Taking Down The Gunman- Front Sight Self Defense Training Day 2



Ryan’s digging this a little too much. It’s great to see him excited and smiling after copping a dower attitude about work and two months of studying for the CFA exam. But not at my expense. The coach came around to check on us; to see if we understood the ‘superman’ move. We were supposed to extend our arms like Superman as the ‘perp’ came at us with a baseball bat from overhead. One hand would strike the side of his neck, the other would wrap over and around his forearm. Once the elbow was locked you would take your neck hand and administer a palm strike, knee the femur, the groin, the stomach, the head. Once they’re buckled over you switch the position of your hand on his neck, step your leg behind theirs and push him back onto his back and the ground. Except as the coach watched, Ryan gleefully slammed his hand into my neck and sent me reeling before ever completing the over moves. The coach said two things before moving on- “Are you okay?” and “Now you know what it feels like.” Yeah, not good.

And so for the rest of the night I kept my distance.

All of a sudden the Range Master is rapid firing the tactics and moves from wiggling out of a back grab, twisting the perp’s arm and getting them face down on the ground to disarming a gun. It starts to feel more like a demo than an instruction course but I try to keep up. Some of the moves (if done swiftly and correctly) are surprisingly easy.

But it can be confusing. I’m a doer not a watcher when it comes to learning so I don’t get it unless there’s a coach right there next to me to “adjust me”. Depending on where you stand on the mat there can be a huge lag between watching the demo and having a coach watch you. I certainly wasn’t going to practice the wrong way to do something, so with only five or six coaches walking around, there were long pauses in the action. By Day 3 this would be fine; I could use the rest. But tonight I wanted to play. I would grab one the minute he was nearby- “Can you help us?” Their corrections were swift. You felt the pressure to engrain it in your memory pronto because he was already on to the next group. All of the coaches are easy to follow and talk to, there just aren’t enough of them for our group. It should be more like one to six not one to 26. Ryan doesn’t like to ‘bother’ people but if it was simply up to me I would have them around me the whole night.

Perhaps it felt rushed because of the holiday. Fourth of July. Most of Front Sight’s courses are during the day but in the summer when temps loom around 103, classes start at 6 p.m. and end at 12:30 a.m. On the night of July 3 we ended at 10:30 p.m. for a special address by our fearless leader. Ignatius Piazza himself- made a rare personal appearance to address the student body before kicking off the Fourth with the first fireworks display of the holiday at 12:01 a.m. We got a pep talk about our Founding Fathers and what it means to be American. I was surprised to find the aggressive online marketer charming and self-effacing. He actually joked about his constant email campaigns for membership money.


When we stepped outside behind our workout tent we could finally relax and appreciate the end of our two-day empty hand defense course. As I watched the bombs bursting in air the irony hit me. We are celebrating our freedom while we learn to defend it so aggressively. It sucks that others can’t leave us alone. Even other Americans.



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