Be Careful Who’s Advice You Take

August 16, 2014 by | 2 Comments

Today’s technology gives anyone the ability to claim expert status and reach an audience of millions. Some may just embellish their credentials while others will flat-out lie and invent the kind of background that makes Hollywood action heroes look like Girl Scouts.

In other industries this isn’t usually life or death, but in the survival/prepping/self-defense world, it’s a game changer. For example, a politician may destroy his own reputation (Anthony Weiner) which ends his career, or a business leader may make false promises (Bernie Madoff) and cause his clients to lose their money, but a survival or self-defense instructor who teaches bad information can get their students killed.

Most of you don’t have a military background, so you understandably assume that those who do have a better working knowledge of survival or combat techniques. They very well may, but it’s just as likely that they don’t.

Military personnel, including active duty and veterans, make up a very tiny percentage of the US population, but within that group, only a tiny percentage held the type of jobs that would have provided training for the type of skills you’re interested in; the majority of military personnel simply provide support for combat units. Do you want to take survival advice from a cook or mechanic? (Well, there is one mechanic who can teach you a hell of a lot, but he is the exception to the rule.)

Take it a step further and consider that in any organization, you have those who excel and those who simply get by. It’s no different in the military. I can’t even begin to tell you how much remedial training I had to conduct for some of the shit bags in our unit. They certainly aren’t the kind of people you would want advice from, but unfortunately, the very fact that they did serve in the Marine Corps infantry gives people an elevated perception about them.

My point is that you shouldn’t take any advice at face value. Including mine.

The fact that I served in the Marine Corps infantry doesn’t make me any better than you or the next guy. It just means I got paid to learn and do some cool shit, but I will always consider myself a student. Everyday I learn something new—sometimes from those who’ve had even more training, but just as often from those who’ve had less training. Everyone is both a student and a teacher.

I took a few classes from a guy who I later realized depended on buzz words and his “credentials” instead of actual skills. He would constantly brag about the “cutting edge” Israeli techniques he used and taught, but anytime I asked him to explain why these techniques were better, all he could say was “These are the most current techniques.”

To put it in perspective, our biggest point of contention was about the weaver vs. isosceles shooting stance and point shooting. In regards to the shooting stance, that can go either way—it’s really a matter of personal preference. I was able to out shoot this so-called “instructor” in either stance, static or moving. But in regards to point shooting, his advice is going to get someone killed or sued. Point shooting is engaging your target without using your sights. That might be cute in the movies, but what happens when you fail to stop your attacker because you can’t hit them, or when you hit an innocent bystander because you treated to sights like a decoration?

This guy had the credentials. He had trained law enforcement officers for over 20 years and was an NRA certified instructor. Yet he was still wrong on just about everything.

A quick way to spot someone with an inflated background is look for the guy who brags about it or leans on titles. (SEAL, MARSOC, Delta, etc.) I’ve had the pleasure of working with special operations from all branches, and one thing that really stood out was the fact that the higher they were on the food chain, the less they talked about what they did. The guy who keeps dropping not so subtle hints but then says he can’t tell you what he did is nearly always full of shit.

Don’t take anyone’s advice as gospel just because they have a military or law enforcement background. Look at everything with a critical eye. Check their credentials, and ask there peers as well as their former students about them. Before and during training, ask them to explain why to do things a certain way—not just what to do. And don’t rely on one person; seek advice and training from multiple sources.

Then practice what you learned, and look for flaws in the training and ways to improve, because what works for one person may not work for you. Something doesn’t have to be “new” to be effective. Common sense goes a long way.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

Was this info helpful? Share it with your friends!


  • Ole'Wolf says:

    I ain’t no expert. Yes, I started teaching young men and increasingly young women to shoot tactically way back in 1984 (OMG! I’m old!) I ain’t no expert. Boy have I met a whole lot’of ’em since I started working at the VA. Never knew we had US Air Force people going thru BUDS training to be AIR FORCE SEALS! and DAMN, I never knew the Groups got so big! Smoke Bomb hill must be COVERED by now. Now with the internet I’m amazed at how training the US Army, US Marines, Air Force and Navy does now days! BTW- at least TRY and know what the jargon and acronyms mean BEFORE you start talking… “PJ” does not mean “Parachutist, Junior -class” and “CCT” is not “Command, Control and Technical” what ever that is. Oh, and there are limits to how many of what patch you hang on your right shoulder!
    Again, well written and THANK YOU for saying it.

Share Your Thoughts...

Leave a Reply: