There are far too many instructors in the defensive/tactical training industry who have no ability to backup or defend what they teach. The way you can spot these charlatans is by noticing their inability to answer “why” questions. Instead of providing real answers, you will usually find them using cop-outs that allow them to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings while giving worthless advice. If you are paying someone to train you for a potentially life-threatening situation; they should be teaching you about the best, most efficient tactics/techniques/gear that they have knowledge of. This doesn’t mean that an instructor shouldn’t adjust their curriculum or recommendations to your specific needs; just that they shouldn’t suggest that you continue doing things they know to be suboptimal or inefficient just because they may ostensibly “work for you”.
For example, I often have students that show up to my classes with guns that are not on my recommended list (which consists of Modern, Striker-Fired Semi Autos w/ no manual safeties). Most recently, I had a novice female student come to class with a SIG P938. This particular firearm is so small that it is difficult to get a solid grip on, makes reloading nearly impossible, and has a tiny,hard to operate manual safety. I know from experience that this firearm is prone to malfunctions, is extremely inefficient, and is frankly a reckless choice for personal defense. It would have been extremely irresponsible for me to let this student believe that she was “good to go” because the gun may have “worked for her”. As such, I let her run the first drill with it (which illustrated the aforementioned reasons why I don’t recommend it), and then I loaned her a more efficient firearm to complete the class with. As a result, she will likely be making a more informed gun purchase in the near future. I could have easily done what her CHL instructor from the state licensing class undoubtedly did, and just made sure that she could hit the target with it and then said something like: “it’s better than having no gun at all”. However, I like to be able to look myself in the mirror and sleep at night after I get home from teaching a class. Therefore, I took the chance that I might offend her for a brief moment and used the expertise she was paying me for to make the best recommendation I could. If an instructor can’t bring his or herself to do that, they shouldn’t be teaching people at all; and certainly not for money.
This same mindset should apply to all things being taught in class. If a given technique or piece of gear is known to be inefficient, new recommendations and changes should be made (or changes demanded if safety is an issue). Obviously, an instructor should still consider if the juice is worth the squeeze when making these recommendations and changes. There are minute tweaks that can always be made to a student’s technique or gear setup that may cost more in the way of time, effort and energy to adjust than would be gained in making the adjustment. In those circumstances, it would be a waste of time to “split hairs”, so to speak. That being said, I have found that those circumstances are very rare compared to those where a change should be recommended. A good instructor will be able to make the proper decision on whether to intervene or not. The important thing is for them to have the willingness to make the call when it needs to be made, and to be able to clearly articulate “why” when they do. The delicate balance is being able to do this in a manner that doesn’t seem condescending or belittling to the student. Different instructors have different ways for walking that balance beam, but it must be walked regardless; failure to do so is a detriment to the student and demonstrates a lack of integrity on the part of the instructor.
So, if you as a student ever run into an instructor who fails to answer the “why” questions: run, don’t walk away. If you are fine doing what “works for you”; you could have done that without paying for the class in the first place. Look for someone who knows enough about their subject matter to clearly articulate how and why you should do the things you are paying to learn. You are paying for expertise, so don’t settle for cop-outs.
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