Years ago, there was a deadly nighttime shootout where two policeman were killed. When the smoke cleared and investigators arrived to assess the scene, they found something very unusual. They found empty casings in both deceased police officers’ pockets. The shootout occurred in the days when police carried revolvers. The investigation showed that during reloading the policeman placed empty bullet casings into their pockets and after that, reloaded their guns and then starting shooting again.
To reload a revolver one must open the cylinder and discharge the spent or used up bullet parts or casings. This must be done so new bullets can be put in the chambers and firing can continue. The best way to do this in a shootout is to quickly push the spent casings onto the ground and reload in an instant. But these policeman, much more slowly than one wants to do in a life and death situation, emptied the casings into their hand, put them into their pockets and then reloaded. Why would anyone take that extra time to put spent casings neatly into their pockets—while they’re being shot at!
The answer lies in their training and what everyone does in times of stress. These police officers were taught by their range training officers that during live-fire training not to dump empty casings on the ground but to empty them into their hands and then place them into their pockets. This was done to keep the range free from scattered casings on the training floor. The officers were told that in a real shootout they wouldn’t have to do that kind of slow re-loading procedure but that during training, it was mandatory.
Tragically, this incorrect training may very well have caused those officers their lives. Positively, it did much for how policeman were trained from that point forward. No longer are cops taught to dump anything firearm related any different in training than in a real life situation. Why? Because we revert back exactly to our training in times of great peril and stress. So much so that during a life and death battle these policeman took the slow route to reload their guns while being shot at. They couldn’t help it.
It is crucial for you to know and believe, no matter how big, bad and intelligent you may be that we definitely revert to our training in times of major stress. If you are used to throwing one strike after blocking a punch from someone in training you WILL throw one punch when the crap hits the fan. If you throw six-strikes after blocking that punch, you WILL throw six on the street.
It has happened to me, it happened to those officers and it has happened to many people. You completely revert back to your training—you can’t help it. That’s why you must practice as real as you can. If you plan on finishing with a mild kick know that’s what will happen if you are attacked. If you practice half-assed doing your techniques, know that’s what will happen on the street. Not might happen, but will happen. We simply revert back to our training in times of great stress, fear and emotion.
This is one way instructors help their students when they bring them up to do their techniques in front of other instructors, other students or the viewing public. It forces the students to make sure their techniques rock—that they are fast, strong, hard and realistic—in a way it’s show-time for them, much more so than just practicing with a partner and just going through the moves.
Students unquestionably should be made aware of this training and practice fact. If they know its truth they’ll practice differently. Additionally, teachers should do everything in their power to make sure that they teach with this fundamental truth in mind.
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
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