Debunking the Revolver Myth (or Why Revolvers Suck)

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There is a crowd in the armed citizen world that would have you believe that a revolver is the ideal weapon for home defense (or to put in your wife’s hands for home defense, or to carry, etc). They are wrong.

Here is a point by point breakdown of why a revolver is not the ideal gun for home defense, even for the lazy jerk who doesn’t want to invest training time.

Reliability

The majority of these revolver fans will tell you that their revolver doesn’t malfunction. This is mostly true. The only malfunction you can really expect in a revolver is a failure to fire. If this occurs the immediate remedy is to squeeze the trigger again and try the next round. Most revolver malfunctions are going to be blamed on the ammo and not the gun itself.

Most modern semi-auto pistols are plenty reliable. I’ve put thousands of rounds through my Glock 17 with very few malfunctions. Sure there have been malfunctions, but these are rare. If you maintain the gun properly, it won’t be likely to malfunction.

Simplicity

Revolvers are said to be simple. They have no external safety, so there is essentially a single input – the trigger. Aim and squeeze is all you need to do to shoot the target.

I’m sorry to break this to people, but my Glock 17 has a control interface that is just as simple. I too can aim and squeeze without the hindrance of disengaging a safety mechanism. If the lack of external safety is your reason to use a revolver, there are plenty of semi-auto pistols to fill that role as well.

Safety

Revolver proponents are often quick to judge semi-autos based on the risk of injury. It shouldn’t be news to anyone that firearms can be dangerous when used improperly. Revolvers come with their own caveats.

Both types of pistol can hurt you. Semi-autos used improperly can bite you as the slide reciprocates (a bad grip on the pistol where your hand comes too high on the back-strap of the pistol). This type of injury would be unpleasant, but it can be easily avoided with a little training. A revolver on the other hand can take off or seriously injure your thumb if it is placed too far forward next to the cylinder. Also correctable with training, but not as easily. Do you really want to worry about becoming thumbless under pressure? I don’t.

Capacity

Most revolver users will claim that a revolver has enough ammo to get the job done. Most defensive revolvers carry a maximum of seven rounds. What if seven isn’t enough? Do you feel confident that seven rounds could put down multiple attackers? Reloading a revolver requires much more skill than the semi-auto pistol. The motor skills required are also far finer since you need to either load each round or line up speed strips or a moon clip to reload it. When the adrenaline starts pumping, fine motor skills like this will be out the window.

If I want to reload my Glock, I slide a fresh magazine into the mag well and at the press of a button, I’m ready to keep shooting. Its a little more complex than that if you are worried about speed, but it is certainly easier than futzing with rounds in a cylinder under pressure.

Unfortunately, it seems that many revolver fans completely overlook the reloading issue. Maybe you won’t ever need more than those seven rounds, but are you willing to gamble this way with your life? Your family’s lives? Even sillier, if we assume that we will never need to reload, a semi-auto generally carries many more rounds than a revolver. My Glock for example carries 17+1, and with an extended magazine can carry as much as 33+1 rounds if home defense is my goal.

Ultimately revolvers are the lazy man’s answer. Too often people choose a revolver thinking they won’t need to invest as much time and energy into learning how to use it. You are kidding yourself if you think you can avoid putting in substantial time training with any firearm. If you honestly can’t find time to train, I still think a semi-auto offers tremendous advantages over a revolver, and has fewer problems than you may think. If you can’t invest the minimal time to learn the basics of your weapon, should you really be arming yourself at all? A weapon in the hands of an unpracticed individual is a threat to yourself and those you love.

Revolvers may sound like an easy option if you are looking for something you can simply point and shoot, but I think many of us in the self-defense community should have higher goals. I’ll take the capacity of a semi-auto over the purported reliability of a revolver any day.

Do you agree that semi-autos are superior to revolvers or are you a revolver fan?

