Cutting Edge Training

America’s Combatives and Liability Trainer Training With Real-World Impact

DT as OJT Rather Than High-Intensity Recurring Training

by George on February 17, 2014 16:18

There is always a lot of complaining by police defensive tactics instructors that officers don't like to train and there is not enough time to train to gain a high level of competency in DT.  They argue that these skills are highly perishable and without frequent and recurrent training, there is no way to build capability in the average officer. 

There are two ways of gaining expertise and overcoming the problem of perishability in high skill training. Sufficient training time and commitment to instill in the schema those highly evolved movements and skills is but one way.  Training time is expensive and many agencies struggle to meet minimum staffing for their shifts.  Intensive, recurring training requires either high budgetary commitment, high personal effort and time commitment, or both.

The other way, within current budgetary constraints (and reality), is to provide training the officers will use every day, thereby gaining OJT (on the job training). If principle-based training is indeed primally hardwired into our human blueprint, then EVERY TIME a police officer puts hands on a subject, that principle-based training is reinforced (in essence, practiced). 

For a simple example, a not-yet resistive but nominally non-compliant subject is not going along with the program and the officer is legally justified to put hands on him.  The officer step in at an angle (Principle of Combatives: Step in angles and circles), takes hold of the subject’s elbow (Principles of Combatives:  Constantly target seek and Always put reasonable weapons to reasonable open targets), and then likely presses the elbow against the officer’s torso (Principle of Combatives: Put body parts to body mass—or closer-stronger).  Now the officer moves his/her body and the suspect must contend with his elbow being affected by not only the officer’s strength but also the officer’s weight.  Greater level of success and effectiveness.

How did the officer know do to this?  Because the officer learned through Universal Principles of Combatives drills that they gain success through grabbing the elbow with both hands and pulling the elbow into their body rather than playing wrist games and control holds with suspect which is generally ineffective against someone of similar size and strength who doesn’t want to play with the nice officer holding his arm.  Soon, everything the officer touches is pulled into their bodies (or their bodies go to the object/limb/suspect body part) as a matter of habit with little or no thought because the officer is stronger and more effective, gaining a history of success that pays off when one day the suspect draws a gun and shoves it into the officer’s chest. The officer immediately defends by slapping and then does what?  Grabs the gun-arm and pulls it into his chest (paying attention to the muzzle direction).  Then the cop solves the problem however that looks for them. 

So every time the officer puts hands on someone to arrest, to control (a false concept, BTW), or gets into a small tussle or big fight, the primal blueprint is reinforced and solved through the Universal Principle of Combatives. OJT serves as a primary training vehicle as each officer problem-solves through the day, discovering what works and what does not for THAT OFFICER.  Work becomes the repetitions necessary for greater mastery and a source for unconscious competence because there’s little to “remember” and perform other than just doing what my body does before big, strong, athletic, uninjured, well-trained men taught me how to fight like them.

Our experience in those agencies adopting the principle-based problem-solving concept is that officers begin to enjoy DT training because it becomes relevant and not a source of failure to them.  Think about your own reaction to classes where the instructor is busy telling you about all of the virtues of his/her program and it just not relevant or practical to your job.  Except you are now forced to make a physical effort where you will be put in pain, be exposed to injury, and be forced to practice complicated procedures you can’t remember how to do within hours or days and will never try against someone trying to injure you. If you failed at something every time, how excited would you be about going to training, getting sweaty and sore and possibly injured?  You’d become a “slug,” a “whiner,” and a “complainer.” 

Instead, when it is relevant and you can gain success that fits your physical, mental, and emotional needs in that very scary situation where not only can you be injured or killed, but your personal reputation as a cop is on the line, then training becomes something you can look forward to. 

If your cops are avoiding DT training or showing little enthusiasm while on the floor, maybe look at the program you are teaching and not at them.  Not a single cop I’ve ever met in 33+ years went into LE not wanting to be well-trained.  We, instructors, turned them away from training.  When we provide relevant training they can be successful with, that changes their enthusiasm.  They actually look forward to training and become willing to make efforts during instruction because they know it will work on the street for them.   

Changing from Technique-Based to Integrated Combatives Problem-Solving

by George on February 17, 2014 16:05

How does an instructor, much less an agency or even an industry change from teaching ineffective, prescriptive, and technique-based defensive tactics training to one that comports with the recent research into human factors and the need for principle-based training?  It first begins with growing as a person and an instructor, and changing the concept of what an instructor is in relation to the students.  However, this change from technique-based training where the instructor is the go-to authority and transitioning into principle-based and student-centric problem-solving is fraught with huge obstacles for the individual seeking to change, much less changing an industry's orientation to DT.

The Journey (please bear with me on this part because there is a point—and it is not about me): 

I began by teaching cops a martial arts-based DT program. Shockingly, I soon found veteran cops looked no different than white belts and progressed at the same rate of expertise requiring years of dedicated training they didn’t have. I'd been experimenting with foundational principles asking myself if was there a commonality between the conceptual foundation within the essence of techniques? So I began a trial and error process with rudimentary understanding of principles. A refinement process of the program took place over years that wholly challenged my entire orientation to what I was doing.  It required me to step completely outside of the comfort and personal egotism of being THE authority and TEACHING THE ANSWER. The truth is, I knew down deep it wasn't THE answer because they--hell, I couldn't--apply the technique in real life against a real person who wanted to hurt me.

