An Interview with Mike Seeklander
Interview by Gila Hayes
Network members are well aware of the value we put on training to improve defensibility of force used in self defense. With summer nearly here, training opportunities are at an all-time high so it’s a good time to discuss how to get more out of training with Mike Seeklander, who in addition to teaching Shooting Performance classes has launched a training website, American Warrior Society, with instruction ranging from firearms to physical self defense to mindset and more. Let’s switch now to Q & A to learn from Seeklander in his own words.
eJournal: For experienced shooters, it’s difficult in the brief span of a class to overcome years and years of habit, prior training, and technique learned from other instructors. Still, we need to keep learning. What’s your advice?
Seeklander: The first step is to understand how the brain works. When you develop a habit, you myelinate nerve pathways. That is how we learn. If you have a habit built–a myelinated system–you can’t unbuild that habit. Someone trained in one system or technique over many, many years should understand that they are not going to be able to delete their old habits. If they’ve trained or shot for ten or fifteen or twenty years they have tens of thousand of repetitions built up. The only way to change is to develop a new and stronger habit.
This is how I tell students to approach material I give them. #1 go to the class and do your best but don’t be hard on yourself. The more you are a type A personality, hard on yourself and beating yourself up, the less you are going to hear the instructor. Once we accept that, we can relax and actually receive and start to absorb the information given. As I’m teaching, I see the more experienced students start to fight themselves, beating themselves up mentally, saying, “Man, I can’t do this like Michael wants,” and they just lost the next 15 minutes of information that I gave to them! That is a key point, because to get the information the end user has to say, “OK, this information is good enough that it is worth it for me to put in the time to change the habit.”
eJournal: Forming a new habit takes a very high priority if the instructor says, “What you are doing is physically dangerous! You are going to harm yourself or another, or someone else is going to harm you because you will not be ready.” If I’m your student, I need to be able to hear you and physically implement what you have shown me.
Seeklander: There may be a habit that is so important to change, that you are willing to put in the work. You can figure that out as you receive the information in the first place. Then, you say, OK, I know I have 5,000 repetitions of this habit, if there’s a better way to do it, it is worth my time to put in at least 5,000 repetitions and then some, to build that new skill set.
eJournal: As we get older, many of us struggle through limited strength and agility. When we are already giving it 110% but not succeeding, what do you do with us?
Seeklander: People need to think, “How do I do more with less?” How do I control the recoil of a handgun or a rifle with less effort? If I am using less effort, then I am using less mental connection and I am not as fatigued, and I can apply those skill sets across the board.
I’ll give you an example: some trainers teach grip mechanics differently than I do. Some of those grip mechanics rely heavily on pure strength. Everything I teach relies on leverage, getting the hands in position to have the maximum amount of skin on the gun, because that increases our friction. Getting our body weight, our palms and our arms and our shoulders and everything behind the gun is a skill that is applicable across the board because instead of controlling it with 50 pounds of pressure, now you are controlling it with 100 pounds of body weight. I can teach that to anyone, whether it is an 18-year old college-age female with a weak grip or a strong, former Marine that came back from Afghanistan. Of course, if you have physical limitations, we will have to work around those.
eJournal: How does this roll over into tactics? I don’t mean for military or police, but perhaps you are teaching private citizens how to get out of a dangerous area without getting blown up.
“Real life armed civilian tactics
rely a lot on knowing yourself.”
Seeklander: I think what people miss the most often is that real life armed civilian tactics rely a lot on knowing yourself. For example, if I have really poor night vision and I am clearing my house at night, that should dictate how I handle clearing a room. It may be that I have a remote light switch clicker by my bedside that I can click and turn on all the lights in the living room–because they make that kind of stuff these days–or a better weapon mounted light system, or a different light system.
Another example: my personal fighting tactics changed completely last December when I had my right hip replaced. I had never before been faced with a situation where I couldn’t throw a good strike, couldn’t throw any of my kicks, and I couldn’t run. That totally changed how I might personally use tactics against an adversary.
