I know that you teach your students to deal with adrenal stress. Why is it important? How it is done? Do you have any special drills?

Peyton Quinn: Well, it is thing to be able to punch neat holes in a paper target on the range or blast clay pigeons out of the sky or throw or ‘submit’ your martial arts opponent in a match.

But these things do not really prepare one very well at all for facing a real human being who is attacking or moving to attack you.  That hostile human being may be talking ‘at you‘, maybe threatening or acting like an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) or maybe he is distracting you for an accomplice’s blindside attack, etc.

Mr. Vitaly you mentioned to me how much just the “performance stress’ on targets in competition‘ negatively affected so many otherwise good shooters that you have observed. Please consider that this is nothing but ‘performance stress’ too and where there is nothing on the line but the ‘match’ and maybe some ‘ego and pride‘.

Now I ask you to imagine that level of stress jacked up 100 times and that’s’ what its like when its real and its a another human being about to kill you. This is why we do not have the people who come to train with us just shoot at paper targets. They shoot at real people, with real guns, under real adrenal stress just not using real and lethal ammunition of course.

For example, they are given a scenario like this: “You are going home from work and you blow a tire, you discover you don’t have a spare and can’t fix it there. But you know or think you remember that there is a gas station a mile and half down the road. You also know this is not a neighborhood you would ordinarily want to be ‘on foot’ in. Your possession of the gun is lawful, but you will have to justify any display or use of the weapon ‘at law’ based on the previous case studies we examined discussed” Then anything might happen, the student can’t know what the scenario will be. He or she does not even know if the circumstances will develop where they are lawfully justified in even displaying their gun much less using it.

What so many people fail to appreciate is that the to even display your weapon as a deterrent are only a small fraction away from the same circumstances that would make it lawful for you to fire that weapon and shoot and kill. That is a very, very challenging decision to make and execute under stress, especially without any real training and range training or ‘competitive shooting’ isn’t going to help there at all is it?

I can tell you that there are people in prison now who never fired a shot but are serving hard time because they did not appreciate this aspect of our legal system. The charge varies from state to state and so it might be called ‘Felony Menacing’ or “Brandishing’ but it’s a felony that can send you to prison even if you never fire a shot. Even if you beat the charge in court it will cost you many thousands of dollars.

Now target shooting training  or sparring in the martial arts school training alone are just not going to help you stay out of prison from a ‘choice’ you made under stress on a dark night. This is precisely why we use scenario based training. This is why we create that same biochemical state in the person being trained in the scenarios and then they must make the decision there, under confusion and stress whether to draw, or whether to fire or not fire.

The whole idea of training is to have you rehearse what you must do in the real thing right? Well sir I have to pint out that the one thing you might have to do for sure in a real home invasion or other attack is draw your gun, point it at another human being and pull the trigger and do all that under real stress.

Now you can go to the most celebrated firearms training schools in theUSand guess what? Pointing a gun of nay kind at another human being and pulling the trigger is something you will never practice even once at any of those schools! So can they really be said to be providing ‘firearms for self-defense’ training if their students do not even practice even once the thing they must do in crisis of a ‘home invasion’ or other such encounter?

At RMCAT training they do practice exactly that and under real stress, low light and under a lot of confusion too, such as the instructor/assailants shooting at them with blanks at the same time.

We start out with ‘clearer cut’ situations with most people(it depends on their experience). I mean we have people who have never handled a gun in their life in the same class as a Navy Seal or Israeli Commando sometimes. There is a very good reason for this instructionally too.

It is the same in the ‘hand to hand’ armored assailants course too. In the same weekend class there are people who are high ranking black belts and own a chain of karate schools and people who have had no previous self-defense or martial arts instruction at all.

This way  everyone gets to see just how in just a weekend of training anybody can be made into a ‘very dangerous’ person to try to assault. The un-experienced get to see that ‘we are all basically made of the same clay’ too, in that even ‘experienced’ people can make similar mistakes as they did in the scenarios.


There are two types of drill we do at RMCAT. These are 1- Experiential Drills and 2- Technique Drills. An Experiential drill is designed to allow you to ‘experience’ and ‘feel’ something. A technique drill teaches you how to ‘do something’.

