Innocent Civilian Syndrome: The Sword of Damocles

© Copyright 2019, Avi Nardia & Tim Boehlert

As in most wars fought throughout history, each side tries to destroy the other’s Army and in the most critical ways. From the old days to modern days, as during the second world war with the United States pitted against Japan and Germany, seemingly not caring much about “innocent civilians.” The U.S. took thousands of innocent civilian lives at Nagasaki and Hiroshima in an instant, and it seems without much compassion. They used nuclear weapons to force a Japanese surrender and to save American soldiers’ lives. ‘Collateral damage’ is seemingly viewed the same today as a result of the attacks of 9/11in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.

Professor Asa Kasher in 2005 wrote about justifying civilian casualties as the result of military actions against terrorists in a draft of the Israeli code of conduct. And, in 2009 Kasher revised his thoughts to say that soldiers’ lives should take priority over injuries to enemy civilians in any areas that are not controlled effectively by the IDF.

All militaries find it hard to conduct a war without civilian casualties, and yet most cross the line, and forget the ethics code of the Bushido. Since the gun was developed the value of the sword has declined. When the Japanese Imperial soldiers went into Nanjing, China, they forgot the Bushido code and murdered and raped women and children. Civilian casualties were well documented and the incident is one of the most well known war crimes ever written about – the Nanjing massacre. 

As a self-defense teacher, I teach the art of blades or swordsmanship with compassion, values and morals that are different than what many other knife teachers do — those that promote evil, possess huge egos and teach only how knives can kill. I see the sword as the most important tool to teach self-defense with the proper mindset of self-defense. Many students ask me how it helps in the street without the sword.

The art of sword teaches us first: movement and perfect relative position.

“Don’t give a sword to a man that can’t dance.”  — Confucius

The sword teaches us about angles of attack, proper body movement and later on much that we can incorporate into self-defense from the use of various blades — knives, swords, machetes, and even sticks or hand-to-hand techniques. We say, “Any weapon, one mind.”

Swordsmanship also teaches us moral values and ethics that start with respect of the blade. As a teacher I see many so-called “martial artists” that act more like hooligans. But, too many of these immoral teachers bully others and then want to teach their “Anti-Bully” programs to others!

I’ve taught a lot of students that couldn’t pass a belt test that then become new teachers that create their own ‘masters’ certificates. I’ve had to eliminate so many students that were yellow belts one day and the next day became ‘Masters of Israeli Martial Arts!’ They’ve all misunderstood the concept of being a martial artist by calling themselves “warriors”, dressing up like soldiers, and using slogans like We are the Real Deal!” or “We are not a martial art, we are combat.” and yet on the mat not one can spar. This new era of martial arts has denigrated and devolved because of all of these new ‘masters.’

Swordsmanship teaches us responsibility. Too many martial artists miss this point. Teachers send their students to fights and they get injured. Students and teachers forget their responsibility to pay class fees — the fees that ensure that the classes continue, the same fees that support the teachers’ ability to conduct the classes.

Each day I receive letters asking me, “Please let me be your student” and then after only a few classes, they depart and begin to sell themselves using their ‘master’ title.

Twenty years ago, when I started Kapap Krav Maga, there were many that claimed that my art was nothing, and yet today they are the ‘new founders of KAPAP.’ This is why I chose to use my name — it’s the only thing that no one else can take and use. As Avi Nardia Academy, I still find schools all over the Internet and throughout the world using my face to promote their schools! Most I’ve never met, and some I’ve dropped as they were not a good fit to my ethics, morals, school values and skills. I can teach almost anyone, but all need to come prepared with a proper moral code and good values. They need to come to me possessing a good education, and if it that’s missing, they can’t be fixed.

The sword school that I come from is one of two in Japan. Mine is the school of ‘the sword of giving life’, which is very different from the school of the sword of taking life. These two schools have been in opposition in Japan as long as they have existed. During the Second World War the latter led the sword classes for the Army, and that’s why the code of Bushido was missing.

The ‘giving life sword school’ teaches respect, honor, humility, integrity, morals and good values such as life saving. Civilian casualties are not allowed, and you can’t hurt innocents while seeking justice.

We teach our students responsibility, but when he fails to uphold that, honor dictates that he perform Seppuku (Japanese: 切腹, “cutting the belly”), sometimes referred to as hara-kiri (腹切.

