All posts tagged practice

I went running the other day. To some that may be an everyday habit, I assure you, for me it is not. I don’t care to run unless it is perfect weather and I want to be outside, this was one of those days. I started out and was feeling pretty good a mile in, after mile two I was still feeling alright so I decided to go for a 3 mile! About a tenth of the way into the third mile I started feeling it… I felt like I hit a wall, my side started hurting, and everything went to pot. However! I refused to stop, I was determined to go a full three miles, or until my body failed. I was not going to let my mind stop me!

Quitting is an option for many, particularly in America. We have developed a society that encourages easy living and removal of hardships. While that is nice in many ways, it has softened us as a society. When things get hard we quit or change the rules. Guess where quitting is not an option, ever? Go ahead, take a minute and think about it before you read on. You think you got it? If you said self-defense, combat or some equivalent then you nailed it! If you are in a fight for your life, you better believe you opponent(s) is not going to just stop and walk away because you are tired or hurt. If you need a lesson on not quitting no matter what read Lone Survivor  by Marcus Luttrell or watch the movie.

Just because you are hurt, tired, or just don’t feel like it, stopping is not an option. A fight for your life typically only lasts a few seconds. In a fight 15 seconds feels like 15 years but the reality is it is only a short time. Training hard and as realistically as possible to create stress and elevated heart rate comes into its own here. Mimicking real life scenarios is great as long as you are careful to avoid the injury side of reality. This simulation assists in fixing the perceptual change that comes with high stress situations. Like most everything else, exposure can lead to desensitization. In this case, that is a good thing.

I have yet to experience anything so exhausting as fighting… It wears a body (and mind) out! It makes you want to quit because you can’t breathe, your heart rate is 150+ BPM, it hurts, and it can be scary. We must train in a controlled and safe environment in order to help us overcome this fear and desire to quite. We are hard-wired to run away from danger. Look at nature for this. The list of animals and insects that go right to combat before first retreating is rather short. I say regularly and will say it again here: If a fight can be avoided, avoid it, however, if you must fight with extreme violence and ferocity!

Don’t take my word for how important preserving is. Look up survival stories and decide for yourself the resounding theme of survivors: Perseverance. You will not read quotes of: “It just got so hard and I was hurting pretty bad, so I just stopped fighting, I quit, thankfully the guy trying to hurt me saw I was tired and walked away”. Nope! You will see this however: “I couldn’t breathe, and I thought I was dying, but I was not going to let this scumbag take me away from my family!”.

Perseverance is a resounding theme for success not only in this realm of self-defense but also in business, relationships, and life in general. The decision to not give up may be hard, it may hurt, but at the end of the day if it is worth fighting for, it is worth persevering for!

What can we learn?

  1. The second quitting becomes an option, it becomes an inevitability
  2. Don’t quit, like seriously, don’t quit, ever!
  3. It may hurt, it may be scary, we may not have asked for it, but we must persevere through it anyway.
  4. If it is worth fighting for, it is worth persevering for!
  5. Train, practice, learn, repeat!

Stay Sharp,


We talk about practice an awful lot; well, training anyway. This article is a follow up to an article we did a little while back titled Practice makes perfect… Or does it? In that article we discussed practicing, training, and the difference. This week, we are talking about practice, and what it does to us, or for us.

As the title of this article states, practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent. We can practice all day long, but if we are not improving, we are only making our inability permanent. Yeah, I said it. If you stink, and never improve, you are going to be really good at being lousy.

Well then, how do I improve? Great question! With time, and proper instruction. A good teacher combined with dedicated time to practice will help you improve. Easily formulated, complexly accomplished; I know. But, as my Mamma always said, “nothing worth doing is easy”; or if you prefer “anything worth doing, is worth doing right”.

So, back to this permanent thing. Have you ever heard of muscle memory? If you have been around us here at Strategic Defense Group for very long at all, you know we are sticklers, and quite picky about semantics. Muscle memory is a common term and generally accepted. However, there is no such thing. Muscles cannot create memory. Muscle memory is simply motor learning through procedural memory. Basically, we do something so much, we do not have to think about doing it any more. For example, if you type on a keyboard a lot, or play an instrument a great deal, you fingers just go to where they need to go to do what you want; you don’t have to tell yourself, hey left index finger: place yourself on the third fret on the A string (for guitar).

Muscle memory is actually procedural memory? Yes. So is practicing to permanency bad then? NO! It is a great blessing! However, there is an underlying danger… The horrific “training scars” *gasp*! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, training scars are very real, and very dangerous. These nightmarish things can come from no training, or worse yet, bad training and instruction. A training scar is:A procedure or process learned and practiced into a procedural memory that is wrong and or dangerous. We will pick up training scars in another article.

