Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why the Elephant Logo?

 Why the Elephant Logo? by W. Hock Hochheim

     Happened again today. A few always ask, "Hock, why an elephant as a logo?" For starters, I was looking for something different from the usual "fists, sticks, ... etc. 

     Veteran insiders in the military and police world have long used the expressions shown below when talking about experienced operators.

     “Work with him! He's seen the elephant,"
     "Train with him - he's seen the elephant."

     The elephant symbol and expression has come to represent real action and real experience. If you can't live it, then train with the people who have ... kind of thing. The training mission is to collect this type of information.

     That is why I selected the elephant as the CQC emblem. We try to be a repository for as much of this type of information as possible. Our books have true stories from all kinds of vets, this talk forum, etc. It is a never-ending and somewhat ever-changing process, of course.

     The mad elephant is really the symbol of the CQC Group, shown here on this page to the left. The SFC Congress - the big umbrella - has the classic eagle. We have other symbols. The knife course has its logo. The PAC course, its logo. The Stick course has two logos actually, the two fists on a stick and the radical Killshot skull logo.

     The elephant in the room. We already know about the "seen the elephant" phrase, but another one of the main reasons I have chosen the angry elephant as the symbol for CQC Group is that it represents the old expression, the "elephant in the room." The big elephant in the room is symbolic of the unspoken truth that so many know but so few dare to talk about. In one definition, the room is the martial arts room, or dojo if you will, and the unspoken truth is that common martial arts are abstract renderings of realistic fighting in a mixed weapon world.

     Another point is the unspoken and missed aspect of the room itself. Where IS the "room" you are fighting in? You cannot properly train for a fight unless you know where the fight will actually be.

     Missing in the dojo is the real context of the fight. What will be the real, chaotic situation in which the fight will actually occur? There is an elephant in the room when it comes to traditional martial arts.

     I also thought that the "Elephant and the Blind Men" story was such an interesting study. People only perceive what they touch in the story and cannot describe the elephant.

     Soldiers, cops, and fighters train in this small-minded manner, also.

            - each martial art is but a blind man's perception.
            - each martial sport is but a blind man's perception.
            - we forget the bigger picture, often completely naive and ignorant of it.

     The raging elephant logo represents this issue. Probably, directly hunting the elephant and getting guides to hunt the elephant has to be origin of the expression. Hunters always wanted a guide who has "seen the elephant."

     But it caught on worldwide as having been experienced in something round and/or dangerous.

     It was used for war vets in the Civil War or if pioneers made it all across the Oregon Trail.
It was somewhat popular in the 1900s on to maybe the 1980s. Or so.  Nowadays people do not use it in their vernacular, and it means little to folks without an explanation.


Stop 4 of the Stop 6: The Shoulder Crash

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The First Time I Was Officially Shot At

The First Time I Was Officially Shot At 
by W. Hock Hochheim

     Recently, I wrote about the crazy-weird first time I was shot at. And now this month, I want to write about the first time I was shot at … officially, as in during work.

     After graduating the US Army Military Police academy, I was labeled and stamped the old 95 Bravo and shipped off to Oklahoma and into what they still call “Garrison Duty.” There were two kinds of duty back then called Garrison Duty and Field Duty. Field duty is when you are attached to any police units that are out in the field or follow these units around when they are in the field. Today, some call them Combat Military Police. This field duty often included guard duties or what some now call Force Protection. Field duty and Force Protection didn't interest me at all. I wanted Garrison Duty police work - when you are on a regular police force, like working in any city. That's the difference between Garrison and Field. What about military and civilian police work? Why, let's ask Tom Cruise.

     In the 2012 movie with short Tom Cruise as the famous, very tall Jack Reacher, a city cop asks former military policeman/investigator Reacher this question -

     “So, what is the difference between a city cop and a military cop?” 
     Reacher's/Cruise's answer goes something like, “Oh, the same, except every suspect ... is a trained killer.”

     Da-da-da-doooom. Yeah, right. That line is a real groaner. Especially for someone who has done both those jobs for real. Very dramatic. But there are some similarities between the jobs (oh, like the boredom - which would not make for a cool line in a Cruise movie). It is NOT like a Jack Reacher book or movie or the famous NCIS TV show.

