on rappel

Rappelling or Abseiling is the skill of descending down a rope. It is actually a simple process, but is fraught with many hazards, some statistics state that about 25% of climbing deaths occur during rappelling, most commonly due to failing anchors or abseiling beyond the end of the rope.

At its core, rappelling is the act of using some sort of friction device or hitch to play out your rope in controlled fashion, under load, so that you can safely descend.

Rappelling is not rocket science, but you have to know what you are doing. The rope has to be properly anchored, you have to be properly attached to the rope and the device you are using to rappel with needs to be properly attached to YOU.


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tactical preschool 24


This is another “well duh” point that few people seem to remember when the SHTF.

Someone has to be in charge.

This is a “no-brainer” for the military or LE people out there because there typically is a rank structure already implimented in their organizations. But for the group of  “average joes” who may find themselves dealing with trouble, deciding who is going to call the shots can be one of the largest hurdles to jump.

It’s my opinion that half of being the leader is skill and knowledge based and the other half is simply just giving others someone to follow. In all of the group based lessons I have presented, everybody needs to be moving with a common purpose and reacting in an organized fashion. The only way that is going to happen is through training and leadership. If each individual thinks that THEY are the head honcho things are going to fall apart very fast. Even if EVERYBODY in a group has no experience, placing someone in charge will increase the odds of survival compared to each individual doing their own thing.

I’m fairly certain that in a flock of wild geese ALL the geese know where they are going but if they all want to get there together in an orderly fashion it’s more efficient to just follow the lead goose. Deciding who the lead goose is can either be a matter of someone taking the position themselves by “stepping up”, or it can be a matter of “role”, where someone in the group is the assumed “boss”; like a teacher, father figure, tour guide, pilot, or the cop/soldier in the group. In a pinch, everybody could simply agree to assign someone to the position. However it is done, once a situation involves more than “YOU” it should become a conscious decision that is quickly made.

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tactical preschool 23

When engaging a bad guy, showing up with friends is always a good idea. To maximize your advantage, you should be striving to make your job easier and his job tougher. A basic way to do this it to strive for as close to a 90 degree angle of convergence on your opponent as possible.

While having a buddy by your shoulder isn’t really “BAD” per se and many shooting instructors train to work in close proximity to a cohort (it’s also easier and safer as far as range safety/control goes), if you are too close to your partner you are not making it difficult enough for the opponent to engage the two of you simultaneously. All he has to do is adjust his sight picture slightly to left or right to engage both targets.


If you think about it (when the ratio is 2:1), there is an inverse relationship of angle to advantage going on here. The wider the angle is between the two “good guys”, the more difficult it is for the “bad guy”.

The “bad guy” has to track and target threats that are farther and farther apart, making it more complicated to OBSERVE and ORIENT on his opponents.


Ideally, the optimal configuration is to attain a 90 degree angle on the bad guy. Of course all depends on time, distance, cover, terrain and other variables. Always remember that “best” can sometimes be the enemy of “good enough”.


Once you get past 90 degrees, the danger of hitting each other increases.


Something to think about: The inverse of this lesson. If you are outnumbered, you should be trying to maneuver yourself so that your opponents are at a narrower angle of incident.

Musashi had this to say on the subject:

Waiting is bad. Always quickly re-assume your attitudes to both sides, cut the enemies down as they advance, crushing them in the direction from which they attack. Whatever you do, you must drive the enemy together, as if tying a line of fishes, and when they are seen to be piled up, cut them down strongly without giving them room to move.


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victimhood, revenge, forgiveness and mindset

Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan
Image by syvwlch via Flickr

Published in the 1920’s, The Tales of the Samurai was a collection of stories transcribed by Asataro Miyamori and was subtitled “Stories Illustrating Bushido, the Moral Principles of Japanese Knighthood”.It has recently been released for “fair-use” non-comercial purposes so I will be utilizing it as a source from time to time.

