Growing up relatively close to an Air Force Major Command base toward the end of the Cold War, we were constantly reminded of one thing: If the “big one” ever came, we were among the first to be toast. But were we really? Thankfully, now there’s a way to find out for sure.
The short answer is yes.
This simulation is a map of the effect of a 25-megaton strike on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base from a Soviet R-36 intercontinental ballistic missile warhead. The R-36, introduced in 1974, gave the Soviets a first-strike capability with a rapid reload ability and a missile that could carry up to 10 independently targetable warheads.
The green area represents an immediately lethal dose of radiation, the yellow represents the initial fireball burst, and the red is a 20 psi air blast, capable of completely destroying most structures and projecting a 100-percent casualty rate. The dark circles surrounding the outermost red area represent different air pressures inflicted by the blast on the local population. The orange-ish area shows where third-degree burns and other radiation injuries are likely.
Estimated fatalities number more than 319,000 with another 375,000-plus injured.
It could always be worse. This is a 150-Kiloton North Korean nuclear strike on Los Angeles.
These simulations are brought to you by The Nukemap, a project created by Alex Wellerstein of the New Jersey-based Stevens Institute of Technology. Wellerstein is a professor at SIT, and his expertise is in the history of science and nuclear weapons technology. He also runs the Nuclear Secrecy Blog. Professor Wellerstein has devoted his life and career to the study of the effects of nuclear weapons on societies and geopolitics.
“The Nukemap is aimed at helping people visualize nuclear weapons on terms they can make sense of — helping them to get a sense of the scale of the bombs. By allowing people to use arbitrarily picked geographical locations, I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results.”
Wellerstein’s previous work wasthe MissileMap, a way to see that a country’s nuclear arsenal was even capable of hitting your hometown.
Sorry, Ohio. You’re toast.
Nukemap needs the user to enter the location of the target, the yield of the warhead used, and if the explosion is a surface explosion or airburst. If you don’t know anything about nuclear weapons, that’s okay: there are numerous possible presets available. For example, you can target New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and many other American cities. But since the United States and Russia aren’t the only countries with nuclear capabilities, Nukemap also offers the effects of all potential nuclear attackers, including Israel, Iran, North Korea, France, Britain, India, Pakistan, Japan, and South Korea.
You can even see historical presets, from the effects of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima blasts to the Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear device ever exploded on Earth.
Which would devastate four of the five New York City boroughs, if you were curious.
Historically, all empires either fall or morph into some other empire… and then fall. While we don’t use the term “empire” to describe nation-states that much anymore, some countries are still able to project power outside their borders. they project power globally (like the United States) or regionally (like Iran). But when it comes to having to defend their home turf, some countries are just not going to roll over for any reason.
These are those countries.
This is America.
1. The United States of America
We all saw this one coming, so let’s get it out of the way early and start with what I know many are thinking: any invader of the United States isn’t facing just the U.S. military, they’re facing all 330 million Americans. Yes, there are more weapons than people in the U.S. (and that’s just considering the guns we know about). Americans are even allowed to design and build their own weapons in many states, without ever having to register. So who knows what they’re packing. This also means every American with an arsenal can recruit and train their own band of Wolverines.
This is just Los Angeles county.
Even if an invader managed to take control of the civilian population — and that’s a big if — they’d still have to get through the best-trained, best-equipped military in the world first, all recruited from the very violently pro-America people I was just telling you about.
Then they have to hold on to that territory without getting killed and without the locals organizing against them. Too bad many major American cities are already organized. And armed. And ready to go killing again once the war dies down a bit. We call them street gangs.
Me either. But you feel free to fight the next Stalingrad if you want.
Albuquerque, Houston, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Baltimore, New York City — whether the invasion moves from east to west or west to east, there are a lot of pressure points invaders need to secure before moving on. Which brings up another point: America is huge.
Our four mainland time zones contain seven different climate regions, not to mention everything from high mountains to marshland, swamps to deserts, and in some places, a lot of flat nothing. Just going across the mighty Mississippi River without a bridge is enough to kill off a good chunk of an army while the residents of East St. Louis are using it as target practice.
When the invaders get out of the actual geographical features of the United States (where roving bands of armed American militias are waiting in ambush), the invader will enter some of the largest cities in the world, three of which are in the top 100 in terms of population, and many are full of the aforementioned gangs and violent extremist groups.
Ever look up at New York City buildings and just imagine what it would be like to have to invade, conquer, and keep a city so populous and so large in size and scale?
