What Is Your Most Indispensable Piece of Training Gear?

When we train, we often use gear. Some gear is the actual gear that we are training to use – for example our carry pistol and the holster we carry it in. But there are many other pieces of gear we use because they allow us to more readily train realistically in a safe way.

Some pieces of training gear are certainly much more valuable than others. Some pieces of gear I can live without, others I cannot. Here are some examples of gear I have used:

Snap Caps / Dummy Rounds

Snap Caps and Dummy Rounds are invaluable for a number of training situations. They are great for Ball and Dummy simulating malfunctions, and they are crucial for practicing realistic reloads in dry-fire.

Blue Guns

Inert pistol trainers like blue guns are great for working on close quarters techniques and tactics. Being inert there is no projectile to worry about, and they are tough enough to stand up to hard use and abuse.

Targets

Targets aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about training gear, but whether you are at the range or practicing dry fire at home, having a target is key. Good targets add a lot to your training.

Trainer Knives

Training knives come in two varieties: non sharp replicas of real knives, and obviously fake stand-ins for real knives. The first group is great for working on knife access, especially in close quarters. The second type works well for practicing knife fighting skills. Both decrease the risk of a serious injury in training, as there is no good way to work on knife skills with live blades.

Focus Mitts and Shields

Focus mitts are excellent for working on striking accuracy and power. They can easily be moved to present different targets to your partner, and at the same time they allow you to work at full power without risking injury to your partner.

FIST Helmets

Protective gear like FIST Helmets allow for an improved level of realism in training. These protective helmets reduce the risk of serious injury when getting aggressive in a close quarters environment.

Mats

If you train any grappling art (like BJJ), you spend a lot of time on the mats. Systems that emphasize throwing (like Judo) are also very dependent on mats. Sure, you can train the same skills without them, but much more control is required and greater risk is involved.

Simunitions and Airsoft

Training firearms skills on live people with live guns is generally frowned upon. When a blue gun won’t do, an Airsoft or Sims gun can fill in the gap. They aren’t ideal for practicing multiple consecutive shots due to the reduced recoil, but they are great for scenario training.

These are a few training aids that I find valuable. If there is one I couldn’t do without it would probably be the snap caps, believe it or not. This is the one item I use almost every day, and it provides a multitude of options for training.

What training tools do you find invaluable? Is it one of these, or did I miss an important one? Please post a comment and let us know.

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.

How to Deal With Training Injuries

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Injuries are a fact of life, especially if you train. These injuries can range from the dings and dents you get practicing partner drills in a contact martial art, or they can be everything else from pulls and strains to broken bones. If you are training in a serious way, it is only a matter of time before you pick up some sort of injury.

These injuries can be debilitating. Most small cuts and scrapes won’t prohibit you from training, but a broken bone or major muscle pull can easily put a damper on your training activities. One of your goals in training should be to limit these injuries as much as possible. Nothing will slow your progress like needing to stop training all together.

Dealing with injuries once you have them

Since it is inevitable that you will receive some sort of injury at some point, you need to know how to deal with them. If I stopped training every time I had a minor injury, I probably would have spent more time not training than training.

The key is knowing which injuries you can train with, and knowing how to train with those injuries.

If I hurt my x, can I still train?

You can usually continue training with most injuries, so long as you modify what you do. A few years ago I broke my wrist in a fall while training. It took a few weeks to realize that was what happened, but even once I determined it was injured I still found ways to train.

If you can train without re-injuring or exacerbating the situation, then you should probably keep training. On the other hand, if there is no way to train without the risk of causing more harm, you might just need to take a break. I have found that most injuries just require avoiding the injured area.

How to train with an injury

When I broke my wrist they put on a nice cast for me. It was a forearm length cast, and it was very itchy. It made showering difficult, and it wasn’t all that fun to wear. I kept training, but a few things had to be modified. Obviously with a broken wrist doing pushups is a bad idea. I also avoided any sort of serious contact due to risk of re-injuring myself as well as injuring others. Casts are hard, and I’m sure my training partners wouldn’t appreciate getting bonked on the head with a cast.

These modifications allowed me to maintain most of my fitness and skills but forced me to focus on things that did not involve the injured area. This would have been a perfect time to work on one-handed drawstrokes and shooting skills as well.

I’ve trained with many other injuries. Dings and dents are common and only really impact your training when working with a partner. The thing to be careful about with these kinds of injuries is that you will often naturally modify your technique to avoid more impacts where you have been hurt. Learn a “correct” alternative or risk creating bad habits this way.

Similarly, training with muscle pulls is still possible. A few times a year I usually manage to pull a hamstring or groin muscle. When this happens I usually modify any kicks I might throw on that side of my body to limit the potential for re-injuring. Unless you are fighting for your life or are in competition it usually is not worth the risk of full speed and power.

Injuries suck. Minimize their impact by finding ways to keep training, but don’t take unnecessary risks when you don’t have to. Making an injury worse can make the downtime worse. Take advantage of time while you are injured to work on other areas you generally don’t focus on, or catch up on your reading. But remember that the best way to deal with an injury is to not get one in the first place, so train safe and train smart.

How do you deal with your training injuries?

5 Reasons You Should Get Medical Training

Picture by UNC - CFC - USFK

When we train for self-defense we are often concerned primarily with the encounter. If you are smart, you train for everything leading up the encounter – handling the ‘interview’, taking a dominant position, and picking up pre-assault cues. You should also train for everything following the encounter, which may include surveying the scene, dealing with first-responders and bystanders, applying medical aid to those who need it, and possibly escaping if the scene is not secured.

Medical training is a huge part of dealing with the aftermath of a violent encounter, but it can even be useful during the event, depending on the scope of the encounter. It would be good to not bleed out during a prolonged shootout while waiting for help to arrive.

Getting medical training is a good idea for a number of reasons, here are 5 of them:

First aid skills are an asset in many situations

At the local gym where I teach karate, a gym member collapsed about a month ago after getting off an elliptical machine. Heart failure can happen anywhere, and so can a variety of other medical situations. You never know where or when your first aid skills might come in handy. Thankfully this woman survived thanks to the quick action of several staff members at the gym, and their CPR and AED skills. Even if you don’t ever need to defend yourself, basic first aid can be an asset.

You might be injured in an encounter

If you are ever attacked, your opponent might have the drop on you. Even with the best training we can get, there is still a good chance of becoming injured. We could get stabbed or shot in a fight. Being prepared to deal with these calamities includes being able to manipulate your chosen tools with either hand, and learning to operate them with a single hand.

You also want to know how to apply first aid to yourself. The goal is to keep yourself alive and conscious while waiting for first-responders to arrive on the scene. These skills can be the difference between going home to your family or not.

A friend or bystander could be injured in an encounter

When we prepare for a violent assault, we put great emphasis on making sure we don’t spray and pray. We make sure to know where our rounds are going to ensure we hit the threat, and no one else. Our attacker might not be so conscientious. This means that upon resolving a threat, we might have injured people that need aid.

While it may not be your responsibility per se to be prepared to help those around you who may be harmed by a violent assault, are you prepared to look into the eyes of your wife, husband, son, or daughter as they lay bleeding on the asphalt, unable to do anything about it?

Your attacker could be injured

If you are successful in thwarting an assault, it is highly likely your attacker is at a minimum wounded. You could say “screw him” and let him die (and in some localities this might be legally the best option you can take). I would like to think that if I used deadly force on another human being, I would also make my best effort to apply aid to that person if they needed it. Using deadly force is not something to take lightly, so having the ability to help someone and turn a deadly self-defense shooting into just a self-defense shooting is a good skill to have.

Injuries in training

In training, whether just a trip to the range or at an organized shooting class, injuries can happen. Put a bunch of new acquaintances in a confined area, give them weapons and have them move and shoot while under pressure. Accidents can happen. Gun shot wounds have happened at classes before, and I’m sure they will happen again. Be prepared for it, and reduce the risk that you have to watch someone die because you weren’t ready.

