Cutting Edge Training

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Why Do We Teach: “Sul” Position

by George on February 11, 2013 08:36

This is one in a series of "Why Do We Teach?" articles focusing on training subjects in police academies, in-service training. Not just police related, these concepts and methods are often commonly taught. The series details why we either teach that concept, modify it, or reject in favor of a more practical solution. If you teach it, it must be defensible, pragmatic, applicable to real-life combat and survival, and lawfully justifiable.

Many handgun shooters use the “Sul” Position” as a “combat ready” position, both on the range and in the street.  The Sul Position is characterized by the weapon hand being held close to the torso approximately at solar plexus level, muzzle down, with the support-hand in various positions as needed or trained.  The muzzle is intended to be directed just to the side of the lead leg to comply with safety rules of never allowing the muzzle to cover anything you are not willing to destroy or kill.  It is also presently fashionable as seen in many magazines and training videos.  So it makes sense to train cops or responsible citizens to use the Sul Position as a safe combat ready position, right?  Handgun in the "Sul Position"

Well, no, not really.  The Sul Position is not suitable as a combatives ready position, and was never intended for that purpose.  Often, when something becomes a “position” or “technique”—especially when someone gives something everyone does a name—it becomes both fashionable and misunderstood.  Doing anything because someone else does it without knowing why they are doing it that way can lead to wasted years of training, or worse, tragedy, injury, and sometimes loss of life.  The Sul as a ready stance decreases efficiency of the weapon’s presentation and can create a safety problem.

Sul:  a little history and reasoning

“Sul” is Portugese for “south,” and was originally developed in Brazil.  The original intent was to provide a safer way to move with a handgun in-hand through a crowd or past a person without muzzling anyone. 

How it works:  From a practical ready position with the handgun in a one- or two-hand hold, muzzle directed toward the threat area, the Sul is performed by bringing the weapon to the torso with the muzzle directed downward, or south, and pointed off to the side of the support-hand’s leg (if in the right-hand, the muzzle is directed down and just to the side of the left-leg).  As the muzzle moves downward into the Sul, the support-hand either comes off the grip and flattens naturally, palm down on the torso (ready to quickly move into a two-hand grip), or it comes up over the weapon, covering it.

The support-hand is available to reach out and grab a subject if the situation demands (never the first choice with a firearm in-hand, but being forced to go hands-on with a threatening or resistive subject happens far too often to be ignored or simply dismissed by saying, “Never touch anyone with a gun in your hand”).  Your support-hand may reach out and touch a person you are moving past, ensuring you know their position, to let him know you are moving past, and making sure he doesn’t move unexpectedly.

If moving through a crowd, the weapon moves into a safer muzzle position against the body, and the support-hand moves to cover the weapon as the first line of defense against weapon retention threats.  The support-hand comes off the handgun as needed to guide others, creating a path to quickly move through the crowd while still having the handgun in-hand.  As quickly as the support-hand moves from the weapon to reach out, it comes back, covering the weapon as the shooter continues to move. 

When the shooter is past the individual or through the crowd, the muzzle comes up and the weapon again floats away from the mid-torso, pointing wherever the shooter needs it for quick response to imminent threat. 

The Sul as a Ready Position is Problematic

Because so many lawful shootings in defense of life are an immediate response to a reasonable perception of imminent threat behavior, everything the shooter does must be efficient to obtain first rounds hits on target—as well as each subsequent round.  Hits are the only thing that counts in a gunfight, and looking good in a cool stance or weapon hold just before you die doesn’t. 

Neural pathways (muscle-memory) are created by doing the same efficient movement the same way, getting the same consistent results.  The Sul cannot support habits of efficient weapon presentation because it was never intended to be a “Ready Position,” and its fundamental presentation mechanics are faulty.

Flipping the muzzle.  A “ready position” facilitates the weapon smoothly—and rapidly—interrupting the eye-target line with the muzzle (actually, the bore-axis) aligned with the threat and with minimal disturbance to that critical alignment, ready to put a bullet into the target.  The handgun in the Sul Position is both flat against the body and the muzzle is down.  As the handgun is brought up and punched out, the shooter must accomplish a lot more than just presenting the weapon to the target.  The handgun must rotate in two directions—laterally and vertically—while speeding to get on target.  While a three-pound weight held in your hand(s) at the end of your arm(s) doesn’t seem like much, the rotational forces while punching out all combine to create the critical problem of precisely controlling muzzle flip.  Flipping the muzzle creates muzzle over-travel and inconsistent first round hits. 

Rigidity in the body, shoulders, and arms.  Creating a technique creates mental mind-games in many shooters.  It is not unusual to see shooters on the line, handgun in-hand in the Sul Position, waiting for the execute command, their entire body rigid, elbows held out at their sides and sometimes unnaturally forward.  This becomes a variation of a position of attention, locked both mentally and physically.  Brain studies show that if we are “doing something,” the brain must first tell the body to stop “doing this,” and then find the neural pathways to tell the body to begin “doing that.”  This is measured in tenths of a second for each command—first to stop, and then to begin.  Ready stances should be relaxed and as natural as possible. 

Muzzling one’s body parts.  There are safety issues with this position as it is normally practiced.  It is not unusual for a shooter using the Sul to muzzle body parts, whether a foot, leg, or, um…other highly valued body parts.  When the Sul Position becomes a ready position, it is easy to lose track of the muzzle because the eyes are downrange watching the threat target or searching for one.  The most common safety violation we see on the range is from those trained in the Sul pointing their weapon at their own bodies. 

What Should be Taught?

There is nothing wrong with moving the muzzle in any direction safety demands.  On the range, that’s easy—downrange where the backstop is located.  On the street, that can be problematic.  Cutting Edge Training’s Master Trainer, Thomas V. Benge, developed the idea that the weapon should be pointed in the “safer” direction—the area where the least amount of injury or damage will occur if the weapon is discharged.  Sometimes that direction will be downward depending upon the context of the situation.  Sometimes its safest pointing at that person you might be forced to shoot.

With a weapon in-hand, there is an anticipated need for a possible immediate response or the handgun would still be holstered.  The muzzle of any in-hand handgun (or firearm) should be pointed in a safer direction toward the possible Threat.  Whether or not the weapon should be leveled at the individual depends upon his behavior and your reasonable perception of imminent danger of death or serious physical injury.  For more about when and when not to point a firearm at a person, see our blog article: “Pointing Firearms: Range Safety vs. Reality.”

We suggest a “floating” ready position, that is, the weapon floats to and away from your body as the situation demands, pointing at the Threat or possible threat location until it is safer to point somewhere else. 

  • With the weapon lightly gripped in your dominant-hand while traveling from one point to another toward the suspect’s threat’s location, both hands on the weapon, your upper body is loose and relaxed.  Loose muscles move faster than tense muscles (fewer neural commands seeking pathways to achieve movement).
  • As your perception of threat increases, your grip will tighten as the weapon naturally floats out farther from your body toward the threat.  We also see the weapon getting higher, nearer to the eye-target line.
  • Upon challenging a possible threat, your arms move to near maximum extension below the eye-target line, generally in the crotch/belt buckle area as you make shoot/no-shoot decisions.  The muzzle is on the subject.  This allows you to see his hands and waistband.  This is a deadly force warning that, if the circumstances permit, will likely be accompanied by an oral warning to comply.
  • If the perception of imminent threat to life is sudden, the weapon is quickly pushed forward and brought up, interrupting the eye-target line well before the arms are extended, and the trigger depressed as the weapon is slowing to a stop. 

Rather than a fixed position, the ready position moves as the situation changes.  The weapon moves up and down, left and right, away and back until it is punched out as a warning or a deadly force response to a reasonably perceived imminent threat. 

The concept of the Sul is absolutely valid—it just is not useful as a “ready position.”  If crossing, either an uninvolved person, a teammate, or through a crowd, the weapon moves against your body, muzzle pointing down and away from body parts, with the support-hand either touching, grabbing, or moving someone, or covering the weapon.  The Sul is useful until it is again time to point the weapon in a safer direction—the suspected or actual position of the Threat. 

Not Here

by George on May 4, 2012 05:24

There's courage involved if you want
to become truth.  There is a broken

open place in a lover.  Where are
those qualities of bravery and sharp

compassion in this group?  What's the
use of old and frozen thought?  I want

a howling hurt.  This is not a treasury
where gold is stored;  this is for copper.

We alchemists look for talent that 
can heat up and change.  Lukewarm

won't do.  Half-hearted holding-back,
well-enough, getting-by?  Not here.

                                            —Rumi

How does anything that Rumi wrote apply to tactics, combatives, the brutal struggle to overcome assault and to accomplish the mission you have laid out for yourself, even at the cost of your own life?  Perhaps you might wish to read it again from a different perspective.

To find the tactical truth, or the combatives truth, or the shooting truth—any warrior truth—you must have courage to question your cherished beliefs about your tactics and combatives skills, as well as the limits to your capabilities you have accepted as truth.  Without insight into why the tactics you choose function, how they developed and what problem they were intended to solve, you have no idea of the context of that tactic.  The combative system you dutifully work out in—sweating and twisting and thumping and being thrown and striking and pressing triggers by rote, all without understanding the underlying principles that will actually permit you to employ it in combat—will fail you unless you have the courage to question and validate everything you do within the context of pain, blood, death, loss, defeat, and victory, for that is the only context in which combatives should be considered.

Are you playing a sport and thinking it is applicable to combat?

  • Training scars are created that may be fatal:  Jujitsu players and wrestlers routinely leave their groins wide open while “fighting” in training—there are many in the profession at arms who think putting someone in the “guard” in a real life and death fight is a good idea.
  • Aikido is a highly instructional method of learning balance during movement and a stylized response to someone striking at you with a sword, but is universally void of practicality for almost everyone in real life physical conflict.  Actual Aikido techniques applied to real life combatives problems universally fail all but the most accomplished practitioners.
  • Shooters playing shooting games use “barricades” by resting their weapon on the edge of the object, with most of their body in full view of the paper target, never thinking about a "two-way range."

Are you willing to break open your accepted tactical and technical truths until hurts?  There must be a willingness to examine every minute detail of the system you love, holding it up against the contextually-correct situation it will be tested in during combat.

