Skill Set: Peaks and Valleys

Sep 19, 2014
Keeping things interesting and enjoyable is key to making progress in your skills. Reading and research is a great thing to include with your regular training and practice.
The study of fighting with firearms is like any other art; in the beginning the learning curve is steep, but for most people it eventually begins to flatten out. The secret is to maintain a climbing curve, constantly learning and growing. There will always be small fluctuations, peaks and valleys, but with discipline and focus it's possible for this art to be a life-long journey. The key is keeping your studies interesting and enjoyable. When you first began seriously studying firearms you probably attended a class. During this first instruction you discovered a new, undiscovered world. You received an introduction on how to properly draw your pistol, learned about combative marksmanship, how to manipulation the weapon, including reloads and malfunctions, and the basics of responding to a threat such as movement and communication. Everything was new and the curve was steep. After your first class you went to the range to practice. Hopefully you also worked in dry practice, performing the repetitions necessary to actually learn these new skills. But probably, at some point you began to lose interest. The new had become boring. At this point you likely attended another course, maybe a more advance class. The curve rises again. There are things like multiple targets, low-light skills, or something like vehicle defense. Along with these skills you were introduced to advanced tactics and strategies. Now you had more new skills to work on and strategies and principles to consider. Practice became interesting again, and you spent more time working dry practice and live-fire drills on the range. If you were lucky you had a training partner to work with, which always makes things more interesting and enjoyable. Chances are this cycle of training, attending classes, and practice, working on the new skills, continued, which isn't a bad thing. The problem with most people is that over time even this cycle becomes old, boring and routine. The curve begins to flatten out; progress becomes static. So, how do you pick the curve up again? Eventually you have to go from the larger picture to focusing on the small fine details. For example there isn't any secret technique that reduces your empty reload by a second or second and a half. However, you can cut out a quarter of a second on getting the empty mag out and acquiring a fresh mag. Additional fractions of a second can be saved here and there until you've removed all excessive motion and time from the reloading sequence. The devil's in the details, and focusing on the smaller aspects makes training and practice interesting and enjoyable again. Learning how the brain and body function together is another subject to examine. The psychology of performance is an area that is interesting, improves the quality of your threat response, plus many of the things you learn can be applied to a variety of different areas in your life. "One cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long," states Mihaly Csikszenthihalyi in Flow, The Psychology Of Optimal Experience. "We grow either bored or frustrated;" he adds "and then the desire to enjoy ourselves again pushes us to stretch our skills, or to discover new opportunities for using them." This is the key, keeping things interesting, always looking at ways to improve, while at the same time finding enjoyment in your journey. --Tiger McKee Tiger McKee, one of our instruction editors at The Tactical Wire ( is the director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - Website: