Tactical Anatomy

I’ve always looked for ways to get the most out of my training time. What techniques can I use? What equipment will help me but not get in my way? What types of training will get me to where I want to be with the shortest path.

Anyone who has followed Gundoc’s for a while knows that we couldn’t move all the old articles from the old WordPress site to our new home. One of those articles explained my opinions on training targets. How we should be using, at least part of the time, a target with some real anatomical properties to it. Well, I was fortunate enough to be able to email over some interview questions to the source that brought me to those opinions.

 I’d like to introduce you to Tacical Anatomy Systems LLC. We have a thousand trainers in the industry with military or police background. It’s the basic standard we’ve all come to expect. Tactical Anatomy is a bit different for all the right reasons.

Tactical Anatomy Systems is founded and run by Dr. James Williams, M.D. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment…yes, I said M.D.

Yes, he has an impressive competition and training resume, including being a Staff Instructor with Massad Ayoob Group, but I’d like to stick with the fact that he’s a doctor for a moment. According to his bio on his website, “Dr. Williams is a full-time emergency physician with Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit experience in Canada and the United States, and currently is Medical Director of Emergency Medicine at a rural hospital in west Texas. He served as Medical Officer for the City of Ripon WI Police Department for ten years, and as Medical Officer and SWAT Team member of the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team as well.”

If you’re anything like me the training possibilities just ran through your head and you came up with exactly two words to say. “Holy crap.”

I could go on and on but I’d really like for you to know Dr. Williams from his own mouth. Below you have the questions I sent him and his very candid answers.

Many tactical instructors brush over the bare basics of anatomical targets. What would you like to see more of them teaching?

I don’t concern myself with other instructors’ target advice. They can advise whatever they like, I’m not the boss of anybody in this field!

That being said, I know that a large number of the leading deadly force instructors in the USA have taken my training or bought my book and use my recommended target anatomy in their training. As John Farnam told me over dinner at the IALEFI Annual Conference in 2008 (or so), “I want you to know that I’ve stolen ‘your’ stuff and teach it to all my students.” I replied, “That’s great, John, because I’ve stolen all ‘your’ stuff and I teach it to all my students, too!”.

That’s the nature of tac training. I have taken training from many of the top instructors in the country, and many of them have taken training from me. We learn from each other, and we pass on good info from every source to our students. Now, John can’t teach anatomy to the level I can, but I can’t teach pistol/rifle combatives to the level that he can. But we appreciate what the other guy is doing.

You’re the only one I’ve seen with your “shoot with x-ray vision” approach to training. Where did that start for you and how did it develop into a business?

 I am the only trainer out there teaching this approach, and as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been anybody else trying to do this same training. The exception would be people like Ayoob, Farnam and Henk Iversen, who teach this material to some degree in their advanced training, with my blessing. Also, I’ve trained a lot of police firearms instructors who then teach their rank-and-file patrol officers in the SXRV method.

My SXRV class grew out of a perceived need for better targeting solutions for defensive and police gunners. In the 90’s, I was attending tactical classes taught by guys like John Farnam, Massad Ayoob, and others, and people would find out I was/am an ER doc. They would then ask me to explain where I would recommend them to place their shots. I quickly realized there was a LOT of bad information about shot placement out there in the tactical world, and that good people were going to get hurt if that bad information was allowed to propagate unchecked. So I decided to try to address the need for good targeting information.

I tried several approaches, including trying to fashion a good 3D human target, but eventually realized that the solution was in cognitive training, not manufacturing. Trust me: if I could’ve designed the perfect 3D anatomic target, I would have. I’d be rich and retired if I could, but I can’t. Nobody can. I get emails from people all the time asking me to review “their” “new” 3D target idea. They’re never new; lots of folks have tried to create the perfect target and have given up, because the solution is way cheaper and way easier… basically, my SXRV training system installs new “software” in the student’s mind that gives him the ability to shoot 3-dimensionally; to know where s/he should shoot the attacker, and more important, WHY s/he should shoot there.

