Do You Train Fight Avoidance Skills?

Photo Credit: danielcruz

Photo Credit: danielcruz

Recently Dann from the God, Gals, Guns, Grub Blog posted a comment on my post: Can Competition Really Get You Killed?:

 

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…

 

This comment really got me thinking… how many people really invest any time into fight avoidance skills? It isn’t really all that glamorous to practice talking and maneuvering your way out of a fight, but I would think that of any fighting-related skill, avoidance would be the one most likely to be exercised in real life.

I’m definitely all for training any pre-fight skills, but what about you? Furthermore, what classes, trainers, and methods work the best for training these skills? Please post a comment and share your opinion!

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!

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.

Every Range Trip Is A Training Session

Photo by AMagill

The usual course of fire I follow tends to consist of some sort of drill to assess my ability, most often the FAST, followed by a series of drills to work on my biggest deficiencies and the things I can’t work on in dry fire.

I get the most enjoyment at the range from trying to improve my skills instead of just transporting high quantities of lead as fast as I can. Many people take a different view.

The other day I was at the range going through my normal range routine. In the next bay over, there were some members of my club shooting a variety of firearms at a rate that leads me to believe they were there just to have fun.

I’m not against going to the range to have fun. I will on occasion head to the range and bring guns that are really not in any way, shape, or form practical for any defensive purpose. After all, the right to bear arms is not limited to hunting or even self-defense. But I like to spend my time at the range wisely.

Make every shot count

Now just because I might be shooting something for fun, it doesn’t mean I’m not training. Even if you aren’t shooting your designated defense pistol, you should make an effort to have every shot give you the maximal training value. Don’t squander opportunities to improve.

Trigger Squeeze

Every time you squeeze a trigger, it should be just that – a squeeze. Don’t slap or jerk a trigger just because this isn’t your usual gun. An unusual gun is a perfect chance to practice being surprised by the trigger breaking. A trigger really isn’t all that different between a 1911, a 12 gauge, or a Mosin-Nagant. They may have different pull-weights, and have a different ‘break’, but a trigger is a trigger.

Sight Picture

Looking down the sights, even if they aren’t your carry piece’s sights, gives you another repetition of getting a good sight picture and maintaining it through the trigger pull.

Manipulations

Every opportunity to manipulate a firearm gives you a chance to work on those manipulation skills. If you are shooting something of the same action type as your normal defensive firearm, then this is a no-brainer. A 1911 and a Glock really operate quite similarly once you look past the the safeties.

Some things in shooting are universal. Proper grip, sight picture, breathing, and trigger squeeze are required in just about every shooting discipline. Every time you go to the range, whether it’s a well-planned training session, or if it’s just an afternoon of fun at the range with some friends, you should always try to maximize the training benefit you get from it. Use every opportunity to work on the fundamentals. If you work the fundamentals, you avoid building bad habits, and you will be improving your training skills.

I’m Not Here To Tell You What You Want To Hear

Photo by Lisa Padilla

I’m starting to realize something that scares me. Of all the millions of gun owners, and millions of martial artists, how many of us really train with the right mindset? Think about the instructors out there, whether the high-speed low drag types or the 27th degree grand master of whatever. Many of these instructors are out there teaching what people want to hear instead of what they need to hear. After all, giving people what they want is what pays, and money talks.

Most of the world seems fixated on the idea that everything will turn out alright if you do a certain dance or have some special tool. Take a bad-ass self-defense course and you’ll become so awesome that bad guys are going to start falling out of windows just because you looked at them. You too can dodge bullets if you take the right class and get the right ‘training’.

Martial artists are the same way. If someone grabs your wrist (clearly not punching you in the face with the other) all you need to do is turn this way slightly… look how easy that is. Not only does your attacker stop what he is doing, but he pulls out a cell phone to call the police and confess.

All of this stuff is bullshit. And I have a feeling most of you reading this agree if you take your training seriously.  The real world isn’t all candy canes and gum drops.

Yet people eat this stuff up. Shooters are constantly looking for the perfect piece of equipment for an across the board solution. They seek classes taught by “experts” that will give them the entire set of skills needed to survive in any situation. No other training required – who has the time?

The only reason I can think of as to why people fall for the “too good to be true” is that this is what they want to hear. People don’t want to know that the world is a scary place. They don’t want to hear that they are not prepared, or their skills are insufficient. They don’t want to know that thousands of hours of training could still result in some crack-head putting a round in you, not because he’s a bad ass, but because you are that unlucky. Even high-speed low drag operators can get shot.