This one goes well beyond the myth of “General Winter” (although that would definitely be a factor for most invading countries). Russia projects power regionally but its armed forces (as I mentioned before in other articles) is not as great as Putin is hyping it up to be lately.
If invaded, however, Russia doesn’t have to project anything and its legendary toughness can really bloom, even in the middle of the freezing Russian winter. Invading Russia, as any student of history knows, is a terribly difficult task. When Napoleon invaded in 1812, the Russian people took casualties, to be sure, but what really suffered was Russia’s towns, cities, farms, and other infrastructure — all of it destroyed by Russians.
Which is called Volgograd now. And invaders will have to take this city, too. Good luck with that.
That’s right, Russians would rather destroy their own country than leave it for any invader. And if you’re thinking that was a long time ago and how modern Russians might have different sensibilities, remember they did that when the Nazis invaded in World War II. From there, the fighting only got more brutal. So any invader has to remember that they’re likely fighting every single Russian – across 11 times zones.
Did you catch that? There are 11 time zones in Russia, the largest country by land mass. If that wasn’t bad enough, Russia also contains every single climate type there is (yes, Russia has a rain forest. Look it up). If that wasn’t enough, they will likely have to fight every ex-Soviet client state around Russia’s borders, too. Many of them are still very loyal to Russia and would take up arms to fight for their Russian friends. This only extends the range and variety of people, climate, and geography to conquer. It means everything from the deserts of Kazakhstan, to the mountains and forests of the Caucasus region, and to the frozen shores of the Black and Caspian Seas
The steppes and tundras of Central Asia are not a forgiving place and just like the Americans who would take up arms against an invader, the Russian and pro-Russian people living in these areas will too. These are hardy, gun-toting, skilled hunters who have no compulsion about killing an invader, having grown up with their parents’ and grandparents’ stories about fighting the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis.
Fighting which included the deadliest fighting in the history of human warfare (which the Russians won) at Stalingrad.
“Come at me bro.”
Despite what every successive American general would have you believe for the past 17 years, victory in Afghanistan is not just around the corner.
Every invading empire who thought victory was just around the corner in Afghanistan really just helped contribute to Afghanistan’s legacy as “The Graveyard of Empires.” This includes the current sole superpower in the world, the United States, the only other superpower to ever exist, the Soviet Union, and the largest empire ever assembled by any state in the world, the British Empire at its height.
Also known as the original Brexit.
What makes Afghanistan so difficult to capture and keep is first and foremost its terrain. It’s a giant bowl of desert surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the world. Any army an invader can’t destroy could just fade away into the mountains and lick their wounds until the next fighting season came. In modern times, the high peaks negate the advantage of armor and tanks, just as it negated the advantage of heavy cavalry in earlier times.
The United States is a viable fighting force in Afghanistan because of its logistical advantage. Where the U.S. can get supplies and troops in and out relatively easily, the attacking British in 1839 had a much less reliable system. That’s why only one man of 16,000 troops and camp followers returned.
That’s why it’s remembered as the “Disaster in Afghanistan.”
Just Palaw me.
The most important reason no one can conquer Afghanistan is because any invader has to completely subdue the population. The whole population. And these people are as diverse as it gets. Pashtun, Turkmen, Baloch, Palaw, Tajik, and Uzbek are jut a few of the ethnic groups in the country. Even after 17 years in the country, many Americans wouldn’t pick up on the fact that one of those ethnic groups I just mentioned is actually a rice dish.
Put aside Taliban or Mujaheddin loyalty for a moment and imagine the life of a regular Afghan man. Their clan, their tribe, their unit, their sheikh, their ethnicity, their religion, maybe their provincial or central government? And when you do take into account their loyalties to extremist groups, you have to factor in the group, that unit, and the shadow government. That’s 12 potential loyalties right there. Imagine trying to subdue 34 million of them, because you have to if you invade Afghanistan.
Defeating those people in pitched battles didn’t work, ask the British. Massacring them also didn’t work, ask the Soviets. The American nation building strategy isn’t coming along either.
And China didn’t even try to equip their soldiers back then. Today, they would have rifles and shoes — and maybe food.
Did your invading army plan on fighting one billion people? Because that is what is likely to happen when invading China. The most populous country in the world now boasts 1.3 billion-plus people. For the uninitiated or bad at math (or both), that means they have almost the entire population of the United States plus a billion. Having written these wargaming posts for a few years now, I know that many will tell me to consider that this doesn’t mean China has a skilled or fearsome force of ground troops and that all they’ve ever tactically perfected on a modern battlefield is human wave attacks.
