In a previous post I wrote about the fact that My Way is A Way and not The Way. What prompted me to write this week’s post is the push I am seeing to make a particular style of martial arts a “National Standard” for policing.
There is a difference between:
- Explaining what you teach, how you teach it, and the impact you have seen from what you teach, and let other people make their own decisions about the practicality of what you teach for them and,
- Stating that everyone should do what you do because it works for you and it should be a National Standard.
For example, there is a push by some people to make it a National Standard for law enforcement academies to get their recruits to a blue belt level in BJJ during the academy and then mandate people train in BJJ once a week. I am not for or against BJJ being taught in academies. I am concerned when someone from outside the profession, who has been immersed in BJJ their entire life, has never been in law enforcement, and has a business teaching BJJ is telling the law enforcement profession that you should be doing what they are doing and selling as it is the solution to all our use of force issues.
One Academy I know of recently implemented a revised control tactics program where the recruits do earn their blue belt in BJJ during the academy. I have not heard them make the assertion that BJJ should be a National Standard, I heard about their program from one of their very skilled and very dedicated trainers. I am hoping to interview some of their academy staff for the Excellence in Training Academy to get a better understanding of their program.
The reality however, is that not everyone has what that academy has, which includes:
- They run their own Academy and have a large full time training staff.
- They have the support of the Academy Command Staff to implement the program and to create time in the academy curriculum for the recruits to get training in this multiple times a week.
- They have a group of highly experienced and highly skilled BJJ practitioners, who are also experienced law enforcement professionals and understand the difference between imagined work and real work who were willing to put in the time and effort to create an entire curriculum for their academy.
Not every academy, or every agency has all of those pieces in place. Some have the trainers, but not the support of the command staff. Others have the support of the command staff, but lack access to the right instructors. Others are lacking both. Many agencies do not run their own academy and often have little influence into what is taught and how it is taught at the regional academy. Few academy instructors have the support of the curriculum design staff to rework an entire academy curriculum to build in daily control tactics training sessions. Some academies rely heavily on adjunct instructors and would have a difficult time getting access to people to come in and teach an hour a day, every day for an entire academy.
There are other academies that have what this academy has, but their programs are based on judo or some other martial art or control tactics system. They would argue that BJJ is not the answer and should not be a National Standard.
When I say “the right instructors” I mean people who have:
- A high level of proficiency in what they are teaching.
- They understand the research on how humans learn best for retention of skills and are willing to teach in that manner.
- They either have experience doing the job for which people are being trained or they have a deep understanding of the realities and demands of that job.
- They have the ability to teach principles and concepts that work in the real world when officers are wearing their full uniform with all their gear and are struggling with, or fighting with, a determined opponent in a variety of environments, often where there are often other people around.
A Black Belt in any discipline is not an automatic qualification to teach law enforcement professionals. There is a difference between being a great practitioner, and being a great teacher. Not all Black Belts are great teachers and not all Black Belts are great at teaching White Belts. Not all Black Belts have the cultural competence to teach practical elements of their art to law enforcement.
One of the keys to what the academy I mentioned is doing, that I hope does not get lost in the discussion, is the amount of time dedicated to the control tactics program they have developed. The recruits are training in the program almost every day over the course of the entire academy. In their control tactics training program they have broken away from the blocked practice model still common in many academies.
This is post is not about what martial art or control tactics program is best for law enforcement. It is about encouraging you to examine what you do and continually strive to do it better. It is about what works best for your agency, in your environment, with the support you have, the time you have, the facilities you have and the instructors you have. It is important to keep abreast of what other agencies and academies are doing and pull the key learning points from their experience to enhance your training programs.
Factoring in the environment your officers work in needs to include weather issues and access to back up among the many factors. For some agencies winter means you switch from short sleeve shirts to long sleeve shirts. For others it means both the officers and the subjects they deal with are wearing parkas and heavy winter clothing and the struggles take place on ice or in deep snow. You also need to factor in how you will roll the training out to the personnel already in the agency and what you will do to try and have the new officers maintain the skills they developed in the academy. You also need to develop a plan for instructor succession. Too often the succession planning for instructors is forgotten piece of the long-term strategy and the system relies on the people currently in place to be successful.
Rather than the discussion being about what system or style is best, the discussion should be about what are the core principles that should be implemented in your academies to ensure you are teaching in the most effective manner to facilitate learning, retention, recall and application of what you are teaching. Look to implement changes to increase the frequency of training using spaced practice and build in struggle utilizing the elements of desirable difficulties into your training. Break down the silos and the blocked training models and interleave various disciplines into your training sessions.
With all of that, be cautious about any claims that a specific control tactics system should be the “National Standard” simply because it works for someone else, with the resources and support they have.
Winning Mind Training – Providing practical training to law enforcement professionals in the areas of instructor development, Performance Enhancement Imagery, leadership and mindset.
The Excellence in Training Academy – A membership site created for law enforcement trainers willing to invest in their ongoing professional development.
Dare to Be Great Leadership – Committed to helping aspiring and frontline leaders on their leadership journey through a weekly leadership blog and the online Dare to Be Great workshop.