Since last November, I’ve been training at the Critical Defense Institute (CDI) in Manchester, NH. CDI provides firearm and self defense training to civilian, law enforcement, and military audiences. It was the second organization in the State of New Hampshire (after the SIG Sauer Academy) to be certified for the Simunitions Range Program which means that average Joes and Janes can get Simutions training . . .
What makes CDI so unique is their instructor cadre. Each of its principals has a particular specialty which has been woven together into a multidisciplinary defensive training program. Rob Tibbo is a fifth degree black belt in taekwando, a second degree black belt in hapkido, and a military combatives instructor. Tom Brown is a lethal force instructor for New Hampshire and a Massachusetts State firearm instructor. He has many years of experience teaching firearms skills to law enforcement officers. Kevin Beaulieu is an NRA certified instructor for most of the courses the NRA offers and has also been teaching firearms for many years. Finally, Rich Iacomini holds a fourth degree black belt in taekwando and has trained with Rob Tibbo for more than two decades. All of the principals are certified Simunitons instructors as well.
The facility features a martial arts training dojo and a Simunitions shoot house. Students can choose to join CDI on a monthly membership basis or can attend a one-day self defense course on the weekend that features hand-to-hand defensive tactics and Simunitions training. The weekly program consists of a women’s self defense program that meets three times a weeks, twice weekly taekwando sessions, defensive tactics training on Tuesdays, and Simutions training on Thursdays.
Special courses include “Own Your Glock” in which Glock Certified Armorers show you how to disassemble your Glock to its components parts as well as their Rifle Builders Workshop where you learn how to build your very own AR-15.
One of the first things new students learn is that the firearm isn’t the answer to all of your problems. Rob and Rich are more than happy to demonstrate to any doubters that, if you are within reach, you will not have time to draw your gun before your ass is on the mat in a relatively painful submission hold. The best part is that CDI doesn’t just show you what can happen – they teach you to do it yourself.
In the shoot house, you’re under the watchful eyes of Tom and Kevin who are only too happy to exploit bad decisions. You’ll learn why the moves you see on TV will get you hurt (or worse). Every time I go into the shoot house, I come out with a new lesson learned and sometimes a new welt or two to help me remember and learn from my mistakes. That’s okay as that’s the whole point of Simunitions training – you really don’t want to get shot. It hurts. That’s what adds the necessary stress to a training exercise. It helps to simulate the pressure you’ll feel if you ever find yourself in a real gun fight.
For those unwilling or unable to make a weekly commitment, CDI offers their Home Defense 100 and 200 classes. These are full-day courses that feature a fair amount of time in the shoot house using Simunitions as well as a discussion of what to do before, during, and after a situation that goes really bad.
If I had to pick just one of the valuable things that I’ve learned, it would be that I need to protect my gun. All too often on the range we train to go from holster to a drawn gun in a classic Isosceles or similar stance where the pistol is in full extension. This tends to work great in competition and gets us into the most stable shooting position in the shortest amount of time. But under pressure, you’ll replicate what you have trained to do.
In a close quarters combat situation, that might make it easier for your opponent to disarm you. The alternative is to draw into a variation of the Weaver or Chapman stances which is a semi-bladed stance and allows you to fire your gun in many positions ranging from a full retention hold, to full extension. The instructors at CDI have the skill to simulate what could happen in the real world and you learn by doing what works and what doesn’t.
If you asked Rob what other valuable lessons he taught me, he’d probably include ensuring that I always leave myself a clear route of egress when clearing the shoot house. That was a particularly painful lesson for me and I’ll say no more about it.
Where CDI departs from some of the other courses I have taken is in their focus on the legal picture as well as the practical one. Do you really know what the law is with respect to when you can use deadly force? I thought that I did and I was wrong. Very wrong. The instructors are intimately familiar with the laws governing the use of force in New Hampshire as well as surrounding states and you leave their courses with a good understanding of what you can and can’t do if you want to keep your ass out of jail.
The monthly membership program is one of the best buys in personal defensive training in New Hampshire. From $135 a month, you get access to three hours per week of training in martial arts and another three hours of defensive tactics and Simunitions. You can choose to do all or some of the training as fits your schedule. If you’re within driving distance of Manchester, you owe it to yourself to check CDI out. In the six months that I have been training with CDI, I have learned a tremendous amount. Lessons learned in the shoot house early on have helped me to better understand my own limitations as well as given me an appreciation of the legal framework under which my actions will be judged.