Instructor Zero: “Virtual range scars“ and intellectual bias form counterproductive pattern in your training and your shooting habits!

Article by Instructor Zero

In today’s information age, emboldened by the modern internet, the line between what makes sense and what is utter nonsense can be thin. This is especially true for the tactical training industry.

On one hand, we are living in a very blessed time: internet, YouTube, and social media have spread the importance of our profession around the globe. Meanwhile, new techno- logies, give us access to highly specialized information. We should truly be grateful for this. This is the modern, exciting world we are living in.

However, on the other hand, we face a very dangerous and counterproductive phenome-non that I call “The cognitive bubble of YouTube.“ What I mean is, if the brain watches something, it takes that infor- mation in and creates its own reality. There are those out there who watch shooting videos.  Those same people then think they are trained, simply because of what they have seen. Or, they just feel better by what they have seen.

This visual stimulus gives them an adrenaline rush because it seems exciting and it seems like it may have some logic. The brain takes this visual stimulus, accompanied by the physiological response to the stimulus, and makes its own reality, simply because of what was just seen.

The immediate and on demand access to this stimulus creates the illusion of being able to perform what the brain has just processed due to the accessible visual stimulus. People are creating a false sense of professionalism and security when they take this information in and then turn it into their own reality, whether consciously or subconsciously.

The end-result is “virtual range scars“ sneaking silently into your thinking as intellectual bias or, as a counterproductive pattern in your own shooting habits. This one day may result in very dangerous outcomes for those who act overconfident. It may also be just plain wrong, simply because their brain has consumed information out of context and created its own reality.

Not just “kids with a keyboard“ syndrome

Do not fool yourself, it’s not just “kids with a keyboard“ syndrome. It can even happen to seasoned professionals because it is very easy to overlook a small error in your thought process or a dangerous bias. This can be especially true in today’s climate of information overload when we are trying to evaluate certain techniques, while simultaneously, wading through the overflow of too much information.

Especially, if you live and work in the echo chamber of such a highly specialized profession such as tactical training or firearms. Any information can be good and bad at the same time.

We must learn how to handle this constant flow of information while at the same time, being able to recognize when bias and bad habits are overtaking what really makes sense. That will be a huge challenge for our industry. It is very easy to take the opinion of “The internet is bad“, “YouTube sucks“, and so on. We must recognize this reaction is narrow-minded, especially, for a complex profession like tactical training, firearms, or close protection.

We must master the information, not become enslaved by it. Understanding this concept will make a huge difference in how and what we train, for a very long time.

Mechanics, shooting, and tactics

That leads me to another point that must be considered based on where we, as an industry, stand today. If our industry really wants to deliver on what it is promising, then we must instill into the general populations mindset that all information, all training, and all drills, are solely based on context and context alone.

You can train your mind and body to shoot incredibly fast. On the range and in competition, this is beneficial. However, as a professional in the security business, if you shoot faster than your brain can process information, it could mean serious trouble for you. Mechanics, shooting, and tactics are applied based on context. The key to discovering what makes sense in your personal training regimen will come only after you have evaluated your environment, purpose, and desired outcome. The context is everything.

In an active shooter situation, a person who can process chaotic and random information in a highly effective way has an advantage over a shooter who is three times faster.

Instructors must understand, that the human brain, not the mechanics, is the key. We must of course master the fundamentals. However, fundamentals only give us the certainty to act appropriately in a constantly changing or challenging environment. Fundamentals are the road map, but your brain is the driver. The driver has to understand the road he has taken. Driving Rally Dakar is different than driving New York rush hour. In both environments, a driver can fail and die. The same can happen to law enforcement and military operators if they do not understand the very specific parameters applicable to their given situation in a certain environment. The brain must be your ultimate advantage, not the trigger.

Remember, it can only be to your advantage if you train your brain to understand, learn, and process information while countering various environments and conditions.

Although practicing on a shooting range is good, it does not necessarily prepare you for real world situations.

