2021: Looking Back

As I have done each of the previous six years (see previous installments here, here, here, here, here, and here), and separate from my annual Pay to Play article, I thought it would be a good idea to review my year.  What classes did I take?  What goals did I achieve?  Any surprises along the way?  Let’s take a look.

Formal Training

I took seven total classes in 2021.  I surprised myself a bit in doing so, as I had anticipated downshifting a bit in training this year.  Part of that attitude was due to “training fatigue”, some due to the ammunition shortage, and some due to Covid concerns, etc.  While in most years I take a wide variety of courses, this year my focus was almost entirely on physical, non-firearms training.  Why?  Well, going back several years, I have many times intimated my desire to address this relative deficiency.  Secondly, my mentor insists that, while I have solid skills, what I have lacked in my training is intimacy with violence.  Getting physical would help address these issues.  The person he most recommended seeking out was Kelly McCann of Kembativz Brand.  Honestly, I think he expected me to take A class with Kelly, not SIX!

I began the year with Kelly’s “ASP/Stickfighting” clinic, which was a nice introduction to Kelly’s teaching style and his curricula.  Following that up with his “Defensive Knife” clinic was natural, since the terminology is virtually identical to his stick classes.  The highlight of the first half of 2021 was Kelly’s “Personal Security Course“, a two-day event that consisted of one day of lecture/PowerPoint, drinking from the proverbial firehose of Kelly’s vast experience across the spectrum of defense.  Day two was all physical, unarmed combatives, and was a joy (if a bit painful). 

The second half of the year had me back with Kelly for his “Technical Striking“, essentially a “how to box” class.  I needed it.  Nothing like almost reaching the half-century mark and never being taught how to throw a proper punch!  Well, now I know how.  I essentially treated myself to Kelly’s two-day “Defensive Handgun” class, which was a real bargain, fun, but also hard work.  I like to take a handgun class every year if I can, and again, to learn from someone with Kelly’s experience was a pleasure. 

In December, I broke an unwritten, personal rule by taking multi-day classes two weekends in a row when I repeated the Defensive ElementsWho Are You With a Gun?” scenario-based, force-on-force class.  Doing this type of realistic training has all but ruined me for “regular” firearms classes.  Again, our readers who do not avail themselves of this type of training are doing themselves a huge disservice.  This is the type of class that’s worth springing for flights/hotels/etc.  I rounded out the year the following weekend with Kelly’s “Basic Combatives” course.  In my opinion, this was the best of the classes I did with Kelly, and though I left the class somewhat battered and bruised (my nose is straight again, I’m happy to report!), I was able to see the results of my progress in the unarmed realm over the course of the year. 


I competed in six IDPA matches in 2021.  I would say that, overall, my performance was not quite as good overall as in 2020.  I did peak in my last match of the year, finishing 2nd of 26 overall.  But I finished in the top-third of most of the matches, rather than in the top 25% as had been more typical the year before.  Considering that I had very little live-fire practice in 2021 (the matches were essentially my practice), I guess that’s still not too bad. 

Informal Practice

I did not bother to renew my membership at my local range.  I just knew I would not have the time or the ammunition to devote to the quantity of practice that would make membership cost effective.  Perhaps I will rejoin in 2022.  In any case, outside of matches and the singular handgun class I took in 2021, the only other live-fire practice I engaged in was with my training group.  As the training group has started to get more deliberate in the practice sessions, I have found myself shooting less overall at those meetings (more focused training/practice rather than just shooting).  Indeed, all told, I fired only 1990 rounds of live ammunition in 2021, almost all of it 9mm out of handguns.  This is the lowest amount of live ammunition I have fired in recent memory. 


I always struggle maintaining a solid regimen, and periodic bouts with knee pain and plantar fasciitis did limit me in some ways.  However, in recent months I have been better about maintaining my regimen, and the purchase of a new stationary bike for my wife and I to share will hopefully have me working my cardio more regularly when I cannot run.  I would say that I “maintained” my overall fitness level this year, but did not necessarily make any great gains.


I bought nothing all year.  However, I decided that Christmas would be a great time to upgrade some of my weapon-mounted lights. So keep an eye out for an article on this topic in 2022.  I am happy to report that, for yet another year, I have not purchased any new firearms.  I actually am planning to sell one in the near future, though that will probably fund a new purchase along those lines.  Keep an eye out for something on this topic as well.

Adult Learning

I achieved a recent high by reading 36 books in 2021.  Most of these were military history (focus on World War II, my favorite topic), but also sprinkled in some other history (including the French and Indian War), some autobiographies about Americans involved in the intelligence field, and even some novels.  It was a great reading year.  Absent, however, were any books on shooting, self-defense, etc.  That will change in 2022, as I have a few on the pile to get to.


In 2021 I only posted 17 articles (which was more than…ahem….someone else we know!), most of which were AARs.  I thought my best articles were the two Vindication articles as well as the article on training during an ammunition shortage.  Overall, our views this year were the worst of any full year since we started the blog in 2015 (though the number of visitors was only second-worst).  No doubt, being banned from Facebook was the biggest reason for this abrupt downturn compared with past years.  However, now over a year with no Facebook in my life has been a good thing overall for me (if not for the blog’s success).  Fuck Zuckerberg.

New Connections

I am going to say right here that I wish I could download all of Kelly McCann’s knowledge directly into my brain.  I am so happy that my mentor sent me to Kelly this year.  Because Kelly seems to attract a certain type of student (who, like me, tend to train with him repeatedly), I have also met two guys there who I would already regard as good friends.  One I convinced to travel to the “Who Are You With a Gun?” course, while the other is the first person that I brought into the training group of which I am a member. 

It was also great to get together again with the Defensive Elements/Practically Tactical crew.  I even appeared on one of their podcasts (behind a Patreon wall, but worth it, I think, for $9/month) to review “Who Are You With a Gun?”  There is a chance I might be involved in a future iteration of that class, possibly as a student, but also possibly as a role player.  We shall see.

Final Thoughts

Though perhaps not as challenging across the board as 2020, 2021 was not without its own challenges.  I have managed to stay ‘rona free despite participating in a bunch of classes that had me in close proximity to my classmates.  I have managed to more-or-less maintain my handgun skills while at the same time make major strides in my unarmed combatives game, something I have wanted to work on for some time.  So, adios to 2021, and I am now looking forward to 2022. 

As always, thanks for reading.  If you would like to share any of your observations about your own progress (or about mine), feel free to comment below, as we always welcome civil discourse.  Happy New Year!

2 thoughts on “2021: Looking Back

    1. Thanks Professor. And though not on Facebook, I am still keeping track of what you’re up to. You’ve had quite the productive year yourself, and looks like 2022 is going to add even more to your plate. Good luck with it all!



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