Imagine a billion people running at your unit.
While these one billion Chinese people likely don’t have their own arms, it wouldn’t take long for the planned central bureaucracy to start handing out weapons to form a unified front against an invader. There’s an old U.S. military saying: if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid. So it may sound like a throwing a few million soldiers at an invader is stupid, but it’s quite the human wave and it will likely work. So even if the numbers of the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir are repeated and it takes ten Chinese divisions to repel one Marine Division, the Marines will need to send 25 divisions just to establish a beachhead.
Enjoy that iPhone.
The fun doesn’t stop just because the invader made it ashore. China is as massive as the United States with a diverse climate and diverse geographical features. It’s surrounded by extreme weather and oceans on all sides, so invaders will have to be prepared for the impassable Gobi Desert and the jungles of Southeast Asia, not to mention the mountainous, snowy Himalayan regions which will make air support difficult.
If invading troops aren’t massacred along the way by bands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, then they still get to contend with a variety of tropical diseases along with the diseases that come from overpopulation and pollution.
This is just in fighting a conventional war. The Chinese are the masters of ripping off foreign technology, so an invading army would have to assume that the country they’re invading will also have all the technological prowess of the United States – and with its 750-million-plus person manpower (assuming they didn’t die in a human wave) and strong economy, they’re ready to grind on for a long time.
This is probably the only entry on the list many readers didn’t predict. But on its own, India is a formidable place to invade.
Remember that India has always lived in a rough neighborhood.
To the north and east lay harsh Himalayan mountain passes and arid deserts makes up roughly half of India’s northwest regions. In the southwest, India is wet and tropical, limiting the best places to land an ocean-born invasion force.
That is, if you ever get to land an invasion force on the subcontinent. Part of India’s major naval strategy is to flood her territorial waters with enough submarines to sink both enemy warships and enemy landing craft while strangling sea lanes of enemy shipping. This tactic has been in place for a long time, since before China’s foreign policy went from one of “peaceful rise” to “crouching tiger.”
And Gurkhas. They have Gurkhas.
Since the British left India in 1947, they’ve had to deal with Pakistan on a few occasions and even went to war with China once. Ever since, China and Pakistan have only grown closer so India’s entire defense strategy has to be predicated on the idea of fighting a war on two fronts — and they’re ready for it.
Fighting in India is not a small matter as any Indian general will probably tell you. The height of the Himalayan mountains makes air support very difficult, even impossible at times. India can’t rely exclusively on one benefactor, meaning it can’t just choose to be closer to the USA or Russia. India cares about Pakistan and China and will accept any tech or gear that helps them win that war. As such, their near-limitless manpower, religious fervor, and billion-plus population would make them a formidable opponent on any front.
Well, here’s your sobering thought for the day: The War on Terror has officially turned seventeen years old today, which also happens to be the minimum age required to enlist in the armed services. Take that as you will — it’s neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s simply a thing.
For troops in earlier wars, the circumstances were a little more straightforward. We declared war against our enemies (or the enemies of our allies) and the resulting conflict ended when one side conceded or declared victory. A war against an insurgency, however, is inherently different. There isn’t a clear opposition over which to declare victory.
But that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, an entire generation of kids that learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center from history books instead from live television — in much the same way as we learned of the events of the American Cold War — is now capable of raising their right hand and taking an oath of enlistment.
You know those troops are going to get mocked relentlessly — or just make all the senior NCOs depressed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The official rules of enlistment state that someone must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien, must be 17 years of age with parents’ consent or 18 without, must have a high school diploma (with very few exceptions), and must pass a physical medical exam.
While it’s not uncommon to receive a high school diploma at the age of 16, it’s unlikely that such an early achiever would apply their child-prodigy skills by enlisting as a young private when nearly any university would snatch them up in a heartbeat. However, if an applicant is from one of the seven states that 16-year-olds to test for a GED, can manage to swing a slot reserved for GED-holders, and they pass the ASVAB, well, they’ll officially be the first post-9/11 baby to serve in the post-9/11 military.
They’ll get their chance again, if the war on terror doesn’t end within the next two years…
(U.S. Marine Corps)
It’s a fairly tough pill to swallow — a kid enlisting to serve in a war they were born into — but it’s not the only significant milestone. There are some troops who have enlisted and served into retirement, all in support of the Global War on Terror.
