The Combative Continuum

An Original Essay by The Tactical Hermit

As you journey through the world of self-defense you will ultimately discover that few combat systems are compatible. For example, you may have one stance you learned in martial arts and another you learned for knife, another for your pistol and another for your rifle.

Soon, your brain becomes jumbled and you have information overload. You would have trouble recalling any of these systems under normal circumstances, forget under combat stress!

We need to simplify the way we think about how we train.

We need one stance, any weapon.

We need one guard position.

We need to be able to access our weapon the same way and along the same line; stick, knife and gun.

Enter the Combative Continuum.

The Complete Arsenal

We have to build our system using the concept of the “Complete Arsenal” or in other words, ask yourself if ALL your skill sets (1)Empty Hand (2) Stick (3) Knife (4) Gun can “dovetail” into each other. You must always evaluate all facets of your training using this concept. The Combative mindset consist of simplicity and economy of motion. When we discuss empty hand strikes, we also talk about the elbow slash, because as you deliver a face smash, you are now “cocked” to slash with your opposite elbow. If we are talking about a stick, we discuss high and low line strikes, as a man cannot guard against both. With knife, we must understand the thrust is much more modular than the slash. With CQ Pistol, our footwork and how we present the weapon using our knife, can fold right into getting the gun into the fight in a clinch.

Part of the Combative process and arsenal concept is basing our tactics on an  understanding of the human anatomy. As we learn this, we find, especially with the knife, what tendons work what and which arteries when cut, can cause unconsciousness and death in under one minute. We find the location of certain organs, and the path bullets must travel to shut them down. This is also important because as this is a continuum, we must understand pain compliance techniques when less than lethal platforms are needed first ( a great example is the latest headline about the airline captain who flipped out in mid air). Learning a simple arm bar or wrist/finger lock could be helpful in subduing an unruly or troubled person.


Where most other “styles” are concerned, this is typically the most in-depth and complicated part of it. Not with the Combative Continuum. You will have one stance for all weapon systems. The catch is that you and you alone will be the one however to find it, nobody can teach you. It may take you some time to develop and find it: Don’t worry, you will!

Ask yourself these questions when selecting your stance:

  • Does my stance allow me to be as MOBILE as possible?

  • Does it allow ATTACK and COUNTER-ATTACK against any line of attack?

Don’t get freaked out by where to put your feet! The simplest way to look at this is your foot position should simply mimic your natural gait. Take a stroll naturally and then suddenly stop, look down; that is your foot position. The same thing goes for dynamic movement off the line of attack with pistol or rifle, walk NORMALLY! Don’t “groucho” or “duck” walk.


When we talk about the presentation of the weapon, we automatically think guns, but let’s think a minute here and use the complete arsenal concept. How do we present an empty hand strike, such as a face smash? Consider stance, how we “load” into the strike with our lower body and hips and the dynamic of extension with our arm through the strike. All these things make up the “presentation” of your palm striking somebody’s grill. If we substitute the stick into this equation, you will see how alot of the same traits are present; in particular, the “loading” or “cocking” action done with your lower body and hips. This is a distinct reason why combatives was and still is so effective and still taught widely in the military. It was a simple, brutal, gross motor skill oriented platform that did not depend on alot of memorization, only instinct and aggression.

Carrying the Presentation modularity a bit farther, consider the knife and the gun. I am of course taking into consideration not everybody carries their fixed blade knives and pistols/revolvers in the same position I do, but be open minded here and consider the benefits. The late and great Bob Kasper, who IMO, is the best resource for Combative Knife technique, favored the ARC/IWB position (Abdominal Rear Cant, Inside the Waistband). The OWB option to this position is Horizonal carry, 11 o’clock,  OWB on the belt. Here, the knife is mounted horizontal on the belt, so as the arms hang down naturally, all that has to be done is the garment stripped and a quick cross draw. I favor a Benchmade CBK or Blackhawk Crucible Fixed Blade for this. For pistol, I favor the AIWB carry, or Appendix-Inside-the-Waistband. I find this position offers the quickest presentation and best concealment for even a mid size pistol. When using these two carry positions, one can have a very simple manual of arms to access either knife or gun. Ensure that you have a solid sheath and attachment point in these positions, so if you have to run or get in a tussle, they will stay put.

