Friday, November 4, 2016

Memento Mori

Remember That You Have To Die

Let us beware that saying death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche

My friend Mark wrote a post back in 2015 dealing with this topic that I greatly enjoyed. It was something that had been on my mind for a while, had come up in our circle, and I had actually been working on a draft of a post about it at the time he released it. Putting it out formally, and following his suggestion on filling out a graph turned this from something that maybe I thought about sometimes or had feelings about into something I was facing every day, and its had a profound impact on me.

I'm going to get a little deep here. I'm not writing for an audience, I'm writing for myself, and I intend to drag out some of my personal thoughts and philosophy out into the daylight stark naked and laid bare. 

Remember Death
The first part of that is Remember. As in think about, comprehend, meditate upon. It was always easy for me to say, yeah, I know I'm going to die one day, but then go about my daily life caught up in the trivialities of existence. The minutia of the day. 

Not that the little things aren't important, they most assuredly are. Go to work, pay bills, sit in traffic, I mean I'm not about to walk off into the woods and turn into a flash of light here cause time is a flat circle and I've transcended earthy existence. The cable bill still needs paid, and I've heard it said if its not practical its not spiritual. I'm all about being practical. 

But I need to remember. I need to remind myself, daily, that I'm mortal. I only have so much time left, and no guarantee on how much. I truly have only this moment, and now its gone. If I make that a part of me, then I start to hold a perspective on life that, to me, is beautiful. 

Knowing that I'm mortal, and that the thread can be cut at any time is it worth my time to put up with people who's company I don't enjoy? Should I argue over a parking space? Life could end tomorrow, will it have been a good use of that most limited of resource, time, to get frustrated in traffic? Or better still, should I avoid the chance of having my mind changed or being exposed to opposing opinions? I'd rather not meet death having never given myself the chance to hold a different viewpoint. 

Filling out this graph every week, and seeing it every day keeps it on my mind. It makes me face it, constantly, and think about whats important to me.

I remember post 9/11 watching an interview with a woman who's husband was murdered that day. She spoke about how it was a normal morning, just routine stuff, and he left for work like every other day. And then he was gone. It was heartbreaking to me. Every morning when I leave for work I kiss my wife and tell her I love her. She's still sleeping, it usually wakes her, it prob used to annoy her more the first few years but I suspect she's gotten used to it by now. I'm not going to miss the opportunity to tell her I love her, to kiss her, as if it might be the last time. 

Life is brief, precious, and rare. I don't want to take any day for granted. I remember, I meditate on, I face the fact that I must die, and its beautiful. I won't squander it.

I think of also the dead in my life, and how they continue to touch me. My grandmother, who gave me a safe place to be a child during a rough childhood, who let me play and cooked me food, and stayed up late with me giving me coffee too young and watching Johnny Carson while telling my grandfather Mike to shoo off and leave the boy alone. I love her. I love what she did for me and how she affected my life. I remember her, and I remember cooking with my son and telling him about Stella, and about how she would always put a pinch of sugar in the sauce to add love.

I think of my dear friend Frank. A man who spent time in the penitentiary, who had a child that wouldn't speak with him ever again, who grew up gay in a time when that was formally considered a mental disorder. A man who turned his life from one of destruction into a thing of love and giving. He gave me so much, he guided me, he taught me, and he was the mentor who gave me tough love and stark truth when I most needed it. He helped bring me through my young adult life and become the man I am today. And while he is physically gone from this earth he continues to influence and guide me to this day.

I shed some tears for them writing this, but its not with sadness that I remember them. It is with great joy knowing that they loved me, and knowing how proud they would be of me today. When I contemplate my own death, this is what I want to leave behind.  

And this is how I come to face that boogeyman, that inevitable end, the great unknown. Not with fear or pain, not in denial, or with trepidation. But with acceptance and appreciation for what I have now, today. With a commitment to be the best version of myself I can be, to not carry around pain and hatred or drag myself down with the weight of a heavy soul. I tell my friends I love them, I give from the heart, not because some old book tells me to, or some guy claims to tell me the true path. No, because I live my life by what I know is right by me. 

This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man/ Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
~William Shakespeare 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bob Vogel Private Small Group Class Review 08/14/16

"People always say dry fire is boring, but you know whats not boring? Getting better."
-Bob Vogel

I had Bob scheduled for a 2 day class here in Pittsburgh before the Alias drama blew up and took my schedule with it. It was to be my first time training with him and truly the shooting class I was most looking forward to this year. So when it cancelled me and two of my closest shooting buddies decided to book him for a one day at his place in Ohio for just the 3 of us. This is the first time with all the hosting and everything in several years that I have paid for shooting instruction out of my own pocket and been a straight up student, it was worth every penny.

