Because I am an educational geek—not only with law enforcement training classes, but civilian training and academic classes as well—I recently attended a self-defense class taught by Deputy Tom Popken, creator ofThe No Technique System of Self Defense. Tom’s a thirty-plus year law enforcement officer and was my police academy defensive tactics instructor. He teaches police officers and civilians the art of fighting to win—and he’s damn good at it!
During the seminar, Tom made a great point, one I think we all need to hear and consider. He asked his students to recall elementary and grade school. He asked them if they could tell him how many times in the span of one year at school they were participants in a fire drill. You recall: bell goes off, students line up in the hallway, students trudge outside; students are reprimanded by teachers for acting up; then students trudge back inside.
Well, most of the time they trudge back inside. I can’t say I actually made it back to class each time (my best friend had a car and a swimming pool after all). Point is, from kindergarten through high school we practiced the drill. In the event of fire, evacuate the building and wait for further instructions. It is the same in every school in every city in every grade. We practiced fire drills constantly.
After the exercise in recall, Tom next asked the class, in all their years of school, how many students evacuated a school due to an actual fire. No one had. We practiced and practiced, year after year, for something that never happened.
Now … Think back through your years of police work and recall how many times you trained in a specific defensive tactic. Let’s say handcuffing. How many times since day one at the academy until now have you practiced quick, efficient handcuffing techniques? How about control takedowns? Code-3 driving? If you’re like a majority of officers I speak to, your training decreased as your years in service increased. Think back through all your years of police work and tell me how many times you’ve handcuffed someone. How many times you used physical force to control a suspect? How about emergency driving? I bet you can come up with a pretty good estimate.
This is my point: as kids, we trained and trained and trained for an event that never happened. As police officers, however, we don’t train for events we know occur—arrests, fights, driving and so on. Where’s the sense in that? Statistically, we’re more apt to encounter combative subjects than a structure fire, but we’re better trained at fire response than force response.
I’m going to steal another point from Tom because I think it further illustrates my insistence on consistent and ongoing training. Watch a mixed martial arts fight. During the pre-fight ceremony, announcers will tell you the training background of each fighter: his martial art specialty, his win-loss ratio, height, weight, etc. Most of the fighters have high-degree belts in their arts. They are masters in their fields. But when these fighters get in the ring and start fighting, that training is momentarily lost after an unexpected strike. When a fighter gets hit, it’s not like at his dojo, he goes into attack mode and ends up throwing monkey punches until he can gain an advantage and regain composure.
Consider: Guys and gals who train all the time, who have the highest skill levels in jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling and so forth devolve to street fighters in a real combat encounter. If these highly trained athletes deviate from techniques they train with daily, what are the chances you, an officer who doesn’t train at all, are going to be able to implement what you learned when it’s most needed?
Consistent, effective training is the key to officer survival. We can’t assume that if our departments wanted us to train, they’d give us the time, money and coaching we need. Our survival is ours to claim. If your department isn’t providing you the training you want, find it elsewhere! Skip restaurant lunches for a week or two and save the cash to register for classes. Attend Calibre Press seminars and train your mental game. Talk to other officers, defensive tactics instructors, martial arts instructors, fitness coaches and anyone you believe can help you improve your mental and physical tactics.
You can evacuate a building with precision. Now start the work so that your physical tactics are executed with the same level of command.
Photo Courtesy of Georgetown, Texas, PD.