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The NRA will roll back its “Blended Learning” Basic Pistol class within the next 60 days.  My good friend and “The Gun Writer” Blogger Lee Williams, now living in Florida, sent me the news today.  “Looks like we win!” he wrote.  Indeed.

The NRA rolled out the concept of “Blended Learning” in 2015 for the NRA Basic Pistol class.   For years, NRA Basic Pistol has helped introduce people to shooting pistols.  It serves to provide a solid foundation for future learning if done right.  In short, under “Blended Learning”, the classroom segments of class would be taught on-line.  The student would then find a local NRA-certified instructor to conduct the range aspects of the course.

In theory, the wonks at NRA Training thought it a great idea.  Standardize the “classroom” teaching and let dedicated instructors handle the live-fire aspects.  The folks at Headquarters considered it moving into the 21st Century.

In reality, it made Baby Jesus weep.  Enrollees thought the online portions dull and uninspiring.  Instructors hated it because students didn’t internalize the online materials well.  As such, instructors had to re-teach much of the classroom material.  To make matters worse, the NRA charged $60 for the online segment.

NRA’s Training Division faced a whole lot of negative feedback from both instructors and training counselors.  Waples Mill pretty much ignored all of the criticisms.  In fact, last I heard from the big wigs there, they planned to roll out “Blended Learning” for other NRA training courses as well.

Then they met Lee Williams

Lee Williams took it upon himself to wage his own little insurgency against this new training paradigm.  He and I communicated about its shortcomings and he did the same with other instructors.  In the end, he sent a letter about the problem with this new hybrid training program to each of the NRA’s Board members.   The emails went out yesterday.  Today, Lee got a call from the NRA’s Chief of Staff Josh Powell.  “We made a mistake,” he told Williams.

Kudos to the NRA for admitting their mistake.

They’ve pledged to make it right in the next 60 days or so.

That is a great Christmas present to America’s gun owners.  After all, the NRA runs the nation’s largest and most successful firearm training operation.  Millions of Americans have learned firearm safety and the fundamentals from NRA instructors over the decades.

From the Gunwriter Blog.

by Lee Williams

When the National Rifle Association decided to use computers, rather than people, to teach new students important topics such as gun safety and shooting fundamentals, I and thousands of other firearms instructors across the country didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

NRA launched their controversial “blended training” program nearly a year ago.

….Then, on Thursday, I sent an email to each member of NRA’s board of directors, asking them to look into the online program and comment.

Note: There are 76 members of NRA’s board of directors.

This morning, I received a call from Josh Powell, NRA’s chief of staff.

Powell is a former board member who now reports to Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president.

“The simple truth is that we made a mistake,” Powell said. “We know we made a mistake, and we’re working very hard exploring a number of solutions to address it.”

Powell said NRA will announce the changes within the next 60 days. For now, the online course — the status quo — remains in effect.


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  1. Blended training very much can be done and can work, the NRA just did a piss poor job with this attempt. I get why they did it, too many of their instructors go off script and launch into political rants and/or give unqualified, false, and dangerous legal advice. There are a lot of great NRA instructors out there, and there are a lot of really crappy ones. It would make a lot of sense to trim out the bad ones ASAP. I know of a few who should not be affiliated with the NRA. They are bad teachers and they can’t stick to the material. One is downright dangerous.

    • I agree, it CAN work. I actually developed some for our aircraft maintainers. Our technical school instructors used it, with great success. It’s all about how you implement it. AARP has a great defensive driving course.

      The fact is, some people are too intimidated to get trained in a live classroom setting. Some people don’t have the time to devote to a live class. The bottom line is, many many people won’t get trained without other options.

      I think they shouldn’t abandon the idea altogether but just go back to the drawing board…

    • I agree – I did like the structure of the presentations and am at a point where I really want to watch/re-watch and re-watch them again just so I can follow the same “script”.
      I have had a number of people ask about taking classes though and when I tell them that they have to go do this part online, I kind of lose them (and many are at my place of business, so it’s not like they cannot find me!)

    • The NRA should have a recertificaiton of their instructors to ensure they are properly teaching the course and those that do no, suspend or revoke their credentials. That way they can control content of the trainers.

  2. This was an abortion of a course from its conception. The NEW COKE of their basic course line.

    Their focus should have been about culling the instructors who had no business teaching, but they chose to marginalize the great instructors instead.

