On Combat
The Pyschology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace
Written by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
Review by Jesse Seal

On Combat is the warrior's bible. I've never read a book with so much useful information in regards to combat and how it affects a person on both a psychological and physiological level. All bases are pretty much covered in this book. Here are a few of those topics...just to give you an idea:

  • Fear and Arousal
  • Auditory exclusion and tunnel vision
  • Muscle memory and autopilot
  • Memory loss and distortions
  • Emotions after combat and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • The Judeo/Christian View of Killing

...and this list barely scratches the surface.

After reading this book, you'll have a good idea of what you'll experience before, during, and after a deadly conflict. This knowledge will help you recover from the effects of combat in the short term and long term. While learning about the body's various reactions and survival mechanisms is one of the most interesting things I've ever studied, my favorite part of this book is the attention paid to the truth about PTSD.

The book wouldn't be complete without some insight into training methodologies. Here is an example from the book that talks about making your training, and therefore your reactions in combat, more efficient.

"When learning skills and ingraining them as muscle memory or autopilot responses, it is important that only one way be taught.  W.E. Hicks' 1952 study found that as the possible responses increased from one to two, reaction time increased by 58 percent. In other words, having to choose between even two options takes much more time, and the more options you have, the greater the reaction time.

This is often referred to as Hicks' Law, but Sun Tzu said the same thing many centuries ago:

 The more possibilities you present to the enemy, the more diffuse he is forced to become. The more diffuse he becomes, the more difficult it is for him to concentrate sufficiently to make a successful attack.

We want to confuse the enemy with a variety of possibilities, but we do not want to do that to ourselves. “Thus, a simple set of skills, combined with an emphasis on actions requiring complex and gross motor muscle operations (as opposed to fine-motor control), all extensively rehearsed, allows for extraordinary performance levels under stress

This is one of the first things I learned training with Combative Sciences' head instructor, James Bullock, and it's been one of the most important. I am often reminded of Hicks' Law when I think, "I keep using the same defensive/offensive tactic, I need to switch things up." I call this the 'Hollywood Effect,' because fight scenes in movies are so diverse (and choreographed). What I forget is that the one move I keep doing is effective, and it's going to be effective when I need it in a real life or death scenario....which is all that matters.

On Combat is a must read for all warriors.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever plan on having to protect yourself or a loved one from danger, then you need to read this book, hold onto it, and read it again. If you are one of those "that will never happen to me" people, then you are planning on leaving your life or death up to chance...in which case the odds won't necessarily be in your favor.


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About the Author

Jesse Seal is the assistance Combatives Instructor, and has been training in Combative Sciences since 2008. He has also been training and learning through Bullock's Irondom Performance Systems since 2010.

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