Lessons from an as­sas­sin

Even if you aren’t work­ing to be­come a killing ma­chine like the guys in the new movie Amer­i­can As­sas­sin, you can still learn a lot from the man who trains them.

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

How a pro would do it

JOOST JANSSEN is not an as­sas­sin. Real as­sas­sins don’t tend to re­spond to in­ter­view re­quests. But he is a close sec­ond: a US Navy SEAL for 13 years, and cur­rently an in­struc­tor at BUD/S, the school that SEAL can­di­dates at­tend. He’s also the mil­i­tary ad­viser for Amer­i­can As­sas­sin, a bru­tal thriller about a CIA re­cruit whose fi­ancée is killed in a ter­ror­ist at­tack. That man is trained by a le­gendary op­er­a­tive played by Michael Keaton, and Keaton was trained by Janssen.

Start slow.

Janssen says one of the mantras of SEAL train­ing is “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Peo­ple try­ing to learn com­bat skills aim to be quick, es­pe­cially ac­tors who want to seem lethal. But the jerky, stut­ter­ing move­ments of some­one try­ing to go too fast are less ef­fi­cient and ac­cu­rate.

Save your pis­tol for in­doors.

Pis­tols are in­ef­fec­tive at long range, so don’t bother with them in sniper sit­u­a­tions. But “in­doors, if your ri­fle mis­fires or runs out, you tran­si­tion im­me­di­ately to your pis­tol”, Janssen says.

Hand-to- hand com­bat wears you out.

In ac­tual close-quar­ters com­bat, Janssen says, “There is no 35- to 90-sec­ond ex­change of sweep­ing kicks.” You’ll get ex­hausted, of­ten in as lit­tle as ten sec­onds.

Don’t go for the carotid.

In the orig­i­nal script, Keaton’s char­ac­ter or­dered trainees: “Go for the carotid.” Janssen pointed out that this would make a mess, pos­si­bly al­low the vic­tim to call for help, and leave them with the po­ten­tial to fight for an­other 30 to 40 sec­onds. In­stead he sug­gested punc­tur­ing the tra­chea.

Train your­self to re­act.

The SEALS use a train­ing process called a hooded box drill: the trainer uses a string to raise the head cov­er­ing of a hooded trainee, sud­denly pre­sent­ing him with an un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tion. “It could be a young woman ask­ing you for di­rec­tions to Mcdon­ald’s, or it could be ten guys, one with a fist al­ready half­way to your face,” says Janssen. “You just have to deal with it.”

Han­dle the pain.

In Amer­i­can As­sas­sin, the trainees wear elec­trodes that shock them if they shoot vir­tual good guys or in­no­cent by­standers. The tech­nol­ogy is an ex­ag­ger­a­tion, but in real life, Janssen learnt to ig­nore pain in ex­er­cises with live weaponry fir­ing plas­tic, paint-filled bul­lets. Civil­ians put through the same drill shut down. “Their brain has al­ready told them, ‘If you’re hit by some­thing from a gun, you’re out,’ and their bod­ies au­to­mat­i­cally do that,” he says. Good way to pre­ma­turely-end a ca­reer as an as­sas­sin.

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