The Fifty-Percent Trap
Want to avoid falling into it? Here's how...
CR Williams, Suarez International Staff Instructor
Now here's something I hadn't seen before: During a private lesson I was doing in April of this year, the range owner stopped all activity in order to make a twenty-minute commercial presentation about his range and the courses he offered. A novel experience to me, it was, up until his final statement at the end of the commercial:
"You will only be half as good as your best day at the range!!!"
That was not at all novel to me. I'd heard it before. More than once. From different people. Let's call them the "Fifty-Percenters". You've probably heard them say that yourself if you've spent much time in the gun-world.
I'm not at all sure I agree with them no matter how many times I hear it or who says it, BUT: They may have a point. Because some people won't do as well when life is threatened as they will on the range. Then again, there are those that will respond as they have trained to do so. There are even a select few who do better in the fight than they do on the line in practice. And I think there's a reason for the difference in those responses.
What makes the difference? Because if you know that, you know what you need to do to make a liar the Fifty-Percenters. You want to do that, right? You would rather be as good as you can be, and win and live, rather than only half as good, which could mean loss and death. Right?
So what factors reduce your chances of dying and increase your chances of living? I think there are two:
The kind and quality of the training you get is an important factor.
Notice that I did not say that training, period, is a factor. It is entirely possible to get quality training that will provide you consummate mastery of a skill-set that is irredeemably inadequate for the fight you are most likely to face. Practically speaking, you are unlikely to find training that is totally useless in every way to the defensive fight, though the degree of usefulness may still not be enough to meet the demands of the attack you face. Given the same tasks they are training their students to perform, some schools and some instructors and their methodologies and curriculums will be more equal to it than others.
Want the best odds of surviving unarmed? You seek out combatives or mixed-martial-arts instruction of some type, not the multi-hundred-year-old traditional martial arts schools. Is the last that useless? No; it has kept many good people alive and continues to do so. But combatives and MMA-derived arts are more fitted to, and have adapted better to, the current threat in your world.
Want the best odds of winning a gunfight? Seek out Suarez International, which continues to examine the current threats and best responses to them, not Modern Technique, which is not truly as modern as it used to be and which has been all but frozen in its methodology and been slow about adapting to the current threat environment (if it has been adapting at all). Does Modern Technique simply not work? No; like the traditional martial arts, it has saved many good lives and continues to do so. But it is not as flexible as other methodologies such as SI teaches, and you need flexibility more than tradition when the fight is on.
What training would you prefer to take? That which makes you more likely to succeed? Or less? More likely to win? Or not? More likely to live? Or to die? Choose wisely--life may indeed depend upon it.
The other, and most important, factor is YOU, and what you do after the class is over.
Perishable skills, guys. We don't just say that to get you to take repeat classes, we say that because it's true. You simply cannot go home after the class is over and do nothing but sign up for another class in a few months and expect to be as good in those few months, or even a few weeks later in the Rite-Aid parking lot when it really matters, as you were in the last drill of the last day of the class. The precision, the speed, the overall competency that you need when life is on the line, simply will not stay with you unless you consciously and actively work to maintain it. Just like strength or cardiovascular capability diminishes if you don't exercise, life-saving gunfight skills will diminish if you don't practice them.
This requires an investment of time and effort more than anything else. What it does NOT require is a commitment to train for hours a day, to re-create the entire training class you went through each weekend, or to ignore everything and everyone in the process of devoting yourself to martial excellence.
Hey, Bud--got fifteen minutes you can spare???
Not necessarily every day, either. It's not a bad idea if you can take fifteen, or even ten minutes, each day to review just one thing, one technique, one skill, one concept, that you picked up somewhere. But even just ten or fifteen or twenty minutes, two or three times a week, of dry practice or work with an Airsoft gun at home will do wonders for building and keeping necessary and useful skill-sets. Backed up by an occasional live-fire session (it doesn't have to be more than once or twice a month if it's done properly), planned, disciplined, and focused dry practice can do wonders for your competence and capability. Ask me how I know...
And about those range visits...
Proper dry practice can both supplement range work and reduce the necessity to go to the range, which can save time and money that you can then devote to additional training. This is not to say that you don't have to do any live fire practice or training, only that it is not necessary and sometimes not even desirable or beneficial to make it the major component of your personal skill-maintenance program.
When you do go to the range, though, it should be with the same attitude you go into dry practice with. For best effect and benefit from the expenditure of time and money, a plan (not a shot-by-shot schedule, but at least a mental outline of what you are going to work on that day) and focus and concentration on what you are doing is at least helpful if not essential. You can be very flexible and you can still have great and good fun and you can do this without becoming your own personal drill sergeant. You won't get as much out of it if you don't enjoy it somewhere, somehow, even if you're working on something you don't like and are weak at. (Few of us are really good about bringing up weak points with joyful hearts every time, I think.) And it's not a bad idea to have a range session every so often where the goal and focus is to have some fun with the shooting drills. At some point, though, you have to eschew the idea of range time being a social occasion or 'plinking' or a 'just throwing some rounds downrange' kind of time and go to work. The alternative is to fall into the trap and risk not being as good as you are when the bullets are coming back at you.
So: You gonna make liars out of those guys or not?
It's not up to me whether they are proven right or not. You're the one that has to first get the right kind of quality training and then maintain and build on what you have learned. You're the one that has to commit to the scheduled, focused dry-practice sessions; you're the one that has to do more at the range than just shoot at something. I and other SI instructors can help--we're available on Warrior Talk to answer questions and we're starting training groups to help SI course graduates maintain the skills they learn in the courses. There is Infidel Media Group for DVDs and books to provide reminders and refreshers and help planning your maintenance and improvement program. The help is there if you want it.
None of it will do any good if you don't put the effort in, though. That is all and entirely up to you.
So: What's it going to be? A few minutes, some thoughtful pre-planning, solid focus, disciplined effort that keeps you at your best? Or the gradual degradation of capability and perishing skills that will come if you take extended vacations between classes?
When the two guys start to separate as the one heading to your left reaches toward the felony-carry position on his waistband, do you want the Fifty-Percenters to be right--or wrong?
Your life is asking. Answer it.
You be safe out there. And if you can't be safe, you be (all the way!) dangerous.