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Defense of your Life

TonyD

One Shot One Maggie's Drawers
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A few recent posts, and the lack of anything substantial in the training forums recently, has compelled me write a short article on the total self-defense / personal protection issue that some individuals may overlook. Often times the personal protection issue begins and ends with a person, for whatever reason, purchasing a firearm for carry, home defense, or both. And, after the mandatory firearm safety class and a few boxes of reloads later, they are all set to defend their life or the lives of loved ones when the boogie man comes to visit.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the legalities of the use of force or the criteria needed for the employment of deadly force. However, it is generally accepted that an individual must reasonably believe that his / her life, or the life of an innocent third party, be in immediate peril of personal injury or death, and that the perpetrator have the intent, means, and opportunity to cause said injury or death.

Proper preparation for self-defense begins long before a visit to the local gun shop. In fact, I maintain that a person’s approach to their personal protection strategy can be likened to an investment portfolio. You must consider what you desire as an end result, identify risk and reward, decide the amount of investment you are willing to make, and put forth the effort to achieve the end result. Fortunately, your investment in a personal protection portfolio is more personal time and effort than it is monetary.

Most credible self-defense curricula break down the stages of instruction into something known as the ‘Survival Triangle’ as the three main ingredients needed to prepare a self-defense menu. The three ingredients may vary somewhat in nomenclature but typically represent the same substance. I label my survival triangle as: Mental Conditioning, Tactical Awareness, and Survival Tactics. Each leg of the triangle encompasses an area of study and preparation needed to maximize an individuals potential of surviving a violent encounter. Please reread my last statement and ponder the importance of the three key words – preparation, potential, and surviving.

I have had the privilege and honor to train under, and with, some of the most accomplished martial artists and self-defense instructors in our nation over the last three decades and they will be among the first to avow the no amount of training will transform you into an unbeatable leviathan. Proper training will only allow each person to maximize the potential of performing any task in which they are physically and mentally able to do. As an example, I have always been an athletically inclined individual. The likes of Michael Jordan would be able to maximize my potential in basketball, however, at five foot ten inches, he’ll never have me walking on air at the free-throw line dunking the ball. It’s just not possible for my potential.

I feel the need to illustrate the above analogy to try to remove some of the immortal-ness some folks feel while carrying a firearm for self-defense or attaining a certain degree of experience in any martial art. Much of this has to do with the first leg in my survival triangle – Mental Conditioning.

In my students lesson guide I define Mental Conditioning as, “The proper mind-set required to increase the probability of accomplishing the task at hand”. Although defining in itself, it is still somewhat vague and my personal didactic explanation as it relates to self-defense is one of the areas my clients pay for. I will further explain it here for the purpose of this article as the need to prepare yourself that at some point you may need to take action that will likely result in the physical harm, or possible death, of another human being, and the ability to cope with the subsequent emotions and physical stress. The easy part is conditioning your mind with the ability to inflict damage. The difficult part, that is rarely considered, is dealing with the emotional trauma when the deed is done regardless of the justification of your actions. Not to mention the legal washboard and ringer you will be put through and the financial ruin you will experience defending even the most justified actions of self-defense.

Tactical Awareness is the second leg of my Survival Triangle and is the leg I would deem as most important if I had to choose, and I simply define as, “To remain acutely aware of all of your surroundings”. This is the ingredient that will more often than not keep you from having to employ any means of physical prowess. In other words, this will most likely keep you out of the ka-ka. This is living life without blinders. Never positioning yourself in an environment that can deteriorate into a physical confrontation or place you in a situation where you can be taken advantage of by predators. Keep in mind that most acts of crime are acts of opportunity by the perpetrator – an elderly couple on the far side of the mall parking lot, an individual alone on a dark street late at night, a young female coed walking back to the dorm from a late night class, a home invasion without proper security, a secluded withdraw from the ATM, etc. etc.

Though you can never eliminate being in a position that a criminal may be lurking for an easy mark, you can maintain a vigilance of your surroundings that will alert you to danger long before a surprise attack and allow yourself to better prepare for combat, or avoid it altogether. Again, most criminals prey on the unsuspecting and are rarely prepared for, or desire, a confrontation from their victim. Simply projecting an air of confidence and preparation, without arrogance, will eliminate you from more acts of violence than you will ever perceive. They simply won’t materialize because you don’t present yourself as an easy mark.

Then we have to consider the criminal element that pays no heed to logic. The desperate individuals that for whatever reason must rob, steal, rape, and otherwise invade your personal life without regard to your mental conditioning and tactical awareness. These type individuals pose a great danger because they do not calculate their odds and look for an easy mark. They pay no heed and are not concerned with the consequences of their actions. Be it drugs, mental illness, or desperation, they are out for one thing, and one thing only – their intended purpose. Only that individual criminal knows the intended purpose but you are the target. You have prepared mentally and you have taken note of your surroundings so you are not completely caught off guard. However, you are confronted with a self-defense situation – possibly life or death.

