In the hustle and bustle of the 2014 SHOT Show I received a message from a man named Torin Hill. When he introduced himself, I noticed we have quite a few mutual friends and shared the same city of residence. A little bit of looking into what Torin did for a living brought me to the website toris.org and the TORIS Organization (Threat Oriented Rapid Incapacitation System).
The TORIS Organization has developed an in-depth curricula teaching the proper use of incapacitating force, along with how to de-escalate and contain a potential threat. They teach all of this with medical data, motion synthesis videos, oral presentations and intense hands-on physical training. I was intrigued, to say the least, so when Torin invited me to come by the TORIS headquarters for an introduction to their program and some hands-on training, I was all for it.
I brought a good friend and ex-Army Ranger along so we could partner up and run through some moves. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect from the course. The website, while informative, did not go much into detail about the specifics of the course, so we went into it with an open mind.
Was this going to be some type of martial art? Or was this going to be more like Israeli Krav Maga? The answer was neither. I’ve seen and practiced my fair share of self-defense tactics but I’ve always been skeptical how applicable they’d be in real-world situations. If you were in a life or death situation, can you really imagine trying to remember where to put this arm to grab that wrist while turning away from the opponent to magically end up in some finishing move? Those tactics only work on the assumption that you can predict what your opponent is going to do and that you can be in the right place at the right time. I’ve always felt the unspoken “rules” of taking on an opponent were ridiculous and I knew that I would cheat in any way necessary to win a fight. Luckily, the first thing Torin told us we were going to do: cheat.
One thing that separates TORIS from self-defense programs is the heavily researched focus on human injury biomechanics and what it takes to cause the largest impact with the smallest amount of force. TORIS utilizes their Strategic Systems theory to categorize the body structures needed during a real threat—and then use their medical approach to render them useless. We were taught very simple, quick and extremely efficient moves that actually astonished me how effective they’d be when used on a threat..
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen a number of fights—whether on the internet or in the real world. You’ve also noticed that these fights look like absolute mayhem with no sort of technique being used. They are just a flurry of fists, thrown so wildly it’s likely a hand is broken before someone goes down for the count. More often than not, the fights end up on the ground. The chaos and stress aren’t recreated when practicing self-defense techniques in a classroom setting. When the time comes to defend your life—nothing goes like it was practiced. TORIS knows the reality of combat and developed their program to introduce the same stress and panic you’ll experience facing a lethal threat.
The Instructors used a simple mnemonic device to list off the six ways that stress impacts performance in combat situations. Couple those six elements with the education psychology and einstellung that TORIS covers, and imagine you’re attempting to figure out what move will work (or not work)… and you can see that the current training in the market puts you on the road to failure.
Your loss of motor control, the sensation that your arms are made out of lead, the feeling that time slows down—all of these are classic stress components that TORIS is able to generate using special tools and training methods. They run every student through a gradual increase in stress, helping to recreate the actual mayhem, debilitating body functions and crushing fatigue that every person encounters during a fight. Not everyone reacts the same way to different stressors, so during the sessions, the Instructor works each individual to find the unique stressors that affect that particular person. They are able to make each student feel like they are truly being attacked. I was skeptical about the “Stress Induction” methods—I’ve been through many stress inoculation classes in the past, and all of them were a breeze. With that in mind, what happened on the second day of training was humbling to say the least.
Day two consisted of more incapacitating force training, and ended with “The Simulator” which, in order to maintain confidentiality and nondisclosure, I cannot discuss in detail. But know this: I have been tried and tested many times in my life, as an Army Recon Sniper and in my current career as a protective security specialist. After all of the years I’ve spent in training, and all of the money the Army spent trying to make me miserable, the 30 minutes I spent in the Simulator were the closest I’ve been to visiting my proverbial breaking point. Torin and his team of alumni truly humbled me. This is the part of the course that nobody else offers.
It wasn’t something to be afraid of, it was the part where you get to put all of your skills to use. What you’ve learned with TORIS and what you’ve trained before—all of it’s tested in this phase. The amount of stress I thought I could endure was still pushed to the limit, and it made me realize just how efficient Torin and his contributors are at equalizing every student.
A few of the alumni members and other trainees attended the workshop for the day had backgrounds ranging anywhere from Naval Special Warfare to Border Patrol Special Operations Group. My Ranger buddy and I hadn’t been through the Simulator before and our measly six hours in class paled in comparison to their time spent in it. All of the guys were incredibly nice and brought with them prior experiences and words of wisdom. They coached us through the different phases of the class and were a source of calm (when I was anything but).
All of us brought our duty pistols or personal firearms to train with since most of us carry firearms on a daily basis. Prior to use, the TORIS Instructor inspected each firearm and securely taped the slide with bright yellow tape to indicate the cleared and inspected weapon, and we conducted a pat-down on each other. I found this far better than using a “blue gun” since I wanted to practice with the actual firearm that may one day save my life. The program is designed to make everything feel as real as possible, and this was no exception. The grips, weight, sights—they’re how we recognize our gun as being familiar and personal. “Train as you fight” is taken seriously here, and training scars are exposed and worked out on the floor. Some trainees were reluctant to put their gun to a threat’s head, and I worked through my hesitation to actually drop the hammer in training.
During the course, Torin’s insistence that we wear plate carriers caught me off-guard. At one point in my life I used to wear a rig, along with a sexy rifle and an even sexier long gun, but those days are a thing of the past. So naturally I asked why we wear plates if this class was designed for more than just soldiers or “urban grocery store operators”. Torin’s response was genius: “Plate carriers are restrictive and force you to expend more effort and energy when trying to fight off a threat. This training would be a lot easier if we were just wearing a t-shirt and some jeans.” I almost felt like an idiot for asking, but it made perfect sense.
When training, you want it to be as difficult as possible. In a perfect world your threat will be a drunk, 95-pound anorexic thug demanding your tennis shoes or wallet. And in your perfect world you would pummel your opponent, receiving a single scrape while accounting for your shoes and credit cards. But, TORIS does not train for your perfect scenario. Instead, it trains you to address the ruthless, sadistic threat that is stronger, tougher and faster than the darkest enemy you can imagine; one that is hell-bent on killing you at all costs.
I’m always a skeptic as a rule, but I’m convinced the TORIS program is efficient and effective. It is a thoroughly researched and constantly improved program, and I’m sure it will evolve to stay ahead of the escalating threats in our environment. The quick adaptation in learning the skills and techniques presented was impressive, and that alone sets it apart from every self-defense courses I’ve attended. Thinking back on the 2 days spent with TORIS, I have immediate recall of everything that was taught—and and I’m confident that the way TORIS taught me to engage outside of any conventional rules will be how I decisively protect myself and my family.
For more information about training at TORIS, as well as their curriculum and research, please visit their website.
Photos by Rolando Manluctao | All images copyright and used with permission of TORIS, LLC