The quality of training

There have been a number of recent rants about the quality of training and why would students choose one trainer over others.

The following is my commentary from a thread on Facebook:

An issue with rants about the quality of trainers is the underlying assumption that people actually want to be ‘trained.’ That’s not necessarily true. In general, people either want to be entertained or have their tickets punched. Neither of those two objectives has anything to do with training.

Further, real training involves some kind of measurement. As Greg Hamilton succinctly put it ‘without testing there has been no training.’ There are many forms testing can take but it has to be a part of training. Many, if not most, adults have never left high school emotionally. Consequently, they have an inordinate and irrational fear of performance measurement. That’s another reason they’re not really interested in being ‘trained.’ Being tested requires taking a large risk of finding out you’re not the hot shot you like to think you are. Most people have enough smarts to realize that, at best, they’re Walter Mitty, and, at worst, they’re grossly incompetent. They take great steps to protect their egos because of this.

So, what people seek out is Entertainment, Comfort, and Convenience. Nothing wrong with that. Let’s face it, most people live boring lives filled with relentless drudgery and lack of fulfillment.

As the saying goes ‘you get what you pay for.’ The payment in the context of real training is not just money but also emotional energy and commitment. Very few people are willing to make that kind of payment; they limit themselves to paying with money only.

In the end, the market for training, as well as the training provided, will generally follow a bell curve. At the ends, really good and really bad, while the huge middle segment will be mostly mediocre.  In most cases, that’s enough.

12 responses

  1. Outstanding words that ACCURATELY describe how many folks approach the issue of training. I tell my students that “training” should now be viewed as “defensive insurance”,,, we have home owners insurance, health insurance, auto insurance, etc. Consider “training” to be “defensive insurance” and plan for it time wise & money wise too.

    “True training” should present the student with techniques to recognize avoid conflict before the need for deadly force is imminent.

    1. I like your “defensive insurance” view. Mostly, I like that you were creative enough to come up with an approach that your students could relate to and understand. This is the responsibility and the challenge for any good instructor. Stop blaming the students and come up with a better approach. If you can’t see the improvement in your students by the end of class, then you aren’t paying attention. Or you need to take a harder look at your curriculum and your teaching style.

      I would agree that many folks just aren’t ready to understand the importance of training. Our first challenge as instructors is to figure out a way to help them understand. Then we can move forward. We will have failures. That is part of our learning.

  2. Concise and well written.

    We used to say in the Army that “if it isn’t evaluated against standards, it isn’t training; its familiarization”.

    The question remains: “how do people find good trainers in their area?” Not just cult of personality big names, but good trainers.

    This post offers some insights. Foremost, what are the testing standards and what are they based on? The answer to that can be very enlightening.

    Second, is the caution that popular training may just be entertainment. Whether that’s “good enough” remains open to discussion

    It would be helpful for tactical professor and associates to put together a list of questions and answers for evaluating trainers. Grant Cunningham has alluded to useful questions, e.g., what training has the trainer taken lately and what has the trainer changes his mind about.

    The more this idea of evaluating trainers is explored and discussed by trainers on their blogs, the better students can make decisions about allocating their scarce resources of time, energy, practice, and money.

    Thanks for posting the assessment. I look forward to more detailed insights on evaluating trainers and making a lifetime training plan.

  3. When I teach NRA First Steps classes and I learn the student is buying or has purchased a gun for defensive use I tell them First Steps isn’t that kind of training. After completing the NRA curriculum I show the difference by having them shoot targets while standing, clear stoppages do mag changes and talk about the difference between cover and concealment . It doesn’t take long for them to realize how much they don’t know. I belive that’s one of the problems, people don’t know what defensive firearms training entails. They learned to shoot from granddaddy/dad/YouTube and that’s all they need.

  4. This should be read by a lot of trainers out there, many of whom imagine their target market to be made up of people with discipline and drive (like themselves), when in fact the vast majority of that market often turns out to have little of either. (There are outliers, as Claude notes, but they are few.) What they the market DOES have are INTERESTS and MONEY, and they’ll spend the latter (sometimes a LOT of it) to gain the former. And there’s nothing AT ALL wrong with that–why shouldn’t they? Heck, it’s fun. To imagine they’re all REALLY willing to put in what’s REALLY required to be REALLY “combat effective,” however, is a mistake. Failing to understand the distinction between the market as imagined and the market as it exists tends to lead to frustration, disillusionment, and tremendous business challenges. I would suggest that for most trainers (and I’ll throw myself in the mix for purposes of this post), our goal should be to provide the market with what THEY perceive as value for their dollar, and if we can incrementally move them in a direction that makes them better able to defend themselves, that’s a good day’s work.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    1. I should be clear–when I say their market tends to lack discipline and drive, I mean in the context of what’s required to be combat effective. They may have TREMENDOUS discipline and drive with respect to their day jobs, their faith, their families. That’s what they’ve optimized their lives to accomplish, and good for them.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  5. Claude,

    HOME RUN!!!

    I have been saying the same thing for a long time … Not as eloquently though.

    Keep up the good work!!

    Gary J. Glemboski Director Global Tactical Training Group Facebook http://www.gtac.us 912-667-5667 The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. – Epictitus

  6. Well, in our first 3 levels of classes at Firearms Academy of Seattle, there is no testing. We used to test in Level 2, but found ourselves teaching to the test, and not covering stuff students needed to know at that level. By the time a student reaches level 4, we have weeded out about 90% of the students, and what we have left are the dedicated 10%. That’s okay. Then we run them through a very difficult “Handgun Masters Test” which only about 25% pass.

    1. Mr. Hayes, in your first 3 levels of classes you don’t check to see if learning has occurred or if improvement has happened in your first 3 levels of classes?

      Claude says “Further, real training involves some kind of measurement. …There are many forms testing can take but it has to be a part of training.” —the students don’t have to shoot a qualification test for them to be tested. Looking at changes in accuracy levels from the first iteration of a drill to the final one, running them on a timer and seeing the differences in times as practice occurs–those are measurements of training effectiveness also.

      You don’t do any of that in your first three levels of classes? If not, how do you know that what you are teaching is working? That the students are using the techniques and it is making a positive difference?

  7. “Ticket punchers” can be a difficult market segment to reach/sell to without making compromises in your curriculum since their primary concerns are bottom dollar cost and length of the class.

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