The Curse of the Workshop Warrior

By Rouen Heiberg

Trigger warning – I may cause a serious amount of butthurt with this blog, but truth be told if it affects you, then it’s probably related to you.

Training is good: we can all agree on that. Training can take many forms, be it workshops, seminars, self-taught via online resources, or through the use of good training partners. For folks in rural areas the latter options may be all they have to work with. 

Here’s the problem – a weekend workshop cannot and will not make you a Jason Bourne, quasi-ninja, bone-crunching, death-dealing operator despite what the instructor on the poster tells you. In fact, in many cases it will only give you a very false sense of security. Allow me to explain. Shooting, and its less modern cousin – unarmed combatives, is a perishable skill: to do it well you need to practice. Drill it in, repeat, sweat, blood and maybe some crying. You not only need to drill it in, you also need to maintain proficiency with that skill over time.

What I have seen are people going to the odd workshop twice a year (kudos to them for seeking training, I am not taking that away) and then believing that with only two to four days training a year they will succeed in becoming the hardest man (or woman) in the room. There are various reasons for this:  some arrogance, or false advertising by the instructor, or sometimes just plain ignorance.

I had a very close friend who passed away last year. He was serial workshop attendee. After attending a few combatives workshops presented by some of South Africa’s best instructors he decided that the time is right to come and convey his knowledge to a few of us. It’s safe to say that it did not go well for him: he succeeded in getting the living daylights beaten out of him by a few guys when he tried putting his knowledge to practise. Afterwards he admitted to me that he realises now that he still has a long way to go. Fantastic! Lesson learnt. Does that mean that his instructors were bad? Of course not: he just did not practise what he was taught.

Fair disclosure – I was one of the two guys that taught him that lesson. It was one of those lessons that needed to be learnt the hard way. Now, I’m not the most dangerous guy in town. I am also not some Black Belt Magazine Hall-of-Famer. I stand about zero chance against a pro fighter. But…I do a bit of everything – some Krav Maga (the non-empty chamber kind), a bit of MMA, and I recently got hooked on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There have been training gaps of months here and there, but I was still at a level of skill that only comes from being punched in the face and choked regularly (I do hope you mean outside the bedroom, Rouen – Ed). You cannot learn or maintain that with a  2-day workshop.

I recently came across a training program which is provided to the South African Farming community by a certain group. Yes, the farmers desperately need it and I have no issue with them being taught to defend themselves. However, then I see things in the curriculum such as “Room Penetration”, “House Clearing”, “Hostage Rescue” and sundry others. The pictures show young children stacking up by a door for this “room clearing” exercise. This is about where I say “stop right there.” The Special Air Service, SFOD, MARSOC, US Army Rangers and our own SAPS Special Task Force spend thousands and thousands of rounds, and hundreds of hours drilling and preparing to do execute these highly dangerous and extremely technical manoeuvres (clearly activities in the realm of specialists with all the prerequisite qualifications and experience. – Ed). Some of these workshop-goers have not even mastered the most basic firearm-handling skill fundamentals, and now they are being taught how to clear a kill-house. I have performed a bit room clearing training myself, and I found it extremely nerve-wracking and difficult. This with all of the guys participating being regular shooters. Can a civilian be taught how to do these things? Sure, but it takes a serious commitment to regular training and money spent to do it safely. (One must also ask what value is added to a civilian’s tactical toolbox when you teach them advanced tactics when they have yet to master the basics. – Ed)

Don’t get me wrong – I think workshops are great, but I also do not think that they are all-encompassing. You will still need to practise regularly. The workshop shows you what you need to do, but the onus is on you to practise what you have learned. Workshops are also used as a marketing tool to pull students into attending a regular class where they will have the opportunity to practice and drill-in the skills on offer.

You can dryfire your gun at home, or you can go to the range for some actual shooting. When it comes to unarmed combatives, you need to fight another human in order to train. You can join a club or gym and start sparring with a suitable partner. If I had to bet my money on a guy who trains once a week in a fight against a guy who did one workshop in a year: 52 sessions of 1.5 hours equals 78 hours of training. A workshop usually offers 12-15 hours. Do the math – it is a no-brainer.

During the week Rouen works in the security industry designing integrated security solutions. In his free time he cultivates his tactical beard, causes butthurt amongst liberals, and helps to run an IDPA club.

