Thoughts on self defense training,
Part 8: building blocks.
Monday, November 30, 2009 Filed in:
Self defense, Techniques &
a previous episode, I talked about doctrine,
dogma, and cliché. One particular subject is very often the source
of instructional dogmatism, and sometimes spills over into cliché:
the shooting stance.
Since we're talking about self defense, let's start with the
conclusion: as I study surveillance films of actual shootings, and
as I play with the concepts of force-on-force training, I'm struck
by the fact that violent encounters rarely involve an identifiable
stance. The players, especially the defender, are shooting from
whatever position in which they happen to find themselves.
If that's the end result, do we even need to worry about stances?
Why do we bother spending the time working on the isoceles,
Chapman, or Weaver stances when we're probably not going to be
using them when reality comes barging into our lives?
Over Thanksgiving I was discussing this with Georges Rahbani
("The Best Rifle Instructor You've Never Heard
Of".) For many years his 'Fighting
Rifle' triad has started with basic stances ('platforms', in
rifle-speak) and ended up with shooters using whatever stance they
happened upon in the course of the encounter. He explained that a
basic stance allows the student to do two very important things:
first, to eliminate a variable that keeps them from focusing on the
necessary stuff like trigger control and sight picture. Second, it
helps to develop the level of confidence necessary to be able to
control the shot no matter what. Once those have been achieved, the
notion of a stance can be jettisoned on the way to a better
understanding of a violent encounter.
Some may immediately think of the term 'training wheels', but I
prefer to call the stance a 'scaffold': a temporary device that
allows us to build something. In the case of a defensive shooter,
we're building a skill set. Without the support of the scaffold -
the solid, repeatable stance - it's difficult, if not impossible,
to build those skills. With it, the student can focus on the truly
important things, secure in the knowledge that they are operating
from a stable base.
The problem comes when the instructor doesn't understand the true
nature of the shooting stance. In those cases, the stance becomes
an end unto itself: it drives the instruction, rather than serving
as an instructional tool.
A few years back I had an encounter with an instructor who didn't
understand this. He went to great lengths explaining why his
preferred Weaver stance was the "only stance anyone should ever
need." When queried about physical makeup, gun/hand fit, and other
variables that affect the success or failure of any given stance
with any given student, all he could do was sputter that the Weaver
was "proven" to be superior. His dogma was well on the road to
I've met many shooters who were victims of such shortsighted
teachers. More than once have I observed graduates of multiple
shooting classes displaying the necessity of getting into just the
"perfect" stance in order to shoot. Forced out of that comfort
zone, they literally cannot hit the target. Their teachers were so
focused on stance that they forgot about the rest of the act of
shooting. The stance had become a destination, rather than the
journey which it should be.
Phillips, one of the new breed of
fight-focused instructors, puts it very well: "Situations dictate
strategies, strategies dictate tactics, and tactics dictate
should not dictate anything."
Yes, you need to
learn a stance that is comfortable and repeatable for you.
Understand, though, that when shooting for your life your favorite
stance is more than likely going to be abandoned for whatever
position the situation allows. Wouldn't it be a good idea to train
for that eventuality?
Use a preferred stance to build your trigger control and sighting
skills; once that's done, learn to shoot from a 'non-stance'. Get
used to being able to deliver combat accurate hits from any angle,
any position, while still or moving. If you've used the basic
stance properly, you'll find that you no longer need it (at least,
for this kind of shooting.)
Ironic, isn't it?