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.