    Im glad they are owning it and reinstating instructor led coursework. I wonder how they are going to make this right to the instructors we developed in the last year to teach this worthless turd?

    Time will tell….

    Thanks John!

    • Ooh! A new “Caliber War”!!!!

      “New Coke” (and Pepsi for that matter) tastes BETTER than that rancid diarrhea “Classic Coke.”

      But I’m a Dr. Pepper man at heart.

  3. I taught electronics in the army. They tried to get us to teach a video camera, thinking you taught one class one time and use it for a couple thousand students.

    It can’t work. an instructor can see if a student is not getting it. it’s in their eyes. if a student is not getting it you explain the same thing a different way. an instructor who can find more ways to explain the same thing is a better instructor.

    A VCR can’t do that. you need to be there. it’s a dynamic interactive process.

    • As someone who has spent time teaching a number of things, from lifeguarding to BIble studies, I agree. More than once I was asked to put material on tape or video, and it just doesn’t work. The life of teaching almost anything is the interaction with students; without it there’s no way to tell if anything is happening besides flapping lips.

  4. It was a great idea, but pistol instruction is not a college extension course. You need to touch things as you go along. Also good instructors (me) and training counselors worried about what students new when they showed up at the range.

  5. So glad this happened. Blended learning has been a nightmare for us instructors here in Hawaii. The state mandates that students have both classroom and range time from an NRA instructor. The blended learning had the effect of removing the handbook from the student, raising costs, and making the process a pain in the ass.

  6. More or most internet/video “blended” classes are a definite fail. Techie “solutions” from in search of a problem. Turn juvenile progtards loose with cash and such are the “solutions” they create.

  7. They pretty much took a large crap on any basic pistol instructors in Massachusetts with this garbage. The new class was never submitted to the State Police for approval as a valid class for those looking to get their license to carry. Supposedly there was a part about law that didn’t meet the requirements and the NRA outright told people that they had no intention of making any adjustments or even submitting the class for approval. That left instructors having to dish out another $3-400 (which I still haven’t done) to become certified to teach another class… which also may have been phased out at some point since they were planning to do this to multiple classes. The whole thing smells like a huge money grab that does little to improve things for instructors or students and outright screwed some of us.

  8. Blended was garbage. It was a cash grab and the NRA is paying for it big time now. Many instructors in states that allow classes other than the NRA version have switched and will not be going back. Instead of dealing out credentials willy nilly, how about some enforcement of standards?

    • Cull out the bad instructors. Period.
      I haven’t taught an NRA BP course since they changed. I started incorporating I.C.E. Training’s concepts into my curriculum here in IL, and it works very well. Blended was a money grab, plain and simple. I polled my BP grads about whether they would want to do Blended or the old way if given a choice. 90+% said the old way with an instructor there for the whole thing.

  9. Back in the early 1970s I enrolled in the Army’s NCO Logistics Program correspondence course (the snail mail version back before on-line existed). I graduated and became a Logistician instead of just another Transportation Corps NCO. A year later I received orders to attend the actual in-person course at Fort Lee, Va. When I advised them that I had already taken the course, I was informed I’d learn lots more by interacting with the instructors and other students (i.e., don’t underestimate the value of so-called “war stories”).

    Ever try questioning the on-line course when you’re stuck on a specific point? In person is always better than on-line.

    • Yeah. Computer learning is best for just facts; it sucks for anything that needs hands-on skill, at least if the intent is to be able to verify that learning has actually occurred.

  10. I have been following this topic for awhile now, especially Mr. William’s writings. Regardless of whether you agree with the idea or not, it seems like the only people that I have seen complaining about this were certified instructors. Every article and/or blog post that I have read on this topic can basically be summed up in one short sentence: “I am an instructor and I am pissed that I cant charge full price for teaching half a course”

    I heard of lot of folks saying “I don’t think customers are getting a complete education on the subject” but its always followed with the caveat “And I cant charge them for teaching the info because they already paid the NRA for it” If your upset about the NRA cutting into your profit, just say so. Don’t hide it under the guise of a hybrid class being a bad idea.

    • Hobbez: Please permit me to answer your question with a bit more specificity than my longer discussion on this thread.

