How to Maximize Your Training

Posted by Kevin Estela on Feb 2nd 2023

It’s important to match your software to your hardware. In other words, it is important to get proper training on the kit we all love to carry. In the immortal words of the late Lt. Col Jeff Cooper, “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” We wouldn’t trust a new driver with a set of keys without properly training them on the rules of the road and the skills to operate their vehicle properly. At Fieldcraft Survival, we train students in many different disciplines from medical training to survival to firearms and more. We see many students walk away from courses with great take-aways and there are some commonalities among them who do. Let’s face it, training can be expensive but it is a worthwhile investment. Here is how you can get the most out of the money you spend regardless of the class you decide to enroll in. 

Be Ready PRIOR to the Class Starting

Take a look at the course requirements. Look at the gear you are expected to show up with. You must honestly assess what you have and what you can do. There are some courses that have prerequisites for attending. These prerequisites are meant for safety and they are meant to ensure the students have the necessary skills to keep the class flowing smoothly. I’ve seen it from both ends, teacher and student, when a student shows up who is not capable of performing the basics. In these cases, students are often asked to leave training with a credit for a more appropriate course in the future. Additionally, you want to make sure the gear you have is appropriate for the course you’re in. I recall one mid-range carbine course I was in where students showed up with top-tier firearms but surplus ball ammo. With that combination, students were essentially lobbing shots at targets. There’s another quote I’ll paraphrase that fits for that scenario, when there is lead in the air, there is hope in the heart. If you are taking a land navigation course, invest in a good compass. If you are spending days in the woods on a survival course, purchase the right clothing. Be ready to train with the right gear.

Note Taking

I am always amazed when I see people show up to courses without a notepad and pen.There is so much information to process and absorb it is difficult to track it all without some sort of scribing tools. Don’t ask to record the class on your phone as most instructors and schools will have policies about that. You probably can ask a fellow student or training partner to record you off to the side in a safe manner. The emphasis is on “SAFE” by the way. Think about this, you will likely have the chance to ask your instructor questions during down time. Take that opportunity to write down what they say. There will also be times when the students and instructors present ideas you probably will forget. I’ve been asked “what was that book you recommended?” and “Where did you get that again?” Write down these details to avoid having to ask that question over and over. Plus, you can always go back to your notes later on and make your training experience last longer. 


From martial arts seminars to survival workshops to shooting classes, when an instructor says, “time to drill this” it means, get the reps in. Practice is part of training. It is easy to do a drill or skill one time but there is no mastery in a single repetition. How many times would you say you have to practice until you don’t get something wrong? It is tempting to do a skill a single time and then look for the next evolution of the training. That is very detrimental to your growth. Even sports greats practiced fundamentals and if you look at many of the pros, they have a really strong foundation built upon practice. This practice, by the way, is done before, during, and after class. If you’re practicing with firearms, make sure you treat your practice with the same level of safety as you would on the range. Don’t dry fire at light switches unless you can absolutely verify that the firearm is unloaded. I will often put any live ammunition in another room while I train and say out loud, “unloading”. That tip is one I picked up from my good friend and great American, Bill Rapier. 

Down Time

If an instructor gives you a break, utilize it. There is such a thing as a saturation point where you can’t absorb any more information. Also, there is a law of diminishing returns. If you feel yourself deteriorating physically or mentally, utilize that reset. If you are on a multi-day course and have access to time with your training partners, see if you can go out to eat with them and discuss what you learned on that first day. That is a form of informal after-action that can really help install the details you may have already forgotten. It is a less stressful setting and you will hear the information in a different way that may stick better. Also, you can swap notes, share ideas, and get to know people who are like minded and will probably ask you when you are training again. Nothing like growing a community organically. 

Be Present in Mind and Body

One of the important aspects of training is being present. By “present”, I’m not just referring to physically being there, I am referring to being present mentally too. It is easy to space out when there is a perceived lull in the action. It is easy to perseverate on a particular skill while another is being presented. I’ve often seen students with a small piece of cord tying knots we covered hours before during a lesson that doesn’t require cordage. It is easy to get stuck on that particular skill or tidbit of information you consider worth the price of admission, but stay with the class and with what your instructor is teaching. Also, in many courses, it is advised you aren’t on any medication that would impair your reflexes or judgment. If you aren’t supposed to operate heavy machinery, perhaps you should be operating other potentially dangerous equipment. Furthermore, if you decided to go out with all of your students the night before and consume too much alcohol or not get enough sleep, you probably want to rethink how effective you’ll be as a student. Listen to the advice your parents gave you and get a good night’s sleep prior to class. 

The bottom line is this, as an instructor, I want to see you succeed. Your instructors will understand your time with them is valuable and finite. You want to maximize the time you have by setting yourself up for success. Training really is an investment and you should do what you can to get the most out of it. Gear can be lost or stolen but your training can’t be taken away from you. What you carry in your head weighs nothing the more you know the less you carry. Do what it takes to draw the most out of your training experience and you’ll be primed for the next since the training never ends.