You Must Train With Different Instructors

| July 29, 2015 | 4 Comments

I’ve been saying / writing this for some time now, but I think the topic deserves its own post:

It is extremely critical that you train with different instructors.

Trainers all have different personal / professional experience, preferences, physical capabilities, region, and philosophies. This directly impacts what they teach, how to teach it, and most importantly, what they don’t teach.

For example, I originally started my fight-focused training with Suarez International. At the time they were very focused on making smooth draws from appendix carry, making rapid shots at shorter (7 yards or less) distances, and moving dynamically off the “X.” I learned sighted fire from them, but the primary focus was on point shooting.

I relocated out of SI’s typical markets and started attending classes from QSI Training. They also focused on movement, but also stressed pre-fight analysis and conflict avoidance (such as ADEE and the importance of the OODA loop). They also focused a lot more on sighted fire, which in turn meant I focused more on grip, trigger control, and sight picture.

I attended some training by John Farnam of Defense Training International (DTI). Most of what I learned at QSI laddered up to Mr. Farnam’s philosophies and techniques. However, Mr. Farnam’s focus at the time was about situational awareness, mindset, and improvisation. Fighting a student in a force and force class? Don’t stop. Fix your problem. Don’t complain about it — no one cares about your problems.

Training with AIM Precision helped me realize other aspects of self defense training. These three capable instructors have recent military experience, and their focus is based on the combat they’ve seen overseas. They greatly increased my appreciation of body position, use of cover, the duration and timing of my movement, and acquiring sights before moving from cover and concealment.

I’ve already written this, but training with Shivworks has changed my life in regards to fighting within arm’s reach. Craig Douglas’s class has also changed my opinion on the need for more competitive, aggressive training between students.

I have a number of other organizations on my “must train with” list, and hope to make more pilgrimages this year and next.

Generalists and specialists

When you’re the student, your job is to protect yourself and your family. The way you accomplish this is by learning as much as possible. Be a generalist. The reality is that not every instructor will know everything you need to learn. You may need to go to different instructors to fill out your skills and attitude “checklist.”

There will come a point in every student’s training where they need a specialist. If you have a great instructor that teaches a lot of different things, you should still go see a specialist. Sometimes the little nuances you learn from someone who only teaches edged weapons or only teaches trauma care gives you the knowledge and insider tips that may make a difference some day.

Lastly, instructors teach what they feel comfortable teaching. They all have biases based on their prior experiences, training, and capabilities. This means that some instructors, even if they know a lot of material, may focus on certain aspects of it. You need to focus on everything.

I say pot-a-to, you say po-ta-to

Two instructors teaching the same thing will teach it to you slightly differently. They will have different teaching techniques, they will have different bias on what’s important within a certain topic, and they will have different competencies for every aspect of what they are teaching.

For example, several organizations teach “getting off of the X.” At the most basic level, this means moving away from where attackers want and expect you to be.

However, instructors teach this in different ways.

The differences may be technical: Suarez International and other groups may focus on what type of takeoff is appropriate at what time and under certain conditions. Other organizations like Shivworks may concentrate on hip alignment more than anything else. I haven’t taken a class from Tactical Response yet, but I am sure they have their own focus on how to mechanically get off of the X.

Other schools don’t teach mechanics at all (or barely do), and instead concentrate on general movement and awareness. DTI and QSI stress not being on the X in the first place. Constant movement, changing direction, misdirecting potential attackers, and other techniques are meant to keep you off of the X. Once the fight starts, movement never stops. Need to access a tool? Do it while moving. Challenge a would-be robber? Move. Reload or malfunction? Move. Move move move.

If you only attended one of these schools, you may not learn everything about something as simple as getting off of the X. We need all of the things these schools teach to be complete.

Ideally, I will avoid confrontation, continue to move where the enemy does not want or expect me to move, and if needed explode away from them with a proper takeoff, keeping my body in a position most advantageous for avoiding a takedown and allowing a clinch of my own if necessary, and then move constantly and blast them with words, movement, and if necessary weaponry until the threat has been stopped.

Instructors may have a focus, but students need it all.

Time and availability

Even if you are lucky enough to have an instructor or school near you that offers a wide range of material, you may not have the ability to attend those classes due to scheduling. A very good friend of mine restructured his child custody arrangement recently, and spends a lot more time with his daughter. This is great for him, but he’s been unable to attend any training this year.

You need to be able to train with other organizations in case timing is an issue. If you have identified a qualified network of instructors you should always have the option to get in some training.

Classes also sell out. The Shivworks class sold out, and The She Shepherd wasn’t able to attend. Shit happens, and you need to have backup instructors like you do a backup tool when the fight is on.

You can also learn a lot in a short period of time by attending a conference like Rangemaster or Paul-E-Palooza. I liked going to Rangemaster last year, and met a bunch of great instructors like Caleb Causey from Lone Star Medics, Cecil Burch from Immediate Action Combatives, Greg Ellifritz from Active Response Training, and Chris Fry from MDTS. You won’t get a ton of time or attention at these events, but it may teach you a few things and open you up to new people you want to train with in the future. You’ll also meet other students of fight-focused training, and that has value, too.


You’re not running away from home

You can still be loyal and thankful to your instructor while attending other classes. I know some students get into a tribal mentality and will only train with XYZ and their affiliates. I think some of this is due to wanting to belong to a community, but I think part of it is a sense of duty or loyalty.

Loyalty is admirable, but I contend a more loyal student learns different things, and brings it back to their instructors. Depending on your relationship with your instructor, you may be able to say, “hey, I learned ABC, what do you think?” or they may see you do a technique during class that is from somewhere else.

We are building a community here. We are learning how to defend ourselves and each other. We need to accumulate and share knowledge with each other. John Farnam calls this “spreading the sunshine.” We should evaluate, accept, or discard techniques on the merit of the technique, not who it came from.

If you are in a training community that doesn’t learn and change over time, you are in the wrong training community.

A good way to learn and change over time is expose yourself to different philosophies and focus. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones, and your community to learn as much as possible from as many people as possible.

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.

4 Comments on "You Must Train With Different Instructors"

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  1. Here, here! I am in wholehearted agreement. Not that I think you or The She-Shepherd don’t already know this, but students need to be sure that the civilian defensive shooting context is never forgotten when they learn skills from those fresh out of the military or law enforcement; some still haven’t truly internalized the limitations and restrictions with which civilians are burdened. Others too often confuse an edge in competitive sports with one in the real world. Enjoy your blog!

  2. James says:

    Great article, Would love to see you go to Tactical Response and compare and contrast to SI.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Me too! James was super cool at SHOT Show and I would love to make it out to Tennessee to train.

  3. Robert says:

    I agree with your premise.

    Like you, I cut my teeth in training world with SI. Thankfully, I chose to branch out after 3 or 4 classes. Since then, I’ve trained with some local talent and also Dark Angel Medical, Mike Pannone, Paul Howe, Steve Fisher, and Jeff Gonzales. Their instruction blows away that of SI (and I trained under two different instructors with SI). I know plenty who have chosen to be members of the SI “Tribe”, swearing that the training at SI is the best even though they’ve never trained elsewhere. All they are doing is short-changing their own training in exchange for experiencing that feeling of “belonging”. Unless you grew up in an orphanage, this isn’t a fair trade, in my opinion. The best instructors will tell you to get training from a variety of instructors and then pick what techniques work best FOR YOU.

    All the best!

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