In personal defense, physical fitness matters

Seeing thousands of students a year in classes, one thing is clear.

Most people are out of shape. Yeah, a lot are too fat for their own good, but it’s also simple physical fitness. I see people having a hard time getting into and out of kneeling positions or getting winded just hauling their gear from the parking lot to the range. This isn’t good people.

I know. Harsh for me to say, especially about students. But the realities of personal defense tend to be pretty stark and serious, so sometimes you have to hear things you may not want to hear.

I was reading Force Science News issue 262. There was a discussion of a study done in Norway about physical fitness of police officers and the impact it had upon the physical control of suspects during arrest.

“The results of the physical capability tests are remarkable,” he told Force Science News. “These were the averages among the study subjects: bench press–235 pounds; chin-ups–15; long jump–8 feet 4 inches; time for the roughly two-mile run–11 minutes 53 seconds. The average participating officer weighed 181 pounds and stood just under 6 feet.

“In all likelihood, fewer than 10 per cent of officers upon graduating from any academy in North America would be able to match these performance standards. And from a fitness standpoint, that is when officers tend to be at their absolute peak.

“In one survey of 226 US officers with time on the job, only a minority felt they could ‘very well’ perform such relatively simple tasks as completing 21 push-ups, negotiating an agility obstacle course, performing 36 sit-ups, sitting and reaching 16 ? inches, and bench pressing their own body weight. And these tests are far less demanding that what the researchers in Norway used.

“In the study of physical exhaustion conducted by the Force Science Institute a few years ago, we found that the average officer’s pulse rate hit 180 beats per minute within 20 seconds of all-out exertion, such as would be experienced in a struggle with a resistant suspect. That represents a dramatic stressing of an officer’s physical system and capabilities.” For more about this study, go .

Lewinski suggests that officers reading about the Norwegian study measure their own ability against the physical capabilities tests those researchers used, as cited earlier in this article. “The message for many officers,” he says, “will be: ‘Get to a gym! Do it now! Don’t wait!’ “

Yes, this is regarding law enforcement, and the nature of their job often requires physical contact and “wrestling” with a non-compliant subject. But it still has implications for the private citizen when it comes to your own personal defense.

How about the ability to run away? That’s certainly a great defensive tactic, but can you run? And if you can, how fast and how far can you get? Will your attacker(s) be able to catch you?

What if you had to climb over something, like a fence? Could you do it?

And what if you wound up in a physical struggle? Could you give your attacker at least some challenge? Or will you be a rag doll under their fists and boots?

Heck, if you get knocked to the ground, could you quickly and decisively get back to your feet?

I know these don’t seem like very challenging things, but I see far too many people who cannot do these things when there’s no pressure. You will not rise to the occasion and suddenly gain the skills of Brock Lesnar or Usain Bolt. This isn’t to say you have to be at their level, but I’m certainly you can be better than you are today.

Funny thing.  The same day I wrote this article, Greg Ellifritz posted a similar such article to his Facebook page (must be something in the air for us all to be writing from the same point of reference about the same topic!). I’ll address Greg’s posting in an upcoming article.

Until then, I’ll leave you with something Mark Rippetoe said:

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.

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