After just four years in the shooting world, Tatiana Whitlock ﬁnds herself a spokeswoman for the NRA Women’s Network and a member of the Maine Hunters TV pro-staﬀ. She’s quickly changed from industrial designer to a ﬁrearms instructor, active hunter and owner of a target manufacturing company. In some way that’s probably why the NRA picked her. She symbolizes the dynamic, independent lives that women in America lead.
I caught up with Tatiana at home, and got a chance to chat with her about her journey. Although she did a little bird hunting with her brothers and father as a kid, she walked away from that life until she had children of her own. Her husband at the time encouraged her to get out and socialize, to do something for herself – this led to an NRA Women On Target event.
“I was surrounded by 25 to 30 women who ranged from experienced shooters, to people who were absolutely terriﬁed and trembling,” says Whitlock. “By the end of that day I was completely hooked. I purchased my ﬁrst ﬁrearm two weeks later.”
That weekend excursion set Whitlock on a course that would change her life. She started shooting at an outdoor range on “ladies night,” and learned about an entirely diﬀerent side of ﬁrearms ownership.
“Once a week, we’d get together to talk and shoot until we ran out of daylight or ammunition,” says Whitlock.
On the advice of a salesman, she bought a Beretta Neos .22 and shot that for a while, before her martial-artists’ aesthetic began to assert itself. Whitlock grew up with the martial arts, starting in shaolin kempo at age 10.
“I’ve always loved the beauty of it from an artistic point of view.” In high school, she earned her black belt, then started Brazilian jiu-jitsu while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. Unbeknownst to her, she’d need both before she graduated.
“Being a bit naive I attended some venues I wouldn’t attend now that I’m a knowledgeable adult,” she recalls.
At one point a man attempted to kidnap Whitlock – much to his dismay.
“Fortunately, my mother sent me to college with a black belt. The gentleman who attempted to whisk me out a back door and stick me into the trunk of a vehicle wasn’t successful,” Whitlock says and chalks up that experience and successful escape to training and absolute determination.
That close brush with danger reinvigorated her interest in the applied martial arts, eventually taking her down a diﬀerent artistic path. Krav maga is both modern and hard-edged. It drops the formality of the more rigid Asian styles, choosing to train in regular street clothes and focus on defense against real-world-based attacks, including multiple opponents. It wasn’t long before the krav maga mindset began to inﬁltrate the way Whitlock looked at ﬁrearms.
“My interest in ﬁrearms is not from a ‘gaming’ perspective,” says Whitlock. “I’m interested in the martial side of it. I want to learn to use my weapons in the environment where I might need them, and realistically, that’s inside a structure.”
While shooting with the ladies’ night group, she bought an S&W MP 9 and started taking the two- to four-day training courses available from local instructors. “I ran into lots of military doctrine from the 1990s,” she says.
Just as there are diﬀerent martial arts, there are diﬀerent schools of ﬁrearms training. Some are competition-oriented, some military-oriented and some focus on civilian self-defense. Whitlock started gathering samples of all of the above, developing her particular take on the subject. After taking all the courses available locally, “I started getting on airplanes and visiting people around the US,” she says.
She trained with Steve “the Yeti” Fisher (owner of Sentinel Concepts), whom she describes as “a 6-foot, 5-inch, 300-pound mammoth of a man, and an incredible instructor,” followed by others. Gradually, she found schools that broke out of the “square-range” mentality, emphasizing a 360-degree dynamic.
“EAG oﬀers a close-quarter-battle shoot-house program wherein students learn what it means to ﬁght in buildings,” says Whitlock. “The shoot-house environment became the conduit for me to translate the square-range environment into skills that people can use everyday.”
An experience in that shoot house led to Whitlock launching her business. During a room-clearing exercise, Whitlock engaged a series of targets meant to impersonate people, but didn’t do a very good job.
“I walked past a target because I looked at it and my mind didn’t register it as a threat – I saw a box behind a big-screen TV. I went home with that experience and created what later became the ID Target System. It’s a 3D, true-to-life torso with a photo realistic image printed on the target. It is suspended from a balloon, so it falls when hit in a critical area. It adds that additional level of realism – that’s an actual face looking at you, not just a piece of cardboard,” she says.
Whitlock’s background in industrial design included making and patenting polymer products for the medical and packaging industry. This is the background she pulled from to create her target systems.
The targets work in layers. The base layer has an image of a person holding a gun, but there are patches that add a second layer – changing the image so that it shows someone holding a cell phone, or a knife, or another gun. The patches not only change the threat level, they resurface the impact zone, repairing the target for further use.