In this new era, the foundations pillars have been lost, and that leads me to the Greek tale, “The Sword of Damocles”

According to the story, Damocles was pandering to Dionysius, his king, and exclaimed to him that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king’s proposal. Damocles sat down in the king’s throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse’s tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he is allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.— Traditional

When you have a sword hanging over your neck you understand responsibility and that with one mistake this same sword may take your life. This is why sword people don’t run to fight but embrace peace and do everything to avoid drawing their own sword. They understand, like the lion that each fight can end in one death and with the other surviving the fight but not always uninjured. This is why we study animals — to try to avoid the fight. The sword is such a great tool to teach mindset in self-defense but also to add into it some skills and values. The use of the sword in teaching self-defense is the best that you can get. 

© Copyright 2019, Avi Nardia & Tim Boehlert

Gun Fu

Gun Fu – The Martial arts of GUN

Normally I’m not a fan of weekend “Tactical Civilians” or “Weekend Warriors” as we say after the war the bar is loaded with heroes and in the CQB Market as many civilians want to play paintball and air soft and war games become fun. I’m not a big fan of civilians surrounding a hero ex-soldier who’s telling them war stories while they all look at him like kids with shiny eyes. I’m not a fan of civilians in uniform to respect the military and police code ‘serve and protect’ while the moral ethic is to dress in a uniform and take lives; it isn’t a game and we need to have a greater understanding and compassion to ensure we aren’t training psychopaths or wannabe heroes, which is why I stay away from these styles. 

When KAPAP Krav Maga started incorporating firearms training as part of its “System” 28 years ago, many claimed that firearms are NOT part of martial arts and today I’m happy in a way to see that many understand that in the modern era, the weapon we face in terrorist attacks and the majority of crimes are not the Nunchako or Baton. As more and more Martial Arts start to see the advancement of combatives study, I find myself teaching CQB / CQC and high-risk entries with civilians more often. As such, I have decided to take the time to write about CQB and high risk situations more, cover and concealment, dealing with an active shooter or terrorist in the hopes that some may find useful information and good education for using the proper terminology of CQB. 

Remember that some can be good shooter but bad fighter and we prefer to develop the fighting spirit and not only teaching people to be good shooters but also to handle aggressive situations to deal with reality and violence. 

  1. CQC (Close-Quarter Combat) vs. CQB (Close-Quarter Battle) vs. H2H (Hand to Hand)

CQC (Close-Quarter Combat) and CQB (Close-Quarter Battle) are military terms which designate the whole topic of unarmed and armed combatives. H2H (Hand to Hand) is generally considered to be part of this nowadays, the terms having been coined after the Second World War by the British Forces. Names such as Fairbairn, Sykes and Colonel Applegate considered any type of combat under 15 to 18 meters as CQC (Close Quarter Combat). As battle terms, they were correct since much of the fighting took place within urban, suburban and country settings. This type of combat could be carried out with hand-grenades, machines, trench tools (shovels) in numerous instances, cudgels, fixed bayonets, knives and even hand-to-hand.

H2H (Hand to Hand) designates unarmed combat that is fought chest to chest or face to face and describes the group of techniques that have been developed to defeat the enemy with one’s natural bare weapons (hands, feet, etc.), usually in circumstances where there is not the option of using guns or there are malfunctions.

CQC (Close-Quarter Combat) and CQB (Close Quarter Battle) are military terms which designate the whole topic of unarmed and armed combatives. Armed and unarmed conflict is covered by CQC impact weapons, edged weapons and adapted weapons (everyday items which in critical incidents can be used as weapons). H2H (Hand to Hand) is generally considered to be part of this nowadays, while the term CQB Covers armed-offence utilizing firearms (with the use of sights, depending on the distance). All of this is taught in a single system. 

Combatives systems use both CQC and CQB in order to be effective in real life situations we may face.

Civilians combative group, concentrate on the CQC portion which is primarily focused on the striking aspect with only basic physical weapons. This needs to be called “CIVILIAN COMBATIVES” while the army may use more CQB and also heavy weapons, machine guns, helicopters, air force and so on for more long distance engagements. 

True Combatives strive to keep training as realistic as possible, the argument being what is realistic for civilians should be thought of as self-defense, in that it is NOT exactly combative in nature.

