In Combatives, LEO/Mil, Videos

October 28, 2009

Video Article

CrossFitting combative expert Tony Blauer of Blauer Tactical Systems is an avid CrossFitter who developed the SPEAR self-defense system—spontaneous protection enabling accelerated response. Blauer’s innovative approach to self-defense uses the startle/flinch response to give combatants a better chance to survive an encounter unharmed.

In this video, Blauer teaches athletes how to behave when a gun is being pointed at them by paying special attention to how people move when they’re startled. The first step is to clear away from the gun—“stay away from the hole”—then control the armed limb. The next step is to counter aggressively, either disarming or disabling your opponent.

Video by Again Faster.

4min 47sec

Additional reading: Fight Training Fitness: An Interview With Tony Blauer by Yael Grauer, published Feb. 1, 2007.



33 Comments on “How to Avoid Getting Shot: Clear, Control, Counter”


Jesse Gray wrote …

I wonder if maybe some words of caution should preface this video. Training people to engage armed aggressors seems to be a recipe for disaster in many cases. I would imagine that the majority of times a person is mugged at gunpoint your odds of being shot are much higher if you resist. Not that this isn't useful in a situation where you are definitely going to be shot but I would think most of the time you are just escalating things.


replied to comment from Jesse Gray

I think you could be correct about the odds. But even if you are correct, it will not always be clear whether the mugger (or other bad-guy-type) has the intention to shoot you. So do you fight? Or do you rely on the odds and just hope he doesn't shoot you? In my opinion the odds don't mean jack if you're part of the population that ends up shot or dead even if you didn't "escalate" things.


I see what you're saying but in actuality you're playing the odds either way. I can see how you may like the idea of controlling your own destiny, kind of like driving a car versus flying. The numbers say you're way more likely to die in a car but when you're at the wheel the things are different. I will say this, my life is much more valuable to me than my wallet (especially if you saw my wallet, ouch) and if a guy holds me up, he's getting it without a fight every time, that's just a cost benefit analysis but if I think I'm in real danger or a loved one could be hurt that is an entirely different story and yes, I would definitely fight like hell.


wrote …

I don't know whether or not it is a good idea to promote these videos based upon what yall are saying, but I do know that Blauer is hilarious. I could watch his videos all day long, he just makes me laugh. I do think he provides great info and some useful pointers/techniques.


wrote …

As I watched this video, I saw a lot of horrible technique; maybe not by Tony, but by the students. Many of the students were wrestling with the guns and some didn't get out of the firing line. A lot of those students, if they tried this technique in real life, would get shot... Most likely in the face.

Remember, it's a life and death choice if you decide to try to disarm someone. You might be able (and it might be better) to comply i.e. give the attacker your money. You can't replace you.

Another thought, if you have your family or friends with you. If you decide to disarm or wrestle with the gun and it does go off, you risk the chance of others getting shot.


wrote …

+1 to what Matt has said there,

I will also add that i think this is also a slightly dangerous video to be putting on there with no prior warning, if someone is stupid enough to go and try this technique on a real firearm after watching the video then it is their own fault but still.

wrestling with a gun is baaad news, once you move off the line and grab the gun with one hand you should further step off the line, counter strike and drive the GUN into the persons body, NOT YOURSELF, the arm controlling the gun should be locked out pressing hard as hell on the gun which is pressed into the persons body, from this position the bad guy cannot move/control the firearm. After one or two strikes have been delivered the disarm must happen and a further squaring off and separating should occur. This all happens in 1-2 seconds and takes A LOT of practice and of course even then youd only use it if death was certain.

Also the hands should be kept down as often as possible and never raised as they are way more noticeable from there and easier for the bad guy to react to.

Ill leave it there because im not some firearms expert or been studying this stuff for years and years. But i have done a fair bit of training on disarming firearms from some extremely good instructors with combat experience and just sharing what i know


wrote …

Break the wrist and walk away!


wrote …

I'm the guy Coach Blauer was demonstrating on in the video. Remember this was a 5 minute clip of an all day training topic. It's not like he said " every single time a gun is in your face, disarm it". Much more was covered, so much so that some would probably say " enough talk, teach me how to Jack someone up". Anyone who knows or has trained with coach knows he is extremely thorough and covers all bases. That being said, without context I an see how it may appear differently. Although I don't think this was put up to teach millions of crossfitters how to disarm someone by watching a Quicktime clip. Oh, and that spear he gave me HURT!


wrote …

Just my 2 cents' worth:
I've done "martial arts" for around 40 years (yikes!!) and Blauer's stuff is some of the best things I've ever seen. Very intelligent approach.

