Profile - Tom Givens

This is an excerpt from Tom Given's column "Profile" that appeared in the August 1999 issue of S.W.A.T. about one of the classes that Dane has put on.

R. Dane Burns

Until just recently, most firearms instructors taught only shooting-related subjects and skills to their students, and most gun-writers referred only to techniques or equipment used in carrying or shooting a firearm. As a result, most students of defensive shooting were being trained solely with the handgun, with no training whatsoever in verbal control, physical control, grappling or other subjects not directly related to shooting. To a man who only owns a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This approach to defensive training leaves the student highly vulnerable. There are numerous circumstances in which defensive action is necessary, but in which the handgun is neither a legally justified option, nor is it the best tactical answer. To overcome this, the serious student of self-defense must seek training in nonlethal and empty-handed alternatives to using a handgun. You don't want your only options to be either having your butt kicked or going to jail for an unjustifiable shooting!

The next problem faced by the student is where to get competent, relevant, real world-oriented training in these alternative techniques. Certainly, any large city has numerous dojos, wherein karate, judo and other martial arts can be learned. But are these skills truly transferable to the street? Sadly, in many cases, the answer is no. On the street, your assailant is unfettered by rules and has no sense of sportsmanship. In addition, he is likely to attack or counter your moves with techniques you have not been exposed to on the dojo mat.

Of the martial arts instructors I have spoken with or observed in training, almost none had any knowledge whatsoever of firearm use. They were unable, therefore, to integrate their techniques with those of the student who carries a gun. Ideally, your defensive training should come from an instructor who has a good theoretical base in hand-to-hand training, plus actual street experience in confronting and controlling violent, aggressive individuals. The instructor should also have a high degree of skill in the instruction and use of the defensive handgun. These guys are hard to find.

At my school, Rangemaster, in Memphis, Tennessee, we have a cadre of highly skilled shooting instructors. Two of our shooting instructors are IDPA state champions, and there are two more state champions in our student ranks. Our instructors have studied under the very best, including Jeff Cooper, Louis Awerbuck, Chuck Taylor, Ken Hackathorn, Dennis Tueller and others. I recently recognized, however, that we did not have a strong in-house hand-to-hand instructor, and that while our students were quite skillful with handguns, there was a gap in their educations. After a bit of investigation, I contacted R. Dane Burns of the Seattle, Washington, area, and had him put on an intensive two-day "force-on-force" seminar for a dozen of my most advanced students and some of my staff. The results were most impressive! I chose Dane because of his extensive background and experience, and it turned out that my choice was a very good one indeed.

Dane has experience in law enforcement, having attended a sheriff's department academy in Idaho and having worked at tracking down and arresting fugitives. He has attended numerous specialized training courses in firearms, tactics, knife combat and hand-to-hand combat. The full list of courses attended by Dane is too numerous to name, but he has studied under such well-known and respected authorities as Massad Ayoob, Clint Smith, Chuck Taylor, John Shaw, Phil Singleton, Ken Hackathom and Marty Hayes. Dane is an accomplished shooter, and was the Washington State IDPA Champion in 1997 (Master, Enhanced Service Pistol) and 1998 (Master, Custom Defensive Pistol). He also holds an IPSC Master rating in both the Limited and Open classes.

I spent a total of five days with Dane, observing his preparation for the class, his teaching style and a detailed debriefing once the training was completed. Dane is one of the hardest-working and most dedicated instructors I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and he totally poured himself into this two-day class, delivering 24 hours of intensive instruction over two days. The training included a brief live-fire session on the pistol range to establish the students' skill level with their side arms. Once that was done, the students changed into workout clothes and worked on basic, unarmed defensive techniques, pairing off to practice the techniques demonstrated by Dane. He used simple, easily learned techniques, which included controlled falls and basic power strikes, such as elbow strikes, blows with the heel of the hand and simple kicks.

Once the students had a better understanding of the basic techniques, they were outfitted with FIST suits to enable them to give and take blows without being seriously injured. The FIST suits allowed the students to alternate as attackers and defenders, and they were able to give and receive blows and kicks that would have resulted in injury without the suits. Students learned very quickly, in fact, within seconds, just how fatiguing a real fight becomes. Stamina plays an important role in any physical confrontation, and the first to give out usually loses!

Students also worked on firearms retention and disarming techniques while in their protective gear. Using red, plastic guns, trainees took turns at trying to disarm one another and trying to retain their weapons while under attack by an aggressive assailant. Trainees quickly learned which techniques worked and which didn't-something you want to find out in a training environment, not on the street.