      In our case, our overhead changed as follows:
      a. Classroom space (still needed for the blended course): no change: we had an *extremely* good deal from our church where the charge for the classroom was the same whether or not it was for one hour or six hours.
      b. Time spent (including travel): because travel to the range (and lunch break) was a significant portion of the required time, we only saved a few hours at best. The blended course still required a significant amount of instructor classroom time, so there was minimal savings.
      c. We had been including the cost of renting a .22 pistol and the ammo in our costs. Since the number of rounds required went up with the blended course–a good thing, IMO–the overhead cost also went up.

      Obviously the last point could be managed by charging for rental, encouraging students to bring their own firearm, etc. However, our target customer base–and the target base for the course–is the inexperienced or neophyte shooter. I think it better to concentrate on teaching basic skills (on a .22) and how to think about options (which the course does), and minimize the confusion for a newbie.

      Anyway, it is not some sort of greed which drives the discussion of costs. It includes a definite concern for providing value for the student as well as not treating the instructor with disdain. No one teaches NRA Basic Pistol in order to get rich–we have yet to break even after several years. Unfortunately, and I daresay unintentionally, the NRA implementation of the blended course did not step back to look at the big picture: the *purpose* of the NRA educational system.

    • Responding to Hobbez.

      You are way off base. I am a NRA Training Counselor. Blended Learning was doomed to fail. I told Mr. Howard and Mr. Langer this two years ago, and they poo-pooed me. Poor implementation, not a large enough swath of beta testers, listening to their own voices and convincing themselves it was the next best thing.

      Here is an example: New instructors are supposed to create a Phase 2 course to certify students. Where is this in the instructor lesson plan (the one we were supposed to send them the PDF of so they could print it, instead of having printed materials on card stock)? It was not in the Lesson Plan.
      But wait, surely it was included in the Training Counselor Lesson Plan? Nope.
      It was included as an after thought in a FAQ.

      Example 2: Online they were telling instructor candidates they needed to do X number of things to be qualified to sit the course. On another page, a different set of standards.

      It really is horrible, and to add materials are shipping without tests, materials are shipping loose. Not enough bandwidth here to cover everything.

      I signed up to refute your claims. For background I teach emergency medicine and other non NRA firearms related courses, some at the law enforcement level.

  11. My wife and I are both instructors. We live in a relatively firearms-friendly state. We see both positive and negative for the *concept* of a blended course. However, the actual implementation made the bottom drop out: no one was willing to pay the premium cumulative price involved. I am very thankful for the efforts which have gotten the current situation changed.

    I do think that the required *range* portion was an improvement. However, after paying $60 for the online portion, I can’t blame new shooters from just going to the range on their own — or with a friend — and forgoing the instructor portion. Say what you want about the benefits, the fact that the cost side of the equation was ignored meant that this was a foreseeable disaster.

    Others have discussed the quality, so I won’t. What I do want to mention is some business-related changes that might have made this viable.

    1. Couple the two phases. The sign-up for the Basic Pistol course should be a package deal:
    a. The student should sign up for an instructor (and range-training date) when signing up online.
    b. The student should pay the on-line portion (see below) *and* the deposit for the range portion when signing up. The NRA can handle the financial portion, and forward the deposit portion to the instructor.
    c. The student then will have the log-in for the on-line portion, as well as a date and contact information for the range portion. This would allow the student to ask questions of the instructor, notify of problems, etc.
    NOTE: A means to change the range-portion instructor/date should be provided for cases where needed, of course.

    2. The $60 fee for the online portion was out of line high. While it might accurately reflect the percentage of *time* devoted to that portion of the training, it does not reflect the costs very well.
    a. For an instructor, the 8-10 hours for a full class, vs. the four or five hours for a range portion class, each have a similar amount of overhead. In other words, the difference in cost to the instructor is small.
    b. The excess cost (above the charitable cost) of developing the on-line portion is amortized over a nation-wide student cohort. I suspect that the $60 fee for the on-line portion was much more than the development-plus-marginal costs for the course.
    c. My guess is that, given a five-year amortization of development, and 10K students a year (that’s only 200 per state), a $20 fee would be adequate–and still bring in money to the NRA (I consider the NRA getting some profit to be a good thing, BTW).

