Jeff Gonzales: "Being a Generalist"
Can you improve your performance by practicing a specific skill set over and over. Does it do more harm than good for general preparedness?
Stay Focused on the Prize
I see so many folks come through our doors that practice the same drills over and over. Many of these drills are "tests" at various schools, and some even have clever names and titles. I enjoy shooting some of these drills but the amount of time, energy, and resources is relevant to my overall goals. The major focus for most defensive shooters should be mastering how to be a generalist. They should avoid trying to be a specialist.
Put in the Practice
The issue I have centers around the realistic time spent on the firing line practicing, not training. Training is the action of learning a new skill. Practicing is performing a skill or activity regularly in order to improve or sustain performance. I am tickled pink when I can talk with someone who consistently practices on the firing line. To me, that is about ten 2-hour range trips a year and firing approximately 100 rounds each trip. While it is only 1,000 rounds per year, it is on the high side for the average shooter—making it even more important they focus on being well rounded.
Nothing is Free
The hard part for many is the desire to get good at something. That seems like it should be a good thing and generally it is, until you do so at the sacrifice of the rest of your skills. Developing your skills requires you to acknowledge both your strengths and weaknesses in an honest way. To sustain your strengths and work on your weaknesses requires you to allocate the right number of rounds to ensure you meet both objectives. If you expend more ammunition annually for practicing then great. But if all you have is 1,000 rounds how much do you want to invest in practicing a test? A test that may be so specific it has less value than originally perceived.
Remember, This is Fun!
Having said the above, I still want folks to have fun and enjoy themselves while they practice. For many of us, that is a major secret weapon: the joy it brings us to be practicing a skill. The drive to want to be better and improve. The determination to keep at it, even when failure and frustration are more common than success and gains. If you allocate 20-30% of your time and ammunition budget to practicing a test, you might not see any negative effects. If you are spending 70-80% of your time and ammunition budget practicing a test, you need to really think about how you are expending your resources. Here's another way to look at it: if you expend 1,000 rounds per year by visiting the range ten times for 2-hour sessions, then 20-30% of your time, or 4-6 hours, is spent being a specialist. That still gives you 14-16 hours per year to practice being a generalist.
There is something to be said about nothing to excess; everything in moderation. This advise transcends all activities and keeps you focused on being a generalist.