Thursday, May 10, 2007


Things get to be habits. After a while, you almost forget you are doing them- it's just "the right way". It's obvious. Long before I was assigned to the tactical team and long before I was drafted to lead it, I'd introduced 'debriefings' with the regular deputies that worked with me in booking. If we had a fight or a near fight or a new policy or a change we'd get the job done and then gather for a minute:

"How did that go? What went right? What went wrong? How will we do better next time? How was this one different than other similar situations?" (That last question isn't part of the standard short debrief, but it's critical to recognize differences in the situation. If you don't, you wind up changing things all the time in response to flukes.)

Last night I taught a jujutsu class for a friend who is out of town. It was his advanced class, so in the mini scenarios I had them critique and coach each other, debrief each try and go back to it. At the end of class, as always, I debriefed: "What did you learn?" Each person has to answer that question. "What does that mean?" (The lessons the student picks up are usually very surface- "I have a habit of stopping between techniques" usually means that the student is trying to remember the 'right thing to do', thinking too much). "This is the lesson I wanted you to take away..." "Any questions for me?"

I've been doing this in Uses of Force and Tactical Operations and training for years. It is the critical component to becoming a self-teacher. Five carefully analyzed events are worth twenty that ended in just beer. Somewhere along the line, I'd forgotten that most martial artists aren't trained to do this. Hopefully they realize that this habit was the most valuable lesson of the class.

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