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  1. #1
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    Default THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A SHOOTING INSTRUCTOR

    THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A SHOOTING INSTRUCTOR

    Wednesday, November 28, 2018


    Firearms training seems to have become the “Nail Salon Business” for men. Everyday there are more new schools and classes. Much like the “Karate Kid” craze in the 1980s when you saw everybody that could afford a set of black pajamas and a set of stripes on their belt suddenly opening a school to cash in. I plan to get into some detail on what to look for in a fighting instructor. Notice I said “fighting” instructor and not “shooting” instructor? The reason I made the distinction is that shooting and fighting are not quite the same. Shooting is a part of fighting, but rarely is fighting a part of the shooting instruction you see today. My focus and that of my readers is gun-fighting and self-defense, not competitive shooting – and the two are quite different. Different enough in my opinion that they can be considered separate disciplines. The discussion of attributes is for fight teachers.
    What makes a great instructor – and subsequently what you should look for when searching for one.

    1). Personal fight knowledge and life experience – How on earth is anyone going to teach violence if they have no experience in it? Anything they share they found elsewhere and thus their actual knowledge and experience is often less than that of the students. But experience in violence is worthless if they are unable to convey those lessons and build material from them.

    This is where the world of sport and combat diverge. The shooting range, whether in a formal sport setting or informal practice setting, has limits to what you are permitted to do. There is a reason for this, but those limits are not present on the street or the battlefield. Often the methods for sport creep into the practice of self-defense. Those methods are not optimal for fighting and were developed to fit the “rules of the venue”. An instructor that speaks the language of violence will see that and prevent those things from taking place in his own repertoire as well as in his classes. But the filter of violence must be there to keep it real. The instructor with personal experience in violence knows that sport and fighting are not the same things.

    2). Articulate speech and writing – We all know the guys that have killed more people than texting while driving, but who are totally unable to put what they know into words or lessons. I recall one very experienced instructor with multiple tours to all manner of places describing the fundamentals of shooting and “watch the sights and tighten the groups”. That was it. While he was a great guy and the stories after hours were fantastic, there was no teaching going on and students left no better skilled than they arrived.

    We also see many YouTube Gunfighters – These are the guys who have never been in any sort of fight (gun or fist) – We see that all the time. They are the modern-day version of the trick shooters of old. The objective is entertainment not instruction. Showing things on video has begun to erode the ability to write well and to explain things. Part is the ever-shrinking attention span of Americans. The thinking is that one can learn from a video so why bother writing or speaking. But the learning that happens with a video is superficial if it is not accompanied by verbal explanation and practical exercises. If the instructor has fantastic gun juggling feats on video, but can’t teach you how to draw you pistol and shoot a bad guy in the face, he is useless to you.

    Are you paying $500 to be entertained, or to become a better gun fighter? Let the answer guide your spending. A great instructor must be able to write, speak, and show in the same articulate way.

    3). Ability to pass on the ability they possess – An instructor must know how people learn, and what it is about his material that is the most difficult to teach them. He must know how to organize a lesson plan for a course of instruction so that the lessons of his life and the methods that those lessons gave birth to will be learned by the student. The goal must be to make the student better, to give him new and better skills, or a better understanding of the nature of the conflict. Training must be handled as if that night, the students were going to be in a gunfight. This is how articulate speech is implemented in a logical sequence to deliver instruction. Sadly most trainers today focus on one thing only – the applause attained from clever entertainment.

    4). Physical Appearance And Ability -(command presence, fitness, real world applicable skills, etc.) - In 2012 I told my staff that they needed to lose their guts or find another place to teach. I would not have any man with a beer gut (man fetus) wearing my colors and representing my school. Yet today you can almost picture in your mind the stereo-typical overweight, non-physical gun trainer.

    Command presence is paramount. It is analogous to “physical respect” and is made up of poise, speech and physical appearance among other things. Another way to describe it would be “Physical Leadership”. The sloppy dude with the gut will have a much more difficult time attaining that than will the fit and muscular instructor. So will the skinny kid with a frail upper body in a child sized shirt. Moreover, the fit and muscular instructor can physically do everything he teaches, which is an essential thing.

