What Are You Training For? - ITS Tactical

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What Are You Training For?

By Chris Sajnog

I recently posed this question to one of the CD/CT teams that I’ve been training for the past four years. Like most units, the level of commitment given to training seems to wax and wane, unfortunately they are on a steep down-swing. As an instructor it’s pretty easy to tell, not just by how they do during evaluations, but also how they act or even talk before training begins.

In a unit dedicated to training I hear talk about increasing their tactical advantage or looking for more opportunities to hone their skills. In a unit plagued by the disease of mediocrity, talk seems to center around the testing itself or how long we’ll be training. Why is someone asking me how many negative marks they can get during their tactical evaluation? To a true warrior, someone dedicated to training, the answer is simple: Zero. That’s how many times you can turn your back to a guy with a gun in combat and live to tell the tale. Once you put your sights on the bottom of what’s acceptable, you’ve found your range and sometimes you’ll be just above (Yes, I barely passed!) and other times below (I thought I could die four times and still pass?).

Over the past few years I’ve talked a lot about the technical aspects of combat training, but never thought to ask why you’re training. If it’s to put holes in paper targets on a sunny day, then you’ll do fine. Read our lessons on marksmanship and any paper target that comes your way is going down! But if you ever need to defend your loved ones or your job is protecting our country, you need to look deeper. Because a miss on a paper target may give you a lower score or even a fail on an evolution, but a miss on a guy who breaks into your house with intent to do you harm could mean you’ve failed yourself and your family. So what are you training for?

If you don’t immediately know the answer or if it’s just to shoot fast, look cool, or pass your next training evaluation you’ll never have the drive needed to become a true warrior. Warriors arise from strong motivation; a motivation to survive no matter what evils come their way and that motivation is love.

Love for the people in our lives is the reason true warriors train. We train for battle to make sure we return to the ones we love. For anyone who has brushed deaths cold shoulder can tell you, it’s those faces we see when our lives ‘flash before our eyes’. You don’t see the fun times you had or any accomplishments you made, you see the pain and sorrow in their eyes knowing that you’re gone and you’re not coming back. In combat you’re not fighting for a top score or bragging rights, you fighting to spare your wife the pain of crying over your grave as she grows old without you. You’re fighting so your parents don’t need to bury the son they raised and expected to bury them. You’re fighting so you can raise your children right and protect them from harm. Because if you die in battle, the permanent pain in their hearts will be worse than any temporary pain you feel in death.

If you know this when you train, you will train that much harder; you’ll wake up early and stay up late making sure you are the best warrior you can be. You’ll never be satisfied with your performance and always look for ways to improve your chances of surviving a violent encounter. By knowing that you are training to be with the ones you love and spare them a lifetime of grief, you’ll never settle for good-enough. For defeating your enemy is the ultimate act of love.

There will come a time when you will look back at the training you’ve done and either say, this is why I failed, or this is why I prevailed. Right now you have the opportunity to choose your future and that of those you love.

There are 24 hours in a day: How many of them are you willing to spare to ensure you return home and spare your parents, your wife and your children the pain of your loss?

So I ask again, what are you training for?

Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Chris is a former Navy SEAL and the Director of Training for Center Mass Group, which was founded by two former Navy SEAL Instructors. Giving people the experience of being trained by the most elite combat unit in the world, Chris is currently a Maritime-Counter-Terrorism and advanced marksmanship Instructor who has trained DOD, DHS, FBI, CIA and multiple foreign allies in all aspects of combat weapons handling, marksmanship and Maritime Operations.

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  • wrighteouskill

    one word: excellent
    Coming from the Army background, I understand this more everyday my heart beats.  I just hope and pray my brothers in arms and warriors alike understand this as I/We do.

  • Great article. I often wonder how many people at work actually think like this. To some training is nothing but a drag.

    • TxSoldier

      God I LOVE training! I wish I had a job where I could do it every single day………….and not go broke lol

  • kcrowl80

    Great article, you train so you can come home.

