The Irony of Slow is Smooth

It seems in today’s world the term “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” will get you labeled as someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about or my favorite, “putting out dated information”. I generally avoid the subject, not because I agree with those who are opposed to this idea. I avoid it because the conversation requires a higher understanding of the idea in the first place.

An Origin Story

A good place to start is where did this phrase come from, where did it originate? The credit gets tossed around a lot, but it originated from the special operations community. The wet side, a long time ago. Those who have an opposing view don’t know the origin or the history. What is troublesome when you don’t know the history is how it was originally intended and applied. This concepts has far reaching applications, not just shooting. In the shooting world, it is typically applied from a single plane. There is either a lack of ability or experience to see it from multiple planes. It is not just a mistake thinking it is strictly one dimensional, it’s counterproductive.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

When moving at full speed, the top of the food chain make their actions look fluid and automatic. Mind you, I’m not just talking about shooting. If we were to shift focus to assaults, a chaotic and complex operation you might develop a deeper understanding and appreciation. One will see this carefully orchestrated activity be executed with incredible results in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable. There has been an extensive train up to allow for the chaos in the most efficient manner possible. We did not arrive at this ability simply by ignoring decades of development in the training. There is a meticulously executed training plan to build up to the ability to not only run at full speed, but make critical decisions in compressed time periods under enormous stress. The bigger picture.

Outrunning Your Headlights

CQB Shoothouse
The Proving Grounds

How does one accomplish this task? It is simple, but not easy. First, it doesn’t happen overnight. For these skills to be truly developed to an automated nature it takes time and making a lot of mistakes. When I was tasked to deliver this training I used simple ways to determine if the individual was outrunning their headlights. During their run, there were simple problems, almost too simple, where if the assaulter was moving beyond their capabilities would make a mistake. When debriefed and queried why they made the mistake most of the time it had to do with not “seeing” the problem. I cannot tell you how many times I would have to tell someone to slow down to avoid making the same mistakes again. To remind them making a mistake at this level is unacceptable, but more importantly avoidable. The mistakes were avoidable if, and this was a big if, they could see the correct series of actions and decisions before required to execute said actions or decisions. Those who made the most mistakes and repeated mistakes were easy to spot. They were moving way faster than they could prosecute the available information.

A Linear Progression Approach

The term, “crawl, walk then run” was often used in conjunction with “slow is smooth”. The assaulters needed to start off slow, like at a literal crawl pace in order to learn the techniques. When they could slow down and see their decisions being made in real time, learning was much easier. It was those who insisted on going faster their skill level that tripped over themselves, at times literally. So, how does this apply to the shooting world. Before you can be expected to execute any action or activity, it must first be flawlessly developed. The only way to accomplish this task is by slowing down so the end user can see the action required, to the level of precision needed to complete the task. Before you can expect to have a one second drawstroke, you must first understand and be able to apply the fundamentals of the drawstroke. You developed this skill by thinking your way through each step so you can apply the required level of precision to your movements.

Master the Fundamentals

I was asked a long time ago how to develop speed in shooting. My answer to this day remains the same. You minimize the amount of movement necessary, then perform said minimal movement precisely enough for the task at hand. You want to shoot faster, then master the fundamentals. The absolute minimal amount of movement necessary. When we look at shooters technique at the granular level it is often covered in dirt. It is not clean. All that dirt prevents you from moving as precisely as you can or as necessary as the shot requires. This to me epitomizes the notion of “slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. Because when trained properly, the thousands of work hours allows the observer a glimpse into the closest thing to perfection we can possibly attain.

The Forging Process

Flawless execution

There will remain flaws in our techniques. These flaws exist because for some reason we prioritized something else in the required action and performed them less precise than what the situation dictated. I preach the slow is smooth mantra anytime we are teaching assaults or tactics. But I also preach it when we are teaching shooting. It comes out of my mouth about a 100 different ways in class. Most of the time in the form of a question. Why is this shot not where you were aiming? I’m looking to see what the student can recall. What did they feel, and see at the moment the shot was fired. Most of the time they cannot recall. They cannot recall because they were moving faster than their capabilities allowed. When the student can slow their movements down it allows them to perfect their technique. This smoothing out of their technique then allows them to incrementally accelerate simply by being more efficient. They accelerate to the point of failure. When they can recognize this failure point they truly have arrived as a competent gunman.

