17th Mar2012

The Principles of CQB

by A.J.

Speed, Surprise, Violence of Action

Lately we have been taking a look at CQB to try to educate/review some of the basic premises for military operators and tactical athletes. We decided to make a post dedicated to the most basic parts of CQB so in future installments we could delve deeper and not have to catch guys up as we go. This post will seem pretty basic to some of the people out there but, I think a review can do everyone some good sometimes. To win at CQB there are three pillars or principles that should be adhered to. The three pillars of CQB are of course:

1. Speed

2. Surprise

3. Violence of Action


Why discuss the  Principals of CQB?


I am not really sure why a team would want to be this close. How easy do you think it is to "sneak" 8 guys up to a breach point in the day time. If they were moving fast they should have no time to get ducks in a row. What is the number one man waiting for? Plus the last man is covering where they came from instead of the threat corner.

There is some confusion about the three principles and to be honest There isn’t a lot of consensus about what is the exact best way to apply these pillars. Police  tend to have their own play book and the military guys another but, that being said there are definitely places where we meet in the middle. I am going to give you my take on it and as usual I am going to make the disclaimer that these are only the opinions of the TacticalAthleticPerformance.com advisory board and you have to make the determination for your team what is right for you.


Speed is probably the most misunderstood principal because it does not mean an operator must run from one point in the objective to the next. Speed is a nuanced idea that the team should waste no time and give the enemy as little time as possible to prepare for the assault team. Recently, I was training with a long time friend of mine whose tactical prowess I respect a great deal and when we were doing some training he said: “well let’s just start off real slow, and back it off from there.” The quote really stuck with me because it showed a great deal of insight into CQB training and execution. Often times we get so excited and adrenaline overloaded that we tend to move way too fast and get ahead of our headlights, which in the long run slows the operation.

 “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”

                                           -every tactical instructor on earth

CQC Thailand

A couple years ago I was training the Thai Special Forces, and when I said "speed" they heard "run." I remember this hit not going so well. LOL

The reality (or at least how we see it) is that slow can be smooth and smooth can be fast, but slow isn’t fast. I recently looked up whether slow was defined as fast and for some reason Mr. Webster didn’t think so. Speed is the end goal, not “FAST”, now this may be a semantic argument but, the principles aren’t: fast, surprise and violence of action; so my suggestion is to just get fast out of your vocabulary (fast happens all on its own). Speed on the other hand is a product of the economy of motion. By moving smoothly and deliberately you will be able to clear an objective much more quickly and efficiently than you could by running through the objective, blowing off threats and generally acting like a spaz (which is my personal pet peeve). A deliberate (not to be confused with deliberate technique) approach that has good economy of motion will maintain the initiative and give the enemy less opportunity to prepare for the assault team. So if you get anything out of this section it would be that your team needs to be methodical, masterful and economical; which will provide all the “speed” you need.



I know we have all seen the movies where the SWAT team simultaneously breaches every window of a building by repelling off the roof and putting an officer in a circular perimeter around the inside of the room before the enemy knows what is going on. Aside from the fact that I am not a fan of the circular ambush, the principal of surprise is definitely a big part of the hollywood infil and for good reason. When you are able to surprise the opposition force you can get ahead of their internal decision-making process, which many people describe as the OODA loop. The OODA loop which was first described by Col. Boyd of the U.S. Air Force is the theoretical decision-making process that we all must use before we carry out an action. Observe, Orient, Decide and Act is a constantly moving process the enemy must make to engage your assault force and by surprising the op-4 (opposition force) you can short-circuit the process and gain great advantage. Once we agree that surprise is important we then need to develop a plan that gives us the ability to maintain surprise and though I am not including an exhaustive list we can hit some of the big stuff.

When your team gets to decide what time to attack be sure to use a time that gives you the biggest advantage (and is when the enemy is the least alert). If you know the lights in a target turn off at a certain time I would suggest hitting that target about 45-70 minutes later which gives your enemy an opportunity to not only get to sleep but, to enter the deepest most restful sleep from which he will be the most disoriented when woke up. One problem with night-time is that it generally makes it more difficult to approach the target without being heard ( I can barely walk around my room in the dark without knocking something over). On the other hand peak traffic time may provide the noise pollution your team needs to gain access undetected. Surprise can also be manufactured by the use of flash bangs that create a disorienting effect with percussion, or even an explosive breach can elicit the same response. The police often send a guy in a pizza delivery  outfit to get the door open and quickly make entry, this works because the op-4 has pizza on the brain and the next thing he sees badges and guns in his face totally short circuiting the OODA loop. To use surprise effectively you need to avoid patterns and constantly change your team’s techniques, if the bad guy is in the back room and he hears you bang every room and then make entry; he will be waiting for the bang before he starts firing at the fatal funnel. Change entry points, tempo and tools to keep an advantage. Never get into the mindset that what worked yesterday is going to work today, CQB is a thinking man’s game so get your team able to flex from one TTP to the next. Have multiple tactics that you use and change them depending on the METT-TC. Remember surprise can come from many different aspects of the assault including timing, distraction, misdirection, decoy or any number of other tools, your mind is the only limit so plan a few mock training iterations and make it a point to get your guys thinking outside of the box.

Violence of Action

CQBVoA insures that the team maintains the initiative by kicking in doors and being generally aggressive. Keep both mental and physical momentum through action and combat mindset. Hesitation is the enemy of VoA so drill often to insure that all team members are “switched on” and ready to execute. It is amazing how often the first person to realize they are in a fight, wins the fight because acting first carries a huge prize for the carrier. Violence of Action also can demoralize the enemy and sometimes get them to surrender without the need for a shooter’s solution. VoA is maintained by refusing to let complicated CQB problems bog down the team, I have watched many teams (from the catwalk in training) literally stand in a room planning the way to hit the next room, by the time you are on the objective the planning phase has passed just get out there and execute. If your team has to discuss the correct way to cross a four-way intersection then obviously you need to take it back to the drawing board and et your SOPs squared away before you should spend any time in the shoot house. Remember an average plan well executed is better than a perfect plan, not executed.