It was a 5 hour drive and cost us $250/each for the lesson. We went from 10am when we arrived until 6pm when we wrapped up with less than an hour of break for lunch (we packed lunch). Shot about 600 rounds.

First off Bob was super friendly and just a normal fucking dude. He had us in his home and besides the awards and trophies all over the place it was just like going to any friends house. I felt really comfortable immediately.

First order of business was we sat at his kitchen table and discussed our individual levels of experience. What shooting sports we played, rank, how long we had been shooting and training formally, etc. We then went over very simply discussing safety with an emphasis on muzzle control and some anecdotes about the sort of failures he commonly sees in safety and that he expected us to be fine with our experiences. We also discussed dry fire safety, the importance of dry fire, and how he approaches it.

Strong emphasis was put on starting grip work from the draw, shooting multiple rounds on multiple targets, and realistic grip pressure and working the trigger dry. The interesting part here that I hadn't been exposed to before was that Bob gets that first press click out of the glock but then for subsequent shots he moves his trigger finger the full range of motion as if the trigger was still there at the pace and pressure he would realistically. I had used cardboard to keep the gun out of battery before, or pressed the dead trigger back into the frame, but Bob is really focusing on moving the trigger finger just the same as if the trigger was not dead. Doing this combined with real grip pressure exposed some movement I had not seen in the gun before when dry or even with a sirt gun. On the sirt gun he prefers to use a real gun instead with his method, and discourages use of the laser for dry fire.

There has been some talk of the Vogel grip method and how he torques the gun. Nothing Ive read or heard on it has done it justice. Bob does a demo where you get your grip, take your support hand away and he put his support hand in its place and the amount of force you need to exert to keep that fucker in front of you is astounding. If you watch him shoot youll notice the gun cants slightly due to the torque. His explanations of how and why are detailed and complete. Im definitely going to be working on it.

First shots where slow fire bill drills at 10 yards so he could see our groups, again with generous par times from the ready, and then our first timed shooting drills where bill drills at 7 , 15, and 25 yards. Each of us went several time through, pasted and timed each run and discussed the groups. Bob had insights as far as the level of detail you need visually at these 3 ranges. My initial index and first shot really suffer at 25, I'll be focusing on this personally.

The rest of the day consisted of work moving and shooting around barrels. moving from spot to spot to spot, setting up in position (that's what I desperately wanted to get from this!) and then tracking movers. Bob had quality technical details on each portion and reviewed with us through several iterations how to lower our center of gravity while moving, how to plant the lead foot when hitting position, and how to effectively track movers. Large emphasis and big lightbulbs for me when he talked about having the confidence to shoot a mover wherever it is in the cycle and shoot it as if it was a stationary target as you track it.

The biggest personal performance piece for me was the final exercise of the day where we had a steel activator for a mover with a no shoot to the left, to the right a large popper, a partial cardboard with no shoot and a small plate and on the far left a small popper.  Bob asked us first how we would shoot this array, we are at about 10 yards. I say I would shoot the activator first, hit the large popper as its close and big then go back to the mover then run the rest of the targets. I said I didn't think at my level I would have time to hit more than one target.

Bob hit the activator, large popper, partial, small plate then hit the mover on its first pass out and ended on the small steel. Of course he did, hes a world champ. He then talked about how most people don't have a real plan for this type of problem. They shoot always trying to keep an eye on the mover, are slower, miss onto the no shoot as they rush the shots to get back, and since they don't have realistic pace in dry fire and walk through they end up over shooting or waiting on the mover, but if you can focus on each shot you have enough time that by the time you get to the mover its on its way back and since you can shoot it wherever in the cycle you see it you nail it on the way to the last popper. This tied in a lot of his input through the day on realistic dry fire as well as both shooting movers, and the part that was huge for me - the confidence to shoot each shot with focus. I said I would try what he did , and crushed it. I would never had had the confidence to think I could have pulled that off. I ran it in 5.30 with a miss on the activator on the first shot, ran it again and nailed it at 4.70 clean. That was a perfect last run of the day, and Im feeling stronger in this skill set as a result.