The first big breakthrough came when I attempted to defend against a subject who was under the influence of PCP into custody. NOTHING worked (all of you who have had this experience just smiled knowingly).  He left in an ambulance with six broken bones and a knee and elbow that needed surgical repair that he didn't notice.  This fight took minutes and left five of us bent over breathing hard with rubbery muscles. That was my come-to-Jesus moment about techniques and fighting.

In that fight I was just like every weak, out of shape, non-hacking cop who hated DT training (more on that later) that I'd ever taught. I felt like a failure because all of my training and abilities developed over a decade was worthless. I punched him, kicked him, wrenched joints out of sockets, felt bones give way and still he kept coming until the cavalry arrived--and no, the carotid restraint didn't work and what was a TASER in those days?  I resolved to never teach again because I couldn't live with the fact that I was a fraud.  Sure I could fight with other “trained” fighters, but in the “real world,” what I knew didn’t work.

I woke up a day or two later, sore, realizing that every technique I tried, and the other guys later attempted, failed because this guy didn't give us the chance to have the technique unfold. That rather than what I had been taught and was teaching that fighting was a logical progression of application of technique to handcuffs or victory, that fight and every fight that lasted more than one or two punches was, instead, prosecuted through problem-solving process!!! And that I had actually gotten through that fight until we had enough bodies to overwhelm him through a primal application of some of the principles I'd been teaching my cops. It was then things began moving fast in developing a principle-based, problem-solving, non-technical DT concept/program. The program was completely overhauled.

I later took a job at a state training facility where I had 60 veteran officers from all over the state, country, and foreign countries for a week of training.  I eventually had them for 8 hours of DT, 12 hours of firearms, 4 hours of building search, 8 hours of scenario training out of the 40 hours (which is where the concept of integrating all training under principle-based concepts and tactics took hold for me).  With this population as my lab rats, I was able to get feedback from veteran officers about what was relevant and (a lot) about what sucked (they weren't shy).  Refinement led to refinement. I then took a job as a civilian trainer at a PD where I had my own captive lab rats.  Even more refinement took place. 

After a few years, my wife and I decided to go into the private sector.  I was busy running around thinking I was teaching ONLY principle-based DT with NO techniques until Thomas Benge came on to our staff.  Big Tom, after a couple of years of my mentoring, asked me, "Do you realize you are teaching techniques?" I didn’t say it, but inside I thought, “WTF?” I wanted to be offended, probably because of the truth of that statement sucked the air out of me. As he explained his concerns, I realized at that moment that while I was preaching principles and problem-solving, there was a large portion of program that was being advertised as principle-based but was actually being taught through the vehicle of techniques.

I was embarrassed and very troubled. Tom and I went back to the drawing board and I realized what he said was true.  So we became radical in our non-technical instruction. At this level of my understanding (which may not represent the “Truth” with a capital “T”), we have no techniques at all in our system: principle-based problem-solving employing simple, uncomplicated, primally blueprinted, hardwired, human-based solutions that officers find through their own efforts on the floor.

The Point?

Go back to the first paragraph about huge obstacles in changing individual and industry paradigms.  It took me almost 20 years of development and thinking that I was teaching principles only to find that I was still teaching from a prescriptive perspective via "techniques" made up to look like principles and problem-solving.  Why?  Because the technique handed down by the instructor who is the all-knowing-authority-with-the-answers was so deeply embedded in my understanding of instruction that I couldn't see my cognitive dissonance.  Without Tom's insight and courage to challenge and confront me, I would likely still be spouting off the techniques as principles.

I mean no disrespect to anyone because I have been there and done that on this journey.  With that said (and it is heartfelt), I have been on training floors, or I've seen videos, of individuals who are incredibly well-versed and grounded in human factors concepts--even to the point of being able to speak to Ph.D researchers nearly as peers--who still are hup-hup-hupping techniques on their training floors or firing ranges. In fact, I know and completely respect a researcher who also fits this description of knowing human factors inside and out and still advocating techniques in training.

Why is there such a cognitive disconnect between what we know to be true (human factors, the ineffectiveness of techniques/prescriptive training, how humans actually fight, etc.) and what we actually do on the training floor and the range and in officer safety and for SWAT and...everything ("OK...Fit Flap A into Slot B.  Now grab projection C and twist that around the B flap, causing his body to turn 90 degrees.  Now step with your left foot 132 degrees to the left and 18 inches back.  Reverse the polarity of your hands while bending slightly at the waist, pull with the left hand while holding your right rigidly and he goes down in perfect cuffing position. Simple, right?  Works like a charm every time if you are as good as I am--except if YOU do it wrong.")?  This huge dichotomy between what these advanced students of human factors know and what they do is not their fault because they cannot see the gap.  I know I couldn’t see it until someone I implicitly trusted smacked in the face with my dual operating system that was in complete conflict.

The mindset of the "solution as prescribed technique" and "instructor-as-authority" embed into our schemas is so deeply held that we, as humans and instructors, fall back to what is familiar and comfortable. We may even be on that floor speaking like a Ph.D in human factors and immediately teach something as a technique that directly conflicts with what we just said.  It’s not hypocrisy.  It’s not being able to step outside of ourselves long enough to see the problem—an intrinsic weakness of being human.

