Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Physiological Efficiency

Like many jocks of college age, I minored in Physical Education with an emphasis on coaching. In my case it was Track and Field as I attended college on a scholarship in the same sport.  To successfully complete this degree, I was required to attend a year- long course entitled “Sports Physiology” which was the study of human anatomy and that relates to movement specifically directed at athletics. It was a good thing I could run fast and jump far as I had (still don’t!) no real hand-eye coordination. I was the poor kid who grew up unable to catch a ball, hit same or shoot one through a hoop with any degree of success.  This course of instruction was a real eye opener for me as it explained many things about the body, what it was capable of and how you could improve its performance by adjusting technique to best make use of how it wants to move. 

Track and Field…especially the field events…are very technique-driven and great improvement can be attained through what was called “physiological efficiency” at the time.  I attribute the phrase to a very famous (both in and out of the track world as he was the founder of a little known company called Nike) track coach as he was the first person I ever heard use the phrase as it related to the long jump. Basically, the athlete eliminated any motion that was not required to attain speed and distance.  It was a real asset to me as I tried to excel in my sport. In a nutshell, I improved my jumping distance by several feet!!  Have you ever seen a runner who was so smooth when they ran that it looked effortless? This is a good example of physiological efficiency.

Upon entering the police academy, I realized my lack of hand/eye coordination would once again be a detriment in hand-to-hand combat and shooting. I could hit my target reasonably well, but all of the other necessary motor skills were a challenge.  I first used a semi auto in 1982 after my agency’s SWAT team was formed, and I quickly realized a rapid magazine exchange, better known as the speed load, would be a huge challenge for me. The gun was a 1911 and as you all know, single column auto loaders are the most challenging to load fast. Thinking back to my track and field days, I pulled out some of my old training books to review the sections that dealt with physiological efficiency and applied the lessons to pistol shooting.

I understood even back then, there were only so many ways to “run” a pistol and they had all been invented regardless of any current or future claims of “the latest greatest” technique.  Nonetheless, by applying the physiological efficiency I learned while running track, I was able to put together a method that worked well for me. Why is this important? Admittedly, it’s because I’m not a gifted shooter and it is likely that neither are you! But in three-plus decades of law enforcement, I’ve won a few matches and faced my share of danger. In addition, I’ve trained tens of thousands of cops and armed citizens using physiological efficiency and it has worked well.  As an instructor, I feel this is my greatest asset…to learn from someone who struggles with shooting well and found methods to improve versus a gifted shooter who really does not understand why they are good.

At last count, I have had 112 individuals contact me and tell me that what they learned saved their lives…12 have supplied video tapes of their incidents.  While this sounds like a lot, it really isn’t for an instructor in law enforcement who has been teaching for almost four decades. Conversations with large agency instructors at conferences like ASLET, ILEETA and IALEFI has made me realize this. 

I included physiologically efficient methods into my book Handgun Combatives, the video of the same name from Paladin Press and the five videos I did for Panteao Productions. I feel they are the simplest and most efficient ways to shoot and manipulate the semi auto pistol in combative situations. While calling the book something like “Combative Handgun Shooting made Simple” or “Combative Handgun for Dummies” was enticing, my publisher felt it might send the wrong message and they were probably right.

I have been informed recently by people who were riding tricycles or wearing diapers when I first explored the concept that my use of the word “physiology’ is wrong and that I am referring to “biomechanics” or “kinesiology”. Huh, I did not know the year- long course I took should have been called “Sports Biomechanics” or “Sports Kinesiology”. Look at the dictionary definitions of biomechanics and physiology:

noun: physiology
1. the branch of biology that deals with the normal functions of living organisms and their parts, the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions or moves.

noun: biomechanics; noun: bio-mechanics
1. the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms.

I believe that both terms are technically correct. I have found that when someone feels compelled to “correct” another, rename something or generally be a pain in the ass it’s because they are trying to get people to believe they created or invented it. This is usually done to increase profit or raise profile…whatever.  Sorry folks, the study of human motion has been ongoing for centuries and no “new on the scene instructor” created this stuff. If you think they did then get with me as I have a bridge in the Everglades to sell you…and I will offer it at a super price!

Physiological/Biomechanical efficiency is a theme I emphasize repeatedly in my classes and I will continue to do so as it works!  When it comes to combative shooting or open hand fighting if it feels like you’re hardly moving, you‘re probably doing it right! My search for simpler and easier ways will probably last until the day I die.’s that important...

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