Warriors, Once, and Always
By Brian D. Hoffner
In antiquity those that excelled in warfare first made themselves unconquerable. Being unconquerable lies with yourself; being conquerable lies with the enemy. Thus one who excels in warfare is able to make himself unconquerable, but cannot necessarily cause the enemy to be unconquerable. One who cannot be victorious assumes a defensive posture; one who can be victorious attacks. The combat of the victorious is like the sudden release of a pent up torrent down a thousand fathom gorge.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Through history there have always been those tasked with the protection of their people, to maintain order, enforce laws, and fight the enemy. Whether they were centurions, knights, soldiers, or policemen, there were those who stood out, those who had something special. They were and they are the leaders, the strongest, the fastest, the best. They stand above the rest…they are the warriors.
Warriors are those who jump from the frying pan into the fire, not because they are without fear but because they feel they must. They do not choose the path of least resistance they choose the long uphill road to achievement. Warriors do not fear the fight, but they are disciplined in their work and in their life. They suffer and sweat to become stronger and better and they seek information to educate their minds. They are never satisfied and they constantly strive to improve. Warriors excel.
Who are these warriors? They are not everyone. They are not the entire army or the entire force of men. They are what I call the six per-centers. Historically only six percent of the entire force or army were those who actually fought with a vengeance to win the battles. The other ninety four-percent were reluctant participants and/or less enthusiastic combatants, and many were merely just there. Luckily the six per-centers were also there, to bring them together, lead them, by example, to victory. This unwritten rule of six per-centers can be applied to most armies, law enforcement organizations, and even private companies. Successful companies led by executive officers are typically the six per-centers and are driven by the same warrior spirit. Think about it. How many successful company executives do you see that are fat, sloppy, and unmotivated? Why is the company loaded with employees that are not self-motivated to climb the corporate latter?
The world is populated primarily with average people swimming in a sea of mediocrity. They are content to complete their workday, go home and lay on the couch and eat a bag of Fritos. They look forward to the weekend when they can lay on the couch and eat some more Fritos. There is nothing wrong with being one of those who maintain a life of mediocrity; the world needs them too. But, they are not the six per-centers. They are not the warriors. The warriors… they stand above.
Law enforcement is no different. Every division of a police department has those who stand out. From patrol through investigations to specialized units, there are those who are extremely good at getting the job done. Some of these officers are still un-satisfied with their role within the department and want to do more. They are the six percent that feel a need to do more, to be more and to take more risks. They want to be where the action is and where the fight will be. They have the warrior spirit within them. Where do these people go within their organizations go to become the ultimate warrior? In the army they make the progression through the Airborne Ranger, Green Beret, and Delta. A Marine may become Sniper or force Recon. In the Navy they are the SEALS. In the Air Force they may be Para Rescue. In the Police Department they are SWAT! They are tactical officers that operate in situations that require them to be warriors, warriors behind the badge!
What draws an officer to become a SWAT operator? Why do certain civilians want to be so much more? Is it testosterone? We know that those with higher levels of testosterone are aggressive, bold, and focused. According to Jim Dabbs PhD, Georgia State University, Those with high levels of testosterone "were always raring to take action, and they could become intensely absorbed in a task without becoming distracted." The more testosterone you have the more dominant you’re likely to be and the less crap you’ll take from others. Testosterone also helps you build muscle, burn fat, maintain strong bones, even grow a decent beard. So it is likely that testosterone has something to do with a one’s persona and it is certainly an "A Type" personality that excels as a tactical operator, but it is not testosterone only and you don’t have to be a bearded woman to be a hell of a warrior.
There is something deep inside the warrior that drives him, that pushes him and cannot be explained scientifically. It is not just spirit and desire, but an extreme level spirit and desire…a Warrior Spirit! Not everybody has the spirit of the warrior, but those that do are exceptional. There is an uncharted fraternity of these people. It is a very exclusive, one can’t just join, and one can be accepted into this fraternity, only; if they possess that intangible warrior quality - the right stuff.
