Archives for May 2012

Warning: IDPA Is Not Training

Photo credit: dagnyg

A little over a week ago, I competed in my first IDPA match at my local club. I have been more than a little excited to give the sport a try and see both how much fun it would be (spoiler: tons!) and how I stack up against the guys that compete at this sort of thing all the time.

I learned a lot about IDPA while at the match, but I also learned a lot about myself and training in general. I’ll be looking forward to shooting another match soon. If any of you happen to be in New Hampshire and want to meet up at a match, contact me, I’d love to shoot with you.

Here is what I learned…

IDPA doesn’t build skills

Quite a few people seem to be confused and state that IDPA is good defensive training. These people couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, IDPA is a game. All games have rules. Real life doesn’t.

More importantly, IDPA isn’t training because it doesn’t build skills. Efficient skills development requires repetition in isolation.

When you practice your draw-stroke, you train through consistent repetition. Every repetition works to ingrain the proper motions in your subconscious.

In IDPA you shoot a stage once.

One repetition does not give you a chance to make refinements to your technique. One repetition does not allow you to ingrain good habits.

What IDPA does do for you is to provide a good opportunity to pressure test what you bring to the table. I now know my weaknesses and which areas need the most additional practice. You can expect to discover the same things about your own training.

Any game with rules will deviate from real life

Since IDPA is a game, and has rules, it deviates from many of the realities that we train for. For example IDPA limits your magazine capacity to 10 rounds.

IDPA also restricts placement of your gear. Restrictions are placed on where your holster and mag carrier may be worn. If you have chosen to carry Appendix In Waist Band (AIWB), then clearly you can’t compete in the same way you normally carry.

This is a problem if you are using IDPA as a tool to test your skills. If you enjoy the sport, you are forced to either carry as you compete, or train two different skill sets, one for carry, and one for competition.

Marksmanship is key

The match reinforced for me how critical good marksmanship is.

The second stage of the match was essentially a skills test. Three strings were shot, and they all came down to marksmanship.

The first string consisted of 6 shots, with weak hand only, at two targets that were behind hardcover from the neck down (head shots only). The second string was 6 shots strong hand only from the draw at two targets placed a little farther out that had hard cover from center chest and below. The final string was shot freestyle at two targets even further back, no cover.

Watching the other participants, you could easily tell who really practices and who doesn’t. I shot with a group of shooters that were also new to the sport, and almost everyone had trouble making hits on the targets.

Do you think that this stage improved anyone’s shooting skills? I don’t think anyone who missed on that stage could magically make hits afterward. But they did gain an appreciation for one of the weakest links in their skill-set: marksmanship.

IDPA doesn’t really build skills on its own, but it does test them.

Everyone is a gamer

Another thing I noticed at this match was that I seemed to be the only person with an IWB holster using a t-shirt as a cover garment. Everyone else was shooting using some sort of vest or jacket combined with a belt-style holster.

There are two possible explanations for this: either everyone normally carries with a gaudy looking photographer’s vest, or everyone was gaming the match.

I’m going to assume the latter because I don’t see too many of those vests outside of a match.

Gaming in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can’t fault people for trying to be competitive. Why compete if you don’t plan on trying to win?

However, it is important to keep in mind that this type of competition can have its disadvantages. If you are gaming it, odds are you are sacrificing some of your training benefit. Remember the statement “Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train”? If IDPA were really training, you would compete like you carry, or carry like you compete.

A fun way to pressure test

In short, my take on IDPA is that it isn’t training, but it is a great way to pressure test your gun handling and shooting skills.

Shooting on a square range without movement and without pressure can only get you so far. Fighting is dynamic, so it makes perfect sense to test your training with a dynamic activity.

IDPA fits that bill.

If you want to test your skills and have a good time doing it, seek out an IDPA match. You won’t be disappointed.

Do you shoot IDPA? Share what you may have learned from the shooting sport by posting a comment below.

