Primary Arms

Canipe Correspondence – What Are You Training For?

Years ago, as I was getting into attending open enrollment training courses, I heard someone refer to these types of training events as “The New Golf.” That phrase stuck with me as a pretty accurate description based on what I had seen, and it holds true today as much as ever. The customers that fall into this category have worked hard for their money, and like all free Americans have the right to spend it however they wish. In fact it is very encouraging to see such a surge in responsible, law abiding citizens seeking firearms and self defense training today, and I hope the growth seen in the tactical training industry continues indefinitely. My friend Ken Hackathorn says “Just by showing up here you’re already in the 0.1%” Over the last decade I have been fortunate enough to take part in dozens of classes, both open enrollment and more specialized closed courses for military and law enforcement personnel. Having been on both sides of the class as a student and an instructor, I have seen a huge cross section of people in attendance. I’ve noticed some trends I’d like to highlight and hopefully assist some people into making more informed decisions regarding their training. Regardless of your background they can apply to formal classes or individual practice.

To truly make the most of your time, effort, and money, the student needs to be realistic about their needs. As I write this, nothing rings more true as Fox News is covering the massacre in a theater in Aurora, CO. 14 people gunned down and 50 plus injured by one active shooter in a theater. I have heard the mantra “performance on demand” my entire career. I try to live that, because as dozens of people found out in the early hours of July 20, 2012 you don’t always get to choose when you will be called to the plate.

“He pointed the gun right at my face. I didn’t know what to do, so I jumped into the isle, curled into a ball and waited for him to go away.” -Jennifer Seeger, attendee of Colorado “The Dark Night Rises” showing.

We all need to look in the mirror by ourselves and take some time. We need to figure out where our time, effort, and money is going. Are you a corporate family man who spends 8 hours a week at the mall with your daughters? Are you training on the weekend with a battle rifle, plate carrier, drop leg holster, and helmet then rolling out to said mall with a J-Frame in a pocket holster? If you fit that description and passed up a SouthNarc ECQC class for that week of helicopter-borne free-fall knife fighting and heavy machine gun shooting, I believe some soul searching is in order. If you have the time and resources to do it all, then the rest of us are envious. For us mere mortals, we need to make our training count for the fight we will be in. As we decide to become hunters among the sheep, we have a responsibility to be professional and proficient with our skills. Choose your training wisely.

There is a potentially dangerous assumption by some people that you get all you need from your formal training. As an instructor I cannot make a person a master of anything we teach. As a student I cannot master a skill in 2-3 days a few times a year. You have to be willing to put the time in. An instructor can show you the way forward for success (or failure in some cases). You buy a bright, shiny set of tools when you train with professionals, but it is up to you to use them. There’s no doubt that it is a significant investment to train for the fight as it takes thousands of dollars to enroll in a top-level trainer’s course, buy ammunition, take vacation days, cover travel costs, lodging, food, and countless other small expenses. This isn’t sustainable for most people on a regular basis, but using those tools regularly on your own pays huge dividends for very little financial output. Dry firing is free. Drawing in front of the mirror costs nothing. Making sure your family knows what to do in various emergencies only costs you a little time and effort. We’ve all heard the saying “You never rise to the occasion, you fall to your level of training.” Train constantly.

There is a factor of success when your skills are called to the test that is overlooked with alarming consistency. Physical fitness is one of the most underrated factors of human survival today. I watched a video highlighting numerous professional competition shooters a while back. I would be lucky to be 75% the shooter they are, and with other obligations in life it’s unrealistic to think I could compete on their level. One thing is for sure, if the stage was at the top of a flight of steps I’d pass a lot of them. In open enrollment classes I have seen an encouraging number of armed citizens who are fantastic shooters. Unfortunately, many of them could not be counted on to employ those skills due to their physical conditioning. How large is a Wal-Mart? Are your kids on the other side of it when shots ring out? Is your office on the fourth floor? If its on fire can you run down the steps to safety without passing out? Can you carry or drag another human being to safety in an emergency? In short, does your level of fitness make you an asset or a liability? Being trained and prepared means more than carrying a gun, plus fitness improves all aspects of life. Get in shape and stay in shape.

We live in a time where everyday life is seemingly more and more dangerous. When you decide to take up training for the fight as a profession or a hobby, I think there is an obligation to take it seriously as your life and those of others is on the line. By applying some common sense in your approach to choosing training, being serious about maintaining your skills, and being mentally and physically prepared you are choosing not to be a victim. These principles are not all inclusive, but should provide a solid foundation for serious students when developing training desires and goals.

Good luck and stay safe.

Jon Canipe served on Active Duty with the US Army as a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant at 5th SFG(A) and was a Senior Instructor at the JFKSWCS, training SFQC students in planning, unconventional warfare, small unit tactics, CQB, and advanced marksmanship. He is a veteran of multiple combat tours, and still serves in the Army National Guard’s 20th SFG(A) in addition to working as an industry consultant and small arms instructor.


25 Responses to “Canipe Correspondence – What Are You Training For?”

  1. HalP says:

    It’s great you mentioned physical condition. Today we live under the idea that “Mr. Colt made all men equal” so physical prowess and capability is highly underated.

    Even self-defense (not firearms, think MMA/TKD/etc.) classes have ads that say “out of shape? overweight? no problem. Find out how you can beat up an attacker twice your size”
    Anyone who takes self-defence or survival seriously takes some level of fitness seriously.

    I’m not going to get started on out of shape cops.