An example of an Experiential Drill is one we call the ‘Portal Of Safety Drill‘. An example of a Technique Drill is one we call the ‘Knife Versus Gun Drill’.

Let’s start with the Portal of Safety drill which allows the student to experience the affects of how even low adrenal stress affects their hearing, peripheral vision and motor control functions. This is the lowest intensity experiential drill we do and it is often the very first drill we do too.

The student has a plastic bat, the instructor ‘woofer’ has a shiny, large steel Bowie knife. The student’s only job is to walk from one corner of the mat to other and through the portal of safety. A distance of about40 feet.

They are told they will encounter a person and that the person my draw a knife and try to stick them with it. They are thus to be conscious of how close they let the person come and they are not to use the bat until the ‘assailant’ displays the bowie knife.

But when he does draw the knife then they are to shout as they strike the knife hand with the bat with full force. Then they are to get past the knifer and pass through the two orange safety cones (the Portal of Safety) but they should never turn their back on the knifer even after he is beaten down with the bat.

It  is such a simple drill and yet most everyone engages some or all of the adrenal affects listed before. Then it all starts to become ‘real to them’. This is the way we instruct mostly too, we might tell them, but mostly we let them experience and discover these truth for themselves. By this I mean things like that their hearing is ‘shut off’ or very much impaired in the portal of safety drill, such that even though the rest of the class is shouting ‘hit him! hit him’ very loudly, they do not heat this as a rule.

Many times they are so ‘tunneled into the face’ of the knifer who maybe acting like an EDP or is threatening them verbally and graphically and so realistically that they do not even notice him pull out the giant bowie knife at first. Then when they do see it and swing the bat at the knifer’s hand many shots miss the knifer all together.

Everyone is videotaped and then we watch that video. Many people then realize that they have only very ‘sketchy memories’ of what even happened in their scenario. Some discover they have false memories too.

They may see the knifer pull the knife on the tape but then them not immediately responding. They see themselves miss the knife with the long giant bat when they do respond and they see themselves turn their back and run through the portal of safety. But they do not have any clear memory of doing these things really.

Now they see and understand what we are talking about is real, that it can happen to them and it is the problem they need to overcome to be prepared for an emergency situation. Nobody looks for the solution to a problem until and unless they realize that problem exists. That is the purpose of this experiential drill.

Now let’s look at the “Gun vs. Knife’ drill. While this is primarily a ‘Technique Drill’ that teaches them how to avoid being stuck with a knife wielded by a madman, it has an Experiential Drill sub-component too.

In this drill the student has a pistol in a non-concealed carry holster, very close to ‘quick draw cowboy’ holster. I often use a revolver here, a Smith & Wesson 586 with a4 inchbbl. There is a reason for this too. Most people carry auto’ these days .

So I also want them to experience as we change from revolvers to auto’s in the scenarios that they are often ‘unaware of the difference‘. That is they are unaware if it is a revolver or auto in their hand in the later, higher adrenal stress scenarios. This is an experience that teaches something to them important in terms of ‘mind set’ and gives them a new ‘context of thinking’ in terms of weapons as tools. Again, this helps them dismiss things they ‘once thought were so important’ and focus on what really is ‘critically important‘.

Words a lectures can’t do this very well, experiencing it for yourself always does it though.

In the “Gun Versus Knife Drill’ the student’s job is to draw and fire on the center of mass of the rushing attacker with the knife as soon as he sees that he or she is under attack. The knifer may start his attack from as far as24 feetaway.

We have been doing this drill for more than 23 years at RMCAT  and only about 2 or 3 people out of  10 can manage to draw and fire on the knifer before being stabbed repeatedly with the stiff rubber knife. The knifer first starts out at distance of23 feetaway in the first drill. But after we show them the solution (the Technique), the knifer may start as close as12 feetaway.

Again part of the instructional method is that there is little or no motivation to finding a solution until you discover, and in this case ‘experience’ the problem. Most people think they should have no problem drawing and firing on a guy rushing them from23 feetaway but they all do, even the 2 or 3 who survive this scenario. Again we watch the video so they see their performance.

