Its Not Over Until The Ref Calls It

Photo Credit: Dan4th

Sometimes in training there is a tendency to get wrapped up in the training environment. Exercises begin and end on someone’s say so or some arbitrary and artificial win condition that does not reflect the real world. This is evident in the occasional tournament fighter who lands what seems like a good blow to only let their guard down and get knocked out.

On the street things are never quite so simple and clear cut. Regardless of the caliber you carry, most people don’t immediately fly backwards or crumple when hit with a pistol round. There are also numerous cases of someone being stabbed repeatedly to continue fighting, only realizing later that they were being stabbed not punched. Nothing is guaranteed to end a fight immediately.

It isn’t over… until it is over

In the real world, how do you determine that the fight is over? Pretty much the same way you might in competition. When the referee shows up and calls it. If you are assaulted and defend yourself, you can’t let your guard down just because you think you solved the problem. That problem might have friends (or you didn’t really solve the problem). In these situations you need to stay vigilant and ready until help arrives or you are far from the situation. In effect when the referee calls the fight.

Avoiding bad habits

Since the fight doesn’t end when you successfully tag your opponent or make a single hit, you need to avoid this behavior in training. Don’t get me wrong, every effort you make should be made like it could end the fight, but don’t get tricked into thinking it will.

When you train for fights in the real world, there are a number of bad habits you should avoid in your training. Here are a few tips for making sure you don’t develop some of these habits through training:

  1. Never play gun or knife tag with ‘one hit kills’.

  2. Don’t drop your guard immediately after scoring a hit (or after the match is called). Wait until you determine everything is safe.

  3. In training exercises have a third party determine when the fight ends (and avoid the forcefields phenomena).

  4. Work after-action routines into any part of your training that you can.

If you make an effort to avoid bad habits you’ll be much better off if you ever need your defensive skills. Good training is about consistency. Train with a consistent and realistic end point.

Consistently practice after-action skills like scanning and assessing your environment.

Remember, don’t get fooled into a false sense of security thinking that your knife or gun might stop the fight immediately and decisively. They theoretically can, but more likely you will be struggling for a while. Don’t let your guard down until the scene is secure. That means either putting distance between you and the scene, or relinquishing the scene to the authorities. The fight isn’t over until the refs call it.

Reader Question: How Proficient Can I Become With Dry Fire?

Robert Vogel won the SSP Division of the IDPA Nationals: dry-fire makes up the bulk of his training.

A couple of weeks ago I received an excellent question from a reader. This post is essentially a response to that question. If you have a question you would like to see answered here on Indestructible Training, please head over to the contact page and drop me a line.

Jack writes:

I am trying to train myself to be proficient with multiple types of firearms, but I just don’t have the money for the level of shooting I am aiming for. Can I get to this level with dry fire?

Jack, great question! In order to answer the question accurately, we need to determine what your definition of “proficient” is. If you are looking to achieve levels of skill comparable with the top national shooting champions, you are looking for something more than being able to hit your targets on demand.

No matter what you are trying to achieve with firearms, some live-fire will always be necessary. Do you need to shoot every day? No, but you will need to shoot enough to verify your skills and acclimate to recoil. If you are looking for an extraordinary level of expert proficiency, you will likely need to spend more time live firing than you might need to spend in order to achieve a base level of proficiency.

When you think about it, dry-fire is really better than live-fire for practice anyway. You take away the variables that tend to build bad habits, allowing you to focus on building good ones, all from the comfort of your home.

A great example of the effectiveness of dry-fire is Bob Vogel, the recent SSP champion at the IDPA Nationals. Bob has been shooting at a high level competitively for a while, but I know I had heard somewhere that he didn’t do much live-fire (relatively speaking) to get and maintain his skills.

I found a great interview from a few years ago that demonstrates that point:

Between being married and having a full-time job, finding time to practice is as hard for him as anybody. “I very rarely live-fire more than once a week, and I dry-fire about four times a week. If you’re serious about getting better at shooting, dry-firing is the way to go. A lot of people don’t want to do it because they’re all about having fun and going blasting, which is fine, but you’re not going to get better if that’s all you do.”

So if you want to get proficient and don’t want to expend thousands of rounds a week, dry-fire is the perfect solution. Some live fire is always going to be necessary, but you can stretch that training budget a lot.

Personally I have stepped up my own dry-fire significantly over the past year and have seen significant gains in my own abilities. For me getting to the range even once a week is difficult with my busy schedule, but dry-fire practice 3 to 5 times a week is definitely possible.

For me heading to the range for some live-fire is more a validation of skills than for skills development. I use live fire to make sure I’m on the right track with my dry-fire training and I’m keeping potential bad habits in check. It is very easy to compromise technique for blind speed in dry-fire. Live-fire forces you to demonstrate the skill with a measurable outcome. It works or it doesn’t.

Find some good resources on the subject of dry-fire, come up with a training plan, and log your progress. I think you’ll likely see significant improvement, with much less of the cost.

If you have a question you would like answered on Indestructible Training head over to the contact page and send me a message.

Best of The Web 4/27/12

This week provided some excellent posts on training. Below I have rounded up some of my favorite blog posts from across the web over the past 7 days. Please feel free to email me if you have come across a great post that you would like to share.

Permission to Miss (pistol-training.com) – Todd at pistol-training.com makes some excellent points about working on improving speed. Sometimes when pushing your boundries you need to expect to miss now and again.

The scars of others should teach us caution (When The Balloon Goes Up) – WTBGU touches on a subject I feel very strongly about. Training scars – in other words bad habits that are created by the ways we train – have plenty of opportunities to form. Good training will mitigate the formation of these training scars.

Sandbags: Unconventional Tools for Functional Strength (ITS Tactical) – Jake Saenz wrote an excellent primer to training with sandbags. Functional strength is crucial to preparing for self-defense encounters (if you want to be well prepared that is). Sandbags provide dynamic resistance and get us out of the mechanical form of conventional exercises.

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.

Image by Charles & Clint

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?

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