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A few years ago, I was asked to set up some training classes in Brazil. Excited at the opportunity to visit this amazing country, I decided it would be advantageous to learn some of the language. I did what many people do when they are excited about something new; I dove into it with reckless abandon, determined to learn this language in as little time as possible.
Of course, this is impossible. This isn t how the brain learns, or at least not in a meaningful way.
We live in an instant-gratification world. I want it all, and I want it now. Credit card debt and bankruptcy rates in North America are staggering. Every year, health and fitness clubs sell thousands upon thousands of memberships as people try to keep their New Year s resolutions to get fit, only to have the bulk of those registering fall off the treadmill within the first few months.
Same thing with self defense classes, fad diets, yoga gosh, piano lessons for that matter. Everybody wants to learn new stuff, but they don t want to invest the time necessary to accomplish the goal.
There are some built in, hard-wired reasons for why we can t stick with something. The first reason, according to inspirational speaker Tony Robbins, is that in life we never do the things we should but rather we only do the things that we must. If fitness is not a must in your life, all the best intentions in the world won t keep you involved to the level necessary in order for it to become a habit in your life.
While this is fine for something regular folk might think would be nice or desirable in their life, what about those whose mission in life is to protect and/or serve? If doctors, law enforcement officers, soldiers, firefighters, EMTs, air traffic controllers, pilots, etc., fail in maintaining a certain level of proficiency in mission-critical tasks, the consequences could prove dire.
It might be desirable for a run-of-the-mill citizen to have some measure of skill with a firearm or proficiency in a martial art, but for the law enforcement officer, lacking skill with a firearm or proficiency with physical intervention skills means they aren t fit for the tasks that fall within their job description; that is, they re unfit for duty. We wouldn t accept a level of mediocrity in our pilots with life-saving tasks, such as safely landing an airplane. Why, then, do we accept mediocrity in our law enforcement officers in their ability to perform life-saving tasks such as lethal-force encounters?
There are all sorts of rationalizations on the part of both the individual emergency responder as well as the system that trains them. At the individual level, many rationalize away their necessity to stay proficient with either the multiplicity mindset (the belief that if there is high-level trouble, a bunch of assistance will roll their way) or it won t happen to me thinking.
On the systemic level, the problems are manifold. First and foremost is a broken training system predicated upon outdated beliefs and training methods. Let s look at firearms qualification. The primary system used across the nation requires a demonstration of some measure of proficiency in accuracy with firearms. Unfortunately, the methods used to ingrain the skills necessary to meet the proficiency standards often program participants for failure in an actual gunfight. Standing in an exposed position and delivering fire on a static target under controlled conditions hardly simulate gunfighting behaviors. Gunfights are usually fast, spontaneous and dynamic. Qualifications are the opposite.
Many officers are frightened of their lethal weapons. They stress-out each and every time they must fire them either in training or to qualify. They lack confidence in their abilities to use them in a static environment. It s likely that their proficiencies will improve when the added stress of surviving (let alone outright winning) an encounter rears its ugly head? No. Stress associated with dangerous encounters will certainly reduce their ability to deliver accurate and decisive fire, especially for those whose skill is mediocre to begin with and in which they have little or no confidence.
In addition, the system is often schizophrenic about its support for use of higher force levels that can cause injury or death. It clouds the issue with nebulous phrases such as shooting to stop the threat. Indeed, the system is so cloudy on many of these issues that wrong-minded legislators have been known to introduce legislation that would force officers to use firearms only in an attempt to wound dangerous offenders, such as the Shoot to Wound bill proposed in New York state in 2006. This bill, if it had passed, would have held law enforcement officers criminally responsible for shooting dangerous offenders in any manner inconsistent with an attempt to merely wound them.
Such legislation is not only ill-conceived but out of step with the realities of lethal-force encounters. Just the same, legislators who do not and will not ever get it place society in greater peril with such attempts at controlling officer behaviors by forcing officers to sift through their mental legal rolodex trying to remember if it s OK to shoot someone who is endangering society. This is ludicrous.
10 Minutes a Day
Beyond the training methods themselves, the timing is also ineffective. As much as you can t effectively learn a sport or a language in a weekend, you can t effectively learn many of the core law enforcement skills in the couple of days each year that serve as block training within many agencies. Block training is one of those liability check-marks agencies perform to satisfy state legislation requiring a certain amount of training each year.
I m beginning to believe in a more spread-out concept I call the Ten Minute Warrior. This concept includes daily exercises that provide participants with something each day in the core areas I ve termed the Seven Survivals. By doing a little bit each day, officers truly develop skills with a long-lasting effect. In the early stages, they can be done in conjunction with a block training approach, but you will hear more from me in the coming months and years about how I believe using the Ten Minute Warrior approach can replace block training entirely. Until these concepts are released, however, I encourage each and every one of you to take just 10 minutes out of each day and spend it doing something that will advance your skill level in these seven survival areas:
6. Social; and
If all of your training revolves around simply winning physical encounters and none of it focuses on the other survival areas, you might win the battle but ultimately lose the war. Remember, nearly four times as many officers take their own lives each year as those who are killed in the streets. These are people who became overwhelmed by the circumstances in their lives. They couldn t handle the stress because they lacked core competency in areas above and beyond physically surviving the challenges of the streets.
Dave Grossman s book, On Combat, goes a long way to help emergency response personnel understand many of the issues they will face after critical incidents. It s an essential read. The Ten Minute Warrior approach will help you to build skills necessary to face those issues.
Ten minutes a day equals more than 60 hours each year. How many of the agencies out there provide a week and a half for block training? And even if they are, how much of that training do you really retain? From the research I ve read, that isn t the way we learn long-term skills or effect long-term information retention. Adding the Ten Minute Warrior concept to the training you are already getting can potentially make you invincible not just physically, but totally.
If you re a normal human being, you probably spend more than 10 minutes a day on the toilet. Doesn t it make sense to spend at least 10 minutes a day on putting good stuff into your body? As Tony Robbins says, we do the things we must, not the things we should. Make daily training a must.
Until next time, train hard and train safe.