Get Your Mind Right

I’ve previously written about the importance of a defensive mindset HERE and HERE.

The defensive mindset is the foundation to your entire defensive strategy regardless of the training you’ve had or the tools you carry.  Just as a building with a compromised foundation can result in a crumbling structure, an inadequate defensive mindset can result in your entire defensive strategy falling apart in the midst of a fight for your life.

What a Defensive Mindset IS

So what does a good solid defensive mindset look like?  Here are some identifiable characteristics:

Proactive: A defensive mindset is one that is proactive.  Proactive people are the ones that get a permit to carry a firearm as soon as they can rather than waiting for a potentially violent situation in their life to prompt them into action.  They are the ones that then seek out much more training than their state requires.  They are the ones that develop a plan for their range time so their time and ammunition is productive rather than wasted by just putting holes in a paper target.

A person with a good defensive mindset shouldn’t wait for a need to arise to develop skill or obtain equipment.  They should spend time learning about the techniques they are most likely to need in order to adequately defend themselves and then seek training in the implementation of those tools and techniques.  Discovering you aren’t equipped with the necessary skills or tools in the middle of a fight for your life is a bad time to wish you had been more proactive.

Introspective: A defensive mindset is one that is introspective.  Introspective people understand what they are capable of because they spend time thinking about their current level of skill.  Instead of an over-inflated opinion of their abilities, they have a true knowledge of their capabilities.

You should never be afraid to take a long hard look at yourself.  Your skills can never be improved inside a vacuum.  Put yourself to the test.  Find a training class or a training partner that will allow you to test your skills in a safe but realistic environment.  Will you be humbled?  Probably.  I, myself, have been humbled many times in many classes when the skill I thought I possessed failed me.  But that’s how we learn and it is essential to skill development.

Retrospective: A defensive mindset is one that is retrospective.  Retrospective people are the ones that have a clear training plan for the future because they know exactly where they have been in the past.  They see the failures in past training experiences and they learn from them.

We all fail sometimes.  After a training situation in which I feel as though I failed, I like to list the things I feel like I did “wrong” and the things I did “right.”  Only through this introspection, can we learn from our mistakes.  A training environment is where we want to fail so we don’t when it really counts.

Dominant: A defensive mindset is one that is dominant.  Dominant people are the ones that others naturally look to as leaders.  Displaying your dominance to an attacker might very well make them change their minds about attacking you.

Dominance can be displayed in the way you conduct your daily life.  Looking people in the eye and standing erect are indicators of a dominant personality.  Displaying dominance may cause an attacker to choose a different person to attack.  Even if it doesn’t, it’s possible to deescalate a potentially violent encounter by asserting dominance over an attacker.  Some people are born with a dominant personality but a dominant attitude isn’t reserved only for those few.  Virtually anyone can learn to impose dominance over another with the right instruction and practice.

Aggressive: A defensive mindset is one that is aggressive.  I’m not talking about people that are intentionally mean to others.  Those people aren’t aggressive, they’re jerks.  I’m talking about those that have determined beforehand that any degree of violence should be met with an even greater degree of violence.

When necessary you should be ready, willing, and able to meet violence with more violence.  Street thugs often don’t understand attempts at peacemaking but they do understand violence.  They understand that the winner in a fight is the one that displays the propensity for the most violence.

Flexible: A defensive mindset is one that is flexible.  Flexible people understand that anything can happen in a fight.  For that reason they intentionally keep their plan of action open to improvisation.

Mike Tyson astutely noted: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”  This is why you shouldn’t place too much stock in choreographed fighting moves.  Keep your options open.  Most defensive encounters devolve into street fighting regardless of the training of either participant.  Limiting yourself to “real” fighting techniques will put you at a distinct disadvantage.  Remember, there are no rules in a fight for your life except one: win.  Any technique or weapon that allows you do get closer to winning is valid.

Unrelenting: A defensive mindset is one that is unrelenting in the struggle to win the fight.  People that refuse to give way to the attacker, no matter what happens, generally prevail in the fight.

You may consider the officer that was attacked while confronting a mall shoplifter (you can see an interview with him HERE).  At some point he became certain he was going to die.  He determined at that moment that he was going to make sure he took the attacker with him.  This unrelenting mindset not only allowed him to prevail but he survived.

What a Defensive Mindset IS NOT

Now that we’ve discussed some key characteristics that define a defensive mindset, let’s define some things that a defensive mindset is NOT.

A defensive mindset is not unafraid.  Courage can be defined as “acting in spite of fear.”  Being afraid in a fight is OK.  Setting your fears aside and doing what is necessary to win the fight is the key.  It is a lot easier to do that if you have spent time being proactive and developing the right skills.

