Self Reliance Training: What Should I Do?

| August 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

A friend and fellow student asked me this recently:

“If you were to put together your dream training calendar [for a year], what would it be?”

It’s an interesting question, and one that is related to something I’ve been trying to write about for some time.

What would I recommend for someone new to self reliance?

It’s a huge question, and my answers will be biased based on what I think is important, as well as the people / organizations with whom I have trained.

I have decided to break this question into four parts. This post will serve as the introduction, and then three posts will follow based on phases of a student’s path. There needs to be a post after that for the most advanced students, but I’m not there yet so I am not going to comment.

Student Phases


A “new” student has either no prior exposure to self reliance training, or has only received the opinions of friends. If you’ve been a firearms owner for 10 years but have never received anything more than a lecture on what it takes to get your CCW, I am counting you as “new.”

New students should focus on learning things in order of probability of use. This means taking classes in verbal skills, trauma management, understanding why violent crimes take place, by whom, and where. They should also learn the necessary skills for the most statistically probable defensive encounters. This is often a very small subset of what is taught in fight focused training schools, and we’ll get to that in the posts specifically for New students.

I also believe that a New student should attend at least one class where they face motivated, uncooperative opposition in a competitive environment. This does not mean entering a competition, or shooting in timed events. This means force on force and/or pressure tested combatives training.


The “novice” student has had rudimentary education on several aspects of self reliance, and perhaps has taken intermediate classes on one or two subjects. For example, they may have taken a medical class, a verbal class, a carbine class, and three pistol classes. Their education is asymmetrical due to time and availability, but not desire.

The goal of the Novice student is to gain a broad, but shallow range of knowledge. For example, they should know how to put a tourniquet on under duress, appropriately and with speed. However, they don’t need to know how to use a decompression needle. They need to know how to shoot one handed, but don’t need to know how to clear a malfunction or reload with a single hand.


This is where most of us will live out the rest of our training lives. We have limited time and many other responsibilities. The cost (in time, material, and class fees/travel) to train at this level is beyond the reach of some, especially if you pursue other interests.

An Intermediate student has taken “core” material several times and can explain the concepts to others. More than just regurgitation, an Intermediate student can troubleshoot any issues and customize the material to the other person(s) as necessary. This requires the student to have to have learned the same subjects from different instructors, which is key to getting the different perspectives, biases, and “tips” necessary to tailor a technique to themselves or someone else. I am not insinuating that the Intermediate student should teach, but they should be able to explain something, offer alternatives, and detail why they chose to use one approach versus another. This demonstrates understanding and wisdom, not just a single nugget of knowledge.

Being an Intermediate student opens the door for what I call “utility” classes. Examples include vehicle defense, active murderer / terrorist interdiction, civilian partner / team tactics, mass casualty trauma care, and more.


I’m still at the intermediate phase myself, so I won’t comment on what “advanced” training should be in this series. I feel that an advanced student is on the cusp of being able to teach others, and should be to craft their own techniques or material.

Notes and Disclaimers

Please note that any recommended instructors in future posts is not an exclusive or exhaustive list. If your favorite trainer isn’t on there, it’s because I may not have trained with them, or may not know about them. I may also list trainers that are controversial, either in their demeanor or material, or both. I may include them so you are exposed to a viewpoint uncommon in the rest of the training world.

I will also give rough estimates as to how many times someone should take a class, etc. However, the goal is knowledge, not attendance.

You may not be able to acquire skills in the order in which I recommend. Instructor availability and financial means play a big part in training. This is fine. The point of this series is to not be prescriptive, but to document a philosophy about training.

Your priority is to train in subjects that you are the most likely to use, then accumulate the most high probability skills in those subjects. Do this for the widest array of subjects possible, and then iterate again.

A real student is one who accumulates knowledge, contextualizes it to themselves, and applies it in order to craft wisdom. This is a long road. You will need to spend a lot of time and money learning enough things from enough people to be able to decide what is good or bad for you and your life and then practice it enough that you can perform those skills under stress against a motivated opponent(s).

I commend you for taking responsibility for your own safety. I hope you return for the rest of the series.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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