Well folks, 2015 is nearly behind us. I don’t really know where it went, but it’s December already. Since I have a sizable audience (15 subscribers can’t be wrong!) I’m going to post about the yearly skill-set audit that I have been doing since 2010. It’s a way that I have prioritized my training in the major self preservation skill-sets. It keeps me honest and on-track to guarantee I don’t get goal hijacked. It is crucial for resource constrained people to do these evaluations. Without prioritizing you could let a needed, but less enjoyable to practice, skill slip through the cracks. I really believe it is the shortcut to becoming tactically proficient. I encourage you to do your own list, in whatever level of detail you find useful.
The steps are as follows:
Evaluate your risk profile and decide what skills you most probably need? Pick 6-8 skills and list them from most to least important.
Rank those 6-8 skills based on your relative current proficiency level.
Choose the 3 skills with the biggest difference in rank from the most probable list and your current competency list. Those are the skills you should concentrate on next year.
Write out your plan to improve those important, but lagging, skills.
Do The Work.
Risk Profile and the Priorities List:
Here’s a list of some of the tactical skill-sets you can use in your list. The skills you choose depend on your personal situation. A stay-at-home dad will have different needs than a Tier 1 door kicker, but there will actually be some parallels as well. In no particular order:
- Fighting Mindset
- Verbal Deescalation skills/Verbal Agility
- Combatives/Empty Hand/Impact Weapon/Edged Weapons
- Driving Skills
- Pistol Shooting
- Rifle Shooting
- Medical Training
- A particular Tactic (low light, vehicle, Structure Clearing, etc)
- Primitive Skills (Fire-starting, Land Nav, etc)
- Add your own
Consider the big picture of LIFE in this step (or keep it confined strictly to self defense if you’d like). Consider your profession, how much you’re in a vehicle, your neighborhood, your fitness level, etc. Complete a rudimentary risk profile to visualize your biggest threats. Also be honest with yourself and reflect on your real priorities.
I’m a suburban engineer dad who spends a lot of time with his family. Here’s my priority list:
- Fighting Mindset (having the will to do violence to those who would do you violence is the basis of all self-defense)
- Fitness (no better way to ensure longevity than with a healthy body)
- Verbal Agility (Most problems can be solved with good verbal judo, not to mention good verbal skills get you further in everyday life)
- Medical Training (You’re more likely to run across someone who needs a tourniquet and a compression bandage than someone who needs to be shot)
- Driving (A basic understanding of Defensive and performance driving could easily save you and your family’s lives)
- Pistol Skills (You’ll only need to shoot a human on rare occasion, but when you do, you’ll want to be skilled at it)
What am I Good/Bad at?
Now we’ll make a second list, using the same items in your priorities list. This time, organize them relative to each other according to your proficiency. Say, “I think I’m better at X than I am at Y” and make the second list. My list and comments follow:
- Fighting Mindset (Being a cancer survivor has made me a master at seeking self preservation, and I won’t let anyone take what I’ve fought so hard for)
- Driving (I’m not a performance driver, but I’ve never had an accident and never had a ticket *knock on wood*, though it’s been a long time since driver’s ed.)
- Pistol Skills (Not being able to train my body had me putting a lot of work into shooting)
- Verbal Agility (I like talking, but haven’t had much opportunity recently. I feel like my conversation skills are dulled)
- Medical Training (It’s been several years, but I still will get the training TQs and Bandages out and practice what I know for skill maintenance)
- Fitness (recovering from a stem cell transplant put a damper on my fitness plans in 2014/2015)
Now we’ll figure out the top three skills we should pursue in 2016. Look for the biggest differences in rank in the priority list vs the current skill list. Mine are as follows:
- Fitness (separated by 4 slots)
- Verbal Agility ( 1 slot)
- Medical Training ( 1 slot)
2016 Training Plan
Now we decide how we want to attack our weaknesses.
For me, fitness is absolutely top on my list. I had the unexpected surprise of a recurrence of my disease in 2014, so my fitness has degraded to the point of pitiful. Since I’m a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kickboxing guy, I’m going to sign up at my local MMA gym and start training next week. This will actually serve to increase my fitness level, build a technical skill, and give me an outlet for my creative energy. Martial arts are also meditative for me. Your mind can’t be anywhere else but in the present moment, or else you’ll get punched in the face or choked. I also feel it builds mental toughness.
Verbal agility. I’m going to make it a point to read a few books about communication, but nothing beats flight time. Engaging in conversation frequently is the only way to get good at it. I plan to join Toastmasters this year.
Medical training. I’ll schedule more frequent practice sessions with my medical gear, read 3 medical/trauma related texts, and if a training company comes to my town I’ll try to attend if funds allow.
I also like to make a list of my ‘wants’ when it comes to training and self improvement/exploration. It might be a class I’ve been wanting to take, a goal to read 10 fiction books (I only read non-fiction generally), deadlift 500 pounds, a travel destination to visit, start doing yoga one day a week, etc. Add a few things that are slightly uncomfortable, and a few things you really want to do.
You get the idea. You can get as detailed as you want.
Do The Work
Plan the work, work the plan. Go. Do it.
I have been doing this deliberate audit for 5 years now (proof). Every time I do it, it allows me to re-focus my priorities to assure I’m making the best decisions I can. It also helps me to properly allot my limited resources (time, money, energy). The most crucial thing is that you be honest about what you really need, and what you’re actually good at. This takes some honesty, and you might not always like the path you discover. It takes courage to admit you suck, and even more to do something about it.
If your list includes anything that you’ve never trained in before, fix that first. You need to have some basic training in all of your prioritized skills.
What about the skills that didn’t make the top 3 priorities list? It’s time to put those in maintenance mode. I got the idea of 8 week blocks of training prioritization from Larry Lindenman of Shivworks. Block off 8 week of time to concentrate on your current priority for 3 to 4 days a week and everything else gets only 1 or 2 days a week of practice. This could be cardio, strength, shooting, whatever. You’ll have to scale the time depending on how much time you have to dedicate to training. Just keep it relative. After that 8 week block, switch priority and put everything else in maintenance mode. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
This audit process doesn’t really allow for things you enjoy doing. So you’ll have to do that independently. I love pistol competitions. Realistically, I don’t need to practice shooting beyond maintenance. But I’ll still do my daily dry-fire and shoot the local match monthly because I like it. You have to keep it fun.
Another tip is don’t let your training/practice impact your personal life. I have made that mistake. I don’t suggest the same for you. Take all of your loved ones into account when allotting time to training.
Let me know if you found this exercise useful. I guarantee that it will save you time and will shorten the path to make you a more dangerous human in the long run.
Do The Work.