It is an honor to be a member of this exclusive fraternity. I am a trainer of warriors and a student of warriors. I am blessed with the opportunity to train warriors, to learn from warriors, and to evolve with them. You would be hard pressed to find a smarter, more fit, more motivated bunch of thirty to fifty year old men and women on the face of this planet. Beyond the wonderful toys, that we call equipment is the company we keep and not the paltry sum that we earn that makes us rich. It is the people we know, the things that we accomplish, and how we feel about ourselves that truly makes us wealthy.
It is with a surge of adrenaline and pride when I have the opportunity to train with the best. As I teach, I will continue to learn because we all have much to share. Because of our characteristics, we will be offered challenges and opportunities. Because we are warriors we will not fear them. Teddy Roosevelt, the eternal warrior and fighting man, once said…
"The credit belongs to those people who are actually in the arena who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions to a worthy cause; who at best, know the triumphs of high achievement; and who, at worst, fail while daring greatly…so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat."
True warriors aren’t made; they are born to become warriors. They are a special breed with special character and the determination to be over and above the norm. A warrior’s destiny is inevitable. Once a warrior, always a warrior, it does not go away….Warriors, once, and always.
Code of the Warrior
by Brian D. Hoffner
"Accept the challenges so that you may feel the EXHILARATION OF VICTORY!" — George S. Patton
There is a certain code that warriors live by. Living this code is certainly a challenge, but not without reward, and the reward is extreme. For many warriors it is an unwritten code that is a natural product of their being. Though this code may not have been specifically taught to all by some almighty warrior sensei, much of the code is passed from father to son through generations of rearing him to become a person that is a stronger, better version of the father himself. I remember the many lessons of my father, and they will stay with me forever. Much of the code comes from what makes the warrior in the first place; it is an innate product of the warrior, and it is very much the content of his character. Much like the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament that dictate how mankind shall live his life, the Ten Commandments of the warrior code is how the warrior lives, thinks, trains, and wins. The following are words to live by, literally.
This is a very broad and significant category. In order to be focused, one must be paying attention. All of our training will mean little if we do not perceive the things that are happening around us. It would be little comfort to know that I am a great shot as I lay in the pool of my own blood… if I had just been paying more attention I would have had the opportunity to do something. Referring to Jeff Copper color codes we must spend our days in yellow at a minimum. There is no room in today’s world for color code white, particularly as a warrior, so pay attention, remain in the present, live in the now. It’s the only place that anything is really happening. Focus is determination as well as composure. Sheer grit determination can carry us far and give us the winning edge; At the same time we must remain composed. We are expected to control the situation but we must first control ourselves. We must keep our emotions such as anger and fear, in check. The ability to win is 99 per-cent mental, the fight is 99 per-cent mental. Your brain will allow you to win or cause you to lose…You choose.
Have a plan. Know what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and of course why. Think ahead, think of the "what ifs". Think about what you will do if the "what if" takes place. It’s difficult to put a plan into action when you do not have a plan to begin with. It should be noted that we are under no obligation to wait for the "what if" to happen before we act. It could be a situation that if we wait to see if it happens…its too late. We are allowed to act before the "what if" takes place as long as we act reasonably, and of course do not violate civil rights. We must be thinking "why" because it is our justification and we will be required to articulate that very point to the world. So as we stay focused…Think ahead.
Take your lumps without whining. Nobody wants to hear it. Nobody cares. Whining makes you appear weak and if you do it enough you will start believing that you are weak. So don’t do it! It’s ugly, it’s shameful, it will earn you no respect.
We and we only are responsible for our actions. Just as we are responsible for every bullet that leaves the muzzle of our weapon. We are responsible for everything we say and every thing that we do. We are responsible for our own success or failure. Making excuses is kin to whining so take responsibility. It’s your life, own it! Or blame someone else for it…You choose again.