‘Possibly’ is the key word here. Professionals have standards that govern the amount of force that can be used against an individual with respect to the amount of force they encounter. It’s referred to as the ‘Force Continuum’. In the civilian world, we are held to a standard known as the ‘Prudent Person Test’. In other words, would a prudent individual faced with the same circumstances, with the same knowledge and experience, with the same tools at hand, act in the same manner in which you did thwarting a violent crime in the name of self-defense. I personally believe the Prudent Person test is subjective at best. However, my opinion makes no difference in a court of law.

So, now the third leg of our survival triangle is thrust into action regardless of our attempts to avoid a physical confrontation – Survival Tactics. We now have no choice but to defend our person, property or life. What are our choices? Well, that all depends on a myriad of circumstances. There is no way to list all of the possible scenarios and locations and give instructions on surviving them. However, your preparation and training for this unfortunate moment should now come into play.

Survival Tactics is the leg of the Survival Triangle that requires you to have received instruction in…survival tactics. This includes the basics of our personal being and includes every physical asset at our disposal. It does not end with the hands and feet of an accomplished martial artist nor does it begin with the firearm of a frightened mugging victim. It also does not require the life-long study of unarmed self-defense but does require a progressive institution of teaching all the means of self-defense beginning with what God gave us, and utilizing every instrument created since.

These tactics of self-defense cannot be learned from this article or any publication. It requires the active participation of the individual. For the folks that spend good hard earned dollars on firearms schools, ‘good on you’ - it is necessary. However, you will not always have that firearm to fall back on and more times than not, it will not be appropriate. I challenge you all to think of all the times an attack can occur on your person and all of the places you don’t have a firearm readily available. Also consider the great possibility that you can’t reach your firearm in time to deploy it when confronted with a violent attack.

A prudent individual does not deploy a firearm every time they become concerned for their safety. In reality, the civilian (you and me) encounters situations where we must fight our way to our firearm, even though it’s strapped to our side.

This is the crux of this lesson - the fallacy of the firearm. Meaning, that with all of the restrictions in which a person may carry legally increases the chances of being involved in a situation where you do not posses a firearm. If your entire self-defense program was based on that firearm, what are your options?

The most important point of this article is to cause you, the individual, to think beyond the gun. Find a place that is progressive enough to teach self-defense in its entirety. It is somewhere beyond the firearm-farm and in between your local Kung-Fu school.


Tony Dulaney, author

No part of this article may used in part or in whole without the express written consent of the author and is considered under copyright.

About the author:

Tony Dulaney is a former police officer and has spent time as a member of an Emergency Response Team in the Midwest.

A former Sergeant of Marines in the U.S Marine Corps.

Former Certified Police Self-Defense Instructor

Former Paramedic with over fourteen years experience

Private instructor of civilian self-defense and firearm marksmanship

Over twenty years experience in traditional martial arts

Author and developer of Advanced Survival & Awareness Tactics

Past President and CEO of Emergency Medical Education & Tactical Training Services

Current President & CEO of Infinite Ventures, Inc.
 
Tony,

Very interesting article. I've printed it out to read at my leisure since you have put a lot of good material in it. Thanks for sharing with us.
 
Good post, Tony.

When I first started teaching NRA courses, the one that I really didn't like was the (old) Personal Protection course. The old curriculum focused almost entirely on shooting, overlooking two crucial aspects of personal protection. One was the use of cover and conealment, light, movement and other vital tactical elements of a armed confrontation. The other was the simple fact that most such confrontations can either be avoided or deescalated beforehand by some basic understanding of the psychology of criminal predators (including victim selection), mental awareness and conditioning, planning and preparation.

Because of this omission I found myself teaching a lot fewer PP courses and including a lot of additional materials in the ones I did teach. I also became a Refuse To Be A Victim instructor, after discovering that this non-firearms program, developed by the NRA Women's Division, covered exactly the (non-tactical) elements that I found missing in the Personal Protection course. Shortly thereafter, the NRA (finally) came out with its new Personal Protection in the Home course, which remedies most of the glaring omissions in the old curriculum. I still believe that a lot more time should be devoted to ways to avoid becoming a victim in the first place and minimizing the intensity of violent confrontations.

Preparation and planning also comes in on the tactical end of confrontations. We have a very strong tendency to focus on firearms as the preferred personal defense tool, overlooking the fact that they might (1) not be necessary in a particular situation, (2) might not be available at the instant they're needed, or (3) might best be employed as part of a broader tactical approach (e.g., light, pepper spray, striking tools, etc.).

The bottom line is that you can never be too prepared. Good preparation not only helps you to prevail in a violent encounter (not simply survive), but also to reduce the necessity for such encounters in the first place.