That’s right, troops who opted into the early retirement system that allowed troops who’ve served for over 15 years to take an early exit could have started and ended their career fighting the same insurgency. The program ended last December, but a handful of troops who enlisted right after 9/11 managed to squeeze into that “early out.”
There’s no word yet when the first post-9/11 baby will fill in the ranks, but I’m sure there will be plenty of pomp and circumstance around their enlistment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.
Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.
Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.
1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.
Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.
A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.
So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.
Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.
While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.
Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.
More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.
The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.
The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.
In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.
But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.
As of this writing, the deal between the United States and the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan is dead. Along with it is National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the reluctant architects of the deal who (sources say) was never behind the deal to begin with. President Trump was supposed to secretly meet with senior Taliban officials at Camp David to hammer out the final terms of an agreement, but that was also squashed, the final nail in the coffin for such an agreement.
But the United States may still reduce the number of troops fighting its longest war.
As the Trump White House and the Taliban exchange blame for the collapse of peace talks, there are an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This is why Taliban leaders won’t engage with the Afghan government. They believe President Ashraf Ghani’s government is a Western puppet with no legitimacy. The Trump Administration wanted to force the Taliban to recognize Ghani’s legitimacy through a peace agreement with the U.S. but there were a number of outstanding events that would lead to the agreement’s downfall.
First, the United States wanted the Taliban to stop its attacks on U.S. troops in the country to build trust before the deal was made. Senior defense officials say the Taliban actually increased their attacks over the past few weeks, killing a U.S. service member, along with a Romanian service member and ten civilians in a car bomb attack in Kabul. That attack may have been the last straw for President Trump.
The deal is still a major sticking point for Trump, who vowed to bring home American troops from Afghanistan during his 2016 campaign. The peace agreement that was recently killed kept troop strength at 8,600, enough to combat terrorist attacks in the country and didn’t demand a cease-fire from the Taliban. It only asked the terror group to commit to reducing violence in Kabul and Parwan provinces – areas where the United States has a large military presence.
Negotiated by Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, the deal would have required the U.S. to withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days of signing. The Taliban would be required to reduce violence in those two areas while preventing the country from being a base for international terrorism, while renouncing its alignment with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
After the Kabul bombing on Sep. 5, Khalilzad was recalled to Washington and is no longer talking to the Taliban.
For its part, the Taliban say the deal broke down because the group’s leadership wouldn’t sign any agreement that didn’t list the final end date for American troops leaving Afghanistan, which was supposedly November 2020 or January 2021. Secondly, the United States wanted the Ghani government to postpone Afghan Presidential elections set for Sep. 28, 2019. If Ghani won, anti-Ghani factions would undermine the Afghan President’s legitimacy further with the Taliban by protesting the election victory.
The most important reason the agreement failed, however, is trust. No one at the table and no one with an interest in the agreement actually trusted the Taliban to keep their word. In fact, intercepted communications from the Taliban show the terror organization’s negotiators believe they “fooled” the United States. Still, many in the United States believe the best way out of Afghanistan is through a political agreement.
Only no one yet knows what that agreement will look like.
The U.S. has a legitimate claim as one of the more honorable warfighting nations on Earth. Sure, we get involved in a lot more wars than some others, but we also follow lots of rules about how to fight them and have even pushed for greater regulation of war and prevention of conflict from the League of Nations to the U.N. and dozens of treaties besides. But, oddly enough, we still use a few weapons that other nations have banned, like these four:
A B-1B Lancer drops cluster munitions during a test.
(U.S. Air Force)
Cluster munitions are weapons with a lot more weapons inside of them, usually bombs, rockets, or artillery shells filled with bomblets. They’re super effective, allowing a single bomb drop to disperse hundreds of what are essentially grenades. Each one releases shrapnel and shreds light vehicles, aircraft, and personnel.
But many of those grenades fail to detonate when dropped, meaning that dozens or even hundreds of pieces of unexploded ordnance can be left behind. These have an unfortunate tendency to explode when civilians stumble across them, so most countries banned them by ratifying the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. America has not ratified that treaty and, in 2017, relaxed rules that limited the ability of the Department of Defense to buy cluster munitions.
A Marine Corps gunnery sergeant shows how to load the M1014 shotgun.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wulz)
Yeah, it may sound crazy, but Germany tried to argue in World War I that shotguns were an illegal weapon. Don’t worry; you’re not a war criminal. Everyone else in the world agreed that Germany, who had rolled out chemical weapons during the same war, was full of crap.
U.S. Airman 1st Class Samuel Garr practices attacking an enemy with pepper spray in his eyes.
