Tools to Combat the Issues of Complacency vs. Reality Part III -Tim Boehlert & Matt Swartz, NYSP, Ret.

Day Two – Witnessing Reality

On day two of the academy we were shown showed a video of a roadside shootout. The aggressor shot until his gun was empty. He was also the target of the officer simultaneously. The aggressor was able to continue to fire on the officer, reload and fire more shots, get back into his vehicle and drive away. He made it about a mile or so down the road. The officer pursued, and when he approached the vehicle, only then did he discover that he had fatally shot the man. The aggressor was dead behind the wheel. That’s a long ‘Dead Man’s Ten!’

Read the FBI research on actual homicides. Read the Street Survival Series of books put out again by Calibre Press and Jim Glennon. Read the Artwohl/Christensen book on Police shootings. These are men and women that have prepared to take a life, but read about their ‘experience.’ Read the personal stories and insights. Ask yourself the hard questions now, because when ‘   it’ happens will you have time to ask yourself, your lawyer, your family, and your sensei? It’s not easy. Don’t delude yourself with macho attitude. These are humanized accounts of what happened and the outcomes. The effects it had on the police officers, their families, and their friends. How it totally changed their world. This is reality. Cold, hard, honest.

The Knife Solution

If you fancy that you’re a knife guy. Think about this. It takes very little skill to kill someone with a knife. A whole lot less skill than it does to do the same thing with a gun, I believe, in many instances. A gun allows you distance, which psychologically gives you an edge – distance is a form of de-humanizing the act. It de-personalizes your actions to an extent not possible with a knife.

Using a knife on another human is a very personal act. You will get their blood on you. You’re not going to walk away untouched by this act like you may after having shot someone. You will likely get cut or worse if it’s against another person wielding a knife. Learning whatever art you choose to use for this weapon is no guarantee. It doesn’t matter much if it’s FMA or any derivative. Because, even if you do prevail, is it going to be what you’ve fantasized it was going to be like, or did it even go down the way you ‘saw it ‘ in your own mind? No, it didn’t. That I can guarantee. It never does.

(Matt disagrees with me on this point and adds these insights for consideration: “repeatedly and effectively stabbing/slashing enough to kill? Not that easy. vs. pulling a trigger over and over [consult wound data comparisons]. I disagree and think the opposite is true.” I based my thoughts on the psychological investment inherent in an act of violence where death is the outcome, perhaps as a one-sided goal (his, not yours): intent, commitment and no ‘personal barriers issues’. Matt closes with: “Will power vs. Skill power = Kill power!”)

Check this out. Look up some prison knifings on YouTube. Watch a few, and see what reality really looks like. These guys have skills that you don’t and you won’t be prepared for their skills. To your mind, they may not be skills, but in the end, it works – with a knife, a shiv, or any manner of ‘weapon at hand.’ Skill is the least of it.

Now go find the brutal footage of terrorists using any imaginable means to kill people that they have effectively ‘othered’ –whether doing so for strong religious ‘beliefs’, or for strong political ideology as their driving force.

If you can actually sit through a few short glimpses, or watch an entire clip of one beheading, then at least you’ve witnessed the reality of reality. You’ve started down the road to enlightenment. From here, you need to stop and reassess your journey, but you will only if you are smarter and more responsible after having done so, for the benefit of others that you are training. There is very little skill involved in this act. Intent is the driving force, and you likely don’t possess that ‘skill.’

Reality as a Valuable Learning Tool – It’s Missing in our Curriculum

Reality is not a common learning tool, and it really should be. It needs to be. If we are to be Honest, and display Integrity, then we owe it to ourselves as well as to our students. We need to be better and more completely educated – even if and when it’s disturbing, and knowing that what we are teaching is not the whole story. It’s fantasy in too many cases. I don’t mean to say it’s intentional, as it isn’t always. But, it is intentional if we disregard the facts and the realities and don’t speak to it or teach it to our students.

Be responsible and accountable. Don’t propagate your ‘reality’ into impressionable minds. Do the research and then make those resources available. I have listed just a few herein.

Don’t be fooled by your own complacency – you’ve been training with willing partners, and following standard Dojo (read: sport) ‘use of engagement’ principles. They are falsehoods if you’re training to use a weapon against another human.

There are glitches and safeties built into your training methods and programs (thank you Rory Miller!) I’m telling you that you are fooling yourself and misleading your students. Can you really afford to continue this practice in good conscience?

There are many ways to speak to this subject matter, but the reality is that you probably haven’t yet faced reality. This is your wake-up call. Please accept the invitation. It’s my gift to you.

Who said you can’t learn any Martial Art from a book or by watching a video? I whole-heartedly and respectfully disagree.

In a future article I will expound more upon the Civilian Academy Experience – an overview that will include more in depth information about all three days.


Matt Swartz, NYSP, Ret. is a very modest man possessing extraordinary talent and drive. He offered to read this article in draft form and provide me with some feedback, and I am so grateful that he did so. I met Matt briefly and by chance while attending an LEO-only training session a few years ago given by FLETC DT Senior Instructor Charlie Moore, USMS, Ret. Matt is the subject of a chapter of Charles Remsberg’s fourth installment of the original Street Survival series published by Calibre Press, titled ‘Blood Lessons’, which was used in Police Academies to train new recruits. I am proud to know Matt, and now even more so for his contributions to this piece.




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