Getting Those Extra Reps

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Practice makes perfect, or at least perfect practice does. With our busy lives and many responsibilities, it is often hard to find ways to get the practice we need to really improve or even maintain our skills.

If I had the time, I would invest a few hours a day doing various dry fire drills, and spend a day or two a week at the range practicing there. I would love to spend a few hours a day working on strength, flexibility, and general fitness. Finally, spending a few hours working on various combative skills in the dojo, on the mat, or both would round out my training for the week.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m currently working a full time job that has nothing to do with training. I can’t afford the 6+ hours a day of training that would be my ideal. My guess is that you don’t have that kind of time either.

One way to maximize your training time is to find ways to include the things you really want to practice in your everyday life. By finding time for a few extra reps throughout your day, you help to build your ability to recall a skill on demand. More importantly, you take advantage of those moments of downtime in your day to accomplish your goals.

In strength training this is often called greasing the groove. The idea is that if you want to get better at a specific exercise, you work on that exercise throughout the day. For example if you can only do 1 or 2 pullups and want to increase your max reps for pullups, do 1 or 2 pullups at various intervals throughout the day. This improves your capacity to do pullups, and will add up to make a big difference.

Firearms training can work the same way to an extent. I have a good friend who takes an extra draw stroke when putting his carry pistol away for the night (and he does the same with every knife he carries as well). What this does is build extra repetitions into his day at points where it is safe to do so. I would strongly caution you not to take an extra draw stroke at the office throughout the day, you might cause some… office tension.

Fighting skills can work the same way. If you are working on training your default position, you can get reps in on this just about anywhere and anytime you can avoid looking silly in public. You can also work reps of various strikes throughout your day as well. If you carry a knife, anytime you need it for an everyday task you have an opportunity to practice deploying it as you would for self-defense (just be wary of doing this in public).

You can add reps to your day for just about any skill or attribute you are trying to train. Adding reps fits just a little more practice into your busy day so you can make more significant improvements with the same amount of dedicated effort. If you are having trouble making gains in a particular area or are having a hard time fitting training time into your schedule, try adding some extra reps to your daily routine. With a little creativity, you could turn some of the monotonous moments in your life into perfect training opportunities.

Do you fit extra reps into your day? What do you work on and how? Post a comment and let us know.

Work With Your Partner, Instead of Against

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In my years of training, I have worked with a lot of different partners while practicing just about everything. While working with partners, I have observed a few things that consistently result in getting the most value out of working with a partner.

The one thing that seems to be lost on too many people is that you get more out of working with your partner than you get out of working against them. What I mean by this is that it is your responsibility as a good partner to scale the amount of resistance, speed, and contact based on who you are working with. Partner training is for mutual benefit, it is not a competition, so don’t treat it as such.

Being a Bad Partner

If you want to be the worst partner you can be, you will do everything you can to shut down your partner. You will make it difficult for them to succeed by using any superiority you can muster to prevent them from practicing the prescribed technique. If possible you will injure your partner so they can’t continue training, or make them fearful to continue practicing with you.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that by preventing your partner from practicing what they intend to practice, they aren’t going to improve. By making things difficult right from the get-go, they have no way to make gradual improvement. And by hurting them, you can frustrate their ability or desire to continue training, especially with you.

Being a Good Partner

To be a good partner it comes down to avoiding the above traits. A good partner scales the difficulty for their partner. Especially if you are technically or physically superior to your partner, it is your responsibility to gradually increase the pressure. You want to challenge your partner, but never overwhelm them. Your partner will only improve if they can overcome the resistance. Similarly, if you intend to get stronger by lifting weights, you won’t accomplish this by stacking them so heavy on your chest that you can’t move them.

A good partner tries not to hurt their partner for two reasons. Firstly, an injured partner who can’t train means that you cannot train. Bummer. Secondly, if you take advantage of your partner and constantly hurt them, they may become too timid to train with you. Especially when working with a beginner, pain can lead to fear. Fear results in poor technique or avoidance in general. Even worse, the fearful partner will avoid training with you, which is often more to your detriment than theirs.

In my youth when I was training to fight in competition, I spent roughly 30 minutes a week free sparring nonstop. I learned a lot during this training, but only because I was working with a good partner. We worked on speed, technique, and strategy, but left the majority of the contact out. This allowed me to work on incorporating new skills as I was learning them without fear of injury. Sure it would take a few tries to take a new skill and make it work against a live opponent, but I could work on it knowing that my opponent wouldn’t capitalize and try to hurt me. Working with a partner is a great way to improve your abilities, but only if you make every effort to work together.

Have you had to work with bad partners? What made them such bad partners? Post a comment and share your experiences with us!