Where Does the Smooth Come From

The standing order I give all students is only shoot as fast as they can guarantee the required hits. Those that have been exposed to the slow is smooth mantra have a higher success rate than those who have not. Starting slower gets you to your goal faster. You ingrain the proper neural pathways and therefore it helps to accelerate the learning process. When you slow down you can start to internalize the tacit knowledge. This knowledge is difficult to express or verbalize. It is more like intuition that is developed with experience and this is where the smooth comes from.

It’s About Making Fewer Mistakes

At some point we do want to be going fast, but fast without the proper building blocks is a sham. Anyone who tries to tell you anything different is suspect at best. When you begin to perform at the top levels and are producing excellent results, it is because you have followed a simple formula. You developed your technique or the mechanics to almost a flawless level. It took you slowing down to accomplish this task. Then you applied your technique over and over building competency through consistency. It is as this point you become efficient or smooth. Then you start to see your movement speed performed with fewer and fewer errors or overall time. The byproduct is you are faster. Not because you are moving faster, of course that is a byproduct. You are faster because you are making fewer mistakes at the granular level and producing results.

When I ask people if their goal is to perform whatever their skill to the subconscious competent level they invariably answer of course. When I ask them how they intend on getting there I get a response that reminds me of banging your head into the wall. The fastest way to see progress is by understanding there is a process; technique (slow), consistency (smooth) and then intensity (fast). When you come to this understanding, you improvements mean more and you start to understand what it means to festina lente.

Performance Degradtion


Going Down Hill…Fast

How much time off does it take to see a meaningful degradation to your developed skills? How much can you get away with before the detrimental effects cost you in performance?

Hard Work Pays Off

Practice, practice, practice

Something that is not often talked about is performance maintenance. Specifically how much maintenance needed to sustain your current skill level. Whatever the skill level it will require effort proportionate to the skill level. Consider these two parts to this equation. The first and hardest part is acknowledging you will have to continue to put in hard work. This is sometimes difficult to convey to the masses. Nothing is free and if you worked hard to develop the skill, you will have to work equally hard if not harder to sustain the skill. The second part is how hard do you need to work to sustain the skill. I often associate this with what is the intensity and frequency of my practice needed to sustain a specific level.

Forced Time Out

I voluntarily took some time off from training recently. All training; shooting, lifting, grappling and striking. I wanted to enjoy the holidays and figured I deserved some time off. Then I got ill and that added more time off than I expected. It was about six weeks off completely before I got back to the range for some live fire training. The results were more than disappointing. They were shocking. At least to me. I saw a noticeable increase in my failure to meet minimum standards on baselines. These are simple drills used to evaluate a battery of skills. Every now and then I will fail a baseline drill, but the failure is a rarity. In this case, I failed on over 70% of the drills I shot.

Acceptable Levels of Failure

Honestly, I was expecting a little dip in performance, but I definitely wasn’t expecting such poor results. It wasn’t only on my first trip back to the range, but the next couple before I started to see my skill level normalize. When you see performance drop after an extended absence what can you expect? Well, at the very least the same if not worse. The hard part is being able to put some concrete numbers in place to help people appreciate this situation. When you take time off for whatever reason it will have negative effects on your performance. Again, the question is how much and is that still within acceptable limits.

A Journey of Discovery

This means you first have to establish some baseline standards. I suggest at least a half dozen different drills. Drills of various tasks, under various conditions to various standards. You need a broad scope to truly appreciate your hard work. From there, you want to experiment. What happens when you take two weeks off, 3 weeks off and 4 weeks off from training of any kind to include dry fire. If you are still able to pass your battery of baseline drills with up to 4 weeks off that signifies you have a well adapted set of skills. Truthfully I see that in a very small segment of the shooting population. The vast majority will see poor results within 2 weeks of no training.