It’s not hypocrisy.  It’s not being able to step outside of ourselves long enough to see the problem—an intrinsic weakness of being human.

It is scary to step on to the floor filled with officers whose schemas were similarly programmed, have them go through drills designed to help them discover the Universal Rules and Principles of Combatives©, take them to the verge of a DT problem, and then say, "How are YOU going to solve this problem? I don't know. I know how I'd solve the problem, but you can't fight like me, same as I can't fight like you. Work out your own solution that is reasonable and defensible to your Admin and in court." And then just stand there as they fail and flounder and get to a level of frustration without rushing in and saving them by providing an answer. Ah, the instructor saves the day because he/she knows all…

Some have projected this to be just letting everyone do whatever they want and run willy-nilly around the floor doing nothing...IT'S CHAOS!  THE END OF THE WORLD IS NIGH!  EVERYONE DOING WHATEVER THEY WANT WHENEVER THEY WANT!  ARE YOU MAD??? FLEE, FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES FROM THIS MADNESS!

Frustration is part of learning and it takes experience to ensure that frustration does not build into defeat and turn into defiance.  Instruction through guidance often consists of pointing out how some officers in the class have discovered pieces of the solution using the principles.  The example of a peer finding a piece of the solution helps to guide them to the solution they need. The instructor becomes guide rather than authority.

That is one of the toughest parts of training instructors to give up techniques and to guide our people to their own solutions. How do I give up being the authority? That's the question we all have to answer if we want to abandon ineffective and wasteful technique-training and adopt a human factors-based training system where you present and offer ZERO TECHNIQUES (that the officers won't be able to perform under threat or pressure and requires suspect cooperation). 

It’s a radical concept that forces us to be radical in our approach to training so our students can be successful in an unforgiving environment.

 

It’s About Saving Lives, Not Running Down Martial Arts

by George on December 4, 2013 14:52

“The sad truth is that it often takes a wilderness experience (if you survive) to cement the truth that games can get you killed.”  Thomas V. Benge

 

When we talk with other police trainers about the need for a less-complex, principal-based training program for combative skills (defensive tactics, firearms, impact weapons, tactics, etc.), and especially defensive tactics instructors, we are often accused of not liking a particular “style” of martial arts.  For the last several years, with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) form made popular by the Gracie family and the UFC, we have been vocal about avoiding the use of BJJ, western wrestling, boxing, or any other martial art for police training.  We believe that sports have no place in police training, whether they are so-called fighting sports in defensive tactics or shooting sports in firearms training.  This is because the manner in which they are taught encompasses numerous “techniques.”  Techniques, unless mastery is gained, require intense cognitive effort, making it nearly impossible to apply against a combative foe.  Suspects just don’t cooperate and wait for the multi-part techniques to unfold.  We believe that a principle-based concept of combatives is fundamentally more functional and applicable for everyone, especially for the police where extensive training is rarely afforded to officers.

Full disclosure

We have been martial artists for most of our lives.

  • Our Director holds a 5th dan (black belt), Master Instructor in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan with additional training, in some cases extensive, in Kuk Sool Hapki, Aikido, judo, Western wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and Arnis, as well as various martial weaponry (including knives and bladed weapons).
  • Our International Master Trainer is a 2nd degree black belt in Kune Tao, with additional training, in some cases extensive, in Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Brazilian jui jitsu and Boxing as well as various martial weaponry (including knives and bladed weapons).
  • Each of our staff or adjunct DT instructors have had some form of extensive formal training in martial arts, wrestling, boxing, etc. prior to training and employing principle-based problem-solving in their professional and training lives.

Our most knowledgeable and competent staff trainers, like most, were initially taught through the vehicle of myriad techniques in how to fight.  Through extensive training, we eventually gained a deeper understanding of the limits of technical, or prescriptive training, and began recognizing fundamental principles underlying the techniques.  It was a long and, at times, extremely frustrating process of realizing the futility of applying techniques and then beginning to question the very foundation of techniques and technical training.  We understood that our prior training only touched the surface of combatives and was incredibly limiting.  Once one digs below techniques to discover the universal lessons they were meant to teach, it becomes impossible to look back to the mundane, complicated, and impractical world of teaching and learning techniques as a means of fighting or defensive tactics. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:  A World-Class Martial Sport

We’ve been accused of being “anti-Gracie.”  We believe any form of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) to be superior for the limited context of a fighting sport on the ground, and the Gracies have certainly had well-deserved success and very good press.  We purposely never refer or imply criticism of any particular sport style of BJJ.  We have nothing but respect for the Gracies as jiu-jitsu players.

On a mat in a controlled environment with strict rules, BJJ (or wrestling or boxing or any martial art) teaches many valuable lessons.  Dedicated jiu-jitsu players certainly gain some combative skills from their many, many hours on the mat rolling with other dedicated individuals.  It is important to remember, however, combatives skills do not necessarily translate to “fighting skills.”  Fighting skills have contextual application to combat.