Making Room

In his book “Sting of the Scorpion” by Bob Kasper (an excellent read and reference book for the combative knife student) Kasper tells why having a toolbox of practical unarmed combatives that dovetails into the knife platform is so important.

“Chances are, you won’t be able to draw before the assault. Based on old school jujitsu, the curricula emphasized ‘atemi-wazi’, or vital area striking with various hands and foot weapons. These techniques are geared for in-close fighting and will get someone off you in a hurry and allow you to draw your weapon.”

This dovetails into the gun as well; OC and empty-hand or improvised weapons strikes to gain room between you and the attacker so you can access and draw your weapon.

The standard “Reactionary Gap” that is taught to Police and Security personnel is recognized as 21 feet or 7 yards.

I have never been a fan of this teaching, as I find it impractical and unrealistic.

In a perfect world, we would like to keep people at twice this distance, but you simply cannot do it. We have to get close to people in our everyday lives, no way around it. The only way to prepare for this is to always carry OC and have a simple set of strikes and kicks to make distance. The best mentality is always be prepared to strike and get off the line of attack, gaining enough distance to present a weapon into the fight.

The Vertical Shield

The vertical shield can also be called a “Default Position”, simply because it should be the format your entire body follows (along with your stance) when attacked or you feel threatened in any way. The Shield covers vital parts of your left side with your weak hand, which is the side of your body likely to be attacked in a head-on assault.

There are several shield positions promoted currently, but the one I use is a hybrid of Bob Kasper (“Sting of the Scorpion”pp.31)

“Place the fingertips of your “non dominant” hand (not weak hand, as you do not have any body part that is weak, just one you don’t use as much as the other!) lightly on your left cheekbone (right if you are left handed). Then take your left elbow and pull it into your torso until your biceps are lightly touching your pectorals. This hand/arm position not only shields the vital areas on the left side, but it also withdraws the limb out of harms way.”

The hybrid of this shield switches from guarding your vital’s with your arm and elbow (in a knife situation) to protecting the head. All you do is instead of resting your fingertips on your left cheek, moving the left hand up to where you are lightly grabbing the back of your head. This forms an elbow guard which will protect you from getting knocked out. Not saying you won’t take some licks, but it will keep you on your feet until you can pump fist, steel or lead into the attacker.

Linear Line Concept

A linear line is simply a straight line from your hand to the target, this applies to empty hands strikes, the knife thrust and full extension with the pistol. The path to target, no matter the weapon, is the same. Linear strikes with empty hand are akin to the jab, palm strike and face smash. With the knife, they are harder to see than say a hooking attack and they also more accurate and strike deeper. The key is a linear attack does not telegraph it’s intent, it is a quick strike; imagine a cobra striking it’s prey. The rule to remember is that if you can punch the target, you can execute a knife thrust. In his excellent WW2 Combatives book, Arwrology, Dr. Martin Perrigard states there are two primary things to aim at to make a stab wound quickly fatal; (1) Large Arteries (2) Major Organs. This goes back to understanding the human anatomy to make our tactics and strikes as effective as possible.

Linear lines with the pistol deal with executing a full extension toward the target when it is APPLICABLE. This is always dependent on your proximity to target. When there is plenty of distance, having full extension gives you better balance and recoil control. That being said, a good portion of your handgun drills need to be firing from compressed ready or a compressed position of some type, as you never want to give your attacker a chance to lay hands on the weapon in close quarter situations.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!

“FIGHT” not “GUN” is the Key Word in “GUNFIGHT”


“If you can’t stop the average dude from raping you in the shower, the last thing you need is a Carbine Class.” -Southnarc


In Civilian self-defense training courses you often have certain trainers that require a “pre-requisite or “pre-req”” of certain courses before you take a certain class. For example, before you take an ADVANCED Handgun Course, you might be required to take BASIC Handgun, etc. This is to ensure you have the rudimentary basics down before moving on to a more advanced skill set. This also, more importantly, ensures both the safety of the student and the instructor, but also creates a FOUNDATIONAL “BUILDING BLOCK” concept of learning. It is a solid concept and has been used in Academia worldwide since time in memorial.

