Contradictory Conditioning

What is contradictory conditioning? Is it weight training followed by long distance running? Is it applying conditioner before shampoo?

Maybe it those things too, but what I am talking about is the practice of performing a tactic or technique in training in such a way that is develops a trained technique we would never want to perform in a real-life situation. For instance, I watched a person on the internet “getting reps” with speed reloading/magazine changes. He would draw his weapon and immediately as he was still moving through his presentation, hit his mag release button, dropping his mag, as he retrieved the next mag and inserted it.

Now, this malfunction actually happened to me in real life one time as a suspect vehicle was driving towards me across an apartment complex greenbelt. I noticed the mag sliding out, and immediately performed a speed reload. The mag release button had been pressed by something in my vehicle seat area before I got out of my car. But never did I rehearse this move.

The person posting the video explained he understood the potential to create an unwanted muscle memory, but said he was just “getting the reps”. Unfortunately, your muscle memory doesn’t differentiate between practice and real life. You practice something because you want to perform it that way in a real situation. I learned long ago, or was taught long ago, that you don’t rise to the level of the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.

Everyone who has been around a while (since the time of revolvers) knows the story, whether true or a teaching lesson, of officers in a large city department who were killed during a shootout because they began policing their brass during the shootout instead of leaving the casings on the ground. Their training developed muscle memory that when they emptied their revolver cylinders they were to immediately bend down and pick up the brass because their firearms instructors didn’t want to clean up after everyone. I had a few firearms instructors relate this story during different firearms programs early in my career.

Whether or not this actually happened, the lesson I learned was don’t develop and ingrain habits that don’t serve you well in real life.

Or…don’t do stuff that gets you killed.

Once developed, bad habits are very hard to change. Think about times you have had to rethink then relearn a technique you learned incorrectly the first time. The way our minds work is that whatever we do must be the greatest or best way to do it, or we wouldn’t do it that way. Our mind has difficulty realizing it may not have the best information. If you can’t picture it in the world of police tactics, consider it in the world of politics. How easy is it to change someone’s political views?

 The second part of this problem is that we train tactics that we never plan to use in real life. The intent of practice or training is to come as close to perfect as we can in our performance so that it works when we need it. I see the lack of understanding of this concept in not wanting to debrief real life incidents that go wrong or very bad.

I posted some insight into a recent shooting where police in a large metro agency shot and killed a car theft suspect. The problem was they also shot and severely wounded an infant who happened to be in the car being stolen. Many people, including at least two claiming to be in policing and firearms instructors, slammed me for critiquing the officers’ performance. My question to the firearms instructor was why he wasn’t concerned that the officers violated the fourth basic firearms safety rule. If we train this rule, and we have such concept as the Safety Priorities (if unfamiliar, look at my earlier blog articles), why would we not hold officers accountable to following them in real events?

Are such rules only for the range? Are we careful to not shoot other officers in training but don’t care about shooting innocent adults and children in the real world? If we aren’t purposely considerate and responsible with the safety and well-being of our community, what is our purpose again? To write tickets and chase dope?

We don’t train so that we can “get in the reps”. If we train bad reps we will lock in and guarantee bad performance. We train and practice good decision making and tactics so that we will perform in a conditioned, proficient manner during a high stress situation, when our cognitive thought is lessened through lack of blood flow to the brain because it is going to our major muscle groups in order to provide locomotion and action.

If it won’t make you better in a real world high stress critical incident, don’t train it in your bedroom, study, gym, or wherever else you might choose to “get in some reps”.