Most personal protection enthusiasts have trained a lot. Thousands of rounds downrange at the gun range; thousands of kicks, punches, or throws in a martial arts class; or hours spent researching what firearm, accessory, or technique is best for what situation. Training in fundamentals is very important, and these activities are not time wasted, especially if the trainee is continuously pushing and improving the skill set. If the shots fired are improving shot placement, increasing proficiency in follow-up shots, shooting from different positions, and increasing trigger awareness, these are very important fundamentals to build upon. Likewise, if the thousands of kicks in a martial arts class are improving speed, improving the striking surface the kicker is using, and increasing balance and reset, this is not time wasted (kicking is but one example).
As a safety necessity, protection practice is often administered in a sterile and controlled environment. Range time with the firearm will allow the trainee to reload his firearm in a relaxed and safe atmosphere. Martial training will be intense, but will likely involve only the trainee and his training partner in a controlled environment, with rules imposed for participant safety. In all cases, lighting and environment will be controlled and adequate for training.
Eventually, these fundamentals have to be put to the test, however. How is that trigger reset working if someone is shooting back? How is shot placement knowing you could be shot? Follow up shots? Likewise with the martial artist in this example, how is all that kicking working if there is an aggressor that is actively trying to do you harm? How does your technique work if the attacker is actively resisting?
We all know what the word ‘consequences’ means, but it bears acknowledging in a training scenario. What is the training being performed for? What are the consequences of failure? One of the deciding aspects of if something is a ‘sport’ or not are, in fact, the consequences. For league shooting, such as IDPA; martial arts ‘contests’, such as MMA or taekwondo tournaments; or general information gathering without skill assessment, the consequences are generally minimal. The loss of a sport contest such as these means further refinement and practice. A few bumps and bruises or a minor injury, and the trainee goes home that night to try again.
Real world protection training, however, has far greater consequences. Training is performed to mitigate bodily harm to one’s self or their loved ones. Success is critical. Failure means the ability to go home that night may no longer be an option. Family and loved ones may become harmed because of a training deficiency. Skills read about, but never put into practice, will be performed from a level of non-proficiency, let alone the decisive proficiency needed if wellbeing is at stake.
Then, there is the aftermath of the altercation. Disobeying the rules in a sport will cause a loss of time, a disqualification, or a loss of points. Disobeying the rule of law in a real world altercation means added legal risks, and the very real chance of incarceration. Surviving an encounter is an admirable goal, and something we have the right to do. Using an amount of force disproportionate to the threat creates liability.
More training opportunities go beyond the traditional ‘dojo’ environment and allow the trainee to engage in multiple participants (both aggressor and protector roles); deal with real-world obstacles, such as regular objects in the altercation area; confining environments, such as within a vehicle or at a desk; and other environmental concerns, like snow and ice, darkness, rain, etc. This type of training can generally be classified as ‘chaos acclimatization’, for it allows the trainee to go beyond the sterile dojo or range environment into a 360 degree, 3 dimensional real world environment.
Training with built-in consequences is available to the modern personal protection trainee. Some training venues go beyond the static range environment and utilize Airsoft or Simunitions, so that the trainee risks getting shot at in return. Multiple venues for Force on Force exist around the country, allowing trainees to become immersed in real-world scenarios involving potential altercation. These training opportunities are invaluable, as they can allow the full spectrum of personal protection to be practiced (avoidance, deescalation, physical force, advanced physical force, lethal force). This type of training also forces exercise in threat recognition, sensing the motives of people in the vicinity, and training the correct and acceptable responses for these scenarios.
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