From the Archives, 2014
Ambi= (Ambidextrous): The ability to use the right and left hands EQUALLY well.
Being a military history buff, I really enjoy studying the progression/evolution of tactics and weaponry in warfare through the years. One of the most applicable of these “progressions” that pertains to the CO specifically has been the development of being ambidextrous in the use of weapons. Now when we think “ambi” we automatically think of somebody being able to write well with both hands. When we translate this skill to weapons however, it goes far beyond that. It is not only the ability to use either hand equally well, it is also the ability to wield two weapons (one in each hand) and be able to use each of them independent of each other or in tandem, depending on what the situation calls for.
It is interesting to me that as far back as the 10th Century, the ideal of the “Combative Continuum” existed; the logical premise that skill sets can span over a variety of different weapons. Starting with stick, then two sticks, then a sword, then a sword and a dagger, then a rapier, then a rapier and a dagger, then a rapier and a pistol, then two pistols. Fast forward to the 19th Century and the old-west gunfighter who could wield two navy colts with deadly accuracy continues the carnage. Folding ambidextrous skill into these combinations eventually produced a man who could fight equally well with two different weapons while utilizing one learned skill set that could function under stress much more efficiently than four or five learned skill sets trying to be integrated into one another.
So let’s talk about integrating ambidextrous training into your current routine. Please hear me when I say: This is a skill set that needs to be approached CAREFULLY and SLOWLY. I highly recommend first using TRAINING KNIVES and BLUE/RED GUNS to get comfortable with the drills.
The first thing you need to work on is the basic premise of being able to use your “off-hand” to do simple operations. Notice I did not say “weak” hand; nothing is “weak” unless you allow it to become that way. Start using your off -hand to pick things up around the house. Use it to open doors, turn on the water faucet, flush the commode, operate the TV remote, etc. You might also invest in a few low-cost simple hand strengthening and dexterity devices; these things work great and you can use them anytime. Not only will they increase the strength in your hand, your forearm muscles get a nice workout too. My favorite for working on hand and finger dexterity are the tried and true “Baoding (or Steel) Balls” ; used by martial artist for centuries, you will notice a change in strength and dexterity fairly quick;y. When you feel comfortable with your level of strength, move on to weapons training.
First thing to work on is Weapon Deployment. The possibility that your “fighting” hand could get wounded or incapacitated in some way is very likely, and if you cannot get the weapon into the fight, all else after that is a moot issue. Now when we say “weapon” I am talking about either a knife or sidearm. This could include a multitude of carry variations: With knives it could be a pocket clip folder, horizontal or vertical fixed blade, or even a neck knife. With sidearms, it could be an IWB or OWB holster, pocket pistol or ankle gun. In your drills, don’t focus so much on speed in the beginning. Some trainers emphasize speed WAY too early. All that accomplishes is the student getting frustrated before the real fun starts! Speed will come. Remember: SLOW IS SMOOTH AND SMOOTH IS FAST. Examine the most efficient way to draw the weapon and then refine that even more. Practice presenting the weapon from different positions: standing, sitting, laying down, etc. Some techniques work great while standing, but sit or lay down and it poops the bed fast, and you never know out on the street what position you may be in! Also, don’t become fixated on conventional methods of presenting the weapon, as long as it is SAFE and EFFICIENT, that is all that matters.
Next, we need to work on USING the weapon. With Knives, It is a very precarious and dangerous affair to draw a knife with intent to kill to begin with, but adding to this the added “hassle” of having only one serviceable hand, and the odds start getting nefariously bad for you! Just know beforehand that knives require much more intensive training than sidearms, so tread carefully! How you employ the weapon with your non-fighting hand is going to heavily depend on your Fighting Style and the Situation at Hand. For Combative disciples, a gross motor stabbing motion utilizing a reverse grip “jab” is going to the quickest. For you Filipino Style/ Pikiti-Tersia students think of Keating’s “Pala-Soot” technique in Drawpoint Vol. 1 DVD. Remember, we are talking about getting a weapon into the fight as fast as possible and doing as much damage as possible, we are not “dueling” or “knife fighting”; we are simply trying to survive and go home!!
With sidearms, your odds of success increase, but not by much. You have to remember as we have discussed, that most self-defense encounters on the street are at or around 10 feet. So Not having that “fending” hand is going to be a MAJOR handicap. Still, your odds are better having the ability to FIGHT EQUALLY with both hands than with just one. In my research and experience, most encounters do not start out this way, typically it occurs from an injury incurred during the fight.
Once you have perfected that awkward draw with your off-hand, you now need to fire the weapon safely (preferably at the bad guy). Of course, the situation at hand will dictate how you do that; you may have to fire more “gangster” style than you normally might like too, or you might have time to hold and fire it properly. Either way, you need to be aware of some snags that come from both firing a semi-auto pistol “unconventionally” and with your off-hand. For you Revolver guys out there, disregard this paragraph.
Beware of the Limp Wrist!
A friend of mine made me laugh and said this should be posted on a sign when you go anywhere in San Francisco!! Anyways, Some models of semi-auto pistols (mostly the lighter polymer framed ones) when fired with a weaker than normal grip on the weapon will malfunction, either with a stovepipe or worst with the dreaded double-feed. This can only be addressed by practice. As I said previously, you need to USE and EXERCISE that “off-hand” daily. Combine that with weekly shooting drills and that is the only way you will get Strength, Dexterity and Confidence. In your drills, focus on getting the web of your hand as high up on the grip as possible and maintaining constant pressure. Find that nice medium where you are not squeezing the crap out of it, but not limp wristing it either.
The One-Handed Continuum
Shooting one-handed as most of you know, is a required skill in the CO’s arsenal. It lends itself very well to movement Off-the-X and sighted and point shooting. Watch enough CCTV and dash-cam footage of street shootings and you can see very quickly why this is so. Fortunately, once the CO has enough strength and confidence, this same set of skills can be transferred to the off-hand and wha-la, another skill-set has been added to the CO’s toolbox.
Moving on from off-hand/ambidextrous drills that I described above, the next step would be the ability to wield two weapons (sidearms) at once. Although not widely discussed or practiced in the traditional American firearms training culture, this is a skill that our “Shootist” forefathers, more especially the 19th century gunslingers, like Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock and John Wesley Harding, used with deadly precision.
I can see a lot of you out there with puzzled looks, wondering where in the world a skill-set like this would be useful. Let me be clear, I am not advocating you start carrying two-guns concealed or openly, but I am suggesting learning to be adept with two sidearms at once for the sole reason alone it gives you twice the firepower in the event you might need it, perhaps in a survival type situation where you are outnumbered with multiple armed and aggressive adversaries.
Common sense is going have to guide you in how you approach your live fire drills. Again, I would urge you to use the 70% dry fire to 30% live fire ratio. Once your overall dexterity and strength is to the point you feel comfortable, you can increase your live fire percentage. Obviously, multiple targets at varying ranges would be the best drill to start out with, but don’t forget to add different shooting positions, malfunctions, reloads, etc.
Stay Alert, Stay Armed and Stay Dangerous!