Survival Training

July 16, 2013 by | Be the first to comment »

Survival is not like algebra—you can’t just learn it once and be set for life. Every technique is highly perishable, meaning if you don’t routinely practice them, you will lose them.

You may “know” how to construct a bow drill, but can you do so and use it to start a fire in adverse weather every single time? Are you able to carry your heavy pack at full speed over rough terrain at night? Can you build an emergency shelter under adverse conditions facing heavy wind and rain or snow? The answer is probably “no” and that could cost you your life.

Professional athletes practice constantly. Police practice constantly. Our military practices constantly. They also all perform at a much higher level than the average guy who spends his weekend glued to the recliner. That’s not a coincidence. In the Marine Corps we said “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle”  and I believe this.

One of our more common training events, which we would typically conduct several days each month, consisted of a fire and maneuver operation on a range that was roughly 1,000 meters of  rough terrain. Most times, we would hike out to the range (8-16 miles depending on the route, in full gear, often up to 135 pounds) and then haul ass downrange in over 60 pounds of Kevlar, load bearing equipment, weapons, ammunition, and other gear, engaging interactive targets along the way. Live rounds were zipping all around, you were sweaty, dirty, and tired, but you kept pushing through because slowing down would endanger not only yourself, but all of your platoon members. After securing a bunker system at the end of the range, we would go back and do it all over again. And again. And again. Then after nightfall, the chaos would start all over again. A light day would be six runs down the range, and if we were lucky, we might finish by midnight.

I don’t bring this up to suggest that you engage in similar training operations; rather to emphasize that you need to train under challenging conditions regularly. Push yourself past your limits. Place yourself in new and unique scenarios. Test theories and experiment with new ideas. Your enemy is complacency.

Do you know how to start a fire without a lighter? Great, now learn how to do it with a ferrocerium rod. Learn how to do it with a bow drill. Learn how to do it in the rain when your hands are cold and numb. It’s easy to do in your backyard where you’re safe and you know you can go toss some pizza rolls in the microwave if it doesn’t work out, but it’s a different story when your life depends on.

Are you an avid hiker? What happens when the sole of your boot comes off or your pack strap snaps? Do you know how to improvise a fix? Have you ever had to do it before?  Why not test your capabilities before you need them? Rig an improvised pack strap and see how long it holds up under stress. Find out how it feels compared to a regular strap. Learn whether it fatigues your body more quickly.

Don’t forget about self-defense. This means hand-to-hand, less-lethal weapons, firearms, and any other weapon you can think of. Don’t get attached to a particular self-defense style—use what works, and you’ll only know this by trying various techniques for yourself. Remember, this isn’t academic; you’re training to defend your life so after learning the techniques, participate in what a friend of mine likes to call “bruise labs” where you engage your partner at full speed with full contact. You can use the same approach with weapons, utilizing training knives and other foam or rubber weapons. Your firearms training should consist both of range time with real weapons on paper targets, and simulated scenarios with Airsoft against your training partner.

Learn as much as you can about survival, but don’t rely solely on book smarts—take every opportunity you can to put yourself in safe situations where you can practice your skills regularly and test new ones often, before the situation arises when you need to use those skills.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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