I want to talk to you about how I lay out my training plan…teachers and courses I would like to attend.  Hopefully, this will help you create your own.  Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  If your decision to take a class is based off a potential instructor’s social media presence… you are wrong.  Your priorities are way out of whack and you need to seriously look deep within yourself and decided why you are doing this.  If a deciding factor on a class is how cool it will look on Instagram, you would get more traffic by shooting yourself in the foot on a live feed.

There are a couple criteria to consider when choosing a teacher and what course to take.  First off, how likely are you to use the skills you will learn?  You must be honest with yourself.  Likely, most people should start off with a medical course, not a shooting course.  You are significantly more likely to use medical skills than use your firearm defensively.  There is nothing wrong with taking a class for fun, just be honest with yourself as to why you are doing it.  If your day to day life is in a large metropolitan area, a quality handgun course would serve you better than a precision rifle course.  Choose your course based upon your needs, not some fantasy.  If you are in the military or law enforcement this will change.   This can be a chore for some, so you need to take some time and identify what real life needs the class will fill.  Why does an accountant need to show up to a class on explosive breaching wearing $600 worth of camo and plate carrier?

Next, you should research the potential teacher.  Yes, I said teacher, there is a difference between teacher and a trainer.  Basically, teachers help you reach your potential by getting you to use critical thinking and problem solving through purpose-built instruction.  Trainers follow rote guidelines, generally developed by someone else, following a checklist of skills needed for you to obtain a short term or immediate goal.  We teach students and train animals.  High order and growth driven vs. base level and task driven.  In your research you should easily be able to find out if the potential person or school is using current or outdated curriculum.  As well as the lineage of the cadre or teacher.  Two good things to look for are, do they take classes as students themselves and does their coursework evolve with them.  Lastly on researching your instructor, do they have the experience and knowledge base to be teaching what they are teaching.  For example, should you really be taking a night vision course from someone whose only experience is with NRA basic marksmanship?

Now that I have covered the basics for making choices, lets break down the courses themselves.  Medical courses that I consider the bare minimum are American Heart Association CPR and Stop the Bleed.  For those wanting more info and a wider range of skills, taking a TECC course or getting your EMT- Basic license not only cover a larger array of topics, but also go into more depth.  These medical skills are something that stay with you for the rest of your life and you can take them anywhere.  Gun free zones be damned.

Handgun courses can be found in almost any local.  Some are significantly better that others.  While I feel that everyone should take a concealed course, you need to be careful who you go to.  I have written about this in a previous blog.  So, what should a class cover that is designed to teach you how to fight.  First off, it should be run from a holster, first open, then concealed.  After all this is how most of you will be carrying….and open carry is stupid, unless you are required to for work.  The next component is accuracy.  You can’t stop the fight if you can’t hit what you need to.  In the beginning an 8-inch circle for the chest and 4- inch circle for the head are a good place to start.  Eventually you need to bring those down to a vertical 4×6 box in the high center chest, and a horizontal 3×5 box in the head.  Anything less is a miss, and a waste of precious time.  Lastly it must cover use of force.  In our hand we hold the ability to end a human life in a split second, this shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Besides, did you really win the fight if you end up in jail?  There are more components to a good handgun course.  Movement, malfunctions, reloads, cover/ concealment/ barricades, tactics, etc… are all important.  However, the most essential pieces should be can you get your gun out, can you hit what you need to hit to stop the threat, and doing that legally & morally so that you can go home to your family.

Where would a good training plan be without a component of physical health and abilities.  Yes, you can defend yourself if you are unhealthy or out of shape.  It is, however, easier and more beneficial in the long run if you are healthy and fit.  Start by seeing your doctor regularly, losing weight, and eating healthy.  After all, you want to be around to see your grand-kids, don’t you?  If you have never been in a fight, let alone one for your life, being out of shape puts you at a serious disadvantage.  You shouldn’t put off learning some basic fight-oriented skills until you are fit.  Learning them will get you in shape faster.  The ability to defend yourself with open hands while standing or on the ground is your goal.  Putting yourself on and following a martial path is all encompassing, so don’t stop at one.   Boxing, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, Greco Wrestling, Muay Thai or any combination of those would be a good place to start.  Picking a gym or school for any of the above is exactly like choosing where to learn the gun.  The list above may even be more troublesome, if you thought finding a gun school was bad…. just wait until you start looking into the martial arts.  Make sure that the school or trainer you choose fulfills your goal, and preferably will help you in a fight.