The Hourly Evaluation

Something to think about is the details of your journey measured in hours. The more hours of formalized training/instruction you have under your belt, the more likely you are to sustain longer droughts. An example would be if you are an elite level shooter, then with 6 weeks off due to an injury or illness you can probably expect to shoot at the advance level when you return to training. Most would agree that advance level shooting is more than adequate to meet many of shooting standards and therefore not a significant penalty (other than to the ego). Now, if you were to consider a basic level shooter who takes off 2 weeks can probably expect their shooting skill level to be at the beginner level when they return. Which is one of the reasons we see so many students who fail to break the basic level.

Experiments Are Fun

I conducted an experiment where I took a 12 month period and partitioned it into 30 day segments of training. The first 3 months were a combination of dry fire and minimal live fire. The next 6 months were dry fire only and the last 3 months were back to dry fire and minimal live fire. When I say minimal it was no more than 50 rounds of ammunition. What I discovered was dry fire did indeed help me not only sustain my performance, but actually improve by a few percentage points. The reason I bring this up is if you are not going to routinely live fire train, then at least setup a consistent dry fire routine. The benefit of investing in a consistent training plan is to help bridge the gap when life makes it hard to practice. Most take for granted the challenges of sustaining their hard earned skills. Don’t be complacent or at the very least acknowledge your likely skill decline.

The next challenge is in trying to assess the different skill levels, not by achievement alone, but by how hard to maintain. What I have discovered is that

Learning Transfer


Training For The Unknowable…

The harsh reality should you react to a deadly force encounter, is it will not be anything like what you practiced. It will be a small sliver of your training and you will more than likely need to adapt to the newness you are witnessing with learning transfer.

Does It Bring Value

For the longest time I have been preaching how as an instructor I’m trying to prepare a student for an unknown and unknowable event. It is impossible to say with a high degree of certainty you will be able to predict the type of deadly force encounter you experience. There are lots of different perspectives on training theories within the tactical community. They are all explorable options, but not all of them are valuable options. The worst thing you could do is to become a specialist. Someone that specializes in a unique area. Even if that area is considered by some to be “trending” or “popular” there are still so many unknowns.

It Shouldn’t Be A Bridge Too Far

Instead, I prefer to teach students how to adapt with the essential skills they have developed. We define essential skills as those necessary to be competent, but more importantly…resilient. I would much rather develop a resilient student. One who can observe his surroundings and realize they are not exactly what they have practiced for, but have the ability to quickly bridge that gap and solve the problem. They must be able to “read the need, the feed the need”. This bridging action is referenced as learning transfer. It makes up the core tenets for just about any initiative based tactics commonly used in close quarters battle.

The Difference Between Practice & Real Life

Training never ends, no matter the skill level

The very best tactical teams will be expertly skilled at their job. This expert skill level is not quite what many would think. It is more about creating the enviornment for the assaulter to think their way through the problem. To provide an opportunity to observe their surroundings, recognize the subtle difference between what they are seeing and what they have practiced, this is the essence of learning transfer. Then in a split second, make a decision and act. Act with an intention and move with a purpose. Over decades of solving problems we have come to realize there is not going to be an exact mock-up of the target. Only in very rare circumstances do we actually get to train on a replica mock-up. While you would think this is good, there is a down size.

The Advantage Is In Better Decisions

The downsize is when the replica is not an exact replica. The oddity is now a major obstruction. Because of the pre-planned action being front loaded, there is more dwell time. The end user has to recognize the difference, then review the best options and finally act. Many time, the speed of execution produces hasty judgments that don’t really solve the problem. The slightest change can cause the gears to come to a grinding halt. Basically, the assaulter is having to take in the realistic information and accept it is different from what they expected. This type of choreographed activity is not nearly as reliable as an initiative based theory. What is the biggest difference between the two? Time. The time it takes to act with the best outcome is much shorter with initiative based tactics. When we train to a certain standard, then allow the situation to dictate you will be far more likely to act in a timely manner, but here is the kicker. Your decisions will be better suited to the situation because of learning transfer helping to produced a positive outcome. When we train to this level, modifications of learned skills and the ability to adapt those skills when a new context or stimuli without prior training provides us a huge advantage in a critical incident.

