Wednesday, June 05, 2013

10 Seconds To Fight By Armando Basulto

Armando training a unit of Britain's Royal Marines, 3/4 Commando

Some coaches subscribe to the old saying: "Pain is the best teacher, but nobody wants to go to his class." Though it should be obvious that nobody wants to train just to get hurt, there is much value in experiencing the "pain" of not only pushing yourself physically and mentally, but of preparing yourself for the physiological shock of the give and take of an altercation (in or out of the ring!). In other words, get used to getting hit...or "tapped"...or hit with a stick...or....

Warriors throughout history have made experiential learning part of their training. Men who prepared for war were expected to deal with the stress and shock of being on the receiving end of an enemy's attack, but were expected to keep their wits and respond in kind. In knighting ceremonies, the newly minted knight was often struck a blow across the face with the admonition "let that be the last blow left unanswered!"

Medieval chronicles depict knights, emboldened by a chivalric code, religious fervor or courtly love, taking blow after blow, with lance or sword and continuing to fight, vanquishing their opponents before (often but not always) succumbing to their mortal wounds. Though at times these accounts could be exaggerated, the archeological evidence showing both weapons and men surviving after repeated battle abuse, show this was not a fantastic or even uncommon occurrence.

In more recent history, during the Civil War and the Indian Wars, the subject of the "Dead Man's Ten Seconds" was often mentioned in accounts depicting battles. In many of these stories fighting men continued to fight heroically for ten or more seconds after taking a fatal blow, oftentimes mortally wounding and defeating their opponents before succumbing to their injuries.

The term "Dead Man's Ten Seconds" appears in some early Western documentation (i.e. accounts of Texas Rangers, not Dime Novel idealism), depicting old gunfighters of the frontier era receiving fatal wounds yet still out-firing their opponents.

In most of these gun battle encounters, from the time of the fatal hit to the time the lack of blood flow carrying oxygen to the brain caused loss of consciousness/death, was approximately ten seconds. Headshots of course in most cases take out the subject at once as expected. This happened enough that the term "Dead Man's Ten Seconds" became part of the lingo and jargon of the Frontier.

Experienced fighting men of the period were aware of these "Ten Seconds". One account (a first hand account in the book A Texas Ranger by N.A. Jennings, circa 1870's) tells about two Texas Rangers that had a huge dislike for each other but, both handy with the gun, knew that the other "...would have his "Ten Seconds" to do what he needed to do. I have heard several men tell another man in the heat of a bitter dispute to take his best shot if he wanted but he 'Would have his ten' as well. I never witnessed it go past that point knowing full well they meant that they would follow thru."

These "Ten Seconds" are far more common in a knife fight after a fatal wound, and in most cases it takes some time before the loss of consciousness is complete. Duels with Bowie knives were common during this same period and accounts of these fights in newspapers of the time tell of the combatants wounding each other over and over and continuing to fight (see Duels and the Roots of Violence in Missouri, by Dick Steward).

Two books, Forensic Pathology and Gun Shot Wounds, both by Dr. Dominick J. DiMaio, Medical Examiner discuss that if the central nervous system is not hit and the skeletal structure has not been damaged to the point that it cannot bear the weight of the body, a fatally hit human can still function for 10 seconds or longer. 

In a gun battle, perhaps more than in unarmed combat, the most unpredictable component affecting reaction time and capability is the psychology of being shot. We are conditioned by TV and the movies to expect a person (and ourselves) to fall immediately and die instantly when struck by a bullet. As countless police videos will attest, this only happens with any surety in the movies. Many "one shot stops" occur because of the psychological trauma of being shot, regardless of the physical damage done. Of course, this assumes a certain degree of rationality, which can be absent due to drugs, alcohol and psychosis.

Michael Platt, who was involved in the FBI's "Miami Massacre" (1986), was hit with a non-survivable wound within seconds of the initial gunfire. He continued fighting and killed two agents, and managed to wound several more before dying. Ed Mirales, an FBI agent, was shot in the arm with a crippling round, yet was able to work the action on an 870 shotgun one handed, and end the fight.

Though most people are fortunate to have their knowledge of killing limited to TV and movies, police officers are trained to expect someone who has been shot to be capable of continuing the fight for some time (at LEAST 10 seconds) - certainly enough to empty the magazine on their weapon. With this in mind, law enforcement personnel (and our combat troops) are taught to keep firing as long as the bad guy continues to present a deadly force threat - i.e. they drop the weapon or lose consciousness.

