Monday, May 10, 2021

DTI's Off-body Carry Instructor's Class

Due to the 'Rona, I got moved from DTI's February Instructor Development course to their Off-body Carry Instructor's Course. While I was disappointed to miss the chance to learn under both John and Vicki Farnam, I jumped at the chance to take Vicki's Off-body Instructor's course.

I don't think I've ever been the instructor who says, "NEVER carry off-body". I've always tried to be aware that there is a time and place for it, and that additional thought and training needs to occur. I'd been meaning to sign up for Vicki's straight off-body carry course, but hadn't gotten around to it. Getting moved in to the instructor's course was a happy side effect of catching Covid from Jay and having to miss the February class.

It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a completely different class than anything I'd ever taken before. Vicki runs her classroom range with a compassionate, but firm, hand. I've only previously trained under men before, and it was striking to see the difference between her teaching style and others. There was no hand-holding, or patting on the head. She set standards and held us to them. It was refreshing. If she had to lay the smack down on someone, she did, but it was never personal.

Don't hate me too much for this analogy, but the way she corrected people was very similar to the way a good horse trainer corrects a horse. The correction is concise and immediate, then it's back to business as usual. No personal judgements or feelings involved, just a mild correction (or not so mild, if the initial correction didn't take). Incidentally, Vicki's daughter is a horse trainer, and if she learned this correction technique from her mother, she's probably a very good horse trainer.

But I digress ...

While I learned about drawing from purses, my biggest take-aways were in how to teach. In my past life, I was Associate Dean of a career college, and spent fifteen years teaching professionally. The skills I learned teaching adults in a career college have crossed over nicely to teaching adults in the firearms industry. I'm a good teacher.

However, watching and learning from a great teacher was a gift. I've always been a believer in teaching "baby steps", but Vicki breaks it down a bit more. We started learning the skills with blue guns, then practiced with dry (unloaded and verified) guns, before transitioning to live guns. We took copious breaks that allowed us to decompress and discuss what we were learning.

Her co-instructor, Gloria, was a wealth of information regarding the Gun Tote'n Momas (GTM) bags, and which accessories worked best with them. Rather than telling us which bag was best and why, Vicki and Gloria gave us some things to think about, and then allowed us to come to our own conclusions about whether or not a bag was going to work for us and why. 

Research shows that we learn more from failing than succeeding the first time out the gate (or even the second or third time), so by letting us fail using the blue guns, and then trusting us to figure it out with some gentle guidance went a long way. Often, instructors (myself included) tend to jump in and "help" someone who is struggling instead of just letting them work through the problem. When I jump in, it's not because I don't think they can do it, but rather to keep the class on track. However, in doing so, I'm robbing the student of the opportunity to gain confidence in their problem solving abilities. And, as we know, being able to confidently handle a gun is one of the keys to using one successfully in a defensive encounter.

For years, I would have never considered carrying off-body. Yes, it was a choice, but it wasn't the right choice for me. However, after spending three days learning the ins and outs, I can now honestly say, it's an option I wouldn't have considered for myself previously. There are pros and cons to each method of carry, but I'm now confident that I can present a gun safely from a purse. Can I do it as fast as from midline IWB? Not yet, maybe not ever. But, there is an advantage to the urban camouflage of a purse. Also, there are a lot of things I just flat-out don't carry as part of my EDC load-out, because it's cumbersome. I usually have my gun and a knife with me. Should I have a spare mag, pepper spray, trauma kit, etc.? Yes, but I don't. There's just not enough real estate to store all of that, and girl jeans are stupid with stupid pockets. Most days, the gun and a folding knife are all I have with me.

But ... man, the advantage of being able to carry a full EDC load-out in a purse? Now that's worth thinking about. Since I don't carry a purse, I'm not in the habit of living out of one. It wouldn't be a huge stretch to just fill my purse with the trauma kit and pepper spray, and just leave enough room to throw my phone and car keys in. It might even make it more likely for me to have my gun with me for quick trips to the gas station or grocery store without having to put on my belt and holster and make a big production out of getting ready.

The beauty is that Vicki and Gloria allowed me to come to that conclusion all on my own. They didn't tell me I had to carry in a purse, they didn't tell me to never carry in a purse. They said, "it's an option, you need to know how to do it safely, and you need to make up your own mind about it" (obviously paraphrased).

By the end of the weekend, my head was swimming with new content and teaching tips, but my biggest take-away from the entire class was Vicki telling us:

Claim Your Own Magnificence!

I'm not a motto-type girl, I'm not one who needs daily mantras or any of that touchy-feely stuff, but I left feeling prepared and eager to claim my own magnificence.

 Thank you to Suzanne Freehauf of Ladyfire, LLC for the pictures.

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