When I started with the program, 36 students were firing in anger maybe 100 rounds over the course of the week-long training, in highly structured, basically lame scenarios. There was a strong minimalist approach with those that originally structured and managed the program. With the driving force of another former Navy SEAL, Dave Maynard; we ended up reshaping the practical exercises and drills to the point that it was not unusual for us to fire 10,000+ rounds with the same number of students in the same time frame. What it meant is that our students were in the midst of a highly intensive, highly challenging, often chaotic, practical drilling environment. At the end of the training, they were far more mission-capable. They were relatively calm as rounds whizzed all about them. They had faced a highly skilled opposition force that gave them no quarter whatsoever. On several occasions, these same students had the opportunity to re-face in an oppositional exercise a specialized military unit or law enforcement SWAT team that was at the platform for training. The sailors more than held their own. In some cases, the contrast was dramatic. No flinching, ducking, indecision, or hiding out from the sailors. They suppressed the incoming fire, communicated, moved to engage and finished the job, much to the dismay of their opponents. The difficulty of dealing with the experienced, unrelenting instructor cadre had prepared them for the new oppositional force.
There is a fancy psychological principle called the "Rosenthal Effect" (learned that from our resident staff expert, Dr. Anthony Semone...thanks, Doc!) that basically captures the concept that, if you set the standard low, all members of that group gravitate to that standard. If you set the standard high, all members of that group gravitate to that standard. It is a deeply ingrained human trait that we are not necessarily aware of.
In his report, Ross asks: "How do the experts in various subjects acquire their extraordinary skills? How much can be credited to innate talent and how much to intensive training?" And then he provides answers that carry important implications for every officer and LE instructor, Lewinski says.
"The one thing that all expertise theorists agree on is that it takes enormous effort to build the expert mind, either in the realm of chess or in another discipline," Ross states. In the process, "motivation appears to be a more important factor than innate ability...The preponderance of psychological evidence indicates that professionals with outstanding skills, in short, are made, not born."
Research indicates that the key "is not experience per se but 'effortful study,'" according to Ross. Such study involves learning and practice that entail "continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence." In other words, Lewinski explains, as you gain in ability, "the bar is constantly moved higher so that your skill level must keep stretching and improving to reach it."
from the August edition of Force Science News, Transmission #50
The brief goes to say later:
"Instead of departmental policies and priorities that encourage mediocrity, we need a training philosophy that encourages, nurtures and guides the development of expertise. It's what the community expects and deserves."
If you have the burning drive of a 5%er, determined to maximize your Skills regardless of obstacles, understand that "in the early stages, effortful study is very difficult," Lewinski says. "Pushing your limits inevitably involves a lot of failure. When you fail, you need to back off a bit, learn to correct your weaknesses, and build your way back up."
"To get really, really good takes time. Be patient with yourself, because you need that time for your training and experience to evolve into mastery."
This phenomenon manifests itself over and over all over the world in a wide diversity of human activities such as dance, music, academics, sports, etc. You swim with fast people, probabilities are your will be faster than the average bear.
You compete against fast racers; you are going to get faster. You subconsciously find ways to become more efficient. You find ways to break your self-imposed limitations and expectations.
You want to learn to shoot fast and accurate....Where do you go? Whom do you seek out? What are you going to adopt after interacting with these shooters?
You want to win in the UFC? I suggest you don't start with the local Karate club that hands out belts like candy. Why? Because the trainers and overall situation could not support what you are trying to achieve.
Well, it recently hit me: Trainers are being trained by their students to drive standards down.
Rather than trainers demanding, forcing, expecting, showing, demonstrating what can be done, they accept the lowest common denominator student's standards of achievement and performance. The student has indeed trained the trainer.
In a similar vein, on a grand scale, many trainers are looking at their target audience and saying "They can only do this." So, they adjust their training accordingly in alignment with their dumbed-down, recalibrated worldview. The entire program quickly becomes part of an automated, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Like clucking chickens congregating together for safety, flinching at every noise and perceived outside motion, groups of trainers spend their time reassuring themselves that it is perfectly acceptable to offer substandard training because, after all, the "average" person can only do so much. Right, guys? Really, our students are not very capable, are they? They also regularly rail against those pushing the limits. They don't explain the benefits of their approach, but seem to be perfectly content to drag down others to their level and their state of mind.
When you buy into this mentality you have sealed your fate and your ultimate destination.
