Tactically Speaking: Do you have “Excalibur Syndrome?”

This video was not created for the “Joe or Jane Civilian” audience, but the “Excalibur Syndrome” mentality is not exclusive to Law Enforcement Officers (LEO), Military, and/or other ‘Operator’ types.  Do a quick google search on ‘swords for home defense’ or ‘best self defense weapon’ or ‘gun verses knife’ and a whole world of ‘experts’ will open up.


Unlike the LEO, Military/Operators out there, civilians don’t carry a ‘standard load’ or have a ‘standard carry’ so it’s even more important NOT to be focused on a weapon or tool as the center of self defense training (“Excalibur Syndrome“).  The focus should be to hone your ability OODA Loop or other awareness/tactical problem solving processes as the ‘center of self defense training.’

A pretty standard conversation with someone who is ‘weaponcentric’ about training usually goes something like:

“You know that ‘Kay Rah Tee’ but I know Ka-GUN”

“Do you have a gun on you now?”

“No, but that’s not the point.  All that training won’t beat a gun.”

“Right…. but you don’t have a gun on you now, so what would you do, right now?”

You can plug in any weapon/tool/system or technique (pepper spray, keys, whistle, knife, bat, sword …) that someone has developed a love affair with and the conversation is the same.  The conversation just illustrates a ‘what I train/know/carry is the answer to all situations’ mentality.  In the ‘vacuum lab’ of the training floor, away from the contexts and situations that these tools/techniques/systems would be plugged into (a busy shopping mall, parking garage, dance floor, narrow hallway, sitting in a car) it may be ‘true’ that what is happening ‘works’ in some way, but those are only lab conditions with narrow parameters. Just because we ‘like’ a weapon or technique we train with DOES NOT mean it is automatically the best or universal answer to every problem that might come along.

The “Best Weapon” you can train is your BRAIN and your WILL.  Here’s a video of an officer who did ‘everything right’ by procedure and still could have suffered the epic fail if it had not been for his ability to keep his BRAIN working under stress, and maintain his WILL to survive.  Again, for “Joe or Jane Civilian” this is not an example of ‘what to do’ for techniques and tactics – he’s a Cop, we’re not.  It is a good example of how fur ball a confrontation can be and how important “appropriate for you” training and tactics are to survival.



6 thoughts on “Tactically Speaking: Do you have “Excalibur Syndrome?”

  1. Weapon over-reliance in general is indeed a great problem with possibly grave results (defeat, injury, death): I am a civilian and in my country there are laws against carrying weapons in public so I assume I’ll be unarmed when attacked so I train that the most but if need be I can also wield common objects as weapons due to my escrima-training: if you don’t train with weapons you likely won’t be effective using one for real. The opposite is also true of course: if you only train with weapons (knife, gun, stick…) but not unarmed you could very well be in for a rude awakening since competence in weaponry is no replacement for skill in fighting with your bare hands. The ‘gun is superior to years of MA training’ pseudo-argument keeps persisting despite it being false and an oversimplification of reality: imo it all depends on the range, setting and availability. A knife is only effective in boxing range (unless thrown of course), a stick is not as useful up close but better than a knife at medium range, a handgun is useless when it cannot be drawn in time or in a close encounter with a knifeman while it is without a doubt the best weapon for long range. I very much agree common sense and adaptability are key to succes in SD, too bad it is often neglected.

  2. Good video by the way: my best friend is a cop and he says standard operating procedure is to tell the subject to keep his distance and shows his hands if he hides them. If he does not comply disengage and pull your weapon, staying put while reaching for the sidearm is indeed foolish since it seriously compromises your defense, just imagine someone getting that close with a knife or other sharp object. Even unarmed this holds true: if he’s too close you can’t defend properly and even if he has a weapon (barring a gun of course) he can’t hurt you if he can’t reach you. You sound like you have military and/or law-enforcement experience: is this true?