     Any decent-sized military base is just like any city. Stores, malls, restaurants, schools, movie theaters, businesses, power plants, housing, apartments, families, you name it. Then the military extras like barracks, ranges, tanks, cannons…. Garrison duty is just like working at a police department in a medium- or large-sized city.

     Upon my arrival, I started out with a training officer in a patrol car, who was not much older and about as dumb as I was. But this lasted a short time. Oh, maybe like a week. This was not so uncommon in the 1970s. I very quickly found myself out on my own in a squad car patrolling a beat with all the aforementioned amenities in a Class A pretty-boy uniform on day shift and OD fatigues on evenings and nights. I was officially "on the road." In fact, in the jargon of the day, a "road MP" meant you were a Garrison Duty cop working the streets (not deskbound). In the very beginning, that is all I wanted to be - just a road MP.

     My patrol supervisor, a staff sergeant, was a cool guy in his late forties, a Nam vet with a great attitude who we all knew was soon to cycle out for his next assignment overseas. One night we had a dangerous armed fugitive loose; and at that squad meeting, he really spoke frankly about taking the fugitive down without hesitation if we had to save our lives. Take no chances. I don't know, maybe because it was the very first time I had heard “that” speech for real (and it was not a groaner!), but I vividly remember that night and his intensity. It's a quiet, intense speech I would hear again hundreds of times and make a few times myself. That speech. A speech that shaves off, that rasps off, a few layers of your “laid-back” and replaces it with a raw “get ready.” That fugitive was eventually caught up in Kansas.

     Anyway, things like this made the Sarge A-OK with me and the troops. So when I heard him one night kind of lose his cool over the radio, I was really curious about why and what was going on?

     THAT speech! A speech that shaves off or that files off a few layers of your “laid-back” and replaces it with a raw “get ready.”

     That one late night, a common domestic disturbance call came over our car radios at a residence way out of my district. The Sarge intercepted the call and started issuing fervent commands over the airwaves. He sounded a bit rattled. It began to sound like a military assault rather than a two-officer domestic call. He even called me in.

     “Car 11.”

     “Car 11, go ahead.”

     “Car 11, respond to the domestic. Park on the street. Remain outside until needed.”


     OK. What's this all about? This was different, but then again, it was all different for me – the rookie in his first month. I drove across the base and down the side street where a row of some ten narrow, really old white houses were. They were all in a line like matchboxes, all on one side of the street and nothing across the street but a fenced-in, industrial looking place. The street was dark. Depressing government housing to live in. Each house had a small front porch in the center of the house front. To my memory there were at least four or five patrol cars parked on the sidewalk curb out front. A lot of cars. I made it about the fifth car there. I came from the farthest, so I pulled up last.

     I parked and got out. All of the MPs present were still on the street side of their cars. The Sarge was shouting to a man. I could see a white male standing on the small front porch. Arms down at his sides. I was off to his left at about 4 o'clock and a good, maybe 40 feet, away. I remember his visage on the porch, a bright white light right over his head. His face in stark white and black shadows. T-shirt and pants. Silent. No one approached him as yet.

     I started to decipher what the Sarge was yelling, when … this guy lifted his right arm up straight. There was a pistol in it! He started shooting at us. His arms swung the wide span of our cars as he fired away. I dropped down and fumbled open the flap holster of my .45. But it didn't take long; and for the first time in my professional life, I drew out my pistol. With these explosions, I also dropped down behind my car. Everyone else did, too, that I could see. Nowhere in my training was it ever mentioned about using parts of a car as a shield against gunfire. The tires. The engine block. Ricochets, etc. But then again, these were stout cars of yesteryear metal. Old 1970's AMC Matadors.

     One of my vivid memories is the metallic sounds of the bullets smashing into our cars. Thumping also describes it. My car! In split seconds, he emptied his magazine just as I peeked over my car at him, getting up to take a shot. No one else had shot yet either! Why? Everyone else was so much closer than me. I could see he dropped his gun arm back down to his side, and the Sarge rushed him gun out and yelling he would kill the man. Other MPs rushed him. The man stood still like a statue. By the time I got around my car and halfway to the house, the man was cuffed. He was yanked off the porch. Another MP held the suspect's pistol in his hand.

     Then a women and three small kids barged out of the door. The woman cried, embraced the Sarge. The kids were crying. My friend who had parked right in front of the house said the kids were crying in the front room while the man stood on the porch. And the wife was at the door inside until he started shooting!

