I have a stack of books that I am slowly getting through. Every now and then I read one and then think “I should have read that book years ago”. ON KILLING by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman was one of these. This was a fascinating read.

This book is written mainly for and about military but there are a lot of good lessons for us in the self defense field. Basically, it talked about how killing is so against everything that is inside of us that most of us will freeze or simply accept our own injury or death rather than strike out at others. I was amazed to learn that all of the World War II movies I’ve seen are full of crap when they are showing battle scenes. Eighty to Eighty five percent of soldiers on the battlefield would not shoot their weapons. They were not cowards, they would just find other things to do. They would get ammo to the fifteen to twenty percent of men who were firing, tend the wounded (often heroically), etc. rather than fire their own weapon, even when someone was trying to kill them. This was found to be about the same percentage (and story) in all wars throughout history up to that point. They found many rifles on Civil War battlefields that had several slugs and powder charges loaded into the same barrel. Men were acting like they fired and reloading so that it looked like they were firing to their officers.

This is why people like my wife had told me “I don’t think that I could ever shoot someone, even if they were trying to hurt me.” This always amazed me that anyone could possibly not want to hurt someone who was trying to hurt them but it makes more sense to me now.

By the war in Viet Nam the firing rate had been raised to ninety-seven percent. What did they do differently in training that raised the firing rate so dramatically? Well, in WWII the training for firing a weapon was to lie on a grassy field and shoot at a bulls-eye target. By Viet Nam they had soldiers firing at man shaped targets that popped up on a course that the soldier was traversing. When they got a hit the target would drop backwards giving instant positive feedback and reward. Soldiers who got their first kill in the battle were often heard to say “it was like the course, a torso popped up and I fired”.

With training people’s attitudes of “can’t hurt someone” can change. My wife, for example, has been to good training and now believes that she could and would fire at someone trying to hurt her. The fact that she has trained and has a child to protect now has me convinced that she would.

When we train for self defense we must stop hitting static pads & targets and working single techniques. Drills where we are being pushed and smacked while we are exhausted and stressed are training for what we will see in violent encounters. Doing handgun or knife defenses against a partner who is standing and holding a weapon on us as if they were a statue is worthless training. Having that partner with the weapon push us, kick us, yell and cuss while never holding the weapon in one place makes much more sense. When training this way we aren’t just working techniques but working the realistic scenario. When this happens in real life we are much more apt to respond as we have been there and done that.

As an aside, they also “desensitized” soldiers with films of violence, talking about how great killing was, etc . Practicing simulated killing and being desensitized by violence makes it much easier to kill. Lt. Grossman has another book entitled TEACHING OUR CHILDREN TO KILL. Violent video games and the violence in movies is exactly how they are teaching soldiers to kill…and we are doing it to our kids without any safeguards. Something to think about! BE SAFE!



  1. All the training in the world is worthless if not done correctly. I had a female tell me her rape story. She was a blackbelt in martial arts and “knew how to protect herself.” But once confronted by her attacker she was forcibly raped and didn’t fight back. The part where she didn’t fight back troubled her more than the rape! She continued to train but had a much different focus. As teachers it is our job to focus them and prepare them.

    In classes I had a student that trained regularly… one night I came out in the Redman suit and roughed it up a little. This student when attacked started punching me in the arm?? I yelled “im not your kid brother hit me…” after the round was done I asked her why the arm. She didn’t know. The next round was completely different and so we’re the next two… she needed that “Stress Annoculation” to fund out how she would react.

    Lt. Col. Grossmans book is a must read. Better yet find his “Bullet Proof” mind seminar and go.

    Matt Kissel

  2. Fantastic blog Sir! My eyes are open to a new stress drill approach. Thank you!


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