Modern Warrior Training Philosophy

The Modern Warrior Project curriculum development team knows how important quality training is when the consequences of failure are life and death. So, we’ve chosen to share some important insight into the structure, approach, and purpose behind how we build and deliver Official Modern Warrior Project training conducted by Certified Coaches. 


When you train with our Certified Coaches, you can be confident that we’re working hard to maximize every minute and every dollar you spend with us. To learn how, let’s take a look at the following elements of MWP training:

One way that MWP training is so unique and successful is that our catalog is built around CSC, a mindset-based system that enables students to better apply the mechanics developed in all other training we offer. The philosophy, terminology, and basic Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) established in CSC academics find their way into every discussion, drill, and practical exercise students undertake. This method maximizes retention and positive habit transfer even in extremely unfamiliar or high-stress life-threatening encounters.

Although not a required prerequisite for attending most MWP training events, we highly encourage the 8-hour block as a stand-alone or add-on course for students new to the Modern Warrior catalog. We also offer a compressed 4-hour course to develop the absolute essentials and a more robust full 2-day classroom/experiential combination for the most in-depth look at the system and how it is best applied in the real world.

CSC is an exceptionally modular system and can be expanded or focused to compliment any custom training event clients need.

Training is a formal process carried out under the direction of professional instructors aimed at expanding one’s knowledge base, developing a new skill set, or refining skills already acquired. During training, students study new academic topics, are exposed to different techniques, exercise their abilities in new and challenging ways, and gain experiences applying what they know or learn in an environment not normally available to them.

For the average private citizen training constitutes the significant minority of the time spent on education, skill development, and proficiency. Even departments, units, and agencies often cannot afford to train as much as they would like. This is usually because training events can be expensive and require greater amounts of time and resources than most individuals or organizations can regularly dedicate. Therefore, every opportunity to participate in training should be taken and done in such a way that ensures the greatest return on investment.

Practice is an informal process where individuals refine skills on their own without the direct supervision of a professional instructor. Practice occurs primarily before and after training but it can also take place during from time to time. Many MWP wilderness survival courses as well as captivity survival and other At Risk programs have dedicated time for students to practice without their instructor present. This helps build student confidence and creativity while still being able to rely on feedback and assistance from instructors during spot checks and de-briefs.

Most students spend nearly all of their life outside of a formal training environment. As a result, consistent, relevant, and focused practice sessions are the most important tool for students to remain proficient in all academics and psychomotor skills taught during training events.

The atmosphere of a training event is generally classified as being Structured or Semi-Structured. Some courses and programs involve both, others rely entirely on one approach.

Structured training sessions follow a specific, predetermined, well organized, and intentionally progressive path. Along the way, students reach formalized performance gates which help determine how well they are picking up the material and demonstrate their ability to continue. One of the strongest benefits of Structured training is that it ensures each student is presented with the exact same learning opportunities in a sequence that offers the highest probability for overall success.

A football team during the pre-season working on plays, special teams, and formations is a good example of a Structured training event.

Structured training is MOST EFFECTIVE for:

  • Establishing Fundamentals
  • Learning New Subjects or Skills
  • Building Effective Habits or “Muscle Memory”
  • Objective Qualifications and Standards Based Training (Clear Pass/Fail)
  • High Frequency Events and/or Large Class Sizes
  • Base Level Confidence
  • Consistency

Structured training DRAWBACKS include:

  • Requiring Skills to be Applied in an Artificial Way
  • Poor Developer of Creativity and Improvisation
  • Ridged Timelines Limit Opportunities for Re-Training
  • Little Flexibility for Instructors to Modify Training Based on Student Performance

Semi-Structured training is more open, fluid, and based around a predetermined purpose with a clear framework that allows the learning objectives to develop organically. Semi-Structured training gives students freedom to explore the boundaries of their knowledge and skill sets while applying them in more realistic ways.

The flexible nature of Semi-Structured training events can make them difficult to manage for new or inexperienced instructors. Feedback can also be an issue during Semi-Structured events. Since students in Semi-Structured sessions can approach problem solving in a larger variety of ways, they often encounter a wider variety of failures that must be addressed by the instructional team. In other words, in a Structured training event a student is likely to make common errors which are easier to recognize and correct for even very junior instructors. But when a student tries a technique the instructor has never seen before and fails the instructor must be able to help the student understand why and offer advice for correcting their performance. This is more subjective and requires instructors to be very well versed in the subject matter. Also, Semi-Structured training must be well organized to keep the class on track and ensure each student meets the Desired Learning Outcome. Finally, it’s possible for students to miss some critical learning opportunities in Semi-Structured training if they do not experience all the same events as other students.

