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Registration date : 2007-06-27




I have been fortunate to have trained, or, worked with some outstanding instructors, and have persuaded them to share their concepts with our readers.
A broad theme of the series will be the mental aspects of combat, but, as you will see, a broad range of applicable material is covered.
Here we interview an instructor who will be familiar to regular readers. Massad Ayoob has an innovative approach to handling the pyscho-physiological problems of "THE DARK PLACE"...his term for the terrifying arena of mortal combat, where life and death is decided in an instant. Through his Lethal Force Institute Mass has spent the past twelve years providing state-of-the-art expertise in this most critical area. We are proud to present Massad Ayoob.

THE MASSAD AYOOB INTERVIEW: "THE DARK PLACE" Massad%20close%20up_zpsmvdfjtmx

Mass we are about half way through your intensive LFI-2 course, and at one point you explained your four level approach to threat management. Can you share this with readers.

Certainly, we tell them that there are four priorities to the survival of a violent encounter. First, and I think foremost, Awareness and Preparedness. Second, proper use of Tactics. Third is Skill with the tools of the job, that is the techniques and safety equipment. Fourth, all other things being satisfied, is having the proper Equipment, the ideal tools for the given job

The Awareness & Preparedness has to be first and foremost. A little old Granny lady who doesn't know how to fight, and would scream at the sight of a can of Mace, if she's alert to what's happening around her, if she's looking for danger cues, in terms of body language, personal movement, facial expression and things of that nature, will see danger coming in time to escape it, to get to a lit area where there are other people, and defuse the threat. A black belt carrying a 45 pistol, if he's got his head in his rectum, will not have a chance to use his skills, or his gun, because a skilled, practiced predator will take him out before he can resort to either. We tell them Awareness and Preparedness are two sides to the same coin. You need the alertness to what's going on around you, and the understanding of the danger cues, but you need also the resolute preparedness that given the stimulus you will execute the appropriate response...and that, as you and I, and I guess 99% of the readers know comes only from training. Training properly executed in my opinion is authentically replicated experience.
It lets the student know "I've been through something very similar to this before, and I know if I handle it correctly I can prevail".
Second in priority is the appropriate Tactics. When do you advance, when do you fall back, when do you contain the situation, when do you have to intervenr. We teach them that any human crisis is going to occur in three time frames. There is Prevention, you saw it coming in time to keep it from happening. Prevention is aways the ideal. There is Intervention, it's happening now, we step in, we stop the injuries where they are, we stabilise the situation and keep anyone else from being hurt. And finally there is Postvention, it's over and all we can do is pick up the pieces, learn the lessons, try to heal the injured and go from there.
So Tactics is clearly second only to Awareness and Preparedness. Third would be skill with the tools, whether those tools are your hands, your feet, a Kubotan/Persuader, a Flashlight, Nunchaku, or, a pistol. Do you know what to do with what you've got? I would rather, in a bar fight, have Tak Kubota standing next to me with a Kubotan, than a bozo with a double-bitted axe. I'd rather have a cool, competant, trained fighter with a .38 with me, than an idiot with a .45.

THE MASSAD AYOOB INTERVIEW: "THE DARK PLACE" Den%20and%20Mass%20P7%20closeup_zpsb5ugyhjm
[Mass working with Den during LFI training]

Finally, all other things being done, you want, if possible to have the ideal equipment for the job at hand. If you know you are in a hight fight environment you're a damn fool not to have something like a Joon Rhee Safety Cup, rather than the typical groin protector you would pick up at a sporting goods store that was designed for a kid to survive maybe one hour of training before he gets in the shower. The martial arts type equipment was designed for a round-robin tornament where you start at eight in the morning and may be still going at ten that night. If it will work for you there it's certainly going to work even for a double tour either as a police officer in a tough district, or, a bouncer in a pub. If you know you are going to need weapons make certain you have the appropriate weapons, that you are trained with those weapons, and that you are licensed with those weapons, otherwise you are going to wind up in more trouble than they could have gotten you out of!
Having the appropriate tool for the task. If your job as a bodyguard happens to be protection of the perimeter of a vast estate, certainly there should be a long range, high powered, precision rifle available to you somewhere. If you know the job is going to take place in a crowd you know that your pistol needs to be loaded with ammunition that has reduced ricochet potential and is most unlikely to completely pierce the body of the offender and strike one of the bystanders.