Unfortunately, for the most part, it is not being followed in modern civilian self-defense training today. What is being followed is men and women who are NOT establishing a COMBATIVE base of skills to build upon; or in layman’s terms, they have ABSOLUTELY ZERO skills when it comes to defending themselves empty-handed. But instead of trying to rectify that, they are skipping it and moving directly into FIREARMS related skills thinking one supersedes the other. This is a gross misunderstanding of Combative Martial Concepts and is not CONDUCIVE to the student establishing a real-world effective martial skill set. Nor is it helpful in helping to create and maintain the Combative Mentality needed to survive in the increasingly violent world in which we live.

The key word (and FIRST word) in ANY type of FIGHT, whether it be GUNFIGHT, SWORDFIGHT or FISTFIGHT is (wait for it….) FIGHT! What good are you if you know how to shoot nice tight little groups in a piece of paper but don’t have the cardio conditioning to fight off an attacker when he jams up your gun or fouls your draw? What good are you after 45 seconds into a clinch you get gassed and a thug takes your knife or gun away and kills you with it?

This nieve and unrealistic ideal that has floated around nationwide in concealed carry classes and various other civilian self-defense classes that having a G19 in an appendix holster and a Benchmade clipped in your pocket is the answer to your self-defense woes is a LIE!

Having a CCL is a start but is only the FIRST BABY STEP and is in no way the END of the journey! Go Deeper! Get out of your Comfort Zone! Find some type of empty hand training that suits you. I like Combatives and Krav Maga, others may like BJJ or Muay Thai…whatever…just ensure the fighting style is about FIGHTING and not about COMPETITION. (This goes for firearm training as well!!)


knife hand

Understanding the Combative Continuum

Combative skills are built, layer upon layer starting with empty hand and then progressing from there; stick, knife, firearm. If they are not built layer upon layer, you are not building your skills on a solid foundation, and sooner or later, you will come against a situation (ie PERSON) that will find that weak spot and exploit it and most likely in the process, injure or kill you. The CC is not just about getting ready for a fight, it is getting ready to fight in the most efficient way possible. Coach Bear Bryant said it this way:

“The WILL to WIN compares little with the WILL to PREPARE to WIN.” 

By approaching any fighting system from the perspective of PREPARATION and EFFICIENCY, you are streamlining your training and helping ensure that in that day of trouble, your brain has to recall ONLY what it needs to KILL THE THREAT and SURVIVE. If any of these steps are skipped (ie to take that Advanced Carbine or Pistol Class for example) you will have built your foundational martial skills on sand and NOT on solid concrete, and sooner or later, your “house” will sink!

Since I started with a catchy quote, I will end with one too:

“The scars on your knuckles should ultimately teach you how to have callouses on your trigger finger.”  

Let that one sink in and then go out and find a down-n-dirty Combatives and Force-on-Force class and pretty soon, after some bruises and sweat, it will all click.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous.

Integrated Combatives | Why You Should Always Bring a Knife to a Gunfight


Why You Should Always Bring a Knife to a Gunfight


The Combative Continuum is a concept that once you grasp it can change the way you look at Self-Defense.

This is why the USMC Martial Arts Program saying “One Mind, Any Weapon” is so applicable in Civilian Self-Defense Training.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!

CO 101: The Evolution of the “Ambi” Fighter

From the Archives, 2014


Contrast of two in C with two swords

Ambi= (Ambidextrous): The ability to use the right and left hands EQUALLY well.


 Being a military history buff, I really enjoy studying the progression/evolution of tactics and weaponry in warfare through the years. One of the most applicable of these “progressions” that pertains to the CO specifically has been the development of being ambidextrous in the use of weapons. Now when we think “ambi” we automatically think of somebody being able to write well with both hands. When we translate this skill to weapons however, it goes far beyond that. It is not only the ability to use either hand equally well, it is also the ability to wield two weapons (one in each hand) and be able to use each of them independent of each other or in tandem, depending on what the situation calls for.

It is interesting to me that as far back as the 10th Century, the ideal of the “Combative Continuum” existed; the logical premise that skill sets can span over a variety of different weapons. Starting with stick, then two sticks, then a sword, then a sword and a dagger, then a rapier, then a rapier and a dagger, then a rapier and a pistol, then two pistols. Fast forward to the 19th Century and the old-west gunfighter who could wield two navy colts with deadly accuracy continues the carnage. Folding ambidextrous skill into these combinations eventually produced a man who could fight equally well with two different weapons while utilizing one learned skill set that could function under stress much more efficiently than four or five learned skill sets trying to be integrated into one another.

