Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on Training

A few of us are gearing up for Phil Strader's upcoming 2-day classes (some of us doing 4-days…) and in addition to an "interview" with Phil and Mike Seeklander regarding their impressions about the recent 2011 Single Stack Nationals, and providing some nightly commentary on what I'm learning, I figure it is an opportune time to share some insights when approaching a training class. Some of this is just equipment check, some of it is philosophical/reflective, and some of it is just plain commonsense.

Getting Training

I've been blogging a lot about training events, training books, training "tricks", etc. I truly believe that nobody is "fully trained." There is always more to learn. Good instructors encourage you to push yourself beyond your limits and make your learning curve flatter. Instead of paying with your sweat and toil, a good instructor can help identify your weak points and put together a plan of action that'll get you to minimize those weaknesses sooner - meaning you can convert that searching, aimless, toil into directed, guided, precision practice, benefiting you when you'll really need it.

In short, go get training. Find your weaknesses and ask how to minimize them. Never stop learning: after you "master" one thing, find the next gap in your approach and get more training.

Philosophical Insights


Most trainers will comment heavily on the fundamentals. This is good. Paraphrasing the wise words of J. M. Plaxco, "There are no advanced techniques, only advanced applications of the fundamentals." Let each time you hear about the fundamentals make it sink the concept in that much further - examine that topic in your hands, your mind, your subconscious, and finally your soul.

What to do? What to do?

Find the things that you're bad at and push yourself to get input from the trainer on those topics. Training is not practice, but rather evaluation and learning. Additionally, since it is presenting foreign concepts, it shouldn't be easy. If you don't yet know what you're bad at, work diligently on everything that the trainer presents - the next course you take, go with a list of things you need clarification/input on.


Set goals. By the end of the class, if you want to be able to perform some technique X% better, use the class as an opportunity to develop that while getting good input from the instructor.

Matches vs Training

Matches are easy. We all get together, shoot a bit, get some pizza, and flapjaw for a while. Training should border on nightmarish! There is nothing to loose in a training course - push yourself far out of your comfort zone and as far into the next level as you can! Set the pace and minimize the downtime.

Badge of Honor

A lot of folks will take a class and use it as a mark of accomplishment. Getting the training/taking course isn't enough - you have to turn that raw knowledge into skill by putting what you've learned into practice. Go to the range, do your dryfire, and test yourself at a match. After you've seen that measurable improvement and worked through the concepts, you can put the notch in your belt. Anything else can be summed up in Kumar's response to Harold:

On the Flip-Side…

Allow yourself a bit of time to let the lessons sink in. Not so much that you don't get on the new plan right away, but a night or two, perhaps.

Practical Considerations

I've got a few rituals to help minimize Mr. Murphy at a match and some of it carries over to training too.

Check the Weather

Since it will dictate what you should/shouldn't wear, it is vitally important to know what to gear up for...

In our case, it looks like it'll be perfect training weather - clear and cool. Just right for long pants, which helps when learning about going prone/dealing with spall from the steel targets/and keeping the sun from frying your legs.

Bring an extra pair of pants/shirt just in case you fall into a retention pond/mud pit. As me how I know…

Check Equipment

Check your "GAME-H":

Gun(s) - You did remember your backup, right?

Ammo - see below…

Magazines - ditto…

Eye & Ear



I don't often clean the firearms I use for training/competitions, but this is one case where I'll break down the gun to inspect for wear and perform a cleaning. I do the same for the "backup gun".

Bring a backup gun - don't let your day get ruined.

I make it a point to keep spare striker/pins/springs handy in case I need 'em. If anything should go wrong, I'll spend the evening fixing the issue and swap guns back out. "Two is one, one is none."

Bring enough ammunition.
Bring ~double what is called for - while other guys are busy reloading magazines, spend your time shooting the drills 2-, or 3-times! More input from the instructors is better.


Inspect magazines and make sure they're clean.

Bring enough. I roll out with as many as you can. Reloading takes time away from shooting, taking notes, taking good video, and asking questions.

Know the location of the nearest hospital

Hope you don't need that tourniquet in the range bag and hope you don't go there… But, just in case…