It's the Man
I recently taught a class for a week in Colorado. I had a late flight home on Saturday, so I spent the day with my good friend Martin, of Mossy Forge. We spent the day forging a hand ax together. While we talked as we worked, he mentioned one of his heroes, John Henry. The more I thought about the legend of John Henry, the more I started to see a lesson I wish some of our students would learn. It’s the Man, not the equipment.
For those of you unfamiliar with who John Henry was, here is what Wikipedia has to say: “He is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, John Henry's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam-powered rock drilling machine, a race that he won only to die in victory with hammer in hand as his heart gave out from stress. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books, and novels. Various locations, including Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia have been suggested as the site of the contest.”
We have far too many students who show up to class with all kinds of the latest and greatest in kit and attachments for their guns. There is nothing wrong, per se, with spending money for good tools and equipment. The mistake some are making is they believe that by spending money on kit, they will not have to train or that it will simply make up the difference for not putting in hard work. We have seen any number of “High Speed Extras” on firearms fail or cause malfunctions during classes. Or people so encumbered with clutter on their person or gun as to make the simplest of tasks impossible. Yes, I’m talking to you, the one who can’t reholster their pistol because of the multitude of unnecessary pouches in the way.
It’s the Man (or Woman), not the equipment that truly matters. That is why we at RTG strive hard to take a truth-over-technique approach to training. If you can learn the principle, the truth behind something, then you can roll with whatever technique makes the most sense at the time. How do you learn, really learn Gunfighting? You must put in the time and effort. Practice, and repetition are the name of the game.
Most of the classes that I have designed are filled with information. They are intended to give you exposure to a series of drills with a heavy emphasis on the why, not just the how. My intent then is for you to take that information and experience and replicate it as best as you can on your own, or with a training group. You are not going to master the basics of marksmanship by shooting 20 rounds of single shot, then 20 rounds of controlled pairs at a Pistol 101 class. But, shooting those (with our feedback at class) combined with you working those same drills on your own time, will.
It is easy to see in the 200 and 300 level classes, who has put in the time, and who is just going through the motions. I remember seeing a student in a vehicle class lose his mind when he experienced a simple malfunction. This is something that we put students through in the 100 level. Because he had not practiced fixing it, when it happened, he just shut down.
On the other hand, there are a lot of extremely motivated students that come to our classes. Some with the most basic and humble of kit and Firearms. They work hard, train hard, make mistakes, learn from them, and drive on. They are successful. That inner fire, that “drive” like John Henry, is something that I can’t teach. It is a decision each and every one of us must make for ourselves. I am doing everything that I can to help you with the tools for success, but it is you that must do the work.
So, next time you are looking for that next piece of Gucci Gear that you just must have, stop and think. How would I be better served? With that new shiny thing, or more ammo and time at the range?
Thanks for reading,