When I taught my first combat pistol class as a civilian, I asked a respected warrior to audit the class and critique my outline, performance and the class in general. Tony Copper, a seasoned High Speed – Low Drag operator (HSLDO) attended and even assisted with instruction in a humble and respectful way. I was lucky. He WAS a HSLDO.
Most shooting instructors have experienced the attitude of, “I have been in combat, shot machine guns, am currently wearing tactical pants, have killed folks and by golly you ain’t gonna tell me anything.” This can be intimidating and a challenge for shooting instructors, and I hope that the following suggestions will help in your coaching.
Suggest “trying” rather than ordering to do a thing. With a humble beginner, we can often say, “pull the stock into your shoulder tightly” and they will gratefully comply. When speaking to a HSLDO, I have learned it is better to suggest, “You might try pulling the stock into your shoulder a little harder to see if you like it any better.”
If training a beginner alongside a HSLDO, I learned a great trick from Brandon Cunningham, a lifelong instructor not only in HSLDO maritime warfare topics, but law enforcement specialties as well. Brandon suggests that phrasing directed toward beginner Bill can include a mention of HSLDO Tom’s knowledge, “Bill, as Tom can tell you, bringing that stock tight into your shoulder will reduce your felt recoil and will make you ready for the next shot faster.” In this example, we appeared to be teaching Bill when in fact we were communicating to Tom.
“Correct me if I am wrong, but I find that I am able to get the next shot off more quickly if I pull the stock into my shoulder tightly.” My offering the HSLDO the opportunity to correct you, he will either correct you (and you will learn a great new technique) or he will take the time to observe the tips you offer, evaluate them and then potentially incorporate them into his bag of tricks.
Tony’s famous line is, “maybe your way is better, I have a shot timer right here. Let’s try it both ways and see which one works best.” This technique should only be tried if the person testing techniques is a good shooter and will honestly give their best effort with both techniques.
Another communication tip, if pleasant and respectful communication has failed, is to recognize the HSLDO’s “excellence” and admit, perhaps with some sarcasm, that he is “simply too far advanced in his skills for you to help.” If you have clarified with him that your training session is not a “tough guy’ contest, and is simply designed to offer some techniques and he refuses to have an open mind; maybe it is time to triage him as a lost cause. Many shooting instructors are enthralled with patriotism and believe respect is owed anyone that wears a White Kepi, Green Beret or Spetsnaz cap, depending on their government of origin. Respecting a HSLDO for serving his government can only go so far however if that man refuses to respectfully investigate what you have to offer. There are times that training session simply must be cut short.
I have been fortunate to train HSLDOs from many places and have found that those that are “REALLY” HSLDO are very nice, humble, self confident men that love to add new tricks to their bag. These men, like Tony, teach me new tricks as well as investigate my offerings. I hope they know that while I am perhaps wearing the “teacher” hat on that day, I profoundly respect their skills as well!
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