What My Back Injury Can Teach Us About Training

Photocredit colinedwards99

Several weeks ago I managed to hurt my back doing something as silly as attempting to assemble a new TV stand. This back injury managed to put a huge damper on all of my training efforts besides dry-fire.

Any sort of movement was difficult in karate with an injured back and strength training was nearly impossible. As a result I spent two weeks working on dry-fire and trying hard not to re-injure myself.

Last week I got back to strength training for the first time after that two week forced ‘break’.

The results of that first workout were not exactly what I had hoped for. Over the course of the workout I managed to perform approximately 25% fewer repetitions than I did prior to the break.

That’s a loss of at least 25% of my strength after only a two week period.

I can’t say that this made me happy, but I do believe that we have many opportunities to learn in training, and even injuries provide those opportunities. What did I learn from injuring myself?

Successful training requires a consistent unrelenting effort

Just like climbing a very steep hill, you have an opportunity to move forward (and upwards) or to slide back down.

Any type of training requires constant effort. It often is less about the duration of the practice session so much as it is about the amount of time between practice sessions. Train more often for less time, and you’ll find two things:

  1. You will get more out of each training session

  2. Your skills will always be fresher because the last time you trained will be more recent

The quality of your skills and the efficiency of your reaction to an event will always be dependent on the length of the time since your last training session.

An extreme example

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take an extreme example. Let’s say you commit to training one hour every week for a year. That might be three 20 minute sessions, or just one block each week.

In a parallel universe, an alternate you commits to a single tortuous training session of 52 hours of constant training over the course of a week, and be done for the entire year.

Which case gets you the most for your training efforts?

In the universe where you train for one week all at once, you will likely make significant gains over the course of that week. There is something to be said for making a short concentrated effort, and total immersion. If you couldn’t learn and make huge gains in a short period, weekend classes wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular as they are.

When a year has passed, do you think those skills will still be fresh? Probably not. I would expect to drop far below the peak of your performance that you reached during that one week of training.

On the other hand, training for an hour a week might net you smaller gains with each session. The trade-off, however, is that at any given point during the year, the longest time since your last training session is only a matter of days.

Instead of one huge spike in performance followed by a long slide down, you get many small spikes with a reduced loss.

Training is an investment

Training is a lot like an investment, and every training session is like collecting interest. Do you remember high-school math where you learned about the benefits of compound interest? The more frequently you compound your interest, the better your rate works for you and the bigger your overall gain.

Rather than make the same or similar gains every session, your goal is to make gains on top of your previous gains. Reduce the time between sessions and you can spend more time gaining every session instead of rebuilding what you gained last time.

Ultimately training requires consistent unyielding effort. Training hard but infrequently serves you little. Instead, break up your training into many smaller sessions and reap the benefits.

What is your training schedule like? Do you train daily, weekly, or monthly? Join the conversation and post a comment below.

Announcing Some Changes at Indestructible Training

I started this blog back in December because I wanted to finally spend more of my life doing what I really love: training. For the past 6 months I have been able to write and publish content on the subject, which has done wonders to help expand my own understanding of how to best train and prepare oneself.

For the 6 months that Indestructible Training has existed, I have been consistently publishing content every Monday Wednesday and Friday. Consistency has a lot of value, especially in the context of training.

The amount of content I have been putting together, while not a huge amount by comparison to some blogs, has been enough to require a substantial amount of my time. Starting this week I would like to shift gears a bit and begin publishing on a more random basis. I’ll be aiming to put out at least one post a week, sometimes more.

This change will do two things. Firstly, by publishing less content, I’ll be able to spend more time on each piece I write, and hopefully provide a better product. What it will also do is open up some of my time for working on other projects to promote and build the blog, and even just to invest more of my time into training and teaching.

If you have picked up on the pattern of content in the past and plan your visits to the site accordingly, it would make a lot of sense to subscribe to get updates when new content is available.

If you have been a fan of the Friday “Best of the Web” posts I would recommend following me on twitter or liking the Indestructible Training facebook page. I’ll be tweeting and posting links to good content when I see it to help point you to the best discussions on training and related topics I can find.

