July 20


NHS Breakaway Training – Series Part 3

By Gerard O'Dea

July 20, 2019

breakaway skills, design of training, expert witness, personal safety, video

Breakaway Skills Training in the NHS and other services

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, which includes lots of information about how to develop a compassionate connection with patients, and different language types amongst other topics. 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 Breakaway 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 (or PMVA) 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 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. Research that people have carried out on breakaway training 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 breakaway 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 in Breakaway Classes

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.

How to Assess Breakaway Techniques and Skills?

One of our templates that we use at Dynamis is a series of 10 questions that will test Breakaway Techniques for viability under real life stress conditions. And that’s something that we do to make sure that any program that we are teaching has a viability under the high stress and the pressure and the collisions that happen during real life violent confrontations. Sometimes programs are designed based on a traditional view or a view that if it’s written in the manual, it must be okay. And time and time again of course, both ourselves in training situations, and I think the research also bears through that learners find that the actual design of the program is failing long before the personal factors come into play.

Secondly then, are Breakaway Techniques actually the cause of failure here? So I suppose the best example of that is where you have staff being asked to learn a whole series of breakaway procedures, but they’re being asked to do that in just a couple of hours of training. Over the years, we’ve been asked to do incredibly short blocks on physical skills, and sometimes the training commissioners have a belief that we can teach people many, many skills in a very short space of time. And we try to educate people that the uptake of these physical skills for protection, it takes time and it takes repetition. Sometimes if a breakaway training for healthcare training program and it’s delivery is in too short a timeframe, then there’s no way really that the average person is going to be able to retain those skills.

Are Breakaway Skills Viable and Robust under pressure?

Sometimes a compounding that is that the breakaway techniques themselves have been adopted modified or just plain made up to fit a set of criteria, which means that the techniques are not really viable so that they’re not robust, and they will not stand up to the real life pressure of a motivated attacker who’s committed to hurting a member of staff. The techniques sometimes that have been created in a vacuum perhaps with all good intentions, they’ve been created to be non-aversive or to be non-harmful. But by designing them in that way, it actually makes the techniques themselves less functional and therefore less robust under pressure. It means they’re going to fail sometimes, or maybe a lot of the time when they’re put to the test in real confrontations.

We could then ask, of course, is it staff failure? Is it the fact that the athletic ability, the general physical condition of staff is such that really when you teach a breakaway training for healthcare technique or ask them to take on board a skill, perhaps their physical attributes themselves would limit them from being able to use that skill. And a second major component of that is their emotional and psychological makeup, their wiring. So the average care staff or healthcare member, or the team, they’re not involved in that profession because they want to go and hurt people. So the actual ability to make a decision to use breakaway techniques on somebody which might really result in discomfort or harm or pain, that actually creates quite a significant barrier to the uptake of these breakaway skills perhaps. And certainly in some individuals that we’ve met, this provides quite a strong barrier to the assimilation of breakaway training for healthcare.

So just in those four different areas alone, you can see already that there could be any number of reasons or combination of reasons why breakaway skills are a very difficult topic to teach in a way that will guarantee high performance under pressure. Now for a long time, it’s been understood what the effects of stress are in terms of physical skill performance. And this curve from, very early in the last century, 1908, this inverted U hypothesis that has been really quite well used to describe the effects of stress both in a positive way and then in a negative way on the performance of an individual is a useful initial and very critical bedrock for us to start looking at how we should teach breakaway skills. So simply it says that when you are relaxed and calm and experiencing positive stress, then your performance level at any given reasonably complex task will increase.

Those (breakaway techniques) are gross!

Anxiety sometimes facilitates good performance, however, prolonged and/or very extreme levels of anxiety will create tension and eventually panic in an individual where upon their performance of any given procedure, task, or method will significantly decrease and become dysfunctional. And this is a really important thing for us to remember is that survival stress can make the simplest of things in terms of procedures, especially if they’re complex procedures. Survival stress can make the simplest of things difficult to perform breakaway training for healthcare at a high level.

