The Handgun Combatives Instructor certification course thoughts

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Handgun Combatives Instructor Course. This was one of those once in a lifetime chances that, deep down inside, I knew I had to do.

Quite a while ago, Dave Spaulding, the founder of Handgun Combatives, decided he wanted to finally retire. He had been travelling quite a bit and was getting tired of living in hotel rooms, travelling on airplanes, or Metallic Tubes of Death as he calls them, and more importantly, he wanted to finally sit down and enjoy his wife, kids, and grandchildren as much as he wanted. He was just tired of all the hustle. Maybe he felt he had accomplished what he set out to do, or figured it was time to get out while on top, who knows? The life of a travelling trainer can be tough.

Then, a few influential students and hosts that knew him very well talked him into a way to ensure that the research and knowledge gained in over 40 plus years would not disappear. Do an instructor certification course and pass along as much as he can to others so that they can continue in his place. I am sure that at first, he said no way. That’s understandable. How can you take 40 years of hard, in person, research and just “give” it to someone? You can’t. You must find people that are willing to sit down and listen. People that are willing to take in the data and details and use them in the same manner. That can be an insurmountable task.

Now, my awareness of Dave and Handgun Combatives goes back quite a while. I remember reading his articles in numerous gun and training related magazines. I also read his book Handgun Combatives, Version 1 when it came out, and recently revisited the 2nd edition. He had numerous videos as well that I would see every so often. I remember that they all made sense out of the potentially confusing world of firearms training, and that he seemed to have a direct, no BS outlook towards training. My first real opportunity to train under him came in September of last year when I was able to host him for his Handgun Combatives course.

Getting the chance to see him in person, chat with him during off hours, and just ‘hang out’ with Dave was immeasurable. Just discussing training ideas, methodologies, and other topics was intriguing. I could tell that his depth and breadth of experience and knowledge was vast, yet he was able to keep the delivery of skills and training simplistic. His outlook is that he is teaching gun-FIGHTING, not gun shooting. Hence the ‘combative’ part of the name. A few months prior to that course, I heard about the instructor course but felt that it would have been presumptuous to apply before I had even taken training from him. Actually, that was one of his conditions: You had to have attended a course, or courses with him to even be considered.

After the course, I gave it some thought and emailed him. Between numerous emails, he finally told me that he felt I would be a good candidate for the course as I do this full time. I took that to mean he saw that I was invested in training, took it seriously, and that my training career had provided me with the foundation to apply. So I did.

The course was set up so that each interested person had to apply. There was no guarantee of acceptance and there was no guarantee of certification either. Too many other organizations will certify you because you either meet their minimal standards, or your check cleared. I have been to those. It is sometimes unnerving to know that I worked hard to get ready and be as sharp as possible, only to have someone look as if they just picked up a gun obtain the same credential you worked hard for. Worse yet, when you work your ass off to obtain a lot of training, and busting your ass during the course to shoot and be as perfect as possible, only to be receiving the same certificate that another candidate does, just because they showed up or were affiliated with some organization that played a cheap card to get slots in the course. I wanted a certification that meant I worked for it and wasn’t given it because I paid my tuition and showed up. I want it to mean something more.

Dave made the conditions very clear. You applied, and waited, to see if you were accepted. Even if you were accepted, you still had no guarantee of certification. This was HIS course, HIS business, and HIS legacy. He had every right to be as picky as he wanted. Over the next few months, I did hear and see chatter about the course. Some were upset that they would be risking over a thousand dollars without a guarantee. Some were wondering how it would work afterwards. I didn’t. I decided that upon my acceptance, I was going to put in as much work as I could. I hit the range every chance I got and shot drills from the course last year, measured my progress and capabilities by running his standards every so often, working on other drills, and grabbing a couple extra courses as a student to sharpen my skills further. In March I even flew to SC to attend his Kinetic Combative Handgun course to follow up on a promise I made him, and to train under him some more. I even spent a weekend in June training under someone else to really tune in my skills to get better than I was.

When I got the note that I had been accepted, I was surprised and excited. I was looking forward to the challenge and the training. It seemed as if it took forever to arrive but as it got closer, I grew nervous. Was I ready? It was too late. I HAD to be ready. There was no going back and failure was not on option in my mind. I was going to go into this with the goal of doing whatever I had to in order to pass. This was going to happen.

It was a 7.5hr drive to get to Miamisburg, OH. I checked in, met up with a few other candidates and we immediately became close colleagues. There was no animosity or competitiveness there, just a bunch of  well trained guys who all had a common goal.

