President Donald Trump on May 29, 2018, praised the “solid response” to a letter he sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which he canceled a planned summit between the two leaders.
After Trump sent the letter on May 24, 2018, many of Asia’s top negotiators spent the weekend in a flurry of diplomatic activity with the goal of saving the summit, which had been scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea,” Trump tweeted on May 29, 2018. “Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!”
When Trump called off the summit, citing North Korean anger and hostility, it came as a shock to US allies and journalists alike.
Two days later, Kim had a surprise meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an attempt to get the summit back on track.
In talking to South Korea, North Korea seemed to put aside its anger and recent hostility, agreeing to attend meetings with Seoul it had canceled in protest of US-South Korean military exercises. It also reaffirmed its aim for denuclearization.
Notably present at the meeting was Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official with ties to North Korea’s spy service.
Kim Yong Chol has been singled out for sanctions by the US. He is accused of masterminding an attack on a South Korean navy ship that killed 46 people and of involvement in the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
If Kim Yong Chol arrives in New York, it will represent the highest-level North Korean to visit the US since 2000, NK News reported.
“At best, this will give US officials a better understanding of North Korea’s position and steer the summit in a more realistic direction,” a former State Department Korea Desk officer, Mintaro Oba, told NK News. “At worst, tense meetings will cloud or poison the atmosphere, calling the summit into question once again. It’s hard to tell which direction is more plausible right now.
“We can also probably expect that some in Washington may raise concerns about the optics of meeting with an official with Kim Yong Chol’s past of provocations.”
But Trump’s team, previously thought to be unprepared for the summit, also saw a big change over the last weekend of May 2018.
The US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, traveled to North Korea for talks. He took part in denuclearization talks with North Korea a decade ago and is highly regarded in that capacity.
With the summit’s originally scheduled date now less than two weeks away, Trump’s letter to Kim has whipped the region into a flurry of activity that appears for now to have saved diplomacy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A US airman recently saved a child’s life on his flight back to the US, where he was to receive a prestigious award for being exceptional, the Air Force announced this September 2019.
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien, a special tactics section chief assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, was named one of only a dozen “2019 Outstanding Airmen of the Year,” the Air Force announced in August 2019.
O’Brien served as a member of President Donald Trump’s security detail for one of the summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and he rescued someone from a burning vehicle in Korea. He played an important role in rescuing a Thai soccer team from a cave, and, during the rescue operation, he also saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.
“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” O’Brien said of his rather eventful year. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”
Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien.
Two weeks ago, he was on a flight back to the US to receive his award at the Air Force Association conference when a 1-year-old child lost consciousness due to an airway blockage. The child may have been unresponsive, but O’Brien was not.
“Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business,” Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wrote in a Facebook post, Stars and Stripes first reported.
The Air Force said in a statement that the child regained consciousness after about a minute. O’Brien regularly checked in on the child throughout the remainder of the flight.
“I’m thankful that the child is OK and that I was able to help when the family needed support,” O’Brien said, explaining that he just “happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” Silfe said on Facebook. “I don’t know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him.”
While O’Brien was named as an award recipient in August 2019, his actions on his flight back to the US confirmed that he is deserving of it, his commander said.
“We are very proud of Tech. Sgt. O’Brien,” Lt. Col. Charles Hodges, commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “He continues to step up when there is a need for leadership and action. This incident demonstrates without a doubt that O’Brien epitomizes the Air Force’s core values and rightly deserves the honor and selection as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.
The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.
The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.
While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.
By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”
A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.
“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.
At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.
The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.
Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”
Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.
Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.
The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.
Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned on Sept. 3 of a “massive,” and “overwhelming” military response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs after a small group meeting with President Donald Trump in response to Pyongyang testing its sixth and largest-ever nuclear device.
Mattis was most likely referring to the US military’s roughly 28,000 troops located in South Korea and its massive presence in Japan and in the Pacific. At the time of Mattis’ speaking, the US does not have an increased naval or military presence in the region, though the US and South Korea did just complete a joint war-gaming exercise.
Earlier on Sept. 3, Trump floated the idea of cutting off trade with China, North Korea’s treaty ally and main trading partner, in response to North Korea’s greatly increased provocations. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and stressed military might represents a part of that package.
Historically, China has agreed to UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea following nuclear tests, but despite sanctions, loopholes remain that allow Pyongyang to finance its weapons programs.
The nuclear device tested by North Korea on Sept. 3 had a yield of hundreds of kilotons, meaning it was most likely a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, according to expert estimates and North Korea’s own statements.
The completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a thermonuclear warhead represent North Korea achieving its ultimate goal of building a credible deterrent against invasion and regime change. Experts assess that North Korea’s main goal in developing nuclear weapons is to secure its regime, and that it will not use the weapons offensively, unless provoked.
1. The reason why they expended 200 rounds during a firefight when they clearly couldn’t see the enemy.
Grunts can be trigger happy. They enjoy firing their weapons at the bad guys, hoping to score a solid kill shot, even if it means expending 90% of their ammo. Half the time, the ground pounders don’t get a clear line of sight on enemy movement from ground level.
But they still pull the trigger.
2. Why they shot so poorly at the range.
Not every infantryman is a crack shot. When you’re competing for bragging rights throughout the platoon and you don’t win, excuses are made.
3. How many girls they’ve been with prior to joining the military.
All grunts were ladies men before they signed on the dotted line. It’s incredible how joining takes all their mojo away.
4. How muscularly toned they once were before joining the infantry.
The average grunt is around 19-ish. So, it’s pretty hard to believe that your body’s metabolism has changed so quickly that you lost your muscle density.
5. About all of their outstanding achievements before shipping off to boot camp.
It’s okay, not everyone can be a high school football or wrestling star.
These guys are football stars and they aren’t in the infantry — yet.
President Donald Trump toured the US’s last tank facility on March 20, 2019, in a move to highlight the impact of his soaring defense spending in a politically crucial state.
The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, has been building Army tanks and armored vehicles since World War II. It nearly shuttered in 2012 under the drastic “sequestration” cuts, but it now produces about 11 tanks a month and employs a growing workforce of 580.
The plant’s assembly line is roaring back under Trump’s defense spending hikes, including $718 billion proposed for fiscal year starting in October 2019.
“In terms of economic security, the Trump defense budget is helping to create good manufacturing jobs at good wages, including in communities like Lima that have fallen behind economically,” Peter Navarro, White House director of trade and manufacturing policy, wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “The revitalized Lima plant will directly employ a little more than 1,000 employees.”
Main entrance to Joint Systems Manufacturing Center. An M1A1 Abrams sits on a display platform to the left of the entrance gates.
Here’s a history of the sprawling tank plant, a still-operating legacy of World War II America’s so-called arsenal of democracy.
World War II
The facility opened in 1942 and soon began to build and test vehicles to be sent to the Pacific and European theaters. It built M-5 Light Tanks and T-26 Pershing tanks, according to the website Global Security. By the end of the war it had processed 100,000 combat vehicles.
The facility is owned by the US Army and operated by a contractor.
An expansion began after the Korean War broke out in 1950. The Army built new structures, including two massive warehouses that each had 115,000 square feet of storage, according to an official history of the site.
Construction fell off sharply after the war and didn’t pick up much during the Vietnam War.
The Army introduced the M-1 Abrams in 1980 and called it a “supertank” that would be faster, better armored, and have more firepower than is predecessors.
The early M-1 Abrams tanks weighed 60 tons, carried a 105 mm cannon, and could speed across fields at 30 mph. The armor used a “new super alloy, composite-material” to protect against rockets and artillery, according to the history.
105-mm M1 Abrams tank of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Grafenwöhr Training Area in Germany, 1986.
Chrysler Defense began production of the M-1 tanks at Lima in 1979.
In 1980, the first M-1 Abrams rolled out of Lima. It was named “Thunderbolt,” in homage to the name Gen. Creighton Abrams gave to his tanks in World War II, according to Global Security.
General Dynamics Land Systems bought Chrysler Defense in 1982. The plant became the sole US tank factory in when the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant closed in 1996.
The deep sequestration budget cuts nearly shuttered the plant in 2012, and tank production languished under the Obama administration, which oversaw counter-insurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where a large force of tanks wasn’t needed.
In 2017, the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center was producing about one upgraded M-1 tank a month; a year later it was producing about 11, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Two factors have seen the Lima’s tank plant roar back to life: Trump’s massive defense-spending hikes and the US’s assessment that rivalries with China and Russia are now the country’s foremost threat.
Deterring a major power like them may rely on the US Army fielding the upgraded, 80-ton Abrams tanks now rolling off Lima’s assembly lines.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In World War II’s Pacific Theater, the United States had a big problem: the operating area was humongous. In one sense, it’s no surprise — the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean and they needed to get across that ocean in order to defeat Japan. But Japan had also occupied a lot of bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands during the inter-war period (and illegally fortified them). Finally, the Allies needed a way to deal with the fierce Japanese force, but they needed to do so without endangering the “Germany first” grand strategy for defeating the Axis.
