Awhile back, someone asked me why I keep making match videos. It occurred to me that from the outside, it probably just looks like I’m posting them so people can watch me shoot–and that’s very much not the point. (Quite frankly, there are a number of stage attempts that I’d rather people didn’t see!) Continue reading
As is normal, at the beginning of each new year I make myself some goals–some shooting skills/practice goals, some informational/conceptual goals, and some self-defense training/practice goals. As part of that, I also print out a copy of my dryfire practice report, to get myself ready to track everything.
For 2018–I failed badly on most of my goals. Continue reading
At the start of 2016, I posted an article about one of the things I was going to try to do to get better at shooting throughout the year, which was attempt to dryfire every day. While I didn’t manage to meet my goal of dryfiring every day, I did certainly dryfire much more often than I had in the past, and it made a difference to my shooting. (I made excuses for myself on some days later in the year, rationalizing not putting in the work. The excuses weren’t valid, and it isn’t like the extra 3 minutes I got instead of practicing ended up being useful to me. One of my goals this year is to not make excuses for not doing the work.)
People who actually want to get better at shooting, AND have the self-discipline to put in the work, find pretty quickly that if they never shoot any diagnostic drills then they have no idea what they are good or bad at, which means they don’t really know what they should be working on.
It is really temping to just work on the things that you think are “fun” — but chances are, those things are both easy and also are things you are already good at. Sure, doing that (and getting even better) isn’t a bad thing–but if that is all you do, you simply aren’t going to get much better overall. Continue reading
At the start of 2016, I posted an article about practicing every day including a Dryfire Report you could print out, plus a link to a video about Drill Zero. Drill Zero is a short dryfire exercise that is easy to do every day that takes little equipment, little room, and gives you practice at several fundamentals that are central to shooting well.
The problem with any one particular drill, of course, is the fact that it simply can’t help you practice THAT many skills all at once. While Drill Zero can help you with some of the skills that are incredibly important, it is still a good idea to get some additional practice in—but sometimes you still just don’t have much time. Continue reading
I posted a depressed comment on Facebook yesterday:
“I need to start charging over a hundred dollars for a half-day seminar. Apparently.
This explains why I’m poor!”
A couple of my friends replied:
“Why don’t you charge more?“
“Do you think aren’t worth more? Or do prefer to be the better value?“
“Truth? I think that my combination of training, experience, and practice in armed and unarmed self-defense plus the fact that I’ve actually been researching this topic (instead of depending on anecdotal evidence) means that my training is worth quite a lot (especially in self-defense classes)—and not only more than I’ve been charging, but much more than a lot of the crap that is taught around here by people who are teaching based on their background and experience, which doesn’t actually match the topics that they are teaching.* Continue reading
Caleb over at Gun Nuts Media has an excellent post up about 5 Gun Nuts New Year’s Resolutions. It is good stuff, so you should go there and read it.
One of the resolutions he suggests for us gun nuts is “practice at least once a week.” He makes the cogent point that while many competition shooters will laugh at this because they practice a lot more than merely once a week, most people don’t. I’m actually surprised when I hear an average gun owner say that they practice more than once a month—actually practice, not merely go plinking for fun. Most people simply don’t practice at all, though they might call going to the range a couple times a year to plink at tin cans and clays on the berm “practicing.” (Fun, yes; practice, no.)
Here’s something that can help you actually practice: Drill Zero Continue reading
I didn’t get enough better in 2015.
I did some good stuff. (Among other things, Tom Givens’s Instructor Development Course was excellent.) I shot some good things here and there (won a couple of state-level IDPA matches, placed here and there in USPSA matches). And I got in some good practice and read and mulled over some good research regarding self-defense.
But my physical skills didn’t get enough better in 2015 because I didn’t practice the physical skills enough. Mental work—actually, I did some really good mental work through the year. Organized some thoughts on awareness and monitoring (those aren’t the same thing), read some research on predator behavior (both known-person and unknown-person), did some good internal work on reaction choices and consequences, came up with some good teachable moments regarding self-defense. Oh, and got my 5th degree black belt rank in Hapkido.
