Suarez International and I are dedicated to advancing the art of gunfighting through perfecting its technical, tactical, physical, and mental aspects.

Winning The GunfightKarate Studies

Close Range Combat - The Reality Of Today


I wrote some time ago that people do not fight the same today. I recall my youth, and my quest for martial excellence. There was no internet, no Youtube, and the few sources of information were on the newsstand. You had Black Belt magazine…and Muscle and Fitness. And unlike today, where in an urban area there will be as many 24 Hour Gyms as there are Starbucks Coffee houses, a real gym…or a real dojo was not so easy to find.

Some years ago I was privileged to visit several museums. One was the Cody Museum in the USA and the others were military museums in Europe. There were the accoutrements and armor of the cream of the fighting crop from generations ago. I was immediately struck by how physically small these guys were.

I am not a big man by modern standards, but at 5’10, 180, I would have been in the top percentage of strength and size. Certainly there were large men back then, but they were not the norm it seems…if what I saw at the museums was any evidence.


Today, the spread of martial knowledge is extreme today as is the ability to eat well. Even one who lives on fast food is getting enough nutrients to get big and strong if he lifts weights.

The prevalence of weightlifting is huge today compared to the generations of the 1950s and 1960s. The idea of going to a gym to establish a new personal best in the deadlift was such a foreign concept to those guys that you would have been considered insane…as many of the era’s strongmen and bodybuilders were. These have combined to make modern westerners some of the toughest, strongest people on earth.

And the tough people, the one’s whose existence I have established as the norm, are the ones that will do home invasions, terrorist shootings, and all manner of other violent crimes. You will not likely be in a gunfight with a killer thug that looks like Pee Wee Herman, but you might with someone who looks like Tank Abbot.

I have a friend who is currently working in the Balkans. He related a story of visiting a jail where they had some local jihadis incarcerated. He described them as lean, fit, muscular in the sense of a crossfit type guy not a body builder, and he described "the look" as well. There is no "fear" in that look...simply a matter of factness in that they will either kill you, or you will kill them, and that they have done everything possible beforehand to make certain that it is they who win. They don't always win of course...but they have planned to do so.

Most CCW guys operate out of fear. At least the unprepared ones. They fear the bad guy, they fear the police that will come to investigate, they fear being sued or being in jail, they fear what their "liberal friends" will think. From the time they get their first pistol and the CCW card, they operate at least on the periphery of fear. Total and complete contrast to the mind set of the adversary. The fear motivation will manifest itself physically. We all see when someone is afraid. The lion notices the fearful gazelle, but the lion is not afraid. In the animal kingdom there is no choice, but we do in fact have a choice of what we want to be.

The bad guy, be he a tango, or an MS-13 hitman, has a self image as well. And his self image leads to a physical manifestation of that personal view. He moves differently than others and sees the world, and those who occupy it through that lens. I recall interviewing a bad guy we took down. A highly educated Aryan type guy. He described himself as "a warrior".

I can get pontificatively psychological here (wow...what a couple of words!) so I will try to keep it brief. One thing that seems to be missing in the "good guys" is a warrior self image. How the good guy sees himself, and his desire to live up to that self image. Earp wrote about that referring to his buddy Doc Holiday. He said that it wasn't that Holiday was fearless, or fatalistic (as some have postulated), but rather that Doc's greatest fear was not living up to his own self image. Perhaps not the best example, but it is what came to mind. The self-image described is not a reckless one, but it is not driven by fear.

The dynamics of the fight have changed as well. It is simple. You either have warning or you do not. If you do, you try to preempt the fight by either leaving or eliminating the threat before it materializes. Please don’t muddy the discussion with legalities. Everything can be explained if you are still alive.

Avoiding is not necessarily a bad thing. One can avoid a fight from a position of control and as a tactical decision.

An example: A few weeks ago, two thugs flipped me the bird on the road. So my options are press the fight over a perceived slight, shit myself from fear of these "tougher guys" wanting to fight, or I can do something else. I can adjust my Glock 17 slightly, and moving my hand around the stock of the M4 SBR riding between my seat and the center console of the Audi, change stations - knowing that I can easily kill both of them with neither fear nor anger, but knowing that I have no need to do that and that there are better things to spend my money on than my attorney. Emotions? Yes...amusement perhaps.

A strong combative attitude is born primarily of proper hard training. From Sun Tsu - “If officers are unaccustomed to rigorous [training] they will be worried and hesitant in battle; if generals are not thoroughly trained they will be inwardly quail when they face the enemy.”

"Hard Training" shows. Thus you may conceal the Glock, but the slim waist, and powerful upper body will still be will the scars on your knuckles and the look in the eyes. If I see a man pontificating about how good and how tough he is, but I see a weak upper body, a large midsection, and an overall soft appearance, I will tend to doubt his words. And so will everyone else…specially his adversaries.

If you do not have warning, the fight will be extremely close. And then, you will either have room to move, or you will not. These are not things we need to analyze ad nauseum, developing a technique for each in yet another endless continuum of complexity. Rather it simply needs to be fought out so that you gain what Marc Denny once called, “The fighter’s understanding”.

There is a gap in the distance, that the old timers tried to answer with “hip” shooting. Recall that these guys had zero training in hand to hand, at least if their biographies are to be believed. Applegate had some, but guys like Cooper had none. Fairbairn had quite a bit, but the bulk of his writings were intended for low dedication, low skilled fighters going against the same. At these ultra-close environments, today, Bryce would be knocked unconscious from behind, and Jordan would be choked into submission by some BJJ trained tango that didn’t even have a gun.

So lets not be victims of limited knowledge. Not today. Understand that the hand to hand realm of body contact to just outside of arm’s reach against a strong fit adversary is the norm, and then organize your training accordingly.

Principles for Zero To Five Feet Combat:

  1. Understand distancing and angles. And that getting away may not be an option.
  2. Understand timing the attack. This is not the time to be led by legalities. Ambush them if you can.
  3. If reactive, you may be required to open the fight with your hands before even thinking of getting to the gun.
  4. Know how to cover your head, know how to get back up if knocked down.
  5. Saying you are fight focused without any hand to hand skill – or (gasp) physical fitness is like masturbating and saying you had sex.
  6. Understand how to integrate the gun into the hand to hand matrix.
  7. Once you have the core concepts and strategies understood begin testing them under various degrees of pressure.