There are only two kinds of people in the world. The "Can Dos" and the "Can't-Dos." Can Dos spend their time trying to find ways to make things happen. The Can't Dos find chapter and verse as to why it cannot be done. They actively throw out a barrage of obstacles for Can Dos to trip upon and generally try to impede their progress. I have also noted there seems to be a large percentage of insecure folks in the Can't Do camp. They are more comfortable there because they are surrounded by a much larger crowd. The Can't Dos are generally louder and rail against the Can Dos who seem to be pressing on more quietly. Human history has chronicled this dynamic from the beginning.
Stop looking at your students and stop railing against other trainers, and look inward in this case. Maybe it's you, not them. Stop blaming your students, your administration, or other trainers for your less-than-optimal training program. Look at your own training philosophies and critically evaluate your own acceptable standards. It's not hard to notice that there is constant mental gravity to pull the standards down. You must remain upright! You must push back. When you do, expect a powerful fight.
Look at your own training methodologies. A critical component is the ability to inspire your audience on a performance level. If you cannot show them what the higher standard is, and you do not have a clear pathway to provide them to get there...well, they will probably hover around the lowest energy level and just hang out there.
The KISS Principle as a Defense for Inadequate or Sub-Standard Training
This is generally invoked when addressing a more complex system, yet it can be quite an obstacle to actual battlefield superiority. Let's take the principle to the Nth degree and see where it leads.
You are faced with having to dispatch an enemy at twilight. It is a one-on-one engagement to take place on relatively open ground. Both opponents are to start out at a distance separating them at 300 yards, and can initially barely see each other.
Each opponent has, on their respective tables, a few weapons to choose from.
One combatant is constrained entirely by the KISS Principle; the other is free to choose his weapons based on the overall environmental considerations and the training he has invested in.
On the table are four weapons: a rock, a knife, a 9mm pistol (round in the chamber and 15 rounds in the magazine), and a 5.56mm M4 Carbine (red-dot reticule with a 100 yard-zero, one round in the chamber, 28 rounds in the magazine, visible aiming laser and quality weapon-mounted light).
What would you choose? One set of tools requires an entire set of skill and knowledge to effectively employ and is exponentially more complicated, and the other is, well, simple....
Would you rather go onto the modern battlefield in a Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe or an F/A 22 Strike Fighter?
Does anybody actually believe at this point in history that the United States of America is the dominant superpower because we followed the KISS Principle to the exclusion of all else?
You see, in my opinion, the KISS principle is a strong consideration, but should never be the dominant consideration in the world of professional arms.
Skill at arms means exactly that...skill. Skill is the result of consistent, qualitative and meaningful training. There is no getting around that part of the equation.
Just because one does not know how to leverage the extra capabilities of a more capable tool does not necessarily make that tool less useful to the more skilled wielder of that tool.
Don't get me wrong--at every turn we should look to simplify whenever and wherever possible. But let's not let the KISS Principle become an excuse to avoid the more complex tasks and training challenges we have to address.
Here is an example of a guy who took what I considered to be a fairly complex process and simplified it for me.
Quite a few years ago, I learned to barefoot water-ski in less than 45 minutes from a guy who took a Bronze Medal in the X-Games. I could marginally slalom ski, but was getting pounded into submission trying to figure out how to barefoot. I had a several people try to show me how to barefoot previously, with dismal results....ouch.
A friend of mine set up the time and place to meet this X-Games star. I was uncomfortable, intimidated, if you will, to meet this guy. This was clearly out of my league. The guy recognized this and told me something I will not soon forget. He said, "Don't worry, you will be barefooting, in a few minutes...I am that good!"
I remember thinking, "Man, this guy is cocky!" Turns out, he was that good. During my lesson, he specifically stated that most people really do not understand the dynamics of what is going on with the skier and with the water.
He then gave me an incredibly simple pathway to achieve the biomechanics of what it took to barefoot. Like clockwork, one skill and exercise led and connected to the next. I went from the boom off the side of the boat to a deep water/rope start in less than 30 minutes. In 45 minutes I did some tumble turns and some pretty hard turns and wake crossings, in several cases, on one foot.
I was smiling from ear to ear...He was that good! He really was. It was not what I did, but what he knew and what he knew about how to train people in this particular process.
He, no doubt, had taken years of experience, and hours and hours of practice, pain, and frustration and created an almost straight-line pathway to a higher skill level. He distilled it down to what needed to be done, no more, no less.
This is the essence of a good trainer. Skilled at what he or she does, skilled at taking highly complex tasks and making them as simple as possible, without compromising the integrity of the end result and required capability.