    5). Stays current – The world moves on, technology improves and new developments see the light of day. A great instructor uses modern technology, but does not rely on it to do his teaching for him. The same goes for equipment. A great instructor knows that high quality gear will allow a student to advance to a high level sooner and with less resistance. And when he teaches, he does so with the most modern top tier quality equipment available.

    The instructor that shows up with a WW1 vintage 1911 in a low slung leather rig and proceeds to discuss the fine points of the weaver stance has not stayed current. As one example, recall the now-forgotten resistance of the mass of the gun media to the use of Red Dots on pistols ten years ago. But conversely, staying current does not mean adopting what the sport shooters do without filtering through the life experience of the street fight and that is why point number one is so important. The man without any firsthand knowledge of doing violence to other men will adopt anything as new and better…even when it is not. The focus of the great instructor is to continue to make himself stronger, faster and more dangerous than he was the day before. And in doing so, provide his students with a path to attain those same attributes.

    There are more characteristics of a great instructor, and I address all of them in my instructor classes, but these five will do for now. More to follow soon.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  2. #2
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    Excellent summation.
    I think the order of the points discussed is in line as well.
    In my searching out of good schools and qualified instructors, #1 is well, #1.
    Shooting games do have their own place, but one must be extremely careful to not confuse gaming with fighting. Some of the stuff I see with the "Orange Plastic Fence" crowd and all the goofy toys that go with it leaves me laughing.
    Being physically fit is also of very high importance to myself and those whom I count on.

  3. #3
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    I'll offer a concurring opinion, with only minor quibbling.

    I would rank the most important criteria as 2 (articulate speech/writing) and 3 (ability to pass along knowledge). An instructor who cannot communicate ideas is useless. An instructor should also understand the 'why' behind the 'how.' While mom may be able to get away with "because I said so," that answer is never sufficient from a teacher. An effective instructor needs to be able to answer difficult and pointed questions, and not merely lecture. Some instructors are either derailed by difficult questions or they merely dismiss them without providing an answer.

    Remaining current is important in the macro, but not in the micro. There is still some value in learning old, outdated techniques, as long as you also learn their limitations. The ability to properly use a rifle sling in support of long-range accuracy, or the contorted positions of silhouette shooting, are old ideas and generally inapplicable to gunfighting, but there is still value in knowing them. Learning (and practicing) the history of an art is also part of becoming a master. Most students will choose not to progress beyond the novice stage, but some students will want to know everything--including the ideas that failed. A student can still learn from an obsolete instructor, as long as the student has sufficient vision. If you wanted to learn how to properly run a single-action revolver (not because it is a good idea for fighting, but because it is part of a complete education) it would not be wrong to select one of those anachronistic SASS instructors for that isolated task.

    In line with that, an instructor does not need to be a generalist. I strive to be a generalist. I want to be good at everything. (Cue the appropriate Heinlein quote.) But I can learn a lot from someone who is a failure at 99% of life and the absolute king of that last 1%. The experts in many fields are weirdos who have no skills beyond their area. As long as they teach within their area, they are still good teachers. It is important for the student to realize when their teacher has reached beyond their area of expertise, because most people are pretty bad at recognizing their own inadequacies. When someone with six failed marriages gives you relationship advice (because of their wealth of experience), it is up to you--not them--to realize that they are operating outside of their lane.

    Fitness/appearance comes in here. Certainly it is better for marketing to have studly instructors. But not all of the skills require fitness. Shooting and fighting are not the same, but I want to learn both. If a pot-bellied instructor can improve my shooting, it still moves me forward. The over-emphasis of this criteria is also at the root of the Instagram Instructor fad. Pat McNamara is indisputably a stud. But I found his instruction to be rather lackluster. He sells his character; he scrolls through his pre-written spiel; he demos all of his stuff; and you want to watch him snap into a Slim Jim. But at the end of his class, I had not learned anything. I was not a better shooter or fighter.

    Contrast that with Chris Upchurch. Chris lacks the Delta credentials and he would have trouble completing a 5k. But he is among the most cerebral instructors I've met. I worked with an RMR-equipped pistol for about a year before attending an SI class. After one day of hands-on coaching from Chris and Gabe, my effective range virtually doubled. Chris was a big part of that. In addition to having the knowledge needed to teach, he also has the developed eye of a coach. These are different skills that don't necessarily overlap, and coaching is very important.