This problem proved extremely difficult. The Japanese, at Guadalcanal, in the Philippines, and elsewhere, had proven to be fierce fighters on the ground. It was painfully obvious that fighting island to island on a campaign across the Pacific would take a lot of time and cost many lives. But at the same time, the Japanese bases had to be neutralized.
In 1943, after Guadalcanal had been cleared, Admiral William F. Halsey and General Douglas MacArthur began planning the next phase of the offensive in the massive ocean, with the ultimate objective of taking out Rabaul, Japan’s major base in the south Pacific.
The first plan they came up with would have required additional forces drawn from efforts in Europe. That, of course, didn’t fly with politicians.
Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers fly over an atoll in the Pacific during the island-hopping campaign.
Instead, the answer to the Pacific question was to grab a few key bases and then use air power and submarines to cut off the other Japanese installations from resupply and reinforcement. The term for this was “island hopping” or “leapfrogging.”
There were two primary benefits to this strategy: First, it could be accomplished with fewer troops. Second, it meant the cut-off enemy forces couldn’t be pulled back to reinforce important objectives, like the Philippines.
Bases seized by the Allies were used to launch strikes that targeted enemy supply lines. One of the most famous actions was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.
The targeted bases in the island-happen campaign were selected for two purposes: First, they were the jumping-off points for the next “hops” towards Japan. Second, they served as bases for forces that had the job of plastering the now-isolated garrisons left behind. This was what John Glenn did while serving in World War II.
While plans originally called for capturing Rabaul, the decision was made to bypass it after successfully seizing some other locations where Allied forces could build airfields.
John Glenn’s World War II service included a combat tour striking bypassed Japanese garrisons in the F4U Corsair.
The island-hopping strategy worked. In less than four years, the United States had forced Japan’s surrender. While much of history focuses on the hotly-debated use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the ability for America to deliver those weapons hinged on some very strategic leapfrogging.
The house of the Commandant of the Marine Corps is one of the oldest continuously-occupied buildings in the capital of the United States. Steeped in American history, the house was spared the torch when the British captured and burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. All but the first two Commandants have lived in the 15,000 square-foot house and, since 1916, all the historical occupants of the house were honored with portraits by order of then-Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
All but one, that is. There have been 37 Commandants of the Marine Corps but the house holds just 36 portraits.
The conspicuously missing spot belongs to Lt. Col. Anthony Gale, the fourth Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was the only Commandant ever to be fired from the position and the one with the fewest surviving records. No one knows what he looked like or even knows the location of his final resting place.
This is not Lt. Col. Anthony Gale, this is Archibald Henderson, his successor.
Luckily for us, it’s not so much of a mystery anymore. The Marine Corps Association and Foundation’s Robert T. Jordan did an exhaustive work on the life of Lt. Col. Gale. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, around 1782 and his tenure as Commandant lasted from March 1819 until October 1820. In the decades that followed, Gale fell off the map. He’s seldom-mentioned in the annals of USMC history because the events surrounding his dismissal were said to have brought “embarrassment” upon himself and the United States Marine Corps. And so, he was pretty much lost to history entirely.
Until 1966, that is. General Wallace M. Greene Jr., the 23rd Commandant of the Marine Corps set up an investigation into the history of the Marine who fell from grace.
What was learned, however, was still very little. Anthony Gale arrived in the nascent United States in 1793. When President John Adams rebooted the Marine Corps (which was disbanded after the American Revolution), Gale was among the first to sign up as an officer. He commanded Marines guarding French prisoners of the quasi-War in Philadelphia and took to sea aboard the USS Ganges, where he fought Barbary Pirates and British sailors alike.
Gale cared deeply for his Marines and when a Naval officer, Lieutenant Allan MacKensie, arrested one of them aboard ship, Gale slapped the officer and challenged him to a duel — the duel that killed MacKensie. That’s not what got him the boot from the Corps, though. Superiors in Washington believed the duel would force Navy officers to treat Marines with respect.
This is also not Gale. This is Maj. Gen. Charles Heywood, 9th Commandant and Medal of Honor Recipient.
His career continued, and soon he was married and saw service aboard the USS President and USS Constitution. By 1804, Gale was brevet Major Anthony Gale and his duties became focused on the recruitment and training of Marines. But soon, there was a new sheriff in town: Commandant Lt. Col. Frank Wharton took over for Commandant William Ward Burrows and Burrows looked at Gale with a much sharper eye than his predecessors.
