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.

Are Long Range Skills Valuable For Self-Defense?

Photo by AMagill

Most people will readily agree that if you are using a rifle for anything other than defending yourself in relatively close quarters, then it is probably not self-defense. Taking a shot at 300 yards is not easily construed as self-defense except for the most extreme of circumstances.

The simple conclusion to take from this is that working on skills for shooting farther than what self-defense ‘dictates’ is probably unproductive for our goals of preparing for self-defense scenarios. This is mostly true, but I believe that there is still plenty to be taken from long distance shooting that can be applied to running a gun in a fight.

Long distance shots might be unlikely but not impossible

Most gunfights occur in relatively short distances. Everything from bad breath scuffles at point blank range to 10 yards or farther. It is logical to assume that training for longer range shots would be counter productive.

But just because we are not as likely to take shots with our carry guns at 25 or 50 yards doesn’t mean that those cases can never happen. Keeping distance between yourself and an attacker is a great strategy. If someone is shooting at you from those distances do you really want to get closer?

Pistols have drop too

Most of us will never get into a gunfight with a rifle at full-distance rifle ranges. Unless you are serving overseas, you are unlikely to be defending yourself from an attacker taking shots at long distance. So what is the value to knowing how to shoot at these extended distances?

One key to mastering your rifle is learning about trajectory and bullet drop. Bullets don’t fly flat, and as a result you need to compensate for the path of the bullet when shooting. You might not find yourself needing to apply these concepts with a rifle, but what about your pistol?

Most of us shoot our pistols at distances where any sort of drop is negligible, but when you push out to farther ranges you will experience bullet drop. If you want to be capable of using that pistol at all practical (and maybe some unpractical) distances, you need to understand the trajectory of your rounds. There is no better way to explore and understand this concept than long distance rifle shooting. When you understand trajectory with a rifle, you can apply the same concepts to learn what your pistol does at distance.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals

Finally, practicing at distance is a great way to practice your fundamentals and push yourself beyond your current limitations. Long distance shots require great sight alignment and excellent trigger control. If you can make a torso shot at 50 yards with a handgun, then making the same shot at 5 yards can only be easier.

Even if you don’t think long distance shots are likely to occur in a self-defense situation, there is plenty of value to be had practicing these shots. Whether it’s to be prepared for the unlikely event you need to take a long shot, or just to reinforce the fundamentals, practicing at extreme distances is a great way to push your limits and improve your skills.

Do you practice long distance shooting?

Traditional Martial Arts: A Strong Foundation

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few opportunities to test some of my skills. First came a chance to practice the IDPA classifier with some of the IDPA guys at the range after a range cleanup day. While I’m certainly not a master class shooter quite yet, I did score pretty close to Expert. This was my first time attempting the classifier (or any IDPA stages for that matter) so I was pleased with myself. The following week during my own practice session I shot the fastest F.A.S.T. That I’ve shot yet: 6.5 seconds.

These aren’t huge accomplishments (at least in my eyes), and I have a long way to go to be where I really want to be with my skills. But looking at where I stand now with the amount of training I have, it brought me to realize something. I haven’t taken a full length pistol class yet. I’ve done modules at the first NEShooters Summit a few years ago, and I’ve done a decent amount of course work with instructors like Southnarc, but not a lot of work on the fundamentals or doing a fast draw, reload etc.

The reason I think this is significant is that I do have almost two decades of time spent training in a traditional martial art: Kyokushin Karate. While some may say my rapid improvement and performance is because I’m somehow a gifted athlete with great hand eye coordination, they would be wrong. Ask my wife how graceful I am, and she’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a complete klutz, at least when I’m not focused on a task.

Karate has taught me to be fast as well as able to refine and improve my body mechanics. Economy of movement has become second nature for me. Anyone who has many years of training will have noticed that picking up more advanced concepts and techniques tends to get easier. There is a reason that first degree blackbelt, Shodan, is considered the beginning. Until you have reached such a point in your training, you are just working on the basics to make further training possible.

This ability to pick up other body mechanics makes long time martial artists very quick studies when it comes to picking up another martial art-shooting included.

Anyone who would knock the traditional martial arts for self-defense is at a minimum neglecting to see the peripheral benefits of the training. A long investment in Karate or a similar system (being taught by a good instructor) is the formal education equivalent to getting your high school diploma. Without understanding the basics of arithmetic, writing, and science there is no way you can be reasonably successful in some college degree fields.

Instead of just looking at the face value of these martial arts for the defensive applications, consider them an investment in your martial education. There is more to self-defense than the latest and greatest technique or gadget.

Have you noticed the role traditional martial arts has played in your training?

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