Recently, a friend of mine, noted pistol instructor Todd Green, posted an article about the need for trainers to not shove their dogma down every trainee’s throat (http://pistol-training.com/archives/9186).
It was an excellent article and one I agree wholeheartedly with. However, this attitude of “everyone needs to find what fits them best” can be, and too often is, taken to the extreme where that becomes a blanket excuse that literally anything espoused by anyone is justified as valid. Nothing could be further from the truth. When we can show through actual real world footage what is working and what is not, we cannot accept all ways as valid. Just because someone does not like to grapple, they don’t get to ignore the reality of it. Or if someone says that they have a better way of firing a pistol under stress, then show it so the world can see it for themselves. We have an objective, end-based performance standard, and we have a general idea of best practices to get there, whether we are talking about firearms, knives, impact weapons, or H2H. If you want to say you have a better way, prove it publicly and openly, not is your little closed door world where you get to act all Yoda like, pretending you are some awesome fighting guru.
I have had these discussion innumerable times with a number of my friends and peers in the training community like Mick Coup, Paul Sharp, Craig Douglas, Claude Werner, and Larry Lindenman, among others. Mick one time put it very succinctly to me – “More than one way to skin a cat…True, there is, but generally not when you want it done properly…” Exactly. The other form of the cliche is “all roads lead to the same place” Well, maybe, but if one road is a direct line via highway and avoids street traffic, and another road is a long, windy one that goes through treacherous and dangerous terrain, and severely damages your vehicle, are they really the same path? And is it okay to take either way? Of course not! We want to take the best route that works for most people most of the time. Anything else is a waste at best, and at worst can get someone hurt or killed.
Take a look at weight training. There are a lot of methods to get bigger, stronger, and more fit with weights. We know how the best way to lift to put on muscle. We know the best protocol to get stronger. We know the best way to use them to increase muscular and cardio endurance. Those methods are not the same as each other, and all have an objective standard to meet. Now, anyone who has never lifted before and then starts any program will most likely add muscle, get stronger, and get more fit with a single methodology. However, that won’t last forever and they will have to quickly move to the accepted methods. Arguing that any weight lifting system will work using this example is a failed point. We are looking at the overall success rates, not what works in a short time frame, or for a unique individual. Those are anomalies. We need best practices that can be replicated by most people in most situations.
Self-defense is the same way. There are a lot of paths up the mountain (to use another insipid cliché) but I want to use the best, safest path that will give me the best chance of reaching the top, and as an instructor I need to be looking for the best way that will give as many of my athletes the best shot at doing so themselves, always taking into account their own individual situations. Doing otherwise is a disservice, and if we are talking about self-defense, it can also be ethically negligent.
Does this mean that we always teach one dogmatic path and ignore all else? Absolutely not. We should always be looking to improve and expand on our knowledge. If we can find a better, or another way, that meets that same objective performance standards, then we certainly should adopt them. But not just because it is “another tool in the toolbox”. That is the lazy way out, and intellectually dishonest.