- Published: 27 March 2014
- Hits: 5859 Category: Blog
Teaching is when a student learns from an instructor's knowledge and past mistakes. We attend training to gain understanding, and learn how to practice (e.g. skill building drills, proper techniques, etc.). Experience is when you learn from your own understanding and mistakes, and is even more powerful. So we must practice what we have been trained on, in order to gain that experience. Of course, the term "practicing" here applies to both rehearsing and actually employing the skills in use.
I recently got asked about my opinion on dry firing. Dry fire practice is great. It's still practice. It's a bit of a trick on you, since there is really nothing special about dry fire practice, and it's not as good as live fire. It's getting you to practice more often, and more regularly, than you would/can if you have to pay for ammo, drive to the range, clean your guns, and all the other psychological and pragmatic hurdles that you have to overcome to actually get out there and do the live fire training. This helps develop and maintain skills over time, if done correctly.
However, it doesn't end with just your daily dry fire session. I try not to let "training opportunities" go to waste. Every day when I put on or take off my concealed carry pistol, I draw it (in a safe direction), take proper stance and grip, align the sights, imagine shooting, break the sights from my eyes, scan and assess, retract, and holster. So twice a day, light or dark, I go through the whole exercise. This alone is a good habit, and it builds deep muscle memory, because I've been doing it for years, and the last time I did it was 8 hours ago.
Part of this, in the sense of "practicing every day" is that it becomes a lifestyle. You start thinking about, while you're loading groceries in the car, "What would I do here, if someone walked up behind me with a knife and demanded money?". This visualization, and "what if" mental experiments, helps develop logic and solutions for new situations. You then start practicing drawing your pistol (in a safe direction), in order to put it away each night, and one day you do it with the lights off and realize, "Wow, this is really hard to see my sights, so I better get night sights, a light on the gun, or start carrying a flashlight." You can get a long way with good training, but unless the message really connects with you, you either forget it or are perpetually skeptical because you don't really understand the workings behind it. (And yes, there is also lots of snake oil out there that we should be very skeptical of.)
This approach to training and practice as a lifestyle starts to permeate our lives, and that's how we know when we've really taken it to heart. For example, a couple weeks ago it was snowing and blowing outside, and I asked my friend if he wanted to go shooting. He looked at me and said, "No, it's snowing outside." Without even thinking about it, that was exactly why I wanted to go. How am I going to have confidence in my capabilities when it's snowing, unless I actually go shooting when it's snowing? If it's snowing outside, it's a perfect opportunity to find out.
Most people have never even considered what happens to their gun when it's cold and wet. So even if I didn't want to shoot in a snowstorm, if I were to have just asked myself the question, "Do I need to use a different gun lubricant when it's below freezing outside?", I'm 1/3 of the way through the battle. I can go research and learn from someone else's experience with different lubricants in the cold. Maybe I will validate a few of their claims by testing their recommended gun lubricant on a cold winter day, which finally makes the experiences my own. This builds my technical expertise, as well as my confidence in my abilities.
It's important that I make the effort to bring my training into my daily thoughts and routines. If I don't, the perishable portions of my skills will degrade, and I miss the opportunities to gain small improvements individually, over longer periods of time. Developing this attitude won't happen overnight. You need to make little victories, and keep pushing, until pushing is the norm.