July 20

NHS Breakaway Training – Series Part 3


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.


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.

What we’re really looking to do is to make our breakaway training learners skillful and we rely on Guthrie’s definition of skill from 1952, which says any good skill will have maximum certainty of goal achievement, it will involve minimum energy expenditure and minimum movement time. 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.  We also recommend this podcast.

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 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 ew see demand for this very important training in disengagement and self-protection in almost every part of the country!



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

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