Thursday, January 2, 2014

Outside the box thinking and addressing "softness"

Recently I was invited to a meeting of several Law Enforcement Defensive Tactics Instructors for a brain storming session.

A very cool opportunity.  I talk about this stuff with friends on the Internet.  I talk to my wife about it until she gives me that look that says please shut up I don’t care about any of this.  It is rare to have this conversation with local talent I can actually put my hands on.

The ball got rolling with the concept of catching up with fire arms training.  The days of standing still and target shooting at the range are gone.  Field experience has shown a need for training to change and progress has been made.

Movement, cover / concealment, reloads, many more “high speed” tactics have become common place.  Applicable skill sets have risen and officers are safer because of it.

What can we take from this and apply to defensive tactics?
Do we need to / can we change our thinking to how we approach teaching?
What should we be teaching?

With that the ball was tossed to me, “So Kasey not to put you on the spot or anything, but what do you think?”

And so started my diatribe which I will share to the best of my recollection with you here.

Those are heavily weighted topics / questions – where to start?
Yes we need to and can change our basic approach.
For all intents and purposes we are teaching basically the same things and in relatively the same manner as we did in the 60’s when it was a prerequisite to be a 6 ft. 200 lb. male to be a police officer.  One size fit all because all cops were pretty much the same size.

Also many recruits had seen active duty or at least had a military background.  Even those that didn’t grew up in a very different culture.  They were some how involved in physical culture. The overwhelming majority played contact sports, and all had been in fist fights growing up.  That was just part of life back then.  The socialization of young men in America… then.

Things are very different now.  I’m sure every generation thinks the generation after them is “softer” than them.  Softer than they were at that age.

Hell, last night I watched “Stripes” which came out in ’81 and that was the premise for the whole movie.

But now we are training people who have never played a sport or been in a scrap their entire lives.
I am seeing a huge amount of candidates failing field training because they lack an intrinsic quality, a virtue once ascribed to the idea we called manliness.  They lack the ability to step up and take charge when the time calls for it.

So now we have a world where all sizes shapes creeds and genders are training to be police officers.  That is a good thing.  We also have a culture where violence has been demonized.

Now we need to not only teach how to judiciously use violence, but to introduce a generation to violence in the first place, and also teach them that it is natural and necessary.  That is a challenge.  One that can’t be accomplished with the 1960’s training model.

Where to start?  Here it would be easy to spout everyone should train in One on One Control Tactics or Chiron DT, or SPEAR or LOCKUP or [insert name here] but that is failed logic. 

If we are embracing outside the box revolutionary thinking we can’t just glam on to the next big training buzz word or fad.  We can’t switch systems every three years for the bigger better deal.  Truth is there is no superior system.  All have strengths and weakness, but there are only so many ways a body can be manipulated for the purposes of control.  The physical techniques no matter how you group them really haven’t changed over time.

We need to change from teaching a system like passing down a martial art to the next generation, to a tailored approach.  There are core skill sets every professional must have.  You just adjust how those skills are used so it's field applicable “just right” for the individual.

We are teaching the same things to the 6’02” 230lb Division One Defensive End as we are the 5’01’ 124 female who has never been in any type of physical altercation her entire life.

Big guy can easily control everybody in the room with a straight arm bar take down into cuffing.  Basic bread and butter defensive tactic found in all systems.

Here is Batman doing an arm bar take down

Big guy will be able to physically control people most of his career despite his training, not because of it.  Until he fads from his physical prime. Or he runs into someone bigger, stronger or just flat out committed to feeding him his liver (Then he may be in for a rude awakening)   

High 5’s good jobs, good grades.  He is rewarded for being able to do what the system teaches.  

Autosuggestion phrases - this system will work – backed by success in training gives him confidence in what he is learning.

Little gal works hard, can pull the technique against the other females in class.  She is as technically skilled as the big guy, but has trouble doing it to anyone else.

No high 5’s, at best good effort Sally.  She receives poor marks on her practical exams.

