Earlier this month, I had a chance to talk at length with Michael Bane about any number of topics. Not surprisingly, the topic of firearms training came up quite often. In talking with Michael, I was able to get a better handle on not just what I teach, but why I teach it. It occurred to be that what I’m doing is teaching a narrative (not a surprising for a gun writer).
I teach to a narrative because it’s how we talk about ourselves and what we do. We don’t talk in bullet points, we talk in stories. When something happens to us, we tell a story, not a pie chart. Stories are comforting. Stories are easy to remember. More importantly, stories are instantly relatable because they are our oldest means of commnication. From the legend of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to the movies of today, it’s the narrative that guides our emotions and how we think about ourselves.
What do I mean by “teaching to a narrative?” It doesn’t mean telling war stories about your time in service to this country or as a law enforcement officer or that one time, at band camp. Rather, teaching to a narrative means empowering your student to tell stories to themselves about what they learned in class and how it relates to their lives. It’s about giving them a reason for everything you do or say in class, a reason that they can relate to what is around them. It isn’t about you telling YOUR story, nor is it telling them skills that are more applicable to military or law enforcement. Instead, teaching to a narrative is about giving a student the tools to create their own story of their journey towards safe and effective armed self-defense.
Consider this: When a law enforcement officer rolls up on an incident, the report that he or she will write is a narrative. They will write out what they saw and what others around have told them. The statement a victim of a violent crime makes to the D.A. (with their attorney present, of course) is a narrative. The prosecutor’s case is a narrative, so is the defense attorney’s. I want my students to be able to speak in their voice and be able to explain, with confidence, why they acted like they did when everything was on the line.
It’s that last little bit, “with confidence,” that makes all the difference. You can’t confidence talking about something you know nothing about. Okay, let me modify that statement. Politicians can talk (At length!) about a subject they know little to nothing about, but I ain’t trained one, and I hope I never do. For the rest of us, though, confidence comes as we gain expertise and can relate that expertise to our lives, or to what might happen in our lives.
This is what I mean by narrative. It means teaching to what you need to know to win not just a gun fight, but how to lead a happy and successful life that is based on that knowledge. Developing a skill, like a quick, smooth draw or a fast, accurate shot is one thing. Developing a calm outlook based on secure and certain knowledge you can perform those tasks on-demand is something else.
Skills are the foundation, but a foundation is no good unless it is tested and found to be able to hold up under weight. This is where standardized tests come in, ideally ones that have some application in law enforcement or military.
Standardized tests are the framework of what we’re building. Passing a standardized tests builds your confidence, gives you pride in your accomplishment and makes you want to improve your skills. Passing a test with LE or .mil applications gives you confidence (and bragging rights), but it can also help you create a narrative in the courtroom* that you’re trained to the same standard as a law enforcement office or Marine or Federal Air Marshall or LAPD SWAT.
So that’s my concept of narrative-based training. I want to help my students write their own story of armed self-defense and live a life of peaceful calm in an increasingly trouble world, because no one has the right to bring their story to an abrupt, violent conclusion without their say-so.
* This is the usual “not lawyer, not legal advice” disclaimer. As if you needed it.