Training Where Our Families Train: The Other Great Orlando Attraction Tom Marshall September 9, 2022 Join the Conversation There’s no shortage of tactical trainers or training facilities around the country. What there’s arguably a shortage of are facilities that are family friendly. While it may sound counterintuitive to put “family friendly” and “tactical training” in the same sentence, the truth is that self-defense really isn’t just for yourself once family is involved. Whether that includes live-in relatives, a spouse, and/or children, making sure everyone in your household is prepared to successfully confront danger is all but a moral imperative in today’s world. It’s so important, in fact, that one facility in Florida made family their middle name — literally. Where Our Families Train is the brainchild of Philip Toppino. We think it’s significant to note that Toppino isn’t any kind of ex-operator or former “cool guy.” But he is a man who’s intensely passionate about being prepared to protect himself and his family in an increasingly uncertain world. Prior to building his own facility, he invested a substantial amount of time and money traveling coast-to-coast training under some of the best instructors in the nation but couldn’t find any place that offered an experience wholly welcoming to the family unit. FAMILY TIME While couples can often be found shoulder-to-shoulder on square ranges around the country, the traditional format of most firearms and self-defense classes don’t lend themselves specifically to that dynamic. The 100-yard steel range offers a variety of targets and can actually be shot from an indoor shooting position, which doubles as a classroom. Sack lunches and long hours at remote ranges with spotty phone service can be an intimidating or logistically onerous prospect, particularly for those just starting out on their training journey. WOFT’s training experience does away with these constraints and instead offers what the owner calls “a special place obsessed with constantly improving the guest experience and built around family first.” The facility was constructed more than 10 years ago, as a private/personal endeavor. For years, training was held on an informal basis through word-of-mouth arrangements. In 2015, WOFT LLC was formed, but training was still offered on an invitation-only basis. They now offer regularly scheduled classes open to public enrollment. It sits on 20 acres, of which six are dedicated to training and living areas. WOFT has a heavy focus on scenario-based training that can be scaled not only in difficulty but also to client preference regarding weapons and equipment. The shoot house features several complex spaces and is rated for live fire. The best example of this is their signature 40x40x16-foot warehouse-like structure used for low light training. This “range” is fully enclosed, climate- and light-controlled, and even carpeted. A large roll-up door can be used to bring vehicles or other props (like full-size trash cans) into the training space. The elevated observation deck allows classmates and outside observers to watch every scenario unfold in real time, where they’re protected from stray UTM rounds by full-length plexiglass. But this isn’t strictly a shooting or gunfighting trainer. In fact, WOFT begins these scenarios at what they call “Level 0” — that focuses solely on using verbal commands, a handheld flashlight, and awareness of the environment to navigate decision-making and threat assessment. Students go through these one at a time, to maximize individual feedback and allow role players to scale difficulty up or down among a class of mixed-skillset students. Every student is afforded the opportunity to repeat the same situation (walking across the floor to your parked car, for example) multiple times, with role players gradually increasing the intensity level. This scalable, tailored approach is one of WOFT’s greatest assets. If a couple, with a teenage child, attend low-light training together they’ll all have different experience baselines and trigger points for reaction. Putting each family member through the same process, individually, lets everyone find their stressors and thresholds for perceived danger. Furthermore, having the other family members observe from up top can help families align their reaction plans and take-home lessons to accommodate every person’s strength and weakness. MORE ROOMS, MORE TRAINING In addition to the low-light room, there’s a dedicated combatives room with padded walls, heavy bags, and striking dummies that can be used for edged weapons or hand-to-hand training or add in UTM marking guns to create comprehensive mixed-weapons environment training. The padded, carpeted, climate-controlled combatives space is perfect for defensive tactics, edged-weapons training or small force-on-force scenarios. There’s even an ax-throwing alley! In WOFT’s curriculum, everyone starts on the same Level 0, completely empty handed in this case, before progressing to edged weapon or mixed weapon scenarios. None of this is to say that WOFT doesn’t do live-fire training. On the contrary, they have a 100×30-foot shoot house with 180-degree field of fire. There are also 50- and 100-yard square bays for both pistol and rifle. The 50-yard bay features a covered area with fans, while the “starting line” of the 100-yard bay is actually inside an air-conditioned building, where the front walls open up to expose the downrange area. The walls of said building are sound dampened to minimize the blast of shooting rifles in an enclosed space. When those front walls are closed, that space becomes a multipurpose room that can be used for lectures or video presentations. Finally, there’s WOFT’s pièce de résistance, the coffee shop. Similar to the low light room, the coffee shop is a UTM-based training space that serves up an increasingly difficult array of scenarios. The coffee shop is both a functioning “chow hall” for guests as well as fully developed backdrop for force-on-force scenarios. Typically used as a finale or FTX of sorts for WOFT students, classes are put through coffee shop drills as a group, and (as in real life) individuals must determine their own course of action based on how events unfold. It should be noted that the coffee shop is actually fully functional and serves as a chow hall where the included breakfasts and lunches are served each training day, with snacks and coffee available in between. Their standard format for a WOFT class is three days, with training offered in a symposium format. Each class has eight separate training modules, with individual modules running between three and four hours, allowing two per day. When you register, you choose which six of the eight options you want to attend. Again, this is an excellent format for couples or families attending together who may want to focus on different training goals. There are also privately arranged two- and three-day events available, and WOFT recently partnered with USCCA to offer one-day “enhanced CCW” courses with other CCA-specific curricula possible in the future. They have also partnered with manufacturers throughout the industry, including Leupold, H&K, SIG, and others, to offer boutique invitation events for things like product launches or VIP experiences. In addition to the highly tailored scenario training and all-inclusive meal service, the facility is only about 20 minutes from the nearest hotel and driving distance to other Orlando-area attractions. THE FAMILY THAT TRAINS TOGETHER, SURVIVES TOGETHER WOFT strives to create a relaxed, academic atmosphere. All ranges and training spaces are within walking distance of one another via paved pathways through manicured lawns. In addition to their training spaces, WOFT has built-in idyllic alcoves for sharing experiences and taking in the surroundings. No trudging through mud or climbing gravel slopes to reach your range. You also have the option of hitching a ride on a golf cart driven by WOFT staff to get between classes. Where Our Families Train may, in fact, be one of the best places we’ve come across specifically for families. The acute individuality of their scenario-based training, well-manicured training space, and low-stress positive-mental-attitude environment make this a fantastic place to bring anyone old enough to shoot a gun, throw a punch, tie a tourniquet or point a flashlight who wants to learn how to do any of those things better than they do now. We encourage you to check out WOFT’s website for class dates, pricing, and application information. READY FOR MORE? 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