Thank you all for the support so far. Indestructible Training isn’t going away, but instead is evolving into what will hopefully be something better.

Best of the Web 5/18/12

Another week, and some more great posts.  Here are my favorites from the past 7 days.

Mental Performance Blocks (gunnuts.net) – Caleb discusses a topic very near and dear to my heart.  I think most of the time that I perform poorly it has more to do with overconfidence or psyching myself out than a lack of skills.

Don’t Shoot .357 (thetruthaboutguns.com) – Have I mentioned that I don’t think revolvers are a very good defensive weapon?  Sure they can be good in the right hands, but here is yet another reason why you should just ignore the revolver when selecting a defensive weapon.  Many extol the virtues and the power of .357, but it comes down to being a difficult round to shoot.  If you are going to bring a revolver to the fight, at least use .38 special.

Training with a DA trigger (gunnuts.net) – A second good posts from Caleb this week… this one is about the double action trigger.  There are a lot of beliefs out there that a double action/single action pistol makes training more difficult than with a gun that has a consistent trigger pull like a striker fired gun for example.  Caleb tries to debunk this myth.  While he makes some good points, I think most DA/SA guns have a DA trigger pull that borderlines on ridiculous, making DA/SA a liability when you need to hit quickly the first time.

 

 

Some Thoughts on Improving the Draw-stroke

Photo Credit: DrJimiGlide

One of the most practiced skills for any individual who carries a firearm for self-defense is the draw-stroke. After all, if you can’t get the gun into the fight it is useless. Focusing on the draw-stroke in training also makes sense from a complexity standpoint. Drawing a firearm is one of the two most complex actions you can take with it (the other being reloading).

Drawing a handgun generally requires at least 6 distinct steps:

  1. Clear the cover garment
  2. Grip the firearm (#1)
  3. Draw from the holster (#2)
  4. Transition to a two hand firing grip (#3)
  5. Present the firearm (#4)
  6. Squeeze the trigger

All 6 actions can be easily performed when done independently. But when strung together, small errors in each action can build and become problematic.

Breaking it down

When working on the draw, keep the modular nature of the draw-stroke in mind. The first step to making your draw fast and smooth is to perfect each piece separately. This is the same concept that is commonly applied to teaching a new shooter how to draw.

When I learned, we started by working on just clearing the cover garment and getting the one handed grip on the firearm. We practiced for probably a dozen reps before moving on to drawing from the holster to the #2 position.

After another dozen or so reps of practicing the first two pieces; we started continuing on to the #3 position (both hands on the firearm). Starting to see a pattern here? If you have received any formal instruction on using your handgun, it probably followed a very similar progression.

The reason we add slowly and build on the previous steps is to ingrain muscle memory. When you draw your pistol for real, you can’t think about 6 discrete actions – it would take too long. Instead you think about one thing: drawing the handgun.

When training any complex skill, this is the best way to get started, but it is also a great place to return to any time you need to ‘tune up’ a skill.

Breaking it down some more

When you go back to the draw-stroke with the intention of improving it, there are a few more ways to dissect the problem.

If you continue the building method every time you practice, you will get a lot more practice working on the first parts compared to the last. The simplest thing you can do is to work through the entire draw-stroke from beginning to end, but much slower. Concentrate on each of the actions as you take it. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. The goal hasn’t changed here, you are still striving to make the component pieces of the draw-stroke natural enough to no longer require conscious thought.

A similar concept is to work each action independently. I can perform 10 or 20 reps clearing the cover garment and getting to the #1 position. I can then perform 10 or 20 reps moving from #1 to #2, etc. This gives me a chance to focus on perfecting the motions for each component of the draw-stroke.

Finally, keep in mind that the entire draw-stroke can be performed in reverse. If you are practicing the draw-stroke in its entirety, reset by going through the motions backwards. If you are practicing pieces, then perform each piece in reverse to reset. Take advantage of every chance to practice.

