Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cross over effect

As promised this blog will finally address reps for mastery.

A book called “Motor Learning” by Doctors Richard Schmidt with Craig A. Wrisberg, is the source of the often used 3000 – 5000 repetitions to mastery quote.

Dr. Schmidt states that it requires approximately 300-500 repetitions to develop a new motor pattern. Conversely, once bad or inadequate habits are already in place, he states it takes about 3000-5000 repetitions to erase and correct a bad motor pattern.

I guess I’ve never counted reps so I don’t have my own statistical data.  But from my own experience I know it is much harder to break a bad habit and rebuild a positive one, than to build a positive habit from the start.

Whether you agree with those numbers or not I think we can all agree on the necessity to get as many quality reps as possible.  We can also agree that when doing those reps we must be aware of unintended consequences and prevent ingraining bad habits. (Brass in the pockets)

If we can agree on those two points then we must also agree on the need to avoid contradictory training.

What I mean by this is that if one aspect of your training tells you to do one thing and another aspect tells you to do the opposite it will cause a freeze under pressure.  Similar to how starting too many programs at the same time causes your computer to freeze.

A classic example of this found in Law Enforcement is shooting vs. defensive tactics.  Most Law Enforcement firearms training is done on a range from a rooted shooting position.  Officers easily receive 300-500 repetitions of standing still in front of a lethal threat and delivering rounds.  These same Law Enforcement Officers are trained to move and use leverage and physics to physically control an arrest subject.

Now when those Law Enforcement Officers need to go hands on the conditioned responses are conflicting each other.  The result is a freeze when action is needed, even to the point of receiving damage from the control subject.  Most officers root right in front of the control subject (the worst possible place to be) and rely on muscle (instead of motion, leverage, and physics) and try to over power the control subject.  Unless they are much larger and stronger this approach fails.  Their back up arrives and does the same thing, repeat as necessary until physics are on their side (keep adding officers until there is enough mass to over power the control subject).  This results in the ever popular pig pile.  

Things are getting better, officers are being trained to move.  Doing Move – Draw - Shoot (mds) drills, move to cover, shoot while moving, etc, but they still need 3000-5000 repetitions to erase and correct a bad motor pattern.

That is why integrated cross over skills are so important.

An example from history is the Samurai.  I’m sure there are other historical examples but I came up through Japanese arts and I dig anime so bear with me.

Depending on the era you are talking about, the primary weapon of the samurai could be a bow, naginata, spear, or even a firearm.

However, during the Edo period, the era most people think of when the think of Samurai, the katana became the primary weapon, since there were virtually no more wars.

So, for the purposes of this blog - The katana is with out a doubt the primary weapon of the Samurai, with the wakizashi as a secondary weapon. 

1000’s and 1000’s of reps were practiced with the sword.

Tameshigiri was practiced to simulate cutting through flesh and bone as realistically as safely as possible, and sometimes unsafely on prisoners. 

Basic motions were deeply ingrained, these motions formed the building blocks for other related skills.   

From Kenjutsu grew Noto, or no sword.  Just like modern operators practice malfunction drills Noto was what to do if you lost your sword, or your sword broke.  Samurai already had these deeply ingrained motions form the sword, so many Noto techniques used those exact same motions.  This eventually evolved into Aikijujutsu and Jujutsu..

For example look at these pictures of a  basic stance from a Kenjutsu manual and an Aikido front stance.

Samurai didn't train Kenjutsu and then something completely different for empty hand.  They had time and budget constraints just like we do today.

It is very difficult to get 100 to 1000’s of quality reps in many different disciplines.

Cross over skill integration starts with the frame work of the primary weapon system then works down through secondary, tertiary, all the way down to empty hands. 

For the most part modern operator’s primary weapon system is a carbine rifle with a large magazine capacity.
Their secondary weapon is a semi-automatic hand gun.  Tertiary weapon is some sort of blade.  Lastly using their hands if all else fails, or if that is what the rules of engagement call for to control a situation.

There are only so many directions and so many ways a body can move.  For cross over effect to work, basic fundamental motions must be similar.  They do not, and probably cannot be identical, but they must be similar enough to be recognizable through out all weapon systems.

If you have a stance you use for your primary weapon, this needs to be the stance you use for all your weapons, and empty hand.

You need to be able to move with your primary weapon.  The way you move, the directions you move, and why you move has to be consistent for all your weapons, and empty hand.

If not it could ( I originally wrote WILL but there are no absolutes in these type of things) cause a freeze under pressure.  Everybody freezes, even the best trained battle hardened spec-ops guys freeze.  However, because of their training and experience for them the freeze has become so brief a pause they may not even notice it anymore.  That level is something we all want.  Contradictory ingrained responses will cause that freeze to last longer and become harder to recover from.

The plus side of integrated training is that once you incorporate it, working on one thing can make you better at all the others. 

As previously stated operators have always had time and budget constraints.  So it is imperative to get the most bang for your buck with every rep.

This concept lays at the heart of what I teach tactical teams.

In order to be on a tactical team they must be able to:
  • Move through a door in a linear motion
  • Move through a door in a circular motion
  • Move directly through an obstacle
  • Move laterally; Move – Draw – Shoot
  • Use an opening motion to let other operators pass
These are the basic fundamentals of any tactical operation.  If you don’t know how, or are incapable of doing these basic skills you cannot be on a tactical team.

These basic motions are deeply ingrained.  These motions form the building blocks for other related skills.  

So I use that foundation for special operation control tactics.  Everything is broken down into:
  • Linear motion
  • Circular motion
  • Direct Entry
  • Lateral Motion
  • Opening Motion
All things these guys all ready know how to do and have 1000’s of reps doing.  No reinventing the wheel, no contradictory training

That’s what I do, big deal – how does this apply to you my beloved readers?

You can apply that same logic to your training

This will take a level of personalization, developing your own operational method.  There are very few people that can teach this to you.

Make your own frame work.  What is your primary weapon system?

If you don’t carry any weapons on you, on a regular basis then it really doesn’t matter.  What ever martial art you enjoy practicing will be your frame work, contradictory training won’t really be an issue.

If you do carry a weapon does your weapon and empty hand training conflict?  Can you transition from one to the other in a fluid manner?

Does your Filipino knife fighting strategy suggest you stay on your feet and maintain a certain reactionary gap, while your BJJ training suggests you close distance pull guard establish a position of dominance and finish the opponent on the ground?

If so do you practice using the right strategy for the right situation?

For concealed carry guys, do either of those platforms have anything to do with the way you shoot?

There are plenty of academies that teach multiple martial arts under the same roof.  That is great, I am an avid supporter of the co-op Dojo.

If you are training in multiple arts for the fun of it, you can disregard most of this blog.
If you are training in multiple disciplines including edged weapons and firearms for self protection or as an Operator it is your responsibility to develop a method that works best to incorporate these skills for you.

It is very difficult to get 100 to 1000’s of quality reps in many different disciplines

You can focus your reps on basic motions that form the building blocks for all your related skills.
Or you will need to spend exponentially more time getting reps in vastly different skill sets which may directly contradict each other

Morihei Ueshiba (The founder of Aikido) said do not abandon the warrior arts of the past. Absorb venerable traditions of the old ways into this Art by clothing them with fresh garments, and building on the classic styles to create better forms. 

Take some time to look at what you do and why you do it.  Build on what you already know and create forms that work better for the way you operate

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe


  1. Some real gold here. Had to read it several times, and worth doing so. Thanks.

  2. Reading Kasey's blogs is awesome!!!
    Attending his classes and clinic is even better
    If you are serious about training. You will learn tons from him