AAR: MAG-20 2014-03-08/09

There’s a great deal of focus out there on how to keep yourself out of trouble and what to do if you find yourself in trouble. There’s a huge market out there of both producers and consumers of the “before” and “during” parts of personal defense.

But what about the “after”?

The reality is, if you find yourself in a situation where you must defend your life or the life of a loved one, there is going to be an after. It may be as simple as some interaction with the police, all good, and you’re on your way. It may be as complex as being arrested and spending millions of dollars and many years of your life tied up in court cases (even if you were righteous). The after may be littered with dreams, flashbacks, hospital visits, affected relationships, and all manner of other “side-effects” for the remainder of your life. The after may even wind up with you being sent to prison for the rest of your life for a crime you didn’t commit. There’s going to be an after, and it behooves you to prepare for it, just like you prepare for the “before” and “during.”  And while it may not be as sexy as learning how to use some shiny toy or learn some cool tactics, it is a reality that should not be denied. When you are in a situation, that is not the time to acquire knowledge about how to deal with the situation.

This is where MAG-20 comes in.


If you don’t know who Massad Ayoob is, just Google search on his name. His resumé and legacy speak to what you need to know about him. The depth and breadth of his experience, not just as a cop, not just as a “gun guy”, not just as an author, but also as an expert witness with his extensive time in a courtroom along with his intensive study and research of these issues, he brings an immense amount of knowledge and wisdom. And he’s willing to share it, in courses like MAG-20.

I spent this past weekend (2014-03-08/09) taking his MAG-20 Classroom course (classroom only, no live fire). It was hosted by KR Training and held at the Red Oak Ballroom in Austin, Texas. Here’s the summary of the class from his website:

A two-day, 20-hour immersion course in rules of engagement for armed law-abiding private citizens, emphasizing legal issues, tactical issues, and aftermath management. Topics will include interacting with suspects, witnesses, responding police officers…threat recognition and mind-set…management of social and psychological aftermath after having had to use lethal force in defense of self or others…and preparing beforehand for legal repercussions and minimizing exposure to them. Situations in the home, at the place of business, or “on the street” will all be covered.

Now don’t think this is any sort of “Hey, learn how to work the legal system so you can kill people you don’t like, then get out of jail free!” sort of thing. No, that’s the furthest thing from the truth (and any sort of moral or ethical behavior). This class is about helping private citizens who have accepted the responsiblity for the care of themselves and those they love, to understand the realities of the full scope of their undertaking. The class conveys the weight and true gravity of the matter. Yes, there is a measure of preparedness for things like the potentially inevitable courtroom battle; why shouldn’t we be prepared for that? Not to dodge the law but to ensure we act in a lawful manner, and in a manner that doesn’t allow the law (or unscrupulous prosecutors) to steamroll us for trying to remain alive to see our grandchildren graduate college.

Yes, this is an important course for everyone to take.

Sure, Mas can be polarizing. Some consider him to be strongly on one side of the spectrum. Well, that’s alright. He’s got decades of experiences and research that back up his knowledge and why he views things as he does, why he teaches what he does. That doesn’t mean everyone accepts Mas’ teachings and stances lock, stock, and barrel. During the weekend I spoke with Mas about a particular topic where he and another respected trainer disagree, and both have valid arguments for their stances. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your while to listen to what he has to say.

Furthermore, given Mas has been around for so long, written so much, and spoken to so many, there’s no question some of the things he has said have become distorted. Case in point, Mas’ stance on using handloaded ammunition for self-defense. I know what I’ve heard over the years, and just like any round of “the telephone game”, the truth gets distorted as each person retells it from their foggy memory. In fact, back in 2009, Kathy Jackson posted a comment to this very blog about this very subject, working to clear the air on what Mas actually says (and yes, I stand corrected)! But anything you can hear straight from “the horses’ mouth” is always going to carry more weight, and certainly ensures clear air. Many things were said over the weekend that I’ve heard before, but to hear them from Mas gives a different weight, a different perspective, and certainly ensures a clarity and authority you can’t get from the Internet message boards.