The following story is titled Ungo-Zenji . It takes an interesting perspective on what it means to be a victim, how the desire for revenge can take over ones life and how even such base desires can be used as a tool to transcend and improve oneself if you look at life from a different perspective.

IT was snowing fast.

Already as far as eye could see the world was covered with a vast silvery sheet. Hill and dale, tree and field, all alike clothed in virgin white. Caring nothing for the bitter cold, but loving the beautiful, Date Masamune determined to go out to enjoy the scene. Accordingly, accompanied by a few attendants, he wended his way to a pavilion set on a low hill in the castle grounds whence an extensive view, embracing the whole of his little fief of Osaki, could be obtained.

In later life Masamune distinguished himself by signal service rendered to the state, eventually becoming one of the greatest daimios in Japan, under lyeyasu, the first Shogun, but at this time Osaki was his sole estate, and his income did not exceed 1 00,000 koku of rice a year. “What an enchanting picture! What can compare with a snow landscape? ” he exclaimed, as he stood enraptured, gazing with delight from the balcony of the pavilion at the pure loveliness of the scene before him. “It is said that snow foretells a fruitful year. When the harvest is abundant great is the rejoicing of the people, and peace and prosperity reign over the land! ”

While his lordship thus soliloquized, Heishiro, the sandal-bearer Makabe Heishiro as he was called from his birthplace, Makabe in Hitachi, a surname being a luxury unknown to the third estate waited without. Having adjusted his master’s footgear there was nothing more to do till he should come out again. But presently Heishiro observed that the snovvflakes fell and lay somewhat thick on his valuable charge. He hastened to brush them off with his sleeve, but more flakes fell, and again the geta (clogs) were covered with icy particles. ”

This will never do,” he said to himself. ” His lordship disdains to wear tabi (socks) even in the coldest weather, deeming it a mark of effeminacy ; should he place his bare feet on these damp geta he will assuredly catch cold. I must keep them warm and dry for him.” So the good fellow in the kindness of his simple heart took up the heavy wooden clogs, and putting them in the bosom of his garment next his skin, continued his patient waiting.

“His lordship comes!”

Heishiro had just time to put the geta straight on the large stone step at the entrance before the double doors slid open right and left and Masamune appeared, young, imperious.

He slipped his feet on to the geta. How was this? They felt warm to his touch! How could that be in such freezing weather? There could be but one explanation. That lazy lout of a sandal-bearer had been using them as a seat sitting on the honourable footgear of his august master! The insufferable insolence of the fellow!

In a passion at the supposed insult he caught the offender by the nape of his neck, and shook him violently, exclaiming between his set teeth, ” You scoundrel ! How dared you defile my geta by sitting on them! You have grossly insulted me behind my back! Villian, take that!”

Catching up one of the clogs which he had kicked off, he struck the poor servitor a heavy blow between the eyes, which caused him to reel stunned and bleeding to the ground. Then hurling the companion geta at his prostrate victim, he strode proudly back to the castle, barefooted, for he was in too great a rage to wait until another pair of geta could be brought. No one stayed to look after Heishiro. None cared what became of him. For some time he lay as he had fallen, but presently the cold brought him back to consciousness, and he rose slowly and with difficulty to his feet.

He picked up the geta with which he had been struck, and with tears mingling with the blood on his face gazed at it mournfully for a few moments. Then, as the thought of his master’s injustice came over him, he gnashed his teeth in impotent rage.

“Haughty brute, that you are, Masamune,” he muttered,” you shall pay for this! The bond between us as lord and vassal has snapped for ever. I have been one of the most devoted of your humble servants, but now I will never rest till I have had my revenge on you for this cruel treatment! ”

Then Heishiro again put the geta into his bosom, though with how different an intention from before, and descending the hill on the side furthest from the castle, limped painfully away.

From that time forth the man had but one idea to wreak condign vengeance on the arrogant noble who had so abused his kindness.