For more on Whitlock, visit her blog at tatianawhitlock.com. ASJ
This article was originally published in our May 2015 print issue.
Winchester is practically a living legend, although his humble demeanor would never give that away. In short, not only is he a passionate instructor who covers everything from hand-to-hand martial arts to ﬁrearms and edged-weapons handling, subjects such as critical management, threat assessment and ground control are among the plethora of other subjects he and his team cover.
Among many of Winchester’s talents and achievements, he was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to the martial arts – now, how is that for an impressive background? – but he is the ﬁrst to say that Reality Based Training wouldn’t be as diverse and impressive without the team of instructors who are equally as passionate about self-defense and bring a wealth of knowledge from all facets of the industry.
Winchester sat down with American Shooting Journal and gave us some insight into what it takes to be the best in the industry, and why defense professionals from as far away as Europe and Israel reach out to him.
American Shooting Journal Hello, Brian, and thank you so much for your time. Can you tell us a little bit about Reality Based Training and what you oﬀer?
Brian Winchester We are a one-stop shop. This means that if you want to learn how to use a ﬁrearm, we can do that. If you want to learn hand-to-hand defensive tactics and martial arts, we can do that. We also cover threat assessment and intervention, medical and crisis management. What I feel sets us apart is that we can conduct the totality of training by pulling together mental and physical threats. We can do it all right here.
ASJ Why do you feel it is important to oﬀer so many options?
BW True self-preservation has much more to do with mental conditioning than what the general population understands. The physical aspect of training is great, but because reaction is slower than action, without training the mind to have a battle mindset, you will most likely be trying to play catchup with an adversary. It’s important to expose the clients to the diﬀerent aspects of personal protection, not just punching, kicking and rolling on the ground. Every action should be launched from a foundation of intelligence and knowledge, with meaning behind every movement.
ASJ What about your background. How long have you been training?
BW I’ve been training since the age of ﬁve. I started with self-defense and then moved my way through multiple disciplines, including mixed martial arts, private security, ﬁrearm and carry-permit instructor, range-safety oﬃcer, executive protection, medical training such as medic ﬁrst aid, CPR, AED, etc. In total, I have about 25 years of training and experience and have trained with military, law enforcement and private security operators.
ASJ We noticed that you have an impressive team of instructors who work with you. Can you share a little bit about their background and why they are so valuable to your regime?
BW Absolutely! Samson Ferrell comes from a military and private-security background. He is a combat medic and is adept at close-quarter combat, as well as thermal and mechanical breaching. Joe Reese is also former military, second-degree black belt in hapkido and is a kali instructor. Stephen Nuchols (pronounced knuckles) has over 24 years of martial arts experience and is a fourth-degree black belt (yondan) in isshin-ryu karate, second-degree black belt (nidan) in daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu and instructs Deprisa kali. Bobby Parker is our expert in all things Marine Corps weapons systems. He was an instructor at the military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) facility, overseeing thousands of Marines, and has an extensive background with ﬁrearms and military applications.
ASJ What skill level would someone need to have to train with you?
BW We teach everyone from age 14 to 90. It doesn’t matter if you have no experience at all or are a well-seasoned veteran. We have programs just for you.
ASJ So, you teach civilians?
BW Oh, yes! We teach the science of being a warrior. That’s what it is, after all, a science. Each individual has their own capabilities and limitations, and as educators, it is our job to help each person ﬁnd their perfect equation for survival and to help them combat the universal human phobia: another human being trying to harm or kill them. It’s our mission to help the community be a safer place by educating people to be ready to protect themselves and help their fellow neighbor when the opportunity arises.
ASJ What about the facility where you train?
BW Our 80,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility is ﬁlled with buildings, obstacles and vehicles to give the student a realistic setting. As students make their way through dynamic scenarios, we add sound eﬀects so more of their senses are engaged. We have classrooms, a lounge and a state-certiﬁed shooting range where we conduct move-and-shoot drills with all sorts of awkward obstacles to navigate.
ASJ What are some examples of courses you oﬀer?
BW Well, a few basic examples would be elite ﬁghting arts, ﬁrearm and edged weapon handling, medic ﬁrst-aid training, risk and crisis management, bomb incident management, ground control, the psychological aspects of combat, victimology – the list goes on.
ASJ What is your motto or mission statement?
BW Our mission is to provide some of the best and realistic personal protection training out there. When seconds count and help is minutes away, rely on your reality-based tactical training and always look left, look right and stay tight!
ASJ From what we understand, Brian, you do just that. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.
BW My pleasure. Thank you.
Editor’s note: For more on RBTT, see realitybasedtactical.com.