Day One started in the classroom. This is where Dave set the rules, mindset, and the tone for the week. He was very upfront about his rules. This week would either be an exciting one, or not, depending on how we did. No guarantees at all. Bucky Buchanan was there who, up until this week, was the only other person approved to teach under Dave’s banner. Bucky is an awesome, talented, and formidable instructor in his own right and it was great to have him there.

During the course, we were expected to take notes, participate, give a 15 minute presentation on something not training related, and also present a range topic and run the range. This was going to be a TRUE instructor development AND certification course. I felt the excitement level rise as he talked.

Day One was about the theory of adult learning mostly. We covered a lot of information about training, hand/eye coordination, how the body works, and a whole host of topics that were fascinating. I wrote as fast as I could and I know I missed a lot. You can tell that we were all serious because of the focus on the material Dave was providing.

Day One also consisted of the history that helped Dave develop this material, the reasoning behind it all, and his methodology towards training. It was like a flood of information. He was opening up his personal encyclopedia and allowing us to learn what we needed.

The latter part of Day One was spent on the range. We went through his foundational skill training so that we could understand why they are used to train, and where they fit in to the course curriculum.

At the end of Day One, we knew this would be a fast and intense course. It was time to get on the ride and hold on!

Day Two was all range work. More skill training and shooting development, and more information on the WHY behind the what according to Dave.

Day Three (Weds) was presentation day. This was one of the days that I feel everyone dreaded. I know I was fairly nervous myself. I picked a great topic, the history of the Erie Canal, and was comfortable in how I was going to present it. The nervous part was that I had to do this in front of 18 other instructors plus Dave and Bucky! At the end of the day, we hit the range for some final drills.

Day Four was full of drills that are essential to the Handgun Combatives courses. Dave’s view is that SKILLS should be practiced to have the ability to use them as needed. A DRILL should reinforce that the SKILLS have been learned properly. This was the day that we were to chunk all of the skills together to be able to work the drills. Day four also ended with a rain of monsoon proportions. We got completely soaked. It took three days for my shoes to dry!

The last day, Day Five, was the day we all had to prove that we had the knowledge and skills to present on the range and run a class during live fire. Now, I do this a lot and I was still nervous. I wanted to make sure I did the drills the way Dave taught us, and not as I would. Nothing was wrong with my methods, but I was there to present the Handgun Combatives way, not mine.

After a long, hot day, we all finally got our range presentation in and ran the Handgun Combatives standards. They are 6 essential skills that Dave has developed a standard for. He actually has two times for each skill: A ‘Required time’ and a ‘Desired time’. I’m proud to say that I achieved my personal goal of hitting the Desired times in all 6 of them!!!We wrapped up the range and headed into the clubhouse for the final part of the day: Dave’s wrapup and to find out if we passed. I was still a bit worried but in the end, I passed. It was a great day.

Afterwards, we all took off to go shower and clean up then meet at Dave’s favorite restaurant. He arranged a dinner for us to celebrate. This is where the proof of our connection to each other. We all trained hard, so we played hard as well! We all got to hang out, talk, share our thoughts about the week and our plans for the training and certification we just obtained.

All in all, this was, as I mentioned above, one of the best training experiences I have had. The knowledge transfer, the solid skills of the group, the professionalism, and lack of ego was astounding. Not once did someone appear to be ‘That guy’ or do anything that caused anyone else to worry about safety. That’s what happens when you have a group of professionally trained people.

Now my homework begins. In order to uphold the quality and effectiveness of the program that Dave has put together, I am planning on getting more training time to observe or work in on more courses. I want to make sure that when I step out in front of a class wearing the Handgun Combatives logo, that I am more than ready to deliver the information and skills the way they were meant to be.

For those of you that may be wondering, I ran both my 5th Generation Glock 17 and 19 pistols, One had Trijicon HD sights and my 17 had Dawson Precision fiber optic sights. Bother guns performed without one hiccup (that wasn’t attributed to me) I was shooting Blazer Brass 124gr loads. I also tested out a new to me holster from LAG Tactical. It’s very thin but fairly rugged kydex model and I have to tell you, it performed flawlessly. I highly recommend them.

By the way, we jokingly called the week the Salomon Shoe Conference. They were well represented! Built well, very comfortable for all day range work, and a solid shoe.

Look for some dates soon!

Ain’t no call fer one legged Ninjers!

At Rochester Personal Defense, LLC we believe in training you, the average person, who wants to be safe. Self defense is just that - defensive, not offensive in nature.


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