Wow – what a difference a year can make! At this time last year, I participated in the very first Wo-Man Camp tactical training by Assault Counter Tactics (you can read about that experience here). It was also my very first tactical firearms training, and I learned I had a LOT to learn about carrying and using my firearm in a defensive situation. But this year was very different, for both me and for Wo-Man Camp!
First of all, my personal readiness and skill level is a night and day difference from last year. After last year’s camp, I realized I needed to train a lot more and practice, and I committed to doing so. I joined a private outdoor range, where I regularly and safely practice holster work, and I bought two training guns to use in my home. I’ve also taken a few reality-based defensive pistol training courses just this year and plan on many more for the future. These aren’t skills you learn once and remember – these are skills you must continually practice in real-world scenarios, so they become automatic through experience and muscle memory. One woman I met who attended the camp this year for the first time put it very simply: “For years, I’ve been going regularly to the range with my husband, but after today I realized for the first time that practicing in a sterile, organized environment like that doesn’t prepare me for the real world.”
Wo-Man Camp itself changed a lot too. I would guess that it doubled in size compared to last year, with women of all ability levels participating – from beginners to advanced. Last year, there were only two “stations” – one on the live range to practice firearm skills, and one in the classroom with some knife skills and force-on-force training. This year they added four additional training sessions: car jacking, where they put us ladies in a real car and created scenarios to simulate being confronted in a parking lot and while in our car; krav maga Israeli martial arts defensive techniques; room clearing/active shooter scenarios; and medical trauma intervention, where we learned how to provide cover for a buddy and apply a tourniquet as may be needed in an active shooter situation.
Another thing that changed for me this year is that I came home a lot more sore and bruised (note: I bruise easily) than I did last year. But while it was more physical than it was last year, it was definitely worth a few aches to learn those potentially life-saving techniques.
Here are some of my key takeaways from the training:
- You will WIN every single fight you never get in. Avoid confrontation and/or dangerous situations whenever you can.
- As I’ve also learned in my other training, the most important thing in a real-life defensive situation is to manage your emotions. It’s natural to be scared and have some level of fear, but keep your head level as best you can, and you will have a better chance of getting out of that situation safely. Survival is a thinking person’s game, it’s not just about shooting and running. Your firearm and/or knife is just a tool, but it’s your smarts, wits and ability to stay cool that are your true weapons.
- When you’re out and about, one of the most vulnerable times is right when you get into your vehicle, especially if you have children and/or are loading your car with groceries, etc. Be sure to stay aware and immediately lock your doors and start your engine when you enter. Also, try not to linger in the parking space too long doing things like checking your phone, social media, putting on makeup, etc. Don’t give bad guys the opportunity to catch you unaware and cornered.
- Know your weapon inside and out. This should go without saying, but it’s always shocking to me how little my friends know about the weapons they carry or have in their homes for self-defense. One of the cooler things the organizers did this year was to have seven different goggles on the live-fire range to simulate different levels of impairment while firing. They wanted to show us what we may feel like if we’ve been shot or knocked on the head. I immediately felt mildly nauseas when I put them on – some produced double vision, some were darkened, etc. Wearing each goggle, I had to safely unholster my firearm, fire at the target, eject an empty magazine, insert a full one, fire at the target again, and safely re-holster QUICKLY all while under stress. If you do not know your firearm intimately, you will have issues and can compromise your safety and the safety of those around you.
- If you are in an active shooter situation and want to help wounded victims, ONLY do the right intervention at the RIGHT time. You should never compromise your own safety to help others, as you may both end up being mortally wounded.
I commend the organizers for mixing thing up this year, so even those who attended in the past would have no idea what to expect. There was a lot going on in a relatively short amount of time, and while it’s a lot to pack into one day, it’s intent is to show women the importance of training and what different types of training are available. I look forward to next year’s camp and plan on bringing some friends. But in the meantime, I’ll be continuing to train, and I encourage you to do the same.