Hey, Special Snowflake!

A little while back, I got sent a link to this article ( Why We Suck ) discussing beliefs, training, and practice.  It resonated with a couple of things I’d been thinking recently (based on someone telling me that since they’d been carrying for awhile they didn’t need a scenario-training class in CCW) along with some other articles by Claude Werner and the Defensive Daddy which resulted in this post.

So here you go.  Some truth you probably don’t want to hear:

You aren’t a special snowflake.

If you aren’t a competition shooter, then you probably aren’t as good at shooting as you think you are. (If you are a competition shooter, that doesn’t mean you are automatically good—but it DOES mean you probably have a pretty good idea of how good you are.)

If you’ve never done scenario training, then you probably aren’t as good at self-defense as you think you are. (If you have done solid scenario training, that doesn’t mean you are good at self-defense–but it DOES mean you probably have a pretty good idea of how you will react in stressful situations, and how quickly things can occur.)

Special Snowflake
For some people (a small small tiny few), this won’t be true. But for most people (and yes, this means you no matter how much you think you are the Special Snowflake that is one of those small few)–if you’ve never actually done anything that forced you to perform under stress and had that performance critiqued and compared to others, then you really have no idea how good you are.

And most likely, it isn’t nearly as good as you think.  Matter of fact, it’s probably pretty bad.

Don’t believe me?  Okay–actually put your Dunning-Kruger-ed self out there and find out.  Shoot a Steel Challenge match.  Shoot a USPSA match.  Take a scenario training class.  Take a force-on-force course.  Put yourself on a timer, and find out if that “fast draw” of yours is actually what anyone ELSE would call fast. Try to hit those 8″ steel targets at speed from 20 yards. What you learn will be important.

Maybe you’ll learn that you really ARE as good as you think you are.

More likely, maybe you’ll learn that if you want to actually be able to defend yourself and your loved ones, you’d better practice, because you aren’t nearly as good as you think you are.

And isn’t that something you’d like to find out BEFORE it becomes important?

Everyone thinks they are above average, everyone wants to be the Special Snowflake that really IS that good.  Well, chances are you aren’t.  And if you haven’t tested yourself, you have no way of knowing.

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How’s your ego?

One of the things I’ve observed while teaching firearms is that in general, there is a significant difference between teaching women and teaching men.

Teaching women is normally pretty easy:  They generally start under the assumption that I know more than they do, they try to perform the shooting techniques as I’ve taught them, and they don’t randomly add extras to their technique because they think they know how to shoot better.

Teaching men is often annoying:  They start with the assumption that they are already competent shooters, they generally attempt to “adjust” the technique I’ve given them because “they know what works for them” and often they make decisions about whether or not they should practice a particular technique or use it based on whether or not “it feels right for them.”

In other words, many men seem to think that genetics has given them an innate understanding of firearms, that plinking at a pop can at 15 feet with a .22 rifle has trained them in solid technique with a firearm, and that their perusal of YouTube videos of High-Speed Operators(tm) teaches them how to Operate since said videos are exactly like what happens in reality.

I wish I was kidding.

Now, this isn’t universal—one particular female comes immediately to mind, who used a bowling draw and a teacup grip to shoot slow-fire at a full-size silhouette at about 10 feet, and when I suggested some different techniques, assured me with strong confidence that this is how she was trained in law enforcement for high-speed shooting.

And plenty of guys actually listen and learn perfectly well.

Nonetheless—it is certainly true that EGO is alive, well, and Operational in the world of shooting.  So–how’s YOUR ego?

Do you have a healthy ego that drives you to be a better shooter?  (There is an assumption here that you want to be at least a competent shooter.  If you don’t, then never mind.)  Or do you have an EGO that requires you to defend it often, that gets in the way of admitting to error that can be fixed, that means that not only will you not ever learn to be better, but won’t even test yourself for fear that you might fail in front of others?

I was talking with a female shooter I know, and she told me about a discussion she had recently.  She was talking about competition shooting to a guy who was “training” a female friend of hers to shoot, and he said he’d never want to shoot competitions because he’d just get too competitive about it.  Her response to me?

