Sidle and Strike!

Posted on 30 November, 2015 by Patrick Estebe in General Security

The most important element in any fight is all too often ignored when it comes to gun fights.a3

The first thing that any martial art or self defense instructor will teach, notwithstanding his system’s origin is to get out of the way of the incoming attack.Circular attacks are not our concern here. It does not matter whether a school will prefer a diagonal side step or a perpendicular side step: they all insist on sidestepping. Initially the student will learn to sidestep, block or parry, and strike; once this is acquired, he will progress to dodge and strike. Getting out of the way of the attack is fundamental; when the time comes to practice at speed, students can measure for themselves how bad is the idea of staying in the way of the incoming attack. The great Mohamed Ali himself placed “Float like a butterfly” before “Sting like a bee!”

The same principle applies whether the attack is a fist coming straight at your face or a knife menacingly taking the direction of your gut. It is only more imperative if someone is shooting at you; a11getting out of the way is the single most effective way to live another day. Every gun instructor knows this and does his best to impart this essential principle to every single student. Unfortunately only a minority invest in the process of training with their guns under the guidance of a gun instructor.  For most armed law abiding citizens, there is a great obstacle to practicing sidestepping: most gun ranges, for very valid safety reasons, have partitioned their range so that each shooter has his own space from where he can practice with absolute immobility. Sidestepping is simply impossible, and often absolutely prohibited, in many gun ranges. We all know that we fight the way we train, and it is a very sad fact that most people practice shooting, with self defense in mind, from an absolutely still position. This could have disastrous consequences when the target is no longer a piece of paper but an armed and dangerous felon, committed not to return to jail.

a8The origin of this static attitude when armed may come from the early pistol duels where it was unmanly to duck. Then, with the advent of revolvers, we are told that people relied on fast draw and fire over any other technique. It certainly makes greatly entertaining movies, but I would bet that many survivors of such armed encounters must have relied on sidestepping and taking cover first… No matter what they said afterward.

As I just mentioned, the idea is not only to side step but to find cover from where to return fire. In French we have an expression playing on words for the young soldiers to remember: “Se poster et riposter.” Meaning; “find cover first, then return fire.” Defining cover, and its lesser cousin concealment, is for another time. For now I would merely like to break the habit of shooting as if your feet were nailed to the floor. I would like to impart to those who do not have the time or the budget to attend classes with an instructor, to find a way to systematically side step while they draw their weapon and fire from a different position than the one they occupied a second ago. “Sidle and Strike” should be a hard wired reflex. Nothing can be more important, and when guns are involved, more urgent, than getting out of the way. Even when practicing your draw as well as dry- shooting at home, make sure you sidestep.

Vacations are coming; many will take this opportunity to brush up their shooting skills. Strict gun safety is paramount of course, but once established: try to practice systematically “Sidle and Strike”.


  1. Yep, blatantly obvious, except for the forest and all the trees.

  2. Another forgotten fundamental. I teach that if your feet are not moving you are losing. And that goes from a basic boxing class to dynamic shooting with multiple weapons and opponents. In each realm as the stakes are higher the losing costs more. The concept of maai in Japanese refers to control of range and add to that control of angles. Without this all the punches or accuracy is complete and possibly fatally flawed. Wherever your feet are, there you are.


  3. this is a humble suggestion that I practice with a pistol.try moving in each and every direction first slowly then running while the barrel is pointing to the same spot.You can use a laser beam from your weapon.It is easy and can be done anywhere safely.If you see a modern tank jumping obstacles while the barrel is focusing on a single spot then you get the idea.Later you combine this excersise with the concept of 6feet 6seconds 6shots and five hits.Good luck

  4. Great article – and you hit one of the root causes (standard range practice). This is also, unfortunately, how a number of organizations teach weapon usage – on the standard range with no deviating from the norm.
    One other reason (in the US) is that it is also the lazy way out – many of the ‘experts’ who teach this way also do not prepare for actual physical contact that may happen prior to being able to access the weapon – nor the stresses involved.
    Thank you for another good, thought provoking article.


  5. As someone newly “licensed to carry,” this article has given me new insights on what I should be looking for as far as instruction at the range, and the psychology of how to read and react to an opponent.

    It’s strange how movement and mobility isn’t really discussed when you’re learning to shoot, and truthfully, I’ve been watching old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and boxing matches to pick up pointers!

    Please post more articles like this, and thanks for this one.

  6. Reminds me of how stupid it was in the early part of our history for soldiers to stand 50 side by side and receive fire from an enemy. They considered it valiant I suppose but I would be crawling on the ground or shooting from cover. I find that more honorable than dying simply because I was taught to be an easy target.

  7. Patrick’s advice applies to most agression situations.
    It is critical to be alert, calm and focus in order to detect the intentions of the potential attacker (“Le calme des vieilles troupes”). If possible, move away and avoid trouble.
    Then, if unavoidable, be ready for the side step.
    Excellent paper, as usual. Sounds like real life experience?
    Fred R.


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