Saturday, August 17, 2013

Training – The “Who” and “What” of training . . . .


I had a couple “interesting” discussion on a couple of Facebook groups this week. One revolved around the premise that you should avoid “overweight” (read fat) instructors. The second put forth the premise that anything that detracted from learning a draw/engagement reduced your ability to defend yourself. They were both interesting threads to follow and, after a number of days of chewing on them, prompted this post on training – the “who” of who should you take training from (again, MY opinion – feel free to ignore it) and the “what” should you train for?

I’m a stickler for the “meaning” of words – and I believe the word “training” is misused frequently. If you go to a course and learn a new way to draw from your concealed holster, or a new way to acquire a target, or methods to move and shoot . . . . you are NOT “training” – you are “Learning”. You are acquiring a new skill. The process of incorporating it into your skill set – and keeping a fine edge on the skill through practice on the range . . . THAT is training. I know, I know – nitpicking. So be it. So, let’s talk a bit about trainers.

The “Who” – who should you seek training from?

Just because it was the heart of the initial thread – let’s chat a bit about the physical fitness of instructors and how it affects their ability to teach. Full disclosure – I’m probably 30-40 pounds heavier than I should be. Add to that 63 years old, typical complaints of knees, back and not being able to see a clear picture of my front sight – there are going to be skills and techniques I am not going to be able to demonstrate at full speed. That said, I have yet to find a skill or technique that I wanted to teach that I cannot. I find this has been true of most instructors that I would categorize as “chubby”. This is where it becomes important between TEACHING so a student can LEARN rather than TRAINING. I am much more concerned that a student LEARNS the skill I want to teach them so they can add it to their long-term TRAINING.

All that said – were I to compare my ability to teach skills that I teach today with my ability to teach those same skills when I was, say in my late 20s – there’s no comparison. Experience, rounds down range, time spent teaching any number of different types of skills, my raw vocabulary . . . . I am a much better instructor today than 30+ years ago.

Bottom line – the old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to mind – don’t let a physical attribute like weight keep you from a talented instructor.

OK, got that off my chest – let’s cover a few other things.

The “What” – what do you want to learn?

Some folks want to learn “High Speed – Low Drag” techniques. Picture breech teems, SWAT teams – high risk operators that are learning skills that allow them to take down extremely dangerous individuals with minimum risk. You will want to go to a very specific category of instructors.

Perhaps you want to learn how to integrate your sidearm and your carbine into a more lethal combination – again, you will want to consider the instructor that you are going to insure that they can teach you what you want to learn.

Drawing from concealment and engaging a target all while moving – again, you will want to find a specific instructor that teaches the specific method that you want to learn.

A course will typically have three primary parts to a course description:

Syllabus – What precisely is going to be taught? If it says something like “This course will teach you to shoot straight” – you may want to seek additional information or simply pass on it all together.

Instructor resume and references – Virtually any instructor worth their salt will provide a resume of their experience, training and what they teach as well as provide a list of references (or course reviews/videos) to allow you to better decide if this instructor is someone you want to spend time and money with.

Equipment List – A comprehensive equipment list is simply a must. If you travel either a short or very long distance to take a course from an instructor, they should at least tell you everything you need to bring to get the most out of the course.

Lastly – Personal Responsibility

Honestly, I’ve never take a course and then said to myself – “Damn, I just got screwed outta a bunch of money!” But, I’ve never taken a course that I haven’t fully researched – what’s in the course, who’s teaching it and what kind of reviews do they get from former students, what kind of equipment should I take (Side Note: “one in none, two is one” – always take two guns!) and finally, is the course a good value? I am responsible for whom I take training from, that my gear is in good working order and that I use my training resources wisely. No one else is responsible for me and my decisions.

So, next time you are about to jump into a new course – take some time to do your research. I would encourage you not to pay a whole lot of attention to the physical characteristics of the instructor, but rather spend your time finding out if he/she can truly teach and that if what they are teaching is worth your time and money.


  1. All good points, especially the learning vs. training... And I for one would rather take a course from an old fat guy who's got 30 years of experience than a young fit kid with 5 years of experience. I know that experience is a much better 'teacher' that learning it from a book!

  2. +1 Old NFO Now if I could only find the old fat guy with 30 yrs experience within 50 miles of me...sigh