    The ability to perform tasks must be viewed within reason. Mark Rippetoe is one of the great minds of strength training, but he recognized that he lacked the genetic potential to compete at higher levels. He is still very strong, though. In addition to the limits of our own genetics, age gets us all. If Rob Leatham developed Parkinson's disease and could no longer hold a fist-sized group at 10y, would he become unworthy as a shooting instructor? Ability is important, but must be evaluated in light of all circumstances.

    Fight knowledge and life experience are definitely important, but have been somewhat corrupted in recent years. After 17 years of war, the training community is now filled with separated vets who were apparently all in the special forces. And even if we limit our analysis to only the instructors who were legitimate warfighters, their skill doesn't translate to the streets of Des Moines. What would Chris Kyle have been able to teach me about safety in my own life? (And yet I absolutely would have attended a class he taught, even knowing that most of his stories would be made up.) Law enforcement experience is generally the most relevant. Cops work daily with the exact people we are training to fight. But I've met too many idiot cops to automatically assume competence from someone just because they managed to hold down a government job for 20 years. Among the current trainers, Varg Freeborn vies for the title of having the most on-point life experience, but there is a shortage of firearms trainers who can check the I-survived-prison box. (I know. I know Gabe's history.)

    I suppose my primary point is this: The burden is upon you, as the student, to find the right instructor and to learn what is valuable from them. Don't take diet advice from fat people. Don't accept lessons without questioning them. Scrutinize. Doubt. Test.
    Virtute et Armis

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LawDog View Post
    I would rank the most important criteria as 2 (articulate speech/writing) and 3 (ability to pass along knowledge). An instructor who cannot communicate ideas is useless. An instructor should also understand the 'why' behind the 'how.' While mom may be able to get away with "because I said so," that answer is never sufficient from a teacher. An effective instructor needs to be able to answer difficult and pointed questions, and not merely lecture. Some instructors are either derailed by difficult questions or they merely dismiss them without providing an answer.

    Agreed

    Remaining current is important in the macro, but not in the micro. There is still some value in learning old, outdated techniques, as long as you also learn their limitations. The ability to properly use a rifle sling in support of long-range accuracy, or the contorted positions of silhouette shooting, are old ideas and generally inapplicable to gunfighting, but there is still value in knowing them. Learning (and practicing) the history of an art is also part of becoming a master. Most students will choose not to progress beyond the novice stage, but some students will want to know everything--including the ideas that failed. A student can still learn from an obsolete instructor, as long as the student has sufficient vision. If you wanted to learn how to properly run a single-action revolver (not because it is a good idea for fighting, but because it is part of a complete education) it would not be wrong to select one of those anachronistic SASS instructors for that isolated task.

    Those are side issues are they not? I have interest in old Japanese sword...but have no delusions that it has any modern application...and the attributes that I may attain from them are likely found by doing something else. Staying current also means not being blinded by modernity, and remembering your history.

    In line with that, an instructor does not need to be a generalist. I strive to be a generalist. I want to be good at everything. (Cue the appropriate Heinlein quote.) But I can learn a lot from someone who is a failure at 99% of life and the absolute king of that last 1%. The experts in many fields are weirdos who have no skills beyond their area. As long as they teach within their area, they are still good teachers. It is important for the student to realize when their teacher has reached beyond their area of expertise, because most people are pretty bad at recognizing their own inadequacies. When someone with six failed marriages gives you relationship advice (because of their wealth of experience), it is up to you--not them--to realize that they are operating outside of their lane.

    Interesting point. I agree. There are specialists we can learn from, but is that in the scope of the discussion? When I wanted to learn how to kill better with a knife, I sought someone who knew. When I wanted to develop my deadlift, I found someone who knew. But these are separate from the discussion here i think.

