JANUARY 10, 2019

Skill Set: Make It Real

New Year’s resolution: Make it real. Your success in a violent encounter depends on your mental and physical preparation. Training and practice, study and research is required, and it all must be based on reality. You gotta make it “real.”

There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to training doctrine. The training you choose should be dictated by your anticipated use of the weapon. And yes, training is required, no matter what your skill level is – principles, skills and techniques are still evolving. But when selecting training be real about assessing your needs. Military schooling is going to be different from law enforcement training. Very little of these two fields apply to defensive the instruction needed for defensive situations.

After instruction comes what? Everyone say it along with me, “Practice” – and plenty of it. You practice what you “learned” during training – the skills necessary to defend against a violent attack - which was based on your application. Again, each discipline – military, law enforcement and self-defense –faces different type dangers. Although the lines of demarcation are getting blurrier, especially between military and law enforcement, for self-defense conditions are pretty much the same as they have been forever. For self-defense you focus on move, communicate, use cover and shooting accurately – if necessary. And be real when it comes to your gear. Train, practice with the “real” gear you carry on a daily basis. Don’t forget to practice your low-light skills. Make sure every drill involves decision making – fighting is problem solving. Get “real” about developing those fundamentals.

In order to respond to a real attack you have to know what it looks like and the dynamics involved. Everyone has “war” stories, but you’re looking for detailed accounts of actual encounters. Study real encounters; “Just the facts, ma’am.” Initially you get the impression that each violent event is completely different. With time you discover common themes and threads. Then get real serious about staying aware of your environment, especially body language. The sooner you spot possible trouble the quicker you can develop a realistic response.

Once the holidays are over it’s time to make real evaluation of your physical abilities. You don’t need to bench press barbells full of steel, run a marathon or compete in a triathlon. You might need to haul ass for forty or fifty yards or stand tall for a minute or more in a physical altercation. My favorite cardio is on the heavy bag. It’s a great workout and it’s defensive in nature.

Above all, keep it real mentally. This means admitting that danger can come at any time, anywhere, staying aware – being armed. But you already know all this. Most importantly, you must be mentally prepared and ready. It won’t matter what type gear or skills you have if you’re not ready to employ them – and probably with short notice. The Devil is coming down the hall in three seconds. Are you ready?

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama and celebrating its 25th anniversary. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills and has regular columns in Gun Digest and American Handgunner.