If you shoot alone this is even more important. Something could happen while you are alone, and you won’t be able to count on anyone else for aid. Knowing how to stabilize yourself while you wait for help to arrive could easily be the difference between this being your last trip to the range or just one of many to come.


*** warning: explicit language ***

Violence can happen just about anywhere. It goes without saying that injuries including gunshots, knife wounds, and even just heart failure can happen just about anywhere. Get some training, and be prepared for these occurrences so if they ever happen in your life, you’ll be ready for them.

What medical training do you have? Let us know in the comment section below!

How To Train Dangerous Techniques

Image by thefuturistics

Last week I sent an email to my email subscribers looking for some feedback on exactly what they were looking to get from Indestructible Training. One reader, John, asked to see more on “down and dirty street fighting”. This post is my take on an aspect of training for the street, especially those ‘dirty’ techniques that aren’t usually easy to train in a cooperative environment. If you have a topic you want to hear more about hop over to the contact page and let me know. Or be like John and subscribe to get updates via email and you too can receive exclusive content and special offers.

The street is a dangerous place. A place with no rules. When confronted on the street and your life is in danger, there is no need to hold yourself to some arbitrary set of rules designed for your safety. Your adversary certainly won’t hold himself to them.

Unlike competitive martial arts where rules dominate the competition, the street tends to get a little off the beaten path. Eye gouging, shots to the groin, spitting, etc are all useful tactics on the street. The problem with many of these tactics is the difficulty you might have in practicing them. It tends to be hard to find a cooperative partner who won’t mind you gouging his eyes out.

Keep in mind that these tactics don’t always work, and cannot be the foundation for your self-defense training. Cecil Burch wrote an excellent article about dirty tactics and grappling that outlines many of the misunderstandings about dirty tactics in grappling.

How do we practice these techniques?

Most applications that we train tend to be dangerous, especially for our attacker. Therefore it is dangerous to practice those applications with full realism. I can’t shoot my training partner, and he probably wouldn’t enjoy wiping my spit from his face.

This is why in just about any type of training there is a separation of training the technique with training the application of it. In shooting I spend time on the range and dry-firing at home to build my gun handling skills, but to practice the application of self-defense I use Sims or inert trainers with a partner. This is not a perfect solution since a blue gun can’t simulate recoil, but it is a lot safer than introducing live fire to close quarters fighting.

The same applies to things like eye gouging. You can spend time practicing these techniques with an inert dummy (like a manikin, not your pal with the lowest IQ). Getting comfortable with the technique at full speed and power is important to being able to use it when you need it.

However, training techniques without any application is short sighted. Being able to practice applications against a non-cooperative adversary is key to ensuring the skill can work for you in real life. There are usually two options for working these skills with a partner. You can train full speed and power, but not strike your partner, or you can train slower with less power, and stop before hurting your partner.

Full Speed and Power

Training full speed and power with your partner usually means stopping short, or striking past your partner. This works best for things like kicks to the fronts of the knees. The benefit is that you get the effect of practicing to deliver the strike without hurting your partner. The downside is you might build a bad habit of striking short or missing your adversary.

Low Speed and Power

The other option is to go almost to full extension without fully impacting your partner. For example with an eye gouge I can execute the technique to the point of being ready to apply pressure. This helps me work on targeting and finding openings, but without the mess. This too can build bad habits so must we consider carefully how we use this in our training.

The best bet is to combine both methods. Either method requires you and your partner to have a foundation of trust and good communication. Nothing is more fun than dodging a face punch to move right into the path of the punch. There is no ideal way to train some of the most dangerous techniques, but you can get most of the way there.

What dangerous techniques do you train, and how do you train them?

High Speed Low Drag…At the Gas Station.

Photo by xandert

Does the order in which we do things really matter? And how important is it to be efficient when we go about accomplishing everyday tasks? Sometimes order and efficiency won’t help you, but sometimes they can mean the difference between life and death.