Moving on, then we can see that survival stress can have a specific impact actually on how a human being can carry out breakaway techniques. So typically it is recognized that we have three sets of motor skills that we use. So that’s fine motor skills, complex motor skills, and gross motor skills. The fine motor skills are movements where we use smaller muscles in a more coordinated way. So something like putting a key in a lock, signing your name with a pen. These are fine motor skills where we have to use smaller movements. And those smaller muscle groups are very fine type of detailed skills that we have. Then we have complex motor skills which are defined as combinational coordination type movements where you have perhaps the fingers gripping a ball and then the arm and body swinging to throw the ball or maybe even to catch one where you’ve got combinations of different movements that are sequenced in such a way that you get a complex set of articulations so that skill can be performed.

Finally, then we have gross motor skills. Now those are the much bigger and more dramatic movements that larger muscle groups would use to facilitate the skill of in question. Gross motor skills are things like jumping, shoving, pulling, and generally bashing and crashing around in a not very fine or delicate way. What survival stress does is of course, it increases the heart rate because the body’s adrenaline systems will be kicking in and flooding the blood system with various survival hormones. One of the results of that is that heart rate increases and sometimes when the stressor is quite large and overwhelming, the heart rate will quite drastically increase right the way up into the 200 beats per minute kind of range. Fine motor skills cut out at a relatively low level of stress…and then the complex motor skills start to drop off.

But across the whole piece here, you can see that the gross motor skills are available to the person to use, and they remain functional regardless of the heart rate increases. So we have to take that on board and look at it as one of the key ideas that’s going to help us to teach people skills that will be robust enough to still be active and still be available to them even though they might be experiencing survival stress. And this is born out in the research in a number of different ways, and research that’s been around for a long time. In 1976, Weinberg and Hunt were talking about how if a task requires fine motor control or it contains important decision making components, then we need a low level of arousal to achieve maximum performance of it. So they’re saying there that if you’re in a high level of arousal in a situation such as being attacked by another human being, then you shouldn’t really be trying to do fine motor control or trying to make important decisions at that time such as which hand to use or something that’s relatively complex like that. So they’re saying at high levels of arousal you need something that’s not fine motor skill.

People revert to instinctive breakaway techniques

Secondly, then we can look at the other Weinberg quote on the screen, which is to say that individuals when they’re under high stress will revert to their instinctive modes of behavior. Now we’re going to come back to that in part three of this series, and I’m going to describe to you some of the scientific research about what is an instinctive motor behavior for breakaway techniques / self protection. So looking at survival stress, that could be a really easy way for us to describe what’s happening when staff are forgetting or omitting or not able to produce breakaway skills that they have been taught in the classroom setting during breakaway training for healthcare. Survival stress says, because of the way the body is wired up for survival, certain skills just switch off, they just won’t be available. And that’s really a key thing for us to remember.

Now I’m going to go ahead and talk about stimulus response here. So we’re going to go through some very key sport science about reaction times and stimulus identification in someone like that so that I can talk about how maybe the staff are missing the stimuli which would allow them to use breakaway techniques. So the basics of motor performance here are encompassed in this stimulus response model which has been around for an awful long time. In essence, it says that your reaction time in any given situation to produce a skill will be made up of three different phases. First phase is when your body mind system has to identify the stimulus. It has to pattern match to figure out what exactly is happening. It then goes into phase two, which is to choose the appropriate response (read as breakaway techniques) to that particular stimulus. And as we may see, the more responses you’re programmed in, the longer it may take your body mind system to actually select one from the range.

Once the appropriate response (or breakaway techniques) has been chosen, then your body mind system has to actually get into action to deploy that response. And all three of those phases when you put them together, we call that your reaction time. Obviously when we look at physical protection, self protection systems, we want systems that will have the smallest reaction time possible. So let’s just start in talking about identifying the stimulus. What exactly is the stimulus we want our staff to recognize in order for them to perform a breakaway skill effectively? And the fact is, when we look at the various studies that are out there, the overwhelming majority of them show that healthcare staff in these kinds of situations are attacked by kinetic assaults. What I mean by that is that they’re being hit, struck, or punched, and at times they’re being kicked, but mostly they’re being slapped or punched in these situations.  This has huge implications for breakaway techniques training for healthcare.

The wrist-release fixation of some breakaway programmes

So in all the studies, the same result was born out that roughly half of the time, sometimes more than half of the time, staff were being hit or punched. Now the incredible thing for me to discover when I went around and asked various training bodies about that, is we found that even though this is quite a well established idea and a fact that hitting and slapping and kicking and punching are the main ways that people are attacked, we still find that an overwhelming majority of breakaway techniques packages focus on wrist grabs, clothing grabs, arm grabs, and so on. And personally, I think that’s a throwback to some traditional martial arts models of training which maybe we won’t get into with you just now, we may revisit that in the future, but certainly here’s the thing, if we’re not teaching the staff how to identify the correct stimulus, the one they’re most likely to face in reality, then their stimulus identification is going to be poor.

