Tag Archives: practice

The Difference Between Practicing and Training

Practicing and training seem almost synonymous. But there are subtle differences. Dictionary.com gives us this information:

Noun: The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. Verb: Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. And from wikipedia.com: a method of learning by repetition.

Noun: The action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behavior. And from wikipedia.com: The acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge.

So there is a difference. We train to learn a new skill and then we practice that skill over and over.

What about the difference between drilling and training? Again, we need to define our terms and look to dictionary.com.

Verb: Military. To instruct and exercise in formation marching and movement, in the carrying of arms during formal marching, and in the formal handling of arms for ceremonies and guard work.

But we do know that there is a difference for us in the military drill world:

  • Armed Drill
  • Unarmed Drill

So not all drilling is for “the carrying of arms during formal marching.” We can then conclude that some drill is practice and some is training. It just depends on the need.

“Practice Makes Perfect
No, it doesn’t. Ever. See above.

“Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
There is no “Perfect Practice.” This is a fluffy statement reworded from the first statement that does not have a solid foundation.

“Practice Makes Permanent”
Now you’ve got it. What you are trained to do and what you repeatedly do in practice, is what you will do in performance. The above two statements may seem right, but they are not.

USAF photo

Where Do You Drill?

Now, this is dedication!

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How to Run an Honor Guard Practice

I’ve been asked this and similar questions before and I’d like to give you my best practices from my years working with honor guard units around the world.

How to Practice (Part-Time Honor Guards)
If you practice once a week for a couple of hours, make sure that the whole team is grounded and completely standardized in the basics: Standing Manual (everything you can accomplish while unarmed and standing still), Manual of Arms (rifle, pike pole and fire axe) and Manual of the Flagstaff. You must ensure that all members have the exact same style in everything they do.

Divide your team into 2 groups: trainees and trained/certified members. Beginners need to be introduced to the honor guard and briefed on how training is accomplished and tracked, the leadership of the team, etc. Veterans need to practice for upcoming events and be given position assignments. Try to rotate positions so the team does not have just one or two people who can command a color team or fold a flag. (USAF photo above)

Training For a Full-Time Team
While your team needs 2 groups as well, one for trainees and one for trained members, the usual daily routine for your team will be at least one or two funeral run-throughs and then specific training for rotating team members through colors, flag fold, pall bearers and firing party. Ceremony-specific training will also be on the agenda for special requests received during the week.

For a complete delineation of honor guard training, see my book, The Honor Guard Manual. It lists and completely describes all aspects that an honor guard might perform.

A Note on Documenting Training
I spent my last 7 years on Active Duty with the USAF as a Unit Training Manager and became very familiar with the importance of tracking and documenting training. Whether you have purchased my book, The Honor Guard Manual, or not, download and print for all of your team members, the Honor Guard Training Record (see the Downloads page) that I developed that is based on the Manual. This record gives you an excellent way to keep track of who has received what training and when. It also tells you who the trainer was.

Some Helpful Downloads
Here are some documents that I created over the years to help with training, they may be of help for you and your team. Use them as is or change them to suit your needs. (Arlington Police photo)

Example Honor Guard Job Descriptions (Word documents)

OIC= Officer in Charge; NCOIC= Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge


Ask DrillMaster- Team Training Difficulties

Question: What is a good way to run a team practice? I feel alot of the difficulties we’re having as a team is my fault for not running practices as efficiently, so would you have any advice please sir? Once again I cannot thank you enough for all the help.

Answer: What are the difficulties? Below I can only give you general ideas. If you can be specific, I can then address those issues.In the beginning, it is essential to make sure everyone is on the page; all team members need to know what they are doing from the start. So, everyone needs to master the what is called Standing Manual (unarmed drill) and then the Manual of Arms. Once those two are completely mastered then the Drillers are ready to move on to marching while executing the 15-Count Manual of Arms. Once this is mastered then you can start adding exhibition-type movements beginning with basics moving on to moderate moves and then, if the team is able, working on advanced movements.

At every practice, you need to make sure everyone is involved in the learning and/or teaching process. When you see that you have one or two team members who are as knowledgeable as you (or have more knowledge), use them to teach others having troubles and maybe even use them to develop parts of the XD routine if they’d like.

Treat all members with respect, even if they do not treat you that way. When you feel as though a team member is not being respectful, you can handle this away from the rest of the team unless someone is being truly intolerable, then you need to stop the inappropriate behavior immediately without being disrespectful (can be quite difficult).

How to Train when not “Practicing”

Here are some simple tips that you can do on your own each day to help you improve your body development which will help you improve your drill overall.