That's a great explanation Mass. So you've obviously put the priority on the mental aspects of Awareness and Preparedness. How is it then, that so much of the written material, and also so much of what is taught, tends to emphasise the other aspects. For example in the martial arts technique is emphasised, while in the shooting world equipment tends to dominate?

Well, you have to ask yourself where the advice is coming from. The people who sell the equipment by definition want you to believe that the equipment will save you, and motivate you to buy it from them. The guys who know how to shoot can only teach you what they know. A lot of gun people could learn a great deal from some of the masters who are profiled in FIGHTING ARTS INTERNATIONAL who may never have touched a gun in their lives, but who understand combat more deeply than any conventional sporting marksman.
There is a tendency to put all one's eggs in one's own basket. You and I know some Tae Kwon Do stylists who are uncomfortable with the very thought of grappling with a man. You and I both know Aikido practitioners who are very uncomfortable at the very thought of striking a man for anything but an atemi-waza demonstration. And you and I both realise there is a time for the blow and a time for the lock. If all you have is a snubnose .38 cal pistol and you're under fire by entrenched riflemen from 400 yards you're going to be goddamned sorry you didn't invest in that precision rifle when you knew that might happen on your job. If you're in a circumstance where you've won every board-breaking contest you've ever entered, and now you have to remove a passive, non-violent person from the path of the VIP you're protecting as a bodyguard, you are going to be damn sorry you never spent any time on Aikido, or,Taiho-jutsu. Again, the tool has to be adapted to the job, whether the tool is an empty-hand technique, or, a weapon of one or the other sort.

You've explained Awareness and Preparedness. Are there mental aspects in the actual performance of technique under stress?

The sportsman can learn the "Zen state" if you will, of unconscious competance, of doing things on auto-pilot. For a fast breaking crisis you're often better to throttle back to the next level down, the concious competance. When human life is on the line and the situation may have a number of different angles to it, if you just reflexively strike, you did it on auto-pilot anf the Zen master would have bowed and congratulated you, you may find out that you struck a person who didn't need to be struck, who might have been restrined otherwise. The Zen state is what an airman might call auto-pilot; and while we all seek to develop our skills to the level where we may do that, we also know that any trained pilot, as soon as the aircraft is in trouble, will first and foremost shut off the auto-pilot, and go to a manual over-ride. All too often we forget that we need to do that within ourselves, and we need to throttle back and stop for an instant, and think about what we are doing. Just an instant, not ten minutes to sort it out, not three seconds to take a marksmans' Bisley range sight picture; but a fraction of a second to ask "are we doing the right thing, and are we doing it correctly?"

Is this similar to what you were teaching on the range earlier today, when discussing shooting on the move? The technical aspects of weapon manipulation and aiming we can do; they are programmed in the subconscious by repetitive training. The conscious brain is thus free to assess and control the complexities of moving the body through the terrain of the changing tactical situation?

Exactly. When there are multiple things that have to be done at once, the mind, like the body, can only go in one direction at once. The thing that is most difficult, the most complicated, or that we have least experience with, is the thing we have to focus on conciously; and trust all the time we've invested in our training for the other elements to take care of themselves on auto-pilot...the automatic reflex, or,unconscious competency.


It would be no trick in todays' society to make a robot that could shoot and could hit the centre every time. The trick, and what is as yet beyond collective human technology is a robot that can make the moral decision when to shoot, when to strike.

We havediscussed the Colour Code in depth on this forum Can you update current readers with this system, and how you modified it for LFI use?