That will definitely negatively affect their choosing of the appropriate response to that. And then when they deploy a response, the quality of it won’t be so great. So if we just look back at the stimulus response model, we may be failing staff if we’re not addressing the correct stimuli. So that’s a really key idea, and I’ll return to it in part three of my talk. 

In part one I introduced some of the context and the legal background and so on, the research background for why we started looking at the best way to deliver NHS Breakaway Training.

In part two, I started to talk about some very common sports psychology ideas in regards to how stress impacts on performance in general, how survival stress impacts on motor skill performance, quite specifically gross motor skills. And then I started to talk about the reaction time and the stimulus response model, where looking at the stimulus and identifying the stimulus was one critical factor because what we found was that most breakaway training programs were ignoring the key stimulus that they needed to be focused on, which is impact and kinetic type of assaults, not grabbing type assaults.

So I’m going to start there today and start working on that problem. You see, one of the problems they have worked on in sports sciences is: how do you improve reaction time?

What is good NHS Breakaway Training?

1) Advance Information Speeds Reaction Time

Well, it seems that we work on advanced information. We work on identifying what are called pre-cues and this dramatically speeds up reaction time. So we described reaction-time last week in the last talk as identifying the stimulus and choosing an appropriate response of deploying the appropriate response. So some of the research was focused on improving that stimulus identification. The reason you’re looking at this tennis photograph in this video about “What is good Breakaway Training?” is that the difference between novice tennis players and veteran tennis players was that, in one experiment that they carried out, it was that the experienced veteran tennis players could tell just from watching the video of the first part of somebody’s serve, they could tell where the ball was going to end up with a far greater degree of accuracy than the novice tennis players could. So they showed them just the beginning of another player serve and they asked them where the ball was going to land. And that advanced stimulus identification skill that they’d built up was able to drastically improve their reactions and the appropriateness of their reactions to the cues that they were seeing. This is hugely important for NHS breakaway training.

When we take these novices into our NHS breakaway training programs and we often focus, or at least some training packages, often focus on the end product of the assault. The hair grab, which is already completed, or the risk route which is already completed, or the body grab which has already completed. Now in contrast to that, on our Dynamis training programs, we spend an awful lot of time focusing on what we call the pre-cues. The beginning of a large body grab, the beginning of a hair grab, and we train the staff to see the attack coming sooner and that really helps them to improve their reaction time.

2) Stimulus response compatibility

Now, one other issue that we came across in our research on “NHS Breakaway Training?” was that, what you want is the compatibility of the stimulus and the most natural response to be very close. So this idea of stimulus response compatibility refers to the naturalness of the connection between the stimulus and the desire response. So for example, we give this example in our courses. When you’re steering a car, it’s really good stimulus response compatibility because when you see a left turn coming up, you want to turn the wheel to the left and that is a proper response to a left turn. On the other hand, if we put you at the back of a boat with an outboard motor on it, then if you want to turn the boat to the left, if the stimulus requires you to turn the boat to the left, it can take a little bit of time for the person to learn that they need to push the lever to the right hand side on the outboard motor, for example, to get the boat to turn to the left, so that is an example of a situation where there would not be such good stimulus response compatibility.

Now, what we’re really talking about in terms of breakaway skills here is that if when something really quickly flies at my head and my hands want to shoot up in front of my face and push away that nasty thing that’s coming at me, or whatever way that my body naturally wants to do that, then that has a great stimulus response compatibility. If on the other hand I get a trainer standing in front of me and he wants me to do an X block or he wants me to do a certain kind of parry to that stimulus, then I’m going to have to unlearn my best natural response and that will create interference and it will therefore slow down my response time.

3) Instinctive Protection

So this idea of compatibility is very, very interesting. And what I just mentioned to you was this idea that my hands will fly up in front of my face and try to protect myself. So what we found in the research was that the body will fire off patterns of behaviour which are spatially oriented and which are completely automatic. And from time to time we call this instinctive protection. And one of the scientists who looked at this, his name was Graziano, and he talked about defensive gestures when he studied primates. And he said, look, these moments that are completely automatic in nature, they include a squint and a facial grimace, a turning of the head away from the side of the sensory receptive field that’s being stimulated, a rapid movement of the hand to an upper lateral location as if blocking that object, and a turning outward of the palm.

