Doug Sunnenberg, 


A few weeks ago, we had another wonderful training event around Side Arm safety and Combat shooting. We first worked on developing the awareness necessary to identify a potential threat and the skills required to confront the danger, using assertive language and evasive movements, to avoid the potential threat and thereby hopefully make an altercation unnecessary. Referred to as the “interview” stance, Sensei Sukh Sandhu taught us to step away from the potential threat with the strong side foot while bringing the weak side hand up between the potential threat and the defender, while expressing an assertive verbal response intended to disengage the potential threat and continuing to create distance from it, while remaining aware of the overall environment.

Of course, a potential threat can quickly become a real threat, and the real threat might not respect the verbal response. We next worked on the mechanics of the draw stroke based on the assumption that the handgun would be drawn from some type of concealment. Sukh Sensei taught us the safe and efficient movements included clearing the cover garment, placing the weak hand in a safe position on the chest/belly, gripping the weapon with the strong hand ensuring that the trigger finger was in proper “index” (clear of the trigger guard) to prevent unintended discharge, lowering the hips as lifting the handgun straight up to clear the holster, rocking the weapon from muzzle down to muzzle forward, moving the weak hand laterally from the chest/belly to the weapon and gripping it properly to provide an additional sure grip on the firearm, and pushing the weapon forward with the strong hand, with the sights aligned on the target, while the weak hand pulls back to help provide a more stable shooting platform.

Sensei then had us add a final assertive command/warning, to precede the draw stroke, for the perpetrator to stop, which, if not heeded, was followed with four shots in a vertical string aimed at the center of mass of the perpetrator, to stop the threat. Once stopped, we were taught to take a low ready stance with trigger finger in proper safe “index” position, check our surroundings for other threats, left and right, followed by moving to the left or the right as appropriate, and again checking left and right for other threats. Only after ensuring that there were no more threats were we to reholster the handgun, by reversing the safe and efficient steps followed in the draw stroke.

While watching and listening to Sukh Sensei demonstrate, and while all the students practiced the movements that he demonstrated, I could not help but embrace the parallels between these basic combat handgun lessons and the lessons in Kobudo that we regularly practice in our dojo. Having the awareness to identify potential threats is “Zanshin” (total awareness), moving and reacting to them, which is akin to “moving off the X” as sometimes taught in other firearms workshops, is Ukemi. Likewise, assertive verbal response and shouting commands, intended to both cause the perpetrator to hesitate and to focus the defender’s response, is “Kiai” (intent yell). Turning the strong side away from the threat is the same as turning the left hip (where the bladed weapon of a Samurai is carried) away from the threat. In both cases, the opponent is prevented from readily accessing the defender’s weapons. Raising the weak hand to discourage the opponent’s forward movement and stepping back and away from the opponent is similar to the use of Kamae (e.g., Bobi No Kamae, on guard postures). Many aspects of the draw stroke of the handgun are similar to the draw stroke of an edged weapon, such as a Katana. For instance, placing the weak hand on the chest/belly for safety while the handgun is withdrawn is like grasping the “saya” (scabbard) rearward of the “fuchi” (hilt collar) in a way that prevents the fingers from being cut as the blade is withdrawn. Sinking the hips, to pull the holster from the handgun as the strong hand lifts it, is the same hip motion used to help the left hand pull the “saya” off the blade of the Katana. Rocking the handgun from muzzle down to muzzle forward orientation is like the action of flipping the blade from tip rearward to forward, both weapons is ready orientation. Enforcing the grip on the handgun with the weak hand is like gripping the tsuka (handle) near the “kashira” (butt cap/end of handle). Pushing the handgun forward with the sights aligned on target is like taking a “kamae” (on guard posture) with the Katana, such as Chudan No Kamae. There are even more parallels that could be cited, but these are enough to readily see that the study of our 1000 year old, Koryu (classical martial art), martial art is directly applicable to the present day combat weapons and situations.

From my perspective, this realization is a forceful encouragement to enthusiastically continue my studies of our Koryu arts. If you are reading this, and if you participated in the Basic Combat Handgun Workshop last month, perhaps it will have similar impact on your training habits. If you were not able to participate, perhaps it will impact your conscience in a way that guides you to seek Wisdom for the Future by Honoring the Traditions of Old and developing a keener knowledge of our Koryu arts.