Just for the record, I do not consider myself an “expert” on any subject. I dislike the word, always have, and always will. Where I come from, a person can never know enough about a given subject. You are constantly raising the bar and striving for new levels of performance and knowledge.
As Sun Tzu states in his masterpiece The Art of War…”be a student of war”, and that is what I consider myself, a perpetual student. With that said, I offer some food for thought on the following subjects based on my personal experience and training.
Let me first say I am not a fitness trainer, nor do I hold any certifications in nutrition, nor do I have a degree in Kinesiology. This is my opinion on fitness, nothing more. What I can tell you is that I have (since I was 18 years old) been actively working out in one discipline or another, consistently. Throughout my career in special operations, I have had the opportunity and honor to workout with some of the most physically fit human beings to walk this planet. These were truly gifted men who took physical fitness and mental toughness to unparalleled levels. I understand that there’s a lot of conflicting information floating around out on the internet in regards to fitness and working out.
From independent studies, to corporate “certified” fitness trainers to professional body builders, not to mention your favorite fitness magazines and blogs. Everyone seems to be telling you that not only is their way the best, but the only way, “eat this, don’t eat that”. Oh, and don’t forget about all the “high speed low drag” fitness gadgets and equipment that is out there. To me, it seems that someone is always trying to invent a new mouse trap, but their trap is the same as the one that came out 10 years ago. Go figure. I’m here to tell you that nobody holds the secret to fitness.
I consider myself and those who know me to be in excellent physical condition. Lord knows I’m not 25 anymore, but that has not stopped me or slowed me down in keeping myself in shape. I have merely modified my workouts in order that I don’t injure myself or tear muscles at this point in my life. I have been asked on numerous occasions, either by friends or people I meet at the gym what my workout consists of, and what they should do as a work out routine. Most of the times I find myself saying “do what works for you”. I know that’s a B.S. answer, but the sad truth is it does not matter what I do, it’s what your body needs, not mine. Those differences in many cases are vast.
Let me tell you what I know to be true and that has never changed over the years as it applies to maintaining my health and fitness. I know this will sound simple and no big surprise, however, few people seem to be able to get them all to work at the same time. That is tremendously important.
- It takes sacrifice. Sacrifice as in, “I love my McDonalds, but junk food is not in my vocabulary now.”
- It takes discipline. Discipline as in, “It’s Monday and I had a hard day at work. I don’t feel like going to the gym. I will make it up tomorrow”. That is definitely not a habit you want to form.
- It takes effort. Effort as in when you are working out, you are pushing your body, not just going through the motions. If you’re not leaving the gym somewhat tired and beat up…you’re wrong.
- It takes focus. Focus as in when you are working out, you are using good form no matter what exercise or machine you may be using at the time. Your head is at the gym concentrating on the task at hand. Leave your cell phone in the car!
If you can apply these 4 aspects of working out, this is what will get you the results you will be looking for. It has for me, and has never failed. Never.
I believe that the key to an individual’s fitness lies in the delicate balance between sacrifice and your desire to enjoy your life. While sacrifice (I believe) is the most important aspect to a solid fitness program, you shouldn’t have to give up what you enjoy the most. That I don’t think promotes mental fitness and happiness. I believe that hardcore fitness is about a lifestyle change. I don’t believe in “diets”. I do believe in the saying, “You are what you eat.” I don’t believe that every exercise you do should be to increase your core fitness, but at the same time I don’t believe that everyone needs to do dead lifts or clean and jerks. What I’m trying to say is that in a culture flooded with conflicting information on the subject of fitness, the only thing that’s absolutely certain is that if you eat better and work out harder, you’ll look better, feel better and most likely live longer. That is no B.S.
Shooting / Tactical Training
I could write pages and pages on my thoughts about shooting and tactical training, so I will keep this short. No matter who you talk to, when it comes to shooting or tactical training, you will get a mixed bag of opinions, depending on present company. My opinions and beliefs are based on years of training and some real world practical application. I have trained with some of the finest warriors our military and government have produced. Millions of training dollars have been spent on guys like me, and I have been trained by some of the best instructors around.