(U.S. Air Force Airman Nicole Sikorski)
Pepper spray and similar non-lethal gasses
Yeah, this one is actually illegal. Like, right now, it’s illegal to take pepper spray into combat and use it. America, of course, has plenty of pepper spray and other non-lethal weapons, but the military and police can only use it on their own citizens.
These weapons are illegal under Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Rifle fire is fine. Pepper spray is not. Yeah, it’s a weird rule.
U.S. Army Reserve engineers conduct mine clearance during training in 2014.
(U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sauret)
Like cluster munitions, landmines are one of the weapons that were declared illegal for good reason (unlike shotguns and pepper spray because, I mean, come on). The Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 has 164 countries as members, over 80 percent of the world. But the U.S. is not a signatory.
But the U.S. does enforce its own limitations on mine use. While Claymore mines are used around the world, most of America’s mine stockpiles are restricted. America has actually banned the use of most mines everywhere except the Korean Peninsula, the place where the U.S. and its ally hold a 150-mile barrier against an angry communist regime with artillery and infantry positioned just 20 miles from Seoul, South Korea’s capital.
Weird that the U.S. wants to keep all of its options on the table for that fight. Weird.
A Marine veteran crawled across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2019, after his legs gave out late in the race.
Micah Herndon, of Tallmadge, Ohio, persisted because he was running in honor of three friends who died in an IED attack in Afghanistan.
“The pain that I was going through is nothing compared to the pain that they went through,” Herndon told CBS Boston.
On Jan. 9, 2010, Herndon was riding in a vehicle with fellow Marines Matthew Ballard, Mark Juarez and British journalist Rupert Hamer when they struck a 400-pound IED, Herndon told the Washington Post.
Marine Veteran Crawls Across Boston Marathon Finish Line
Herndon had hoped to finish the race in under three hours, in order to qualify for the New York City Marathon in November. He was on pace to make that goal for most of the race, but his legs started to give out when he hit Heartbreak Hill, an incline near the 20-mile marker, according to The Post.
He started feeling discomfort in his Achilles’ tendon that eventually caused his legs to give out entirely, leading him to finish the race on hands and knees.
Video shows volunteers clearing space for Herndon to he could crawl across the finish line. He was then put in a wheelchair and taken to get medical attention.
While he is still recovering from the race in Boston, he told The Post that he plans to get back to running as soon as possible, calling it his “therapy.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The choice to carry a knife as a means of self-defense brings with it the responsibility of learning how to use it, but just knowing how to do something doesn’t make you good at it. Skill comes from repetition through dedicated training. Attending a couple edged-weapons seminars might give you a base knowledge, but it won’t make you proficient with a blade. You must incorporate that knowledge into a regular training regimen to hone your skills.
The great thing about blade training is it can be done pretty much anywhere. Unlike firearms training, you don’t need a designated training area. You don’t need to worry about noise and backstops, and your neighbors aren’t likely to call the police if you do it in the backyard.
The greatest challenge with solo blade training is knowing where to start. Once you know how to train on your own, the possibilities become endless. The information presented here will give you some good starting points to help you develop a consistent solo training program that will sharpen your edged-weapons skills.
Some solo training tools pictured here include aluminum training blades, a shot timer, a tennis ball on a string, bubbles, and a Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Target.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing, with a little urban slang mixed in. It’s the act of fighting with an imaginary opponent to develop technique, timing, lines of motion, and muscle memory. It’s one of the most useful training methods for learning and training basic movements and movement patterns. There are a few different ways to implement shadow shanking into your training regimen.
Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing. When done with the proper progression and mind-set, it can be a valuable training tool.
1. Working the basics
This is how you build your foundation. The best way to set this up is to stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself perform the movements. You might also want to draw a large asterisk on the mirror with lipstick or a grease pencil to give you a visual reference for the various angles of attack. You can then follow these lines with your blade.
We tend to be very unaware of ourselves. Seeing yourself moving in a mirror helps you develop a mind-body connection. It’s the reason gyms and martial arts schools are covered in mirrors. Use the mirror to correct flaws and solidify proper technique until your body knows what the right motion feels like. Go back to the mirror frequently to reinforce proper technique.
2. Free flow
Another form of shadow shanking is free flow. This is where you develop your ability to flow from one cut or thrust to another using the most efficient path for each angle of attack. Start with preset combinations to engrain paths of motion into your central nervous system. As those combinations become more fluid, you can begin linking the lines between various combinations until you’re able to free flow without thinking.