          “The event can in some ways be considered as an abrupt and brutal audit at a moment’s notice, (where) everything
           that was left unprepared becomes a complex problem, and every weakness comes rushing to the forefront…(The)
           brutal audit uncovers unforeseen weakness in resilience—the capability to recover.  Resilient action that enhances
           recovery from setback is built out of a broad repertoire of action and experience, the ability to recombine 
           fragments of past experience into novel responses, emotional control…”
 
                                                                                                      --(Pat Lagadec, “Preventing Chaos in a Crisis”).

Combat is the most brutal audit there is for anyone’s combatives training.  The “broken open place in a lover” Rumi writes of is that searing, haunting drivenness to find that which is not truth, which will not survive the reality of one or more men attempting to take your life without politely and patiently waiting until you are ready or are finished with your series of complicated moves.  It takes bravery to question the very foundation of your beliefs in what works and what does not.  As a trainer, people prevail —or they get hurt and killed—based on what I share with their instructors.  As an instructor, you are ultimately responsible for every word, move, tactic, and skill you teach.  As a warrior, you live or die based on what you accept from your instructors, and consequently, so do other people because of your actions or lack of them, your effectiveness or lack thereof.  Choose well, for your life and the lives of others rest upon that decision.

How can it be that any trainer or instructor does not have the sharp compassion in their heart to break down everything, working from the fight backward, deconstructing the needs of the warrior to ensure he or she can actually apply it in an unforgiving environment where people suffer horrible injuries and die?  Teaching a skill, technique, or tactic because you like it or you have a vested interest in it, that looks good on the mat or on the range but is impossible for your warriors to perform in that fierce crucible of conflict is immoral at best, and not worthy of the trust others have in you.  As an instructor, you may have ninja quality reflexes and Greek god-like skills and attributes.  However, there must be compassion in the decision of what survival and combative skills to teach for those of us who are mere mortals, those humans in the uniform with all of the limitations and weaknesses and, yes, strength of heart and mind and the ability to overcome all odds that God put into us if only we would use it?

I cannot fight like you, because you are unique.  So, too, you cannot fight like me because my approach to fighting is necessarily and universally individual.  We have different abilities, experiences, schemas, strength, flexibility, mental and intellectual capability, emotional stability under threat, injury and health levels, and training.  When I try to fight like you, I fail.  This is something one discovers only through the pain and humiliation of failing—if allowed to survive the event by the victor.  While you may be exceptional in all areas of combatives, there must be compassion for those of us who are “average.”  For while most people consider themselves above average, it just ain’t so.  There are far more average people in uniform than exceptional or above average, and for every person who is above average, there is one or more who is below average and struggling just to stay in the game.

While training need not—and should not—be “dumbed down,” it must be achievable by each person you teach.  And within that sharp compassion for those you train, it takes courage to find that place inside your precious beliefs to question the content of your lesson plan.  What you teach may work for you because you are stronger than most people—but that cannot work for me.  It may well be that you are extraordinarily calm under pressure—the “Ice Man” incarnate—but that, too, cannot work for me in the midst of that weird adrenaline haze and crystalline clarity of combat.  It may work for you because you love it and you train incessantly, fascinated by the complexity and the special feeling it gives you to know how to counter the counter of the counter to the first technique, but that cannot work for me because, well, I’m not you, and I may not be that fascinated and it may be that I would love to know and even equal your skill level but I don’t train that often, if at all, even when you nag at me for my own good that I need to practice.

In this deconstruction and microscopic examination of your combatives training system, is there any frozen or old thinking you still accept as truth?  Wisdom is often old, because what is wise is ageless in its applicability to any age—every generation either continues to prove its validity or is forced to relearn its lessons.  Frozen thinking, however, results when we either do not think to question our dogma because “we have always done it this way,” or because it is easier to just accept what the latest expert says rather than to take the responsibility to think on our own, or we are lazy because we are comfortable and no longer feel the need to explore and grow in our skills and knowledge base.  You may be frozen in your thinking if think that:

  • Martial arts is “fighting” and prepares you to win in a fight.
  • MMA and fighting in the octagon is preparation for combat on the street and suitable as training for anyone in uniform.
  • Shooting games are preparation for winning gunfights.
  • You teach a “technique” that takes more than two-tenths of a second to complete or has more than two steps to accomplish, because anything costing more time or requiring more movements in a fight depends upon the other guy’s cooperation to be successful—and not many people are interested in giving you that opportunity.
  • You teach 45, 145, or 1,145 techniques in your defensive tactics or CQC program, and think any technique will work in combat (within that overwhelming swirl of fear and rage and frustration and dread and excitement) without 10,000 to 25,000 conscious and contextually-correct repetitions of each technique that must be recalled instantly given the fluid and dangerous nature of the fight and exactly executed in-time, on-time to effective.
  • Teaching the law or ROE is something lawyers do, and is not necessary for a survival skills instructor to be a Subject Matter Expert.   Why do my students need to know the context of the application of force?
  • Defensive tactics problems can be solved exclusively through DT solutions, that firearms problems can only be resolved through firearms solutions, that tactics are for SWAT or the classroom or the field, and not part of the mat or range.

The first time a cop I knew was murdered I was pierced by a “howling hurt.”  That howling hurt came again the first time a police officer I had trained was murdered.  There’s a place inside of me where those howling hurts live still—as well as the other howling hurts suffered over the years of murders and medical retirements and discharges of good, honest heroes—and I touch that terrible place each time I stand in front of a class realizing that the warriors sitting or standing before me may actually listen, believe, and use what I teach in an attempt to keep their lives and in the defense of other peoples’ lives.  So teaching is a place to offer everything and hold nothing back, and to realize there is no silver bullet, that all the glitters is not gold, and every assumption about how to keep myself and others alive is just that, and must be examined and turned inside-out, then examined again and again.

Because change is life.  Life is growth, and any system upon which I depend for my safety and my family’s, and that I teach other people who will depend upon it for their life and their family’s, must grow and change and improve as we understand more deeply what constitutes effective training and efficient action during chaos and blood and pain.  Science is helping us learn what is valid, and helping to disprove what is myth.  A growing body of experience, born of pain and effort gives us still more information.  Do we have the fire in our bellies and the commitment to excellence to make the effort to grow and to change and to challenge those cherished beliefs we all hold about “my” system and the way “it should be done”?

Fighting isn’t about gold—it is about copper and steel and lead and bone and sinew and guts.  It is about purifying the lessons, distilling them down to the underlying principles that are easy to grasp, universal in their application, and functional when needed, especially when you are hurt, tired, and very scared and need them to work.

Half-hearted holding-back, well-enough getting-by?  When I read this piece by Rumi I see in the wisdom of his words the truth that I believe all trainers and instructors of combatives—and the warriors who employ those methods—must take to heart.  When lives are on the line, when any person's rights are in question, when any person trusts what we teach, how can we someday stand before God without having had stood in the white-hot furnace of self-critique and contextual relevance when not doing so fills caskets of those willing to risk their lives in service to others? Lukewarm in the lessons and skills being taught, learned, and employed just won’t do.  Not here.

 

 

Fighting Smart: Negatively Multitasking the Suspect

by George on April 18, 2012 14:20

“Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.”   Sun Tzu

 

Any type of fighting carries a risk of injury and death—people have fallen after being simply shoved backward, struck their heads, and died.  So you prepare:  you lift weights, you work your cardio, you keep your weight down, you go to the range on your own time, and you train with other motivated cops in defensive tactics, you attend training paid for on your own dime, and are tactically aware in the street.  Despite your own individual skill development, physical conditioning, and aptitude for dealing with the violence you are faced with, nothing can be taken for granted in any combatives environment.  You may be the toughest guy on the block, but there is always someone on any given day who is more prepared, more capable, and more willing to engage in violence than you—thinking otherwise is foolhardy.  Whether it is hand to hand, hand to knife, or a gunfight, it is vital to make use of every advantage, and not assume that your high level of personal abilities, your size and strength, or any other skill factor is going to mean you will automatically win the fight.

Going head-to-head, muscle-to-muscle is often effective when you are dealing with an unprepared, weaker, smaller offender.  It is also the method most fraught with risk, and is unsophisticated in a situation where a sophisticated fighting strategy disadvantaging the suspect combined with your on-going pre-conflict preparations is the best strategy to win the fight.  Please note that “sophisticated” is not synonymous with “complex” or “complicated.”  Complexity in any fight or tactical response is a sure recipe for failure in the real world of combatives (see the article “Abandon Techniques All Ye Who Train Combatives” on this blog).

For purposes of discussion, assume you have contacted a subject who is on the verge of assaulting you.  He is equal in every way to you physically, intellectually, as well as in his skill development and physical conditioning.  Without considering the “luck factor” that is present in every combatives environment (which may also include the “Murphy-factor”—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time), your chance of making it through this fight is no better than 50/50.  How do you change these odds in this fight to your favor?

Change your orientation to solving combatives problems from fighting to fighting smart.  When one is equal to or less than his opponent in physical capabilities and skill, the only available strategy must incorporate deliberately affecting the ability of the suspect to act upon current reality.  All conflict is about time.  It is about taking time away from the Threat and using the time you have efficiently to deprive him of even more time.  Time is a luxury permitting you to understand the current reality of your relative positions and physical actions.  Ultimately, the purpose of every fight is to control his perception of time, hence his ability to make effective decisions leading to relevant physical actions.  This is done most simply by multitasking the subject so that he cannot catch up with the action and make those precious decisions he needs so desperately in order to destroy you.

Multitasking is the concurrent performance of multiple tasks.  We all want to believe we can do it, and we want to believe that we can do it well.  However, if we get honest with ourselves, we really don’t do it very well at all.  Even non-critical tasks such as simultaneously watching TV, reading, and talking to our spouse will demonstrate the fallacy of any type of multitasking capabilities.  As an experiment, try it to see how it works for you (hint:  pay attention to your spouse and forget those other activities if you want to survive this little experiment with any degree of marital harmony).  Similarly, being multitasked by a Threat during combatives can be fatal.  It is a very good strategy to deliberately employ multitasking against the suspect in every physical conflict.  It should be one of your primary tactics for success.

 

Attentional Load

To understand multitasking, research is proving that our ability to focus our attention, or “attentional focus” is limited.  Attention is a basic component of thinking, cognition, and of orienting to relevant change.  To note something in our environment, to have any chance of taking that information into consideration, we must pay some level of attention to it.  Attentional focus is defined as, “The ability to focus attention on cues in the environment that are relevant to the task in hand” (Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine).  When someone says, “The knife came out of nowhere,” or, “I had no warning that he was going to attack me,” the hard reality is that the victim’s brain either did not receive the numerous pieces of information signaling the impending threat, or did not interpret the numerous clues because the victim’s attentional focus was elsewhere.  Whether it is because the victim is ignorant of the threatening behavioral cues, or deliberately or innocently distracted, his or her attention was elsewhere, leaving that person unable to apprehend the changes in the behavior, positioning, and/or demeanor of the person about to assault them.