    The much higher cost of the blended system as implemented therefore resulted in:
    a. Higher costs for the student–which made it less affordable for low-income people.
    b. Fewer students being reached.
    c. An incentive for a student to forgo the hands-on portion.

    Of the two areas mentioned above, I consider the first (linking the online and range/instructor phases) to be the more important.

  12. I taught one class using blended training, and it was a disaster. Even though I reminded student prior to phase II, half of the students failed to finish phase I before the live class. One student ran into a bug in the online website, and was unable to finish. I had to turn many students away which left a lot of empty seats in the classroom and on the range. Several students complained about the online course and paying two entities for what should be a single course. I also found that students did not retain what they learned in the online course. I lost money on that adventure from the empty seats. I will probably stick with PPOTH and PPITH until they fix it or I find a non-NRA lesson plan.

  13. Having been teaching the Basic Pistol course for several years now, the blended course did suck because you pretty much did go over everything in what was supposed to be the live fire portion.

    They only people who benefited from the Blended Course was the ranges (at least in CT). Many happy to give instructors the heave-ho and take all the money for themselves and have multiple course per day just for the range time.

    Glad they are going back.

  14. Now the NRA has a new problem. Several instructors have simply left the NRA behind and issue their own certificates for essentially the same training as was previously given. As long as this training is accepted by students and accepted by certification authorities, there is no reason to “go back” to the NRA bureaucracy and it’s mandates. People who refer to “profits” from teaching classes clearly haven’t done it. With all the costs an instructor incurs, it’s rare you can even cover your costs, let alone make a profit. And those who make a profit, can’t live off of it. So-called profits from teaching are so small they only make sense for range owners, gun stores and the like. Don’t get rid of blended learning, just make it an option that runs alongside the old system. Then let the market decide if it’s viable.

  15. A couple of things I’ve personally noticed:

    1. The number of people taking NRA BP has nosedived off a cliff. Under the old way, you could do the whole thing in a day. That’s manageable for people. Under the new way, it was two separate events, and each effectively killed a day. In other words, they took a one day class and turned it into a two-day class.

    2. The number of people taking follow-on classes, like Personal Protection in the Home, cratered as well.

    3. Better instructors and schools in Illinois simply walked away from NRA BP and made their own curriculum and began teaching it instead. Some of the poorer instructors just quit teaching (that was a net gain).

    4. The Second Amendment Foundation’s new training program has started looking very attractive for many.

    5. Because of the NRA’s lack of course materials for PPITH, my company has almost left NRA courses entirely. If and when they become more trouble than they are worth, that will be the day we walk. When they don’t have course materials for a couple of months and won’t return messages asking for when they expect to be re-stocked, that is unprofessional. It’s also disrespecting their instructor cadre, who teach NRA coursework for little or no profit as it is.


  16. I taught basic pistol and PPIH for nearly ten years. Lots of happy students. With this nonsense as the final straw, I decided not to renew either my instructor’s cert or my NRA membership. I continue to teach/coach on a one to one basis, but my NRA days are over.

    And I never managed to break even on costs. Gave the BP class for years charging only for materials. The idea that NRA instructors are in it to get rich is ludicrous.

  17. Wait, don’t start the party until you hear the fat lady sing.
    Like the Bourbon Kings, the NRA never learns and never forget.
    If they refuse to change they too will end up with their heads chopped off.
    Merry Christmas

  18. In November 2015, I was 53 and a strong Second Amendment supporter, in theory and for historical/constitutional reasons, notwithstanding I hadn’t picked up a firearm of any sort since I was an 11-year-old in the Boy Scouts. Following the attack in Paris it occurred to me that, while I couldn’t imagine myself ever actually buying a gun, it couldn’t hurt to at least know the very basics about handguns and handgun safety. I figured the NRA would have some sort of introductory course, came upon the Basic Pistol Course which seemed just about right, and signed up for the course to be held locally in January 2016.

    I was the only male in the class and also the person in the class with the least knowledge about guns. It was a really great, hugely informative day, lots of back and forth with the instructors, nice, convenient location at a local hotel, and when we went to the range it turned out that I’m not a bad shot.