3. The ghost
Visualization is the key to fighting the ghost, a cool name for an imaginary opponent. To fight the ghost, you have to imagine an opponent as vividly as possible, seeing his every move through your mind’s eye. Visualize his attacks and react to them using footwork, evasions, defenses, interceptions, and counters. Imagine how he’s reacting to your movements and respond accordingly. This variation of shadow shanking is the most challenging, but the benefits you reap from it are invaluable.
The training post
The training post is one of the oldest and simplest combat training tools known to man. Historically known as a pell, this solid wooden post was used to practice striking, cutting, and thrusting with the sword, shield, and spear. It was the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag, and its use is recorded in historical documents dating back to the 1st century.
The training post is a vital piece of solo training equipment. Delivering cuts and thrusts against the air is great for developing basic technique, but the resistance of a solid target is necessary for conditioning the mind and body for impact. Just like a heavy bag, using the training post will strengthen your muscles and increase connective tissue resilience. Striking a solid post will challenge your grip and expose weaknesses in your technique.
Historically known as the pell, the training post is the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag.
Training on a post requires very little logistics. A 6-foot pole with a sturdy base is all you need. A solid, dead tree can work just as well. It’s also a good idea to add some target markings like lines and circles to aid with working your cutting angles and thrusting accuracy.
Proper safety precautions are necessary when working the post. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying pieces of wood. If you’re going to use a live blade, it’s a good idea to wear Kevlar-lined gloves to protect your hand in case it rides onto the blade during a thrust, especially if your blade doesn’t have a substantial guard.
Your best buddy “BOB”
Century’s Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training devices available. The vinyl skinned, lifelike mannequin provides all the shapes and contours of a human head and torso, making for a realistic, target-rich training environment. BOB isn’t very practical for live-blade training, at least not if you want to keep him around for a while. A synthetic or aluminum training blade, or a homemade “stubby” (knife-shaped, hard foam cutout wrapped in electrical tape), are your best options for blade work on BOB.
The Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training tools. Shown here with the Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard for vital target identification.
When training on the BOB, focus on targeting and precision. Work the eyes, neck, throat, lungs, and abdomen with various thrusts and cuts. It’s easy to forget you have two hands during weapons training, so take advantage of the liveliness of the BOB and emphasize the use of both hands by incorporating empty-hand strikes, checks, and grabs with your live hand (the hand not holding the blade). Move around the mannequin and work as many angles as possible.
Another way to up your game on the BOB is with anatomical drilling. This form of training involves the use of a Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard in conjunction with the BOB. The purpose is to identify the anatomical location of vital targets on the body in order to increase your ability to recognize target landmarks. This particular method was developed with the input of this author and popularized by Scott Babb in the Libre Fighting System.
Rubber Dummy mayhem
The Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Body Target is a self-healing rubber target designed for close-quarters firearms application, but has proven effective for edged weapons training as well. Filipino martial arts practitioners have long employed used automobile tires in various configurations to practice stick and blade combatives.
The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and BOB into one device, able to withstand the abuse of a live blade while offering human target features.
The Rubber Dummy puts a modern twist on this solo training concept with its three-dimensional human shape and tire-like, hard rubber texture. The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and the BOB into one training device. The Rubber Dummy can withstand the abuse from a live blade, while offering human target features. Cuts and stabs leave visible markings on the renewable “skin” (applied with spray paint), yielding instant feedback.
Speed drilling is a broad category of solo training with many variations. The purpose is to develop speed, efficiency, and accuracy. For solo training, using a programmable shot timer in conjunction with a suitable striking target, such as the ones mentioned above, works extremely well. The idea is to program the shot timer using delayed start and perform the action within a set par-time parameter. Striking a target that makes an audible sound, like a balloon or X-ray paper will signal the shot timer to record the split, letting you see your actual hit time.
A programmable shot timer and a quality training blade are excellent tools for developing speed and accuracy.
Speed drill progression should look something like this: Begin drilling from a ready position with your blade in hand and address the target at the sound of the beep. Then, perform the drill from a neutral position with the blade in hand. Next, deploy the blade from its carry location and engage from a ready position. Finally, deploy and engage from a neutral position.
Speed drilling with the aid of a shot timer adds stress and challenges you to leave your comfort zone. It pushes you to the edge of failure, so you can recognize how fast you can move without compromising your accuracy or control of your weapon. Always use training blades for these types of drills.
