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?

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  1. Awareness. Being a competitor myself I test my handling and shooting skills at speed. I consciously make decisions to do things I would normally not do in a fight. I would not peer out from behind cover in the same spot after a reload. I have not had to move my wife out of harms way in a match. In real life not everything has a gun solution and simple awareness can keep you out of a bad situation. In real live you may not have to shoot the bad guy and all his friends in a well lit area.
    In a match when I’m trying to shoot as fast as I can make hits at various distances. The holes in the paper will not lie to you. If you are not centered with your hits or your first hit is and your second isn’t or your targets ar 20 yards have misses, you need to work on your shooting skills. If you can’t hit anything while moving, if your heart rate goes through the roof, if you are really slow coming out of the holster or your reloads take longer than getting a coffee at Starbucks, you are now aware of what you need to address.
    Are you aware there is a big difference between learning to shoot and defensive shooting training? Taking a course from a very knowledgable defensive trainer can be a big eye opener and cause you to reevaluate what really is in your tool box.

    • Frank,

      Thank you for commenting.

      I think you hit the nail on the head… it all comes down to how we use competition. As a method of pressure testing our skills it can have great value, we just need to be aware that competition is not “training” and almost never reflects good tactics for the real world.

  2. Competition is good for developing certain skills, but as for preparation for real life… when the man says, “Shooter ready? … Stand by…” “BEEEEP”… and the shooter leaves his or her gun in the holster, turns and walks away from the stage therefore winning a gun fight by avoiding it… then, maybe we’ll be getting closer… plus, just once… I’d like to try an IDPA stage where I get to run the full 18 rounds in my gun and magazine before reloading… just sayin’…

    Good discussion and thoughts for folks to think about…

    Dann in Ohio

    • Dann,

      You make a good point, but let me make a counter point: training tends to be geared towards preparing for the worst case. Competition by extension then serves to test skills under worst case scenarios. The day my life turns out like an IDPA stage I’m having a rough day… if the local gang leader and his 6 friends array themselves in my front lawn with multiple hostages I have a feeling no matter how fast or accurate I am I’ll probably hunker down and call the cops. And probably grab a bigger gun from the safe. Competition really serves as an entertaining way to test raw skills (in IDPA it is gun handling primarily) not tactics.

      Thanks for the comment!

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