Our ability to focus or concentrate on anything can be compared to a very bright, narrow, very focused, spotlight in a very dark room filled with dozens of pieces of a puzzle, each constantly moving independently of the others, changing position, or modifying its shape and color.  As the spotlight of our conscious mind is placed on a particular puzzle piece in that black room, we are able to utilize our attention to gain information on the specific puzzle piece illuminated by narrow bright beam of light, considering changes in status of that puzzle piece solely based on what we are seeing at that moment.  All of the changes occurring in the other puzzle pieces in that dark room are unavailable to us until we focus on each individually.  The problem is we can only ascertain the status of a particular piece when we are focused directly on it.

The moment the spotlight moves to another puzzle piece, we no longer are able to monitor what is happening to the last puzzle piece.  Our ability to focus on multiple puzzle pieces is serial rather than global; that is, we must move the spotlight of attention from one piece to another to another to another before moving back to the first in order to monitor what all of the pieces are doing, how they’re changing, and what all of this means to us in the real world of violence, pain, and death.  Attentional focus on multiple areas or problems, therefore, is a cycling of attention where one’s full attention cannot rest upon any single piece of the puzzle long enough to ponder its significance.  This attentional cycling permits only snap-shots of information without the ability to deeply consider its relational meaning.  Significance is fundamental to relevance, and determining relevance is a function of orientation.  This means that unless a particular puzzle piece among many is not immediately and obviously significant, it is unlikely that you will be able to orient to its meaning, and its significant information and relevance will be lost to you. It may also be that you are focusing your spotlight on a particular puzzle piece that is changing its status in a very important and meaningful manner while your thoughts are elsewhere, perhaps thinking about that puzzle piece you saw moments or minutes ago, or even something completely unrelated to solving the puzzle at all.  Your eyes may be looking directly at the puzzle piece but your focus of attention is elsewhere, making it impossible to “orient” to the important information that is right in front of your eyes.  We have all experienced looking directly at a person speaking to us and not hearing a word he or she said because our mind was “a million miles away.”

A limiting factor of the ability to focus on threatening suspect behavioral cues is the amount of information you can work with at any one time.  There is a maximum capacity limiting the information you can process or focus upon at any moment in time.  As the demands to your attentional focus increase, your ability to focus on multiple tasks will rapidly become limited as your attentional load is maxed out.  Irrelevant information is filtered out as the attentional load increases, permitting attentional focus on whatever has captured your attention.  The greater the “task load,” or for our purposes, as your perception of personal threat increases, so, too, does the narrowing and filtering of available information available for your attention.

  • Tunnel vision is the result of an intense perception of threat where the attentional (or in this case, perceptual) load of the central focus is primary, and the “irrelevant” information is excluded as being unnecessary to survival at this moment. 
  • Auditory exclusion occurs when the attentional load in attempting to resolve the perceived threat is so great that visual processing of environmental cues takes precedence and what the subject is saying, or even that anything is being said (or yelled or screamed) at all is not available to be processed.

As more information is received and considered, older information is lost from your working memory, or “cognitive load” (“The total amount of mental activity imposed on working memory at any instance of time.” http://dwb4.unl.edu/Diss/Cooper/UNSW.htm).  As you experience a deluge of more and more data through the senses, your ability to understand, categorize, and utilize the info is quickly overwhelmed.  Once overwhelmed, your mental filtering systems begins shutting down data (perceptual) streams to attempt to manage the situation, and give you the ability to make sense of the data to produce useful information.  Being increasingly pressured by time and the perception of threat, the more and more overwhelmed your cognitive processes will be, and the less effective your ability to discern and synthesize useful information from irrelevant data.  Injuries, overwhelming frustration, and fatigue begin to compound, increasing the sense of being overwhelmed. At some point, the attempt to sort out the valuable from the worthless stops, and the individual is incapable of problem-solving his way out of the fight.

 

Negatively Multitask the Threat

In a physical conflict, the least sophisticated method of fighting is head-to-head, muscle-to-muscle attritional conflict—“I’ll be able to inflict more injury and disable you before you can inflict injury and disable me.”  Inherent within the “victory through attrition” is universal injury; even the victor is bloody and walks away with a limp.

To avoid this high-risk method of combatives, it makes better sense to fight the Threat on both the physical and the mental planes.  Negatively multitask him.  To "negatively multitask a suspect, you intentionally give him two or more tasks, each of which is threatening, and each of which demands his full attention.  If he stops one of your efforts, he pays dearly at failing to stop the other(s).  Negatively mutlitask him to get into his head and confuse his decision-cycles by misdirecting his attentional focus.  Creating confusion provides openings and opportunities to exploit that are less risk to you while creating more confusion and injury for him.  Events begin moving too fast for him to react and understand—he just won’t be able to put everything that is happening into context in time.

Negatively multitasking the suspect is achieved by physical or psychological means.  It requires you to divert his attention from what he wants to focus upon, and deliberately engage his attention on multiple tasks, none of which he can afford to solely focus upon.  It may be necessary to focus his attention on an irrelevant factor leading to his sufficiently being distracted so that he cannot orient to your actual intent, preparations, or movement.  This requires you to fight smart rather than through attrition.  For example, the following examples compare commonly trained attritional solutions with a possible solution that negatively multitasks the Threat.

WEAPON RETENTION:

  • Attritional Solution: Pin your weapon into your holster with your gun-hand and strike the suspect repeatedly with your free hand or elbow, head strikes, knee strikes, bite, put your free hand’s fingers into his eyes, etc.  If possible, take him to the ground, landing on him to ensure additional disability so it does not turn into a groundfight.  When he is sufficiently injured and incapable of continuing to fight, remove his hand from your handgun and force him into handcuffs.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  Pin your weapon into your holster with your gun-hand.  Strike, hit, bite, etc.  When he begins to focus on defending against your strikes, he will necessarily lessen his focus on your weapon (attention being serial, he cannot help but lose focus on your weapon), and his grip will relax to a degree.  Move to small targets:  grab a finger as hard and pry it suddenly and viciously back while maintaining pressure on the grip of the weapon into your body.  If he is not immune to pain because he’s mentally ill, diabetic, or under the influence, he will likely focus on you twisting and pulling on his broken finger.  Transition back to your strikes with the other hand.  Continue twisting the finger until you judge he no longer wants to disarm you.  Peel his hand from your weapon and shove him away.  Note:  a Parole Officer in Pennsylvania was forced to break four fingers, one at a time, to protect his weapon against a psychotic offender who first attempted to kill the officer by hitting him in the head with an ax.  Once the four fingers were broken, the suspect could no longer physically grip the weapon and was eventually taken into custody.

SUSPECT DRAWS A HANDGUN FROM TWO OR THREE STEPS AWAY:

  • Attritional Solution:  You draw your weapon in response, depending upon your vest and volume of fire to save your life as he fires as quickly as he can at you.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  The moment you perceive he is drawing a weapon, you move hard and suddenly at an angle toward his flank.  As you’re moving you draw your own handgun.  By now you are just a few feet from his flank, punching your handgun at him, firing as soon as it interrupts your eye-target line.  You continue to move to his back as he frantically attempts to target you through the bullets punching through him and the muzzle blast thumping his body.  Your movement and fire continues as he spins in pursuit of you, and finally corkscrews, falling to the ground.

ATTEMPTING TO EMPLOY AN ARM TAKEDOWN TO PUT A RESISTING SUBJECT ON THE GROUND:

  • Attritional Solution:  This subject needs to be on the ground right now!  You have a hold of his elbow, pin it to your body, and attempt a takedown.  However, he’s a prepared offender and skilled enough to prevent the takedown, you both begin moving in circles.  As you attempt harder and harder to put him down, the action speeds up.  At this point, you’re a bit frustrated and getting scared he might get loose, and that would not be a good thing for you with this guy.  You use brute force to muscle him to the ground, shoving him quickly and with as much strength as you can.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  This subject needs to be on the ground right now!  You have a hold of his elbow, pin it to your body, and attempt a takedown.  However, he’s a prepared offender and skilled enough to prevent the takedown, you both begin moving in circles.  As soon as you orient to this fact,  you quickly slap at his upper inner thigh with one hand, striking sharply just under his groin before locking your hand back to his arm.  His body reacts defensively to the slap as if it actually struck his groin and you hear a quick grunt of anticipated pain.  This puts him off-balance, enabling you to complete the takedown without extraordinary effort.

HE ATTEMPTS TO DRAW A HANDGUN FROM HIS WAISTBAND WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE FROM YOU:

  • Attritional Solution:  Upon orienting to his grabbing and pulling something out of his waistband, you focus on his hand, grabbing his wrist as you attempt to prevent him from being able to draw the weapon.  You begin to strike him with your forehead, free elbow and hand, and attempt to prevent him from getting that weapon out of his waistband until he is sufficiently debilitated, permitting you to safely remove it, and then throw him to the ground.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  Upon orienting to his grabbing and pulling something out of his waistband, you focus on his hand, and suddenly reach out with your closest hand to press his hand and wrist as well as the handgun against his body as you surge to his flank, wrapping his head with your free hand in a slapping motion.  Pulling his head sharply backward against your shoulder, with your fingers abruptly dig into his face.  With your hand pressing on his and his weapon at the waistband, your fingers, while still pressing the handgun to his belly, reach for and press the trigger.  The weapon fires as he is still worried about being off-balance and your fingers digging into his face.  The shock of the contact shot to his groin/pelvic/femoral area permits you to take him to the ground (if he isn’t already falling).

YOU'RE MAKING ENTRY INTO A HOUSE:

  • Attritional Solution:  You and your team line up, give the announcement, and after a sufficient time for his response, your breacher rams the door successfully.  Your team flows through the door, taking possession of the living room and access points to the whole house.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  You and your team line up, give the announcement, and after a sufficient time for his response, your team leader radios the initiation command, signaling the window to the room where the suspect is expected to be ported and flash-banged while the back door is simultaneously breached and held.  Upon hearing the report of the flash-bang, the front door is then breached successfully, and your team flows through the door, taking possession of the living room and access points to the whole house.

