Written by Greg Ellifritz
Ever since I started training people in the fighting arts for a living, I have kept very meticulous records. Not only is it important for potential future legal action, it’s a great marker for tracking progress and improvement.
Each year at this time, I do a review of what I did in the previous 12 months and how I want the next year to look. It’s a very useful exercise that I would encourage everyone to do. No one will make continued, structured improvement unless he has a plan of action. Here’s what I did last year and how I need to improve upon it in the future…
Personal Firearms Training
Last year I shot exactly 6,802 rounds in training, almost 1000 more than last year. I spread those rounds over 41 different shooting sessions. It’s less than previous years, but that is to be expected. When my police department got rid of my training position and moved me to the street, I lost a lot of practice opportunities that I would usually get while demonstrating drills for students.
It’s interesting to note that only 915 of those 6800 rounds came from police “training” provided by my department. That includes shots fired from rifle, shotgun, duty handgun, and all my off duty/backup handguns. I know a lot of you cops reading this would kill to have a department that provided almost 1000 rounds a year for training. Many departments only provide enough ammo for the 25-round annual state qualification test. 915 rounds may seem like a lot, but it is less than 1/2 of the amount that officers fired when I was the full time training officer. When budgets are cut, training suffers the most. I can see a steady decline in my fellow officers’ shooting skills after training was cut. I barely made improvements after shooting 6,000 additional personally-purchased rounds.
Officers who don’t supplement their department provided training with their own efforts will not be adequately prepared for a lethal force confrontation. Shooting one to four times a year just isn’t enough to sustain a high level of competency. All you police officers out there need to be doing some more shooting…even if the ammo costs have to come out of your own pocket.
I exceeded my goal of shooting at least 500 rounds per month. My skill levels with the pistol have remained high and are continually improving. I’ve been starting every training session by doing the “Humbler” drill. My accuracy and trigger control have benefited.
In 2017, I’ll be keeping my live fire shooting to around 500 bullets a month. I have to admit that I absolutely hate dryfiring and there hasn’t been anything that can motivate me to do it regularly. More efficient live fire practice is my personal plan for improving shooting performance.
Professional Training and Education
In 2016, I took 86 hours of professional training from other instructors. I met my goal of getting at least two weeks (80 hours) of training in the books. I took the following classes:
I know many of you think that 80 hours a year isn’t enough training for a professional. It really depends. Earlier in my training career, I averaged more than 300 hours a year of professional instruction. As I progress, I see less and less benefit obtained for each hour of training conducted. After completing nearly 5,000 hours of professional training in my career, I’ve already seen a lot of the good stuff out there! Taking a week-long class to get just one new technique isn’t a productive use of my time. I’m going to maintain my 80-hour training commitment in 2017 and focus my efforts on attending classes that are outside my skill set and will help me grow as an instructor.
I will continue to share what I learn in my training classes with all of my readers on this site. Even if you can’t attend some of the cool classes I go to, you can still get some quality knowledge by reading regularly.
I believe self study is even more important than taking classes. I learn A LOT from reading books. It seems to be a losing battle getting Americans to read more, but I don’t think there’s a better way to get smarter about any chosen topic. In 2016 I read 133 books. All but eight of them were non-fiction. That met my goal of increasing the number of books I read (116 last year). My 2017 goal is to read at least 120 more books. Reading ten books a month gives me a significant amount of new knowledge.
If you want to read more, get rid of your television! I got rid of TV in my house almost five years ago. It was a great move, giving me much more free time to read, write, and live.
In 2016, I taught a total of 22 classes on my own and three more as a co-instructor at TDI. I had 445 students in my own classes and an additional 70 in the classes I co-taught at TDI. That’s a 46% increase in class numbers with a 23% increase in total students taught. I’m happy with that level of activity. Teaching 30 weekends a year combined with writing all the articles for this site, working on a book, and having a full time cop job is more work that I really want to do!
I also presented at one national professional training conference, The RangeMaster Polite Society Conference in Memphis Tennessee.
This met my goal of teaching 20 classes and presenting at one major training conference.
This year I plan on maintaining approximately the same number of training classes as last year. I have 27 classes already booked and am working on finishing up the details for one or two more, so it looks like I’ve already exceeded that goal.