Learn to Take a Hit

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In many martial arts, great time and effort is spent on body conditioning. Fighters in arts like Kyokushin condition their shins and sometimes forearms by rapping on them with bundles of chopsticks. They condition their legs by kicking each other, and learn to absorb body shots similarly by practicing taking punches and kicks.

These practitioners do not train to take hits instead of learning how to properly defend. It is usually better to avoid getting hit in the first place, but a wise student learns to accept that you will not always be fast enough to block something.

Fighters, especially full contact fighters (knockdown, MMA, etc) end up taking a lot of abuse during their fighting careers. A top level tournament fighter might have to fight 5 or more fights over a day or two in order to win his tournament. UFC fights are relatively long fights as well, with many long rounds. A great level of physical conditioning is required to be competitive.

What about those of us who don’t compete, but instead try to prepare for the fight that they hope never comes?

Should the student who prepares only for self-defense (and not competition) practice this way?

On the surface, no…

If you do not compete as a fighter, you aren’t likely to experience a long fight. Most self-defense encounters tend to be very violent, intense events but are also relatively short. I would not expect to be fighting for the 15 minutes or more that a professional MMA fight might take.

The average self-defense student is also unlikely to fight sequentially for days. He might fight multiple attackers, but not individually spread out over the course of a few hours.

Fighters also have other reasons to worry about conditioning. The purpose of most body conditioning is not necessarily to mitigate damage. Being hit can help build your body up and make it stronger against being hit in the future, but most conditioning helps serve to deaden nerves and make you impervious to the mental disruption that can come with being hit.

In any life or death encounter on the street, adrenaline will be a huge factor. You probably won’t feel most of the shots you take anyway. The first time I fought in a tournament in my youth I didn’t feel a single shot I took until about 30 minutes after the fight, at which point I couldn’t bend my leg and walking was… difficult. Conditioning has little effect on that first encounter.

The next time I fought, the first shot I took went right through me and I quickly realized something was different. Fighters condition because they won’t have the huge benefit of adrenaline at every fight. If you are jumped on the street, adrenaline is one advantage you can probably count on.

How to take a hit

If I’m too slow to get out of the way, I can position my body to mitigate the hit that I do take. Practicing getting hit means that when you are unable to block, you can at least take the hit on your terms. Generally this involves turning your body into the blow to brace yourself for the hit.

Face it, in a street fight you are going to get hit. If that is the case, shouldn’t we learn how to take the hit and not fold over like a cheap suit? Adrenaline can help you with pain and make you stronger, but it won’t keep the wind from getting knocked out of you. Learning how to properly exhale when being hit can.

While conditioning in itself might not make a huge difference, practicing how to get hit can. Your time is well spent learning how to properly take a punch or a kick. While conditioning can be useful as part of your routine, learning the best way to take a hit will give you much more bang for your buck.

Do you practice how to get hit?

Implicit vs Explicit Action

How would you describe the way you train? I would venture to guess that most people train implicitly and intend to act explicitly if the time ever comes. Let’s define what I mean by implicitly and explicitly.

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Implicit

im·plic·it

[im-plis-it] adjective

1. implied, rather than expressly stated: implicit agreement.

When I refer to implicit, I mean that things happen on their own. When we train implicitly, our bodies take over and our conscious mind gets to go for a ride. In training this leads to a sort of training coma where your body just goes through the motions.

For example do you ever go to the range and just start blasting away without a plan or specific goal in mind? Probably not for serious training purposes. But on the street we hope to make our actions implicit. What I mean here is that our training should take over. If we have correctly identified and improved on our weaknesses, our skills should be able to take the reins in a critical incident without relying on explicitly conscious efforts.

Explicit

ex·plic·it

[ik-splis-it] adjective

1. fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied;

If we want our real-world reactions to be implicit, we should conduct ourselves explicitly when training By this I mean that every action, movement, and thought we carry out in training should be intentional. Anything we repeat in our training is going to ultimately become a habit. Therefore, our goal should be to make sure we produce only good habits in our training. Training hundreds of repetitions without thought into each rep is going to create bad habits that will be hard to break.

