Until quite recently the majority of Simulation and Scenario training programmes were designed for the use-of-force Instructor within the field of Law enforcement and the Military their aim being to improve impact weapon and empty hands skills. This kind of training provided a number of concepts on how to implement padded simulation armour within a Defensive Tactics Programme. More recently courses of this kind are becoming available to the civilian martial arts media and a lot of Self-Protection instructor’s are implementing these concepts to varying degrees into their own curriculum with a good level of success.
In my own curriculum I employ a progression into padded assailant training. Once the student has a grasp of the basic principals that drive our Combatives program, coupled with a sound level of competence of the Hard Skills, prioritised via impact work we can then move into the area of simulation. A basic pad drill, rather than static will progress by having the feeder offer some verbal pre-conflict dialogue and body language cues, as the trainee controls space moves to the feeder’s flank forcing him to re-orientate, whilst observing the immediate threat and surrounding environment. The feeder may or may not offer a precursor to aggression via a sudden forward movement that will cue the trainee to strike the pad with his/her chosen attack. Then they will get to the feeder’s back employing him for cover, as they actively scan for further threat then tactically disengage in the direction of the nearest exit. This is a basic simulation employing the tactical use of the focus pads on the part of the feeder. To make this work the feeder must hold up the pad offering a target throughout the entire drill. In short you are addressing the pad as the threat in-spite of the dialogue coming from the feeder’s own mouth. Now you can strike when you are ready to attack as opposed to having the feeder dictate for you when to strike by suddenly flashing the pad. The latter is inappropriate as it is your responsibility to dictate for yourself when to strike, not the feeders. In addition to this you should always practice the cross over between partner work and impact work that is you will now take the said simulation and practice striking and moving the live body weight of your partner. Here the focus is on target acquisition and the manipulation of a live opponent at a moderate pace with complete control. If body armour is scarce in your training hall then this is a good way to go.
Here you are combining live partner work to get the feel of what it is like to manipulate a human target, along with impact work on the pads which should be the priority and meat of your training. A padded assailant allows you to combine both at the same time and is therefore the ideal. Regardless of whether we are working within the context of controlled partner practice, impact and pad work or padded assailant training we are always sure to work with realistic intent. Even the way we talk and the terminology we use reflects our objective, that being to install the first requisite that ‘’we can do it!’’ when it comes to the conflict phase of an engagement we will control our emotions, handle adrenaline to a significant enough degree, that will allow us to access our skills and effectively deal with the problem.
To me and my students this is the ultimate goal of adrenal stress scenario and padded assailant training. This starts from the very beginning with the way we think, the way we represent our presence and the verbal descriptions we use. Like many other good instructor’s in this field we avoid expressions in practice such as ‘’aggressor’’ and ‘’victim’’ for the role of the pad man and the trainee. Such terms emotionally empower the one you are dealing with and offer a derogatory term to describe the trainee. Instead we look to employ such terms for the pad man, as ‘’the soon to be victim’’ or I use one that my friend Mick Coup employs, which I really like ‘’MEAT’’ This installs the correct mentality for this kind of training right from the start.
We use terms such as student or trainee for the striker but always re-in force it with ‘’you’re the one whose going to win!’’ and he’s the soon to be victim etc. I use a similar mentality during un-predictable scenario training by using positive self-talk such as ‘’I’m the only f**king predator in this alley!’’ This kind of flicks the switch, allowing me to access the state I need to be in, exactly when I need it. Whatever you think of this kind of tactic, all I can say is this works for me so find something similar for you, whatever helps you click into the correct mindset will be extremely useful. So the above practical example coupled with this early cultivation of attitude offers a good platform from which to progress.
Any Simulation or Scenario will require 3 things to make it functional. First of all it must be safe, dynamic and realistic. The 4 components that make this possible are the instructor, the format, the equipment and the supervision. The first factor is safety by making sure that sufficient body armour and protective equipment is available, that will allow the student/s to practice their skills with a good degree of realistic contact. This will depend on what type of equipment you have available. There are specific fully padded suits on the market such as the Red man and the Fist suit, this kind of equipment is what the military and law enforcement groups tend to use and it is also commercially available.
