Throughout the history of warfare there has always been an elite class of warriors that had superior skills, tactics, and mindset. Today is no different with each branch of our military having its own elite class of warriors.
When you think of a Navy SEAL, Delta, Pararescue, Green Beret (Special Forces or "SF") , or Force Recon, what phrases run through your head? “Intense”, “Highly disciplined”, “Extremely fit”, “Tough”, “Well rounded”, “Deadly”. These are well-deserved phrases that can be applied to any of the special forces operators and the foundation that built these men is their mindset and training.
I think all of us would love to have a team of loyal operators when the SHTF , but unless you are lucky enough to have them in your group, you’ll have to settle for the next best thing… Yourself.
“Imitation is the highest form of flattery”
If we are preparing ourselves for some level of combat, whether it is in defense of our family, our community, our freedom, or ourselves why not follow the path of the elite? If your training takes you to the highest levels, then you’ll be ready for the high demand events, and have the ability to breeze through less demanding situations. However, with so many other preparations and demands on life, your training schedule needs to be able to fit your lifestyle. Like most of you, I work 40+ hours a week, have a family, and we are trying to prepare our own five-acre homestead. What follows is my training regimen that takes into account limited training time, resources, and funds.
Step 1: Think like a Ranger
Tenacity is like a muscle, with exercise it can be built, but it will take desire and hard work. Every day you are faced with decisions and situations where you can take the easy path or “tough it out”, choose the latter. Discipline can conquer laziness, so set attainable goals, stay focused, and take it one step at a time when it gets tough. Steps 2 & 3 will really help you forge this trait.
Cost: Some discomfort
Step 2: Work out like a Navy SEAL
Like the spec ops community, pursuit of fitness should be at the top of your training priorities. It takes hard work to get in shape and little time to lose the gains, so a majority of your training time should be allotted to this category. There is an efficient, high yield program being used by the spec ops community and fortunately it is available to everyone. The name is CrossFit.
CrossFit is an online fitness community where a different workout is posted on the web site on a daily basis. In their own words:
“CrossFit is the principal strength and conditioning program for many police academies and tactical operations teams, military special operations units, champion martial artists, and hundreds of other elite and professional athletes worldwide.
Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist.” www.crossfit.com
Focusing on functional fitness, CrossFit will develop the ten general physical skills of cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. By the nature of the varying workouts, you will be forced to work on your
To say that CrossFit workouts are challenging, would be an understatement. I have seen the WODs (Workout Of the Day) punish military, police, and college athletes alike, so start out slow and build consistency before intensity. The mental and physical demands of the workouts will also put you on the fast track to developing a tenacious mindset.
Other side benefits of superior fitness include the ability to handle stress better, resistance to disease, and increased work capacity, all will be needed during TEOTWAWKI along with the ability to sprint, lift heavy objects, and scale obstacles.
CrossFit’s web site is very user friendly, has a FAQ section, free journal articles, and exercise demo videos. For friendly support or competition, you can post your WOD results in the “comments” section and compare them to CrossFitters around the world.
If you are not ready for the Main Page WODs, there are modified (scaled) workouts for different fitness levels. This has allowed my 65-year-old mother and 11-year-old niece to complete the same workout as me, albeit on a different level with exercise substitutions, less weight, and/or shorter duration. Follow the “Start here” links on the Main Page.
Time: 3 hours per week (6 days / 30 min. workout) Although some WODs can be done in less than 5 minutes, take the extra time to work on your Olympic lifts, flexibility, or the gymnastic moves.
Cost: $0 (other than weights). The WODs are posted on the CrossFit site for free. Subscription to the online journal will cost you $25 per year and is well worth it. If you don’t have pull-up/dip bar or a weight set, you’ll need to buy them. Check Craigslist for good deals on used equipment. If you are unable to acquire weights, bodyweight only WOD’s can be found in this PDF: CrossFit Bodyweight Workouts.
Step 3: Fight like Recon
Find a good MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) gym and train at least twice a week. MMA gives you the most “bang for your buck”, making you competent in the areas of standup, clinch, and ground fighting. While traditional martial arts have benefits of fitness, flexibility, and discipline, I have seen the practitioners get taken apart in the gym, in bars while working as a bouncer, and in the field of law enforcement. When it comes to fighting, MMA should be your foundation. Not every altercation will require the use of deadly force and most criminals might use a ruse or ambush to get close enough to negate your weapons. MMA will give you the variability to handle the lesser event or the fighting platform to allow you to bridge to weapons for lethal force situations.
