“How did you like the CCW renewal class yesterday?”
“Oh… it was great. Learned a bunch. Didn’t like the dry-fire portion though.”
“Really? Did something happen?”
“No, I mean, I get it. Some of these people have limited knowledge and they need to get comfortable. I’ve been shooting for years. I know what I’m doing. Besides… that five-count thing? That’s silly… that whole reloading thing is silly too. I just point the gun and I’m never going to reload. I’ve got a fifteen-round clip.”
That is an actual conversation from a couple of weeks ago.
Taken by itself it is depressing as hell. There are, however, other more insidious issues that can manifest in a training environment as well. At least someone like this wears his idiocy on his sleeve.
In our “pre-COVID” CCW classes I used to reference a samurai warrior. Some of you may remember this story; if you do, please indulge me for a minute:
“Imagine a mountain top. The year is 1620 and we are in feudal Japan. On top of this mountain is a wooden cross. It is not a religious symbol. It is a martial arts training tool. Standing next to the cross is a samurai warrior. He is magnificent to behold in full regalia and armor. He does not have his traditional samurai swords, though. He has shaped bamboo training batons. You watch as he draws his “swords” and begins to move around the cross engaging it with perfectly timed and executed strikes. He is a pure master at skill-at-arms. Thousands of perfectly executed repetitions direct each one of his current strikes. Each perfect blow is the result of each repetition he has engaged in through a lifetime of training.
Now, remove him from your mental picture and replace him with a modern fourteen-year-old boy holding a cardboard tube from his mom’s wrapping paper. He holds the tube like a lightsaber and just stands next to the cross whacking away at it.
Those are the two extremes of our training spectrum. You have either made the commitment to be as close to the samurai as possible, or you have relegated yourself at the same level as the fourteen-year-old boy.”
I would give this little admonition and see our students nodding knowingly in agreement. Some would just stare at me as though I had just completely deflated them. I suspect that would have been the reaction of the gentleman at the beginning of this blog.
This is the easy part though. Understanding that in the journey of development of mastery at skill-at-arms, there is no room for ego is obvious. I am not particularly impressed, nor is anyone for that matter, at the fact that you’ve owned a gun for a number of years. Even your incredible ability to fire rounds into a stationary target at a known distance is not going to fundamentally alter our worldview. We are all students, constantly students. Anything less fundamentally degrades the corollary of mastery at skill-at-arms… professionalism-at-arms.
There are some potential traps, though, of which even the best of us can fall victim; chief among them is passive indifference.
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Think about your own experience driving a vehicle. The more comfortable we become with an automobile, the more risks we are willing to take while operating it. The same can manifest in weapons training as well, with the same catastrophic results waiting in the wings to manifest.
The other day I was walking through the lab on my way to the armory and I saw a bunch of our 4M students getting ready to go through a series of drills. Some students were holding their guns at the same elevation as their belt buckles as they changed magazines, and one individual actually had his finger on the trigger as he was inspecting his gun.
The instructor called a halt to the proceedings and had a “come-to-Jesus” conversation with the class.
Later that night one of the students and I were talking and he gently complained that the instructor in question was a “little strict”.
“What would you have done if your child was going to be working with those other clients at a live-fire range the next day?”, was my retort.
Some people have a general interest about learning how to safely operate a firearm. I get it. The fact they have sought out some form of training is laudable.
Others have made the actual commitment to bear arms. This comes with a moral mandate: You need to train. Training is something that requires a commitment in and of itself. There must be a recognition that knowledge and methodology are not static and, more importantly, “mastery” is really nothing more than mastery of the fundamentals. Once the fundamentals have been abandoned in favor of laziness, training ceases. Now whatever it is you are doing…certainly not “training”… can have counterproductive effects. Repeated muscle movements are going to have an effect on you no matter what. By doing it wrong repeatedly you are driving into your muscle memory.
Sitting at the piano and striking the keys in an improper manner may very well lead to a plateauing of technical ability. It will not, however, potentially injure or kill you.
Playing with guns improperly is completely different. This is going to wind up with someone getting killed. It cannot, nor will not, ever be tolerated and making excuses for lazy behavior does nothing but enable lazy behavior.