barely intuit (often being the unwitting perpetrators of inequality, if not outright predators themselves) and so women show up for training with a much more sober outlook on what’s at stake.  They know it’s not a game, and that they can’t afford to screw it up — this makes them get better, faster than their male counterparts, something many men find frustrating, especially in a husband and wife team where the wife is doing far better than the husband at this thing that is ostensibly the epitome of manliness.  The best thing for everyone in this situation is to drop the social stuff and focus on the mechanics where we all meet in the middle.

At our most recent weekend seminar I had two participants thank me, one right after the other, notable because of the social distance that separated them:  the first, a man, a former police officer who had just returned from a decade of contract work in the Middle East (precisely the kind of person one would expect to find at a course like ours); the second, a woman, a brave survivor of some truly harrowing violent experiences.  Both reported that they got a lot out of the course and appreciated it a great deal, something that didn’t surprise me as they were both well-versed in the realities of violence before they set foot on the mats.  Upon later reflection it occurred to me that what made this significant was that they both took the same course, at the same time.  We didn’t alter the course for their assumed social and gender roles — it wasn’t “women’s self-defense” or “manly combatives” — it was applied physics and physiology, the use of violence as a survival tool, the place where all of us, as vulnerable meat machines, are rendered starkly equal.  

This is why women who train with us report that while they may have been initially reluctant to hit the mats (our lack of sugarcoating repels everyone), once they realized it was just physics and physiology — stuff that’s always on and available to everyone — they wanted more.  I’ve seen the most unlikely people — people who would never in their wildest dreams imagine themselves in a “hardcore” hand-to-hand combat course — engage calmly and coolly in the ancient work of pure survival, pressing a head to the mats to slot a knife into the carotid, for example.  And so someone who showed up because they were afraid of what might happen to them is too busy doing to remember that initiating fear.  What was once terrifying is now a tool held firmly in the fist.

While there are things we could do to make the course more appealing to women (and men, for that matter), that would require wasting time talking about things that just don’t matter.  Our lack of pandering isn’t about making everyone “tough it out” equally, but about the fact that the social stuff we think about all day, every day, just doesn’t matter when the skeleton, driven by mass in motion, penetrates the eye socket.  We don’t care about societal norms and minor differences in plumbing because the cold equations don’t care, either.

Here’s what our female instructors and the women we’ve trained want you to know:  regardless of what the world tells you, if you want to do this, you can.


— Chris Ranck-Buhr