The military drills into young recruits a specific order for getting dressed. The idea is to ensure preparedness by making sure the necessary items like pants and shoes get on first. These methods are ingrained in the minds of fresh recruits so when under pressure (say in a sudden attack) they make the right choices in getting dressed. Going into battle without your pants is probably a bad thing in most cases.

I would assert that this same principle applies to other facets of our lives. If not to ensure we are best prepared for a given situation, an efficient process will at the very least save time and energy.

Getting Into and Out of Vehicles

You might not currently think of them this way, but vehicles are a death trap. They confine you into a small area and, worse yet, you are often in less than ideal circumstances when you are getting into and out of them. Two things are very important with a vehicle: be able to get out of it quickly, and be able to get into it quickly.

Streamlining embus and debus (getting into and out of vehicles respectively) is important because we want to minimize the time that we are preoccupied with our vehicle instead of our surroundings. You can practice these actions until they are second nature, but we want to make sure they are quick.

For me getting out of a vehicle begins with my left hand across my chest, slipping under the seat belt. My right hand immediately goes for the belt buckle. This position should be pretty familiar to any shooter who practices their draw stroke. My goal here is to clear the seat belt quickly, and efficiently.

Once there I unbuckle the belt with my right hand while sweeping the belt away with my left. If the vehicle is running, my right hand goes for the keys while my left makes its way to the door handle. By doing this I enable myself to very quickly transition from turning the vehicle off to opening the door.

The car is turned off, and I remove the key while my left hand opens the door fairly aggressively. I secure the door with my left foot, followed by my left hand. Once the door is secured from moving I can lift myself out of the vehicle and step back from the door, closing it with my left hand.

This whole process is mirrored for the passenger side. Getting into the vehicle is similar but in reverse. If possible I have my keys in hand prior to arriving at the vehicle. My left hand opens the door, and then posts it open. I get into the car, closing the door with my left hand. My right hand engages the key, and I put on my seat belt once rolling.

Efficiency getting into and out of a vehicle is a life saving skill, and the order in which you do things certainly does matter. Ultimately you want to minimize the amount of time you sit in a stationary vehicle. Like getting dressed, the order in which we complete the tasks associated with getting in or out of a vehicle should result in us accomplishing that task quickly, while also preventing us from getting caught with our pants down. If you want to learn more about embus and debus seek out instruction from Southnarc, I cannot recommend his classes highly enough.

ATMs

You probably already realize that an ATM is a great place to get mugged. You withdraw some money, immediately making you a valuable target. I prefer to use an ATM that has a door that closes (and locks) to an exposed ATM. The order in which you should do things to access this ATM will not change a whole lot either way.

When you roll up to an ATM you want to make sure you have your card ready. Whether it is to gain access to the ATM building or just the ATM itself, you’ll need it. You want to minimize exposure, and having the card ready before you get to the ATM is a great way to do this. Stopping at the ATM and hanging out in your car is not a good solution. Every moment you are fixated on something other than being aware of your surroundings increases the likelihood of finding yourself in a bad situation.

If you arrive in a vehicle, getting out of the vehicle quickly and efficiently is key. Get the card in the machine quickly, and use the down time where it is getting ready to request a pin to scan the surroundings. If all is safe, punch in the pin and get it done. Any time the ATM is processing and you are waiting for it, take advantage of this time to keep checking your surroundings. Get that card back as quickly as possible, and don’t worry about putting the money in your wallet or your card away until you are back in your vehicle and out of there.

If you are going the safer route and using an enclosed ATM, your job is much simpler. Having the card out means you can get into the building quickly, and get the door closed. Once inside you have a safer environment to take your time getting your money. Make sure you check your route on the way back out of the ATM before leaving. When you do leave, don’t stop to do something (this is not the time to tie your shoe, answer a call from your mom, or trim your fingernails), get right back in your car or head to your next destination.

Using an ATM presents many minor challenges and risks. These risks are mitigated by the efficiency with which you act.

Getting Gas

When you stop to get gas the same principles apply. We have yet another opportunity to get out of the car quickly and efficiently. Again, having your card (or cash) ready helps to minimize how long we spend interacting with the pump and our wallets (and perhaps the cashier) and maximize the amount of time we can spend with our heads up and alert.