You were saying that there is a good side to training to permanency?.. Oh yes! There are many, too many to list in any singular entry or book even, advantages to procedural memory. Everything that is not bad, is good. Learning where all the functions on your firearm are and keeping your knife or keys in the same exact spot all the time are good examples of major positives.

I am a monumental fan of consistency. It makes us better at everything we do. Through being consistent, we develop procedural memory, and that is our friend. Thanks to Hyper-vigilance and the need to move we know that our brain does not function like normal in combat, we have to have a plan already. That is precisely why practice making permanent can be a good thing.

Take your time, and do it right. If you shave corners in training and practice, you will surely do it in combat; and cutting corners in combat will get you killed… If you do not make a tight fist when you train punching the air you will make a weak fist in combat. Then on your very first punch, you will break your hand, and be down in the fight. Do not give your opponent that gift. Take a little extra time, make a little extra effort, and find a good teacher; then you will be the best.

What can we learn?

  • Practice makes permanent, not perfect
  • Permanent is not a bad thing, unless it is, then, you better fix it and now!
  • Muscle memory is not real, it is a lazy way of saying Motor learning through procedural memory
  • Training scars are real, and real scary. Once procedural memory is established, it takes some time and effort to correct
  • Procedural memory is a real blessing, take full advantage of it!

Stay Sharp,


I was recently ask after a class by a good friend and student; “What do you do to get better at shooting”. I did not have an immediate answer for him. After a minute’s thought the fog lifted and I was able to tell him what I do. This article is a direct result of that conversation.

There are about as many ways to train as there are colors in the spectrum. That goes for anything; physical fitness, rock climbing, whatever. In the context of self defense, there is an equally long list: Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Knife, Hand to hand (which is massive in and of itself), mentally training, so on and so on. That said, the way I do things is a way, not the way. If you like it and it works for you, take it and run with it. I have developed this methodology over time and still allow room for modification.

This approach and process can be applied to any skillet. We will use handguns here, as that was the original context.

I take the approach of getting better like I would if I was to eat a whale, one bit at a time. When I go to the range, I go to get better at head shots at 10 yards from the holster, or get better at unsupported support hand shooting and reloading, or whatever I am improving.

I do not go to the range to “get better”. If you go to the range just to get better, you never will… What I do, and what I recommend students try is profound, are you ready!? Here it is: “Focus on one thing at a time!” See, not so hard right? But it’s so obvious, there must be more to it, well, there kinda is.

Let’s say you want to get better at shooting handguns, overall. Your groups are spread out and sometimes you miss all together. How does fixing one thing at a time help? Well, I’m thrilled you asked. Everything! Remember, what I said about the whale? One bite at a time. You will not become an expert shooter in one range session, not gonna happen. That takes time and practice. What you can do however, is get a little better each time!

When you go to the range to get better, start big and get small. Meaning, work on your big actions (stance), and move small (trigger control). So, you are at the range, and shooting all over the place. First things first: be consistent! If you are nothing else be consistent, you cannot improve until you are doing the same thing over and over.

Once you are doing the same things constantly, you can begin to improve what you are doing! Start with your stance. Make sure you have a good, solid, comfortable, and repeatable stance. Once that is solid, go smaller, how about your grip? Is that a great grip, or is it meh? Get it great and move smaller. Trigger control and sight alignment are the most critical functions for accuracy, they are also the smallest.

Now, about 90% of what makes you a better shooter can be done by dry firing. Please make sure you are being incredibly safe while dry firing! Follow all safety rules and remove any ammunition from the area!

When I go to the range, I will go with at least 100 rounds. I will spend all 100, more or less if that is what it takes, to work on one particular skill. If I need to work on my trigger control, then each shot is slow and analyzed to death. If I want to practice speed reloads from running dry, I will only put a round or two in the magazine so I can maximize my reloads, while still working on a shooting skill.

Do not try to do too much at once. That will frustrate you and you will not improve, because you will never know what works and what does not. Be particular, and take your time. Change one thing at a time, otherwise you will end up “chasing the bulls eye” and you will only become frustrated. When you train, train with a purpose, do not go shoot just to waste ammo and money. Nor should you swing a knife around and call it training, use these principles in all areas of training and watch yourself grow. Training implies improvement, and we should always be improving.

What can we learn?

  • Be consistent! You will never improve without constancy.
  • Once you are consistent, you can move your group
  • Focus on improving one thing at a time. Do not change too many things at once, if you do you will never know what works and what does not.
  • Start big and go small. Start with stance, move down to trigger, one step at a time.
  • Dry fire training will make you better when done correctly and safely
  • Be patient

I hope this helps, Nighthawk.


Stay Sharp,