2 tests to determine if your training is tactical or tacti-cool
We must apply NUM and the Three S Test to everything we do, instilling functional skills early and quickly by focusing on the simple basics
In my training journey to advance my skills as a law enforcement officer and trainer — during which I’ve spent countless hours and roughly $35,000 out-of-pocket over the past 31 years — I’ve learned that most training can be classified into one of two categories: tactical and tacti-cool.
Tactical training focuses on developing the capability to induce a desired outcome with maximum certainty, while simultaneously minimizing the amount of time and energy expended to do so. Tacti-cool training has a different goal: developing the capability to look cool with maximum certainty, while basically ignoring the outcome or the amount of time and energy used.
Training in tactical concepts can possibly save your life. Training in tacti-cool anything can get you unnecessarily injured or killed, although you’ll probably look really cool as you go down. While my training journey has spanned over three decades (and continues perpetually), yours may just be beginning. I’d like to share two evaluation concepts that can help you decide if you should keep a tactic, or throw it away with the tacti-cool trash.
The NUM Concept
The first is a concept that can and should be applied to each and every law enforcement tactic, technique and skillset. Use it to evaluate everything in your current tactical toolset. Rooted in physics and common sense, the NUM Concept will help you save precious milliseconds in everything you do. .
NUM stands for No Unnecessary Movement, and the concept can be summed up in eight words: movement takes time — unnecessary movement adds time unnecessarily. Using the NUM concept, you can increase your speed in any armed or unarmed combative tactic or technique.
In a life-or-death altercation, milliseconds can make the difference between going home safely and leaving the scene in a body bag. In Jeff Cooper’s highly acclaimed book, Principles of Personal Defense, he explained that one of the primary principles of prevailing in combat is speed.
Take high-speed video of a world-class shooter drawing a pistol or reloading at top speeds. Slow it down so you can actually see what he or she is doing, and you will see the NUM concept at work. The world-class champions — regardless of what sport they’re competing in — don’t move a fraction of an inch unless it is absolutely necessary. This is a major factor in why they are so incredibly fast.
I urge you to evaluate whether you’re adding unnecessary movement to what you’re doing. I also urge you to consider what happens to human performance and coordination when the enormous wave of adrenaline hits during an unexpected life-threatening crisis. Psychomotor skills that you can perform incredibly fast under normal conditions can become extremely problematic when Mother Nature slaps you in the back of the head with that big, spontaneous, adrenaline overdose.
Maybe some of your tactics are borderline tacti-cool, but you’re still faster than anyone you know. Maybe, but that’s not the question you should be asking yourself. The question is: “Am I as fast as I possibly can be?”
Regardless of whether we’re talking about pistol craft, combatives, or any other motor skillset, it remains the same. If you’re adding unnecessary movement, you’re lengthening the amount of time needed to perform the skill.
The Three S Test
The second evaluation concept comes from firearms trainer extraordinaire, Dave Spaulding. He developed the Three S Test, which gives you a fast, systematic method to evaluate training techniques, tactics or concepts:
1. Simple. Is the technique or concept simple in design? More importantly, is it simple to perform when the fear factor sets in?
As we all know — or should know — when a confrontation explodes, we don't rise to our expectations. We default to the level of our training and experience. If it's not simple, it goes in the tacti-cool trash bin.
2. Sensible. Based on your real-life experiences and prior training, does the technique or concept make sense to you? Although officers may not be academic scholars, many are certainly PhDs in street smarts.
If a trainer is teaching you the latest ninja-cop-fu technique and your BS meter goes off, ask for a clarification. If they can't satisfactorily articulate why it makes sense, it, too, goes in the tacti-cool bin. One other point with sensibility in mind is this: can you maintain a functional level of proficiency with the training/practice time you have available?
3. Street-proven. Has the technique or concept been used successfully in real-life street altercations?
Do you want to be the crash-test dummy for the technique conceived last week during a ninja-cop-fu class, on a padded floor in a well-lit dojo, with absolutely no expectation of death or injury if it fails? Me either. I’d rather use a time-tested concept that the gladiators developed in the Roman Coliseum.
We must apply NUM and the Three S Test to everything we do, instilling functional skills early and quickly by focusing on the simple basics. The basics will carry most officers through difficult situations with a much higher success rate than tacti-cool training. The NUM concept and the 3 S test can help you identify which is which.