Comfortably NUM

Here’s a concept that can and should be applied to each and every tactic, technique and skill-set officers are taught. Use it to evaluate everything in your current tactical toolset. What is it? We call it the “NUM Concept,” and it’s rooted in physics and common sense. But before we get into NUM, please consider my definition of tactical training: “Training that emphasizes the ability to induce a desired outcome with maximum certainty, while minimizing the amount of time and energy used.” Isn’t that what we want to do? Attempt to solve interpersonal conflicts with minimal doubt of our success, and with the absolute minimal amount of time and effort required?

Now, let’s talk time. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that time isn’t vitally important. In a life-or-death altercation, milliseconds can make the difference between your going home safely and leaving the scene in a body bag. In Jeff Cooper’s highly acclaimed book, Principles of Personal Defense —if you don’t have this book, it should be on your must-read list—the colonel explained that one of the primary principles of prevailing in combat is speed. One concept that will increase your speed in any armed, or unarmed, combative tactic, technique or skill-set is this: no unnecessary movement (NUM).

How It Works

If you watch and closely evaluate shooters, boxers or any other athlete who performs with what seems to be superhuman speed, they practice the concept of NUM. I had the honor of meeting and shooting with a world champion shooter at the headquarters of Blackhawk! last year. He was a perfect gentleman, an extraordinary individual and a master of NUM.

Believe me, when you see world champions shoot on TV or YouTube, they look incredibly fast. When you see them shoot while you are standing next to them, you realize they’re indescribably fast.

Take a high-speed video of a world-class shooter drawing a pistol or reloading at top speeds. Slow it down so you can actually see what he or she is doing, and you will see the NUM concept at work. The world-class champions, regardless of what sport they’re competing in, don’t move a fraction of an inch unless it is absolutely necessary. This is part of the reason they are so incredibly fast. NUM can be summed up in nine words: Movement takes time; unnecessary movement adds additional time unnecessarily.

Although I’m a fairly competent shooter, guys like Drake Oldham (the overall shooting champion at the 2010 ILEETA Conference Challenge) have nothing to worry about from me. Because of people as fast as Drake, the concept of NUM becomes even more important for those who aren’t—that is, most of us.

I’m not here to slam any specific tactic, technique or concept. However, I believe a major violation of the NUM concept has appeared from some recent pistol craft training. Some people have taken a liking to certain “ready” positions with their pistols that I personally believe have more to do with looking “tacti-cool” than improving performance. If you’re a guru, trainer or practitioner of any psychomotor skill, I urge you to evaluate whether you’re adding unnecessary movement to what you’re teaching. I also urge you to consider what happens to human performance and coordination when the enormous wave of adrenaline hits during an unexpected life-threatening crisis. Motor skills that you can perform incredibly fast under normal conditions can become extremely problematic when Mother Nature slaps you in the back of the head with that big, spontaneous adrenaline overdose.


Sure. You’re so fast that you can go from “ready position cool” to an accurate shot faster than anyone on your department. But that’s not the question. The question is: “Am I as fast as I possibly can be?” Because the reality, regardless of whether we’re talking about pistol craft, combatives, gymnastics or any other motor skill-set, remains the same. If you’re adding unnecessary movement, you’re lengthening the amount of time needed to perform the skill.

This leads to the ultimate question: When you’re facing a felon who’s hell-bent on killing you, leaving your spouse widowed and your kids parentless, how many milliseconds of advantage are you willing to hand over to your opponent? For me the answer is less than none. Evaluate everything in your personal tactical toolset with the concept of NUM. The milliseconds you save may make all the difference in the world, not only to you but to your family and friends as well.

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After 32 years of law enforcement service with a large urban police department, Charles E. Humes, Jr. honorably retired at the rank of Sergeant in 2015. Independently achieved, he is recognized internationally as one of the pioneers of modern, realistic police defensive tactics training. He has taught seminars and instructor certification schools as far West as Alaska and as far East as North Carolina; and has trained police instructors from as far as Hong Kong.
He was a 2016 recipient of the Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Training Award from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.



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