“What I heard was ‘I suck at shooting and don’t want anyone to know.’  Isn’t that what you heard?  That’s what I heard.”

You know—I’ve gotta admit, I often think that too.  Because seriously, shooting competitions are FUN.  If you like shooting in general, then you’ll like shooting competitions.  There is something out there that fits what type of shooting you like to do. And they are tons of fun.

So if you give me excuses about how competition shooting will get you killed, or that you don’t want to take time from your tactical training, or that you don’t want to do it because you’ll get too competitive, or whatever else—that’s fine.  Everyone gets to have their own opinions, everyone gets to make their own choices—no problem.

But I can’t help hearing in my head “I suck at shooting and don’t want anyone to know.”

…and my head often adds an addendum:  “And my ego can’t take people knowing about my actual level of skill when I’ve bragged on myself so much.  Matter of fact, my ego can’t take ME knowing exactly what my real level of skill is, because I have this great beautiful picture of myself as The Ultimate Shooter in my head, and I can’t have that destroyed.”

Do you really want to be competent with a firearm?  Want to get better?  Be more skilled?  Do you really want to have a good measure of your level, so you can increase that level?

Or is your ego so big and so fragile that you can’t afford to show your actual shooting skill in comparison with others, in front of others?

Which is more important to you—your ego and fantasy view of yourself, or having a good time shooting while getting a realistic view of yourself?

SouthNarc ECQC, realism, and effective practice…

A several weekends back I attended SouthNarc’s ECQC course, held over in Council Bluffs, IA.

Obligatory plug:  If you are interested in close-quarters practice, solid realistic technique, purposeful directed instruction, and some serious force-on-force practice, you should take ECQC from Craig Douglas.  I could go on, but pretty much everyone who has taken his class has raved about it so you don’t need another AAR saying the same things.  So, short form:  It’s a really good class.  If close-quarters is something you are interested in, take it.

So, here’s the real reason for this post:  How can you get practice to be realistic without sending people to the hospital?  How can people get effective practice in a realistic fashion, when attempting to learn about weapons?

In the class, after one particular evolution in which I shot a couple of guys and then ended up being landed on by two attackers, Craig asked me:  “So, why did you draw your gun at [point A] in the scenario?  You didn’t point it at the guy, but you drew it.  Why didn’t you just hit him?  You’ve got all that Hapkido experience—why the gun?  Surely you know enough hand-to-hand self-defense?”

At the time, demonstrating that adrenaline and stress indeed makes fools of all us, I blathered out something about the situation, and how I didn’t want to close with a guy bigger than I am because “all that experience” means that I know one good hit can finish everything, and there were two guys—but thinking upon it later, that isn’t REALLY why I didn’t do it.  What I said was true—but wasn’t the actual reason.  I just couldn’t articulate it at the time.

I was in evolutions in which I could have used physical striking techniques seven different times during that class.  I almost never did, however, even though I certainly had plenty of opportunities.  Why not?

For two reasons:

1) People were wearing cups, and FIST helmets.  That’s it for protection.  And I had NO idea of their level of training (or ability to take falls).  As such, I could either perform techniques (non-breaking and non-throwing ones) that actually hurt but didn’t damage such as kicks/knees to the thigh or strikes to the solar plexus/abdomen, or strikes to the armored areas (head and groin)—or I could throw those same techniques but pull them so they were on target, but didn’t do damage.  (Technically, I could hit any point in between those two extremes, but the effect on my training partners would be either one or the other.)

I didn’t want to hurt my training partners, and I wasn’t sure of the interaction level limits—I’ve been in minimal-padding-but-full-contact sparring sessions that hurt a lot before, but I didn’t think that everyone there had signed up for that sort of thing.

So that pretty much left pulling my techniques—performing them, but pulling them so the person struck knew they’d been hit, but weren’t actually damaged.  However, the second reason would make that ineffective…

2) People weren’t reacting realistically.  I saw people get louder, mouthier, and then attack in the face of a pointed gun numerous times–and I expect that’s not how reality actually goes, for the most part.  Considering also that people did not react to being shot (which does happen in reality sometimes), lighting someone up with 6 rounds then not having to worry about them anymore WASN’T an option.  Which ALSO meant that people taking strikes were pretty much ignoring them.

