Everything You’ve Learned About Stance is Wrong!

Rick Molina

February 22, 2021 | 0 Comments

I understand how the title might sound a bit arrogant. After all, I don't know you, what kind of stance you use or why, or how well you apply your stance. The point of this article is to explain why none of that matters.

It's not that any particular stance is right or wrong. Or how you're executing your stance is right or wrong. It's that any notion of "stance", in armed combatives, is wrong.

The concept of stance is about as relevant to combative shooting as it is to playing tennis. In tennis, we get into an ideal stance when we're first learning to swing a racket. Not long after that, we learn to step into an ideal stance as a machine sends a ball to the exact same, perfectly placed, spot for us to hit it.

From that point on, a big part of progressing as a tennis player is about learning how to make good hits on the ball from less than ideal positions, and sending the ball to where your opponent will be out of position when he gets to it. This goes on until, at the highest levels, world-class players are almost constantly moving and making spectacular shots from anything but an ideal stance.

So stances are used initially to help us isolate and focus on subset of fundamental skills. After which, they're left behind.

This is obvious in a game like tennis. No one would ever think standing mid-court in a stance would ever win a match. But when training to carry a gun, many of us mistakenly equate self-protection solely to shooting. And that's where things start to go off track.

Where did we go wrong
Stance is a tool for target shooters, where accuracy is the only objective. Accuracy comes from consistency. One of the ways target shooters achieve consistency is to eliminate movement. So they anchor their feet to the ground, settle into a solid stance, tuck their hand in their pocket (or grab their junk apparently) and squeeze off rounds.

Even modern "defensive handgun" stances like the Weaver and the Isosceles were born out of target shooting. Jack Weaver developed his "stance" for Leather Slap competitions where contestants tried to hit an 8" balloon at 8 yards. Brian Enos and Rob Leatham developed the Isosceles for shooting in I.P.S.C. competitions where 5 to 25 targets are spread all over the place.

None of these stances were created in the crucible of combat. They weren't conceived to handle attackers who are lunging at you with a knife, grabbing at your gun or shooting at you.

One of the first things you need to understand is that marksmanship shooting and combatives shooting are two completely different kinds of shooting. Combatives shooting isn't just faster marksmanship shooting at different targets. It's a different kind of aiming, a different kind of sight picture, a different kind of trigger pull, etc.

The second thing you need to understand is that shooting is only one small part of armed combatives. And if you ignore the other parts, your shooting skills may not be enough.

Too many who carry a gun for protection confuse shooting with combatives. Shooting is just one part of combatives.

Counter-Offensive Pressure
I've already suggested that dynamic movement, not static stance, is what we need for combatives. But why?

For two reasons.

First, remember Combatives Safety Rule #4 says you must be aware of your surroundings - where friendlies and bystanders are, where other threats might come from, the location of barriers, obstacles, cover, escape routes, etc.

You may need to move in order to respond quickly, safely and effectively.

Second, there's no room for "defense" when it comes to self-defense. That's why we prefer to use words like "combatives" and "counter-offense".

"The best defense is a good offense."

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a quote from a football coach. It's a combative strategy that's been around since 2700BC.

It's been a cornerstone principle for combatants ranging from ancient Japanese swordsmen and Chinese Warrior Monks to modern-day generals commanding the armies of today's nuclear superpowers.

The principle is simple enough. If your reaction to an attack is purely defensive it is inevitable that you will be defeated.

Ancient Gung Fu texts say it much more eloquently. "The hand that defends must also strike."

With a defensive mindset, you are relinquishing the role of predator to your attacker and relegating yourself to the role of prey. Your focus is on blocking, slipping or distancing yourself from his attacks, which he remains free to initiate, whenever and however he wants.

Taking on a counter-offensive mindset forces him, at least partially, into the prey role and advances you to prey turned predator.

Isn't that what we're doing with a gun?
Well, sorta. But remember what we said earlier. Shooting is just a part of combatives, just a part of what you do from the moment you realize you're under attack to the point where you've suppressed or eliminated the threat.

We can breakdown "what you do" into 3 phases.

  • What you do without a gun until you get to your gun
  • What you do with your gun until you get to a shot
  • What you do while shooting until you get control

To give yourself the highest likelihood of winning, all three phases must subject your attacker(s) to counter-offensive pressure. And that requires movement.

I'm not talking about complex fighting systems or elaborate martial arts sequences. Let's leave that for John Wick.

In fact, simplicity is critical.

It may just be a step to shift your weight, a tuck of your chin, a bend of your elbow, a lean, a shrug of your shoulder, a check from your offhand or a pivot of your hips that will allow you to guard your gun, clear your draw, line up your counter, and suppress your attacker without posing a threat to yourself or anyone else.

We're talking about movements that are triggered by instinct rather than decision. The basic principles of applying counter-offensive pressure can be learned over a long weekend with a good instructor, not years in a dojo.

This article isn't about the particulars of how we should move. It's about helping you understand that stance is widely misunderstood by many who want to carry a gun for protection, and to possibly get you thinking in a little differently about how you may want to practice.

A clarification
I've tried to go into enough detail here to help you understand the reasoning behind this concept of Counter-Offensive Pressure and to give you enough data to support that reasoning. In the process, I fear this written format may have made it sound much more complicated than it actually is.

In a live training environment, it only takes a few minutes to demonstrate COP in a way that makes the benefits obvious. After that we go through a few examples that give you some drills you can take home and practice on your own.

I'll make some time to shoot a video at my next training event and insert it here. Until then, feel free to reach out to me with any questions.

We aren't tossing out everything we know about stance
What we've call stances are really just temporary postures we may pass through momentarily in our overall effort to suppress or eliminate a threat.

Those postures are still important to understand. They become landmarks we may reference as we navigate through our counter-offensive.

So it should never be a discussion about Isosceles VERSUS Weaver VERSUS Central Axis Relock, etc. It should always be Isosceles AND Weaver AND Central Axis Relock AND anything else you can come up with.

Is there a new posture that will help me in a different situation? When would that be? How would I get in and out of it? What other postures will it help me transition to and from? What's my effective range, speed and accuracy with it?

Let's wrap it up
That tennis player jumping through the air, angling for a backhand, while she prepares to get back to center court as soon as she hits the ground, is able to do that because she's mastered, among other things, the biomechanical advantages of taking a backhand stroke from a dozens of positions.

Moreover, she's learned how to get in and out of those positions quickly. So now she's able to do all that in less than a second and a half, without any real cognitive decision making. That's what makes tennis fun. And that's what makes combative shooting fun.

There's a whole world of training experiences you can enjoy beyond standing at a indoor range like a Kentucky Derby race horse, plinking at cartoon character zombies.

The people who are most prepared to protect themselves and their loved-ones are those who genuinely enjoy getting out and practicing what is legitimately related to improving their skills - the right skills.

So get yourself out of the marksmanship stance mindset and start working on the real combative skill of movement, posture and pressure. It'll be fun!

Rick Molina

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