On a side note I really really liked his sights and he installed a set for me before we left. I was having elevation issues with the Y notch sights as time went on that would show up from time to time and had already switched back to my old cheap ameriglo FO set but the front on those was too big. The Vogel sights have a nice clean big deep rear notch with solid square lines I like, and Im told that if Bob installs them himself your hit factor goes up 10%

Antifragile Training

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Training Intensity

I'm often GO GO GO all the time. Like ALL THE TIME. And I dont think there is an issue with that, with the constantly putting work in, especially when that work is among multiple disciplines. The cycling often gives rest to one area while you work another. Shooting days where I don't do anything physical give my body time to rest, and long rolling bjj sessions get my mind working along with my body.

The issue though, for me at least, isn't the constant work, its the level of intensity of that work. If I'm always going as hard as I can go, then I'm never actually going as hard as I could. There are no medals given out at open mat, there are only those that got better that day and those that didn't. I have to watch myself. Being overly competitive and "going hard" has caused me two injuries recently that I'm very lucky where not worse than they were. The one thing I desperately cannot afford is an injury taking training time away from me.

"Fear is a state of nervousness only fit for children"
-The RZA

I've taken lately to the setting of micro goals and working on staying process focused. If its a BJJ day then maybe there is a sweep or a set up I'm looking to work on. Right now I'm trying to sharpen getting up to my knees to attack the single leg from half guard. If I'm shooting I'm looking to improve my consistency at longer ranges with a pistol. This gives me a focus, and that focus sharpens me. These goals will change as I find holes in my game or otherwise find the need or want to. Maybe next month I'll work on my lasso guard, maybe next range trip is all draws from concealment. The micro goals help me stay technical and focused without a "go hard" mentality that leads to tension and stiffness.

Tao Te Ching 76
The living are soft and supple;
the dead are rigid and stiff.
In life, plants are flexible and tender;
in death, they are brittle and dry.

Stiffness is thus a companion of death;
flexibility a companion of life.
An army that cannot yield
will be defeated.
A tree that cannot bend
will crack in the wind.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.

Yeah, all Tao and shit. Maybe I'll play the role of Captain Go Hard next week.. once this elbow heals.. until then I'm happy to be training at all and trying desperately to rein in emotions. The point to all this antifragility is to push it as far as we can go, but without pushing it further and doing irreparable harm. Riding that line takes discipline and constant self assessment. Skills that translate well to just about everything. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Keep building, keep working, keep moving. Memento Mori Motherfuckers!

Antifragile Training 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Starting a Training Group pt 4

In Part 3 we talked about the tasks and mindset the group organizer would need to practice. So now lets get down to brass tacks about the precise structure we have found most useful.

It's been my experience that both in our group and others I have seen form that there is a tendency to try to do too much. Both time wise and with regards to content. Often guys want to get together and try to completely recreate a full day of training, or maybe a "short day" of "only" 4 or 6 hours. Ouch.

Not only is that a large block of time for someone to put aside on a regular basis (and these need to be regular if they are to be useful) but without flight time instructing its very difficult to keep people usefully on track over that period of time. We used to do longer days, they required quite the time commitment and I don't feel like we got as much use out of one 4 hour session as two 2 hour sessions a week apart.

"If you want to teach someone nothing, show them everything"
~Shawn Williams

For a group that meets once a month I think 2 hours is the sweet spot. Short enough that you don't need a long break, but long enough to get a lot of focused work in. Its a good size where it doesn't kill a busy persons day with a huge time commitment. If you cant put aside 2 hours once a month, its simply not something your really interested in improving on. Don't focus on the time per block, but on the number of sessions over time. It's long term skill development that matters. 

To form the basic format I start with an idea of what live training at the end is going to look like. Not every session has to have a fully contextual beat down, in fact that is super time consuming and while great for occasional testing not the best for skill development. If, like I mentioned in the last installment, you want to work on escaping side mount like the final evo from ECQC TD2, then start by thinking about what that evolution looks like.

From there the question is what skills does a participant need to have precisely to have a positive outcome. What does a successful evolution look like? In this case you need to be able to effectively hip bridge, and hip escape, form a frame, and get your opponent off of you. Then create space to stand and/or to produce a weapon.

Now you have an idea of what physical skills you'll need, and the bulk of the time will be spent repping those out by gradually building one step on top of the other with layers of resistance and context slowly added and removed. Knowing exactly what movements to use, technical details to focus on, and how to adjust by what you see in the group will take flight time. Be patient. Your on a long road.

