Have you ever heard this quote and wondered who said “Fight like you train, train like you fight“? Some say it was written and published in the US Army’s manual dating back to WW2 or it was made up by some crazy motivated Senior NCO looking to torture his platoon of new recruits in the middle of a rainy cold muddy night.
But let me take you back even further where I discovered this quote, written by Miyamoto Musashi circa 1645, and what it means to me and how I see it should be applied.
“You can only fight the way you practice.”
I remember discovering this quote in his book “Go Rin No Sho” (The Book of Five Rings) which was a rough manual on kenjutsu and the martial arts in general. So taking that mantra of his throughout the century of translations, we find that now modernized “American” version of the same quote.
Back in the days when I was a mere young buck looking to physically change my own self-perception, I took up martial arts. While I was a bit of a shy kid, I realized that the more I learned and studied martial arts, the more my own perception seem to evolve to more of a confident young buck, but still lacking the nuts to ask a girl out.
But what helped me to truly evolve was the discipline of training. Not just any training, but under a watchful eye of a very good mentor and Sensei.
While today I’m over the hill, dealing with old injuries and my physical limitations, I still seem to want to try to put out as if my body was 20 years old. But it’s been a real challenge and there’s always a price I pay at the end of a hard training session because I chose to train this way. In my mind, I know that I have to hit certain levels of proficiency that I am holding myself to, not because of someone else’s doctrine. If I want to be better, than I have to keep training harder. Yet, I also have to willing to accept that I’m not 20 years old anymore. While I often wish I could do some of the things I once did, I have to realize that my way of training has to change. There’s no point in beating up my body over and over again, but that doesn’t mean that I have to give up.
Training is about living. It’s about developing your will to live and to survive.
Firearms training is no different, especially if you are looking to be a better defensive shooter or a competition shooter. You have to adopt a certain mindset to understand why you are training and what you want to get out of that training; which takes me back to various versions of the quote that I often hear some of these firearms “instructor” will say to a bunch of new students.
Of course, if we were in the military, I truly get why there is a saying like that. Maybe that’s how the military’s standard operation and procedures are done. Maybe there’s an upcoming mission and that the area of operation is uncommon.
For example, before his deployment to Vietnam, General Westmoreland recruited a bunch of pilots and worked with them to find a way to deliver his troops into the dense jungle. Not too long ago in my time, I remember when the military was running their Apaches helicopters and M1 tanks for months in the desert as part of their workup for Desert Shield. And if you really want to go back in history, let’s take a look at Lieutenant Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle who prepared his men to fly B-25s for bombing runs over Tokyo (Doolittle Raid) from an aircraft carrier that was designed for different types of planes. To me, this is what that phrase “fight like you train, train like you fight” might mean on that level.
Which by the way, I understand that what I just talked about is really just one layer of training as there are many other layers of training that is built upon each other. But you got to start somewhere.
So how do you make this apply to yourself as an individual?
“I hated every minute of training, but I said: Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a Champion.” – Muhammed Ali
The McDojos of Guns
First off, there are too many unexperienced and incompetent firearms trainer out there; who claims to have this knowledge of being a professional gunfighter. It also seems like a gun school is popping up on every corner faster than a Starbucks/McDonald franchise. It is in my opinion that these so-called wannabe instructors need to just stop with the stupid cliche quotes, including some of these “established” institution of whatever.
Take note, just because these so-called “institution of trainers” managed to worm their way into many gun ranges to offer their “classes” does not mean that they are good instructors or qualified to do so. Trust me, I know. And as many times I’ve seen them come into the range whenever I’m there, I often hear some ridiculous sayings that I wish the other students would call them out on. But then again, how would the students know?
As a civilian, who is not of military or LEO, those quotes are only good for T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Case in point, I had attended this concealed carry class a long time ago where the instructor was dropping all of these high speed low drag quotes. Sure they sounded cool, but the people he was addressing were middle aged to senior folks.
Makes you wonder if Suzy Homemaker understood what he was saying or if she was more worried about drawing from concealment?
For example, how does a woman, who is a mere 4’11”, weighs roughly 90lbs, can equate to something like “train like you fight”? She’s never been in a gunfight in her life. Maybe she’s taking the class because she doesn’t want to be victimized. Whatever her reason is, you can’t assume people will understand that mantra. A better way would be to convey to her that “investing into your training now will help increase your chances of survival” would probably be just that. So speak the language.
The Mall Ninjas are another group of people who I find really odd. Seems like everyone is a Home Depot Navy Delta Ranger SEALs with all the cool ass gear but can’t shoot for shit. But they seem to be able to do knowledge drop on the unsuspecting people using what they acquired through YouTube while they are training like they would be fighting – dangerously incompetent.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
The True Way To Train
If you pause to look at the original quote from Musashi, it does not come any simpler than “you can only fight the way you practice“.
So what does that quote really mean? Has anyone really stopped to ask themselves that question? Now I am not a trainer and I am not implying that I’m qualified either. Again, I’m just a student of life and this is just my interpretation based on my own experience. But if Suzy Homemaker had decided to ask me what that phrase meant, I would first ask her to evaluate her mindset behind the training she seeks. I would then have her discard that cliche by explaining to her:
She may be afraid to carry her firearms today, but in time with her vested training, she will eventually master the gun and not be it’s bitch. When she trains, she needs to hold herself up to a higher standards. Train with a sense of purpose and don’t accept mediocre performance for success. Always keep an open mind and ask questions. If she continues her education and training, she will hopefully become more aware and more confident in her own capabilities and be a valuable asset to her own self, family, and community and not just a liability.
God forbid if one day, she is put in a self-defense situation, she will perform exactly as how she has been training.
Remember, no one will ever rise to the occasion of their expectation but will only fall back to their level of training. So in essence, you are only fighting exactly the way you practice and this is what the true meaning of “TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT AND FIGHT LIKE YOU TRAIN“.