    • The problem I see with any ‘procedure’ is that once these ‘flow chart’ approaches hit reality, there is always some element that makes it fall apart – even just a little bit. That’s why I stress fundamentals and judgement. There may be a time when you just have to get close to someone for some reason. There may be a time when you just have to ‘give up’ the reactionary gap (Tueller Experiment) – but the main point isn’t to ‘always’ follow any one rule. The point, IMO, is to always be aware of what these changes mean to the choices you have to make. Thus the OODA Loop is one of the tactical fundamentals regardless of the physical techniques, weapons, or ‘role’ (Law Enforcement, military, civilian, Emergency Medical Personnel) is very important to know and use.

      Thanks for the contribution, Zara. Yes, I have some experience in military/law enforcement but am just another ‘Joe or Jane Civilian’ now. I teach/train from the same principles and approaches that I found in military/law enforcement – but adjusted to fit the civilians needs.

  3. In general distance is your friend since it maximizes the chance of a succesful interception, to each rule there are exceptions of course (protecting a third party for example, or lack of space) and that is when judgment and improvisation come in. As a civilian your task is to try to calm down potential attackers (de-escalation) and avoid getting into a fight with someone if you can help it (a legal requirement in most countries), stepping back coupled with verbal messages signales you’re not a threat and you’re not looking for a fight. If it’s his ego that’s causing the problem it might solve the situation then and there, at the very least it’ll get potential witnesses on your side when you have to defend yourself in court (it’s not easy to plead SD if you stepped forward with clenched fists cursing at the opponent). That being said in some cases (e.g multiple opponents) this approach would cleary put you at a disadvantage and you have to close the gap and attack first. Fights and interpersonal conflicts are fairly unpredictable, yet giving students a broad framework (in most cases it’s wise to do this) and base their training on that (at least initially) might alliviate stress (they’re already somewhat familiar with the situation) and allow them to react immidiately to threats without having to think first (thus wasting precious time). In the great majority of cases staying put will put you at a severe disadvantage (especially when surprised): either retreat or step forward and attack. For warm-up we usually do an exercise which consists of one person who acts as the attacker who constantly puts pressure on the defender who in turn retreats and intercepts with kicks (stop-kick concept from JKD). Sometimes the attacker yells stand and you have to cover/block & counterattack to a series of random-attacks. Another exercise consists of putting one person in a circle of opponents who attack one by one from all sides so a high degree of improvisation is required. I believe in the value of general guidelines, as training progresses it’ll become clear that no rule is set in stone and experience will show the most advantageous path in any given situation.Yet beginners need guidelines otherwise they’ll be clueless and you first have to show the ‘ideal’ circumstances (this is what you want to aim for if at all possible) before moving on to the ‘what if’ and less ideal situations.

    • I’m on board with almost all of what you say Zara.

      The only part I vary on is the “task to calm down” a potential attacker. That is not, as far as my knowledge goes, required by laws that deal with justified use of force/deadly force. You don’t ‘have to’ do anything except attempt to avoid a fight (“Duty to Retreat” is a catch phrase in my state) by any means necessary (possibly by using verbal judo, conflict resolution skills) as long as you A) are not putting yourself in MORE danger by doing so or B) doing something that is not reasonable or appropriate for the purpose of finding or creating an avenue of escape.

      Some people make it an ethical choice to try to ‘make peace’ in the face of violence, but the law (at least in the way of my research) only requires that you attempt to avoid/escape.

      I hesitate to teach students that they are ‘required’ to try to calm a bad guy down because it may get them stuck in ‘negotiation mode’ when they should be in ‘get out of dodge mode.’ The difference is in the mindset, IMO. If you are trying to calm the BG down, then you are not focused on your safety and/or finding a way out. Your focus is on ‘making peace’ – a noble goal, but not always a safe one. If you are USING the ‘calm down’ tactic as a way to stall the BG, reduce the threat, and/or create some distance so you can find a way to escape then you are still keeping your mind set on escape.

      I think we are saying the same things, but I just want to make sure that I am being clear about the relationship between actions and reasons (tactics) for my program.

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