Putting it back together

Ultimately you can’t just work on perfecting each piece, at some point the pieces need to come together to form a whole. You crawl before you walk, and walk before your run. When you start lacing the pieces back together, don’t go for any records. Build gradually to a comfortable speed.

Speeding it up

When working on improving the speed of your draw-stroke, the ultimate goal is to be able to draw and make accurate shots at speed. How much speed depends on how accurately you can make your shots. Anyone can go blazingly fast and miss, but to go fast and hit is a different story.

There are two opposing yet complementary techniques to use to achieve this speed. The first is essentially what you have just read about, breaking things down, and working on perfecting each piece. Speed is the absence of extraneous movement after all.

The other is to ramp the speed up until you no longer can make 100% good hits, and then back off a little. Todd Green explains this concept in his post Permission to Miss, which is a great read.

Always remember that speed is a combination of economy of motion and effort. One without the other is incomplete. You can move slowly with flawless form, or you can drive the gun like your hair is on fire. Neither get you to the goal without balance.

What techniques do you use to practice and improve your draw-stroke?

Train Like It’s Your Last Day To Train

Photo Credit: U.S. Army

Every day of training tends to be a little different. Sometimes we work on precise skills, other times we work on strength or other physically demanding training. Some of these days are easy, and others are not quite so easy.

One common thread ties all of these training sessions together. You should be training like it is your last day to train. There is only now.

Training should never be lackadaisical. Every time you train, it is potentially your last opportunity to practice before the unthinkable happens. Make every session count.

Since every session might be your last, you have two responsibilities to yourself when you train:

Firstly, don’t waste a single opportunity for improvement. Don’t just go through the motions, instead put 100% of your concentration and focus into every repetition you practice. If you can only set aside a limited amount of time to train, then make every second count. Wasting time is fine when you are doing something of limited importance – training to defend yourself does not fall in that category.

Secondly, don’t let fatigue or discomfort slow you down or stop you. Whenever you hit that wall of fatigue or maybe even pain, take this an opportunity to build mental toughness. No one ever got anywhere by taking it easy in life. Work through the discomfort and fatigue and keep pushing on.

When it really matters, you won’t have the opportunity to stop for a breather or to go half as hard. Not only should every training session be like the last you’ll ever have, but every single repetition should be like the last. There is only now.

When it gets tough, dig deep and keep going. You have only two options when the chips are down: succeed or fail. Don’t take the second option.

Best of the Web 5/11/12

Another week, and some more great posts.  Here are my favorites from the past 7 days.

Priorities (pistol-training.com) – Todd touches on a point that I strongly agree with.  Performance is good, but reliability needs to be there as well.  I think this applies for both equipment and skills.  If your equipment provides superb performance when it works, but only works a small percentage of the time, was the tradeoff worth it?  Consistency and reliability are prerequisites to performance.

Will vs Skill (thetruthaboutguns.com) – Paul Markel wrote a great post for The Truth About Guns about mindset.  The short version is that the will to succeed is more valuable than skills that aren’t backed up by the right mindset.  I can’t agree more.  High stress, high pressure training techniques help push us so we can find those weak spots in both our training and our willpower.

 

Varied Instruction: Reducing the Toolbox

Photo by DrJimiGlide

When studying to defend yourself, there is a trade-off to be made between depth and breadth of skills. How much do you specialize in your skills, and how many different skills do you need to be sufficiently prepared? The answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes. You need enough depth to be proficient under pressure with the tools you choose to carry, yet you must also have skills to enable you to defend yourself in a variety of situations.

The real question is how much depth or breadth do you need instruction-wise?

There are a lot of great instructors out there with a lot of knowledge. Is training with a single instructor sufficient, or is there value to be had by training with a variety of instructors?

Unfortunately there is a lot more gray area here between seeking out and training with a single instructor, and training with them all.

When you start training, you have an obligation to yourself to seek out a solid variety of instructors. The goal in the beginning is to find an instructor who knows what he or she is talking about, but can also convey it in a manner that you can absorb.

