Pressure Testing

Training always falls into three major phases: preparation, testing, and recovery. Preparation is where most of the time is spent: improving conditioning, running drills, and building skills. Every so often your training should be tested. Validate what you have and make sure the approach you are taking is working. Finally you recover and plan to correct the weaknesses and points of failure in your training so far.

Pressure testing can be the most important part of training; without it your training can go on infinitely with little real progress. Without some sort of pressure or stimulus your training will take the path of least resistance, right into non-existence. Pressure forces you to evolve and learn, and without it false confidence forms instead of real skills development.

The exact methods of pressure testing will vary based on the discipline being trained. There are, however, some common concepts that can be applied to some degree in all areas.

Partner

Adding a partner is the simplest way to add pressure to your training. A non-compliant adversary who is trying to thwart your efforts can significantly crank up the pressure.

This concept is what prevents most of the grappling arts from succumbing to the common pitfalls of the striking arts. Have you noticed how much harder it is to fake it in the grappling arts? Grappling always requires a partner, and therefore the pressure testing loop is closed.

In the arena of shooting, a partner is more difficult to implement. You can’t easily shoot your buddy for the sake of training. Simunitions or airsoft are valid options, but on the range a partner can also be used with two other types of pressure.

Time

Time is one of the easiest ways to add pressure to your firearms training. When you need to complete a task within a certain amount of time or for best time, it’s easy to start making mistakes. Even just racing against your own times can be a great way to make things more difficult.

A partner can create time pressure on the range when both partners are attempting to complete the same task. The race can force you to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. Someone will come out on top. This does require both partners to be relatively close in their speed or the effect is lost. If one partner is significantly faster, try a time handicap, adding time to the stronger partner’s time until both are performing roughly equally.

Adding time pressure to hand to hand training can be harder to implement. Giving yourself a time limit to reach a goal like achieving a submission or escaping from a disadvantageous situation is a great way to do this. This simulates the need to escape chokes, for example, before oxygen or blood runs out.

Stress

Just increasing the pressure can be a great way to pressure test your training. A partner or coach screaming at you as you try to perform even the simplest malfunction clearing drill can make the task much more difficult.

Another way to aid in increasing the stress level is to always pressure test with as many unknowns as possible. When training with a group, try to make the pressure testing exercises new and unique. Give the testee only the rules needed to keep things safe and let the other participants know the rest of the scenario. The test becomes more realistic as you adapt to an unknown hostile situation.

Another great way to insert stress is to cause unexpected surprises. Load your partner’s magazines with some dummy rounds. Unexpected issues like a malfunction can raise the stress level through the roof, especially during a timed session.

 

Remember that the reason we train so hard is to make the simple tasks unconscious. The way to win in a life or death conflict is to be able to think about the big picture while your body does what you need it to do. The only way to make sure you are hitting all the necessary skills and ingraining them deep enough is by ratcheting up the pressure.

What pressure testing methods do you use? Share your tricks and tips in the comments below!

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