Triple Again – Rory Miller


Mac says most things can be broken down in threes. Speed, surprise, violence of action. Power, speed precision. Move, shoot, communicate. Awareness, initiative, permission. It works quite often, and sometimes it doesn’t. I guess the rule is to never fall in love with a model to the extent that you try to force the world to fit the model.

Another one came up last week. I’d been asked to advice a young man on designing a defensive tactics program for a certain profession. Have to be a little obtuse here because there are programs that exist for this profession, but no one (and I mean no one) who actually works in that profession is happy with the current programs. The programs I have seen and heard about are classic “liability reduction” training, designed for the express purpose of keeping organizations from being sued, regardless of whether what is taught actually works.

I’d been thinking about it for weeks leading up to the meeting. These are people doing important things with small budgets, a lot of scrutiny, and very limited training time. And whatever program comes out of this, if one does, will have to be effective (or it’s not worth my time) but also palatable to the administrations, the media and the public.

Snapped awake the morning of the meeting. When a problem is hard to solve, it’s often because you are trying to solve the wrong problem, asking the wrong question or asking the right question in the wrong way. My contacts had been always talked about managing aggressive behavior, and all of their programs failed against assaultive behavior. Duh.

So the triple for this one:

  • Managing aggressive behavior would be the tools, verbal prevention before, verbal and possible physical redirection during. Qualitatively different from…
  • Managing assaultive behavior. Under attack, your solution won’t be verbal. Always good to augment physical responses with verbal skills, both to direct the threat and for the benefit of witnesses. But when someone is trying to stab you, you don’t have the time to try to calm his mindset. The third though…
  • Managing destructive behavior. Including self-destructive, but the difference between Assaultive and destructive is the focus. No matter how violent someone is being, you have an entirely different suite of options if he’s focused on someone or something else.
Nothing new here. The physical, interpersonal and tactical skills for each type are pretty well known. But I haven’t divided things this way before. And I think it’s telling that multiple systems shared the same failure point and it was a simple recognition that teaching people how to handle aggressive people won’t translate to handling an assault.
More came up in the brainstorming session– Gordon Graham’s discretionary time concept and how it applies. Training methodologies for improvising and adapting under pressure. Power dynamics that will have to modeled in the class before they can be mirrored in the mission. An ethical framework that ties a lot together. Gotta love curriculum development.

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