As can be seen in each of the above solutions, every fighting problem can be solved in multiple ways.*  How you deal with the specific combatives event involves your orientation to the solving this particular problem.  In each of the “negatively multitasking” solutions, you took advantage of a momentary distraction, purposefully redirecting his attention from his main effort and intention in order to capitalize on his inability to track and react to every counter of yours.  Once his attentional focus is diverted, he is unable to keep up with the events as you are directing them.  He just doesn’t have time to focus on all of the information he is receiving, and becomes confused and less effective.  That decrease in efficiency and effectiveness translates into an immediate advantage in the ability to process information, orienting more closely to the current physical reality of the conflict, and the resultant control of the direction of the fight.

It is through the multitasking of the Threat that you can defeat a superior athlete with superior skills.  It is said that “Deception is the art of the master.”  If you are someone who cannot expect your attributes (your size, strength, skills, endurance, etc.) to permit you to quickly win through an attritional solution in every instance, learn to negatively multitask the Threat to negate his advantages over you.  If you are someone who has superior attributes, never discount the role of luck in a fight.  Increase your odds of winning by learning to negatively multitask the Threat so that he is confused and overwhelmed first in his mind, and then physically.  It is better to learn it and not need it, than to need it and not to have learned it.

If being successful in a combatives situation is the result of controlling the perception of time, negatively multitasking the subject decreases the time available to him.  The net effect is that you have more time to make better decisions in the fight.  Time is the greatest luxury on a battlefield.  Treat yourself luxuriously in your next fight—negatively multitask him—and you may very likely limit the amount of bleeding and limping you will do after the fight.

_______________________________________

*    Note:  None of these “solutions” are offered as "trained techniques.”  They are a result of the “Universal Rules and Principles of Combatives”© within the “Effective Combatives Problem-Solving”© system of “Integrated Force Combatives”© available only through Cutting Edge Training, LLC.

 

Wide Open Spaces…A Help or Hindrance to DT Training?

by George on March 10, 2012 12:56

The Defensive Tactics skills training within police combatives is traditionally conducted on the clean, flat surfaces of mats.  Each pair of students gets plenty of room on a padded surface, free of obstacles and especially of other people, to work on their “techniques” and learn the sequence of moves required to be successful—no, this is not another discussion of why technique-based training is not functional or practical or effective, so feel free to read on…

Here’s a question:  “Why the need for so much space in physical skills training?”  When asked, the question seems to dumbfound those involved in the conduct of the training—especially long time instructors—as if the very question on this topic qualifies one for permanent relegation to the category of “hopelessly stupid and incompetent.”  Incredulous and sometimes sarcastic answers will always be about the safety of the participants and the need for a hazard free training area.  “We don’t want students slamming into each other,” will be heard, “They need room to move freely so they can concentrate on the technique.”

Hmmm.  Is this true?

  • Does it reflect the reality of the officers’ environment in which they operate and will be forced to apply the skills learned on the training floor?
  • Does “more room” equate to “safer training” in reality?

When asked, “Why use mats at all?” it is as if the question was asked in Serbo-Croation and there is no translator in the room.  Again, it should be OK to ask the question:

  • Are the mats, in fact, highly beneficial to training and do theyactually serve a demonstrable “safety function?”

Where Officers Apply Their Skills

Officers are forced to respond with force in every physical environment there is.  Sometimes they are able to fight a suspect on an open, smooth grass field or lawn.  Sometimes they fight in the middle of a deserted street or driveway.  Often they respond with force in areas where there are trip hazards (objects within a home, e.g., coffee tables, children’s toys, clutter, etc.), footing problems (curbs, shrubbery, uneven surfaces, etc.), and limited or confined spaces (bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, cubicles, vehicles, etc.).

A fundamental tenet of training is to provide training that is applicable to the real-world needs of the student.  While officers sometimes have the luxury of fighting on an open, flat surface, this is not typical of their needs, and even parking lots and streets have automobiles—both in motion and parked—that are threats and obstacles.  They often are forced to fight in cramped areas where there is little room for expansive movements and techniques, and are required to problem-solve their way through this new and demanding environment while being assaulted by a suspect with unknown capabilities and intentions.

Officers who are trained in open, spacious mats with a wide separation between pairs of students get their first glimpse at solving a confined space problem while on-the-job.  They are novices with “zero-experience” and no training in this fight.  OJT (On the Job Training) is fine when it comes to non-critical tasks; however, OJT when a scuffle becomes a fight has a poor track record.  While formal training permits numerous opportunities to “fail,” and therefore learn what works and what does not—this “live” situation where there is no frame of reference, or worse, an incorrect orientation that does not apply in this context—becomes a place for novel solutions, with no leeway for failure, where “failure” results in injury and, sometimes, being murdered.

Mats Encourage Impractical Street Solutions

The prevention of needless injuries should be one of the top goals of every instructor.  The padded surface that a mat brings to the training area creates an artificial surface that risk managers, administrators, and instructors hope will serve as a safety system to prevent injuries during training.  They permit bodies to fall with less injury, and when they do hit the ground hard, lessen the effects of the impact.  Through the use of mats, there are many fewer bruised elbows and knees in training than there might otherwise be, and, more importantly, fewer more serious fall injuries, right?

No real study of the value of the various training surfaces has been published.  I have trained personnel in combatives skills on mats, carpeting over wooden floors, carpeting over concrete floors, on wooden floors, and on bare concrete.  There is a great difference between the injury rate of participants between these surfaces, especially from falls and throws.  I have seen many more injuries on mats than on any other surface.

Mats provide a false sense of safety to participants.  With this idea that the mats represent “safety,” instructors commonly see a number of problems with:

  • Many officers falsely believing they are “fighting” and can work “at speed” during takedowns and other exercises or drills because they are safe on the mats.  These actions create “fall” injuries.  When working on mats, “enthusiastic,” highly trained students will often gradually—and sometimes abruptly—speed up their practice, despite warnings to slow down, until one of them is injured from being slammed into the mat, often with both partner’s body weight going through the individual on the bottom.  It seems that working on a mat promotes the idea that anything we do is “safe” regardless of the biomechanical frailties of the human body and despite safety warnings by instructional staff.  Drive another human body down to the ground (mat, carpet, or concrete) with the partner’s weight forced through it, and cause the body to land on its shoulder sometimes results in a shoulder separation or fractured clavicle (collarbone).  I have seen this injury occur on a mat several times over the decades, but never on a concrete or a wood floor.
  • Officers are trained in “wrestling moves” that depend upon a soft surface to protect elbows and especially knees.  Mats make the dropping of the body weight through the knees and elbows into the ground part of officers’ “technique” and an essential component of their takedown practice.  Using the mat as a surface on to which one throws himself on his knees detrains an officer from the concrete and asphalt reality of their working environment.  When asked if they would intentionally do that on concrete, no one has ever answered in the affirmative.  If this is so, why is it practiced and trained in this manner?
  • The rate of concussions increase with the use of mats.  While I would always seek to have my head hit a mat rather than a wooden floor or concrete at the same speed, it seems the likelihood of a student being slammed down in a manner that his or her head whips back and strikes the ground is greater on mats than on other, less forgiving surfaces.  On hard, less “safe” surfaces, the participants seem to be less concerned with the realities of slamming each other into ground.

The use of mats as a training surface encourages methods and techniques that are not suitable for the real world application of a force response.  Martial arts “breakfalls,” where one slaps the surface of the mat, is an example of a non-street training response.  On the mat, the “slap” serves to increase the area of impact, lessening the effect of the fall.  While this seems to be a good idea, it fails the reality test.  Because officers work in an environment where there are uneven surfaces and obstacles, reaching out and slapping the ground hard may have serious consequences.  Slapping backward and hitting the forearm against the corner of a street curb has broken the bones of an officer’s forearm.  A breakfall slap resulted in an officer putting his hand through the glass of a sliding glass door with resulting life-threatening blood loss.  Less catastrophically, injured hands, arms, and elbows while breakfalling in the field is more common due to hitting objects unexpectedly.

Training On a Crowded Mat

There are benefits to training on a crowded mat, where others are being taken down around you, some are already on the ground, and still others are being helped up or being dominated on the ground.  Like the real world, the officer is required to develop awareness of his surroundings.  For instance, in the midst of taking a subject down by either the elbow or head, another person is suddenly put on the ground where you intended to take your partner.  Instead of freezing (or, worse, throwing your partner on top of the other person), you orient to the problem, change your angle of movement, and direct your partner to a new spot that is available.  Suddenly, from this crowded area, you have just been trained:

  • To have situational awareness.  You looked in the direction you were taking the subject.  You became aware of changes around you in your environment while other parts of your conscious awareness dealt with taking the subject down.
  • To react smoothly to changes in plan.  For example:  you and the subject were standing and he was grabbing at you.  You found the vacuum (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Move to the Vacuum©) and slipped to his flank (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Move in Angles and Circles©), grabbing his head (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Control the Head©).  You stepped at an angle (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Move to in Angles and Circles©), pulling his head closer to you (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Body Parts to Body Mass©) and, because your situational awareness was high, you took another step quickly, and then another (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Move to the Vacuum©), causing a directional change, and pulling him in a tight circle (Universal Principle of Combatives:  Move in Angles and Circles©), putting him face down on the ground (Universal Rule of Combatives:  Put All Resisting Suspects to the Ground©).
  • To work in confined areas through problem-solving.  With bodies all around working on their own problem-solving, you are constantly working on how to solve the problem you are faced with in an ever-changing environment.  At times in an actual combatives event, you will have to make several changes due to the environment, and this type of training prepares the officer for that inevitability.

Training Without a Mat

What if officers were trained without wrestling mats?  Beyond the fact of every risk manager in the country dying of stroke or apoplexy, and traditionalists voicing disbelief at the thought—especially the judo, jujitsu, martial artists, and wrestlers who form the bulk of the DT instructors—training without mats has been successfully accomplished for decades without undue injuries.  Envision a training area without mats, and what might be seen?