  2. Ghost1213 says:

    This is the best thing I have read all week. Well done Sir

  3. D2 says:

    Some kids get to play dress up more than once a year…A true and mature approach to readiness is appreciated by all. I’ve deployed to Aghanistan with 11B’s who lacked the physical and mental preperation for the mission and skated by for the 9 months; worked with those who chose the profession of police officer who either openly don’t care or kid themselves they workout and shoot enough and there is the civilian side “hollywood gun” culture who buys all the training videos, gun magazines and bolts every bit of tastely crap they sell as a substitute for ability

    • Tim Thomas says:


      I couldn’t agree more… and yet, I see not only the break down within the ranks, but ” True Ledarship”, seems to be the culpret behind this “Goat Rodeo”…!

      Most of these people are what they are because the standards continue to be made of ” Jello “, just like those who lead from the F.O.B…!

  4. Haji says:

    Excellent post and a real reality check.

    Jon’s also one of the fittest people I know.

  5. walter shumate says:

    Good talk. I keep mumbling to myself that physical fitness, some kind of combatives training and the shortest OODA loop you can muster is probably greater than any gun.

  6. Luke says:

    Good Artical….D2 hinted on something (psycological conditioning) that I was thinking was missing after I read the artical. I believe D2 was referring to the “combat mindset”. All the physical conditioning in the world won’t help you if you are not willing to make the decision to destroy the threat at all cost. If hit yourself are you going to curl up into a ball on the floor and wait for them to go away or are you going to Cowboy Up and stay in the fight. Not to discount the right kind of combat physical conditioning, but I think recongizing that proper psychological conditioning and structural integrety will help carry the day and should not be discounted either.!/notes/the-forge/from-senior-instructor-addis-hallmark/494545480560331!/notes/the-forge/from-senior-instructor-addis-hallmark/494545480560331

  7. trvsmcdowell says:

    This spring I took a course from Pat Mac on the recommendation of John. One of the things that stood out most was Pat now considered his primary job as a “One man private security detail for his family”. While I had never articulated it that way, that is my primary reason for weapons training. I realized that having a fairly good grasp of the fundamentals, I should spend less time training with “kit” and more time with my Raven Concealment everyday carry rig. Pat also stressed cognitive decision making as one of the most important training elements.

  8. Mayflower Research & Consulting says:

    Well written Jon, good job.

  9. Ed says:

    Excellent article.

  10. Anthony Viverito FDNY L-103 says:

    This article is spot on….you truly don’t know when it will be your turn to step up

  11. scot humphreys says:

    Great Post Sir,
    Unfortunately here in California, about the only thing that could be done is hope I can get mine out of harm’s way and hope there is an off duty in the crowd. I’m an AD RES USAF Security Forces(Security Police) with a couple of Active shooter classes and am frustrated by this state’s gun laws. Guess I need a class in tactical runaway? What do I do if with friends who don’t have the same level of fitness or health(Kids, Elders)?

    sorry, but absolutely frustrated by this state.

    • scot says:

      Yeah, can you get rid of this post, I BF’d and put my whole name here…

  12. Adam says:

    Always a good read on SSD. Performance on demand. I am a firm believer in the “use it or lose it” concept when it comes to physical strength and flexibility. Love it when older people say, “I remember when I could do that”, I dont understand why they stopped. Carry on SSD, Thanks for your service to my informational needs.

  13. kilogulf59 says:

    Amen…this is essentially what we at ICCF been saying all along…

  14. Tyler says:

    Best post EVER!

  15. majrod says:

    Awesome article.

    trvs – “one man family security detail” Thanks for sharing that.

  16. Tim Thomas says:

    Another concept that seems to have gone by the way side, is to set up some of the same pre-planning with the people or family members you are out with… Where to go if it ” HIt’s the fan “, who’s calling 911 while Big Daddy drops the Hammer…! Who’s watching my Six…? and many other facit”s of a good Plan.. Have I assessed the environment I’m walking into… PLanning for and looking for potential Problem’s & Problem People…
    Did anyone see the video, of the 71 year old Man, who was in an Internet Chat Cafe, recently, who delt a surprising blow to Two would be ” Armed Robbers “…? He waited till they had taken their eyes off the area he was in and then pressed the fight… He continued to drive them from the location with continuous slow but accurate fire… He may not have been in great shape, or attended some ” High Speed ” Shooter’s Course, but he sure knew when and how to take advantage of, and use ” Timing “, to his advantage…!

  17. Erik O says:

    My personal plan is to get myself in better shape before I try 3-gun and definitely before I get my CCW. “A man’s got to know his limitations’ is my favorite Clint Eastwood movie quote.

    I got a Big Six to deep six. Best way to shave off station time is to have less of you to have to maneuver into position in the first place.

  18. ODG says:

    Great post John, right on target. I’ve always said the 6 steps to “Performance on Demand” are; 1. Fitness 2. Education 3. Mindset 4. Marksmanship 5. Manipulation 6. Force on Force.

  19. Matt says:

    Steinberg Schwartz,
    I’m very impressed. I didn’t know you knew how to write. 😉
    I hear lots of things have done an about face there.

  20. De Oppresso Liber!! Pleading the 5th!!

  21. Jim says:

    Nice article. I plan to share this with several groups of students.

  22. Stefan S. says:

    Goatee for my retirement bliss. Ha!

  23. DocGKR says:


    Well said! Many of us on the west coast look forward to your new training ventures–hopefully you will be able to get out this way.