On the street, on the other hand, explicit action is decidedly slower and less efficient. Drawing a pistol, or reacting to a knife should be quick, decisive, and thoughtless. The only explicit actions you should be taking in a life or death scenario should be the decisions about things like taking the shot, or whether to draw your pistol in the first place.

I never want to draw a pistol simply because some trained stimulus set some series of actions in motion. I want to make a conscious, deliberate decision to draw. Once I have made that decision, however, my training should do the work of putting the tools to use.

Do you train explicitly or implicitly?

Why Precision In Training Language Matters

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Who uses training language? Teachers and instructors definitely use training language, but so do students. Those who teach or instruct are conducting a transfer of knowledge to their students. Generally this involves some training language whether they know it or not. Students ask questions, help each other, and take notes throughout classes. All of these exchanges on training subject matter will use training language to some degree.

Precision

Precision might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about communication, but it accurately describes how anyone should converse in a learning environment. As you probably know, precision and accuracy refer to two separate concepts. Accuracy refers to your ability to hit, or closeness to the target. Precision on the other hand refers to how reliably you hit the same spot. You can be precise while not accurate. If I group all my shots far off the target I was not accurate, but I was precise. Accuracy and precision are different concepts, but having precision makes finding accuracy a lot easier.

Learning new concepts is much like marksmanship. In marksmanship we measure our success based on our group size and closeness to the target. When we have a precise group, we can adjust the sights to get accuracy. In our training on the other hand, it is a little harder to adjust. How does a student go from doing something precisely wrong to performance that is both precise and accurate? This is where precision in training language gives us an advantage. Precise language means we are better able to understand exactly what the student is talking about. When you understand where the students mind is going, it is much easier to correct them.

Inherent Meaning and Connotation

Another reason precise training language matters is that in most subjects words are carefully selected for their underlying connotation. Different words with the same meaning can carry different connotations, and ultimately the words we choose can help or hurt what we are trying to teach.

To use a simple marksmanship example, we can talk about slings. When you use a sling to improve your shooting with a rifle you can make the sling “tight” or you can make it “snug.” Both words convey the same basic meaning, but snug implies something different than tight. When someone hears that their sling should be “tight,” they are more likely to take this to an extreme that contorts their position and defeats the purpose of the lesson. “Snug” has a slightly different connotation that often results in more accurate employment of the sling. In this way, choosing one word over the other can make a big difference in the message conveyed.

Training is a complex world where many concepts overlap, and sometimes even contradict each other. When everyone uses precise and consistent language to describe things it helps prevent confusion.

Ease of Communication

If you look at flying, you will notice that a standard language is used: English. Standardization simplifies communication. Imagine putting 20 pilots and air traffic controllers into a room. If they all speak different languages you might get them to understand each other eventually, but it definitely slows down the process.

A similar concept applies in training. If you take only students who already speak English, and have them all use different terminology (training language) for everything, you will certainly slow down the flow of ideas. Where the flow hasn’t slowed, you’ll probably find assumptions and inaccuracies. You see this all the time in many martial arts systems where commands and techniques are always referred to in the language of the system’s origin. In my karate class for example, I always use the Japanese commands and terminology because it is the universal language of the system I teach.

Training language without precision on all sides of the discussion loses its value very quickly. If we aren’t going to refer to things by certain names, and use those names all of the time, we might as well not use names for anything. Precision in training language, on the other hand, accelerates learning. For those that instruct, remember that the words you use matter. Likewise, students should pay careful attention to the language used when receiving instruction, and make sure to implement the same terminology in your discussions with peers.

How do you use training language?

Training With Vehicles: Where To Start

 

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How much time do you spend training in and around vehicles? Except for the enlightened few, you probably haven’t given it much thought. If you don’t believe me that you should train in and around vehicles, check out this guest post I wrote for Low Tech Combat about Why You Need to Add Vehicles to Your Training

Skills to work on

If you want to fill the void in your training to be better prepared for dealing with vehicles there are a few skills you need to work on:

Driving skills – How to control your vehicle in both day to day driving and dealing with hazards. Defensive driving skills will help you avoid collisions and losing control.

