Blog Archive

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

PDR Seventeen/Advanced Groundfighting Certification Review

On Wednesday, April 2nd, I shipped off to attend the first Personal Defense Readiness Instructor training at the new Blauer Tactical Systems headquarters in Virginia Beach. I have been involved, on and off, with the PDR Team since it’s inception in 2000, and have lost track of how many PDR events I’ve been to. Each time I’ve gone, it has been a powerful and amazing experience, and this time was no different. My head is still whirling with thoughts, and it’s going to take me a couple of weeks to process everything, but I also wanted to get down some first impressions while they were still fresh.

The first two days of the seminar were devoted to covering the fundamental of the BTS Groundfighting Curriculum; while I had seen some of this material before, on video and at earlier PDR sessions, this was the first time I experienced it in a complete, focused, setting. As I said, I’m still experiencing complete information overload, but the quality of the presentation was simply fantastic.

I’m making a big stink about that because very few people that I’ve seen in the martial arts/combatives/combat sport community really pay attention to developing a solid pedagogy for their material. They stumble along, either teaching a lock-step format that they haven’t abandoned, modified, or thought about for years or decades, or just randomly modify and alter their pedagogy with no particular rhyme or reason. Coach Blauer and his team have clearly made a serious effort to consider not only what they are teaching, but also how they are teaching it. The result is a system that not only evolves from a curriculum standpoint, but a pedagogical standpoint as well. Amazing stuff.

Speaking of amazing pedagogy—a huge amount of credit for the fantastic teaching this weekend goes to PDR Core Coach Tony Torres: Coach Torres lead a number of the training sessions for the returning PDR coaches, and presented the material in a clear, understandable format that really allowed all of us to get a great deal out of his training. He is the sort of coach that I find myself wanting to emulate, and those coaches are few and far between.

One of the things this session really helped to illuminate was the depth and simplicity of the BTS system. Throughout the session, Coach Blauer and Coach Torres were able to show how the concepts, drills, and tools that we were learning were really just extensions of concepts, principles, or tools that we had learned previously. It was really illustrative, and got me thinking about the power of a system where a few concepts and ideas can be used to address a multitude of problems or concerns. I suspect/believe this ties into the Power of One concept that Coach Blauer talks about so often, but I haven’t had the chance to really think deeply about it yet.

What I have had a chance to think about a lot, though still not as much as I would have liked, is the power of the Ballistic Micro-Fight, and how it can be used to dissect and analyze an incident, and to build a students confidence from that scenario. During the last day of training, Coach Torres guided us through the creating of a series of ballistic micro-fights based around the real world murder of a young woman in Europe. Because he had actual footage of the murder (a horrifying, yet illuminating, thing to be able to see), we were really able to dissect and create a series of drills based around the incident.

What I found after doing those drills was that I not only felt more confident and empowered in my own abilities to handle a similar situation, but I felt more confident and empowered in the idea that I would be able to find ways to help address student fears about similar, or even completely different incidents.

On a much more personal note: part of the drill series involved doing emotional climate training against an attacker stomping you on the ground—it created such an amazingly powerful mental blueprint for me that as I was sitting on the plane home, I could close my eyes and still clearly picture my partner attacking me in that fashion. While I would never, ever, want to face such an attack, I feel much safer for knowing what it looks like, and how it might feel.

If I keep trying to catalogue all of the fantastic moments and experiences I had at this session individually, this post will never, ever be finished. The whole thing was just amazing, and the quality of the people who attended was amazing as well. The returning coaches all brought a great deal of passion and excitement to the training, and the newer coaches all seemed fantastic as well. There was a genuine sense of camaraderie throughout the entire event that stemmed from the meeting of a number of people who were all committed to a single goal: finding the best way possible to make people safe.

Which brings me to the final observation or memory I’ll share for now: the last drill of the PDR session for new coaches involves an exercise designed to illuminate the power of the startle/flinch response, and the problems with focusing on complex motor skills as a methodology for countering the ambush; when the drill was over, Coach Blauer explained it’s purpose to those who had just participated. At one point, he said “you all have years, or even decades, of martial arts training, yet you weren’t able to accomplish a reasonably simple movement inside a scenario where there wasn’t even any real danger. If you couldn’t do that, how DARE you ask your student’s to do the same thing?”

It was the passion in his voice that really clicked with me at that moment, and resounded ever since. It reminded me, once again, that the teacher is there to serve the student, not the other way around, and that if something isn’t working for a student, before you blame them, you should check your own teaching first.

As always, an absolutely fantastic experience—I can’t wait until the next one.


Mark said...

I totally concur with the teaching style. Every-body is different, so when demonstrating techniques, I show how I learned (allowing my students to see where I developed my tactics from), then show variations that work for me. I try, whenever possible, that once the basics are understood, to allow the students to think 'freestyle' and adapt the moves so that they can apply them with their body.

BTW, Bruce Lee (if Royce Gracie is the father of MMA, Mr. Lee is the grandfather!) said, "Learn the principle, abide by the principle, and dissolve the principle. In short, enter a mold without being caged in it. Obey the principle without being bound by it. LEARN, MASTER AND ACHIEVE!!!"


val said...

reading this post really makes me want to get back into training....
what you mention about the European murder reminds me of a news story I read where a woman did all the right things (so the story says anwyay) and still got locked up in a van and killed. When I read that article I thought of PDR, and would want to have its approach as a tool in that sort of situation.

One of the things that's hardest for me about training is to reconcile the intellectual knowledge of a reality of combat and translate it into physical action. I think I understand something from what you say, but then find my body disobeying me at its first chance. One of the reasons PDR is ideal for someone like me is that it emphasizes using the mind as a defense as well as the body. It strikes me that most traditional martial arts, as well as being inflexible, focus on outdated pedagogies--rote memorization--instead of the sort of constructivist techniques modern teachers use. PDA then is a martial arts for the modern era, informed by a current understanding of solid teaching methods. If anything could get through to a over-intellectualized person with a block about engaging in real violence (read: a wimpy geek) PDA can. And in that it seems to be quite essential. I wonder why more civilians aren't trying to learn it. It sounds as if more police departments could use it as well, though, considering how quickly some of their officers turn to violence in uncertain situations, for example shooting a homeless man with a fork in his hand, because they didn't have the sort of mental training PDR gives you.

Pardon my maundering. But I have some points anyhow, I figure.