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The most under-used word in the field of defensive shooting: ‘context’.

The most under-used word in the field of defensive shooting: ‘context’.


If you’re not training in context, then you don’t really know what you’re training for. How is that a wise use of your time, effort, and money?

One of the subjects I cover in my defensive shooting classes is the idea of training in context — that is, training in relation to your expected use. This seems like it should be self-evident, but surprisingly it isn’t.

This idea of context actually burst into my conscious mind a over a decade ago. I didn’t understand that’s what it was, and it took me a while to identify the correct word to describe the idea, but I realized that the class I was attending at the time didn’t really have a lot to do with the kinds of surprise attacks I was seeing on places like YouTube (and perhaps LiveLeak.)

Don’t misunderstand; the class was actually pretty good, the instructor engaging and committed, but it slowly dawned on me that I wasn’t really learning what I’d come there to learn. I wanted defensive shooting information of the kind that would help me deal with the frightening attacks I was seeing in dashcam and surveillance videos, but instead what I was hearing was how to win an IDPA match.

Now you might argue that winning an IDPA match using many of the same mechanical skills as shooting a criminal, and to a certain extent you’d be right, but the important thing to understand is that not all of the skills translate completely. The issue was that this instructor didn’t understand that, let alone which translations were faulty. His training was great for the context of the shooting contest, but not so great for the context of defending from a sudden lethal attack.

The context of defensive shooting is different from the context of the shooting match, which is different from the context of the hunting trip, which is…well, you get the idea. The similarities are easy to identify, but the important thing is that you be able to identify where the differences exist. As a student you may not yet be able to do so, but your instructor should!

You have to know where a technique or a concept came from; if it applies directly to a different context; if not, why not; and what a more contextually appropriate technique or concept looks like. This is not easy, and in fact is probably the most difficult part of curriculum development, but you should expect your instructor to have done this hard work!

That little realization of the existence of context changed not only how I train, but affects how I teach to this day. Today I pay a great deal of attention to the idea of context and if the skills I’m teaching fit the context of defensive shooting. If they don’t, I change them!

-=[ Grant ]=-


  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On March 13, 2014

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