A deliberate approach to tactical preparation
Primarily doing “the thing” to get better at doing “the thing” can leave significant gaps in your health, wellness, fitness, and performance. However, so does solely training underlying cognitive and physical qualities without plugging them into realistic scenarios. Yet, we witness countless tactical professionals in military, law enforcement, and fire & rescue settings who overinvest in one extreme while sacrificing another or fail to develop and maintain a foundation of health and wellness.
The bulk of this blog lives in the following 8-minute video:
For deeper clarity, let’s take a moment to define each of the four training quadrants discussed in the video:
Health and Wellness
We view the Foundation as protection from physical and psychological injury and illness. Components of lifestyle that promote positive mindset and movement cohesively create a solid Foundation. The Foundation is occasionally sacrificed because of the need to train or operate in less than ideal conditions. It should not exist as a dependency (“If I don’t get my 8 hours of beauty sleep then I cannot perform”), it should instead serve as a mechanism for increasing margin of error and ability to rebound when executing intensive, extensive, and high risk operations.
Sleep - quality, quantity, consistency of sleep and accompanying hygiene practices
Fuel - quality, quantity, consistent consumption of calories, nutrients, and hydration
Attention - proactive mindfulness that enables presence and informed responses instead of uncontrolled reactions and victimhood (Here we use Attention as a broad term that could be extended into specific domains like financial and spiritual wellness)
Activity - general and intentional movement, exposure to nature, and socialization
Foundation corresponds with the RESET section of our Tactical Initiator Certification Course because the primary goal of this quadrant is recoverability.
We view Fatigue (“...makes cowards of us all”) from exertion from physically intensive and extensive undertakings as an enemy over whom we have a lot of influence. Output (strength, speed, & power), capacity (how long, repeatability), and their interplay (inherent tradeoff between output & capacity - efficiency) all work to reinforce foundational movement competency. These qualities are extremely trainable yet most soldiers, firefighters, and law enforcement officers possess fitness levels that are exceptionally lower than their genetic potential, or excessively bias one component of fitness while ignoring others.
General - movement quality, strength in major movement patterns, and nonspecific aerobic capacity (emphasis on central adaptations)
Specific - fatigue resistance while performing physical tasks that start to look and smell like occupational tasks in terms of their intensity, volume, movement, and work to rest ratios
Combination - even more specific, combining tools and tasks of the trade but with little to no cognitive component (we use to call this combat focused physical training)
The primary goal of training in the Fatigue quadrant is to develop a physical platform that enables physically uninhibited cognitive function.
We view Familiarity as the specific job skills that enhance capabilities to shoot (manipulate tools of the trade), move (maneuver with mental and physical skill - not just fitness), and communicate (lead with sound decision making, communication, etc.). Like Fatigue management, Familiarity should be developed progressively. Most tactical professionals start in the right place - training techniques (though sometimes this occurs in an excessively stressful learning environment). However, many training plans either skip straight to all real world scenarios without progressively challenging the skill of applying raw techniques within a partially realistic context, while others never expose techniques to stress. Below is a linear oversimplification of an escalating approach to enhancing competence.
Technique - fairly narrow and specific, often non-contextual execution of a task (ex: marksmanship) or subtask (ex: breathing, trigger squeeze, body position, sight picture)
Skill - combination and application of techniques, usually with added context (shooting popup targets at various distance and/or from various positions)
Tactic - more contextual and less controlled collective application of skills within a less predictable environment that addresses fairly broad occupational scenarios (aka where shooting, moving, and communicating occur simultaneously).
The primary goal of the Familiarity quadrant is to enhance job task execution with minimal interference from fitness demands.
Fear & Fog
We view the Fear & Fog as performance inhibitors that occur when fitness and competence interact with the often uncompromising realities of job and life. Stress exposure training that challenges combined fitness and competence within realistic scenarios containing relevant stressors (fatigue, choice, hunger, consequence, pain, surprise, chaos, weather, enemy, terrain, altitude, handicaps, novelty, etc.) can help train and test actual capabilities. Like any training, stress exposure training should be incrementally applied.
Here are some tips from a recent Instagram post we shared:
1. Skills - Acquired & Developed First
Be sure you can routinely perform a skill without added pressure prior to applying stressors. Otherwise, you'll likely develop poor execution habits for the sake of survival.
2. Stressors - Relevant to Reality
Execution under manufactured stress should transfer to execution under real world conditions. There are countless variables of applied stress at your disposal: time, sensory deprivation or overload, fatigue, complexity, surprise, consequence, responsibility, environment, just to name a handful.
3. Variables - Added Incrementally
Stress should be applied incrementally or failure is almost inevitable and effective feedback might be difficult to provide. Skiing a black diamond after a single lesson on the bunny slopes is sure to end in disaster, with few lessons learned other than, "Don't do too much too soon."
4. Failure - Possible Not Prominent
Scenarios should challenge participants to perform at the edge of their ability, with more successes than failures occurring but both "wins" and "losses" should be accompanied by feedback.
5. Feedback - Included Consistently
Feedback can be formal and verbal but should also inherently occur within the context and flow of the training scenario. Build in feedback processes that are both constructive and minimally disruptive. Include positive reinforcement too!
Foundational health and wellness that comes from movement and mindset support the reset needed to achieve supercompensation within deliberate training and sometimes simply help to survive risky extremes encountered inherently within dangerous tactical occupations. Physical fitness and cognitively dominant task competence should be independently developed before being interdependently challenged.
Bottom line: Earn the right to expose a robustly constructed tactical professional who is physically fit and mentally competent to realistic stressors that simulate what will be three-dimensionally encountered within the volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous, and unforgiving battlefield, fireground, or patrol area.