Getting back into the vehicle works the same way. Get in efficiently, and get the car moving ASAP. If you are like my wife and NEED to put the card and receipt away before you drive off, get the doors locked, the car on, and put the car in drive before you start fiddling with your wallet. If a bad situation arises, you are only a pedal press away from putting the car in motion.

You can apply this concept to many facets of our lives. We can usually create a better tactical situation by finding ways to do things more efficiently. Knowing how to streamline your efforts and take advantage of better efficiency can minimize your exposure to risk and give you a much better chance of making it through the day.

Do You Know How To Get Out?

Image by j. botter

When visiting the doctor’s office recently, I discovered a weakness in my own preparedness and situational awareness. After walking to the exam room, I realized that I had lost track of how I got there.

This reminded me of several of the biographies I’ve read about Miyamoto Musashi. For those that don’t know, Musashi was one of the greatest swordsmen to have ever lived. He was a brilliant strategist and was extremely paranoid (and rightfully so). In these biographies I remember reading about how he would size up any building prior to entering. He noted where doors and windows were located and considered how he might escape from the building.

Know your exits

We should all try to employ this concept in life. Knowing where fire escapes and exits are located is always a good idea in any building. In the event of a fire or natural disaster, you will know where to go to get out quickly. In an active shooter scenario, you want to know how to get out and where to direct friends, family, or bystanders to get them out of harm’s way.

For a small building you can size it up prior to entering. For a large building, you need to constantly and consistently be building a mental map of the building. Always know how to return the way you came as well as noting emergency exits, windows, etc.

Training the skill

Practicing this is relatively low cost, but the opportunities might be rather limited. Remind yourself any time you are going somewhere unfamiliar that you should be constantly be taking these mental notes.

You can test and improve on this skill by randomly spot checking these notes. At any given point wherever you are, try to identify all your possible exit paths. You should aim to have at least three different ways to get out of a given building or area. If you are having trouble doing so, you need to pay closer attention.

Even better, try using these mental notes if the opportunity arises. If you feel confident about your navigational skills, try finding an alternative route out using the intelligence you gathered earlier. Test your ability to find a way out (so long as you can do so safely and without ruffling too many feathers).

Avoid being trapped in a strange place by knowing your exits ahead of time. Identify possible exit routes so you can get out at a moment’s notice. If you ever need to get out of a building quickly it will be far easier, and you will remain calmer knowing your exits ahead of time.

Do you identify your exits when entering an unknown building? How do you track your exits? Please share your knowledge in the comment section below.

What Is Functional Strength?

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Discussing strength in the self-defense world often veers to a discussion of functional strength. Functional strength can have many meanings depending on who you are discussing it with. Let’s define what functional strength is for the self-defense enthusiast.

Why train strength?

Why do we train strength at all? Most martial systems claim to be effective against opponents of much greater size and strength. More importantly, why would I need to train at all if I have a gun?

Most fights happen at bad breath distance. Since there is no magic gun that will hold an attacker at arm’s length, this means we should be prepared for a physical encounter. While strength alone doesn’t make you a great fighter, it can only aid our fighting abilities (so long as we don’t go to the extreme of limiting our overall mobility; we’ll touch on that in a moment).

Being strong increases our chances of survival in a self-defense encounter.

Functional strength

Functional strength is geared towards whole body and compound motions. These compound motions better mimic real world movements than working on targeting certain muscle groups. To me functional strength is centered around bodyweight. For me to be functionally strong, I want to be able to successfully perform exercises like pullups, pushups, and bodyweight squats for reps.

I emphasize functional bodyweight training because in life I’d rather be able to manipulate my weight to a maximum effect than be able to lift my refrigerator over my head (and probably look like a refrigerator myself). I would describe the ultimate fitness condition for a fighter to be lean, strong, flexible, and agile. I want to be all of those things, not big and bulky.

Massive muscles can have a detriment on range of motion.

