From PANIC ATTACK™ . . . to HIGH GEAR™.
Tony Blauer started doing force-on-force scenarios way back in 1982. He had developed a method called the PANIC ATTACK™ which was a 'force-on-force' scenario drill (not sparring) that incorporated scenario, location, dialogue and a moral/legal objective into one drill. These simulations not only induced intense adrenaline dumps in the participants but it also taught them in advance of a real world incident what worked and what didn't. It helped students, trainers and fighters separate fact from fantasy.
During the 1980's, protection during these drills consisted of a patchwork of gear borrowed from any sport: a hockey helmet, catcher shin guards, TKD chest guard etc. Of course, the old gear always restricted martial movement, as it was not designed to work on concert with other pieces or with a fighting system. And each component was really only designed to deflect a ball, puck or take one hit.
After thousands of hours and hundreds of simulated fighting encounters, it was obvious that articulated protective gear would really benefit this revolutionary training approach. In 1990, some 8+ years after his first simulation seminar, Tony sat down and sketched the gear.
Over $60,000 in R&D went into the first version of HIGH GEAR™... over the next several years four more prototypes were created. Many more changes and modifications were made as we tested and experimented with different foams, plastics and design. The gear continues to under go design changes as we evolve the science of simulation training. Today HIGH GEAR™ is used the world over by the most progressive trainers. It is a cutting edge & high-tech piece of training equipment.
HIGH GEAR™ is an investment in confidence building and improved safety.
Most simulation suits are assembled with large dye-cut pieces of foam, the HIGH GEAR™ suit is meticulously assembled with over 500 finishing stages that include sewing, gluing, inserted trauma plates for shock deflection, various foams, fabrics, leather and plexiglas. It is a very detailed and timely process, HIGH GEAR™ has exceptional functionality, mobility and tactical flexibility because it was designed by the fighter/trainer who created the original drill.
What follows is a very detailed explanation of our training & development philosophy. It is crucial information for those wishing to understand the rational behind our training method and gear.
Gear that is too bulky will not be used as often. Our gear is sleek, fitted and lightweight, in fact two full HIGH GEAR™ suits will fit in a normal suit case making mobile training simple and efficient.
Gear that weighs too much, slows down the aggressor. In other words the simulation occurs at a slower pace than a real-world incident. This cannot create true tactical decision making speed. A single HIGH GEAR™ suit weighs about 7.5 lbs. head-to-toe. This is incredibly light and allows for the necessary real-time, real-speed training session.
SIZE & BULK
Gear that is bulky and weighs too much actually creates more risk for the role-player as the 'bulk' inhibits evasion or recoiling during necessary spontaneous survival movements. It also perpetrates an imagined 'insulation' from injury and against impact (very important principles), so the role-player ends up standing in place rather than moving realistically. This is a drawback for the student who does not mentally blueprint real-life reactions, and this can be very dangerous for the role-player when students lose self-control due to adrenaline and fear dumps. This 'insulation' principle (found in oversized & bulky gear) accounts for many of the training injuries in conventional simulations.
But HIGH GEAR™ is so light & streamlined that that true movement is available for both participants in a force-on-force evolution. Watch the demo tape and within seconds one forgets that both athletes are wearing gear ... this is important to notice in yourself and to point out to your client...the gear DOES NOT interfere with the athletes technical or tactical choices!
Gear that is too bulky does not transfer impact so feedback and pain management are never introduced in training. Penalty is a key component in creating risk/fear in training, HIGH GEAR™ is deliberately referred to as "Impact Reduction Suit", directly implying that 'impact' will result. Often trainers will ask us if you can use duty weapons on the gear and I'll ask them if they use real bullets during simulations as well?? The point is that the benefit of using a real duty weapon pales in comparison to being able to replicate real threat, fear, behavior and pressure. Understand this, because it is a fundamental reason behinde HIGH GEAR™'s success with progressive trainers. Using a duty weapon when a role-player moves too slow, and targets are bigger and closer than in real life provides no tactical feedback and doesn't offer a trainer realistic information about a participant's psycho-physical response time under true pressure.
Gear that is too bulky distorts proximity sense so that the targets often struck in training are not the same as in the street. This counter point was covered in the above reply. Simply, the ability to make contact with a realistic target while in motion is a byproduct of the HIGH GEAR™ design.
For the very reasons stated in advantage no.5, participants who train with oversized gear develop tactics around the gear, and end up developing skills & drills for a target that does not really exist. Aside from the danger described in advantage no.5, a false sense of security can develop when hitting a target is too easy. HIGH GEAR™ role-players move with natural movement, and the 'actual size' of the attacker is proportional to a real person, the result: what you do in training replicates what you must do in the real confrontation.
TIME TO GEAR-UP
Most oversized gear takes 10 -20 minutes to suit up. HIGH GEAR™ takes a little over 3 minutes, a boxing round, to put on solo. This time is cut dramatically when training partners assist.
TACTICAL CLOSURE FOR THE PROFESSIONAL
Oversize suits do not allow for the all important theoretical closure of the close quarter struggle, which for the LEO or soldier is handcuffing or prisoner handling, for the MMA athlete its a submission move. No one using any of the bulky scenarios suits on the market has ever completed the proverbial 'handcuff', in fact no other gear allows for grappling or groundfighting either. Only the HIGH GEAR™ suit allows for cuffing, groundfighting, clinching, weapon control and so on.
Oversize suits do not allow role players to dress up so that officers/soldiers or citizens learn to make distinctions and decisions based on identity and behavior [just like in real life] rather than size and color. HIGH GEAR™ can be worn with clothing on top, so that scenarios can be taken to another level of reality. Also, F/X weapons and other training paraphernalia can be worn with our gear. (See photos).
Oversize suits do not allow training in realistic environments like vehicles, elevators, small rooms etc. HIGH GEAR™ is a great FTX suit for isolation drills, cuffing resistance training, weapon retention drills, etc. but it takes scenario training to the next level by allowing creative trainers to take the gear into realistic environments like elevators, cars, corridors and so on.
Are other suits obsolete then?
Absolutely not. REDMAN, FIST, etc., are excellent suits for training students in technique & power, but their applications for dynamic simulations are limited and any qualified trainer can identify the pro's & con's of each suit. Professionally, we do not consider them to be true 'active/dynamic' scenario suits, where speed and mobility and realistic tactics must be present. They are not FTX or force-on-force suits. This is not a put down, merely a distinction. A useful analogy might be...the Hummer and Lamborghini are both excellent vehicles but are designed for completely different applications & functions - protective gear must also be classified and then used for appropriate applications.
HIGH GEAR™ is less expensive than a full REDMAN suit and just slightly more expensive than a FIST suit. But cost is not the same as 'value' and the true value of a purchase is proportional to what the investment brings you.