Reprinted from "Informed Source" Intelligence Newsletter, November/December 1997

When Does One Equal One and a Half?

by John C. Simpson

John Simpson has extensive credentials as a law enforcement firearms expert and trainer, US Military Sniper Instructor, a contributing instructor to the Special Operations Sniper Training and Employment Handbook, the author of "Long Rifle Maintenance", etc. Contact information may be found on the blue sheet enclosed with your "Informed Source" Intelligence Newsletter.

If you're not a fan of science fiction, you may have overlooked Robert Heinlein's classic story of Starship Troopers. That would be a shame because it contains some of the most profound truths in our business. My favorite example occurs during a discussion about hand to hand combat when an instructor makes the comment. 

"There are no dangerous weapons; only dangerous people."

It's too bad that this truth, like so many others, needs to be relearned by every generation (often the hard way)!

Fortunately, there are a select few individuals who want to make their mistakes only once -by learning from them and are really upset about having to make the same mistakes of their predecessors. Fewer still are those who are able to pass on what they've learned. One such person is Master Guy Savelli, who developed a program based on his thirty years experience in the Oriental martial arts - and over ten years experience working with the United States Army Special Forces and other members of the Special Operations community. Before I get into the program, I think it would be enlightening to share some of Guy's background as a Contract Instructor with the Special Operations community.

Back in the mid 1980's, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina started a course to teach Survival, Evasion, Resistance to Interrogation, and Escape skills (called SERE School for some strange reason). To found this school, an extremely qualified candidate was found: Lt. Colonel Nick Rowe, author of Five Years To Freedom, a book which detailed his captivity as a POW during the Vietnam War as well as his overpowering a guard to escape. Colonel Rowe, like a lot of people in Special Forces, was faced with typical ineptness, wasted time, and poor thinking - to wit:

  1. One good training deployment would wipe out the class, and the program would wither on the vine.
  2. A class would form, but people would rotate out to other assignments. Usually they would find no program in place, or else some other someone with a black belt in another style was telling them something different.
  3. Out of the forty five minutes available, thirty minutes was spent on stretching -while ten minutes was spent doing knuckle pushups.
  4. Trying to be clever, some instructor begins the class, with "I'm only going to teach you enough to get beaten up!" (To this author's way of thinking, that's the same as beginning an explosives class by promising to teach the students to blow themselves up, or a swimming class that teaches them "just enough" to drown!)
With these scenarios firmly in mind, and being one of those rare individuals, Colonel Rowe wanted a teacher of unarmed combat who could meet a difficult challenge based on real life experience. To wit: Take a six foot four American, keep him in a five foot tiger cage and feed him pumpkin soup and rice for a few years. After all this, if a lone, inattentive guard stands between him and escape- "will he be able move and strike effectively when there won't be a second chance?"

The search for this teacher ended with Guy Savelli. (How Savelli does what he does couldn't possibly be covered comprehensively in any one article.) What can be done, however, is to provide an overview of the program that has evolved from POW survival, to enhancing the performance of operators engaged in Close Quarters Battle (CQB) or Hostage Rescue.

The title to this article references the philosophy of this training. When tallying up your organization's assets, you will have some limiting factor to the number of operational personnel assigned. By simply providing this training...your operational capabilities will be so enhanced that it's like every operator counting as an operator and a half! Now this isn't some "long term goal" nor have I used the word "eventually," but the results that other organizations have documented at the completion of training time, measured in weeks. 

One of the ways to do this is to base the training on Guy's Precepts For Effective Fighting:
  1. When kicking, reach in with the foot.
  2. When you kick, step on the body.
  3. Only use a kick to finish the opponent.
  4. You want to strike a person before his mind knows there is going to be pain.
  5. When you hit the air, you don't get used to stopping.
  6. To the front, the hand takes out the elbow.
  7. When you move, you fly.
  8. From meaningless moves, comes meaningful strikes.
  9. The feet move at the speed of the hands.
  10. When you strike, you bend your body in the opposite direction.
  11. Energy is generated when rising, dropping, or torquing the body.
  12. Stepping and changing direction confuses the attacker. Change the level of attack.
  13. Train the left side for speed, right side for power.
  14. You are as fast as you are, when you touch a pin unexpectedly.
An exercise which uses precepts 4 & 5 is called "The Hit Test." In this exercise, the person being tested (hereinafter laughingly referred to as "the testee") stands about an arm's length away from a pine board. (I know that boards don't hit back, but LISTEN). For a right handed test, another person (the tester) stands off to the right, armed with a stick in a ready position. The testee can start when he wants, but he has to strike out and break the board. As soon as the tester sees the testee BEGIN to move, he has to sweep his stick down as fast as he can and hit any part of his arm (down to the fingertips). If the testee gets hit on the way out, he fails. (Hit on the way back also counts as a failure even if the board is broken.) Don't get hit either way, but fail to break the board - and you still don't win a kewpie doll. Sound unfair? (I just have to look in the mirror every morning to be reminded that Nature is unfair) On a more intellectual level, I could ask you what would be the result if you or your people COULD pass such a test? Can you think of applications if your operators had this skill?

Speaking of applications.....

There used to be a time when physical conditioning related to being able to DO SOMETHING USEFUL. Back before physical conditioning for operators became an activity to see how fast you could run while stripped down as well as a means to "look good" when attired in running shorts, you were tested on your ability to be useful. This was done through the medium of the Physical Combat Proficiency Test or PCPT. To show the difference in mind sets, let's compare how the current Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) measures upper body strength.

The APFT, like many tests of this type, counts the number of "correct" pushups someone can perform in two minutes. The PCPT on the other hand, had events like the 40 Yard Low Crawl for time; the Horizontal Ladder which was traversed hand over hand while hanging from the apparatus, and the Grenade Throw for distance and accuracy. With a little imagination you can see an Army infantryman using each of these skills in combat to accomplish a useful goal. So could the soldiers practicing for and taking this test. Although the previous example is taken from a military point of view, the same principle applies if you are part of an activity that anticipates using force to achieve your goals. Fortunately, this principle is alive and well in Guy Savelli's "Operator and a Half" program. An example of this is something that Guy has been leaving behind lately when he finishes a contract. A spare room is found somewhere in a facility, and Guy builds what he innocently refers to as a "circuit workout" but is better called Training Machines. One version of this fills a room with Training Machines, lining the walls so that students of the training (and eventually graduates after Guy has gone) can come in and go around the room in a workout that exercises their bodies, while making them more useful.

A typical setup for a counterterrorist type organization contains machines with names and functions like these:

You will find that this is the approach to training that will stay with you and your people. The program is tailored to enhance the whole operator. For example, Guy has used his training principles to increase the speed of entry teams through a breach point. For those of you have been fortunate enough to be trained in sniping by Mike Wallace of the Tactical Force Institute, you may have encountered an exercise called "The Savelli Shuffle". What's less known is that this exercise was designed by the very same Guy Savelli and first implemented by me when I was a sniper instructor at Fort Bragg in the latter half of the 1980's. This exercise, which was designed to enhance the performance of people pulling triggers, was a precursor to the validated program of the 1990's.

So in answer to the question posed in the title of this article, one equals one and a half - when it counts as one and a half!