Monday, August 5, 2013

Training – Train the way you fight – Version 2


Willing:      prompt to act or respond

                    done, borne, or accepted by choice or without reluctance

                    of or relating to the will or power of choosing

Fight:         to contend in battle or physical combat; especially: to strive to overcome a person by blows or weapons

Learn:      to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience

Training:   the act, process, or method of one that trains

                    the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains

After Action:     that time post attack when events are reviewed and specific lessons are detailed for integration in your training regimen.

Quite some time ago I wrote a quick little post about “Training the way you Fight” after a range trip with my son. The issue I addressed in that specific post revolved around my noticing that the current state of my eyesight means I can see the target just fine without my glasses . . . . but my front sight, mmmmm – not so much. That given, I do not put my glasses on to shoot virtually any drill simply because they are only on my face when I read or work at the computer. They are never on my face as I walk throughout my day. Since that is the time I am most vulnerable – I believe it is important to work through target acquisition, sight picture, sight alignment (assuming there is time for that) or to work through the stages of Focal Point Shooting sans glasses – hence “training the way I would fight.”

While the post is valid for that one single, miniscule portion of “training the way I fight” . . . . it is a mere drop in the bucket of the topic. So that’s the purpose of this post – Version 2 – to take a much deeper look at the words . . .

“Train the way you fight!”

to see what that entails and then offer some suggestions and direction. As an aside and to put a damper on the “ya but he said I should training this way” or “she said I should train that way” . . . each trainer has their individual approach. Frankly that is to YOUR advantage – more options for training will broaden the base of what is in your “toolkit”. Take advantage of them.

In my mind there are five individual elements to “Training the way you Fight”; Willingness, Fighting, Learning, Training and After Action Reviews. If you are to grow in your fighting skill set – all five of these elements must be part of your training regimen. Each are equally important – if there is a weakness in any of these elements, your training and your ability to defend yourself, you family or your friends will be diminished. So let’s talk about each individual element and see how it fits into your overall training picture.

Willingness: prompt to act or respond; done, borne, or accepted by choice or without reluctance; of or relating to the will or power of choosing

The very first essential element of “Training the way you Fight” is for you to ask yourself, and to answer honestly this simply question: “Are you willing to fight for your life, regardless the cost or outcome?” I suspect it sounds like the answer is self-evident and yet we all know people who shun guns because they are too dangerous and they could never shoot someone. Our world’s history is replete with images of people marching to death camps knowing full well their end was near, and yet unwilling to spend their life attacking their captors. Various “knowledgeable” experts assure people that if you simply give an attacker what they want – be it your body or your money – then you can be assured of your survival while ignoring the reality of victim after victim being murdered once the attacker’s goals are met.

It makes no difference what I believe, what your neighbor believes or what your local government believes. The choice is completely in your hands, mind and heart. Are you WILLING to defend yourself if attacked? Let’s start there. If the answer is no – honestly you can skip the rest of this post – I’ll pray for your safety.

Once you find enough value in your life to be willing to fight for your life – are you ready to kill someone in defense of your own life. It’s not an easy thing to evaluate because it’s nearly impossible to explain the effect taking a life will have on you. The moment never leaves. It will be part of your life until they close the lid on your box. That said, if you are faced with a true “kill or be killed” moment – you will need to decide that choice well before you are actually (if ever) called upon to act.

The final piece of the “willingness” pie – are you willing to invest the time and money it will take to learn how to fight. The cost of training, ammunition, equipment, firearms, edged weapons, hand-to-hand training can be daunting to say the least. Here is where many folks start to make tradeoffs quickly: “I really only want to take enough training to get my permit!” In some states – Arizona for instance – all you need is a clean record and the permit is yours. It’s called Constitutional Carry – and it’s just fine in my mind’s eye. My focus on “Willingness” is your willingness to learn the broadest possible skill set to keep yourself, your family and your friends from harm if the need arises. Just getting a permit falls a bit short of what I feel a person needs.

A basic shooting class like the NRA Basic Pistol class is usually the next level folks look for. Now they’ve spent a whole day, done live fire on the range and have a real certificate of completion. Surely that’s enough – right? Well, can you draw and engage a threat within a couple seconds? Is an attacker going to stand still and perfectly posed 21 feet away from you while you draw, get good sight alignment and a good sight picture while you firmly press the trigger straight to the rear while maintaining a firm grip?? Alrighty then, you’re good to go.

“Yeah but, all those “advanced” classes are filled with shooters much better than I am, I’d look stupid!!” That may well be the case – and yet another level of “willingness” to overcome. Are you willing to be “that guy” to learn to be a better shooter? And, just between you and me . . . the guy/gal on the line next to you will be thinking exactly the same thing.

Willing – such a small word with such big implications. Please, as a person interested in defensive skillsets – push yourself, stretch yourself and be willing to grow. It’s the keystone of the entire premise of “training the way you fight”.

Fight: to contend in battle or physical combat; especially: to strive to overcome a person by blows or weapons.