  • MarkusPetz

    Good point Chris, I see the same aspect in people whether they are learning bush survival skills, doing a martial art or even meditation! I think there is a deeper issue here and that is of morale. Morale tends to erode in many individuals if they are not actively using their skills. If the only thing you are training for is the violent rapist that breaks into your Fort Knox home then the chances are slim you can put that skill to use. Will you really keep at peak fitness for decades and ready? Perhaps what is needed is to develop some other aspects to your training and even applications. 
    So I guess these can be helping out with emergency services such as fire rescue or lifeboat duty, mountain rescue. This makes the philosophy of practical use to others and helps avoid the image that you are a paranoid gun nut that will one day flip, and instead reveal you are a grounded member of the community that is prepared for diverse eventualities and situations. Along with this comes a camaraderie that actually motivates and tests you more. I found that training can be broadened, for example trying out battle re-enactment, mixed martial arts and expedition weekends to extreme environments. These can be for example related to nature protection, there is a real chance to practice stealth skills / stalking and stakeouts if assisting stopping poachers or bird nesters on a nature preserve for example. In some countries this can be quite dangerous and such jobs give a real sense of danger.
    These are good substitutes to actually being in combat, and can be tailored to skill and experience levels. If you happen to be the captain or leader of a group, then it is up to you to motivate the other members and find interesting relevant training and fun experiences that keep morale alive and up. Small victories can be achieved with careful planning. And the strengthened psychology leads to a mindset of preparation prevents piss-poor performance which can be brought to all kinds of application in your life. After all violent physical combat should be avoided where possible, if an opponent can be persuaded to surrender without a tussle so much the better! (An experienced armed response policeman told me that when a rookie colleague was physically engaged with a criminal, he sprayed them both with mace – Why? Well it was about protecting both, both were debilitated, but the criminal was immobilized and the officer recovered without injuries soon after. Why let the officer fight it out and possibly get injured? Why let the criminal have a legal option of claiming he was acting in self-defence afterwards and that the officers were unreasonably violent? Much better that there is no excuse and everyone goes on less injured and it is less costly.

  • JoeSaladbar

    Very true indeed, as any instructor should inspire, motivate his students. What I am training for this day is to bend the ears of all Navy personnel, I’m looking for inspiration to help my creative side as I venture into submitting a new logo for NHHC. any advice guidance, stories, pictures etc. would be greatly appreciated. Deadline for submission are midnight Labor Day, Sept. 2, 2013
    Thanks in advance, /Joe 

  • Dave7953

    Awesome article. I am one of nine Security Officers at a local hospital and we just recently got approved to be armed. Training starts next week. This is a big step for us. Six of us are past law enforcement officers. So this is “refresher” training for them but new to the other three.
    There’s been lots of talk this week about training and the changes ahead for us. I’m printing this article and taking into the office tomorrow.

  • Barney Barnes

    Chris, Outstanding article…you expounded on the core issue of “why” very well. My background is combat aviator 24 years beginning with the Seawolves in Vietnam and then a local sheriff’s office for 12 years.  I remember well witnessing the not so subtle questions that identify the quest for mediocrity as well as the body language to back it up.  Dangerous indeed.  Not someone you want for a wingman. Fortunately those usually got flushed out. 
    The fact is that all soldiers and all deputy sheriffs are not warriors.  As the Samurai would say…they have not placed the spirit of battle in their heart and though they wear two swords at their side they are but peasants wearing the skin of a warrior.  As you so abely stated, the soldier is easily distinguished from the warrior. One is eager to hone and increase their very perishable skills while the other is interested in passing some evaluation criteria and getting back to a “normal” routine. Deadly disease!
    At the time of the Caesars the Legion still trained most every day…young and old…in spirited combat with wooden weaponry.  In fact the Romans were so sensible about the imperfection of valor without skill and practice that, in their language (Latin) their name for army was borrowed from a term that signified exercise…romanorum exercitus.  Some things, like warriors, never change.
    Barney Barnes

  • Rubee

    Excuse my naïveté, I just found this site looking for a definition of “sign cutting”. I was startled to see there is such interest in warrior training. Your voice is pretty mellow so I thought I would ask you one thing: could you explain who the average civilian in warrior training sees as a possible “opponent”?I’m hoping that this does not cater to all those white supremacists, anti-government fanatics or other paranoids out there.

