From a news report last week: “a recruit fell unconscious during a boxing bout with a fellow classmate.” “The recruit was taken to a hospital where he later died.”
Why are we still doing boxing in training?
I am not opposed to teaching boxing fundamentals such striking, power development, movement, etc. I am however, strongly opposed to boxing programs where officers are put into a ring and actually box. The intent behind this type of training is usually to expose officers to physical confrontation; to put them in an environment where they will experience interpersonal human aggression, where they will experience being in a fight and actually getting hit. I agree recruits need to experience interpersonal human aggression, and be in physical confrontations in training. Boxing however, is not the way to address that.
When officers are in the ring boxing they are actually learning to spar with an opponent. This is a very dangerous mind set to take out to the street. We must ask ourselves “Do I want my officers standing in the street exchanging blows with a subject to see who is the better boxer? Or do I want them to take control of the subject using force that is reasonable and necessary?” If we do not want them sparring in the street, why do we have them spar in training?
In boxing training you can get away with punching someone in the head and not break your hand as you are wearing 12 to 16 ounce gloves and head gear. On the street in a collision between the hand and a head, the head often wins resulting in a broken hand.
Recruits need to experience physical confrontations in training with a subject, not sparring matches with another officer. Rather than have them spar, put half of them in protective gear and have them play the role of the subject. Over the course of training the ‘subjects’ can display a variety of behaviours the officer will face on the street including assaulting the officer. The officer then can use reasonable and necessary force (based on the totality of circumstances) to defeat the attack and control the subject. This creates a completely different mindset in the officer and allows trainers to help program the trainees for success rather than for failure. Recruits should be experiencing this type of training early and often in the academy, provided it is done properly.
I have had a number of trainers over the years take offense to my stance on boxing and challenge me as to me why I believe boxing trains officers to fail. The main reason is because in almost every boxing match there is a winner and a loser. In a few matches the boxers exchange blow for blow in the fight and there is no clear winner. The result is a draw (tie). A tie on the street is not what we are after. In the win – loss scenario half the officers in training walk or stagger out of the ring as losers. When that happens you have sent 50% of the officers away from training where their last fight was one where they lost. In doing so you have just created a huge training scar in that officer’s subconscious mind. Do you want the officer carrying that training scar assigned to back you up in a fight?
It is common for recruits in boxing training to “get their bell rung”. What that means is they just suffered a brain injury. Some suffer long-term negative effects from those concussions, and some, as with the recruit mentioned at the start of this post, die as a result of those injuries. Professional sports now have concussion protocols to try and protect players from the long-term implications of concussions. Do academies that are teaching boxing have similar protocols, or do they simply tell recruits to “suck it up”?
We need to hang a question mark on things we have long taken for granted in training. The fact that boxing may have been part of a part of “tradition” in an academy’s training program is not a justifiable reason to continue this type of training.
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