Friday, February 3, 2012

Blinded by Sweat

Thank goodness it's over - the coughing, that is. For a couple of weeks in January, I had a cough that only struck when it was time to sleep. And when it was gone during the daylight hours, the body aches, sore throat, and pounding in my head would remind me of the joy that was to come when I laid down again that night. My doctor told me it was a virus, something I just had to "get through" and that it was going around and lots of people had it. For what it's worth, lots of people did have it, and each one I talked to seemed to experience the same symptoms I had. It was torture, and yet I trained. Because the wolf still had no sympathy for me, and no mercy. Throughout me being sick, bad guys did not stop being bad guys.

So through the coughing and the head pounding, I headed to the range to complete shooting drills and wind sprints. I spent hours in my office completing iterations of dry practice. I even did some overnight backpacking into rugged country. And I learned more about what my body is capable of than I do when I train under ideal conditions. It's why we here at Independence Training don't cancel courses because of a little cold or a little rain. Mud? Time to get dirty. Hot temperatures? Bring on the sweat.

No, we're not gluttons for punishment, but as our own John Pinnix says, "Real training sucks, EMBRACE the suck." You do not know when that moment will arrive where your skills will be needed. Will it be a sunny 70 degree day after a restful's night sleep when the wolf comes to your door? Do car accidents only happen when you are 100% healthy and the ground is nice and dry? Do emergencies only happen during the daylight hours? How you train is how you'll respond in a stressful situation, when fine motor skills are lost and your mind and body switch on to auto-pilot and rely on pre-existing muscle memory. Regardless of what you may have heard, it is seldom that anyone "rises to the occasion" - you will always, however, sink to your highest level of training, and if that is nothing, then that is what you will have to handle your emergency.

Now this isn't to say that you should go out and get yourself hurt (or worse) by training or practicing when you haven't slept in 48 hours. You need to know your limits; that is, what you can handle based on your experience level and your competency with your equipment. But you should always be pushing yourself to the limit - doing only that which you are comfortable with will not advance your skill sets. If all you do is stand in front of a target with a handgun and blow the center out of it, for example, and in real-life you have to do that on the move, how do you think you will do? Now imagine it's raining. Now imagine it's dark, you've been shot, and you have a nasty head cold that kept you up the night before. Have you thought about this? And more importantly, have you trained for this?

It is true that most people will likely never have to use their firearms in a self-defense situation, or use their first-aid kit beyond bandaging up a skinned knee. But every day, every single day, someone out there does have to fight off an attacker or plug a wound or respond to an emergency of some kind. Maybe today is not your day, but tomorrow may be. Or 10 years from now. Or maybe never - but is that a bet you're willing to make?

Keep in mind that there is no learning in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the learning zone. You must push yourself beyond the limitations in your mind. The human body is a powerful and amazing piece of machinery, but you will not know your limits until just before you punch through them. Be sure to maintain safety and a good situational awareness, however, as pushing yourself or someone else into a hospital bed or a grave is quite counter-productive.

I'd like to sum up this concept with a story from when I was in Basic Training. We were on a company run, the total distance was unknown, and it was hot. The platoon guide from my platoon was leading us in a running formation, and he asked our drill instructor how far we were going to run. Our DI replied by saying, "When you get blinded by sweat, you're still a mile out."

Stay Aware, Stay Safe, and Train Hard.

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