In Combatives we have a “self-protection” mindset and not a “self-defense” mindset. This means that we actively protect ourselves so we don’t have to get to the point of defending ourselves (by attacking our assailant). In the former we are proactive (so as not to allow surprise assault) and “awareness” is our first line of defense. Conversely the “self-defense” mindset is reactive (having already been assaulted), wherein “reaction” is the first line of defense.

 The “self-defense” school of thought has 4 main reasons for its ineffectiveness and failures:

  1. Too many techniques– it is best to have a few worked to expert level.
  2. Non-realistic training– full physical contact, vocalization and multiple assailants is a must.
  3. No adrenal stress– a real violent confrontation can leave you shivering from adrenaline secretions to say the least, if not puking and standing in a puddle of your own urine.
  4. Defensive thinking– real violence often requires offensive and sometimes pre-emptive mindset.

Combatives program techniques use role play and scenario training for the street which is complemented with safe physical contact to “harden” practitioners with “stress tempering” to make them offensively oriented.

In this line of thinking, it is critical to maintain simplicity, directness, brutal effectiveness and determination. 

IBT (Initiative Based Tactics) in CQB:

The principles of IBT are quick and decisive action in high-stress, high-risk situations. Speed, surprise and violence of action are key principles which are designed to overwhelm and opponent and leave them no time to react, defeating them before they’ve prepared to fight. 

  1. Speed– coordinated ‘flood’ of individuals into a particular area of engagement, moving quickly but without being detected as so to be in the most advantageous position at the onset of action. This requires a high level of teamwork between operators involved, with clearly defined roles and a unifying plan
  2. Surprise– The idea of surprise is to be in an ideal and undetected position at the onset of action, without the presence of the operators being known. Optimally, at the onset of action, the attackers are unable to react quickly enough or to entrench themselves in a fortified position.
  3. Violence of Action– it is essential to dominate your opponent physically and psychologically with sensory overload. Multiple entry points, breaching explosives, aggressive assault, flashbangs or smoke, gunfire and any other technique to overload the opponent’s senses. 

In order to achieve these principles, it is essential to act with determination. Eyes and head should be up at all times, shooting accurately while in motion is essential, move quickly to trouble areas and handle them proactively, not reactively. These techniques need to be trained and drilled until they pass into the subconscious as well as drilling in teams. 

Cover and concealment – Both can save your life, but one more than the other.

In many training classes, you have probably heard the instructor say “you need to get to cover.” If a fight erupts around you, you want to get to cover before returning fire. Standing out in the open is a great way to get shot and the number one rule of a gunfight is not to get shot. 

Cover is the place you want to be when bullets start flying because it is any place that will stop bullets. A concrete wall, a telephone pole, a car’s engine block, these are all places where you can hide and know that a bullet will not pass through and hit you. It can be said that cover hides you from a bullet. 

The difference between cover and concealment is simple. If it doesn’t stop a bullet, then it is considered to be concealment because that is all it’s doing – concealing your location. Cover is something that will not only conceal your location but stop a bullet as well. 

Furthermore, it is critical to consider the firepower that is brought to bear against you. A .50 caliber rifle will be able to penetrate a position that would function perfectly well as cover against a .22 round. Be certain of your position at all times and know what you’re up against whenever possible. 

It would be an oversight not to mention the use of ‘cover fire’ in situations where you need to move from one area to another. Acting on the offensive can be a good temporary solution to get you out of a tight spot when you’re pinned down or when you need to move from one position to another. Always be aware of how long you can effectively cover yourself (or in the event that you’re covering another person), because when you’re bullets run out, if you haven’t made it to another position of cover or at the very least concealment, you will be completely exposed. 

We can use concealment to not be found in situations where cover is not available, in addition to using it as we move and fire back, but it is not as safe as real cover. 

  • 6 Basic pistol positions:

Sul Position:

The sul position means south in Portuguese and was developed because those training in the police academy had poor muzzle control with their pistols. This position has become a ‘tacticool’ technique, with many operators using this position both to ensure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction, but also when in a dangerous environment, yet not directly exposed to threats. 

The Sul position consists of placing your support hand on your stomach with the thumb up and other four fingers together parallel to the ground. The active hand is parallel with the body and the muzzle at a slight cant to prevent it from shooting your feet. The thumbs are touching as a reference and to ensure you maintain the position safely. 

This position has grown in popularity in recent years and is effective while moving and in confined spaces. One can also transition into a ready position quickly, though not quite as fast as some other positions, as we will see. 

  • High Ready Position:

High Ready is the fastest position from which to engage with a potential target, with the pistol in front of your face, arms extended, yet with the elbows at a relaxed angle. However, this position may limit your mobility and may not be viable in crowded environments or where the muzzle should be kept in a safe direction.

  • Low Ready Position (Traditional and Modified):

The traditional low ready position is when the gun is effectively in high ready with arms extended and both hands on the grip of the pistol, however, the arms are extended at a 45 degree angle downward to remain pointed in a safe direction. The modified position is essentially the same, but with the arms angled a bit higher, between high ready and low ready to allow for quicker action on the part of the operator. 

These positions are designed to allow quick target acquisition of any potential threat that one may encounter, but still could pose issues when working in dynamic environments or with other team members. Any sideways turning movements could pose a potential risk to other members of your team as your pistol would be pointing at their legs. It could also be unviable in confined environments or where the extension of your arms could pose a risk for exposure and giving away your position. In all positions, but particularly this one, situational awareness is critical to performing safely. 

  • Compressed Ready Position:

Similar to the high ready position, the compressed ready position has the muzzle of the gun pointed forward, though the elbows are at tight to your ribs and with your head ‘tucked’ in a bit. This allows for quick target acquisition and engagement, while maintaining better mobility and weapon retention. This also works in confined environments, but poses some of the same disadvantages as high ready, insomuch as the muzzle direction is not necessarily safe in populated or unknown environments.

  • Temple Index position:

Like Sul, the Temple Index uses a physical point of contact as a reference for muzzle direction, but that is where the similarities end. This position is achieved by placing your pistol to the side of your temple, your pinky, ring and middle fingers in direct contact with your temple and the muzzle of the pistol faced upward.

This position is effective for maintaining muzzle control and weapon retention in situations where a high level of mobility is required. It has the added benefit of the free use of your support hand to assist in situations where the use of this hand is necessary. 

  • CAR (Center Axis Relock) Position:

Developed by law enforcement officer and instructor, Paul Castle, the Center Axis Relock position is an aggressive stance, though can be employed effectively in certain environments. With the muzzle pointed forward and the support foot forward and both hands on the grip of the pistol, the arms are somewhat closer to the body and therefore the gun remains closer to the body. The pistol is at a cant, such that the left eye is looking down the sights of the pistol.

CAR provides effective pistol retention and a compact position from which one can be relatively mobile and quickly engage with targets. It is also particularly useful in compact areas. This has recently gained popularity due to its employment in the John Wick movies, by the protagonist himself.

  • Room clearing

Pointman and wingman

The point man is never wrongprinciple:

If the point man goes to the right, then the shooter behind him will have to buttonhookto the left.

The Point manis the soldier who takes point, who assumes the first and most exposed position in a combat military formation. He is the lead soldier/unit advancing through hostile or unsecured territory and therefore is first exposed to enemy fire.

The Wingmanacts as the partner to the point man, working cooperatively when approaching doors and entering high risk areas. The term originated in combat aviation, so named due to the support individual being to the side and slightly behind the lead pilot, or on his “wing”, while providing support and cover to the lead pilot. 

Key terms:

  1. AOR (Area of Responsibility)– Refers to the specific segment or ‘slice’ of a room or area of engagement that each operator will need to cover and clear to ensure efficiency of movement and clarity of action.
  2. Chokepoint– any point at which the entry or exit of an area becomes limited. Doorways in rooms are a prime example of a chokepoint and where firearms are present, this is also known as the “fatal funnel”
  3. OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act)– a decision-making process by which operators arrive at a particular action. The training of this loop over time makes one cognizant of the inputs that they are receiving in high-stress situations (and can also be applied to day-to-day situations), such that they can identify and react to stimuli more rapidly than their opponents. 


This technique is used as a pre-entry maneuver, the operator exposing only his eye for a moment as he observes an uncleared room. While good in environments where it is unknown whether the individuals inside are combatants or civilians, the risk of detection is high and may complicate the subsequent entry as the element of surprise will have been lost. Additionally, this is not to be used in situations where the wall is not suitable cover, as you will still be susceptible to attacks if bullets can penetrate the wall which the operator is standing behind. 


