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Know Thy Drill

One of the locations I teach at is across the street from a fire station. A couple months ago I happened to look out the window and saw the fire station was running through some sort of training drill. It was three groups of firefighters, four in a group, and they were all working with the hydraulic Jaws of Life tool. In front of each group was a pile of large blocks of wood. The three teams were competing against one another, each firefighter in the group taking a turn removing a block from the pile with the hydraulic tool. They were playing a giant game of Jenga with the Jaws of Life! I love seeing creative drills and exercises like that!

I think it’s important to have a variety of drills in self-protection training as well, but there is always some silly person that will see a video clip of an exercise and make fun of it without fully understanding what is going on. Imagine how silly it would be to watch these firefighters and say, ‘that’s ridiculous, a car crash doesn’t at all look like a block of wood!’. No one would say that. Of course, it would be equally silly if those firefighters honestly believed that exercise was a good representation of a car crash. Of course they didn’t. They have other drills they practice for honest car crash scenarios. They were just having fun running through a drill that, if I had to guess, had three main goals:

1) Practice the physical manipulation of the Jaws of Life tool
2) Practice that physical skill under the mild pressure of a competition
3) Build teamwork skills

All that is fairly clear to someone watching firefighters drill. But for some reason it can be easy to lose sight of the purpose of drills in a martial arts school (sometimes by the students, and certainly by the armchair critics). Everything suddenly has to be an honest representation of a fight. The problem is, it is hard to develop skills if you are busy being in fear of your health. So you need drills, without the intense fight reality, to build up those skills. A good drill has a purpose. Maybe even two or three like above. But if you don’t know the purpose of the drill, and if you don’t keep that purpose clearly focused in your mind, then it isn’t so much a drill anymore, but random training. That can still be fun, but the results you get from random training will be, well, random. So along with the aphorism Know Thyself (also an important self-protection concept!) be sure to Know Thy Drill to be sure you are getting the most out of every moment of your training.

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