Continue reading victimhood, revenge, forgiveness and mindset

tactical preschool 22

bldg cover

When dealing with structures that have bad guys in them, sometimes you need to secure the outer perimeter to prevent anybody from getting away or to keep people from getting in to help them out.

A simple, manpower friendly, technique to accomplish this is to place an operator on diagonal corners of the building. This way, with only two people, you can cover 360 degrees of an average size building. This set-up is truly more effective for observation+intelligence purposes than it is for setting a “solid” perimeter.  I have been on a corner like this only to have a guy bail out of a window in the middle of the wall and take off running. At least I saw it and we were able to deal with it, which is 90% of the game in most civilian operations. Depending on the structures size and composition you also need to keep  over-penetration in mind.

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USMC Combat Fitness Test (CFT)

Leave it up to the USMC to be on the cutting edge of Combat Fitness. Especially if it involves running the hell out you. Good for them, THIS is what Combat Fitness is all about. It’s not about being able to do so many push-up’s, sit-up’s, chin-up’s etc.

I think this should be run near a range where firearms manipulation/accuracy while puked out could enter into the equation.


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tactical preschool 21

Today’s lesson is a little more advanced…not much, but a little.

Sometimes when you are working with a group of friends it is common to move in a column. This is a good technique for moving everybody efficiently from one point to another, especially  when you don’t know exactly where your opponents are. The main advantages of this formation are speed, ease of control and all around security.

If you are moving through dangerous areas where you could get attacked from any side, it is easier to divide up areas of responsibility and have eyes looking out 360 degrees while in column. If you are suddenly attacked you can all react swiftly to face the threat vs. having to scramble a bunch of bodies from here and there. In column, nobody can wander off on their own because you are simply following the dude in front of you. It’s also easy for the guy in front (AKA “Point Man”) to send messages back to everybody via hand signals. This makes this formation ideal for controlling movement in dark environments or in areas where its difficult to see very far.

You will see this often in SWAT operations because it is the most efficient way to get an entire assault team from their last point of cover to their entry point swiftly and safely while keeping everybody in their assigned positions.

One of the disadvantages of the column formation is that it is difficult to engage targets that are immediately in front or behind the column. In the illustration below you see that not everybody can see or engage a target and when the bullets start flying, people behind you can (and often do) start slinging lead past your coconut at the bad guys. If they or you make an unexpected move, it is going to be a bad day. It is also easier for the bad guys to take your entire team in enfilade. Which is fancy French for “you are lined up like turkeys”. All he has to do is keep shooting straight on and chances are he will hit a few of you.

Unfortunately, even with some experienced tactical teams it is not uncommon for the entire “stack” to continue into the assault or retreat while still in column. There is a natural, and dangerous tendency for people to feel safer while bunched up and if you are trained to move solely “in stack”..well you will do what you train yourself to do.


A better way to deal with this situation is to get “online” with your opponents while seeking positions of cover. This way you can all efficiently engage targets without screening each others fire.

You will also note from my illustration that the good guys are not trying to hit the opponent directly in front of them. When possible, this is a good approach for two reasons. One: you don’t have to stick your head out from around cover so much to engage the guy directly in front of you and Two: it is natural for your opponent to “tunnel vision” on the guy directly in front of him. Sending the enemy some fire from the flank takes advantage of this lack of Observation and Orientation (damn OODA again!) on you…and it is always better to be shooting at a bad guy who isn’t aware of  you.


Once your target goes down, you can then shift yourself or your fire to “join the party” on the remaining bad guys.


Good for you…bad for them.

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tactical preschool 20

Remember that cover works both ways.

If he can’t hit you through it, you can’t hit him either; and while cover can offer great advantages to you, if you don’t maintain Observation (OODA again..”hint hint”) of your opponent, he can maneuver against you at will. This is why military tactics involve suppressing enemy positions with fire while assault elements move into position.

If you duck down behind cover for too long you cant see what your opponent is doing, which is a bad thing. You must strive to use your cover for protection while still being able to observe and engage your opponent.