2 day Pistol and movement course.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to North Carolina and train with special operations legend, John ‘Shrek’ McPhee, the Sheriff of Baghdad, a retired Army Sgt Major and operator at all levels of special operations, from Rangers, SF, CIF and the Army’s premier SMU the ‘Unit’ (I am just gonna say it, Delta Force).
To say I was looking forward to it or that I was excited would be an understatement. I had waited 8 long years for this opportunity, and I took it the first chance I got after moving stateside and recovering from 8 operations in less than a year.
I started the course with a huge smile from ear to ear, and finished with one.
I don't know how many times I caught myself smiling throughout the course with a huge grin on my face, I couldn't believe that I was there, finally being coached by John, it was very surreal.
So how was the training?
Honestly, it was amazing, mind blowing and life changing!
Let me explain…
Meeting John, I wasn't sure what to expect, on video he comes across as a really jovial type of guy, and his reputation as a 'Unit' legend conjures up images of some absolute skull crusher, so what was my initial impression? Well, he was exactly like he is on video, friendly, always smiling, quick with a joke. He was super humble, very polite and has the patience of a zen monk or a Jedi knight.
Not once during the course did he ever flash (get upset), yell, ridicule, insult, intimidate or try and mad dog or show off at all. Matter of fact he was rather soft spoken, which made you want to listen twice as much!! As for his size, given that his moniker is Shrek, well he lives up to it, we were both around the same height (183cm or 6ft), but John is a solid guy probably close to 100kg or 215-220 in American. With forearms the size of bowling pins. His build wouldn't look out of place on any Rugby field or at ADCC. If he got a hold of you, you would regret it fast!!
After a safety and medical brief, We got straight into the layout of what to expect, then we got started.
John took us over to the range, and filmed us all. I should mention, he keeps his classes small! This ensures everyone gets plenty of one-on-one coaching, and I mean plenty of it!! No one is left behind!!. John filmed us doing 2 drills, one stationary, one moving.
Then we went back to the classroom, and John analyzed and broke down every good and bad thing we did, in slow motion and recorded all the coaching points for us. It was really amazing to see how similar we all were, but also how different we were.
John also did something that my martial arts teacher Kacem Zoughari does, to help us justify and understand the process ahead, he started busting myths, from trigger jerk to the pie chart and everything in between, he explained why it was all BS, and then brought us out to the range to prove it.
Out on the range again, (it was only a 15m walk), he then proceeded to coach us through our deficiencies one on one. This is really the bread and butter of the course.
I just want to point out here that I have a lot of experience teaching and being taught, from people all over the world, from Commandos to 70+ yr old Japanese Jujutsu Masters, from Graduate University education, and world Champion BJJ players etc. I can count on one hand the number of good teachers I have met in my life, who actually care about their students and know how to teach, break everything down and make sure you understand what is happening. I mean really understand how to teach or coach. Kacem Zoughari, Ishizuka Tetsuji, Dan Van Zandt and now John McPhee.
John doesn’t have you shoot 1000 rounds a day, and maybe you will figure it all out at some point. It's the complete opposite. You start not even firing a shot. First he fixes your grip, no matter your experience, you probably have been holding a pistol incorrectly your entire life or police/military career, then he fixes your stance/posture. This is where the real gold lies, if you do stance and grip right, everything else falls into place. For me this took him around 5 mins, he filmed the entire procedure, and he even drew on my hands with a marker to ensure I understood what he was showing me and how to duplicate it later.
I cannot emphasize enough how quickly John diagnosed everyone, and then had everyone reshoot once he fixed grip and stance (to include eye management). Within 5 minutes everyone pretty much went from a random A-C zone or even a miss or two for 3 shots, to shooting 15 rounds rapid fire into a 3 inch box. Just by fixing eyes, grip and stance.
There was no guesswork, no voodoo, no shoot more and work it out. It was pure one on one coaching, solid verbal and physical cues and within 5 minutes, he fixed 95% of your problems. It was insane to watch. I am still astounded by it all now, and it would have to be one of the most impressive things I have ever seen, seriously.
In terms of practical application I don't know if i have ever seen better coaching/teaching than Kacem Zoughari, the level of detail and understanding of biomechanics, kinesiology etc, nothing gets by Kacem, well I have added John to that list, As someone who has been involved in and earns his living from teaching movement and flexibility and has been studying Exercise, Flexibility and Biomechanics just on 20 years now, I feel it safe to say that John knows, understands and see’s more than I do. I learned so much from him and how to observe and see more than I thought I would, and better still, he taught me how to see it.
At the end of day 1, I fired less than 40 rounds, but left a much better shooter, with much better understanding of what is right and what is wrong and how to coach and fix myself, I left the range with a huge smile, I couldn't contain my happiness and I overwhelmed my partner with my new found energy and enthusiasm. It was solid advice after solid advice all day long.
We all went out for dinner and had a great evening talking and learning more about each other, and telling stories and jokes and having a good time. We all had a good laugh.
Day 2 started the moving phase of the pistol course.
John started with a small recap of day 1 then moved onto the movement phase, he once again debunked the myths about moving and shooting, then showed us a better way doing it, it worked pretty much instantly. On day 1 we did a moving test, on day 2 during our first drill, I was already shooting better than day 1 moving. John teaches in a step by step, layer by layer fashion like my martial arts teacher does, so I really enjoyed this format, it suits my learning style well, and from what I could tell, it suited everybody else too given their results.
He misses nothing, “hey, your left leg your gait is off, try it like this”, “don't push your hips back”, “turn your head 5 degrees”, “your thumb is breaking your grip”. Are some of the bigger things he sees, the smaller things I kid you not, he is looking at for example your upper and lower eyelids for muscle activation, this is where the video doesn't lie and you can see it in slow motion.
My final moving shooting video at the end of the day I messed up, it was on me, I shot 3 rounds, but 1 round about 2cm outside our 5 inch circle. I knew exactly what I did wrong, how to fix it, and when it happened, it was my gait. I had shot it correctly many times during the day, just goes to show that old habits creep in when you least expect it. I think after a solid few months of practice, I will have ingrained the new patterns and forgotten the old ones. But I have an entire toolbox now and know how to fix 95% of my problems on my own, and have plenty of drills to work on over the next few months and years.
We ended the day with 45 degree angles and sideways angles while moving. It was great to see how everyone managed to do so well.
My only disappointment during the whole course was, it was too windy on day 2 for John to bust out his flameflower that he brought. There is always next time I suppose.
Final thoughts, it was one of the best few days of my life, I love learning and being pushed. John was humble, patient, funny and extremely talented as a teacher/coach. I cannot recommend him highly enough, I encourage anyone from a complete beginner to a steely eyed commando to go get coaching and training from him. I cannot wait until I get the chance to train with him again.
Lastly I should mention, he took everyone from large shot groups, to smaller than fist size groups (and for some smaller) while on the move and stationary, with just verbal and physical cues, John never fired a shot or held a live firearm all weekend. How impressive is that!!
Shooting with John 'Shrek' McPhee was amazing, inspirational, motivating and life changing, the positivity, hope and technique is second to no bastard.
Go to https://sobtactical.com/classes/ when it comes to shooting, you cannot do better and it is one of the best investments I have ever made!!
Thank you John!
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