Prioritize Your Training

Image of a quote from Miyamoto Musashi

None of us can predict what, where, when or how a critical incident will occur. The only elements we can control are mindset, training and gear. Everything else is unfortunately up to our potential attackers and luck. Because of this, true personal protection training should include a variety of different skill sets based on the context in which you operate.

This is what my friend Craig Douglas, aka SouthNarc, defines as “multi-disciplinary proficiency.” Tactics, empty-hand skills, handgun skills, edged-weapon skills, OC, rifle, first aid … the list goes on. Is proficiency in each discipline required and/or desired, or does the cliché “Jack of all trades, master of none” apply? How does the citizen, law enforcement officer or average military serviceman maintain proficiency in all of the various disciplines while living a normal life filled with family, job, other obligations and limited resources?

Image of a man in carbine training

Although fun, carbine training may be more appropriate for law enforcement and military contexts than for citizens.

Define Your Context

With the exception of elite military units and certain special-response law enforcement teams, we citizens, patrolmen and infantrymen will rarely have the luxury of knowing what type of combative encounter we may have to face. If we knew there was going to be a gunfight, we could prepare or more likely avoid the situation altogether.

Herein lies the problem: what skill sets will be required to deal with the probable and plausible situations we may find ourselves in? Simply having a black belt or possessing a CCW and a handgun does not prepare someone for every encounter. One must have variable force options and skill sets to deal with dynamic, changing combative environments. Simply put, “specializing” in just one facet of personal protection in today’s world could spell disaster.

The following table represents an EXAMPLE of possible training prioritization breakdowns for each specific context/job-based individual.

Image of a table example training

Image of two men talking

Time spent on verbal and physical boundary setting should be a top priority.

Citizen’s Priorities

For the citizen, at a bare minimum, proficiency in five core disciplines and their sub-disciplines should be acquired and maintained. These disciplines should be considered to include:

1) Managing Unknown Contacts (MUC) – MUC encompasses awareness, verbal and physical challenges, diffusion and avoidance skills. We spend more time talking to known and unknown contacts in our environments than we spend fighting, thus MUC takes top priority in our training schedule. MUC is the most relevant skill in our personal defense profile. On a daily basis, this skill set is used more frequently than any other.

2) General Physical Preparedness (GPP) – To me, this is an essential personal protection skill set. It comes second on this list simply because possessing the ability to run away from a potential encounter (or to endure a prolonged encounter) should be our foremost tactical consideration. Without a base level of GPP, your ability to utilize the skill sets outlined below, with the exception of firearms (and that can be argued depending on the range of the encounter), will be severely limited. Some could argue that GPP should be #1 simply because it leads to better health.

Image of an unarmed combative training class

Unarmed combatives training may prove more useful in more situations than firearms training.

3) Practical Unarmed Combative Skills (PUC) – Possessing the ability to defend oneself unarmed should take precedence over weapon/tool skills, because we simply cannot be armed all the time. Without unarmed defensive and offensive skills and the ability to counter sudden spontaneous attacks, whatever tools we do possess could be quickly nullified. PUC skills are the easiest to seek out, train in and attain, since most communities have a decent karate or MMA school. PUC training also tends to be much more affordable than other disciplines.
PUC sub-disciplines may include:
1. In-Fight Weapon-Access Training
2. Defense Against Armed Assailants
3. Grappling/Ground Defense

4) Edged/Improvised Weapon Skills (EIW) – Edged/Improvised Weapons are prevalent, easy to acquire and can be carried in more places than a firearm. Not everyone has the ability to or chooses to carry a firearm, and EIW provide a potential lethal-force carry option in non-permissive environments. EIW is a core discipline due to the affordability of quality edged weapons, ease of concealment/everyday carry, and the relatively short amount of time it takes to acquire basic defensive and offensive proficiency in their use.

5) Handgun Skills (CCW) – Handguns come last because there exist non-permissive environments (NPE) we cannot and do not carry in. Numerous work environments currently are or are becoming NPE. It may be different for you, and therefore firearms may be higher on your list and more of your training time will be dedicated to this discipline. However, I strongly suggest you consider what the most probable situation you could find yourself in will be and prioritize accordingly. For example, citizen-related handgun self-defense shootings are not common in my local region.

This is just an example of a possible training prioritization schedule. These are the disciplines I feel are essential and the order in which I determine how much of my limited training time is dedicated to each. This prioritization may be different for you.

Image of man firing at a target

Training should be challenging and performance standards set and maintained, thus providing the trainee with confidence in that skill set.

Proficiency or Empowerment?

How do we acquire and then maintain proficiency in each of the outlined disciplines? I suppose the bigger question is, what do you consider proficient? What standards do you hold yourself to? Is your training done in an effort to succeed and overcome the strictest of tests and standards, or to just slide by because you don’t enjoy training that particular skill as much as another?

Do you focus on making your training empowering by feeling good about what you have done during a class or training session, or is your focus on challenging yourself and attempting to overcome previously set goals and possibly opening yourself up to failure?

“Skills degrade under pressure. Train to the highest possible standard; put yourself under pressure constantly and consistently. The rest will work itself out as part of the evolutionary process.” — Paul Sharp, Law Enforcement Officer, MMA Fighter and Trainer

Performance Standards and Self-Improvement

There is no second place in a critical life-or-death incident. Establishing performance standards for a specific discipline should not be a random process or left to your “instructor” to determine if you are good enough. Your instructor won’t be there to help you during a combative encounter. Each of the various disciplines in your training prioritization should follow some type of self-evaluation process. A base level of proficiency needs to be demonstrated before shelving that skill set to place greater focus on another or to seek training in a new discipline outside our core skills. Set goals, study the problem, train hard and improve. Follow the concept that there is no such thing as “good enough.” There is always room for improvement.

If you are serious about your personal protection and the protection of others, take a hard, honest look at what and how you are currently spending training time and money, and ask why. Haphazardly jumping from class to class or from skill set to skill set without reason or method is a sign of poor planning and preparation.

A life-or-death encounter may be completely random, but our training should not be.

Categories: All Articles and Defensive Training Concepts.

Tags: personal defense and training.

5 Responses to “Prioritize Your Training”

  1. Joe says:

    Once again, Chris gives us excellent “food for thought.” The article is well written, timely and very useful given today’s environment.

    Well done!

  2. Chris Fry says:

    Thanks Joe!

  3. Tinman2010 says:

    I work in the security field here in NYC & like Joe states, Chris is spot on in this article!

  4. cshoff says:

    Great read, Chris. I’ll be bookmarking this as a reference to use with my students.

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