Pretty much all knowledge is transferred through one of these methods: classes, DVDs, or books. Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. No single medium is a catch-all solution, instead they all serve a specific purpose in your training.
Attending a class is a great way to add to your combative skill set. A skilled instructor will have spent an enormous amount of time working to improve the way that they convey knowledge. A simple way to categorize instructors is into two primary groups. You have national or top tier instructors, and you have local or second tier instructors. Pretty much every firearms trainer falls into one of these two groups.
The difference isn’t huge when comparing these two groups. It primarily comes down to cost of the class and recognition. Just like a Coke costs more than a generic brand cola, taking a class from a well known instructor will usually cost more than taking a class on the same subject from a local instructor. The national instructor might or might not be better than the local guy, but he does have more recognition.
You need to decide for yourself if the extra cost is worth it for you. I personally find that the more generic the material, the less likely I need to take it from an instructor with a big name. If I want to learn how to shoot my pistol safely there are a variety of local instructors who can teach me that. If I want to learn how to fight someone in the backseat of my car I should probably seek out an expert on this subject.
There is a third category of classes: recurring classes. Martial arts classes (Karate, Jujitsu, etc) fall into this category. Regular training on the order of several times a week is the best way to learn and retain a complex skill. The advantage in taking any class is the feedback the instructor(s) can give you. A book or DVD will never tell you how you are doing, just what you need to be doing. If you are learning a new subject or have little experience training, this feedback is crucial.
Attending a class is often costly and time consuming. Money and time happen to be two of the most constrained resources for most people, so that is two big strikes right off the bat. While a class is probably a better way to learn for most people, DVDs can help bridge the gap.
A DVD lets you see what the instructor would have shown you at his class. Most of the top tier instructors have DVDs, so this can be a good way to bring the big name to you for a lower cost. Unfortunately you cannot ask the DVD questions (well, at least not if you expect an answer). The DVD cannot show you what you are doing wrong either.
Where possible a DVD is best left as a supplement. If you are going to spend the time and money studying with a top tier instructor, getting his DVD before the class and getting the overview before attending is a great idea. The DVD can then serve as a reference when you return from training to help reinforce the concepts taught in the class.
DVDs are also great for filling in the gaps on things you find less critical. If you want to fill gaps in your training inexpensively, a DVD might be the solution for you.
Books are the third of these training media. Books have most of the advantages of a DVD with the major difference being that you do not have video. For most people the presence of video aids learning. Most good books might have picture series demonstrating the techniques, but in almost all cases I have seen this still leaves something to be desired. Especially if you have never seen the material before.
Books, like DVDs, serve as good references with the advantage that you can more easily bring a book with you to the range or dojo. If you have a portable DVD player or laptop you might bring a DVD to where you train, but now you are searching through video when you should be shooting. A book on the other hand allows you to quickly thumb to the page where you can check whatever is in question. Books are especially great because you can keep one or two with you. I have a book that stays in my dojo bag so I can reference all of the Kata (forms) that I am studying and teaching in the event I need to clarify something. Finally, you can keep notes with a book. In fact you can highlight important points or write notes in the margins.
Again, I don’t believe any one of these methods is the ultimate solution. An instructor is probably best, but this is the hardest to keep with you when you need a reference. A book is easy to carry, but can’t quite show you the way an instructor or DVD can. Choose the right combination for yourself and tweak as needed.
Do you prefer classes, DVDs or books? Post a comment and let us know your preferred media.