An aggressive movement where two operators simultaneously enter a room and hook around the doorway to move rapidly along the inner wall of the room which they are entering. This allows for rapid entry and minimal time spent within the Fatal Funnel. 


Essentially the converse of the Buttonhook, the crossover consists of two operators entering a room nearly simultaneously by crossing through the doorway to the opposite side of where they began. This provides a quick entry and minimal time in the fatal funnel, though the operators need to be coordinated as so not to run into each other. 

Slicing the pie:

Slicing the pie is a technique used for gradual observation of an area, consisting of slowly moving around a corner or obstacle with their weapon trained on the space directly visible (at the edge of the obstacle or corner) and with the upper body leaning slightly into the area being cleared as so not to expose the feet and legs. This technique is not only for entering rooms, but may be used in open environments with large obstacles which could be concealing an enemy. This is often preferred to other clearing tactics as it doesn’t launch you into unknown territory and allows you to slowly and deliberately clear every inch of the room.

Incremental method:

Similar to slicing the pie, the incremental method moves around obstacles in a similar motion, but instead of a gradual movement, the movements are stop-start motions incrementally clearing the entire room or area. This is the primary strategy used by Israeli CQB and the leg work and understanding the shape and size of the area which you will be clearing are critical to this being executed effectively. There are different philosophies on this subject, but ultimately, everything depends on the circumstances. Where there are more operators involved and from different angles, this can change the strategy for clearing a room completely. That is to say, whether you are relying on surprising your opponent through stealth or through speed of action and violent force.

Rules of clearing rooms:

  1. Muzzle before Flesh – the muzzle should always be the first exposed before the body, protecting the operator from return fire and also allowing them to ‘hide’ behind cover fire in the case that they are under attack.
  2. Do not stop in doorways –doors should be cleared as quickly as possible to minimize time spent in the Fatal Funnel.
  3. Never move faster than you can (accurately) shoot –don’t sacrifice your ability to neutralize threats for mobility, otherwise you will be identified before you can react.
  4. Maintain muzzle control at all times – Don’t point your muzzle at anyone’s back while working in teams. 

Drills for clearing rooms:

Practice in teams – effective coordination between team members is essential for entering and clearing rooms, as well as having contingency plans for when things don’t go as planned. 

Fields of fire – it is essential that operators drill the field of fire for which they are responsible. 

Work in simulation environments – practicing in environments that most closely resemble the reality and stress of a situation, without compromising safety, is critical. Airsoft and other such simulations are effective for understanding and practicing both solo and in teams. This will train the concepts into muscle memory and in the end will become second nature. 

Additionally you need to understand the goal of your simulation and drill various circumstances and how this changes your mindset. When practicing, the objective of simply killing the other team as opposed to rescuing a hostage or protecting a VIP in an ambush becomes completely different and different variables are at play. Making sure that you train under all these circumstances is an essential component to being adaptable to any circumstance. 

Mozambique drill– Also known as the failure drill, this is a technique that was developed during the Mozambican War of Independence. Mike Rousseau, a Rhodesian mercenary related the story of having encountered a guerrilla fighter who he shot twice in the sternum and upon seeing his opponent not incapacitated, followed up with a shot to the head. Upon telling this story to the founder of Gunsite Academy, Jeff Cooper, the drill was immediately incorporated into his modern technique shooting method as a drill for ensuring that more resilient opponents won’t be a threat, whether they be larger opponents, have body amor or be under the influence of drugs. Since then, this drill has been used by police, SWAT and many other operators as part of their standard training. 

El Presidente drill– This drill is a scenario driven exercise which simulates the operator performing the drill acting as bodyguard to the president, who is then faced by three armed assailants. The shooter begins in the surrender position with his back facing the ‘assailants’ and hands in the air. He then pivots while unholstering his pistol and placing two bullets into the center circle of three targets (the center target stands 10 yards [~9 meters] distant  from the operator with a space of 1 yard between each target [just short of one meter]). The operator then reloads and shoots each of the three targets twice again. The goal is to train speed and accuracy, with a deduction in points for each round that doesn’t hit the center of the target. This is a key drill to practice and often functions as a litmus test for an operators proficiency.