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Shadowboxing — Solo training to maintain tactical readiness

Shadowboxing — Solo training to maintain tactical readiness


We all know a guy who has every tool ever needed in his garage, while some of us use duct tape to fix just about everything. While we might be able to tape our way out of trouble much of the time, it is best to have the right tool for the job, at the right time… and to know how to use it. It applies to home repairs, but it is also “use of force training 101.” When I was first on the job, The old DT guys would say “Kid, have a lot of tools in your toolbox”. So, like the naïve (and cocky) young recruit that I was, I asked "Sir, which hardware store gives a police discount on screwdrivers and hammers?" After having to do a couple hundred pushups… at their cadence… I understood the metaphor quite clearly. 

It would be nice if tactical training and readiness were as easy as buying a bunch of gear and keeping it in a box until it’s needed. But in our world, the tools need to be up and ready to go at a moment's notice. And more importantly, we need to be trained to use them, at a high level of competency—and that means practice, practice, practice.

Shadowboxing—well known to boxers and other combat sports practitioners—is an easy and effective way to master your tools and your tool box (the duty belt). This method of solo training helps you learn where your gear is located and lock it in to muscle memory. It also helps you transition from one tool to the next, and be better prepared for upcoming training or the real world of the street. Here are some tips to adapt and apply the concepts of shadowboxing to the duty belt. 

Practice the basics

Present your baton from the scabbard and open it—in a safe direction, never to the side—with verbal directions (“get back!”) Once opened, secure the baton and present your handcuffs with verbal command ”sir/ma’am, turn around, put your feet together, hands behind your back, lean forward. Don't move!” Repeat till proficient, and remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast. You can expand this practice routine to incorporate the flashlight, disposable restraints (like ASP Tri-Folds), and other equipment.

Use a Red Gun

Another example of shadowboxing is doing force option transitions using a Red Gun. Draw the training gun to a low ready (or high ready, position Sul, etc.). Take a few steps laterally in either direction. Secure the Red Gun and present another tool, such as a baton, CEW or pepper spray). Secure that tool and present handcuffs. Do it again, and continuously self-evaluate:

  • Were you able to move and secure your weapon?
  • Did you draw each tool smoothly or fumble?
  • DId you drop anything?
  • Did you break your focus to look at the holster or scabbard?

Also note that some new Red Guns, called “enhanced” models, offer the ability to remove and replace magazines, still with 100% safety. This allows you to add basic reload steps to your training repertoire. 

Dry fire your duty weapon

Dry fire is the shadowboxing of the shooting disciplines; it is simply the execution of all gun handling steps, minus the use of live ammunition. It is a great practice that can help you maximize your range time. You can dry fire at home, or anywhere it is safe and practical to do so. There are many gadgets to improve dryfire practice such as snap caps, dry fire magazines, and a wide variety of laser training aids. It should go without saying, yet always bears repeating that safety is always first, and the universal firearm safety rules apply to dry fire too: 

  • Always treat every firearm as if it was loaded (and with dry fire, make sure there is never ammunition in the practice area)
  • Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy
  • Finger off trigger and outside trigger guard until sights are on target
  • Be sure of your target and what is behind it 

Shadowboxing possibilities are limited only by your imagination. During ASP Instructor training, we shadowbox during multiple class evolutions. For example, we use it during baton and flashlight training—specifically, learning how to protect from punches. Skills and drills like this have always been a regular part of my training. One of my boxing coaches always told me to warm up by using Shadowboxing, saying “we ain't here for fitness, we here to fight.” When done seriously and repeatedly, shadowboxing prepares the mind and body for physical activity, and the critical skills needed in the law enforcement world.

Jim Klauba

Chicago Police Department (Ret.)

ASP Trainer since 2011