Instructors must be fully transparent with this gap and explain to students on the range, the differences between what students think they do while being with us, and what really awaits them in the real world. If you are threatened with the real possibility of imminent death, you will act completely different than in a fun and “Hey, Bro!“ environment of the shooting range, on Sunday. Instructors must educate their students about this gap of what they think they do and what really awaits them should they have to draw their gun. It also means, we should always teach the simple fact: “If we return home without drawing our guns, we have done our jobs right. “

Complex task like firearms training, CQB, or tactical training

So, in this age of information in a highly connected world, what could be the ultimate advantage for instructors? The very simple answer is, we need to learn from each other. There is so much “My Tactical Kung Fu is better than your Tactical Kung Fu“ going on in the industry. We must ask ourselves, why? Are we not in this to train good people to step up against bad guys and dangerous threats? We are not a competitive shooter, where only one person can win the championship.

If I think that a team or a student could learn a specific skill better in the presence of another instructor, I will always pass them on to the one who can best serve their needs. Why not? If you think you can cover all aspects of such a highly complex task like firearms training, CQB, or tactical training, then you are delusional. There is no universal ninja, there is no universal answer.

The very nature of what we do as instructors in tactical and firearms training, obligates us to be constantly learning. I see myself as a part-time instructor, but full-time learner. I can‘t stop learning. If you stop learning in this profession, then you are either dead, will be soon, or you simply don‘t care about your job anymore. If that is the case, then honestly, you should quit.

Constantly learning is the most crucial ability we need to have and maintain in our profession. You stop learning, and you will die. This death can be figurative, meaning professionally, or personally. It can also be literal through the hands of a bad guy who fights you in a manner you didn’t understand in the moment, because you got lazy.

The truth about our profession is very simple: Get back home in one piece! That‘s it.  Then, as instructors, we must teach others to come back home in one piece. That’s the meaning of our profession, plain and simple. If an operator returns to his family, we have done our job. In order to be successful, it requires constant learning. Not only for the operators we train, but also for us, as instructors. The responsibility we shoulder is too high to become lazy or ignorant.

Because the risks and the responsibilities are so high, I would like to see more cooperation between instructors worldwide. More openness, more “Come over here, let‘s see what we have, and let‘s get things done!“. This attitude would be a big step forward for our industry. No instructor has a secret ninja box. However, all true instructors share a passion for learning. We should share this passion to get better every day, because in the end, we create better students who come back to ask for our services or recommend what we do, and that will grow our industry in general.

CQB tactics related with home defense

I would like to close my outlook with some thoughts about best practices and ethics. Like all industries, we have some bad apples, and we all know it. These companies offer services without background checks. They teach civilians advanced CQB tactics when there is no need for civilians to learn room entries, team tactics, or hostage rescue, because simply put, they will likely never need and or use it.

If a civilian gets into trouble, it will most likely happen on the street, around his car, or in his own house.  Sorry to crush some dreams, but if you are a civilian in a defensive situation, know that there will be no team, no good-looking room-entry, no rescue tactics. To put it bluntly, you will have to deal with a rough and unexpected outbreak of chaotic violence that may, cost your life, your car, or your money. No Medal of Honor or a higher ranking in Call of Duty awaits you, thereafter.

It is important that we get this information out into the minds of the public audience. Because we are dealing with too much false information about the truth of our profession. That false information harms our reputation collectively as an industry.

We should be very clear in 2020: No advanced tactics in social media! No courses like “hostages rescue” for civilians, no asymmetric team tactics for civilians. We can teach CQB to civilians, yes, but if we want to truly be honest, real, and serious on what we are doing, we should teach them only individual CQB tactics related with home defense and eventually, introduce strategies to include our family.

This will help us to create a cleaner and more serious business environment where we can prosper in what we want to stand for: Security and responsibility in a world that wants to make a big step forward to becoming safer and better while being less afraid of certain elements who threaten our people because they don‘t share our values of taking care of others and living a honorable way of life.

– Article by Instructor Zero, December 2019 as part of the Tactical Industry Outlook 2020

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