On the matter of judging "if" the guy intends to shoot you....
How do you know? I think you can't.
Some guys would never shoot you.
Some guys might shoot you and take your money after.
But some guys will take your money and shoot you anyway. Why leave a witness alive?
And maybe it's not just about the money.
So. I think you always have to assume the worst is possible.
Fight to protect your money? I think that's just foolish.
How to know that's ALL your assailant wants? I think that's tougher. I'm not saying it's impossible. But...

On the matter of hand-positioning, it makes tactical sense to me to get your weapons as close to the target as possible. "Hands up" is about as "natural" and "universal" response to a threat as I can imagine -- it's a yielding posture. And it positions your deflecting weapons closer to the target (the gun). Makes sense to me.

Absolutely, every assailant and every situation is unique, and there's no way to do any of this without great risk. Whether to flee, yield, posture or fight is a decision that you have to make given the totality of the tactical circumstances.
Far as I can tell, there are no guarantees in life but one.

Just my opinion.





wrote …

As someone who has been car-jacked at gunpoint, it is not cut and dried. Smart criminals stay back far enough that you cannot close. My assailants did this because I think they were more scared than bright. It was at night and very hard to see them as well. With three of them, they got the car. They were 15, 16 and 17. With people that young and impulsive, who knows what they were going to do. I did the best I could.


William Davidson wrote …

In a situation like this ... I'd want a friend with a shotgun.


Love this discussion!!!

#10 Corey - You did more than the best you could because your still alive! Well done sir...

I agree... there should have been some "warning" as to this video is only a piece of the puzzle and is geared towards drilling the Clear, Control, Counter evolution when you have determined that the threat on your life is more than just a threat it is inevitable. One thing to remember in personal defense readiness we must train for all 3 dimensions: emotionally, mentally and physically. The physical tools as well as conditioning are an important part of building your confidence... So in building your competence in a deadly situation you will also build your emotional and mental abilities as well. Sounds like CrossFit... huh?

The mental/emotional pieces leading up to, during and after this video is a lot of what has been commented on so far. Some things that were covered prior to the physical drills were:

What are the 3 things a Bad Guy could want? 1. Your Body, 2. Your possessions, 3. Your Life (obviously it could be all three and the timeline could change)
If the BG has a gun to your head he is using it as a tool of intimidation and doesn't want "Your Life" just yet. What does that mean? It means you have time... Time to asses, read the pre-contact cues, defuse, comply, get challenged, create a plan, fight back, etc... If he is asking for a wallet, keys, jewelry, purse, etc...? or is he asking you to go to a secondary crime location? If he wanted to end you, it would have already been done and you probably would not had a chance to do any of the "3 C's". There is much more to this in the PDR / SPEAR System but I think it's enough to start to get you thinking.

Another thing that was touched upon in the video is "feign compliance". This is a huge tactical advantage for the good guy which allows you to bring your weapons to the forefront without it looking like your going to fight. We call these Non-Violent Postures but basically they are natural behavioral responses to a threat. And if you train to "feign compliance" you can get good at looking like your compliant or an easy target and before the BG realizes it you are on top of them taking him out and getting your family to safety. OR, if you feign compliance you may defuse the situation through verbal deescalation, giving them your property, etc...

For all of you martial artists and DT instructors this video can be a major light bulb for you in how to teach/train for weapon protection scenarios. Looking at the Clear- Control- Counter principle it makes total sense. I have been a long time martial artist as well, 28 years, and when I first learned the 3 C's it just made total sense, especially since it is way faster, more natural (thus easier) to learn and apply in one day rather than 5 years or even 3 months. The pressure of executing complex/fine motor skill attack specific techniques is tough enough without a real weapon, imagine what happens when it is real?

If you haven't had a chance to check out a course with Coach Blauer, you should definitely check it out... it will blow your mind. Very similar to how CrossFit has blown mine:) If you are a CF coach, I'm sure your passionate about value of life, safety and well being for your students/clients, PDR/SPEAR is another way to improve that for them.

By the way he is funny as hell....



wrote …

If you get the gun do you shoot the mugger?


wrote …

Aka, very well put.