At this point you’re probably thinking “How am I going to find time for this, let alone afford it?”  It’s true, this can be time consuming and costly.  I can’t even count the tens of thousands of dollars I have spent in this pursuit.  Time wise I could probably have earned a master’s degree.  Trying to do it all at once is to daunting a task.  This pursuit is a lifestyle and should end up being spread out, continuously, throughout your life.  The trick is finding balance.  Just as in defensive gun encounter, we must find a balance of speed and accuracy, so to must we scale this. Family, work, training, just living and enjoying life must flow.  It will be taxing at times; it is however, worth it.  There will be times in your pursuit when various aspects of your plan will take precedence over others.  Not only is this normal but is it a good thing.  It shows growth and the ability to evolve.  I mean that is what you are doing here.  I’ve even gone as far as making a career out of it.

This lifestyle will cost you.  It will cost money, weekends, evenings, and more. Though that cost will pay dividends when it is needed.  The investment in yourself will provide countless moments of ease.  The sacrifices you make will have to be supported by your family.  This is easier when your partner has the same mindset and makes the same commitment; though it isn’t a necessity.  They just need to be supportive.  Being able to see the benefits of this lifestyle helps tremendously.  So be sure to discuss these decisions and don’t try to force a significant other into this lifestyle.

Self sufficiency is what I am talking about.  Not relying on others for your own well-being and your family’s.  Dave Spaulding says, “You are your own first-responder.”  This means choices must be made. Just as you decide to pull the trigger, you must decide what is truly an effective means of getting there.  So, things like buying a used car, cooking more meals at home, gardening, canceling the lawn service or cable all afford you the financial means to and end.   Your choices in gear and other necessities must be prioritized.  Sure, we would all like a Nighthawk Custom or Knights Armament gun but, a police trade in Glock or Colt 6920 will still do the job.  What’s that saying?  Beware the man with one gun, that knows how to use it.  A well-worn and well-known tool in the hands of person that is confident in its application is more impressive than any Gucci blaster could ever be.  I’m not impressed by your kit, hell I don’t really care.  All I care about is if it is reliable and can you show me that you know how to use it. Don’t waste your time and efforts just to acquire things that look cool.  Be prudent in your choices…at least in the beginning.  There will come a time when some of those splurges can be justified.

Finally, here are some instructors that will get you started in the right direction.  There was a drastic change to my training plan a couple of years ago with the death of Pat Rogers.  I realized that some of these teachers will be gone before too long, either from retirement or death.  So, I made it a priority to train with as many of the old guard as possible.  From there I will move onto the next generation.

Massad Ayoob- Massad Ayoob Group

Clint Smith- Thunder Ranch

Ken Hackithorn- Aztec Training

Tom Givens- Rangemaster

Dave Spaulding- Handgun Combative

Claude Werner- The Tactical Professor

Bill Rogers- Rogers Shooting School

John Farnam- Defensive Training International

All these instructors are highly regarded among their peers.  There are many more and it would be a waste of time to try and list the all, especially when I know for a fact, I would leave out more than a few.  Remember the previous criteria for choosing a course and mentor.  I used the word “mentor” carefully.  I haven’t attended a course yet where the instructor hasn’t made themselves available to me afterwards when I had a question or needed clarification on something from their course.  In fact, I keep in regular contact with those that I have elevated to a mentor status.   Even if you don’t have their cell phone number, many still have dedicated groups on social media strictly for their alumni.

Give your training plan some serious thought.  Just like a training session, we need to plan for our success.  Identify your needs vs. wants and regularly evaluate them.  Taking all the above into account will save you time and money.  As well as prepare you for winning a defensive encounter.   Nothing we do is a guarantee, but we can stack the deck in our favor.  Train hard, train smart and share what you have learned with others.