Training is a hard business. If you are serious concerning personal defense—and God help you if you are not—you must train to the best of your ability, use proper tactics, and seek communion with like-minded shooters. Some folks have self-trained and consider themselves exempt from the ordinary but find their performance at the bottom of the heap when actually tested by rigorous standards. I have seen folks with a lot of ego invested in their shooting. They do not do well when engaged in competition. It is quite alright to admit your game is off, we all have those days.
Blaming bad performance on the four humors, the influences of the planets, or spiritual failings isn’t all right. On the other hand, too much training doesn’t necessarily help. Overexertion may lead to burnout. Burn out, for the most part, is only experienced by dedicated folks or over achievers as the lazy never come to enjoy the rigors of burnout. I am familiar with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders and exhaustion of among the most common, and most common among those that attempt to excel. Nonstop attention to detail and decision making leads to exhaustion. My fellow cops know exactly what I am talking about, and so do professionals, soldier, engineers, mechanics, and anyone that works hard at a job that is well done.
So, how do we find the right amount of time to practice, and do so without losing cognitive control and sapping our mental bandwidth? First, we have to learn to dismiss pessimistic thinking. I can never control that gun, or I can never shoot like him. This type of thinking should not be part of the training vocabulary. A positive change in performance and self esteem will come after these negative thoughts are dismissed.
I like to catch students before too much damage is done. Tweaks do not work against negative energy. When someone is having trouble mastering a handgun it isn’t always because they have chosen a handgun that does not fit their hand or which has too much recoil. Rather poor techniques are to blame. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information and false information is worse than ignorance. Some students come to class with a certain traumatic narrative. Reviewing setbacks with a fresh eye from a distance can help students come to terms with improvement, envision where they need to be and make corrections. It is difficult to gauge progress as an individual. However, if you are able to see yourself as an observer would, you have a better chance of making self correction.
When training, short classes are a better learning experience before fatigue sets in. There are external and internal stimuli that affect your learning. Short-term memory is essentially a mechanism for keeping recent information fresh, and you will learn quickly, but this information must be retained. What is recently experienced will not be retained without repetition. If you do not continue your training, then you will not prosper from this training.
Competing goals and distractions interfere with proper learning. Our response must be so instinctive that our brains do not mobilize to create a different reaction. We must practice and make repetitions of the drills and tactics that will potentially save our lives. While response will be automatic we are also in control of our actions. The proper focus and self control—and respect for our ability—will hold and narrow our attention. If we are not in control fear and panic will interfere with our actions. Unconscious control is channeled in a single direction in an uninterrupted manner when we have the proper combat focus.
There are many NRA instructors offering excellent training. Short classes are best, and encouraging people are good to be around. The instruction is shared for the participants benefit, not the instructor’s ego, and occasionally there is a problem there, but this type of instructor doesn’t last long. The abstract of principles must be grounded in the real thing, real information and training.
You will not learn it all in one session, and you must focus on growth. For some growth is taxed by a destructive refrain, we all have that omnipresent and harsh narrator of self criticism. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs with air, and your brain as well. Feel the muscles moving in unison and work for this unity of purpose, the mind and the body. When studying, it is possible to drown in data you cannot interpret fully, and that is understandable. But you can gauge your progress.
Remember, there are people in this world with fascinating and dangerous disorders willing to hurt you for a small advantage. I have dealt with them face to face, it isn’t a theoretical exercise in my experience. There are many cunning predators that have no empathy and lack remorse. Impulse control is out of the question for them. 70 percent of repeat violent offenders have serious psychotic problems. We cannot rely upon an increasingly theocratic state to protect us. When it comes to training, we do not all agree upon every element of training, but we speak the same language.
Do you have a favorite trainer, training plan, or drill? Share it in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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