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Anything that can go wrong, will.
                       Murphy's Law

Conflict In Training

On this page:
What Is the Problem? | Force, Momentum, Physics and All that Kind of Scientific Stuff | Gyroscopic Stabilization | Why's that a Problem with Defensive Tactics? | The Solution?

There is a dangerous conflict in officer training. Like a small crack in a submarine’s pressure seal, it is hardly noticeable and no problem when the sub is sitting in dry dock. But it becomes potentially deadly if you try to dive. It's under the pressure of hundreds of feet of water that minute crack catastrophically fail. Like that small crack, the conflict only manifests at the worst possible moments. And that is when you, the officer, are in the middle of a violent confrontation.

This clash comes between the philosophies underlying two types of instruction: Your takedown and shooting training. What makes one system effective interferes with the other. These diametrically opposing training philosophies -- literally -- collide within the officer during moments of physical crisis.

What Is the Problem?
This is not a problem with the officers -- although it is very much the officer’s problem. Both shooting and defensive tactics are oriented on officer safety. Unfortunately, their physical approach is so radically different that -- under stress -- they often interfere with each other. This renders both less than totally effective and puts the officer at risk.

A good analogy is a computer crash: When two programs compete for the same extension, they cause your computer to lock up or crash. Because the two types of training are vying for control, the same kind of conflict occurs within your body during a takedown. You literally "freeze" in place when attempting to manipulate a violent perp. This is why many takedowns turn into wrestling matches with gun retention a major issue.

Firearms training tells you to 'dig in' and create a stable base with your body. This creates a "gross stability" platform. Once your body is stabilized, you can do the "fine" motor control and minute stabilization necessary for accurate shooting (hands, elbows, etc.). A simple way to understand the idea of gross stabilization is to write your name. (Seriously, pick up a pen and write your name before proceeding to read on).

Now try writing your name again while wiggling and jerking your torso and shoulders. Your writing will look like a child's. You must stabilize your body before you can write clearly (This is why children’s handwriting is so poor; they haven’t unconsciously learned to sit still and create gross stability).

A shooting stance is designed to create a gross stable base. By "digging in" and holding your body still, you proceed to fine tune your other platforms of stability (aim and fire). Without this series of more and more refined stabilizations, you will not hit your target. But recognize a key element here: Chances are good that you were taught how to shoot after you learned how to write. Since both use gross stabilization techniques that specific subject was probably passed over without too much emphasis or thought.

You should also know that this stationary stabilization is a key element in how we use muscle. We first create a stable base and then use our strength. Without this base, our "strength" is useless. Oh, the same potential  exists, but what we need to make it happen is missing. Take the strongest man in the world, for example, and as long as his feet are on the ground, he is the strongest man in the world. That connection to the floor gives him something to push from. If you were to take him and put him out in space, however, he would have no strength. Even though his muscles have the same capabilities, without a base, he cannot generate strength.

Both shooting and relying on muscle will result in you unconsciously trying to create a stable base by digging in.

But for takedowns to work, movement is necessary. You don't take a stance and try to generate force, you generate for by moving INTO the stance. And that is the crux of why defensive tactics so often fail. Instead of moving, the officer attempts to stay in the same place.

Force, Momentum, Physics and All that Kind of Scientific Stuff
Both bullets and takedowns rely on the same force: Momentum.

And momentum is easy enough to understand. M (momentum) = m (mass) x v (velocity). That means if you have weight and you have speed, you have momentum. Inert mass has no momentum. Once you get it moving, it has momentum. The greater the mass or velocity, the more momentum. A bullet doesn't have much mass, but it has lots of velocity. That gives it momentum, and you don't want to be in front of it. A freight train may not have much velocity, but it has lots of mass. As such, it has a whole lot of momentum you don't want to get in front of. A freight train moving as fast as a bullet would be a frightening thing to even think about, and that would be an example of both great mass and high velocity.

A good takedown is based on taking the momentum you generate and putting it into a perp. The rest is just a matter of steering so he falls where you want him to. IF you know how to deliver your momentum, it is very much like hitting him with a freight train. He will go down.

The problem is if you aren't moving your (m)ass, you aren't generating momentum. And if you've taken a rooted shooting stance, your (m)ass has no velocity.

The only thing you can generate from a rooted stance is mechanical force (a.k.a. strength). As we said earlier, muscle requires a base in order to work. And it only works within a certain distance before there is a serious power bleed -- or you fall over while trying to extend the distance. This happens when you try to extend the mechanical force from a truly rooted stance (which explains why you often end up rolling around with a resisting perp). What is funny to watch is someone trying to do a takedown from a rooted stance (humorous as long as it's someone else). Instead of true mobility, what you get is a funky chicken dance -- where someone who is trying to extend the distance of the force he can generate from his rooted stance -- hops from rooted stance to rooted stance until he and the perp fall over together. Basically, he was stuck in a rooted stance and couldn't get out of it fast enough.

On the other hand, momentum is an open highway, a Fury Interceptor and your foot on the gas pedal. You can go as long as you want. And he's the one left to try to hop from stable base to stable base.

So let's all remember to move our (m)ass.

Gyroscopic Stabilization
Did you ever have a gyroscope as a kid? Or play with one in science class? They're weird little gizmos. There it is, spinning like mad, and yet it is stable as can be. Try to push it over and it pops right back up. The more interesting thing is how much power it generates. If you either owned one or had a science teacher with a sense of humor, you know that picking a gyroscope up by both ends and trying to turn it sideways is no small feat. In fact, on the bigger ones, forget it. (That's how our skinny science teacher demonstrated to unruly jocks that brain is better than brawn.) You can get the same effect by picking up a bicycle wheel by both nuts, have someone spin it, then try to turn it from upright to horizontal.