     In a quick sit-rep, no car windows were blown out. Not every car was hit. None of us were shot. Any other rounds the man fired must have landed into the industrial place across the street. Nobody died. It was another good day.

     It was apparent that Sarge was very familiar with the “situation” at the house. Another MP told me they'd been dispatched there several times in the last few months; and this showdown was really brewing, which was why the Sarge reacted to the call as he did. The man was arrested by the district officer who cuffed him, and I returned to my district. Not even a witness statement was needed. Just one report by the arresting officer covered the whole story.

     At the end of the tour, we turned our car keys over to the next shift with a new story. “You see this hole?” At the station, the Sarge collected up our final reports from the night and thanked those of us at the shooting for responding “so well” to this domestic incident. He thanked us for not shooting at the suspect right away. He told us that the old wooden house was full of people - the kids and the mom - and if we all lit up the man and the house with .45 ammo, we could have hit the family inside. And the fact that he took a little time to "debrief us" was another lesson in professionalism for me. He even patted me on the back as we all split up to leave.

     Pat on the back? Hell, I was 40 feet away, and the whole thing was over in about 3 seconds. I didn't do anything at all. But it is still a moment I will never forget. Multiple first impressions, really. The way the Sarge deployed us. And, his forethought of worrying about the family inside the thin wooden walls of the house. I mean, I never thought about such a thing. Oh, well, they barked the four basic gun safety rules at us, and the third Law –
“always be sure of your target and what is behind it!”

     Suddenly that rule had real, physical teeth. Flesh. Real meaning. Oh! Is THAT what it means? The Sarge knew the wife and kids were right there behind the target. And who thought about the “suicide By Cop” syndrome back in the 1970s?

     So in the first month on the job, I'd pulled my gun to shoot someone and I was shot at. Was this the life I chose? The career? The expectations? The reality? Yes and no, but I reckon so. No real regrets, but I do regret that I cannot remember the Sarge's name. I didn't know back then that such remembrances were important later in life, if only for yourself. Within a few weeks he was whisked off to his next assignment. He was a cool guy all right. And the next guy was okay, too, but I don't remember his name either.

     But wait, this story isn't over yet, and I learned the BIGGEST lesson…. Pay day is a big day at a military base, and back then it was all paychecks and cash and carry. The banks went wild with walk-in and drive-thru business. Being the rookie, the lowest of low on the totem pole, I was assigned to direct traffic at one of the banks. I was stoically positioned up on a painted podium in the middle of four lanes of traffic, Class A's WITH white gloves, white hat, and the mighty whistle, working the cars in and out and to and fro. I knew little of this process, too, but it's not brain surgery and I picked it up quickly. TWEET! Oh, and I do hate it, too.

     There were many people and cars criss-crossing everywhere around me. I saw a staff sergeant in his class A's, with a big smile leave the bank and walk across the street right by me. WHAT? It was this guy who shot at us. That was the guy! Right there! He didn't recognize me or even look at me. I have to admit I was shocked. How could a guy shoot at MPs, then three or four weeks later be bouncing around the post, smiling and as free as a bird? That was another big, first lesson for me.

     The criminal justice system, whether military or civilian was a strange, dysfunctional, and bizarre place full of imperfect and often incompetent people. Yes. I was now one of them. And the view from atop my little painted podium that day and for the rest of my life … was not always a pleasant one.

Combat Strikes 1, 2, 3
The First Three Strike Modules of the Force 
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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Importance of SHOOTING Ernest

The Importance of SHOOTING Ernest. 

     No, not the importance of being Ernest. Shooting Ernest. Among the literate and even the illiterate here, most people are familiar with a book called The Importance of Being Ernest.That is Ernest as a noun is defined by showing deep sincerity or seriousness. But if you know the classic story, the plot is not about being sincere at all but rather the opposite, to pretend and trick people that your actual name is Ernest, and only has an ironic twist to the popular phrase. But why would I want to shoot at Ernest? Maybe I am tired of shooting at poor Will?

     "Fire at Will!"

     Poor Will.
     Let's just say I want to give a paper target a name or give a so-called “threat” a real name. Or make something unsubstantial more substantial by giving it a human name. So I call the threat – “Ernest” so as to bring a real name of a real person into common shooting range vernacular and solve a certain disconnect problem I feel is rampant. (Warning! If you are a hobby shooter or a point-trophy shooter, you may stop reading right now and go about your happy business. This is for self-defense shooters.)