Counter surveillance – Getting to your vehicle without being followed is an essential skill in a parking lot. The best way to avoid a fight around vehicles is to identify the threat beforehand and maneuver to a more favorable position.

Embus and debus – Getting into and out of your vehicle efficiently. When you are in a stationary vehicle you are in a disadvantaged position that should be avoided as much as possible. Learning how to deal with other people and vehicles as you get into and out of your own is also valuable.

Shooting into, out of, and around vehicles – You should be prepared to engage targets with your pistol from inside the vehicle, doing so without harming your passengers. Shooting through windshields can dramatically change your trajectory, and shooting over and around vehicles is more difficult than you think.

Close quarters fighting inside a vehicle – If you ever end up in a fight inside a car or truck you need to know how your grappling and clinching skills work inside the confines of that vehicle. Close quarters shooting skills are critical if you want to be able to fire multiple shots at your assailant without shooting yourself.

 Close quarters fighting outside a vehicle – When you get attacked in the triangle (the space created between an open car door and the door frame) you need to know how to handle it. This is a bad place to be in.

Where to get these skills

If you haven’t already started training these skills, you should either find a way to do so yourself or find someone you can learn from.

Training in and around vehicles is an important part of your self-defense palette.

One instructor I cannot recommend highly enough is Southnarc. His ECQC (Extreme Close Quarter Concepts) class briefly covers fighting in a vehicle. He calls the module of this class VBJJ or Vehicular Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You learn not only how to make use of the vehicle while grappling with your adversary, but how to make use of weapons you might be carrying while preventing your opponent from using theirs.

Another great Southnarc class is his new VCAST (Vehicle Combatives and Shooting Tactics) class, which covers the vehicle material in even greater depth – just about everything short of tactical driving. I have taken both classes and highly recommend them both if you want to learn how to defend yourself in and around vehicles.

Between these two classes you have good coverage for just about any skill you might need inside or outside of a stationary vehicle. When it comes to a moving vehicle you are likely best served by finding a good defensive or tactical driving class. While learning how to do the fancy maneuvers like reverse 180s and the PIT look like a lot of fun, what most of us really need are a few lessons on collision avoidance, and maintaining and regaining control of a vehicle.

Defensive driving lessons on things like collision avoidance are easy to find, and relatively inexpensive. Many insurance carriers will even give you a break on your premiums for having taken one of these classes. Considering the amount of time we spend in vehicles, learning these techniques is a no-brainer.

If you live in a bubble and never ride in or encounter vehicles in your life, you can safely ignore training with them. The rest of us really need to spend some time training in and around vehicles.

Why I Train

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When I was a young kid, my first inspiration for training was (believe it or not) watching the Power Rangers on TV. After watching this show, I went to my parents and told them quite firmly that I wanted to study Karate.

While I obviously grew out of my Power Rangers phase, I am still training 18 years later. Karate became a part of my life that is so cemented in my being that any attempt to extricate it from my life would probably kill me.

I have also always been a gun fanatic. I just didn’t always know it. By my parents’ recollection I used to turn just about anything I could find into a gun in my youth. If I didn’t have a toy gun to play with, I would often just build one out of Legos. It was never something I really thought about too heavily, but when I turned 21 my affair with firearms would really begin.

Curiosity quickly gave way to obsession. Unlike the average gun enthusiast, I’m not purely about having a metric ton of cool guns and gear (although I do have a soft-spot for black rifles). I like having a collection of cool toys as much as the next guy, but more than that, I find myself ever drawn to training with them. The best times I have spent with firearms have been in classes, particularly in the classes with the lowest round counts.