Ball on a string
Striking a simple ball on a free-hanging string can be one of the most challenging solo drills for edged-weapons training, and it’s also one of the cheapest and easiest tools to set up. Attach a ball to a string and hang it up — that’s it. The weight and size of the ball and the length of the string are variables you can vary to change the level of difficulty. Let the ball swing freely and work your cutting and thrusting angles as the ball swings toward you. Don’t forget to include footwork. That’s about all there is to this simple but effective drill.
Who hasn’t at some point in their life run around poking bubbles out of the air with their finger? It was fun when you were a kid, and it’s even more fun with a knife. Borrow your kid’s bubble machine and go to town. You’ll have random targets floating all around you, so you’ll have to move up and down, side to side, back and forth, and turn around. If a bubble hits you, it means you’ve been tagged, so keep moving and pop them before they land on you. The one caveat is you have to be precise with your blade, no wild swinging or flailing about.
Putting it all together
The less effort involved in setting up a training drill, the more likely we are to do it, especially when we’re limited on time. The training tools and drills presented here take very little effort to set up. Most can be left in place wherever you set them up, meaning you can quickly visit them and get in some quality repetitions within 5 or 10 minutes. Practice makes permanent, so focus on getting quality repetitions.
Physical preparation is only half the equation when it comes to any deadly force issue. Mental preparation is just as important, if not more so. You must train your mind to deal with the emotional trauma that comes with a violent physical assault. Rather than mindlessly performing countless repetitions, consider incorporating visualization into your solo training. Work through various attack/response scenarios in your mind as you do your drills. This will help prepare you to perform under stress and reduce the likelihood that you’ll freeze during a violent encounter.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
The air war over Vietnam saw some incredible dog fights, but it still may surprise you to learn that the mighty B-52 heavy bomber successfully shot down not one but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets near the tail end of the conflict.
The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952, and thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to for decades to come. The massive jet bomber may have been designed in the 1940s (in fact, it was designed almost entirely in a single weekend), but its massive airframe and eight jet engine-design have proven so capable over the years that the B-52 is now expected to outlast newer bombers that were developed to replace it. As the B-21 Raider inches toward production, both America’s B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) are expected to be put out to pasture, while the legendary B-52 keeps right on flying.
The B-52 BUFF (as service members tend to call it) has been flying combat missions for so long that it actually used to come equipped with a tail gunner position to defend the slow and steady bomber against encroaching fighters. Of course, as fighter technology continued to improve, the United States moved away from manning guns on their heavy payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While most people tend to think of World War II when they imagine gun turrets on a bomber, the most recent enemy fighter to be shot down by a B-52’s guns was actually in the 1970s.
It was Christmas eve in 1972, and the B-52D bomber known as Diamond Lil was flying a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when its tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing with them fast.
“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”
For Moore, it had to be a nerve-racking moment. Only one other B-52 tail gunner had scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, though more than 30 B-52s had been shot down throughout the conflict. In fact, the first time a B-52 had ever shot down a Mig had only happened a few days prior. In other words, the odds seemed pretty squarely stacked against Moore and his crew.
“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”
Those 800 rounds poured out of Moore’s four .50 caliber M3 Machine Guns. The kill was confirmed by another tail gunner named Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, who was aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.
“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”
Moore would go down in history as not only the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig, but also as the last bomber-gunner to ever engage enemy fighters in American service, despite tail guns surviving on the B-52 until the 1990s.
Today, the B-52 remains in service as an essential part of America’s nuclear triad, and believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s long loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, where it’s seen use in both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Thanks to a slew of cockpit upgrades and improved weapon system storage, the Air Force intends to keep flying the mighty BUFF past the century mark, with some B-52s expected to remain in service as late as 2060.
NASA’s administrator warned that the threat of a meteor crashing into Earth is bigger than we might think.
Jim Bridenstine told the International Academy of Astronautics’ Planetary Defense Conference on Monday that “the reason it’s important for NASA to take this seriously is something you call the ‘giggle factor,'” or scientific theories that seem too ridiculous to be likely.
“We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood. It’s not about movies. This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth,” he added.
Bridenstine noted that in February 2013, a meteor measuring 20 meters (about 65 feet) in diameter and traveling at 40,000 mph entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over Chelyabinsk, in central Russia.
A meteor streaking across the sky in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region in 2013.
Meteorites — smaller pieces broken from the larger meteor — crashed in the region, and a fireball streaked through the sky, the BBC reported at the time.
There was a loud, massive blast that caused a shock wave that broke windows and damaged buildings across the region, Bridenstine said, adding that the meteor’s explosion had 30 times the energy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
More than 1,400 people were injured. Many were hit by flying glass, CNN reported.
