The importance of continuous training in a world of perishable skills

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Training.

In the world of firearms, self-defense and even law enforcement, very few of us get as much hands on training as we should, but even worse, we usually don’t stop to consider the quality of the training that we attend or provide to our people. 

Training has devolved into a box that we check to get it out of the way.  We become easily distracted and overconfident in skills that quickly perish if not continuously worked.

Lots of us played baseball or basketball as a kid and some of us were pretty good.  But take most mid 40’s or older guys out today who haven’t picked up a ball in 20+ years and it becomes readily apparent that fine motors skills don’t hang around forever without practice, no matter how good you once were.  Add to that the fact that time waits for no one. 

Generally speaking, age deteriorates skills.  With effort we can forestall that naturally occurring fact of life, but it takes some focus.

Let’s get back to the training stats for a minute.  In the civilian world of those who attend a formal “Concealed Carry” or “License to Carry” course in their respective states, less than 2% ever pursue further organized, professional training afterward.   Less than 2%. 

I have heard countless times comments that go something like this,

New gun owner: “Got my license to carry today!”

Me: “Man, that is great! Congrats!  You know there is some really good training out there for those new to carrying a firearm.  I will send you some links.”

New gun owner: (Puzzled look) “Why?  I just said that I took the class and got my license already.  Nothing else is required.”

Me: “No, the state does not require more training, but I just assumed you wanted to polish those new skills.”

New gun owner: “But I put the 50 rounds on the target, I am ready.”

Me:  …

I will put that into terms that most of us can relate to. 

The day you turned 16 and went to get your driver’s license.  You had to think about every move.  Breath, buckle up, check my mirrors, put it in gear, now ease on the gas…not too much, use that blinker (glance nervously at the guy from the DMV to see if he is noting my mistakes). 

When you get that license in your hand you are elated!  I have it!  I’m legal to drive!

Now imagine if the skills you had on that day never got better.  Think about what it would look like if we all drove like we did the first day we had our license and that was as good as any of us ever got.  It wouldn’t be pretty. 

But the reality is we practice and drive our cars regularly and get to a point where our brains do things subconsciously.  We can usually multi-task and we can drive to our destination without even consciously thinking about adjusting a mirror or using a turn signal. 

We have trained our brains to perform these tasks automatically, by performing them repetitiously over a long period of time.  If we didn’t drive a car for years, when we did get back behind the wheel those skills would have faded.

This same basic principle holds true for other tasks we are expected to perform.  For those of us who choose to carry a firearm to protect ourselves or society at large, it is paramount that we continually seek out those who can hone our skills and keep us sharp. 

Not just our marksmanship skills but our cognitive and decision-making skills.  Knowing how to pick your battles is as important as picking your target.  This becomes even more imperative as we move into our middle age and beyond.

The good news is that here in the United States, and specifically in Texas, we have a wide array of quality options when it comes to defensive tactics training.   But while good instructors are out there, an equal number of “snake–oil salesman” lurk around ready to make a buck off a citizen’s legitimate desire to improve themselves.

In improving one’s comfort level and skill set with a deadly weapon there are no shortcuts.  Trigger time is essential.  Mastering the basics and going back to them regularly is the foundation of a highly skilled and knowledgeable firearms carrier.

Be wary of the place that wants to “sell” you skills.  They usually push the idea that you are only one or two gadgets away from being a high-speed “operator”.  If you will only buy this super-duper gun gadget (from them), you will be a Navy SEAL Samurai Ninja.  

To those who push that line, I will tell you this: You can give me Tiger Woods’ golf clubs and I will still play golf like a blind, one armed sumo wrestler.   Is having quality gear important?  Sure, it is.  But the gear isn’t what makes Tiger great, and it’s not what will make YOU great. 

When looking for a mentor or a teacher ask questions and talk to people who have trained with an instructor or company.  Did they enjoy the courses?  Was the curriculum challenging?  Would they go back?  Why or why not?  Anyone can hang out their shingle and be an “instructor.”

Make sure the people you trust to teach you lifesaving skills and mindset are the ones who will deliver the results you expect.  Just because they have done it for a long time doesn’t mean they can do it well, nor does the fact that they are in their 20’s or 30’s mean they don’t have valuable teaching insight to share with those new to the arena.

The best instructors are lifelong learners with a heart to both excel at their craft and help shape others.

The decision to carry a lifesaving piece of equipment is one not to be taken lightly.  Take the steps necessary so that should violence come knocking at your door, he will regret the day he chose you.

Stay safe.

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