Gale’s once squeaky-clean reputation soon became tainted by notes of alcoholism, sloppy management of the Marine Corps Barracks, and allegations that Gale used Marine Corps funds to renovate his personal home. Wharton took Gale to trial, but Gale was cleared of any wrongdoing. Still, Wharton sent Gale to the then-backwater of New Orleans – perhaps not the best place for a potential alcoholic, even in the early 19th Century. Still, when Wharton died in 1818, Anthony Gale was the most senior Marine Corps officer.
That did not mean he was promoted instantly.
No one forgot the charges filed against Gale, whether he was cleared or not. Others tried to have him removed from consideration to become the next Commandant. Gale was less concerned with the succession crisis and more concerned with keeping his head down and retaining his command. Even though he was not trying to be Commandant, that’s exactly what happened. He was promoted to Lt. Col. Commandant of the Marine Corps on March 3, 1819.
Gale had trouble with the position immediately. The Marine Corps became disorganized and undisciplined in the six months since Wharton died and he found himself spending more time fighting to re-organize it while the Navy Secretary and President Monroe would frequently counter his orders whenever it suited them — at the request of Gale’s subordinates. Overwhelmed and frustrated, Gale turned again to booze.
His mental state deteriorated as he became a drunkard, a womanizer, and verbally abusive toward his subordinates. Eventually, he was accused of drunkenness, conduct unbecoming an officer, signing false documents, and leaving his quarters without permission and was placed under house arrest. He was court-martialed and plead mental instability during the inquisition.
The court still found Gale guilty and removed him as the Commandant on Oct. 16, 1820, less than two years into his tenure.
This is Maj. Gen. Ben Hebard Fuller, the 15th Commandant, who is both not Gale and consolidated the Fleet Marine Force Concept.
After being helped out of the service, Gale moved to his home in Philadelphia, but found no peace there. He eventually moved his family to a log cabin in Kentucky where he found that being a farmer was not in his blood, either. He turned back to his old friend, alcohol. He fought to be granted a pension for his instability, earning one 15 years later in what might be one of the earliest veteran disability claim suits.
According to Kentucky records found by the Marine Corps, Gale died of Lung Cancer in 1843 in Kentucky. A number of his sons also joined the Marine Corps, some of whom served in the Civil War. They apparently had no idea he served as Commandant, believing he was a quartermaster in the Corps. But Gale’s sons are also lost to history, so even if a supposed burial site is ever found, there’s no way to definitively prove it.
As Hurricane Florence, now weakened to a tropical depression, continues to wreak havoc along the East Coast, where it has claimed at least two dozen lives, more than 10,000 US service members are providing emergency assistance to those in need.
The Department of Defense, as of Sept. 15, 2018, had deployed a total of 13,470 personnel, 5,400 active-duty service members and 7,857 National Guard to support hurricane relief efforts. Additionally, 1,286 military assets, such as rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, high-water vehicles, and swift boats have been dispatched to assist with ongoing response operations.
“The collaboration between the Department of Defense, FEMA, and state and local partners is absolutely critical to our National Response Framework,” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander USNORTHCOM said in a statement, adding, “We remain well informed of the emergency response requirements and are ready to respond when military assistance is requested.”
The following photos show the US military in action, lending a much needed hand to rescue people and even animals affected by the storm.
U.S. Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) drive through the rain to a local fire station in order to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018.
Hawks and falcons are an essential part of the ecosystem and are one of nature’s instinctive predators. Although these natural aviators are beneficial to the environment, they can pose a threat to the safety of Airmen, aircraft and vulnerable wildlife.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard, or BASH, program, expanded with the addition of the Predatory Bird Relocation Program.
After seeing the risks predatory birds, or raptors, have when they live near or on airfields, Adam Kohler, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services wildlife biologist at Altus Air Force Base, created the Predatory Bird Relocation Program, which safely removes birds that have the potential to injure themselves or aircrew.
“I work for the USDA Wildlife Services which acts kind of like the government’s wildlife damage management program,” Kohler said. “One of the big areas we work in are airfields. We use the BASH program to help keep the public and aircraft safe from accidents that may happen with wildlife.”
The Predatory Bird Relocation Program is an important aspect in forwarding the mission of the 97th AMW. Each year, the Air Force spends approximately 0 million repairing damage to aircraft from birds and other wildlife. Since Kohler founded the program in the fall of 2018, more than 20 raptors have been safely captured and relocated away from the airfield saving Altus AFB time, lives and money.
