VIDEO: Lessons from Reaching into a Car

Training must take the real-world as its baseline: a case in point

By Tony Blauer  |   Jan 5, 2018

There’s a reason he couldn’t let go and it has to do with fear and physiology. He’s not the first cop to grab the car of a fleeing suspect. It never ends with the cop slowing the car to halt like some superhero. The grab is an unconscious reaction to the suspect’s sudden non-compliance.

Trust me, he wasn’t hanging on because he thought it was a good idea. At a physiological level, the crossed-extensor reflex (CER) contracts during the startle-flinch and whatever you’re holding you’ll grip even tighter with primal strength/response–this movement bypasses cognition. Releasing the grip becomes a battle between the cognitive brain and the reactive brain.

The remedy isn’t simple, nor is it difficult. Awareness of the neuroscience is the first step. Working drills where you actively release the CER with a partner creates a mental blueprint  and can shorter reaction time during a real encounter.

Also reverse-engineering scenarios improves perception speed, i.e., discussing in class NOT to grab at cars would actually make cops safer. Running safe and simple scenarios on the driving track replicating the incorrect and correct choices would also go a long way. This is all brain-based learning and it’s how we design and conduct all training.

Some may wonder why an officer would even consider grabbing the car. Again we just look to training or lack of. If there were discussions and video, we would now be integrating evidence-based scenario training, which is the only type of real training that should be conducted at any agency.

The unaware/untrained officer is touching the door; leaning against the roof, using on door frame for support as he/she reaches for the suspect; then sudden movement triggers a flinch, sudden loss of balance and the body naturally grabs something for stability–the car.

These are the possible reasons because no one has reverse-engineered the problem. If it becomes part of the discussion in training, then the mind/body has an awareness of things to avoid and/or the ability to use a micro-flinch to push away danger.

This is the core essence of the SPEAR System: Weaponizing your startle flinch is as left of bang you can get.

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Tony Blauer is one of the world’s leaders in the research and development of scenario-based training for the military, law enforcement and self-defense communities. He’s best known for the development of the SPEAR System, an evidence-based defensive tactics program built around human physiology, physics and psychology. He also developed 'High Gear', the world's first impact reduction scenario-training suit. Mr. Blauer and his team are available for seminars and he can be reached at [email protected] If you're new to SPEAR, click here:

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