Reprinted from "Informed Source" Intelligence Newsletter, November/December
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:
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?"
One good training deployment would wipe out the class, and the program
would wither on the vine.
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.
Out of the forty five minutes available, thirty minutes was spent on stretching
-while ten minutes was spent doing knuckle pushups.
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!)
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:
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?
When kicking, reach in with the foot.
When you kick, step on the body.
Only use a kick to finish the opponent.
You want to strike a person before his mind knows there is going to be
When you hit the air, you don't get used to stopping.
To the front, the hand takes out the elbow.
When you move, you fly.
From meaningless moves, comes meaningful strikes.
The feet move at the speed of the hands.
When you strike, you bend your body in the opposite direction.
Energy is generated when rising, dropping, or torquing the body.
Stepping and changing direction confuses the attacker. Change the level
Train the left side for speed, right side for power.
You are as fast as you are, when you touch a pin unexpectedly.
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.
The Gauntlet which develops the ability to r-un and fight at the
The Hit Test Station which allows two people to run the previously
described Hit Test without needing a third person to hold a board.
Leg Breaking Machine
Neck Trapping and Breaking Station
Throat Breaking Station
Head Butting and Foot Stomping Station (which are relatively self
explanatory although I'd like to point out two things.) First of all, that
the stations emphasizing the breaking of various portions of the human
anatomy were calibrated with the assistance of a Medical Doctor
and secondly, if your agency uses a different Use of Force Policy than
a counterterrorism assault force, rest assured that other machines are
also available. To continue, there is a.....
High/Low Fighting and Breaking Station to train hitting above and
below the waist line in a single attack.
The Wooden Monster (at which point words fail me...!)
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!