A defensive mindset is not unwilling to run away.  Unless you’re a law enforcement officer, you have no legal obligation to continue a fight.  Running away from a fight is not a sign of weakness.  In fact, it takes a modicum of strength to make the decision to run rather than continue the fight.  As an armed citizen, your goal should be to win the fight and go home at the end of the day.  If running away achieves that goal, you should consider it to be a viable option.

A defensive mindset is not all about situational awareness.  Being situationally aware is great… when you are situationally aware.  A person with a good defensive mindset will realize that they can’t always be situationally aware.  It simply isn’t possible to go through life being aware of every little thing no matter how hard you try.  Distractions occur all the time and we usually don’t even realize we are distracted in the moment.  An attack will almost definitely occur in one of these unaware moments instead of when you can see it coming.  Having a good defensive mindset means you will train to deal with surprise attacks.

A defensive mindset is not all about a gun.  Guns are great defensive tools but one can defend themselves without the aid of a gun or any other tool.  You are the weapon.  The gun, knife, club, pepper spray, etc. are just tools.  They are force multipliers that can help get the job done much like a lever helps move a heavy object.  A person with a good defensive mindset will spend time learning how to defend themselves with nothing if necessary.

A defensive mindset is not lazy.  Getting better at anything takes work.  In the case of self-defense, it can take a lot of work since we can’t practice our skills every single day.  I recommend taking at least two training courses each year, even if you’ve taken them before, as well a regular range time for yourself preferably with a training partner.  But far too often I see people put trivial matters before training and practice.  Taking time to rest is mandatory.  Not putting in the work because of laziness or discomfort is unacceptable.  A rainy day is no reason to skip that class you signed up for.  Get out and do the work.  Bad guys don’t take days off so we shouldn’t either.

Becoming proficient in self-defense techniques is a balance between training and practice, and spending time with family and friends or doing your honey-do list.  It should be an important part of your life because your life depends on this knowledge and skill but your life doesn’t have to revolve around it.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve defined a defensive mindset and described several characteristics of what a defensive mindset both IS and IS NOT, I would ask you this: Is your mindset right?  Do you have a solid defensive mindset or do you need to work on it?  Does your defensive skillset have a firm foundation or is it a bit shaky?

If we’re all honest, most people, me included, would admit that we still need work.  Maintaining this mindset is difficult and sometimes all but impossible.  Life gets in the way.  Time and finances are limited.  We all have demands on our attention that it can be hard to meet.

I simply try my best.  I do everything I can to make myself a less desirable target and a more likely victor in a fight.  I ask you to start today with some good introspection of your own.  Once you know where you are, you can move forward.

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A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

Tactical Ted is my favorite hypothetical person.  Despite his complete and utter lack of any formal training, he considers himself to be an “operator” and, unlike me, he knows every answer to every question in the defensive shooting world.  Sometimes Ted shoots only occasionally and sometimes he shoots every week.  Sometimes he shoots competitively and sometimes just for fun.  In spite of all of his shooting experience (or lack thereof), Ted is all knowing.

The problem that Ted often runs into is that most of his “knowledge” comes from unreliable or inaccurate sources.  He tends to believe the popular gun blogs that he reads and takes them at face value without stopping to consider the source or motives behind the article.

When I ask Ted about a method or tactic for a particular situation, he is confident in his response.  He always knows exactly what he would do in that situation.  He knows because he read about it somewhere on the internet and a buddy confirmed the information after reading the same article.

My problem with Ted, of course, is that he talks what sounds to many as a good game but has nothing to back it up.  He may have had some minimal training, perhaps a state mandated course to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but has never taken it past that very basic level.  Even though that’s all the training he has had, he still knows what to expect in a fight.  He knows because he has watched a lot of action movies.

That sounds silly doesn’t it?  After all, we all know that movies rarely mirror real life…

Or do we?  You’d be amazed at how often I hear people paint their planned response to an attack as if it were in a Die Hard script.

I see Ted all over Facebook and other social media spouting how he would have responded in the recent shooting everyone is talking about.  He goes on to say that if he had been in the theater, there would be one dead bad guy and everyone else would have survived to post their videos of his heroic victory on YouTube.  His situational awareness can never be broken.  He sleeps with one eye open and all that stuff.

He comments on a post about what he would do if ever faced with someone holding a hostage at gun point.  He knows he would be able to take the only possible shot to the head of the hostage taker and that the shot would be perfectly aimed and timed.  He knows this because he can place a one inch group into the head of a B-27 target that isn’t moving and doesn’t have a hostage while he isn’t under the stress involved in a real life threatening encounter.

He talks about how he always uses his sights because one should never shoot unless they have taken a proper sight picture.  He knows this because he shoots competitively and knows where each target is beforehand and can take the necessary time to acquire a sight picture.

He may even discuss his reason for choosing to carry a gun.  For him, it’s so he doesn’t have to run.  Or so he doesn’t have to fight.  Or some other equally mind-numbing tired old argument.

