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.

A Caliber and Capacity Post

Seriously. As crazy as it seems, I had this bright idea for a firearms related post. Particularly firearms a multidisciplinary practitioner would likely carry.

 

So of course I thought, how about one on caliber and capacity? I will preface this by saying I take a pragmatic approach to this subject.

 

Let’s dive headfirst into caliber. I’m not sure what caliber an ice pick might be but that caliber has wrecked a whole bunch of people. Same can be said for the screwdriver caliber. It seems that when one person introduces an icepick or screwdriver into another person’s aorta or brain, bad things follow. This isn’t always a life stopper, yet it’s effective enough often enough that simply googling the words ice pick death or screwdriver stabbing death yielded 4,810,000 results in 0.85 seconds. I realize this isn’t a very rigorous scientific study, yet despite this lack of rigor there might be something to it. Maybe it’s safe to say, within reason, where the hole is placed is as important as how big the hole might be? I don’t carry or recommend anyone carry anything smaller than a 9mm, particularly since M&P Shields, and Glock 43’s are tiny while still giving the user 6 – 8 rounds of 9mm in a super compact package. However, lots of folks are comfortable carrying smaller calibers such as Smith & Wesson revolvers in everything from 22LR to 38PL, or a Ruger LCP in .380. My absolute favorite pocket pistol is a Beretta 21 A Bobcat.  Regardless of what caliber one chooses just make sure it’s housed in a reliable, and accurate gun. You need the rounds to go where you intend for them to go, every time you intend for them to go there.

 

How much capacity is enough? In general I follow Tom Givens of Rangemaster advice which is to carry a pistol that has at least ten rounds on board the pistol. I’ve also spent quite a bit of my life carrying a single stack 1911 also known as God’s Gun which gives me 8 rounds on board the gun with several 10 round magazines in mag pouches on my belt. If we look at the data compiled by Tom Givens, the FBI, and DEA as well as the the NRA Armed Citizen we find when rounds are fired the average, (if we can call a life or death event average), defensive gun use involves between 3 – 5 rounds. In quite a few incidents the presence of the gun is enough to deter the criminal assault which means neither capacity nor caliber mattered when no shots were needed. Although my opponents unwillingness to fight isn’t something I’d want to bet the life of my loved ones on, it still gives credence to something James Yeager has been known to say which is; carry your damn gun.

 

Essentially I don’t think caliber or capacity matter unless you think it matters. We can find passionate, and convincing argument from both sides. I don’t think it’s possible to find a gun forum on the internet or a gun store counter that hasn’t been the site of a heated 9mm versus 45ACP debate. Everyone wants to believe they are carrying the magic bullet. However, it seems that whether the gun you choose has 5, 7, or 15 rounds of 22 LR or 45ACP on board isn’t as important as actually having the gun on you when you need it. Followed closely by the ability to put holes in your opponent’s vital areas specifically the upper chest, and/or the brain.

Steinbeck

So if I don’t think caliber, and capacity are overly important what do I think is? Skill and will. Know the limitations of your chosen weapon then train, and practice to circumvent those limitations to the best of you ability. Sometimes those limitations are imposed by our work environment. A large framed male working outdoors in an environment where he can wear loosing fitting clothing versus a small framed female in a closed environment where she wears scrubs will have to make choices based on challenges faced. A few resources I know, and have turned to for solid training, and advice regarding adapting to, and overcoming the challenges of small guns are; Claude Werner, thee Tactical Professor, Dr Sherman House, Legendary Lawman Chuck Haggard, and Chris Fry of MDTS. Each of those guys can get you up to speed on carrying, concealing, and running a full sized gun as well. 

Train intensely.

Train intelligently.

When the time comes be willing.

Everything else, including caliber and capacity, is supplemental. 

 

Verification versus Validation

One of my favorite training tools is reactive targets. Anyone that has run a few plate racks will agree it’s a lot of fun. Reactive targets are also an excellent learning tool. Instant verification; I executed the fundamentals at speed correctly or… I didn’t. I emphasize to trainees, (as well as myself), that any drill we run is a verification not a validation. This keeps us in the correct mindset of a learner. Every time I mount the gun a learning opportunity presents.