And interestingly, Graziano even states that if you look at one of the studies of Michelangelo’s fall and expulsion from Adam, he says if you see the study in human nature here, that that’s exactly what Adam in that picture is doing. And in fact, in our studies, what we’ve also found is that the compressing and almost fetal, a position that Eve is doing in that picture is another type of totally instinctive protection, which is common across the human species. Then when you look at real footage, real pictures of confrontations and for example security staff trying to control a man at a football match for example, you see that outward turn palm, that extension in the body, the blinking, the turning of the face away from the stimulus and so on, and this really was where the breakaway training methodology started to take shape in terms of looking at how we can piggyback really on natural instinctive behavior in the trainees that were coming to us and using it to speed up their responses and make them more appropriate for breakaway training.

Now there has been a body of work out there for many years about the startle-flinch response and that’s really what we’re talking about. So there’s plenty of research and there’s even some tactical programs out there that you can study that will teach you how to incorporate the startle reflex into your training. And certainly in our practice, we’ve found it to be incredibly useful to quickly enable people to survive a sudden assault of any nature that’s directed towards them, as if we can help them to link their natural instinct and behavior to the types of assaults that we’re looking at when we deliver NHS Breakaway Training.

When we deliver NHS Breakaway Training we try to capitalize on what the learner can already do, that makes our breakaway training quick and easy to assimilate. And really that crosses age, gender, physical condition because we’re using natural lotions and really everyday skills that are not totally novel to our learners and they’re completely low maintenance. So every human being when they experience pain or some other kinds of noxious stimulus, will pull away with the hand or the part of the body that’s been injured or stimulated and they’ll actually push away with the other side of their body. So these kind of pull and push motions that we’ve incorporated as compressed and extended frames in our breakaway training are very low maintenance skills. They’re wired in at the most basic level and as you can see in the quote on the screen here, they are uniform across the human species regardless of age and training.

Simplicity in Breakaway Techniques is best

Keeping it simple is really, really important.

We’ve talked about Gross Motor Skills, we’ve talked about the start reflex phenomenon. And so really we don’t want to start introducing complexity into the movements that we want people to reproduce and perform in breakaway training. The complexity really, and I think this is what’s missing in many of the programs, is in designing a breakaway training program that actually helps people to connect to their instinctive behavior and then helps them to refine it, that the complexity is in the design of the training, but it is not in the experience of the breakaway training for the learner.

There are huge reasons for keeping things simple in terms of movement. It basically creates faster response times and increases in the appropriateness of the movements as well. If we just keep things simple. In terms of the numbers, the number of techniques or tactics that one might want to teach a learner on breakaway skills, there is really good argument for keeping the number of desired responses to the smallest number of possible, and as you’ve already seen, I’ve talked about extended type behavior and then compressed or flection type behavior. And really that’s pretty much what we work on with our learners. We have quite a complex training methodology in the background, but when you look at our learners on an NHS Breakaway Training course, they are really just responding with one of two different motor programs. And what we believe then is that very few of our learners will experience log jam where they get confused between what the correct response to use might be and they’re just learning universally usable motions and postures.

And really what’s better than those incredibly quick, incredibly reliable reflexive motions and instinctive protection of the body. So that’s a real key. That’s the real secret sauce that makes Dynamis breakaway skills work.

What I’ll do when we come back to part four, the final part of this series is I’ll speak more about some of the more intrinsic behavior and person centered nature of the training that we deliver. We have to think about the person, and also when we talk about training design, I’ll explain a little bit about what we call training fidelity in the training environment.

Dynamis Training is a leading provider of NHS Breakaway Training and advice on effective in-person 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.  

When it comes to breakaway training London seems to be a key area for where we see the most demand, in addition to clients we have in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, York, Cumbria and all over the UK in NHS settings.  However there is also demand for breakaway training Birmingham and breakaway training Peterborough as well as breakaway training surrey and breakaway training Edinburgh – the truth seems to be that we see demand for this very important training in disengagement and self-protection in almost every part of the country!


