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The value of shadow training

Shadow training is free, can be done anywhere, and is totally necessary for honing your tactical skills

By Steven Benusa

Whether you’re drawing a weapon, performing a strike, or applying a control hold, all officers should train themselves to a level where these skills become a reflexive action — where instinct takes over and the mind and body are not slowed by conscious thought. To get to this level, officers must be able to act without thinking and rely purely on feel and muscle memory for various techniques. This level of proficiency can only be achieved through consistent practice and repetition.

One way to get the practice necessary to hone your skills is to shadow train. Shadow training is essentially practicing your techniques in the air on an imaginary subject. It is a quick, easy, and effective way to develop the muscle memory necessary for fast and effective reactions. Boxing trainers have used this technique for decades, instructing their fighters to spend hours punching the air as they perfect their skills.

The advantages of shadow training include:

• It can be done solo — you don’t need a partner or training equipment

• It’s a useful addition to other kinds of training — you can shadow train as part of your warm up or cool down when doing other types of workouts like weight lifting or running

• It can vary in difficulty — you can push yourself to complete multiple, high-intensity repetitions on hard days, or complete low-intensity repetitions to work on perfecting your technique on slow days

• It doesn’t take much time — you can complete a quality workout in less than 10 minutes without having to stretch or warm up

• It’s good for the brain — officers who shadow train find that through physical repetition they also keep themselves mentally sharp

• It doesn’t require much space — Shadow training can be done in confined areas like hallways, corners of conference rooms, or your living room

Don’t limit your shadow training to just empty-hand skills. You can also practice drawing your weapons (like batons, TASERs, and firearms), baton strikes, and handcuffing skills. While training, use mental imagery to develop a pre-planned practice response, decrease you reaction time, and build mental preparation for a physical confrontation.

Remember, practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice does, so pay close attention to your form and always work to improve your technique.

Stay strong everyone.

Steven Benusa is currently the lead Defensive Tactics Instructor for the jail division of the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department. He has taught corrections and law enforcement officers, military and security personnel, private investigators and fugitive recovery agents. A martial arts veteran of over 27 years, Steve holds the ranks of 4th degree black belt in Kyuki-do and 2nd degree black belt in Judo. He has been a martial arts instructor since 1988 and has received several awards for his teaching ability. He also has experience in corporate and V.I.P. security and is also an Adjunct Instructor for Western Technical College.