But my physical skills didn’t improve as much as I wanted for the year. Because I didn’t practice like I should have.
(Second in the series about thoughts spawned by attending the Rangemaster Instructor Development Class with Tom Givens. Last time, the post was about something that hadn’t occurred to me. This time, it is about something I already knew, explained in a different fashion.)
If you are carrying a concealed firearm, and have occasion to use it in public on the street (in a Walmart parking lot, at the local gas station, in a Walgreens store) you are never going to miss.
No, seriously, you aren’t. No round you fire will have a bullet that misses.
That’s the problem, you see. In public, every single bullet fired from your handgun will hit something. You will not miss. You may not hit your assailant, but you WILL hit SOMETHING.
That something may be a pregnant woman who was shopping. That something may be a 4-year old child skipping merrily to school one morning. That something may be 9 other people hit either by errant shots or by fragments. Maybe you’ll get lucky and only hit brick buildings—but since you are already having to defend your life, it already isn’t your lucky day.
You aren’t going to miss. Every bullet is going to hit something. As such, your practice needs to reflect the importance of hitting your target every time.
Now, this concept isn’t new—but I don’t really like the common “Every bullet has a lawyer with a 5 million dollar personal injury suit attached to it!!” type of phrasing, because we do not want people too scared to defend themselves. We don’t want people thinking “I better not do this because I might get sued” at the moment where they have to be making a decision to defend themselves.
We need people thinking in practice: I’m going to hit my target every time, and I’m going to practice enough to consistently hit my target every time. That way, if I need to use my gun, I’ll do what I practiced so I don’t have to think about anything but saving my life.
While yes, you need to think about your surroundings in a self-defense situation, that is different from being too terrified of possible consequences to act. We practice to hit our target at speed under stress. We use this thought (“You aren’t going to miss in real life–you WILL hit something.”) to drive our practice so that we have the discipline to hit our target under stress in a real-life self-defense situation.
I practice differently with my competition gun and my concealment gun. (This shouldn’t be a surprise.) When practicing with my competition gun from my competition rig given an audible start signal, I push myself in terms of speed and movement, to the point where I might miss the target entirely. I then dial it back until I get hits, get better at it, then dial it up again. I push myself to the point where I miss. When practicing with steel targets, I miss fairly often when I push myself.
When practicing to defend myself with my carry gun from concealment, on paper targets I have a small “sufficient hit” zone. Part of the rest of the paper target is a “insufficient hit” zone, and worse than that simply isn’t acceptable. If my technique is bad enough that I’m putting shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, I need to fix it. My “pushing the speed” results in occasional shots into the “insufficient hit” zone, NOT the miss zone. I don’t allow shots into the “miss zone” when I’m practicing to defend myself.
That’s significantly different from my competition training–and that’s just fine. I might be using the same target for both, but they mean very different things. I have a different mindset, I have a different mode of practice, and I have a different set of “what is allowed” for accuracy.
Here’s the two versions of “acceptable hit thinking” that I use for practice (of course I don’t write the words on the targets I use, but that’s how I think about it). Obviously competition shooting is on the left, and self-defense practice is on the right:
I’m a big fan of stress training. And when I say stress training, I mean a range of various training modes from light stress such as using a timer with people watching, to full-on adrenalized force-on-force with weapons, significant energetic verbal interaction, and additional special effects to simulate reality as close as possible.
Recently, there was a request from someone to actually talk more in depth on this topic, so here’s a brief discussion on the general concept:
Multiple studies over time have clearly shown that stress creates physiological changes in the human body that effect our abilities to perform physical and mental actions. The level of stress felt by the individual (which is NOT the same thing for all people in the same situation) can occur along a huge range, and thus can create physiological reactions that range from minor to (extremely!) major.
So, the First Statement of stress reactions and training: Nothing is an absolute.
What happens to a person physiologically depends on the perceived level of threat/stress, which is a function of immediacy, proximity, experience, and understanding of the situation. It can also be effected by duration of stress, but that isn’t something we normally consider much in terms of citizen self-defense situations, though it IS something that needs to be considered for people whose jobs involve repeated stress events like law enforcement, military (on deployment), fire fighters, and some other first responders. (Stress is cumulative and seems to be more geometric than additive. In other words, stress over time ramps up quickly.)
