The next controversy is whether you are better doing scenario work or drills. I mentioned scenario work earlier. That is full blown scenarios with role players who stick to a script of what they are going to do if the student does certain things. Often the instructions might be " Go panhandle the student, ask for money. You are not robbing him, just asking, but if he insults you or gets physical then you amp up the situation and get in his face, but if he just tells you he can't help you , then let him pass unmolested " . The point is that the scenario is not just wide open, the role players are playing a realistic defined part, not just running wild. The scenario based FOF is more in line with real world situations sometimes involving witnesses , maybe even the Police. It is essentially a test of your ability to negotiate whatever the situation is and successfully "survive" the encounter. Often -just like in real life- this can be done without getting into a fight at all.
The other type of FOF work is FOF drills. Gabe Suarez refers to the drill work as light sparring with a partner.The drills are little fights. There is no real decision making left on pre fight matters. In the drill the fight is unavoidable and usually begins with the bad guy initiating some sort of attack.The purpose is to give the students a lot of repetitions on the core skills need in a real confrontation. Those are seeing and reacting to the attack, get off the X if possible, access your weapon if you are armed , deploy that weapon from concealment and if it is a pistol, get hits on the target. These may sound simple, but many students who have never really ingrained these skills often have trouble at first doing all of these things at the same time under stress. After all some ranges do not even allow drawing a loaded pistol from a holster. So unless the student takes the time to work that skill on their own they likely will be a little behind the curve if we just drop them into scenario work from the start.
And I really do not understand why some people have such an issue with drills. We do drills in every other athletic endeavor we might pursue. I played basketball in high school and you'd better believe we did more than just scrimmage. We did drills every practice to build skill. The drills build the skills that you will then employ in the game. The same is true in unarmed self defense. I doubt many martial arts or combative instructors just have the students spar without first building the individual offensive and defensive skills through skill building drills. Even in IDPA and IPSC shooting , no one just practices by only shooting matches. They build their shooting, reloading and malfunction clearing ability through drills set up to build repetition in those areas. The match is then a validation (or invalidation) of their training regimen.
So for me the answer is simply this. Self defense, be it with empty hands or armed is an athletic endeavor. It does not mean you have to be an Olympian to survive. It simply means that the more athletic you are the more you will be able to do. There really is no way around that. Many of the skills that might be required in a violent encounter are able to be performed by everyday folks- IF they have been exposed to those skills. The problem is the majority of people have never found themselves in a violent confrontation, much less enough of them to draw any real statistical data from. Hence the need for FOF drills. The drills build the skills and allow you to use them in real time against an uncooperative real life opponent, not just a stationary human shaped form. It allows you to get many repetitions in being the victim of an assault and get a better perspective of just how little time there is to act and how much time and distance effect the dynamics of the confrontation.
Now just like in basketball or boxing or whatever, the drills will only take you so far. There comes a time to spar or scrimmage. That is where the skills we built in the drills is tested in the mock game. We wouldn't just work drills and then schedule a real boxing match. Just like no sane coach would keep his team from scrimmaging leading up to a game. To have a real idea of how everyone moves and acts and reacts you have to have the scenario work too. The scenario work is where you are able to work the whole package of skills from avoidance and deescalation to getting off the X, accessing pistol, marksmanship, 360 degree scan and even preparing witnesses and talking to the police. The first time you ever do these things does not need to be at 3 AM on a cold rainy night when it is for real!
Now a couple of other minor controversies. Some argue that FOF is not real because there is no ballistic effect- especially with airsoft. I agree . No one said it was REAL. But it is about as close as we can get without having a serious reworking of the liability waiver and a trauma unit on standby. That is why I recommend the least clothing you can get by with for the FOF iterations.In fact at the National Tactical Invitational I wore cargo shorts a T shirt and a light summer weight button down shirt as a cover garment. No padding or layers other than the face mask and neck protection they issued.
Another controversy is that the shooting while moving we teach leads to wild errant shooting and will get bystanders killed. Therefore we should stand still to shoot. I'm Ok with standing still as long as you are behind cover or you are farther than 10 yards distant form your pistol armed adversary. The problem is that if you are in a true initiative deficient situation where your first clue that the fight was on was seeing the guy reach in his waistband, then standing there trying to out draw him is not likely to have a long future to it. We really need to look at the context of the common criminal assault. It will likely be so close that you simply cannot make enough distance to keep from getting shot. This is one of those things that we find out rather quickly in those drills. If you cannot back up fast enough to avoid getting punched then how do you honestly expect to back up far enough, fast enough to keep from being shot? This is where guys that have only worked against motionless targets that do not shoot back (or shoot first) have an unrealistic view of the dynamics involved.
So if we concede that we cannot always make enough space quickly enough to just "make space and shoot" , then we will likely be in very close proximity to the target/bad guy when we shoot. Logical? So when we are shooting and moving this is often done at less than 3 yards. I submit that most anyone with skill at acquiring their pistol with good grip and a modicum of trigger control can make rapid multiple hits on targets at that distance. We are not talking about firing haphazardly over our shoulder as we sprint 20 yards away from the target. We are talking about drawing quickly as we explode laterally off the X and firing a burst at the target often with the muzzle 20 INCHES from the target. Not exactly haphazard reckless shooting by a long shot.
Also what are we looking to learn in drills? The point of the drills are to see what gets you shot less and gets the bad guy shot more. Not who can hit whom the most or who can run the farthest. The drill realistically is only useful for the first 3 to 5 seconds- the time frame of most actual fights. Anything past that is superfluous. And that 5 second and after time frame is where all the misses happen. The drills typically go like this. The bad guy attacks, the good guy gets off the X, shots are exchanged and they move farther apart. As they move apart they keep shooting and that is where the missing begins. But again, we are not looking at the last 3 seconds for data we are looking at the first 3 seconds. In fact I limit them to 3 to 5 rounds per fight when the drills are 1 on 1. This keeps the students focused on getting accurate hits not on hosing down the other guy as you run as fast as he can in the other direction. That is little more than a playground water gun fight.