(Graphic by Sgt. Charles E. Humes Jr.)
FEATURED IN TRAINING
According to various Internet dictionaries, doctrine is defined as a body or system of teaching relating to a particular subject.
If you look across the country, almost every police department has its own training doctrine; some are great, some are not. Unfortunately, some of those doctrines seem to have been developed using this methodology from an unknown author in a circulated e-mailed:
“Start with five monkeys in a cage. Place a set of stairs in the middle of the cage, and hang a banana above them. After a while, one of the monkeys will start to climb the stairs to retrieve the banana. As soon as the monkey steps on the stairs, hose all the monkeys with ice cold water.
“After a while, other monkeys will try and climb the stairs, and all will suffer the same result. All the monkeys are hosed with ice-cold water. Pretty soon, whenever a monkey touches the stairs, in order to prevent the cold water; the other monkeys will attack the offending monkey, and pummel him.
“Now, put away the cold water and replace one monkey with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and tries to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, the other monkeys attack him. After other attempts and attacks, he learns that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be attacked.
“Next, remove another of the original monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newest monkey goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the attack of the newest monkey with great enthusiasm, even though he has no idea why he can’t climb the stairs or why they are beating the newest monkey.
“Continue to replace the monkeys until all of the original five have been replaced. Each time one is replaced, the newcomer will be pummeled by the others for trying to climb the stairs. At this point, none of the monkeys in the cage have ever been sprayed with cold water.
“Nevertheless, no monkey entering the cage will ever be allowed to approach the stairs.
Why not? Because as far as they know, that’s the way it has always been.”
Whenever anyone teaches you anything, ask why. Why are we doing it this way? The response you want to hear is something to the effect of: although we have tried numerous different methods, and continue to always look for a superior way; this is the most effective and efficient method we have found.
If the only answer is, “because that’s the way we’ve always done it,” that may be what they call in investigative circles, a clue. It’s a clue that the training doctrine that you’re learning probably started with the five-monkey mentality. More likely than not, it’s also a clue that you’re not being taught doctrine, but dogma. Various dictionaries define dogma as prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group. Dogma is often applied to statements put forward by someone who thinks, inappropriately, that they should be accepted without proof.
John Boyd (1927-1997) was one of the most important figures in the history of the U.S. Military. But like many tactical scholars before him, he was never truly recognized for his life’s work, until after he died. He was a Korean War fighter pilot, and went on to become the undefeated fighter pilot instructor at Nellis Air Force base. Probably best known as the creator of the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop. Boyd also developed what is known as the energy/maneuverability theory. The basis upon what many of our fighter planes, then and now, are built upon. However, what intrigues and encourages me the most as I’ve researched Boyd’s work, is that he encouraged something that I’ve tried to practice well back into my teenaged martial arts days. Learn everyone’s training doctrine.
During a presentation he made late in his life, Boyd stated: “That’s the kind of stuff you gotta do. You gotta challenge all assumptions. It’s like, you know, we have doctrine. The Air Force has got a doctrine. The Army’s got a doctrine. The Navy’s got a doctrine. Everybody’s got a doctrine. You read my work, doctrine doesn’t appear in there even once. You can’t find it. You know why I don’t have it in there? Because it’s doctrine on day one, every day after it becomes dogma, that’s why.
“So what I tell people, I understand you have to write doctrine. You have to do it and that’s all right. Even after you write it, assume that it’s not right. Then not only that, look at a whole bunch of other doctrines. German doctrines, other kinds of doctrines, and learn those too. Then you’ve got a bunch of doctrines in there. The reason why you want to learn them all, then you’re not captured by any one. Not only that, you can lift stuff out of here, stuff out of there, stuff out of there, you can play the snowmobile game, and you can do it better than anybody else. Cause if you’ve got one doctrine, you’re a dinosaur, period.”
Boyd’s reference to the “snowmobile game,” came from a previous part of his presentation. He related that if you had skis, handlebars, an engine and a track, that these parts by themselves, were not particularly useful. But by combining the parts, all from distinct, different mechanical systems, you can build a snowmobile. Training should be looked at from the same perspective.
I believe, and I believe Boyd did as well, that by learning as many doctrines as possible, you can do and accomplish things that those stuck in training dogma, will never even dream of. You don’t know, what you don’t know. Furthermore, you’re never going to know, what you’ve never been exposed to. There is one caveat on learning multiple doctrines. You want to learn about them, before you try to practice all of their individual techniques and skill sets. No one has the time to practice every shooting system, or all martial arts styles, to a proficient level. If you try to, you’ll end up being less than mediocre with an untold number of techniques, rather than highly proficient with just a few handpicked tactical tools. Bruce Lee confirmed this when he said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
The key to becoming the ultimate you, is to become eclectic, which means selecting what appears to be the best in various doctrines, methods or styles. Composed of elements from various sources.
Make it a goal for 2012 to expose yourself to at least one other currently unknown training doctrine. Go to seminars, read books, and educate yourself to the ways that other departments and trainers train their officers. Adopt eclecticism as your personal criteria for choosing the contents of your tactical tool chest. Pick and use a minimal number of the tactics, concepts, techniques, and methods that suit you best, regardless of who or where they came from. Once you pick your tools, remember this quote of unknown origin: “Amateurs practice until they get it right. Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.”