Like any training, scenario training must serve a purpose. The purpose has to be something that helps the student as well-- if you are setting the rules, telling the story and controlling all the parts, you can always "teach" a student that they will fail. That's for your ego. A student subjected to that only learns to never try.
Some scenarios can be for testing, and one of the best aspects of armored opponent scenario training for martial artists is that they learn a little about the huge gap between dealing with a training partner and dealing with an attacker. It's never a complete exposure, but skills degenerate so universally that all but the most self-deluded take a second to wonder about the difference between training and life.
That's learning a negative, however. Understanding that you aren't prepared is a step... but it doesn't help you to be prepared. It motivates you.
So in scenario training, you start with what you want the student to learn. You wanted the student to learn how to tap into her inner beast and let go? You can set up scenarios for that. You want to get a student over some deep personal conditioning? You can inoculate for that with scenarios. You want them to take sterile skills and apply them to a dynamic, messy environment? Scenarios were made for that.
Most often I use them to help the student develop judgment in tandem with skills. They know how to take someone down... do they have any idea when it is appropriate? They know how to defend themselves, do they know what constitutes self-defense legally? Can they explain their actions to a jury of their peers?
Can they tell when a situations is developing? Do they know when to leave? Do they recognize the point of no return? Knowledge of violence dynamics (how bad guys attack) and force law are integral parts of self-defense. Every so often, these elements have to be practiced together.
The other thing about scenario training is that you find glitches. When the student doesn't run; or uses a martial skill instead of a survival skill (fighting to win instead of fighting to escape) or plays to the scenario instead of the problem (decides not to use the mirrors or doors, ignoring truth for an image in the head) it tells you something. The same student is vulnerable to his or her own mind games and assumptions in real life. That's a glitch, and a dangerous one. The best survivors are cheaters. If you want to encourage survival skills, you have to make it safe to cheat.
It takes good role-players and a good coach. A role-player who wants to can turn everything into a fight...and the student learns that only fighting (never leaving, never talking) is what works. A role-player who can play a convincing criminal (not an unstoppable monster or a cartoon character) is solid gold.
The coach has to let the students run and not micromanage or microcritique. There are lots of ways to be right, ways to survive. the goal is for the student to learn and so, whenever possible, the student, not the instructor, should be pointing out mistakes and areas of improvement.
You also have to watch the 'weirdness creep.' Most bad things that happen are pretty basic. There aren't a lot of variations on the Monkey Dance. Armed robberies follow pretty simple patterns. Good scenarios that reflect reality will blow away beginners and teach them tons. Unfortunately, what the student does once, the crew (facilitator and role-players) will do many times. The crew starts to get bored. The crew decides to make things more interesting and challenging. the scenarios start to get a little weirder, a little less like real life...
This is where we plan to finish up tomorrow. Sold out show. Life is good.