This is a commonly accepted fact in the world of preparedness: The better you are able to traverse difficult terrain or navigate dangerous scenarios, the more options you’ll have and the better overall odds you’ll have of coming out on top. However, mobility means more than being in good shape and having a bug out bag. It is the ability to make a split-second decision and stick to it, to think on your feet. All the fitness in the world won’t help you if you don’t decide to escape before being surrounded and cut off. It means taking advantage of the possibilities before they disappear. It’s not going to do you a lick of good to be able to run 10 miles with your combat/survival load if you don’t have the ability to see a trap ahead and have the guts to act on it. Those who live in the cities will have the dangerous guessing game of determining when it’s not too early or too late to move to a more advantageous position. The most “mobile” person in the world won’t have a great chance of escaping Detroit if surrounded by hundreds of rampaging hordes.
Knowledge and skills lend to mobility and, in turn, survivability. Take lock picking, kicking down a door, or rappelling out a fourth story window with nothing but a rappelling rope. There are things that lend to these activities, like anything, that we won’t know unless we’ve done it ourselves or have had solid instruction from someone who has. These are trade craft skills that could very well keep us mobile and help us to escape a desperate situation someday.
Let’s never discount these kinds of activities as less important than shooting well. Indeed, the man who puts thinking before shooting in desperate situations often winds up on top, because problems are much greater and numerous than simply having to hit a target. Perhaps we think of these things as unique to cool SFOD-Delta operators or only attainable for the accomplished Special Forces veteran, but nothing could be further from the truth. Almost every skill that is taught to our troops in military schools can be attained to some degree as a civilian. There are classes on rappelling, diving, sniping, surveillance, and more, and there are countless books on every subject that you could imagine that can aid in your ability to navigate in a difficult scenario. Knowledge is power, and the person who would wield this power is the man who stops at nothing to discover, test, try, and try again until his desired skillset is securely in his toolbox and ready to be deployed at will.
But more than these things, there is an aspect to mobility that I’d like to touch on as well, and that is the skill of Parkour, or being able to quickly and efficiently navigate obstacles of all sorts with ease. Nowadays, with basic fitness, grit, and determination and the help of YouTube, anyone can learn how to vault-climb-jump and do an endless number of incredible moves that are very helpful to increase mobility. My goal is to be able to do as many agility moves while also performing some form of shooting. If I can jump from a ledge 10 feet up, can I also shoot while I fall? I’m working on it. Can I cut a roll and shoot while going into and coming out of it? It’s easy and fun, although sometimes accuracy is somewhat lacking.
In an effort to increase my mobility, this author has long since been working plyometric and agility exercises into my regular routine or just whenever I can. Plyometrics is explosive-high stress exercises which promote both power and agility. As with any extreme action there is a progression, and those who are not used to actions that put a lot of shock into particular joints and muscle groups should start out slowly.
Two brief examples of plyometric progressions would be these:
- For the Pectoral Majors, Minors, and Triceps, a low stress plyometric would be clapper pushups, where by using momentum and lifting your hips, you would be able to clap your hands in the air and then return to the bottom of the pushup. After this action is conquered and doesn’t overly stress your shoulders, elbows, and wrists, then you would be able to move on to Superman pushups, where again, by using momentum and upward hip movement, you thrust your arms in front of you and kick your legs off the ground such that for a moment in time you appear to
- Another is jumping squats and jumping lunges to strengthen muscle tissue and create greater strength in leg joints. After these are easily done, try jumping from ledges a few feet high.
Remember: Never land with straight legs but rather keep your knees bent and compress them as you make contact. Get comfortable at jumping from a particular height before moving higher. After a certain point, you’ll want to do more than just compress your legs. I have found that eight feet is about as far as I wanted to take it before my back and legs told me they weren’t going to be happy with anything higher, even on nice soft grass. Also, never forget that your hands can also aid in your landing, as your torso gets closer to the ground. Only after so much height it is advisable (if not mandatory) that you tuck and roll out of the fall. When this is done correctly, it is surprising how much more height you will be able to jump without feeling any great impact to your legs. It has been said that this takes so much strain from your legs that it will feel just like a jumping jack. I consider myself very much a beginner in this activity, but already I am able to confidently jump from 12-14 feet without issue.
