We've all heard the expression He can't walk and chew gum. Take the uncoordinated kid on the playground who regularly got picked last in PE class. The reason: poor gross-motor skills and movement patterns from lack of proper physical training.
No doubt most of us can walk and chew gum, but how well can police officers perform gross-motor skills while multi-tasking and performing technical skills like shooting on the move? Our ability to perform tactical movements and accurately stay on target while shooting and giving verbal commands (or performing other tasks) can be greatly compromised if we don t perform these tactics regularly in training.
Law enforcement trainers have heard for years that reality based training helps prepare officers for actual situations they will encounter on the street. Most instructors would agree officers should train to be as prepared as possible for any scenario. Often neglected in this equation is the ability to shoot a firearm and then move, or shoot a firearm while moving.
During their annual firearm qualifications, most officers will do little or no moving during the shoot. Why? Officer safety. And in many gunfights, the circumstances will in fact call for stationary shooting, which is perfectly appropriate.
However, stationary shooting does little to improve shooting proficiency when the additional task of moving and multi-tasking is involved. While officer safety must always be of the utmost importance during training, new technologies can safely allow for officers to simultaneously improve movement skills and shooting performances.
Specific movement skills incorporated into firearms training will enhance officers ability to seek cover, get in a better position to engage, gain or cover distance from an attacker, change body positions while remaining on target, move efficiently in and out of a low squat, and quickly move out of the line of fire.
Officers can t always choose the cover or terrain they must deal with during a gun battle. The circumstances may dictate to the officer what body positions and joint ranges of motion they must use while engaging the bad guy. The ability to get into and up from a low squat, or move forward and backward while staying on target in a low squat, can prove very difficult for most officers. You might need those skills in a gunfight, and in the heat of battle you don t have time to think about performing them.
Efficient and effective movement skills are learned skills, and most police officers haven t trained specifically to improve the movement skills they might have to perform in a tactical encounter. Inefficient movement skills can directly affect your ability to perform in a gun battle where the situation dictates movement.
I ve witnessed officers poor movement performance in almost every course I ve instructed for law enforcement. And if shooting performances are poor in controlled training environments that require movement, think about what will happen out on the street in a fast-moving gun battle.
It s foolish to assume that with no preparation or practice, shooting performance will be high when the situation dictates quick movement through the greatest ranges of joint motion. The solution: Integrate movement training with tactical training. With simple remedial exercises and practice, movement skills start to improve almost immediately.
Tactical Movement Training
The benefits of tactical movement training were demonstrated recently at the Milwaukee County Sheriff s Office (MCSO) Training Academy as part of a 40-hour Simulation Instructor Development course. Taught by Gary T. Klugiewicz, the course devoted two hours to police kinesiology during firearms training. Kinesiology means the study of movement, and in this case, tactical-specific movement.
The course s movement drills were adapted for law enforcement from elite-athlete training. Athletes who play contact sports such as football, hockey, rugby and basketball must have excellent movement skills along with flexibility and agility. They also must accommodate an implement, such as a football or hockey stick, while moving. This is similar to law enforcement situations in which the implement is a gun or baton.
Moving efficiently while accommodating an implement and multitasking requires complex motor skills. These skills must be practiced in order to develop proficiency.
To help demonstrate this, the course used various floor obstacles, movement props, plastic non-functional training guns and projectile-based Airsoft weapons. Bill Mathes from 21st Tactical Airsoft provided the Airsoft weapons after certifying the officers in their safe operation. Mathes asserts, Due to the energy that is delivered by the 6mm marking round the distance from the shooter to the target is safely reduced, allowing for a much higher level of realistic training.
First Step: Learn Movement Skills
First, instructors demonstrated basic movement drills involving linear and lateral movement skills and then asked the officers to perform them. With each successive drill, the task became more complex and realistic.
Initially, instructors had officers perform the drills as part of a needs assessment to demonstrate that shooting while moving is a skill that must be developed through practice. Only through deliberate practice of these drills and other specialized exercises would the officers eventually become proficient.
At first, officers were instructed to perform the drills slowly, emphasizing correct movement mechanics and using only their fingers pointed out to simulate holding a firearm. The isolated focus on movement mechanics allowed the officers to become aware of the importance of correct body positioning and coordination for efficient movement skills.
Linear drills included low-squat walking forward, low-squat walking backward and crawling. Officers performed these drills with the use of plastic props to help maintain a low position. They also used the props to practice low-squat lateral walking. In addition, officers used 6"-high mini hurdles to perform lateral and multi-directional movements in a more upright position and at different speeds.
The props forced the officers to stay low and negotiate obstacles while moving forward and simulating shooting. In these low-squat walking positions, the muscles of the lower body are at their weakest due to the joint angles of the hips and knees. This weakness can have a negative impact on movement mechanics, affecting the ability to accurately stay on target. Developing and maintaining adequate flexibility and strength through these ranges of motion requires routine practice.
Second Step: Add Training Weapons
Next, officers performed the movement drills while staying fixed on a target using plastic, non-functional training guns. These training guns simulated the arm positioning and feel of a firearm.
The final drills in the progression involved the Airsoft guns. Officers performed movement drills while firing at a fixed target. These drills were the most complex, involving movement, shooting and multi-tasking. The guns were loaded with differently colored marking rounds, so we all knew who was on target. Finally, officers repeated the drills incorporating verbalizations and commands.
Said James Smith, a retired officer of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), With bright splatter high, low, wide and some center mass, the point was made that we need to pay attention to how we move. These drills simulate very basic police movements that vividly illustrate the difficulty of multi-tasking under even modest pressure.