My first course was Southnarc’s ECQC. We trained pre-fight verbal skills, clinch work, in-fight weapons access, wrestling in vehicles, and only one afternoon on the range. I probably shot 150 rounds in a three day course, and I had a ball. Training for some reason draws me like a high powered magnet. I can’t resist.

Why do I train? I don’t serve in a career that puts me in harm’s way. I’m a software engineer, not a soldier or cop. I don’t live in a high risk area either. I’m very unlikely to ever need the skills that I put so much time into practicing, though one never knows. It is better to have the ability to protect yourself and not need it than to need this ability and not have it.

I think that the desire to train can also be thought of in a historical context. Throughout the ages, mankind has sought out and studied warfare. At first the art of war was necessary and war was almost continuous. As time went on, individuals still chose to study and train, but it wasn’t necessarily because they expected to use these skills. Instead these capabilities gave people the ability to choose their own fate.

If you look at just about any period in history, the well armed and well practiced individuals were the only ones who could reliably lay claim to their own freedom.

I train not because I have to, but instead because I want to. I enjoy training, the sweat, the exhilaration of deflecting and returning blows, the smell of gunpowder in the morning.

Ultimately I train because it is a constant journey. You cannot reach perfection in the fighting arts. It is just not possible. I train because no matter how hard I work and study, there is always something more to learn. My training may have reached a point of diminishing returns, but it is a noble pursuit.

Why do you train?

Machismo And Its Devastating Effects

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It is not uncommon to see a theme of machismo among just about anyone who trains for or claims to be prepared for their own self-defense. Martial artists, shooters, and just about everyone in between carry themselves with this sense of manliness.

Machismo 

noun

1. astrong or exaggeratedsense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity.

Take a look at the definition, “a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness”. Too often we see ‘tough guys’ use their desire to appear manly as an excuse for making poor decisions. This is an excuse to be stupid – an excuse to do stupid things or react in stupid ways. The short sightedness of anyone trying to maintain their level of machismo brings to mind a steroid-inspired cartoon caricature.

What I mean by this is that these macho dudes often draw quick conclusions and belittle those who make different (and often more logical) choices in order to protect and maintain their own manliness.

A perfect example of this is yoga. How many men do you see taking a yoga class? And quite frankly following the stereotype, how many of the men that do take yoga classes appear to be ‘real men’ and not a bunch of hippies or something? This is surprising because yoga has such great benefits from a flexibility and static strength standpoint.

Anyone who trains in the martial arts would garner great benefits from studying yoga and attending classes. It would improve their flexibility, mitigating injuries, and improve everything that requires flexibility. Unfortunately, you probably won’t see a macho guy take a class like yoga unless dragged in by his wife because he’s afraid his man card might be taken away.

The same concept is what stirs all of the .45 vs 9mm debate. Perhaps this whole argument is simply the result of erectile dysfunction, but so many tough guys on the internet will argue incessantly that anything smaller than a .45 is useless. Anyone who is enlightened on the matter realizes the difference between modern .45 and 9mm ammunition is so minimal that the increased capacity and lower recoil put the 9mm on at least equal footing with a .45.

Again you will see plenty of ‘tough guys’ afraid to carry a 9mm because they don’t want to be seen as sissies. Machismo drives a lot of decisions in the self-defense world, and quite frankly it’s to the detriment of not only the individuals that have this sense of machismo, but to the community as a whole.

Machismo also drives most debates on the internet. These macho guys try to assert that they would never retreat in a gunfight. They would never let the police search their home because clearly they can search their home completely on their own. They shoot to kill, take no prisoners, open carry huge guns, and belittle anyone who doesn’t do the same.

This same short sightedness causes the media and the general public to look at gun owners or self-defense advocates as a little crazy. Many rational people that might like to learn about firearms or self-defense are turned off by the machismo factor, or prefer not to associate with such arrogant fools steeped in testosterone.

If you are one of these macho people, get over yourself. Stop letting your machismo drive your decisions, and use your brain instead. No one is going to take away your man card for going to a yoga class or carrying a 9mm. But they will if you don’t have the balls to try being levelheaded or branch out. Suck it up cupcake.

