Col. Cooper on Instructors

The great Col. Jeff Cooper for all practical purposes founded the modern defensive firearms training community. He was intimately involved in teaching people how to shoot for most of his 86 years. As such, he had many insights into what went into the making of a good instructor. While he was speaking to the ability to teach shooting, his guidelines have as much direct connection to the instruction of H2H fighting as well. Here is an excerpt from some of his writings:

“….a good instructor, above all, must seek his student’s excellence. He must place more value on his ability to teach a man to shoot than on his own ability to shoot. His work gratifies his ego when his student becomes a good shot, and improvement is more satisfying to the ego than excellence. It is fine to raise a B shooter to the A category, but it is far better to raise a D to a B……… (a good instructor) must realize that matters which are quite obvious to him may be complete mysteries to a novice. This sort of knowledge is not inherent and must be acquired through experience.”

So much good stuff there.

2 thoughts on “Col. Cooper on Instructors”

  1. The Obvious/Mystery experience goes for us students too. There’s been a number of times when I’ve reflected on training classes after gaining more experience, and finally the light bulb came on, “Oh, so THAT’s what he meant!”

  2. Spot on! Many instructors, even very good ones, know what skills they want their students to have acquired by, and, for the most part, do a very good job of conveying those skills. Many however, miss conveying the meaning and application of those skills.

    Specific to various types of defensive handgun and small-unit tactics that I teach, the most important thing that I try to convey to students is context. A lot of instructors teach activities on the range as nothing more than a choreography. “Step step shoot step step reload step shoot shoot”. These moves are probably the correct moves, but they offer no context, no “Here’s why” or “Here’s what’s happening and why this reaction works”. They might be the correct moves, but in response to what? Because they aren’t the correct moves for all engagements.

    It is important for the student to know the what and why of what they’re doing. “Ring that steel at least every once every second.” has a very different meaning to a student new to shooting at battlefield distances than “Ring that steel at least once every second so that the dumbass hiding behind it doesn’t have a chance to pop out and return fire. This will allow your teammates the ability to move.”

    That deeper understanding, along with a little critical thinking, allows the student to extrapolate and stitch concepts together, and to recognize earlier if something isn’t working, and shift course to apply a different tactic while there’s still time.

    I like to describe it as “teaching them how to win a fight, rather than teaching them things to do when in a fight.”

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