Action Fighting Arts Newsletter

The authorized Newsletter of Action Fighting Arts

September, 2007 Edition

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THE FIGHTING FIREBIRD The authorized newsletter of Action Fighting Arts, A Total Threat
Management Training System
- By - Harry Wigder, President, Action Fighting Arts


More Concepts, Guidelines and
Tips For Both Law Enforcement and
Civilian Trainers By Harry, The Hammer
Wigder, PPCT IT.


At the risk of oversimplifying a complex art, I am convinced, when it comes to being a dynamic, effective (use of force) instructor, you can’t go wrong by committing yourself to The Secret of S. And, trust me, I have gone wrong – sometimes terribly wrong as a trainer. Here’s the thing, though: I have learned by my mistakes (which is probably in the Top 10 of my guidelines to becoming a great instructor, which we will discuss in another newsletter and in my upcoming E-Book), studied on them and grown from them. I have also learned from the mistakes of others – watched the reactions of others, taken stock of my own visceral reactions to what other instructors have done (both as a participant and as a co-instructor). Rather than bore readers with my many gaffes, let me just say that all you have to do is take the below Super-S’s and consider their complete opposites and you can picture some of those near-fatal errors.

slow as a turtle

SLOW is like money for a Use Of Force instructor. You can never have enough of it. Seriously. Speed in the field, or on the street, is essential to an officer’s survival; so what I am advocating here seems counter-intuitive, but I know it to be true. I have coordinated and been a participant in trainings where an instructor impressed the hell out of me with how rapid and effective he was at handcuffing, applying a submission hold, at disarming a bad guy, or blocking and disarming an edged weapon attack. Problem was, none of the students – especially the participants who were new to the technique – could Soft Wire (visualize in his or her Mind’s Eye the technique as it was being demonstrated and formulate an image or picture in his or her Mind’s Eye of him or her being able to perform that same skill or technique) the motor skill or technique well enough to be able to perform it in class.

THING IS, for a student, be he/she a recruit or veteran officer, this inability to Soft Wire a skill, especially after an instructor creates a legitimate need for that skill during the introduction (Creating A Need For The Skill is the number one motivational tool in Use of Force Training) is a source of great frustration. It also undermines the student’s confidence, both in him or herself , in the instructor, and in the training program itself. Considering that all Survival Motor Skill Training should be designed to eliminate student frustration while developing student confidence, all explanations and technique demonstrations should be methodical and deliberate. When I say slow, therefore, I am talking not just the pace but a Methodology of Slow that should include these components:

  • A Verbal Dialog – an explanation – should precede and accompany the breakdown of the skill.
  • A Demonstration In Real Time (Speed) should precede the slow and deliberate demonstration, so the student can visualize what the technique should look like when all the steps (the technique breakdown into a Beginning, Middle and The End ) are finally put together.
  • “Crawl, Walk, Then Run.” I like to explain at the outset and then refer to this training adage often, that in order to effectively inculcate Survival Motor Skills (Preemptory skills designed to preserve human life) , skills that will work under survival stress on the streets, they must first learn to crawl (Static Training), walk (Fluid Training) and then run (Dynamic Training).
  • All Demonstrations When A Skill Is First Introduced Must Be Demonstrated At 50% Or Less Speed and Power. Chances are, any demonstration of over 50% in speed and power will make it difficult for some students to Soft Wire the technique. Truth is, if a student cannot Soft Wire, he or she will probably be unable to Hard Wire the skill.
  • Break All Skills Down Into 3 Parts, If Possible. Each technique can and should be broken down into its smallest part. I call this simple Task Analysis. It is how the great majority of our students learn Survival Motor Skills. Think of that term – Survival Motor Skills. Skills that are too crucial to our students’ safety and survival not to assure that we optimize their ability to transition effectively from the training room to the contentious streets of America. When you develop your Lesson Plans, I suggest you look at each skill and break each down into a beginning, middle and an end. You can easily do this with almost any subject control or self defense technique. Demonstrate each skill part separately and do not move to the next until your students have demonstrated competency.

INSTRUCTOR’S NOTES: Let’s take Tactical Handcuffing for example. I like to break the skill into the smallest components possible. You might want to teach it differently, of course. I start off by having the students in relative position 2 ½ and the “Bad Guy” in position with his or her strong hand extended back. I break down the technique into the following tasks (Task Analysis):

  1. Officer grabs Bad Guy’s thumb with off-hand, palm up. Disengage. 5 Reps.
  2. Officer grabs thumb and places single blade of cuff against side of wrist close to little finger. Disengage. 5 Reps.
  3. Officer repeats first 2 steps and now Double-Pushes cuff into wrist and wrist into cuff. Disengage. 5 Reps.
  4. Officer repeats above steps, rotates thumb to outside and cuff to inside. Disengage. 5 to 10 Reps.
  5. Officer repeats above steps, rotates correctly, reaches across, grabs BG’s hand, turns thumb up and double pushes handcuff on. Disengage. 5 to 10 reps.