When doing those simple daily tasks, change it up, keep the body guessing:

  • When brushing your teeth, stand on one leg while you brush the bottom teeth; switch to the other leg while you brush the top teeth. It may sound really silly, but it works! When merely standing on one leg is no longer a challenge, keep standing on that one leg and move your other leg in front of you or extend it behind you as you bend at the waist and hold that position. This is great for balance. (Image courtesy of elitedaily.com)
  • When in the shower, don’t bend your head forward too much while washing your hair- keep it up or have the shower head point at the back of your head. This will help with posture
  • When vacuuming or on the computer using a mouse, use your non-dominant hand/arm. This will help you work on ambidexterity (using both hands).
  • When walking- anywhere and everywhere, make sure that you stand up straight and that your feet point straight in front of you.
  • Can you think of other ways?

Remember: Practice Makes Permanent!

Keep doing these simple things again and again and you will eventually notice improvement- really!

Practice Makes Permanent- Feet

“Practice makes permanent.” Lt. Col. Bernard C. Lorenz always told my drill team this phrase. He was my AFJROTC instructor when I was in high school and has now passed, but I have always remembered that phrase and included it in my training. Thanks, Sir.

Practice makes permanent and education is key. We will tackle both in this article.

Many people understand practice makes permanent: go to practice/rehearsal and practice the way you would perform: stay in character (no goofing around, etc.), execute as perfectly as possible, etc. Practicing the way you perform is an excellent way to employ this phrase but, education must come before practicing- education is key.

Let’s look at feet
There are couple common problems with feet/ankles that can be helped through strengthening the ankles and also the use of orthotics (inserts for your shoes).

Foot issues while marching/walking:

  • Toe hitting the ground before the heel
  • Toe slapping the ground
  • Toe scraping the ground
  • Walking on the outside/inside of the foot
  • Toes pointing outward/inward
  • Whole foot hitting the ground
  • Heel not touching the ground
  • Heel barely touching the ground and foot bouncing forward to toe

From orthotics.com

From orthotics.com

From theshoereview.com

Two more common problems:

However, some people have their toes point outward:

Or inward:

It’s best to have your feet land centered and flat and then roll forward:

If your unit uses the 45-degree stance, then you last two steps create this angle, every other step should be straight.

So, how in the world does “practice makes permanent” work here?

I’m glad you asked! It took me a while, but I worked on my marching technique each day when I walked. I still do actually, and you can do it as well. Work each day when you are walking wherever and no one has to know that you are working on your marching technique. Here’s how to do it:

Hit your heel squarely on the ground, keep your foot straight and roll through the step to the center of your toes.


Don’t stomp! Use your leg muscles to ascend and descend while making as little noise as possible. Use your muscles well; train your muscles.

Strengthen your ankles

Here is an example of ankle exercises.

Train a little bit every day!

Discipline at Practice

FYI: rehearsal = practice

The military (we can count college ROTC in this), LEOs, firefighters, EMS, etc. are all adults and have set rules of which one must follow. In many cases honor guard, color team or drill team is on a volunteer basis and out of 1000 rehearsals you might run across some bad behavior that requires discipline.


What happens when you are a JROTC cadet in high school and you so badly want to be on the team but out of the 10 girls or guys on the team three of them constantly disrupt practice with their immaturity?

What happens when you are the commander of a JROTC team and have one or two cadets who keep playing around and taking away from rehearsal time?

Let’s add to this: Suppose you have a JROTC instructor who is not around- and I don’t just mean at a single practice session. Suppose your instructor is not doing his job and off doing something else.

Note: I have known many JROTC instructors over time and have come across all types and the majority of them have nothing but the best intentions for their students at the forefront of their minds and you can tell because of their actions and how their cadets love them. Yes, you will come across someone who could not care less and only wants the next paycheck- those people are everywhere but hopefully not common.


First, your unit should have an established set of rules, if it doesn’t, you may want to get right on that with the other cadets who are in leadership positions and bring your ideas to your instructors.

Next, your team should have established rules. Everyone needs to know “what happens when?” Established rules can take much stress out of the hands of the leadership.

Last, FOLLOW THE ESTABLISHED RULES. If the rules are not enforced, you wasted your time and efforts.

Ways of Dealing

Follow the established rules. Without them, leaders can find themselves without a leg on which stand. I can’t stress this enough.

Never belittle in public or in private. Students can act out due to their level of maturity, issues at home or school, or a myriad of other reasons. Students need to know that they are not “hated.” They need to know they have an “out” (even if it is the team commander telling them to leave and see the instructor) and that they can make their way back to the team without hostility.

Be calm and try to be as professional as possible. I know, sometimes punching someone in the face seems like the best way to handle the situation, but believe me, it’s not.

Don’t gang up. You can have several or all of the other team members be on the opposite side of the offender(s), but everyone yelling at the same time is not a good idea. Let leaders perform their roles.

Watch what you say. Don’t swear/curse or name-call. Remember, be as professional as possible.

If you, as the team commander, cannot straighten out the problem, that is when you need to send the unruly student(s) to your instructor.

Soon, I’ll briefly go over the 4 personality types. This will help you understand yourself and also others not only in conflicting situations, but in everyday life.

What advice can you offer? Please comment below.