The Learning Progression

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts


As in anything there is a learning progression, it is no different in regards to firearm skill sets. Many of us started shooting, plinking, and hunting when we very young and were taught the fundamentals of safety and marksmanship by our fathers and grandfathers. This got us by for many years and we were able to hit whatever we wanted to hit. Many Americans have done very well with these types of skills while protecting themselves inside of their homes and businesses, as is demonstrated in the NRA “Armed Citizen.” This is often done with nothing more than an old shotgun or revolver that has seen very little range time. This entry-level skill set would cover the vast majority of the American gun owning public.


The next level of the learning progression usually comes due to an “event”. This event can be a million different things. It could be something that happens to you personally, to a loved one, to an acquaintance, to a fellow countryman, something you simply read about, or a lone decision due to changes in your life style or responsibilities. My event was as simple as a realization of the hazards of being out in the wilderness with a beautiful wife and three young children. Whatever the event is, there was a conscious decision that you just do not know as much as you should about the use of a firearm to protect yourself or your loved ones. This realization is usually followed by some sort of training. Many people will seek out basic firearm self-defense training, as is offered by the NRA or the local range. This moves us past the “plinking or hunting” concept and gets us thinking about the possibility of using a gun against a two-legged predator. Often this leads to some form of “Concealed Carry Permit.” For many, this is a huge step…. so huge that this is where they stop. They now have the same basic fundamentals and safety as the entry-level group, but they have taken on the decision that they “may” be willing to use their firearms against a human being. The legal discussions during this type of training, usually leads to two distinct groups. The first, being the group that is scared to death about ever having to use these new-found skills. The second is the group that realizes that they have a whole lot more to learn.

The instruction required to reach this level is very important, yet at the same time extremely limited.


For some people, while they are learning the fundamentals of self-defense, they find that there are many unanswered questions. The realization that they have only scratched the surface becomes more and more apparent. They can see the growth in themselves and the fact that there is still so much more information out there. The legal discussions have raised many concerns. The realization that they do not know what they do not know has led them to the decision to get more training. As they search and question, they discover that there are people out there that will teach them everything that they would like to know. They begin to hear about and learn of businesses that specialize in “Tactical Training.” These courses are set up in a manner where you progress through the curriculum as your skill/knowledge level progresses. These courses cover a wide variety of topics and it becomes a virtual smorgasbord of what you want to know and what you feel that you need to know. This is the point in your learning where you have the most options available to you. This is the place where you pick up the majority of your skills/techniques and spend the most money. This is where you find out if you are a training junkie or just a casual learner.


”Force on Force!” This is where the rubber meets the road! This is where the skills that you have picked up either fail of succeed in the crucible of FOF. This is where you find out exactly what needs to be discarded and what heeds to be honed. This is the point where you decide what is best for you and your particular situation. Here is where you find that the situation dictates strategy, strategy dictates tactics, tactics dictate techniques, and techniques should never dictate anything. Here is where you find out if you are well-rounded, versatile, and have your bases covered. This is the point where you discover that nothing will ever be the same. Your thinking moves from techniques to concepts. This is an absolute vital portion of your learning that can not be passed up on if you ever want to reach the next level of the learning progression.


To be a master is very different from being an expert. Experts know everything…..masters know the same things but only uses what is necessary. By mastery, you have now trimmed down your self-defense plan to only the most useful and successful concepts. All other techniques or skills that did not hold up in the crucible of FOF have been dropped. You have tailored your self-defense plan to your exact situation, with full knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. Mastery now becomes a living, breathing, growing entity. It must be fed, played with, nurtured, and grown. New concepts need to be added and tested. Mastery should never become stagnant.

Mastery will continue to evolve due to the fact that our situation will continue to change. As we begin to age our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations will change. Our strategy and tactics will have to adapt to these situations. These changes will be constant and adjustments will need to be continually made.

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