Ken
 
Finally had some free time to read this article Tony..

Nice work, and this has got me to thinking a bit.

Thank you for sharing
Adam
 
Adam_MA said:
Finally had some free time to read this article Tony..

Nice work, and this has got me to thinking a bit.

Thank you for sharing
Adam

Thanks, Adam. The whole idea was get folks thinking a bit. The point of the article, and as Ken stated, a firearm is not the first and last means of self-defense and can often lead to a false sense of security.

I really thought this would garner more interest and discussion, though.
 
I really thought this would garner more interest and discussion, though.

Tony, I'd chalk it up to the time of the year. Folks are busy preparing for the holidays and if most houses are like mine, it's tough to take the time to concentrate and respond. But I'll bet a lot of people have read it and nodded their heads saying, "Yep.".
 
TonyD said:
I really thought this would garner more interest and discussion, though.

Tony,
I wouldn't take it personally... This is a great article, and I would agree that the time of the year has a lot to do with not being able to reply.

Adam
 
Actually, it's the Training forums as a whole. It really has had very little participation since its inception and Jim Conway and I have trying to figure out how to get more folks involved. So, I really appreciate the responses so far.
 
If I were a more experienced and had some professional training under my belt (something I plan on remedying VERY soon) perhaps I could contribute more.

For now, I just like to read what I can, and try to take it all in. But I do appreciate the work that everyone puts into this forum, every little bit does help!

Adam
 
If you have any particular questions, please start a thread and ask. A lot of advice and drills can be offered to allow folks to start training on their own.
 
Mental awareness

Tony
The article was and is superb and that is not a surprise. The one point that I could make is that the most important aspect is one's mental awareness. It is well known that criminals want an easy mark. If we go about our business unaware of the possible threats, we made made it very easy for the BG. There is a lot of information about mental awareness, but Jeff Cooper's "Color Code" says it all in simple and clear language. Other than the obvious aspect of being and looking alert and aware (not looking like a victim) is that we are able to avoid or greatly minimize the "startle effect" and we are able to react quickly to a threat.
 
Thanks, Jim, and you are correct. I place the most importance on the Mental Awareness leg of my survival triangle. I think the color code system is great for explanation but I just can't keep them all straight. I break it down as - Asleep, Aware, Neck Hair-Tingling Alert, and Oh-Shit, This is For Real! [wink]
 
Tony,

Great article.

Don't worry, I do read the training forum. I don't have an extensive background in training techniques so this forum is more a jumping point for me to start from, I don't feel I have a lot to offer at this time. If you look at my post count, in general I read more than post anyway.

I strongly agree with your survival triangle system. My awareness has been my primary defense most of my life. Growing up near NYC and spending a decent amount of time there as well as going to night school in Newark, NJ has helped to hone that awareness. I just saw your 'color code' as I was typing this; luckily that hair-tingling alert is something that stays with you once you learn to recognize it.

I've only had minimal hand to hand defense training and my firearms training has only been in the last 3-4 years.(long time informal shooting, just recently getting serious, defensive & CMP) I have taken a couple of good tactical & training courses locally in the past 2 years and I try to take those techniques to IDPA(which I just started this past year) to practice under a more stressful environment. As you said though, this side doesn't prepare you for everything. I'm still trying to find some form of unarmed self defense training in the area.

Thanks again for an excellent article.
Chris
 
Chris, thanks and you're welcome!

Finding a good self-defense school can be challenging these days. There are still a few good traditional martial arts schools out there but this is a very involved endeavor and is typically more involved than most folks are looking for.

Utilizing good tactics in IDPA is a good thing. It's easy to spot the guys that are 'gaming' merely for time and score than the folks using a realistic survival mind-set. It can be a great training adjunct for folks that would otherwise not be able to even double tap and their range, let alone work on any drills.
 
It's easy to get caught up in the score and gaming aspect of IDPA. I had to remind myself of my real purpose after a 'shoot house' stage at the last match. I was a bit frustrated with my time at first, but replaying the stage I realized I did use most of what I was taught correctly. Not perfectly, but that's why I'm shooting the matches as practice and not gaming.

Luckily both of the clubs I belong to allow controlled rapid fire. I have 3 IDPA bays that can be used at one club and the second pistol range at the other is well suited for the same type of shooting.

As for the self-defense, that's still something I need to find a good resource for. The firearms instructor I've taken a few course with would be an excellent resource if we could convince him to offer it. At the moment I think it's a time issue for him.

CD
 
TonyD said:
I think the color code system is great for explanation but I just can't keep them all straight. I break it down as - Asleep, Aware, Neck Hair-Tingling Alert, and Oh-Shit, This is For Real! [wink]

Tony, I did read the article; I just didn't have a comment to offer so I didn't. But it is a great article and I will be rereading it again later.

