Defensive education is changing, for the better. Take advantage of it!

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Those who don’t spend all their free time in the defensive training world probably don’t realize that there is a lot of infighting — particularly in the defensive shooting segment. There’s intense rivalry between trainers with various backgrounds, each convinced that their own way of doing things (military, law enforcement, or competitive shooting) represents THE way for people in the private sector to train.

Each of them has held varying amounts of influence over the years. At one time, for instance, the law enforcement perspective was dominant; in the last decade or so, the military veterans returning from service have taken over (much to the chagrin of more than a few retired cops who are mad that their students have started disappearing!) The competition-based trainers are always in there as well, scrambling to attract adherents to their point of view (with the added incentive of winning awards for effort.)

Asking “what’s important?”

The big problem with all of this is that very few people have bothered to ask what’s appropriate for private citizens who want to defend their homes and families. Amazingly, assumptions and assertions have traditionally taken the place of analysis and thought; each of those trainer-groups has tried to shoehorn their ideas into that space, with varying degrees of success. None of them ever bothered taking into account how their training might differ from the way things really are in our world.

That’s finally changing. More and more educators are actually looking at what you and I do in our normal lives and what we need in terms of defensive skills. The realities of how and what we carry and the circumstances under which we use our defensive firearms are finally being considered.  What we’ve learned is being incorporated in more and more training curricula, and some of the old ways are dying off. The training world is finally starting to recognize the important of context in training: the skills we learn need to be congruent with the ways in which we’re likely to use them. That, and the ways in which we train need to reflect the circumstances under which the skills will be used.

This is the task-based approach to defensive training, and it’s gaining ground. It’s still not mainstream, but thanks to a lot of real thinkers in the training world the momentum is building. They’re pushing the boundaries and daring to question the status quo. (I hope you’ll excuse me while I indulge my ego and count myself among them. I’m always asking two questions: what skills are really best for my students based on objective analysis, and what is the best way of teaching those skills based on the latest science about how people learn. The answers are often very different from what I was taught!)

Fighting for relevance

These new approaches are not without their risks, you understand. Backlash from the established players, those who see anything new as a challenge to their petrified hegemony, is swift and often quite personal. In the past they’ve been able to keep dissenters in line by limiting their access to media (and therefore to students), but that too has changed. Today those who understand that there’s more to self defense than shot timers and dance moves can be in contact with others who share the same point of view. Good information spreads more rapidly. The old guard’s last defenses are invective and innuendo, but people are starting to see through those smoke and mirrors and demanding better of their education.

The revolution can now, I think, be said to be in full swing. More and more people from the training world — some new, some old — see the value in teaching what’s truly useful, in truly effective ways, as opposed to defaulting to “we’ve always done it this way”. They’re also coming to the realization that teachers need to know, first and foremost, how to TEACH rather than how to merely demonstrate. In the last couple of weeks I’ve shared some essays and stories about the people who are making the difference, and you’re going to be seeing and hearing more.

You, the students, are the beneficiaries. You can now choose between training that’s based on the reality of your life or that which has been based on things that bear no resemblance to your life. And it’s only going to get better.

Pay attention. Ask the hard questions. Demand real answers.

– Grant Cunningham

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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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