Dane also included a session using a walking stick or cane as a very low-profile but surprisingly effective defensive tool. He demonstrated with a beautiful handmade cane that sported a well-figured walnut shaft mounted at a right angle to the rock-maple handle (made by Chris Koontz, 425/486-3426). This cane was not only an exquisite accessory, but also a heavy-duty impact weapon, delivering surprising force when wielded properly. Dane demonstrated spinning blows, using the cane in a similar fashion to the PR-24 side-handle baton; hooking maneuvers, taking an assailant down by hooking the cane's handle behind the knee or neck; and various blocks, parries and blows with the stick. Even with the protective FIST suit on, a moderate blow from this cane was a real attention-getter!

Defensive use of the folding knife was also addressed and practiced with replica training knives that were duplicates of the most common Spyderco and Benchmade products.

One often overlooked use of the pocket-clip knife is its value in weapon retention scenarios. If an assailant grabs for your gun, it is a serious threat to your life. One study showed that in 85% of successful gun-grabs against police, the officer wound up being shot with his own weapon. Every year, around 15% of U.S. officers killed in the line of duty are shot with their own guns or those of their partners. A sharp knife carried where it is accessible to the weak hand can be used to counter a suspect who has managed to grab your gun or gun hand, and may well decide the outcome of the confrontation.

Throughout all of this hand-to-hand training, Dane was physically involved, fighting one student after another, as well as demonstrating all of the various techniques. Fortunately, I had an ample supply of Motrin on hand, and periodic infusions of Memphis barbecue kept Dane up and running throughout the two long days of training.

Upon completion of the physical, hand-to-hand-type training, the students were instructed on building-search techniques and situational awareness. After a few brief lectures and walk-throughs, in which students were shown the proper techniques for negotiating hallways, doorways, comers, etc., they were again equipped with protective gear and specially modified handguns using Simunitions marking cartridges. Simunition cartridges are used in guns that have been modified to function fully and fire accurately with special ammunition, which propels a normal-sized "bullet" that makes a visible mark on the shootee's outer clothing.

Do not mistake Simunitions for paintballs-they are definitely not the same. The Simunitions cartridges are used in a real gun, which adds to realism, and they exit the gun at about 400 feet per second. In addition to the paint mark they make, they hurt! This vividly reinforces the notion that it is not good to get shot. Gloves and a face mask were worn by trainees to protect vital spots, but even through clothing, the Simunitions projectile makes an angry, red contusion that gets your attention. Our staff members and visiting police officers from Big Sandy, Tennessee, participated as roleplayers, acting out various scenarios in which the student had to interact with and react to live, moving, talking and often cunning adversaries.

This was the culmination of pistol training for our students. All of them had well above average shooting skills, with most rated as Experts or Masters in IDPA competition in addition to having three to five different Rangemaster training courses behind them. In the Simunitions runs, they learned graphically just how rapidly skills can degrade under stress, and how no static target can duplicate the difficulties posed by a living, thinking, moving human antagonist.

In one scenario, the student was outside in our parking lot when approached by three aggressive panhandlers from various directions. "Pull your gun and shoot them," was not a legally justifiable option, but what to do? This type of training is a must for persons who actually intend to carry deadly weapons in public and be faced with these situations.

In other scenarios, students had to search for suspects lurking in a building, learning vivid lessons about doorways and proper "pieing" technique, as well as the proper use of verbal challenges and other techniques. Some incidents required shooting; in others, shooting was not appropriate, just as is often the case in real life.

This training was a real eye-opener for some of the hotshots in the class, who learned that marksmanship skill alone will not suffice. Jeff Cooper described the three independent but interrelated skill areas required in combat as a "combat triad" of mind-set, gun-handling and marksmanship. All are of equal importance. After all, which is the most important leg on a three-legged stool? Weakness in any of these three key areas can cause one to fall flat.

At the conclusion of the two full, long days of physically exhausting and mentally demanding work, the students were tired, sore and thoughtful. I debriefed most of them individually over the course of the next few days, and all were impressed with the quantity and quality of the training received. Each one stated a desire for more training of this type, which is the strongest testimonial available. Rangemaster will be hosting another seminar with Dane later this year.

Contact Rangemaster for dates and eligibility requirements. Also, in August 1999, Jim Higginbotham and I will be putting on an advanced, five-day course with Dane at the Firearms Academy of Seattle (FAS) in Washington, combining live-fire handgun training with advanced tactical scenarios.

Life is full of problems, and not all of them can be solved by gunfire. The serious student of self-defense will learn to master his side arm, but will also learn to detect and avoid trouble whenever humanly possible. In addition, he needs to have physical control or defensive skills to bridge the gap between harsh words and deadly force. This is where trainers like Dane Burns enter the picture. He can be contacted through Rangemaster.

2611 S. Mendenhall Road
Memphis, TN 38115
(901) 370-5600

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