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Blauer's High Gear Training Gear

High Gear is equipment for training in unarmed combatives that not only revolutionized the way I trained, but created whole new training opportunities. Differences exist between unarmed defensive training in High Gear™ and other "training suits" that I had experienced previously.

The way I trained or taught unarmed techniques before utilizing these advanced impact reduction suits wasn't very efficient. The feel of a solid punch or the difficulty of employing a complex joint lock is better experienced than described.

The problem was that you couldn't train in real time or at real speed… everything had to slow down to protect the students. Unless you were interested in risking serious injury and walking around with bruises, scrapes, and rug-burn all the time, you couldn't practice techniques or experience a dynamic simulation while training.

The ability to throw a punch in a technically correct way against a bag, employ a joint lock on a cooperative partner, or swing a baton "properly" at an instructor wearing pads that preclude realistic movement were the types of things we were evaluating in defensive tactics courses. After observing these things, students got certificates and hit the street with little evidence for how effective those techniques might or might not be against a real adversary in the real world.

For me, this model led to a sincerely apathetic attitude towards defensive tactics training in general. Knowing that the things we were practicing in the gym were not going to be relevant on the street created a dangerous situation. If you ever asked a teacher why you had to learn calculus, you get an idea how I felt.

Now imagine being the teacher and knowing that the students needed to learn practical skills and being stuck in a system that wanted you to stick to the status quo. Politically prepared combatives training that creates a false sense of confidence and lays the groundwork for a good court case instead of officer survival was not something I wanted to be involved in. For the most part, I stuck to the range, concentrating on firearms related skills and tactics, which we could train much more progressively.

Enter the High Gear™ Impact Reduction suits. I was invited to assist in a SWAT school at Camp Blanding by then St. Johns County SO CET Team Leader, Gary Meares. On the third or fourth day of the school, he showed me the High Gear™ suits, and I tried one on. Immediately, I was struck with an idea, but I had to convince Gary.

The Camp Blanding Training areas that had been reserved for the CET included a MOUT site where the team planned on training entry tactics with empty guns and force-on-force gear. One thing that I had felt was missing from SWAT training for a long time was an emphasis on realistic non-lethal CQB. "Let me wear the suit… send your guys into the house. Remind them that they can't use sim guns unless they have a lethal threat." Gary agreed and the fight was (finally) on.

Take a look at the stats for the average law enforcement special operations team: how many raids and high risk warrant service missions end with physical contact with a resistant or violent subject versus how many end as shooting incidents? The vast majority of special operations unit missions end without a shooting, yet 90% of the CQB training time is typically spent on firearms related movement and threat response.

What about the belligerent drunk who poses no threat, but must be controlled? What about the upset wife who needs to be physically restrained, but not shot? SWAT team members have to use cuffing & control techniques and apply non-lethal physical force much more often than they need to shoot, but seldom is any significant amount of time spent realistically training for physical confrontation with an amped up felon while geared up, long gun slung, Kevlar® helmet on, trying to move six guys through a 3-foot wide door. That's bad stuff.

Wearing High Gear™, I could wait inside the concrete & cinderblock building, throw a haymaker and get into a wrestling match with a fully geared & armed (sim) SWAT cop without unreasonable risk of injury, but also without building a false confidence. The impact reduction suit allowed me as much mobility, if not more, than a typically geared up officer.

After these early sessions, which often went very hard, very fast, and involved multiple officers, I was certainly bruised and sore… so were the students… but we had all acted realistically, given our roles: That is what made it different from any other similar training I had been involved in previously. We weren't dressed in work-out gear in a padded gymnasium. We weren't moving at 50% speed. We weren't trying to let each other "get the technique"… there was no technique, just reality and realistic responses.

The trick, as with any simulation or reality based training module, is that everyone "keeps it real." You can't shoot a guy just because he jumps out of the closet… and no matter how many times you say "Do it Now!" he may not get down on his knees. Now you've got to make contact, keeping control of your weapon(s) and trying to keep control of the subject. But the subject might actually not want to comply.

