During my tenure as a law enforcement officer, I attended many different defensive tactics training seminars and courses. Many of these methodologies I found to be useless in the field against dedicated adversaries under uncontrolled conditions.
After almost 28 years of service, I’m a calloused skeptic. I have a difficult time giving serious consideration to the majority of unarmed defensive tactics systems. In fact, I have found most of them laughable, flashy and useless. I have heard many wildly inflated claims of value and “magic hands of death secret knowledge.” These usually prove of little use in practical application.
With that said, I’m always open to new information, tactics and evaluating any and all methods. I possess a limited martial arts background and do not have advanced in-depth knowledge relative to defensive tactics. I studied and practiced boxing and martial arts for a short time in the past. I have attended numerous mandatory required training sessions, academies, and privately conducted seminars. My practical experience relative to defensive tactics is derived from my years as a police officer and service in jails, prisons and patrol.
While I have been aware of Tony Blauer’s SPEAR defensive tactics system for approximately 20 years, I had never taken a class from Blauer Tactical Systems (BTS).
Recently I attended the BTS SPEAR Law Enforcement/Military Instructor Course. The course was five days in length, eight hours a day with extensive hands-on practical application.
The S.P.E.A.R. System™ (Spontaneous Protection Enabling Accelerated Response) is a scientifically researched and medically reviewed personal defense measure that exploits the body’s natural responses to violence and danger. This survival mechanism, dubbed Startle- Flinch Response, has been scientifically integrated into a series of neuro-muscular drills that teaches individuals how to convert their instinctive reactions into protective and combative tactics.
During the 1980s, BTS pioneered reality- based self-defense with their “Panic Attack” drill, design of a functional scenario-based training suit, and a selfdefense program based on psychology, physiology and kinesiology. Although I attended a law enforcement/military course, BTS SPEAR has many civilian courses that are open to the public.
TRAINING DAY ONE
TD1 began with administrative processing and individual and staff introductions, followed by an overview of expectations and defining the foundational concepts of the system.
BTS provided good instructional aids, including Power Point presentations, and the instructors were well prepared and knowledgeable. All students additionally received Power Points, videos and an instructional manual as supporting material.
We concluded the day with basic mat drills, methodical application of concepts with a partner, and assorted simple yet effective man-on-man drills. These were videotaped for review the next morning.
On this and every other day of the course, we were assigned homework that included a section of the instructor manual to research and review as well as document in our books.
TRAINING DAY TWO
Our homework was turned in and critiqued on the spot. We started the morning with a review of each sparring session of all the students as a group. We were required to critique ourselves and our performance on film. I found this extremely effective and eye opening. We had further discussion of the concepts and application as well as rapid immersion in the techniques.
After some basic mat drills and practicing methodical application of concepts with a partner, we returned to the classroom. There we viewed a police assault video and analyzed the suspect’s attack indicators.
TRAINING DAY THREE
After turning in our homework and some classroom lessons, we went straight to the gym. We reviewed and talked through all drills taught in the prior two days. Students began teaching back and articulating portions of the instructor book.
TRAINING DAY FOUR
After turning in homework, we reviewed the use of force matrix and covered cycles of behavior in the classroom. Moving to the gym, students began to refine the instructional portions of the book and conduct blocks of instruction for the entire group. As always, man-onman sparring drills were recorded for later critique.
In the classroom, we critiqued videos from TD4. Students then gave teach backs of the full curriculum. In the gym, we began our final testing phase and everyone conducted teach backs as well as participated in numerous scenarios involving use of force and application of the SPEAR system under stress.
This course had clear objectives and applied good learning methodology. The written support information, handouts, supporting videos, and Power Point presentations were excellent. Each student instructor received six DVDs and a comprehensive instructor lesson plan notebook.
All practical application instruction was validated by learning points brought forth by the staff. A step-bystep approach with progressive building blocks of instruction facilitated rapid immersion and understanding of the techniques.
On TD4, I was injured prior to testing. While I was acting as a bad guy in a padded High Gear™ suit, one of the young National Guardsmen twisted my right arm, impacted my elbow, fully extended and hyper-extended the joint, and dumped me. This tore several tendons and damaged the bicep. Hormones, youth and stupidity are dangerous things.
The student acted of his own accord and outside the scope of instruction. This is no reflection on the course or the staff. I was the only student injured in the course and it was an anomaly. Thankfully I’m retired and didn’t have to return to work with a damaged wing.
Every student had to fight/spar with every other student, including two female law enforcement officers. This was very interesting because we all constantly fought with persons of different size, height, weight and physical structure. There was no consideration of size or gender differences relative to engagements. This further increased our confidence in the SPEAR System and allowed us to experiment with the techniques, which validated the methods.
All in attendance were surveyed and asked to rate the course from one to ten. The average was 9.0. All participants had extremely positive reviews of the course and nothing but praise for the instructors and core curriculum.
I didn’t approach Tony and say, “Hey, I’m the guy who’s writing an article about this class.” On the contrary, I sat back and observed him, listening to him speak, watching him work with students and interact with his instructors. I found Tony to be a down-to-earth and humble guy, very frank but with a good sense of humor (dry and with a sprinkling of sarcasm).
Tony displays confidence but is not self-absorbed or egotistical. He has a genuine and obvious passion for his work, his objectives, and his students. His philosophy and mission have remained constant since 1979. He has not tried to perpetuate a style, but rather has aimed to educate on the importance of psychology, fear management, and behaviorally sound tactics.
I highly recommend the SPEAR System and its methodology. I was impressed and astonished at the system’s ease of immersion, usefulness, and repeatability under stress. The instructors were very experienced, professional, organized, and excellent at imparting information. The core curriculum is well thought-out and researched, and based on natural human reactions to stress.
I can honestly say I wish I had learned this system many years ago and become proficient in it. This would have prevented some of my on-duty injuries as well as keeping one of my front teeth. As a former peace officer and trainer of tactical and line law-enforcement personnel, I cannot give this system any higher rating.
Eight days after the course, I was forced to defend myself while traveling overseas on a leisure/business trip. The SPEAR System worked perfectly even with my damaged arm, and prevented injury to myself and the aggressor, who was much larger than I and very intoxicated. I had to laugh: “Wow, that really works” … and I didn’t even have to think about it.
My personal confidence, ability and skills have been greatly enhanced as a direct result of this course. It is worth every dime, and I will attend several more courses in the near future.
I endorse Tony Blauer’s organization and training curriculum. I highly recommend the SPEAR System to inservice training managers, instructors, and anyone seeking to improve their personal defense skills.
Train hard, take care of each other, and be safe!