Instructor Zero is fast becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the international tactical community. While his speed and accuracy are self-evident, there are elements about this charismatic figure that remain in the shadows. He has risen from seemingly out of nowhere and has acquired an incredible fan base on an international scale.
His public Facebook profile has amassed upwards of 300,000 likes as he shares everything from personal photos to training drills. By his own admission, he spends “too much time replying to comments…”, his pride and joy evidenced by a gleamingl smile as our conversation is interrupted by “lookit here man read this!”
I was truly amazed at the diversity of his “brothers” when he gave me momentary (limited) access to his private messages (ever careful not to reveal too much) where he receives correspondence from former and current US Marines, IDF, Spanish Legion, French Foreign Legion, International SWAT units, Special Operations Units from the United States, Greece, Italy, Mexico, England, Israel, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, and Uruguay totaling 36 countries in all. Messages range from simple greetings, training inquiries, but most ask for information, tips and advice.
We sat down over lunch, which he barely touched, his presence was both welcoming and overwhelming at the same time. For every question I asked he seemed to talk for hours making sure that every possible angle was covered. He must have seen something in my face that prompted: “You know man, English is not my language for this reason I must explain to you all.” Time quickly passed as I developed a better understanding of “Zenglish” – Lunch soon transitioned into dinner as I found myself shedding journalistic objectivity into becoming his personal translator. I still do not understand how this happened. But it did. There was something about this man that made me want to help him express his thoughts. Perhaps it was the law of reciprocation…I wanted to get this right. We spent hours making sure that the words on my notepad matched his thoughts exactly. While his critics and detractors remain, I can only say that in person, it is hard not to like Instructor Zero. He is passionate and genuine. He truly cares about his brothers, his community and for better or worse, he cares about his critics. A byproduct of human nature. To want to be understood.
Here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
You receive criticism for teaching the combat roll. Do you stand by it? Of course. You know that one technique is the combat horse of my critics. Critics I like…I fucking hate trolls. I share a lot of techniques, drills and tactics, but that’s the one thing they focus on. Why? Because they would rather discredit me than discredit the information I share and for this reason this is the only ammunition they have…and they stick to it. Fucking trolls man.
Who are these trolls? Most of them are keyboard warriors and range queens…but a few of them are firearms instructors. This is a surprise to me. For me, you know I never want to publicly criticize another instructor. Its unprofessional. If I disagree with something they teach I leave it alone or maybe I will write a personal message. I can question their methods, but they have my respect.
Does it get tiring? Man, every day I think about stopping everything. Stop the YouTube channel, stop the Facebook page and remain as I once was. But you know, I get a lot of really inspiring messages that keep me going. I have to stay in this bet. Its important to break this standard that is in place. We NEED to share information with each other. Everything is evolving around us. The world is changing and what worked 10 years ago may not work today. You know some tactics that were once considered stupid or silly a few years ago is now common practice and everyone teaches them. Maybe this is the price of evolution…or showing evolution. People are afraid of change because I think it challenges their beliefs and truths. By showing something different than what they have been taught it is sometimes seen as a threat or even disrespect. I am right and you are wrong. But this bullshit. This kind of ego will hurt us as a community. People need to realize that there is no standard truth in training. A tall person with big hands will hold his rifle and adopt a different stance than a short compact person. A person who is limited by physical condition will not do a roll. Everything is defined by the environment and the self. I fear that instructors who were trained 10 years ago are not evolving and they are preparing their students for a battle that may no longer be defined by the same parameters. Always question your instructors. Ask them for the reasoning behind their teachings. If they dismiss you or see your questions as threatening…my suggestion is to find another instructor. The same with me. Do not do something only because I do something. Find the sense in the tactic. Find the reasoning behind it.
So about the rolling technique? I want to be clear that the roll is an option. Sure if you are operating in a team in Afghanistan wearing body armor with a radio this might not be practical but think of the thousands of operatives who work in low profile in urban environments as in private security or a law enforcement in different countries of the world where having options means survival.