No form of BJJ is a "combatives system."  It's a sport employing strict rules and restrictions that are not applicable to the street.  Even one of the Gracies said that in an interview with a reporter.  In a fight, all targets are open (groin, eyes, biting, striking, etc.) and many techniques that work on the mat change in combat (PLEASE put me in your "guard" on the street).  Open up the UFC to "combat" and the whole thing changes—and few fights would last more than a few minutes and the results so brutal it would be quickly outlawed.  Now add police tools and anything else you can pick up and use to harm another person, and you have what officers face, except for one thing: cops have strict rules that only occasionally permits them to fight without restriction (deadly force) whereas criminals always fight with no rules and often with concealed deadly weapons. That's the police world of fighting and one we must prepare our officers for as instructors.  And we don't believe BJJ or any martial art should be the basis of police training.

We are not anti-BJJ or anti-martial arts. Far from it. But recognizing that playing "Nerf gun wars" with my herd of grandkids is not the same as being in a gunfight or a real war.  So, too, martials arts is a sterile environment that so many within martial arts—including many in BJJ—fail to recognize is not fighting or suitable for fighting because of the rigid habit of following the rules—rules having nothing to do with actual combatives.  BJJ (or any martial art) is combatives-like, but it is not fighting or combat.

The Essence of Techniques

"Techniques" are a complete series of independent and sequential movements, each dependent upon the last being completed before the next can begin, and each must be performed exactly as prescribed before the next move can be attempted. Once the complete sequence of techniques is properly executed, the technique is complete.  Whether BJJ or Aikido—or any other martial art—techniques and counter-techniques and counters to counters to counters is technique intensive.  Each technique is an exclusive answer to a highly specific and exact problem.  Any technique is one of dozens or hundreds that must be remembered and selected while the suspect is fighting against that technique’s completion.

Techniques are suspect dependent.  That is, the suspect must wait for the sequence of moves to be completed before the technique can be successful—any interruption in the technique’s exact series of sequential steps causes the technique to fail.  So techniques require the time it takes to decide which technique to use and then to employ each step successfully in order to be successful.  Suspects must cooperate or the technique fails.  The series of movements must be remembered and then applied in time before the situation changes.  This requires not only mastery of the technique to create the neural pathways that permit the technique to be executed, but also a deeper mastery of the concepts of why the series of sequential movements work during application against a combative opponent.

What’s Beneath the Technique?

The question for us is not which technique to use, but what are the techniques fundamentally—and foundationally—teaching us about a greater and perhaps more universal combatives method of preparing and employing force against a combative person?  After all, those of us who have "mastered techniques" can employ them in a fight even though we have the same limitations (time to select and employ a correct sequence, etc.) as the academy-trained officer.  For our purposes, there are a couple of reasons for this.

First, pattern matching. Our brains work by filtering all perception a mental map, or model of our external world (called a "schema").  How we actually "see" the world is the result of our perceptions first being sieved through the schema prior to any conscious thought.  This filter is constantly amended by our experiences, fears, and expectations.  The more we see a pattern of movement(s), a pattern for anatomical angle(s), or a pattern of proxemics (where bodies or objects are in space relative to the other), the more quickly we can recognize a pattern of movement/body position/situation and match it to a probable solution, or action script (based on an experienced pattern, the action script tells us how to solve the problem).  Patterns give us a sense of our situation (Gary Klein, 2003).

The process of matching the solution to the recognized pattern is through the concept of “satisficing” (Gary Klein popularized this term, meaning the selection of a probable solution to a problem that is both sufficient and satisfactory).  Through sufficient training and experience that permits us to immediately recognize when certain behavioral, emotional, and physical cues (specific constellations of cues triggering a decision based on an intuitive recognition of the situation) are present:  we react.  When under pressure in a time-sensitive situation (coupled with the perception of personal danger), humans select the first available solution that will probably work sufficiently to obtain a satisfactory solution—if they have experience and are able to recognize a pattern.  This is achieved through experience.  The trial and error of gaining experience (learning what works and what does not) in fighting can be lethal until sufficient capability in recognizing patterns quickly enough to be utilized in a time-compressed event is gained.

What begins to emerge through sufficient repetition and problem-solving is a heuristic (i.e., a rule of thumb) that can be applied to a recognized pattern quickly.  When an officer must later problem-solve in the middle of a danger-filled fight, that officer relies upon a heuristic that is easily recalled (formally, an “availability heuristic—Daniel Kahneman, 2011) that has worked successfully in the past.  An availability heuristic does not depend upon a time consuming memory search.  Rather, a particular rule of thumb that satisfices is instantly selected based on the pattern-recognition and matching a probable solution to the recognized problem.  Generally in combative situations, this “good enough” approach is good enough to win the fight.  Universal principles of combatives work best and are more easily recalled when under threat, especially because those principles mirror natural and instinctive reactions to threatening situations.

Second, and more importantly, techniques are actually intended to teach the underlying combatives principles.  Every “technique” functions through universal principles that have worked since Cain smote Abel.  These highlight manners of efficiently moving the body in relation to the opponent to create success.  Those of us who are successful as fighters actually understand the underlying principles (at least, our schema does) and then apply them as availability heuristics within our pattern-matching.  We are able to use and even modify "techniques" to counter the suspect's efforts to counter ours.  This is only possible after years of intensive and dedicated technical training which is why we see the top-tier UFC fighters able to instantly react to their opponents.  Problematically, few officers are provided the time by their agencies or are willing to work on their own time for years to the point of transitioning beyond techniques.

