Thursday, September 13, 2007

Deer in the Headlights

Complex things are simple, once you learn to deal with what they really are. Fighting is simple. You already know how to move, you've been doing it your whole life. You already know how to read people to ascertain their intent and motivation and strengths and weaknesses- you do it in conversation a hundred times a day. But if you focus on the trivia, obsess with the things that are different, you can paralyze yourself to complete inaction.

It's like people. People are pretty much all the same (even in their need to believe they are unique) and pretty simple creatures to boot (including in their need to believe that they are complex). There are some that are more different than others, schizophrenics for example, but people are pretty much all the same. If you work with what we have in common, you can get amazing things done. If you obsess on the differences, the paralyzation can be disastrous. This could be another post in itself- the great political and social divides between cosmetic differences. Enough.

We were trying to get a new instructor up to speed. There's a weird way that cops become instructors for other cops. They ask to be. You kind of expect that if someone wants to be a firearms instructor they have some experienmce with shooting or a DT instructor has some training or experience in fighting, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the people that ask just want to teach. Or are padding a resume. Or just want a break from the regular job. Or think it will be easy overtime...

The second step is where the instructors get selected. Sometimes it is formal, but in many agencies it isn't. When informal, one of two things happen. If things are going well and the agency is healthy, the instructor candidate gets the nod based on the needs of the agency. For instance I prefer small, female DT instructors. A 240 pound gorilla making a technique work doesn't really mean all that much, but when a 140 pounder shows that she can roll a gorilla or hold one down that gives confidence in the technique.

In an unhealthy agency the person making decision might be afraid to say "no" especially to a ruthless (but unqualified and ill-suited) resume padder; or might be inclined to say 'yes' to an unqualified and ill-suited friend. Or pick someone based on ease of working with instead of actual teaching ability.

In healthy and unhealthy agencies, once you get a core of good instructors they sometimes forget to bring new blood into the instructor cadre. Teaching cops how to put people down is not always physically easy. It's much less fun as you get older and fewer of your joints are original stock.

Long preface, but essentially we had a handful of experienced instructors and one rank beginner who had to get up to speed on teaching the DT curriculum for this cycle.

The information I give the instructors isn't the same as the students get. The instructors need to know "why" the students need to know "how". Sometimes you need to have the "why" down cold to explain the "how".

So the instructors get the overview- violence dynamics; how assaults happen; adrenaline effects; how to break out of the freeze; three critical stages of the physical fight; the OODA loop; tying everything back to use of force policy and law.

On the mat they needed to know the drills, but also the reason behind the drills, how to use the drills for coaching and what to look for. One experienced instructor from another discipline immediately latched on to the flaw in the drill (every drill has a flaw- if you are training to hurt people without hurting them, there is a safety flaw built in) and questioned it until he agreed that it was corrected elsewhere and addressed directly and the least damaging flaw we could use.

It's a lot of material, but it is dead simple and works specifically off of the student's natural actions and reactions. There's a lot here but not a lot to understand. Been afraid before? That's not new. Answered a phone or shook hands? Those movements aren't new. Tripped and been tripped? Not new.

The new instructor was overwhelmed. The blank stare of a deer caught in the headlights. Trying so hard to memorize every detail. Disconcerted by the way the others (with far more fighting experience) were casually clicking- "Right, I've seen that. That's good."

For the new instructor it was new information being crammed in. For the veterans it was new categories that allowed them to dump some trivia and classify what they already knew into a tighter, faster package. The exact same information to a new guy was complicated and complicating. For the veterans, it was simplifying.


Patrick Parker said...

Your blog is some kind of interesting! Very cool perspectives on teaching.

Rory said...

Thanks, Pat and welcome. I've read some of your blog too. Your students are lucky.