Monday, March 14, 2011

Tactical and Performance Imagery

I was sitting at a Denny's Restaurant a few days ago enjoying a cup of coffee and free wi-fi. As usual, I was seated close to an alternative EXIT and facing the door. I noticed a young man in his mid-twenties enter who appeared to be acting nervously. I could see that he was scanning the restaurant and something about his actions got my spidey-sense tingling. His eyes locked on to a man and a woman sitting at one of the booths and his demeanor changed instantly. His eyes focused, he visibly tensed, then walked over to the couple, pulled out a handgun and promptly shot both of them. As soon as I saw the pistol, I yelled "GUN!" and immediately low-ran to my exit and made it out the door as shots were still coming from inside the restaurant. The scenario ended as I was reaching for my cell phone to dial 911. I went back to my coffee and finished closing service tickets on my laptop.
Mental Imagery or Performance Imagery (PI) has been a part of my training since first introduced to it by the late Professor Wally Jay in the mid 70's. His presentation of visualization was used to explain how he could make students perform what appeared to be superhuman skills. He went on to say that visualization was a key ingredient to ALL physical performance whether it is athletic, combative, or life. Tactical Performance Imagery (TPI) is used by the military and LE as means for action preparation and after action analysis. Mental rehearsal can create the proper mindset prior to an engagement and mental review allows subjective analyzation of events following the action. For the martialist, it allows the mind to create experiences that can be used in the decision making process. When training, most martial artists normally learn from “ideal” situations. The “dummy” makes the perfect attack, holds position, and allows the defender to develop his skill set. As training progresses, the attacks become faster, more sudden, and more powerful. Given the fact that no training will ever replicate a real assault though, we must use every available method to build experiences into our decision tree. Any school serious about developing real self-defense skills will incorporate all of the following:

                        Working full-speed techniques in the air to target
                                   (develops flow and speed)
                        Working slow-motion techniques with contact to target
                                   (re-enforces target acquisition and weapons development
                                    and “felt” penetration)
                        Working full-speed techniques with controlled power to the body
                                   (develops flow with contact, creates “I’m going to hurt you”
                                    mindset, allows analyzation of striking potential,
                                    acclimatizes “dummy” to contact/pain)
                        Working full-speed and full-power techniques to target on an
                                    armored body
(develops flow with contact, re-enforces target acquisition
and weapons development, creates “I’m going to hurt you”
mindset, allows for variables, brings “alive” techniques
                        Stress Training Drills and Scenarios
                        Visualizing techniques that destroy an opponent as well “what ifs”

Rory Miller, Corrections Officer, Martialist, and author promotes the idea that ALL self-defense training is theoretical. Until the student applies it AND it works, he is just learning what might work based on his instructor’s experience or lack thereof. My goal as in instructor is to build into my student’s decision-making tree as many realistic experiences as possible. When the balloon goes up, humans will sink to the level of their training. If there is no experience to draw from when involved in an assault or action, heart rate goes up, lizard brain takes over, and all kinds of not good things can happen. Good imagery will manifest itself with physical changes, heart rate goes, breathing gets shallow, face flushes, ear’s redden, etc… Thirty years later, I can still jack my heart rate to over 100bpm when I visualize a gang assault experience. We are all bad-asses in our mind but reality has a way of stomping on our bad-assness. Proper imagery training also involves “what ifs”. What if you don’t get the expected result of your strikes, what if you’re in a toilet stall, what if you go down, what if you make a tactical room entry and face a child pointing a pistol at you, what if…..
 Today I use PI regularly as a means to stay aware and to improve my skill set. Whether it's visualizing myself performing a technique or running a scenario through my head while standing in line at a Post Office, imagery is a must for those who plan on using there martial skills should the need arise. Then again, I could be a good sheeple and not worry thinking that bad things will only happen to other people.  

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