What is an expert?
Whose advice should you heed and put into practice?
This is going to be a more personal blog entry with some observations I’ve made and some of my training weaknesses exposed for the benefit of myself and everyone else.
An anecdote before the analysis:
My Army unit required combatives training to occur during PT hours regularly. As a skinny guy, I had the upper-hand every day we had to run and once I got my legs built up I was humping less body weight than everyone else during road marches or on missions which was good news for me and my joints. That meant I was perennially a “PT Stud” and therefore in good standing given no vehicular, midget, and/or alcohol and drug related offenses. Up until combatives days. Then I get manipulated and embarrassed by guys who outweighed me by 40+ lbs. We all were introduced to grappling as privates and taught the basics, guard, mount, couple arm bars and chokes then it was up to us to seek further training and to receive it at our units or schools. I was warned to cool my jets if I thought going to the bar and running my mouth was now a green light because I knew what a rear-naked choke was. They said that I had learned enough to get my ass kicked. True story.
I have spent a lot of time rolling, short of breath, straining my muscles, trying to stay calm and planning how to manipulate someone else and end the bout. I don’t know for sure how much time, but if I had to try and quantify it I’d guess around 800 hours between Army training and a short stint with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). This certainly puts me ahead of many but pathetically short of calling myself any sort of fighter or “expert” on the ground. To put it into perspective, the current UFC Heavyweight champ, Cain Velasquez (a monster from my hometown) trains 6 hours per day and logs as many hours as I have total in the train ups before each one of his fights.
When you knock out this guy with style it’s safe to call yourself an expert:
It is far more likely that Brock Lesnar would eat me post-workout than me knocking him out sans a very heavy blunt object and him not seeing it coming.
Sidenote: Who tussles with guys named Brock? Not a good life decision, I guess unless your name is Cain, or maybe something like Percy.. Highschool sucks for Percys.
Anecdote complete and here is how I’ll build my bridge to the subject of becoming an expert. Have you read stuff by Malcolm Gladwell? You should. In his work he’ll hit you with some anecdotes and masterfully tie them in with points he is trying to make and often do it in layers so you’ll be realizing things hours after you stopped reading. He has some ideas that make me want to give him a brick à la my combating Brocks technique. BUT he is a very talented writer and he has made some very interesting observations. He wrote a piece about becoming a master at something based on research by Anders Ericson, and he put it in his book, “Outliers.”
The immediately applicable part begins on page 35. It quantifies what it takes to become an expert, and the number is 10,000 hours. More than ten times the effort I put into being able to defend myself with my body on the street or in combat. He goes into the details of various prodigies and professionals that have reached the pinnacle of their fields including; Mozart, Bill Gates, Bill Joy, The Beatles, Bobby Fischer, and various sports teams. Cain puts in half of that quota in a year. Most professional fighters are training 40 hours a week as it is their full-time job, reaching 10k at the five year mark which makes sense when we look at the evidence and their success.
The average fighting age in the UFC is 29.5 years old with a range of 20 to 46 (Randy Couture retired in 2011 but still).
So how about shooting? Who are the champions?
ISSF’s World Rankings List of Top Shooters (men, various categories) has an average age of 33. My assumption is they’ve been shooting for a long time though it may be untrue, the pattern holds up.
Best Sniper Competition results listed here @ ar15.com :
1st – 3rd place = Sergeants First Class and above from Special Operations Units. So guys with a lot of time behind a trigger. (Note: The marines are slacking at 7th place) The average age for our special operators is much older than the rest of our forces as they draw upon those thousands of hours of prior experience.
SWAT Officer Age:
According to the members at SOCNET somewhere around 35 years old.
The theme holds up and it is something you already knew. You have to practice to get good. Although how much practice is what really distinguishes where you are and what you are really capable of. 10,000 hours behind a weapon is a hell of a lot of time so where are you going to find it?
Senior Law Enforcement, Military personnel and veterans, successful competitive shooters, and the odd really serious (deep pocketed) enthusiast.
Gladwell pointed out just how many people play the guitar (we all know the guy who will bust it out at a party and irritate the hell out of everyone) and show some promise but never will get paid for it. Well they play alright and unfortunately it is at your expense sometimes but they didn’t put in the work to become a master. In Outliers they didn’t find prodigies or people with naturally amazing talent which sustained them in the ranks of the best in the world, they found people who put in work and people who didn’t. Bobby Fischer the enigmatic chess prodigy bucked the trend in that where everyone else took 10 years to reach mastery, he took 9.
This all means you have to be pulling triggers, callousing fingers, and drilling. That in mind we all need guidance, there are really very few shooting experts out there and not many viable options for regular affordable training. That’s why guys like Chris Sajnog at Center Mass Group are advising you drill as much as possible and you do a lot of it with dry fire drills or even through visualization.
How we can help:
SBTactical as you’re probably aware by now:
- Sells infrared (IR) training weapons that are a better alternative to paint rounds and laser guns for your training needs
- We also sell accessories from boots to optics
- Provide a fleet of gear to Law Enforcement across the country that we can pack in and out of your training site
What you probably weren’t tracking is what you can do with the gear at the individual level and this is something we are finding out for ourselves. This is Paul with SBT and I’m very confident when I say I can shoot but I’ll be the first to admit that mastering the pistol is something I did not do in the Army. I carried one when I had the privilege of serving in a reconnaissance platoon as a supplement to my long gun or M4 but the only time I actually happened to use a Beretta overseas was in an underground tunnel I had to clear. I can hit what I am aiming at but that doesn’t make me qualified to say I’m an expert or even competent. So now I am trying to really learn and I know the fact is I have to put in the work.
I went to YouTube as many of us do to get some ideas for how to improve my pistol game (paying for professional instruction is the obvious answer but not always feasible). The number of videos is staggering but finding people who are expertsdoesn’t take too long. I came across some of Kyle Lamb’s videos and he has some great ideas for drills that we decided to try out.
I have to get on the range and practice correctly in order to move forward, so trying to conduct some of these drills especially on video lets me identify a million points at which I can improve. But here are the results of my first foray into a new training goal:
My draw is rough, my arms aren’t in a good position, stance in awkward etc… but having gone out I know what I can work on and start logging my hours.
In addition, I realized that I could’ve been doing this at home with the SBTactical equipment and been that much better with my mechanics when I arrived at the range. No one is going to spend the exorbitant costs of Sims to practice mag exchanges, and laserlyte offers a popular training tool that many instructors recommend but that’s because they don’t know there is a non-LASER (dangerous) tool which also has recoil to add to the training value.