My 74-year-old father-in-law has very severe scoliosis. His back is very weak and he physically cannot get involved in a fight so he goes armed: he carries a handgun all the time. How he is going to deal with someone out on the street and the distances that he can let someone come within his personal space is completely different than me. If a 30- or 40-year-old guy walked up to me, I could not shoot him from 21 feet and articulate that I knew if this guy got closer to me I would more than likely get my back or neck broken and I’d probably be dead. If I did that, I’d more than likely go to prison, but my father-in-law can articulate something completely different than I can.
That is the key to tactics: people understanding their own limitations.
eJournal: Is instruction in tactics part of your curriculum?
Seeklander: I tend to teach skill sets. I like to think of skill sets as pieces of the puzzle. You can start to apply those pieces of the puzzle in any area, which builds your personal tactical plan.
When I teach tactics, it is the very simple things. Like how do you walk down a hallway if you are going from point A to point B? How do you negotiate the corner of a door? How do you get your body around a piece of cover and look for potential threats? How do you hold the handgun or the rifle so when you look for that potential threat, you can actually see what they have in their hands and say, “They’re armed,” or “This is some drunk teenager who broke into my house by accident?” I try to take the same rules and principles I teach in my shooting classes and apply those when I’m teaching tactics.
Tactics have to be practical and useable for the average person. I don’t think of them as the tactics that I know from the military or that I would teach to military guys, because those are completely different.
eJournal: Those are excellent insights into bridging the gap between willingness and actual physical implementation. It is clear that you have a strong grasp of the science of learning. How does the learning theory work if I’m reading a Seeklander book or blog post or watching streaming video as is occurring many times every day on http://www.americanwarriorsociety.com?
Seeklander: Well, that’s a brilliant question because it affects the people who are reading this interview, too. Everybody learns differently! I will use the American Warrior Society as an example. There, my partner and I wanted to create an environment where people could choose and pursue their best method of learning. I want real, actionable content from trusted experts on the AWS site, so everything you read or watch, you should leave saying, “Now I know how to ‘action’ that – I know how to practice it and I know how to research it further.”
is not the solution!
The solution is action!”
So, if you’re watching one of my videos, I want your focus on that video. I don’t want an ad to pop up that is designed to make you look and click. If you look at an ad and click on it, then you have forgotten about what I am trying to teach you in that video or what you are reading. That’s why the American Warrior Society site is ad-free. I want people to focus even if it is only for ten or fifteen minutes and they do only one drill.
There are other people that like to read—they love the written word! That is where all of our AWS blog articles come in. Still, unless it is about gear, at the end of every article, you get a set of action steps: Do 1, do 2, do 3.
Other learners need interaction from other people. That is where the forums and the group chats come in. So, we may have a new shooter that just read an article that might have used some acronyms or some phrases that they didn’t quite understand, well, that is their cue to go into the new shooter area of our forum and say, “Hey, I don’t quite get this!”
On the lower left hand side of every learner module page is an Ask a Question form. You fill in your name, ask what ever it is, and boom, within 24 hours, you get a response from myself, and probably one or two other expert guys. That’s guys like Michael Janich and Jason Kelly, who coaches the guys who are winning the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I’ve got some great guys on American Warrior Society and that is the key!
eJournal: I love the Ask a Question element! So let’s say your article discussed clearing a hallway with just one door at the end, but my hallway ends in a T intersection. As an AWS member, can I come on and get instruction about that complication?
Seeklander: You sure could! As these questions are being fed to the AWS site, we will publish those questions and answers so that you could go to a list of probably a thousand questions that were asked and answered.
