Mindset and decision-making are intimately related. One of the phrases we use for having made a decision is ‘I’ve made up my mind.’ While not a formal topic, the concept of mindset and decision-making was a clear subcurrent of thought at the 2016 Tactical Conference. While this wasn’t a formal topic, per se, it was a theme that ran through several presentations and side conversations. As my friend Mark Luell put it, “This [my life and my family] is important to me and I won’t let you take it from me.”
An early conversation I had was about our Mindset as Americans. The focal point of our conversation was an article in The Atlantic Monthly. The article described the difference between US soccer competition and soccer in the rest of the world. A key dissimilarity is that in the US, our children typically spend much more time playing and less time practicing individual skills. We’re eager to confront and control/dominate early as part of our culture in a way that is less common in the rest of the world. The common attitude of “I’ll shoot someone who’s in my house” is rooted in this piece of our American Mindset. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
The article’s comment about developing individual decision-making skills resonated with me. I continue to be less sanguine that Force on Force training is the panacea it’s thought to be in the training industry. If we don’t teach people the process of decision-making and then just throw them in the deep end of the pool, how helpful is that in teaching them?
“The thing that makes elite players is decision making,” Lemov told me. “They need to integrate not just how to do something but whether, when, and why.” He sees parallels to the difficulty many American students have solving problems independently. “If you give [American] kids a math problem and tell them how to solve it,” he said, “they can usually do it. But if you give them a problem and it’s not clear how to solve it, they struggle.”
John Hearne’s presentation FBI Research: The Deadly Mix got me wondering if being a nice guy is just another form of trying to control the situation. Granted, it’s a different approach to control but maybe it’s just a matter of tone and style rather than substance.
Two of Tom Givens’ presentations had an undercurrent of decision-making. Deciding whether or not our personal protection equipment is ‘needed’ during the course of our daily lives is a serious choice. As Tom puts it, the only failures in his student incident database are the result of ‘forfeits,’ i.e., the victim was unarmed and therefore unable to resolve their problem. Being unarmed was a decision that didn’t work out well in those cases.
John Murphy provided me a video I had previously seen that relates heavily to decision-making. The officer’s action in the video demonstrates the clarity of his decision and how unhesitatingly he applied it.
Those of us who have actively been at this for decades have a very clear idea of our options, their consequences, and how to appropriately apply those options. Choosing options and being clear in your own mind about when and where to apply them is a critical part of the personal protection process.
The Rangemaster 2016 Tactical Conference was held March 11-13, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. I’m continuing to coalesce my thoughts and observations about the Conference.
A friend emailed me today with this question.
For 30 years I have heard the term Dry-fire. The term has been used in articles, in classes, on training videos. Now it is called Dry-Practice. Have we gone politically correct?
Since dryfire is something I work on quite a bit, that’s a question worth addressing in the context of the Conference. Dry Practice, to me, expands the boundaries of what we can work on beyond trigger manipulation. For instance, if you practiced clearing your house with an inert gun, there wouldn’t be any firing, so it would be dry practice.
I considered including a decision-making component, using decisional flash cards I’ve been developing, in my presentation. Due to time constraints, I had to leave it out. That would also be a form of dry practice even though there wouldn’t be any weapons, live or inert, involved; purely a thought exercise.
So, dry fire is actually a subset of dry practice. When it’s used that way, I can accept both definitions.
My class for the Conference was Developing a Dryfire Practice Regimen. I focused the class on fundamental manipulation skills of a pistol that were parallel to what could be seen on a square range. For instance, practicing trigger manipulation, presenting from ready or a holster, malfunction clearance, etc. Fundamental skills should be practiced until we are Unconsciously Competent at them. The more repetitions we have at a task, the more likely we are to develop the UC necessary to free our minds for situational input and decision-making.
