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Anecdotal Instruction AKA The "A Recon Sniper Told Me..." Method

  • 3 min read

People seem to want to skip to the head of the line and call themselves things they never earned. From the "combat tactics instructor" who never learned to actually instruct to the "coach" who has never been a competitive athlete, there are seekers of the silver bullet all across the internet, peddling likes and followers in the place of putting in the years of hard work it takes to call yourself a coach, instructor, or leader.

This is where I use one of my favorite sayings:

“There is a difference between being experienced, and having experiences.” 

Good Instructors Know How To Think, Not Just What To Do

In the tactical nerd world people will flock to the tattooed and bearded combat vet who is parroting the things he was told by his team leader. This guy has some experiences and they're probably applicable to the scenarios he's running you through on the flat range (maybe).

Will running through these scenarios be fun and give you some experiences? Yes, probably. Will they make you a hard to kill operator of death? No. It's more likely they'll ingrain in you a "what to do" attitude rather than a "how to think" attitude.

That “how to think” attitude is the one leaders with years of experience use to implement the tools they have: a bunch of people that know what to do. When you encounter one of the million scenarios where just having a strong practical grasp of the basics and an understanding of their applications will win the day, you'll choose something sexy and fashionable... and entirely inappropriate. 

"Nice lift, bro... now let me give you some inaccurate advice"

In weightlifting we also see this phenomenon. It manifests itself best on the internet. Someone learns something from an expert and passes on that same information to some random person as gospel. They are passing on an experience of their own as the letter of the law without knowing the why.

When an experienced coach makes a correction, they are giving that cue to fix a lapse in technique. They do this based on years of watching athletes move... athletes who have demonstrated the same basic lapses in technique that occur for hundreds of different reason. This is where being experienced matters; the importance lies not in being able to identify a lapse in technique but understand why it occurred in the first place.

This understanding gives a coach the ability prescribe corrections and accessory work that will fix the problem without creating new ones. The cue to "keep the bar closer" won't make you better. Understanding the combination of factors that prevented you from keeping the bar close--based on how you moved before, during, and after that lapse--will.

User Experiences May Vary

You can know every technique on earth but a lack of understanding of the different variables that influence their application renders them near worthless, even dangerous. Understanding the why and having the ability to convey that is what makes someone dangerous, not tough guy platitude and a bunch of drills regurgitated and praised as the end all be all.

Experience is built in just that: experience. Someone that has been through the learning curve at every level of their craft. Nothing can replace the failures and successes of years and years of experience and repetition. There is something to be learned from everyone... even if that is how NOT to do things. As you surf the interwebs and pay people money to make you better, ask yourself if the things they're saying were learned or memorized.

There are lots of tools out there; make sure they're based in basics and principles formed through experience and not just something that makes you feel cool to be doing.

Jariko Denman is currently wallowing in freedom, after a full career as the most "Hooah" of all Rangers. He is currently looking at a second career as a Wal-Mart greeter. Thank him for his service.