     Disconnect? Yes. Between paper and flesh and blood. It is very popular for all too many years now at the shooting ranges to fire at - of course - paper targets. What else is there to shoot at, really? Sometimes folks shoot those hard-foam-body-shaped forms, but they are quickly blasted to smithereens, and they are expensive. We are left with paper targets. People have fiddled with these targets through time. They draw big ugly people on them holding weapons or even blow-up photos of people. They even have zombies printed on them now. Oh, and they move these paper targets closer and far away or make you stand close or far.  

     Sometimes they pull a t-shirt over a target in an effort to recreate a person, but it is still ol' flat, Paper Willy. In fact, no matter what they do to a paper target, they always post perfectly still at the other end of a square range (yes, there are some rare ranges where targets are moving unnaturally on some sort of ramp). And we shoot them. We shoot and shoot them. For decades, we shoot and shoot and shoot these pieces of paper, hopefully at least some of this time imagining, projecting, fantasizing about the “threat.” What is a threat, exactly? What threat is

     And just about everybody on the planet calls the ubiquitous paper target on the range the elusive “threat” from time to time. The threat. We hear the word "threat" a lot.

“When the threat appears.”

“I draw on the threat.”

"Shoot the threat!"

"My hands come up when I see the threat."

"I shoot the threat until the threat is over."

     "When the threat is down."

     Threat. Threat. Threat. The pros love that word. But I like to call the threat instead … "Ernest.” Because Ernie is a real guy's name. And I like to think that doing this labeling is the very first toddler step on the long road to reality from the shooting range over to the actual shooting incident … the wounding, maiming, and/or killing of a real person. People. The moving, thinking people "what need shootin'," all inside an ugly situation.

     The term “threat” is rather innocuous and handy quite actually. It blankets a multitude of sins and sinful people "what need shootin'," and fast. We can't be bothered with the surrounding, situational details on range day. We have sights to acquire, breaths to hold, and triggers to gently squeeze, squeeze, and squeeze! Vests to wear, the right hat and scarf, etc. All that internal focus. The external focus is...Ernest.

     Ernest is on the move. Shooting at your head and chest. Now is not the time to worry about the details of this Ernest guy jumping around like a jack rabbit trying to kill you! Its the range! And we have to shoot at something on the range! Like Willy. I understand that, but I ask you to take a serious brain check.

     Is your brain stovepiped? Is this all you do? All you think shooting is? All that you think self-defense training is? Shooting at one-dimensional, non-moving paper targets for the rest of your life? All under the guise of "working those basics."

     What is Ernest really doing that I need to shoot him? I often wonder what people on a range really think their shootable paper threat is? Who exactly is it? What exactly, at that very second, is he doing? Where precisely is this happening? When is this happening? How is this unfolding? And why? Why are you shooting this threat? I mean Ernest. Unless you are being assassinated, the physical act of shooting a person is a short episode inside a situation, a drama. A trauma, an event. Who, what, where, when, how, and why? These details, these preparations, are every bit as important as your trigger squeeze in the eventual big picture.

     I never really shot firearms for the sheer fun, a hobby, or a pastime. Maybe it was my job in the Army and police work that spoiled me. I took it all too ... ernestly. I was also shot at very early on. Perhaps I started out under this stressful view while too young? I have a serious work ethic about this thing people call "shooting." A certain impatience. I always worried about Ernest.

     I still worry about Ernie, and perhaps this gave me a different perspective on gun training not heard in the rapidly growing marketplace. I have what many have called a "reverse-engineering" look at shooting. I like to start at the gunfight and work backward to see what is
                                                                                    really important.

     In my decades of police work, I was mostly an investigator; and I have worked numerous murders and even way more attempted murders, robberies, rapes, and shooting incidents. Atop that, I have been trained by other investigators and medical examiners from Los Angeles to New York about their cases since the 1970s. I am here to tell you that Ernest is a very sick, twisted, clever, tricky, emotional attacker who operates in rural, suburban, and urban areas day or night, inside or out, within an unlimited amount of predicable and unpredictable situations. Yes, our Ernest! He is a criminal, a soldier, a parolee, a pervert. He has impulse control "issues." He is the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, the guy or gal next door. The guy you passed too close in your car. Ernest - the threat - the guy you are eventually going to kill. Well,  I mean, of course ..."stop."