This is why technique-based training fails the police and we routinely see schoolyard solutions that instructors and plaintiffs' attorneys (and their expert witnesses) complain so bitterly about.  100% of officers are taught to a level of cognitive familiarity with the techniques, yet only a small percentage eventually train to mastery sufficient to pattern-match and apply the technique.  This means that cops have to somehow remember how to do a technique under extreme time constraints in a threatening environment while afraid and experiencing the mental and physical responses to fear.

A buddy attended an 80-hour "police instructor" course in police BJJ.  For two weeks, he rolled and learned.  He was injured at hour 79, and was told to sit out the last hour. This included a free-style between the training pairs.  The instruction: "use what you've learned this week to submit your partner.  Tap out early."  So this experienced and skilled martial artist sat and watched 38 police instructors rolling for 30 minutes, each trying hard to use what they'd learned.  At the conclusion, he said he didn't see a single trained technique.  Not one.  He decided he would not include any of this training in his agency's yearly DT updates.

If 80-hours of intensive training does not yield a change in behavior in DT instructors, it is safe to say there’s a problem with how we're teaching officers when it comes to technical training of the police.

If we teach fighting through the vehicle of the underlying principles of combatives that are encoded within the myriad techniques, then officers, regardless of their training and experience, learn to fight more efficiently and more effectively.  The training makes sense to them.  And it translates to success on the street.

What We Need When Under Threat

When people are under physical or emotional threat, especially in time-compressed events that are personally threatening, their ability to achieve complex tasks requiring a high level of memory recall, contemplation, and physical dexterity and coordination.  The well-known deleterious effects on the human body when within the adrenalized state is widely known.  For that reason, humans need methods of combatives resolution that are:

  • Simple.  Simple does not mean “ineffective.”  Instead, it is synonymous with “non-complex.”  Complexity is the enemy.  Anyone can design something complicated, and complicated mechanisms, systems, and techniques fail with predictable frequency.  Simplicity of design and function is requisite for efficient and effective response.
  • Dumb.  A solution should not require intensive efforts at higher analysis.  Complex thinking is generally not possible during high-threat time-compressed events.  Instead, once the pattern of threat is recognized, the solution should be instantly apparent. 
  • Easy.  Easy is not “without effort.”  Easy, instead, requires a lack of complexity as well as an absence of the need for highly evolved and intensively honed skills requiring exact angles or timing for success.  The greater degree of difficulty in executing a defense skill or movement, the more likely it will fail when the suspect is working against the officer.
  • Natural.  There are options within human response to threat that must be worked with.  This means we must limit what we’d like to in training officers to training them in what they can do given the time we are provided.  Those options are naturally occurring and can be useful in responding with force.
  • Instinctual.  Humans have hard-wired responses to perceived threat.  The Universal Principles of Combatives© are based on these.  We also adopt methods of delivering force based on these natural and instinctual reactions.  The startle reaction, for example, causes us to face the suddenly perceived threat, body lean forward, shoulders square with shoulders raised (to protect the neck and jaw) and hands up between the threat and our face.  The legs are bent athletically, enabling us to move (after freezing, flight or fight).  This is one of the main reasons we teach using an Isosceles upper body when firing a handgun or shoulder weapon—because this is how we react to sudden danger. 

We know there are many opportunities in the police defensive tactics world to train with champions in their respective sports.  These top athletes, with attributes of athleticism that only a handful of humans possess and tens of thousands of hours of training bolstered by hundreds of hours of experience in the ring/mat/octagon, are more than willing to share their methods with those who are lesser mortals.  These professionals are able to dominate other professionals through complex methods and layered strategies only they can actually employ against a resisting opponent.  How does that apply to your own—and more importantly—your officers’ training background and attributes?

Complexity is the enemy of success.  In combat, it is often the simple solution that carries the day with the fewest injuries.

A Few Universal Principles of Combatives©

Principle-based problem-solving provides the simple, dumb, easy, natural, and instinctual method of applying something that works.  Anyone who has ever attempted a complicated technique or multi-faceted plan with split-second timings against a resisting suspect can understand that a simple solution is generally much more effective than some grandly evolving plan with many moving parts.  Simple, dumb, easy, natural, and instinctual solutions through the universal principles permit the officer to pattern-match much more quickly through availability heuristics than by attempting to sort through and then apply one of dozens or more specific techniques. 

Let’s take a look at the application of just two Universal Principles of Combatives©.  Two 3-year olds, Roy and Bill, both want the same toy and both grab it.  Both pull back and forth until Roy pulls the toy, pressing it against his chest.  Roy then rips it out of the other's hands by spinning away while saying, "Mine!"  Billy lost the toy and begins crying.  What happened to make this three-year old function efficiently in this particular, limited instance?