The current trend is Marines training MCMAP, Rangers training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), and SF units training with a South African MMA coach.The reason that military combatives are shifting toward MMA as their base is because it works!
Once you find a good school and learn the basics, focus on developing a “Sprawl and Brawl” game, instead of a “Ground and Pound” or “Submission’ game. This will keep you on your feet and help you deal with multiple opponents, defend against weapons, or access your own weapons in a much better capacity. Even if you get caught on the ground, you’ll be comfortable there and have the skills to prevail.
If you are unable to find a MMA gym in your area, look for a good Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Judo school, a boxing/kickboxing gym, or a wrestling club. All these styles are components of MMA and will pit you against a fully resisting opponent, which is the key to development and success.
While there is no substitute for a good gym, if your retreat is really isolated and there is no training available, then find a training partner, order some videos/books, and/or attend some seminars. I have hundreds of training DVDs and my top picks for home MMA study are:
Standup – Crazy Monkey (CM) series
Clinch – Couture’s series
Ground - Matt Thornton's Functional JKD Series Two – Discs 1, 2, & 3
Bas Rutten’s MMA workout is also a great option for solo home workouts and only requires a CD player and a heavy bag. It is currently being used at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Facility for their officers in training. I use it on the heavy bag for my warm-ups and days when I can’t make it to the gym. The set consists of an instructional DVD and four workout CD’s, boxing, kickboxing, MMA, and an all around workout.
As side benefits, you’ll also be working on Steps 1 and 2 during your MMA training. Fighting and getting punched in the face on a weekly basis is a great character builder and the cardio demands of fighting are some of the highest.
Time: 3 hours per week. MMA has a steep learning curve, so you’ll want to train at least twice a week. Classes usually run about 1-½ hours.
Cost: From gym to gym the price will vary. Gyms with competitive teams can cost over $100 per month, but good “hobby” gyms can be found for $50 per month. I have even trained at a local church that had great training and tough opponents for no charge.
Step 4: Shoot like Delta
Superior weapons proficiency and handling ability is another trait of highly skilled operators, and while we’ll never have a multi-million dollar ammo budget and 8 hour range days, there are alternatives for us.
First and foremost, seek out a good school and take tactical pistol, rifle, and shotgun classes. Look for classes that are designed to help you win a gunfight. Once you take the classes, then you will have the skill set that you can take home to practice. Tactical Response offers great classes in all the disciplines. While it is no substitute for professional instruction, if you cannot afford classes, here my top picks for DVD instructional videos:
Handgun: Jim Grover’s Defensive Shooting Series
Carbine: The Art of the Tactical Carbine
Shotgun: Tom Givens Defensive Shotgun
Second, develop a dry fire routine based upon the core skills you learned from your class or DVDs. Focus on key skills like drawing from concealment, weapon transitions, malfunction clearing, magazine changes, and positional shooting. If you can afford it, buy Airsoft replicas of your guns so you can work on shooting and moving, multiple targets, and force-on-force drills.
The final, most important step is to shoot competitively. Monthly competitions will build your gun handling skills and accuracy under the stress of time and the competitive nature of the event. Tactical pistol matches are a good start, but I prefer Three-gun matches where you get to shoot rifle, pistol, and/or shotgun in the same stage. This way I get to do live fire once a month with all three guns in stages and scenarios that someone else creates. Shooting and moving, weapon transitions, shooting from cover, shooting in and around vehicles are some of the benefits along with mastering the basic core skills. Don’t get caught up in “gaming” the match, instead focus on using the tactics you learned in your gun fighting courses. Use cover, draw from concealment, and throw some dummy rounds in some mags. It will slow your times down, but will pay off by ingraining good habits.
During and after the match, identify weak skills to work on during the daily dry fire sessions until the next match. If you don’t have local matches, you can usually find the stages online, and set up your own match on your farm/range or even in your backyard for an Airsoft match.
Time: 1 hour per week (10 min. per day of dry fire/Airsoft) Our local three gun match usually last about 3 hours, but since it is on a monthly basis and is so much fun, I don’t factor that as training time.