With the focus we are using we may choose some positional sparring. Given context a useful exercise for us was one I call the "5 second get up" .  Its just what it sounds like. I grab a shot timer with a 5 sec PAR. I have one guy start flat on his back and another on his knees next to him. At the start beep the top guy drops and tries to keep bottom guy pinned while bottom guy needs to explosively escape. Contextually this can be framed as the need to escape before a second guy arrives or the urgency one needs when blows are reigning down and you cant spend another moment getting beat on. I suggest several of these short rounds each before switching top/bottom. The goal is to get the participant as many exposures to this sliver of the whole as possible.

We have gotten skill work, practiced technique, and amped up with some live training inside a limited scope. Short break and back to the drilling but now work in access a weapon. Sometimes you get the weapon out and use it then get up, sometimes you get up then get the weapon. 

Then we can recreate that grounded evolution we started out working towards.

What follows are some outlines for sessions. As we go I would time parts, Trim where needed, add in other places. Remove and pair down the techniques, and otherwise sharpen the structure. I'm sure most of the terms and such will be gibberish to those who haven't been training with Shivworks Mafia , and that is just fine. 

Default Position in Managing Unknown Contacts (muc) Safety brief and pat down (10 min) Discussion on the Criminal Assault Paradigm (cap) and the focus of the days session (10 min) note: this sessions focus is on the moment we are caught by suprise, initiating is a seprate block Review main elements (15 min) High compressed fence, arcing movement, gradiated verbal response Role play warm up, encroachment (15 min) Review default position and sucker punch drill with partner (20 min) <break 15 min> Driving in from default drilling (15 min) Limited live training (20 Min) limited space for the focus, prefer against a wall, encroachment starts at sucker punch range, focus on short goes and break after entanglement/contact. prefer mixing of partners and a conveyor belt or up/down/out, constant work and lots of reps.
Initiating from MUC Safety brief and pat down (10) Review of focus of session (5) We are looking at a situation in which we are approached by someone we do not know in a enviroment that would support a crime, the totality of circumstances has led us to choose to act first. Note: there are many takes on this, from eye jabs to more a detailed boxing blast, all have there advantages and defeicits, this is imply my take on it for our group. Warm up pad work (15) "diving board" jab/cross Footwork pad work (15) 1-step to cut angle -2 <break 15> MUC role play with pads (20) Encroaching role player is to raise pads during MUC, focus is to throw, step, and hit again. We are looking to develop the hit and MOVE, encourage thinking and options. We can break range to flanks, shoot for takedown, deploy a weapon, or strike again. MUC role play with pads and second guy (20) Groups of 3. No pressure from 2nd guy, looking for focus to make correct choices for flanking and stacking opponents. Live training (20) Focus with rear foot on wall, cannot move until they initiate. Enctoachment issue with helmet and gloves approaches, looking to strike if they get close enough. Focus desired end state is to hit and get off the wall. Short repeated goes. Get multiple reps in before switching.
Standing Grapple in the Weapons Based Enviroment (WBE) Safety brief and pat down (10 min) Review focus of session (5 min) We are looking at navigating a collision of bodies in a WBE in order to acess or denie access to weapons and safely break contact. Warm up, cutting the corner and swimming underhooks (consensual, non competitive) (10 min) Double unders competitive (10 min) Review wizzer to break double unders and drill (10 min) Boney edge, lower level, cut corner, swim Review underhook, overhook, ties and a strategy of getting to underhook/bicep tie (5 min) Underhook / Tie competitive (10 min) <break 15 min> Review and drill strategies from hoo/tie (15 min) Duck under on underhook side Duck under from wrist tie Arm drag Tie ups Partner access non competitive and technical work (15 Min) Can use hard trainers as appropriate. One is trying to access, one trying to deny access. This is a "slow roll", 20%, should be able to use good technique and strategy, not out of breathe and able to speak to opponent. Live training from neutral clinch (15 min) Focus is looking to access weapon and break contact. Note: can break ANS THEN access or access first, keep an eye on breaking in front of opponent.
Attached Edged Weapons Safety brief and pat down (10) Warm up review of IFWA and standing grapple, technical drilling (20) Review hook/tie strategy, need for timing access, nearest hand under control, "cheating IFWA with the short center line fixed blade" where the rules get bent, opening of the folder and more strict access Non consensual competitive access from neutral clinch (15) <break 15> Point driven methodology attached (15 min) Reverse, forward, and punch grips throwing with hips, setting up shots, targeting considerations, nok knives only and review safety with how hard we can hit with them. Train technical to IFWA and then live for 2-3 good hits OR technical depending on group Defense against the deployed blade drilling(30 min) Wrist tie to baseball bat and hip switch to take down or break range (contextually dependent choices) Entangled body lock Live training from clinch (15 min)
Pistol Disarms Safety brief and pat down (10) Review of session focus (10) Worst case scenerio, disproportinate armorment, cover realistic gun holds and ask about anyone being robbed at gunpoint. Role play getting hands into play from hold up (10) Review moving body AND muzzle to get off line of fire, drill from hold up (20) < break 10> Technical disarm drilling (20) Bring into core, extend opponent if possible, set bite, out thumb side. Review 1 and 2 hand holds and different positions. Ring game (20 min) Cicle on ground, 2 enter, each hanve one hand on short PVC pipe. 15 sec PAR (can adjust, shot timer works best). 3 ways to win: 1- push opponent out of ring , 2 - take pipe , 3 - take down with dominate position. Multiple goes, fast pace. Live training (20) 
Fist helmets and SIm guns. Start focus in corner in gun hold, work from role play to get to escape/disarm

