Your Instructors Are Biased

| April 28, 2016 | 1 Comments

Your instructors are biased

Bias is not always bad, but it exists. Recognizing your instructors’s biases will help you find additional instructors to round out your training.

This does not mean that your instructors are bad, or what they are teaching you is inadequate. This is just a strategy I recommend to make sure you are being exposed to a variety of things from a variety of viewpoints.

The more I train, the more I think that a good student is not the dutiful one who goes deeply down the path of a particular methodology with a specific instructor. A good student is an educated one, who makes wise and practical decisions about what works for them within their specific capabilities, goals, and environment.

This post is an overview of four types of bias, and what they mean to you as a student. I’ll be going into each bias as part of an ongoing series — this is just a summary.

Bias Type #1: Background Bias

Instructors list their background and personal biographies on class descriptions or Web sites. Most are military or law enforcement — current or former. Less common are competition shooters-turned-personal-safety instructors, marital arts instructors who have branched out to firearms training, or “regular folk” with no prior law enforcement or military experience.

Background bias often has an effect on:

  • teaching style
  • use of language
  • assumptions about the class’s understanding of firearms terminology and familiarity with firearms
  • how much of the curriculum is about pre- and post-fight techniques and strategies
  • appreciation of differences in students’s bodies and capabilities
  • use of, and emphasis on timers, drills, and qualifications
  • teaching non-firearms based defensive tools, such as chemical spray, empty hand, edged, or blunt weapons

Bias Type #2: Ability Bias

Instructors, like students, come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abilities. They will have different physical abilities, and different fighting abilities. Some will be well rounded but not an “expert” on anything. They may enjoy doing something, so they became an expert at it, and now due to background bias, ability bias, and market pressure they have specialized in teaching only one thing. Lastly, instructors may not be physically or technically capable of teaching some things, such as ground fighting.

Ability Bias often has an effect on:

  • what subjects the instructor teaches
  • the techniques an instructor teaches vs another instructor of different physical or technical ability
  • the focus of physical fitness and agility in pre- and in-fight situations
  • the focus on language in pre-, in-, and post-fight situations
  • shooting one-handed and/or off-handed, especially with long guns
  • teaching movement as a fundamental fighting concept especially during the drawstroke
  • techniques for fouling in-fight weapon access, disarming opponents, grappling, and striking — or teaching any of these things at all

Bias Type #3: Environmental Bias

Environmental bias is made up of the environment in which the instructor lives, and the type of environment they live in. 

If the instructor has a “home base,” then their environment may play a large part in the curriculum. QSI Training, the company with whom we predominantly train, is shaped by the Minnesota weather. Outdoor ranges are only open for about 6 or 7 months a year, so head instructor Erik Pakieser had to come up with alternative class offerings to keep students engaged. QSI offers 4+ force on force classes a year, plus multiple sessions of trauma care classes (now for two skill levels), and combatives classes — all things that can be done indoors.

Organizations that are demand-driven may be governed by the social environments of their students. Instructors based in major metropolitan areas may concentrate more on managing unknown contacts, active shooter / terrorist interdiction, and handgunning. Instructors in more “wide open” areas may have more precision rifle courses (and rifle courses in general) and patrol / squad classes.

“Environment” can also mean where instructors can teach. Legitimate fight focused training requires a lot of things forbidden on many ranges, such as drawing / drawing from concealment, moving laterally, forwards, and backwards, burst firing, shooting from different positions, etc.

Environmental Bias often has an effect on:

  • the times of year classes are offered
  • the cadence of introductory -> intermediate -> advanced -> special interest classes, especially as pre-requisites
  • focus of subject matter (e.g., more “urban” material vs “rural)
  • how dynamic a class can be, in regards to techniques, movement and interaction between students

Bias Type #4: Product Bias

I have no idea how instructors make a living just by teaching. I know very few instructors who teach as their full time jobs, and some of those teach for their law enforcement or military employer first, and the “civilian” market second. I believe that most financially successful instructors either travel and teach a LOT , or they have multiple secondary income streams.

The most common secondary income stream is a pension from a law enforcement or military background. Some instructors are personalities, and their YouTube channels generate ad revenue (usually a pittance, trust me) and/or sponsorship revenue. I wonder how many instructors receive monetary compensation to discuss and use certain products.

Lastly, some instructors offer products and services directly for sale.

Product Bias often has an effect on:

  • products referenced and recommended in classes, articles, and social media
  • classes written around certain weapons, other tools, or accessories
  • promoting one brand, design, caliber, or accessory at the expense of considering others as valid options, which may in turn deter students who do not subscribe to that idea
  • deterring the evolution of techniques or tools that are not endorsed by the instructor
  • shoehorning students into a sponsored solution, even if it does not fit their body, ability, or financial situation

Bias Isn’t Always Bad

We often use the word “bias” in a negative way. We need to recognize that all instructors, and all students, have bias. Recognizing bias helps us determine how we can become well-rounded. In some extreme cases, recognizing bias may help us discard instructors who may not be helping our development.

I strongly urge you to train with more than just one instructor / school. Not only will this give you exposure to different perspectives, techniques, material, and teaching styles, it will also help you more easily recognize bias when you encounter it.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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1 Comment on "Your Instructors Are Biased"

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  1. Cymond says:

    Maybe you’ve already written about it, but how can a training newbie find a good trainer? We’ve all seen some of the videos of terrible training by self-appointed “experts”. How can we be sure that we’re training with someone competent, without traveling halfway across the country to train with someone famous?
    Personally, I’m currently in eastern Pennsylvania (where our CCW permits include SBRS).
    I just want someone local and competent. Heck, I don’t even know of a local range where I can run drills from a static position. All of the outdoor ranges I know of are run by the state, and they have a 3-round limit.

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