On October 7-9, 2016 I attended InSights Street and Vehicle Tactics course taught by Greg Hamilton and hosted by KR Training. This course has been on my wish list for a long time, and it lived up to my expectations. This course sets a philosophical foundation and also helps students to organize their strategies and tactics for spotting, avoiding, deterring, and escaping several classes of problems:
- Mugging and street crime
- Armed Robbery
- Active Shooter
Although these scenarios and their common parameters and variants are discussed and responses rehearsed, this is primarily a "soft skills" class. Like other of InSights classes I've taken (General Defensive Handgun and Defensive Folding Knife) this material is presented in a approachable, stair-stepped way over the course of 24 hours. It's clear that InSights has harmonized the curriculum of their classes; it is complementary and systematic.
Cover for Action
A persistent theme of the class is the notion of Cover for Action, a phrase I'd never heard before. Criminals (carjackers, robbers) establish a Cover for Status, an innocent explanation for their presence at a particular place and time. For example, someone burgling parked cars at a gas station might sit at the bus stop a few yards from the pumps as their Cover for Status. They might sit for hours without anyone sparing them a second thought. Criminals also frequently establish a Cover for Action, an innocent explanation for their actions prior to the actual commission of a crime. For example, the following video shows a bunch of common Covers for Action used by pickpockets.
While good guys don't need a Cover for Status, they do need a Cover for Action. For example, when being carjacked, the carjacker at your driver side window might not be alone, so before you consider any counter-attack, you need to check the passenger side of the vehicle to see if he brought an accomplice. To get out of the car as the carjacker expects, you need to unbuckle your seat belt. If you appear to turn and look at the plug/post while you unbuckle your belt, this is cover for the action of looking at the whole passenger side of your car, instead.
This notion of creating the impression that you are enthusiastically and helpfully complying in a violent crime in order to gather information, improve your tactical position, or potentially stage a counter-attack is a consistent motif, and becomes increasingly important as the class progresses from simple physical techniques to complex scenarios over the course of three days.
Even a stealthy pickpocket can't prevent the eventual discovery of their intent, but they would like to delay it as long as possible. They want to keep interaction with their victim civil as long as possible. For example, if a pickpocket is discovered as he's reaching into your pocket, the chances of success are much lower than if you don't discover your missing phone for seconds or even minutes after it's gone. Likewise, a criminal willing to threaten or commit violence would like to keep you from recognizing their intent as long as possible, to put you into the deepest initiative deficit possible, in order to maximize their chances for success, whatever their motive.
On the contrary, it's in your best interest to force criminals to reveal their intent as soon -- and as far away from you -- as possible. If you can cause them to tip their hand, to give up the advantage of initiative and surprise, they may simply abort their crime and move on to the next potential victim. It's important to realize that criminals are not, generally speaking, looking for Righteous Battle. They want to get paid, and minimize their risk of death, injury, and arrest while doing so. Many have very refined "plays", but aren't emotionally attached to making you, specifically, into their victim.
Greg convinced me to make a specific adjustment to my previous musing on the The Color Edges of Mental Awareness. The Yellow-to-Orange transition requires movement -- at least a couple steps and a 90 degree turn so you can see what was behind you. This meshes perfectly with Craig Douglas' Managing Unknown Contacts instruction, but I didn't put the two ideas together on my own. You need to change your orientation in the world in order to further several goals simultaneously:
- force criminals to re-orient or re-position themselves, and thereby
- force criminals to lose Cover for Action;
- gather evidence that you are a target, or even if you're not
- gather evidence that you are about to get caught up in some event
Crime is a moral outrage. Muggings, robberies, and carjacking should make you angry. But just as you would sincerely tell a friend or family member who was mugged or robbed that their safety was most important, so too your own safety is far more important than attempting to mete out what a criminal deserves at the risk of your own life or health.
Greg said many times, "Get mugged well," or "Get carjacked well." Your criminal(s) has/have a plan, and to the extent that you can make them believe that their plan is going smoothly, and that you are a model victim, you increase your chances of either escaping the incident unharmed, or setting the stage for a sudden and unexpected counter-attack.
I spent a lot of time in class practicing my "prey face", and giving every indication of submission and compliance. I want my criminal to believe that their plan is going exactly according to plan, and that they have selected a perfect victim. While doing so, I want to discover if my criminal has brought friends, with what he is armed, and set the stage for my escape or counter-attack through apparently submissive movement and posture changes.
