The only thing more painful than change for those entrenched in the antiquated is that experienced by those attempting to implement change. Change agents are the spark of progress without regard to the avenue or event. Throughout history they have suffered everything from ridicule to torture, mutilation and execution. Yet, without them we would still be wandering the earth in packs, living in caves, and communicating with grunts and snorts just one survivalist reality show away from the Neanderthal.
For some, that is fine, not for me. I like my car, house, heat, AC, hot food etc. I have no more interest in killing my daily meal then I did living in a commune in the 1970’s. Obama care may suck, but its better than blood letting, skull boring, and leaching. While it is possible to live under those conditions, why would you want to?
While I can still write cursively its kind of convenient and effective to type on a computer. Sure, Social Media can be about as stupid as it gets, on the other hand it is an amazing means of communication. Every aspect of our existence has benefitted from change, and the firearms and firearms training world is no different. Thanks to change agents we have mostly abandoned match locks and flint locks.
Yet, to this day the mindlessly entrenched refuse to move on preferring to live in the comfort and convenience of complacency.
Why change, it works for me? It worked for my great, great, great, grandaddy, why change? We have been doing this for years ? Wyatt Earp used it in the 19th Century, must be good. The only true gunfighters, (mostly whom are dead now) used it, All this said as they drive to the range wearing modern clothing, coming from their climate controlled home, after eating at a fast food restaurant. On the range they have abandoned their 5 shot revolver for a “true fighting pistol” or some form of combat polymer. Most have abandoned the nub on the barrel and notch in the hammer for modern sights. Check their rifle and it probably has an RDS. Storied police gunfighters of old would not pass a background check today let alone get hired by a PD. If they did get hired they would not last a week. Comparing the LE world of the 1960’s to today is bordering on the absurd and is patently ridiculous. I am only a few years removed and even I get that. Just because its old, and proven in a previous decade, century or millenia does not mean it still works.
Having been both entrenched and mired in the past and a change agent it is a world I am incredibly familiar with. It will come as no surprise to my friends, but my youth was rather rebellious starting the first time I told a nun in my Catholic grade school she was nuts. It has continued through forty plus years of martial arts training and three decades of police training. There is a trail of martial arts instructors, supervisors, and Chief’s of police that will confirm this. The status quo has always been a starting point for me. As soon as I am “comfy” its time to figure out what I am missing, and how to improve things. Does that mean you change all the time, of course not, but ignoring proven change leaves you mired in the past, maybe dead on the street. Both the firearms and martial arts world is full of old “sages” crying and lamenting change. There are a bunch of gun writers wondering what hit them when Harris Publications, an Institution in the print media just went bancrupt. Only last week an editor from another such institution assured me “print will never die!”. Says the man who’s pay check comes from editing print. The arrogance and ignorance is astounding. While print is probably not dead yet ignoring the inevitable reality of social media can and will be painful.
Firearms training is no exception to change. Institutions have to move on or will simply fade into history as that “place” where the dinosaurs survived the longest. It does not mean you adopt the absurd stupidity seen exhibited by morons in the social media. Clueless instructors with fabricated or embellished experience may be the most dangerous, especially if they have garnered a throng of followers. Dogma is dangerous, especially when espoused by the clueless. Yet, you must recognize and live in the real world. Moderate change to existing proven techniques may result in improvement. Change for the sake of change is not a great idea, but innovation, movement forward, and improvement is required for the continued existence of modern society, all of it.
Having admired and emulated those making change over the years there is a constant. Those unwilling to change often cling to doctrine created by those who were change agents. In virtually every case the people they worship were rebels who innovated and fought the status quo. Most “worshipped” none, admired many, and instigated change. Yet their “followers” refuse to change and adhere to antiquated ideas relegating the founder to the status of “legend” (living or dead). It makes for great books, comics, video games and entertainment. Unfortunately it often signals the very death of the system they worked so hard to create.
The founder of the Karate system I currently train in broke from his parent organization, trained throughout the world, and created a Shorin style that uses bits and pieces from Aikijutsu, Judo, Kung Fu, several Karate styles, and Kendo. Yet, the power structure today discourages or forbids training in other styles, the very thing that created our system. Breaking from the commercialism of the day and increased focus on competitive Karate he founded a dojo in the 1950’s that is now mired in sport karate while entrenched in politics and power struggles. It is a process seen time and time again in traditional martial arts. Its not that you abandon the past, in fact you must adhere to much of it. but you cannot let time pass you by. Just as in firearms training, competition is fantastic. It often drives innovation. But it should never be the basis for martial training, merely a supplement.
My entire adult life has included involvement in one form of martial training or another. Most of my career as a police officer involved training. In every case there were those willing to suffer the slings, slurs, and ridicule that comes with change. It can be a very lonely and dangerous place, but in the long run it is incredibly rewarding. Nothing is more rewarding than having an officer or student use something you taught them to save a life, or seeing your changes turn a stagnant institution into a thriving arena for learning. Hats off to those willing to take the steps to change the status quo. Luckily, thanks to history’s change agents you are seldom tortured and burned at the stake for changing things in America. Hopefully it will stay that way, at least until the next reality show!