Archives for April 2013

Can Competition Really Get You Killed?

Photo Credit: Bob n Renee

Photo Credit: Bob n Renee

Last week there were a few posts out of Gun Nuts Media on the subject of competition. Both Caleb and Tim weighed in, giving their opinions on the matter. More specifically they discussed an idea that some trainers promote amongst their students: competition can or will get you killed on the street.

Both were very much in agreement with each other… competition will not in fact get you killed.

A counterpoint… sorta

While I am very much inclined to agree with these guys for a number of reasons, I do think the topic wasn’t 100% fleshed out.

You can argue that competition could, at least in a small way, get you killed in a street fight. The trainers who support this theory will often cite the fact that competition has specific rules that tend to favor some sort of gaming. Players always adapt to the rules of a game, and it is unlikely for those rules to perfectly mimic the real world.

Face it… if you focus on competition, some of the habits from that game will follow you into the real world. Not all of those habits will be good ones when viewed through the lens of a real life-or-death struggle. You might have a tendency to forget about follow through with a threat, you might shoot a certain number rounds instead of shooting to stop, or you might have any number of other competition-centric habits.

Tim also took BJJ as an example in his post, saying:

Have you ever noticed how no one ever says that competing in a BJJ tournament will get you killed on the street? That’s because it would be pitifully easy for an accomplished BJJ competitor to take the guy who said that and turn him into a pretzel in a matter of seconds. See, the Brazilian Ju-Jitsu competitor has had to learn grappling skills and has had to apply them at speed and at full force against someone else who is trying just as hard to do the exact same thing. He’s likely had his game plan trashed by circumstances and has had to figure out what to do when in a disadvantaged position. He’s sharpening his skills and his ability to manage stress using the crucible of competition…but replace BJJ with a handgun and everything changes? Nonsense.”

Well, let me be the first to say that competing in a BJJ tournament could get you killed on the street. BJJ, and especially competitive BJJ focuses on its own set of rules. These rules take the threat of weapons out of the picture… and not understanding how to prohibit the in-fight access of your adversary’s weapon could, at least in theory, end in your death.

I have spent enough time in classes like Southnarc’s ECQC to know that while BJJ skills often do create a huge advantage, someone like me with almost zero mat time can and will occasionally come out the victor over very experienced BJJ students and competitors. Competition could at least indirectly diminish your ability to survive a fight.

The whole truth

All of that said, I am still in the procompetition crowd. For all of the downsides, the huge upside is an excellent opportunity to test your skills under real pressure. Skills, especially shooting skills, have the unfortunate tendency to fall apart under pressure, and a lack of pressure testing means you will never know those weaknesses.

Furthermore, competition is a good way to inoculate yourself to that stress. If you can act and react calmly and coolly under the stress of a match or tournament, you have a much improved chance of doing the same under the stress of a life-or-death encounter.

Those trainers that say competition could get you killed are at least a little right. Many forms of competition tend to instill habits that won’t always be the best habits to have when things turn ugly.

The alternative, however, also has a chance of getting you killed.

It is easy to argue that anyone who puts forth the effort to become competitive in any sport that is at least partially congruent with real life fighting skills will have a lot more to bring to the table in a real fight. There have been a few stories about some stupid people trying to mug pro-MMA fighters only to get flattened… and I would definitely want to avoid a gun fight with the likes of David Sevigny, Robert Vogel, or Jerry Miculek.

Do you compete?

What about you? Do you compete or do you think competition might get you killed?

House Keeping: Google Reader’s Imminent Demise

Google_Reader_logo_GalliganIn case you aren’t aware it was announced recently that google reader is going to be going away.  Since 2/3 of you that follow the blog through RSS use google reader I thought it would be good to make sure that you were aware.  I also use google reader to keep up to date with my favorite blogs so this change is a huge blow.

Since google reader is going away in July, what are your options?  There are plenty of other google reader replacements out there.  You could also subscribe via email, or use social media such as facebook or twitter.  Whatever you choose give it a try sooner than later to avoid an interruption.

I’m giving the old reader a try, but I really need something that will work on Android as well as my computer.

If you have any recommendations please post them in the comments!

You Get What You Train For

Three Second Fighter by Geoff Thompson

I was recently reading a part of the book Three Second Fighter by Geoff Thompson and came across a very telling quote:

You get what you train for.”

What this boils down to is that your reaction on the street is going to reflect your training. What you do the most on the mat or on the range is what you will do when the pressure is on.

Extending this principle you can assume that if you train two different solutions for one problem, the one you train the most is the one you will naturally use under pressure. With this assumption in mind, can we assign any value to training the additional solutions?

The case for multiple solutions

Assuming multiple solutions work for slightly different problems in the same problem space, then yes there is some value to the multiple solutions approach. Sometimes your conditioned response to an attack just won’t work, and you will need to fall back to any alternatives you have practiced. Keep in mind that any initial response to an attack works best if it is a non-diagnostic skill, i.e. no decisions required.

Some situations lend themselves to multiple solutions much better than others. For example long distance shooting often allows much more time for thinking. Where clearer heads prevail reliably, you can afford to build in choices. On the other hand, knowing and training 5 different default positions is counter productive for all but those resigned to nothing but teaching.

The case against multiple solutions

The unfortunate reality is, however, that most defensive problems do not allow thinking. Multiple overlapping solutions to a problem levy a tax on your ability to defend yourself. The deeper the decision tree, the longer it takes to respond and the more likely you are to fail.

If you always default to one of those solutions, you will also find that any effort placed into training the unused alternatives is wasted energy. The only exception here is if you enjoy training for training’s sake. Take the default position as an example. I should have a single, automatic default position every time I react to a sudden surprising attack. In-depth study and practice of 4 more default positions doesn’t make me more prepared, but instead might cloud my reaction. If I won’t use the other positions why practice them?

Ultimately balance is needed. In some cases training multiple overlapping skills can be a waste of energy. If you train for the sake of entertainment, then this is less of an issue. Overlapping skills can work very well, as is evidenced by some very successful competitive fighters, but they do require a much higher initial investment.

Also keep in mind that studying alternatives always has value. If you attend a seminar and are exposed to a new default position, try it out in that class. Maybe you find it works better and it becomes a replacement for your current solution. Remember that this is different than continued rigorous training of multiple skills that will compete for your focus.

What is your take? How do you feel about multiple overlapping skills, and do you train any? Please join the discussion by posting a comment below!

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