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Failing to Fail

Having been involved in some type of physical training for many years, I can tell you that I have been unsuccessful (failed) many times when trying to attain a goal. There are many reasons why I fell short – poor planning, poor workout design, poor physical conditioning, etc. All may have contributed to my meager attempts. But after all was said and done, I was not disappointed. I fact, I felt pretty good … many years later.

I competed in karate tournaments for many years as well as the original full-contact karate matches (Professional Karate Association - PKA). I was fairly successful being named light-heavyweight fighter of the year two years in a row and being rated as the #3 fighter in the southeast region at one time. All that was a long time ago but the lessons learned have been vital to my on-going training with firearms. The most valuable tenet I took away from my competition days was, “Don’t be afraid to try something different.”

I trained very hard six days a week doing countless rounds on the bag, sparring/fighting, body conditioning, weight training and teaching. I have

said for years that fighting in the ring was nothing like the training we did! I stand by that today. However, many of the competition matches were extremely valuable learning experiences. As a matter of fact, the ones I learned the most from were the ones I failed to win.

In order to become better, I had to practice those things that I could not do as well as others. For me, kicking was difficult. I was never what you would call ‘limber’ so I had to stretch daily. I also did rep after rep of slow kicks with 3-5 pound weights on my ankles. Over time, I became stronger, more limber and was able to kick pretty well. (Three of my most memorable matches were won with kicks.) The point is, I had to get out of my ‘comfort zone’ and try new things … not be afraid to fail. Some time ago I stated at the beginning of a class that the instructors were there to help the students to fail; we also wanted their gear to break down and fail. I saw the surprised looks and explained it was better to try and fail at the range/in class than try and fail in a critical situation. Ahhh … I saw some lights go on.

My friend and mentor, John Farnam, once said in a class, “Try boldly and fail magnificently!” I took that to mean work on the things you can’t do well, not the things you already do well. Everyone likes to go to the range and make tight little groups. They go to the range to ‘shoot’- Few go to the range to ‘train’. Some folks will take several hundred rounds, put out a target and shoot as fast as they can load the magazines and pull the trigger. They generally accomplish two things: (a) Put holes in the target (maybe), and (b) reinforce bad habits and I have seen this happen quite often

In order to get better, you have to push yourself and eventually, to make mistakes – You have to fail! If you do everything right all the time (in your comfort zone), how can you ever improve? We can all use some improvement. Here’s how you can have a very productive range day with fifty rounds:

  • Draw several one-inch squares on the back side of a paper target (I generally draw 5-6)

  • Put the target out at a manageable distance (I usually start about 12-15 feet)

  • Regardless of what gun I am shooting, I usually only load five rounds at a time. This makes you take a break between strings to evaluate what you are doing.

  • Pick a skill(s) you need to work on. My ‘workout’ looks something like this:

  • 5 rounds two-handed; 1 X; Bring the gun down after each shot (5 rounds)

  • 5 rounds two-handed; 2 X (10 rounds)

  • 5 rounds strong hand only; 2X (15 rounds)

  • 5 rounds support hand only; 2X (15 rounds)

  • 5 rounds two-handed; 1 X; Bring the gun down after each shot (5 rounds)

If I’m having a good day, I change the distance or tempo of the shots but always begin and end the session with a pure accuracy drill. This allows me to ‘burn’ the picture of the perfect shot (Sight picture and trigger press) into my brain.

This train of thought can be carried over to all your firearms and the need to work to the point of failure cannot be overemphasized. If you don’t flop you won’t improve. You cannot fail to fail!!


The Director's Desk

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