I am given a lot of latitude where I teach. I would like to think that I have earned the trust they show in me. As such, I try very hard to avoid making stupid mistakes. I also try very hard to teach my students to fight with their minds first. Lately, I find myself wondering if “we” as instructors are doing justice to our students. Are we teaching them to think and solve problems while mitigating risk or are we teaching good techniques applied without thought?
Case in point: I recently wrote a new class for civilians that is all about protective shooting. After all, if a person stops to think about it, carrying a concealed weapon is really about protection. It only stands to reason that we should be teaching protective shooting techniques. The class was your basic teach, demonstrate, do, drill style on day one. However, on day two I took them all to a new training area and set them all up with Sims guns. This is where some serious training scars came to the surface.
The most obvious mistake was that nearly every student looked at each scenario as a shooting scenario. Hammers only seeing nails is the best way to describe their behavior. The second of many problems, and the most troubling in my mind, was the fact that the students would only follow the directions they had been given without thinking through the problem. By this I mean they received very vague instructions regarding the task they needed to complete while keeping their charge safe. I broke away from the format of the day before and intentionally gave them very little real information. The purpose of this was to drop them into the deep end of the pool and force them to think their way through. I wanted to force them to use their problem solving and spacial relationship skills. What I witnessed was anything but thinking or problem solving. Rather an attempt to fit every scenario into previous training they had completed.
In one drill we call “Biker Bar,” the students were given no choice but to enter an unknown building that contained a rowdy bunch of men. The concept is for the student to work their way through an unknown situation while maintaining awareness, discipline and self control. They were instructed through one doorway and to leave through a back door which I pointed out to them ahead of time. There were no visible threats in the room other than the noisy crowd. What they did not get briefed on was how rowdy and noisy the inside of this room would be and that there would be two men with shotguns outside of the designated exit. Now before you go there, it is a completely winnable scenario. There is another door. What was alarming was that of the 16 students in the class, 10 of them chose to fight it out with the shotgun wielding men rather than close the door and look for another exit. One student, after a lot of thought, threw open the door, forgot all about the person he was protecting and dove out onto his shoulder, “John Woo” style while firing at the role players. He slid to a stop on the floor in the doorway without his charge and still facing two shotgun barrels.
Was this a great learning experience? Absolutely! Was this good training? I’d like to think so. Particularly from the standpoint of what not to do. What I know for sure is that we, as instructors, are falling short when it comes to teaching our students to survive. Sure we teach them to shoot, but do we teach them when not to shoot? Do we teach them when to think rather than fight? These people stopped thinking and went on auto pilot because we all revert to our most basic levels of training. In this case, their training was to shoot. Just like they have learned from day one. They practice it in competition, they drill it on the square range and they used it in these scenarios. Unfortunately these scenarios, had they been real life, would have gotten most of them, and their charges, hurt or killed.
So the questions beg to be asked. Are we training them properly? Are we teaching them to think? Are we emphasizing problem solving and critical thinking skills? Are we teaching them to avoid rather than to engage? Are we creating training scars that will eventually lead to wound channels?
When you drill do you ever have no shoot drills? Not no shoot targets, but actual drills that do not require the use of deadly force. Do you discuss avoidance and evasion on a regular basis. Do you use reactive targets. Do you use the same command to shoot each time or do you mix up your “engage” words? Last I knew, very few gunfights actually started with the words, “…shooter ready, stand by…Beep.” Are we, as a whole, doing the right thing. As a student, are you demanding more realistic scenario based training or is what you do in the match and on the square range enough?
Now I know that many of you will immediately want to write in a tell me all about what you do personally or how you teach a specific skill. That is not what this is about. What this is about is wether or not we, as a group, as a whole, as instructors are doing the right thing by our students. Are we so busy teaching and shooting the latest and greatest cool guy technique that we forget to teach our students to think and solve problems?