So here goes……
- Understand your true capabilities and your shortfalls as it applies to gun handling. The person who over estimates their ability is far more of a liability than the person who under estimates their ability.
- Your gun handling must be reflexive. Chances are when the bad guy decides to rob you at gun point, or kicks in your front door; you didn’t just walk off the range after a 2 hour warm up session. This means practice, practice, and more practice. Keep in mind that the saying, “practice makes perfect” is partially correct. Perfect practice makes perfect. Anything else is just creating bad and potentially fatal habits. You will have to perform cold and on demand.
- Be intimately familiar with your surrounding at all times!!! Those of you that are familiar with Jeff Coopers Color Code of Awareness…believe it! You may be the person that can put every round in the X ring every time on the range week after week. You may even have a sub 1 second draw from the holster. But, if you don’t see the threat coming until it’s too late, the rest does not matter. You won’t even get a chance to go for your weapon.
- Understand what the OODA Loop is and how to use it against your opponent. The OODA Loop cycle has been studied and examined for years. It is a physiological reality that can not be modified or changed, except for the time that it takes you to complete it. The faster you can cycle through it, the chances of surviving a high intensity armed confrontation are increased exponentially.
- Never sacrifice accuracy for speed. Remember, you can’t miss fast enough to catch up.
- If you own or carry a weapon for defense, train at realistic distances and on realistic targets. When was the last time you saw someone wearing a shirt that had a target painted on it? Then why train on a target that has bull’s-eyes on it? The only thing a bull’s-eye target is good for is qualification shooting, period. In a real situation, you will not have a target to shoot at, only an outline of a human silhouette. This produces a severe “training scar” as I like to call it. Statistically, gunfights happen in very close quarters, 7 yards and under. Keep that in mind when you’re training.
- If you are using competition shooting or range work to practice for the “street”, keep this in mind. Regard a “miss” as the end of the fight, and chances are you have an extra hole in your body where there isn’t supposed to be one, and not just a 10 point penalty. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, only luck will give you a second chance in a gunfight if you miss the first time. On the range, there are third, fourth, fifth and sixth place trophies.
In a gunfight, there’s first place and second place only. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which one you don’t want to be.
- Like in the gym, don’t over train. I would rather go to the range and shoot 100 rounds concentrating on the 7 Fundamentals than slinging 400 rounds down range with no rhyme or reason. I see this all the time.
- Keep it real. If you have a CCW and carry a pistol for self-defense train with the gear and firearm you carry. Wear the clothing you normally wear while your carrying. Train like your going to fight and only that way.
- Lastly, I wish I could take the credit for this quote as it is so true. There is no such thing as “advanced tactical skills”, only perfect execution of the fundamentals under stress. For those of you that think there are tricks to shooting better, there are, and they are called the
7 Fundamentals of Shooting. The trick is being able to apply all 7 while under stress. It may sound easy to some of you, but I can tell you that it is what separates the “rock stars from the groupies”.
Let’s face it. Nobody knows exactly how they are going to react in the event they are placed in a real “life or death” survival situation. You can train all you want, go to all the survival schools there are, but the reality is that much more than your “survival skills” is going to be needed for you to come out the other side alive. Much more.
Again, I could write pages about this subject and give my opinion about survival, but I can narrow it down to a few concise ideologies that I have formed from my own experiences and training.
For those of you with “thin skin”, this might be a bit uncomfortable to read…but profoundly less uncomfortable if you are stuck in a real world survival situation. Keep an open mind and give what I am writing some thought.
