You are not an operator, part 2

My friend Marcus Wynne had a blog post recently about accelerated training (his area of expertise) in which he quotes this exchange:

I had a discussion with a friend in a Tier One Unit. We were discussing my experiments in accelerating the training of technical skill sets (weapons manipulation, marksmanship, short range tactical engagements) to a level of performance under stress that began to approach that of experienced Tier One operators.  His counter point (a very good one) is that “Tier One operators are the result of a long selection and training process; just because someone can manipulate the weapon as fast or engage targets as fast in a training environment doesn’t mean they have the judgment forged in experience during deployments and continual training and operations to employ that weapon successfully in the real world.”

Exactly.  Just because you can do fancy skills at a high level, even under stress, does not mean that you can do all the other stuff that using those skills effectively requires.  (Marcus and I both saw this phenomenon in the martial arts: there are any number of impressive, athletic, empty-air punchers and kickers out there.  But they ain’t fighters.).  Marcus’ post goes on to discuss one of those skills: the ability to “improvise, adapt and overcome” when everything you had planned on goes to shit.  Civilians, including most cops, and also including most SWAT cops, do not train in that very often.  I’d also add things like awareness, de-escalation, avoidance, and escape as other necessary, non-running-and-gunning skills that a competent defender should hone.  There are others.

Like I say so often: there’s more to self-defense than shooting.  When I want to be clever I express it as: there’s more to shooting than shooting.

I’ll never be a Tier 1 operator or anything in the same universe as it.  I tend to work the plodding, slow, stupid, but fundamental and relevant, stuff when I practice.  This afternoon I spent an hour firing 100 rounds, working on keeping a pair in an 8-inch circle.  Boomboom at 5 yards.  Boom boom at 10 yards.  Boom…boom at 15 yards.  I also worked the most fundamental drill.  I worked with my tricked-out optically-corrected shooting glasses and with plain eye pro (with which I could not see the sights worth a damn).

Capusta-head stuff.  I hope that’s smart.


One thought on “You are not an operator, part 2

  1. Hey Ralph — just some drive-by commentary as I’m recuperating from a rough birthday (fell off a roof while celebrating my 60th birthday…and I was SOBER…really).

    1. I think aspiring to the advanced levels of gun manipulation and marksmanship is worthy in and of it self,


    my main point is this — those mechanical skills are less than ideal unless trained and practiced in CONTEXT of the end-use, i.e. while in the psycho-physiological state you expect to use them in. Most instructors think yelling at students and/or physically exercising them creates useful stress…uh, the stress (as measured by hormonal secretions, brain wave activity, etc.) generated by exercise and performance anxiety is NOT the same stress (using those same biological markers) caused by immediate onset threat to life stress.

    One can either individually (thorough intennse visualization including all sensory elements) or in a group (utilizing extremely high fidelity reality simulation + individual visualizations) access that same kind of response.

    hard work though and not as sexy as burning off lots of rounds and swaggering around in neatly pressed 5.11s.

    So even the fundamental skills you make fun of practicing NEED to be practiced in a heightened state of physiological excitation of the RIGHT KIND in order to be there when necessary in a real fight.

    While I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Tom Givens, it seems that part of the success of his students is his *management* of the students experience in force on force which allows for a higher transference of range skill to street application. Just an educamacated guess based on video reviews.

    But the mental platform piece is way overlooked because:

    a. Few people teach it in a usable skill-oriented fashion
    b. Few people practice it (outside of a very elite circle) because they think it’s goofy or they have a hard time measuring for themselves the success of it
    c. Most people who don’t know anything at all about it tend to poo-poo it or sneer at it as “New Age-y” which I find humorous, given the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent on researching it and the many high end units combat athletes and professional sports athletes using those same techniques.

    My two cents worth. I’m off to practice pain management LOL…

    cheers, m


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