Spent some time reading yet another blog hawking a false dichotomy within the tactical training community, with all sorts of ideas from the instructors on firearms and defensive tactics training. It went back quite a few years.
This one was the venerable “principle based” versus “technique based” argument. The blog is not the only one espousing this idea. It’s right up there with the other false dichotomies marketed in martial disciplines: “traditional vs. modern combatives,” “street vs. sport,” “internal vs. external,” “point vs. sighted” and…”guardians vs. warriors….”.
The problem is that WHAT you train is just as important, or moreso, as HOW you train. There is a very clear lack of this going on with the overall training concept.
It is often unfortunately the DEFINITION of Lowest Common Denominator training, at least as it applies to law enforcement.
Officers, we are reminded, receive so little training, are not martial artists or specialists, and often don’t have the physical fortitude or attributes of many martial athletes, and so technical training can often be a bad experience for them. This leads to fear of pain, fear of being injured (in dynamic training), fear of looking bad by not getting it, and finally lack of confidence in themselves and their skills in the field. Moreover, many techniques taught are not suitable for the kinds of applications police actually use them for, especially the combat sport stuff. They have come to this assessment, apparently, in part because of their own experience as highly trained martial artists unable to make their traditional martial arts stuff work on the street.
They are largely correct in these assessments, which is what makes this kind of thinking appear sound, and reasonable, when it is not.
Instead they sell training that is “principle based.”
They are again not the only ones. Once I had an experience with a completely different group believing in “principle based training” where the highly skilled and supremely confident instructor was unable to do anything to prevent his gun being taken away or being taken down with basic grappling techniques when actual used against him with intent, versus cooperatively.
People who are not taught “techniques,” but trained only in principles, end up knowing WHAT they are supposed to do, but have no means of doing it ….If they encounter ANYONE who has actual technical skill, even halfway developed, or whose attributes overwhelm them, they are, simply stated, left adrift on a raging current without a paddle.
ALL good training is principle based. Training in techniques without principles is….. bad training. It absolutely does occur and is probably the bulk of police in-service training, and I have no qualm with those seeking an alternative. But an alternative offering NO functional technical skills training or development is just piling bad training on top of bad.
Techniques are principles applied. Technical applications give practical shape to principle. They may not always be done efficiently or skillfully, but without them all you have is over powering people, or if unable to do so just holding on for the ride or laying and praying for help to get there.
The crux of the problem is not that officers are being taught techniques over principles, its that they are being taught bad technique and practice so rarely, with no expectations of functional performance under pressure.
Or they are taught a principle based approach with no techniques at all…
The ONLY reasonable response to this is to have more on duty training time, higher expectations of officer fitness and technical performance, and oft-repeated, progressively challenging, realistic and contextually relevant adaptations of proven tactics and techniques.
It is NOT to offer agencies a program that claims that these things are misguided, or out of context, or that officers shouldn’t be trained a certain way all the while ignoring the fact that officers are given a laughable amount of training in what is a highly technical and high liability subject with actual expectations for performance that are ignored with peril.
But police training “experts” are often more expert at selling what agencies will pay for versus confronting them with inconvenient truths.