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Preview – Compete to Survive

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Photography by Henry Z. De Kuyper

Competition Shooting Will Get You Killed…Or Will It?

Competition skills translate to performance on the streets. Some say no. I beg to differ.

When was the last time you were seated in a car and fired your pistol through the windshield at a target? Or practiced shooting your AR-15 from a low barricade with one hand while the other applies pressure to your friend’s sucking chest wound? Not lately I’ll bet. Unless you’ve been out shooting competitions.

There will always be debate on the value of competition as training. To truly assess the pros or cons, you have to know what valid training really is. Where one may see value, another may see a road toward bad habits. Training is best accomplished by time on task with a qualified instructor/observer, if possible, and the motor programs you build in training have everything to do with how you will perform in the real world. What you have done most is what you will do when there is no time to think — and that can be in the competitive arena or on the street.

There are many in law enforcement who embrace competition as a validation of skills. I’ve found that these folks are generally the ones who have a really good, solid skill level. Conversely, there will always be those who shout down competition as poor training for life-saving tactics. Don’t hate me, but I’ve generally found that those who feel this way usually don’t have a solid skillset and probably wouldn’t prevail in a test of said skills. Usually the type who say, “Don’t worry about me, when the shit hits the fan, I’ll go nuts.” This is probably not going to happen. Research shows that a man, given no time to think, will react as he has been trained. You don’t rise to the occasion; you default to your level of training.

These days, regardless of skill level, it seems that everyone wants “advanced training.” J. Michael Plaxco said in his book Shooting From Within that “there are no advanced techniques, only advanced applications of the basics.” Almost everything we do in competition, self-defense, or law enforcement, when broken down, is still just comprised of the basics. As a trainer first and competitive shooter second, I’ve been privileged to look at all of this from an angle that many can’t, and some won’t. For the past several years, my main focus has been teaching mastery of the basics, because until they are mastered, teaching “advanced” skills is an exercise in futility, but it wasn’t always that way.

What I found was that too many people can’t perform the basics on demand. Some students were so lacking in the fundamentals of marksmanship that it was impossible to move forward before pointing out what they did not know.

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