All of the officers involved in the training were law enforcement instructors with years of law enforcement and tactical team experience. However, this level of training and experience did not affect the outcome. As the complexity of the drills increased, the movement and shooting performance of every officer diminished. By the end of the two-hour training block, all of the officers concluded there is a need for the integration of movement training with tactical training, and firearms training, in particular.
More importantly, officers discovered that significant improvements in shooting-on-the-move skills can be made in a short period of time once kinesiology is applied to firearms training and tactics. This was evident by the improvement in the number of hits on target once the officers made a deliberate effort to move correctly.
Remember: This was a controlled training environment with the officers under only modest pressure provided by the presence of their peers. In a real gunfight with adrenaline pumping, there s no time to think about deliberate movement mechanics. The body will either move efficiently or inefficiently depending on the officer s level of fitness and the movement skills they ve developed through training.
At the end of the training block, several officers shared their thoughts. Klugiewicz said, The addition of the Airsoft weapons made the class fun, real and undeniable. When you add firearm performance to shooting on the move, you either hit the target or you don t. There is a certain sense of undeniability with immediate feedback.
The MPD s Smith added, These drills on basic, daily, duty-related movement opened my eyes. They also woke up muscle groups I tend to let slide. With the simple, safe drills and plastic props, a small conference room was transformed into a tactical shoothouse. Adding floor obstacles, changing directions, changing speed and adding prop handguns keeps it real.
Peter Jaskulski, captain of the MCSO training division, summed it up: Professionally I ve been a defensive tactics and firearms trainer for 17 years as well as a member of the MCSO tactical team. It was amazing to watch the students progress through the orientation, especially when they were given the Airsoft weapons. Five of the students were tactical technicians from the MCSO tactical team. They came to me after the course and stated, Cap, we ve got to do this. They realized it s all about proper/improved performance and not wasted motion.
Why don t agencies and academies conduct more training to teach officers efficient movement skills? After talking with numerous trainers, officers and administrators, I ve found three common reasons:
- Lack of awareness of how important it is to move efficiently and effectively while accommodating a firearm;
- Lack of knowledge on how to train to move efficiently and effectively; and
- The liability of practicing movement skills and shooting skills at the same time.
With the aid of technologies such as Airsoft, training on movement skills while shooting has become safer and more effective. In addition, developing these skills can improve performance in defensive tactics (e.g., taking an offender to the ground, which involves low-squat movement).
These movement skills also aid in injury prevention by reinforcing safe and biomechanically correct movement patterns. The exercises increase the size and strength of the supporting muscles and connective tissues surrounding the hip and knee joints, the ones most often injured on the job.
Jaskulski, who is also an athletic coach and sports referee, made one final observation: What a novel idea for law enforcement. Recently I observed my 15-year-old son at a workout session designed to improve his physical performance in sports. As I watched him I thought, Wow, they [athletes] have been doing this for a long time what about us in law enforcement? We officers don t concentrate on the physical movements we perform in our job everyday.
Bottom line: The development and routine training of efficient movement skills will carry over into all facets of law enforcement performance.
James Di Naso is co-owner and police performance director of Police Kinesiology Company. He s also an instructor for North East Multi-Regional Training (NEMRT) and a member and conference presenter of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA). Before focusing his efforts on training officers, Di Naso worked for 15 years as a sports-performance coach, training athletes at every level, including athletes from the NFL, NBA and MLB. He served as the executive sports performance director for Velocity Sports Performance in Willowbrook, Ill., and owned and operated his own performance training business. He holds a master s degree in exercise science from Eastern Illinois University and professional certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and United States Weightlifting Federation. Contact him via his company s Web site at www.pkcotraining.com.
Movement Exercises You Can Do on Your Own:
You can easily perform some of exercises discussed in this article on your own to improve overall movement skills. The Overhead Box Squat and Forward Lunge are two of the best. These exercises develop lower-body flexibility, increase strength in ranges of motion characteristic of tactical situations, re-educate the muscles of the lower body to work more efficiently and improve movement mechanics. Benefits include the ability to efficiently change body positions and accurately stay on target while shooting out of low-squat and crawling positions.
For more realistic-based training, perform these exercises wearing a duty belt and vest to simulate the weight and feel of the movement your department-issued gear.
Overhead Box Squat
- Hold the dowel rod directly overhead with a wide handgrip. Assume a hip-to-shoulder width foot stance.
- Sit back and down onto a low box (or other stable surface) while keeping the torso as upright as possible. Sit far enough back so that your shins are almost perpendicular to the floor. Note the high position of the knees in relation to the hips in the photo.
- Keeping the torso upright, stand back up to the starting position. Avoid the tendency to lean forward with the torso.
- Repeat for two to three sets of five repetitions.
- Hold the dowel rod directly overhead with a wide handgrip. Assume a hip-width foot stance.
- Stride forward and lunge. Make sure your leading-leg knee does not travel beyond the toes. Make sure to flex your trailing-leg knee.
- From this position, return to the starting position, and repeat with the opposite leg.
Note: Use a training gun to simulate the arm positioning and feel of a firearm while performing the exercise. Developing muscular strength at joint angles where the muscles are in their weakest position will improve tactical movement skills.
For a detailed analysis and description of firearms movement drills and other exercises to improve movement skills, view the Dartfish video clips on the Police Kinesiology Company (PKCO) Web site at www.pkcotraining.com. Click on the Courses tab on the home page, scroll down, and click on Overhead Box Squat and Forward Lunge.
Simulation Instructor Development program. Contact Gary Klugiewicz at [email protected].
21st Century Tactical AirSoft Weapons & Training Programs. Contact Bill Mathes at [email protected].