Build Your Training Around Big Rocks

Sometimes when we start looking at all the things we need to work on to be truly prepared in a self-defense context, we can get overwhelmed.

First, we face the sheer scale of areas we need to ensure that we are functional/capable in : distance pistol work, contact pistol work, H2H, fitness, awareness and pre-fight management, nutrition, legal ramifications and issues, edged weapons, impact weapons, less lethal things like OC spray, and other important parts. And then, we have a huge amount of different subsets within that framework : with fitness we need to think about strength, cardio, pre-hab/re-hab work/and mobility; with pistols we have to work malfunctions, reloading, shooting with one hand, shooting with the weak hand, shooting while moving, shooting while looking for cover, etc. ; with H2H, we have stand up striking, vertical entanglement, horizontal entanglement, with and without weapons, and against single or multiple opponents; with pre-fight management we need to think about situational awareness, de-selection, managing unknown contacts, ad nauseum. All the components can be broken down in a like manner. All in all, we can easily be overcome with everything that needs to be done and addressed.

Trying to navigate all that we need to do can get tricky and difficult.

One of the pitfalls that can happen when we try to figure out our training schedule is we can find ourselves  focusing on the little things while not spending time doing  the big things. We spend too much time on things that are unlikely to matter, or the chances of needing them are extremely unlikely while ignoring the skills that may happen a lot.

My close friend and experienced LEO and fellow instructor Larry Lindenman introduced me to a term that has huge ramifications for this situation and can possibly bring a lot of clarity. . He wrote an online post on the forum where he used the terms “Big Rocks” and “Small Rocks”. What Larry was discussing was from a nutrition and diet standpoint, but it applies to everything across the board. Essentially, our training is like a river. The flow of the river can be affected by rocks in the river bed. However, small rocks won’t really do much to the river flow, but big rocks can not only affect the flow, they can even change the course of the river itself!

What happens far too often is that we spend time throwing small rocks into the river, and don’t spend any effort or time throwing in the  big rocks. In Larry’s original example, he talked about how people spend a lot of time and money looking at the latest trendy nutrition supplements, but eat their regular meals made up of awful junk like potato chips or Big Macs. His point was clean up your daily diet before worrying if that bottle of “Ripped Energy Awesomeness 2000” will help you recover from a workout.

Along the same lines, we need to be making the same choices in the rest of our training. Perhaps as a private citizen, I should not spend much time shooting carbines and taking carbine classes if my pistol shooting skills suck. And since as a private citizen, I have a far greater likelihood of using a pistol to defend myself over a carbine, the pistol is my “Big Rock”.

When it comes to H2H, we probably should be focused initially on what are the most common types of attacks and develop a skill set to handle that. I probably should not be practicing ways to eliminate sentries on a battlefield if I cannot keep someone from taking me to the ground and pounding me into paste.

I am all for having fun in training. And if you like carbine work, or pretending you are a WW2 commando and you want to take out that Nazi sentry, I have no real issue with that, PROVIDED that you are not ignoring the big rocks. If you have not practiced drawing your carry pistol from concealment under a set time frame, but you are blasting through 1,000 rounds of ammo  a day through your AR, I would respectfully suggest your big rocks are lacking.

Ensure that the biggest rocks are taken care of before wasting the little bit of training time you have available.

6 thoughts on “Build Your Training Around Big Rocks”

  1. Cecil,

    Thank You for the well thought out article it is truly appreciated!

    Can you go more into big rocks on the empty hand self-defense?


    1. Cecil,

      Great thoughts and content here on your website about hand to hand combat, pistes, rifles, for various people such as police, private security, law enforcement, governmental employees, private citizens, etc. All of this is excellent self-defense information and also applies to sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, MMA, Judo, Kali, etc.


  2. I’ve been looking at this topic for a long time. Calling it context. “Big Rocks,” when explained, paints a great image in my mind. Changing the course of the river is what its all about.

    Thanks for posting!

  3. Hi Cecil.

    Good article. One of the issues I find in BJJ is that the art is so intricate, particularly at the higher levels, that it’s easy for a relative beginner to get lost.

    I’m keen to keep working the basic positions, the basic attacks, the basic escapes etc. Big rocks. However, most class time seems to be dedicated to whizz bang competition techniques.

    I know it’s hard because there are a lot of higher belts in classes so the instructor needs to keep it interesting. Yet I feel it has a tendency to make BJJ somewhat less accessible.

    I also do judo. I’ve been working the same three throws for nearly five years. Whereas in BJJ, every week there is a new position, a new submission etc.

    I’d be keen for your thoughts.


Comments are closed.