The Problem with Most H2H and Tactical Training: You only get one chance to see if it works


fbc I was recently coaxed (bribed) by a friend into attending a H2H (Hand to Hand) seminar in a fighting style that I won’t name here and I've never trained in before. It was taught by a nice enough fellow who confidently spouted out the benefits of learning a “street proven” way of defending yourself at the beginning of the class.

Throughout the seminar he was very attentive to all the students and made sure everyone understood what to do after he showed us a bunch of techniques to fight and/or disarm people.

And then we started practicing all of the moves he taught us at 1/2 speed.

With no actual contact when punching or kicking.

After the seminar I asked the instructor how many real fights he has been in, only to be met with a blank stare…

It reminded me of another class I was coaxed (again, bribed) into attending a year ago that was led by an instructor teaching a tactical pistol class. Like the H2H seminar above, it was also taught by a nice enough dude who was not a bad instructor, despite being somewhat inexperienced (but he was an NRA certified instructor!). Now, before you hear me complain, let me make it clear this was not an entry level “how to shoot” class, it was supposed to be a class that would teach you how to shoot in a shootout.

And then we started running through all of the drills he taught us at 1/2 speed.

At paper targets.

After the class I asked the instructor how many real gunfights he has been in, only to be met with a blank stare…

My issue with the above way of training is this: the only way you will find out if what you learned will work, or if you will even be able to remember it under stress – is when you get into a shootout or some meathead comes at you with a broken pool cue the first time.

And despite my smart-ass comments to the instructors I hardly expect every instructor out there to have killed people in shootouts or had been in a bunch of fist fights. Quite the contrary, I believe if someone is taught by a skilled professional instructor who has killed people in shootouts, and has been in a bunch of fist fights then that instructor is good to go and able to effectively convey the skills from his instructor to you.

And then after you've learned the fundamentals from whatever instructor, that instruction is then put into practice against a real person(s) at the same speed and level of violence (or as close as you can get) that would happen in the real world. And then you do it 100 more times until you reach a level of acceptable proficiency from experiencing the stress, pain and mistakes made. Just like if you faced someone who wants to kill or hurt you or your loved ones.

Herein lies the problem, the second half of the above is missing in most people training.

This is not necessarily the instructor’s fault either – in my opinion it is 99% the students own fault because they choose to only get ½ of the instruction they need to realistically survive a fight.

In the tactical firearms training world I have talked to instructors who have tried to convince their students to take Force on Force training (with Sim Rounds or Airsoft). But when they announce a class for airsoft Force on Force training, where a student will have the chance to get into a shootout with another person who wants to “kill” them they only hear crickets, while at the same time, the live fire class where all people do is blast away at stationary paper targets fill up.

The same is even more prevalent in H2H or Martial Arts training. I see a ton of people flocking to so-called “Reality Based” H2H training where there is virtually zero contact. And what little contact is never full on. So basically people “learn” how to fist fight without ever actually knocking someone out (or at least trying to). But unlike in tactical firearms training, you will rarely see a martial arts instructor telling a student to seek out full-on training at another Boxing, MMA or Muay Thai Gym where they will have a chance to eventually jump in a ring and punch a guy in the face full-steam or choke a fool out.

I don’t know when this “learn everything, but omit actually doing it” way of learning and teaching started or why it is practically the standard of defensive/offensive training these days. Today I see this mostly being perpetuated by students choosing to get ½ the training they need by voting with their wallet (why would a school or instructor have a class that never fills?). Combine that with the years of disciplined training it will take to become proficient in a H2H skill where you actually beat people up like the above mentioned Boxing, MMA or Muay Thai. It’s no wonder people choose to take the easy way.

How do you train so you can use the fundamental skills you know and test yourself against another person who wants to kill you at the same time? Easy, get in a shootout or a fist fight – over and over and over again; Repeat.

Obviously you cannot go down to the local 7-11 at three in the morning with your pistol stuffed in your pants, hoping someone comes in to rob the joint so you can get into a shootout. Nor can you walk up to some random fool in a bar and slap them across the face so you can get in a fist fight.

And if you did not get into 100 fist fights before you were 16 because you were the only Asian kid in your entire Grade, Middle and High School classes in some boondock Southern County in the late 70’s, who then later went into the Security Contracting Industry, Shooting and Looting his way across the 3rd world like I did, it is OK. You still have some great training options available to you.

Here it is:

After you have learned the fundamentals in the first 50% of the training you need, take as many Force on Force classes as you can where they use Sim Rounds or Airsoft (that is hopped up so it hurts) and also spend the next couple of years in a Boxing, MMA or Muay Thai Gym. Have some amateur fights or sign up to be a sparring partner (punching bag) for a pro. Hell, they even might pay you 50 bucks.

Fortune, Glory and knowing you will Survive a Fight is right around the corner and all it will cost you is some money, sweat and a shitload of bruises.

Or you can forget about all the above and just join the Army Rangers, both should get ya about the same results.


~~James "ARCHER" Price Founder – Editor in Chief DVM

James P. is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Southeast Asia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and getting into fights at night clubs despite being way to old to still be going to night clubs in the first place.