I put up this website in March of 2012. In less than four years’ time it has far exceeded my expectations. I’m averaging about 100,000 unique viewers and 300,000 page views a month. My total annual page views increased by 37% last year to 5.5 million. I had 929,000 unique viewers, an increase of over 60% when compared to 2015 levels. It’s puzzling to me that I am seeing far more viewers, but they are reading fewer articles per visit. I wonder if the prevalence of smart phones is changing people’s information consumption. People on smart phones don’t leisurely poke around websites reading articles that pique their curiosity. They see an article on social media, read it, and then move on. I don’t really know how to adapt my content for this strategy, or even if doing so is the right solution.
At any rate, I’m happy with having a million visitors a year. In speaking with professionals in the field, these seem to be very good numbers for a five-year old website in a small niche like combatives training. I had my brilliant designer/web developer friend install a new theme that featured the logos he had designed for my company years ago. I think it really improved the look of the site. Being now optimized for mobile devices, I’m hoping I can attract even more visitors in the future.
In 2017, I may experiment with some small ads to generate additional revenue. Writing for this site is a second full time job for me. I’m looking for ways to be compensated for my efforts. If I do decide to run some ads, I’ll keep them unobtrusive and avoid any annoying popups.
I posted 224 different articles containing 214,395 total words. For what it’s worth, the average novel is somewhere around 100,000 words. The articles on my website are the equivalent of two full novels’ worth of writing last year! I wrote most of the articles myself, but I had ten articles written by guest writers. My goal for 2016 was to publish at least four articles a week and have more guest writers. Goal accomplished!
For 2017, I plan on publishing at a slightly slower rate. I really need to focus on getting my books written and published. To give me time for book work, I’m going to cut my website writing down to about three articles a week.
I also disabled all of the comments on my website in 2016. That action alone has allowed me to reclaim a lot of wasted time and reduce an incredible amount of frustration. I found that when people comment on websites, they do so mostly to argue about inconsequential topics or to criticize the author’s work without presenting any intelligent ideas of their own. The comments section of every site becomes a cesspool of misinformation and angry rantings. Who has time to argue with strangers on the internet? Not me. Hence, there are no more comments allowed on my site.
Special thanks to all my website referrers. Web traffic would not be nearly as high without you spreading the good word. You’ll be interested to note that almost 40% of my web traffic comes from Facebook. Thanks to all of you who share my articles on your pages!
After social media sites and search engines, the following referrers generated the most traffic for me. Each were responsible for more than 1000 new unique viewers. Go check out their sites. They have lots of great information!
Magazine and Print Writing
In 2016, I did not publish a single article in print gun magazines. Overall, I think print gun writing is a dying vocation. I won’t be focusing my efforts there in the future. The return on investment just isn’t as high as with my writing on this site.
I had numerous articles reprinted on various websites including Buckeye Firearms’ site and The Daily Caller. My work is syndicated on several sites including Beforeitsnews.com. I think wide syndication of my material gets the word out better than focusing on print writing, so I will be doing more of this in the future.
I had planned on getting my third world travel safety book out as well. That obviously didn’t happen. I added 12,000 words to the manuscript in 2016, but it still isn’t quite ready for release. I’m re-prioritizing my writing time to complete the book this year.
I now have five other books that are in their infancy, but they should be finished in the next couple years as well.
Although it isn’t directly related to training, I think travel is extremely important. I’ve learned far more about dealing with people (aggressive or otherwise) in my world travels than I ever have at a formal training class. Travel also teaches adaptability, which is a critically useful survival skill.
My general goal is to spend about six weeks a year outside the USA. With a disabling abdominal surgery performed during the month when I usually travel the most, I was only able to get out of the USA for a total of about three weeks. In my travels, I made it to five foreign countries: Mexico (twice), Cuba, and El Salvador. Of that list, both Cuba and El Salvador were new countries for me. Overall, I racked up 37,000 miles of recreational air travel.
I started out the year with a short visit to Cuba.
I then went back to Mexico for a relaxing beach vacation after my surgery.
And then finished the year by visiting El Salvador (the only Latin American country I had not yet visited).
In 2017, I have trips to Iceland, Peru, and Antarctica already scheduled. I will probably add a trip to a yet undecided Caribbean island as well. My overall goal is to see 50 different countries before I turn 50 years old. With 44 now, I’m getting close!
If you don’t currently travel, I would highly recommend taking a trip someplace fun. There’s a huge world out there to see! What good is developing your ninja-like tactical skills if you don’t ever go anywhere to put them to use?
How did you do in 2016? What are your goals in 2017? Think about it for yourself and WRITE IT DOWN! I wish you all the best in the new year.