lets see if this gets hearts racing

Anyone into LE/MIL training has heard of the book “Sharpening the Warriors Edge“. The core of the book is focused on the proposition that the human heart rate is a factor in combative performance under stress and that as the heart rate increases a person will loose motor function and other skills.

This book and author were picked up by Ltc David Grossman, who you all know, and this heart rate chart was propagated throughout MIL/LEcircles as proven science.

I have always been skeptical of the whole “heart rate chart” thing and how the TAC/LE community seems to have swallowed it without any sort of verification or peer review.

I don’t believe that HR in and of itself causes any significant motor loss.  I remember doing drills in SWAT school where I had to run in full gear and assemble a pistol while competing head to head. Since it wasn’t life or death it wasn’t exceedingly difficult. If anything, it would have been the mental stress of competition that caused any motor skill degradation. Conversely I’ve had some “oh shit” moments that left my hands shaking…Imo its adrenalin and mental factors that are whats in play here not HR at all. Saying heart rate is the cause is like saying that dilated pupils cause nodding out…not heroin in the bloodstream. Heart rate may be somewhat of an indicator of hormonal changes in the body but I see no proof that those indicators prove to be universal between all persons.

I note that in more recent versions of the HR chart it stipulates “HORMONAL Induced Heart Rate”. I don’t know if Siddle has altered his approach or if these charts are from a source other than Siddle, but when it first came out it seemed implied that heart rate ALONE was the factor and that’s how many LE/MIL/TAC trainers were regurgitating it to their students.

All the same I don’t know that HR should be used as a metric at all. I would think that people would have different symptoms at different heart rates under adrenaline/hormonal influences. Just because I may loose motor skills when scared at around 155 BPM doesn’t mean you are going to lose them at the same rate.

I wonder where these numbers came from…and so do others. That’s the core of the criticism as I see it.

Some other LE/MIL folks didn’t bite either. Hock Hochheim posted the following.


Go to the bottom…August 1st post.

Of particular interest to this discussion from Hocks post is:

The professional look of the chart and its matter-of-fact presentation suggests some very serious, study work has been done. But by whom? The actual source is somewhat elusive these days. The source is usually just regurgitated as “Bruce Siddle’s work on,” or the “work of Bruce Siddle,” over and over again, as through Siddle himself was a renown heart surgeon or maybe a Distinguished Fellow, doctor at Houston’s Debakey Heart Center. Does anyone ask, just who this Siddle really is? Actually, Siddle has not graduated a college and has no psychology or medical degree or experience. He is essentially a self-proclaimed, martial arts grandmaster of his own style ” Fist of Dharma,” from a small, Illinois town. He had an idea at a very ripe time decades ago, to teach very non-violent, police courses. Many police administrations loved the programs because of the pressure-point approach. Many, many officers, including myself, did not like the program.

Siddle is also the guy behind the Pressure Point Control Tactics (PPCT) System that was so popular in LE circles for a while.

Its interesting how a self-proclaimed grandmaster can found a widely LE accepted DT system, leverage what many are now believing to be a mistaken idea into notoriety, and even get ownership of a handgun manufacturing outfit (with Grossman once again). The snake eating tail aspect of tactical experts endorsing/spouting each others work serves to ingrain concepts into our training and operations…some are good, but others we really should be taking a closer look at.

Grossman also used to hitch his training wagon to John Giduck who also is having some credibility issues of late.

This all goes to show the power of “getting an in” with LE and MIL circles. I don’t want to come off as “bashing” any of these authors but we in the LE/MIL communities seem to be having a “flavor of the day” issue with people and concepts. I think a dose of skepticism would serve us better than hero worship of authors and trainers we haven’t seriously investigated or vetted.

Do any of my readers have any additional information or expertise on this subject?

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3 thoughts on “lets see if this gets hearts racing”

  1. Having read the book “Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge” and your blog I think the problem is that almost magical substance Adrenaline.

    Adrenaline makes our fingers numb, reduces our pain threshold, gives us muscle damaging strength and the trembles. The glands just leak in into our bodies as part of the process of dealing with stress, fear, excitement and a list of other emotions. It’s like being connected to a continuous drip of get-up-and-go juice.

    The only non-clinical method of measuring adrenaline levels is heartbeat. As heartbeat goes up so does adrenaline levels. Even running or skiing down the black double diamond slopes, our adrenaline levels increase to rev up our metabolism just in case we need it.

    I would expect there to be a relationship to heart beat and adrenaline levels. The book address the causation that increased heart beat causes increased adrenaline levels and all of the negative effects. The relationship is increased adrenaline levels cause some negative effects and increased heartbeat.

    I’ve played martial arts with my workout partner and have not gotten the rush I get from standing in front of a stranger and doing the same drills. I suspect it has something to do with unknown potential danger. So (here’s the big if) if visualizing the experience, practicing the experience, demonstrating to myself I know how to deal with the experience and using calming breaths to reduce my angst should reduce my adrenaline levels and slow my heart. Less negative effects better out come for me.

    So I agree with much of your blog. My point, the only metric we can conveniently measure is heartbeat. It would be one hellva study to have some one draw blood every 45 seconds to measure hormone stress levels.


  2. Absolutely, I believe it’s adrenaline causing motor function impairment under stress. And “maybe” heartrate is the best method to estimate adrenaline levels short of blood testing, but I don’t know if there is science to support a theory that HR is consistent enough across all of humanity to be used as a rule of thumb. All sorts of factors can make one persons reaction to adrenaline different from another. What studies/testing and science has Siddle conducted or referenced to to support his assertions that these heart rate brackets are consistent enough to be used for training purposes?

    I loaned out Siddles book a while ago so I can’t directly reference to it, but I seem to recall it was originally a HEART RATE=EFFECT and not adrenaline.

  3. It is much worse than you think. Siddle or “BS” as he is known, has no college degree, never served in any Military, claims to be a Grandmaster ‘Siku Siddle,” but has never been a student in any Martial arts school, claims he designed the US Army “Q” course, writes books on killing and combat, yet has never been in a Gun Fight, it just goes on and on…Look at his failed Lawsuit in Nashville Tenn where the Judge all but called him a fraud, and he Gun design which he renamed the “STX” was allegedly stolen from the guy who designed it in NC. Siddle’s latest rift is with the STI gun company in Texas, this guy is a fraud, a fake and a phony and it amazes me all you law enforcement guys fell for his “BS.”

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