When you look at the ‘training’ world this way, it’s frightening. Why would you want to think about the fact that you are vulnerable? Human life is relatively fragile, but we all want to be indestructible. With the right tools and training, no one can hurt us right?

This mindset may help people if life is good and we don’t end up in a life-threatening situation. But this same mindset will get you killed if you do end up there. Sure there are plenty of cases where some lucky guy with a dusty shotgun he has yet to fire wins the day and becomes a hero, but do you really want to rely on luck?

I would rather train hard every day. Blood, sweat, and tears won’t make you indestructible. But if you train hard, and focus on making your training as bullet proof as you can, you MIGHT have a chance. I’d rather take the realistic chance than the unrealistic guarantee any day.

I hope you would too.

The Quick Fix

Photo by Bob Rosenbaum

Not a day goes by without some offer of a quick fix solution somewhere on the internet. People peddle their online and DVD courses with claims that they will make you invincible. They might as well make claims that they can teach you to dodge bullets and kill people by looking at them.

What’s worse is that people buy into it.

There is no quick fix solution. No item you can buy or carry will protect you on the street, and no 1 hour course or DVD is going to magically give you the skills you need to make you an invulnerable harbinger of death.

Preparing to defend yourself is hard work. It requires countless hours of practice, buckets of sweat, bruises, blood, cuts, scratches, and a hell of a lot of soreness the next day.

Why are people so drawn to these claims of magical courses and tools?

I can only assume that as with most areas of our lives, we are drawn to the easy solution. Why work hard when I can just buy something to do the work for me? Why break a sweat when I can become an expert by watching something on my DVD player?

People are foolish and become drawn to the easy way out. This is the same reason why we have seen so many ponzi and pyramid schemes. You mean I can get rich and people will just send me money and all I need to do is X? Sure I’ll do it!

Don’t get drawn into these schemes. If you don’t need to work hard to get something, can it really be worth it? Avoid throwing your money away to some guy you just met on the internet.

The Carpenter’s Tools

The past few weeks I have written some posts on the subject of why one tool is better or worse than another. More specifically, you may have noticed my low opinions of shotguns and revolvers. The arguments that are typically fired back in favor of these firearms (or any firearm as the ultimate tool above all others) are the result of flawed logic. The same is also true of the individual who argues that his high capacity pistol or his tricked out AR15 will solve all his problems.

Skills solve problems; tools only help you to solve them.

Take for example carpentry. Having a hammer doesn’t make me a master carpenter. I have a garage full of saws, drills, and hammers, but I am far from what one would consider a carpenter. Sure I can throw some scrap wood together or build myself a workbench, but the quality of my output doesn’t compare to that of someone who spends their career working with wood. I can buy all the best tools, but a top of the line saw or drill won’t make up for my limited skills.

The biggest difference between carpentry and self-defense is that a carpenter’s skills aren’t used in life or death situations. I could spend my time trying to become a master carpenter, but since I probably won’t have to rely on my carpentry skills to save my life, I prefer to train. Just like with carpentry, we have many tools at our disposal for training. What many people fail to realize is that in the end, training is not about the tools, it’s about you. The carpenter may use tools to get the job done, but tools have no value without a skilled practitioner.

Rather than fixating on finding the perfect tool to solve a problem, we must all invest time and energy into training the skills we will need. You must practice.

Shotguns can in fact miss, and revolvers aren’t really that easy to shoot. Semi-auto pistols, even high capacity ones, can require reloading or can malfunction. Even an AK47 can malfunction. The list goes on and on. No tool you can use is magical.

Before someone expects to go out and earn their living as a carpenter, they go to a vocational school and or spend time as an apprentice. They spend probably thousands of hours practicing before they put their skills to use to pay the bills. Even after these skills start paying the bills, through working every day a carpenter improves and gets better at his job.

Self-defense is somewhat unique in that the entire investment in skills may come down to be used in a single moment. We cannot choose when or where this moment will occur, or if it ever does occur. We certainly need to invest our time up front beforehand to be ready. We cannot rely on the use of our skills in our day to day life to necessarily improve them. Instead you must practice consistently.

The carpenter prepares in order to do everyday jobs, but he also prepares for the less common special requests a job might require. If he prepared only for the common tasks, he limits the opportunity to find other work.

Don’t rely on any tool, whether it is a certain type of pistol, rifle, knife, whatever. Take that tool, and learn to be effective with it. Master its use so that if you are ever called upon to use a weapon to defend yourself, you aren’t relying on the weapon so much as your training.

Machismo And Its Devastating Effects

Image by evanosherow

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.

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