There is a time and a place for rot memorization and application, but when you cannot accurately predict the type of deadly force encounter it is much better to adapt. This adaptation and improvisation will survive contact with an unknown, unknowable event.

Technique, Repetition and Pressure

Trust The Process

Regardless of the endeavor you pursue, there is a model you must follow to achieve success. There are no secrets, it is almost common knowledge, but without putting a heavy emphasis on your technique, repetition and pressure you will likely fail to reach your potential.

The Law Of Primacy

When we are looking at teaching a new skill, the most important thing to remember is safety. As we learn a new skill there is a higher risk factor associated. If the acitvity is already high risk, then it is even more important safety is your first priority. The mistake I see is when as a new student you are easily swayed by marketing or celebrety status. Each can be hugely positive, but not everything is as it seems. When we are learning a skill one way of analyzing how well we learn the skill is through some sort of metrics or standard. It is important we learn the skill correctly in the beginning.

Learning Is A Progression

Technique It is not hard for me to rate which of these traits is the most important. It will be technique. Without proper technique your level of safety is questionable. When you are learning a new skill your goal should be not just to learn the new skill, but learn the new skill correctly. If a new student is struggling with their technqiue it will get more challenging as we try to progress to new skills or repeat the skills or add pressure to the new skills. Learning the technique correctly provides you with the most important take away, the ability to produce the desired outcome. Even if it is slower, at closer distance or against a bigger target.

Repetition Is The Mother Of Learning

To master your technique will take repeated effort. Not just any effort, but the effort required to produce the desired outcome. If you cannot put the effort into practicing you will find your technique becomes more and more transparent. What I mean by this phrase is less and less reliable. When you couple consistent effort with an outcome standard you will eventually develop to the point you rely more on the motor pathways you’ve created. Requiring less an less mental effort. In the beginning I encourage students to move only as fast as they can think through their technqiue. It is what I like to call a living check list. The students start with step one, they apply the mental energy required to meet the minimum standard and then move to the next step. At some point, they will achieve a level where their technique is now a smooth, effortless action.

Learn Correct Technique First

As you continue to “rep out” your technique you begin to advance to new levels. It is the ability to pressure test your technique you really begin to appreciate all your hard work. The stress you place on your technique will either produce a postive or negative outcome. If through pressure testing you discover your technique is holding up then you have successuflly trained your new skill. If not, you have idenfitied areas of improvement you need to work on to evnetually get to the point you have developed a new trained skill. There really are no shortcuts, you need technique, repetition and pressure to reach your goal. The biggest mistake I see happens early, when a student fails to put the work into developing their technque. It is then compounded with repetition of doing something that produces a suboptimal result. Leading to failure in the pressure testing phase. If I could offer encouragment to anyone learning a new skill, it would be to make sure you are learning correct technqiue.

Balancing Time With Outcome

The last point to consider is the overall time to achieve the desired outcome. There is a happy balance when technique, repetition and pressure are your focus to stay motivated. Students want to see results. They need to see results early on, or at least at a reasonable time period relative to the skill difficulty. If we rush to learn the skill we could jeaporadize safety and or technique. If it takes forever to learn the new skill we likely see interest wane. In our training classes the most important point I relay to students is this skill is within their ability to master, but it will take time. There will be little victories along the way we must celebrate.

The final goal is going to be different for everyone, but it will have correct technique performed repetitively against a metric that guages your success.

Dry Fire Effectiveness

Dry Fire Practice

Have you ever wondering the effectiveness of dry fire practice.

Like many people these days I have implemented a more dedicated dry fire program to augment my live fire training. In this process, I have discovered a few positives and a few negatives about dry fire effectiveness.