I once trained with a guy who was massive. He probably weighed around 300 pounds, but he was a strong guy. So strong the he could probably lift me over his head and spin me comic book style. One day we were working on breakfalls in class. His mobility was so limited that he could not extend his arm to breakfall, and would instead smash his elbow into the mats. His limited range of motion directly impacts his ability to fight.

If you do train for strength, never forget to work on flexibility or you will end up in a similar situation.

Why I prefer bodyweight training

My opinion is that if I can do many pullups I am not only strong, but I must also be fairly lean. You won’t see many 300lb individuals doing high reps at the pullup bar (although exceptions exist). I would rather be strong for my size rather than just strong. Strongman competitions certainly aren’t in my future.

Training for self-defense and functional strength are one and the same. Train like an athlete, not like a body builder. Work on explosiveness, speed, and functional strength so hopefully you’ll be functional when you need to be.

What kind of strength training do you do? Post a comment below and let us know!

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.

Quantity vs Quality

A few months ago when I started this blog, I used the blog’s launch as a way to boost my own training. I have always enjoyed training in various ways for self-defense, but with this new mission in life to encourage others to train, I gave myself a great reason to take a look at my own training regimen. I have (happily) found ways to increase my own training time, and do so on a more regular schedule. One significant area of my training that has dramatically increased is my dry fire practice.

I knew dry fire was something I should be practicing, but I never seemed to have the time. Now I dry fire 5+ days a week. My sessions have been fairly long (30+ minutes at a time) consisting of dozens of reps for various skills. Depending on the day and my particular routine, I might end up practicing hundreds of repetitions.

What I’ve noticed recently is that after the first 10 or 20 reps my practice seems to start going down the drain. Each rep becomes less perfect than the one before it, and the focus dissipates. The part of my brain that knows about the one million other tasks that need to be done that day takes over and tries to influence me to get done sooner.

Over the past few days I’ve started changing up my routine, and instead of working on a few skills per day for many reps, I’m working fewer reps on a larger variety of skills. I notice that I get less fatigued with any given skill and I maintain interest much longer. Instead of 50 or 100 reps for each skill I practice 10 or 20.

This observation of mine has led me back to the question of quantity vs quality. Is it better to practice many imperfect reps or fewer reps that are closer to perfect? I have discussed on this blog the topic of perfect practice makes perfect.

Where exactly do we draw the line between quantity and quality? Would practicing one perfect rep a day be better than 10 mostly perfect, or are we better off doing 200 far from perfect reps?

One Take

Like all things in life, training is a balancing act between quantity and quality. The guiding factor for determining how much quantity we can handle is fatigue.

When we train we all suffer from fatigue eventually. We might have fatigue in our focus, our bodies, or our interest. To get the most out of our training, we need to maximize how much we can train before fatigue overpowers our gains.

Focus

For me focus can be one of the first things to go. The more reps I practice the more diluted every rep becomes. It is easy to focus on a single rep with the intention to make it as perfect as I can. Ten reps are a little harder, but provide more benefit than practicing something once. Try focusing for 100 reps, and you’ll be more likely to lose your focus on at least one.

Body

Muscle fatigue can set in with just about any physical activity. Even dry fire can cause fatigue in the arms from holding a pistol up, working the trigger, or practicing presenting the pistol. As fatigue builds it gradually introduces more error into your practice. Just as with focus, it’s easy to do one rep, but 100 might tire you out. When you get tired, expect to make mistakes.

Interest

Finally, interest wanes the more you practice. Like focus and your body, interest will become fatigued with time. If you practice the same skill for hundreds of repetitions, will you bore yourself? An uninterested student is less likely to put in the optimal effort. How many reps can you do before you get bored?

When you train, balance your fatigue with the gains you want to make. Find the point at which you can train enough to have the number of reps improve your skills while not fatiguing yourself to the point of practicing incorrectly. Make every rep perfect because you are focused, interested, and not exhausted and you have a higher likelihood of improving than if you are unfocused, disinterested and dead tired.

Where is your balance between quantity and quality?

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