During a recent REV Pistol course, I shared with the trainees my approach to coaching which has been heavily influenced by the book; Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. My good friend The Bastiat Blogger recommended this book to me when it was first published. Sebastian has never steered me wrong, and this was no exception.

One of the key points I emphasize when coaching is learning versus non-learning. Every rep is an opportunity to collect data. If a trainee has this mindset then there can’t be a failed drill, or unsuccessful attempt. There is only learning. There is data collected. There is growth. We have to disconnect failure or success from our approach to training, as well as competing, and replace those words with learning or non-learning.

In grappling, even though it’s a highly competitive arena there is also an understanding that there’s no win/loss record in practice. I’m in the practice room to work on my game. This might involve quite a bit of what appears to the uninformed to be failure however, learning is taking place. I’ll leave that practice a better grappler than when I arrived because learning occurred. (Sometimes I’ll drive home from practice with a bag of ice on my neck because I learned so much…). I encourage you to take this same approach to your shooting skill development. Unhook success or failure from your practice or even matches. Make it about learning. If we learn every time we mount the gun our progress as a shooter is guaranteed.

Swing For The Fence, II

In the first post of this series we talked about some fundamental technique. In this post I want to expand upon some of those elements. In the first post I wrote about techniques that work well if we have a bit of distance between ourselves, and our opponents. This time I want to share with you a tactic that works well when we want to keep our opponents off of us, and maintain striking distance particularly when using a shorter impact weapon.

 

The challenge in impact weapon fighting aka stick fighting has always been to keep our opponent in that sweet spot, that perfect range where we can apply the most force to our target. Hitting them at the peak of our swing so they experience the joy of that pain train crashing up their spine, and into their brain, shutting them down or at least making them want to quit. Every shot we can land of that order is a deposit into the making-them-quit bank account. However, on the receiving end we are looking to crash through that range or stay outside of that range while pot shotting their lead arm, and leg.

 

Enter Piston Striking. This is a simple tactic that keeps your opponent right there in the sweet spot. Think of how a piston works. If one piston is up, the piston on the opposite side is down. Watch this if you need a mental image. Even if you don’t need help understanding how pistons work, watch this because it’s pretty cool. You’re going to mimic this action with your arms. Your non-weapon bearing arm comes out in a straight shot essentially stiff arming your opponent, keeping them off of you, while the rotation of this shot cocks your weapon bearing arm by rotating your weapon bearing arm back. Fire the weapon bearing arm striking your opponent with the impact weapon while retracting your non-weapon bearing arm. The movement is still on the X so your firing a 1-2 combo however, in a rotational path due to the nature of the impact weapon. This is a non-stop salvo. You want to be firing lefts-rights repeatedly, one after another. Non-weapon bearing arm popping your opponent off of you, and keeping them off of you while the weapon bearing arm is landing clean shots with the impact weapon.

 

For a simple training progression I would suggest starting on a heavy bag in what would usually be boxing or striking range. Practice slowly throwing a jab with your non-weapon bearing hand then throwing a strike with your weapon bearing hand similar to a cross as you retract your jab. Begin with 5-10 rounds to work on your sense of range, and timing. This is where having solid Boxing mechanics comes into play. There is a lot of carry-over from throwing hands with bad intentions to striking effectively with an impact weapon in this range. After some time on a heavy bag, it’s time to work this tactic using Thai pads. Have your training partner feed by trying to slowly crash the range, making you work to keep them off of you with straight shots with the non-weapon bearing arm while landing shots with your impact weapon. Again, work 5-10 rounds a session, getting a feel for the timing, and distance now with a live feeder. Once your good to go with a feeder it’s time to add some more resistance. Using soft sticks agree with your training partner to stay in this range. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into a full on sparring session. If you crash the range have a set time to work to get yourself unentangled. If you can’t get unentangled, break clean, and restart. Have your training partner simply work to crash, so you can focus on keeping him or her off of you, and in that sweet spot where you can land clean shots. Use your imagination and continue to add resistance until you go to integration phase where you incorporate this tactic into full sparring to test your ability to apply this against full resistance.

 

Give it a whirl, let me know how you like it, and how it works for you.

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.

 

D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.

 

A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.

 

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.