The Why? vs. The What?

Figure out your desired outcome; proceed in training from there

By Tony Blauer  |   Jan 21, 2018

This post, unfortunately will likely produce two reactions. It all depends how you look at training. Therefore, my observations might appear judgmental and divisive to some of you.

Most training is based on the technique model, where a complex motor skill is drilled over and over. Practice is sequential. A does this. B does that.

In all our courses, instructor or end-user, we focus on the “Why?” vs. the “What?” More time is spent on understanding how and when the bad guy moves. This changes how the brain relates to violence. Simply put: I only look at things through the #choosesafety filter. My question is, “Is this training or strategy the safest thing we can do?”

From that we build the drills. Because: Real violence isn’t sparring … 

Practicing MMA can be a great vehicle for mental toughness, tactical fitness, and confidence. It’s great for attribute development. But it must be intelligently integrated and used as support for police use-of-force strategies and tactics. If it’s practiced too long, without a scenario basis, it can become the Pavlovian default response to resistance, without the consideration of the risk. Force must parallel danger and so should your tactical training choices.

Hypothetical Risk

Had this opponent knocked the security officer out what happens next? Does he just leave? Or does he stomp his head? Or grab his gun? Street encounters should never devolve into sport contests.

And, yes, I recognize that the guy in the fight wasn’t a cop. And, yes, you can see he wanted to fight instead of deescalate. But my post isn’t about this individual, it’s about understanding your training focus. The message is valid. I’ve seen many police videos where the ‘Pavlovian Effect’ I alluded to above occurs in both shooting and hand-to-hand encounters. The mind navigates the body: Always train your brain.


Full-contact martial arts legend Benny “The Jet” Urquidez told me when I first met him in 1980, “What you practice is what you’ll do.” That always stuck with me and inspired an important filter that helped shape  my philosophy. Decades later, his statement is consistent with newer brain research explaining how we learn and how we decide.

When it comes to training for real violent encounters, begin with the desired outcome in mind. Reverse engineer your training and movement to support the goal of the scenario. To do that you’ll need to reframe the training paradigm from ‘contest’ to ‘confrontation.’  If you really want to “get off the X” you’ll need to study options long before the X.

Stay safe,

Coach Blauer

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Tony Blauer
Tony Blauer is one of the world’s leaders in the research and development of scenario-based training for the military, law enforcement and self-defense communities. He’s best known for the development of the SPEAR System, an evidence-based defensive tactics program built around human physiology, physics and psychology. He also developed 'High Gear', the world's first impact reduction scenario-training suit. Mr. Blauer and his team are available for seminars and he can be reached at [email protected] If you're new to SPEAR, click here:
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