What Is Most Important In Training?

I received an email last month.  The guy emailing me wanted to know if I was going to be doing any “Advanced Pistol” courses in the local area this year. He was not interested in the “fighting or knife stuff”.

Because he was asking for an “Advanced Pistol” course it probably means he has a baseline pistol capability, but when he says he is not into the “fighting or knife stuff”, he is showing that is exactly what he should be focusing on.

Unfortunately within the community of guys that train there are still too many guys clinging to the “I don’t need to know how to fight because I carry a .45” mentality.

A lot of  guys training want to get incrementally better at something they are already pretty good at.

They want to spend two days on the range, run through some drills, maybe shave a few hundredths of a second off of their split times or clean that combat reload up a little.

In other words they want to stay in their comfort zones!

Controlling the hands and using the first available tool

All this got me thinking.  What are the most important things when it comes to pistol/combatives?

I am not talking about what are the most important things to win your next USPSA match.  I am talking about what are the things you want your wife, daughter or son to know if or when the moment comes and they are in a life threatening situation.

What are the things that you need to know to keep your loved ones alive?

Most Important Skills to Train

1. Increased situational awareness

This is the number one thing that keeps us alive.  Without situational awareness you don’t survive the drive home, let alone a violent confrontation.

2. Mindset

You could be a combination of the best pistol smith and the best fighter on the planet, but if you have not thought through when you are willing to “go to guns” or why you would “go to guns” you are setting yourself up for failure.

3. 100% Safety with your tools

The odds of you using your pistol to protect yourself and your family are very low, but if you decide you are going to be a Responsible Armed Citizen and carry a pistol at all times, you will be handling your tools at least twice a day.  If you cannot do this in a manner that is 100% safe you are actually working against your stated goal of protecting your family.

4. One handed draw from concealment 

Being able to clear your cover garment with one hand allows you to push, pull, punch or hold something (your infant?) while you are drawing. Unless you are a uniformed police officer or active duty military, you should do all of your training from concealment.

When the moment comes to protect yourself and your family you will not have time to grab your battle belt.   You will have what you carry day in and day out. So carry what you train with, train with what you carry and keep it concealed. Speed, surprise and violence of action are what win fights, so don’t give up surprise by not concealing your pistol.

5. Blade deployment and targeting ability  

Hands down the most effective way to counter gun grabs is to have an understanding of other strong hand blade deployment and targeting.  When someone is trying to grab your pistol from your holster, having the ability to anchor your pistol in place with your strong side forearm while simultaneously drawing a blade with your other strong hand will dramatically increase your odds of winning.

Within stand up grappling range, it is an order of magnitude harder to beat a guy that can produce a lethal weapon with either hand. Seek out Sayoc Kali or Atienza Kali instructors and train.

6. Basic combative ability

You should train for a basic combative ability. This means the ability to take a punch, throw a punch, throw headbutts, use your knees and elbows, do takedown defense, have a basic stand up grappling ability and be able to get up off the ground under pressure. 

The more you train the more confident you become, the more confident you are the more likely you are to be able to end a confrontation without using tools. You are also less likely to be targeted in the first place because criminals are looking for easy targets. Go train in boxing, Thai boxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and Sayoc or Atienza Kali.

7. Combative weapons retention shooting

Learn to shoot from the “spear elbow” or  “cape” positions.   Learn to do work with your other strong hand during your pistol draw. Remember that when you are weapons retention shooting, you are fighting, otherwise you would shoot at full extension!

If you shoot from the classic is rock back position and your pistol says no for whatever reason, you are not in a good position to fight from. If you are shooting from the spear elbow or cape position and the gun says no you are already in the fight and you can smoothly transition to blade/ slide strikes, or headbutts, knees and elbows as appropriate.

Spear elbow weapons retention shooting position

8. Concealed “slow draw”

A concealed “slow draw” is getting a weapon into your hand without everyone knowing it.  You may need to blade your body during the draw or shield part of your body from your threat.

Regardless of what you have to do to get the gun in hand, it should look casual until the gun is in hand and it is time to go. Just remember that the slow draw is like a magic trick, it only works from a certain angle so make sure you are aware of all of your surroundings.

Bladed away from the target executing a “slow draw” with a deception, this drawstroke is obvious to everyone except for the target.

9. Understanding lateral movement under pressure

Contrary to what has been taught for the last couple of decades in law enforcement, running straight backwards when confronted with a threat is almost never as good as moving laterally. 

When you run straight backwards the enemy does not have to change their plan at all, regardless of whether they are targeting you with a knife, gun or impact weapon.  The moment you take your first step offline from your threat you begin to disrupt their OODA loop. To put it in to Sayoc Kali terms, you become the “feeder” because you are forcing the enemy to change his plans based on what you are doing.


Three picture series showing offline movement under pressure

10. Solid pistol fundamentals

In addition to the concealed one handed draw and combative weapons retention shooting, you should train for the following pistol fundamentals:

  1. Knowing your accuracy ability. The only thing worse than losing a loved one would be to lose them because you think you can shoot better than you actually can. Know your ability.
  2. Accuracy/ speed accuracy
  3. Strong hand only shooting
  4. Correct malfunction procedures with a strong hand only focus
  5. Combat reloads
  6. Tactical reloads
  7. Fast follow up shots
  8. Indexed shooting: weapons retentions shooting, backplating (thanks KD4)
  9. Other strong hand only shooting
  10. Natural point of aim
  11. Shooting and moving

Get out and train!

You train so that you become more capable. Do training that gets you outside of comfort zone. Do training that is game changing. Identify what your deficiencies are and make a plan to correct them. Be on a continuous quest to make yourself more capable and more dangerous.

Now get out and train!


Upcoming courses


09julallday9-11 July 2024 - Amtac Shooting LEO Pistol, Carbine and Integrated Combatives Course (MA)West Boylston, MA


01augallday1-2 August 2024 - Amtac Shooting Advanced Responsible Armed Citizen (ARAC) Course (Integrated Combatives Level 2) (WA)Near Goldendale, WA

14augallday14-15 August 2024 - The Amtac Shooting Small Team CQB with Tuhon Tom Kier and Bill RapierPittston, PA

16aug(aug 16)4:00 pm18(aug 18)4:00 pm16-18 August 2024 Modern Warrior ConferenceNewfoundland, PA


11sep12:00 pm9:00 pm11 September 2024 - Amtac Shooting Intro to Fighting at Night (NVG Course), near Boise,IDnear Boise, Idaho

12sepallday12-13 September 2024 - Amtac Shooting Force on Force Course near Boise, IDNear Boise, ID

21sepallday21 September 2024 - Amtac Shooting Integrated Combatives Course NH Led by Kevin KellyNear Manchester, NH


03octallday3 October 2024 - Amtac Shooting Pistol Combatives and Medical Course FL (This Course is Full)Baker, Florida

04octallday4-5 October 2024 - Amtac Shooting Hybrid Carbine Course FL (This Course is Full)Baker, FL

06oct1:30 pm5:30 pm6 October 2024 Developing Solid Christian Men FLBaker, FL