  • Officers would learn to fall properly and without fear of hard surfaces.  Let’s face it:  cops fall a lot.  Cops work in the dark and cover uneven surfaces and fall and trip more than most because of the situations they are placed in.  If all they have been trained to do is fall on soft, “safe” surfaces, they have not been trained to fall in their real world.  Being repeatedly taken down on concrete or carpeting over concrete creates a competency in working in their environment.
  • Officers will learn their takedowns better and more quickly.  If an officer can take a person to the ground without injury, it is a simple feat to take them down hard when it is justified.  A hard surface would create an incentive for the officer to protect his partner, causing them to land softly rather than dumping them on a mat because they can—mats create sloppy attitudes because there is little disincentive to do a proper takedown.
  • It creates fewer injuries because exuberant behavior and the resulting out-of-control takedowns and slamming around have easily foreseen consequences, where mats seem safe and purpose-built to slam other people.

Conclusion

Mats are a martial arts invention that originally permitted judo-players and Aikidoists to repeatedly take each other down hard.  Injuries result from improper landings, and it is a rare judoka or Aikido practitioner who does not have several stories of being injured from their own or other’s mistakes.  Because judo, jujitsu, and wrestling are sports played against a single opponent, and Aikido is a martial art with little martial application, there was a need to have a clear area for the partners to work in, just like the judo tournament or the Aikido dojo.

Law enforcement, however, is not a sport.  While a grand effort has been attempted for almost six decades to adapt Aikido to police training, it is an utter failure in its effective application on the street.  Jujitsu is the latest sport that is being introduced into law enforcement with predictable results—it just doesn’t work for cops.  It, like Aikido, is too complicated, requires too much training, is successful when the suspect patiently cooperates or is too fatigued or injured to resist any longer, and is not practical for the needs of the street.  All but a few dedicated individuals do not benefit from four to eight hours of jujitsu training they might receive per year.

The concept of a clear mat, in each of these sports or martial arts, from judo, jujitsu, wrestling, or Aikido, is not applicable to the working needs of a police officer.  Officers must be trained to deal with their environments.  By having a crowded mat, the officer must adapt to the changing needs of the floor as bodies appear or move.  Their situational awareness grows, serving them both on the training floor and on  the street where focusing solely on the takedown or the suspect may create a trip hazard, cause a suspect to be unintentionally thrown into an object and injured, or permit an associate of the suspect’s to blindside the officer who has not been trained to pay attention during defensive tactics training.

And, to the dismay of risk management and the sports-guys-slash-police-instructors out there, not having mats might be the best training surface of all for DT.

Scenario Role-Player Safety—Is it Time to Think About it?

by George on March 5, 2012 06:49

Scenario-based training and Force-on-Force drills within law enforcement training is, without question, the most effective training that personnel can receive—that is, if it is conducted in a manner that lends itself to increasing the decision-making skills of the individual.  There is a prevailing attitude that these exercises are “reality-based” and should be run “at street speed” in order to have any value.  Officers are generally instructed to “Handle it like you would on the street,” and they do.  The officers shoot the suspect role-player when they would, they take them down on the ground like they do on the street, and they generally respond with force against the role-player as they might on the street—with full power strikes.  However, this is not the street and the suspect role-player is not a suspect. 

Police force methods are, fundamentally, violent.  This violence, governed by law and policy and acted upon in the name of the People, must be objectively reasonable based on the totality of the facts known to the officer at the time.  And reasonable force causes injuries, sometimes severe injury, and even death to suspects.  The problem is, there are no “suspects” involved in criminal resistance or assault in the training exercise area.  There are only police instructors inside protective clothing or wearing impact suits (e.g., High Gear, FIST suits, Red Man Gear, etc.) who are playing a role for the benefit of the officer.  Asking an officer to respond with force “the way you would on the street” in this environment against these individuals is irresponsible and should not be acceptable in training.  Far too often, this type of training is conducted more like a “Fight Club” than a professional skill development exercise.

Serious injuries are common to the instructors acting as the suspect-role-player.  Getting into “protective impact suits,” these valuable and experienced instructors can be exposed to a dozen—and sometimes, up to twenty—high intensity defense scenarios over a short period of time—and sometimes up to four hours.  They get fatigued, beat up, and dehydrated during these training sessions.  It may take years of training evolutions before any single individual is finally injured and requires hospitalization, but every role-player who is involved in full-contact training is eventually badly injured, commonly suffering repetitive brain injuries, joint injuries requiring surgical repair, and/or broken bones.  If exposed to this level of intense violence as a role-player, severe injury is inevitable and a mathematical certainty.

  • ITEM:  During a defensive tactics scenario, the “suspect” role-player wearing a FIST suit, is bodily lifted, turned head down, and is shoved through the drywall between the wall studs, then released, falling to the ground, striking his head and neck.  Result:  Chronic pain and limited range of motion to the role-player’s neck.
  • ITEM:  During “multiple officer takedown” training, a highly athletic, extremely large and muscular “suspect” role-player in a High-Gear suit, is resisting being taken down by three officer-role-players in an academy who are desperately working to get this “monster” into custody.  During this unscripted and extended event, one of the officer-role-players, a former professional “Strong Man” competitor, knees the “suspect’s” leg.  Result:  The role-player’s patellar tendon is completely severed, leading to the 37-year old instructor’s forced retirement from law enforcement.  Because the injury occurred at the academy, it was determined the injury was not an “on-duty” injury.
  • ITEM:  A suspect-role-player in a High-Gear suit on a traffic stop scenario is obstructing the officer, and is properly sprayed with inert OC spray (water).  The “arresting officer” then grabs the officer and performs a violent takedown on the suspect-role-player, causing both to fall heavily to the asphalt.  Result:  the “officer” fell on the role-player’s elbow, dislocating and breaking the joint, requiring surgery and several months of rehab with the officer on light duty.
  • ITEM:  In an Active Shooter scenario, the suspect-role-player has been shot several times with Simunition FX marking cartridges and is going down to the ground.  One officer-role-player, a part-time SWAT officer, from a distance of four feet, begins firing rapidly at the “suspect’s” head, and then makes a “contact shot” with an AR15 to the suspect’s back as he is on the ground.  Result:  The role-player is hit in the neck with a round that penetrates his skin, and the contact shot penetrates the padded heavy canvas jacket he is wearing.
  • ITEM:  A suspect-role-player in a ground defense situation is repeatedly elbowed in the head with full power strikes by a much larger “officer” before safety personnel are able to intervene.  Result:  A severe concussion leading to a several weeks off work.

Brain injuries, dislocations, broken bones, being shot in unprotected areas (including the face) at close range by FX cartridges.  Each of these injuries can be career-ending, life-long chronic injuries to these valuable personnel.  Beyond the personal price these individuals pay in limited physical activities and pain, what is the cost to the agency in losing these valuable people?  These individuals’ training and experience cannot be duplicated without years of intensive development, yet these instructors are treated as if they are both indestructible (because they are wearing an impact suit) and disposable (using an asset as expensive and valuable as these individuals in an exercise where serious injury is eventually guaranteed).

Instructor Vulnerabilities to Injury Within the Scenario   

The instructors who offer up their bodies and their health to the officers they teach do so in the belief that they are preparing the officers for the realities of the violence they face.  Regardless of the protective system the instructor dons, he or she is still faced with the reality of being the “human inside the suit.”

The term, “protective gear,” “impact suit,” and other nomenclature is misleading.  While all of the common protective systems found in scenario-training will more or less protect the body and head from inadvertent contact, it cannot protect against:

Brain injury.  The helmet with incorporated face shield protects the face from being severely injured, bruised, and lacerated by blows from fists, elbows, knees, batons, and training cartridges fired at the head.  However, it does nothing to protect the brain from the cranial vault being accelerated, concussing the brain.  The rotational forces caused by a well-delivered strike that dramatically affect the brain’s health (resulting in a coup/contracoup injury) are unaffected by the helmet.  While a particular type of head protection may slightly decrease the likelihood of concussion, none can protect the instructor’s brain from full force strikes to the face or head.  

Joint injuries.  Even the heaviest of the impact suits, the FIST, cannot prevent severe, debilitating knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries caused by hyper-extension or over rotation.  Officers participating in full-contact training lose their balance; disbalanced human beings fall, and can and do fall through knee and elbow joints, creating lifelong injuries. 

Spinal injuries.  Being repeatedly combatively “thrown” to the ground (rather than being taken down) or thrown into objects eventually leads to serious impact injuries.  Being thrown to the ground and having the bodyweight of the also falling officer applied through to a twisted spine or while in an awkward position leads to lifelong back pain and possibly debilitating injury.  Neck injuries also fall into this category and are commonly seen when multiple officers are working against a resisting role-player.  Strikes to the helmeted head can also contribute to the neck injuries.

Student Mind-Set:  Part of the Problem

When faced with another officer who is dressed in an impact suit (F.I.S.T., High-Gear, or Red-Man), many officers believe that it signals a “green light, weapons free” situation where they are free to act with impunity with maximum force against the “armored” instructor.  “I react like I do on the street,” is commonly heard as their justification for any type of force or intensity directed at the armored role-player.  And they do, with full-powered strikes and sometimes vicious throws.  If the truth be told, sometimes these strikes and throws are even more ruthless than they might be on the street because there is certain knowledge the suspect-role-player will not injure them and there is no accountability as there will be following a force response against a suspect, with reports, citizen complaints, internal affairs investigations, and civil liability all possible—these very few officers, unlike the vast majority of officers, now have the opportunity to “tee off” on the padded instructor without repercussions.

To a great degree, it is understandable that officers confuse the bulky, heavily padded impact suits with imparting an invincibility to the instructor;  they look formidable and well protected.  If they have never been inside the suit and taken the full-power strike or have been recklessly thrown to the ground or into something, nothing in their experience would tell them that their fellow officer, the instructor acting as a role-player for their benefit, is taking cumulative injuries and may suffer profound, life-changing and limiting disabilities as a result of full contact combatives.  Almost all would cringe in self-recrimination if they understood how much their instructors pay for the officers’ training in pain and injuries.  And almost universally, these officers are dismayed when their actions result in severe injury to role-players.

Instructor Role-Player Mind-Set:  Part of the Problem

Instructors who put on the impact suit (the second time) and are repeatedly pummeled, thrown, or shot at close range with FX cartridges tend to be tough guys.  Tough guys, as a rule, disregard high levels of pain, suck up minor injuries, and stoically face serious injuries.  If asked about concerns of potential injury, they deny them, believing they are sufficiently skilled, padded, and possibly lucky enough to escape serious injury.

They also have their experience working against them—“I’ve never really been injured before and I’ve been through some intense training fights.”  Whether the injury is cumulative resulting from multiple events per training over years, or the result of a single blow or mistake (a fall or trip), the human body cannot be expected to emerge unscathed from full-contact training.  The problem with finding one’s limits to the punishment a body can sustain, is that the limits must be exceeded in order to determine where they are.  It is when limits are exceeded that the human body is severely damaged and must be repaired by surgery if possible, time, and rest if, indeed, it can be repaired at all.