     I wonder when classic range shooters are training on a classic range and looking at a classic paper target. I wonder what they think they see. As their eyes flicker back and forth from the sights to the target, from the target to the sights, when the instructor defines the paper target as this intangible "threat,” will he- or she-student project his or her version of a criminal upon the paper? A crazy from the Taliban? An abstract concept from last night's TV cop show? Or perhaps one just sees a point-ratio target score to pass the day's events.

     If you are in this for survival and not sport or not a hobby, at some point you have to start really learning about Ernest. But are you there at the range for the thrill and joy of using a new gun? A new holster? Checking out that new spring? Forever hitting that bulls eye? Or are you there from the fear and hate of a criminal or an enemy soldier or a craving to survive? Are you just … addicted to the range? Just slap-happy to shoot paper targets for decade after decade after decade for the rest of your life? Does the course itself become your end task? Do you lose yourself within it? Trapped within range of the range, not a means to an end. The end is the gunfight set in "ernest" and chaos with an Ernest and maybe a few of his buddies?

     People should want more. I am encouraged that there are newer training movements to solve problems in car jackings and now inklings of a popular push to dissect possible home invasions and shootings right in the actual homes that people live in. Reduce the abstract! But if you look at the chaos of crime and war, there are many other common episodes to cover. The best aspects of our military train to shoot and kill the specific enemy while said enemies are doing the very tactics that they do to us in the field. Reality training. And this practice should be done with ... brace yourselves … some kind of simulated ammunition and at an off-the-square range in realistic environments. The range only exists to support the reality. Need I repeat this point? The range only exists to support the reality.

     People understand that if you spend your life punching a heavy bag, you will not really be prepared to handle a real interactive fight. If you only punch bullets through paper targets, it is just like the perennial heavy bag puncher. You will always need to punch a bag some and always shoot live fire some at the range, and it will be on paper targets. What else is there? But the range only somewhat supports the reality.

     At some point in your shooting "career," the range becomes a session of weapon familiarization. You have simply got to learn about dealing with Ernest. And you are not really learning how to gunfight unless you fight against a moving, thinking Ernest who is shooting back at you. This is accomplished with interactive, simulated ammo in crisis rehearsal situations constructed by knowledgeable instructors. It is the next step. The step most can't or won't take, even though simulated ammo, interactive, situational shooting training has already won the respect of police and militaries around the entire world. What about you?

     One final mention on the ugly word "disconnect." One of the causes of post-traumatic stress is the hyper-leap from shooting paper targets to maiming and killing people. It is a hyper-leap too large for many folks. Training with simulated ammo against shooting, moving, thinking people who are shooting back at you will help desensitize you for this mess in stages and may help defer PTS. Scored 98 on the target range? Looks good. That's cool. But as the old adage goes, "can they fight?"

     One final point to add here. People, hesitant or even against this kind of interactive training are sort of old school in their jargon. They use terms like "Force on Force, or "Role Playing." Force on Force conjures up images of a little freestyle sparring with rubber guns. And Role Playing? I have seen more than a few instructors shun it. They turn the idea of role playing into huge, anal retentive, academy award productions with windy, professitorial, lectures on blackboards about how vital every phrase and face scrunch should be by the "actors." Such great thespian care must be used! Oscars! Emmys! Look, take two guys on parking lot full of cars. Put one guy with a safe ammo gun on one end and another guy with a safe ammo gun on the other end. They try to kill each other. How much acting do you think is involved? None. Zero. Put them on stairways. Put them anywhere. There are plenty of important short situations to experiment through. Let them experience the moving, thinking shootout with Earnest.

     This is the importance of shooting Ernest. We have been firing at the non-moving, flat, Mister Paper Willy for way, way too long. Give ol' Will a break. It is time to implant Ernest and his chaos in your training DNA. They don't call it "crisis rehearsal" for nothing. It is the importance of shooting Ernest. And well, let's not forget Ernestine, too, and all their goddamn relatives and buddies.

Riding the Gun Down Video

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Martial Communication! Your Classes Should be Noisy!

Martial Communication! Your Classes Should Be Noisy!

by W. Hock Hochheim

"Are you yellin' like the real kind of yellin' that people really yell?"