Two principles of combatives, hard-wired into human neurology and physiology, are working here:

  • Body parts to body mass, or, closer-stronger.  I am stronger if I press something I am holding hard against me (or the ground, or push against the suspect's body).  The corollary to this is the farther away from my body I attempt to control something, the stronger and more skilled I need to be.  Distance from my body creates weakness in my joints, whereas the closer the object is to my body, the stronger my joints become.  Against another human, he now must work not only against my maximized strength, but my joints are better protected by increased strength and he must now contend with my entire body weight affecting his ability to take the object away from me. 
  • Move in angles and circles.  Moving in circles (Small-circle, big-circle theory; Point within a circle theory) can overwhelm the suspect. Moving in angles creates tracking problems.  This also relates to the anatomical placement of limbs and the spine (especially the head in relation to the spine affecting the body's balance—another Principle of Combatives©: Control the Head).  As an example, let’s examine a well-known submission:  the Kimura from the guard.  Once the elbow, shoulder, and hips are locked into correct angles, the suspect complies or his humerus spiral fractures.  However, and one of the fundamental drawbacks to the effectiveness of “techniques,” is the requirement of complete and total perfection, e.g., if the suspect’s hips are not locked during the application of the Kimura, he can roll out of the hold and the hold is ineffective.  Locking the hips is mandatory to stop the suspect from seeking vacuum (or an escape route) or the Kimura submission fails.  This is another Principle of Combatives©: Seek Vacuum:  move or flow to the point least resistance.

By locking the toy into the chest, Roy is able to use not only his upper body strength, but his entire body weight to control the disputed toy.  The toy is pressed against his body, essentially welding it to himself, making him much stronger at this particular time relative to the strength of only his arms if wrestling for the toy a foot away from his body.  Billy is still employing only his upper body strength to retain the toy.  His success now depends only upon his ability to deliver superior brute force to overwhelm Roy’s strength.  Success now is possible only if the Billy is far stronger than Roy.

When we take a hold of a suspect’s head, his arm, his firearm, whatever, we pull it to our body (or our body to his) and press it hard against our body.  If reasonable, we may look for targets and strike, poke, shoot, stab, drive over or through, push, or pull an open target (two additional Universal Principles of Combatives©:  Target Seek;  Put Weapons to Targets).  If we are grabbing something, it is anchored against our body rather than wrestling over it in a contest of strength away from our body.  Devon Larratt, the number one right-handed arm-wrestler in the world, described why he is so successful against much bigger and potentially stronger opponents, “I bring things into my center where they become part of me.  It’s much easier to move me than anything outside of me.”  This, in effect, requires Billy to contend with the other boy’s body weight as well as his strength.

To keep the toy and remove Billy’s hands, Roy spins hard in a clockwise direction (either direction is possible and dictated only by the terrain and situation).  He also steps hard to the rear with his foot in the direction he wants to go.

  • Small-Circle, Big-Circle Theory.  This puts Billy into a “small-circle, big-circle” situation.  When Roy moves his body, spinning quickly in one direction and stepping in that direction, the toy in both boys’ hands travels in a small circle with Roy’s chest.  Billy’s body must now move to keep up with Roy’s spinning movement.  Problematically for the Billy, his body must travel around the other boy’s body to keep up with the toy in both of their hands.  However, Billy must travel farther and faster than Roy because Billy has a larger circle he must traverse to get to the same point.  Think of the orbit of the planets around the sun.  If two planets, one closer to the sun and the other farther away begin and end in the same position in their orbit after one rotation, it will require the farther planet to travel in its orbit at a much greater speed to keep up with the planet in the inner orbit.  Small-circle, big-circle.  When Roy spins while pressing the toy they both are holding against his chest, he will spin faster than the other boy can keep up.  Because Billy must move around Roy’s body to keep up, his grip will become untenable.
  • Point Within a Circle Theory.  It also demonstrates the “point within a circle theory.”  Like the game of Crack the Whip, three children hold hands and Child A stays in one place and pivots, anchoring the line.  The other two pivot around Child A.  As Child A spins faster and faster, it becomes impossible for Child C at the end of the “whip” to maintain her footing because she cannot possibly cover the same arc of movement at the speeds necessary to keep up with Child A’s arc of movement.  Child C is flung away or falls.  In the same manner, Billy cannot possibly maintain the same speed as Roy and maintaining his grip will quickly become impossible.

Because Billy cannot keep up with Roy’s speed while spinning, Billy’s wrists are stressed to the point where they must release the toy or suffer injury.  Regardless of how strong the Billy is, his wrists are just not strong enough to maintain the grip against the weight of the boy in red’s body. 

Once we understand these principles, formal techniques are no longer needed.  We begin to fight the way we are hardwired to fight:  if I grab something (a head, arm, weapon, etc.), I bring it to my body and press it hard against my chest;  if I move, I move in angles and circles.  This is, in a nutshell, how principle-based, no-technique training works successfully with both well-trained and lesser trained officers.

Outcome Versus Process

Getting away from cognitive teaching (techniques) and into experiential problem-solving through the principles of combatives, we find that officers begin to solve their own DT problems with their solutions AND QUICKLY REPROGRAM THEIR SCHEMAS.  This is the essence of adult learning.  Problematically, learning to fight through the rote memorization of techniques and their sequential, mandatory steps is exactly opposite to how adults learn.  Prescriptive learning, or learning by a prescribed method where the solution is provided to a specific problem, reliably works only when there is time to contemplate and remember the sequential steps of the particular technique.  Problematically, one technique is the solution to one problem.  If the problem looks different, then a different solution, or technique, is necessary.  The greater number of problems, the greater the number and variety of unique solutions.

Could we teach 20—or 40 or more—techniques to take something from someone else’s hands?  Absolutely.  There is, unfortunately, no shortage of techniques.  However, this results from a misunderstanding about the path necessary for success.