This equipment will allow the trainee to use a good degree of contact for blows to the body and padded weapon strikes to the limbs, but like nearly all of the protective equipment available on the market today it will only allow a limited amount of impact force directly to the head and the groin, which of course formulate the generic high and low line targets of preference for Combative strikes. A helmet design that will totally eliminate the brain shaking effect that direct impact to the head will cause is yet to be designed. At the present time no manufacturer has managed to find away around this problem although the closest yet is the Bullet man design employed in the States originally by Model Mugging an excellent program for women and later by Peyton Quinn and Bill Kip in their adrenal stress training programs RMCAT and FAST Defence both of which are highly recommended.
The Bullet man suit was originally employed in the Model Mugging program in the US.
This is basically a hugely padded American football helmet with a reinforced shoulder structure that fuses the whole thing together to limit the brain shaking effect the suit also has an extremely well padded groin that allows you to strike closer to full force without damage to the recipient. Unfortunately this equipment is not available commercially outside of the above training programs, at least not as far as I know.
This has led many instructors in the UK and abroad to invent and experiment with a vast array of kit. A few people on the UK Combative forums have come up with some excellent examples of homemade safety helmets. Fellow CQB instructor Simon Squires and some of his top lads put their heads together and came up with an excellent design built around an American football helmet lots of padding anchored into a lighter weight blue FIST suit, affectionately known as the smurf suit. My own experiments have led to the latest helmet design that we use in our UC classes, the base product is a German riot helmet with a Perspex visor re-enforced underneath with a mesh hockey face guard. From here the whole thing is padded right up and fixed into a FIST suit with an additional karting neck brace. Stands up pretty well, so long as you ride with the shots can even take a good volley to the face once the suited wearer has been grounded.
In addition to the safety aspects it is also the instructor’s responsibility to give the simulation/scenario a clear objective via the format or theme. It is important to understand that the difference between a Simulation and a Scenario, at least as I personally teach it is that any Simulation is pretty much a pre-decided drill known to both the armoured assailant and the trainee. Realism is added by employing verbalization, role-play and a fair degree of physical impact inside a theme where the student has a clear objective. One example is similar to what Bill Kip calls the ‘Portal of Safety’ drill where the trainee’s objective is to simply walk through a doorway/exit depicted by two shield men at the end of the training hall. During your attempt to get from A to B a padded assailant will approach you will some kind of deceptive ruse and/or some kind of aggressive and unpredictable body language and dialogue, designed to distract you.
Your objective is to control personal space, prioritize your positioning and maintain frontal and peripheral observation, attempt to de-escalate whilst maintaining a physical and verbal boundary and if necessary pre-emptively strike off the first pre-attack cue you get, with enough juice to facilitate your escape through the portal of safety. In this example of a simulation both players know how events will unfold i.e. the trainee knows he/she will need to employ a pre-emptive attack in order to escape and the feeder knows the final precursor to this will be him coming forward in an attempt to close distance. Pressure comes from now having to define when exactly to strike out during the dynamics of movement. The trainee must make sure that his/her response is not too early and not too late, whilst observing their surroundings, ignoring peer pressure from the rest of the class watching and focusing on the objective of escape.
The ideal will be to put the threat down with one or two good decisive shots bearing in mind that the feeder will only react to the blows if they are of sufficient force to do the job, if not the trainee will have to continue the attack until the threat is down before tactically disengaging the scene. Conversely to that a Scenario although planned and following a similar certain theme, when the action starts you are pretty much left to your own devices regarding how you deal with it.
So if we look at the same example as above; all you will know as the trainee is your objective, that being to get from point A to point B safely and that at some point during that evolution you will be given a problem to deal with.
Now you can add the additional stress of the unknown which of course is the progression. The objective of the pad man/feeder is always, at least from an instructional point of view to give the student a challenging yet positive experience. If the padded assailant simply blitzes the student, giving him/her no chance to solve the offered combative problem then what has been achieved? In the same vein the feeder should by no means offer little or no resistance at all. The feeder’s response should be measured by the effectiveness of the trainee’s offensive response to the threat.