Those questions also guide future website content, because if I get fifteen members telling me, “Hey, Mike, I don’t get how to handle a hallway in my house,” then guess what? I’m going to get a guy with a video camera to follow me around the house and I’m going to do a video teaching exactly how we need to think about clearing this area or moving through this area: the pros and cons or how you may want to set up a picture or mirror so that you have two angles of view.
eJournal: The great thing about video is that not only do learners get visual inputs, we also hear you, even to the extent of relying on your tone of voice telling us, “Pay attention, this part is extra important,” so that we interpret what we see correctly, and those who learn through their ears are getting the information through their best receptors, as well. Next, I’m interested in the mix of experts you’ve brought together because I believe most of us are way too gun-centric…
Seeklander: We are!
eJournal: …When we should have a wider range of abilities, if nothing else to make sure we can get the gun out of the holster and into use. What’s the mix on American Warrior Society site to help us expand our defense skills?
Seeklander: Maybe 50-50 or 60-40. On top of my whole handgun and rifle series, we have the strike series, the head defense series and a standing grappling series taught by a professional wrestler. If someone shoves a 120-pound female up against that wall, how can you get off the wall? We’ve got a video that teaches you. How do you get out of a headlock? If someone puts you down on the pavement and starts punching you in the head, how do you stop the punches and how do you get out of that position? It is all on http://www.americanwarriorsociety.com.
eJournal: That is useful, in light of our concerns about defending against blunt force trauma. Once we’ve watched them, your videos could become discoverable evidence after a defense shooting.
Seeklander: Absolutely. There is a video on striking with open hand, empty hand, closed fist, elbow strikes and the power you can generate from elbow strikes. I can imagine maybe that 75-year old warrior who’d watched these videos could testify, “I watched Mike Seeklander demonstrate on these videos and when I was approached by this guy on the street who had a bunch of tattoos and was big and muscular, I knew that if he hit me with one of his elbows, I would likely be killed,” and now he has obviously articulated a legitimate reason for using a gun in self defense.
eJournal: Between Shooting Performance classes and now the American Warrior Society, you have a lot going on. What’s your ultimate goal?
Seeklander: I had a guy doing some video with me the other day, and he said, “What’s your end goal?” and I said, “I will not stop until I have touched every single person in the United States who could potentially use this information!” That means I am probably never going to stop, but that is good! That is what I want.
I have a very specific memory that explains how American Warrior Society came about. I taught a class in which I had an older couple, probably late 50s or maybe early 60s. They both came to class very intent upon training. They had all brand-new holsters and guns and stuff. My first drill is very simple: extend the handgun, build a grip, shoot the target, but she was not making the gun go off. I said, “Why are you not shooting?” and she said, “I can’t shoot the gun.”
It was a very small gun with a thumb safety, so I said, “Just click the thumb safety down,” and she said, “I can’t, because I have arthritis in my thumb and I can’t manipulate the safety.”
I said, “Well, why did you buy this gun?” She said, “Because the guy at the gun store told me to.” I have heard that many times from people showing up with holsters and gear that just weren’t right for them. I said, man, I need to create something that someone can buy a membership and I can say, what do you want to learn about? Do you want to learn how to throw a punch? Do you want to learn about what it is like to get punched? Do you want to learn about gear? My answers are honest and objective.
eJournal: What is it going to cost me to become a member at American Warrior Society?
Seeklander: There are two different ways you can buy in. The initiation fee is $49.95 and then it is $9.95 a month or you can do it for one year at a time for $139 or you can get lifetime content access for $495 and we’re giving law enforcement and military a discount.
eJournal: And speaking of discounts, Network members can log in and browse to http://www.armedcitizensnetwork.org/members/coupons to access a coupon code for a 10% discount off a yearly membership in the American Warrior Society. Likewise, I thank you for encouraging AWS members and your students to become Network members, too.
Mike Seeklander is founder of Shooting-Performance LLC (www.shooting-performance.com) and the American Warrior Society. He is also the co-host of The Best Defense, the Outdoor Channel’s leading firearm instructional show and a highly sought after tactical and competitive trainer and a high level performer on the competition handgun circuit with numerous championships to his name. This is augmented by more than 15 years of experience in various martial arts in which he holds multiple ranks including a Black Belt in Okinawan Freestyle Karate. In addition, he has authored/produced instructional books, DVDs and has developed hundreds of lesson plans specifically related to basic and advanced firearms training.
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