Endure a Little More

There is simply no substitute for time on the mat, range, or in the weight room. One of my coaches told me that cranking the oven up to 800 degrees doesn’t reduce the baking time, it just burns the cake. There’s a lot of truth in those words. I can’t count the times I tried to go too far too fast, and paid the price in the form of injuries, frustration, and sometimes lost training time.

 

While there certainly are more efficient ways to train we have to fight the urge to succumb to the get rich quick mentality. There is no easy way. There is no shortcut. There is only consistent effort over time.

 

Sometimes it’s consistent, painful, bone-crushing exhaustion level effort over a longer period of time than we think it should take.

 

As one approaches a level of mastery it becomes even more difficult to measure improvements. The first few years of strength training it’s normal to put 200 pounds on our squat or deadlift, after 10 years of training a 200 pound increase on the squat or deadlift would be miraculous. There are a few things we can do at this point. We can radically change our approach, maybe switch to a new coach, or a new training strategy. Sometimes that works for a brief time. However, sometimes the best strategy is to keep doing what got us here while trusting the process. Focusing on small improvements, even as small as a 1% over a 4-6 week training cycle, is an improvement. Put enough of those together, and we end up with a 10-15% increase over the course of a macro cycle.

 

Regardless of your stage in this game know this, there will come a time where you will simply have to choose to endure a little more. There is no way around it, you will want to quit, you will be frustrated. You will see friends, and training partners that started at the same time as you or even after you surpass you. Keep on keeping on. There really is nothing to it but to do it.

 

IMG_6230As my coach Chris Haueter says, “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left… it’s hours on the mat… and if you put in that time, natural athlete or not, you practice the art, you’ll be a black belt. You’ll be somewhere in ten years… imagine someplace ten years from now I’m gonna be somewhere why not be a black belt too? You just can’t quit.”

 

The Power of Three

When developing or refining skill the challenge is to focus our efforts. We tend to get caught up in trying to work on too many things at once. That is a fast track to frustration. This endeavor can be physically, and mentally taxing enough without additional obstacles of our own design.

 

Covering all the bases is a never-ending challenge. However, it’s not impossible. The trick is to keep the focus to three or less performance points each practice session.  Whether it is strength training, conditioning work, boxing, or vehicle operations we can’t focus on everything every time. There is no mythical power of three however, there is a power in focused effort. Before each practice session take a few moments to write down 1-3 performance points or cues that you will focus on during the practice session. Other things might come up however, stay the course. Remember the focus of this practice session, and don’t waver. If you don’t know each performance point for the various disciplines don’t worry, we’ll cover that ground in future blog, and YouTube posts. For now, here is an example of 3 performance points to focus on in our next pistol practice session.

 

Strength vs Technique

It seems there is a never ending discussion regarding which is more important; strength or technique. We seem to enjoy debating the merits of one over the other.

If you’re really strong you can overcome any lack of technique on your part.

If you have great technique you’ll be able to shut down the stronger opponent.

We go round and round, each side presenting a compelling argument.

My thoughts? There is no argument. It’s not either/or.

What if we work as intensely, and intelligently as possible to become as strong as inhumanly possible while simultaneously striving just as intensely, and intelligently to develop flawless technique?

This has a synergistic effect producing a high performance multidisciplinary badass.

Don’t allow others to impose limitations on you. It’s not strength or technique, it’s strength and technique.

It’s Never The Tools

In the trades there is a saying; It’s a poor craftsman that blames his tools. We find this to be true in the realm of self protection as well. If I were to be completely honest with myself I would have to admit quite a few of the firearms I’ve purchased have been an attempt at buying performance. For several years I would practice with a pistol, rifle or shotgun up to a point of frustration. I would plateau, and rather than just keeping my shoulder to the wheel I would wrongfully assume if I just buy a different, better model all things will be right with the world. My performance will take off again, the frustration will go away, and I will be one with everything.

 

Not even close. 