Thanks for reading to the end, you are a rock star. I am going to give away a free tee shirt to one person who comments on this post and enters the drawing, here is how to enter:CQC

1. Read post (done). 25% complete

2. Post comment that says “issue me a free tee” (also go to the TAP Store and pick the one you want and include in comment)

3. Share this post on your social network of choice (like or plus or whatever).

4. When we have 50 comments (mine don’t count) I am going to pick one random person and send a Tee Shirt.

Thanks again, and be sure to subscribe by putting in your email in the “subscribe” section to the right so you don’t miss any new posts.




22 Responses to “The Principles of CQB”

  • Awesome article once again AJ. I love your shirts as well. I am very partial yo the no I don’t know your friend in the military.

  • Great read. I’ve found the OODA loop helps in my civilian and business life as well. It can be applied to so many things. CQB Geometry shirt for the win. ~ Steve.

  • issue me a free tee

  • Mike

    Good article, I had an instructor that would nonchalantly would hold out a certain number of fingers and ask you if you saw how many he was holding up when you cleared the room to see if you were just going through the motions, that seemed to help keep you in the game.-No sir I didn’t see you playing with your dolls again.
    Thanks for the awsome website.

  • james

    These articles are very insightful. Keep on passing the great info!

    • Thanks James,
      Will do, be sure to check back later cause I should have some good gear reviews coming out this week.

  • Ian

    Issue me a free tee. I like the SF rules (1) always look cool, (2) don’t get lost, (3) if you get lost, look cool.

    Why? Because. That’s why. And it said that on that post. But, further…

    Great site all around, I have really enjoyed it and have already shared it a couple times and surely will many more to come so long as you keep producing this kind of awesome content.

    Rock on. Thanks not only for this, the great act of sharing your knowledge, but most especially the greatest act of your service. God bless.

    • Thanks For the awesome input Ian! I especially appreciate the Principals vs. Principles advice, I am not the best “spellifyer” but I guess you recognized that already LOL. Thanks for the comment and you are definitely in the drawing which will be picked by random number generator when the numbers are right.

  • Ian

    know what’s cool…when you get 50 comments, you pick a winner for the free tee. and by commenting more, oh yes more, oh yes more, (that’s what she said), I can game this system…. mwah hah hah!!! Sorry, I get competitive. But in all honesty, this site fucking rocks. and you can use that last part as a quote, without editing, ’cause anyone who requires it to be edited doesn’t need to be here. ok, i’m sure some more people will now visit, and perhaps even read and reply to these ridiculous -but very true- comments of mine. you’re welcome.

  • Ian

    ok seroiously, this post is not just to take up another reply and increase the chances of the three of us who have posted so far winning, but an actual suggestion:

    let me get back to the page where I left off to get here. programming issue, definitely. just beat your programmer until he succumbs, that usually works, in my experience as a fellow web-based-business owner. the fraternity paddle usually works, but for special cases, you might need a mace. just sayin.

    • To be honest I am sort of a neophyte when it comes to all the programming jazz, making a wind call for a .300 win mag at elevation on the other hand…. Not sure why the page is giving you issues I mostly work off a mac platform so I am wondering if that is the problem.

  • Jenn Moreau

    issue me a free tee – Awesome site. Keep the info coming, I know I appreciate it!

    • Jenn Moreau

      Oops, you need to include “get enough sleep & follow ALL the directions” to the SA portion, ha ha!

      issue me a free tee – Love the Carbine Hero t-shirt (Ladies, Adult large)

  • tom

    issue me a free tee, OKAY HA HA, NOW BRING BACK THE CON. xxl black……
    ok with the free stuff out of the way, great site– of what I have read so far. I am scheduled to Assist/Instruct a LE team that needs some rebuilding in the near future and they need to get back to the basics is a few areas. That is what I got out of this article, great job. Please keep up the articles and your comment on watching a team talking about how to enter a room or unknown area drives me crazy. All the discussing and not doing when they have the training, skills and tools is mind blowing and is what gets people in trouble. I have always said a committed decision is better than no decision. Thank you for your service to Our Country and Stay Safe…….Tom

  • A.J.

    I’m only about 4 months late – but i just got here!

    Good start as an intro to the 3 Pillars. You are right on in everything you said. Speed is different from Fast – excellent point. When we train we talk of it in this way as well. Never move master than your able to make good decisions or you environment and your capabilities allow. I have used economy of motion in terms of drawing a weapon or using an assault weapon. Excellent use as movement of the whole.

    Training is the answer to speed as you have spoken of during VoA. Getting the moves down. Understanding the combat is dynamic – it is fluid. And just like Bruce Lee said we have to take the shape of it – then take it over and shape it ourselves. Its moving as a singular thing even though operators will be at different points in different places. this comes with that training to inoculation.

    Training makes you smooth – smooth gives you speed. both give you Surprise. Surprise will allow you to take the lead in VoA. Just as you pointed out striking first even if it’s a two tenth’s of a second – you are ahead of the curve. OODA disruppted lag time is diminished for us and greater for them.

    Great stuff Brother – no need for the T-shirt i appreciate the opportunity to learn.

    Love this site – I so want in!

  • Dylan

    “issue me a free tee”
    – Front toward enemy/ Combat Safety

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