I am currently deeply involved in a project to sketch out the pathway to maximizing individual resilience. However, having recently worked with Arno Barlow in presenting a combatives course in Cape Town, I thought that this article would represent a good opportunity to speak on preparing yourself for such an anticipated training event. An opportunity to add value to the investment which you make in yourself.
Some of these preparations are specific to this course, but some represent long-term changes that will add major value to your lifestyle in addition to your training opportunities.
Now, volumes have been written on this topic. Some of it by myself. You can find a great deal of it right here on Paratus. This means that some of what I will say may sound somewhat familiar. This is because what is written is both truthful, as well as fundamental to how we as human beings develop.
Here are some general guidelines for maximizing your training opportunities before you get to the range.
Yes, we have said it before and it deems repeating. No, you don’t need to be able to run the comrades, win the CrossFit games or deadlift three times your body weight. However, you need to clearly understand the integral role your fitness level plays in your learning ability, and your ability to manage severe stress.
I think it should be obvious that a critical incident or attack is an event that is acutely stressful. The human body reacts to stress in a definitive physiological manner. Thus, your training and your development must prepare you to deal with this process. Additionally, it must enhance your body’s ability to deal with its natural response, and over time become accustomed to it.
Resistance-based training leads to increased strength and ability. It also provides additional opportunity for your body to process the hormonal fear response generated by lifting heavy weights. I don’t intend to unpack the associated science of this here, but I strongly urge you to explore the provided articles and podcasts by Drs. Jordan Feigenbaum and Austen Baraki of Barbell Medicine.
Strength training has other additional benefits which vastly improve your learning ability under strenuous levels of exertion. Such as the levels of exertion required during a combatives training event. Advantages include a significantly increased kinesthetic sense: the ability to fully feel and understand our own movement. This allows us not only to default to the maximum total reach of our movement, but to ‘drive our bodies to their limit and increase our control.
Such a sense of control and instinctive understanding of our body translates directly to the level of confidence you have in general. In turn, this directly influences how you may be perceived by an attacker. It will also boost your movement during your training opportunity, and allow you to get more out of the day you have paid for.
Understand how physiology and anatomy work. Being able to contextualise the workings and reactions you experience, and how you can effectively disrupt your attacker, will maximise your time on the range. Those paper targets will eventually have to translate back to real living, breathing and uncooperative flesh. Boost your ability to distance this opportunity from just another sports match. Also learn indirectly beneficial skill sets, such as reloading, sewing, first aid and basic carpentry. Developing that knowledge set minimises your natural reaction to seek answers from external sources. This shortens your response decision loop significantly.
Get comfortable with a little pain
Again, no need to binge-watch 50 shades of Grey. Realise that your body needs to experience discomfort and stress for adaptation to occur. This adaptation is important. One of the reasons they teach soldiers to endure hardship is not to increase discipline, but to allow them to realise that they are capable of doing a great deal when uncomfortable.
Get to know your equipment
You need to develop confidence that your gear will perform on the course. Get used to how it feels, and make sure it can do what is needed in a safe and efficient manner. Yes, a course is a good time to test gear, but it will distract from your learning experience. The time spent worrying about a bad holster or dodgy mag pouches could be spent learning something valuable instead. Once you have completed your first course and developed that user-level of confidence in your gear, then double up: get a carry and a training rig, which are as close as possible to each other. Also, ditch all your J-Clips: they just don’t work. C-Clips or belt loops on your holsters are the way to go.
Pointers to help you maximise your learning time
Investment – Approach this as an opportunity to invest in your own self-development. You are spending good money on acquiring skills, so approach it from the perspective of getting value for investment. Prepare questions, make advanced notes and work out everything you want to learn from the instructors present.
Clear your mind – If you are availing yourself of an opportunity to train with instructor X, then focus on that. Don’t use it as an opportunity to try and prove how much better all your previous instructors were, or how much the latest YouTube idol can do. Don’t look at this as that golden moment where you can finally prove how close to your reality your brand of gun games are.
Check your ego – Yep, a training course is not an opportunity to be listed on the genital size comparative index. This is your time to enhance your skills, not show them off. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and understand that if you don’t make a tit of yourself, you are probably not training hard enough.
Pack your bag the night before – The rituals of getting ready and checking the gear will help focus your mind. Print out a checklist of the course gear requirements, and actually check them off. This will increase your comfort levels and get your mind in the zone.
Get a blue gun with a holster and a training blade. – The transitions to a safe training platform and the time saved will work well for you.
Take notes and photographs – As naff as some people may think it is, take notes and video and photographs. Enjoy the opportunity, keep reminders and document the experience. Also do a course review. Positive or negative, let the instructor know what your experience was like.
Sunscreen – This should live in your range bag. Choose the maximum factor and slather the stuff on. I am nursing a sunburn as I write this, which was a direct result of brain failure and not having any sunscreen on hand. Don’t be like me.
Eat a big meal the night before and pack loads of snacks for the day. Hydrate often. If you are not peeing then you are not drinking enough.
Dress comfortable not tactical, unless it’s a uniform or work thing. Why would you go to combatives course looking like an extra for Squeal Team Six? Work with what you would move around town in.
Take spares – If you can help a fellow student with a spare mag, holster or magpouch then that makes you a great course mate. Great course mates make the entire day better.
Pitch in and get busy – Help to set up the range and be involved in the work elements of a day. This makes everyone’s life easier. Do not be the dude in the corner smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo on his phone.
Get to know your course mates – Network and get phone numbers. These are all like-minded people and all of you share at least one thing. Reach out and do not be that thousand-yard stare dude at the range. I know people like to think it makes them look hardcore, but mainly it makes them look creepy.
Overall realise that changing your lifestyle just a bit, taking this opportunity and preparing yourself will add greatly to your training experience. You will get out what you put in.
See you on the range!
Written by Bryan Mennie. Photos by David Ritchie.
Bryan is a professional risk and crisis manager. He has taught kidnap avoidance and hostage survival to various international organizations, and has managed protective and security operations in over twenty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.