Acquiring Skills vs. Sustaining Abilities

In all our endeavors but particularly in sports, music, and professional development, the terms “practice” and “training” are used interchangeably. They are not the same. There exists a nuanced difference between the two concepts, which lies in the underlying purpose of each. Training focuses on expanding knowledge and skills through structured learning experiences. Practice is geared towards maintaining and refining existing abilities through repetition and application.

I train with Bob, Michael, and Ben. They see what I’m doing and ways I can improve. I learn from them where my draw stroke is weak – extra or excess movement, sloppy or uncontrolled push-outs, or lazy attempts to clear my cover garment. They observe, interpret, and conclude what aspects I need to improve. I take humble notes.

L-R | Michael Veronese| Bob Margolis | Benjamin DeWalt

Each morning begins with a trip to my basement for stretching and draw stroke practice. My humble notes are at the core of my practice. My repetitive Up-Out-Click routine. I need to make it automatic. It is a fundamental action. If I don’t practice for a while, I lose it. And so I practice the fundamentals. Up-Out-Click. Up-Out-Click. Up-Out-Click. Up from the holster. Out to the target. Click the trigger. Make it automatic.

Training is the foundation upon which skills are built. It involves systematic instruction, guidance, and exposure to new techniques or knowledge. Pistol can incorporate various instructional methods, such as lectures, simulations and stressors, live or dry fire, and teachbacks. Teachbacks or when the student acts as the instructor to test the students ability to explain a concept to another person. It showcases mastery of the idea through the ability to communicate it.

On the other hand, practice can be viewed as the ongoing refinement and reinforcement of those skills or knowledge acquired through training. It is the deliberate and repetitive application of learned techniques with the goal of enhancing proficiency, speed, and consistency. Practice involves honing “muscle memory,” developing intuition, and improving decision-making abilities through repeated execution of tasks or activities.

Practice can turn to training.

Picture this: You’re practicing your draw stroke from concealment. Your cover garment is a sweatshirt. It’s going well and you can get Up-Out-Click in under 2 seconds. The weather report calls for snow today and you realize drawing from sweatshirt concealment is quite different from drawing from sweatshirt-plus-parka concealment. You don and zip up your parka. On the timer, you can now get Up-Out-Click no quicker than 4.5 seconds. That’s not good.

You begin to breakdown the steps of clearing both garments, finding the grip and getting the pistol up and out around all the extra fabric. You notice the problems, find solutions, and come to an understanding of how best to do it. Your practice turned into training. To solidify your training you now practice the new draw stroke (your “foul weather stroke”) until you can get Up-Out-Click at about 2.75 seconds. Not as fast, but good for today. Practice turned to training, which led back to practice. This continuum will help you grow and be better at shooting, and any other areas of life.

Training lays the groundwork for skill acquisition and knowledge expansion; practice is the ongoing process of refining, reinforcing, and applying those skills to achieve mastery. Both are essential components of skill development and performance improvement, with training providing the initial scaffolding and practice serving as the cornerstone for long-term success in any endeavor. Understanding the distinction between practice and training empowers individuals to approach learning and skill development strategically, maximizing their potential for growth and achievement.

Life. Safe. Training. You get it now, right?