Movement in Buildings
Although the focus of this course is not building clearing, because some familiarity with "tactical geometry" is required to make effective use of cover and concealment, Greg introduced pieing corners, opening doors, and basic room-clearing concepts. I had previously seen some of this material in John Holschen's Rangemaster Conference instruction block Optimizing the use of Cover. It kinda seems like a secret ninja trick, but it's possible to see quite a bit of an adversary while pieing before they can see any of you, which is at the very least a precious opportunity to gather information.
Post-Crisis Scene Management
A major theme of the second day of the class is managing the aftermath of a crisis, regardless of whether you employed any force beyond your mere presence. A specific script and technique were developed and rehearsed to help students to accomplish a number of goals in the time immediately following a crisis:
- communicating to witnesses and bystanders enough information to get them oriented and
- enlist the help of witnesses and bystanders to discover casualties,
- ensuring police and medical aid are summoned and supplied with information to help them respond appropriately,
- ensuring that the police are received, and vital information is repeated (in case the 911 call didn't successfully relay everything),
- ensuring that the police arriving on scene have relevant safety information (e.g., the location of an attacker's weapon)
- communicating the basics of the situation to responding and interviewing police while protecting ourselves legally
One of the things I've always appreciated about InSights classes is that there is enough time allocated for a meaningful number of repetitions. I never felt like the material outstripped my ability to learn it. I was originally a little concerned that as we alternated between subjects I wouldn't retain the information well, but there was always a little review incorporated when we returned to a subject, always a few repetitions to refresh our memories.
Additionally, spacing the class out over three days gave me several length commutes and two full sleep cycles to consolidate new memories. On a personal note, I've taken an extra day off after the past two multi-day classes, and reserved those days for reviewing my notes, writing about the class, and taking a nap. It's entirely subjective, but I feel that I've retained new information much better as a result of that change. It's tempting to go right back to work, but I think this is both more comfortable and a way to preserve my investment in this training.
At the end of the third day, we spent a few hours with Airsoft and simuntion-like force-on-force training. This kind of training is never easy on the ego -- everyone makes mistakes -- and marking cartridges inflict a pain penalty for poor performance. Although I have a litany of complaints against myself for the two scenarios in which I played "me", I think I'm gradually sucking less at these things over time. I can credit KR Training's AT-2, -5, -5a and -7 with what progress I've made.
Here are three things I'll improve on next time:
- I will initiate force sooner when it's obvious my verbal interactions are unsuccessful,
- when I do initiate I will capitalize on brief window of unbalancing it creates, and
- I will more quickly and eagerly seek cover and positional advantage
Like all classes, you only get to "keep" this material if you practice it. I find that I can integrating new skills if I can find a specific way to practice them daily.
- post-crisis scene management "scripts" - I plan to run through this every day in the car on my way to work
- vehicle mount/dismount procedure - this is something I can easily practice where I park at work every day
- rearward movement using the big-step, normal-step technique - this is mostly safe for me to practice indoors, so I'll do this in the living room as part of my pre-workout warm-up every weekday morning
- The rushing knife wielder drill (related to Tueller's research) is something I'll have to practice outdoors, with help, so I'll try to get a few repetitions of this in with Greg every time we're out at KR Training. My yard is probably not a safe place to practice.
- body language and preemption - I'm going to walk a different route to/from the office to parking every day for the opportunity to interact with a different set of panhandlers and homeless than I normally see.
Like the mechanical gun handling skills InSights teaches, the procedures for mounting and dismounting the vehicle are "all the time" procedures. That is, they are sequences of movement that you can and should habituate by daily practice. I don't think I'll have a hard time doing so. They're not outlandish or impractical, and they don't look tactical. They might make you look like you're in a bit of a hurry, but that's the only social repercussion. In fact, they're specifically designed to maximize your ability to know your surroundings and maximize your advantages without scanning the parking lot like you're mounting an armored convoy in Afghanistan.
I really need to carry pepper spray on my person. My current non-lethal options are limited to empty hand techniques and a not-very-tactical pen. I'm really out of blue jean pockets, so this is something I'll have to think about.
If you have the chance to take this class, jump at it. There aren't many classes I've taken over the years that I was sure I'd get a lot out of if I took them again. This class and ECQC are right at the top of that list. My one regret is that I didn't make the time and money available to take this class years ago.
There was frustratingly low attendance, just seven including Karl Rehn, the host. I'm not sure why, but here are some factors that might contribute:
- no live fire (although it wouldn't have added to the material)
- sims hurt physically
- scenarios hurt mentally
- three days is a long class
- KR Training is a long commute three days in a row
- the class is somewhat more expensive (i.e., per hour) than others