Beginning Training Series: Getting Started With Weapons

Today I will be discussing training with weapons as part of my series on beginning training.

The defining factor for most self-defense situations is that they are unequal initiative, disproportionate armament type events. You are likely to be surprised by your attackers and/or they will be more heavily armed than you. You can mitigate the initiative problem by learning to be more aware and avoiding dangerous situations. We can also mitigate the problem of being outgunned by studying the use of various weapon systems and adding them to the kit we carry with us every day.

There are four main categories of weapons you might consider for self-defense: firearms, edged weapons, blunt weapons, and non-lethal weapons.

Before you read on, remember that it is your own responsibility to know the local laws and regulations pertaining to any weapon you might want to carry.

Firearms

If you want to maximize your ability to defend yourself across all situations, you should strongly consider adding firearms to your training regimen. Firearms are tools that extend your reach and allow you to solve problems in ways your empty hands or other weapons just don’t allow. They are the eternal equalizer that can shrink physical gaps between you and your adversaries.

Training with firearms is not something that should be taken lightly. While they can be very powerful tools, they can also be very dangerous. In the hands of an untrained individual, firearms often have disastrous consequences for oneself or loved ones. I would recommend seeking out instruction if you are a beginner, rather than diving in blind. Find an instructor at a local club or range, or an experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Learn the basic safety rules and how to handle a firearm safely.

I would strongly recommend learning with a .22 first. This allows you to learn safety and proper operation with minimal recoil so you develop good habits. Personally I spent about a year shooting nothing but a .22 pistol before moving up in caliber. I attribute most of my trigger control and marksmanship ability to not jumping the gun (no pun intended) on stepping up to the next caliber. Habits are harder to break than they are to make, so start yourself off by creating good habits that you won’t need to break later.

Once you have complete control of the basics, you can move on to learning how to properly draw the firearm and employ it in defensive situations. You owe it to yourself to seek out a good instructor, whether local or not, to help you master these skills.

Keep in mind that the only responsible way to carry a firearm is to make the time to properly train yourself in its use. Put in the time at the range, but don’t forget that dry fire is an excellent way to improve your skills for a small fraction of the cost. Also remember that you should always be prepared (both mentally and physically) to use any weapon you choose to carry.

Edged Weapons

Edged weapons are a category that includes primarily various types of knives. Edged weapons can often be easier to legally carry in some localities, and are usually far easier to conceal. Training with knives is often overlooked. Many of us carry knives and haven’t sought out much instruction in their use. I am guilty of this myself, having limited training with them. You should try to find some instruction, or at a minimum find a good book or DVD on the matter.

Blunt Weapons

Another category of defensive weapons is blunt weapons or impact weapons. These include everything from batons and expandable batons to kubotans, black jacks, etc. You must not take for granted that you can posses or carry these weapons, so make sure you are familiar with your local law.

As with knives and guns, you should make sure you make an effort to learn the proper use of these weapons if you intend to carry one. Most common are things like kubotans or defensive styluses which can easily be carried on a key chain. It should be easy to find an instructor who will teach the effective use of such a weapon – you should seek one out and attend a seminar or class if you carry one.

Non-lethal

This catch all category includes a variety of self-defense weapons that are intended to be non-lethal options. Tasers, stun guns, and pepper spray are all marketed as great self-defense weapons with minimal risk of killing your attacker. They are often marketed as not requiring much if any training, but if you rely on them you should still find instruction. No tool is a perfect solution, you should train with anything you intend to use to protect your life. Again you need to worry about local laws because, surprisingly enough, these non-lethal options can be illegal in many places. I grew up in Massachusetts, and pepper spray requires a license to carry in that state!

Also note that something like pepper spray can be a great tool to add to your repertoire even if you carry other weapons. It is always a good idea to have options, and a non-lethal option might allow you to avoid immediately escalating to guns or knives in some situations.

These are all various options you have when considering adding weapons to your defensive repertoire. If you are just starting your foray into self-defense, or if you are ready to take it to the next level, you should seek out instruction in various weapons systems. Even for those of us with substantial martial arts training, empty hands are not perfect weapons. Augment yourself with weapons and proper training, and you increase your likelihood of survival.

What weapons have you trained with, and how do you include them in your daily carry? Let us know by posting a comment!

Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train

“Train Like You Fight, Fight Like You Train.” We’ve all heard this well-known slogan, and some of us even claim to live by it. What does it really mean, and how can we apply it to our training?

Fight Like You Train:

When push comes to shove, your training is what you fall back on in the real world. All of the great daydreams you’ve had about how you will deal with a given situation will remain just that – day dreams. When tested under pressure, your body will invariably return to what it knows the best. This simple fact indicates that if we end up in a violent confrontation, a fight in a tournament, or even an action pistol match, we will react exactly as we have trained. This can be good, or it can be bad.Avoid reinforcing bad habits because whatever you have practiced the most will be how you react when the pressure is turned up.