The strongest benefit of Semi-Structured training is its ability to develop a functional understanding of academic topics and psychomotor techniques while encouraging students to test themselves in the face of a dynamic environment.

A football team participating in a scrimmage is a good example of a Semi-Structured training event.

Semi-Structured training is MOST EFFECTIVE for:

  • Developing Creativity and Improvisation
  • Applying Skills in a More Real-World Manner
  • Training to Respond to a Wider Variety of Problems
  • Building a Tactical Decision Making Process
  • Higher Level Confidence
  • Learning Subjective, Context Based Topics and Skills
  • Engaging and Challenging Students

Semi-Structured training DRAWBACKS include:

  • Decreased Consistency
  • Increased Discipline by the Instructional Team to Keep Training on Track
  • Requires a More Well-Rounded Instructor to Correct High Level and Uncommon Student Errors
  • Possibility that Some Students Will Not Receive the Same Learning Opportunities
  • More Difficult to Objectively Evaluate Student Performance
    • See the Modern Warrior Project Student Performance Rating Scale (SPRS)

It’s important to recognize that a proper training program depends on a combination of these two styles and that’s why it’s not uncommon to see both elements in a Modern Warrior course. Imagine how difficult it would be for a football team to win a game if they never trained on fundamental rushing and passing routes, snap counts, or defensive coverage. Now imagine how unprepared a team would be to face a dynamic opponent if they only ever focused on ridge basic drills. With the right mix of both styles, students can greatly improve their long-term retention and successful application rate of skills even after a single training session.

The Desired Learning Outcome of a training event is quite simply the overall purpose of the training. The DLO answers the question “What will the student be capable of doing if they complete this training event?” All MWP training has a carefully assessed DLO which is expressed as a list of tasks and the associated Proficiency Level a student is expected of performing at when they graduate. Each discussion, demonstration, drill, practical exercise, and Basic Skills Evaluation included in a training event has been designed to support this end-state.

Training is designed to allow students to gain proficiency. Proficiency is a measure of a student’s competence or skill with a specific task. The MWP structures all training around 5 Proficiency Levels. A student’s Proficiency Level is the most appropriate determination of their ability to reliably accomplish a task. During training student’s performance is evaluated and based on the overall assessment their Proficiently Level is determined. The key difference between proficiency and performance is that performance is an evaluation of a student’s behavior in a single moment while proficiency is an evaluation of a student’s behavior over a period of time.

For a better understanding of how the MWP evaluates students, visit our Resources page and read about the Student Performance Rating Scale.

When a training event is made up of both academic discussions and drills/practical exercises, the MWP uses two basic methods of delivering the academic portion – Front Loaded or Rolling.

Front Loaded academics is an approach that delivers the bulk of initial instruction at the start of a training event. Afterwards, students begin the hands-on portion. When academics are Front Loaded, instructors readdress critical learning points while students continue to train so information is connected with application for a longer lasting impression. Front Loaded academics are used when Rolling academics would be logistically unreasonable or when it is more appropriate for students to be familiar with the entire body of knowledge before beginning drills or taking part in practical exercises.

Primarily found in mindset-based training and At Risk program modules.

Rolling academics is an approach that integrates blocks of discussions throughout a series of drills or practical exercises. The idea is to provide students with the information they need to be successful progressively (i.e. the “building block” method). Rolling academics gets students involved in the hands-on portion of training quicker by only teaching them what they need to know, when they need to know it, then allowing them to immediately apply the new skills. This approach is most effective for developing many complex and related psychomotor skills over a short period of time.

Primarily used in the majority of mechanics-based training.

A STIR is the maximum number of students that one instructor can reasonably be expected to supervise safely while providing adequate feedback to. The number can vary greatly even during a single course based on many factors such as the experience level of the student and the instructor as well as the demands of the task being performed. Large group discussions may have STIRs of 100:1 or more while certain practical exercises may require 1 student to be supervised by 2 instructors (1:2) for safety.