Your classes should be noisy. A lot of police training classes are noisy. If not? They should be. The training partners playing the bad guy part should yell a lot. The officers are yelling at their "suspects" ordering them to surrender, etc. 

The best martial classes do this anyway, but many don't. One way to build the verbal abuse callousness of your students is to use a lot of yelling and angry words, curses, and tones, along with angry faces. Even Drill Sergeants do it. Pursuant to this idea, here is a reprint of an older published article I wrote quite a few years ago in a police magazine about the subject and tones of words used by officers, soldiers, or regular citizens trying to win the good fight or get out of a bad one. The beef of the material comes from Bill Lewinski's Force Science research.

    * * * * * * * *

A conflict ensues. You are either a main subject of it or a citizen, police officer, or military personnel trying to mediate, break up, or end the problem. You start out really well with a strong, confident command voice. The actual words will vary situation by situation but in general, strong words are:

“Get out here now!” 
"Stand over there!" 
“Get down on the ground!” 
“Put your hands behind your back!” 
“Leave him alone!” or "Leave me alone!"
“Let me go!” 
“No!” or "Stop!" 
“Move and I'll kill you.”

"Stop fighting me."

Words to this effect. You get the idea. They are often sentences that I've called exclamation-point sentences, because the emotion and voice are exclamatory and if written down would end in such a punctuation mark.

In 2007, Minnesota University Doctors Bill Lewinski and Dan Houlihan began calling them “Alpha Commands.” By designating them as alpha, they may have allowed for a continuum of letters to begin which may define and re-define conflict communication. This title comes as a result of conducting law enforcement studies on personal observations, reviewing documentaries, and the recent flood of “squad car” footage. Their theory is also based on the years of study in the education fields of recalcitrant children, classroom teacher control methods, and working with the autistic. All are excellent study groups in this subject matter, and the results bear great fruit.
They have not only coined the term "Alpha Commands" but identified lesser and confusing orders they call “Beta Commands” - those of less precise tone and instruction and are somewhat confusing, maybe even pleading. 

Alpha and Beta Command examples are:

* Alpha Command: Stop resisting now!”    
* Beta Command: “Now, you had better quit this ... you are only going to get yourself into more trouble." 

I have heard this dialogue in many, many arrests! (In the middle of fights.)
* Alpha Command: Stop fighting me now!    
* Beta Command: "You don't want to do this. This isn't going to help."    
* Alpha Command: “Get out of here!”    
* Beta Command: “ I think you had better re-consider what you are trying to 
  do, and it would be very wise for you to leave.”

Dr. Lewinski cites more Beta examples: (I added the questions in parenthesis.)

* Beta: "Move," (where?)
* Beta: "Give it up," (how? what?)
* Beta: "Don't be stupid," (this relates to doing what?)
* Beta: "Stop screwing around," (this relates to doing what?)
* Beta: "Knock it off," (knock what off?)
* Beta: "Don't make me hurt you (or kill you)."

In this "don't make me" category ... how many times have we heard a parent, a police officer, or a coach say, “Don't make me do (this or that).” Dr. Houlihan cites an incident from the law enforcement studies in which an officer was in a standoff with a suspect who was gripping a knife. "The officer told him five times, "Don't make me kill you," before he finally did shoot the suspect. "A terrible command!" says Houlihan. "He might have thought he was conveying an order to put down the knife, but that's not what he communicated. It was left up to the suspect to interpret what the officer meant and what action was expected. In effect, the suspect was put in the position of having to control the officer's behavior!"

Pleading - "Now please, I ask you please stop resisting me," or, 
                    "Please stop fighting me."

Pleading - "Don't make me hurt you," or, "I don't want to have to hurt you."

These get murkier and more odd. Dr. Lewinski observed that, "In violent confrontations, the research revealed officers' command styles tended to be dramatically different. As threats appeared and escalated, officers overwhelmingly employed primarily 'beta' commands." This would seem to be a mistake and less productive yet happens frequently. I can attest to seeing this numerous times, and I am unsure if I even myself haven't engaged in such language at times with suspects. How exactly may this be a mistake?

Alpha-Commands on Down to Beta-Pleading? 