I also agree with your alert system. :D As tech in Boston, I sometimes had to be there either quite late or very early. I tried to make darn sure that I was always at Alert... once or twice my "dwarf sense" started to tingle and I made very sure that I knew where I was going to run and who was around me.

Fortunately, I've never gotten to the "Oh-shit" stage... and hope I never do. One big reason I'm not too sorry I lost my job in Boston: I can breathe easier.

Ross
 
TonyD said:
I really thought this would garner more interest and discussion, though.

I just had the chance to read it sweetie. Good job! Mom broke her hip Friday night, so I've been quickly checking the board since then and haven't had much time to do a lot of anything - including reading. [wink]
 
cdkayak said:
It's easy to get caught up in the score and gaming aspect of IDPA. I had to remind myself of my real purpose after a 'shoot house' stage at the last match. I was a bit frustrated with my time at first, but replaying the stage I realized I did use most of what I was taught correctly. Not perfectly, but that's why I'm shooting the matches as practice and not gaming.

Luckily both of the clubs I belong to allow controlled rapid fire. I have 3 IDPA bays that can be used at one club and the second pistol range at the other is well suited for the same type of shooting.

As for the self-defense, that's still something I need to find a good resource for. The firearms instructor I've taken a few course with would be an excellent resource if we could convince him to offer it. At the moment I think it's a time issue for him.

CD

Chris, Here's an example of what I did that may help you keep the correct mind-set during IDPA. As I've stated before I don't 'game', I use IDPA as another training / pratice platform.

As with any get together, eventually like minded folks will tend to congregate together. It just so happens this occurred at our range and there is four of us there for the same reason - realistic training and practice. Since there are multiple stages being ran at the same time we stick together as a group. We watch each other and critique each others performance.

The group consists of:

Myself

Mr. B. - Instuctor at the Fed Law En Trng Cntr

Mr. M. - Senior Sgt with 7th special forces group (rehabbing from injuries in Iraq)

Mr. J. - LtCol with 7th special forces group

None of us dominate the time charts but we know when we've 'won' because we did everything tactically correct. We also watch the others and privately critique them amongst ourselves. The point is, we have our own little support group and we walk away knowing what we did well and not so well.

A few months ago Mr. B. was having problems with stopages during every course of fire which seriously ate into score (time) and was beginning to get frustrated. I pointed out to him that in my mind he was the best shooter of the day. With a puzzled look on his face, I reminded him that he performed immediate action on every stopage flawlessly, returned his firearm to battery and finished every stage without hesitation and I considered him the match winner regardless of the timer. He understood and agreed. Without that support group it would be easy to get frustrated and sucked into the game thinking only the timer matters.
 
Tony,

That's a good way to keep the proper perspective on things. As I get to know more shooters at the matches I should be able to find some more individuals there for those reasons.

CD
 
TonyD said:
A few months ago Mr. B. was having problems with stopages during every course of fire which seriously ate into score (time) and was beginning to get frustrated. I pointed out to him that in my mind he was the best shooter of the day. With a puzzled look on his face, I reminded him that he performed immediate action on every stopage flawlessly, returned his firearm to battery and finished every stage without hesitation and I considered him the match winner regardless of the timer. He understood and agreed. Without that support group it would be easy to get frustrated and sucked into the game thinking only the timer matters.

Well done Tony. That right there took away any self butt kicking by Mr. B. and made him feel good about his ability to handle malfunctions. Which we all need to remember during practice and deal with because being able to do that without any self recriminations or frustration may well save our lives during a crisis. Like Nike's ad - just do it (and don't worry about a clock). [wink] :D
 
Lynne said:
TonyD said:
A few months ago Mr. B. was having problems with stopages during every course of fire which seriously ate into score (time) and was beginning to get frustrated. I pointed out to him that in my mind he was the best shooter of the day. With a puzzled look on his face, I reminded him that he performed immediate action on every stopage flawlessly, returned his firearm to battery and finished every stage without hesitation and I considered him the match winner regardless of the timer. He understood and agreed. Without that support group it would be easy to get frustrated and sucked into the game thinking only the timer matters.

Well done Tony. That right there took away any self butt kicking by Mr. B. and made him feel good about his ability to handle malfunctions. Which we all need to remember during practice and deal with because being able to do that without any self recriminations or frustration may well save our lives during a crisis. Like Nike's ad - just do it (and don't worry about a clock). [wink] :D

True. His frustration was, as a Fed. Law Enforcement Senior Instructor he doesn't have problems clearing malfunctions, as was demonstrated. It was the fact he had bad ammo, mags, gun problem, whatever and he was having the malf. at every stage. It just took a third party reality check.
 
We have a term in the VT Guard (a few units, anyways) that is appropriate here.

"Train to a standard, not to a time."

What isn't said, that IF you train to a standard, the time will follow.
 
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