After recently posting a video of Tim Kennedy’s Sheepdog Response initiative which included Tim, myself and several other people involved with the course discussing training for real fights and how our approaches differ from those that are common in the Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts world, a discussion about the Sheepdog analogy made me want to make my thoughts clear.
First a little background on the analogy and its origin. The Marine Corps hand-to-hand combat program from 1989-1998, prior to the creation of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, was the Linear Infighting Neural Override Engagement or LINE system. Ron DonVito, the creator of this system which was also adopted by the United States Army John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School from 1998-2008 when it was replaced with modern combatives training, used to use the analogy that people are either sheep or wolves all the time. He had some great sayings that went along with the analogy that I have also used over the years. He used to say things like “Wolves are not afraid of big muscular sheep” when talking about weight lifters who don’t train or “I see your lips moving but all I hear is BAAAA!” when talking about people’s excuses for not training. It was an excellent way of motivating people to see themselves as warriors.
Later, Dave Grossman, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who is a graduate of Ranger School, popularized the analogy that not only are people sheep or wolves, they can also be sheepdogs. He attributed the idea to an old retired Vietnam Veteran. Sheepdogs “live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Grossman holds a M.Ed. in counseling psychology from the University of Texas and has authored several books on the psychology of killing including On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.
Although Grossman’s books have been very widely read, from a scholarly perspective they suffer from some serious weaknesses. The most important are that he bases his ideas on the questionable fire ratio statistics in SLA Marshal’s book Men Against Fire and that he makes logical assumptions about human nature that are not consistent with the actual science on the subject. At some point, I will write a thorough critique of Grossman’s work but suffice it for now to say that I disagree with him at a very fundamental level. It is also worth noting that Grossman is not a combat veteran.
With that being said, there is still value in the analogy. I think it is important to explain why understand why it continues to be used. Tim Kennedy, myself and others like us, people who have spent our lives both fighting our nation’s enemies and training other warriors to do so, are trying to change the American culture. In our usage of the sheepdog analogy we are giving people a choice to be that protector. Each of us can choose to train ourselves, not only for our own benefit but to the benefit of everyone around us who simply wants to live in a safer world. We challenge ordinary people to take on the mantle of a sheepdog and train for the common good.
What makes what we are doing different than what other martial arts teachers are doing is that we refuse to let ourselves or our students lose track of what training to win in combat really means. We are not just talking about combat in the war zones either. When an active shooter starts to attack a school or a baseball field, or a criminal decides to target some innocent person, the world is a better and safer place if someone with the requisite skills and mindset is there to fight back. Those skills, taken directly from what is required of a special operations soldier, include far more than what is taught in even the best martial arts schools. They include not just grappling and striking but doing so in the context of guns, knives and groups, in real setting from the front seat of your car to a supermarket.
What we are doing is not simply mixed martial arts or bringing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu back to its roots either. This isn’t about one on one challenge fights to see which is the better martial art or arrist. It is about having the requisite skills and mindset when they are needed. That means training for the unexpected. Yes we train ground grappling from Jiu-Jitsu. We also train throws and takedowns from judo and wrestling, striking skills from boxing and Muay Thai, contact weapons fighting from Kali and the western martial arts, pistol and carbine shooting, evasive driving, trauma medicine, land navigation, tradecraft, and the list goes on and on. Taking up the mantle of a sheepdog means living the life of a warrior for the benefit of the people around you. It means that everyone around you is safer because of your presence except those that would prey on the week or do the innocent harm.
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Kratophobe – A person who claims to be a warrior and yet has an irrational fear of realistic hand-to-hand combat training.
Etymology, from the Greek...