Second Statement of stress reactions and training: The most common physiological reactions felt by people under significant amounts of stress/adrenaline are, in no particular order: tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time dilation, increased speed and strength, and a decrease of physical control and precision. (There are more, but those are the major ones.) After the event has occurred, the “crash” that accompanies the stress response cycle (not only the adrenalized feeling that still occurs afterward, but the body’s reaction to that adrenaline going away) sometimes includes inability to speak coherently, tendency to babble, inability to remember time sequences and events in a precise and correct manner, shaking, nausea, light-headedness, and shock.
An example of these first two statements in use: The first time a person is involved in a potential life-threatening self-defense situation (and realizes it), the stress is huge and crushing, and the person experiences significant tunnel vision, doesn’t hear anything around him, feels like he’s mired in mud and everything moves incredibly slowly, and his ability to do things seems stunted because he’s incredibly clumsy. Afterward, he is shaking and can’t stop himself from talking, and his recollection of the details of what happened and in what order are significantly different from a video recording of the event. He feels weak and sick to his stomach.
He then decides that this will never happen to him again. He takes training that includes stress-training and force-on-force.
He then gets into another life-threatening situation—but this time it is a car crash. The circumstances do not match what he has been training for. His stress level is significantly high, but the practice he has done has made him better at dealing with the physiological effects. He still feels them, but not quite to the same extent, and performs better (with a better ability to think and respond effectively) based on his experiences with stress.
Later in his life, he experiences another life-threatening self-defense situation. (He’s not having a good year.) Several things are in his favor: He recognizes the situational type of attack, and has trained for it, therefore his stress level is significantly lower. In addition, his training has prepared him for acting during high stress events. As such, not only does he have less tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and self-discipline issues (the physiological reactions are significantly less serious), but his ability to handle said issues and react effectively is significantly better.
Afterward, he still feels some of the effects of the adrenal crash (though it is much less since he was less stressed than the first time this happened to him) however his ability to mitigate the affects is much better, AND his training tells him to shut up and not babble things that may not be correct.
For any person, the amount of stress that occurs is based on the perceived level of the situation—so the same situation may cause extremely different reactions in two different people with two different levels of training and experience. Reactions to stress are NOT absolutes, so if someone says “This WILL happen to you, you WON’T be able to do this other thing” then there is a problem, because it doesn’t happen that way.
Sure, if you are untrained, have no experience with stress and violence, and are taken by surprise, the stress levels you will feel will probably be such that your ability to respond will be close to nonexistent. But we train for a reason—and training both lowers perceived stress, and helps you handle the physiological reactions that occur.
So—sure, under stress you will want to stare at the attacker (or turn your head away completely), bring up your hands (perhaps in front of your face), and not pay attention to anything else. If you have no training, experience, or practice in dealing with stress, that’s probably exactly what you are going to do. (If you can do that much.) WITH practice, you CAN handle a firearm, aim using the sights, maintain situational awareness, move, and react effectively. Among other things.
Violence, stress, and physical reactions are not absolutes—and they aren’t simple things. The good thing is that you don’t need to be able to diagram the neural pathway and list the neurotransmitters engaged when stress stimulates the the hippocampus and amygdala… (which again, is a simplification of what occurs in your brain and body) …you can simply get good realistic training that increases your ability to handle stress, and then get training that realistically simulates self-defense situations to enable you to understand them—which will lower your perceived stress in self-defense situations. The combination of those things WILL make you more capable of doing what you need to do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
More to come in a later article regarding specifics of what you can do for “stress inoculation,” which is a commonly used term describing training that 1) increases your ability to control your body and deal with the reactions caused by stress in general, and 2) reduces perceived stress during altercations by adding experience with those situations.
Some additional reading, if you want more. The following is more phrased to apply to unarmed self-defense, but really is about all self-defense:
Marc MacYoung’s No Nonsense Self-Defense Page
(Warning: Marc has a unique writing style.)