It seems obvious that Alpha Commands would be better than Beta Pleadings when the fight starts. I believe that people may get themselves into trouble when they start first with Alpha commands, a struggle ensues, and then it drops down to some Beta and even pleadings. In these Beta commands, aren't the once command/authority figures suddenly, more-or-less pleading with their subjects on the first signs of resistance? Have they lost command and are now losing their focus and confidence? At times they sound pleading and desperate.

Allow me to take this one step further. What does the suspect think of the Alpha to Beta drop down to a Pleading drop on a subliminal level? What will most recalcitrant children think? I think, and others think, that many if not most will translate the Alpha-command drop to the Beta and Pleadings as signs they are starting to overcome and win the situation or debate. The suspect/aggressor has gained a bit of ground as you have lost ground, and this loss may inspire them to continue their ways and intentions. This may make him push on to see what else happens.

There was a police study years ago that revealed that it was the really friendly, "nice" police officers who got beat up or killed more than the less friendly, less nice officers. I would quote the study, but I can't remember the source or how to find it now. Possibly it was another Lewinski study.

But it's a fine line to walk (a fine blue line, huh), and it takes a required, developed "acting skill" to pull off. Much of this comes back to "command presence" or the image, tone, etc., you are presenting to whether a citizen, soldier, security, or cop.

Please take note of this point. One of the BIGGEST problems with this type of confrontational training is the lack of knowledge on the subject matter in the staged argument. If you are going to have an actor-partner-trainer yell at you and confront you over nothing, it can turn into mindless, worthless rambling that is unsolvable and builds no other ancillary verbal skills. At the very least, have the participants pick a subject problem, like road rage or a spat over a parking space. Yes, a robbery or mugging, too! For police, a disturbance or arrest. How about a domestic disturbance with your drunk uncle? Something that both parties can at least get their teeth into to some degree when bantering.

"Don't write wolf tickets you can't back up." As we said back in the 60s in the New York City area, "don't sell tickets with your mouth that your body can't cash." In other words don't be Barney Fife where your Alpha, even Beta, orders have no teeth.

It's hell being a professional, and if not professional? It's hell acting like one. But striving for professionalism means at the very least having a working knowledge on all these issues. It takes a certain "touch" or skill to decide what kind of language works with various people and their personalities. And lest we forget, your silent demeanor and appearance counts in the equation, too. Your ability to communicate, vocabulary, cadence, etc., ..."reach"... makes you a success or failure in life. There are many really professional conflict resolution classes out there. I would avoid the ones that make you become a better manipulative salesman or those from people who have no psychology background. Well, like me. My purpose here is just supposed to inspire you to find solid sources.

So back to the simple, original, opening paragraph here. Back in a single lane. Hand, stick, knife, and gun training classes should be really noisy with all this stuff!

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Case of the Basketball Hands (and Other Startle-Flinch Enigmas)

The Case of the Basketball Hands (and Other Startle-Flinch Enigmas) 
by W. Hock Hochheim

     In the 1990s, I read an interesting college lab study on the internet covering reflex response - a subject once so near and dear to us all here in the fighting business.

     First, this study collected and identified volunteer students on campus for an undescribed "sports-psychology" test, a not uncommon practice on a campus. They filled out a deceptive questionnaire, and hidden in the questions were identifiers on who were sports players and who were not. Then specific sports were listed on the interview sheet. One of the check-off sports boxes was for basketball - which as it turned out, was the real subject of the test. The test givers secretly collected the students who had played basketball and those who had not, as this was some sort of sports psychology study.

     In the test, each testee student stood still in an empty room. A test-giver quietly approached from the side and rear of the student. He suddenly shouted, “Hey!” while throwing a basketball at his torso at his side. The following response was a complete zero-to-sixty reaction.


     All the test takers turned and saw a basketball speeding toward them. As you might have imagined, many of the students with no basketball experience flung their arms up in the direction of the ball and to their sides, not their fronts, in a reflexive movement of self-protection. Some dodged the ball without any arm movement at all. And yes, some were hit by the ball.

     But all the experienced ball players when surprised tried to catch the ball with the palms of their hands as they'd done in basketball. Some caught the ball; some failed. But they tried! With their palms up and out. This further proved again that some sheer reflexive movements can be coupled and honed with conditioned response.

