Photos Dave Spaulding
Simple techniques like this head trap are easy to learn and effective, but how would such an act be viewed by the public?
There’s no “nice” way to fight.
It will always be ugly and brutal, and someone will get hurt. But remember, it’s the suspect who determines what happens next.
Solid instruction often requires one-on-one attention.
The best instructors have the ability to demonstrate why a technique is good as well as expound knowledge.
Preparation, both physical and mental, is the difference.
“You are no more armed because you have a gun than you are a musician because you have a piano!”
FEATURED IN TRAINING
I'm often startled when I wake up and realize how old I am. It seems like just yesterday that I was a young cop wanting to confront bad guys at every turn. In those days, I used to look at the older guys and think they were out of touch, with nothing but old and out-of-date information to offer. How wrong I was. Just because something is old doesn t mean it s out of date. Often, it means that it's proven, and I ll take a proven technique or tactic over something new and noteworthy every time.
Why? As I age, I place a higher value on my life. I want to be around to watch my kids become parents and watch my grandkids become adults. Although I don t want to pick a fight with the younger generation of officers, I see an interesting trend toward techniques that look cool what I call tacti-cool but aren t necessarily proven to win a fight.
(Remember: Fighting is final. If you engage in combat, you run the risk of being hurt or killed. There s no way to engage in nice fighting. I fear that American law enforcement has reached a time when force is preferably minimal instead of reasonable.The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in several landmark cases that force must be reasonable based on the circumstances at hand, but how many cases do you know of in which officers used reasonable force only to get thrown under the bus?)
The Old Is New
Crucible Founder and CEO Kelly McCann, a former Marine Special Missions Officer, has said, If you want to learn something new, read an old book. If you read the old books written by such men as John Styers, William Fairbairn, Eric Sykes, Rex Applegate, Ed McGivern and Elmer Keith, you ll find some variation of the techniques currently being taught as new. The fact is, there are only so many ways to shoot a gun, throw a punch or swing a baton. If some instructor advertizes a course as having the latest, state-of-the-art technique based on real-world situations, it s unlikely it's truly new. It s merely been recycled or reinvented.Note:A large number of folks out there are trying to make a living conducting firearms training and, to get your attention, they re trying to be different from the rest. But are they really?
A number of years ago, I created a quick test anyone can use to evaluate any tactic or technique to determine if it s worth learning and practicing. I call it the Three S Test.
Is the tactic or technique simple to perform? If it's not simple to do on the range or training mat, do you really think it's going to get easier during a fight? Remember: We default to our level of training. This doesn't mean all complicated techniques are bad; it just means they ll require more time and effort to anchor. Decide if it's worth it. Simple techniques are easier to learn, master and practice to keep sharp.
Does the tactic or technique make sense to you? You're likely a police officer with a wide range of life and job experiences, maybe you were in the military and saw combat in the Middle East or the Balkans. If a technique doesn t make sense to you, listen to your gut and tell the instructor.
Is the tactic or technique street proven? The instructor must be able to give you examples of where it's been used in real-street combat. One incident isn't enough. Be careful if the technique is named after the instructor, or the technique is the hinge pin of the entire program. No one should be a guinea pig for someone s whim or effort to make money.
Guidance & Control
Any technique that will be used to save your life must be applied without a great deal of thought. In a situation that will last but a few seconds, there isn't time to observe, orient, decide and act (OODA). Col. John Boyd's OODA loop has become a mainstay of combative training in the U.S. but, at times, it's applied incorrectly.
Many believe that you must cycle through the entire loop, which isn't true. Boyd created the loop while training fighter pilots who may very well engage in the ultimate gunfights. After all, these combatants fight with missiles and large caliber weapons that are designed to bring down an airplane. They're also traveling at speeds in the hundreds of miles per hour. Do you really think they have time to orient to the situation they re facing? In reality, these pilots must see and do, knowing what action they must take based on what s unfolding in front of them. According to Boyd's original loop diagram, they're able to accomplish this through implicit guidance and control, which brings us to a quality training program.
Few law enforcement agencies give officers enough training time to achieve this level of skill. The training time given to fighter pilots and special operations troops allows them to see, and then do. However, it s a huge commitment of time and money. How many times per year will your agency send you to training? The national average is between two and three times, but is that enough? Are you willing to train on your own? After all, each and every one of us needs to be an active participant in our own rescue.
Many of us who consider ourselves firearms enthusiasts have read about the training conducted for the British SOE and American OSS during WWII. Trainers like Fairbairn, Sykes and Applegate trained a sizeable number of people to parachute behind enemy lines and conduct covert operations against the Germans and Japanese America s first Shadow War, if you will. This training program is well-chronicled and it s clear that they didn t receive the amount of training time that s currently committed to today s police cadet in the basic academy. The difference was that great pains were taken to eliminate anything that wasn t needed and to keep what was taught straight-forward and simple. Again, simple is easy to teach, master and maintain with minimal time and effort. As is often the case, less is more.
When discussing use-of-force skills (e.g., firearms, baton, hand-to-hand), I view simplicity as physiologically efficient. Physiology deals with living organisms, andefficiencyis defined as producing the desired result with the minimum of effort, expense or waste. To me, this means using the living organism (human body) to accomplish a goal with the least amount of effort, expense or waste possible by eliminating unnecessary motion. Just because a technique is faster doesn t mean it s more efficient. But if it s faster and accomplishes the task, then it's more efficient.
Simple Isn't Necessarily Better
Simplicity sounds like a great idea, right? The problem is that simple isn t always minimal, at least as far as the use of force is applied. Example: Fighting techniques, such as face rakes, hammer fists to the nose, knees to the groin or spearing elbows to the chest, are all effective and simple to learn. They re also proven techniques that certainly meet the Three S Test. The problem is they aren t minimal; they hurt people, and that s something many can t stomach, regardless of whether or not they re legally reasonable. Thus, we spend time and effort trying to learn complex techniques such as arm-bar takedowns, joint manipulations and pressure points, because they re less brutal.
Look at the Taser, an effective tool that s now under fire because its use isn t as antiseptic as many thought it would be. Many thought it would be a nice way to disable someone: They d be shot with the Taser, freeze and drop in place. Then reality set in: People started dying and, even though no death has been directly linked to its application, the country is aghast at how inhumane it is. In reality, it s not inhumane; it s merely force, and the use of force will always be ugly, destructive, brutal and bloody. It will never be clean and antiseptic, and people will get hurt and some will die.
Too many instructors go off to a school and return to their agency teaching what they learned for no other reason than the course was fun and I learned some cool stuff. With so much on the line, there s no room for the trendy only the proven. Proven techniques save lives, which is the primary goal of any training program. Anything less is clutter. Because law enforcement training time is minimal, thus precious, we need to evaluate what we re currently doing and ask, Is this program really answering the needs of our officers or are we just teaching what s new?