That's enough to get you started. You already picked a date for that first session, right?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Starting a Training Group pt 3

We've discussed the need for a crew and some of the challenges we will meet in Part 1 and Part 2. So lets talk about you now. Yes, you.

Someone needs to take the lead.

This is a precarious position to be in. It can have several personal development lessons, and a lot of it depends on where you are in relation to understanding the material you want to work on. In the early days I tried to mainly cast myself as an organizer. I want to get this training in, so I set up the time and place. I bring the gear, I choose an agenda, and we show up and do work. There is some structure like this, but its mainly just setting up the circumstances so that training can happen.

In my experience this approach is highly effective given what you have to work with. Its a fuckton better than having someone with only a rough understanding trying to mimic an instructor and play teacher. There's plenty of that out in the world, and I've yet to be impressed with any of its product. On the other hand I've seen plenty of guys that where honest about their limitations who consistently put in effort and stayed humble come through like a wrecking ball.

As an organizer it will be your job first and foremost to pick the time and place. Do not do this by group discussion. Everyone's schedules wont line up. Someone will make a big deal out of day and time then get a last minute emergency. There will be traffic that day, its my kids birthday, my wife needs a ride to work, and on and on and on. We have lives, all of us, you cant make everyone happy. Pick a time and place that works for you and sounds reasonable. Don't worry about everyone showing up, keep this going and they will have another chance to train in the future. Try to please everyone and no one gets to train.

Any place will do. We have trained in muddy yards, gravel ranges, old abandoned trailers, baseball fields and parks. Today we are proud to train in a world class facility at Stout Training Pittsburgh / Team Renzo Gracie but it took years to get this legit.

Your next job is to pick a topic. I will lay out some guidelines and formats in the next post that will be more specific in this regard. The topic should be a sliver of the overall picture. We need to develop a focus for these sessions for them to be of use. If perhaps at your last ECQC you really struggled getting trapped in side control during the grounded evolution (its like I'm a mind reader! ) then escapes from side control would be a good choice.

Then we come to the day of the event. Get started on time, and keep to the schedule. This may be the hardest part. People are often late. I think personally that's disrespectful. But these are semi formal, and I'm happy they show up at all, so I keep it to myself (I've gotten a lot better!). Just start when the time comes, late people play catch up. Keeping on task is the part that takes some personality. In this sort of semi formal setting we cannot bark orders, and without the participants having payed money we cannot expect them to give their full attention the way they would in a class setting. But we must stay on task. Too much side talk, guys wanting to experiment, these distractions take away from the efficiency of using the time you have. If I'm going to dedicate a block of my busy life to this it needs to be useful, and if I want to respect the time of those I hope to train with I need to deliver. If guys want to hang out after and dick around, or get together for unstructured time to work on something that's great! I encourage that! But when we are getting together to do work we need to bring our focus and get at it.

If you have people who have experience in some areas work with them on presenting the material. Perhaps you set the time, place, and do all the organizing but there is a guy in your group who was an amateur boxer that your going to have present some material during your striking session. It is important to differ to experience and recruit support. We need to be able to promote information sharing and group effort while we keep structure and drive.

I highly suggest using video for review. Video of everything. Get some of the drilling, any demo's, instructional, presentation, and live training. Its been very developmentally helpful for me to take video of me presenting the material and then reviewing that video with my coaches. Over the years it is amusing to me to watch me present a piece on a topic from a few years ago and then watch that same presentation now and see how much I've been able to tune it up and the level of my apparent comfort in the delivery grow. When watching live training if you see a failure point over and over and then go back and see how they where drilling, or if it was addressed (and how!) in the demo can really help us install the techniques better. I prefer for ease of sharing to upload videos to youtube on unlisted links and then be able to send that link where it needs to go. If you set them as unlisted they can only view them with the link, its not searchable, and we can watch it anywhere from any device with internet access without worrying about file types and sizes. It doesnt need to be production quality film making, just good enough to review and learn from.

For the sake of using time wisely  I suggest after training review and feedback be done outside of the training session. I've used a lot of different tools for this. Early on we did email chains, later a friend of mine was kind enough to provide a private section on an online discussion forum he ran. After that forum was gone I had a hidden forum on my website we used. Now I use a private facebook group. Its free, its easy to access, and its easy to add people to and use.

In part 4 I will share the ancient secret forbidden knowledge passed down through esoteric kata based on the movements of pandas giving birth and we will look at formats and some of the exercises we use.

Part 4

Antifragile Training

Monday, May 9, 2016

Starting a Training Group pt 2

In Part 1 we talked a bit about getting together the people to make a group.
So then, who are these lunatics we need to get moving and how do we find them?

This journey for me started soon after my first formal shooting course with some old school gunsite guys with mustache's and funny hats. Those guys where pretty cool, and while we parted ways on a lot of the technical aspects of shooting they taught me some very real and relevant lessons. They instilled in me from the start a strong foundation for safely handling a gun and appreciation for training. It was in those courses that I met a couple guys I really hit it off with. We would hang out, go shooting, grill on the range, and generally have a good time.

At some point we decided that we wanted to do more than shoot. We wanted to do cool stuff. We wanted to know about knives, and fighting with guns. We heard the term "force on force" and it sounded awesome. Long story short we found a guy who advertised that he taught this stuff and we all chipped in brought him out. We had a great time, and decided the next month we would get together and practice this stuff.

The important part here isn't the story of those early days, or the many paths since then to where we are now. The important part is that NOT ONE of those original guys is still training with me today.

Not one.

People get lives, have children, get married, get jobs in other states, have life show up in all sorts of ways. When we are forming a training group it is less important that we find just the right people, or people we think will stick around. The important part is simply that we find people and get started.

Never stop recruiting. New people are the life blood of any organization.Welcome them, be glad for them, without them we have no future. There was a lot of talk early on about having prerequisites, that we wouldn't invite anyone out that didn't have X hours of formal training or got recommended by someone in the group. It was all with good intention, and it would have killed us.

I have had the distinct advantage of hosting courses. Over the years anyone who seemed like minded in a shooting course got invited out. That brought a lot of us together. But the sources of folks who are involved now is greatly varied. Do good work and those seeking it will find you out. That's the premise I operate on. I show up and do the very best I can to facilitate something of value, and I don't keep it secret.

I don't think there is a magic recipe or anything to finding people. The folks that want to do this sort of work are a rare breed. Getting people just to take a real hard hitting course is one thing, getting them to show up regularly to get beat on is quite another. If your going to do this thing you have to commit to it. Understand there will be days where no one shows up. Understand its going to take time and energy. It can be thankless at times, and greatly rewarding at others. Some people will no show on you, others will surprise you with their drive and commitment. Its a long road. Understand its going to be worth it.

Which also leads us into another tricky part. A group needs an organizer. Notice my word choice. I didn't want to teach originally. I just wanted guys I could train with. But without structure what we had was a bunch of guys get distracted, going off course, not using time effectively. We lost some good people in those days, it just wasn't quality use of time for busy people who really wanted to train and not just fuck around. At some point it got more and more formal, and with more and more structure it needed more and more someone to facilitate that. To keep an agenda and keep us on track. This was awkward for me in the beginning, but as the positive feedback loop began it became more comfortable. People where grateful for the work I put in, and that let me know it was ok to take the lead.

Someone has to step up. You don't need to play instructor, you don't need a mastery of the material. What you do need is strong work ethic and a sense of responsibility. You need to be honest about your limitations and rigorous in your ability to review your work. I have found these traits to be the hardest to cultivate. The rest of it comes only with time and practice.