For the context of this post the word means you are in a physical battle – and your life may well hang in the balance.

Folks that teach defensive pistol classes are typically focused on just that – defensive pistol skills. However, a fight – a physical attack on your body – may very well with a wide variety of weapons: hands, feet, clubs, knives, mob attacks with multiple attackers or a gun of some type. Your ability to quickly deploy a weapon to defend yourself may well mean you are defending yourself against a physical attack such as the Zimmerman/Martin encounter recently in the news. The jury found that Zimmerman was justified in feeling that his very life was in jeopardy when Marten was sitting atop him punching him in the face and beating his head on concrete. The encounter ended with a single .380 round. You may not be as lucky. Taking the time to learn how to defend yourself from edged weapons or just a good pounding is well worth your time and money.

My point is this – if you are willing to defend yourself in a fight – learn how to defend yourself against a broad range of attacks with a broader skillset than just being able to deploy your weapon quickly.

Learn: to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience.

Many people confuse Learning and Training. Let’s use drawing your weapon from concealment. Using the steps I teach you first LEARN to:

  • Clear the crap away from the holster with your dominant hand
  • Drive you hand down and get a firm grip – YOUR FINGER TRIGGER IS NEVER PART OF THE GRIP!!!
  • Draw and rotate towards the threat – finger off the trigger
  • Engage as soon as possible – during extension if necessary and the threat is within 15 feet.

When I teach this process in my Defensive Pistol I class, I am working with the new defensive shooter and helping them to LEARN it. They are NOT TRAINING; they are LEARNING “the draw”. When you take a class from an instructor, you are LEARNING the skillset he is attempting to teach you.

TRAINING comes AFTER you have learned the skillset and you are refining and integrating that skillset into your toolkit. Training is what you do at the range long after you have truly learned the particular skill.

This can get difficult really. Most ranges forbid drawing from a holster – let alone drawing from a concealed holster and shooting while moving. You’d have to call 911 because the RSO would simply pass out from his coronary!! Yet, those specific skills – drawing from concealment and moving while shooting at a threat is a minimal foundation for a defensive shooter. It is something you simply must find a way to LEARN. Once you have done that, then you can TRAIN using that skill set.

Training: the act, process, or method of one that trains, the skill, knowledge, or experience acquired by one that trains.

Training is a life-long endeavor that takes your specific toolkit, takes out each and every tool and cleans, polishes and puts a fine edge on it. Whether that skill is the drive to the grip while your weapon is in its holster, or the trigger press that is done in such a way that your sight alignment/picture remains rock solid or it’s the ability to drive a round into the threat while you are running to your 7 o’clock.

It may be your ability to run 50 yards as quickly as possible to enhance your chance of escaping a threat to large for you to handle. It should include your scan and assess process as you go throughout your day – each and every day.

It may include practicing your tools to deflect a physical blow, to defend yourself until you can bring your weapon into play. Working on your toolkit to defend against edge weapons can easily be integrated into a defensive pistol drill. Along with deploying your own edged weapon should you not be able to get to your gun.

Training is the on-going maintenance of your tool kit, your skill set. It is a lifelong process – not simply going to a two-day course of defensive handgun skills.

After Action: that time post attack when events are reviewed and specific lessons are detailed for integration in your training regimen.

During my 21 years in the military – every exercise, every deployment, ever engagement was submitted to an After Action review that generated a final After Action Report. The purpose? Simple – learn from both our mistakes and the things we continued to do well.

This should be part of your training as well. Every time you go to the range, take some time to record and document your targets and strings of fire. Use the wonderful array of video equipment that’s available to record and watch yourself so you can evaluate how you’re doing.

When you are at a class learning new skills, make sure the After Action Review is part of the wrap-up. Even if it isn’t part of the formal curriculum, take some time to chat with the instructor to get some feedback.

It also doesn’t hurt to keep a range diary. When your day is done, while you’re enjoying that well-earned adult beverage (or soda for that matter), dig out your notebook and jot down your thoughts on the entire day – from what you stuffed in your range bag, to the performance of your weapons to how you accomplished a new task or training drill. Simple old adage . . . .

. . . the more you put INTO something, the more your TAKE AWAY from it.

Weapons training – the actual act of practicing and honing the skillset you have learned – is no different.

“Train the way you fight!” It means so much more than drawing your weapon and engaging your threat.


  1. Good points all, and a totally different direction than I went! :-)

  2. Jim - after re-reading this puppy a couple times after I posted it there are still "holes" in what I wanted it to say. Heavy sigh . . . Version 3 will be down the road somewhere.

  3. Have wondered about those that only train in a static environment.
    Wishing I lived closer or could afford to fly out for one or more of your classes. Your posts are filling a lot of gaps though. Thanks

  4. Static environments only cover part of a shooter's skillset. A range that allows movement and draws from concealment is an asset every defensive shooter needs to find somewhere.

    Would love to have you in a class, understand distances and cost though. Find 10 shooters an a range, heck - I'll head that way! :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Darin - Thanks! Still more to say - I think - still trying to get my thought together. :)