Other classes at the Conference refined, extrapolated, or demonstrated the need for dry practice. For instance, John Hearne’s presentation Dry Practice: An Evidence Based Approach included several items of physiological theory about why dry practice is an effective form of practice. John’s Master’s degree concentration was in Research Methods so he was very thorough about his research and how he applied it to our Art. Larry Lindenman’s Managing the Don’t Shoot was taught using inert weapons. The students undertook a significant number of progressively complex exercises with multiple repetitions about how to take a threat at gunpoint without firing. Tom Givens’ Low Light Equipment class included considerable material about flashlight technique. All the techniques Tom presented could be practiced dry without going to the range. Low light livefire should simply be a verification of the manipulation skills developed in dry practice. That is the approach used at the elite Rogers Shooting School.
One attendee was so kind as to bring a set of Dry Fire flash cards he had purchased. It was interesting to look at them. While they might have some long term viability for a few shooters, there were some serious barriers to using them for skill development. Most notably, the cards assumed the user was familiar with the drills indicated on the cards. I.e., the creator took his subject matter knowledge for granted. Second, there really was no information provided about how to use the cards as part of a practice regimen. It’s important that we either have a logical sequence for building our skills or that we deliberately work, at random, skills we have already developed to maintain instant recall of our UC. Without a program for doing one sequence eventually followed by the other, the cards’ usefulness is limited, in my opinion.
Caleb Causey and I had an interesting conversation about non-verbal communication. It made me realize how powerful non-verbals can be between an instructor and a student. Chuck Haggard and I have discussed the non-verbal communication that goes on between predators and potential prey. One of the most important components of interacting with predators is to ‘fail the interview.’ Predators frequently observe whom they wish to prey upon in order to make a decision about whether to proceed with the predation. This observation is the initial component of the ‘interview.’ Appearing to be uncooperative from a distance may avert the need for a verbal or physical interaction at all. Being uncooperative is something that can be practiced dry, as well, and doesn’t necessarily require equipment.
More about the Conference next time.
The Rangemaster 2016 Tactical Conference is now in the record books. It was held March 11-13, 2016 in Memphis, Tennessee. The gathering included 200+ attendees, almost 30 instructors, and the fine facilities and staff of the Firearms Training Unit, Memphis Police Department Academy.
There was a great deal of material presented, more than could be attended. The Conference focuses on an inter-disciplinary approach to personal protection, so there is a lot more than just firearms and shooting involved. There was a challenging pistol match that could be shot, though; 158 people chose to shoot it.
The class I gave was Developing a Dryfire Practice Regimen. I was very gratified by the turnout of 50+ students. As the saying goes, ‘The best way to learn something is to teach it.’ Over the course of creating my presentation, my dryfire techniques became even more refined. One attendee also gave me a new training aid I wasn’t aware of. As in every class I teach, I also learn from the students.
The other classes I attended were:
- Managing the Don’t Shoot – Larry Lindenman
- Gaming the Streetz – Eve Kulczar
- Low Light Equipment – Tom Givens
- Optimizing Classroom Instruction – Tiffany Johnson, Esq.
- Metro-Tactical – Julie Thomas
- Urban Insurgency – Dr. Martin Topper
- Lasers, Red Dots, Iron Sights – Karl Rehn
- FBI Research: The Deadly Mix – John Hearne
- International Terror Operations – Gary Greco/John Holschen
- Dry Practice: An Evidence Based Approach – John Hearne
One of the pleasures of going to Conferences is getting to talk and catch up with my peers. Some of the conversations I had were:
- Cecil Burch – the Venn Diagram of Realization, instructor goals in attending conferences
- Paul Sharp – human gun interaction
- Skip Gochenour – Homicide trials
- Caleb Causey – Non-verbal communication
- Tom Givens – Standards that replicate incident skills
- Richard Jenkins – Dry Fire Flash Cards and skill development
- John Farnam – Attitudes of older fighters
- Gary Greco – American soccer team development, American Mindset (competition and confront/dominate)
- John Murphy – immediacy of action
- Mark Luell – I won’t let you take this from me
- Chuck Haggard – performance of .38 Special and .22 LR in gel and adversaries, S&W metal autoloader maintenance
- Karl Rehn – iron sights, lasers, and red dots
- Julie Thomas – tuning a class presentation
I’ll have more to report about the Conference in future posts.
The Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference is over and I am processing the things I observed and learned from it. The Conference has a long history, dating back to the early days of IDPA in 1998, when it was a sanctioned IDPA indoor Championship. Over the years, it has evolved into the foremost tactical training conference for private citizens in the United States. It is held annually, early in the year, in the Memphis area. The venue for the 2015 Conference was the Memphis Police Training Academy, a truly fine and modern facility.
This year, three dozen of the top personal protection trainers in the country, many of whom are referred to as “T-Rexes,” came together to present or conduct training blocks of two to six hours over a period of three days. The agenda has grown so large that it’s not possible to take in all the training that is available, since sometimes five blocks are going on simultaneously. Some of the training is classroom lecture, some is hands-on with sterile weapons, and some is livefire. There is also a shooting match, for those who choose to participate.
There were a wide variety of topics, ranging from psychology and communications to contact based skills to firearms manipulation. I was able to attend nine sessions.
- Yes, I Shoot Like a Girl, Would You Like a Lesson?
- Surviving Lethal Encounters
- The Law of Self-Defense
- Practical Small Knife Principles
- Performance Under Fire
- Rehabilitating the Experienced Shooter
- The Training/Reality Mismatch
- Kneeling Positions and Combining Them with the Use of Cover
- Women’s Holsters and Accessories
In addition, I was able to make two classroom presentations.
- Tactical Communications for Couples, with my co-presenter Linda Hoopes, President of the Resilience Alliance.
- Negative Outcomes of Firearms Ownership
Upon my return, several people have asked me what my most significant takeaways were. As usual, I learned a great deal, so it’s difficult to say what were the most significant, but here are a few that stand out in my mind, in no particular order.
- A conversation with a mentor of mine, John Farnam, elicited from both of us the experience that when approached for help in a parking lot, it’s almost always a scam or criminal ambush. Fellow trainer Melody Lauer pointed out that there are a few legitimate exceptions, but John and I both feel they are the exception rather than the rule. This indicates that a default response should be formed to immediately and firmly decline the invitation to be a victim and then rapidly vacate the area. Exceptions to that rule should be based on specific articulable reasons and conscious decision-making, rather than by default.
- The T-Rexes are constantly working along the path to excellence. That path includes attitude, skills development, tactics, and a host of other areas. Recognizing that there is an element of chance in every encounter, we work hard on stacking the deck in our favor. ‘Doing the work’ means training regularly and practicing on a daily basis. ‘Good enough’ is never good enough for us. That’s probably why we’re regarded as T-Rexes.
- There is an enormous amount of erroneous, misapplied, or misinterpreted information floating around in the broad firearms and personal protection community. This is especially true in relation to prioritization, legal issues, and skills development.
- The community has a lot to learn about integrating women into it. There was a record turnout of female attendees and women trainers at the Conference this year, my co-presenter being one. Conversations with them, as well as the presentations, were highly enlightening. Many male paradigms either don’t apply at all or don’t work particularly well when used by women. My own presentation was an eye-opener to me in that regard. The Women’s Holsters and Accessories presentation, which was presented by a woman, gave several good examples. A pet peeve expressed by several T-Rexes is men who have women shoot excessively powerful firearms and then laugh when they fail. Our universal attitude is along the lines of the desire to give such jerks a knee lift in the crotch followed by a crack in the jaw and then laugh when they fall down writhing in pain.
I have several pages of notes but those jump out at me. Undoubtedly, more will occur to me as I reflect on the event. I will have more thoughts on specific topics in the near future. There is a photo gallery of the Conference training blocks available on the Rangemaster website.