Much is made of how fast one can draw and fire from the holster, how tight a group one can shoot or how fast a shot to shot reload can be performed. While these are certainly worthwhile skills to possess, they seldom win fights. Yes, having such skill does offer confidence that helps overcome fear in conflict…and fear is the single biggest factor in whether a person freezes or fights when a threatened…but it is not the biggest factor in achieving victory. What wins the fight is the ability to see what is transpiring and quickly adapt to the rapidly changing situation. The combatant that can adapt the quickest is the one that can bring their skills to the forefront and use it to prevail.
A proper combative pistol program must cover three different aspects of training in order to properly address the problem. The first level I call The Essentials. They are commonly referred to as “the basics” or “fundamentals” but I prefer to call them essential, as they are more than just forming a foundation, they are absolutely necessary in order to win the fight. Without them there are no skills to utilize in order to adapt! The fundamentals are normally defined as grip, stance, trigger control, sight alignment, sight picture, etc. but I prefer to define them more simply. I do not list a particular skill, I prefer to define an essential skill as anything that keeps the gun running in a fight whether it be grip, trigger control, sight alignment or the more active of skills such as drawing from the holster, reloading the gun or clearing a malfunction…you need to know all of these things. Trigger control is more important than clearing a malfunction, you say? Maybe, unless you are hunkered down behind low cover with rounds whizzing by your head and your pistol has suffered a stoppage. This might be the perfect example of considering the fundamentals of shooting versus the essentials of fighting… they are not really the same…
If there is a “most essential of essentials” it would be mindset. Shooting can certainly be successful without mindset, but fighting cannot. Mr. Webster defines mindset as “a course of action based on a previous decision, a set path based on reason and intellect.” The operative phrase here is a previous decision…something you decided ahead of time before the fight broke out. The word combative is defined in my same dog eared version of Mr. Webster’s work as “ready and willing to fight” which does not mean you are looking for one, it means that if you cannot avoid or evade it, you are willing to engage and finish it. Thus, a combative mind is one that has made a previous decision to be ready and willing to fight. Without a combative mindset every skill that is yet to come is a waste of effort.
The essentials should be learned from a certified instructor in a hands-on environment. There is a trend to try and achieve these by watching videos tapes but this NEVER works. While it is possible to see a skill performed, there is no one on site to correct improper applications! I see this regularly in my courses, students show up for a combat skill-based course thinking they have the required essential skills locked down, but do not understand why a technique is taught/used so they have no frame of reference as to how to apply it to the combative application of the handgun. Understanding the importance of a technique is just as critical as knowing how to perform it.
The best way to show the path to skill development comes from a skill building pyramid pioneered by Naval Special Warfare and it begins with a base of fundamental skills (Again, I think of them as essentials!) followed by concentration, consistency, accuracy and speed…one built upon the next. The basics must be mastered by concentrating on doing them consistently. Via consistency, accuracy is achieved (at least the level of accuracy needed to end a threat) with speed being a by-product of lack of unnecessary motion that is achieved via practice. It is a well-established process that cannot be bypassed.
Part II will appear on Wednesday