Training With Deficits
Training with Deficits
By Craig S. Flaherty
For years I have been a trainer in one fashion or another. From time to time I have been approached by one person or another asking if they could participate in an upcoming course. The reasoning they gave for the question was they suffered from some type of physical deficit. Always they where welcomed with open arms and what ever concession that needed to be made was made. We worked around the limitations and not only did they learn and process the information imparted, so did I having to work around several different scenarios. I must admit though, when the class was over I really did not give it a second thought. I just went along with life until the next time the question came up.
In my adult life I have been in relatively decent shape. Training as a student in combatives and firearms kept me in shape. Teaching these courses did not hurt either. I was just going through life without much of a care.
March 24, 2010 I woke up early in the morning, and as normal proceeded with the beginning of the day. I did notice a burning of the eyes and little problem focusing. I just chalked this up to being early in the morning, As I progressed I quickly lost control of the left side of my body running into a wall. Knowing this was not right I called to my wife and we went to the hospital. Within a short time after a battery of tests I was informed I had suffered a stroke.
The next few days were spent in the hospital with the normal worries that go along with this type of event. I was lucky I spent three days in the stroke floor of the hospital and four in the rehabilitation floor. This is when I had several epiphanies as to my long term ability to teach combatives and firearms.
I had lost substantial control of my left side and had no prognosis when it would return. Through rehabilitation I started to work on every day things, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking I canít quickly grasp with my left hand I surely cannot execute a magazine change or effectively deliver a strike. I had an upcoming weekend of Suarez International courses to teach in May and was concerned that not only I may not be able to teach in six weeks; I may not be able to teach in the foreseeable future.
I now had an appreciation for all those students that I have taught that had a concern with their own deficit. Could they perform to a standard? Would they be responsible for holding back the class? Would they be risking too much and embarrass themselves? These are all valid questions, and now I had a small understanding as to how this truly affected people and their decisions to train.
Once I was able to rehabilitate at home out came the unloaded firearms. And while off work and watching television I accomplished magazine change after magazine change. Not a pretty sight at first. Many a magazine skidded across the floor from me missing the magazine well, to just plain dropping the magazine. I started with an H&K USP the handgun with the largest magazine well I had on hand. I then was able to whittle my target area down to a magazine well of a 1911.
Once I was able to make a magazine change with little effort, I struck out to test my moving skills. I had been slowly getting my walking gait back up to where it had been, but things as fatigue and the effects of the stroke held my progress back. I decided it was time to try to get off the ďXĒ and try lateral movement. As long as I moved at a moderate pace I was fine. Unfortunately for me, if I expected to teach a Close range Gunfighting class in the coming weeks, the instructor should be able to move a little faster that moderately.
As I attempted to move at a pace close to full speed, I met terra firma several times. This led to looks of pity from the wife and kids. My understanding of folks that have some type of mobility deficit increased. I kept getting up and trying, until I wasnít falling very much. Now I felt I was ready to teach, but still in the back of my mind a little doubt crept in.
In the days and weeks before that May class I thought a lot of what I had gone through. Though my journey in no way compares to someone who has suffered a permanent deficit for what ever reason, it did give me a small insight into the problems these folks face.
As the class came closer I had similar questions of my self as a student with a deficit would have of me. Could I perform to a standard that would teach my students what they came to learn? Would I be responsible for holding back the class? Not giving them their moneys worth of training. Would I be risking too much and embarrass myself? More importantly would I embarrass Gabe and all the other Staff Instructors? Would I be hurting The Suarez International reputation?
The dreaded weekend of the class arrived. The weekend started with Introduction to Defensive Pistol on Friday and Close Range Gunfighting on Saturday and Sunday. Friday went without a hitch, but I was really worried about the Close Range Gunfighting class. The class went well with only a couple times did I notice a problem. Verbally I would falter a time or two, but when discussing shooting on the move in general and me demonstrating moving and shooting I stumbled. Other than that it went well. My confidence was renewed. I have only gotten stronger since that class.
What this diatribe is all about; for the most part your deficit is mostly a hindrance if you allow I to be. After all it is your fight you are going fighting. You need the skills to defend you and your family. That is your responsibility. If you are as lucky as I was and the deficit is short term, great train through it and go forward. If the deficit is longer term or you are just getting older and parts donít work as well as they did. Improvise adapt and overcome.
This is where the instructor comes in. Communicate your concerns, and if at all possible I as an instructor should tweak the course to include you as a valuable member of the class. It is incumbent on the instructor to do this. After all, the course should be about the students, not how cool I am as instructor is. Train hard no matter what your deficit. The rest of the class may not even notice that accommodations have been made. You will be able to perform to the standard. You will not hold back the class. You will not risk anything and I will not allow you to embarrass yourself. That is the promise any good instructor will give you
I broke my neck in 2002,I am/was a right handed shooter,Ihave partial paralysis of my right hand and lower extremities,I walk with a cane and standing for long periods is painful.I learned to shoot fairly well left handed and have enough right hand dexterity to do slide slingshots and mag changes.I'm not as good a shot lefty as I was righty, but I train weekly and usually put around 4-500 rounds a week downrange out of various firearms.
Glad you weren't more seriouslyaffected,I had a friend didn't even know he had a stroke,he was having problems chewing his food in a restaurant,after he went home it started affecting his left side and got an ambulance ride.His short term memory has been affected
Thank you Sir and prayers for your friend. It appears you have taken the bull by the horns and moved forward. That is outstanding and it is great to hear you have adapted from your injury.
Originally Posted by dukalmighty
Thanks for sharing your story. It is a true warrior mindset to keep going.
Thanks for sharing your story. We all, even the most gifted amongst us, have some sort of defecit. Heck, all of us had to start somewhere, from the very first time we handled a firearm, and improve as we went along.
And, honestly, most won't even reach the level of proficiency to become instructors. Hopefully, many of us will adapt to our limitations, or train through them.. some will not.
No matter one's limitation, we all have the right to protect ourselves, and the responsibility to be able to do so effectively within that limitation.
It takes no small amount of courage to admit and fight through limitations. You are doing so. Kudos.
I had a very bad accident a few years ago and ended up totalling a fairly new truck. In the process, there was some damage done to my spine that affected my extremities, especially on the right side (I'm right-handed). I had several herniated and some ruptured discs. I had some surgery done on my neck that alleviated some of the issues, but still deal with localized numbness, stiffness, daily pain and loss of mobility.
I know my limitations, but few others do. Complaining won't make it better and will probably just put people off. I deal with it and move on. It sound like you guys are too. These are the hands that we've been dealt, so we make the most of them.
I am planning to take some courses, and I, too wonder if I'm going to be the wrench in the works. Thanks for sharing your stories. It helps to know you're not alone.
I'm a young guy but I've racked up injuries that have made my arms and feet almost completely numb. So there are a lot of things that I can't feel this makes re-holstering reloading, heck just holding a steady sight picture is hard with all the nerve damage. I had to start with this when I started carrying, so its nice to see how many of us there are that have to do things differently.
Thanks for the kind words folks...To paraphrase a movie quote...A man has to know his limitations. That does not mean you can't do something, you may just have to do it different than others.