So—why didn’t I simply flatten the first guy in my evolution?  Because all that would have happened would be that either I would have hurt the guy, or he’d have ignored my strikes and since I would have closed the distance it would immediately have meant an entangled situation with someone bigger than I was—who had a friend coming along soon.  And my gun would have been in my holster, while I was entangled.

And if you can’t hammer on someone in an entangled situation, you have to grapple your way out.  As people who’ve tried it know, handling two people larger than you in a grappling-only situation is pretty much a solidly losing proposition.

So how do you have realistic practice at this?  How can you practice realistic weapons work ALONG with realistic empty-hand work in scenario training?

  1. Have everyone wear armor so they can strike full contact?  People will just shrug off the impact since they weren’t hurt, and move on. That doesn’t really fix anything other than people will be able to actually strike with power.
  2. Have everyone just suck it up and take the bruises?  There aren’t going to be many people able to do that training for very long—and many people won’t even try.  Like I said, I did seven of these events in the ECQC class—I’m pretty sure that given full-contact with no padding, after the second or third event I’d have been unable to continue in any useful fashion.  I’m good, but when two people land on you, if they can start whaling away you are in trouble.
  3. Have people not wear padding, and tell them they all need to react “realistically” to good strikes?  …have you ever tried to do that?  It is really hard to do, particularly if you have a group of people who have NOT specialized in unarmed combat practice. Most people simply do not know what “realistic” looks like.  (And most males vastly overestimate their ability to take hits.)

I should note here that I’m not bagging on SouthNarc’s class—-I really appreciated the way the class was designed and taught.  His class was really, really good and I say that as someone who has specialized in teaching for quite a few years, which means I’m REALLY critical of instructors and their teaching methodologies.  (I’m also happy to see that what I’ve been teaching in my CQ courses is solidly in accord with the concepts, techniques, and practice of one of the acknowledged experts in the field.)

Each evolution really could be thought of as a series of interactions, not just one event:

  • First, the verbal/nonverbal interaction, movement, and positioning,
  • Second, the initial assault/attack (by whoever—sometimes it was intelligent for the defender to strike first) and the consequent results of whether or not the weapon could be deployed usefully due to positioning,
  • Third, the entanglement that inevitably occurs if the situation continues as the attackers WILL close the distance (you can’t escape or get away) and the defender’s attempts to keep their weapon or render it nonfunctional by anyone else along with keeping themselves alive.

Each evolution is going to get to point three, almost invariably.  That isn’t a failure of points one and two—it is just going to happen because the damage is going to be ignored.  Points one and two can still be discussed and critiqued on their own.  But you ARE going to reach point three.

In my case, if I HAD gone physical with my attacker early on during point 1 (moving myself into point 2), we simply would have reached point 3 much sooner because he would have ignored my strikes and simply grabbed me–and I knew it, and wanted to maintain my distance and weapon advantage.

So how do you fix the “realism” part so that people actually use BOTH their weapons techniques AND their empty-hand practice in a realistic fashion?  Or at least get around this particular realism problem?

In a general-enrollment class, I don’t think you can.  In some specialized classes with people who understand those parts due to experience, perhaps.  But other than that, I think to make it work you would have to have dedicated attackers wearing armor who know how to react realistically—and that just isn’t going to happen in a majority of classes.

So: Craig—there WAS a reason why I didn’t just hit that guy when we did the two-on-one when I was the defender.  I didn’t want to accidentally hurt him (I really like sweeping the leg and low kicks, and that probably would have been bad) and I didn’t want to pull my punches just so I could immediately be grabbed and tackled, either.

In real life….?  I don’t know.  I’ve not been in that situation.  I’d like to THINK that I’d have been able to leave the situation prior to that point, but if not—dropping the first guy HARD before the second guy came up would have been a solid option, and for the most part, yes, I do think I am sufficiently trained to manage that.

Even if he was bigger than me.  🙂