Does Dry Fire Really Work

First, let me tell you about my experiment. I dry fire a lot already, but to be honest I haven’t thought to evaluate whether it has a positive effect on my live fire performance. It became obvious I would need a means to validate my belief dry fire is helpful. I have talked about dry fire in the past and I know it is heavily recommended to many shooters of various skill. The real question is has anyone done anything to provide tangible results on this recommendation. How do we know it really does produce results.

What About Those With Skills Already

Dry Fire PracticeMy approach was pretty simple, but not easy. As I mentioned, I currently dry fire practice a lot. What is a lot, how do I define a lot. It averages about 100 minutes a week. Family and travel can impact my weekly quota, but in general its really close. One could argue that I already perform too significant an amount of dry fire to evaluate whether it has a good or bad effect. This could be true, but one other element to consider is sustainment. Does dry fire work at sustaining current skill level. Is is an effective replacement to live fire training for the maintenance required to sustain your skills. With an already establish routine I can say it did make it somewhat easier, but I still needed a method to measure and track my progress.

A Battery of Tests To Evaluate Dry Fire

There are a few commercially available dry fire tools you can purchase. Many of them claim to be the answer to your shooting problems, but at best they are only one piece of the puzzle. The question is how big a piece of the puzzle. This question will revolve around your perceived return on investment for dry fire effectiveness. For this experiment I purchased the Mantis X dry fire module. Then I needed a means to measure live fire performance. I could have picked a single shooting drill, but to do so would have been too narrow in scope. Both for this experiment and in real life. No single shooting drill is an adequate measurement of overall skill. Instead, I used a battery of drills to test and evaluate on a much broader scale. I shot them all cold and recorded the scores before I started. I took all of them, seven in total and averaged them for my overall score. Having so many measurements seemed good, but it also opened the door to a single poor performance having a negative effect on the overall score. But, isn’t that why I’m dry firing in the beginning.

Breaking Down My Experiment

In an effort not to jade my live fire results, I did not practice the selected tests during dry fire. Aside from it being very hard to do this, I did not want to show bias to these drills. I have been conducting this little experiment for a while now. Here are some initial observations. I say initial because I don’t think I’m ready to complete this experiment. I feel like more time is needed to gain any useful information. However, here is what I can tell you now. Yes, it does help. I started out establishing my baselines then put my professional development on the back burner.  I wanted any live fire training to be evaluated for this experiment. That was harder than expected for a lot of reasons. Performing demonstrations in classes is live fire practice, however I do it in a manner than is not 100% authentic. Meaning, I explain the drill as I’m shooting the drill or illustrate high points for students. Then there was the aspect of worrying I would let my skills degrade too much. Since I had no idea if this would work, did I want to risk loosing too much of my skill set. I feel and the results show I’m at the very minimum breaking even.

Dry Fire Observations

After the baselines, I took a hiatus on my professional development for six months. The only live fire I completed was for this experiment. I then performed dry fire only for the first three months. This gave me a chance to let the dry fire routine get established and what I hoped was enough time to allow my live fire skills to be more authentically evaluated. The last three months I went to the range to retest my baselines. My score for the first month was a 3% decrease from my baselines. Then the second and third month I saw 5% and 4% increases respectively. Not the huge numbers I was expecting, but it does lend credibility to my notion as a valuable tool for sustainment. I’m thinking I will do another three months of live fire retesting then take the final three months off and perform dry fire only. See if there is anything significant to report.

Overall, I’m happy with these results and while 5% may not be a huge return on my investment it is at least safeguarding my investment. I will look forward to seeing the results at the end of another six months.

Get Out Of Your Own Way

Sometimes, the barrier to progress is you. The ability to self-sabotage is way more prevalent than you might think on the firing line.

Know Thyself

It is always interesting to take the 1,000 foot view approach in classes. You have the opportunity to observe a group of people all participating in the same evolutions, following the same instructions and performing to the same standards. Yet, we have varying degrees of outcome. There is no such thing as equality of outcome when it comes to physical performance. There is the ability to learn and apply only. The better you learn, the better understanding of the actions required. However, the real challenge is not in understanding the task at hand, it is understanding yourself.