Are you, or are your team members, going to shoot someone for pulling away from you and rolling himself into an un-cuffable ball on the floor? Once again, the fight is on. Taser®? Great answer… but not every team has Tasers... and sometimes you need to get someone immediately under control so that you can complete the securing of the house or apprehension of a primary suspect.

While your shield guy is smothering the subject so that the team can flow, the guy starts to wrestle. When does it rise to lethal force and what do you do until that moment? Better to find out at a MOUT site than on a real operation.

We were able to start training at speed for the chaos of one determined person pushing back as a stack tries to come through the door. We were able to dissect the behavioral response of officers who would stop clearing to join the "sticky ball." Most operational teams are significantly affected by two officers wrestling to control a subject during a clearing… let alone four or more officers being stuck in the pile.

Weapon retention took on whole new meaning as we progressed from an initially non-lethal attempt to elude an attempt by an officer to control a non-compliant subject to the subject trying to take a pistol out of a very exposed thigh holster.

What made that early example of the type of training SWAT cops could do with High Gear™ special was the energy. We were able to create situations that were realistic enough to prove that many of the defensive tactics techniques that were dogma at the academy were useless in a real fight. This is something that we knew from intuitive thought, street experience, or the review of surveillance footage of real critical incidents.

As I have heard Tony Blauer, the developer of High Gear™, say many times "Control Techniques work great when you are in control, "but they aren't much help against a guy who really wants to resist control."

Gary Meares got it. He was hooked on High Gear™ as were his team members. That experience began the evolution of my relationship with Blauer Tactical Confrontation Management Systems. After using the suit for non-lethal CQB training during a SWAT School in central Florida, I reached out to BTCMS' founder, Tony Blauer. "The suit was amazing… I've never been able train unarmed concepts at that speed."

Blauer created High Gear™ because there was nothing that allowed him to train as realistically as he knew he needed to in order to make people safer. High Gear™ created an opportunity for me to make unarmed training more realistic than I ever thought it could be and reinvigorated my interest in unarmed combatives.

I had become very comfortable suggesting that students seek unarmed training elsewhere, as most traditional martial arts training didn't meet my integrity level for reality-based training. Besides, I can't demonstrate a perfect shin kick like the guys in Black Belt magazine. With High Gear™, I can just go into a dark confined space with a student and demonstrate that a perfect shin kick probably only exists in magazines and movies anyway.

Those early sessions at Camp Blanding became an annual event and lead to the development of similar sessions in a variety of other contexts for other types of students. In addition to the Non-lethal CQB sessions for SWAT and TEMS courses, at Valhalla Training Center, we integrate High Gear into Women's Assault Prevention, Officer Survival, and Extreme Close Quarters Tactics Training. The latter course is popular with Law Enforcement personnel, concealed carry permit holders, and elite military teams.

Last year, when researching what I was doing at Valhalla, the latter were impressed that I had numerous High Gear™ suits on hand. The High Gear™ suit is the respected impact reduction solution for those who are serious about reality-based training. "Can we use your High Gear™ during our training?" was one of the questions asked while we were putting one training concept together. "Sergeant, if you train here, you have to use High Gear™," was my response.

In his book, On Combat, retired Colonel Dave Grossman talks about training that makes "Pre-Battle Veterans" out of men by putting them through hyper-realistic scenarios that cause realistic behavioral and physiological reactions. That's what High Gear™ lets us do.

Valhalla's Extreme Close Quarters Tactics courses culminate in force-on-force scenarios that merge defensive tactics, verbal response, grappling, stress inoculation, and firearms training into one. The first time a student has to solve the problem of shooting someone while in a ground fight shouldn't be when it's real. Without High Gear™, these sessions would not be possible at the level we run them… and these are the sessions that make the course extraordinarily valuable.

If you haven't tried High Gear™ get to a SPEAR™, PDR™, or other recognized training course utilizing it and see for yourself why it is the most revolutionary product available for defensive tactics and combatives training.

Rob Pincus is the Director of Operations at The Valhalla Training Center in Montrose, Colorado. He specializes in progressive reality-based training and extreme close quarters tactics. Prior to becoming a full time Instructor and Training Consultant, Pincus served as both a full time and reserve law enforcement officer. He may be reached at

Published in Tactical Response, Jan/Feb 2006

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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