Don’t Take Any Abuse
Stand up to your foes. External foes are others who attempt to abuse us in one way or another, don’t let it happen. Foes who abuse or attack us physically are easy for the warrior to defeat. It is the sly dogs that attempt to abuse us mentally, beat us down a little at a time, that we must be aware of and defeat. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Even tougher, don’t take any abuse from your internal foes. What are they? They are the demons within us that prey on our being and try to make us under achievers, hold us down, and perhaps…destroy us. The lazy Demon will keep you from reaching your true potential. The Comfort Demon can prevent you from taking a risk that needs taking. Ego can make you take risks not worth taking. Satisfaction can impede your progress. Blind trust can get you stabbed in the back. Fear can make you freeze when you’re being counted on. Lack of fear can make you jump off a roof. Whoever or whatever your foes may be, whether external or internal, stand up to them…the cost is too great not to.
Just Do It
Hard choices temper our strength and our integrity; they make the difference between a life of mediocrity and a life of excellence. Choose the arena; don’t fear it. You know what is right, choose it and do it. It’s the right thing.
Keep Your Word
A warrior is only as good as his or her word. We build self-trust and trust in others by keeping our word. We earn respect and honor by keeping our word. If we say it, it’s as good as done. You could lose everything, but your word may never be taken from you. It is the one thing you cannot afford to lose…Keep it!
Keep Your Sense of Humor
Smell the roses along the way, have a good time in life. Be goal oriented, bust your butt to get there, but enjoy the road along the way. A sense of humor shows confidence and relieves stress for you and others. It makes the world go around just a little bit better.
Train to Win
You may be a member of a full-time tactical team that trains daily or Competitive club that meets regularly. Whatever your situation is you must train to win. We must give it all we’ve got each and every time we train. We operate as we train, therefore; if we train with less than one hundred percent; we operate and fight, at less than one hundred percent. Why give the edge to the bad guy? We must train the way we fight because we will fight like we train. Give it your best effort and do not practice improper technique. It takes hundreds upon thousands of repetitions to make a technique reflexive, then it must be maintained, or it will go away. Most skills will perish without practice. We know when we train physically we must train hard to make gains. When training physically or mentally; train proper, train hard, train to win, and train some more.
A warrior is not afraid of discipline. A warrior is made of discipline. We must eat, think, sleep, speak, study, train, and act with discipline. As warriors we live a life of discipline. Let’s face it…without discipline, we are just a poor dumb slob swimming in that sea of mediocrity, and mediocrity is a dead end…it gets us no-where fast. Discipline will make all the right things happen.
Live with Passion, Fight with a Vengeance
Give it your all. Set your path, enjoy the scenery along the way, but if your path is crossed with the fight, fight with a vengeance. Losing is not an option. You only live once. Give it all you’ve got, nothing less, and make your mark. No regrets! You will sleep well at night.
No matter how tough. No matter how painful. Never, ever quit!
I have spoken of the lessons of my father and how this code is passed from generation to generation. I do not have a son to pass these lessons to, but my two daughters are tough, strong, smart, and quite prepared to conquer their own world. The world of warriors is not restricted to men. Woman have more barriers to hurdle but it must be done. Today’s soccer moms must be tomorrow’s warriors. As mothers become warriors they in turn pass it on to their children. I know my girls, in time, will pass much of what I taught them to their children. The lessons of a father to his children are a valued and treasured gift. The last lesson of my father I learned during his recent death. As he lay on his deathbed after a valiant and courageous fight against the unbeatable leukemia that eventually consumed his body he continued to show grit and determination. He refused to show pain or complain about his life’s end. He was concerned only of his family and determined to comfort us all. I learned so much from my father much of which is relayed through my training program. Perhaps the greatest gift my father gave me was the strength and perseverance he had his entire life and the dignity with which he died. Even in death my father was remarkable. Dad, you will forever inspire me to live the code of the warrior, thank you.