Avoid The Dark Path

All things being equal, it boils down to ego, failure to follow instructions and the inability to choose success. Many times I see students who are graduates of other formalized schools show up with terrible skills. The notion goes something like this; I attended this school, I observed my performance amongst my peers and I was near the top of the class. Ergo I must be a good shooter. If this notion is not challenged early on it leads to a dark path. One where the shooter doesn’t put in the work, will make excuses for poor performance and fails to hold themselves accountable.

It’s Good To Be Hardheaded

Humility is one of the most important traits one can have in any high risk endeavor. Respect for how little you might actually control or the realization you don’t control as much as you thought. If one can see this, then one can see the importance of recognizing what is within your control. Which really is just you, your tools and your preparation. This level of understanding can be quite liberating. It can create a sense of intense purpose or determination.

Being Ready to Learn

I have seen students with virtually no formalized instruction make huge gains and those with a fair amount stagnate. A major difference is how well they can follow instructions. When an error is discovered the action is the result of doing something wrong or not right. You can park yourself on the shooter’s shoulder and tell them over and over, but until they can follow the instructions for correcting it may be an effort in futility. In these situations it might prove more valuable to identity the error through the rounds on the target. I explain to the student when they see rounds in this sector what the probable causes are and what they should do instead. After having heard me say it to them a few times they often can start to see the error in real time. Then I typically will step back. I allow the student to experience the corrective strategy first hand because now they are better prepared to “see” for themselves. They become the custodian of their skill development.

It doesn’t happen as quickly as I would like sometimes, but it does produce results. Something as simple as following instructions at the cellular level can be challenging for the majority of us, myself included.

Standards In The Modern Age

It is no surprise the level of importance we place on standards, both in our classes and in our training. Without standards it is hard to value your current skill level, but it is also easy to be wasteful.

The Pain Is Real

In this time where ammunition available is difficult for some, impossible for others it becomes even more important we adhere to standards. When I started teaching in the private sector over 20 years ago I was amazed at how much push back there was regarding standards. People did not like them, didn’t want them in their training and pushed back in not so subtle ways. Some don’t believe me, but I literally had one department threaten to withhold payment unless we passed all their people. After a discussion on the importance of standards and how valuable this information was to them as a department they eventually came around. I will never forget the conversation nor my surprise I was having it in the first place.

Let It Be A Lesson

While less likely today, there are still plenty who shriek away from performance based training. Instead of discovering for themselves, they choosing to believe their skill passes muster. With all the recent scientific discussion about D&K and cognitive dissonance it has helped overcome something I have been facing for years. The simple fact most are not as good as they think they are that is totally okay. We need to get past that. Instead of looking at it through winner or looser lens, you need to look at through the winner & lesson lens. Everything is a lesson if you let it be a lesson.

What’s In A Box

As you approach your training in this manner it benefits you during times when supplies are in short demand. You cannot afford to not train and when you do, you must ensure your training brings value. How do we value something, through measuring. Its not a bad idea to ration your ammunition for range sessions during this time. If you are expending 50 rounds or one box then you want to make every round count. You can probably guess what areas you are deficient or weak to focus your training. I know I’m struggling with some precision at distance for time so I choose to spend a portion of my training focused on developing this skill in specific.

A Keen Observers Eye

What a lot of people don’t realize is the box of ammunition even with standards applied will only get you so far. Proper formalized instruction designed to evaluate your skill then sustain or improve your skill is ideal in these times. After completing formalized instruction you can take this information and use it to help design your personal training. There is a lot that can be accomplished with a do it yourself attitude, but if you don’t know what to work on or how it may result in the rounds you fire not producing the intended results. I mean wasted in the sense you either do not know what to work on or improve. If you do know what to work on, you do not know how to improve. I’m afraid there is very little that can replace hands on instruction from a qualified instructor. Someone who can through observation see the shooting errors, then apply corrective strategies to help remedy them and structured training to reinforce the learning loop. Doing so in an efficient manner that makes the most out of the allocated ammunition.

Don’t crawl into a hole with your current training or skill level. Believe it or not, now is the time to sharpen your edge.