Do you agree about the prevalence of machismo? Or are you one of these ‘tough guys’? Tell me what you think in the comment section below.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

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You have been told since your youth that “practice makes perfect.” What you have been told is wrong. In reality practice only makes permanent. Or maybe more accurately practice makes less forgettable. On the other hand, perfect practice does make perfect (or closer to perfect at least). The real difference is that a deliberate effort to practice every repetition correctly will make it easier to perform correct repetitions. But practice crappy technique and you’ll only achieve “perfection” at crappy technique.

Annie Murphy Paul wrote a great article on this myth of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’. She points out how you must be deliberate in your practice, or you shouldn’t bother practicing at all. If you are not deliberate, you end up working only on your strengths. Good practice will involve self-evaluation and a targeting of those things you perform poorly to bring them up to snuff.

The best pianists, they determined, addressed their mistakes immediately. They identified the precise location and source of each error, then rehearsed that part again and again until it was corrected. Only then would the best students proceed to the rest of the piece. “It was not the case that the top-ranked pianists made fewer errors at the beginning of their practice sessions than did the other pianists,” Duke notes. “But, when errors occurred, the top-ranked pianists seemed much better able to correct them in ways that precluded their recurrence.”

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/25/the-myth-of-practice-makes-perfect/#ixzz1l2PwCLED

This little tidbit about pianists can be directly applied to almost anything. Especially combatives training. When we find weaknesses in what we are doing, we should put a little extra effort into trying to address those weaknesses. It reminds me very much of the old adage about the beginner training until he gets it right, and the expert training until he doesn’t get it wrong.

I have been applying the same theory in my own training. My reloads have been slow and unwieldy, so I have been putting a lot of time and effort into streamlining them. What I have found is that when I make a major mistake, slowing down and really focusing on the correct way to do what I screwed up is a good way to help get over the speed bump and hopefully prevent the mistake from coming back.

To me, deliberate practice comes down to a focus issue. Some people practice a lot. They might spend hours every day practicing, but without laser sharp focus on what you are doing in order to make every rep perfect, you are doing two things. First, you are building a very well practiced bad habit. Every bad rep you practice is one more rep to fight against when you need to go back and break your bad habit. The other thing you are doing is wasting time.

Twenty minutes of deliberate practice is worth far more than twenty hours of halfhearted crap practice.

The take away message from all of this is that shorter, more focused training sessions are probably more ideal than long, aimless ones. Have a plan when you practice, and make the session short enough that you can focus on every rep.

Do you practice deliberately?

4 Tips For Breaking Bad Habits Before They Break You

I’m not talking about smoking, nail biting, overeating, or any other common bad habit in life. I’m talking about the bad habits that have formed in our technique or our training practices.

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We fight like we train, so everything we do under the pressure of a real fight becomes an automatic reaction. Your automatic response to an attack will be exactly what you have practiced the most in reaction to that stimulus. If you practiced the best possible response perfectly, you have nothing to worry about. But if you practiced something that is ineffective, wrong, or just different than your ideal response, you now have a habit to break.

Breaking habits that we have created through training can be similar to breaking other habits we develop in life, but there are some key differences.

 1. You need to practice the correct method 2 or 3 times the number of reps you have practiced incorrectly.

Every bad repetition you have ever done will count against you. The longer you have been practicing the incorrect technique, the harder it will be to fix it. If you truly want to break a habit and replace it with a new one, you need to practice this new skill 2 or 3 times as much as you have practiced what you are trying to replace.

This is a daunting task and will require a significant commitment. If you have been practicing something long enough, you should determine if the habit is even worth trying to replace. If your habit is something you can live with, it might be easier to avoid change all together.