Part 3

Antifragile Training

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Starting a Training Group

The weekend class is the standard format for most firearms and self defense courses, and for good reason. It gives the average practitioner an opportunity to get time in with any of a vast array of high quality professional instructors who specialize in traveling to convenient nearby locations for relatively little time commitment and reasonable market prices.

The issue though, is what happens after the class. What happens between the basic shooting course you take this summer and the more intensive one you take next? Or, for our purposes, what work have you done between the beat down Craig Douglas brought to you and the next time you audit your skillset, or between the course and the time you need to perform.

For shooting skills the path is fairly easy to access. Hit the range, practice the skills you learned, log your progress and score some standard shooting drills and you'll see improvement. If you want to truly get exceptional at shooting start shooting practical shooting sports such as USPSA.

For weight lifting its simple too. Want to get stronger? Get some good coaching on your form, download the Stronglifts app and pick heavy things up and put them back down. You will get stronger. Need a bigger gas tank? Plenty of cardio waiting out there for you.

All our discreet skill sets are fairly straightforward to access. Got a hole in your ground game? Find a legit BJJ school and get to work. Gotta work hands? Boxing. Do some research, find legit schools and get in with a solid MMA program.

But what if what you really need to do is work on your In Fight Weapons Access (IFWA as per Craig)? What if waht really drives you is the need to fight a dude in a car with a simunition gun? Did you go to a practical knife class like the ones offered by Chris Fry and now you need to practice that stuff?

Well, then you need a crew of liked minded lunatics who don't look at you like you have 3 heads when you say you need to work on escaping the bottom of a boot party with a gun in you belt. You need a crew that thinks that sounds like a damn good time! You need a fucking training group! We cannot do this alone.

Its a little bit more involved though than just finding a couple guys to throw down with. That's the first piece of the puzzle, but then where we go from there takes a great deal of work and time. We have to talk about time commitment, study materials, long term sustainability, formats, and more.

Over the last decade or so I've made every damn mistake I can imagine on this path. I've tried a great many approaches, spent a great deal of time trying to get good at stuff that's not functional under pressure, and had friends come and go in this training group journey. For the folks looking to get that started, I'm going to share my experience and thoughts on this process with you over a couple of posts. I'm going to attempt to organize my thoughts on the subject and all the things I've been able to share with others when they ask me about this.

Lets get to work!

Part 2

Antifragile Training

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why So Serious?

Been a while since I wrote a post, forgive me that, training takes up a great deal of my time and when I stand still for a moment sitting down to write isn't the first thing I generally want to do. Not because I am killing myself out here training, or I'm some sort of martyr to the process of being a badass. Not at all. I spend all that time training because I ENJOY IT. 

Yeah, sure, I don't always love every moment. I'm often struggling, frustrated, and failing over and over. But the big picture, the what it does for me, the rare gems of success I mine out the piles of hard work and sweat, those pay off for the early morning workouts and late nights tired and beaten trying to get the strength to do just one more round.

"It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how."
~ Dr. Suess

It's important to me that this process have some fun in it. That there be laughter. That we engage on many different levels both physical and emotional. One might from afar see the self defense course I teach regularly at Stout Training /Team Renzo Gracie and wonder at the fun we seem to be having around such a serious subject. You might not catch a whiff of the fear, of the desperation when someone is pinned to the ground trying to get someone off of them or smashed in a corner about to be hit. That seriousness , those real discussions about the application of these skills in the real world and the dire consequences of getting it wrong needs balanced out with humor. 

We don't laugh at jokes we don't get. The laughter means there is understanding, there is comprehension. When the training can stay engaging, be fun at times and also deadly serious at others, it is then that I know we are communicating with each other across a spectrum of understanding.

 Some people like to teach with a "drill instructor" methodology. Just not my style. Not how I get down.

Here I am training with Pat MacNamara , if anyone gets to act like a hard ass its this dude. With 22 years in special operations, 13 in 1st SFOD-D he stills has a blast on the range and pushes his students without taking himself too seriously.