  • Techniques:  Outcome-based.  A successful technique is outcome-based.  Each step of the technique must be positively attained in order for the technique to work and the failure at any stage of the technique results in the failure of the fight.  This generally leaves the officer goal directed (continuing to attempt to force the failed technique to work) and target-focused (focused exclusively on the stage of the failed technique to the exclusion of other external cues and threats).  Outcome dependency is fragile, and failure is always just a moment away.
  • Problem-Solving Through Principles:  Process-based.  Problem-solving is a process of accepting that everything one attempts cannot possibly work.  It requires continually finding or creating a way around an obstacle or defense.  It is not dependent upon anything but perseverance of effort.  By employing the Principles of Combatives©, problem-solving is facilitated.  This is a robust methodology that is less subject to suspect disruption.  When the suspect defends or an effort is unsuccessful for any reason, the fighter transitions to the next method of applying the Principles of Combatives© to satisfice the situation.  This training mirrors our actual process of fighting and trains the individual in solution-oriented combatives.

We're NOT Anti-Anything--We're FOR Contextually Correct Training Concepts and Methods

No one at Cutting Edge Training is anti-BJJ or anti-martial arts.  Rolling is a blast and we’ve spent much of our adult lives training in sport combatives.  We are FOR training that is contextually correct.  That is, we believe that training must be relevant to the task.  Cops need to fight and win like police officers, not like UFC fighters.  They need to train for police  solutions rather than "mat solutions."  We mean it that our training is from the street in, not the mat out.  Context is the key to success and surviving.   

We are pro-officers lawfully winning and remaining healthy, alive, and employed.  We’ve each been through a few wilderness experiences and understand that we were let down by the technical, sport-based training we’d been given—and to which we had been dedicated.  That’s why we train officers in relevant universal principle training they can actually apply.  Because unlike BJJ’ers and martial artists on the mat and in the training halls, cops walk the wilderness each day.  They need a training concept facilitating their weathering the various storms.  They need to come home in one piece, and their combatives training affords them a better chance of doing just that.  Games just don’t cut it when lives are on the line.

A New Idea in Safely Restraining the Proned Handcuffed Prisoner

by George on February 24, 2013 11:11

It’s no secret that there are unreasonable people in this world—otherwise, you wouldn’t have a job.  A suspect who resists the inevitability of being handcuffed, forces you and other officers to use your body weight to control him long enough to get him restrained.  But what of the handcuffed prisoner who continues to struggle and attempts to harm officers?  In the past, hobbles and continued body weight have been the answer.  This method of continued restraint, however, is being misrepresented to courts around the country as something that predictably results in suspect death, leading to  adverse judgments and case law negatively affecting your ability to control the unreasonable suspect safely. 

The possibility of a prisoner suddenly dying in custody from “excited delirium” must be considered by arresting officers whenever a prisoner continues to violently thrash and flail about.  When a prisoner unexpectedly dies following being restrained in handcuffs, allegations of unlawful death soon follow.  In the inevitable lawsuit, plaintiffs allege that the officers’ actions killed—or even murdered—the decedent, despite the autopsy’s finding of minor bruising and scrapes with no forensic evidence of fatal abuse.  Their theory is, “The police used force.  The suspect died.  Ergo, the police killed him.  Pay us money.” 

Plaintiffs will advance the discredited theory of “positional asphyxia,” especially if a hobble is employed during the restraint—which they label as “hogtying.”  They accuse the officers of knowingly placing the suspect into a possibly deadly situation—proned out with multiple officers kneeling on top of him.  This act of kneeling upon the suspect while attempting to restrain his arms is alleged to have compressed his upper torso, causing his death due to asphyxiation.  They and their experts (often high-ranking former police officers) reject the science of physiology and the history of excited delirium and in-custody deaths, blaming officers and their methods.  The latest case adverse to the police is Abston v. City of Merced (9th Circuit. 2013.  NOTE:  Abston was not a published case and cannot be cited, but is indicative of the trend of the courts’ views—rightly or wrongly—of bodyweight applied to suspect’s during the arrest process.).

Excited delirium is not a new theory that was developed, as alleged by plaintiffs, to justify officer misconduct and the murder of people.  Dr. Luther Bell, a physician specializing in mental health issues recognized that some patients died while in an agitated state.  He named this manner of death, “Bell’s Syndrome,” or “excited delirium” in 1849.  We have seen this syndrome manifest in suspect and prisoner deaths in modern policing where various methods of restraint or force have been blamed.

  • 1986: Neck Restraints.  As a result of multiple in-custody deaths, LA County Deputy Coroner Ronald N. Kornblum, M.D., publishes a report concluding that the bar-arm restraint taught to LAPD officers was the cause of death due to compression of the trachea and vessels of the neck.  60% of all police departments banned the carotid restraint leading to a 650% increase in suspect injuries, and a 560% increase in officer injuries the following year (Source:  LAPD).
  • Mid-1990s: Oleoresin Capsicum Spray.  OC, or pepper spray, because it inflames the mucous membranes and decreases the airways, causes death according to the ACLU.
  • Mid-1990s to present:  TASER.  The TASER is alleged to cause the subject’s eventual death minutes or hours later.
  • Mid-1990s to present: Police body weight.  Kneeling on a person, even though that individual remains alive after the weight is removed, inevitably causes death.

