|Opinion: The Danger of Dogma|
This editorial first appeared in the Network's May 2008 journal.
by Gila Hayes
“I just don’t know what to do! First, I took training at my local gun range, but I wanted to learn more. When I went to another instructor, he told me that much of what I had learned was wrong and said that I had to change. I feel like I wasted my time!” exclaims the voice coming through my phone.
“Were the second instructor’s corrections about safety?” I ask.
“No, he got on me about how I was standing and how I held and pointed the gun,” she replies indignantly. “I’m afraid if I go to another shooting school, I’ll have to relearn yet another way to do this stuff. What a waste of time!”
The One True Way
Shooting schools differ little from any other discipline that brings people together for education and training. Favored methods and techniques all too easily become doctrine (defined as a body of ideas taught as truthful or correct), and in our zeal to impress upon our students effective ways to shoot, instructors often give the impression that their preferred method is “the one true way!”
The student, having invested substantial money and time, usually falls in line, essentially becoming the instructor’s disciple. All too often, this devotion short-circuits receptiveness to learning additional shooting methods, sometimes to the extent that the student may not learn crucial skills or grasp vital concepts they will need if a real-life self-defense emergency imposes on them circumstances the instructor has not considered or experienced.
Even if the instructor touts “been there, done that” life experience, who is to say his or her circumstances will be mirrored in a situation in which the student needs their firearm to save a life? Solving this quandary is not as easy – for either the student or for the instructor – as casual thought suggests!
Choosing which techniques are right for your circumstances is no easy chore. Police officers are tempted to simply accept without question the doctrine taught in the 80 to 100 hours of firearms training in basic law enforcement academy, and too many officers go through their initial training, yearly in-service training and qualifications without questioning the techniques they are taught.
Likewise, when the private citizen seeks out training, the techniques espoused in a $400 defensive handgun class taught by a charismatic instructor are difficult to abandon. Other times, the instructor carries an impressive pedigree of national, regional or state shooting match championship titles, to which the humble student’s experience cannot hold a candle.
Finding Your Own Way
But what if some of those techniques and tactics don’t fit your circumstances? The stakes are greater than a tongue lashing from a commanding officer or an admired instructor – in the worst case, using an unsuitable tactic or shooting method could cost a life.
The time comes when you must decide what fits you best, preferably before a self-defense emergency renders the need for those skills very real and exceedingly immediate. Learn and gather as many techniques as you can; then, when your “bowl” of knowledge is full enough, pick out what applies to your circumstances. Training from a variety of sources is essential, because the bowl method won’t work if you’ve mastered only one or two techniques!
Blindly adopting the style of a single instructor is unlikely to provide your best defensive handgun technique unless you are an exact clone of the man or woman from whom you receive instruction! Get out there and learn as much as you can, then and only then, can you select and perfect the techniques you may need to use in a self-defense emergency.
And the lady who called and got me thinking about all this? She’s off to Alabama for instruction from a well-known instructor, and she’s considering participating in Massad Ayoob’s first level class with her husband when it is offered in their home state. She’s well on her way to synthesizing knowledge from a variety of sources and will eventually be ready to formulate her own way.
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