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On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace
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On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  3,218 ratings  ·  196 reviews
On Combat looks at what happens to the human body under the stresses of deadly battle ? the impact on the nervous system, heart, breathing, visual and auditory perception, memory - then discusses new research findings as to what measures warriors can take to prevent such debilitations so they can stay in the fight, survive, and win. A brief, but insightful look at history ...more
Paperback, 2nd Edition, 395 pages
Published September 2004 by PPCT Research Publications
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 ·  3,218 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Jun 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
I doubt that anyone really reads or cares about the Tags we label our good books within (you know fiction or non fiction etc) so I mention that I placed this work in "pop-academic" even though technically it may be found in your University library and not at your local library. But it is to me a good example of bad research writing. The author states his credentials within the text and he does so in bad taste. His text lacks notations where they might really be supportive, maybe even needed to m ...more
A.C. Thompson
Mar 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Yet another book that has been relegated to the DNF file. If I had wanted to read On Killing again, I would have picked up a copy of On Killing and read it again. I made it 75 pages in, and none of the information in On Combat was anything new. Also, I'm fairly certain Shakespeare (you know, the guy who wrote all those great tragic plays in the late 16th and early 17th century?) wasn't exactly a warrior, so what's with all the quotes from him to start chapters and sub chapters?

I also take offens
Scott Sigler
As I have never served in the armed forces, as a police officer, or had to use lethal force in self-defense in any encounter, I'm probably missing the real benefit of this book. Col. Grossman is exhaustive in his approach to helping those to protect us. I would guess that any cop/vet/serviceperson would get more benefit from this book than I did, and I got quite a lot.

For fiction writers, this is a wonderful book that helps get into the mind of people who use lethal force. The reality of combat
Gordon Alley
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read book for everyone. The author categorizes each person as either a wolf, sheep, or sheepdog. The wolf preys on the sheep; the sheep are under the protection of the sheepdog and victimized by the wolf; the sheepdog protects the sheep from the wolf and keeps the predator behaving uprightly due to his presence. Most sheep have a hard time accepting the sheepdog but are thankful for them and will hide behind them when the wolf shows up. One easy way to find out whether or not you are a sh ...more
Dawn Jayne
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Excellent book on the psychology of war and combat. My husband is a police officer and heard Dave Grossman speak here in Indianapolis. He was very impressed, and purchased a CD of the lecture. I popped it in one day, and was riveted. My husband also purchased one of his books at the lecture, and I devoured that, as well, and went on to buy this book soon thereafter.

I'm a Marine Corps veteran, and married to a cop, so a great deal of the subjects touched on things that hold a personal interest to
Aj Sterkel
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
First, I have to say that I’m not the target audience for this book. In the language of the book, I am most definitely a “sheep.” When all hell breaks loose, I run the other way. Fast.

I got this book for research purposes, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I wish that the book had more citations and more balanced arguments. Some of the statistics are worded in misleading ways, and a few of the chapters come across as one-sided rants. The author didn’t always convince me that his arguments were
Nicholas Maulucci
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology
WOW! in-depth. well-researched. now this is a book. not to mention the provocative subject matter. elegantly written. just the right amount of quotes. just the right amount of anecdotes. just the right amount of philosophy. just the right amount of instruction. just the right amount of heart. no lulls in book. masterfully written. thoroughly enjoyed losing myself in the genius of this excellent author. I recommend this book to men everywhere in every profession. I recommend this book to women wh ...more
Grossman once again takes his readers into the psychology and physiology of killing, combat and deadly force incidents.

Why I started this book: Working my way thru the audio books that I have access to. This has been on my list for a while... that's the problem with long lists.

Why I finished it: This book is very repetitive. Since it is focused on "warriors" and reassuring them that what they are experiencing is normal, the repetitive comments helped spread the author's message. (And frankly, it
Kevin Patric
Jan 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Finished this book in just under a year. Quite the struggle. I read this because I thought I would find helpful information that was not covered in On Killing. However, what I found was a very similar book filled with a TON of filler. There are quotes for every heading and input from probably anyone who sent Col Grossman correspondence over the years. The random letters and articles are very brief and many lack the depth to leave impact on the message. Example of a filler was found in three cons ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Good book. Deceitful title.

This book is not what it sounds like. Perhaps it is the case that there were times where the psychology and some elements of physiology of people in war were analyzed, it though is an insult to the sciences of both physiology and psychology to claim this book aptly presented information on the subjects.

Overall though this book had some pretty high quality commentary on the psychology of what it is to be a warrior, how it is that these men and women must deal with the
Craig Fiebig
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Invaluable and insightful book. A particularly important work for those of us sitting safely distant from the pointy end of any spear.
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
As I mentioned before in my review of "On Killing", I think that Colonel Grossman is an excellent theorist. This book presents an interesting account of how combat stress develops and identifies a number of moderating and mediating variables. It also provides an excellent account of what it is actually like for a soldier or peace officer to engage in combat, including cognitive, emotional, and moral consequences. These accounts are based on what seem to be hundreds of hours of interviews and cor ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology, martial
All the information police, soldiers and other warriors have been missing for over fifty years is right here in this solid volume.

