Tag Archives: training

Neural Based Training, Situational Awareness, and Personal Resilience

Three of my favorite topics in one sentence! I’m working on several things simultaneously, as I often do, and a question came up from some friends about how to integrate all their learning to solve certain problems in their lives.

One of the basic principles of neural-based training is the brain likes to answer questions. We are hard-wired to seek answers and solutions. The brain is a hunter-gatherer of information (one of the reasons we’re all addicted to the internet and electronic communication — never before have so many had access to so much information at the touch of a finger). So one technique in neural-based training is formulating questions that stimulate the brain to solve specific problems.

In no particular order, here are some questions I like to ask in certain training situations. The people I facilitate have found it useful to mind-map their answers while exploring the process.

  • If you were a street mugger sizing you up, what would you observe about yourself that would indicate you’re a good target? Or a bad target?
  • Do you know what an attacker would look for, or are you looking for what you would look for?
  • If you were a burglar looking at your house, what would you see that would make you a nice juicy target? Or not?
  • If you were a stalker following a loved one, what would make that loved one (of yours) a vulnerable target?
  • If you needed to borrow $100 in cash, right now, how many people within a day’s walk of where you’re standing would a) have it and b) be willing to lend it?
  • If you were sick and you needed someone to take you to the hospital or to come to your home and care for you, how many people within a day’s walk of where you’re standing would a) be willing to do so and b) have the time or the willingness to take the time to care for you? And for how long?
  • If you have children or pets, how many people within a day’s walk of where you’re standing would you turn to if you needed someone to take care of those children or pets at 2 a.m.? How many would you a) trust to care for them and b) be able to care for them and c) for how long?
  • How far can you walk in one day?
  • How far can you walk carrying 25 pounds, in one day?
  • Could you carry an adult or child up or down a flight of stairs?
  • How far can you drag 150 pounds before you have to stop to catch your breath?

Those are enough questions. Feel free to share your answers below (or not) and perhaps we’ll discuss the implications of these particular questions.

Neural Based Training

I recently had several fascinating discussions with the top Program Managers in cognitive neuroscience at DARPA. It came as no surprise, to me anyway, that cognitive neuroscience and, specifically, enhancing neurological and cognitive performance in war-fighters, is a top priority in current military research.

It’s gratifying to me — after 25 years of applying and embedding cognitive neuroscience concepts and principles into training for professionals who go in harm’s way — to see the serious attention (as measured in dollars and human resources) given to addressing the “mental platform” of war-fighters and combat athletes.

Most of the questions that come to me are variants on “What is neural-based training?” People who have trained with me are probably grinning as they read this, as they know much how I dislike talking (or writing) about a skill when there’s an opportunity to actually *do* or train a skill.

Neural-based training for the mental platform doesn’t require a range, cool guy clothing or high-speed weapons; you can train constantly throughout your daily interactions by adding a level of attention, knowledge, and skill to your inherent attributes. You can significantly increase your performance in whatever skill set you want to improve in a very short period of time.

Neural-based training is training designed to work with the way your neurology and cognitive processes develop naturally. It’s training designed to make it easy for you to learn the way your brain most wants to learn, in the way that’s simplest for your brain to learn.

I like to use the analogy of learning to ride a bicycle. When you learned to ride a bike, did you get a Powerpoint presentation on the theory of the bicycle, memorize the nomenclature, familiarize yourself with the operating characteristics, get tested on the principles of bicycle riding? Or did you get on the bike, and with or without technical enhancement (training wheels, for instance) just start doing the skill, first roughly approximating it, then gaining skill and experience through the application of the skill in a real-world environment (starting in the driveway, then moving to the sidewalk, then out into the street…) and then moving through the various level of skill acquisition to the point where the skill is deeply embedded at an other-than-conscious level, where you can ride a bike, carry on a conversation, watch the street, even text?

For those who learn skills that *must* be used under immediate-onset-threat-to-life stress, which approach embeds skills in such a fashion as to be more usable more quickly in the end-use environment?

I’ve found — in my opinion, based on my research and experience over 25 years — that it’s the latter.

The second approach requires the instructor to take a position as a facilitator/coach/co-learner (not as the fount of all knowing and knowledge) and requires the *student* to take ownership of her/his own learning process.

It’s as much a philosophy of learning as it is an art and practical science. Many instructors have a significant ego investment in being an “instructor” — as such, they don’t want to give up that position and step aside at some point and let the student be responsible for his/her learning process. That requires letting go, and trusting in the process and the student. There’s inherent risk in any training that involves preparing people for dangerous work under stress; at some point, those trainees will be out on their own making decisions and taking action under stress. So doesn’t it make sense to give them that experience as early on in the learning process as you safely can?

