Thanks for the letter. You’re not alone. Ask a bunch of cops if they want to go shoot and you run out of targets. Ask them to train hand-to-hand and almost everyone is suddenly busy. It’s amazing how few want to really train....
I have a news flash: Cops fight more than they shoot. Therefore, empty hand skills should be as effective (if not more) than their shooting skills.
The tools officers get in DT class are often the minimum standard, not the most you can do, so I commend you for taking your personal defense skills seriously.
Solo vs. partner training?
While a partner or department that makes training a priority is an asset, the reality is that a lot of the training for real self-defense can be done on your own. In fact, everything I teach with the exception of the actual partner drills can be performed solo. It’s not ideal, but don’t forget that you need a skill base (tools & athletic ability) to intelligently do partner drills. So, personal 'tool' development is a solo effort and should happen first.
Here’s an interesting drill to apply to shadow sparring, bag work, etc.. All you need is a timer and a bag.
First the rationale…
The conventional training formula creates ‘skills in a vacuum’. You polish technique in front of a mirror; you work cooperative timing drills, hit pads and then do sparring and scenario-type drills. But, truth is, they’re all controlled, even when there's impact. When I say controlled, I mean we know what to expect most of the time. We also know we’re being watched and/or evaluated in some drills so we perform based on what the expectation is. It’s not really us or really emotional.
In reality, true emotions like fear and anger aren’t dissected or injected deliberately in advance of the real confrontation. However, they should and could be. That’s one the secrets to our research; understanding how, when and where behavior afflicts performance.
Years ago, I was training professional fighters and I realized that there was too much emphasis on the physical skill alone. On judgment day, performance wasn’t affected by whether the fighter knew how to jab, kick or bob ‘n weave. Skills and the performance were always affected by mind-set and fear.
With this in mind, I developed a drill called EMOTIONAL MOTION. I had fighters do bag work while replicating fear, intimidation, cockiness, etc. I had them really get into the emotional state and then move on the bag. It was a fascinating study.
Each emotion really produced different behaviors for the same skills: footwork, jabs, combos were all affected by the emotional mindset that was fuelling body language. It was obvious how much the emotional system interfaced with the psychological; the two definitely afflicted the pure bio-mechanic skill. In other words, when I had the fighter really angry, the attack was more telegraphic, more ragged. It really affected the technique of the punch. Replicating fear produced different tactics and so on. A jab was no longer a jab.
The core element was that the EMOTIONAL MOTION drills allowed me to show fighters how to better keep their emotions in check and to notice during sparring and fighting when and where emotions were interfering with athletic performance. This created an internal barometer that the fighters were then able to monitor during actual sparring. They were able to better self-regulate if they were experiencing one of the emotions they had worked on during the drill.
The formula for the drill was easily transferred to our street defense and tactics programs. The introspective phase of the drill reveals things unique to each participant, but all realize that talking and fighting don’t mix well, nor does yelling and fighting and complex motor decision-making is compromised when you’re caught up in an emotional struggle. The more emotional you are, the more tunnel vision you may produce. Adding this element to your training helps you to appreciate its time and place and make better real-time decisions on regulating emotions during incidents.
Out of a drill like this comes a deeper appreciation for some of our most effective law enforcement concepts from the S.P.E.A.R. SYSTEM course like the non-violent posture drills, “Penetrating the Reactionary Gap” strategies, diffused vision drills for pre-contact cue development and so on.
Here’s the drill:
EMOTIONAL MOTION DRILL:
1. Identify a scenario
2. Determine what tactics you’re practicing for this set.
3. Set your timer. If possible have it on 30-second cycles.
Stand in front of your bag (or in the air) and start talking to it. It’s the ‘subject’. Remember to ID a scenario first. Talking while fighting is difficult, so it’s a good thing to practice.
Continue the ‘Tactical Communication’. Think Miranda, think witnesses, think de-escalation. But visualize the perp not responding.
Practice lowering and raising your voice (as if under stress, asserting commands) for at least 30 seconds. Try to be as real as possible. (It’ll feel awkward at first). Posture with the bag, encroach it, as if penetrating the reactionary gap, and then circle and back off or hold ground.
Then when a timer goes off, immediately launch into a technical combo, even if you’re in mid-sentence, when the buzzer goes, just move. Blend realistic tactics, lead index palm to a leg kick, knee, a couple of strikes, disengage and transition to baton or O/C, firearm etc..
Repeat the iteration with a variety of ‘theoretical’ combos to run through and note how much more difficult they are to launch when you are emotionally charged, breathing erratically or trying to blend tools and tactics.
Even if you have a training partner, this drill is excellent. The intent of the drill is to really feel how emotions can interfere with complex motor skill coordination. The drill is NOT used to refine ‘technique’.
If this all makes sense, you're ready for the first drill. You must do this rep. first, before you start analyzing or assessing as I described earlier. Here goes: Get really pissed at the bag. Yell at it. Shove it. Threaten it. Do not launch into the bag until you are very emotional. When you are genuinely pissed at this imaginary opponent, immediately try to get tactical. Notice how it feels. Was the transition immediate or ragged? Was breathing easier or more labored? Were you more accurate or wild with your effort and targeting? And so on. This first exercise will reveal and expose the essence of EMOTIONAL MOTION training. Now that you have empirically experienced the best demonstration of the worst that could happen....go back to the structured drill and work your craft as a professional police officer. (*Note: we’re not advocating yelling at people. We’re only showing you how screaming GET DOWN! or DROP IT!!! over & over can take you out of the relaxed ‘sparring’ mindset real fast. The moral: find out in the gym not in the street!)
Of course, having a motivated partner makes it easier, but remember, you're doing this for yourself and the irony is that most of the work must be done by yourself. In time, if your efforts are genuine, a partner will appear. Trust me...start the training. It'll be your magnet.
Train hard & stay safe,
PS: As mentioned, one of the most neglected and most important areas to train is mind-set. We offer 3 audio CD’s, a workbook and several videos on the subject. I’d recommend you look into them. Remember, ‘cerebral work’ is also a solo endeavor: introspection, mind-set, goal setting, fear management training, evaluating weakness (mental, tactical), and so on.
Info on the audios
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