So let’s talk about integrating ambidextrous training into your current routine. Please hear me when I say: This is a skill set that needs to be approached CAREFULLY and SLOWLY. I highly recommend first using TRAINING KNIVES and BLUE/RED GUNS to get comfortable with the drills.


The first thing you need to work on is the basic premise of being able to use your “off-hand” to do simple operations. Notice I did not say “weak” hand; nothing is “weak” unless you allow it to become that way. Start using your off -hand to pick things up around the house. Use it to open doors, turn on the water faucet, flush the commode, operate the TV remote, etc. You might also invest in a few low-cost simple hand strengthening and dexterity devices; these things work great and you can use them anytime. Not only will they increase the strength in your hand, your forearm muscles get a nice workout too. My favorite for working on hand and finger dexterity are the tried and true “Baoding (or Steel) Balls” ; used by martial artist for centuries, you will notice a change in strength and dexterity fairly quick;y. When you feel comfortable with your level of strength, move on to weapons training.

First thing to work on is Weapon Deployment. The possibility that your “fighting” hand could get wounded or incapacitated in some way is very likely, and if you cannot get the weapon into the fight, all else after that is a moot issue. Now when we say “weapon” I am talking about either a knife or sidearm. This could include a multitude of carry variations: With knives it could be a pocket clip folder, horizontal or vertical fixed blade, or even a neck knife. With sidearms, it could be an IWB or OWB holster, pocket pistol or ankle gun. In your drills, don’t focus so much on speed in the beginning. Some trainers emphasize speed WAY too early. All that accomplishes is the student getting frustrated before the real fun starts!  Speed will come. Remember: SLOW IS SMOOTH AND SMOOTH IS FAST. Examine the most efficient way to draw the weapon and then refine that even more. Practice presenting the weapon from different positions: standing, sitting, laying down, etc. Some techniques work great while standing, but sit or lay down and it poops the bed fast, and you never know out on the street what position you may be in! Also, don’t become fixated on conventional methods of presenting the weapon, as long as it is SAFE and EFFICIENT, that is all that matters.


Next, we need to work on USING the weapon. With Knives, It is a very precarious and dangerous affair to draw a knife with intent to kill to begin with, but adding to this the added “hassle” of having only one serviceable hand, and the odds start getting nefariously bad for you! Just know beforehand that knives require much more intensive training than sidearms, so tread carefully! How you employ the weapon with your non-fighting hand is going to heavily depend on your Fighting Style and the Situation at Hand. For Combative disciples, a gross motor stabbing motion utilizing a reverse grip “jab” is going to the quickest. For you Filipino Style/ Pikiti-Tersia students think of Keating’s “Pala-Soot” technique in Drawpoint Vol. 1 DVD. Remember, we are talking about getting a weapon into the fight as fast as possible and doing as much damage as possible, we are not “dueling” or “knife fighting”; we are simply trying to survive and go home!!

With sidearms, your odds of success increase, but not by much. You have to remember as we have discussed, that most self-defense encounters on the street are at or around 10 feet. So Not having that “fending” hand is going to be a MAJOR handicap. Still, your odds are better having the ability to FIGHT EQUALLY with both hands than with just one. In my research and experience, most encounters do not start out this way, typically it occurs from an injury incurred during the fight.

 Once you have perfected that awkward draw with your off-hand, you now need to fire the weapon safely (preferably at the bad guy). Of course, the situation at hand will dictate how you do that; you may have to fire more “gangster” style than you normally might like too, or you might have time to hold and fire it properly. Either way, you need to be aware of some snags that come from both firing a semi-auto pistol “unconventionally” and with your off-hand. For you Revolver guys out there, disregard this paragraph.


Beware of the Limp Wrist!

A friend of mine made me laugh and said this should be posted on a sign when you go anywhere in San Francisco!! Anyways, Some models of semi-auto pistols (mostly the lighter polymer framed ones) when fired with a weaker than normal grip on the weapon will malfunction, either with a stovepipe or worst with the dreaded double-feed. This can only be addressed by practice. As I said previously, you need to USE and EXERCISE that “off-hand” daily. Combine that with weekly shooting drills and that is the only way you will get Strength, Dexterity and Confidence. In your drills, focus on getting the web of your hand as high up on the grip as possible and maintaining constant pressure. Find that nice medium where you are not  squeezing the crap out of it, but not limp wristing it either.