Train Like You Fight:

Because we have determined that we will react how we have trained, we need to take every precaution to make sure that the reaction that occurs in the real world is the one that we want to occur.

In the realm of shooting there are some very specific examples of “training like you fight.” With a pistol, when performing an emergency reload I do not want the habit of retaining my magazines. As a result I make sure to drop them. With a revolver, most shooters empty the cylinder onto the bench instead of dropping the shells. A bad habit in real life. Things like press-checking can also be bad habits if done in the “heat of battle.” Avoid ingraining these habits, even if it means inconveniencing yourself at the range to do so. Try to do everything the way you would in a fight, every time.

In the martial arts the same principle applies. The habit of dropping one’s guard or taking an extra step before kicking can be great ways to open yourself up for punishment against an experienced adversary. When fatigued we often revert to these habits because it is simply easier to do for most people. Incorrect repetitions like this ultimately make your unfatigued response the same.

 

The only way to verify that you are not building bad habits is to pressure test your training, find your weaknesses, and correct them. Don’t let convenience drive your training. The first part of the statement, “Fight like you train,” is an immutable truth. This is how the world works, and you cannot change it. “Train like you fight” is a recommendation, always train the way you want to fight, otherwise those bad habits will show up when you least want them.

What bad habits have you ingrained in training, and how have they cost you?

Exaggerating the Basics

Aim small, hit small.

Have you heard the line before? It’s a very basic concept that amounts to aiming at a smaller target (or a smaller area on a large target) in order to increase your overall accuracy. But this concept stretches far further than that.

Why do we want to aim small when we train? Adrenaline.

Unless you’re at that public range with the dope with no muzzle control, your adrenaline level is minimal when training. The pressure is relatively low when you are working on the basics. But what happens when you need to recall these skills on the street?

Adrenaline is a funny ‘feature’ that we developed long ago as humans evolved. It gives us great strength and speed and helps us survive many life or death situations. Unfortunately for mankind most of our evolution occured before the genesis of modern combat. Fine motor skills only became relevant to our life and death struggles relatively recently. Adrenaline does some funny things to our fine motor skills, and just about everything in shooting is fine motor skills.

We train with smaller targets or by following this “aim small, hit small” philosophy because it leaves room for error. If we hold ourselves to higher standards when training, then we can afford the inevitable involuntary degradation that occurs when our training meets the real world.

Hits count, and you need to guarantee them when your life or the lives of others depend on them. Can you really afford to be just good enough on the range?

Putting it to practice

For shooting it is pretty clear how to apply this concept to your training. The simplest way is to mark your full size silhouette with a smaller bullseye. Even a circle drawn with a magic marker will do. When training only accept hits on this smaller circle rather than anywhere on the silhouette. This smaller target will require you to slow down and make sure you hit. If you can hit a smaller bullseye quickly, it stands to reason that you should be able to hit the shilouette when the shit starts flying.

Another way I put this to practice actually saves me money. I print out smaller silhouettes and post them at the same distances I would use for the larger ones. This would have the same effect as shooting from a greater distance with the original targets. This forces you to practice shooting at a smaller target. You must try to hold yourself to a higher standard on a reduced size target or you risk the opposite effect. Keep in mind this cannot completely replace your use of full size targets at actual distance, especially when pressure testing yourself.

Applied elsewhere

Despite bringing this up as a shooting concept, it absolutely does not end there. When training a few years at a Kyokushin summer camp I had the fortune to train with Shihan Cameron Quinn. During one of the sessions he put great emphasis on the same subject. He told us not to aim for the chin with a punch, but to aim for the gnat on the hair on the mole on the chin. This is the same idea of aiming small, hitting small. Precision enhances your efficacy in all arenas of combat.

I was also trained as a student of Kyokushin to “Exaggerate your kihon(basics)”. This exaggeration serves two purposes. Firstly by exaggerating you are reinforcing correctness. When we have the opportunity to train without the pressure we should capitalize on the opportunity and make sure our technique is correct. Want to see some poor technique? Just add pressure. Additionally adrenaline has a nasty side effect of shortening muscles. This shortening means that a technique that isn’t exaggerated in practice will be tiny if not non-existent when applied to the real world in real stress. Unless you think T-rex arms are the best self-defense technique you can see really easily how this can be a problem.

This principle can be applied to just about anything that is practiced under low pressure but needed in a high pressure environment. Make sure everything is as good as it possibly can be in training so when you need it, your training won’t let you down.

How have you applied this concept in your training? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.

 

 

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