Training: Learn the Essential, Foundational Skills, Then Build On Them

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One of the trends I saw towards the end of Handgun Combatives (as a training company) was an increased interest in foundational level courses. “Foundational” should not be viewed as “basic,” something many ill-informed combative shooters seem to do due to their desire to be seen as more “advanced.”

The reason I avoid the word “fundamentals” is that it sends the wrong message to many. I think we’ve used the word fundamentals to the point we’ve minimized its importance. Because of this, I use the word “essential” as the skills taught in a foundational class are just that — absolutely necessary — not basic or simplistic.

For a number of years, students wanted “advanced” courses, totally ignoring Bruce Lee’s admonition that “advanced skills are the basics mastered.” That said, how many of us have truly anchored those essential, foundational level skills…really locked them down? If the students in my classes are any indication, very few.

In every class I taught, I would go over the essential skills required for the lesson plan to be taught so the class didn’t bog down. It’s surprising how many allegedly advanced shooters didn’t have a solid understanding of a true ready position, a combat draw, a reload, a stoppage clearance, a solid shooting platform (one that allows rapid, multi-directional movement) and the like.

When I’d see a deficiency, instead of getting an, “Oh really, how can I improve?” I heard, “This is how I do it.” My response? “Yeah man, but you really suck at it. Just because it feels ‘right’ or looks cool to you does not mean it’s solid. I can help you, but only if you’re willing to listen.” About half of them were willing to try something different. The rest just went on doing what they were doing, performing poorly, but looking “cool” as they did so.

So I’m happy to see a renewed interest in foundational courses. Winning a gunfight is more about adapting than it is shooting. The person who sees the fight for what it really is and adapts accordingly is the one who will prevail. Please remember, survival is not the goal.

“Adapt” is defined by Mr. Webster as “to change as necessary,” but that’s not the whole story. What we’re looking for is the person who is adaptive, which is defined as “the ability to change as necessary.” That’s easier said than done.

To have the ability to adapt, one must have skills they can call on that are anchored to a level of auto pilot or what is known within the law enforcement community as “unconscious competence,” something few truly achieve. Why? Because it takes a long time and a lot of work.

It’s easy to go to gun school. It’s more difficult to return home and practice the lessons learned to a point of anchoring as this requires a lot of high-level repetition. That requires total focus on the skills being practiced. That’s very hard for many as the other things required of us in life often interfere.

Please remember, just because you attended a course on Active Shooter Response, High Threat Situation Management, Vehicle Combat, Fighting Carbine or any other similar course, that doesn’t mean you can perform what you were introduced to. You might have some recollection of what you were taught, but performing the same at a high level is very unlikely.

For a student/shooter to utilize information introduced to them in a course of instruction, they had to have practiced it to the point it has become a skill. They must understand how important the skill is to them and put in the time and effort to master and anchor these skills.

In truth, it’s far more likely they will just have a fond memory of a good time at gun school with little chance of performing what they were taught. For some, this is enough and of course that choice is yours. To me, it is a waste of time, money and resources. Many readers will not want to hear what I just wrote, but it is the absolute truth. In closing, I want to share what my definition of a skill is:

A skill is “an activity of which you have a high expectation of success on the first attempt.” No warm ups, no do-overs … either you can or you can’t.

Where are your skill sets right now?

One Response

  1. Fundamentals? Nonsense.

    Just get yourself a 9mm, drop in a threaded barrel, throw on a red dot, suppressor height sights, a weapon light, and get a AIWB holster…and then watch a sh*t load of YouTube.

    You’ll make John Wick look like a sissy by the end of the day.

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