I first heard about Image Based Decisional Drills (IBDD) at the virtual 2020 A Girl and A Gun National Conference and purchased “The Kit” in hopes of bringing it to my students via Zoom. After getting the product in my hands, I didn’t feel I could present the program effectively virtually without additional training, so I put it on the shelf for a year. Then Shelley and Brian Hill of The Complete Combatant presented their IBDD classes at the 2021 A Girl and A Gun National Conference with roaring praise from the participants which renewed my interest in the program.
Image Based Decisional Drills is an exercise to help people make better decisions when confronted with self-defense situations. Students are shown a card with an image and are asked to quickly react to the image by using a set of tools in front of them. For example, they may be given a card with a dark parking lot where they should choose a flashlight to help navigate through the structure, or they may be shown an angry man yelling at them from four yards away where the best decision may be to use OC spray. As the student gets more familiar with the drills, they are asked to stack what they have learned and act upon their first response, then add another response or two, like calling 911.
The idea behind IBDD is that visual cues help your mind better remember and retrieve information. So, when confronted with a similar real-world problem, your brain is able to access the memory and respond more rapidly to the event. Your decision will not only be quicker, but more effective because your brain has already experienced cycling through less effective options.
As I signed up for the Level 2 Image Based Decisional Drills Instructor Course (IBDDIC), my initial thought was they were going to show me how to flip the cards and walk the student through the decision-making process. What I received through the 2-day, eighteen-hour course was much, much more.
The excellent customer experience I was privileged to receive throughout the program started right after registration. Shelley made sure we had the information we needed regarding the logistics of class, the required equipment to bring, and sent out several reminders of the upcoming class. In addition, she promptly and efficiently answered my questions. They also handed out a homework assignment (which I won’t divulge) that was a reminder to us, as instructors, that the laws of self-defense are as important to our students as the self-defense process itself. This was due about a week before the class.
So, on July 17, 2021, I took a central Texas road trip to join about a dozen other instructors for the Image Based Decisional Drills Instructor Course. Karl Rehn of KR Training hosted Brian at A-Zone, Karl’s range in Manheim, Texas. Karl has been teaching the best courses in Texas since 1991 and several times a year brings in nationally recognized instructors to teach their signature courses. I have been taking classes from Karl for about ten years, but this was my first excursion to his home range. I have no doubt that any instructor Karl brings to A-Zone will be top notch and worthy of my training dollars.
On the first day of class, Brian started with the roles of being a coach before jumping into the effectiveness of visual stimuli in learning. Next, we discussed the IBDD program and how proxemics and altered perceptions weave into the drills. We went on to learn about the proactive mindset, the criminal mindset and layering protection. Then Brian explained in depth each of the options available in IBDD, plus a few others. He ended the first day by…you guessed it… giving us homework. Once again, the short assignment was helpful as it assisted the instructor candidates to successfully get through the next day’s teaching drill.
Day two began with pre-assault cues. Because this group of instructors was fairly advanced, Brian set up the program so that we could run the drills with the live fire option. The purpose of this was not to see how good our shooting skills were, but to allow us to see how students react on the range with an unknown scenario; a variety of non-lethal, less than lethal and lethal options to choose; and a timer to increase the adrenaline. He expertly explained to us how to control the student, their emotions, and the gun. As the hot Texas sun neared noon on the summer day, Brian rightly brought us in the air-conditioned classroom for lunch and the teach back program for the instructor certification. He ended the day with a page full of wisdom.
As if we did not get enough bang for our buck in this class, Brian added a session on Andrew Branca’s Five Elements of Self-Defense Law during our lunch period on the first day. Brian is an honors graduate from Branca’s Law of Self Defense Instructor program and took what could be dry, attorney speak and turned it into information that I could understand, relate to, and use to help my students comprehend the general overarching principles of self-defense given the scenarios in the IBDD class. Also, throughout the class, Brian added his tidbits of knowledge from his other areas of expertise and provided numerous additional resources including books, web sites, and other instructors to follow so that we could glean even more information about self-defense, visual learning and coaching.
In addition to “The Kit” (which must be purchased prior to the class), at the end of the class I took home an extra expansion pack, a few extra situation cards, an up-to-date instruction booklet, a gorgeous leather journal courtesy of HK, the Power Point presentation for instructors (which I easily revamped for my student course), a discount code for my students for IBDD products, and three handouts providing suggestions for successfully implementing the class. I then purchased additional expansion packs, option cards and situation cards to round out what I felt would make my class a great experience for my students. Overall, between the instructor class and the optional cards I purchased, I spent around $750, which I expected to recouped after just 10 students go through my class.
I hope in the future that Shelley and Brian add a page to the IBDD website with a list certified instructors for the purposes of verifying instructor status and, selfishly, as a marketing piece for my business. I think it would be nice to have completion certificates from The Complete Combatant that certified instructors could handout to their students too. I am also interested in taking the Level 3 IBDD Instructor Course to experience how force on force training intermingled with IBDD can help me be a better instructor.
I cannot say enough about the program Shelley and Brian created. I strongly believe Image Based Decisional Drills fill a training gap for our students through physical reactions based on visual cues, which in turn, teaches the mind what to do in the event of a real-world situation. All of this is done in a safe and supportive learning environment. Brian is an exceptional instructor who obviously loves learning and teaching. He is able to effectively communicate information to students so that they can understand it and use it. He is patient, graciously answers questions based on his expansive knowledge, and is an overall wonderful human being. Shelley has done an equally impressive job in organizing the program and keeping us up to date, so that I can easily replicate the training for my students. She still answers my questions regarding the program bolstering my already high regard for their continued support of providing an exceptional program. Together they are a fantastic team providing a brilliant and unique program to the self-defense industry.
(For an in-depth review of Image Based Decisional Drills, read Image Based Decisional Drills: Making ONE Good FIRST Decision.)