Many people get into a Warrior industry and want to begin teaching other Warriors. Maybe they choose that path or spend some time in and realize they have something to pass on. Some want to get into the field of instruction in order to get a Gucci posting into a training unit, others want to rent their services out in order to make a profit in the private sector, and others just want to enhance their resume with some instructor credentials. Regardless of your motivation for becoming an instructor, it is not always easy to know where to begin.
This article seeks to provide some guidance on how to start a successful career as an instructor in a chosen Warrior field.
Do it for the Right Reasons
By far the most important aspect for any instructor has to be in the form of intent. If you’re intention is to be awesome, be a big deal or tell stories about the one great thing you did, then you are becoming an instructor for the wrong reasons. So first, before going down the path of being an instructor in a Professional Warrior discipline you need to make sure you are doing it for the students and not yourself. Everything in training is about the student not the teacher. Keep your ego out of it and move forward with the intent of improving your students, your organisation and potentially your industry and you will be more successful.
It’s not about you.
If you recognize that, please keep reading.
Once you have the right intentions, the most important criteria for any instructor comes in the form of experience. This is ever so crucial in every industry, but more so in the field of Warrioring. The entire purpose of training is to prepare them for the real world. If you have no real world experiences to draw from then your students would likely get more from reading a book written by someone who has experience. In order to be an effective instructor and have some credibility with what you are teaching, you need to get some experience first. The more depth or diversity you have in your experiences the better an instructor you can be.
Select a Topic
Once you have some experience you should then start looking for a topic that you want to teach. If you are personally interested in a specific area it will make it easier to learn. Having a passion for something will go a long way with your own development and that of your students. If you are into martial arts, then maybe getting into the world of Use of Force, Defensive tactics or unarmed combatives is for you. Gun enthusiasts will likely want to be firearms instructors and people with a medical background or passion may want to teach First Aid or some other form of Pre-hospital care. These are some of the more common basic courses, but there are a myriad of other specialties you can look into based on your passions.
Another way you can select a topic is by looking at your weaknesses. By forcing yourself to endeavor down the path of an instructor in a topic you are less confident in you will develop, and hopefully rectify any deficiencies over time. This will have a tremendous impact on your personal growth and likewise you may be better suited to pass that knowledge onto others. This is something I did in the areas of both CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence) and First Aid. I researched my knowledge base extensively, in the components I was less confident in and eventually became one of a handful of Subject Matter Resources for my organisation in both topics. Trust me, being forced to teach something you are not good at, is a great way to force yourself to get good at it fast. However, be warned that this is a huge undertaking, especially for a novice instructor and you should never teach something you are not confident in or skilled enough in. Your students deserve the best, so pursuing this path is a way to workout your own deficiencies, just make sure you have some support and do not pass your issues on to your students. When I used this method I had already been teaching Defensive tactics and firearms for about 5 years, and I worked alongside quality mentors throughout the process. Eventually it paid off and I became very passionate and subsequently knowledgeable in both subjects.
In order to be dedicated to both learning and empowering others, you must be passionate about the topic.
Get a Mentor
Embarking down the path of a Warrior instructor is not an easy one and it’s even more difficult to do it alone. Seek out professional relationships, network with experts and identify some mentors. Many organisations have formal mentor opportunities, if you can find one take advantage of it. Remember not all growth has to be formal. If you can identify some leaders in your chosen field, reach out to them and ask for help. You will be surprised how much they are willing to give you. Maintain open lines of communication and discuss all of the suggestions in this article with them. They are likely to be your best source for growth opportunities, networking, experience and guidance along the way.
It’s a sign of strength, not weakness; to ask for help.
Do your Homework
The next step is to research as much as you can about the topic or discipline you selected. Sign up for newsletters, buy books, get memberships in associations, and join Facebook groups or other online forums. Google as much as you can on the topic, it’s sub topics and everything that is remotely connected with the subject. Look into everything until you are able to find out what the most current material is on the subject. Don’t stop there, as it’s always good to know a little more than what’s trending. Research the history of the subject and maybe what some of the more controversial aspects are. Your objective is to be able to speak freely on the topic and to know what’s legit and what’s not (so be careful with your research, especially on the internet).
So this might happen during the research phase or any other stage, but regardless of when it happens you need to have some recognized qualifications, certifications or other credentials to your name. These may be available within your organisation or agency, but most likely you will have to go external to learn more than the bare minimum. Be prepared to have to spend some of your own money. Your department (or employer) may pay for some external training, but if you are not already a recognized trainer they will be less inclined to accommodate your requests. For Military members, it may be easier to get internal training than externally without authorization, but be prepared that many of your military qualifications may not be automatically transferable outside the military, even if they are superior (that doesn’t mean it’s not great content, it just means you will need more). Whatever you do, seek to gain as much diversity and depth to your qualifications as you do with your operational experience.