    End result – one new gun enthusiast who, a year later, is a member of a gun club, is an NRA member, has participated in two IDPA matches and become hooked, has taken 10 or so private lessons so far and also a two-day defensive pistol course, and has well north of 5 pistols (it being necessary for the continuation of my marriage that the exact number never be known by anyone but me and my safe and my other well-hidden safe).

    Of course after a while I also began trying to persuade my wife to take the course. Finally she agreed that would be my birthday present. Lo and behold, no more Basic Pistol Course, meaning she can’t just go “get” the training like I did. And meaning also that months later it still hasn’t happened and probably won’t unless they change back.

    It was a real bonehead play by the NRA. Glad they recognized that, and hope they move swiftly.

  19. Unless I see a citation from the NRA about this “dumping”, the author should be FIRED for spreading bullshit. If you write something about NRA training, you BETTER add the citation. There’s enough fake news to choke a country with as it is.

    • Mr. Perez:

      You are welcome to accept or ignore anything you read or hear based upon the reputation of the source.

      We here at TTAG endeavor to report facts, not fake news. We do it in a timely and orderly manner in an effort to keep The People of the Gun informed with the latest news and information about the firearm world.

      On rare occasions, we make mistakes, and we correct them. After all, we don’t walk on water.

      Ignoring information from reputable sources because it isn’t tagged with an official policy change from a larger organization is a sure-fire recipe for keeping yourself behind the curve.

      • I’d further comment on the trend for people to demand others to do their due diligence for them. A small investment of time on the internet or the phone is all it takes to find the citations they so lazily demand. Folks, do your own homework, or just believe or disbelieve everything you read as you like.

  20. Minnesota offers it’s Hunter Safety class in two formats. The traditional classroom version which ends in a field day where students practice what they learn in the classroom portion. And the other option is what would be called the “blended learning” of online courses and then attending the field day which is the same as that done for the classroom format.
    I’ve had two of my children do the blended version and they didn’t find it boring and it did a good job of preparing them for the field day activities. Perhaps its just a matter of the NRA hooking up with the company who did the Minnesota classes.

  21. From the outside looking in, I have taken plenty of college, professional development, and other instruction online or in blended environments that have been interesting and successful. Some have been dreadful. If there is a well thought out and implemented curriculum, with students that are motivated and prepared to succeed, they can be fun and rewarding. The fact that in the original, instruction only, method instructors did not florish, and in the blended version there were many issues, the NRA needs to have teaching professionals develope a better version of both choices. People with valuable skills should make a profit. Consumers value choices. The NRA needs to provide corporate value to both groups.

  22. I have been an NRA Instructor and Coach since 1976. Our club offers the classes for $65.00. We feel we should keep the cost as low as possible. If a person is on a fixed income the addition of $60.00 to the cost of the class is unreasonable. This could make a Senior Citizen a Second Class Citizen. I never receive pay for the classes I teach. I am only interested in improving safety and expertise to the shooting community.

    • This was the premise under which I taught when I lived in NJ and served with the Assoc of NJ Rifle & Pistol Clubs (ANJRPC) and the 10th Cavalry Gun Club. In NJ the motive was getting as many gun loving persons to stand up, speak out, and when/where necessary become voting members of the NRA. Sadly, here in TX the profit motive is so high that I don’t think I will get re-certified any time soon. I’ve seen classes well North of $300, even with the blended class instruction.


  23. I’ve researched becoming an NRA Basic Pistol instructor. I was hesitating (because of the blended learning) and looking at the Second Amendment Foundation’s training instead but recently heard from other sources that NRA might straighten up or at least lower the cost to something reasonable ($20) for the online portion. To me, there might be a way to save face for the NRA here. Make the online portion optional and super-cheap, and keep the original course as is or with updates that the instructor population recommend. An example would be that the online course costs $25 and a 1-year NRA membership comes with it. Another way to say it is that if you buy a 1-year membership (at whatever cost – $20 to $35), the online course just comes with the membership. People who decide to take it “might” have a bit more knowledge coming into the real training with an instructor than a newbie who had no exposure. I think it is worth having the option available as just part of getting an NRA membership. To me, that is the angle. Headline: “NRA memberships now come with online training for free.”

  24. All the computer-based required annual training at work is utter BS. But it’s designed as a stick to beat employees with, or to assist firing them. After all we received the training and should know the rules. Never mind the rules only apply to the lowly and not the “leadership.”

