Whether you are a student, instructor, military personnel, law enforcement, or a citizen who carries a firearm to legally defend yourself, evolving your mindset and defensive shooting techniques is paramount in a constantly changing world. How you do this is up to you and how you want to spend your time, effort and energy to be as efficient as possible. Various instructors can teach you techniques with firearms, open hands, or even knives. The key is finding instructors who evolve with time and don’t solidify themselves with specific methodologies in place of outdated doctrine or, even worse, ego. You should spend your time training with as much attention to evolution over time as you do considering context. One cannot actually exist without the other in balance. If you are to prepare yourself for that worst-case scenario, you must look at the ideas separately to understand the changing parameters of the world you live in.
All Training Is Not Equal
There are a plethora of schools and instructors — how do you choose which is right for you? Many students who want to improve their methods of personal protection may favor an instructor with an extensive resume and background in military or law enforcement. In contrast, others may not care as much about an instructor’s background but will opt for a trainer with a solid reputation, someone highly recommended to them by a trusted friend, or a teacher who specializes in exactly what they want to learn.
Whoever your desired instructor may be, know that they may not have a rhyme or reason behind their methodologies other than they might have worked for them in a particular situation in a specific context in the past. Without any empirical evidence to answer the “why” question, it should still be closely examined, since it may have worked due to sheer luck. Don’t get drawn in solely by an extensive background spent in military or law enforcement, because that may be a completely different context compared to what applies to your daily life. Room clearing, raids, setting up tactical ambushes, or boarding and seizing a boat are tactics that are taught in the military, and that’s where they should stay.
With that being said, experience is always a good thing, but it’s not the “end all, be all” of instructors’ qualities that you may look for. Always try to examine the big picture, such as what you want your end goal to be when it comes to spending your time, effort and energy training to protect yourself and your loved ones. After this re-examination period, you may find your techniques or procedures to be flawed. Acknowledging this will help make you a better defensive shooter in the long term.
Admitting That We’re Wrong
Having a large ego is a prominent trait often seen in the firearms industry. It may be extremely difficult to admit that your ideas or methodologies are wrong. You may have these types of attachments because of them being the first methods you took the time to learn, the first firearm you purchased yourself, or because it’s what a top-tier military unit uses, but you’ve discovered it’s out of context. The biggest problem with this is instructors who have a huge following, yet show no sign of evolving because they have too much ego invested in a certain methodology. For an in-depth look at this, see Rob Pincus’ article Respectful Irreverence.
Too many times I’ve seen instructors admit behind the scenes they’ve changed their mind about a tactic, technique or procedure in training, but will not outright say it to their classes. This idea of having a big ego usually takes away from the overall methodologies that the instructor is teaching. Looking for non-egotistical qualities in yourself and people you are paying your hard-earned money to instruct you will lead you to a lifetime of perpetual learning. Staying humble as an instructor and taking in new ideas just as your students do are absolutely vital to being a professional.
Whatever your profession is, always ask the “why” questions. If you don’t, you’re only preventing yourself from continually learning and evolving. Material that has not been updated to today’s paradigms should be closely studied to see what works and applies today. The doctrine doesn’t necessarily have to be 20 or 30 years old; it could be as new as a year or less. Always look for new ways to excel. In today’s world, information is literally at your fingertips. Take advantage of this information to learn new methods to improve yourself whenever possible.
Excuse Me, I Have a Question
I often see students pose questions to instructors during class, and the students end up being pushed to the side or the instructor states an answer that they just improvised and is completely wrong. Even worse, they sometimes use the phrase, “Well it’s just another tool for your toolbox, whatever works for you.” This statement is overused without understanding what the metaphor actually means. You should also strive to be efficient whenever you can; especially in the context of a worst-case scenario where your life or your loved ones’ lives are at stake.
Being efficient is best defined as accomplishing a goal with as little time, effort and energy as possible. Additionally, consistency — performing physical skills in the same place and the same way whenever possible — breeds efficiency. If you have fewer options to deal with a certain situation or problem that may arise, you are able to respond more efficiently. More options equal more time that you need to process which one to employ. If one option can be used over a multitude of situations to attain a desired result, you will end up being more efficient. That’s why this term, as overused by some instructors, is regrettably breeding the idea that training multiple solutions for a single problem is a suitable idea.
Having one solution for multiple problems is what you should be looking for. If your instructors or even your own methodologies are not consistent across the board, you are not being as efficient as you can. Whether you are an instructor, student or legally armed citizen, have an “ego check” now and again. Also, ask yourself if you are truly expanding your knowledge by finding the reasons why you are performing specific techniques in your training.
I Was in the Military/Law Enforcement, I Don’t Need To Train
Earlier in this article, I spoke on the topics of ego and the negative connotation it attains within the firearms community. This is still unfortunately true in some small circles of the military and armed professional community. Some people I’ve come in contact with, especially in the military sector, feel that their archaic and indoctrinated level of training, as well as the context of what they’ve been taught, somehow correlates over to the civilian sector. For the most part, it’s inconsiderate as an instructor to think that teaching tactics such as Close Quarter Battle room-clearing procedures is viable to a legally armed citizen’s everyday life.
In the past, I was guilty of having a false sense of security that I could protect myself or my loved ones. When I first left the military, I thought my level of training was good enough for me to use once I received my license to carry a firearm. I was completely wrong and extremely careless to think I could just throw on my concealed handgun and be all set. When I first started carrying a handgun for defense, I was unaware of the methodologies, procedures, protocols, and every other form of “software” that should be implemented for the concealed carry of a firearm.
Thankfully, I got in with a knowledgeable group of people that pointed me in the right direction for training. I have made the conscious effort as a student to constantly improve myself. Even military members and other armed professionals need to understand that the context to what you’ve been taught and perhaps even used may no longer be applicable, especially if you’ve left these professions, as well as to the lives of civilians you may teach who are a blank slate.
As a student, be wary of what you’re spending your time, effort and energy on. If you’re looking for a course specifically on home defense or how to defend yourself or your loved ones if you’re ambushed when away from home, find a course that goes over mindset and how the human body reacts when you don’t see the threat coming. These courses should also state how they are evolving based on up-to-date information from real-life after-action reports.
On the other hand, if your only interest is how to explosively breach a door or the most efficient manner to stack on a door to clear out a three-story building, then look for an instructor well versed in that context. These types of instructors will most likely come from a lengthy career of top-notch military or SWAT instruction. These courses exist — just be honest with yourself and know what form of training you’re receiving.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re a military service member, law enforcement officer, painter, or baker — the end result should be the same. We should always be looking to better ourselves through evolving and finding the most efficient options. Becoming knowledgeable about protecting yourself, your loved ones or your teammates is about more than just going to a class. It’s about cognitively understanding and questioning what you want to teach or be taught. Being the type of student who is constantly learning and progressing will benefit you in the long term.