Then we teach the ‘Technique’ to avoid being killed by the rushing knifer. Any technique to be used in a real self-defense situation can not be physically complex or demand much if any fine motor skills as you likely won’t be able to have those under adrenal stress.

Here the technique is to step off the attack line once that attack vector has been established and can‘t be altered. This demands no great “speed’ or any fine motor control at all. What it does demands though is high brain function to allow him to ‘commit to an absolute rush’ then step off that attack line. I generally emonstrate this three times, once at full speed where my co-instructor tries his best to stab me. Then in a slow-motion demonstration , then full speed again.

They now see that I am not moving especially fast yet I have enough time to leisurely draw and fire on the attacker. About half of them will be able to do this just having seen it so demonstrated. The other half may take 2 or 3 more trials at it. But everyone gets it. I can’t accept anything but 100% success for the people who come here to train.

This means there survival potential must be raised at least 100% in weekends training. This depends of course on where they ‘start out from though‘. A person who has just been target shooting or  even done some competitive shooting, or a person whose only ‘hand to hand’ fighting training is martial arts training alone, then the challenge is not that great to raise their survival odds by 100%.

But we get some well trained and very ‘real life’ experienced people here too. Former elite military or other combat veterans and even Prison Guards or other LEO’s. These people take bit more to challenge of course. Yet they contribute a great deal to the class as having also ‘been there and done that’ too they lock onto the theme and reality of the instruction immediately. Further they can often share a story to re-enforce a point made in the instructional methodology we use. Sometimes one we ourselves were not aware of either.

So after we do the ‘Gun Versus Knife Drill’ we have a situational attack where 25 or 35 minutes earlier only a few would have survived, but is now fairly easily dealt with by all of them. They now see further that it is their ‘mind’ that is the weapon that allows and affords them the opportunity to use any other weapon: shotgun, pistol, knife, stick , bare hands etc.

If they step off the line too soon the knifer ‘tracks them’ and gets them. To late and they get stuck too. They see the need to allow the adrenal rush to switch them into that a resolute and focused and yet strangely relaxed mind to survive. Most often real combat is the same way too.

With each scenario they get another adrenal pump and they learn to handle it even better and ultimately use its speed and power to their advantage too. This is as true in the firearms course as it is in the ‘hand to hand’ fighting course. You told me that it is important to train self aware and non-self aware centers of the brain. Could you describe how they work during the combat situations?

Peyton Quinn: There are two theories here. One school of thought believes we can ‘multi task’ like a computer. I do not think this is true except for a True Master perhaps. Indeed this might be a good definition of what a True Master really is too.

What we do is switch from a high brain to the lower brain, from what is self aware to what is non self-aware. The speed or frequency that we can do that is a function of both our experience and training. Training through scenarios that elicits that adrenal reaction most quickly develops that ability to switch between these two high and low brains centers as demanded. The tactical necessity for this should be self-evident.

This is most especially true when dealing with the use of firearms where our high brain ‘shoot/don’t shoot’ discretion must be employed in a high stress situation that tends to throw us into the lower ‘frog brain’. Peyton, you use “repetition and drill” and scenario-based training in your school. Could you describe why scenario-based training works so well?

 Peyton Quinn: Scenario based training is a form of “simulator training’. Airline pilots must re-qualify in ‘training simulators’ to stay current on their pilot’s license. In Desert Storm our soldiers performed with near miraculous precision and success, yet hardly any of them had been in combat before except in ‘scenario based computer simulators‘.

The methodology of simulator training, that is ‘scenario based training’ has long been proven and known to be superior to repetition training.  It is just with large groups such as in a full sized military units ‘repetition drill’ and developing ’muscular memory’ is the only practical way to train a large group both expense and time wise.

But virtually all elite, that is numerically smaller units like Navy SEALS, some Federal Marshals (Air Marshals in particular), the Israeli Massad, and virtually every small, specialized military or LEO unit is trained through scenario based and simulator methods. Its just work better as it re-creates the problems, including adrenal management, better than any other form of training.

Click here to read the 3rd part of the interview…

Related Post:

Interview with Chris Costa