By Tom Trebisky
There is a big difference between training and education, and few people are clear on the distinction. It is often said that in a pressure situation you will fall back upon your training. Education is not training. Much, if not all, of what is labelled as dive training is simply education. Training, at least in the sense that I am using the word, means that you have practiced and repeated an activity enough so that you can perform the activity without concious thought.
I come from a rock climbing background. In climbing, a couple of key skills are to correctly tie knots, and to safely belay another climber. In my early climbing days, I was merely educated -- I had read books and learned how to do these things, and at one point I took a class offered (in those days) by the Sierra club. At this point I was educated, but the training came later when friends and I began going day after day to a practice cliff, and by careful repetition we trained ourselves to do these things.
Education is necessary so that we know how to do things correctly, and hopefully education includes being shown how to perform key skills, and to be observed by a trained eye to ensure that we can repeat a skill once or twice in the proper manner. But this is not training. At this point training can begin. Consider a scuba example: performing an emergency swimming ascent in an out of air situation. I was told how to do this, and may have done it once in the pool we used for "training", but I won't feel confident of this skill till I have practiced it many times in the open water, and I fully intend to do so.
The key point in all of this is the ability to react properly in an emergency, a stress situation. Each person has to judge for themselves their ability to keep a cool head in an emergency and do the right thing. This self control alone is the single most important thing that will save your life if things get grim. The second most important thing is to have the proper skills ingrained by training to fall back on, because in those situation you will do whatever you have trained yourself to do.