That requires an evaluation of what constitutes “safe” and a determination as to when someone is ready. That requires instructors who can facilitate learning and coach as well as “stand and deliver” — and who are mature and capable enough to be able to step aside and let adult learners take charge of their learning at an appropriate place in the training flow.

This is nothing new in the field of accelerated learning as applied in elementary education; but it was radical beyond belief 25 years ago in law enforcement and military training. I’m happy to see this approach finally getting serious scientific attention from the war-fighters leading the research into this for the military.

Interesting, yes? I find it so. So stay tuned for more specific tips, techniques and drills adapted from my body of work for application in dangerous professions.

Situational Awareness Training (with update from NASA)

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In 1996, I published what may have been the first article in the popular “tactical/gun” press on John Boyd’s OODA loop as a model for maintaining situational awareness and decision making for personal combat. I presented a simplified version of Boyd’s elegant thinking and detailed expansion of the OODA loop, in a way that I felt, at the time, would be immediately usable by tacticians unfamiliar with the concept.

Sixteen years later, the OODA loop and Boyd’s work and how to apply it to personal combatives armed and unarmed are the subject of endless articles and internet forum debates and the concept is an integral part for most credible combative training systems.

This wasn’t the case in 1996, when most of the established firearms instructors were weaned on Cooper’s Color Code.  In several discussions with notable tacticians, I pointed out that the OODA loop didn’t necessarily replace the Color Code, but it certainly added an additional dimension for utilizing efficient information processing.

The  OODA loop concept took hold in the tactical community (it had long been part of combat aviation, military psychology and strategic planning) after other instructors and writers found utility in the simplified model and joined me in spreading the word.

So today knowledge of the OODA loop is expected in any serious tactical practitioner.

The concept of situational awareness, which I also introduced in the same article, has grown significantly as well.  Let me make clear I didn’t develop the idea, I took it from military psychology and combat aviation research and put the idea into the context of personal combat.  Situational awareness is a topic of serious study for the military; applying Boyd’s model to personal combat raised questions the military has long batted around:  What is situational awareness?  Can it be specifically defined and identified?  Is it an inherent trait or is it instilled?  And, most to the point, can it be taught in training?

Based on the research, experimentation, and field testing I’d been doing since the late 80’s on how to utilize accelerated learning, stress inoculation, and pre-conscious processing to recalibrate habitual baseline states to enhance performance under stress, I went on to share those concepts in another 1996 article SHOOTING WITH THE MIND’S EYE in which I stated my position:  yes, the components — the critical path of the cognitive process I defined as situational awareness — can be identified, and since those components can be identified they can then be enhanced and taught.

Among the organizations I shared this with was NASA. NASA is the lead agency for study and research of “situational awareness” and provides a clearing house for the various interested agencies like military aviation, the intelligence and law enforcement communities. I consulted with the Psychological Services Division of the Medical Sciences Branch of NASA.  My consultation focused on how to apply the blend of stress inoculation, accelerated learning, pre-conscious processing and scenario based training I’d developed to parts of the Astronaut Training Program.

One of controversial (at that time) positions I took, in discussion with the top military and space psychologists and psychiatrists in the world, was that situational awareness, in my experience as a trainer, was one part genetics, one part life experience, and one part training; and that situational awareness could be identified in prospective candidates, and further enhanced or taught (installed) into astronaut trainees who lacked the operational experience and training of the candidates who came in from the hard-core Department of Defense flow (ie fighter pilots, combat veterans, test pilots, etc.).

The polite (i.e. “official”) response was:  “That’s not our position  The area merits more study, but we tend to believe that situational awareness is in large part a skill you either have or you don’t; if you don’t, all the training in the world won’t give it to you.”

The unofficial response, over beers in a famous astronaut bar also trafficked by the US Naval Special Warfare community, was:  “Ah, bullshit.  You can’t teach that.”  And then a long pause:  “…but if you could…”

I wrote my consultation report and then went on to do other things, among them develop a training program for installing situational awareness subsequently adopted by the South African Police Service (who, at the time, had more officer-involved shootings monthly than the US had yearly) titled “Mental Conditioning for Close Combat” and also taught a significant number of personnel involved in close protection, military special operations, law enforcement, and private sector security on how to enhance their own brand of situational awareness.

Over the last twenty years, I’ve received hundreds of phone calls, e-mails and letters attesting to the effectiveness of the situational awareness and performance enhancement training program from former students operating in America and many other countries.

Anecdotal evidence, yes, but then, I never claim to be a scientist, and those calls and letters are all I ever needed to be assured that what I was doing was not only working in the training environment but translating directly into usefulness on the street and on the battlefield.

