Just about everyone on planet earth has heard this saying and understands what it means. I have personally found that training the way you “fight” is the most effective means of preparing yourself for anything. I put fight in parenthesis because you can replace the word fight with just about any verb and still have pretty much the same meaning behind it, which is to train like it’s the real thing.
We’ll use a Boxer for an example. Boxers use heavy bags, speed bags, and jump ropes for a large portion of their training. I consider these things to be of the very least value to them because they aren’t going to compete with their opponent to see who can do more double-unders with their jump rope or who can hit an immobile heavy bag the hardest. When they are in the ring sparring with another opponent is when they are actually training how they fight. The value of sparring to a boxer FAR exceeds that of any other other boxing related activity. I would go as far as to say that the other activities boxers use while training are almost useless and personally, I believe that sparring is at least ten times as valuable as the other training activities. And yes, I am speaking from experience on this.
If you train to go camping, you will not be prepared to survive in the wilderness. If you train to run 2 miles, you will not be prepared to run a marathon. If you train to read forums and find interesting tidbits on survival, you will not be prepared to effectively apply them. If you train to eat 20 hotdogs in a sitting, you will not be able to eat 60.
To really make sure you are training how you fight, you must first define your end result. What do you need to be capable of doing? What is your outcome? Once you know that, you can simulate that experience for yourself to make sure you are capable of successfully achieving your chosen outcome over and over.
Remember, the outcome needs to be REPEATABLE. The word skill is defined as being competent in performance, proficiency. To be good at anything, you need to practice. It’s just as I tell my little ones, practice makes perfect. They don’t practice shooting by watching me. They must do it themselves successfully and in a repeatable fashion. Besides, a kid that can’t hunt rabbits is gonna end up becoming barter in a SHTF scenario so they all know they’d better pull their own weight so they don’t get traded away to cannibals. This goes a long way in motivating them to learn the skills I teach.