We want every student to succeed. Part of that means making sure every student is set up for success before they even pick a course or program to attend. During the training development process, our team carefully reviews the tasks students will perform to determine what, if any, skills we recommend they have prior to attending a specific event. The main purpose for listing prerequisite skills it to prevent students from selecting a course that may be beyond their current ability to complete. These skills are clearly spelled out on each web page for students to help them choose the right course or program. If no prerequisite skills are listed, then we have determined the threshold for a student to safely attend is so low that anyone should be successful with absolutely no previous experience or exposure. Students that do not feel they possess some or all of the skills specified in the MWP catalog may still attend an event but are encouraged to contact us to discuss the training ahead of time to ensure they are good candidates for the training.

Almost no offerings in the MWP catalog require specific prerequisite MWP training to attend. However, we want every student to succeed. Part of that means making sure every student is set up for success before they even pick a course or program to attend. During the training development process, our team carefully reviews the tasks students will perform to determine what, if any, previous MWP courses we recommend they have prior to attending. The only purpose for requiring a MWP prerequisite course is to make sure students are adequality prepared to undertake the more advanced training. These prerequisite courses are clearly spelled out on each web page for students to help them choose the right course or program. If no prerequisite training is listed, then we have determined students with no previous formal experience or exposure can reasonably expect to succeed in the training event. Students that have not satisfied the prerequisite training specified in the MWP catalog may still attend an event at the discretion of the event’s Lead Instructor but must contact us to discuss the training ahead of time to ensure they are good candidates for the training.

The MWP training catalog naming convention is meant to help quickly guide students to the events that are most appropriate for them. All Modern Warrior training falls into 1 of the following 3 categories:

Courses are designed around a singular primary topic and one DLO

Programs are designed to achieve an overall DLO by combining multiple related topics, each with their own individual DLO; Programs are modular and made up of components from different Courses; all custom training events are considered to be Programs since they incorporate elements of two or more separate classes

Workshops are narrowly focused events meant to develop or hone a very specific skill or set of skills within a much broader topic.

All Modern Warrior training is built on a level-based system. Each level is designed to feed into the next higher level. This naming convention makes it easy for students to determine which class is right for them and helps them select follow on training that complements knowledge and skills they have already acquired.

Training across disciplines with the same Training Level will not necessarily include the same drills or practical exercises to reach their DLO. For example, Defensive Pistol Level 1 (DP-1) and Duty Rifle Level 1 (DR-1) may both be Level 1 classes but the essential academics and skills for each are not exactly the same. Some disciplines may have several courses or workshops that are all considered to be the same Training Level; however, they will each focus on different aspects of the subject.

Training that does not include a specific Level in the name (e.g. Comprehensive Situational Control, Concealed Carry, Duty Rifle Low Light, Restraint Defeat Escape Considerations, Captivity Survival, etc.) generally includes content that bridges multiple Levels. These courses will have an equivalent Level (“Level 1-2”) listed in the Highlights section of the MWP training catalog.


Foundations training is meant to establish a true base line of knowledge and technical capability without going into too much detail. Foundations events tend to be shorter (4 hours or less), covering only that information that is absolutely vital to understating the topic, and incorporating at least some practical hands-on experience.

We recommend Foundations level training for students that are completely new to a subject or that only need a quick familiarizing with a topic. Foundations modules also make great short additions in custom training programs to help round out the over training experience.


Level 1 training constitutes the core academic elements of a subject and the essential skills necessary for success in the most common scenarios. Level 1 classes are designed to give students a strong but basic problem-solving tool kit capable of addressing a good variety of situations.

We recommend Level 1 training for students that are completely new to a subject or that have some experience but limited proficiency. Level 1 training is also an excellent refresher for students that have not trained on a subject for quite some time. If you only ever take one class in a particular field, it should probably be Level 1. Although more advanced than a Foundations Level class, Level 1 training easily accommodates true beginners.


Level 2 training builds on Level 1 academics and skills by challenging students to apply what they know in more complex ways. Level 2 events also teach additional academics and introduce higher level skills that may be beyond the comfort or ability level of true beginners. The intensity level of some drills and practical exercises in Level 2 training can also increase; meaning students may be required to perform more physically intensive tasks or while subjected to metal stressors.

We recommend Level 2 training for students with a strong grasp of the fundamentals and who are looking to push themselves while growing their problem-solving tool kit. It is possible for some students to be successful in Level 2 training even if they are completely new to the subject.