One important note on plyometrics is that unlike simple calisthenics, where if you overdo it you will simply be sore due to all the lactic acid stored in your muscles, you can actually overstrain, sprain, or otherwise injure your joints if done too much or too soon. However, the good news is that if you ease into each exercise, your joints will strengthen and become able to endure more and more as time goes on. Along with this, you will also be more adept at knowing how to land and control your body in order to cushion your impacts. Obviously, just like when you are lifting close to the maximum weight that you are capable of, you should only do a few reps at the max height or strain that you are able to perform before giving it a break for a couple days to recoup. The more you weigh or are wearing, the more severe your impacts are going to be, so be sure to keep this in mind when jumping with your 40-pound pack. Warming up and stretching is also critically important to plyometrics, even more so than any other calisthenics because the possibility of injury is so much greater.
When first learning plyometrics or trying a new action, I strongly recommend that you use common sense and take every precaution. Go slow at first, use padding until you’re comfortable, and then try it on carpet or grass and then on a wood floor. You’ll eventually be able to do many actions on concrete. When doing a complicated move, break it down into its individual aspects before trying the whole enchilada. This is the secret to progression and with it, time, and dedication, there is nothing that cannot be overcome.
No acrobat, dirt bike trick master, or bar gymnast ever woke up one morning and found they were incredibly skilled. The better you want to be at anything, the more time, commitment, and dedication it’s going to take to achieve that goal. However, with these things and the determination in your mind that you can do what you want, it is always possible. One fact to keep in mind is that you must decide that you not only want to do a given task but that with enough work, you can do it. Our mind will always hold us back and keep us from achieving greatness in any endeavor if we believe that it is not at all within our ability to make it to the finish line.
Now for those who can’t see this skill as more valuable than punching holes in the x ring on sunny days at the range, imagine for a moment if you can: Your closest friend or loved one is threatened by a young Muslim “refugee” downtown in the city closest to you. Perhaps the dirtbag is about to kill a number of innocents with his AK-47 as he shouts “I-Uh-Like-Ka-Bars!” He’s a hundred yards away and you know that your effective range with your pocket pistol is closer to 25 yards. You can run to get within range, but there’s a catch: A fence/wall/shoulder-high shrubbery stands defiantly in your path, and the only way around will take half a minute running. So if you take the long route, how many may die while it takes you an extra 30 seconds to get into position? How much greater are the odds that you will be holding your dying loved one in your blood-soaked hands?
The hard fact is that accuracy is worth nothing if it isn’t backed up by the ability to put it into effect. Mobility equals survivability, not only for yourself but also for those you may be leading out of harm’s way or are trying to get to in order to protect.
Another possible scenario is that you are forced to flee a building fire from the second story or are backed into a corner before being able to reach the bottom floor. Could you break the glass and jump from that second story window and walk away? I hope that I could, but I won’t stop trying until I know I can do it with ease.
The leading founder of Parkour is now 42 years old and he is still jumping off of roof buildings onto concrete 30+ feet below and running off with vigor. These things, if done correctly, do not lend toward debilitating pain and injuries early in life, or even later in life. Again, if done correctly they do nothing but improve your health and muscle and joint strength.
So how much do you value your ability to make a difference when evil men come to visit violence on those you love? How much of your training time is spent in increasing your knowledge and ability to make movement? It’s time to reevaluate your training and make sure you increase your mobility to ensure the survivability of those you fight for.
Editor’s Important Closing Proviso: Readers are advised that while Plyometrics and Parkour teach some amazing evasion skills, if they are not done with great caution and under expert instruction, they can lead to injuries with long-lasting consequences–particularly among over-exuberant and under-cautious youths. (Just ask any physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, or dentist in an urban region.) Train with a pro, and be careful out there! – JWR