Within the tactical- and self-defense community the discussion of experience over practical training is often a hot topic. With any sort of training aid the question also arises: What background does it derive from? Which is a total legit question to ask.
Usually MIL or LE is the prefered reference point for any sorts of solid background authentication but as times have shifted so has the base from which we get our “training” material. With the internet being so delightful, the stream of information is unlimited - but for all its glory also comes a price.
With the not so recent influx of IG shooters, YouTube gun celebs and IPSC / Airsoft Influencers - the art of showing off as become a lucrative business and there is plenty to go around. Nowadays everybody has an opinion on tactics, best CC, best AR15 build, best home defense knife and just about whatever can be sold as entertainment and some do it really well. With the trend of the shot timer being a stamp of approval and the 1-1-1 basically being the ultimate popular useless drill, the counter response is to demand some type of clarification or verification.
Best example for loosen context.
But does the authority of experience trump analytic training and results?
Learning by doing is the basic bitch approach to getting better and understanding how or why things are done. But old school or even new school training converted into real-world application and thus experience gained doesn’t always represent the most optimal tactics or skill.
This is a misconception within the tactical community and the whole industry as a whole. Now I’m not taking away achievements from veterans or active duty personnel - to put it very bluntly into perspective, Private Gomer Pyle could do 2 tours and make it back. Doesn’t make him an expert into CQB tactics and Weapons manipulation.
Don’t get me wrong - the IG shooters with plate carriers and NODs at the range can’t give you the full picture either. Paper targets and shot timers do not in any way give you the right tools. They are merely indications of your particular skill for a very specific drill and not a performance indicator for real-world application. And here is the tip of the day - do not trust the videos you see online. You don’t know many takes it took to get right, how it’s been edited or how the results have been manipulated. Question everything.
And this is where experience trumps analytical training.
The many factors that cause training specific drills to fade in comparison to experience is self-explanatory - when faced with high stress, tunnel vision, fatigue, trauma, and information overload both visually and physical - you not only fall back to your training which so many like to quote, but you also rely on personal experience. Not only combat experience but also life lessons dictate how you react to things. Basic chemical and neurological responses such as human behavior are hardwired at an early age and updated with experience (not only combat).
But even with experience, you should take those credentials with a grain of salt. The instructor might be an ex-Delta Navy Beret - that doesn’t mean the ninja roll with dual shotguns is the best way to enter a room full of bad guys.
Speaking about the experience, now you are probably wondering how can someone with an extended amount of experience in a certain field might not be competent, or let me rephrase it - suitable - for a teaching position? the answer is very complicated, but if i would to write it short, I would simply state that experience, isnt a form of validation. experience can be elusive, the experience can be deluding. especially if we take into account that under high stress and duress, and especially when a fighter is in extremely close proximity to the threat, he will experience certain levels of perceptual distortions (Solomon & Horn, 1986; Campbell, 1992, Klinger & Brunson, 2009). So how can an experience which involves a series set of perceptual distortions, deemed feasible without proper analytical, scientific validation process? think about it.
Where the IG shooters and Social Media celebs actually contribute, is the freedom to evolve. They have all the time, resources and input to listen, try and develop new or better methods.
But this is not a new thing. Competition shooters have been doing this for years. They took an analytical approach to problem solve, develop and improve their shooting skills while cutting unnecessary time and movement away. You as an individual can do the same, but remember Paper targets are specific set criteria that the real world won’t throw at you.
There isn’t a conclusion to my rant - far from it. I can’t tell you what works and why. If you’re into old school doctrine or new school innovations there is only one thing I can tell you from experience. I’ve been given tons of how to’s for a specific problem whether it be accuracy, tactics or gear - the only course of action that got me to perform my best is to try it out and measure your own performance. And not by only doing a certain drill - do more, grind more test your limits.
Take the time to look at it analytically with hard tracking of your performance and from there build on your experience. And when you finally find that sweet spot - rethink it. Re-engineer and take an analytical approach to evolve how or why you did it - you might fail and get worse performance if that’s the case you go back to your base performance and try again until another method works better for you.
This isn’t guru gold nuggets of advice - this should be the basis for everybody. But with the overwhelming stream of short cut shooters and Hollywood tactics, we tend to forget to stop and ask why and get legit information based on both experience and hard data.
Think for yourself. Question authority.
Written by KDS (Kireru: Disruptive Society, Contributor writer for Project Gecko