You’ve seen it before time and time again — the YouTube videos of foreign Special Operations members drawing their weapons in non-traditional ways lightning fast, engaging two targets with rapid headshots from the hip, transitioning to a knife, stabbing another target in the chest. Well, you’ve probably seen some version of this — you know the types of videos I’m talking about. Throwing tomahawks while backflipping, breaking brick walls or lighting something obscure on fire and eating it … these videos are showcases that serve to inspire awe across the globe at the deadly capabilities of their operators.
The idea is largely perpetuated by film and television. To the lay person (filmmakers included), it stands to reason that the more skilled the operator, the more complex his skill sets will be. A low-level operator may know how to shoot accurately; a high-level operator will know how shoot accurately while hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
It’s like this with dancers or musicians. While the more skilled musician may choose to play more simple sets or solos, they can rock a complex guitar solo that will blow the minds of the entire audience.
This line of thinking is false, and actually hurts the training of the operator. Dancing and music are performance careers, built entirely to entertain and tell a story. Soldiers are completing the specific, very practical task of defeating the enemy.
The time spent learning to do a back-flip, learning to throw a tomahawk that will land on its mark, and then learning to do both at the same time, is time spent not learning practical skills that will actually be used in combat.
There is nothing sexy about practicing dry fires or magazine changes when you’ve got some downtime. Sure, you might turn a few heads if you are particularly fast, but at the end of the day you’re still just pulling the trigger or changing a mag.
But when push comes to shove, these basic skills are the most useful ones. The best shooters in the world aren’t practicing much that isn’t accessible to the most average shooter in the world — they practice the same shooting fundamentals as everyone else: stance, the draw, grip, sight alignment, breathing, trigger squeeze and follow-through. The biggest difference? They’re really, really good at it.
There is no doubt that many of these pervasive ideas about skill level comes from a problem with pride. People don’t want to be seen practicing the basics, because then they might mistake you for someone less experienced. However, the only person you need to prove yourself to is the enemy, and they don’t care if you can karate chop a pile of flaming bricks or eat a snake alive, they care if you are 0.0001 seconds faster at pulling the trigger than they are.
I see all sorts of videos online that show people clearing rooms with all these special techniques and secret methods — I just want to tell them to slow down and simplify their movements. They can accurately engage in controlled environments that they’ve finger drilled a million times, but if you were to throw those people in unknown environments, they would lose confidence and get themselves or someone on their team hurt or killed.
If you want to spend your free time learning cool skills that look good on camera, then more power to you. If you want to proficient in real combat, then just practice the basics. Over and over and over.
Wax on, wax off.
Featured image: SEALs at the range. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Ficht.