“While hawks and falcons are less abundant than other birds found in this area, they are one of the species with the highest risk of getting hit,” Kohler said. “Although there is less of them out there, they get struck by aircraft more often, and because of their size they inflict more damage when they are hit. That is why we created the program specific to relocate the raptors.”
When a raptor is within a close enough range of the airfield to become a hazard, Kohler sets out harmless, simple traps to capture the bird. Once the raptor is caught, Kohler places a tracking band on its foot and relocates it to a safer environment.
“By us going out there and banding the raptors, it helps out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and any agencies that are studying wildlife,” Kohler said. “It’s a great cooperative effort between us and every other wildlife research agency towards gaining knowledge from and understanding different species.”
Each tracking band has a specific number on it to help identify the bird in the future. This is a very important part of the relocation process because it can help identify which birds return to the airfield once they have been relocated. If a banded bird does return, it is relocated to a different environment, hopefully to keep the raptor satisfied at its new location.
“Banding the birds is an essential part, nationwide, to the agencies research of the effectiveness in relocating raptors,” Kohler said. “Throughout our research we have found that more than 90 percent of the relocated birds have stayed in their new location, away from the airfield. It’s good because this data helps us show that catching and relocating these birds actually keeps them away and safe, and not returning.”
Although predatory birds are necessary in local environments, flying too close to an airfield is a threat to the raptors’ own lives and the safety of Airmen. By relocating these raptors to a safer location, Kohler and the USDA Wildlife Services team help keep the 97th AMW safe and mission ready.
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.
In a way, the story of the modern “Illuminati” is a conspiracy theory in itself. But unlike many other Illuminati conspiracy theories, the origin story of today’s Illuminati is hilariously real.
Modern day conspiracy theorists put the Illuminati in cahoots with other conspiracy regulars, including the Rothschild Family, billionaire George Soros, and the Freemasons. While the Illuminati were a real organization, there’s no evidence to support any ongoing activity.
The modern Illuminati were conceived as a prank between Marine Corps veteran and 1960s counterculture activist Kerry Thornley and Journalist Robert Anton Wilson. The idea was to create mass paranoia so that American would begin to question everything they read. It was called Operation: Mindf*ck and it seems to have worked all too well.
Around 1776, liberal, nonreligious scholars of the Enlightenment formed a secret society in Bavaria to oppose superstitious and religious encroachment on public life, to liberate people from the laws of religion. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t sit well with the Catholic Church, who pressured the ruler of the German state to outlaw the group. By 1788, the group functionally ceased to exist.
But that didn’t stop believers from blaming their troubles on the Illuminati. Some believed the society lived on, but simply got better about hiding their existence. The first conspiracy theories popped up around 1798. They claimed Illuminati were going to incite slave rebellions in the Caribbean and that they started the French Revolution. They even made an appearance in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
In the first years of the American Republic, fear of the Illuminati gave way to fear of the Freemasons. These fears even led to the formation of an Anti-Masonic political party. Somewhere along the way, the mass fears barely died down, and they never disappeared entirely.
In the 19th century, European monarchs blamed the Illuminati for fomenting revolutions. In the 20th Century, the rise of international communism was put at the feet of the Illuminati. Then came Thornley and Wilson.
Kerry Thornley rose to prominence in the 1960s, having written a book about Lee Harvey Oswald in 1962, the year before Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Oswald and Thornley served together in the Marine Corps and knew each other well. Thornley’s book, The Idle Warriors was about his time in the Corps with Oswald. Thornley would go one to become a major counterculture writer in underground media, as well as a founder of Discordianism, a satirical religion.
Robert Anton Wilson was a Discordian adherent and Playboy staff writer who was also active in the counterculture movement. A New York Magazine article claims it was Wilson who detailed a plan to create paranoia in American media by attributing “all national calamities, assassinations, or conspiracies” to the secret Illuminati order.
The plan was laid out in a memo and named Operation: Mindf*ck, a name only hippies would come up with and execute. But Wilson and Thornley were more than just hippies. Wilson had access to reporters in the popular mass media. Thornley was already a producer of underground media. Through both means, they began to spread the idea of a secret Illuminati force that drove national news events.
The movement got a real boost when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison tried to pin JFK’s murder on Thornley due to his association with Oswald. Thornley was not found guilty and Wilson sent a letter to a Los Angeles Free Press reporter claiming that the jury were all Illuminati and he knew because all 12 were missing their left nipple.
Since then, the Illuminati have been accused of creating a nuclear defense bunker in North Dakota, masterminding the 9/11 attacks, using the Denver International Airport as a headquarters, and of constantly trying to create a New World Order. In reality, it was all a joke that went a little too far.