PDR Coach Trevor Wilcox explains the S.P.E.A.R. Tactic of Tony Blauer’s S.P.E.A.R. System in Australia’s Blitz Magazine.
Why should I use it?
The thesis statement for the S.P.E.A.R. System™ is “what does the body want to do prior to any training?” – it is based on instinctive responses making it the easiest, most natural way to learn to protect yourself. Utilising the in-built mechanisms already present in your body, the S.P.E.A.R. System™ converts the unconscious kinetic energy created by flinching into a combative tactic. Training in the S.P.E.A.R. System™ refines the flinch and evolves it into a tactic. This process cuts muscle-memory training by about 80%, allowing anyone to improve more quickly and with greater confidence. Retention of the S.P.E.A.R. mechanics is vastly superior as the tactics taught are based on natural movements. However, for the practicing martial artist, Coach Blauer emphasises that physiology is not a style and therefore, the S.P.E.A.R. will not interfere with your current system. In fact, the S.P.E.A.R. System™ helps you to weather the ambush, get back in the fight and achieve a dominant position allowing you to transition to complex motor skills [which make up 90% of all martial art systems].
The S.P.E.A.R. System™ is the result of Tony Blauer’s two decades of research within the law enforcement and military communities and is supported by current medical and scientific research. Medically speaking, the S.P.E.A.R. is connected to the spinal reflex, which is the natural human instinct to push away danger. As such, the S.P.E.A.R. System™ works regardless of environment, gender, size or age. Further, the S.P.E.A.R. is not really a perishable skill – once the student has completed the basic course, it (the S.P.E.A.R.) will be there for them whether the individual has practiced or not. While this may sound incredible, remember, on a psychomotor level, there is no longer any ‘muscle-memory’ interference with the body’s instinctive response.
When and how should I use it?
Coach Blauer constantly reminds us that “the opponent controls the fight” – nobody decides to flinch. The essence of a real surprise attack means that there is no consent or preparation on your part. The opponent chooses the time, place and method of attack – hence the surprise to you when it happens.
“The ambush triggers the flinch and the S.P.E.A.R. System™ trains it.” (Tony Blauer).
The “when” and “how” the S.P.E.A.R. System™ will be used therefore is directly related to your awareness, and the aggression, suddenness and proximity of the attack. A flinch in reaction to an aggressive, close, frontal threat will cause the hands / arms to be thrown up to protect the head. Realising that the flinch has already caused your arms to have “locked and loaded” a natural close-quarter arsenal, the S.P.E.A.R. System™ teaches you to blend the instinctive pushing away of danger with use of the extensor muscles in conjunction with core strength to create a powerful combative tactic using the ulna bone as the primary impact surface.
Targeting the S.P.E.A.R. will be based on two factors: 1) the position of the opponents ‘weapon’, 2) how dangerous you perceive the threat to be to your life or the life of a loved one. Generally speaking the S.P.E.A.R. will be directed towards the threat, and your threat is your opponent. Recognition of pre-contact cues and therefore your ability to intercept intention before it becomes action will enable you to nail your attacker to the centre of their mass regardless of what their intended attack may have been. Coach Blauer relates that when a big weapon, such as the ulna bone, is used to a big target, such as the centre of mass, the margin for error becomes very small. In contrast, the use of a small weapon such as a finger jab to a small target like the eye requires years of dedicated practice and a very high level of skill in order to pull off effectively in an ambush. In truth, most people don’t want to wait that long in order to be able to defend themselves.
While the S.P.E.A.R. is ideally delivered to the centre of mass prior to an imminent attack, the target will depend on your awareness and situation. A lesser awareness will induce a later response, and therefore, for example, in response to a knife draw and attempted stab, you will flinch to protect yourself and then convert the flinch into the S.P.E.A.R. directing it perhaps more towards the bicep in order to ensure that the stab is negated while enabling you to take control of the wrist with the other hand. If you had awareness of pre-contact cues for the same attack however (reaching behind his back for example), you could move into the guy nailing him with the S.P.E.A.R. before he even has time to draw the knife. Your choice of targets could either be the centre of mass or the throat in such a situation. It is up to you to determine in the situation you find yourself in whether a lethal response is justified. Generally speaking, the force you use should parallel the danger you perceive yourself to be in.
How do I execute it?
Initially learning the basic mechanics and application of the S.P.E.A.R. System™ is easier than learning any self-defence system or martial art because the research and science of the mechanics are based on what the body really wants to do PRIOR to any training. Think about that for a moment; the nucleus of the system is already organically ingrained within you. Your instinctual survival system already has built-in moves and when surprised, these natural moves actually override muscle-memory skills. Your natural reactions are lightning fast and non-perishable. Coach Blauer has spent over a decade creating drills and tactics around this physiological research.
The basic S.P.E.A.R. (a.k.a. Tactical S.P.E.A.R.) is firstly taught to beginners from a basic submissive stance or negotiation-type position, one of many basic stances that Coach Blauer calls “Non-Violent Postures”. From the negotiation position, step forward towards the threat and tilt your body axis forward with pressure on the balls of the feet. The arm position should remain outside 90 degrees, 135 degrees being the optimum angle. With the arms forming the head of the S.P.E.A.R., turtle your head down and dive forward towards the target moving the body as one unit with the arms not extending beyond 135 degrees. It is useful to keep in mind the analogy of a swimmer diving into a pool.
How do I train it?
Coach Blauer has developed a whole series of proprietary drills as part of the S.P.E.A.R. System™ and Ballistic Micro-Fight™ / High Gear™ Systems. The goal of these drills is to stress inoculate by replicating real-life aggressive behaviour, thereby creating mental blueprints and filling psychological voids, which helps to enhance perception speed and decrease reaction time. All this is achieved by firstly identifying realistic street attacks and “Murphy moments” and connecting the attack to a realistic pre-contact build up so that the brain mentally blueprints the pre-contact cues – working slowly and analytically. Step two is to add fluidity and timing paying special attention to the street flavour of the attack. It is critical to integrate protective gear so there’s a real collision at the interception point. The last step is to conduct full-speed, force-on-force simulations working the scenario through from the verbal stage to the point of the fight that allows one of the role-players to escape to a designated safety zone in the gym area*. Training with real resistance, energy and pressure allows participants to understand balance and position – the most important elements of making stable contact.