 

The cycle would simply repeat with a different tool. I was caught up in blaming my tools rather than the guy wielding the tools. Could there be times where our tools are holding us back? Sure. However, at this point in time I think it’s safe to say that any firearm from a major manufacturer will be more than adequate. In other words, if I do my part the gun will do it’s part. My search for a better tool was purely a distraction from the real work of perfecting my craft. I didn’t need to buy new gear, or read a different book, or watch a new video, and maybe I didn’t even need to take another class.

 

I just needed to work really hard on the things I already knew, with the tools I already had, and trust the process. 

 

 

If You Can Dodge A Wrench

If you have watched the movie Dodgeball; A True Underdog Story, then you are probably familiar with the scene with Patches O’Houlihan. If you haven’t watched it I have to wonder what you’re doing that could possibly be more important than studying this film but on the off chance you didn’t here is the relevant clip;

 

In all seriousness there have been times in my training career when I have really wondered what we are doing or trying to accomplish with cross-training or hybrid training or whatever you want to call it. Some of it seems as absurd as Patches throwing wrenches at guys to get them ready for  dodgeball. I get it, everyone is on a time crunch so if we could find a way to make one training session cover multiple disciplines then that’s a win on several fronts.

However, specificity and adaption to imposed demands is a real thing. If we want to excel at shooting a rifle accurately at 600 – 1,000 yards, shooting clays with a shotgun everyday for hours instead of shooting our rifle is counter-productive. Yes we are working with a long gun but there isn’t going to be enough carry-over between the two to make the shotgunning beneficial to pursuing our goal of precision rifle work.

Fortunately when it comes to impact weapons any time we work with any impact weapon it seems to benefit all of the impact weapons we use. Whether we are using a baseball bat, an expandable baton, a sap, or a piece of rebar the body mechanics are virtually identical. We will have to adjust for the weapons characteristics yet the rotation of your upper body, weight shift of the lower body, and path our arm travels is the same. If we use weighted clubs, maces or bells we can also incorporate some strength and conditioning into our impact weapons work.

 

IMG_1344
Hanuman with a  mace similar to the ones often found in pictures of the Great Gama. A fantastic strength and conditioning tool with centuries of history, it also works great as an impact weapon workout. Quite a few companies are making maces now but if you can’t afford one at the moment a sledgehammer will do just fine. 

 

There are a number of impact weapon schools and lineages out there, and since you are reading this it’s safe to assume you probably have some background in impact weapons. However, if you aren’t already practicing impact weapon work there is no reason you can’t get started today. The fundamentals of impact weapons work is forehand strikes, and back hand strikes. The easiest place to start is with the X angle. For X angles using a forehand strike, (if you’re right handed), visualize striking from the 2 o’ clock position to the 8 o’ clock position. The other side of the X, still using your right hand, would be a backhand strike from the 10 o’ clock position to the 4 o’ clock position. This is a very simplistic approach to impact weapon work, and finding a coach to help you learn proper technique would be well worth your time. However, swinging an impact weapon with power can look a lot like a good baseball or tennis swing. Transferring power from the legs, through trunk rotation, and into the impact weapon is something athletes in baseball and tennis have spent quite a bit of time and money on developing to a high degree. If you don’t have a coach or background in impact weapons I won’t leave you hanging, we’ll go deeper into impact weapon training in future posts.

It’s Just A Knife

When it comes to gun safety we’ve got it down. Most folks can recite the four rules of safe gun handling, and spot a safety violation immediately.

The same can be said of our driving skill set. Most know the rules of safe vehicle operations and we can see an unsafe driver a mile away.

When it comes to knives, whether it’s for personal protection or it’s utilitarian, we see a lot of behavior that would at best be described as apathetic. I have cringed as I’ve watched folks use their pocket knife to open a box or package by pulling the knife towards their body. Never a good idea. This is usually made worse by the fact that their knife is incredibly dull, as a result they are now driving the blade with great force towards their own body. Imagine how many ways this can and will go wrong. Now think about the outcome if we are hiking miles deep into an uninhabited area and have to cut something? Sure we have our expedient med gear on us however, this scenario is going to get complicated if it involves temporarily losing the use the use of a limb or worse. Again, never a good idea. It’s also completely avoidable by simply practicing safe knife handling.

