Pattern Training -vs- Pattern Recognition Training

By Roger Phillips, Owner and Operator of Fight Focused Concepts

In the world of firearms training there is a huge emphasis towards pattern training. This started back in the 1950’s and is still very much alive today in the vast majority of firearms training that is available. Pattern training makes sense if you are trying to force fit large groups of people into a specific system. But it makes very little sense if you are trying to make the individual fighter the very best that they can be. Pattern training is easy to teach. If everyone is taught the same pattern, there is no need to tailor anything to the individual. This allows for the material to be presented in a manner that just barely scratches the surface. If there is no depth…..there is no need to look deep or to have a deeper understanding. For the instructor this is the easy way out and It is also the easy way out for the student.

If we are talking about matters of “life and death” is taking the easy way out really a good idea?

Before we get into this too far, let’s take a look at some of the things that make up pattern based training;

1.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one draw stroke
2.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one form of movement
3.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one direction of movement
4.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one response at the onset of the fight
5.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one method of aiming
6.Prioritizing the performance or philosophy of one “string of fire”
7.Holstering up the exact same way every time
8.Training in anything that is not connected to the mental aspect of the fight or that is not connected to common sense
9.Training in anything that is taught as “always” “never” or anything else that is definitive.
10.Training in anything that is “robotic” and does not allow for fluidity, adaptation, or versatility
11.After action drills that are nothing more than mindless patterns with very little connection to the mental aspect of the fight

Straight up, training in something that is ingrained as a pattern, can be very dangerous. It can be dangerous to you and to everyone around you when you are training or fighting.

I have done a lot of pattern training in the past and I have also trained with a lot of people who have done a lot of pattern training. Inevitably, when you get down to advanced fight focused training you find that there are many patterns that simply must be dumped. A lot of this training originally did not start off as a pattern. It became a pattern as the student would try to emulate the instructor’s minutia. On doing this, a certain “coolness” factor became part of the equation. A lot of the robotic pattern training that I have received and witnessed was taken to extremes due to “the coolness factor” and wanting to look like the instructor. Pattern training seems to take on a life of its own, especially when Guru Worship is involved.

In reality, this has very little to do with fighting! As a matter of fact, this will probably not allow you to be the very best that you can be because you are simply copying out of coolness……..not optimizing out of common sense.

The bottom line on pattern training is that it is not attached to the common sense of conscious thought. The only way to be the very best that we can be is to train in the common sense of conscious thought through pattern recognition training.

Pattern recognition training is very different from pattern training. Pattern recognition training attaches every physical skill set to the mental aspect of the fight. Everything that we do is attached to the common sense of conscious thought. Our responses are dictated by the situation.

The situation cannot be controlled by a pattern as well as it can be controlled by fluid skill sets customized for the situation.

As we train on the square range, we need to use visualization to begin the pattern recognition programming. When we step up to the line, we should be painting ourselves a picture of the situation. We should be pulling ourselves into the reality of that visualized moment.

1.The adversary is this close
2.I am that far behind in the reactionary curve
3.This is how I would feel
4.This is how I would respond (including going hands on)
5.This is how I need to take off
6.This is my retention reality
7.This is how I need to draw
8.There is my cover, my exit from the fight, or my advantageous position
9.This is how fast I am able to move to guarantee combat accurate hit
10.This is what I would need to be able to see inside of the entirety of the situation
11.This is how I would need to work my grip and trigger to guarantee combat accurate hits

We work this stuff over and over again, creating situation after situation in our minds eye. We push the limitations and make adjustments. We run it again and again until we get it perfect.

Then we push the limitations even further. We learn as much as we can possibly learn about ourselves inside of a huge portion of the fight continuum. We nail down our pattern recognition to the point that we are able to run our programmed responses at the subconscious level……..yet still attached to the common sense of conscious thought……because that is the way we programmed it.

We then take that same pattern recognition programming into force on force (FOF). We test our pattern recognition responses against live, thinking, adapting, and resisting adversaries. We solidify what worked and discover what needs to be re-evaluated. We learn the difference between what we can do on the square range and what we can do in FOF. This also allows us to see what the attack really looks like so that our visualization is improved when we return to the square range to refine our pattern recognition.

As you progress in your skill sets, you need to take this pattern recognition training into low light. In low light your whole world will change. You will have to relearn all of your low light limitation levels. That is just the reality of the beast.

Pattern recognition training is all about confidence. It is about obtaining confidence in your abilities because no matter what the situation……you have been there and you have done that. You know exactly what you have to do to guarantee the hits while doing whatever needs to be done so that you do not get hit.

Patterns can get you killed! Patterns can get innocents killed! When you see training that emphasizes patterns that should throw up a huge red flag. Be very careful to not confuse mindless patterns with solid immediate action drills. Solid immediate action drills are ingrained through the common sense of conscious thought. Pattern training has no place inside of fight focused training. Everything that we do needs to be connected to the common sense of conscious thought, then worked to the point that it is ingrained at the sub-conscious level. This can easily be done through pattern recognition training.

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