Working live fire drills with the SIG 220
Working live fire drills with the SIG 220

The only shot that will instantly stop a fight is one which disables the central nervous system (brain or spinal cord). Dr Martin Fackler, the director of the wound ballistics laboratory at the Presidio of San Francisco in the 1980's, did the definitive work on this subject (Wound Ballistics Review, Volume 5 Number 1, Spring 2001). It followed the 1986 Miami FBI shootout, and helped the FBI (and others) reach decisions in handgun calibers and bullet design. 

One of the conclusions of the study was that if the brain or upper cervical spines are hit, incapacitation is almost invariably immediate. If not, the bullet must create a large enough wound cavity and disrupt blood-bearing organs (lungs, heart, liver, spleen) and arteries to promote the rapid lose of blood and consciousness. Depending on the size of the wound cavity, organs involved, and rate of blood loss, incapacitation can take 10 seconds or longer. 

In Basulto Academy's Combat Pistolcraft curriculum, we always train both aimed fire, and instinctual or "Point of Aim" fire. This is not only to accommodate the degradation in fine motor skills caused by the adrenaline rush but also to prepare one tactically and mentally for being able to return fire and "stay in the fight", even after having received a wound.

This "Stay in the Fight" mindset is an attribute that must be developed and trained in all self-preservation scenarios. It is not simply the "get tough" attitude in dealing with training injuries or exhaustion. It is also a trained familiarity with the trauma of getting hit so that response time, accuracy and intensity are not affected.

My Muay Thai teacher instilled in his students the mantra of "take one, give two!" He was tough fighter in Thailand, his commitment so complete to the ring that he had a tattoo across his forehead (literally!) announcing his occupation as a fighter for all to see. Many of the blows received in the ring, whether it be a Savate match, a Muay Thai or boxing match, would put the average pedestrian down before the cameras would have time to take a picture. What makes fighters tough is their familiarity and acceptance of the blows as part of balancing that algebraic equation of "The Fight".

Daily sparring is not enough (though it is a step in the right direction). For obvious reasons, you could only limit yourself to the "shock" of a particular intensity and/or scenario (unless you are willing to ask your training partner to shoot you or stab you weekly so "you can get used to it"!) What is required is also a complete realignment as to your expectations and limitations when the chips are down. You must develop your "Will to Survive" beyond the mere "tough guy" level.

Your mind must be sharpened to the commitment to "stay in the fight" regardless of pain or surrounding distractions. Visualization, before and after training, is essential, but your mindset while sparring or "rolling" or even at the firing range must be developed as well. This can, and should be a self-managed part of your training, but a good coach will lead you to it without you even knowing it. You should incorporate this mindset development into all facets of your training.

  • For starters, when sparring, never allow yourself to stop or quit before the round is over. Do a whole round where you are not allowed to punch or kick (only defense) followed immediately by a round where you respond to every hit by your opponent with 3 blows.
  • When grappling, always roll for a predetermined time period (not until someone taps) and do not reset after each tap but rather have a mutual agreement that as soon as a submission is locked in, you immediately release and continue from that position.
  • At the firing range, dedicate a portion of your time to point firing and not just target practice. A great drill is to do a set of Squats/Pushups to raise your heart rate, then immediately draw your weapon and fire.
Ultimately, the ideal is to feel confident in what your mental and physical state will be even when traumatized. Your ability to stay in the fight is important in a competitive sport environment, but in a self-preservation mode, your "ten seconds" could mean life or death for you and your loved ones. You owe it to yourself, and your loved ones entrusted to your care, to "Cowboy up"!


My sincerest gratitude to Armando Basulto for his kind permission on reposting his article to my site. This article was originally published in Blackwater Tactical Weekly and the Las Vegas Police's Training Wheel.

A little about Armando Basulto. He is a 1st Degree Black Belt under Royler Gracie/David Adiv and  began training in the 1970’s in Judo, Boxing, Kickboxing and various martial arts disciplines. As a competitive kickboxer, he has fought in the USA and Europe (Muay Thai and Savate). He began his training in Gracie Jiu Jitsu in the early 1990’s in California. Armando has been a private student of Rickson Gracie, Royler Gracie, Renzo Gracie and David Adiv.

Mr. Basulto has been a member and representative for Royler Gracie/David Adiv (RGDA) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over a 14 years, coaching his students to several championship titles in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Grappling. He has traveled to Brazil to train at the world-famous Gracie Academy in Rio de Janeiro and was a competitor in the 1999 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan American Championships. 

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