The Gift of Fear


We always recommend The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker, to attendees of our self-protection presentations.  I wanted to talk a little bit more about it for the benefit of the blog readers, simply because it should be required reading for anyone who values his or her life!  Even if you have no desire whatsoever to step into a dojo and learn how to fight (you’re probably not reading this blog anyway), or learn how to carry and use a firearm, would it still be worth it to you to gain some insight into violent behavior and how to predict it?  Whether we wish to acknowledge it, most of us will be touched by violence either directly or indirectly (family, friends, acquaintances).  There will never be enough resources or manpower to ensure that each and every one of us is safe 24/7.  The responsibility lies with me, and with you, to ensure personal safety.  No, it cannot be guaranteed 100 percent.  That’s unrealistic.  We may not be able to escape being targeted, but we can certainly make ourselves a hard target.  Most of the game is mental.  So, feed your mind with the right material to open your awareness to the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle clues that assist you to act in accordance within your own best interest: staying alive.  Above all, listen to the voice inside you that nudges you into action even when conscious perception and logic do not coincide with it.  Call it your intuition, or your sixth sense.  I don’t care what you call it, but learn to heed it.  Your subconscious mind processes so many subtle perceptions that your conscious mind glosses over or discards.  I’ve probably said it before: unlike other species, we humans can override our intuition.  De Becker illustrates this in a funny little example.  When a deer is standing in the woods and it perceives danger, does it brush it off and think, “Oh, it’s probably nothing.”?  No, I think not.  The survival system kicks in and it takes off.


De Becker goes into detail about the process of violence.   The pre-incident indicators (PINs), or clear warning signs, are almost always available to people, but must be perceived, analyzed and evaluated, and utilized towards a decision and plan of action.  Decision without action is pointless in a crisis situation.  Your action could be a decision to do nothing, as in the case of people who can’t let go.  He discusses the engage and enrage principle here.  The point is this: denial of pre-incident indicators is not in your best interest.


There is so much valuable information in this book that applies to so many situations, and I could go on all day about it.  It is the kind of text that you read over and over again and pick up a new pearl of wisdom every time.  The main theme of the book is what we harp on all the time: you have to open your awareness and be in a state of vigilance (Condition Yellow) all the time.  It must become a habit.  Denial does not serve you.  Nor does cluelessness.  Educate yourself and follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared!  And get this book, of course.  J


Thoughts On Owning a Firearm


Some ask, why own a firearm?  Why not?  First things first.  If you wish to own a firearm, the first thing you must do is decide if you can use it against someone.  Are you mentally prepared to take a human life?  If not, then DO NOT purchase a firearm; it is a waste of your time and money.  Keep in mind there is a difference between murdering and killing someone.  I had the fine privilege of listening to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (author of On Killing) speak in 2007 and he addressed this very issue as it related to soldiers and police officers.  The accurate translation of the good book says, “Thou shalt not murder.”   It did NOT say, “Thall shalt not kill.”  Don’t take our word for it—look it up!  There should be no moral dilemma when it comes to protecting yourself and your family. 


Once this decision is made, go find a good firearms instructor and discuss weapons with him.  Talk with several and pick the one(s) you like.  You should consider the firearms instructor’s recommendation on the appropriate firearm, but if you find that you do not like the recommendation, you will not carry it.  One of the most important things you can do once you procure the gun is to begin carrying it daily and become comfortable with it.  Buy an excellent belt and holstering system.  DO NOT buy a cheap system. . .it will fail you!  If you are going to do this, do it right.  The holster and the belt are just as important as the firearm.  Any GALCO product is a great place to start:


In addition to carrying the weapon daily, I would suggest you practice your stance as well as drawing and presenting the weapon before you ever even set foot on the range and start shooting.  If you cannot get your firearm out of the holster and pointing at the threat, then it serves no purpose.  Buy yourself a blue or red training firearm and do drills everyday.  Practice drawing while standing, kneeling, sitting, and in any other position which you think you might find yourself.  Practically speaking, you should complete 20 hours of practice before ever shooting a firearm.  Firearm deployment and handling are two the most important skills that you can learn in the dry-fire environment.  Once you reach the 20 hour mark, it is time to practice these same skills with your real weapon.  Make sure your firearm is safely cleared and empty.  The feeling will be different because of the weight of the weapon.  JUST DO IT.  Spend another 20 hours before launching the first round down range.


I cannot stress enough learning realistic empty-hand self-defense techniques.  The first step is to defend yourself.  What if you cannot get to the firearm right away?  Once you have stopped or deflected the initial assault, then you can deploy your weapon system.  It is so important that you learn realistic techniques that have been pressured-tested.  For simplicity’s sake, WWII combatives are great.  Learn them well and they will serve you in a crisis situation.  Practice deploying the firearm after the initial assault.  Deployment must be fast, so practice, practice and practice some more.


Okay, now it is time to learn to actually shoot the weapon.  My recommendation is to train with no less than three different firearms instructors.  Find a civilian NRA instructor, a police firearms instructor, and a SWAT firearms instructor, and train with all of them.  Listen and learn.  They will all teach you differently, but that is advantageous to you.  If you are fortunate enough to find a Federal Air Marshal firearms instructor, seize the opportunity to train with him.  FAMs know concealed carry, they are expert close-range shooters and they are truly the most highly skilled firearms instructors in the Federal Government.