Cost: $0 for dry fire. $15 dollar entry fee for our three gun match, plus your ammo costs. Our local matches usually require less than 50 rounds of pistol and rifle, and less than 25 of shotgun (birdshot). We also have a .22 division where cheapskates, like myself, shoot conversion kits to save on ammo costs.
Step 5: Cross-train like a Green Beret
Aim to make yourself as well rounded as possible. Maybe you are in great shape, are a good fighter, and shoot in the top ten at your matches. Excellent! Keep working those foundational skills because they require the most time investment due to a steeper learning curve or degradation over time, but now is the time to look outside your Spartan routine for weak links in your overall skill set.
Sit down and make a list of skills you want or might need in the uncertain future and rank yourself on your competency. Focus training on the categories with the lowest rating. Training can be accomplished through research, classes, or knowledgeable friends.
Emergency medical skills, wilderness survival, hunting/trapping, mantracking, mechanical repair, patrolling, tactics, edged weapons, orienteering, home security, high performance driving, gardening, beekeeping, homesteading, sniping, escape and evasion…. If you are like me, you’ll have a four page list in no time.
Time: 1 hour per week. Try to spend an hour a week working on your weakest skill. Once your weaknesses catch up, only then should you focus on training that you are naturally drawn towards and enjoy more.
Cost: You can spend as much or as little as you like. Your training priorities and interests will guide you. I work on trucks at my friend’s garage, I order gardening books, my beekeepers meetings are $20 per year, and my next tracking class is $385. The goal here is to learn and develop new practical skills.
Step 6: Evaluate yourself
Be honest and routinely critique your progress. What are your strengths, weaknesses, and how can you work on them? Ask yourself if you could out fight, out shoot, or out run/lift the “old you” from three months ago? Also seek out standards of fitness and shooting, available on the web, to see how you compare. Keep a training log so you can watch your progress.
Example for today 9/9/09:
Mental: Only 5 hours of sleep last night. Still sore from the last cycle. Hate lunges and box jumps. Have lots to do before work. Suck it up and get it done.
Three rounds on heavy bag of Bas Rutten’s MMA workout (boxing CD) – 10 minutes
Four rounds for time of:
100 ft Walking lunge, carrying 30 pound dumbbells (no 30’s so subbed 25 pounders.)
24 inch Box Jump, 30 reps
30 pound Weighted pull-ups, 20 reps
Time: 19:44 (M/33/6’1”/205)
10 minutes of tactical reloads with M4
Total time: 40 minutes. Hit all three primary areas. Will stretch for 10 minutes tonight and read a chapter of the dentistry manual I am reading.
There may be some people that are reading this that cannot do a pull-up, let alone weighted ones. That is okay, just start out on the scaled version and you’ll be cranking them out soon enough. Example of the lowest scaling of today’s WOD from BrandX:
100 ft Walking lunge
12-15 inch Box Jump, 20 reps
20 Beginner or Assisted pull-ups
In reality, some of us may have had years of bad habits, health, injuries, etc. that may prevent us from reaching the levels I have outlined, but any gain is still a gain. Because of the variety of functional movements, CrossFit at half intensity is still better than more traditional programs. Really light MMA sparring and rolling is still better than the [no contact/tap contact] McDojo stuff taught at the strip malls. I have seen a 50-year-old man at our gym getting thrashed by the more experienced, younger players, only to school a 20-year old “newbie” a month later.
You may never make it into the top ten of the three gun match or be posting record times on CrossFit’s board, but you are also unlikely to be facing a superior opponent in the real world if you work hard, as the majority of the population is in poor shape, cannot fight or shoot very well, nor will they be training as hard as you.
While I have been fortunate enough to workout with, fight with, and shoot with top level civilians that could out-compete the average Spec Ops member in their chosen sport or field, none of them could approach the overall well-roundedness of our country’s finest that I have known. Emulating these fine warriors within our group or family is a critical preparation step for TEOTWAWKI.
You may have years of stored food, a self-sufficient homestead, and an impressive battery, but liabilities in fitness, fighting, and shooting skills may negate your hard work and preparations. I look at training like saving for retirement, start early, save every day, and the benefits will add up.
So set aside eight hours this week and follow the training outline, this small investment of hard work and training might save your life, your family’s, your community, or your freedom.
JWR Adds: Unless you are already in a regular workout program, I recommend that you start any new program immediately after you've had a physical checkup. Don't totally exhaust yourself the first day. Work up your distances, weight and repetitions gradually!