  25. Some of us have been “fighting” this change since it was nothing more than a “blip” on the radar. Many letters were written, many phone calls made, and many emails sent. While I applaud Mr. Williams efforts, he was not alone in them .

    As to the “blended learning” program itself, it proved to have all of the problems I predicted it would have when I wrote about it in one of my blog posts over a year ago (

    I’m not holding my breath as far as their “fix” is concerned either. I will reserve judgment until I see something tangible.

  26. Hopefully the blended program is replaced by the original basic pistol before a student that took the online portion injures or kills someone due to poor training.

  27. My 10 cents?

    * I was averaging 10 people a month in California for Basic Pistol. 1 class every 30 days.
    * After blended launched I had zero attend. I had to cancel my range rental each month. Thankfully the range was willing to not charge me. Others were not as lucky. My PPITH classes suffered as well.
    * I wrote John Howard, he replied there were “not enough Phase 2 classes scheduled by instructors.” Ignored my 7 cancelled classes.
    * The 60 dollar fee was asinine. No fair price or NRA member discounts. Think about the family of 4 I used to get.
    * No way to prove the individual actually was the one who took the Blended Phase 1. Anyone could have signed on and taken it, right?

    I am personally happy that this is being revisited. There was a huge mutiny at the annual meeting last year and the Training group were forced to ignore it. (I believe it to be a legal/liability issue) Now I will wait to see where it goes.

  28. Did anyone take this course for required training for CCW concealed carry license? If so would such a person be at risk of having their CCW concealed carry license?

  29. So we’re 30 days through the supposed 60 day rollback and not a peep out of the NRA. Have there been any new pronouncements?

  30. My friend and I have taught the “Women Only” NRA class for two years, until they switched to blended learning. Since then we haven’t been able to get women to sign up AT ALL. I knew it would be a real bomb for women. They prefer hands on with live feedback. The NRA virtually put us out of business.
    I knew that this blended learning would never work. I always believed there was more to this than just putting bad instructors out of business because it didn’t. If the NRA wants bad instructors our of business then cancel their instructor license. Don’t be a coward. There were those instructors who always thought this was about money for the NRA’s pockets. When we found that the online course was $60 but we were encouraged to charge $45 for our firearms portion we felt we were right.

    Now it’s Feb 2nd and not a word from them. A lot of the women instructors I know are now becoming USCCA certified.

    It’s great that this is being reconsidered. We can get back to hands on teaching. Maybe offer a choice for students, but make the price for the online portion more affordable, not a cash cow for the elite of the NRA.

    I now give private lessons. I know in Illinois many CCW instructors who kept teaching the old NRA pistol for their first 8 hours with no certificate given. It’s acceptable here.

    • The changes are coming, just going to be a little longer. Many TCS have started getting alerts about the new changes and they should be announced next month.
      Here is a subset of the email I received the other week from a recent announcement directly from the NRA.
      “The NRA will be sending an email with a full list of the changes to all NRA Instructors on March 22, 2017, with an official release date of April 4, 2017. In the meantime, we are counting on you to inform the instructors you have certified, of the upcoming changes….Final implementation of the online registration process is in progress and will be tested and completed prior to the public announcement on April 4. New Pistol Instructor Lesson Plans for your Training Counselor Guide, as well as an updated Blended Lesson Plan, the Instructor Led Lesson Plan and additional information will be available for download as PDF files on on April 4, 2017″ (since it says to make sure our instructors are aware, I beleive this is safe to post!)

      They gave a brief outline of the changes coming, but are still in the final stages of testing everything themselves.
      Basics will be that the blended learning WILL remain active, but an alternative that allows for classroom training to be conducted as well will be implemented:

      “There will be significant improvements to the existing Blended Learning version as well as the introduction of a NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting, Instructor Led Training (ILT) version, both of which will be conducted entirely under the direct supervision of an Instructor.These changes will give NRA Certified Pistol Instructors the ability to administer both types of training in its entirety, and the freedom to choose the method based on the needs of the student.”

  31. Trying to teach someone how to safely operate a gun is like trying to teach someone how to operate a vehicle ONLINE! There is no electronic substitution to HANDS ON training, as of so far. We all saw what happened when Karate Kid tried to learn karate from reading a book, he got whipped by those who trained hands on in karate! LOL

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