I presented the concept several times from 2001 to 2003, working out the bugs. In the spring of 2003, I finally put it up in front of a group of elite instructors at an invitation-only pistol class at Chapman Academy in Columbus, MO. That was a scary moment… I mean, these guys were the who’s who of the pistol-shooting-deadly-force training world, and if my class sucked, I was going down in flames! No fears… they loved it. At the end of that class Mas Ayoob, Ray Chapman, Rick Staples, and Denny Reichard cornered me and told me if I didn’t make my training public I was going to have to live with the fact that good cops and citizens were going to get injured or killed for lack of this knowledge. So I incorporated Tactical Anatomy Systems LLC and took my training program on the road. First to the 2004 ASLET annual conference, then to other LE conferences. Since then I’ve spoken at dozens of regional and national law enforcement conferences, and have had a great response from the rank and file of America’s police trainers.

The value of this training in police street shootings is unquestionable. Several large metro police departments have adopted the SXRV method of training, and the results have been extremely positive. Police round accountability goes up, and percentage of felons rapidly incapacitated by police bullets also goes up dramatically. More importantly, police officers in these agencies are less likely to be injured or killed in an OIS, because rapid incapacitation of the violent felon reduces felon’s ability to put bullets downrange on the cops. It’s not a pretty picture, but the street evidence is incontrovertible: SXRV trained cops put more bad guys on the ground and take fewer hits in return.

How often do you hold courses and where can readers sign up?

There is a live-fire component in my SXRV class, but it is a small component of the course and it is quite demanding. Basically, if a student can’t shoot a 280/300 or higher score on a police qualification course, his shooting is not up to the level where my training will be of use to him. An IDPA shooter qualified at Sharpshooter level or above, or an IPSC high C-class shooter would be the competitive equivalent if that makes more sense to you. This is advanced material for advanced tactical/police shooters or motivated defensive civilian shooters.

Do you have a single training location or would you travel to a group of students?

I should make it clear that I don’t make my living through training, it’s something I do to give back to the tactical LE community. I am no longer an active law enforcement officer.  I am a full time ER doc, and I only conduct training when there is a large enough group of qualified personnel to take the course, and when I can find time to leave my job to conduct a class. Typically, I need a minimum of 15 people to hold a class, but I have taught groups as small as 5 and as large as 180.

Listen, guys…Many of you have heard Massad Ayoob (or from someone who has taken a course from him) talk about shooting a charging attacker in the hip/pelvis area. Broken hip means he can’t even stand…much less run further toward you. Where to you think he got it from? That’s right, from Dr. Williams. What about Ayoob telling us to be able to not only the heart but the cluster of arteries above it. Yep, Dr. Williams again.

It only makes sense to look at defensive targets from an anatomical perspective. We do that when hunting so, why is self-defense any different? It’s really not. The information you can get from Dr. Williams is, in my opinion, priceless to the self-defense student and trainer alike. This is the stuff that can save your life. Just knowing what you’re trying to hit will tell you more about where to shoot in order to quickly incapacitate an attacker.

There are a lot of uneducated small time trainers out there. I’ve been told everything from, “I don’t worry about accuracy. I want to put as many holes in the torso as possible so the attacker goes down”, to “put a round in the diaphragm because if he can’t breathe he can’t fight”. All of it is wrong in major ways. Sure, enough rounds and an attacker will go down. You’re also open to lawsuits because you swiss cheesed someone’s son or parent. Having the correct information to target the correct bodily structures in order to incapacitate an attacker faster is essential to any training. You’ve heard, “shoot until the attack is stopped”. Well, knowing where to hit is necessary in order to do this in a timely manner. I cannot recommend following Tactical Anatomy Systems enough. Whether you are military, law enforcement, or just the average civilian sheepdog this is one set of information you can’t do without.

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