So what happens, her friends in class give her the technique.  She believes she can pull it in the field, when she has no actual competence in this area.  Or they don’t give it to her and she ingrains that she will lose anytime she has to go hands on with anyone.
Both are negative potentially catastrophic outcomes.

We can’t just teach her a system.  We have to teach her how to fight as the best her not a poor imitation of the big guy.

We need to teach her to work the system and how to adapt.

I said it is like big game hunting.  Everyone in this room is an experienced police officer and martial artist.  Yet none of us would box a lion.  We don’t fight lions we hunt them and use tactics and tools to safely put them down.  We don't high 5 a guy that got torn apart boxing a lion.  We generally think that guy is dumb. 

But we teach 5'01" women to try to take down division 1 defensive ends with a straight arm bar.  We high 5 them if they can do it and punish them if they can't instead of having them recognize that tactic is stupid for them and teaching them to transition to something that would work for them and giving them the skills to articulate that higher level of force.

This is the straight arm bar
This is what is for
This is what it feels like when it is working
This is what it feels like when it is not
If this ever feels like that (if it ever feels like work) switch to this.
In your case it might be transitioning to a weapon.
Practice that transition and articulating (Circumstances and Officer / Threat Factors) why you chose that force option.

That should get high fives!
If we are trying to get this generation to step up. We must instill ‘faith’
‘Faith’ being the willingness to do something you KNOW works.
For that to happen we have to teach them how to make things work for them, so that they have something their hind brain / lizard brain believes will work.

Then conversation then shifted to the “softness” of the generation of new recruits we are now instructing.

In the past certain assumptions were made.  Recruits had been in a fight before.  They know how to “scrap”.  It was part of growing up.

So you can start with a straight arm bar in training.  This is how cops go from scrapping into control / arresting.

That assumption no longer holds true.  These recruits have never been in a scrap.  They have never been in a contact sport.  Many have never been in any type of physical competition.  They played games where no score was kept so as not to hurt anyone’s self-esteem.  They all received participation trophies no matter how well or poorly they performed.

Now, when this generation comes across someone who doesn’t care about their feelings, who won’t do what they nicely ask them to do, or worse yet become confrontational when asked to do something – they freeze up like deer in head lights.

That raises the questions:
Do we need to teach “fighting” / “scrapping” first then add cop techniques?
How do we address the need for some type of sparring to administration?

How are we going to safely teach trainees what it is like to get hit?
How to hit?

In my opinion addressing these topics is one of the reasons Krav Maga has become so popular.  In its own way it starts with basic scraping, then specialization -Krav Maga for Law Enforcement for example.

I will attempt to answer those questions in my own way with a series of blogs this year.

I have an opportunity to teach Defensive Tactics Instructor School for a local University starting next year.  My goal is to have solid answers to those questions and the means not only to better this upcoming generation, but to teach others how to instruct them.

Prepare them for life’s ass kicks

Great conversation, good brainstorming and cool new professionals to play with.  That was a fun day.

A few weeks later I taught self-defense classes for a local high school.  That experience really drove home the need.  Just how important helping this generation …I guess the only way I can express this is “get their balls back” truly is.

Freshmen and sophomores mostly ranging in age from 15 – 18 years old.
Every class is supposed to start with a warm up / physical conditioning.  This consisted of 10 seconds of [insert exercise here].  Not how many say push ups can you do in 10 seconds but more like please do some push ups.

I would say that 80% of the class just laid on their stomachs and waited for the time to run out.  Same for sit ups, same for squats.

Then they had to run around a volley ball court for an entire 1 minute and 30 seconds.  I saw one kid shuffle three steps then clutch his side as if he just got done with a marathon.

No self-pride, no discipline

After I was introduced, I asked them – Does anyone here know why physical education was introduced into American schools?
No response – silence
70 some odd years ago it was thought the youth of America had to be prepared for combat in WWII.
I fear if you guys were around then I’d be wearing lederhosen and speaking German today.

