Stress: The missing training ingredient


Lee’s note: Here’s another great column from LTC Scott Daniel, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer with decades of special operations experience and multiple overseas tours.

Scott has recently launched a unique consulting business, in which he is “focused on assisting individuals, families or groups with their Bug Out Land (BOL) preparation. We will help with site location, detailed planning, and physical establishment.”

In this story, he talks about adding stress to training.

It’s a great read.

Training: Are You Stressed?

by LTC Scott Daniel

First rule to understand from training, you do not raise up to your ‘A’ game during a ‘high stress’ confrontation…rather you fall back to what you know and are familiar with.  If you shoot left foot forward in training, hold your pistol in a ‘Monkey Grip’ or fight right handed during drills…it’s a sure bet you will perform in this manner when it really counts.  This is called Muscle Memory and the body will naturally do what it practices…right or wrong.  If you’re going to have a habit…make sure it’s a good one!

As a Prepper, Survivalist or Homesteader…call it what you want but we all firearms_feature_1need to work on sharpening our training skills during a ‘high stress’ scenario.  Yes, me too, guilty as charged.  My wife and I continuously re-balance our priorities to focus our limited time, money and resources.  In short, if you’re going to conduct any type of ‘high stress’ training ensure two learning factors are always present: make certain what you are practicing is the correct method and incorporate as much stress as practical to grow, learn and improve.

Correct Method

Stressful Environment

This may come off as obvious to many but I find these two factors the first to be removed from training.  Practicing the correct method requires effort, focus and discipline.  More often than not, the correct method is a ‘learned’ behavior, not something that is just naturally picked up.  Training, education and practice is the cornerstone to applying the ‘correct method’ regardless of the ‘high stress’ scenario.  This is true whether we are in a gunfight, fistfight or applying the ABC’s of First Responder training.  The end result is the same, you will not raise up to your ‘A’ game but rather fall back on to your training.  Right or wrong…depends of your training.

And second, adding a ‘stressful environment’ to your training repertoire is paramount to your success.  To put it bluntly, a bench rest shooter is well trained and very skilled in the art of long-range marksmanship.  He can shoot the wings off a moving gnat at 100 yards, very impressive.  But this is a specific skill, requiring some equally special equipment and an extremely un-dynamic environment.  Nothing against bench rest shooters…just trying to prove a point…we live in a dynamic world that occasionally requires fast, hostile movement with little to no time for measured reaction, self-assessment nor the opportunity to reflect until after the event is complete.  And this is what we should be training for…high stress events.

Stress is a funny thing; most people do not enjoy adding this segment to their training.  It makes us uncomfortable, even irritable.  In the back of our minds we are nervous that we’ll make a mistake or not perform to our own high standards.  But don’t worry, I’ve got a secret for you…if you practice within a stressful environment and utilize the correct method…you will get better!  And when you get better, you won’t be nervous.  And then you’ll really get better!

I’ve grown up the last 20 plus years serving in the US military and there is one pillar for training we incorporate without fail: Crawl, Walk, Run.  Watch the correct method, practice the correct method slow and when practical…apply the correct method at combat speed.  Now I know adding stress can also be seen as unsafe.  That is not what I am discussing nor advocating.  Safety is paramount, at all times.  And don’t forget, adding stress may come in a variety of applications:

 Self Defense Shooting

Hand to Hand Self Defense

Medical First Responder

Land Navigation / Orienteering

Outdoor Wilderness Survival

Adding stress to your training may not be as difficult as you might think; stress can come in various forms.  Physical exertion prior to engaging (shooting) a target will cause your body to work harder.  Heart rate increases, breathing becomes labored and your body fights to provide a stable platform.  If you’ve never tried some pushups before shooting, you might be surprised at the immediate difficulty.  Same reaction with running for 30 seconds, try sprinting some distance and then immediately return to engage your target.  While gasping for a breath and focusing on the front sightpost…ugh!  Stress changes everything.

Physical exertion is not the only method to increase one’s stress level; shot placement, target size, speed and distance are all factors to implement when shooting.  Other stress factors will include limited vision, inclement weather and equipment failure.  However, the most universal stress factor that transcends through all training must be physical exertion.

Don’t believe me…try some pushups next time you’re on the range.

Tired from pushups, ok switch to jumping jacks!

It’ll make a difference, I promise.

The bottom line is to train using the ‘correct method’ and become familiar with a ‘high stress’ environment so that if/when you are in this precarious situation…you will be confident and prepared for the moment.  You’re body will only react with what it’s prepared for, Muscle Memory, is for real.  What will yours remember?

LTC Scott Daniel can be contacted via email, or through his website.


About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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  1. Pingback: Reports: 2 South Korean soldiers die during stress training

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