You know the roll is not specific to firearms. It is a universal tactic to prevent the absorption of energy by transferring it. Think about ancient martial arts or modern day parkour. It is used to break falls and to safely land from impacts that would otherwise harm the body. Incorporating the roll in firearms training requires a specific sequence of progression and should not be immediately tried on the range under live fire conditions. This is very foolish and dangerous.
It is very easy to remove the roll from my training curriculum (depending on student skill level sometimes I do). It is not easy to do, not easy to teach and not easy to master. Age and fitness also play a role and to many, it becomes impractical because of these limitations. But ask yourself WHY I continue to advocate it despite the criticism? I believe in it. I believe that under a specific set of parameters, it can save lives.
The practicality of rolling is not theoretical. It is factual. It is a fact that you only have 3 options to become a hard target under fire, without cover: Option 1 is through lateral or forward/back movement such as running or side-stepping. Option 2 is to change your plane such as dropping to a knee or going prone. The third option is the combination of options 1 and 2. There are pros and cons to each option. Fast lateral movement is almost instinctive and efficient but presents roughly the same surface figure for the enemy to aim at. Sure you can compact or defilade yourself but that is limited by physiology. For example, you cannot run on your knees. Changing your plane by dropping to a knee or going prone offers a rapid change of plane at the expense of mobility. A combination of changing the plane with lateral or front/back movement is advisable but you know rolling is the fastest, most efficient option to combine both option 1 and 2…but it definitely has its cons. For one, momentary loss of sight picture. The movement can also be very disorienting to the untrained. But it has its advantages. Rolling protects your vital organs when moving in short distances from one cover to another like a doorway while negating ambush aiming pathology which focuses on center of mass. I think I need to do a video about this.
Again, the roll is an option. It is the answer to a very specific set of questions.
Is there a danger in showing what you share on a public forum? Yes. I fear that copy-cats will watch my videos and hurt themselves. But you know, I will give people the benefit of the doubt, maybe that’s a mistake, but I think its better this way. To assume the best instead of the worst. Also, you know YouTube has all sorts of videos from other instructors from all over the world that show advanced tactics. We are working with guns here. There is an element of danger in even the most basic drills.
I’ve shown some team drills like breaching with a small unit but no more than that. There is an ethical line I will not cross. We cannot know who watches these video and we do not want to give any tactical advantage to the enemy. For example in Kenya an Al Shabaab commando team executed a planned attach on a commercial center and opened fire on civilians and held hostages using light weapons and team tactics. I never want to arm them with knowledge. I teach team drills only in first person to police and military units only under formal training courses. For this same reason I have shown how to identify booby traps, but I never show how to set them.
Why are most of your videos filmed in full combat gear with body armor? Are you training for something? Or just to look tacticool? Hahaha! I do it for 3 reasons. First, in training I want to realize the hardest conditions. Sure I can train in comfortable pants with dry fit shirts like competitive shooters but if I can perform in adverse conditions, I can perform better in ideal conditions. For the same reason I practice the accuracy of my Glock at far distances because if I can hit a small target at 25 meters, I can hit a big target at 10 meters.
Secondly, you need to train as you fight. I work in both low profile with jeans in concealed carry as well as high profile with a helmet and body armour. In my job, in one year I might not need combat gear and body armour…but if a project requires me to be quickly deployed under these conditions I do not have the option to say “hey man, can you give me a few weeks to train with body armor?” I am always ready. You know the saying “Train as you fight” for me is incomplete. It is better to say, “Train for the worst scenario.” Why? Because for some of us, we cannot determine where the fight will happen. I train with 4a+, 3A+, with a gas mask, in high and low profile etc. But if you are training for defense purposes, maybe you don’t need body armor but you need to train in jeans, shorts, long sleeves, short sleeves, wearing a light jacket, in a heavy jacket, with boots and slippers and shoes etc…
The third reason , in training in this way, not only do I improve my technical skills but I also improve my physical condition and psychological reactions to the stressors I can find in a fight. By wearing body armor, it compresses my chest that simulates oxygen deprivation. The same with a gas mask. It doesn’t only mean that I can work wearing a gas mask but that I am aware of what happens to my body during limited oxygen intake.