Practice Makes Perfect

I know it sounds cliche, but there is truth in these words. The key is being organized, committed and most important honest.

Be Happy

I see people all the time come in and out of the range putting holes in paper. What do I see, I see them having a good time. I see them having fun. This is something I have forgotten at times. That my trade, my profession can be fun. It is not without its challenges or setbacks, but I do have a lot of fun. Both as an instructor, student and observer. This point was driven home at my most recent Professional Development session the other day. I had eight drills to assess my current skill level. They are diverse and range from fast and close, to precise and far. The most important consideration for me is do I have any weaknesses. Where are my deficiencies. I know I have them, I just don’t always know what they are or even how to fix them. I’ve talked about it at length, but there are essential skills anyone serious must achieve mastery. These essential skills will not ensure you win your deadly force encounter, they give you the best fighting chance.

Poor Performance

I was looking forward to my range session, I like the alone time. I miss training with friends, but sometimes I need to be alone with my thoughts. I was also rushed, putting out fires is a routine I do not enjoy, but a fact of life. When I finally got to the range I was feeling rushed and frazzled. Instead of enjoying my training, it turned into work. It showed in my performance. I will evaluate my skill and asses either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If I get an “unsat” I will then review the specific essential skills, what was I testing. Then, review my past performance. Is this an area prone to problems in the past. If not, then I ask myself was I putting my best effort or just going through the motions. In this session, I was doing a lot of going through the motions. My mind wasn’t fully connected with my actions.

My Own Worse Critic

Now, it is not ideal to have your mind partially engage. However, I can see a silver lining. In the grand scheme of things my performance was still pretty damn good even though I lacked the focus. Sometimes, I can be my worst critic. If I have the opportunity to retest I will if it makes sense. If I feel it was a fluke maybe it is worth doing again to see if there is a different outcome. In this case with three of the eight drills unsat it was me and only me. This meant I would follow up with some remedial training focused on shoring up those shortcomings.

Going Through The Motions

When I made time for remediation I discovered I was in the same mindset. This was work and I was going through the motions. Granted, there is a lot going on the world, my professional and personal life, but I couldn’t focus for some reason. After I finished my remedial session I will retest to see if there was any improvement. There wasn’t. Frustrated, I decided to call it a day. As I was packing up I discovered a loaded magazine. I had just enough ammunition to run through two repetitions of one of the drills and decided why not. This time, I decided to show up and perform. On my first attempt I put in a personal record. I was so close to leaving right then, figuring I would end on a high note. Instead, I ran the last repetition and ended up beating the last PR I had just set. Why? Why all of a sudden did I crush these drills. As I finished packing up I recalled my mindset was totally different. I wouldn’t say I didn’t care, I would say I was having fun.

In the end, this is work is very serious work. I just cannot afford to loose sight on something as important as having fun.

Instructional Agility

At our last Concealed Carry Instructor course we had great conversation during breaks from the class on various subjects. Each of the instructors brought their own instructional problems hoping they would learn way to manage them for their students back home.

For Profit…It Is Not A Bad Thing

The problem with today’s market place is there are three different types of instructors. There are the law enforcement or military instructors who are assigned to their new duties sometimes involuntarily. Then there are the government instructors who often times are handed curriculum or strict guidelines to follow. Lastly, there are the for profit instructor. The part you should really pay attention to is “for profit”. Meaning, they will only be as good as the product they produce. No matter how fancy their youtube channel, or the previous addresses, in the capitalist industry we live in folks want to know they will get better. They are expending some of the most precious commodities; time, treasure and talent.

Its All About Needs

One of the questions had to do with a student who is disrupting the class due to their skill level or lack their of in some cases. Probably the hardest of all the problems to solve is how will you manage their needs as well as the needs of the rest of the class. The problem is further compounded by two factors; ego and comprehension. You can place as many prerequisites in your course description, but it will boil down to how they are interpreted. Some will read them and think, “yeah, I’m good.” Others do not realize what they are reading and just go along in the hopes of figuring it out on the road. Neither of these have the best outcome.

