Changing, Evolving, Adjusting--What, When, Why
CR Williams, Suarez International Staff Instructor
I've been an active Suarez International Staff Instructor about a year now, which means that I don't have a lot of 'time on the clock' actively teaching gunfighting. Even in that short time, interesting ideas that bear some thinking about have come up, one of which I wrote of in The Fifty-Percent Trap. That idea started with a statement.
This other idea started as a question: What have you changed about your techniques or methods of handling a gun or gunfighting since you started training?
My answer was, and still is, that I can't think of anything that hasn't changed since I started learning how to fight with a gun. I've got many years on the clock as a student of the fight. I did not actively train that whole time, but I still studied and watched, asked questions and worked over concepts, considered and practiced techniques, systems, and methodologies of combat armed and not. I can name five separate gunfighting systems alone that I have examined over time. In one posting on that thread I said could not remember about certain specific changes I have made in my own practice, only that I suspect that I've made them, because of how long I've been considering the fight. I suspect that others of you, even those that have not been looking at this as long as I have, are the same way. We've seen a lot of things, learned a lot of things, and changed so much since we started that it seems like everything even if it's not.
So "pretty much everything over time" was my answer. So then another question was asked just for instructors: What have you changed about what you teach or the way you teach it since you started?
My answer to that was that I haven't been instructing long enough, (as this article is posted, just one year) to see changes that are needed in what I teach or the way I teach it so far. My limited experience told me first to wait for additional experience. I said that I expected that in time I would make changes, but that so far I didn't have enough 'time on the clock' to make considered judgments about it.
The response to that was revealing as to how the questioner, and probably others, appear to define things, which is apparently very definitely in terms of right and wrong. The expressed determination and definition is apparently that you go from doing something wrong to doing something right, from mistake to correction as you progress in your knowledge and capability. This is not the way I think of it, and so it bears some thinking about the idea of "changing".
The questions and the answers raised more questions: When is a change the result of a realized mistake, something you discovered you were doing wrong, and when is it the result of a realization that something else works better and is more effective than what you were doing before? How do you define what is wrong and what is not current or state-of-the-art? Was I wrong to have adopted those other methodologies as I did, and was I correcting a mistake when I progressed to another methodology that I believed was better, or simply going from less effective to more effective methods? As an instructor, should I push what I believe to be correct on to my students, even if it doesn't work for them as well as it works for me?
Revolver, Semiauto: One doesn't work at all, or one just works better than the other for more people and places?
Here's where the apparently stricter position and definition breaks down: The other methodologies can and do still work. As I point out in Where Modern Technique Went Wrong, Modern Technique, like the Traditional Martial Arts it has joined, can still save lives and continues to do so. But it is no longer the best solution for the civilian gun-carrier. Does that make MT wrong as a methodology? For some, certainly...but for everyone?
I've been a student of the fight long enough to understand that there is no "one size fits all" kind of technique or methodology. What is right for one person may be wrong for another. Seen from this perspective, there is only what works best and what doesn't, not what is right or what is wrong in some over-arching sense. It is possible that, although other instructors have more time on the 'instructing clock' than I do, that I have more time on the 'student of combat' clock than they do, and this can explain the different ways we view the same thing. It is also possible that they believe that what they teach is so flexible and adaptable and/or over-arching that even though they acknowledge better specific techniques and specific methods within their methodologies, they have locked themselves out of the idea of a technique or concept, class of concepts, or methodology that doesn't work as well sometimes and for some people as it does for other times and other people.
Consider the Modern Technique vs. what Suarez International currently teaches. SI instructor Randy Harris has accurately stated that we do indeed teach aspects of Modern Technique. Those aspects are presented in our basic handgun courses, Introduction to Defensive Pistol and Defensive Pistol Skills and in our one-day HITS handgun courses. What would be wrong in this case would be if SI taught those aspects to our primary student group (civilians facing reactive gunfight situations) beyond that point. MT methodology is not as effective for them and is not as adaptable to their needs, as what SI teaches at the intermediate level and beyond. As I have said, though, that doesn't make MT totally ineffective, doesn't make it wrong as a fighting methodology. It, like other Traditional Martial Arts, just doesn't fit our current 'battlefield' as well as it did in the past.
Here lies, I believe, the source of the discrepancy of viewpoint between me (and SI) and these others, both students and instructors. They appear to be looking at techniques and methodologies as wrong or right, whereas I (and SI) look at them as being current or applicable to a given threat environment or group (or even a specific student's need) or not.
In my view, I would be wrong to use an inappropriate methodology. In my view, I move from what is not current to what is, from less effective to more effective, from less applicable to more applicable. I move from what still works but not as well to State Of The Art. Others apparently move from mistake to correction and from what is wrong to what is right.
Perhaps their estimation of the gap between what is best and what is not, what is right and what is wrong is too large and rigid. Perhaps they really believe that what works best for one works best for everyone, or that the technique they discarded for something better isn't just not as effective or useful, but that it doesn't work at all anymore. I doubt this belief is as rigid as it reads like it is, but I also see some 'cookie cutter' teaching outside the military and law enforcement arena (where one-size-fits-all training is understandably common) that is simply unsuitable to the needs of the student.
I've become increasingly conscious of this reality: What I teach someone can have a direct bearing on whether they live or die. This makes it important--very important--for me to be rigidly flexible, absolutely adaptable, and conservatively considerate of everything I pass on to them, and to know more and different things than just what works for me. People I teach and people I write for here and in other venues need more from me than to be nothing more than wrong or right by definition. They need me to be current and adaptable, to be flexible and informed of present and past and to be able to pull from all of that to meet their needs, even if what they need is something I don't define as 'current' or that others define as 'right'. They need me to be as sure as I can be that a change or evolution or adaptation, however it's defined, is useful and beneficial before I teach it or promote it, no matter how new it is or how good it looks on TV and DVD.
For their sake, I can't afford to change, and I can't afford not to. There is the paradox of it.
Whatever they need to stay alive and win. Whatever they need to be the ones that go home when the fight is over. That is what I provide now, that is what I will continue to provide as long as I am able to. That is my word on it to you.
It would be wrong of me do anything else.
Stay safe out there. And if you can't stay safe, be dangerous.