Watching and Reading Are Great, but They’re No Substitute For Doing!

Being a part of the Personal Defense Network from the very beginning has been a refreshing experience. You wouldn’t believe how aggravating it can be to produce quality content only to have it placed next to another article espousing something that can only be described as “derp” – and it happens with great regularity! That doesn’t happen here; the material you see on PDN is vetted for quality and you’ll find none of the nonsensical stuff that you will in other places on the web.

That’s the power of good curation: it gives you quality material that you can be confident in. As a result of careful curation, the articles and videos you find here are of better quality than you’ll generally find in other places – and I urge you to take advantage of them. Read and watch as much as you can; if you’re not a Premium Member, you should be: there’s a veritable ton of great information in the Member’s Only parts of the site!

But enough of the sales pitch – because although I certainly want you to take advantage of all the terrific, high-quality resources here, it’s not enough. You can read every single article and watch every minute of video, but unless you actually get out and put what you’ve learned into practice your skill development is incomplete. Distance education can be powerful, but it’s up to you to make proper use of it.

I started noticing this in the days when defensive shooting lessons were just coming out on videotape. (Yes, I’m old. You don’t need to remind me.) People who couldn’t afford the not-inconsiderable cost to attend a class at a major school or from a well-known instructor could buy the lessons on video and watch them in the comfort of their own living room. What a way to study! They could view the lesson over and over to ferret out even the smallest details, or just replay specific parts to get absolute clarity about the topic at hand.

It was an unprecedented way to learn and it was soon ubiquitous. With the advent of streaming video the cost of production and distribution has been greatly reduced, making a much wider range of material available than ever before. Even topics of relatively narrow interest can be easily accessed and learned, and never before has it been so easy to study even very esoteric subjects. This is the very reason PDN exists!

Unfortunately very few people took real advantage of the power of this new way of learning when it debuted way back when – and they still don’t! Here’s how you can make the best of these phenomenal resources available to you:

  • The best thing you can do is take notes! A video or an article is a class in miniature; to get the most out of it, make notes about the important points and reduce the presentation to a logical, easily digested form. Even a short (less than five minutes) video can contain a lot of information, and many of the important details can be forgotten. Taking notes has been proven in test after test to increase both comprehension and retention; if the material is important to you, take notes!
  • With an article I make my notes as I read it the first time, but with videos I’ve found that my notes are better made on the second viewing. I usually watch the first time without making notes; it allows me to get a feeling for the flow and content, and of where the most important or most complex points are made without having to stop constantly to “catch up”. I immediately (or as soon as possible) re-watch it and take my notes, focusing on cementing the details in my mind. Made on the second viewing, my notes are significantly easier to understand and more comprehensive.
  • If the subject of the article or video is conceptual or intellectual in nature, your notes should include some form of next actions; what can you do next to make use of the information you’ve just learned? What extra things do you need to acquire, or what things do the other people in your household need to know? Is this something that would benefit from a rehearsal or a drill? Is there something personal you need to work on, like establishing a new habit or getting rid of an old one? It may simply be that you need to do further research or dive into a topic in more depth; it’s rare for me to find an article or video where there isn’t a next step, and sometimes even the intellectual exercise of looking for that next step provides valuable insight!
  • If the subject is a physical skill, like a shooting technique, those notes should include a blueprint for practicing the skills at your next range session. It’s easy to watch a video and think “I need to do that when I go to the range next Saturday”, but without a practice plan it’s too easy to forget the material; you end up doing the same thing you’ve always done instead of assimilating that new (and hopefully great) material. Having a practice plan in your notes will help you plan out your next range trip so that you’re sure to get in the practice you need.

Make sure that you put in any special equipment or targets required and if a training partner is needed. (Frankly I think a training partner is always a good idea!) You might even need to specify a certain range to be able to do some things you see, as not all ranges are accommodating to the needs of defensive training.

  • If you have a training partner, swap notes with him/her and compare your interpretations of the article or video. No one gets every little thing, especially without repetition, and I’ve found that having another pair of eyes or ears can sometimes reveal important items that for some reason I missed.
  • Make a firm appointment with yourself to review the video or article at some future date, preferably after you’ve accomplished an action item or had a chance to practice what you’ve learned. Having some perspective from actual implementation helps you understand how all the other pieces fit together; sometimes you even discover that the things you ignored turn out to be the most valuable!
  • If you’re unsure about something, contact the author or producer and ask questions. Most of us like to answer viewer/reader questions because it gives us a chance to make sure that we were understood; it gives us a chance to help you become better. (You can also ask questions in the comment sections, but be aware that it’s a much less reliable mechanism for educational interaction.)
  • Finally, if the subject matter is appropriate share that article or video with other members of your household. Sometimes a spouse is uninterested or sometimes even dismissive of their partner’s interest in self defense, but sharing with him/her what you’re doing and why will go a long way to helping them understand why it’s important to everyone in the family. You might even be surprised at their insight into the subject!

Having these new and powerful educational opportunities is one of the great benefits of living today, but simply being a passive consumer of the information presented isn’t necessarily going to help you. Take an active role in your own education, whether it’s in person or over the internet. Studying, implementing, and practicing are the keys to taking advantage of this great new way of learning!


Grant Cunningham
Author, Teacher, Consultant
www.grantcunningham.com

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