     We do not know the level of experience the people who had checked off the “played basketball” box had. But the moral of the story is full of common sense. People with some level of experience responded instantly with more of a trained response. This struck me as yet another case in a long string of experiments that strongly suggest proper training leads to quick, smarter, forged, instantaneous responses, and, in many cases, shape reflex. Not eye-blink reflex or hammer-tap-on-the-shin reflex mind you, but as proven that not all - but many - types of responses that are officially considered to be "reflexes" have been shaped and tweaked.

     The surprise "HEY!" Since I really dislike basketball and NEVER have played it, except when forced to in public school gym class, I know I would block the basketball with my arms to the side, (not the front,) and be like a flailing, idiot caveman. Or, try to dodge the ball. Or maybe just get hit? But if you tossed a football or baseball at me as some of my knucklehead friends have done to me through the years, I probably would try to catch it properly. That is what practice/repetition does for you! And that is what proper martial training can do for you, too. Conditioned responses.

     True, startle-flinch fanatics today believe that every person, every time when startled, no matter the distance of the surprise, will ALWAYS throw their hands and arms up as in some kind of fighting stance. Yet the opposite can be seen weekly on America's (or whatever country's) Funniest Video TV show or shows like that. Or in modern textbooks where over 30 different startles have been recorded.

     If you are unarmed, getting your dukes up fast in a fight is a good idea. But when pulling a knife, a baton, or a pistol, reinforcing the idea that throwing your hands up first and then down to the weapon is not a good idea. It is a waste of precious time. While your arms may well go up DURING an explosion, like a close gunshot, there is way less of a guarantee they will fly up BEFORE the gunshot or upon seeing any threat at any distance. Couple that with countless occurrences of surprised people pulling their weapons and not throwing their hands up first, then how natural and mandatory could/should "hands-up-first" be?

Unarmed? "Dukes up!" Simple. Get your arms up in fighting training. You need to anyway. Natural or conditioned. No big deal. No secret message there. That is why I basically ignore startle-flinch fanatics. The arms get up anyway. I do wish they would realize they took the wrong (and expensive) roads to get there. 

Armed? Need to pull a weapon fast? DON'T always train to put your arms up first when "calm" and at the range. It will add a step in your muscle memory through conditioned response. And also remember not every fight has a startle in it, and your repetition training doing this on the range will create that extra conditioned response. This way you are training yourself in ALL circumstances to waste a second every time you pull a weapon, by throwing your arms up first then down to the gun. These training repetitions have a far-reaching effect, startle or no startle. Natural or conditioned. Mandating this is an unnecessary mistake. If you cannot grasp this simple training process? You might well be too dumb to be instructing people.

     I might mention here that there was another test I found in a 1990's internet search that covered very similar problems. I found some interesting 1980s US Army tests. One test was identifying soldiers with a karate and judo background and then some with no martial arts background. In a very simple test, these soldiers, unaware of the subject matter, were told to walk through a semi-dark walkway in what I recall to look like some kind of warehouse, into a room, and sit down. As they walked through, someone jumped at them from the dark, yelling with a threatening manner. The results? Most karate folks jumped into a karate-like stance. Most Judo people did theirs. Most untrained soldiers had no ready stance. I also recall this Army test being discussed on some early talk forums in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 
     Two interesting little studies to at least consider and discuss. I so wish now I had cared in the 1990s to record these study names, the college, etc., of that basketball experiment and little Army experiment years ago. Some startle/flinch fanatics today must believe I am lying, I guess, when I report this. But, I was a working cop then, never dreaming I would be reaching a vast audience or having to challenge the cognitive dissonance of startle flinch fanatics who have invested so much time and money over that as a priority. The studies are so buried in time, so smothered by search terms, I just can't find them anymore.

         Back in the 1990s, I had no idea I would need to record the specifics of this study on the internet and quote them as gospel to today's naysayers. To me back then, it was just a martial arts gossip story over a beer or coffee. And it was forever to be on the net! Right? Not buried away. I had no idea I would be debating such common sense issues decades later and worldwide. People are left to argue what precisely is and what is not an "official" startle-flinch action, when it doesn't fit their idea. And, as if it is all so utterly important anyway. It really isn't that important, and you have been sold a marketing bill of sales-pitch goods when you think it is. Rather, the real subject matter is the bigger category called "ambush."
     But perhaps these little buried tests I found are not that important anymore, anyway. Just watch America's Funniest Videos! See all the reactions.

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