This is where learning to ride with the shots as well as recognize decisive impact through the protective kit becomes very important for the role of the feeder. It is also important to give a realistic response to successful strikes by feeding the trainee the correct energy. This can be an art it itself, in my experience of padded assailant training I have noticed one or two factors that can often creep in that can, if left unchecked, defeat the entire object of the whole process. First off once you have a level of equipment that allows the players to strike pretty close to how they would in a live situation you can be sure, at least to start with, that the trainee is probably not hitting hard enough. The effects of adrenal stress on the relative new comer to this kind of training will often make them flail in-effectually in the very beginning. A good instructor will quickly help the student remedy this and the students themselves will quickly realize that gross motor strikes with forward pressure and aggression is what they need to get the job done.
Problems occur when the person wearing the kit starts to feels super-pain and impact resistant. Like I said the kit available both commercially and home made does not stand up to a HUGE amount of impact, or a succession of shots in the same place, creating an accumulative effect. But with that said I have seen the kit bearer demonstrate this Mr. Invincible syndrome on a number of occasions, against both empty hands strikes and training weapons. The result is that the wearer is by no means offering the trainee the realistic energy that he would if the feeder had no helmet and no padding. I have seen a feeder in a helmet and an array of padding receive no less than five back handed thrusts to the face with a metal training knife just roar his head off and keep coming, which of course is bollocks and completely unrealistic. Without the visor from the helmet with a live blade, five thrusts deep into the face WILL create a reaction period. In spite of certain variables such as high pain tolerance, drug use and the fact that a blade has no ballistic value a knife in the face is still a knife in the face and five such attacks will create a response such as stopping in your tracks, raising the hands to guard and turning away etc.
I have seen similar responses to impactive strikes that would have clearly knocked the recipient the f**k out without such protective kit. Like I said with the limitations of available equipment this kind of thing doesn’t happen often but is does happen so as an instructor and padded assailant you need to be aware of it. The fact remains that in the kit you can feel overly secure and just forget to respond in the correct way unless you are actually knocked out or down in the helmet and kit, which of course does happen. But if that’s the only time you are going to respond then things can get dangerous. The fact is if I knock you out in the helmet, chances are you wouldn’t have survived without it. Another factor that can create this effect is ego, if players start exhibiting too much of this trait then simply take them out of the equation. This kind of training should be employed for learning and growth via pressure not for a power play between participants. At the end of the day the objective is to train the student to new levels of progress and confidence and scenario training is simply a means to an end to meet that objective.
Such courses as depicted above are available in the UK and are run by both Redman and FIST at their specific training facilities. Although the rules of engagement offered differ, often considerably from what’s required for civilian personal protection these specific programs still have quite a lot to offer in terms of simulation and scenario training design, limitations of equipment, safety considerations, understanding of fluid shock, realistic role-playing, mobility and dynamics of movement, exposure to adrenaline, confidence in delivery of dialogue and verbal assault or woofing, exposure to aggressive, deceptive and unpredictable behaviour etc.
Fast Defence scenario training
I highly recommend these courses as a cross training supplement for any and all schools involved in Self-Protection and even the martial arts in general, traditional or otherwise. They progress from very basic into programs right up to incorporating ground fighting, multiple assailants and weapons. The guys who run these programs in the UK are excellent at what they do and come highly recommended. I’ve heard people say stuff like ‘’yeah, but the bullet man doesn’t necessarily hit you back, so where’s the pressure?’’ My answer to that would be, for total beginners what they do is enough; they are trained to up the anti to meet the requirement of the student’s progressive ability. If you hire these guys for a course in your club then speak up, you’ve got a tongue in your head give them an idea of the varying experience level in your gym and they will be glad to accommodate you. This includes hitting you back, taking you to the ground, adding unexpected multiples and weapons. They have more than enough resources to match most people’s skill level. Another thing I’ve heard in regards to padded suit training is ‘’how can I take this guys seriously in a big silver helmet or spongey red suit?’’ My answer to that is if the feeder doe’s his job right by adrenalising the recipient to a sufficient enough degree, to access a mid-brain or a reptile brain state then as many, many participants will tell you, all that you will perceive is THREAT and you will secrete adrenaline and act accordingly.
Here are some pictures taken from a Fast Defence course held at our club in Southampton.
Here is an example of a live bullet man scenario in this one the woofer is about to be taken out the game with a pre-emptive stop hit. The second scenario depicts an ambush attack from behind while the defender stands motionless with his eyes closed.