By now you’ve done a fair amount of preparatory work in the pillars of knowledge, training and experience as part of the quest towards expertise in your selected topic of instruction. Your next step is to get formal instructor certification. This maybe very simple like ,taking an internal agency course or an extensive instructor development program. In fact, some people might initiate their instructor journey with one of these internal instructor courses. In that case some of the above steps may take place after this one. But if you are looking at being competitive and applying for instructor courses, positions or postings; doing all the previously mentioned steps will help increase your standing in an application process.
Also, just because you are passionate and great at something, doesn’t mean you will be a great or even good instructor. I have met a lot of people that were exceptional at their craft and terrible at training others. Teaching and training is a skill unto itself. In addition to your benchmark passion, you must take formal training in the art of training others. If you are passionate about your chosen topic, then you need to get even more passionate about teaching it. Put just as much effort into the art of developing others as you do your topic and you will have some very skilled students.
Just remember, a 5 day instructor course on a specific topic does not make a professional Warrior trainer. That’s either the starting point or a development phase along the way.
Prepare to Teach
The first time you teach will likely be a stressful and challenging experience, especially if you are passionate about developing others. It is important to prepare every aspect of what you are about to teach. Prepare your lessons and logistics; then practice, practice, practice. I once had an instructor trainer tell me that for every one hour of instructional time an instructor should put in a minimum of four hours of preparation time. I remember in my first years as an instructor I could be seen in my basement teaching lessons to my dogs and relentlessly going over my practical skills. My dogs back then have since passed away, but they were experts in defensive tactics, military drill and CPR. But no, they never wore a gas mask!
Preparation is essential to effective student growth. The previous steps are all preparation, but there is so much more you will need to prepare. You must handle all the logistics, administration, content review, setup, necessary safety protocols, exercises and scenarios.
You can never prepare enough. You must also ensure you are mentally prepared for the experience.
So now you are an instructor or maybe an assistant instructor. Either way you need to get some time teaching and training others. Embrace every opportunity you get to develop others and learn from every class or course you teach. Make mistakes, but don’t make them more than once and do not make them if lives are on the line. Safety in training is paramount, but remember that when your students leave the classroom they’re not going to be flipping burgers their going out into their own battlefield. Whether that is on the streets, doing halls and walls or deployed abroad. Take your role as an instructor seriously, develop your students and prepare them for the real operational environment they will be working in.
Take training seriously, embrace opportunities to empower others, enjoy what you are doing and you will have an impact.
Continue to Develop
Once you’ve started teaching you have only just begun the journey of an instructor. All of the above steps must continue to repeat themselves. You must not be out of the game too long as an instructor because the operational environment will evolve and you must grow along with it. As the world changes so must you. Continue to research your existing trade craft along with any other areas of interest. Train, learn teach and repeat. You must stay current in your teaching skills and those of the operational environment.
Constant growth is the journey of a Professional Warrior Instructor.
Give Back, Pay it Forward
Now, you’ve been heading down this path for a while and likely learned a lot. You have extensive experience, taken lots of courses and read everything possible on a subject. You have taught many classes and had lots of help a long the way. It’s time to pay it forward and empower others in a different way. Put yourself out there and look for people who may be where you were years ago. Be a mentor to the next rising you or someone you recognize with potential. There are a lot of terrible trainers out there and perhaps it was because they did not have the right focus or guidance. Be the solution not the problem. Help others along the way, and guess what you will continue to learn from helping them and you will be that much better for it.
Warriors don’t need the most trainers they need the best trainers.
Becoming a Warrior instructor is not an easy one but it is very fulfilling and one of the most important; if not the most important position within any organisation. Take every opportunity to grow and refine your path, even if its unconventional. Learning happens everywhere and the more knowledge, training and experience you have from a wide range of sources the better your students will be and the more you will have to offer. If things get tough, remember your passion and why you embarked down this path in the first place.
The sum of any organisation can be measured by the training. The sum of the training is a reflection of the trainers.
Now, don’t stop there. Help yourself and others continue to develop by contributing your expertise to this post in the comments below or sharing on your favourite social media platform.
Did I miss a step, or would you like to elaborate on something I mentioned?
Thanks for reading, stay safe out there and keep developing.