Training Design for NHS Breakaway Skills

When we look at the sports science we can see that progressive intensity, and learning opportunities, and learning environments that most closely approximate the target skill environment and the target skill context, are the best learning opportunities that we can give our staff personal safety training learners. So, when we can look at the physical environment, the emotional and psychological environment in which these breakaway techniques will be used that is most likely going to generate the better training result and the best performance ultimately in our learners.

So, we’ve got to look at the specific situations and scenarios whether the subject might be for example standing, or seated, or on a bed, or connected to some device, medical device or on the top deck of a bus, or any number of other scenarios. And the more we can include those contextual cues and those environmental factors the more our learners are going to engage with the learning and actually take robust breakaway techniques away from it. So, as much as possible at Dynamis we try to do scenario specific learning and we also try to include things like intensity, collisions and stress, which are going to be present in the real world when people have to use their staff personal safety training.

So, walking through the breakaway techniques is one level of training but if you have time it’s always going to be best to increase the intensity of that training as well because repeating the exercises in a walk through methodology alone, that will not lead to the best acquisition of skill. In fact, the best acquisition of skill comes through something that’s been termed desirable difficulties being introduced into the practice. So, you create problems which need to be solved. You increase the intensity of the scenario. You run it up closer and closer to real speed. Now that takes quite a lot of skill on behalf of the trainer and of course because it increases risk quite significantly it needs to be managed quite carefully but the science would suggest that it produces the most effective learning.

What all of that tends to do for our staff in personal safety training is it inoculates them against the stress of a real confrontation. And the more intensity we can do in training the better our learners will be inoculated against the real stress or real confrontation. As I was listening to a talk by a really key police psychologist on use of force some years ago she said that the difference between the novice and the expert is the level of physiological and psychological arousal and activation that they experience in the real event. And so, what we’re trying to do in our training of course is take our novices and move them along the performance scale towards as close as we can get them to expert performance and part of that is we have to address physiology and we have to address psychology.

Stress Inoculation Training in staff personal safety and NHS breakaway skills training

Stress inoculation is where we increase the person’s resistance by exposing them to a stimulus that’s strong enough to teach them coping strategies but without being so powerful that it overwhelms that individual or of course we don’t want to injure or damage them in any way, including psychologically. And Donald Meichenbaum has a process called stress inoculation training which he has used and I would recommend that any trainer who’s interested in better preparing their learners for these types of confrontation – go ahead and research Meichenbaum’s work.

Because ultimately in our staff personal safety training are people who will be physically trying their best to take on the breakaway techniques that we’re showing them but ultimately their personality, their motivation, their imagery that they’re using will all affect their self confidence and their concentration on the goal when the chips are down so to speak and they’re under survival stress. So, we also need to address this. This is a final point of my 10 point framework for teaching breakaway skills effectively is that we have to look at the performer centric, the intrinsic factors which will affect performance. And it’s a really good idea for a trainer to work on this as much as they can.

So in summary then, across these four talks I’ve tried to show that a really good system of breakaway techniques (staff personal safety training) development should really educate the person about survival stress, it will in terms of its tactical choices it will prioritize gross motor skills, big movements that use the large muscle groups in the body. We have to actually figure out what the real stimulus is that we’re trying to get the response from the performer for. So, we look at the day techs and the incident reports and make sure that we’re focusing on the right types of assault.

If you want your learners to respond with a good reaction time then you need to address movement pre cues to improve their stimulus identification. You want to have as natural a response as possible which means you need to explore startle reflex and instinctive protection behaviors. And then, somewhere through the training program you will need to stress inoculate them against the actual situations that they may face.

So, and then of course finally remember that there’s a person in there and you need to speak to that person and help them to be motivated to do all of the great breakaway techniques and staff personal safety training habits that you’re teaching them.

So, that’s our framework and that’s how we teach breakaway skills at Dynamis. I hope this series of four talks has been helpful for you. If any of it’s been particularly interesting then you can feel free to get in touch with us through our website or my email address is on there for you, even my direct mobile phone if you wish to give me a call. So, thanks for listening and look out for some more videos coming from us soon.


Dynamis Training is a leading provider of advice and effective in-person 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 breakaway course which can be tailored for your specific environment, the context of your team’s encounters and the risks you need to address.  Also we highly recommend the Vistelar Podcast for great information about communication sklls for high stakes encounters.

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!

Gerard O'Dea

About the author

Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

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