There is a correct way to use speed to develop speed, but, as I am sure you know, real speed in real time (in combat) comes only after the students has built rapidity after he or she has developed confidence and competence through what I like to call LSD – Long, Slow Direction. Once again, using Tactical Handcuffing as an example, after a few hours of the LSD Training outlined above, I have the class perform a few skill-building drills and exercises (some of which, including the Snag Drill, I have detailed in previous newsletters), namely the Speed Cuffing Drill. In this simple drill I time students as they perform the complete Tactical Cuffing Circuit, using my original speedy demonstration as a model. I time them in a series starting with 5-seconds (to build confidence), 3-seconds, then 2-seconds. Chances are all of the students will be able to either beat, match or at least get close to the 2-second “Instructor Level, and, almost always, the class will ask for the 1=Second Expert Test, and, believe it or not about half the class can match or get close to that level (which is about a second faster that my old hands can move). My point here is try the Speed Cuffing Drill before the LSD (Long, Slow Directions) Drills and then try the drill after and you will understand the value of “Slow.”


BY “SIMPLE” I mean several things. Several crucial things to effective, professional training.

  • Terminology: I think back to my early days as an instructor and I believe one of my liabilities as a trainer was rambling, using ambiguous and often esoteric terminology. In the last 10 years or so, though, I have committed myself to always clarifying, never mystifying Communicating well in the classroom, gym, or firing range is not an arcane science. Just talk plain. Say what you have to say in as few words and in the most straightforward way possible. You can’t go wrong if you use The Four C’s Of Good Use Of Force Report Writing as a guideline. If your communication is Complete – meaning, you have included all the important elements and components the student needs to know about the subject matter – Correct – check and double check to make certain what you are saying is accurate –Concise – making certain that what you are teaching includes the correct and complete message, and only that information (superfluous information should be eliminated) – and, finally, Clear (Clarify never Mystify). Clarity might be the most crucial of the four, especially when teaching. A lack of clarity communicates weakness and uncertainty, either one of which can erode the students’ confidence in not only you, the instructor, but your program as well.
  • Techniques: Hick’s Law is a Motor Skill Learning Law adopted by PPCT Training Systems that states that an increase of technique options will increase Survival Reaction Time by 58% (150 ms). Ergo, when teaching civilians and/or law enforcement use of force techniques, keep the panoply of skills to a minimum. Remember, student confidence in you and the techniques you are teaching is paramount in any training system. I know, the temptation of showing your awestruck class a dozen or more fancy, esoteric and impressive ways to totally incapacitate (Self Defense) or control (Subject Control) a Bad Guy is always compelling, but, believe me, when your students try to replicate the virtual labyrinth of techniques, moves, escapes, and takedowns, complete with the complex series footwork, joint locks, et al. and they are totally baffled because their minds are only capable of absorbing so much new information, their confidence- once again – in you and your program(s) will be compromised. If you have been a student of any one of my PPCT Instructor Certification Training Seminars, you know about the limitations of the Short Term Sensory Store (STSS) and the Short Term Memory (STM). Respect those inexorable limitations by keeping everything you teach and demonstrate slow, short and simple.
  • SIMPLIFY THROUGH METAPHOR AND VISUALIZATION: We are a visual society. We learn through seeing through our mind’s eye (the principle of Soft Wiring). I know I have emphasized this in previous Firebirds, but a great way to keep things simple yet effective is through Metaphor and Visualization. Without going into great detail – this newsletter is a limited venue – strengthen your verbal explanations by associating something the student’s do not know with something they already know! A great example I always use is the crucial principle of rotating the hand and handcuffs after applying the first cuff. Assuming your student does not know either why that is important and/or exactly how that act is to be performed, instruct the students to extend their right hand out in front of them palm up and their left hand palm down. Then have them reach over and place the wrist of that left hand over the wrist of their right arm. That act is something every student already knows how to do. Tell them that that is the exact motion of rotating the cuffs. Of course, I demonstrate rotation with a volunteer or co-trainer using handcuffs and I have each student complete the act on his or her own. An example of a Metaphor Of Association would be using the metaphor or analogy of drinking a cold mug of beer as the motion they would use to perform a correct C-Clamp Combination Pressure Point.


ACTUALLY “SAFE” should have been my first “S” in this article. Without a safe training environment, in truth, you have no training. No effective training, anyway. Students need to know that their training will –if they follow the edicts of the Safety Briefing – not be a hostile training place. You cannot totally ensure an injury-free training world for your students; but you can assure them that you have taken every precaution against unnecessary hazards, et al., including:

  • Giving a complete Safety Briefing before the physical portion of the training begins.
  • Enforce a Zero Tolerance for “live” weapons and/o ammunitions in the training arena.
  • When possible use inert training weapons (guns, rifles, knives, batons). When not possible, enforce inspections of each firearms to make sure each is “inoperable.” Tape live weapons and even inert weapons that give the appearance of being real. Always inspect weapons and search bodies for live ammo, etc. after breaks, lunch, etc.
  • When possible, name a Safety Officer for dynamic simulation training. Have an officer identified who will transport injured trainees to local facilities. Identify emergency agencies, hospitals, etc. and estimated distance to each.
  • Give instructions on how to use safety equipment and demonstrate their use. Before starting a drill that involves striking, takedowns, etc., have students demonstrate their proper use of safety equipment.
  • When possible, always use training mats, etc. and bring tape for wrists when you plan to teach long sessions of handcuffing.


