A couple of weeks ago I was witness to an interesting incident on social media. There were two involved parties with me as a mutual contact observing both sides. In that incident are lessons for those who are searching for reliable self defense training and information.
The first party — who is fairly well known in the defensive training world — posted a link to an article or video (I really don’t remember which) about a specific type of response technique. The second party shared that article on his Facebook page, indicating that he didn’t like the first party and soliciting guidance from his Facebook friends as to whether the technique was valid. (Keep in mind that his only apparent reason for disliking the information was because of the person who espoused it; he literally gave no specific reason why he didn’t like it other than he didn’t like the guy who said it.)
Now this sort of thing happens on social media all the time and it’s hardly concerning. People are always people, and they rarely use their heads! They often rely on association and personalities rather than on logic, reason and fact. That’s just the way the world is, and I usually just ignore that sort of thing.
This case, however, had one important difference: the second party, the one who objected to the information only because of the person who brought it to his attention, was a defensive shooting instructor himself (albeit not of the reputation of the first party.) He was looking to his echo chamber not just for support of his dislike for the first person, but was actually asking them to give him reasons to dislike the information based on the person who shared it. He had no reasons of his own; he lacked the ability to analyze the information for himself and come to fact- or reason-based conclusions. He was, in essence, allowing social media to dictate his curriculum!
Teaching is serious business
As a teacher I consider it my primary job in life to understand the material I present at a much higher level than my students so that I can support what I share with them. In fact my students might only be exposed to perhaps 10% of what I know on any specific subject, but the remaining 90% is just as important; it’s background to help explain not only what I’m teaching, but why. The 10% I share with my students usually changes; one class needs one 10% chunk, while another needs a different 10%. If all I had was that 10%, at some point I’d be teaching beyond my knowledge — which is something I observe happening with shooting instructors on a regular basis.
This fellow started by discounting solid information because he didn’t like the person presenting it. He didn’t know enough about the subject to discount the information because of actual issues with the information himself, but simply because of the personality involved. His preconceived notions got reinforced by his friends who also don’t like the first party. He ended up deciding that he would share with his students that the information/technique is flawed, not because he identified any actual flaw but because his friends agreed with him about his dislike for the first party!
He’ll end up teaching beyond his ability because he doesn’t even understand the 10% that would allow him to have an actual fact-based opinion; all he has are his Facebook cronies who agree with him.
If your defensive shooting “instructor” has to ask his Facebook friends for validation of his own opinion about a defensive shooting topic, you need a different instructor. Always ask for evidence-based reasons to justify what your instructor teaches (or doesn’t teach.) There are things for which direct factual information doesn’t exist, so in that case we rely on the other kind of knowledge: logic and reason. If there isn’t science and data to support what you’re being asked to do or believe, ask what the logic and rationale is, and expect answers that make sense. If your instructor graduated from the University of Facebook, what you’ll get instead are soundbites, nonsensical rhymes, or — at worst — “so and so teaches it, and everyone knows he’s corrupt/stupid/kicks his dog.” That’s no basis for deciding what to teach (or what to learn)!
If your instructor’s curriculum comes from social media, do you really want to bet your life on what he’s telling you?
– Grant Cunningham