Because they are tough guys, these instructors tend to get “back into the saddle” following a severe injury, surgery, and rehabilitation.  It is not unusual to find long time instructors who have had trauma-caused dental repair, multiple knee and elbow surgeries, and back and neck problems, including surgeries.  As they age, they tend to accumulate injuries similar to that of professional MMA fighters and NFL football players.

Is the Current Status Quo Providing Effective Training?

Officers require a degree of exposure to high-intensity combatives training in order to make better decisions within a force environment and gain expertise pre-event, something few would argue over.  The idea that all training should have “zero-injury” potential is not practical nor even desirable—even classroom training has seen injuries to participants through trip incidents and students falling off chairs.  Combatives training, from live-fire to mat work, carries with it some degree of risk.  The current widespread practice of unscripted, full-contact, high-intensity training in padded impact suits is a direct result of this belief.  Many are sacrificed in this activity in the pursuit of "effective training."

The question that is really on the table but no one wants to talk about is, "What is effective training when it comes to exposing officers to high-intensity combatives?"

The definition of "training" is the creation of standardized behavior.  During these full-contact, unscripted events, what is the specific standardized behavior being sought and created by the training iteration?  It is demonstrable and repeatable that prolonged, unscripted events do not result in a trained response by officers--they mostly resemble schoolyard fights.  If it is simply "The will to win," is that really being developed or just demonstrated?  Instead, this type of training results in what could loosely be called a "fight" with little training value

  • ITEM:  A police sergeant attended an 80-hour ground fighting "Train-the-Trainer" course at a very large agency that had adopted a famous martial arts family's program.  After attending a 5-day, 40-hour "user class," and 39 1/2 hours of the "Instructor's training class," he sat out the last exercise due to a fresh injury.  The class was instructed to go at each other "hard while keeping injuries down," and apply what they had learned.  The sergeant, observing the class of 30 instructors working "at speed" and with great effort, observed no trained techniques or methods during the total of 15 man-hours of total exercise time he witnessed.  His conclusion:  the class and the training was worthless--if an 80-hour intensive training failed to produce one trained application of what they had learned among 30 instructors, then no behavior had been changed, and therefore no training had taken place.  He went back and reported to his administration that while he had "fun" at the class, he deemed it a waste of his time to train his officers in this system.

These fights rarely result in anything resembling a trained force response, and generally do not resemble a police fight where police solutions are available to the officer.  What is the training value in this expenditure of police training resources?  Some will say that officers can "experience" a "fight" and so get more accustomed to the fluid events and changing violent circumstances.  While this may be valuable (and is, in my opinion) for an academy program within the first two weeks of a recruit's training--where a career ending injury involves less cost to both the agency and the officer--the training value is almost zero for a veteran officer given the high risk of injury and the lack of a specific trained behavioral changes that training should engender.  Training should focus in how to make combatives decisions and giving the officer repeated "looks" at certain circumstances so that orientation may more quickly take place.  Because the situation has become sufficiently familiar, it precipitates an in-time, on-time reasonable force response.  This creates a trained trip-wire response to those conditions as a result. 

Training is not, and should not be conducted in the spirit of a Fight Club, where two combatants grind it out to prove who is tougher.  Even "sparring" in professional boxing is not two guys just slugging it out.  The sparring partner is instructed to give the boxer specific keys, looks, and moves the trainer wants the boxer to react to within the context of an opposing fighter's actions.  Once the boxer is sufficiently schooled in a recognizing and reacting to a specific set of circumstances, the sparring begins and the context is presented over and over within the sparring session until the boxer is competent in his response to the given threat cues and actions of the opposing fighter.  Then the sparring changes to give him different cues to which the trainer wants him programmed. 

Until the agency's training staff develops a plan on what they believe their officers need to be able to recognize and competently respond to, brief the officers in classroom presentations, have them practice, drill in Force-on-Force (partner repeatedly demonstrates a threat cue or position to which the officer responds) to a level of individual competency, there is no reason to put on impact suits and slam each other around because the preliminary foundation of the training has not yet taken place.  Without a standard of behavior that is being changed or reinforced, training is not occurring and injuries are being risked for nothing other than the effort of doing something that may be fun. 

Are There Solutions to Injuries? 

The goal should be to reduce avoidable injuries while maintaining training coherence and effectiveness.  In order to achieve this, the following training and policy suggestions should be implemented:

Change the concept of Scenario Training.  As a testing mechanism of the officer’s orientation to threat cues and the officer’s reaction based on training, scenario-based training has no peer.  Scenarios are intended to test an officer’s decision-making, not their fighting ability.  Effective scenario training is not a Fight Club where officers are expected to prove their fighting prowess.  Unscripted “fights” between two or more officers will eventually lead to unscripted serious or even catastrophic injuries to any or all of the participants, sometimes with monotonous regularity.  Scenarios, because they are about an officer’s decision-making, should be halted when the officer makes the decision to go hands on, take the suspect down, employ a Taser, resort to a baton, etc.  From this point, training can move to the training floor where the defensive tactics, takedowns, batons, etc., may be practiced.

Recognize that all training is fake.  Tony Blauer once said that all training is fake, but it is our job to make it as real as possible.  “Real” does not mean full power, full-contact, focused blows on a live training partner.  “Real” means high-intensity, time-compressed decision-making, transitioning quickly from one to another intensity of action.  Proficiency is achieved through competent repetition, that is, by performing actions, e.g., a takedown or escape, and repeated with sufficient conscious repetitions until there is “unconscious competence.”  This training effort will create a greater competency in performing the takedown than any full-speed, full-contact, unscripted fight will ever do.  What the padded instructor is perfectly suited to do is to help the officer recognize the “transition point,” or when the suspect is vulnerable to a takedown.  This is set up by putting the officer into a situation where he begins to recognize the circumstances needed for a successful takedown, and through repetition, begins to more quickly orient to this fact.  This creates a trained response that will be applicable in a real life fight that rolling around and swinging mindlessly at a padded instructor at maximum muscular exertion levels will never accomplish.  One is training, the other is “fun” if no one gets hurt.  The training has future value.  The fun activity has much less training value, and has high risk to one or both of the participants.

Required reasonable force response during training.  Police officers on the street, facing actual suspects who act with malicious intent for nefarious purposes to actually harm or murder the officer, are required to respond with objectively reasonable force to the officer’s perception of threatening suspect behavior and/or resistance.  No less should be required of the officer in training.  Any reckless or intentional behavior or action deemed by instructional staff that could or actually does lead to an injury will be formally reported up the chain of command for appropriate action, retraining, or discipline.

Severely limit force against instructors.  A vigorous force response against a padded instructor should be limited to one prescribed mini-scenario where the lesson, whether it is a component of a takedown, responding to being tackled, etc., and full-power strikes should not be part of the lesson.  The purpose for the impact suit is to protect against inadvertent strikes rather than making the instructor a padded punching dummy.  The use of this training tool is intended to work on transition points where officers must change gears mentally and come up from zero to 100  mph in tenths of a second.  Drills should not be permitted to last more than a couple of seconds, and are never a matter of allowing the combatants to “work it out” in a prolonged, high intensity effort.

All safety rules must be adhered to.  FX cartridges have published minimum safety distances for a reason:  they are powder actuated, projectile launching systems that must be expected to penetrate the skin if fired from close range.  Any disregard of the safety protocols cannot be tolerated.  This includes safety equipment malfunction, e.g., a face mask or helmet is dislodged, resulting in the role-player being unprotected should result in an immediate cessation of training by training staff as well as self-initiated by the officer role-player(s).  It is hard to believe that any training scenario could be so emotionally threatening that the officer role-player, upon seeing the instructor/suspect role-player on the ground three feet away with his helmet having fallen off, could not recognize a safety threat to the role-player and self-terminate the scenario.  There is no reason why a role-player, after having his helmet fall off, should be shot in the face by a rifle loaded with an FX cartridge from three feet away—this is simply recklessness and disregard of the safety of that role-player, and should not be tolerated.  The intentional violation of safety rules should be a disciplinary offense.  This, of course, must be supported by Police Administration and the police union—it is, after all, their member who was injured by this action.

Conclusion

Proponents of full-contact in-service training tout they are training officers how to “actually fight” on the street.  Nothing could be further from the truth:

Padded suspect role-players pull punches, kicks, and strikes, so “officers” don’t pay for errors like they would on the street.  In those few programs where the training staff’s egos are the driving force and both the instructors and the officers are suited up, it is often seen as blood sport for the skilled instructors in beating down the officers “to give them a taste of what they face if they don’t improve their skills.”  High injury rates in participants are often seen as a result of this type of program.

These extended fights detrain officers by emphasizing tournament and MMA-style wrestling bouts interspersed with blows, rather than working to police solutions based on law and policy.  This creates officers who think in “boxes” during a force response event rather than as a whole police officer who has access to various weapons and whom the law permits a wide variety of responses other than muscular control efforts.

This training de-emphasizes critical decision-making while reinforcing muscular effort as a survival strategy.  While this is fine for the few large, strong males who tend to be stronger than the suspects they arrest as well as the few highly trained martial artists in the agency, those officers not fitting into those two categories are poorly served and, indeed, are harmed by extended wrestling bouts.  They require training emphasizing police solutions within the police mission and force permitted by law.

It ignores the risks of serious, extended, or even career-ending injury to invaluable personnel whose extensive training and years of experience are extremely difficult—and very expensive—to replace.

It cannot be said enough:  employing violent measures against a human body is designed to injure, incapacitate, and sometimes kill that person, and full-speed, full-contact, uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) fights between officers in training, even though “protected” by an impact suit, will eventually result in moderate to severe injury, and the possible loss of career.

While these instructors who continually don the training suits and step into the cauldron of ten, fifteen, or even twenty extended full-speed, full-contact fights in a single training session are the very definition of “tough guys,” it must also acknowledged that tough guys tend to deny the reality of their own mortality and physical vulnerability to injury.  Many of these instructors are in their mid-20s and into their 30s and have yet to experience serious injury.  Even if they have, they are tough guys, and they get back into the saddle usually well before their injuries are fully healed.

