"Bro, do you even operate?" says the bumper sticker of a local tactical wanna-be type... on the back of his jacked-up, never-seen-mud, black tactical Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with all the subtlety of an M1 Abrams tank in a McDonald's drive-thru during lunch hour. Fortunately, he carries his cocked and locked .45 almost out of sight in a Serpa holster tucked under his black 5.11 shoot-me-first vest.
Now I probably shouldn't pick on folks and their lifestyle choices too much, because most would not likely make the choices the gals and I make, but when it comes to guns, prepping, and self-defense... I'm guessing there are a lot more of us average, non-operator types out there. I worked in law-enforcement for a few years a couple of decades back, but the gals and I have day jobs as educators that have nothing to law-enforcement, SWAT teams, security contractors, or operating in any way, shape, or form.
The gals and I are not going to be buggin' out with hundred-pound ALICE packs on forty-mile hikes anytime soon, but that doesn't mean that we want to give up our God-given rights, liberties, or freedoms. With that in mind, we do like to budget some training, practice, and conditioning into our daily lives to help with self-defense and family protection needs.
I don't have four hours a day to lift, run, dry-fire, shoot, prep, hike, prepare food, read, study, train, and pay for it all. Rather than just give up without even trying, I do try to spend some time every day and throughout the year, budgeting time and funds to train, practice, and condition to keep my EDC skills, abilities, and mindset on a slow and steady, but continuous pace of improvement.
Training is important and to me, that involves learning from others. You need instruction from others with better or different knowledge to help you improve or modify your knowledge and skills. We try to combine efforts when possible like last year when the gals and I spent a three-day weekend together at TDI's Handgun Levels I, II, and III course as a family activity and mini-vacation. We do try to get to training at least two or three times each year... definitely at least one firearms training course... sometimes more, but sometimes it involves medical training or prepping-related training.
Sometimes my training is active and other times it is passive. I spend thirty minutes a day, three times each week, working out on a Schwinn Airdyne and often use that time to watch training DVDs or other shows and DVDs that increase my knowledge and improve my mindset. You can accomplish two things at once to save time and be more efficient in our busy lives. I then try to review and incorporate what I learn in my practice routines. I've watched some of our training DVDs several times each over the years, but don't think a DVD can completely replace the training and feedback of a live instructor... balance is the key.
Practice involves applying your training and becoming proficient with what you've learned. It doesn't necessarily take hours. Every day when I take my EDC gun, knife, and flashlight off at the end of the day... I practice for at least a few minutes. I empty and clear my gun... cycling the action and checking it three times to make sure it is empty. I practice drawing and dry-firing five to ten times from concealment with a practice reload on the last draw and dry-fire using empty magazines. On Sundays, I do everything with my off-hand. When I'm done, I reload my gun with ammunition, top off the magazine (you do top off your magazine, don't you?), and get it ready for use.
Fortunately, we have our own shootin' range out back and so at least a couple of times each week I can walk out and put a few rounds through my guns. I don't necessarily shoot a lot, maybe a magazine worth, maybe two or three magazines with two to six rounds in each to practice shooting and reloading with both my strong-side and weak-side. Maybe an occasional transition from my handgun to carbine and vice-versa since we keep both our 9mm's and AR's handy for home-defense work. I also usually practice drawing and opening my EDC knife a few times with one hand and then the other hand each day.
Conditioning involves getting your body and mind in shape for practice and training. I'm not in great condition when compared to athletes and real operators. I've managed some significant weight-loss in recent years and hope to lose more, but for now my conditioning consists of taking this half-century old body to the gym for weight-lifting three days each week and spending thirty minutes on the Schwinn Airdyne three days each week. I realize that's not at Navy SEAL levels, but it's what I have time to work into my life with all my other commitments and I'm able to maintain it.
Integrating conditioning into other everyday life activities is important too. I exercise my hands and grip during my hour-long commute to work. I try not to park in the closest space to the door and be random in my parking and routines. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is standard for me these days while walking for short trips rather than taking the car or truck is now the norm for me. I also practice several basic, physical self-defense moves three times each week to make sure they are ready when needed.
Preparing and conditioning for the proper mindset is also important. To condition my mind... I enjoy reading, studying, and visualizing. I can visualize every step and part involved with taking apart every single firearm we own in detail. I visualize threats and self-defense scenarios I've read about, seen on TV or Youtube (yeah, admit it... you watch the videos and dashcam vids on youtube too), and encounter in my every day life.
I try to think through each scenario to evaluate my awareness, preparedness, opportunities, capabilities, potential actions, and possible outcomes. I also try to reduce my daily stress and achieve some inner peace by conditioning my mind with some daily Bible reading and devotions. Maybe mediation or some other mind-relaxing technique works for you, but don't underestimate the harm and fatigue mental stress can cause you. Conditioning your mind is as important as conditioning your body.
So when it comes to training, practice, and conditioning... what are you willing or able to do? Are you overestimating your capabilities... most of us do. There is a reason our Bug Out Bags are kept at thirty-five pounds or less... because as Dirty Harry said, "A good man knows his limitations." I think it's also important to include your family and partners in your training, practice, and conditioning... at least as much as you can or as much as they are willing and able. Let's face it, the fastest reload you'll ever see breaking into my house is my redhead reload... that's when my gal continues steady fire into your center-mass while I reload.
I think the key is to do something... and I recommend starting and increasing incrementally. Chances are if you start next week trying to spend three hours each day when you're doing nothing now... you will fail. You will likely be better off committing fifteen minutes a day and gradually increasing your time... staying consistent and dedicated to an attainable goal, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't push yourself occasionally.
So, with all that being said... WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS about... Training, Practice, and Conditioning for those of us who don't operate...