Monday, August 06, 2007

Baton Training

This one's for Jeff. My first three-day training with Deputy US Marshall Jeff, he made a comment that in order to be useful any combat training must have three elements:

1) It must have a tactical use.
2) It must work under stress.
3) It must work moving as well as standing still.

Point number three has come up a lot lately. I've watched too many instructors teach escapes from grabs without seeming to realize that an assailant doesn't grab you and just stand there- he grabs you to make you move, destroy your balance. The dynamic of a moving escape is different enough that many of the techniques don't work.

Friday we had recertification training in the expandable baton. I noticed a couple of things right away. First off, I'm not particularly big or strong. In the static drills I hit faster (that's a technique thing, most of the officers were swinging with the arm, I was using the finger closing grip from sword work for speed) but several of the big guys were hitting as hard as I was. However, when it came to hitting moving during the scenarios almost everyone had a huge power drop off. I didn't (and my armored bad guy paid for it. Sorry, D.)

Do many martial artists practice hitting while moving? Striking fast and hard while angling forward, back or straight retreating? If not, why not? I've never not practiced that way, so it seems weird when I hear people talking about the difficulty of it. Same for shooting, too. If you have to freeze in place to get a good shot off you turn into a big target.

So that's for Jeff. If you can't do it moving, you can't do it effectively- no matter what 'it' is.

There was another drill, striking with the closed baton. We practiced on kicking shields. The strike was to 'go through', essentially scraping the surface of the shield to set up a recovery strike from the complementary angle. The exact same motion could either be a pain compliance technique (scraping the ribs and sternum to drive someone back) or a "level 5" technique, breaking the clavicle or separating ribs based only on a slight difference in wrist angle. I asked the instructors about it... they recovered nicely but they hadn't really considered it. They were teaching to a lesson plan and hadn't really thought about what they were trying to do to a human body, or how that would change the recovery for the second hit or all that it implied about centerline targeting versus peripheral or...

The last drill was to go into a room with a bag over our heads and a padded baton. We were spun around and then the bag was pulled off and we had to deal with whatever we saw. What I saw was an armored threat in full attack at biting range. To be fair, one of the instructors had given me a special brief beforehand: a personal reminder that it was a baton class and I wasn't to throw, lock, knee, elbow...he tried to make the list comprehensive.

That was a problem. The essence of this drill (probably based on Tony Blauer's Night of the Living Dead drill) was for the armored attacker to give constant pressure, a constant barrage of attack. It predicates on a combination of good armor and a soft padded weapon so that the weapon can't stop the threat. But I've trained myself for years that if option A doesn't work, you switch to something else without hesitation (thanks, Mac). So I was good- I only kicked once to buy distance and didn't aim at the knee. I was going in for a throw when the instructor stopped it, however. The stick wasn't working and I was getting a little tired. If you can't knock someone down with a stick...

On the plus side only four of the thirteen students remembered to (and were able) to access their radios under the attack. "Did I enunciate clearly?" I asked.

"It was eerie calm. If someone was killing you, we wouldn't be able to tell from your radio voice."

That's cool.

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