What if it was your kid being killed?



A trainer needs to be passionate about what they are teaching to be effective, especially when they’re teaching life saving skills . And to be passionate, you need to believe in what you’re teaching.

The question is, do you believe in what you’re teaching and how can you tell? What’s the test?

This is an experience of mine that puts this into clear perspective for many trainers and students. 

I was conducting police recruit training for young men and women entering the field of law enforcement and attempting to prepare them for the worse case of situations. Many long weeks of theory and stress inoculation, skill set, firearms and judgemental training led to this, a mass murder in progress, reality based training scenario.

The objective of the scenario was to push the participants to transition from a situation requiring a slow methodical building search to that of an imminent threat to life, prompting them to adjust their tactics and proceed directly to the threat in order to preserve life.

The briefing given was that the recruits were responding to a workplace where a suspicious male was seen entering the building, possibly with a weapon. It was unknown if people were still in the building.

All participants entered the training area and began conducting a slow methodical building search appropriately.

A gunman then appeared in the hallway 50 yards in front of the participants, executed an employee role player in their plain view before retreating to a room where people were heard screaming  “He’s going to kill us!”  The scenario was designed in such a way that the execution could not have been prevented so as to make perfectly clear the deadly force intentions of the hostile role player.

Most participants changed their tactics accordingly and proceeded directly to the threat, eliminating it. But one crew continued to make their way through the hallway in a slow methodical fashion, clearing room by room failing to make the transition. The shots rang out in the room at the end of the hallway as the trained role player executed another hostage role player on cue every 10 seconds.

Eventually the participants came to the doorway where the gunman and his victim role players were. The recruits cut the pie on the door way entering the room slowly, identifying the threat and ultimately taking the shot.

Several role players were executed as a result of the participants inability to recognize need to proceed directly to the threat.

Overseeing this training I listened as the capable instructors attempted to debrief the participants, the most important part of the process. The debrief is the part of the process where the participants are given an opportunity to reconstruct the event and articulate their actions to the instructors. It is also the part of the process where the greatest learning occurs and therefore has to be managed extremely carefully by whomever is conducting it.

I noticed the trainer struggling to find a way to impart on the participants that their actions were wrong, probably for fear of demoralizing them. But the truth was, the recruits should have proceeded directly to the threat itself and eliminated it as opposed to methodically clearing each area he passed.

The recruit maintained his actions were appropriate and that we should always approach a threat slowly and safely, even if people were being killed.

The trainer looked at me hard pressed to get the participant to recognize the error in his ways. Fortunately I had one.

I said: “I just have a quick question before you move on to the next scenario.”

He said, “Shoot.”

I asked “Where does your Mom work?”

He was confused but responded, “At the post office.”

I probed further; “Whereabouts?”  Again perplexed he said “In the sorting room, why?”

I said, “OK, if this was a shooting at the post office where your Mom works, and she was on duty, and the shooter was heading toward the sorting area, would you handle the situation in the same way?”

His answer was predictably “Hell no, I would sprint in there and kill the m….rf….r!”

Well all of a sudden the light bulb went on and everything became clear, the scenario was immediately repeated and the recruits performed lights out!

So too was born the ultimate litmus test of any training system.

Would you act in the manner in which you are trained, or train others, if you were responding to the scene of someone you loved, like your Mom’s workplace or your child’s school?

If not, I forward the motion you don’t believe in your training system and it wont hold up in the most stressful of situations, the nth degree.

And if your system or principles wont hold up in the nth degree, then your system and training needs fixing.

So the next time you are experimenting with a program or trying to determine it’s effectiveness, or in my situation, just looking for a way to help a student embrace the appropriate mindset, take your principles and tactics to the nth degree and see if they still hold water.

Ask yourself an honest question.

Is this what you would do if you were responding to your son’s school and somebody was trying to kill him?

If the answer is yes, you believe in your system, if the answer is no, you don’t and stop teaching it!




Why do you train?

“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.” -Winston Churchill

I once responded to a friend’s question at toughenupblog.com who offered the discussion, ” Why do you train?” It should have been a simple one for me to answer but the more I thought about it, the more perplexed I became. I used the process of elimination to probe this quandary and began by exploring out loud why I don’t train.

I don’t train solely for my job as a police officer, because I started practising boxing when I was 12 and Hung Gar Kung Fu when I was 17, long before I was a police officer. They offered me discipline, respect, confidence and family structure in a time when I really needed it.

I don’t train solely for health. Because I can get on an exercise machine everyday, run, lift, whatever; eat well and achieve that.

I don’t train solely for fighting. Because I’ve been in fights with violent, seasoned offenders and I’m quite confident in abilities to handle it the best I can. So this would mean that I can stop learning and just try to maintain my skill level.

I tell myself that I just want to learn a traditional and beautiful art form, that unlike most things in life, can never be taken away from me. If this were solely true, then I wouldn’t pursue arts that I find to be truly effective. I’d practice Chinese ribbon dancing or some other beautiful art form.

The truth is, I’m not quite sure what the hook, or addiction is.

Sifu Joe Laraya of the Oakville Martial Arts Club told me that once you do Hung Gar for 6 months, you’re hooked. I had no idea at the time how right he was.

My journey started out as an amateur boxer, then Hung Gar Kung Fu, traditional Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to get better on the ground, then Judo to improve on the throwing while maintaining my ground fighting skills.

Now they just all blend together as one thing. They become mere brush strokes on the canvas, I’m the canvas.

I believe in the artist, as opposed to the art. All these styles enable me to truly express myself. They cling on to your soul and take you in the direction you really want to be going, which is a different path for each person.

The answer to why I train was not an easy one to answer. I just do it now because I need it. The lessons I’ve learned through training, about myself mainly, are now part of a toolbox that I can use in any situation in life. The ability to successfully defend yourself truly liberates you from the insecurities and fears of the universal phobia-getting hurt, or worse, not being able to defend your loved ones from being hurt.

When your liberated from this fear, you are free to express, admire and explore, without inhibition or ego, all the beauty in the world and yourself. The thought of getting hurt stops entering your mind all together.

Nowadays, the fighting is just a by product of all the other benefits of doing Martial Arts.

And  besides, how else is an potentially violent and angry man supposed to relieve all of his tension, tame the inner beast and walk on through life without those powerful forces of nature controlling you. There’s never been any other way for me.

The beautiful thing about regular training, like any art form, is that you never stop learning.

I remember reading somewhere about a master being asked by his student long he will have to train to become a master himself. The master responded, ” Until you die.”

I believe this.

I guess now if somebody asks me why do you train?; the answer is quite simple after all;

Because I need too.