Excited delirium is a medical problem that can lead to death.  It is not a police-caused phenomenon.  That said, like a bad habit, it is very difficult to eradicate the idea of positional asphyxia because plaintiffs and their experts have a financial interest in keeping this concept alive.

Compression asphyxia is a preventable danger.  With sufficient time and weight on the upper body, the suspect’s ability to breathe is so limited that suffocation is possible.  Like an anaconda snake killing its prey:  every time the suspect breathes out, the body weight of the officers prevents the suspect from reinflating his lungs fully—eventually the lung capacity is so limited it cannot support life.  If enough weight is kept on the upper torso, oxygen levels become critical and the body dies.  However, officers removing their weight from the subject before death occurs permits that individual to recover.  Like an athlete who works to peak effort, stopping the exercise results in a return to stasis.  If the officers remove their weight after handcuffing the individual, and he is able to speak and breathe, it is not the officers’ kneeling on him that kills the prisoner—it is likely excited delirium.

Despite plaintiff experts’ opining that “Everyone knows that kneeling on a struggling subject kills people, and they ought to restrain them in a manner similar to that used in mental hospitals,” there is no practical method that effectively takes charge of a resisting suspect other than body weight until they are handcuffed.  The suspect who continues to violently resist or attempts to harm officers remains problematic.

One Handcuffed Prisoner, Two Officers

When the subject is taken to the ground, the only practicable solution to prevent his rolling on to his back is to use body weight to his upper torso.  To date, this is the only practical method developed to initially get him handcuffed.  Until now, there has been no real alternative to restraining a violent handcuffed prisoner other than through applied bodyweight.  A new method of restraining a violent handcuffed prisoner without bodyweight or significant force by two officers has been developed and promises to be an effective alternative to kneeling on a handcuffed subject.  Let’s walk through the arrest process. 

When a proned suspect refuses to comply, rather than wrestle his arms to the small of his back into cuffing position, it is far simpler and much more practical to simply handcuff each wrist at the first possible moment.  This provides a handle on each wrist as well as pain compliance.  Now each arm is forced to his back and the empty cuffs are cuffed together—cuff the cuffs.  Once the handcuffs are secured and he finally stops resisting, the handcuffs can be adjusted and the prisoner transported in one set of restraints.

If the prisoner continues to unreasonably flail about, attempting to injure himself or others, his health and welfare now becomes the responsibility of the officers.  To safely restrain him further, both officers move to either side of his torso.  Each officer puts his knees to the ground, and scoots up against the suspect’s shoulders and elbows, using their legs to press the suspect’s arms against his body.

Both officers working together pin the suspect between them.  There is no body weight necessary to press him to the ground.  A very strong and determined individual may require an officer to press down on his shoulder blade with fingertip pressure to keep his arm in contact with that officer’s legs—the pressure needed is surprisingly light.  Sometimes a prisoner will attempt to spin out from the officers, but this is dealt with simply by the officers repositioning, shuffling on their knees to keep the suspect pinned between them both.  If he kicks, a hobble can be used to keep the legs together.

 

Prevent the Appearance of Misconduct

When you respond to a call of a disrobing, screaming, growling, grunting individual who is acting wildly, aggressing lights, with an apparent intense dislike of glass and shiny objects and very hot to the touch, this is an individual who is in immediate need of medical aid and sedation by paramedics.  However, it is the police who must restrain him using their tactics and force tools so paramedics have the opportunity to save his life.  Staging the medics early should always be considered as this person is exhibiting signs of sudden in-custody death.

In order to prevent a prolonged struggle by this drugged or deranged subject who exhibits immunity to pain as well as superhuman strength, the optimal method of quick restraint is a TASER.  Once down and under TASER power, he needs to be quickly placed into handcuffs.  There is nothing as effective as the officers’ body weight to do this, pinning his upper torso to the ground as the wrists are handcuffed. 

Once cuffed, all weight is removed from the prisoner’s body, and the officers use their knees to pinch him between them, preventing him from significantly moving but not in any way affecting his ability to breathe.  If he continues to kick, a hobble can be placed around the ankles and cinched up, with the tail left unattached or held by a third officer.  If he attempts to slam his head into the ground, placing a hand on his head and keeping it pinned to the ground is sufficient.  If he is so determined that he threatens to roll, a hand to his shoulder blade, requiring little force keeps him secured.  In this manner, he may be held indefinitely—and safely—until paramedics arrive and take custody of him.

This is an extremely effective method of protecting the prisoner from himself while also preventing the violently out of control subject from harming officers.  It is deceptively simple, and is often greeted with skepticism by officers until they actually attempt it and find it a practical solution to a problem to which there really has been no satisfactory solution.

While the fiction of positional asphyxia will likely not go away, the problem of suspects dying in-custody due to their own drug-taking may be minimized.  Additionally, as more and more paramedics are authorized to treat this cluster of signs with ketamine and other injectable drugs to immediately calm and suspend the subject’s ability to physically resist, even more will be prevented.

Now there is an alternative to using body weight to control a handcuffed violently resisting prisoner.  If the suspect dies following his being restrained, it may not stop plaintiffs and others from accusing the police of causing the death, but it will eliminate some ammunition for their arguments.  And it is more effective in maintaining control of the handcuffed prisoner.  This is a win-win for officers and the prisoners they are attempting to protect from themselves.

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.

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.