Left and Right of Arc – Toby Cowern

Left and Right of Arc is a military term. The main concept is that of when you establish a fighting position one of the key tasks is to establish a left and right of arc. This means for each person in the group they will identify their position and have designated the areas that they can shoot between. This also ensures that there is enough of an overlap in positions that there are no holes in the overall defense. The covering arcs of fire provide mutual defence allowing each member to protect their position while covering their team and being covered by them.

In terms of conflict management why do we want to think about Left and Right of Arcs?

These past few weeks have seen the latest round of extensive travel for me, not only for teaching but more importantly for learning and practicing. I’ve been to Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia talking and training with survivors of the Balkans Conflict. Passed through the Middle East and am currently sat writing this in Cape Town, South Africa having spent the day in a ‘Township’ (Think Slum) looking and learning about the poverty cycle and desperate living conditions.

All of this has given me much food for thought and will be addressed in future, specific articles, but, you may ask, where does the ‘Left and Right of Arc’ fit in? Moving away from the military definition, left and right of arc can mean those things vital to, but either side of our main area of interest or effort. As I’ve been traveling I have seen many things that offer a vital contribution to ‘Self Defense’ and ‘Situational awareness’ that don’t necessarily make it into many peoples minds or priorities to address or train in.

A couple of examples: When you think about driving in defensive terms, what comes to mind? Here in Africa driving is a critical skill for keeping out of trouble, not only in the need to negotiate (vastly) ‘different approaches to road regulations’, but also identifying likely set ups (situations where you and your vehicle can be compromised or approached by criminals), trying to ‘blend’ in with other drivers and highly important, the ability to navigate quickly and efficiently, as a wrong turn can almost instantly put you in a VERY bad place. All this is on the ‘defensive’ side of driving, and yet there are also all the aspects of ‘offensive’ driving to consider as well. This ‘well rounded’ viewpoint builds the entire ‘Arc’ spectrum. Not only to focus on the ‘cool’ parts of driving, but also the other, just as important pieces.

When you are in an area of foreign country that has very little tourism and you have learnt the basic greetings, there can be a large assumption you are a national. Can you maintain a ‘greyman’ status if you don’t know the language? What aspects above and beyond mere dress and appearance are influential? Do you want to be a ‘greyman’ or is there sometimes more protection afforded by being a ‘foreigner’? Learning to be a ‘Greyman’ can be a key skill, successfully doing so in a foreign land is part of the essence of ‘Left and Right of Arc’ in the terms we are talking…

I often find that the Left and right of Arcs become most apparent when you actually start to genuinely apply skills or increase the realism in training. Its one of the reasons I travel as much as I do and put myself in these situations, as you learn so many lessons this way. This in my mind is one of the biggest advantages of this magazine. You are reading multiple articles every issue, from people that are out there really applying their skills and pushing their personal ‘envelope’ of skills and survivability, I know of no other publication with a contributor field so committed to ensuring what they teach is the most viable version of the knowledge they have.

You will see in Conflict Manager magazine over the coming months some key themes emerging, one of which will be that of ‘Resilience’. As we introduce, discuss and advance these topics, keep in mind the ‘Left and Right of Arc’; The other skills you need to consider, learn, understand and apply that are to the side of, but very important to your ‘main effort’. Take a moment now and think about your particular field of self defense or martial art and think, better still, write down, some of these ‘Left and Right of Arc’ aspects. By truly understanding the total ‘arc’ we are trying to cover in our training we can ensure we maintain focus on our ‘main effort’ but with balance on building contributory skills and develop better, more complete resilience.

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