Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Student Profiles

It's not always possible, but when your focus is on teaching students, as opposed to teaching material, it's kind of imperative to know who the students are.

Rookie officers, for instance, need a solid base. Sometimes that even involves detailed explanation of the problem, e.g. the different kind of force incidents, force policy and basic priority setting and effective motion. Experienced officers, on the other hand, may need a refresher on policy and most could use some practice at articulation, but the physical part has to center around taking what they are going to do (you will not, in eight hours, entirely replace something that has worked well for twelve years of a career) and making it better.

People with a duty to act have entirely different needs than people who have a preclusion requirement in their self defense law. Someone who has trained for a decade in a hard contact style will have different holes and advantages than someone who has only trained in air. Men are rarely exposed to the types of violence women are. Someone who expects to be traveling on the Mexican side of the border or working in Pakistan or taking pictures in Somalia has very, very different needs than someone doing the same job in St. Paul.

Some general categories of information for developing a student profile:

Safety Information:
  • Ranging ability (People who practice mixed-weapon sparring, for instance have skills at ranging that people who work at one range won't be able to see)
  • Know the rules for stopping action (tapping, safety words)
  • Too arrogant to surrender?
  • Breakfall abilities
  • Previous injuries
  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • Relevant psychological issues
  • Relevant medical/medication issues
Physical Ability:
Largely strength, skill, endurance and pain tolerance. Mostly how physical they want; how physical they can handle; and how physical they need. Those are three separate things.

  • Training experience-- because that will drive expectations, blindspots and habits. A lot of SD training with experienced martial artists is showing the disconnects between what they have learned about opponents and what they need to learn about criminals.
  • Life experience-- This is huge. Someone who has been victimized in the past will have different needs and triggers than someone who has never experienced serious trauma and very different reactions than someone who deals with violence professionally. One of the instructor's roles is to turn all experience into an advantage. Because it is, but not always in the same way.
  • There is a third aspect that can come from either training or experience. Call it 'heart' or whatever. But sometimes, especially in long-term training you have to (forgive the melodrama) forge spirit. Toughen them up and get them used to decisiveness. And there are other groups where this problem (which can be difficult and is usually time-consuming) is handed to you.
Possibly the most important: Understand why the student is there. And this can be huge, because frequently what the student wants, what the student thinks he or she wants and what they need are three very different things.
  • To be safer or to feel safer?
  • To polish or improve a skill?
  • Inspiration (a lot of experienced people start looking for new things when they hit a plateau. It's a good tactic.)
  • To learn a skill? Or understand where a skill they already have fits? Or find the pressure point where skills break down?
  • To stress themselves?
  • To test themselves?
  • Because all of their friends are doing it?
And so on. There are a lot of potential reasons and many of them are subconscious. The people who show up to SD classes but don't want to sweat usually want to feel safer, not be safer. And the ones who squirm and go into denial when they get some hard truths want an amulet, a magic cross to keep the vampires away. Some try to find arguments... they are the ones who wanted a previous world-view confirmed, not get new knowledge.

The goal is to get the maximum relevant information safely into the student.



Ymar Sakar said...

Interesting stuff.

One time I was jogging around and just staring at the ground in front in case there was something there that could trip me, and I heard those ghetto type yells people make in my vicinity. I immediately snapped my head up and used the direct from which the sound came from to identify the source. When I realized it was a car that I didn't recognize it, I immediately thought of two things.

1. What do I do if somebody in the car has a gun aimed towards me.

2. There is no cover around me to get behind if I see a gun.

I think I thought about this for half a second or so, until I decided to approach the car, from behind, so they would have to either shoot through the window or get out or turn around outside the window, where I can see them. I think I was planning on sprinting towards the car and using their own car as the cover, then after that, not really sure what was on mind. I think I was trying to think that far but couldn't, so I dropped that line of thought and just started walking.

I think my audio inputs cut out as well, since I can usually hear cars driving up behind me. After I approached the car and one guy stuck out his hand for some kind of high five, I relaxed completely, since I intuitively understood that gesture to be opposite what people do if they were trying to attack me. After I had taken more than 3 steps towards the car, I had already figured out that it wasn't Code black just yet, but still wasn't quite relaxed yet.

I turned around and got surprised that there was a car in the middle of road, right behind where I was standing. Since the first car was at a stop light. My audio inputs had cut off, it seems, during that little walk.

So being decisive is important by my eyes. Sometimes one can do the thinking while also doing the doing.

I don't know why they gave the yell out. Could have been they saw me jogging around with my head down and thought it was something they could have fun about. Maybe they thought most people would look up and get scared. Maybe they were just playing around. I didn't ask and they never said a word. That's the strange thing. They must have seen me walking up to their car, but they didn't say a single thing. Or at least, I heard nothing from outside.

Tiff said...

Great info - thanks, Rory.