The One-Handed Continuum

Shooting one-handed as most of you know, is a required skill in the CO’s arsenal. It lends itself  very well to movement Off-the-X and sighted and point shooting. Watch enough CCTV and dash-cam footage of street shootings and you can see very quickly why this is so. Fortunately, once the CO has enough strength and confidence, this same set of skills can be transferred to the off-hand and wha-la, another skill-set has been added to the CO’s toolbox.


Advanced Drills

Moving on from off-hand/ambidextrous drills that I described above, the next step would be the ability to wield two weapons (sidearms) at once. Although not widely discussed or practiced in the traditional American firearms training culture, this is a skill that our “Shootist” forefathers, more especially the 19th century gunslingers, like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock and John Wesley Harding, used with deadly precision.

I can see a lot of you out there with puzzled looks, wondering where in the world a skill-set like this would be useful. Let me be clear, I am not advocating you start carrying two-guns concealed or openly, but I am suggesting learning to be adept with two sidearms at once for the sole reason alone it gives you twice the firepower in the event you might need it, perhaps in a survival type situation where you are outnumbered with multiple armed and aggressive adversaries.

Common sense is going have to guide you in how you approach your live fire drills. Again, I would urge you to use the 70% dry fire to 30% live fire ratio. Once your overall dexterity and strength is to the point you feel comfortable, you can increase your live fire percentage. Obviously, multiple targets at varying ranges would be the best drill to start out with, but don’t forget to add different shooting positions, malfunctions, reloads, etc.

Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!

Civilian Operator 101: Training with the Knife for Counter-Terrorism


The use of the knife as a Terrorist weapon has been brought to the forefront with the numerous recent attacks in the U.S., Europe and Israel. But something that has not been discussed openly is the Civilian Operator using the Knife as as both a Offensive and Defensive Weapon AGAINST the terrorist when a sidearm is not an option for whatever reason, either because of a disarm or a non-permissive environment.

An Article I wrote three years ago called Combative Knife Simplicity I think sums up the best course of training and action for the civilian operator in this case. Regardless of the threat, the response is the same.

Most knife training taught in the U.S. is defensive in nature and rarely ventures into the legally murky waters of the OFFENSIVE side of things. Even when an offensive technique is taught, it is taught in a way that you DISABLE the attackers ability to harm you (sever the tendons and nerves in the hand/arm that enable him to hold a knife, pipe or gun) versus just teaching you to stab him in the neck and face or maybe go prison yard rules and sewing machine shank him in the liver and kidneys 50 times.

Listen I learned a LONG time ago that if you always concern yourself with being “politically correct and legally afraid of doing the wrong thing” in matters of self-defense, then you might as well spend your time pre-planning your funeral and picking out a casket instead of hitting the range or the mat! We are talking about matters of life and death here, the most serious issue there is! Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6, Correct?

When you train with a knife you need to forget all this “knife fighting” nonsense. There is no such thing as a “knife fight” only a Knife killing! And if that term bothers you, that is a good sign you have been thinking and training in Hollywood “Fantasy Land” when it comes to matters of using a knife in a realistic self-defense situation.

Your drills need to focus on offensive tactics that effectively and quickly incapacitate an attacker’s body, NOT just his ability to wield a weapon.. The best way to do this is by using Combative knife attacks which focus on stabbing and cutting organs and main arteries. Stay away from in-depth technique laden knife methods. Keep it Simple. Sharp, Pointy Things combined with ruthlessness and Violence of Action. Combatives stresses DIRECT LINES of attack. So with a knife, the quicker the knife goes from the sheath to the opponents flesh, the better.

Two things I am big on when I train is staying REALISTIC to the threat I face by having the correct MENTALITY and also using a simple system or approach that will NOT totally collapse under the STRESS and CHAOS of combat.

This is why for many years I have used the Combative Continuum concept to ensure regardless of what I have or DO NOT have in my hand, I can defend myself effectively.

“One Mind, Any Weapon.”

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!