    Fitness/appearance comes in here. Certainly it is better for marketing to have studly instructors. But not all of the skills require fitness. Shooting and fighting are not the same, but I want to learn both. If a pot-bellied instructor can improve my shooting, it still moves me forward. The over-emphasis of this criteria is also at the root of the Instagram Instructor fad. Pat McNamara is indisputably a stud. But I found his instruction to be rather lackluster. He sells his character; he scrolls through his pre-written spiel; he demos all of his stuff; and you want to watch him snap into a Slim Jim. But at the end of his class, I had not learned anything. I was not a better shooter or fighter.

    Extremes on either side. Its not just about marketing. A man that is not physically fit is a man whose self-discipline has waned. He may have great information, but he may not be able to show you what he wants you to learn. I firmly believe that a teacher MUST be able to do everything he teaches...otherwise he is not the best teacher he can be. Shooting and fighting are not the same but fighting with guns incorporates both of them and THAT is what we want to learn.

    Contrast that with Chris Upchurch. Chris lacks the Delta credentials and he would have trouble completing a 5k. But he is among the most cerebral instructors I've met. I worked with an RMR-equipped pistol for about a year before attending an SI class. After one day of hands-on coaching from Chris and Gabe, my effective range virtually doubled. Chris was a big part of that. In addition to having the knowledge needed to teach, he also has the developed eye of a coach. These are different skills that don't necessarily overlap, and coaching is very important.

    Chris may be a great teacher, as would be said of keith, Bob, Fred and anyone else...but they are teaching things learned second hand if they have never had personal experience with violence. If a man wants to teach fighting, his teaching will not be as good as it could be if he has never been punched in the face...or punched another man in the face. From the legal perspective...picture a professor teaching "Court Room Tactics" that has never been in a court room. Kinda diminishes the creds don't you think?

    The ability to perform tasks must be viewed within reason. Mark Rippetoe is one of the great minds of strength training, but he recognized that he lacked the genetic potential to compete at higher levels. He is still very strong, though. In addition to the limits of our own genetics, age gets us all. If Rob Leatham developed Parkinson's disease and could no longer hold a fist-sized group at 10y, would he become unworthy as a shooting instructor? Ability is important, but must be evaluated in light of all circumstances.

    If Rip looked like Chris, would you still believe anything he said? Likely not. There are concessions made for age and infirmity. Cirillo would have been great to listen to and shoot with, but all three of those guys have actually done things, not just parroted things they heard with no personal accomplishments.

    Fight knowledge and life experience are definitely important, but have been somewhat corrupted in recent years. After 17 years of war, the training community is now filled with separated vets who were apparently all in the special forces. And even if we limit our analysis to only the instructors who were legitimate warfighters, their skill doesn't translate to the streets of Des Moines. What would Chris Kyle have been able to teach me about safety in my own life? (And yet I absolutely would have attended a class he taught, even knowing that most of his stories would be made up.) Law enforcement experience is generally the most relevant. Cops work daily with the exact people we are training to fight. But I've met too many idiot cops to automatically assume competence from someone just because they managed to hold down a government job for 20 years. Among the current trainers, Varg Freeborn vies for the title of having the most on-point life experience, but there is a shortage of firearms trainers who can check the I-survived-prison box. (I know. I know Gabe's history.)

    That brings up a different matter. Is combat experience in an artillery based war the same as a gunfight? Is combat experience in a large unit, or team, the same as a street gunfight? Maybe not.

    I suppose my primary point is this: The burden is upon you, as the student, to find the right instructor and to learn what is valuable from them. Don't take diet advice from fat people. Don't accept lessons without questioning them. Scrutinize. Doubt. Test.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  5. #5
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    THE OTHER THING IS

    What is the source of the material you are being taught. Is the source from a fighter, or a sportsman? Is the source from a killer, or from an academic? There will be a tangible understandable difference and hence the differentiation between, "shooting" and "fighting with guns". An example easily seen by the casual is the difference between the gunhandling seen at sporting events, and the gunhandling done in a gunfight.

    THE OTHER OTHER THING IS

    Understanding of violence from the POV of the good guy. That requires a degree of fitness as the fat kids are not going to beat anyone up. Brent Yamamoto for example, has no gunfight experience, but extensive hand to hand experience. The dynamics of evading a punch and then knocking somebody out are the same as the dynamics of reactive gunfighting...so his presentations are always on point and well received. He can do and teach. Greg Nichols is different. He has extensive gunfight experience and is an example of how injury can diminish one's physical potential, but not diminish their fitness and ability. There are plenty of theorists today, and plenty of killers who cannot teach. I don't think the article pointed to either one as the objective.

