Ralph Mroz liked my article about expertise, where I discussed some of the things Tom Givens said about who is qualified to have an opinion in a technical field.
…and he and Tom Givens made some interesting comments as followups, too. In particular the important question: “What constitutes “experience” in a civilian context?”
This is one of the things that I’ve talked about before, regarding military or law enforcement “experience” when talking about people who are qualified to teach citizen CCW courses–which Tom Givens discussed also, and I mentioned in my original article.
Mr. Mroz brings up an important point also, which is:
“No one has had enough statically valid experience, accounting for all the variables, in lots of different kinds of environments. Therefore, no one’s experience is universally extrapolateable.”
…in other words, if your instructor is telling you “this is how it is, because it happened to me like this” then he’d better be talking to you ONLY about a situation that matches exactly what happened to him. Chances are, if he is talking that way, he’s actually trying to generalize based on his experience—and that may not be germane to your situation.
There’s a reason why paying attention to the current research in the field is incredibly important—it is the only way to get a large enough dataset to actually draw supported conclusions. (Put it this way: If your self-defense instructor has been in enough self-defense situations to create a large dataset, do you WANT to do what he’s doing? Why in the world has he been in so many self-defense situations?!) This doesn’t make it EASY to draw conclusions (sometimes the research doesn’t cover what you need it to cover, so their conclusions aren’t valid for what you want), but conclusions drawn from large datasets are simply more robust in terms of removing the “we succeeded due to luck or incompetence on the part of the criminal, but we think it is because our technique was so good” responses.
I’ll note the “this worked for me once, so it is the right answer, and it’ll work for you” occurs a lot in unarmed self-defense classes, too. Unfortunately, sometimes concepts taught for that reason can also catch on and become well-known, because most people will never NEED to find out if it’ll really work.
I personally hope that none of my students ever have to test whether or not what I’ve taught them is going to work. At the same time, though, I try to make VERY sure that what I’m teaching them is as effective, realistic, and as practical as I can make it–because if they need it, it is going to be IMPORTANT.