I shared that information with the popular tactical/gun press in an article about situational awareness published in SWAT Magazine in 2007.

In August 2010, 15 years after my initial consultation with NASA, the project managers I worked with in 1995 now are in charge of the entire unit, and were good enough to take my nine year old son on the VIP tour of the training facility.  Over lunch they told me, “Remember back in 95 when we were talking about situational awareness and human performance indicators?  Situational awareness?  We did a study you might find interesting.”

They sent me two documents detailing a study: “Human Behavior Performance Competencies” generated by NASA, and the ESA (European Space Agency).  What this study did was focus on specific aspects of human behavior and performance essential to survival in the space environment, with particular emphasis on long duration space travel.  One of the unprecedented products of the study is an easy to use matrix that identifies the human performance competency, the behavior, the behavioral markers, details and examples.

Situational awareness is one of the major human performance competencies identified.  This is the first time that the top scientists and researchers from the world-wide psychological research community have come to a consensus definition of situational awareness.

In order to include it, they had to break down the components of situational awareness as they defined it, as shown in the graphics posted above.

What NASA is doing with this is using these behaviors and traits as tools in the selection and assessment of astronauts and crew selection for long-duration missions; they continue to add rigorously reviewed scientific studies on these traits.  They also work in conjunction with their Training Division to enhance training to develop these attributes, and completed a peer-reviewed study and presentation on the effectiveness and implications of training situational awareness.

This can be an extremely useful model with extraordinary implications for law enforcement and tactical training.

There are two major competencies identified by NASA as principal sub-components of “situational awareness.”  They are:

a.              Maintenance of an accurate perception of the situation; and

b.              Processing of information

Perceiving the situation in an accurate (usable) perception and processing that information adds up to a state of “situational awareness.”

What are some of the implications for situational awareness training?

If a behavior can be identified and deconstructed into components, it can then be reconstructed and woven into a training program.

One of the differences between this extremely useful model and what I’ve been doing is that I combine processing of information with the maintainance of the accurate perception; like the OODA loop, it’s all one flow from my perspective.  Without efficient processing of useful information in the moment, it’s not possible to perceive a given situation, especially a dynamic situation like combat, accurately.  So the two elements are interwoven.

My model for training and enhancing situational awareness focused on improving perception and enhancing cognition while under stress.  These are the principal components of the baseline state of relaxed alertness and situational awareness as I’ve trained it:

  • Vision skills (enhanced use of the full range of visual cues, which leads to enhancement of other sensory inputs i.e. hearing, etc., as well as designing training that enhances visual processing in the neurology),
  • Sensory cue acuity (enhanced use of all senses in conjunction along with pattern recognition templates fed into the other-than-conscious mind)
  • State management (managing the internal representation and physiology in such a manner as to enhance efficient processing of information)
  • Cognitive model (drawing critical path pattern-recognition models from high performers and installing directly into other than conscious mind of students)
  • Time distortion (how to manage and enhance processing of information and utilize time distortion to maximize personal processing time of incident-essential data).

So over twenty years, I’ve focused on simple exercises to install the skill, and test it immediately under stress and in open-ended scenarios to cement the skill in use under immediate onset threat to life stress.  In my last post, I shared a simple exercise that installs one small attribute of the larger skill set.

What I find most exciting about this study is the model NASA’s best researchers came up with; in the same way the OODA loop is a model for decision making and maintaining situational awareness, the Human Behavior and Performance Competency Model is a model for breaking out the components of situational awareness as they define it.

So while some pieces of their definition might not necessarily meet the needs of personal combat, the model of the matrix they’ve created makes a template for us to fill in with the working competencies drawn from personal combat.

So – shall we create one?

Upcoming posts:

Part Two:  The Matrix

Part Three:  Training the Jedi

ps:  I’ve been waiting for the last two years for permission to release this information; just received word this morning.  More later….

Extracts used with permission from NASA.  All other content copyright by Marcus Wynne (as is all material on this blog — please respect that…)

PPS:  Under “Better Late Than Never” I see that DARPA has finally come around to recognizing the importance of this skill set, though they are currently focused on the technological application instead of the human/soft-skill installation approach:  http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/DSO/Programs/Accelerated_Learning.aspx

DARPA Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) Proposers Day on April 8th, 2016

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) http://www.darpa.mil is, to put it mildly, an interesting place. It’s the Department of Defense’s Mad Scientist Asylum, the source of major conspiracy theory, and the fountain of much of the high-tech that we consumers take for granted.

I was recently invited out again to give a chat and meet with some folks. Our little company is way out in the weeds doing stuff that a lot of the major contractors and the various DOD customers are interested in.