I'm looking forward to getting some solid work in this year. I've got a full plate! Plenty of courses booked, some already sold out. I'll be teaching, I'll be shooting, I'll be competing in jiu jitsu tournaments and shooting events. I know sometimes I'll be tired, sometimes I'll want to to stop, I know there will be ups and downs and plenty of challenges along the way. But I know there will also be triumph, and victory, and laughter all along the way.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Fuck Motivation

I'm in this thing for the long haul. I gotta keep my head wrapped around that and just what it means. The long term. Not this week, not next year, but years and years. Sometimes the best way to deal with that long view is simply one day at a time. I keep that long view for perspective but I concentrate on what I'm doing now, today, or this week towards that far distant time where today's work will pay dividends.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
~Jack London

More than just a few times people have told me they wished they could get motivated, to train as much as I do, or that they are going to do this or that or committing to some plan or another...tomorrow...or maybe after the new year.. or after they lose some weight...or once their work schedule calms down some.

Well. Fuck motivation. Part of understanding that this is a long path for me is accepting there will be ups and down. There will be times I'm all fired up to do work, as well as times I'm just not feeling it. I will have success and loss and experience over time all the random stuff life throws at us all. If I require motivation, if I have to want it all the time, then I'm just not likely to be consistent.

I woke up this morning aching. Like most days. My joints hurt, my muscles sore, and there is a spot behind my shoulder blade that feels like someone stapled the muscles together. I took my vitamins, downed a cup of coffee and went to work. Its sub zero out, the air is dry, I've been up coughing all night. I don't feel like training, I don't want to get crushed today. But I go after work, get in early and get some drilling in. I'm tired, I could sit out open mat until I teach later. I don't. I get my rounds in. I feel weak today. I lose position, get smashed, cant pull off the moves I'm working on, it sucks. After class I could go, I've done some work, I've done more than I wanted, I'm ready to go. I toss on some little gloves instead and get some rounds in.

Why? Did I watch a motivational video? Did my song come on? Was I pumped up and ready to throw down? Hell no! I was ready for a nap! I wanted cake! But if I only trained on the days where I felt like it Id be nowhere near where I am now.

I do this because I love it, because there is truth in it. Because that hard work on those rough days pays me back tenfold, I just don't get to choose when. I become a better person through the process, I improve, I learn, and I'm able to share this experience with others.

I know that if I work now it will pay off later. That one extra round, that one extra session, that last rep, that's the one that will make me better. That's the one I'll draw on when I need it, and all those last rounds together will add up in the end, in the long haul.  Just don't stop moving forward.

Antifragile Training

Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Easy Way

At the end of of one of our self defense classes this past week a student asked me a question, and its not the question itself that initiated this post but the type of question it is. The end of this particular session has the student back up against a wall, forehead to forehead with another student armed with a soft training knife. At the go signal the armed student is trying to stick them over and over while the focus of this exercise is trying to stop getting stabbed to death, control the limbs, and get away or gain control of their attacker using the techniques we are practicing. 

Its hard training. They have been drilling for an hour. They are tired, sweaty, and this is a competitive exercise with other students watching. They are under pressure and start out at an extreme deficit.  

The question was along the lines of "Why am I losing so much?". I understand in these moments why there is so much bullshit self defense out there, why folks walk into places in droves to hit pads and feel like an animal with an instructor telling them how effective they will be in that real fight they hope they never get into. People crave that. Its an honest want, the want to feel secure, to feel like your getting better, to be winning. And it burns me those that take that and sell them falsehoods to cover over their insecurities. 

The answer. The real answer. The straight truth is that the other guy was better than you, and he starts with an advantage. There is no secret, no magic talisman, no foolproof technique you can learn in an hour to escape unscathed from a guy that's bigger and stronger than you with a knife in his hand and your back to a wall. I could in those moments give an eloquently delivered rationalization for the failure, I could sell some doodad or show some secret move. Or, better yet, I could give all the exact same instruction and remove the competitive element, the live training, and simply reassure them how badass they are or would be if they ever had to use it.

Part of the lesson here, maybe even the most important part, is that the student comes to understand through experience just how dangerous this is. That perhaps avoidance and deescalation should be paramount, and that especially with weapons in play even the bigger, stronger, better fighter can lose or get seriously injured in the process.  

Reality is messy, its chaotic, its violent, sudden, and comes bearing down on you with malicious intent. This is where we need to perform. This is the world we need to learn to thrive in. Gassed out and overwhelmed. No quit, no time outs, no reprieve or air unless we take it, until we win our right to breathe and move. 

The only way to get there is through hard work over time. Its not an hour, not a day, not a weekend seminar. Its practice, reps, and rounds with others on the same path. It takes sweat, it takes patience, persistence, bruised flesh and battered egos, and most of all it takes time. 

No, there aint no easy way.