Before the advent of modern padded training suits, I participated for a number of years as a suspect in full-contact, full-power training with officers employing wooden batons (for informational purposes:  cocobolo batons suck!).  A football helmet, shoulder pads, baseball catcher’s chest protector, elbow pads, hockey gloves, hockey pants and padding, and baseball catcher’s knee and shin guards (not to mention a protective groin cup) rounded out my protective ensemble.  More than a few strikes were narrowly contained by the helmet’s face mask.  Later it was a FIST Suit and ASP batons—a little more coverage, but similar results.  Ten officers at a time, three “fights” each, with the fight going until they were able to strike me sufficiently well to either get me to stop (hand strikes were often fight-stoppers) or until it was apparent that the power of their strikes and volume would likely stop an unpadded subject—that’s 30 “fights” in a row, folks.  For next couple of days, the body didn’t work so well.  I still carry evidence of this lunacy in the form of two bone chips, one in my elbow and one in my ankle.  I was lucky to get out of this with just these modest daily reminders, having experienced a couple of concussions, multiple sprains, and massive, spectacular bruising all over my unprotected parts.  I remember a lot of ice and limping from these days.

Training must evolve.  These impact suits have been in the police training world for the last 20-plus years.  It is time to come out of the dark ages and to engage in training providing increased expertise to our officers while carrying less risk both to them and to the instructors who so selflessly offer their health and safety in service to the officers they train.  It is only out of this sense of service and the instructor’s rational and very real belief in the urgency of preparing the officer to meet the needs of the profession that makes the sacrifices each instructor makes worth the risk to their health.  However, when these very real sacrifices do not further the training mission, and the officers’ capabilities these efforts are intended to benefit actually lessen in the real world of successfully fighting suspects, it is time for the tough guys to change the way they train.

Violence breaks people.  Even instructors in padded suits are broken when the body parts inside the suit are stressed beyond their physical limits.  If NFL teams limit full-contact scrimmages to pre-season practices because of the risk of injury (and quarterbacks are ALWAYS red-shirted, or off-limits), it only makes sense that law enforcement should do the same.  Highly scripted, high-intensity, short duration full-speed drills are where officers gain the benefit of decision-making and programmed reactions (motor neural scripts).  This is where training with impact suits is really beneficial. 

Abandon "Techniques" All Ye Who Train Combatives

by George on January 15, 2012 11:44

“With a technique, it’s like I have a bunch of strings that I have tie together to get anything to work, but a fight happens too fast to do that.  With this principle-based fighting, it’s like I have a ball of string and let it fall, and then I just follow the string wherever it takes me, and it flows.”                                    CPL Nicholas Wankasky, USMC

When it comes to a defensive tactics or combatives program for the police, I must respectfully disagree with any content that is "technique-based," which includes any Aikido, jujitsu, or other martial art-based program.  If it is "technique-based," it requires suspect compliance to be successful, it takes too much time to function effectively, locks in the user's attentional focus, it is too complicated for officers to employ, and it wastes valuable and limited training time. The only training that officers--or any armed professional--should receive is "principle-based" training based on how humans actually function in a real world combatives environment.

 

What is a technique and what is the problem?

 A "technique" is sequence-dependent series of connected actions that are functionally and inextricably tied together: the first move must be completed and successful for the second section of the technique to work, which must be successful for the third and each successive link in the chain to function until the technique is "complete."  Any interruption in the chain of individual moves making up the whole of the technique breaks the chain and the technique fails.  Any imperfection in the angles of movement (whether that is the officer's movement or the suspect's), and the technique cannot be completed.  Any hesitation in the application of the sequence of moves within the technique means the technique fails.  Because fights are unpredictable, involving a minimum of two individuals who each have completely opposing competing interests, the person against whom the technique is being applied is motivated to disrupt the sequence, either intentionally if it is recognized in time to counter it, or unintentionally through simple resistance.  It is most often through this simple resistance that a technique is foiled.

PROBLEM:  Techniques lack internal and external flexibility.  In any fight, the ability to adapt to the instant-by-instant changes in the status quo between the opponents is vital to success.  It is the dependence upon the proper and exact sequence of moves and angles that prevents any flexibility within the technique that disqualifyies this concept of training.  Internally, the movements are ordered, from the first to the last.  There is no room within the technique to adapt to the changing circumstances.  It's like a light switch, not a rheostat--it's either on or off.  The technique works only one way.  This inflexibility limits techniques externally, eliminating any chance of the technique being applied if the exact circumstances are not present for that particular technique.  Minute changes in the suspect's body angle or distance will cause a technique that is already in process to fail.  Once it is being applied, the technique requires the same circumstances from start to completion.  Any change, whether in the sequence or in the circumstances, causes the technique to fail.

PROBLEM:  Techniques take time that just isn't there in a fight. Every technique takes time to achieve this linking of the individual moves within the technique while that the suspect is actively working to limit the time to apply the technique.  In OODA terms, the officer must observe and orient to a suspect being vulnerable to a specific technique (this first requires an officer to be familiar enough with his catalog of varying and individual techniques to be recognize the situational vulnerability).  He must then decide which technique to employ, and then act on that decision.  With any resistance or aggression at all, the suspect will cause the officer to fail in successfully applying that technique.

We must remember that all humans actions within a fight function under the following formula, reaction time plus motor time equals response time, and are further limited due to other human factors.  The officer must react to the vulnerability and employ the correct series of techniques against the suspect who has his own agenda, drives, and will.  The recognition-time, decision-time, and pre-physical initiation time of the officer eats up window of opportunity when the suspect is vulnerable to the "technique"--the suspect is moving moment-by-moment and the situation is changing.  The motor time of a "simple" four-step technique would be measured from the time the officer begins to initiate the first movement to its completion, plus the completion of the second move, and so on through to the completed series of actions of the entire technique.  While efforting the movements of the particular technique, the officer is functionally blind to any changes in the status quo created by the suspect moving and countering the technique.  Techniques create "target-focus" (the officer is focused on the sequence and body parts grabbed, struck, angles of movement, etc.).  The officer is also "goal directed" as he attempting to execute the decision to apply the series of movements. Attentional load under survival stress (a physical confrontation) prevents a typically trained officer from breaking from the efforting of the goal of applying the technique--tenths of seconds tick by with the officer unable to see or be aware of anything the suspect is doing other than the "technique is not working." These human factors limitations put the officer way behind the suspect in the fight--the officer is still fighting to apply the technique but the fight has moved on and the suspect is generating other problems for the officer that he just cannot see because his attention is focused on fighting for a rapidly diminishing position.

PROBLEM:  Too complicated.  An Aikido-, jujitsu-, or martial art-based involving multiple techniques intended to be applied in a rapidly evolving, threat filled fight is by definition a failed system.  Fighting with "techniques" is extremely skill intensive.  The officer must be highly trained in the techniques of the system.  This training must be to "mastery" of the techniques as well as have sufficiently implanted the pattern-recognition needed for the instantaneous orientation and selection of the particular technique applicable within that individualized context of this moment in the fight.

The question must be asked:  "If it takes ten or more years to develop the capability of instant application of technique-based fighting methods in the UFC, how long does it take to train to street competency in technique-based systems?"  Most cops get, at most, 80-hours in the academy. Only a few agencies provide 16-hours of DT/ year (to include carotid restraint, ground combatives, impact weapons, etc.).  So how is any "average" cop going to learn and be able to apply a system of X-number of techniques that all must be "properly" applied to be effective? Experiences shows that they cannot.  In our DT classes, we ask, "How many of you have been able to successfully put a wrist lock/limb restraint on a fresh, resistive suspect without them being able to escape?"  Very few in over 15,000 have raised their hands. For those who do, ALL have been instructors, and all but a couple have admitted that it only worked once or twice in their careers.  Same-same with "takedowns to a cuffing position" when the suspect continues to resist on the ground--only one instructor who insisted that every suspect he's ever taken down was instantly put into a cuffing position.  What this means is that cops cannot apply technique-based methods in the real world away from cooperative partners.

PROBLEM:  Attribute-based.  The ability to apply technqiue-based fighting methods is also "attribute-based."  Attributes are the individual physical, mental, and psychological strengths and weaknesses any person brings the table.  Many look to the UFC-style Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) champions and use them as an example of what officers' training should be.  After all, isn't the octagon the best proving ground there is for what works and what doesn't?  First, the individuals competing in these MMA events are the best athletes in their sport--this means Olympic quality skills, strength, and reflexes. They generally have a decade or more of intensive training where their narrow-focus pattern-matching and recognition skills have been honed by the best coaches possible.  The activity inside the octagon is not a "fight."  It is a sport contest with inflexible safety rules, a referee, medics standing by, and a pat-down immediately prior to the contest ensuring none of the participants are armed with a deadly weapon.  Not one death has occurred in the UFC to date, despite the many knockouts that take place.  These, some of the most functionally fit individuals in the history of the world, with skills and reflexes beyond the comprehension of most average humans, do not represent the reality of fighting on the street.  Nor does it represent police officers working the streets.  While these people range in their attributes from below average to high-functioning athletes, most officers represent the athletic attributes of an average human being.

PROBLEM:  Wastes training time.  It is a universal truth:  cops hate defensive tactics training.  Instructors like to discuss among themselves that cops are "lazy, unmotivated, not interested in saving their lives," and other less-than-flattering descriptors.  However, the truth is worse and hard to face for those who love their complicated, technique-based DT program:  Instructors and their complicated systems create officers who hate to train.

No police officer walks into the academy and doesn't want to learn how to defend themselves against an assault, and how to put their hands on a suspect to take them into custody.  All initially enter the gym bright-eyed only to be confronted with a technical system which some find fascinating but most find daunting.  This dauntingness soon leads to dismay as the recruits are told they are being graded on whether or not they execute each of the dozens or more techniques "properly."  Many practice in their extremely limited "personal time" with fellow recruits trying to get the exact sequence, angles, and movements down.  Most squeak by on their final exam.  If a test were to be required in 8 weeks, how many would pass the same test without extensive study prior to the examination?  In 12 weeks?  How about a year?