Lt Col Grossman and Loren Christensen put it all together. They've created terms we did not know we needed, for things we didn't even know occurred. Grossman has a cute but very apt description of the function of the midbrain, fulfilled by 'the puppy,' as he calls it. He calls fear of human violence the 'universal phobia,' and tells you why it's universal. He gives a
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it
I found On Combat to be significantly more poorly written, and more reliant on personal anecdotes (to say nothing often inexplicable quotes from Shakespeare's histories) than On Killing. With that said, I found it to be more interesting (fascinating, in fact) and far more practical. Again, this isn't science yet, but LtCol Grossman is pushing the boundaries of what we know and understand about the human psyche and the human experience. All human experience will involve conflict- not necessarily ...more
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Don't let the title fool you. This isn't a book encouraging people to be violent and it's written for everyone - not just our police and military (though it should be mandatory reading for them). It's mainly about the physiological response to violence so covered a lot of the same material as "The Boy who was raised as a dog", though you wouldn't think so to compare the titles. A really interesting and thought-provoking read.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
I couldn't get past the first few chapters. Propagandist, bombastic, and not at all the clinical examination of combat stress I was expecting. A biased paean to military and police "warriors" and "white knights" as well as American democracy and "peacekeeping" without relevance to current worldwide events. Maybe it got better. I'm not wasting any more time on it, though.
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Morgan Blackledge
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read Lt. Col. Dave Grossman's On Combat directly after reading Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk's Brilliant new book The Body Keeps Score and the juxtaposition of the two was marvelous.

If I were a book DJ (Perhaps the dorkiest idea/fantasy I have ever had), I would definitely mix these two on my literary wheels of steel. Wow. No two ways about it. That was capital L lame. But you get the point right? The books were good together.


The Body Keeps Score is all about trauma. It's all about how psych
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I love the insight on the effects of combat and other high-stress/intense encounters. Breaking down the thought process and physical stimulus puts things into perspective from the act of taking a life to witnessing a traumatic event. I don't agree with Lt. Col Grossman on all things, such as the effects of video games on society but overall this is a must read.
Matthew Dambro
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book on the business of combat, both civilian and military. It goes through the process from start to finish with a clarity and thoughtfulness that only comes with experience and deep thought. The definition of wolves, sheep and sheepdogs is brilliant.
TEELOCK Mithilesh
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: security
Using his repertoire of military experience, Grossman captures the visceral state of the human psyche during perceptions of extreme danger. With the assistance of Christensen, who is a retired police officer, this incredibly insightful book was published. The text delves into the complexity of deadly force. The publication definitively establishes the fundamental role of a security officer. Collectively, the thesis posits that these individual workers use their presence to ensure societal safety ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Don't expect a story. This is a one man's guide into the subject On Killing/On Combat. There is an online certificate course for this book that I recommend taking.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
While the main audiance of this book might be designed to be police officers or those in the armed forces, it was a very interesting read from any perspective.

A few of the chapters go into detail into the effect of video games on children (as well as TV and movies). This was really fascinating to read because talking to my students, I can see how much they love those games, and while I never thought highly of them, I may also have underminded their importance (or destructiveness, as it were) on
Feb 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very intense, but incredible book on the psychology and physiology of war. I became interested in this after talking with dozens of Afghan mujahadeen (freedom fighters) who described to me in detail what it was actually like to be in combat against the Russians or Taliban, and how even as warriors they long for peace. This book also goes into detail to help the healing process of veterans who have been involved in combat through breathing exercises, meditation and learn from others who have been ...more
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a MUST read if you have any family members, friends or loved ones in the military. It treats the psychological aspect of what combat does to people. It discusses feelings during the episode, what happens to the physical body, what to espect, and even goes into detail on how to treat those who have been in combat or in a life and death situation. Towards the end of the book it teaches a breathing technique that can be used in any situation to calm yourself or someone else down, and d ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the recommendation of a friend, I started reading this book. The reason he recommended it was because I'm in a leadership position in my military unit. I didn't think it was so much about how to be a good leader more than it was a book that talks about why we need warriors, who should be warriors, what a warrior should expect during combat and what to expect when coming home. This book is under my skin right now and has me questioning so much about myself. What I'm thinking is rather personal ...more
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Colonel Grossman looks at the psychology of combat and brings a completely new view of what happens in the mind of a man when he must kill. This book, along with its companion book, On Killing, are excellent resources for those in military or law enforcement who may some day have to fire on and possibly kill their fellow man. What ingrained mental processes may keep them from functioning as they need to to survive, how can they train to use their mind to the greatest advantage rather than have t ...more
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book, but not for you. Covers training, physiology, psychology and more related to killing. How to train those whose job it is to kill, soldiers, police etc. How the media and FPS video games train those we don't want to kill, Columbine,Jonesboro etc. How to deal with killing or its negative side effects.

A must read for any warrior or anyone associated personally or professionally with one. Also excellent for first responders and others whose lives are touched by violent death. This book
Andy Valadez
Excellent book. For every sheep dog - law enforcement, military, martial artist or former military or law enforcement. Anyone who is interested in being a force for good. "On Combat" is designed to prepare the reader for "bullet proof" mind when it comes to understanding how conflict escalated saves lives. Colonel Grossman refuses interviews because the information he shares is the difference between life and death. Mistakes and misquotes in this regard can cost lives. Excellent analysis of comb ...more
Steven van Doorn
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A very good discussion on the many psychological and physiological aspects of combat. This book talks about what a warrior can expect to experience and feel in a deadly fight, how to prepare for that fight and what to do afterward to maintain your health both physically and more importantly mentally. A good read for any warrior (someone who has or may have to kill as a lawful part of their job). I can also see this book being very helpful for someone who knows a warrior and wants to better under ...more
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Lt. Col Dave Grossman is the author of On Killing and On Combat as well as several science fiction books.

In 1998 Lt. Colonel Grossman retired from the military as Professor of Military Science at Arkansas State University. His career includes service in the United States Army as a sergeant in the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, a platoon leader in the 9th Infantry Division (United States), a general

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