By following this philosophy, I also train with a side holster and drop leg holster, in concealed and open carry conditions drawn from the front, back and side. I train with AKs and M4s and with as many unmodified weapons platforms as possible in my country. I train with sniper rifles and shotguns. I train in survival in mountains and forest. I train in hand-to-hand combat. I train with a knife.
Tell us about ICTS, what was the philosophy behind that? Paper and steel targets don’t shoot back, this is for sure. Aside from maybe simunitions which is expensive what is my next best option to improve my accuracy and reactions to a moving target? There was none but I knew we needed one. There are reactive targets and moving targets used in sporting conditions but they move in a predictable, mechanical pattern. ICTS, which stands for intelligently controlled targeting system, allows for the simulation of a moving target in 3 dimensional space without a predictable pattern. I think its very useful. I get messages about other instructors using them. I am very happy for this.
What does the term “operator” mean to you? Is it only for military? Absolutely not. I hate the standardization of a term or category like this. I have met in my life a lot of brave warriors who risk their life for $5 a day and have done heroic deeds who did so for the fight. Not for glory, money or recognition. Warriors are warriors. Even enemy combatants who fight with honor and courage and die for what they believe in have my respect and I will fight them without pity or mercy for the same reasons that they will do the same to me.
If the term “operator” is the highest esteem we can give to warriors then I give this same regard to a police officer who gives years of his life working under cover. To a private security operator in France, Somalia, to BOPE in Brazil, and special military and police units in Italy or everywhere else in the world who might not have the best technology, field support or even the privilege of specialized training. We cannot forget about these guys and somehow categorize their honor, sacrifice and bravery in a sub-category of lesser respect. Think about a Mexican police officer who risks his life fighting drug cartels for pennies a day because he wants to improve the standard of his country. Who protects his family? Who protects his home? He is in the open. A big risk man. I think you are not defined as an operator because you have the best technology or special training or belong to a special unit. You are defined as an operator by your heart…by your courage and bravery. Man, Gurkhas! You know about them? What they do?! Oh man, big respect for Gurkhas.
There are amazing operatives who may never even fire a single round in the line of duty but are deep behind enemy lines, integrated with or hidden from the enemy to gather information. Information that lays the groundwork for “operators” to do their work. Information that may save hundreds or thousands of lives and even change the course of history but will never receive a medal or be written about in the paper. They sacrifice their family life, their friends and often times their sanity. These are lesser men? They don’t belong with the elite? There’s something wrong with that.
I met a lot of these guys who have done great things for their country only for their country to abandon them. They risk everything for righteous ideals. It makes me angry that these guys are forgotten. Warriors are warriors, man. This is my opinion. You can agree or not. But my opinion is my opinion.
(Some time passes and Instructor Zero suddenly blurts: I don’t want to be misunderstood man. I think what happened is that maybe people shortened “SPECIAL OPERATORS” and started calling them only operators and then it became normal like this. Those guys are special. Why people removed special? Yes, I think maybe this is what happened.)
What can you tell us about your combat or military experience? My background is MY background. It is not OUR background. This is my policy. There is nothing honorable or glorious about what I have done…but everything I did, I did for righteous reasons for my country and for the world. There are a lot of good guys out there that you will never hear about or read about. They now live simple lives and when you pass them in the streets you will have no idea what they have done for their country and for the world…for the benefit of every free citizen. This is why you must treat everyone with respect.
You know man, if you need more information about my past for me to be your instructor, I suggest you find another instructor. There are plenty of good ones. I am validated by what I can do…not by what I have done.