By Mark V. Lonsdale, STTU Training Director
A significant part of surviving a lethal encounter is a combat mindset. The other components are reality-based training and a willingness to use it. So how does one develop a combat mindset?
You do not have to be former military or law enforcement to adopt a warrior ethos and to improve the probabilities of surviving a dangerous confrontation. You just have to accept that your personal survival is your responsibility, and then commit to do something about it.
The newspapers and nightly news carry literally dozens of accounts of assaults, street muggings, robberies, home invasions, car jackings, stabbings, rapes, kidnappings, and murders, so it would be foolish to believe that you or your loved ones will never be a victim of street crime. And now, with the police being forced to stand down by leftist politicians, weak mayors, and gutless city councils, it’s even more important that regular citizens develop the skills and mindset to protect themselves. Face it, the police aren’t coming!
So developing a warrior ethos and combat mindset begins by accepting that it could happen to you. Next it is necessary to do your research on attack methodology to better understand how these violent thugs and criminals operate and the tactics they employ. This process of educating yourself serves two purposes: 1. It allows you to tailor your choice of weapons and training to meet the threat, and, 2. It will improve your ability to recognize a dangerous situation or emerging threat.
An additional part of your education is developing an understanding of the legal constraints for self-defense and use of deadly force. In essence, deadly force should be used in “defense of life” only, or imminent risk of grievous bodily harm. You must be “in fear of your life” or that of your loved ones. But each state has different “home & castle” and “stand your ground laws” related to threats, intruders, home invasion, and self-defense. It is therefore essential that you seek out training, such as provided in most concealed weapons courses, on the laws specific to your location. The reason for this is your need for moral and legal clarity as to the use of force, which in turn will reduce hesitation in the heat of the moment.
Part of your mental preparation is to refine your Situational Awareness. One of the single most important skills for personal protection is the power of observation which provides the ability to recognize and avoid danger. Unfortunately, most people go about their everyday lives with little appreciation for what’s happening around them. They are focused on what they are doing or where they are going, while talking on their cell phones, plugged into music, or just day dreaming. These are the easy, soft targets that street thugs and criminals profile and seek out. It is not surprising that a person who has ear-buds in or wearing headphones is easy to approach and surprise, plus that thousand-dollar cell phone is a valuable prize in itself.
On the physical side there are several levels to training, the first of which is basic physical fitness. Being able to out run a threat is a valuable street survival skill, but if you can’t run, then you need the strength and stamina to meet the threat head on. You will be fighting for your life, so you need to train like your life depends on it. Being morbidly obese, chain smoking, and simply doing yoga or Pilates is not going to cut it. The foundation of the warrior ethos is personal fitness and becoming hard.
The extension of physical training is skills training. This includes fight training, martial arts, firearms training, self defense classes, and even driver training. Martial arts need to be practiced at least twice a week to develop the required muscle memory, and firearms training should be both frequent and realistic. Plinking with a .22 rifle at 50 yards is not the same as engaging multiple man-sized targets, at close to medium range, in less than ideal low-light conditions. Keep in mind that bad things happen at night, so close quarters low-light training must be a part of your training routine.
In addition, part of the fight or firearms training should be the conditioning to act or react decisively and not to freeze. People react differently under stress – Freeze, Fight or Flee. Fleeing and avoiding the confrontation is often preferable; Freezing will get you killed or seriously injured; so Fighting is the option that you must train for. Essentially, reality-based training should instill the reactions and reflexes to block, pivot, strike, draw, or engage – depending on the situational dictates.
Two parts of the combat mindset worth developing are the ability to make a cold, calm assessment of the situation, followed by an aggressive, even ferocious, counter-attack. An individual in a panicked mental state can neither think rationally nor react correctly. This is what the thugs and scumbags are counting on – that you will freeze. This goes back to the importance of reality-based training that exposes you to simulated dangerous situations based on real world attack methodologies. In these situations you need to be able to tap into your primal rage while maintaining control of that aggression. Make the bad guys feel like they have kicked a hornets nest.
When you combine all of the above, and after a suitable amount of training time, you should develop the confidence and ability to handle a variety of street level situations. It’s that confidence that will allow you to think clearly and react correctly to the threat.
Finally, once it is “fight on,” never quit, never give-up, never surrender. Inflict so much damage that the assailant(s) realize that the return is not worth the effort. In addition, the more injuries you can inflict, the greater the probability that law enforcement may catch them. You should also expect to get hurt and fight through it, but at the end of the day, your survival depends on your combat mindset, training, and willingness to use it.