Next, the officer is in Field Training.  The first application of a limb restraint works just like in the academy--as long as that first suspect is cooperative, like 99% of suspects being arrested (per DOJ BJS).  Upon the first resistive suspect, the limb restraint fails, and depending upon the reasonableness of the FTO, the trainee is either counseled and receives low marks on their Daily Observation Report, or reality is noted and there is no penalty for attempting policing with techniques that fail when they need to work.  Now the officer passes Field Training, and is working solo patrol.  No matter how many times a limb restraint technique is attempted and fails, the officer continues to attempt what he or she was taught--meeting the definition of insanity (attempting to do the same thing over and over again and each time expecting a different result).  The first in-service DT class as an officer often finds the young officer (likely still on probation with all the uncertainty that status engenders) fervently attempting to understand and apply the myriad techniques the agency instructor is presenting.  The officer is bruised, twisted, and strained, and spends several days healing, limping, and groaning from overuse or slight-to-moderate injuries as he or she pushes the patrol car and responds to calls for service.  Overwhelmed with the complication and the inability to apply it "like the instructor" or in anything remotely resembling a realistic street application, frustration builds.  Insanity in the field continues (attempting over and over again to apply techniques on suspects who refuse to wait around for the officer to finish the executing technique and failing to perform as advertised and trained), the officer soon grows disenchanted with spending any time in training that simply reinforces his or her "failure" and causes needless injury and pain.  This valuable survival skill and the time devoted to it is wasted because "training" cannot occur if the officer does not want to participate.  If there is no perception of value by the officer who is just trying to survive through DT classes with the most minimal participation, we are wasting training dollars, training time, and needlessly exposing valuable personnel to potential injury.

The question is often then asked, if not "techniques," then what do I teach my officers?

Officers learn best when they are trained to fight like a human being actually functions in a fight.  We fight by problem-solving.  This type of combatives training relies upon "contextually correct" training that mimics the human fighting methods.  Cutting Edge Training's "Effective Combatives Problem-Solving©" doctrine provides just that--training within the context of the human being in a police fight.  This briefly encompasses:

  • Problem-solving:  officers are trained via adult learning theory.  Participants are permitted to experiment with their own reasonable solutions to their defense problems.  Rather than an instructor giving the officer the solution (which is the "instructor's solution reflecting only that instructor's unique attributes, experience, skills, aptitude, etc.), the student's solution is based on their own individual capabilities and attributes.   Critics complain that officers cannot be left to their own devices and be permitted to run willy-nilly through the streets solving their defense and control problems with their own solutions.  However, the reality is that technique-trained officers routinely fail to apply the techniques they were trained in because the techniques themselves fail in the reality of the conflict, and officers (actually, all humans) universally and reasonably solve their own problems in a combative environment.
  • Universal Rules and Principles of Combatives.©  These Rules and Principles are universal in the human experience of combatives methods, and are the core consistencies upon which all effective fighting means are based.  The Rules are intrinsic to every physical conflict and represent goals and qualities that more common sensical, while the individual Principles are tactically applied as needed.  The Principles represent the "primal blueprint" that all humans operate within--those responses and hard-wired actions that humans employ in a threat incident that have caused humans to survive from the beginning of life.  Rather than the impossible task of attempting to train these primal responses out of an officer, the Universal Rules and Principles of Combatives recognize the advantages of the primal blueprint and assists the officers in how to consciously apply it.
  • Simple skills.  Avoiding any type of technique, Integrated Combatives Problem-Solving© employs simple, gross-motor "skills."  Skills are single movements executed upon decision.  They involve single movements such as a grab, pull, punch, kick, etc.  While any motor skill takes "movement time" (whether a "technique" or a "skill"), the skill is more "timing" dependent (requiring the officer to time the skill properly so that the skill affects the target), it is less "time" dependent (requiring a duration of time to employ to be effective or successful).  Gross-motor, simple skills are more likely to be successfully employed and applied in a combatives event.
  • Reasonable within the law and policy.  All officer solutions within training is required to be 4th Amendment-based and justified.  Regardless of the officer's particular solution on the mat, like that on the street, the officer must problem-solve in a manner that this justifiable and defensible.
  • Tactically sound.  It is imperative to maintain coherency with the "Univeral Tactical Principles"© doctrine.  Any system of training that fails to maintain safe tactics as a foundation only creates confusion with resulting injuries and death. 
  • OODA and Human Factors Compliant.  The problem-solving must be in context with how humans actually function in the combatives threat environment.  Beliefs about what officers "should" be able to do must not conflict with what humans are actually able to perform.

Conclusion

Technique-based training is, simply, an antiquated method of training.  If approached with an open mind, technical training involving dozens or even hundreds of individual techniques that must be performed sequentially and properly cannot be justified any longer as a training method for any armed professional.  Techniques are too complicated, take too learn to learn, and too long to apply if they are remembered in time, to be effective on the street.

The message is clear:  Abandon techniques.  It is truly the dawn of the principle-based training system--something human factors research is proving over and over again.

Defensive Tactics / Combatives: MMA or Fighting Like a Cop?

by Tom on June 4, 2009 08:52

As your agency’s defensive tactics or force response trainer, you are undoubtedly the “go-to”-guy or gal on all things pertaining to force.  For this reason, it is vital that you are completely clear that the program of training for your cops can actually be applied by your cops.  Training your officers in the latest, most popular program out there must not be based on something because it is cool.  Everything you teach must have relevancy on the street--where it is going to matter the most.

With the growing popularity and mainstreaming of events like the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), Pride Fighting Championship, and similar events, there has been a large movement in DT circles to adopt the training approach from Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a realistic way to train officers.  At first glance this approach may make sense, but a more careful analysis of the needs of the police officer on the street reveals serious weaknesses in using MMA training as a foundation for training officers.

There is no question that when watching MMA events, one is presented with some of the most talented and dangerous people on the planet.  The level of toughness, technical skill, and determination that makes these fighters who they are is something to behold with the utmost respect.  Because these athletes compete in a sport mimicking a level of violence that is kindred to the violence facing our uniformed warriors, the MMA approach to training for combat is highly touted as a truly viable method for training our police officers (and even our soldiers) as a response to the level of violence that they may face while performing their duties. 

Because of the sport’s growing popularity, officers are now finding themselves with the unhappy task of arresting better trained, physically talented combatants.  This leads well-meaning trainers to believe that by training the officers in MMA, it gives the officer a better chance of prevailing if he/she knows what the fighter knows. 

While much can be learned from the mixed martial arts as currently practiced in the highest levels, the  all-around, comprehensive nature of MMA skills that makes it seemingly desirable, actually makes it impractical for training the “average” cop to survive.  For the “average” cop, police training program development has to consider things that the “average” MMA fighter would never face.  Limitations such as minimal training time, limited attributes (“attributes” are everything the officer physically and mentally brings to the fight) and most importantly…is it going to work when they are tired, injured and scared—and haven’t had any DT training for a year?  These are not concepts the MMA’er ever thinks about, but police trainers must. 

When the cop’s reality of “This has to work or I may die” is compared to the training requirements needed to be just an average MMA competitor where nothing is on the line other than pride, it is easy to find they are two different worlds that share very little context.  The question of training officers to “fight like the MMA-fighter or to fight like a cop” takes on a whole new meaning.

Minimal Training Time

As a defensive tactics instructor, wouldn’t it be great if you had 40…60…or even 80-hours of in-service training time with each officer just for DT?  Reality check:  you are lucky you have 4 to 8-hours of DT training annually.  A really forward thinking agency may permit 16-hours a year.  Most competitive MMA fighters train 2-3 hours daily, and top level fighters often train 4-6 hours daily.  This is required to hone their proficiency in every skill domain they need to compete.  Even at these training levels, we see fighters who are destroyed in the ring by other fighters.  Do the math.  Competitive MMA fighters put in your yearly allotment of training time in less than a week.  Those who just train “for fun” three times per week will have the equivalent of your agency’s training time within two to three weeks.

 So then how does an officer who may train once a year for 4-16 hours expect to fare against a better trained athlete using the same approach?  MMA by design is a technically-based skill set that often takes an athlete months of intensive practice to even begin to solidify the basics.  Officers, unless training on their own, just can’t develop the skills to even begin to match amateur fighters mano a mano, using the same approach to fighting.  Training your officers to match skill sets with those who have superior training is a recipe for disaster.

Limited Attributes

The thing that is overlooked when watching a highly competitive MMA fighter is that you are not just witnessing a “skilled” fighter, but also an exceptional athlete.  The men and women (females are doing it too...and are good at it) that participate in these fighting exhibitions have attributes that many people in the general population do not have.  They have inherent traits of agility, balance, and coordination.  These natural traits have been further developed and honed to razor sharp perfection.  Most cops on the other hand are not physically gifted athletes—they are just average folk with average athletic abilities.

This is not to say that there are not cops who are physically gifted or are not or could not be great fighters.  If most were gifted with the attributes to be great fighters, they would probably be professional fighters and not the great cops they are.  Our reality as trainers is that most cops view physical skills training as something that they are required to do, and not something that they want to do.  Without a great desire to train in complex skills, MMA-based training for the police makes their already limited “attribute set” a further hindrance to effective employment.

So what is the solution for the officer who must survive when all is on the line, although training time and attributes are far from ideal?  We say “Train to Fight like a Cop.”

Fighting Like a Cop

Your job as a trainer of cops is to prepare them for the street.  It is not a contest; there are no trophies for “winning.”  Winning means they go home or don’t—they live or die.  They might also do a great job in the fight and still get sued.  That’s the game cops play.

It is your job to teach your officers to utilize every reasonable means within the law to get done what they need to do in the fight.  Fighting like a cop first means knowing the law.  The better they know the law, the more they are intimately familiar with what they can do and when they can do it.  This knowledge permits them to respond immediately to threat with reasonable tools.  It may mean that shooting someone who is attempting to “submit” an officer and putting them in reasonable fear of being seriously injured would be a reasonable response. 

The tools your cops carry(handgun, knife, OC, baton and taser) are not just stuff to be carried around.  The law permits, given a reasonable perception of threat based on suspect behavior, officers to employ those tools to protect themselves and others, and to take offenders into custody.  Thinking that officers should be trained to meet a trained threat with a similarly trained response is a misunderstanding and a misapplication of the mission and force law governing these contacts.  All defensive tactics problems cannot be solved with defensive tactics.

While the practice of MMA has a place, as trainers we have to be careful that we give our warriors training that is within the context of their job needs.  It lies in providing them with the right tool box filled with achievable skills for the right situation.  Because of the institutional limitations we have as trainers, every moment we spend with our people has to be relevant to their immediate survival needs.  All training must result in a defensible response by the officer.  It must also be simple enough to be effective over a long period of time.  This is what fighting like a cop is all about...Simple...Legal...Effective.  MMA-style training is simply not appropriate for general police training programs.