A Plan to Ride a Tiger

Vetting Your Plan

The purpose of a reaction partner is to provide a proving ground for concepts you want to test. In the late 1970s, when the army was putting together a combat shooting program for the soon-to-be Delta Force (SFOD-D), they invited “experts” from all over to offer their techniques. However, when applied to their newly constructed SAS-inspired training facility, dubbed the “Kill House”, very few of those techniques survived. It was that emphasis on a vetting process that forever separated Delta from what everyone else was doing.

Your Reaction Partner Is Your “Kill House”

In our two-day Crash Course it’s common to observe trainees over-leveraging snap-on tools (knife, baton, etc.). They attempt to employ them in unnatural ways where a simple stomp might have been preferable.

It’s often the first time someone has ever held a tool with the intent to use it on another human being (or maybe even held one at all). Consequently, they are so enthusiastic about their new labor-saving device that they try to use it for everything, every turn; essentially treating it like a magic wand instead of an ice pick. However, they recognize these kinds of errors in short order after working through the problem with a few reaction partners.

Get In Where You Fit In

You wouldn’t try to use your knee to access the eye of a standing person when you could just use your fingers. Likewise, you wouldn’t one-knuckle a person’s ribs with a knife in your fist…  you’d just reorient the tip and slot it in. When you feed ideas into your kill house, very few of them will survive. The ones that do are keepers!

No Plan Survives First Contact

In follow-on training we introduce vectors (incoming punches, kicks, swinging baseball bats, slashes, stabs, tackles, etc.). When students have a preplanned series of strikes they want to execute, they ignore the incoming vector and end up getting clocked.

This is a good thing. You want to work problems with a reaction partner until the solution presents itself. If someone really comes at you with a meat cleaver, you don’t want it to be your 1st time… you want it to be your 1,001st time.

A Plan To Ride a Tiger is NOT the Same as Riding a Tiger

In elementary school, you get the lesson first and the test after. In life, it’s the other way around. When violence is the test, very few pass/survive on their first go-around, and, if they do, the lesson is often ambiguous or misinterpreted due to small sample size and altered consciousness. Using your reaction partner on the mats allows you to take the test — and fail — as many times as necessary until you learn the lesson.


— Taylor Good

2 replies
  1. Ted
    Ted says:

    Any tips on practicing violence alone? I’ve never seen an essay or moving picture from ANY of you guys on practicing alone! What’s up with that?! I can never find practice partners! I have to do it alone most of the time or it won’t get done! The ability to practice alone is essential!

    Some nice things about practicing violence alone: never having to take care of your partner; never having to give your partner his turn; you can make up any body shape, size you want and multiple attackers; your partner(s) don’t have the option of cancelling or being late for the practice session; no one ever needs to know you practice violence; you can do it even in your head; you don’t need to buy mats or find a place to practice; you can go as far as killing every single one of your practice partners and never have to call an ambulance nor the police; you can practice ANYWHERE, ANY TIME, AS MUCH AS YOU WANT; you can conquer what is for some their greatest fear, i.e., being alone in a room with their greatest deadly enemy… themselves; it strengthens the power of mind and imagination, i.e., the very source of where it all comes from to begin with.

    • Chris Ranck-Buhr
      Chris Ranck-Buhr says:

      Training without the object of interest—the human machine—is like learning to swim without ever getting in the water.

      You can learn a lot about the subject… but the first time you hit the water it will be like nothing you’ve imagined. So much better to swim in water as much as possible to prepare for saving yourself from drowning—that way it won’t be the first time you’ve gotten wet, but the 1,001st time.

      My tip would be to put all your efforts into cultivating that reaction partner.

      Good luck!


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