When it comes to self-defense training, there are many gimmicks out there, a lot of idiots with naive followers, and, of course, a lot of excellent teachers and thought leaders as well. Sifting through the entire mashup can be the foremost challenge for many just getting into preparedness and self-defense. However, even for those who are invested in it, we find a recurring issue: many people do what they like rather than do what they need. As you can see, this typical life trait applies to self-defense as well. There are many skillsets that are necessary for the establishment of well-rounded preparedness, but most people pursue favored particulars over the broader picture.
The most obvious manifestation of this trend that I find is the over-emphasis of the gun. Now, if you are reading this blog you know where I stand on the role of the handgun: it is the supreme weapon of personal defense that has no equals among concealable tools. This, however, does not mean that if we carry a handgun and know how to shoot it we are good-to-go. Hardly. The biggest problem that I see among those that actually do seek out training is a fetish with “shooting classes” and little, if any, time spent taking other “fighting classes.” Fighting is fighting, whether it involves the use of a gun or not, and while I am all for honing shooting ability to excellence, shooting is just one part of fighting.
So, how should we break our training goals down into a useable rubric? Well, here is a start: if you have taken multiple shooting classes, ranging from basic gun safety to more advanced defensive handgun classes, then shelve the shooting classes for a while and start training in other disciplines. Even within the specific field of shooting, the shooting classes that have you only basting at paper serve a purpose, but taking such training over and over is of limited value. Carbine classes that have students run around in body armor and shoot over the hood of vehicles teaches civilians a skill that is of limited value. When does a civilian self-defender use such a skill? Sure, it might be used in a dystopian future, but I can tell you that in the current reality a good force-on-force class focused on handguns serves a far more valuable purpose.
However, let’s look beyond just the shooting. What else is important? That is the question to ask, and that question should guide your training goals. The reasonable way to answer the question, “what is important,” is to study “what actually happens.” Some time spent analyzing the trends of real violence will tell you what you need to know. Consider, for example, that 80% of assaults in the United States annually are “simple assaults” rather than “deadly assaults.” This means that, statistically, four out of five assaults you are likely to encounter will not justify the use of deadly force. If you are an able-bodied male and you shoot another able bodied male because he pushes you in a parking lot over a parking space dispute, you will have some serious legal problems. Do you have the needed hand skills to deal with such an assault? Do you carry pepper spray, and have you been trained in its use? Such a consideration may lead you to realize that some combatives and less-lethal tool training is in order.
You are, statistically, more likely to need to render first aid to someone than you are to ever need to shoot somebody. Have you taken emergency medical training? Taking stop the bleed and TCCC training gives you a skillset that you are actually more likely to use than your fighting skills. You are certainly more likely, in an order of magnitude, to need basic hand fighting skills, less-lethal skills, or medical skills, than you are to ever use your carbine. A carbine/vehicle course sure is fun, but for a civilian it is fantasy band camp. A combatives class is less fun, and a medical class might seem boring, but for a civilian it is what you are most likely to need.
I think taking a bunch of professional classes is great, but consider what you are spending your money and your time on. Prioritize the skills that you are more likely to need.