July 19

Breakaway Skills in MVA Training – Part 1

Hi, it’s Gerard O’Dea here, director of training for Dynamis and today I want to talk to you about breakaway skills within MVA Training for staff. Now over the years in teaching our various different programs across the country in conflict management, personal safety, we worked a lot with lone workers, and we do a huge amount of work in terms of physical interventions and restraint reduction.

We’ve been asked many, many times and we deliver to many, many groups, in London and elsewhere in the UK, a program of physical disengagement from violence, which is often termed “breakaway skills training” in the sector and is usually a part of MVA Training. I think the way we teach Breakaway is quite unique and individual. So today if you’ll bear with me, I’m going to spend a few paragraphs just talking about the legal context behind why we do it the way we do it, and also some of the scientific journal articles and the research that’s out there, which is the bedrock of how we do breakaway skills training.

Experts use Scientific Evidence when assessing MVA Training

So the start off with, the legal context at the moment, as you well know, is very, very tight in regards to use of force in healthcare, social care, or education settings in particular. And we could even extend out to the security sector where there’s new regulations for the last few years about the appropriate use of force and so on. Individuals and companies have statutory responsibilities and are working within regulatory frameworks and government department guidance.

One of the key things that we need to be aware of as we look at this whole area of breakaway skills and MVA Training is the increasing use of scientific rigour to improve decision making for use of force. So a great example of this is that the Force Science Institute, which is an American body dedicated to the use of things like time and motion studies and psychological information and research and experiments that they’ve carried out to improve use of force decision making. The Force Science Institute (FSI) were asked to give evidence on behalf of officers from the Metropolitan Police who were involved in this case called the Stanley case, the Stanley shooting.

Ultimately it was the scientific evidence that this body (FSI) brought to that case that allowed it to be brought to a successful close after, I think as much as 10 years and three separate prosecutions that were brought against the officers. It took this highly technical information about the use of force to finally bring it to a close. And I think this is something that as an expert witness myself and in looking around and talking with my colleagues, we have to be very, very aware that increasingly this scientifically rigorous approach to the use of force is becoming something of a trend – something we need to be aware of.

Evidence based breakaway skills and MVA Training

And so when we’re asked how we develop our training programs or when our training programs are tested, or when we are asked by one of our learners, why do we have to do it like so, or like this, then increasingly I believe, we need to have an evidence base for our answers. And not just be able to rely on answers like, “That’s what it says in the manual.” Or, “That’s what my instructor told me.” Or even answers like, “That’s the way it’s always been done.” I think increasingly we have to show that there’s an evidence base for what we’re doing.

So let’s look at some of the journal articles that are out there. So research that people have carried out on breakaway and so on. There’s a handful of really key articles that I would recommend you go and look at, but I’m going to just summarize a few of them here.

Basically what you can see is that there’s a variable picture when we look at how staff are being able to use breakaway techniques in practice. Simply speaking, the techniques that people are being taught aren’t really making an appearance in the incidents and the scenarios and the confrontations they’re having. In one study, only three out of 19 staff that were interviewed used a recognised breakaway technique. In another study, almost half the nurses said that they didn’t have time to respond to the attack they were involved in.

Another study at quite a high profile facility, 40% of the staff failed to escape from a stranglehold within 10 seconds using the correct so-called technique.

However, about 80% of people in one study, did manage to get away from the physical assault even though they didn’t use anything that looked like a MVA Training technique that they have been taught. Which is going to bring me to a really key realization that we need to have here in just a few minutes. But before we go onto that, we see programs quite often that have a large number of techniques.

Time On Task

Now, one study that was carried out looking at practice time found that in a breakaway and MVA Training program that that was carried out over a full training day, there were some 15 techniques taught and through breaks and explanations of demonstration time and then practice time, it was found that the learners on the course only really got about just over six minutes of practice time per technique.

Now that has a huge impact on the assimilation of those techniques into that person’s individual repertoire of coping strategies in the first place. And I think it’ll also have a really key impact on their retention of those methods over time. You can imagine with six minutes of practice, just how well that person will perform that skill in three months or six months or nine or twelve months after the training day. There has to be some real questions about that – there are some really interesting problems here.

What some researchers are looking at is whether or not we can actually learn from the academics, the professionals, the practitioners whose job it is to look at the acquisition of motor skills and those are, generally speaking, the sports science, the sports psychology research bodies and academics at the universities and the practitioners who are involved in coaching physical skills and high-performance.

And one researcher that I met – Benson in 2010 – he was particularly strong in this point. He said that we really should be talking to the sports scientists to bring their academic rigour and their scientific approach to the development of these motor skills that we’re looking to develop when we teach people breakaway skills.

Interestingly, another research report and journal article that’s out there and talks about how breakaway methods that centre on natural instinct, the things, the instinctive protective motions that people will naturally do before they’d had any breakaway or MVA Training, as opposed to these highly technical maneuvers that are generally taught on the training courses. The natural instinctive responses are more likely to be recalled more successfully.

And so the question becomes, should this be the basis of our breakaway skills training? Looking at the natural instinct and responses of a human being, and then adapting our training methods to refine and improve those natural instinctive responses rather than trying to reprogram our trainees in a very short space of time to move in ways that they possibly never have moved before. That’s the really difficult and thorny question around breakaway skills.

Dynamis Training is a leading provider of advice and effective in-person MVA Training courses in personal safety, self-protection and breakaway skills which are easily learned and which can be retained well over time.  Because of our unique coaching methodology and the time and thought we have devoted to what YOUR staff need to know to be able to disengage effectively from a violent assault, this breakaway training is likely to be the most beneficial type of such training your staff could undergo.

Whether its officer safety, breakaway skills or deescalation you are looking for, Dynamis has a course which can be tailored for your specific environment, the context of your team’s encounters and the risks you need to address. You should look for the Vistelar Podcast on YouTube.

When it comes to breakaway training London seems to be a key area for where we see the most demand.  However there is also demand for breakaway training Birmingham and breakaway training Peterborough as well as breakaway training surrey and breakaway training Kent – the truth seems to be that ew see demand for this very important training in disengagement and self-protection in almost every part of the country!


MVA Training London

MVA Training Birmingham

MVA Training Glasgow

MVA Training Newcastle

MVA Training Leeds

MVA Training Bradford

MVA Training Carlisle

MVA Training Surrey

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MVA Training North London

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assault, breakaway, disengagement, lone working, personal safety, pmva training, self-protection, violence reduction

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