Usually I try to keep my posts on the blog fairly light but after a interesting chat with a friend this morning I feel todays post will need to be heavier - addressing certain questions which some might find annoying - especially those who have grown up expecting "respect" ............
What do I mean? Well a certain leader in the field of bushcraft has refurbished their website and one of the additions is a list of instructors. This is what my friend rang me about asking me if I'd seen it.
Well I have now!
I've been living and working in the outdoors for nearly 30 years now, one of my associates who teaches on courses has been doing similar for over 50 years so imagine my surprise when I viewed said websites instructors profiles and found an array of fresh faced youths some looking like they should still be at school.
Now dont get me wrong I'm not saying they are bad instructors - far from it I am sure they are all capable of repeating piece meal the lessons they have been taught. However to my mind their is more to being a good instructor than just being able to repeat word for word a lesson you've been taught.
At the end of my Milan Detachment commanders course my instructor said "Well boys the lessons are over, now the learning starts!" Wise words which have stuck with me for many years. What he meant by that was that the classroom and the real world are never quite the same and the lessons were to be those learnt in the school of hard knocks!
A good instructor needs more than anything else experience, experienced accumilated in doing, not reading books, watching tv or sitting around a cosy expedition style camp surrounded by abundant gear and food. Experience not only in the skills being taught but of living. An instructor needs to have lived, travelled and put the skills he or she is teaching into practice.
How can a guy or gal with limited life experience and even dirty time possibly teach a subject which is 99% experience based? Take bow drill for example how many different wood combinations can work, how many minute errors or flaws in technique can cause a person to fail? How can someone whose never made half the errors or used half the woods be expected to know the answers??
Bushcraft - the industry and the hobby is a small world, in days of yore the instructors from this and most schools had names known among their peers - none of those listed, and for that matter for half the other schools out there, are names I've never heard of or heard others mention.
Why am I harping on about this - after all we all had to start somewhere - well because I am firstly sick of the weakening and watering down of the skills I see so often these days and secondly because I am fed up with then having to re-teach the skills to people attending advanced courses when they should know this but dont.
The first instance is a crying shame - when I started on the bushcraft trail our aim, our ideal, was to master skills which enabled up to live in the wilderness comfortably with just the clothes on our backs and a billy can to use as a boiling vessel ........ now if its not a expedition style camp and the soft comfy option most people arent interested, god forbid to have to forage for food (unless its as a taster to add to your feast cooked in your dutch oven!) god forbid you have to find and process your water .......... what no tap, well I'll go without thank you ...........
In the second instance on courses like the WEISS course were now almost constantly have to run workshops for skills like bow drill - we've even had students attend who have been taught you can only do bow drill in pairs ................plant id skills are non-existant and even the fundamentals like knife sharpening are lacking.
Of course the worse offenders are those who have done a course and suddenly think they can teach others without a schools or a more experienced leaders back up and theirs plenty of those out there too, but still the key is experience. Even if the school has been established for 20 or 50 years the experience base of the instructor teaching is what counts ...............in the old days we all earned our stripes and paid our dues only in so doing can any instructor be worth his salts.
So there you have it dear reader - if booking a course ask yourself this, would you like to be taught skills you one day might pin your life on by someone whose never used them him/herself? Or are you happy to just tick the box and say "well I did a survival course with such and such so I'm the greatest"
If your answers Yes to either question - I have some dehydrated water you can buy .......... Experience is the only key which safely opens the doors of nature treasures.