25 January 2013

It is not always a fight to the death

When it comes to the possibility of having to use aggression against another person, there are two basic mindsets.

The first and most common is- it will never happen to me.

The second is- bad things happen so I need to prepare.

Since we know there is nothing we can do for the first group, we will talk about the mindset of the second.  Having this mindset requires that at least on some level you have imagined how such an attack would take place and how you would respond.  If these thoughts are based on reality, we call them visualization which is a useful and powerful tool.  If they are based on fantasy, they can greatly inhibit your safety.  If I had to narrow down the worst of these fantasies, the worst would be the idea that every altercation is a knockdown, drag outfight to the death.  This belief that any and all attackers will be immortals or Jason Myers encourages people to only prepare for the extremes.  Failing to only prepare for extremes has a way of failing to allow us to take care of small problems before they become big ones.  This worst case scenario fantasy almost always involves us using weapons against our attacker.  Concentration on this overshadows other more easily practiced and justifiable options.

Verbal Commands- verbal commands are hard enough to train police to use effectively, even when they are set in stone like “POLICE”, “GET DOWN” and “SHOW YOUR HANDS”.  These are the big ones and are used in most situations encountered by officers.  These commands are taught because even under stress they are easy for the officer to yell and give the offender not only easy to understand, but require physical action on their part which provides immediate feedback to the officer that they understand his commands and are cooperating. 

As a citizen, armed or unarmed, have you ever thought of what clear and concise verbal commands you would use if needed?  Most scenarios are going to include someone approaching you.  If you can see them approach, the two best verbal commands are “STOP” and “GET BACK”.  During force on force, we find that when giving commands people freeze in place.  This is because of the fight or flight response.  You are giving verbal commands which probably means that they are not close enough to use a weapon of your own or use of a weapon is not yet justified.  So there goes the fight option.  When most people think of “flight,” they envision turning around and running away.  When confronted, this may not seem like a viable option, and they are not trained to move backwards while keeping an eye on the offender.  They have given a command to the offender ordering him to do something, so it only makes sense that they would stand still while waiting for the visual feedback of whether or not they are complying. 
A better option is to visualize yourself moving towards a physical barrier, or cover, as you are giving the verbal commands.  A physical barrier, such as a vehicle or counter, is a great tool for protecting yourself from assaults not involving firearms.  This lateral or backward movement should begin as soon as you start giving commands.

Violent Open Hand Combatives-  if someone has either failed to comply to verbal commands or is inside your personal space, even if they are unarmed, it is time to use a violent open hand counter attack.  The idea here is not to strike one time and watch for the reaction of the offender, instead you counter attack with a flurry of open hand strikes and kicks to their face and shins.   If possible, you should slam them into a vertical object like a wall or vehicle. Your goal is to physically and mentally overwhelm the attacker, taking his mind off the attack and instead forcing him into a fight or flight response.  My favorite metaphor is that the attacker should feel like they have a plastic bag over their head. The more spontaneous and violent the counter attack is the more effect it will have.  The key thing to remember here is that you are either not armed, do not have time to deploy a weapon, or they are not armed.  The acronym for Counter Attack Theory is CAT and for good reason.  When done properly, it should look as fast, violent, and out of control as a cat fight.  This response can provide you either the opportunity to escape or transition to another weapon.

In classes, we preach that it is all about Awareness, Avoidance, and Aggression. By making habits out of being aware and using avoidance strategies, your need to use aggression will be very small.  Knowing how and when to use the appropriate level of aggression, can greatly reduce the need for deadly force.

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