Yes, in it's crudest form it was originated by the US Marine Corps during World War Two. It was refined by Colonel Jeff Cooper. We kind of went back to the original concept of five instead of four colour levels, largely for legal reasons.
Basically, from the bottom up, Condition White is "unpreparedness"...your not expecting trouble, you're not prepared for trouble...and if trouble comes up and bites you in the ass it's probably going to get you, unless trouble took the form of someone even less prepared than you are.
The second level Condition Yellow is "relaxed alertness". You're not looking for a fight, you're not anticipating a fight, but you are aware that something could happen. Colonel Cooper correctly observed that a well-adjusted man, or, woman could spend their entire waking life in Condition Yellow with no psychologically adverse effects.
Third level up would be Condition Orange. I would define that as an "Unspecified Alert". Something has happened that has told us that something's wrong. We don't know yet what it is, specifically, but there is a much greater potential for danger than there was a minute ago. At this point body alarm reaction begins, and we devote ourselves totally to the problem at hand. What I call "cast out the sensory net". You're looking, you're listening, you're immediately aware of the procedure you can take. You're aware of cover, cover you can take; cover an opponent might already have taken. Positions of retreat, of access, of egress, positions of ambush- armed,or, unarmed.
The fourth level would be Condition Red. The problem is there and identified. Condition Red for the armed person would be "Armed Encounter". You face someone you have reason to believe, is capable of taking your life, and you're prepared to do the same to him if you must. In Condition Red if you're armed the gun will be drawn and a gunpoint challenge will generally be issued. In Condition Red you will take the cover that you became aware of in Condition Orange. In Condition Red you will control at gunpoint the lanes of access and egress that before in Condition Orange you had been mapping out.
The final stage would be Condition Black, "Lethal Assault in Progress". He's attempting to kill you, and there's only one way to stop it as a general rule.

THE MASSAD AYOOB INTERVIEW: "THE DARK PLACE" LFI%20Colour%20code%20large_zps16bvchsi
[LFI Colour Code diagram]

You mentioned during one of your lectures on this LFI course that you have had feedback from your students that they had found the Colour Code, and the other mental awareness training, had not only helped them tactically, but had generally enriched their life

The unexpected benefit that I got from this was all the people who would write in and say "I took your class three years ago, and I took this alertness thing seriously, I've been living in Condition Yellow; and I want you to know I haven't found any criminals yet, but while I was doing this I was stopping to smell the roses. I was for the first time seeing the joy on the expectant mothers face. I was seeing the way young lovers would look at each other. I was stopping to watch the two little girls playing with the kittens...and thank you for that, because it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been looking for something else at the same time". I guess what I eventually figured out, you know they say you've got to stop and smell the roses? Well, if you're looking for thorns you are going to have to stop and enjoy the roses.


This interview took place during the LFI-2 course organized by Richard Law at the SRA Training Centre in Wales, June 1994. I had previously taken half-a-dozen of Massads courses, but LFI-2 was an eye opener!
The "hands-on" training compised three main phases. Firstly Tactical Pistol was covered to an advanced degree. Massad combined traditional martial arts concepts with current firearms management concepts, to create a system that actually "feeds off" the adrenal rush inherent in a life-critical encounter. This research is ongoing, and it was interesting to absorb some new techniques that Mass has developed since his last UK visit.

[Much of Mass' concepts are found in his Stressfire series]

Another major phase was the technique of the combat shotgun. Here we fired pump-action, or, semi-auto shotguns to cover every eventuality. Single-handed firing , firing from cover, wounded operator drills, multiple threat engagement were just some of the topics taught.
The third phase was an intensive series of classes on weapons retention and disarming. This is an area where martial arts and firearms training meet. All aspects of retaining the weapon in the holster, or, in the hand were covered; along with some highly practical handgun disarming techniques. Mass Ayoob is a certified instructor in most of the major systems in this field, and his passes on what he considers to be the most applicable material, along with several of his own concepts.

This "hands-on" phase was backed up with classroon presentations covering the tactical, pyschological and legal aspects. Each training day was full of activity, with very little down time. For example, while eating lunch we watched training videos. At night we were given "homework" assignments from a comprehensive "supplementary study
manual" to prepare for the following days classes.
By the end of the week we were overflowing with hard information. It's a good thing Mass only comes over once a year as you need that time to digest the good stuff!.
Who should take such a course? Well, obviously, anyone interested in defensive shooting will be in their element. Police officers, and other professionals in the criminal justice system should also sign up. Martial artists with an interest in the street/practical, rather than the recreational aspects will find an LFI course stimulating. Finally I would recommend anyone who instructs defensive skills to come along and learn from Massad....the Master Communicator.

[Massad's most recent book available here

Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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