“I wish I could tell you that these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not,” Bridenstine said.
He said that NASA’s modeling had found that such events will take place “about once every 60 years.” He added that on the same day of the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion, another, larger asteroid came within 17,000 miles of Earth but narrowly missed.
Scientific experts at this week’s Planetary Defense Conference are discussing how the world can defend against any potentially hazardous asteroid or comet that looks likely to hit Earth, the conference said in a statement.
In such a scenario, Bridenstine said, NASA would measure the object’s speed and trajectory and decide whether to deflect it or evacuate the area that it would hit.
Watch Bridenstine’s speech, starting at the 2:39 mark, in the video below:
6th IAA Planetary Defense Conference – The Honorable James Bridenstine, NASA Administrator
The Rim of the Pacific Exercise, better known as RIMPAC, is the largest regular naval exercise in the world. Every even-numbered year, countries from around the globe take part in this massive operation. 15 nations took part in RIMPAC 2018 (China was disinvited), bringing together a total of 48 ships off the coast of Hawaii.
In 2018, the exercise was interrupted by a real search-and-rescue mission off the island of Hawaiian island of Niihau that involved Navy and Coast Guard units. In short, if it can happen in war, it can happen at RIMPAC!
Multi-national Special Operations Forces (SOF) participate in a submarine insertion exercise with the fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and combat rubber raiding craft off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii during Rim of the Paciﬁc (RIMPAC) exercise.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Michelle Pelissero)
This year, two aircraft carriers, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and JS Ise (DDH 182), took part, as did the amphibious assault ship USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD 6), HMAS Adelaide (L01), and 44 other vessels, ranging from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T AH 19) to the Peruvian maritime patrol boat BAP Ferre.
Watch the video below to get a glimpse at all the ships that took part in RIMPAC 2018!
Most experiments in which biologists — or, more accurately, epidemiologists — study how a disease spreads are done theoretically, involving only a pen and paper. They do their best to simulate the spread of various contagions and study outbreaks of the past, but nobody would dare spread a disease simply to study it.
In 2005, however, they were given the perfect test conditions and subjects: World of Warcraft players.
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game made by Blizzard Entertainment set in a fantasy realm called Azeroth. In September of 2005, a new “raid” encounter — an experience that required 20 players — opened up, called Zul’Gurub. This was, basically, an ancient city loosely based on Mayan culture that belonged to a savage tribe of Trolls.
When players finally fought the final boss, the Serpent God Hakkar, they would contract a temporary “debuff” (or weakness) called “Corrupted Blood” that would slowly drain their health before spreading to another player.
Once a player was infected, they’d have to wait out the sickness or die in the process. It wasn’t much more than a nuisance to high-level players, as they could simply heal themselves and continue fighting, hoping to pry an epic sword from the Serpent Lord’s cold corpse. But the in-game plague didn’t just affect players.
In the game, you play one of several different fantasy roles, including paladins, druids, rogues, and (most relevant to this scenario) hunters. Hunters specialized in taming beasts that would then fight in their name. If a hunter’s pet contracted Corrupted Blood, the player could “dismiss” their pet, making it effectively disappear. The next time that pet was called to help, however, it would still have the disease — and it would still spread to nearby characters.
Hunters of the world would (sometimes) inadvertently bring their infected pets back to large population hubs after completing the raid. There, they’d call forth their beast without realizing it was still infected. Then, the Corrupted Blood was transmitted to other players outside of the raid. This time, the infected players weren’t powerful heroes attempting to kill a god, but rather low-level noobies that would quickly die once affected by the plague, causing it to infect others.
This spread just like a real plague. Players, in search of safety, would evacuate large cities, bringing Corrupted Blood to outlying hamlets, just as with real plagues. Some players would knowingly infect themselves just to harass other players, akin to bio-terrorism.
It was fixed within a week and the game developers apologized for the bug (even though they intentionally recreated it a few years afterwards). But this was the perfect scenario that every epidemiologist dreams of recreating without risking their medical license.
Years after the virtual incident, many researchers published documents using information gathered from the digital plague. They tracked how animals that humans keep as pets might be the most prone to infecting others. They monitored how the disease spread through major population centers and how it traveled along pathways towards the outer reaches of the game. It even simulated surprisingly lifelike actions of bio-terrorists and how they can be dealt with.
(Photo by Jerry Stillwagon)
All in all, it was a mild annoyance to the players but it gave the Center for Disease Control and many researchers a realistic and ethically-sound testing environment.