What is Tactics?

“There is only one principle of war and that’s this. Hit the other fellow, as quick as you can, and as hard as you can, where it hurts him the most, when he ain’t looking.” – Field marshal William Joseph “Bill” Slim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Slim,_1st_ Viscount_Slim)

What is tactics and why should I care?

In short, tactics is “the art and science of winning engagements and battles. It includes the use of firepower and maneuver, the integration of different arms, and the immediate exploitation of success to defeat the enemy… the product of judgment and creativity…” FMFM 1

I will flesh out the above paragraph shortly, but so as not to string you along, and answer the question about why you should care about the study of tactics I can think of a few compelling reasons.

1) You can’t put a price on knowledge. Knowledge and training build confidence that can be unshakable when shaped to fit your time, place, and circumstance.

2) With the simplest understanding of basic tactical principles, theories, and understanding what role properly ingrained techniques play in swift decision making processes, you will see many places in your own personal life where you can save wasted sword motion, be it at home, on the street, in your office, or in the boardroom.

Understanding that many of these ideas (such as Boyd’s Decision Making Process) applies across a wide spectrum of time-based conflict can help your decisions become very effective at any level.

3) When you apply these theories correctly you will increase your interaction with your community and society as a whole, that means you will have more friends and make more connections. This is what John Boyd called increasing your connections with your environment.

For instance, many of the CFIs that are certified through Pulse have deep local roots. Most Pulse certified CFIs are local talent who have served as active military, police/LEOs, and other professional instructors who have worked in the field for years. Because of this, they can be your local resource for many things like respected lawyers, mental health care professionals, and supply you with regular intelligence updates and briefs on what is happening locally.

4) Believe it or not, learning tactics shouldn’t be boring or hard. As a matter of fact, if you follow our advice and start networking immediately, you will have the time of your life becoming safer and stronger both mentally and physically.

While no one will become a tactical genius and be able to operate under the duress of a lethal force encounter by just reading, studying, watching videos etc., few become tactical geniuses capable of leading teams without doing so.

A deeper look what a tactic is:

Many have said that tactics is an art and not a science, and while there is some truth to the statement it is misleading because it gives us the distinct impression that in conflict only art [judgment and creativity] and not science [techniques and procedures] can thrive and overcome adversity.

This is simply not the case, science is very much an integral part of good tactics. A fuller description drawing out some of the nuances would read:

Tactics can be thought of as the art and science of winning confrontations [verbal, physical, and lethal] by the use of power [mental and physical], maneuver [moving with purpose], the integration of different weapons [verbal skills, hand to hand, contact weapons, firearms, grenades, etc., also known as ‘combined arms’], the proper utilization of stress-resistant techniques appropriate for your place and time, and the immediate exploitation of success to defeat your adversary.

Or to simplify as Bill Lind once wrote, “Tactics is a process of combining two elements, techniques and education, through three mental “filters” or reference points… with the object of producing a unique approach for a specific enemy, time and place.”

We know what education is, but what is a technique?

So what is a technique?

A technique is something we can do by formula; such as taking cover appropriately for the tactical scenario at hand, the way you load, aim, and shoot your firearm, and even the way we communicate tactical information with our teammates.

In a lethal confrontation excellence in techniques is paramount yet, as Bill Lind explains, “…excellence in techniques without judgment and creativity [art] will make your tactics rigid, inflexible, and predictable to your adversary.”

Therefore, using the correct technique for the right tactical problem – and just as importantly – being able to modify your techniques to conform to the needs of the tactical problem at hand is of prime importance to the Individual Operator or “IO” (you).

Again, Bill Lind: “Tactics is a process of combining two elements, techniques and education, through three mental “filters” or reference points (mission-type orders, the focus of effort, and the search for enemy surfaces and gaps) with the object of producing a unique approach for a specific enemy, time and place.”

If we have our techniques firmly engraved at the unconscious level [therefore instantly accessible for our use when needed without having to think about how to do what we are attempting to do] then our decision making process (a.k.a. the “OODA Loop” or “Boyd Cycle”) can be both fast and powerful, thereby gaining us leverage and helping us to shape our situation with our timely actions.

Therefore, when we say, “So-and-so’s tactics are solid” we are saying that the individuals is applying his techniques and modifying them appropriately to match the situation they are operating in to solve the tactical problem at hand, not just going through some script for a scenario.

Conversely, someone who is not tactically sound will not be able to modify his techniques and procedures very well and will have difficulty breaking from a scripted series of steps and breaking out of the “textbook solution” when needed the most. This in turn, makes their tactics “rigid, inflexible, and predictable” to your adversary.

In this series of articles, you will be introduced to the concepts, techniques, and procedures that will plant your educational feet on solid and fertile tactical ground, giving you real-world skills you can build on and flex when working with others in order to better secure those things precious to you.

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