The code of the warrior is the content of your character. If you have practiced these Ten Warrior Codes most of your life than you probably have noticed that you are a bit different than most folks. It is OK to be different, not average, not treading water in the sea of mediocrity. It is good to be above the rest. That is why you are a warrior in the position that you are. You are the sheepdog not the sheep. The sheep will ridicule the sheep dog behind his or her back. But when the wolf is at the door the sheep flock to the sheepdog lest they bow to the mercy of the wolf and become wolf feed. So when they ridicule, when they criticize, just smile, and know, that you…the sheepdog, the warrior, can tear off the head of that wolf, whomever he may be, and spit down his neck, if need be.
Warriors, as you live your life, you will be a role model to many. Your children will respect you and aspire to be more like you as they mature. Your legacy will become theirs as they pass it on to their children. One hundred years from now no one will remember the car that you drove, the clothes you wore, or the house that you lived in, but if you had an impact on just one person, one life…then your life was worth it. Give it all you’ve got, live the code of the warrior.
"Don’t just dream of success… wake up and bust your ass to achieve it!" — Brian D. Hoffner
Time to Get Real
An esteemed police training colleague of mine, Sgt. Rory Miller of Chiron Training (chirontraining.com), once correctly stated, "In theory, theory and reality are the same. In reality, they are not."
The reality of close-quarter engagements is that they are some of the most dangerous situations faced by law enforcement officers. Statistics show that a majority of attacks against officers occur in close quarters during initial or first-contact situations.
The "2013 Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted" report produced by the FBI records that 49,851 officers were assaulted during that year. Out of that total, 31% who were attacked with personal weapons such as hands, fists, or feet suffered injuries; 14.6% were assaulted with knives or other cutting instruments and were injured; 10.9% were attacked with firearms and injured; 27% who were attacked with other dangerous weapons were injured.
These attacks and subsequent injuries resulted primarily from three different types of incidents:
- Disturbance calls such as family quarrels or bar fights
- Handling, transporting, and/or maintaining custody of prisoners.
These statistics show that officers must be trained often and to a level of proficiency that allows them to respond without hesitation. Which means law enforcement training and tactics must be reality based; there can be no room for theory.
Unfortunately in many police systems taught today, theory has found its way into the subject control and firearms training. Things that look good, and work on a flat range or a matted floor against a willing partner, don't always work when reality punches you in the face on the street.
Easy and Effective
Law enforcement training must be reality based and follow what I have termed the "4 E's." All law enforcement tactics must be:
- Easy to learn
- Easy to retain
- Easy to recall under stress
If your agency or you personally are using a system that doesn't follow these simple principles, you may have an issue when you are confronted in the real world.
When officers lose confidence in the tactics they are taught, they simply won't use them. If they aren't proficient in those tactics, they will fall back on what they know and that is when they tend to use too much force and cause unnecessary injuries to themselves and to subjects.
The reasoning behind this is quite simple. Officers simply are not given the time to train to proficiency when it comes to use-of-force tactics.
Subject control and firearms skills must be practiced to the point that they become second nature. Unfortunately, agencies rarely have enough time or resources to train their officers to that level.
Use-of-force skills are perishable, plain and simple. If you do not train you will never remember what to do in a moment of crisis. Studies vary, but we all forget what we have learned over a period of time. Some studies show that within a day after training many of us forget 40% of what we have learned. If you do not consistently train in your firearms and fighting skills, it will be impossible for you to recall them fast enough to overcome your opponent's OODA loop and prevail.
What I normally see is officers hanging on and dancing with suspects until help arrives, simply because they don't know what else to do. The other side to that is officers who attempt to out-muscle the suspect and end up applying too much force and hurting the perpetrator.
So how do we overcome this deficiency in our training programs? When confronted with an actively aggressive suspect, we apply the three principles of combatives that my friend and teacher Nir Maman from CT707 (www.CT707.com) instructs in his Krav Maga courses. Distract the suspect's thought process, inflict pain, and disrupt balance. We need to learn how to accomplish these goals in a confrontation in order to prevail.
