I came across an interesting statement the other day that read something like the following: “Flexibility is greater than mastery.” I just had to pause for a bit and contemplate that. At first, I thought that the quote didn’t really feel right, since everyone always seems to be seeking out that perfect score or that master-level rating. I mean, isn’t mastery the goal of most subjects, courses and jobs? Don’t we strive for “perfection?”

Or are we just fooling ourselves?

Technology as an Example of Mastery

To wrestle with these questions, I first considered mastery in the realm of technology, especially in the way that humans program computers and artificial intelligence to get things done. After all, technological devices are really adept at completing the tasks they’re designed to accomplish. Think about the machines on assembly or production lines. Each sensor or robot has one specific focus, such as joining, pressing, attaching, cutting, welding, dispensing or packaging components. And automated robots performing the exact same tasks repeatedly are less likely to make mistakes. It’s mastery… but there’s not much flexibility there.

And let’s consider cruise control as another example. Many vehicles have the option for us to push a button that enables the car to travel at a speed we designate. Master. Right? So much so, that if you happen to be going down a hill, the car will brake to stay at that specific number. Or, when going up a hill, it will do what it takes to match the speed at whatever incline you must tackle. And in some vehicles, if your car detects another within a certain distance, it slows down and keeps speed at that distance, even without you knowing about it. But the technology isn’t really considering the traffic or the terrain. It’s just mastery of a certain speed or distance detection. And without flexibility, cruise control can actually be a bit annoying and inefficient.

Why Flexibility Is Important to Self-Defense

Next, I considered mastery in the case of firearms training, specifically with regard to concealed carry and/or self-defense. So many of us work to get that perfect drawstroke and a certain number of accurate shots on target within a certain timeframe. We dry-fire. We live-fire. We sometimes improve incrementally. And we sometimes experience brain melt upon the sound of a shot timer. We work and we work and we work until we get the “mastery” we desire.

But what good is that so-called mastery in the 360-degree world? Will you be upright (with a perfect stance) when you need to access your gun? Will you be able to accomplish that perfect presentation from the holster? Will you be wearing your competition gun and rig that you love to practice and compete with … or will you more likely have the everyday carry gun that you don’t always put training rounds through? Will the target be still? Will it be marked with a bullseye or perforated circle?

Most importantly, will you have the mindset and wherewithal to know if and when to get to your gun, if and when to shoot a threat, and if and when to stop shooting? Is that mastery? Or flexibility?

If anything, perhaps we can conclude that the statement sheds light on the fact that there’s much more to firearms and defensive shooting training than mastery. Having a perfect trigger press or a zero-down target isn’t the be all, end all. The concealed carry lifestyle takes an awareness and a decision-making process that surpasses simply being proficient at tasks. It’s the sum of all parts. And it’s the flexibility to change, compromise, stop, start, move, think, decide or do whatever it takes to do the right thing at the right moment.