Forget the Excuses and do the Gut Check: A Journey to The Tactical Games

Forget the Excuses and do the Gut Check: A Journey to The Tactical Games

Moral of the story, just do it! Reach into your guts for an experience that will wake up your feelings and prove that you’re alive.” That line is from an article in an old edition of Dirt Rag magazine written by my dad, Todd Savage, speaking to his experience on a solo motorcycle and mountain biking trip thathe took because the responsibilities and monotony of life lefthim gasping for air.

What is it about a thrill, a good pump of adrenaline, an adventure, that keeps me feeling hooked for more? That kind of excitement is always the first thing I feel I need when life starts to get too stale. Does everyone feel this way? Maybe it was how I was raised. My dad always brought me along on the trips that he spontaneously took in an attempt to shake up his life: skydiving, screaming down mountains on bikes or through double black diamond runs on skis, barreling through Class V whitewater rapids in the Grand Canyon, even diving with great white sharks. In those moments, he would always say that these experiences were regular “gut checks.”

Those gut checks weren’t something that a doctor could perform. They were something that only a real adventure could give you. Gut checks include anything that gets your heart racing, your adrenaline pumping, and makes you question if you are insane or not because you know most people would turn the opportunity down out of fear. Gut checks give you that feeling right deep in your core where you’re not sure if you’re about to pass out from that fear. They make you feel more alive than anything else-that you’re actually living life the way it should be lived, because it’s too short to be lived any other way.

My dad was the one who planted the idea in my head of competing in The Tactical Games. He thought it was something we should do together, our next little adventure that would bring a bit of missing excitement to our lives. After looking into the games, I agreed, but something was always preventing me from taking the plunge:

I’m too busy.

I don’t know how to shoot guns.

I can’t afford to.

Maybe next month.

And then, unfortunately, my dad passed away before we ever had the chance to give it a shot together.

My life was completely changed after my dad’s death. I didn’t see it coming and, just like that, the world as I knew it was gone, and it would never be the same again. My dad’s words about life being fleeting rang louder than ever. Life didn’t care about my excuses. Every single I’m too busy, maybe next month,would never be accepted by the universe. Nothing is promised.

Jade and her father


I could go on and on about how my life changed,  including more than a few things that I’m not proud of. Life became more colorless than ever. I stopped caring about a lot of things, I didn’t want to be around a lot of people and the quality of my life felt like it was on a constant downward turn. However, I eventually pulled myself out of where I was stuck and took a giant leap forward. If there was a turning point, it was when I found the old Dirt Rag magazine where my dad’s article about that motorcycle trip was published. It took reading those two lines to realize that my life was still moving on, far from being fulfilled, there were too many experiences left unchecked, and that I could not afford to keep living in such a quiet way. It was then that my journey toward living out one of the last cool things my dad talked about us doing together began in earnest. If I’m being completely honest, stepping into the world of The Tactical Games saved me from spiraling downward any further and brought me up to a level of fulfillment I had not reached in some time.

Alone, I jumped right in. I was terrified, I was a million miles outside of my comfort zone, I had handled a couple of firearms only about a dozen times in my life up to that point, and I wished so badly that I had talked someone into doing all of it with me. Still, I jumped in anyway, knowing that the combination of fear and excitement that was stirred up inside me was the gut check I had been needing since my dad passed. I could feel him out there somewhere on the other side telling me to “just do it.”

With about a week’s notice, I signed up for the first Tactical Games Athlete Camp and that was it. I was all in. I was instantlyhooked by all of it but especially the group of people who make up The Tactical Games community. Never have I felt more genuinely welcome in a space where I had so little experience. And that meant a lot to me.

For me, training for a competition has been different from anything I’ve done before. I’ve been going to CrossFit for several years and although there’s some carry-over from that type of training, theres a lot that was new for me. I found myself learning how to carry and climb over differentawkwardly sized objects. I started to put myself through cardio workouts that really tested my mental capacity. I began to actually want to get into that uncomfortable, even painful, darkplace and just grind through it. And after a couple of months of following TTG specific training, I realized that I was working my way toward more than just a competition or two. I felt like I was getting in shape for life, becoming more built for war—the kind of wars that I go into everyday against myself or the hard moments in life where I’m forced to prove what kind of person I am. I started to feel that I was going to be able to be ready for whatever life would throw at me next. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Throw in the training with firearms and my mental state really started to change.

Becoming a better shooter has been, hands down, the most challenging and frustrating experience. I’m humbled every single trip to the range but I think that’s what really has me going back for more. My thoughts around firearm training hasshifted as well. I went from just wanting to hit the target in the right spot to wanting to be more efficient, faster, prepared for any situation, not just a competition setting. I became more aware of my surroundings on and off the range, and a whole new way of looking at the world started to come into view.

All this training is something that quickly carried over into my everyday life. It taught me that I always want to feel prepared, that I want to feel strong confident, able, resilient, because it’s a wild place out there whether we want to accept that or not. I don’t want to be someone who feels helpless and needs to rely on a neighbor or a complete stranger to help me out of situation I should be able to know how to deal with on my own. And now I know that I’m a person that can help a neighbor or a stranger if the situation arises.

When I began preparing for The Tactical Games, I thought of it as my next little adventure, a way of keeping myself entertained for a little while. Instead, it quickly turned into an ongoing journey, a series of gut checks and adventures that constantly remind me that I’m living this life well.

Through this journey, I’ve also learned how dangerous excuses can be. We’re not promised tomorrow, or the next hour for that matter. If you think you’ll have time to do something you want to do later, think again, because you could be wrong.

My first Tactical Games competition was an absolute blast. I had so much fun but what was more important for me was seeing my weaknesses stand out like a sore thumb. There’s no cheating on a long run. You have to get to that finish line sooner or later. Theres no hiding those shots that were misses on that paper. Yeah, it made me upset, and I was disappointed in myself, but the community of people I was surrounded by helped me to better enjoy sitting in that puddle of humility. Today, I know I’ll keep coming back because I’m determined to be better and these competitions are a way for me to continuously test how much better I’m becoming.

Jade getting after it at The Tactical Games

Being involved with The Tactical Games has given me a space where I really feel seen and heard and within an amazing group of people who similarly crave the same kind of thrill out of lifeand the same kind of training to be ready for it. It’s a kind of training others might call a twisted form of torture, but I know deep down that these people, who willingly do this because they know it will make them better humans, are the kind of people I want in my corner. These people are among the most kind, helpful, and supportive individuals I have ever met, who all want to see each other succeed just as they want to succeed themselves. To be around them is a refreshing, humbling, even addictive experience.

I would argue that the most fulfilling adventure of life is finding your tribe. For me, that’s been finding people who push each other to be better humans—to connect with others over shared values and interests and wanting to be there for one another, in good times and bad, to build each other up through challenges in and out of competition. Being able to get regular gut checkswith these people has been the cherry on top and I look forward to preparing and competing in plenty more Tactical Games competitions.

I’m forever thankful to you, dad, for teaching me how to liveand love life in a big way. More gut checks coming soon.


- Jade Montana Savage 


Jade is an adventurer and as her name would imply, a total savage. Follow her and her adventures on Instagram at @savage.jade

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