Make no mistake: Anyone wishing to learn small unit tactics or survival or land navigation or any one of a myriad of skills that come in handy in a WROL/SHTF situation must actually go out into the field and to complete the learning process. Otherwise, the skills pursued almost always never get to a level of effective performance. Then, once gained, if they are not practiced regularly, they will start to deteriorate. If you don’t use them, you will, over time, lose them.
That’s not to say, though, that you shouldn’t prepare to train. You should. One very effective way is to read and comprehend various sources of information on the subject you’ve chosen. One of the positive benefits of the web is the many blogs out there for you to choose from. There are also ‘faction’ novels, manuals, historical descriptions, videos, and forums all focused on skills you may wish to learn, and these are a great source of information, so long as you filter them a bit, as not every one of them provides information objectively or accurately. It is truly a case of, ‘Buyer Beware!’
You can also streamline your learning curve if you match what’s available to your personal learning style. People generally fall into three categeories of learning: Visual, Auditory, and Touch. Some folks learn through a combination of two or all, but everyone typically has a primary style. So, take a moment and reflect on the best subjects or skills you’ve learned and how they were presented. This should give you an indication of your own primary learning style.
Visual learners, those who best learn watching someone perform, can get their foundation through video presentations or watching demonstrations of the skill or task.
Auditory learners can listen to pod casts or lectures or watch video presentations.
People who learn best by touch don’t have to wait until they get into a class before they start; they can read or watch descriptions and then mimic the performance as closely as they can prior to starting the training. Take compass reading for example. Getting a lensatic compass and following along a slide or video presentation on how to properly hold the compass or measure an azimuth and doing while watching will put the person a step ahead when he or she attends the class.
The bottom line is this: whichever method works best for you is what should be used to prepare for training in the field. I’m a reader, so before I go into the field either to learn or teach, I re-read various lesson plans, books, manuals or other source documents that refresh my knowledge level so that when I’m in the field, I can spend more time demonstrating and helping participants learn proper application of the skill we’re dealing with.
Also, don’t minimize the importance of evaluating the source of the information you’re using to prepare for your training, either! Long recognized authoritative sources are the best, backed up by contemporary accounts of source evaluation. Beware of information sources that diminishes others by name or inferences in order to build their own credibility. Beware of sources that get you to focus on the pedigree (certifications, experience) over training objectives and how the subject is covered. Pedigress are great, but really only provide an indication that the source may have good information or training to offer. The pedigree may not indicate wheterh the training offered is what the participant is able to successfully complete or is actually what is being sought.
Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can read a book or manual, watch a video, or discuss a subject on a forum somewhere and actually learn the subject. You might become familiar with it, but that’s about all. Extremely rare is the person who can actually perform a series of tasks without practice under a competent instructor.