As I sit here browsing the websites of various local training organizations and local instructors, the statement in the title of this blog entry seems to be the recurring theme on many of them. One instructor claims to provide “the best tactical training in the Midwest”, while another promises to deliver a “comprehensive tactical pistol handling course”, and still many others make generous use of the word “tactical” and/or “tactics” in their many course offerings – everything from “basic tactical shotgun” to “tactics and combatives”.
Looking even deeper into this phenomenon, we find various manufacturers are now making and marketing “tactical boots”, “tactical pants”, “tactical flashlights”, “tactical holsters”, “tactical slings”, “tactical shirts”, “tactical gloves”, “tactical vests”, “tactical watches”, “tactical sights”, “tactical belts”, and someone out there is probably even making a pair of “tactical underwear” these days. I can only assume that you need all of this “tactical garb” so when you attend a “tactical class”, you won’t feel out of place or get left behind by all of the cool students who are so equipped. Or perhaps owning all of this gear allows the “tactical instructor” to instruct to you on a level that only a “tactically equipped” student could ever understand? I don’t know, but it sure appears to be a VERY important word (or at least one that effectively sells merchandise and training classes).
So really, what is it with the gross overuse of these words (“tactics” and “tactical”)? And do these instructors, training organizations, and manufacturers even know what these words really mean? And an even better question, do the “tactical” courses they offer actually teach “tactics”, or is this word being used as a self-serving statement to get you (and your money) in the door?
I suppose it would be appropriate, at this point, to find out what the words “tactical” and “tactics” really mean. Webster defines the word, “tactics” as:
A: the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat
B: the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end
And the word “tactical” as:
A: of or relating to tactics: as (1) : of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose (2) : made or carried out with only a limited or immediate end in view
B: adroit in planning or maneuvering to accomplish a purpose
After reading these definitions, I’m having a real hard time understanding how a pair of pants or a flashlight can be “tactical”. So I think it’s pretty safe to say, as far as merchandise is concerned, the word “tactical” is a sales pitch more than it is a valid description of a product. But what about “tactical” classes, or classes that claim to teach “tactics”?
“Tactics” are essentially the use of a certain action, or set of actions, to defeat/counter/mitigate an action or set of actions from an opponent. In simpler terms, we can think of tactics as anything we do to gain an advantage over an opponent. This could be nearly ANYTHING, be it employing movement that disrupts the opponent’s ability to track us for targeting, or the act of physically engaging an opponent so as to prevent him/her from taking a certain action against us. So if you think about nearly any kind of self-defense oriented class, be it focused on the use of firearms, blades, improvised weapons, or open hands, they ALL cover various “tactics”, at least to some degree. Of course, there could be a lot of things covered in these classes that wouldn’t be considered “tactics” as well.
But as they apply to self-defense, some tactics are certainly more effective and more efficient than others under certain circumstances. Subsequently, we find there is a simple truth that has a direct impact on ANY kind of “tactical” training: real self-defense situations are dynamic, unpredictable, and constantly changing. Unfortunately, this fact seems to make it very difficult for some instructors to explain, and even understand, the why’s, when’s, how’s, and where’s behind any “tactics” they teach. This lack of understanding often leads to skills and responses being taught in isolation and/or as part of a dogma, rather than as an intuitive, efficient, and effective part of an overall response to an ambush or attack. It is my opinion that this lack of understanding is also the reason why we see so many Youtube videos of various instructors and students rolling around on the ground engaged in some perverted form of acrobatics, wearing plate vests and full-blown combat gear, tossing their gun(s) back and forth from one hand to the other every time they strike a new pose, carelessly casting aside partially loaded magazines for the sake of performing some kind of “super high-speed tactical reload” (how sound of a tactic is it to unnecessarily throw away live ammunition that you might need later?), and unnecessarily transitioning from a perfectly fine functioning, nearly fully loaded carbine that they are already on target with, to a less powerful and less effective pistol they have riding in some variety of “tactical thigh rig” all for the sake of “high speed, low drag” drama that has no real application or purpose for the vast majority of armed citizens. While these “theatrics” (for lack of a better word) might be fun and exciting to watch, or even participate in, their “tactical” value, especially to the armed citizen, is highly questionable.
So what about all of these “tactical” classes, then? Well, in my opinion, the rules don’t change regardless of the course title. As a prospective student, you have an obligation to yourself to do your homework, no matter the type of course or the instructor providing it. You should be researching ANY course or instructor prior to laying out your hard earned cash, including asking for both student and professional references. If you see a “tactical” class being offered and you are interested in possibly attending, make sure to ask the instructor about the “tactics” he or she will be teaching and make sure they are actually relevant to YOUR lifestyle (remember, in training, context is VERY important). If the instructor can’t explain the “tactics” or doesn’t understand how they apply to the real world, or if he/she gives you the run-around or tries to make you feel stupid for asking, then chances are pretty good that he/she is using the word (“tactical”), in the same manner that many manufacturers are using it; as a sales pitch. On the other hand, don’t think for a minute that valid tactics can’t or won’t be taught in a class that doesn’t have the word “tactical” in the course title. Remember, “tactics” come in many forms and some instructors, including myself, purposely stay away from using the word “tactical” simply because it is so often misused and abused. As with any other class you are considering, regardless of the course title, do your homework and ask the important questions before laying down your money.