He never carries with a round in the chamber because he’s just that fast.  He only open carries and the second amendment is his carry permit.  Smith & Wesson is his security system.  He carries a .45 so he only has to shoot once.

I sure am glad that Tactical Ted is merely a hypothetical person and that none of us know any real person like that.

So what’s my point?

Tactical Ted’s are all over the internet.  They have an extremely small amount of good, useful knowledge and a whole lot of bad, useless and inaccurate information in their heads.  They talk a lot but, when it comes to obtaining more good information, their inaction speaks volumes.  They would rather remain ignorant of reality than humble themselves by taking a more challenging defensive shooting course.

Don’t be a Tactical Ted.  Talk less, learn more.

Carry Your Gun

Sometimes it blows my mind when I hear some of the ridiculous excuses made by folks when it comes to why they don’t carry their gun.  They have put a lot of time and money into buying a gun, taking a state mandated safety course, paying for their carry permit, and buying a holster and other equipment but choose, instead, to leave their gun at home.

Let’s look at some of these excuses and see why they are invalid.

It’s not comfortable.

I hear this one most often.  They don’t carry regularly because it’s just not comfortable.  This excuse is shattered by two simple facts.

Proper carry equipment will make you much more comfortable.

Carrying in a $10 nylon holster attached to your $15 Wal-Mart belt is likely the culprit.  The added weight and bulk of a gun takes the right belt.  I have used a 5.11 TDU belt daily for about ten years.  It’s a great value at around $17 but it is very high quality.

The right holster is also essential for daily carry.  Most people I know have a bag of holsters they have tried but abandoned due to various factors.  Most of them were just not comfortable.  You don’t have to spend $100 on a holster to find the right one but it’s unlikely the $10 nylon holster is going to cut it.  You should expect to spend between $40 and $80 on a decent holster.  All you need to do to help eliminate the bag of holsters collecting dust is a little research to make sure you’re getting something with a known reputation for comfort before you buy it.

Additionally, you will probably need to adjust your wardrobe to accommodate your gun.  It may require purchasing pants a size larger and wearing your shirt untucked.

Carrying a gun shouldn’t necessarily be too comfortable.

While we all want to go through our daily lives without discomfort, it’s important to realize you are carrying a tool, which if used or handled improperly, is capable of inflicting serious physical injury or death upon yourself or another person.  This responsibility should never be taken lightly and, therefore, the weight of the gun should never be so comfortable that you take it for granted.

It’s important to remember a gun is not a magical talisman that can ward away evil doers by its mere presence.  Despite that, I’m still much more comfortable internally if I have my gun with me than I am when I am forced to be unarmed.  I know that I at least have the means by which to meet violence with an equal or greater amount of violence if necessary.

There are just too many places I can’t carry the gun so I just don’t take it.

I’m going to be blunt here.  This excuse is generally the result of laziness.  Either they are too lazy to learn the laws regarding the carrying of a firearm in their locale or they are too lazy to disarm when required.

Of course, each state and municipality may have its own set of laws governing where you may or may not carry your gun.  Some states are quite restrictive but most states are much less so.  It should be a relatively easy matter for you to choose to patronize businesses that have not posted signs prohibiting firearms in their establishment.

It’s best to become intimately familiar with your state’s carry laws.  Never rely on what a friend or relative, or even an instructor or cop told you regarding what is and what is not legal.  Many of these people don’t know the laws as well as they think they do and it could be to your detriment to take their statements as fact.

Regardless of what the laws are where you live, there may be times you simply can’t carry your gun.  I recommend a good gun storage box for your vehicle so you can unload it and lock it up when necessary.  I prefer to use this method even if it means I have to lock my gun up several times in a day just for the simple fact that I would rather have my gun on my person as often as possible rather than not carry it because it’s inconvenient.

I only carry when I think I’m going to need it.

I actually hear this one a lot.  Unfortunately, those that use this excuse haven’t thought logically about their statement.  I avoid places I think I will need my gun.  If you thought there was a chance, even a small chance, you would need your gun, why would you ever go to that place?  A wise person would avoid a place where they think they will need their gun like the plague.

Of course, what they really mean by this statement is that they only carry when they are going to a place in which they are more likely to need their gun.  The problem with that lies in the fact that violent criminals don’t only choose to prey on victims in “bad” neighborhoods.  Many violent criminals are opportunists and they will attack if you appear to be an easy target or, sometimes, because they just felt like it.

A gun should be considered as emergency equipment.  Fire extinguishers, first-aid kits, emergency candles, etc…  These are things we keep on hand at all times just in case there is an emergency and they are needed at that time.  We don’t run out and buy a fire extinguisher after our kitchen stove catches fire.  Likewise, a gun should be kept with you as often as possible should the need to use it arise.

There are relatively few things in this world that I am totally certain of.  One of these things is this:  You definitely can’t shoot back if you don’t have your gun.

Don’t make excuses.  Find what will work and do it.  Carry your gun as often as possible.