Our Class

So how was the class itself?

Intense and intensive.

Two 10-hour days is a long time for your butt to be in a chair. Furthermore, we lost an hour due to Daylight Saving time starting, so by day 2, everyone was feeling a little run down. But class was never boring, never inattentive. In fact, I don’t think I’ve taken notes like this since college.

BTW, quick shout out to Circus Ponies for their NoteBook for Mac app. I’ve long wanted a good note-taking app, but for one reason or other never got around to finding one (or writing my own). I knew my traditional approaches were fine for my normal daily workflow, but for something this intensive well… Saturday morning before class started I went looking, found Circus Ponies’ app (which I had heard of before but never looked at beyond smiling at the fun company name), download, install, quick tutorial, then off and running. It was a smart move and tremendously helpful in my note-taking efforts. I’m going to continue my 30-day free trial, using NoteBook in my daily workflow instead of what I’ve done for the past 20 years, and see how it pans out. I’m optimistic! But I digress.

The class was logically presented, with each topic building upon the ones before it. Yes, if you’ve been around long enough, read enough, taken enough courses, you are going to be hearing things you’ve heard before. But now, maybe you’re hearing it correctly, or maybe the simple repetition is good for memory retention. This isn’t to say the class is just rehashed stuff; far from it. There’s a great deal of new and valuable information too.

The Power of Language

For me, one of the more interesting aspects was insight into the way the courts can work. The way the lawyers can work. Mas made a point that often a lawyer is going to make more use of Webster’s dictionary than Black’s Law dictionary. Here’s an example.

“I’m sorry.”

When you heard (read) those words, what impression did they leave upon you? Likely the impression that the person who spoke those words is sad… and regretful. Penitence. There’s implication of guilt.

But is that always the case?

What if you didn’t hear someone (loud room)? You might say “I’m sorry?” in an effort to get them to repeat themselves.

What if a friend’s mother just lost her battle with cancer. You might say to your friend, “I’m sorry.”  This is an expression of sympathy, not of guilt.

In each of these, it’s the same words uttered each time, but the intent and meaning behind those words is vastly different! Consider the impression some may take when they hear those words: “I’m sorry”. If you stand up in front of the court and say “I’m sorry”, could that be perceived as confession of a crime? or through some deft use of Webster’s dictionary, a prosecutor choosing to point out to the jury how the use of the words “I’m sorry” can mean penitence: a feeling of sadness because you did something wrong… wrong… like admission of guilt. Can you see how your words, that maybe were expressed out of sorrow, could be turned into an expression of guilt?

That was something from the course that really stood out to me. How yes, everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You’ve heard that phrase, but have you ever considered how your words may then be used against you, given the above example?

No, it’s not fair. But if you can have prior awareness, prior planning, prior knowledge — education! You can be prepared. Again, yet another time where people may not understand the value of a good education, until it’s too late.

Personal Take

All in all, I think the only downside to the weekend was a sore butt and stiff legs from sitting so much. 🙂 Oh, and I somewhat blew out my diet (two words: catered Skittles).  I learned a great deal. I have some thoughts on ways to improve my own planning, my own strategies, my own program. I even have a few things I wish to talk  over with Karl regarding KR Training. Regardless of those, I also have some thoughts on ways to improve myself as an instructor. If that’s what I walked away with, I have to think it was time well-spent.

Oh and my personal highlight of the weekend? I got to be Mas’ chauffeur. 🙂  It was fun to be able to speak with him on a more personal level, and personally experience what a down-to-earth and class-act he is. Yes, I made sure to take him to Rudy’s BBQ (nothing like their extra moist brisket!), and Mas… next time I’ll be sure to find a good BBQ joint that also serves Rolling Rock. 😉 Thank you so much for coming to Austin and sharing your knowledge with us.

One thought on “AAR: MAG-20 2014-03-08/09

  1. I agree, it was intense and intensive…. good class. I will be interested in the second half of the course in 2015. Thanks John and Karl.

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