Bill wrote:Hoffner is having a Free Seminar this Sat at Pruetts Gun and Ammo along with 4 hour knife fighting afterwards, not free. Look at his site for more info
Ooh. Thanks for reminding me, Bill. But I think Hoffner will be at Pruett's (at the classroom a couple of doors to the right of Pruett's store, where they teach the classroom portion of CHL; I still miss the radio segment they used to do together) on the 19th 9:00 to noon, not this Saturday the 12th. Gives folks more time to plan. And free lectures like that one are a great opportunity for people to see if that particular instructor strikes a chord. I gotta get it on my calendar, and if any other Forum members are going, we should hook up. We could have lunch at the Subway next door and spend money at Pruett's.
I think you make another good point that's valuable for jrmy_1: Every instructor--and ergo every training school or program--is different. The best analogy I can draw is from "traditional" martial arts. Systems and styles developed essentially as spin-offs from a parent source because some innovative practitioner went a slightly different direction, formalized that particular system, and began training other instructors to teach it. Oyama's Kyokushin-do came from Funakoshi's Shotokan; Shukokai sprang directly from Shorin-ryu, and all (probably) developed from much older Chinese styles.
The upside is that, with research and experimentation, you have more slightly different systems to choose from to locate one that suits you best. In the above examples, Mas Oyama's system was Spartan-like in its approach; sorta brutal and favored physically powerful practitioners. Shukokai was more circular, with quicker movements, and less dependent upon explosive strength. I know this sounds like a pretty esoteric ramble, but there's a point...really.
The downside is that, while different systems have many, very basic similarities, they are not identical, and there is no standardized qualification that is accepted by all. This means if you train a few years in Shukokai and decide you want to give Kyokushin-do a try, you don't take your rank with you and step right into an advanced class. And that's pretty much the same with practical, armed self-defense instruction today. If you take a couple of two-day pistol courses from, say, Gabe Suarez, and want to take a course from John Farnam, you'll most likely need to start with Farnam's 2 1/2 day Beginning Pistol class. You haven't earned your "belt" from Farnam, and he and his instructors can't be certain you know all of the fundamentals and safe administrative handling the way they teach it.
I personally think trying different systems is a very good thing. It allows you to apply your own judgment about what is the best in each, and what you think might not be the best and can be discarded. Heck, no single approach is perfect, and certainly not perfect for you as an individual. But it can get pretty expensive to do "style-hopping."
Something I think you're doing correctly is researching the course progression and availability for each system. They do differ. Paul Howe, for example, has a small operation in terms of number of instructors, and he focuses first on the LEO and military clients. Last year around March, I contacted him because there were no civilian classes showing on his Website for the remainder of 2007 or even into 2008. He was booked solid with Law Enforcement, and couldn't--until late 2007--even schedule his next civilian class. But for combat strategy and tactics, his CSAT is hard to beat (that's why he stays booked up with non-civilian classes).
Some trainers--like Suarez and Farnam mentioned above--make regular visits to the greater Houston area and post schedules well in advance. While they also train LEO and military, often the classes are commingled and the civilian calendar is pretty stable. Hoffner teaches year-round at Top Gun and Impact Zone, and includes some hand-to-hand and edged weapons in the mix. Farnam, for example, really doesn't get into applied mechanics on non-firearm; it's discussed in lecture and occasional training scenario, but his focus is pistol, shotgun, and rifle.
Gordon Carroll teaches regularly at Impact Zone, and his focus his competition. I guess you could say he's our Taekwondo. And Matt Burkett holds courses periodically at KR Training for sport shooting. If I were really serious about IDPA or USPSA, I'd want to get in line to study with one of these guys. Oh, and KR Training offers NRA-certified classes and CHL; Suarez and Farnam, for example, do not.
That's about as non-definitive an answer as you'll ever get. But it's a mixed bag, and you may not find everything you want in one place. Keep an open, questioning mind no matter where you train. Take notes: not just what the instructors say, but your own observations and conclusions.
Farnam gets his students in the habit of referring to themselves as "independent operators." I think that's a good idea on several fronts. It conveys that you aren't sweeping the streets of your neighborhood with a recon team: you are your own backup. And it conveys that the only person responsible for your training and preparedness is you. If someone teaches the Rogers flashlight technique and it never seems to work for you, but you took to Harries the first time you tried it, maybe you should train Harries. In the end, you have to remove as much clutter as possible and have your own training be efficient, consistent, and with as few moving parts as possible. In a pressure situation, you don't want to stop and decide if you're going to use your flashlight with a Rogers, Harries, Good, Mulroy, or FBI technique.
Hey, in 20 years we may see "JRMY Tactics and Training," and you'll be running your own school.