Survival skills practice is no different than any other type of practice with a physical component. There are two considerations that you always hear mentioned in such areas of life that we will address. Both of these are simply incorrect.
One is that “practice makes perfect” the other is “muscle memory”.
Practice makes perfect.
While this seemingly makes alot of sense, it is faulty. You can practice all you want but if you are practicing incorrectly, will set yourself for trouble later when you need it. For example, if you always use a specific knife in outdoor survival training and you never practice doing skills without it, then what will you do when you find yourself in need of it and you don’t have it in your possession? If you have ever attended, or wish to attend in the future, one of our outdoor training events you will find a unique test on the last day. Rather than just teach you skills, we teach these skills and have you practice them throughout the class. On the last day we have you put them in to practice under stressed conditions. (How do we do this safely??, come and find out) Therefore you need to practice, but certainly do your best to practice perfectly, and to continue to practice perfectly under stressed conditions.
For example, I taught primitive fire making class this weekend and it happened to be raining at the time. Once you practice enough, bow drill fire making is a an incredible skill to have. In this particular instance though I was demonstrating in front of about a twenty people and it was raining. A good way to practice the skills, under pressure, wouldn’t you think? How much harder would it be if it had been 20 degrees outside, and I had a very cold wife and kids needing a fire? For me, and probably you, this would prove to be stressful. My point is that you need to practice these skills, under pressure such as this, as often as you can. In that manner you can start developing perfect practice, under pressure. This has much more usefulness than, simply being able to do these things over and over under picture perfect conditions.
I hate to break this to you, but muscles don’t have brains. Therefore, muscle memory is a bit of a misnomer. However, it is proven with any physical skills you will improve upon your skill set if you do lots of repetitions. This is true of free throw shots, judo throws, and bow drill fire making. As is typical with lots of movement, you will make mistakes. Hopefully, you will find a good teacher who can help you with such things. That is why Dan’s Depot offers all the free teaching here and on youtube, as well as discounted rates for participants to go to weekend classes with lots of hands-on practice and instruction at Nature Reliance School.
The last thought that brings this together is you need to practice with your tools. You need to have a knife, a pack, a shelter that you can setup, sleep in it, and pack it away and do it again and again. We recommend when looking for a survival kit, that you shop around. One of the first things you need to ask yourself when looking at it, “Can I practice with these items, and re-use them over and over?” If the answer is no, then do not waste your time or money with such a kit.
Please keep checking in with us, as we are about to start a series on firebuilding, which will include a Finding Firewood series, and a series on how to cook over a fire.
Until then, I hope to see you on, or off the trail!
Craig Caudill, Director