0279 – What is a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor?

I work very hard to be the best, most professional instructor that I can be and it is a process of continual growth and effort. The problem is that professional means something different to each person out there.  There is a movement to make the definition a bit more concrete.  I am pleased that the industry in moving in the direction of self-regulation as this will provide more opportunity to provide input from within the industry as opposed to from the outside.  Today we will talk about one portion of that movement and what it means to me.

Firearm sales are through the roof and many folks that are buying guns are doing so for defensive purposes.  This coupled with the number of states that are making it easier to carry a firearm defensively leads to a boom in training and an increase in training companies.  Any time an industry expands there can be some growing pains.  Different folks become involved for different reasons, some good, some not so good.  A new organization has begun to come together to try and provide some guidance to Professional Defensive Shooting Instructors and their customers on what should be expected in the industry.  The organization, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors, developed the following code under the guidance of Rob Pincus.

Please keep in mind that although I am a Charter Member of the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors, the following are my thoughts on the code.  I do not speak for the association, or for the many folks who worked hard to develop the code.

The Professional Code of Defensive Shooting Instructors 

 1. I am committed to the safety of my students, and hold that the expected benefit of any training activity must significantly outweigh any known or perceived risk of that activity.

  • We can never eliminate all risk from defensive shooting
  • We can, however, make sure that have clear benefits that are far greater than the risk we are taking
  • We should always work to mitigate the consequences of the risks we take

2. I believe that it is my responsibility to understand not just what I’m teaching, but WHY I’m teaching any technique or concept, or offering specific advice.

  • There are many things that are being taught because that is what the individual that is teaching learned.  There has to be more than that.
  • We must not only understand what works, but also WHY it works.
  • Understanding why helps us to evaluate new theory, skills, equipment, training programs and more.
  • Professional Defensive Shooting Instructors deal with a wide range of students from beginner to expert, hobbiest to professional operator.
  • As a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor it is my responsibility to have a deep understanding of the material that I teach so that I can teach material that fits the context of the students I am working with and help the student understand WHY they may want to adopt certain skills. 

3. I recognize that defensive shooting skills, along with the drills and gear used, are inherently specialized and usually distinct from those of target shooting, competition and hunting endeavors.

  • For years the fact that firearms are a common point of combative applications and sporting applications has confused industry professionals on appropriateness of firearms, accessories, and training.
  • Despite common factors Professional Defensive Firearms Instructors MUST understand that there are differences between sporting and fighting, they MUST understand what those differences are, WHY those differences are important, and what needs to be done to clear confusion with their students.
  • Hunting, competition and target shooting are wonderful pass times and each has value that cannot be dismissed.  At the same time we cannot allow our passion for our hobby cloud our judgement when it comes to Defensive Shooting.

4. I will encourage my students to ask questions about course material, and I will answer them with thorough and objective explanations.

  • This is one of my favorite tenets.
  • As a professional teacher I have always strived to create an environment where students are empowered to continue their learning beyond what others provide.  That culture begins with feeling comfortable asking and answering questions.
  • Every question helps me to learn about my students and about my instruction.
  • As a Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor the questions my students ask, or don’t ask, help me to gauge their understanding and the direction, rate and detail I need to progress with my instruction.

5. I understand that Integrity and Professionalism are subjective traits and I strive to maintain high levels of both. I am capable of, and willing to, articulate the reasons for the way I conduct my courses and how I interact with students & peers.

  • #5 is probably one of the most difficult of the 7 tenets to discuss because it is admittedly subjective.
  • It is important, however, as it helps to remind us that Professional Defensive Shooting Instructors are a varied group of people with a varied way of demonstrating integrity and professionalism.
  • Our students are as varied as well and will gravitate to the instructors that they feel are professional and appropriately principled
  • We must always act in the best interest of our students as we are dealing with a serious topic.  As we grow we must have the professionalism and integrity to pass our growth on to our students. 

6. I believe that it is valuable to engage my peers in constructive conversation about differences in technique and concept, with the goal of mutual education and evolution.

  • The world of Professional Defensive Shooting Instructors is a diverse world
  • The people, the methods of instruction and the material taught in the industry vary greatly
  • Professionals must understand that each of their peers provides opportunities for lessons to be learned both positive and negative.
  • In the same token we as instructors offer that same opportunity for others.
  • The key is to be open to learning. 

7. I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution.

  • Another favorite as I love to learn.
  • I work to instill in my studetns that they need to become lifelong learners and one of the best ways to do that is to model it.
  • Read.
  • Watch.
  • Research.
  • Take courses as a student.
  • Take instructor level courses.
  • Strive to understand education.

Pincus writes about the Code on DownRange TV Blog and at ICE Training.

I have to say that I was flattered to be asked to sign the original document that contained the above code.  I am proud to be a Charter Member of the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors and have integrated this code.

3 replies
  1. Doug
    Doug says:

    I’m completely in. How do I join. I don’t see any links to become a member? I couldn’t agree more, I have had some unfortunate experiences and some wonderful ones. All teachers are different, as are all students, but their are certainly some things we can all agree on about being a professional instructor.

    • PaulCarlson
      PaulCarlson says:

      Doug, I’m glad you like what you read or heard. The ADSI (Assoc of Defensive Shooting Instructors) isn’t quite live yet. I would expect that in April you will start to hear more. You should also check out http://www.GrantCunningham.com As grant has covered each of the Seven Tenets in his blog and also check out the I.C.E. Training Group on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/icetraining/ We will definitely be covering more on the Association on the SSA podcast so stay tuned, and thanks for being willing to make our profession more professional!


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