Awhile back, I was talking with my massage therapist about firearms. ‘Steve’ isn’t really a gun guy, but he knows what I do for a living, so the subject of guns sometimes comes up while he works on my back. He’s also an accomplished martial artist who has a second-degree black belt in danzan ryu jujitsu, so he is totally on board with the whole self defense thing.
We were talking about what it takes to become a firearms instructor. I had just said that one of my goals in life is to help other instructors get more training for themselves, so they’d be better able to help their students. He asked, “Kathy, why do you believe there are firearms instructors who need more training? Don’t they already get a lot of training to become an instructor?”
Tough, touchy question.
Thinking about how to answer in a way he would understand, I changed gears on him, and asked him a question instead. “Steve, what does it take to get a black belt in danzan ryu?” In Steve’s art, as in most martial arts, a black belt is the outward sign that a student has learned the complete art well enough to teach it to others. A black belt means you are qualified to teach.
Steve played along and told me the process. It takes a lot of work to earn a black belt through his school. The teaching credential is given only to those who have earned it. To earn the right to teach, you attend a two-hour class three times a week for several years. There’s a definite body of knowledge you must absorb, and physical habits that you need to build. You have to pass several difficult tests of your physical skills, tests that also check your technical knowledge and your understanding of the core material. You have to be totally familiar with the art’s safety protocols, and you have to internalize those protocols to the point they’re almost reflexive. The instructor who gives you your belt will not be a stranger; he or she will be a skilled artist who has worked with you personally for several years. Getting there takes years of work and a strong commitment to learning.
Steve was shocked when I told him that it takes only a few days to get your first firearms instructor credential, and that many schools will hand out that credential with only a very basic shooting test — or with no shooting test at all.
But he completely understood my point when I told him that that’s why I love teaching and encouraging other firearms instructors to keep training.
There’s such a need…