We routinely see folks handle training guns as if they are live guns, (which is a great idea), yet handle training knives as if they are, well, made of plastic. This is where unsafe knife handling practices begin. We should treat the knife, to include training knives, with the same care as we treat a firearm, vehicle or anything else in this endeavor that could cause serious bodily injury or death. We want to build safe knife handling skills, and through good repetitions make these safe skills habit.

Here’s a summary of safe knife handling rules;

  • Always handle your knife with respect. The knife giveth and the knife taketh away. Particularly when you are hunting, fishing, hiking, and/or camping miles away from the nearest medical facility.
  • Cut away from your body, not toward it. Only always.
  • Let dropped knives fall. Murphy’s law dictates you will cut yourself badly trying to catch a dropped knife. On a hiking/fishing trip a few years ago I dropped a favorite, and expensive, knife while trying to cut a tangled line. I tried to catch the knife before it went into the river. I collected a nice cut and still lost the knife. It would have been better to lose the knife then have to deal with an injury miles out from the nearest aid station.
  • Keep your knives sharp. Bad things happen when we exert too much force due to a dull knife. Also, if you have to use that much force maybe your chosen knife isn’t the right tool for the job.
  • When handing a knife to someone it’s best to set the knife on a flat surface. They can pick it up. If you can’t do that then handing the knife to them handle first, with the blade facing outboard from the palm of your hand is your second best option

These are just a few safe knife handling rules we can implement immediately into our daily practice. Build these habits by applying these same rules to training knives as well. It’s never just a knife.

Plan? Forget the Plan

As multidisciplinary trainees we are trying to cover a lot of ground as efficiently as possible. We want to be as proficient as possible in everything from verbal skills to driving to expedient medical skills, and everything in between. To accomplish this we have to plan our work and then work our plan. Organizing everything into bite sized chunks, setting, and reaching goals is an absolute necessity. If we don’t approach this endeavor in such a manner, we can quickly spin in circles or spend most of our time on things we enjoy rather than things we need to develop. A plan keeps us on task.

 

However, there are times where it is beneficial to scrap the plan. Have you ever had a moment during a practice session where things really started clicking? A moment when you had a breakthrough? Has that moment happened at the last few minutes of a scheduled training session? If we stick with the plan we have to end the practice session right when we are hitting that Flow state and that seems counter productive. Unless we are on a time crunch, I would recommend forgetting the plan and flow with the go. Even with a time limit on the session unless there is something pressing I would stay with the flow. The purpose of our training plan was to bring us to this point where we begin to do things we previously couldn’t do… why would we want to stop? 

 

One of the moments that helped me realize it’s okay to stray from the plan happened during a squat session. My planned session was 10 sets of 2 reps using 75% of my 1 rep max. After the third set my training partners noted that my squat speed was really fast, and the weight appeared light. I agreed, and we decided to add weight to the bar. Before the session was over I was working multiple sets of 2 with heavier weight than my previously projected 1 rep max. I experienced a breakthrough in technique, and strength. For whatever reason everything was working together, and all systems were go. I said to my training partners, and coach that we were deviating from the plan. I was concerned this might derail my training plan. My coach told me that the purpose of the plan was to get me to this point so now is not the time to stop, let’s keep going, and ride this wave for all it’s worth. We can always re-write the plan based on this breakthrough. That’s when something my coaches have always said finally sunk in; the plan is just a template. Keep it fluid, learn to adjust on the fly, and when those breakthrough moments happen ride that wave. We’ve all experienced this in different ways during our training evolution like that dry fire session when everything was going smooth, we forgot how many reps we had done or how many were left to do. We lost track of time, and just worked. When those moments happen it’s time to forget the plan. We can re-write it later. For now, it’s time to flow with the go.