Fast Defence provide excellent training programs from counter weapons & multiple assailants and counter grappling to ant-bullying for children…
As far as I know the Bullet man suit was originally created to accompany the Model Mugging program for women then used later by Peyton Quinn of RMCAT and Bill Kipp of Fast Defence. Another advocate of the suit is excellent female instructor Melissa Sault of Fierce and Female fame. If you are interested in training on a professionally organised program then my suggestion is for you to seek out any of the above people, what they offer is second to none.
As we can see here gross motor striking with aggression and impact is where it’s at in these examples we can see palm strikes and knees.
Implementing Simulation/Scenario training
Another major pioneer within the field of scenario training specific to all aspects of Combatives training for Military, Law Enforcement and Civilians is Canadian based operator Tony Blauer who deserves credit simply for the fact that he was doing this stuff when the majority of instructor’s were focusing purely on more traditional methods. Some of his foundational ideas from as far back as the late 70’s form the basis of a lot of what we are doing today… Outside of these primary program opportunities, progress lays in what we can effectively implement into our own training. I tend to agree with UK instructor Mick Coup in his idea that scenario training should be implemented as a gauge to overall progress, used as a means to an end. Basically the foundational basics are where it’s at. Drill in the basic principles, conditioning, technical proficiency and impact to a degree of unconscious competence then acid test what you have within the realms of scenario training. It’s a good idea to video such training in order to provide the student with visual feedback, then as mistakes are detected you can come back to basics, drill the problem out then implement scenario work again for obvious improvement, this gives the whole thing a process to improvement rather than then the mentality of let’s kit up and have a scrap. Throw your curriculum into the realms of non-compliancy via the acid test of scenario work and you will find your own functionality, it will be scruffy and at times scrappy because that’s the dynamics of any moving struggle.
With this kind of training you have to look for the beauty within the scruffiness; as Geoff Thompson would say. Learning to apply your craft within this pressure realm is the key to making it work for real that's why it's nice when you drop the padded assailant with clinical shots and also when you see someone making his art work and applying it with aggression and forward pressure, what I would call ''making it combative'' The potential for creating all different kinds of Simulations and Scenarios is endless. The situation could involve weapons, multiple assailants, an interview or ambush or anything else in a huge variety of mock environments. This kind of training is only limited by your imagination.
I have used every thing from a night club environment to train door men to a car to train a taxi driver. All in all this method of modern Combatives training is a definite step in the right direction for anyone wishing to test their skills under pressure in a safe training environment. The majority of martial artists today are still missing that essential adrenal stress inducing element in their training. Of course whenever you add pressure testing of any kind into your curriculum the adrenal stress will be present, just ask any of Geoff’s lads about their now legendary ‘Animal Days’ and they will tell you the same thing. I find this same pressure most Sunday mornings when I get up early to go to my local amateur boxing club for a tough work out followed by a few rounds of hard sparring with some of the best carded fighters in the club. The benefit of Simulation and Scenario training with quality body armour and supervision, is it will reduce the chances of injury and make the whole event a lot safer therefore making it a good training method for everyone. Hard sparring and ‘Animal day’ type drills with no more than a pair of bag gloves and a gum shield are the best method for pressure testing that I have ever tried, short of a ‘live situation’ but not everyone is prepared to try it, for good reason and I respect that. Scenario training can provide the stimulus for de-sensitisation to adrenal stress through realistic training. So long as it places you in that mid-brain survival state and allows you to drill a positive physical response to such stimuli then you will be training effectively. I highly recommend this kind of training to anyone involved in Combatives, martial arts and the Security industry. I have used these methods to teach all my students with positive results. I have also had access to a night club environment complete with dance floor and bar areas, toilets and fire escapes that I have used specifically for scenario training with a few of my students who are also doormen. This gives us the opportunity to recreate scenarios from past ‘live’ situations and look at our best options.
The beauty of this kind of training is that you can make it as task specific to the event as you need. You can isolate any potential scenario, working anything from specific body language precursors and pre-violent cues, to de-escalation skills to incidents of ambush or interview. You can implement different aspects of stress such a fatigue, disorientation and pain you can use it to manage state, access fight state then break state and practice re-instating a higher level of brain function. The possibilities are many, varied and extremely useful. The bottom line is to use it as a resource and a tool for learning and growth and above all have fun with it.