- BE PREPARED TO SELF RESCUE. Unless you are a high profile, wealthy type person like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates who will have an army out looking for them, get it in your mind right now that you will have to save your own bacon. Anything more than that in my opinion is asking for serious disappointment in a situation that is already very disappointing. IF by some reason you do get rescued by someone else…great! But don’t expect it. Remember, if you plan for the worse, hope for the best, you will never get caught in a situation that you can’t get out of.
- NEVER QUIT. This is by far the single most important aspect in a survival situation. For those of you that have a lot of “quit” in them…I hate to tell you that your chances of making it out alive are slim to none. You will be in for the fight of your life…literally. If you are unable to persevere through the pain you might be experiencing, the hunger, the thirst, the misery of possibly being cold, wet and tired…you will die. It’s that simple. This comes to the
“warriors mind set” that you might have heard of. Folks…I’m here to tell you that no matter how many books you may have read on survival, courses you have been to, etc…if you don’t have a “never quit” attitude your as good as dead. That’s the reality of it. You’re best not to venture into the wilderness unless you have someone holding your hand.
There is a saying…. ”The will to survive outweighs the skill to survive.”
- MAKE A PLAN… AND PLAN ON CHANGES. Have a plan, no matter what the situation. It will help you keep a clear head and focus on the task at hand. To be honest, plan on having to make several changes to your plan! It will be impossible to take into account all scenarios or COA’s (Courses of Action) at the time of your dilemma. But you need to come up with a simple, easily put into action plan. Remember the acronym K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. I have seen it time after time, highly complex and intricate plans always seem to unravel at the worst times.
- KEEP TO THE CONSTANTS. In survival there are 4 constants in my book. Food, water, shelter, fire, and not necessarily in that order of importance. These are the 4 things that will keep you alive until you get out. How, where, when, and why is going to be on you.
- EDUCATE / TRAIN YOURSELF. A never quit attitude is the most important aspect of survival in my book, however, knowledge is a close second. There are numerous schools and courses you can attend, some even at your local community college believe it or not that will greatly increase your chances of survival. Same goes with reading books. There are many books that have been written on survival. Read as many as you can is my advice. If you can get one or two ideas or techniques out of each, you’re on the right track. Once you do read one, get out there and get dirty and try out you newly acquired skills. Don’t wait until the crap hits the fan to find out you are not able to start a fire or make a snare. Could cost you your life. One other skill that is (in my opinion) vitally important to survival is your ability to land navigate. This is a skill that is a must in special operations, and used to assess and select individuals for training. Again, ease fix, tons if information on line about the subject.
- KEEP IN SHAPE. Here we go again with the fitness thing. The fact of the matter is this: If you are out of shape, and can’t walk to your mail box without getting winded, my suggestion is not to wander to far from you home without an escort. I told you this might hurt a bit, but this is serious stuff and I don’t have time to be politically correct if it will save someone’s life. You may have to walk 50 miles to reach civilization, who knows. Your physical ability is directly linked to the probability of your survival. I highly suggest that if you have not seen the movie Alive that you watch it. It’s a true story about a rugby team that crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972. It is a must watch for the survival minded person, and a true testament to man’s spirit to live.
- DON’T BE A FOOL. It goes without saying that if you plan on taking an excursion into the wilderness, regardless of the location, be prepared and don’t head out without some basic survival gear. It amazes me when I hear how people die in the desert because they didn’t have any water with them when they were found, not even an empty bottle of water! There is a saying, “Better to have than need, than need and not have.” Use some common sense when you venture out. Keep in mind the 4 constants: food, water, shelter and fire. Depending on how long you plan on being out, that could be as simple as a quart of water, a lighter, some power bars and poncho. Mother Nature has zero sense of humor for the ill prepared and will gladly relieve you of your life if you’re not ready to face her.
I apologize if I may have offended anyone by writing this, it certainly was not my intention, but “survival” is a subject that needs to be talked about plainly and without having to be politically correct. I have never been accused of keeping my mouth shut or not voicing my opinion. What I have written on fitness, shooting / tactical training and survival is exactly that, my opinion.