These are examples of gyroscopic stabilization. Something that is spinning around a hub is actually a stable platform. And it's something you can do by spinning around your body's own hub (vertical axis). This is achieving gross stabilization through spinning your body, not a stationary platform. The super cool, peachy keeno thing about it is that gyroscopic rotation also gives you serious momentum.

Writing, shooting and weight lifting all use stationary bases. In comparison, only defensive tactics use gyroscopic stability. Three out of four kinds of training insist on stationary behavior. Under the stress of being physically threatened or attacked, the 'majority' training kicks in, and most officers unconsciously take a stabilizing stance -- usually in the form of a shooting stance. Even though they don't draw their pistol, the footwork and body positioning is done as they prepare to handle the physical conflict. We WILL react according to our training, and the bulk of our training says "dig in and stabilize."

Why's that a Problem with Defensive Tactics?
Well first of all, if someone is trying to drive your nose through the back of your skull, taking a rooted stance so you can generate mechanical force leaves you exactly where his attack is designed to deliver the most damaging force. You're now a sitting duck. In fact, by taking a rooted stance, you've actually helped him deliver more force. See, it works both ways -- the same structure and base that you are going to use to generate force to hit him -- allows his force to be better delivered into you. This is another reason you can often end up rolling around on the ground with a perp. You create a base, he body checks you and knocks you both over.

There also is evidence suggesting that dropping into a low, deep stance is a holdover from our caveman days. It can be argued that dropping one's profile and freezing is an instinctive response to keep the large predator from seeing you and inviting you to lunch. At the same time, this still leaves you in a position to run fiercely. You can run because all it requires is a weight shift the direction you intend to go.

Unfortunately, this stance is an unmitigated disaster for a takedown attempt. From this position, it is difficult to do the circular steps and create the gyroscopic mobility of the body needed for defensive tactics. Unlike running (where your weight shift, legwork and the direction you want to go are all the same) pivoting out of this stance is complex. You have to shift your weight one way, swing your leg another and turn your body to face still another direction, then shift your weight back. And you have to do it before he slams into you OR so you can slam into him before he moves. (Free hint, unless he's drunk out of his gourd, if he sees you set, he's going to move.) Any wonder why things don't work well without practicing this fundamental set of moves?

This problem manifests in another way, too. In the middle of a takedown, many officers decide that it's time to take a rooted stance. Whether this is to create a stable platform to do more fine skill adjustments (e.g., get a better grip), because they forget to move again, because they think muscle will do a better job or because they run into resistance and don't know what to do next, doesn't really matter. They've lost both momentum and gyroscopic stabilization.

From this position, you will be forced to attempt to do the takedown through muscle. And that is where it will go sideways. You simply cannot generate (or control) the force necessary for a takedown against a resisting perp from a rooted stance. Furthermore, by stepping back into a shooting stance you have just fallen into the hole of unnecessary movement. This is why takedowns turn into wrestling matches. They are a lot of work, you and the offenders are hurt, and you end up in I.A.D.

While there are others, this conflict in training is one of the main reasons your departmentally approved defensive tactics DON’T work! When you finally look at this problem, it is glaringly obvious. At the same time, shooting practice is so deeply entrenched in the LEO philosophy that the very mention of the idea that it can cause problems borders on heresy.

The Solution?
Learn to move. In fact, practice that skill alone. You'd be amazed at how much this fundamental is overlooked and how often it is left out in application.

While it would be better to learn not to drop into a rooted stance, odds are good that isn't going to happen. So let's look at an exercise that will help you work your way out of that position quickly. This is a rudimentary exercise. Once you get the different portions ingrained, you can begin to play with it and modify (such as doing parts all at once, instead of in a sequence)

Begin by standing with your weight fifty/fifty over both feet. Bend your knees so you are in a rooted stance. It doesn't have to be wide to begin with (in fact, it's better not to be yet).

Shift ALL your weight over one foot, leaving the other leg with no weight on it whatsoever.

Turn your hip backward, so your leg is dragged along in a semi-circle. The farther back you turn your hip, the greater the circle. Do this without shifting you weight.

Once you have reached the point where you have gone as far as you can without shifting your weight, shift it over to the other foot while turning/pivoting to face this new direction. As you do this, let your original weight-bearing foot adjust itself to a comfortable position.

As you move your weight, turn your new load-bearing foot out so that, instead of pointing the same direction you are now facing, it is pointing out to the 45.

Turn the hip of your now light leg forward, thereby dragging the light foot forward.

These are the basic forward and backward motions to create gyroscopic rotation from a rooted stance. Practice them both, then and mix and match them to move around the room. The mixing and matching achieves several goals. First, it makes an otherwise dull exercise more fun and challenging because you can begin to play games about how fast you can go from backward to forward motion and vice versa. If you have young children, practice doing this across a toy strewn floor. As you progress, try doing the same drills from deeper and wider stances. Another challenge is to perfect the art of shifting your weight by bending your weight-bearing knee while turning your hip at the same time. Practice until your weight transfers and pivots are as smooth and graceful as a dancer's.

While these fluid and soft moves may not look like much, they are generating incredible momentum and gyroscopic force. If, once you have learned how to do these moves quickly and gracefully, you grab onto someone and transfer that force into the other person, you can literally throw someone across the room. Remember that train you can steer? The really nice thing about fluidly making these moves is that when it comes to facing someone's force, you can roll out of the way, until the moment that you take control of his waning force, and rocket him where ever you want him to hit. Instead of fighting his force, you are letting it push you into position where you can take control from him and add your force, too. That's double trouble for him.

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