They didn’t get it.  They don’t study history.  Or they just didn’t think I was funny (everyone reading this knows I am hilarious)
A couple of days of self-defense with me can’t undo 15-18 years of the socialization that has created the problem in the first place.

I sincerely hope myself, and others in similar positions can come up with solutions to help this generation get their balls back.

And I don’t mean in some macho bullshit sexist way.  In this context woman have balls too.  Balls is being able to take care of your business.  What Chesty would call being hard, or a hard charger.  Taking pride in yourself and doing everything you can to be the best at everything you do.  My sister Kay has balls.  Lise has balls.  They are feminine ladies, and they kick ass.  Having balls has nothing to do with sex (plumbing) much less gender.  Having balls is natural.  Don’t believe me?  Try to approach a bear cub and see how Momma responds.  If you live through it please write how Momma bear doesn’t have balls or can’t take care of her business on the comments section.  Assuming you still have arms left so you can type.

Why is this so important?

Marc MacYoung and I have been talking about this a lot recently.  When I told him I was going to turn some of our conversations into a blog he sank the point home with this:

Think holocaust

The pussy-ification boils down to this. People can learn to stand up. But the longer it's gone on, the deeper it's embedded, the more other options are forgotten... the more people will die before the survivors remember how to stand up.

That's the spur, that's the warning

There is a reason why the IDF and Mossad are so bad ass.  They have to be, and they are constantly reminded of the consequences of not being able to stand up.
Never again!

Stay tuned to this blog this year for ways to address these concerns in a series – Reintroducing Physical Culture to America

“Our Country won’t go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now.  There won’t be any AMERICA because some foreign soldiery will invade us and take our women and breed a harder race!”
-Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller USMC

In the past training reinforced previous experience (scrapping, communicating). Training was changed for higher safety assuming that background still existed (recruits knew how to “handle their business”).
That background no longer exists.  Training has to change to reflect that.

America needs to get her balls back.

Train Hard, Train Smart, Be Safe…..Be HARD!


  1. " But the longer it's gone on, the deeper it's embedded, the more other options are forgotten... the more people will die before the survivors remember how to stand up."

    My apartment in Warsaw is two blocks down the street and across Saski Park from the site of the Great Tlomatski Synagogue that stood at the edge of the Warsaw Ghetto. Under my living room window is a plaque commemorating the 44 people murdered on that street corner in 1944. Those plaques are so common they were cast concrete with fill-in-the-blanks for date and number of victims. I'd say they average one every three blocks in the center of town.
    We forget history - but history does not forget us.

  2. The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance ... that not just personal vigilance, it is important to motivate others to be vigilant ... that's what's behind and the harm farms that we'd like to see others build and use for training, preparing and staying in a state of perpetual UNSOFTness.

  3. Prime example..

    1. That underlines it well... Sweet Jesus, I can't even... What do they teach police officers over there? This could have easily ended tragically... This is almost as bad as here in Hungary :-)

  4. Regarding the civilian side of things: at the class we did with those kids, I talked a little with the teachers about the self-defense classes they'd had in previous years. It became apparent that they had been shown a bunch of fairly complex escapes, and some strikes. The odds of someone who practices hitting once a year being able to pull off a technique with enough heat on it to stop someone who means them harm is not great. It illustrated to me that the entire idea of how to teach self defense to someone who is not training regularly is largely flawed in most cases.

  5. Glad I'm on the right track as I think about developing my own curriculum. Thanks for the insights.

  6. Kasey- This is going to sound like a plug, but you're already familiar with my stuff. The awareness-based training and principles based training is how we set up our DT program (with Mac, at my old agency). It underlies everything, and lets very different people find their own way. It also allows for a single class where veterans and rookies both get value.
    Analyze the 'how' as an instructor-- there's a block of principles-based instruction; followed by specific play to experiment with that principle or class of technique; followed by a game that integrates it into what they already do.