Making Good Business Choices

I have been confronting both of these issues for over a decade and they are challenging. First, you cannot be insensitive to the situation nor can you turn a blind eye. At times students will require more attention, more time or more of your resources. You can either invest hoping they can get to a point they will be able to manage or you can overlook them and hope they don’t have an accident. Again, suboptimal choices. The truth of the matter is if you are designing your curriculum well it will be directed towards the masses, the over achiever and under achievers will be somewhat missed. As a business, you have to make good business decisions. Basing your class around the lower or higher minorities and ignoring the majority will not improve your return student business. Likewise, ignoring the minorities on either end will result in similar responses.

The Art Of Instructing

Your curriculum has to be flexible enough to affect positive behavioral change for the majority. Then, keep the over achievers engaged while at the same time encouraging the under achievers to keep trying. There is science to teaching, how adults learn, but there is art to the delivery. You have to be agile enough to play to all three of these audiences if you wish to be successful. Your product is not solely the outcome, did positive behavior change occurs. it is also the experience the student underwent; which is directly tied to how long the behavioral change will last. You cannot have one without the other.

There are a lot of great instructors in a variety of fields, but if you are a business and expect to stay in business you have to be concerned with the needs of each student. You have to have well thought out strategies to keep everyone engaged.

The 1K Challenge

During this isolation period I struggled to identify areas I wanted to work on for self improvement. I thought about a lot of different areas I could focus and one in particular had to do with my dry fire practice.

More Than Maintenance

I already dry fire practice on a regular basis, but there wasn’t a set agenda per se. It was organized, but not driven. I used it more as a maintenance mechanism and in this capacity it was great. However, I wanted to take it to a new level so I added some specific goals. One of my goals was to perform 1,000 flawless repetitions within a thirty day period. This wasn’t really that challenging as far as the numbers are concerned, it averages to about 30 repetitions each day. The next goal was to define flawless and for that I started with a reduced target zone. I then needed to set my standard for flawless; which I defined as executed as a first, best sight picture. For the repetition to count it had to break the moment I was at full extension and within the reduced target zone. Then there was the time standard. I started with a generous time standard and each week decreased the time without compromising accuracy. Finally, I performed the dry fire on various platforms and I mean pretty much everything I had in my inventory. Meaning the standard had to be applied to whatever I was holding in my hand. Here is what I learned…

Fabled Lessons Learned

There is no substitute for good technique. With good technique so much is possible. During the first week I noticed there were a lot of “no reps” or no repetitions. These did not count towards my daily allocation because they did not meet the standard. The ratio was higher than I wanted, but I was rolling this program out so I was a little patient. Then, as time went on my ratio of good reps to bad started to improve. I still perform this dry fire program even though I am outside of the 30 day test period, mainly out of curiosity. When I look closely at the root cause for those no reps they generally fell into one of two categories. The first was easier to correct; which was driving the gun to the strike point. The strike point is where you want your round to impact. If I’m aiming for the head, it is a specific feature, like the tip of the nose. Any place else and I ended up correcting; which cost me time and the no rep. The second was trusting my technique. The more I trusted my technique, the less I worried if the sights were good enough for the shot required. In other words, the sights don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be good enough for the shot required.

Mixing Things Up For The Greater Good

These two observations were huge in the beginning. Once these observations were noted I would pay more attention to how well I was executing using these as benchmarks. It got to the point where it was boring. I’m not going to lie, within the first 10 days I was starting to question whether this was worth the 30-day effort. That is where I introduced different platforms into the mix with the same standards. Doing this I observed two more thoughts. As I got a little too comfortable I would loose focus. It wasn’t my technique was bad, it was my brain was no longer engaged. The price you pay for the attention spay of a Belgian Malinois. The new platforms forced me to lock in my focus. Then, the new platforms allowed me to see things differently. Regardless of the fire control system I was able to bend them to my will. My ratio of no reps at this point was consistent with the original platform; which is so weird given the novelty in my hand.

Yes, there are very few things more dangerous than a bored frogman, but I enjoyed this little experiment. I will post some more observations in another month or so.

Trident Concepts
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