We have to distract the suspect's cognitive thought process, resetting his or her OODA loop. We do this by inflicting pain to a point when he has stopped attacking or we can successfully disrupt his balance to take him into custody. Now disrupting his balance can be done non-lethally or lethally. If the suspect can change the situation from an active aggressive type of attack to a deadly force attack, we must shift gears and respond accordingly.
As with everything I teach, there is a way to do it, and a way not to do it. There are so many good systems out there that teach officers solid fighting skills, including Krav Maga, Lt. Kevin Dillon's L.O.C.K.U.P. system (www.policecombat.com), and Tony Blauer's SPEAR system (www.tonyblauer.com), among others.
Teaching officers a solid foundation of fighting skills that follow the 4 E's is essential. Unfortunately, many officers will not train on their own time. So agencies must seek out and regularly throughout the year teach those systems that will give their officers the skills to defend and counter the attack.
Agencies must continually teach a basic set of skills that include, but are not limited to:
- Striking (both upper and lower body)
- Counters and defenses
- Control holds
- Ground combatives
- Weapon retention and disarms
- Knife and impact weapon defense
They must do this frequently throughout the year. And once the officers have met a level of proficiency and understanding they must then ramp up the stress, not to the point of injury, but to get the officer to a point where he or she can react and think under stressful situations. Unfortunately for the administrators out there this cannot be accomplished in a once-a-year training session.
Officers must learn that in a close-quarter engagement when a suspect attacks, the natural instinct is to back up, but retreating may not be a viable option. The team at the Force Science Institute (www.forcescience.org) has demonstrated that a suspect moving forward does so far faster than an officer can move rearward. We have seen time and time again that moving rapidly backward can have an undesirable outcome. You can easily find yourself on the ground.
By exploding forward and attacking in order to reset your assailant's OODA loop, you can get him on the defense and drive him onto his heels. That can be a far more viable option than retreating from the attack, and it is far more likely to give you the desired outcome.
If you are attacked and the goal of your attacker is to hurt or kill you, you can legally respond immediately with as much intensity and physical force—including deadly force—as is reasonable to protect yourself, given the totality of the circumstances (Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989)).
But to properly protect yourself you must learn how to effectively strike a suspect and the best areas to strike him. Knowing what the body of your attacker will do when you apply force is key to a successful outcome. Knowing how and where to strike properly is extremely important. For example, if you're not a closed fist fan, then practice palm heel and hammer fist strikes. I have watched many of retired MMA fighter Bas Rutten's matches and training videos at www.basrutten.com, and he uses palm heel striking extremely effectively and still believes it is a viable tactic today. Close-quarter striking using elbows and knees can also be devastating to a suspect who is actively trying to hurt you.
Many weapon retention systems out there are also, sadly, based on theory and simply dangerous to officers' safety. If someone grabs your gun you should never, ever lower your force level; you must realize this individual is trying to take your firearm and kill you, and you must immediately counterattack. Train to attack that person's vital areas such as eyes, throat, and groin, or access your edged weapon and use it until that person releases his or her grip and you can regain control and take him or her into custody.
Also, know your holster and realize what it can and cannot do. I have met so many officers who don't even know the retention level of their holsters. This is totally unacceptable, as you should know your gear.
Law enforcement training and tactics must improve and evolve so that officers can become more confident in their unarmed combative skills, instead of automatically going to their firearms because their toolbox is empty.
It is the job of law enforcement trainers to prepare our officers to meet the violent challenges they will face on the street. Trainers need to seek out the effective combat systems and become proficient in them. Proficiency is the key and should be the goal of both trainers and end users.
Train for reality. You will be further ahead and have a far greater chance of prevailing in the fight. Far, far too many of the officers I see in this country are poorly trained when it comes to use-of-force tactics. The willingness of agencies to "accept" the minimum and continue on with this false sense of security in their officers' abilities to defend themselves has reached the point of dangerous insanity. Administrators out there, please listen: Once- or twice-a-year defensive tactics and or firearms training is not enough. Your people must be trained to a level of proficiency that properly prepares them for the encounters they will face on the street. That means monthly training in use of force, not annual, as is the case is so many agencies.