Creating or Training "Intuitive" Responses
A better question in my mind is this: "What is an intuitive response, anyway?
My understanding, at this point, is that intuitive responses are something you default to quickly as a result of experience, without sequentially or consciously thinking. Intuition based on experience is generally very reliable, and, in fact, a necessity, in critical, high-stress situations.
It is something you arrive at when you have sorted through all the inappropriate, non-optimal solutions as time and training has permitted.
In other words, what is "intuitive" to one man, is not to another.
It is intuitive to push against the recoil of a handgun when you first start shooting. Over time it becomes intuitive to relax when you shoot that same handgun. Your accuracy and speed increase as you learn how to drive the gun, so to speak.
It is intuitive to duck, flinch, and retreat when attacked by somebody's fist or when shot at, when you first become aware of the incoming. Over time, it becomes intuitive to initiate a completely different set of responses to the same stimulus.
Leaving the realm of tactical ideas, think "Formula 1 race car driver." What is totally "intuitive" to a high level driver in this category is a total mystery to me. However, I am sure if you could roll back the mind and experiences of this driver, you would find, at some point in the timeline, he had the same "intuition" about driving fast that I now hold to be true. Most of it would probably end up being incorrect. The key thing is that he immersed himself in the environment he chose to explore. Through trial and error, repetition, training, and practical experience, his "intuitive" responses changed throughout the span of his career.
I, for one, would rather listen to a Formula 1 driver if I wanted to learn to drive faster. I would want to see, hear, and feel what and why he does things. Rather than to plod around aimlessly with my own grand experiment, I would want to take advantage of his long term and proven experience in that area. Once I entered into his mind space and could consistently repeat what he was doing, then I would re-dissect the components again in an effort to improve what I was presented to that point.
The million dollar question is: How much time do we have to do what?
This is greatly influenced by your ability as a trainer and organization and your target audience itself. A good trainer will, of course, take his target audience into account; he must. But I have also noted that some trainers have brought into the equation lack of vision and experience, low expectations, and a poor training methodology; which is a great recipe for substandard performance.
If the trainer cannot physically show and demonstrate the effectiveness of X, Y, or Z, then the student will probably not buy off on it or attain to the skill level he or she really needs while under that trainer's tutelage.
Therefore, what the trainer believes is confirmed: "The student can only do so much."
What does this all mean? It means you need to retake the lost ground. It means to stop accepting the false premise that "good enough is good enough!" Don't concede to those that are simply lazy. It means stop letting the bottom dwellers train you to accept lower performance standards. It means re-evaluating the core components of what you are doing and why you are doing it. It means continually seeking with a view to improve, not prove, your original assumptions are correct and immoveable.
Understand that being a professional at arms encompasses a vast skill set that requires difficult, arduous, and challenging training processes, and that any program that fundamentally denies this reality is part of the problem.
So, I leave you with this: continue to climb the mountain. It is not easy, but the toil is well worth the effort. Those whom you encounter along the way will thank you for taking the path less traveled.
A Roman observer speaking of Legionnaires put it this way:
"Think thou that these magnificent, victorious Legionnaires became what they are through some arbitrary stroke of fortune? Nay! They do not sit around congratulating themselves in the wake of every victory. Nay! They spend every moment refining and improving their craft. Without apology, they pursue excellence. Each one knows and understands that he alone stands between the Empire and oblivion. Watch them! Indeed, they appear to have been born with weapons in their hands!"
Ken Good, former Naval Special Warfare operator, is a founding member of Strategos International, whose mission is to provide armed professionals with the highest-quality training possible as well as the appropriate field-tested products to prevail in stressful conditions. Mr. Good is experienced in the administration of classroom and practical instruction for the federal government and private industry. Topics include threat types and tactics, terrorist threats, boarding and securing vessels, refugee recovery, levels of force, small unit tactics, team training and leadership, tactical communications, area search procedures for explosive devices, use of the baton, crowd control, prisoner search and handling, hostage situation management, individual and team movements, and room entry techniques.
His military experience also includes the instruction of techniques and doctrine to members of foreign militaries. He has trained thousands of military, law enforcement, and security personnel over the last twenty years. Mr. Good has pioneered new methodologies for maximizing human performance in the tactical environment.
Mr. Good has also been a feature columnist for American Handgunner magazine and his articles are frequently published in Law Enforcement, Security, and Martial Arts publications.http://www.officer.com/article/article.jsp?siteSection=3&id=32291