Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda and If Only I...

While instructing at the range one day last week, I was confronted by poor performance, poor motivation and multiple poor excuses by way of explanation. Simple qualification events were failed by decent shooters. When I confronted the officers involved, I got some sad tale of woe and excuse upon excuse. I responded by being my subtle self, i.e. I told the shooters involved that they should remove their craniums from their anal orifices and instead get their heads in the game. As part of my motivational "speech" I reminded them that it will not be any easier when people are shooting at them and they will not "rise to the occasion" but will instead "descend to their training." After my talk, a supervisor present made more excuses for the officers, saying, "You forget how overworked they are and how bad morale is." Of course my partner, probably from working too close to me over the years, responded to the group at large by saying "No one cares about how many hours you worked this week or whether your morale is low; they can read that at your eulogy. You want someone to stroke your ego or hold your hand, then don't come to my range or shooting courses. I will assist you, counsel you, work with you, all in a professional manner and if you pay attention and practice the skills we develop, you will succeed."

Qualification versus Training

Let's understand something right away. Firearms qualification shoots are not training! Qualification is a display by you, the shooter, that you have mastery over basic firearm skills. If all you or your department ever shoot are qualification events every year, you are not prepared to defend your life. I must reiterate this, qualification is not training and it is training that will build and maintain the skills you need to win a gun battle.

Quit Making Excuses

You play the way you practice, and training, when properly performed and based upon sound principles, will save your life. So, given the opportunity to train and hone your skills, approach it with the mindset that it is lifesaving in nature. When you walk through the doors to the training bureau for DT or the firearms range for qualifications or training, your butt had better be motivated. It doesn't matter what else you have going on that day or in your life. I say again, it doesn't matter! You should think that you're preparing to go to war and you better be focused and ready to perform. Hot, cold, wet, dry, regardless of the weather conditions or whether you're gonna get sweaty or "icky," the Good Lord and your agency has given you this time to prepare and you better make use of every freakin' minute of it! When that target turns or the whistle blows, you should think that an assailant has just appeared and he is hell bent on your destruction and whether you make it home to your loved ones is dependant on your performance. Attitude is everything! Commitment is everything! Preparation is everything! So start showing some enthusiasm in your own survival!

No Police Job is Free of Risk

Noted police instructor Dave Smith is quoted as saying this and it couldn't be truer. Regardless of assignment: Patrolman, Supervisor, Detective, School Resource Officer, Information Systems or Community Relations, for God's sake we are all cops and first and foremost and we must be able to enforce the law. We cannot serve if we first don't protect and we must be able to protect ourselves. According to headlines on, violent crime is up and police deaths in this country are up as well. Don't be an ostrich with your head in the sand as to the potential risk. When the suspect you are dealing with turns and the fight is on, do you have the skills to win the fight? When someone is trying to kill you with gun or knife or even bare hands, do you have the skills with your firearm to stop their murderous assault? A little self-assessment goes a long way in this regard and if you acknowledge a deficit in your skills and abilities and then make a plan today to fix it.

Sadly there are some officers that spend more time trying to get out of training than training. They are ingenious in the methods they utilize to avoid qualifications and training. Of course, when they finally must step up to the line at the range or demonstrate their proficiency in suspect control, we find them sorely lacking. Amazingly, these officers are totally disinterested in their own survival. Thinking they can hide from violent confrontation, they have bought into the philosophy that it "won't happen to me or here." There is a word for such law enforcement officers: victims.

The Plan

Former bouncer and martial artist now professional writer Geoff Thompson from the UK is my favorite motivational author and speaker. Geoff, who went from sweeping floors in a factory and "working the door" in Coventry, England, to winning the British equivalent of an Academy award for a short film, says that in order to achieve you must have an idea of what it is you want and make a plan to get it. Since you and I have chosen the law enforcement field, we cannot afford the luxury of complacency and un-preparedness. Since these skills (armed and unarmed combat) are part of our jobs in order to survive, we must master them. That takes commitment and commitment means time: time to train, time to prepare, time behind the gun and time practicing your suspect control techniques. To improve you must seek out a qualified instructor who can be your guide in mastering these skills. Any instructor worth his salt will work with you in your preparations. The combination of a motivated student, qualified coach and material that will actually work in combat is the recipe for success in a fight for your life. The end goal is that someone that assaults or attacks you is in more danger from you than you are from them.

You know what they say about excuses...

Everyone's got one and they all stink! So goes the saying and so goes the implication that in the heat of battle you want no regrets that you could have trained more, you should have gone to the pistol range more, if only you would have taken more time to train or prepare, and you want no distracting thoughts such as "If only I had taken my training a little more seriously..." The Navy tells us that "time and tide wait for no man," and as time goes to slow motion in a fight for your life, or you are caught up in a tide of violence that's swirling out of control, the truth is that you will keep on tickin' or stay afloat, dependent upon preparations now, honest skill assessment now, taking responsibility for your continued training now and no more damn excuses!

I'll end this piece by saying that the offending officers apologized for their "recto-cranial inversion" and I told them that I was hard on them because I cared about them and that their lives are dependent on the effort they put forth in training. Geoff Thompson calls it "sweat equity," in that you invest sweat now that will reap benefits later.

To conclude, I'll ask you this question:

What have you done today to prepare to save your life?