I have written before, in passing, about my long-time interest in football. As much as I love a long pass completion or a big hit (those that are allowed these days), what I really love is the chess match. Old high school and college notebooks of mine have the margins filled with offensive plays and defensive scheme diagrams.
Accordingly, although I always love to read about self-defense topics or about military history (another interest of mine), I have also acquired, over the years, many books about football, most of them coaching or scheme-centric. I received a book this Christmas that focused on the history and efficacy of different offensive and defensive schemes, and in that book I ran into a quote attributed to that master of odd quotes, baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra. It’s a dandy:
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”
As soon as I read that quote, and despite my interest in the subject matter of the book, my mind immediately started to make the connection to the world of self-defense.
From day one of the Civilian Gunfighter blog, John and I have always been as candid as we can about who we are and what we are about. We do not try to misrepresent ourselves as something we are not. We are, for lack of any better term, “regular guys”. While we have both been placed in life-threatening/life-saving situations, we would never try to compare ourselves with those who we typically refer to as the “been-there, done that” (BTDT) crowd. We do not live the type of life where we get to regularly pressure-test every little thing in true life-or-death situations.
The Best Alternatives
One of the primary reasons why John and I attend so many training classes is because we are regular guys. We attend classes where we can do some pressure-testing and also learn from those who are sharing hard-fought lessons from the street, battle, etc. When we write articles outlining what might be described as “best practices”, it is typically not because we sat in our basements thinking up the next topic about which to write, but rather because it is stuff we have been taught in classes and then tried ourselves. Many times we have learned what we believed was a best practice only to eschew it once shown something that works better for us. It is truly a never-ending process with the goal of constant improvement, which we hope will, in turn, lead to greater survivability.
One of the best ways to pressure-test yourself and your gear is through some sort of competition. Whether it is more formalized competitive shooting sports like USPSA, IDPA, etc., or just competing with a friend at a local range, a little bit of competition goes a long way towards adding some stress to your self-defense skills. Many real-life “gunfighters”, past and present, have been big fans of competitive shooting for this very reason. It is also a lot of fun!
I would include under this banner competing with oneself. Personally, I do not find this quite as stressful as competing against others, but shooting established drills or qualification courses that have both accuracy and time standards—and trying to beat your prior scores each time you try them—can also add some stress to your routines.
I also think adding some physical stress at the range could be helpful. If you can frequent a range that would allow you to do a quick sprint, some push-ups, etc., just before shooting (I do not, see here), then by all means add these stressors to your routine.
I have not had nearly enough opportunities to engage in force-on-force opportunities. But many would agree that adding a diet of force-on-force training to the rest of your training routine can add a level of pressure only superseded by actual combat. Note to self: I need to add more force-on-force training in the future.
While not something I engage in, many, including my blog partner John (see his articles here and here), speak of the levels of stress introduced into the body when a sight picture on a living, breathing animal is obtained. I am embarrassed to say that my only experience with this was using a pellet gun to ambush a rat that was feasting on our bird feeder when I was a teenager (at least I was successful!). Certainly, waiting for hours for that perfect shot that may only present itself for a second or two could be enough to get the heart racing.
Next time you hear or read of someone pontificating about this or that but with nothing—no data and no experience—to back it up, ask yourself (or heck, ask them!) if they are just theorizing or if they are actually practicing what they preach. Do they say they shoot a .40 S&W as quickly and accurately as a 9mm because they think they can, or because they actually shot specific drills to specific time and accuracy standards equally as well? Have they decided the “speed rock” works better than “high pectoral indexed retention shooting” because they have tried it—and succeeded—against a resisting adversary, or just because it looks cool? Are they just parroting others when they say that a 500+ lumen weapon-mounted light will “blind you if it reflects off a white wall”, or have they ever tried it in a no or low-light class (or in real-life searches and operations)? Yogi Berra’s goofy quotes often make a lot of sense when you stop and think about them.
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below or on our Facebook page, as we always welcome civil discourse.