A long time ago my wife and I realized – more like it really was completely obvious – that we, and we alone, were responsible for our own health care. We could not place our health care decisions in the hands of our PCP or any other medical professional. We had to research the issues (of both general health and specific concerns), and actively manage and integrate the conventional and non-conventional approaches that would achieve the results we wanted.
Likewise, you, and you alone, are responsible for your own self-defense training. You have to set intelligent goals, do your research, and actively manage and integrate conventional and non-conventional approaches that achieve those results. You cannot place those decisions in the hands of any one instructor…although plenty of good advice abounds.
Your basic NRA instructor may not see the need for, indeed may be hostile to, realistic self-defense firearms training. Your local (or even national-stature) “tactical” instructor has his or her own, by-definition-limited, knowledge set and agenda (which involves putting food on the table) and may or may not have an the background and/or knowledge to teach appropriate tactics and techniques. Your LE vet may not have much of a clue other than what he or she learned from their agency. A military SF vet may not fully understand civilian rules of engagement, and his tactics may tacitly or unconsciously assume you are working in a team environment. A competitive shooter may not understand the differences between competitive shooting and street shooting and the training implications thereof. You can learn valuable things from each of these people, but it’s your job to figure out what’s useful and applicable to you, now, from what all they teach. And since few of us have unlimited training time or funds, you also have to determine which instructors you will expend the resources to train with.
One thing that I can tell you is that a firm grounding in the law of self-defense is critical. Only fools who carry guns don’t fully educate themselves in this area. Andrew Branca and Massad Ayoob are obviously the go-to resources here, although I would also recommend the Armed Response DVD I made on the subject (in which I no longer have any financial interest). This is the area that most instructors ignore, and frankly that’s because they don’t know much about it.
Here’s a few other pointers when assembling your training toolbox:
- Are the instructors professional? Do they come across as mature, educated, sincere adults? Are they organized or do they go all stream of consciousness? Do they have credentials? Do they post embarrassing things on YouTube and the Net?
- Are they teaching some component of defense that’s critical to you to learn more of? Are you, instead, simply going over again what you’re good at or what’s fun for you?
- Are you focusing on the solid fundamentals of defense, or are you attending a wannabe camp?
- Are you learning all aspects of self-defense including unarmed skills and intermediate weapons, and the transitions between them?
- Are you engaging in realistic (not too prolonged, not to cut-and-dry) simulations? Are you learning judgement?
I could go on, but this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive dissertation. The point is that you need to be the active manager of your training…and the subsequent skills you wind up with (or don’t).
Finally: I hit this point often and hard because it’s the part of self-defense that most people foolishly omit. If you carry a gun for self-defense, you have to know the law. Invest the money you’d spend on shaving a tenth of a second off your splits with Andrew Branca’s book or seminars — it’ll pay far greater dividends. Visit this link to learn more, and use the discount code “streetstandards” for a 10% discount.