There is also the matter of finding the material that is best adapted to you and your philosophies. I want to learn skills and techniques suited to my body type, and not all systems will suffice for that.

Once that first real instructor is found, do you continue to seek out other instructors and build that variety of learning experiences?

I think that ultimately depends on your goal. The problem with training with only one instructor is that no one has all the answers. The best gun guy isn’t likely to be the best knife guy, and he probably isn’t the best grappler either.

Training is your own journey and process where you collect what you have learned and take the best of each discipline or teacher and build your own system, much in the spirit of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.

The reason to train with a variety of instructors is not because you can build up the size of your skills ‘toolbox’ by constantly adding more techniques. Actually it is quite the contrary. Take the things that work from each instructor, or better yet double your focus on the things that are overlapped by the instructors.

Like the old adage goes: “In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities, in the mind of the master there are few”.

Multiple instructors ensure you get the best from each, and allow you to throw away the worst from each as well.

How varied is the instruction you seek out?

Do You Spend More Time on Specialized or Generalized Skills?

Photo by DrJimiGlide

Every defensive skill can be placed into one of two categories, specialized skills and generalized skills. General skills are skills that apply in many situations or are foundational in that they are used as a basis for the specialized skills. The more situations a skill might apply to, the more general that it is.

Specialized skills on the other hand have fewer situations where they can be used. The less likely it is to be used, or more specific the skill is, the more specialized that it is.

When we train we are constantly determining what skills are worth an investment, and how to divide our time between them.

The more likely a skill is to be used, the more time you want to invest

Generally speaking, the skills you are most likely to need should be trained the most. For example a normal two-handed draw stroke or emergency reload have a higher probability of being useful than say a weak hand only emergency reload. Even more likely to be used are verbal skills for defusing situations and dealing with unknown contacts. The more constraints you put on when a skill is used, the less time you should spend on that skill.

You cannot ignore the specialized skills

Just because you are less likely to need certain specialized skills doesn’t mean you can completely ignore them. You don’t want to be figuring out how to do that one-handed reload when you can’t afford a mistake. Instead make sure these skills make it into your training regime occasionally so they get some practice time.

Find balance in your training

Adding these skills into your training routine should be done somewhat scientifically. It is up to you to find your own balance between generalized and specialized skills.

Most general skills will help you with the specialized ones. For example, if I am going to use a firearm for self-defense, one of the most general things that comes to mind is trigger control. I learn how to squeeze the trigger to have the most accurate shot I can. Good trigger control will come into play regardless of whether I shoot one handed or two, strong side or weak. Manipulating the trigger occurs regardless of target distance as well – both long shots and firing from retention requires use of the trigger.

This means that I can easily justify spending a significant amount of time working on my trigger skills, but it also means that there are many more specialized skills that will also give me time working on the trigger.

Be smart about how you train, and take advantage of those opportunities to be more efficient. Spend more time on general skills, but don’t forget the specialized ones.

How much time do you spend on general skills vs specialized skills?

Best of the Web 5/4/12

Another week, and some more great posts.  Here are my favorites from the past 7 days.

Training vs Experience (thetruthaboutguns.com) – The Truth About Guns republished an article from Active Response Training that points out that not all bad guys are untrained slackers; many in fact do have training on their side as well.  Even more thought-provoking, they ‘train’ in the environment in which they operate, not the square range like many of us.  To top it off, they have more experience as well.  Maybe our opponents are training harder than us after all.

Real World Usage of the EDC Trauma Kit by a First Responder (ITS Tactical) – One of ITS Tactical’s readers wrote a detailed account of his usage of his ITS Tactical EDC Trauma Kit in a real situation.  Immediately it points out how important it is to have some medical training (and carry the tools of the trade).  This story also shows that training scars can affect things outside of combatives.  Bottom line: if you carry any piece of medical gear with you, make sure you know how to use it.  Opening your tourniquet and looking at it for the first time while someone is bleeding to death might be too late.

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