From January 31, 2018 to February 4, 2018 I participated in the Use of Deadly Force Instructor class offered by the Massad Ayoob Group in conjunction with the Firearms Academy of Seattle, hosted by KR Training. The event was held at the Giddings (TX) Downtown Restaurant, which provided a large and comfortable meeting room, as well as most excellent lunch (and coffee/drinks) catering throughout the event.
About the course, from the MAG website:
Taught personally by Massad Ayoob, this one week 40+ hour course of instruction is offered by the Massad Ayoob Group in conjunction with The Firearms Academy of Seattle, Inc. to teach and certify self-defense firearms instructors in the complicated and nuanced discipline of teaching the legalities of use of deadly force in self-defense. Teaching how to shoot is the easy part. Much tougher is teaching people when and when not to use force, including deadly force, in self defense. In addition to learning what to teach and how to present it, students will also learn how to take their expertise to court, to both serve as a material witness for their students, and perhaps an expert witness in other self-defense court cases. Course content includes:
Justifying use of deadly force in self-defense
Use of non-lethal force in self defense
Understanding the affirmative defense of self-defense
Physiological phenomenon involved in deadly force incidents
Criminal law and self-defense
Dynamics of violent encounters
Mock courtroom exercise
Issues from actual self-defense cases (case studies)
Students will be expected to prepare for this class by researching their own state’s laws on use of deadly force, along with their own state’s case law, and bring this material to class. Additionally, students should be prepared for instruction to go into the early evening if necessary on some days, in order to cover the vast array of material which needs to be covered.
Pre-requisites: Instructor credentials or membership in the Armed Citizens’ Legal Defense Network, Inc.
As you can see, it’s quite an in-depth and intensive class. Officially, the class is 40 hours of instruction, but I reckon we totaled about 50 hours due to extended discussions, Q&A, and a large number of student presentations (I believe the student headcount was 32).
I cannot go into detail about the class content: you need to come to class yourself. But there are a few things I can say.
Class started with Massad teaching solo; Marty arrived later with Mas and Marty co-teaching the last three days.
If you have previously taking LFI-1, MAG-20 (classroom), or MAG-40, a fair portion of the material will be redundant. I have MAG-20 classroom and MAG-40 certificates, so for me there was redundant material. Sometimes it made it hard to sit through class, but I actually appreciated it. Why? Because redundancy fosters learning. Let me repeat that: redundancy fosters learning. To hear this material again was a good thing. As well, when you hear the material in MAG-20/40, you’re hearing it from the perspective – both as it’s being taught and as you are consuming the information – of the student. When you hear that material in this DFI content, it is being presented and you are consuming it as that of an instructor. The context shift makes a difference in the material, how it’s presented, and how you consume it; so it’s actually a good thing to hear the information again.
After Marty’s arrival, content of the course shifted from use of force knowledge and information to more about courtroom matters. Issues of defense, of concept articulation, of expert witnesses, and how court and trial proceedings work.
The highlight event was the moot court exercise. The intent of the exercise is to show what a trial can be like (if you’ve never had exposure to one), how proceedings work, how direct and cross happen, and then how you – as a possible material or expert witness – will operate. Due to the fact we only had one day for the exercise, the ground was laid by watching an interesting movie that left a lot of questions. We treated this as evidence, because in a real trial all of that information could come out but it would take 2 weeks to do so; since we didn’t have 2 weeks, this was a fair device for the exercise.
We had only one actual lawyer in class, so he played the judge. Marty prosecuted, Mas defended. Particular students were tapped to play certain characters. Other students directly participated as expert witnesses, generally playing themselves. For example, Marty used me as an expert witness, and I played myself as an expert on martial arts, firearms, and weapon disarms. (Aside: during cross, Mas posed a hypothetical to me – which was a little personal and stunned me that he would “go there”, but was brilliant in delivery, execution, and context; it made his point so well, and it demonstrated Mas’ keen senses and abilities. Bravo, sir!). The remaining students were on the jury, and after much deliberation? We resulted in a hung jury (we were told in past classes that juries have found both guilty and not guilty – so it’s far from a canned experience!).
Every student in class was required to give a 5-10 minute presentation on a topic, which was assigned by Marty prior to class. This allowed each student to demonstrate presentation ability (it’s an Instructor class, after all), but it also provided each of us with 30-some solid articles and references directly relevant to use of force, expert witness knowledge, court proceedings, case law, and other topics to really expand the information provided by this class. I believe Karl will be posting student presentations (of those who wish to do so) over at the KR Training blog in the coming weeks.
If you’ve been to one of Mas’ classes before, you know a portion of the material is provided by watching videos – which provides consistent, documented, and easily reproducible content. But then there was a great deal of live lecture, presentation, Q&A, and discussion as well; this is why class would run later.
I thought the class was fantastic.
There’s a huge amount of information provided on the issues of deadly force, and how I, as an instructor, not only have to work to convey such matters to my students, but then how as an instructor I may be called to be a material witness or could offer my services as an expert witness. I know of no other program that provides this vital information.
While the lecture was good, the moot court exercise was great. Asking some other students, and they too felt the moot court was the best and most valuable portion of the class.
I think it’s important to consider the prospective students of this class: people who instruct in the use of deadly force. You don’t need to be a prior MAG graduate. In fact, I got the impression a fair number of students were folks who just taught things like their state CCW course or maybe the NRA basic courses as a side-gig. Consequently, they may never have had the exposure to the courtroom, to trials, to other things Mas teaches. This class is a great resource for breaking that ground and being able to do so through the eyes of instruction.
While for sure the class was biased towards firearms (tho there’s no shooting in the class: it’s 100% classroom), this is the sort of class that ANYONE teaching “self-defense” should take. Do you teach women’s self-defense courses? even those that are just about awareness, palm strikes to the chin, and knee to the groin — there’s still use of force matters to be aware of. Pepper spray classes? Traditional martial arts? If you are in the business of teaching self-defense, under whatever mantle, you need this knowledge. As I think about it, it generally seems that only firearms folk cover such legal matters, but it really needs to be anyone teaching self-defense.
Any criticisms of the event? I think the only thing that actually bothered me during class was at times Q&A could go off the rails. Some questions felt like personal questions that should have been asked during break vs. taking up class (and everyone’s) time. And sometimes it just ran long. On the one hand, it’s understandable because the topic is interesting, engaging, broad, and deep – so it’s very easy to “get into it”. On the other, when you’ve been sitting in a chair for days, drinking from the firehose, sometimes you just need the firehose to be shut off for a little bit and get to break sooner rather than later. Again, I don’t necessarily fault folks here (I’m guilty of time management issues myself), but if I had to mention anything that I didn’t like, it was that. But it’s a minor thing.
One other thing I liked about the event? The non-classroom stuff. I made a few new friends, got to meet Dr. H. Anthony Semone, PhD (Google him), and spend some informal time with Marty Hayes. If you know some of my past, I am thankful for some things Marty has done. We’ve spoken here and there (including recording an episode of the Polite Society Podcast mere days before this event), so it was great to finally meet him in person, have supper a few times, and sip some bourbon together. Oh, and I got to introduce him to Buc-ee’s. We’ve got a small world, and our industry here is even smaller – events like this, to meet and work with like-minded folks, are precious.
Mas and Marty don’t teach this class that often. So when it becomes available, make the effort to take it. It’s some of the most important training you can receive.