The Psychology Amidst the Battle
By Jay Martinez, Retired Perth Amboy Lead Training Officer, SWAT Commander, Former Recon Marine, currently teaching at Rutgers
Too much rest creates rust.
I recall as a young kid following the hype in one of the greatest fights of all time. On June 20, 1980, Panamanian, Roberto Duran won the WBC welterweight title by defeating Sugar Ray Leonard by unanimous decision in 15 hard-fought rounds. After winning the belt, the champion celebrated and ballooned up way past his fighting weight. Their second fight was a debacle, and its best known as the “no mas” fight. Duran failed to regain the eye of the tiger and ultimately stained his career by quitting in the eighth round.
Aaah, the splendor of the tactical realm. It consists of the seen and the unseen. The Samurai explain it as martial arts. Believe me, it doesn’t mean what you think. Most people may even think martial arts were designed to teach kids in gleaming white uniforms. No, not even close! Martial arts were designed for warriors to kill in battle. Meaning, martial, the thinking part of tactics and arts, the physical aspect of it. There are so many forces at work throughout the process of operating as a tactician in the field. Have you ever measured the guiding forces that lead you to be able to succeed or what exactly failed the officer in their time of need?
Think your way home.
Tactics belong to the cognitive realm. Model tacticians whose names have become synonymous with battle excellency, prided themselves as great thinkers first. Alexander, Attila, Patton, Rommel, Montgomery, and Nimitz all shared commonalities. They were great students of war. They also insisted that their units do things correctly and professionally. A cavalier sense in training and in performance will not make the grade. Don’t forget, Anderson Cooper and the world is watching. In my company, I take pride in approaching tactics as a science. Implementing psychology, physiology, and other shared components to give the good guy the tactical position of advantage. Tactics are not a game. Furthermore, chance has no part in any of this. This is a battle of angles, leverage, speed, lighting, movement, cover, concealment, teamwork. But, if we hash over the primal definition of combat, we learn that it is a battle of two wills.
Your will should be like:
• Gold, can get harder, not softer, when heated to high temperatures.
• A lion goes on full attack mode when it is ambushed.
As a former Recon Marine and now a retired SWAT Commander, I understand the demand for training that mimics reality. All of reality. Not just bits and pieces. I have read that a good, experienced trainer has a specific responsibility, which is to construct real world training environments. I will tell you that the U.S. military focuses so much of their combat readiness on this very premise. The military recruit ventures through a cataclysmic series of events through their initial training stage known as boot camp or basic training. Every step has been designed to offer the young mind what it will require in order to succeed in their new environment and what they may discard. In other words, in with the new and out with the old.
Let’s appreciate how much of the mind is at work when the officer chooses to dial in force.
• Normalcy bias – the untrained, unrehearsed mind will disavow the threat. Imagine seeing a threat sprinting toward you with an edged weapon. NB will not enable an officer to react toward that threat. They will freeze, posture and or quit and wind up as a fatality. That is why constant repetition is the key to getting home. Rest creates rust.
• Mental chronometry – applicable forces that are now trained threats. Those forces are so intense that the untrained officer has created a delay against their own response. In other words, the threat was greater than the response and now the officer is down.
• Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – The unconditioned officer is performing in an unfamiliar physiological zone. Their heart rate is over 200 beats per minute. Therefore, our prized motor skills have dissipated, leaving the officer operating under gross motor skills. Gross motor skills have to be refined to complete finer more delicate tasks, like conducting reloads and re-directing a threat. Also SNS is a fight or flight reflex. If you haven’t trained yourself to fight, such as, taking on a threat that is armed with an edged weapon, chances are you will wilt in the face of adversity. Mental muscle memory is just as important as physical repetitions. You must know and believe you can successfully encounter a possible deadly threat and win!
• Tachycardia – accelerated heart rate. The officer is now combat ineffective. She has underperformed and overreacted and succumbed to the gravity of the incident. In the movie, The Accountant, the central figure is a cool, calculated tactician and seems just to be doing his job. Can and will you invest so much of your time, effort and money to become the consummate professional?
• Motor skills – Our motor skills are God issued. They help to fine tune ourselves to our environment. Whatever we are attempting to accomplish, motor skills adapt to that specific need. Our motor skills, fine – needed to conduct a magazine change. Complex – a magazine change while moving to cover. Gross – Power based skills. We need all three, but our SNS dictates how much we actually receive. The less you condition and train, the less you get to access all three, very valuable motor skills.
Lastly, the ugliest possible scenario that can occur to an officer is quit or posture. We understand that the flinch stage is those two seconds that your training has not equipped you to handle. But, how about if your agency trainers missed the entire boat and stretched the flinch stage to ineffective lengths? The outcome will literally force the officer into a fetal position and die with no pushback.
If you believe that your success is incumbent upon your tangible skill sets, you have no clue what you’re up against. This is a battle that is waged in the mind. I challenge you to learn more. I am always here to assist you. Stay safe. Jmartinez@warningorder.net
Jay Martinez is the founder of Warning Order—a highly specialized law enforcement training company. For more information on EDP training, visit warningorder.net