13 thoughts on “The Curse of the Workshop Warrior

  1. First thing that Idan will tell you is that his training does not make you superman and that they expect you to train intensively with them for at least 6 months but preferably 2 years. The farmer workshop is out of frustration that nobody is helping the farmers. I see it is at no charge. I suggest less writing and more free training of farmers.


    • There have been offers from people like Fortis etc, and the workshops they have run were very successful. The fact that Idan is offering his training for free…well, you get what you pay for, folks. I cannot in good conscience recommend the training offered by that individual. Farmers are also not useless: surely they can organise a reputable trainer to give them a course, as opposed to the other way around?


    • Lukas.
      When you try to teach someone advanced skills without giving them the basic fundamentals you are setting them up for a massive failure.

      We have tried to get farmers (at no charge to them) to come to the basics classes but they were not interested in it. They were too busy clearing houses and rescuing hostages to get some solid fundamentals.

      Rouen isnt knocking a style or person. He is trying to get the point across that you cannot expect to be Chuck Bruce Superman after 2 days of classes. It is an ongoing process of learning and practicing – once you have the fundamentals down. You begin at the bottom and work your way up. Not the other way around.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did you guys read my post? The part about 6 months and 2 years? I did HUET training for one week. Does it guarantee me to get safely out of a helicopter that fell in the sea, no probably not. Does it give me a chance to get safely out, hell yes. Have you guys done any of Idan’s classes? Etienne in CT does free Kalah anti rape classes in CT as well. Is it rubbish because it’s free? Are the ladies ninjas afterwards? Absolutely not. Do they have a better chance to defend themselves after the free training. Again, I laud the guys for doing this for free as it is their lively hood. If you don’t like Idan, come and train with Etienne or Frank in CT. If you feel after 6 months it was a waste of time, I will personally refund you. At least you might feel better that someone paid for it.


      • Lukas, Idan charges R15K to R20K for his “farmers instructors” course: it says so on his website. Nowhere does he mention any prior experience being necessary. He takes the guys from zero to hero in 14 days with modules like “swat”, “urban warfare”, “bush warfare”…these are people that likely don’t even know which side of the gun the bullet comes out of. I am also not interested in touching his training: I have seen enough on the videos he put on the internet, and his firearm training is irresponsible and downright dangerous. I have no desire to subject myself to him putting a loaded pistol against my forehead, as he does on his videos. I have trained with many instructors over the years, and none of them have needed to employ such training methodology in order to get a point across. I appreciate your kind offer, but I am unfortunately going to decline it: I see no point in participating in something with which I vehemently disagree with.


      • Come and train with Etienne or Frank then if you don’t like Idan. First you complain about the for free, now you complain about charging too much. On the pics you see kids doing house clearing. Looking at the same pics I see kids clearing out safely. I have never been taught any offensive stuff. It’s all been aimed at getting out safely. So stop reffing from the sidelines and go to a workshop. Say you are a farmer. It’s for free then. What have you got to lose. Come write a feedback afterwards. At least these guys are training out there. Even if it’s for free.


      • Lukas, this is something Idan/Kalah followers seem to not understand: there are people out there who do not see sufficient value in the system you subscribe to. I have a 12-year martial arts background staggered across three separate disciplines. I have trained with at least 5 different firearm instructors with respected backgrounds during the past 3 to 4 years. The other blog contributors, such as Bryan, Rouen, and Craig Pedersen all have superior backgrounds to myself. Unless Idan and his system fundamentally change the entire way they do things, I do not see any point on subjecting myself to an experience which will frankly just be a waste of my time. Peace out.


    • Is that before he waves the muzzle of a loaded firearm over you or after?

      Time and again he has shown himself to be dangerous in terms of simple safety procedures. This statement alone is borne out by his videos and of course the student that was shot.

      As for the farmer workshop well I’m sure paying what 30k per person for that really left them feeling cared for. A true mensch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lukas, you ask what the farmers have to lose. THEIR LIFE!
        By teaching empty chamber and not focussing on fundamentals AND Continued training you are not giving them the basic tools that they need.

        You crawl, then walk and only then run. Training in any form need to start at a crawl and only when its mastered do you walk and run.

        Giving people advanced training who cannot even run basic handgun drills is just not the way to go.

        Liked by 1 person

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