Level 3 training is considered to be the most demanding and complex requiring a higher degree of prerequisite proficiency and experience by students to ensure they get the most out of the class. Level 3 events refine previous Level skills and introduce advanced concepts and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP).

We recommend Level 3 training for students well established in the mindset and mechanics of a particular subject. Level 3 classes are the right choice when looking to learn advanced skills, push and expand the limits of your previous skills, and to round out your problem-solving tool kit to address the widest variety of issues or gain very specific techniques. It is unlikely that even high performing students completely new to the subject will be successful in Level 3 training.

Level 4 training involves a high degree of practical application in the form of Scenario Based Training (SBT). Level 4 classes take place in a Semi-Structured and fully immersive training environment. The use of dynamic role play allows students to gain valuable experience employing a wide variety of previously acquired skills in a way that closely mimics real-world application. Level 4 training provides the greatest possible return on training investment for students wanting to connect tactical and technical concepts with their actual usage. Level 4 training relies heavily on post-scenario discussions and performance de-briefs to address the “grey” area which exists in most critical situations.

We recommend Level 4 training for students with at least a basic working knowledge and some previous hands-on experience with the subject to ensure the best possible training outcome. Although some students may be successful with little to no exposure to the topic, it is very likely they will spend more time in the performance review sessions (de-briefs) with their instructors than other students and therefore may not see as many scenarios.


Modularity is a training development concept that focuses on creating sets of standardized lessons or independent units that can be used to create a more complex training Program. Each Module in a Program is a portable, self-contained, but related component that either expands on the overall topic or provides a sharper focus on an aspect of the overall topic. The Modular nature of the entire Modern Warrior Project training catalog makes it incredibly simple, quick, and affordable to customize and/or scale training events to exactly meet client requirements. With our educational architecture, no custom event is too big or too small. In fact, we prefer to custom tailor our training to maximize each client’s experience.

1-on-1 instruction is ideally suited to individual students that prefer a more personalized training environment free from distractions. 1-on-1 sessions allow the instructor to focus entirely on the performance and progression of a single student ensuring the highest degree of feedback and a training pace that is in-step with student learning.

Small Group instruction generally involves 2-15 students and one or more instructors. Small Group settings are the preferred group size for Scenario Based Training (SBT) and most psychomotor based skills training. Small Groups provide a more intimate setting with less distractions and allow students to interact with each other in a way that promotes more well-rounded learning. Small Groups also give students plenty of supervision and feedback while allowing them to learn vicariously by watching their fellow students’ performances.

Large Group instruction is similar to the more traditional “lecture” style teaching best reserved for academic lessons. The academic portions of nearly all Modern Warrior Training can be delivered to extremely large groups (200-300+ in most cases) without a measurable loss in training effectiveness.

*One of the most cost-effective ways to maximize training value for a very large organization is to host a Large Group academic/classroom session for everyone to attend, followed by several Small Group hands-on sessions for select personnel. This is generally the approach we use when training entire workforces or large units needing a common baseline but that also want an individualized focus for some people. The Large Group + Small Group approach allows you to target certain populations within your organization with more specialized training while still ensuring an excellent working knowledge for everyone.

For live fire training, the Round Count listed in the MWP training catalog represents the sum of rounds each student will fire while completing the drills and any Basic Skills Evaluations, rounded up to allow for some re-training or multiple attempts. This means all Round Counts are slightly overestimated to ensure students have every opportunity to succeed. Round Counts are carefully chosen to match the training event’s desired Proficiency Levels.

It is best to think of Round Counts as a rough expression of the number of repetitions you will perform in training.

Lower Round Count classes are typically designed to give instructors more time to discuss academics, demonstrate proper form, observe student behavior, and provide individual feedback. These sessions are more about doing each repetition correctly when initially building proper muscle memory.

Higher Round Count classes traditionally spend less time in formal academic discussions and use the majority of the time developing skills by applying them in a greater variety of ways. Students in these training sessions usually already have a good understanding of the fundamentals and require less in-depth feedback for performance improvement.

Regardless of the type of class you attend, if you bring the number of bullets specified by the Round Count you will likely leave training with ammunition left over.

*The above is a generalized discussion of MWP training. Individual experiences may vary based on client requirements.