But don’t shy away from breaking a bad habit just because it is old. Doing something wrong for a long time doesn’t mean you have been practicing it every day. I’ve heard this excuse numerous times teaching people to shoot rifles. Holding a rifle a certain way for twenty years doesn’t mean you practiced it that way every day for those twenty years. Suck it up and make the change because you are wrong, and the habit is correctable.

On the other hand, the skills I am practicing in my dry fire routine will probably become permanent over the next 20 years of daily practice. I must make sure I am constantly course correcting so I don’t make a habit of the wrong thing.

 2. Consistency is key

The more consistent you are in your practice, the easier the change will be. Inconsistency has two problems. First, it will make reprogramming your habits take longer. Second, it can result in confusion. Your body automatically responds how it has been trained to. Having more than one response trained and “at the ready” can lead to confusion as to which to do when a situation demands an immediate reaction. Merging two reactions in one is never a good thing.

 3. Make it conscious

 In order to do something consistently correctly, we need to make it a conscious effort. This breaks the automatic process by which our body normally reacts. By actively thinking about what we are doing, we can change it. Without consciously attempting to make this change, we will instead end up falling back into our old habit, preventing the correction we are trying to make.

 4. Start slow

Part of making something conscious is to start slow. Slow down your repetitions so you can control every aspect of the movement. You want to make every little detail of what you are doing perfect. Anything less than perfect will create more bad habits that will need to be broken. Practice in itself does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice only makes permanent. Get every rep right.

Breaking habits is a difficult proposition. If it was easy, hardly anyone would smoke, people wouldn’t overeat, and everyone’s draw stroke would be perfect. Habits can form very easily, but they are exponentially harder to break as time goes on. The best way to break a bad habit is to avoid creating it in the first place. Failing that, take the above advice and keep going. Forming new habits is just a matter of time.

Have you formed any habits in training you are trying to break?

Breathe Like Your Life Depends On It

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Do you breathe?

Breathing is a part of everything we do, from Sudoku to weightlifting.  In some activities, how we breathe is far more important than in others. Breathing a certain way will generally not improve your performance in Sudoku, but it is absolutely crucial when you hit the weights.

In the realm of self-defense, breathing is always very important. Most martial systems put a strong emphasis on how and when to breathe. Marksmanship for both pistols and rifles relies on a slight respiratory pause prior to breaking the shot.

 One thing that often gets overlooked in most self-defense circles is how your breathing impacts your state of mind. When you breathe in, your mind and body tends to be in a weak state. When you breathe out it is in a strong state.

 Inhaling causes your lungs to fill with air. Your center of gravity rises, and your mind is less focused. Your reaction times will be slower than if you are exhaling.

 Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? This can only happen when you are full of air. This is yet another reason that we want to spend less time breathing in.

 We naturally tend to breathe in when we are startled. You have probably experienced this walking around a corner and crashing into someone, or reaching for a door handle as someone walks through from the other side. You are startled, you breathe in, and your mind scrambles to recover and regain control of the situation.

 In the office, being startled like this has relatively little cost to our well-being other than a bruised ego perhaps. On the other hand, reacting this poorly to being startled on the street could be the fine line that separates life and death.

 To combat this, we want to build a reaction of exhaling when startled.

 Practice exhaling

 Practice responding with an out breath on some sort of stimulus. When you exhale, you want it to be controlled and forceful. Think of this as an immediate dump of all extra oxygen in your lungs. There is a finite beginning, middle, and an end to our breath. It should end abruptly.

 Reinforcing

 Once you have some practice with this type of breathing, a great way to reinforce this is on the street or in the office. I used to work in an office building that had many blind corners, and plenty of people who would always cut these corners closely, even on the “wrong side” of the “road”. This led to many startling near-collisions and created the perfect environment to practice reacting calmly. When startled in this type of situation, an out breath and some smooth footwork allows you to regain your composure and continue on unimpeded.

Training your body to react calmly and decisively when startled will improve your likelihood of survival on the street. Most of the time you can avoid the situation entirely by being aware of your surroundings. When this isn’t possible, how you react to the unexpected can be the difference between life and death.

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