I was at the PDR Boot Camp, too - there was a *lot* more context to the scenario being worked, a lot of discussion very early on from Coach on assessing the situation before acting, etc. The point here was that you've already been able to assess that the perp doesn't want (only) your possessions, and wants your body and/or life (ie, he intends you physical harm). At that point, you can either lay down and die, or you can fight back (intelligently, hopefully). You also have to take into account all the other variables - where are your loved ones, and how do you keep them clear from danger, etc. A lot of discussion went on around those things - this drill was one small introduction to what is possible, not a comprehensive toolbox for disarming bad guys... and this was the first introduction to these kinds of skills for a lot of folks at the camp (thus the less than ideal execution you might see in the background, etc).

The point that's being made in the vid, though, is the 3Cs. Don't miss tree for the forest :)

Looking forward to doing more work with Coach's stuff... ;)



wrote …

I have observed many handgun takeaway techniques and also learned the 'psychology' that goes along with the technique. In the event of an attack, you must take the gun away, or you may get shot. Sorry, but I don't like the technique(s) demonstrated in this video.
The Israeli's have 'written the book' on handgun and rifle takeaways.


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

I agree with you completely, Skip. Tony's principles are rock solid, though and are very similar to what is taught in Krav Maga. Redirect, control, attack, takeaway is the same as clear, control, counter. What he lacks is an integrated system for dealing with the dynamic nature of the threats posed by an attacker with a handgun. That is the reason why we saw all kinds of wrestling and sloppy techniques once the line of fire was redirected. I always tell people that the fight starts the moment you have relieved the gunman of his weapon. He is in a fight for his life just as the defender is.

As far as when and when not to attempt a defense against a handgun threat, or knife or hand grenade, for that matter. It will depend on the situation. The defenders mindset, the gunman's mindset (as perceived by the defender), who is around and so on. The point is, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I would probably give up my wallet, car keys, and my watch, but what happens when the gunman tells you to get on your knees or get in the trunk of the car? Now you have a serious issue on your hands.


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

And as far as putting your hands up. It is absolutely a no go. By putting the hands up, any subsequent movement toward the gun with your hands is coming in laterally from outside the gun and dramatically increases the gunman's reaction time. All movement to the gun should involve the hands only initially and come from under the gun. Think of a triangle from your hands to the gun. NO MOVEMENT to the outside.

BB gun plus goggles and a training partner go a long way towards dispelling BS.


wrote …

I can see there are a few KM students here.

agree totally with Nick and his explanation about not putting the hands up, its not a good idea for pretty much those reasons, it is a 'natural' reaction but pretty much one we have learned because we see it in every movie and show.

Again Tony has some great concepts and they are a hell of a step above a lot of the 'martial arts' stuff you see.


wrote …

Nick and Jakub, I'm curious how many videos of ambush gun fights have you watched?


replied to comment from Jesse Gray

Draw your own line in the sand and enforce it. A tool of intimidation is best (statistically speaking) addressed calmly and with compliance. An instrument of death however, must be resisted. You just never know when one is going to become the other. Yes, there is a chance that your action can compel a person intent on intimidation into spontaneously becoming a killer. If you are confused as where to put your line my advice is: Never go to the second crime scene. Whatever is happening to you now is bad, but if you get ordered into your trunk or taken away from where you are when it starts, it’s going to get much worse. You have seen the movies and TV – Saw, Dexter, Silence of the Lambs. Unless you want to be putting the lotion on “its skin” and putting the lotion in the basket you better start fighting.


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

David, we are talking about (and the video deals with) handgun threats. An ambush or "gunfight" requires a completely different skill set, training, and methodology. We are working with the assumption that the opportunity to make a defense (redirection) exists because the gunman's intent at that moment is to terrorize, get something, direct you to do something, or use you as a shield.

In other words, there is no defense against someone walking up behind you, pulling out a .45 and shooting you other than situational awareness or the off chance that the first bullet doesn't kill you and you can respond accordingly (attempt a disarm or create distance)


wrote …

Actually, the context for the drill you're watching is ambush. The drill starts with the "victim's" eyes closed, and it was stipulated to open eyes, flinch (a partially manufactured response in the drill, because you knew the threat was there), then into 3Cs.

