By George Demetriou
I became a cop in 1987. I "entered" the world of police training, as an instructor, in 1988. As a police officer I was a member of the largest police department in the world–in fact, it was said to be the 7th largest standing army in the world, but I digress. In 1988 I was on the staff of one of the best private defensive tactics schools on the planet and I belonged to the largest international law enforcement training organization to be found.
Before this I was always an athlete to some degree. I was a martial artist years before my career. It was only natural that I would be interested in and engage in some sort of fitness and conditioning.
In the mid-90s, while presenting at the Canada Use of Force Conference, I met fellow American, strength and conditioning coach Jay Smith of Fit Force. Jay was the first and only strength and conditioning coach to play a video of a cop being assaulted and killed and discuss the event in terms of conditioning. Jay went on to explain how the event was an anaerobic event. He then went on to introduce us to plyometric exercises and other aspects of what he believed cops needed to be functionaly fit. Jay was certainly a positive influence on me.
In the early part of this decade I read about Pavel Tsatsouline of Dragon Door , the guy who brought the kettlebell back to popularity here in America, and asked if he would present a class at the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers(ASLET), which he did. This gave me the opportunity to not only meet and train with Pavel, but with Jeff Martone as well. This was before Jeff started Tactical Athlete . Meeting and training with Pavel and Jeff was a great experience.
In 2003, my good friend and fellow police trainer from Calgary, Alberta, Brian Willis of Winning MInd Training gave me several copies of the early editions of the CrossFit Journal. I had not heard of CrossFit to this point. As I pulled the Journals from the envelope an intense, bright, magnificant light and angelic music emanated from the envelope. Okay…… I'm exaggerating about the light and music. As I read the journals I was impressed by the content more and more. I came to the realization that this is what I'd been searching for in terms of fitness for the law enforcement community. I agreed with the whole CrossFit philosophy, especially with the following statement:
"It is CrossFit's contention that cops and soldiers are professional athletes."
CrossFit Journal, March 2003, Police Training, by Greg Glassman
Even with all this information my workout evolution was slow to change. Sometime later we had Jeff Martone do a kettlebell class on Long Island, which was awesome. During one of the breaks I asked Jeff if he had heard of CrossFit and his face lit up. "Yeah, I like CrossFit", he replied. It's always nice to get "confirmation" from guys you respect from the training community. This was long before Jeff was doing the Kettlebell Certifications with CrossFit.
Evolution continued and still does to this day. Fast forward to present time as a CrossFit affiliate and we get to the point of this commentary. As with many things that yield good results and become popular, the criticism becomes stronger and more frequent. Every now and then a friend will send me an article or comments made by another trainer regarding CrossFit. Most are good and some are not. One friend passed along a statement made by a trainer who I happen to respect: "The one eyed man is king in the land of the blind", is what the trainer said about CrossFit. I'm still not sure how CrossFit is the "one eyed man", but I have a feeling the trainer who made the comment is not getting the same results from his athletes that CrossFit is producing.
The fitness community/business seems to engage in a bit of "class warfare" where it's the college educated trainers versus trainers who get their experience from the field, more experienced trainers and short certification courses. Allow me to go on record and say that I believe a college education is a good thing. It's just not the ONLY thing.
Disclaimer time: This commentary is just that….commentary. It's based on personal observation. I do not know "everything" and I am NOT a spokesman for CrossFit.
The inspiration for this particular article came from something a friend had sent me, namely, The National Strength and Conditioning Association' Tactical Strength and Conditioning Report. It was good. I don't know much about the organization, but it seems good as well.
Now I'll attempt to tie all this together. I've been involved in the law enforcement community since the time the NSCA was founded. The NSCA (nsca-lift.org ) formed the Tatical Strength and Conditioning division in 2007. They discuss and write about "functional fitness" for the law enforcement community, how cops and military personnel are "tactical athletes" and how "movements are more important than muscles". Seems to me we've heard of all this before. Perhaps members of the NSCA board are CrossFit certified. I don't know, but if any of them are it isn't listed on their website. I understand that Crossfit was not the developer of all the exercises that are used in the CrossFit workouts, but much of the philosophy and methodology is unique. I had never heard of "Tatical Athlete" before Jeff Martone. I had never heard of cops being considered professional athletes before CrossFit. If you see the January 2008 TSCA Report, issue 4, you can read about "focusing on the movements" as opposed to the muscles, a concept I never heard until CrossFit.
For those who read this and think I'm bashing the NSCA, I'm not. In fact I think it's wonderful that after all these years in existence they now have a division dedicated to "tactical athletes" from the law enforcement and military communities. Anything that will help the personnel that go into harm's way is good. I just can't help but observe that the addition of this training division came about 20 years after the parent organization was formed, at the height of the CrossFit popularity. I am keenly aware that other organizations and individual trainers have been positively influenced by CrossFit and will continue to be. I'm not expecting these others to credit CrossFit, but it is interesting.
I find it interesting because organizations like the NSCA are well established and pride themselves on the education and experience of their people and the science behind their methods. The development of their Tactical division was clearly influenced by a workout methodology that anyone with a computer can access for free, whether you have a college education or not.
Why did it take 20 years for the NSCA to form a Tactical Division? What inspired it? What is it about cops and soldiers today, in terms of fitness, that was different 20 years ago?
Another observation is that there have been other trainers who did CrossFit "type" workouts before CrossFit and the Police Olympics have an event known as the World's Toughest Cop which features various "cross-training" type of skills. Yet as an organization CrossFit is the first, that I know of, that obtained a high degree of popularity in the law enforcement community. The first that really "spoke" to the law enforcement community that I know of.
The more CrossFit is imitated the better. The more our cops and military are made aware of CrossFit type training the better off we all are.