    THE THIRD OTHER THING IS

    Some things must be learned by doing, and delivered by those who have done them firsthand. The Killing Within The Law material as one poignant example.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  6. #6
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    All very good and important points.

    4 is how I make my first/quick impression. It takes a strong mind to have a strong body and strong body to have a strong mind.

    To me, an out of shape SD instructor has stopped caring. Even if he has some useful knowledge, he probably hasn't put much effort into teaching, after all look at him struggle to get out of his chair. Just like an instructor with a rusty Taurus and frayed Uncle Mike's belt...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriel Suarez View Post
    THE OTHER OTHER THING IS

    Understanding of violence from the POV of the good guy. That requires a degree of fitness as the fat kids are not going to beat anyone up. Brent Yamamoto for example, has no gunfight experience, but extensive hand to hand experience. The dynamics of evading a punch and then knocking somebody out are the same as the dynamics of reactive gunfighting...so his presentations are always on point and well received. He can do and teach. Greg Nichols is different. He has extensive gunfight experience and is an example of how injury can diminish one's physical potential, but not diminish their fitness and ability. There are plenty of theorists today, and plenty of killers who cannot teach. I don't think the article pointed to either one as the objective.

    THE THIRD OTHER THING IS

    Some things must be learned by doing, and delivered by those who have done them firsthand. The Killing Within The Law material as one poignant example.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oscar01 View Post
    All very good and important points.

    4 is how I make my first/quick impression. It takes a strong mind to have a strong body and strong body to have a strong mind.

    To me, an out of shape SD instructor has stopped caring. Even if he has some useful knowledge, he probably hasn't put much effort into teaching, after all look at him struggle to get out of his chair. Just like an instructor with a rusty Taurus and frayed Uncle Mike's belt...
    This is what absolutely pissed me off about the Vickers "This is Why I'm Fat" video from a couple of years ago and prompted my video response. I give 0 fucks about who you used to be or the injuries you've sustained getting that pedigree, it's hard to be a stud when you can't see your wiener. What I do care about is your intestinal fortitude and how you recovered from those injuries while maintaining mastery over your own mind and body. All it take is a decision backed by action to get fit and stay that way, it require NO talent of any kind, just effort and discipline.

    I feel that I owe it to my students to exemplify what I teach and the way I think by the way I behave daily and live my life.

    Here's the response thread with vid:http://www.warriortalk.com/showthrea...ight=Fuzzy%27s
    Greg "Hyena" Nichols
    Instagram: tacfit_az
    Facebook: SI Instructor Greg Nichols

    #thinkinginviolence
    #tactisexual

    Always entertaining, mildly offensive
    IANative: Indeed, when you grab Brent (or he grabs you), it feels like liquid unobtanium wrapped in rawhide... whereas Greg is just solid muscle wrapped in hate, seasoned w/ snuff and a little lead.

    http://www.warriortalk.com/showthrea...he-Obscenities

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Nichols View Post
    I feel that I owe it to my students to exemplify what I teach and the way I think by the way I behave daily and live my life.
    THAT is who we are.
    We live the story we tell every single day.
    If another teacher does not live the story, it is because he is lazy.
    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

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    IN ESSENCE...HE SAYS THE SAME THINGS

    Gabriel Suarez

    Turning Lambs into Lions Since 1995

    Suarez International USA Headquarters

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gabriel Suarez View Post
    IN ESSENCE...HE SAYS THE SAME THINGS

    Not sure if you remember or not but in the August red dot pistol class I thanked you part way into day one for the way you ran your class. I told you I've trained with guys whom "had a resume", the rest of that converstion I won't make public because while I don't think he's a very good instructor I do think he's an honorable man.
    Also I will say, and I'm not disagreeing with your position, I've found that just having a "resume" is not enough.

    I've said many times there is something special about SI. I say that because I've been to many many other schools and this is where I've landed, because it's about so much more than a resume.
    Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.

    “Adversity introduces a man to himself.”

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