Breaking Up a Fight

THIS may seem like a small thing, and maybe it is trivial, but that is the cool thing about having your own newsletter – I can talk about it anyway. I see so many instructors who insist on demonstrating more than one technique at the same time, then expect their students to retain that image. Well, I don’t think it can a student can Soft Wire more than one image at the same time. That becomes a problem when that same student is asked to perform the Static Drills. Hard Wiring becomes problematic.

An example of this is demonstrating all four Brachial Stuns one after the other. Bang. The whole fricking counterstrike component is shot to hell and back. The STSS (Short Term Sensory Store) can only be expected to hold an image for 10 to 15 seconds, tops, before that image is downloaded to the STM (Short Term Memory), If the picture in the Mind’s Eye is flawed because of Multiple or Complex Instructor Demonstrations, the images held in the STM that will later be retrieved during the Static Drills by the student will be unreliable, maybe even obliterated totally.

So, here’s the thing. Demonstrate the Back of the Hand, Off-Hand Brachial Stun first. Demonstrate in real speed, then several times at Instructor Speed (less than 50% Speed and Power), concomitantly demonstrating what a correct Touch Drill looks like. Now, stop. Instruct the students to perform how many reps are prescribed. Have them switch, etc. Then, and only then, demonstrate the next Brachial Stun – probably the Strong Hand Palm Heel Brachial Stun and repeat the sequence. One at a time. Separation is the key.


Man PunchingChild Bully

Depressed TeenWoman Fighter

No doubt, if you are a Martial Arts or law enforcement instructor, you have the credentials and probably the ability to capably train civilians. In these perilous Post-9/11 era, so many civilians are aware of and crying out for good instruction. I must say, though, with apologies to the Martial Arts instructors out there, that more and more citizens are coming to me wanting what I call The Fighting Arts (if you a fan of the Firebird, you know what The Fighting Arts are, but, understanding that not everyone is, I will talk about the Fighting Arts in the next newsletter. Suffice it to say, however, the FA are not Martial Arts, are based on simple, easily-retainable Gross Motor Skills instead of the elusive Complex Motor Skills of all the Martial Arts, and they are designed to work under the rigors of Survival Stress, when your heart rate will typically spike from 60 BPM to about 220 BPM in a second or two) instead of Martial Arts classes.

Training small children is a great example of the efficacy of The Fighting Arts over the Martial Arts. At least adults have the capacity to understand the limitations of the MA. Children tend to idolize their instructors and to totally believe in what their sensei has taught them. Do not get me wrong, I have studied and benefited by the Martial Arts. I also know that children and adults alike have benefited from being involved. Benefited greatly. But an 8-year old small child, using conventional Martial Arts or Self Defense training against a 6’, 210 pound violent recidivistic, and probably desperate, adult male predator, is no match. She or he will have no chance.

    In my S.T.I.C.K. (Survival Techniques and Intervention Concepts For Kids and Parents), my Fighting Arts program takes a different, and what I feel a more realistic approach. The focus is on techniques of prevention and avoidance of predators; the Parent as a Courage Coach; anti-bullying strategies; and how to Escape and Evade an attacker. Physical techniques involve tying the Bad Guy up and delaying his egress from the Initial Crime Scene, knowing that in the predator’s mind, speed is essential to abductions.

    In future newsletters, then, I will be going into specific details about the STICK Program, my COMET Kids Fight Arts program for Teens, as well as the training programs for women and seniors.

    Readers can e-mail me and request more information, Lesson Plans, Powerpoints, etc. involving any of the training programs or concepts detailed in this newsletter.

    Readers can also send in their requests and/or suggestions concerning articles, ideas, principles, etc. they would like to see in future newsletters.

    The Fighting Firebird and its staff invites all readers to contribute their own Training Tips, experiences, Technique Success or Failure Stories for publication.

    I also invite all readers to look in on our Web Site at or my new Blog Site at www.actionagainstviolence.

    The Fighting Firebird Staff

    Harry A. Wigder, PPCT Instructor Trainer, Director, Action Fighting Arts.
    Sandra A. Wigder, Executive Secretary, AFA.
    Shana Lee Albert, Web Master, Blog Master.
    Rachel Goldstein, Web Site and Blog Site Chief Consultant




Action Fighting Arts and the Fighting Firebird invited you to contribute a story, article, feature or advertise your training in its monthly newsletter. The Firebird personally knows a lot of you out there who have innovative ideas and/or field experience when PPCT and/or other training programs have either worked or failed. Our readers (and I) can learn a great deal from those experiences. Plus, writing about your experiences and ideas can be fun and fulfilling, just as can seeing your thoughts in print can be.

Send those articles and features to, or, Shana Lee Albert, my web master, at

Thanks to Rachel Goldstein, the founder of Artists Helping Children, for her help on art work and other features.

Thank you for your interest in Action Fighting Arts Training Programs
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