The focus of this visit was DARPA’s new program, Targeted Neural Plasticity Training.

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Accentus-Ludus Success Story #3 — NASA

aludus_256357main_symbols1-xltnNASA conducted a detailed search for, and evaluation of, training organizations outside aerospace and military aviation that prepared personnel to perform under extreme stress. These organizations included federal, state and local law enforcement; military special operations and military basic training from all services; and government security and intelligence agencies.

An Other Government Agency (involved with intelligence and security) recommended that NASA evaluate Accentus-Ludus CEO Marcus Wynne’s pioneering work in accelerated learning and stress inoculation. NASA’s evaluation included a site visit to observe an accelerated learning/stress inoculation training, a comprehensive review of previous trainings and a survey of Wynne’s methods.

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Accentus-Ludus Success Stories #2: TARGET Corporate Special Investigations Unit

aludus_targetThe TARGET Corporation, a Fortune 50 company, created a National Investigative Team in the mid-1990s. The specific mission of the NIS Team (now Special Investigations) is to investigate – independently or in partnership with the appropriate federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies – crimes against the Corporation by organized retail criminal rings resulting in significant financial loss or potential grievous harm to employees.

Performance issues were identified in the team by corporate management. As a remediation measure the Manager of Investigations and Training retained us to:

  1. Do a comprehensive evaluation of the team’s ability in its core functional areas; and
  2. Based on the results of the evaluation, recommend training and other means to improve team and individual team member performance.

The team was evaluated and assessed in these areas:

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Accentus Ludus Success Stories, #1 — Swedish National Police

Marcus Wynne and Swedish National Police students
Marcus Wynne and Swedish National Police students

The Swedish National Police invited us to do a demonstration of our accelerated learning/stress inoculation protocol to see how our approach might improve their current and future training.

We designed a custom training for the Heckler & Koch MP-5 submachine gun. The Swedish Police issue the MP-5 as a specialty weapon. Qualification with the MP-5 is mandatory for all cadets in the two-year program at the Swedish National Police University. The required MP-5 course takes three eight-hour days of classroom instruction and range training. There is classroom presentation, weapons familiarization, weapons manipulation, live firing, a live fire qualification and a written test. There is no training in tactical application or stress management.

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The Very First Professionally Produced Neural-Based Training Video

This is the first cut of the “Neural-Based Training” training video directed by top training professional Ralph Mroz and his company The Firefighters Support Foundation. For many years I’ve resisted doing training videos around the mental aspects/accelerated learning/stress inoculation work I’ve been doing. Why? I was very skeptical about the ability to translate those concepts into film. Ralph convinced me it was worth a shot (and he paid me, too, LOL!)

This is the first pass — it’s still rough, but the polished final edition will be available for free on Ralph’s site later this year. PLEASE do not scrape or repost the video on other sites — PLEASE HONOR Ralph’s work, expense and time and if you want to get a copy of it, the final version will be available for FREE on Ralph’s site. Feel free to link to my blog page so people can watch it here, though.

Comments and feedback solicited and appreciated!

The *ONLY* Video Interview I’ve Ever Done About Neural-Based Training

This is the only video I’ve ever done about my work in neural-based training. As I say in the video, I’ve resisted videos, interviews and writing about the work — why? Because my focus is on making it happen in real-time through simple technique.

But the very talented Jeffrey Bloovman, who won ONE MAN ARMY and now runs the progressive firearms training institution Armed Dynamics http://www.armeddynamics.com/ convinced me that a simple Q+A might benefit people who haven’t yet been exposed to a methodology that provides them with a combative mindset in a very fast time.

So enjoy. Let me know what you think.

The Evolution of Mindset Training, Part 1: Some History

(part of an occasional series on neural-based training)

Marcus Wynne, CEO Accentus Ludus, LLC
Marcus Wynne, CEO Accentus Ludus, LLC

It’s interesting for me to watch the evolution in mental aspects training in combative applications. When I started researching and developing ways to inculcate mental training into combative training in the 80s, the only people (officially) involved in that were the folks parodied in the movie THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS. Ronson’s book of the same name, in my opinion, was one of the best pieces of disinformation ever put out about a sensitive training program, but it does make for amusing reading.

For better historical information, check out http://www.amazon.com/Search-Warrior-Spirit-Fourth-Disciplines/dp/1583942025. Heckler-Strozzi does an excellent job of documenting the early evolution of the training. One of the students he trained in this particular project (again, parodied in THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS) won a Medal of Honor. Jim Channon, immortalized by Jeff Bridges in the movie, was a LTC tasked with developing mental aspects training in the 70s. A good overview of what he did is here: http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncart_channon_0200.htm.

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