Gaining Experience by Proxy Part III – Marc Macyoung


Another place where experience does tend to matter is when it comes to ‘off the curriculum’ questions. These are the kinds of questions that every teacher is going to run into. I’m not talking about ‘what if monkeys’ (the guys who ask what do you do when you’re walking through a dark alley and you’re attacked by 27 ninja with uzis), I’m talking about legitimate questions about stuff that is not on the syllabus, but is related to the topic. The reason this gets a .75 as well is this. On one hand a person with experience can reach back into their own history and answer the question with what he or she did, experienced and felt. (Often these questions have to do with overcoming internal issues.) Furthermore, an experienced person can often take in the information in the question, assess it and come up with a functioning answer. So for on the spot responses, experience can be a powerful tool.

On the other hand, one person’s experience does not the whole subject make. What’s more, just because the instructor could do it, doesn’t mean the student can. There are a lot of variables that went into the experienced person’s success in those particular circumstances — and this includes mental and physical capabilities. So just because it worked for him, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for everyone. More over, different people who have been there came up with different answers. Answers that also worked. Keep this last in mind because it’s important.

It’s important because there can also be a downside to experience. That is, when you’ve had someone try and kill you, you can get extremely conservative about ‘what works.’ Some people take it past that and get into ‘MY WAY IS THE ONLY WAY!” This is especially true if they develop the curriculum and didn’t have it vetted by others who have also been there. So yes, the instructor can fall back on his experience, but his experience isn’t the only way to handle the problem.

The reason ‘off the syllabus’ questions and experience is a .75 issue is both someone who has been there and someone who hasn’t need to use the same strategy for dealing with them. That is referencing the views of other people who have been there.

The thing to consider is that often these kinds of questions are generally predictable. As an instructor you will be asked these kinds of questions. That means you can prepare for them.  For example, someone who hasn’t been there can still answer these kinds of questions with “About that, Marc MacYoung says (this). Rory Miller says (this). Peyton Quinn says (this).” A person who has been there can also use the same tactic. “I say (this). Marc MacYoung says (this). Rory Miller says (this).” In both cases, this allows the student to consider different points of view and assessment of what he/she is asking about.

Why is this important?

Let me put it to you in these terms: I’ve spent nearly five decades fighting, engaging in violence, dealing with its repercussions, training, preparing, studying, researching, writing, teaching and lecturing about violence. I am a court-recognized expert witness. I have taught police and military in nine different countries and have over 22 titles published about violence, crime avoidance, personal safety and professional use of force.

I tell you this to put something into perspective. Every morning I get up and am nearly overwhelmed by what I don’t know about the subject of violence.

So you ask can someone who has ‘not been there teach?’ Well, the bottom line is nobody has been everywhere. Everyone has holes in his or her experience and can only rely on both getting and providing quality information regarding the subject.

I recently had a discussion about what to do with an ambush attack from point blank range; an attack meant to kill you. That’s a situation I have been in multiple times. The guy I was talking to, however, had a specific circumstance I’d never dealt with before. That was what to do when the guy grabs your carbine with one hand, jerks the barrel off line and swings a machete at you with the other hand.

Now this is the kind of problem a civilian isn’t likely to have. It is a problem likely to pop up with SWAT officers and people in his line of work. The point is, the response we were discussing had been vetted in actual situations where one of the participants was going to die. The response works to keep the person with the carbine alive. How do we know this? Because the guy with the carbine wasn’t decapitated, and the other guy was dead.

In contrast, I see a lot of people who charge a lot of money for these super cool techniques they come up with. They claim these moves will work, and people get all giggly and excited by practicing them in high-priced seminars. When I look at them, I see techniques that at the very best will result in double kills. At worst, they’ll fail miserably because of the actual physics of such circumstances. Not imagined, but actual physics. The person who came up with these groovy, cool, studly responses had never been in those circumstances or checked the feasibility of those moves with someone who had.

I consider this critical because as a ‘teacher,’ you are putting your students’ lives on the line with the quality of the information you provide. Not just their lives, but large chunks of it if they go to prison for what you didn’t teach them about violence and self-defense.

Like the IED/Humvee training, it doesn’t matter that much if you’ve been there or not. What matters is the quality of the information you provide (and whether it’s been checked and vetted by people who know that topic). As an instructor, whether you’re experienced or not, don’t ever give into the temptation to think you know it all. Keep on researching and trying to learn. As a student, don’t believe anyone who gives critical topics about violence a ‘hand wave.’ (“Oh we teach that, too” before they drop the subject and then get on with the cool macho shit and ass kicking.) Be an informed consumer because you’re staking your life on the quality of the information you’re paying for.


One thought on “Gaining Experience by Proxy Part III – Marc Macyoung”

  1. I think that one of the problems that exist in the self-defense/combatives industry is that there isn’t are reliable method for people to determine the validity of the instruction they receive.

    Bad information exists in every realm of human endeavor. But in most of these areas, it takes a relatively small amount of research to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

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