So, again, my question (which you didn't answer) ;)


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

I guess I don't understand if whether by ambush you mean bad guy catches you unaware and puts a gun in your face, or bad guy pulls a gun out and starts shooting. Nothing changes as far as the defense goes. The word gunfight, to me at least, implies that both parties are exchanging fire.

If you really want to know how many videos I've seen, the answer is plenty. Some people grab for the gun, some try to create distance while trying to draw their own weapon, most try to run as it becomes apparent they are being shot at.


wrote …

I'm not going to wrestle a gun out of someone's hands for the $40, blockbuster card, and coffee card (with 8 of 10 punches completed!) in my wallet. It doesn't make me a tough guy hero, it makes me an idiot for severely hightening the risk of life threatening injury over the objects in my pants pocket.

Now if a legitimate life threatening situation presents itself... clearly I go to my crane technique.


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

no, you should sweep the leg.


replied to comment from Nick Delgadillo

Nick - I'm using "gun fight" in a more general sense - any fight involving a gun.

The common thread that I see in every video I've viewed where the defender is surprised by the presence of a gun is a flinch. It's a natural reaction - the hands tend to come up inline between the threat and the eyes (protecting the head). Eyes tend to lock on the threat (gun, in this case). The hands may or may not come up with a weapon. There's a large of people shot through the hand into the head for this reason, and a surprising number of cases where the aggressor gets shot in the hand because the defender is locked in on their gun. How the defender reacts *after* the flinch response varies widely, and is largely dependent on training, it would appear. But, even in guys who are very wary and "turned on" (for instance, police officers on a traffic stop), if they're not already certain there's a weapon in play, the flinch appears.

You don't tend to see this in situations where the defender knows there's a weapon - and this is true of force on force scenarios, and practice scenarios like those in the video, which is why you see sort of a manufactured flinch/startle in the vids. Your BB gun suggestion (Airsoft might be a better bet, BTW) suffers from this phenomenon, too - if your partner isn't playing a "good bad guy", he's already got the jump on you, cause he knows what you're attempting to do... Things change pretty dramatically when there's no element of surprise.

If you know there's a gun in play already, you can alter your approach - you're not surprised, you have at least a small amount of time to plan tactics, etc. The point of this drill was to work skills from a point where you *didn't* already know a gun was in play, or even that you were about to be a victim. You're 100% correct that good awareness skills will help you avoid the situation - or at least keep you from being surprised by it. And you're also correct that, if they perp's intent is to flat out kill you dead right now, there's not a whole lot you're going to do about it either way, especially if you didn't pick up the threat beforehand. What do you do in that area in between, though? That was the point of the drill - address that grey area (you dropped your guard for a little bit, and someone got close and surprised you), and converting from startle/flinch to clearing the threat (ie, avoiding the little hole).

I hope I didn't mangle those concepts too horribly... Tony would probably now kick my ass... LOL...


replied to comment from Justin Wood

Damn, it would suck to lose that coffee card, though... LOL...


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

Excellent points, David. I would add, though, and I have personally seen this, that the flinch response in the way you describe it from the videos is a response in the untrained. Just as you said, it is a natural response when your brain says "OH S*%T!!!" That response can certainly be trained out of someone.

You are absolutely right that the flinch response won't be there in a training environment, but you can create something very similar in the training session that exposes the trainee to the immediate and sudden stress that causes the flinch response. The way we do this is through stress drills. We teach a technique or principle, drill it, then stress test it.

It can be done any number of ways. Make the trainee extremely fatigued and then attack him with a choke, grab, stab, or gun threat.

Have him spar with someone and throw in random attacks from a third and fourth person from different angles.

Have the trainee walk through a building and have attackers hidden throughout.

Anything like this can get you closer to the realistic psychological and physiological responses you're going to see in a real attack. The point is to expose the trainee to the stress repeatedly. Expose them to the gun repeatedly. Make them react quickly and without hesitation. It works. A significant number of LEO's and regular people are walking around, completely healthy because when they recognized the threat, they acted immediately and decisively. The flinch may have still been there, but it's effect on the stress inoculated is opposite to what you would expect.


Again Love this thread:)

Great insight and it's all gravy:D Just think about this as far as what are you training and who are you training?

What/who am I training? If I am LEO or a Soldier I am training more tactically while on the job. Specific Scenarios to mentally, emotionally and physically blue print and train my pre-contact cues, tools, tactics, etc... Just remember we ALL Flinch. It's us warriors that through reps, training, and exposure on the job are able to convert our flinch faster which allows us to access complex/fine motor skills/tools faster and take out the Bad Guy. On the job we are turned on... Off the job maybe, but not as much... so should a trained warrior build his/her toolbox for the worst case scenario (full on Primal Flinch-Cover the head,duck and turn away)? There are plenty of stress inoculation drills that are covered in many system, I would only add that you keep it relevant, realistic and rigorous (stole that from the US Army;) So not sure about doing a sparring session then having a 2nd or 3rd assailant attack. Rigorous maybe but not the other two R's. Plus that could definitely cause injuries, if the parameters aren't set. We use to do similar drills prior to being exposed to the SPEAR System and HIGH Gear and there would always be someone getting injured, both Good Guy or Bad Guy Role Players. As soon as we injected the Ballistic Micro Fight formula with HIGH Gear our students became safer and increased their capacity and confidence in a "Real-Fake" Violent Fight. Krav Maga is an awesome system with excellent tactics and training methods, the SPEAR System fills in the gap when shit goes really bad FLINCH then that Krav Ass Kicker/Warrior steps in:)

What/Who am I training? If it is a 38 year old mom and you only have 3 hours obviously a repartee of techniques shouldn't be your first choice. Definitely cover the psychological and emotional principles and concepts when dealing with violence and Bad Guys. As for the physical, reinforce their inherent defense mechanisms and weapons... In the ambush, where she would be caught off guard with the assailant pointing a gun at her chest what would she do prior to any training? Freeze or Flinch? We would say flinch first then without training she may freeze. How would she flinch? Depending on the Suddenness, Proximity and Aggression of the BG she would probably move away (not run, it is a spinal reflex more like twisting away), bring her hands up shielding herself from the trajectory of the gun. Now it depends on what the BG wants... If he just wanted to shoot it would be over (he wants her life). If he wants to take her to a secondary crime location there is time and she is already in her fighting stance (BG wants her body, maybe her life too). If he wants a her purse, she is still set to comply or fight if there are any clues as to the BG wanting any of the others. If he is invading her home and her kids are upstairs... you get the point.

Another huge concept that we use for empowerment is What are the 3 things that a Bad Guy may not want to happen? 1. To Get Hurt, 2. To Get Caught, 3. For the Scenario to Last too long (cause the longer it takes the more likely it is to get hurt and/or get caught). Remember who is most likely going to be a target of an attack? Men, Women and/or Kids? Women and Kids!! Teaching a 38 year old mom to be switched on tactical mode 90% of the time just doesn't make sense but building faith in their primal defense mechanism and weapons does, especially if only given a short amount of time to learn, practice and train. I am sure all of us commenting on this subject have dedicated a huge amount of time training and honing our combative craft. We can comment with "they look sloppy", but it doesn't matter what you look like as long as you get home safe to your family. As you may have guessed I work with Coach Blauer (contracts us as his demo team for HIGH Gear) and we just did a demo for AUSA convention in DC several weeks ago. The street scenario that we demo'ed looked messy/sloppy and violent as hell and we have been doing this for a long time, plus we did the same scenario maybe 6 times in a day, the 6th time looked just as insane as the first. The GG still flinched, converted and ended up taking out the BG but looking at it as a skilled martial artist, it looked like

Again the complete system can not be covered in a quick comment so if you are looking to adding to your tool box, check out Coach Blauer or any of our team/coaches.

I would also like to say that the Bad Guy Role Player takes some practice and where the aggression, verbal and physical cues it may be pretty easy to get into the role but to stay in that role without letting ego dictate your response is tough, especially after the 2nd,3rd, 5th rep. "What works once doesn't work twice"

Damn, I could just go on and on:D



Nick Delgadillo wrote …

Great post, Sir. I don't know if I've seen you guys before but the HIGH Gear demos are always fantastic.


Thanks Nick,

Checked out your site under construction! Great Stuff!!! I like the knife scenario vid...

Here is a link to the demo we did at the end of the Combatives camp this past August:


Nick Delgadillo wrote …

Thanks! Great demo. Great drill. I've used HIGH gear at a women's seminar a copule of times. It was borrowed, though. I have to get a couple of suits. Do you mind if I use your video on my website at some point?


The suites are definitely worth the investment... Feel free to use the video, thanks for asking.

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