    • MarkusPetz

      Rubee Been quite busy so not really had time to engage properly here. You highlighted I used the word opponent. I think that an opponent could be variously defined, you ask “the average citizen in warrior training” which adds something else. So some scenarios that would reveal an opponent might be a fight in a bar or disco or at a beach resort. Perhaps this sounds unlikely, but it does seem to me that fights at such places are not unusual, nor is it impossible that you could be mugged or attacked as a tourist when abroad or if you happen to be in a bad neighborhood or in a vulnerable location and look like a victim with something worth stealing. Those types of crime are much more likely than a home invasion or mass street gangs à la The Warriors movie, but these latter others are also possible – for example at a peaceful political demonstration which attracts some anarchist black block members who foster violence, or when bad policing provokes enough people that the affair turns into a street brawl (I am not suggesting you go out deliberately to fight the police – but if the police or others started to get violent what would you do?). 
      However this is to look at warrior training ONLY for dealing with these violent situations. Here in the EU there is a reform in how people can engage as a volunteer called Erasamus+ that allows peace building volunteering and also Europeans would have the option to study, train or teach at higher education institutions anywhere in the world. Such citizens can really gain from the approach of determination given by warrior training. I just read Nunaga – that shows how such toughness was of practical use in a difficult environment for the author Duncan Pryde when he worked in the Arctic. There are still job situations where such toughness is unfortunately needed.
      Rather than thinking of the last 3 groups you mentioned instead think of the average citizen and how they can benefit. Due to our view of a warrior being a soldier fighting a war we have a very narrow view of what the warrior spirit and way of life really can be. It does not have to be the way of the bully, braggart and street fighter alone. Mental discipline and practical skills make tactics to be applied. Those that follow the Norse religion can find in the Hávamál self-reliance and the means to encourage self-reliance in others, this warrior spirit reflects itself in regarding a warrior as a fire-fighter, policeman or even a youth leader who is preparing others to struggle against their own weaknesses.

    • Rubee

      Thanks for your informative reply. I appreciate the tone of your words. I’m still trying to make sense of this training as a focus in one’s life. Frankly, it seems sad that people feel that an attacker is around the corner. On the other hand, from personal experience, I can see that this type of training would be very helpful to young women (or any age woman) who get caught up in date rape situations. One more question: what are anarchist black block members? I know what an anarchist is, of course, but “black block?” Again, thanks for getting back to me.

    • MarkusPetz

      Rubee http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_bloc tells what Black Block are, they are not necessarily violent and not a fixed organization with membership. Date rape situations do need tactics to deal with, but here psychological awareness can be more useful than knowing how to use a gun for example. I think you misread the article if you think the training should be an exclusive focus in your life, its very clear that the author talks about a wife and family life. I think it unlikely that it is some kind of Bad Ass (the movie) family life he is considering with an obsession focused only on violent gun training. 
      Rather there is a balance, but when training you should train thoroughly  with a proper motivation and sufficiently enough for the training to be effective. If the training is effective you will carry aspects of it over into your wider life – but that doesn’t mean every time you go shopping you put on webbing, warrior paint and conceal knives and loaded hand guns on your person. Rather mentally you take such things with you, should you need them, and you have actual items that can be used in a safe but accessible place as appropriate. 
      So an example, when going to a night club it is not appropriate to take a diver’s knife with you, but when going diving it is. The US has a large number of shootings and this is partly reflected by poor training and inappropriate use of guns. I have worked in a youth centre which had its own guns, the guns were safely locked away and were used only under supervision of an ex-military instructor,. What this did was to train the young people about their appropriate use. Once contextualized, the young people put them in their place as a tool to be used as a screwdriver or garden spade etc. That is my interpretation of what is meant here, I guess you can only get an appreciation if you come and train at some facility and see what the others you are training with are like. Another training that also gives some perspective is here http://toughmudder.com/  which they say “Tough Mudder is more than an event; it’s a way of thinking.” and so you must look at ITS TACTICAL in the same light.

  • DragonFire819

    Well spoken! I’ve thought about the service for a really long time and this happened to hit all of the reasons why I’ll join.

  • Brandyn

    Long time lurker, and lover of everything this site has to offer. 

    That being said, this article hits home in a very particular manner, and I felt a need to comment. 
    First I’ll say that you bring up a truly profound question – one that is necessary, and cuts deep into what we are as humans. But I don’t think you totally hit the mark. You wrote “For defeating your enemy is the ultimate act of love.”, and that’s where I think that you’re wrong: warriors do not become such to slay enemies – to destroy. A killer takes up the sword to kill, a warrior takes up the sword to preserve life. Their entire existence is born of Love, and that you understand – but the manifestation of that love is to protect. The greatest fruit of love is life, not death; it is not in the demise of our enemies that our love shines most – it is in the perpetuation of the lives we protected.

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