Trigger warning – I may cause a serious amount of butthurt with this post. But truth be told, if it affects you – then it’s probably related to you.
Training is good: we can all agree on that. Training can take many forms. Be it workshops, seminars, self-taught via online resources, or through the use of good training partners. For folks in rural areas the latter options may be all they have to work with.
Here’s the problem – a weekend workshop cannot and will not make you a Jason Bourne, quasi-ninja, bone-crunching, death-dealing operator. In spite of what the instructor on the poster tells you. In fact, in many cases it will only give you a very false sense of security. Allow me to explain. Shooting, and its less modern cousin – unarmed combatives, is a perishable skill. To do it well, you need to practice. Drill it in, repeat, sweat, blood and maybe some crying. You not only need to acquire the skill, but you also need to maintain proficiency with that skill over time.
What I have seen are people going to the odd workshop twice a year (kudos to them for seeking training, I am not taking that away), and then believing that with only two to four days of annual training they will succeed in becoming the hardest man (or woman) in the room. There are various reasons for this. Arrogance. Or false advertising by the instructor. And sometimes just plain ignorance.
I remember a very close friend who passed away last year. He was serial workshop attendee. After attending a few combatives courses presented by some of South Africa’s best instructors, he decided that the time was ripe to convey his superior knowledge to the rest of us. It’s safe to say that it did not go well for him. He succeeded in getting the living daylights beaten out of him when he tried putting his knowledge into practice. Afterwards he admitted to me that he realises he still has a long way to go. Fantastic! Lesson learnt. Does that mean that his instructors were bad? Of course not. He just failed to practice what he was taught.
Fair disclosure – I was one of the two guys that taught him that lesson. It was one of those lessons that he needed to learn the hard way.
Now, I’m not the most dangerous guy in town. I am also not some Black Belt Magazine Hall-of-Famer. I stand about a zero percent chance against a pro fighter. But, I do a bit of everything. Some Krav Maga (the non-empty chamber kind), and a bit of MMA. I also recently got hooked on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I suffer some training gaps of a month here and there. But I am still at a level of skill that you can only acquire from being punched in the face and choked regularly (I do hope you mean outside the bedroom, Rouen – Ed). You cannot learn or maintain that with a two-day workshop.
I recently came across a training program which is provided to the South African farming community by a certain group. Yes, the farmers desperately need it, and I have no issue with people teaching them how to defend themselves. However, then I see things included in the curriculum like “Room Penetration”, “House Clearing”, “Hostage Rescue” and sundry others. The pictures show young children stacking up by a door for this “room clearing” exercise. This is about where I say “stop right there.” The Special Air Service, SFOD, MARSOC, US Army Rangers and our own SAPS Special Task Force spend thousands and thousands of rounds, and thousands of hours, drilling and preparing to do execute these highly dangerous and extremely technical manoeuvres (clearly activities in the realm of specialists with all the prerequisite qualifications and experience. – Ed).
Many of the people attending such workshops have not even mastered the most basic firearm-handling skill fundamentals. And now people are training them how to clear a kill-house? I have performed a bit room-clearing training myself, and I found it extremely nerve-racking and difficult. And this with all of the guys participating being regular shooters. Can you teach a civilian how to do these things? Sure, but it takes serious commitment to regular training and a lot of money to do it safely. (One must also ask what value is added to a civilian’s tactical toolbox when you teach them advanced tactics. Especially when they have yet to master the basics. – Ed)
Don’t get me wrong – I think workshops are great. But I also do not think that they are all-encompassing. You will still need to practice regularly. The workshop shows you what you need to do, but the onus is on you to practice what you have learned. Instructors also use workshops as a marketing tool to pull students into attending regular classes where they will have the opportunity to practice and drill-in the skills on offer.
You can dryfire your gun at home, or you can go to the range for some actual shooting. When it comes to unarmed combatives, you need to fight another human in order to train. You can join a club or gym, and start sparring with a suitable partner. If I had to bet my money on a guy who trains once a week in a fight against a guy who did one workshop in a year: 52 sessions of 1.5 hours equals 78 hours of training. A workshop usually offers 12-15 hours. Do the maths. It is a no-brainer.
Written by Rouen Heiberg.
During the week Rouen works in the security industry designing integrated security solutions. In his free time he cultivates his tactical beard, causes butthurt amongst liberals, and helps to run an IDPA club.