For the first couple of months, try to shoot at least 400 rounds per month.  Do not just launch lead down range.  Use the drills that all the instructors taught you and practice them religiously.  Accuracy is final!  It is your duty to learn to shoot as accurately as possible.  A good standard is to draw and fire three rounds in 5 seconds at 5 yards.  Your target is a 3X5 index card.  Once you accomplish this, your skills are sound.  But don’t get lazy.  Keep practicing—you want these skills sharp if race day ever comes. 


Body Language and Threat Recognition

So much of what we say is not with our mouths, but with our bodies.  I think this is why I prefer talking to people face-to-face, so I can perceive MORE.   Most likely you’ve talked with people and gotten the nagging feeling they were not being straight with you.  Maybe you weren’t sure why.  I would suggest that their non-verbals were not in-line with what was being verbally expressed.  Your intuition may be nudging you.  Here’s more food for your intuition to chew on; an article about body language as it relates to dangerous people with malicious intent:

The Slap


We teach the slap as a pre-emptive strike–you perceive that the situation you are in is going downhill FAST.  Perhaps another individual is taking an aggressive stance, or he is threatening you, or worse yet. . .he is drawing a weapon.  Time to reach out and touch someone!  The slap is just plain insulting to most people–maybe the last time you were slapped, your mama did the honors.  This one has just a bit more behind it, because you want to rock his brain inside his skull, if you know what I’m saying.  We practice from either a Jack Benny stance, or from a protective fence.  This is a nice time to make a point about NOT posturing during a potential confrontation.  The protective fence is great because you LOOK pretty harmless and your body language is saying, “hey, I don’t really want any trouble.”  In truth, you are ready to roll, if need be.  Check out Al Peasland, who is affiliated with the British Combat Association, and his book and/or DVD on Fence Concepts:

If you cup the hand during the slap, and hit the ear, it is possible to rupture the eardrum.  We use both the BOBs, and in our video clip, we also use the focus mitts.  Check out Paul Vunak, as well, as he explains the slap.  Good stuff!


Free Report: Fighting Your Way Out of a Corner


Hey guys!  I wanted to tell anyone who has not done it already to sign up for a free report: Fighting Your Way Out of a Corner.  There are some great little self-protection gems in here.  Just visit and look at the little scrap of parchment on the right-hand side.  Put in your email address and SHAZAM!  Free report.  Wasn’t that easy?

Knife Defense


We looked at defenses against several angles of attack with knives.  You know, so many times I was instructed that getting cut was an inherent part of knife fighting.  Very recently I gained new perspective.  I don’t want to pre-program myself for the probability of being cut in the event that a knife comes into play, and it is simply not true that I will always be cut.  Past instructors even admonished against carrying a knife for protection.  But you know what?  There is responsibility that goes hand in hand with any weapon I carry, whether it is knife, OC spray, a gun, or my own body.  I accept that responsibility.


The biggest points about last night’s training were the following. 


  • Avoid trying to grab a moving target.  I may miss.  We used our forearms to block the varying angles of incoming knife strikes, then grabbed the wrist/hand for control. 
  • After that, it’s time to soften him up so that he’s thinking less about the knife and more about his pain!
  • The disarm may just happen, especially after I’ve struck him several times.  Keep this in mind: disarming does mean you have to specifically take the knife away.  You may disable him, take the striking hand out of commission, or simply remove his ability to use the weapon, at which point he is basically disarmed.  Also remember that if you are in survival stress mode, your dexterity is most likely gone due to vascular constriction in the fingers and hands.  Knife disarms are very sexy, but will they work when you are threatened?


We also need to train ourselves to look for furtive movements.  Perhaps you can lock him down before he has a chance to draw the weapon.  Pay attention to his hands—what are they doing? 


If a technique is not working, don’t keep beating a dead horse.  Train to move onto something else.  I will address more of this in upcoming blogs.


Restaurant Observation Game


“We value our sight above almost everything else.  The reason for this is that of all the senses sight makes knowledge most possible for us and shows us the many differences between things.” Aristotle, “Metaphysics”, Book I


What is the dictionary definition of observation?


–an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.

–an act or instance of regarding attentively or watching.

–the faculty or habit of observing or noticing.




I played a little game today with my cop friend.  Here is a scenario.  I’m getting coffee at a crowded restaurant and a crazed man enters, brandishing a firearm and yelling at the patrons.  What actions should I take?


–duck under a table

–run out a door (there are 2 exits)

–jump the counter and run to the kitchen

–lie down and play dead

–run at the gunman, screaming obscenities


Observation should have begun as soon as I parked my vehicle and entered the building.  As I walk in, I take note of the visible exits and the restroom.  Oftentimes there is an exit near the restroom, or off the kitchen area.  NOTE: If there is one police officer in the restaurant, rest assured there is at least one gun in your vicinity.  Stay out of his field of fire (sit away from the bullet magnet).  I do an initial scan of the entire area—is there anything that looks out of place?  If so, that gains priority.  I cannot focus on everything at once.  Keep in mind that this is not an activity that takes all day.  Whatever looks out of place gets a more thorough observation.  If there are no red flags, proceed with caution.  If there is a red flag (suspicious people or activity), or if your intuition is nagging at you, LEAVE THE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY!  Don’t wait for confirmation!


Okay. . .back to the situation at hand.  Maybe I did all these things, and trouble still bursts violently onto the scene.  What are my most logical options?  FIND AN OPENING AT A HIGH RATE OF SPEED.  This is NOT the time to think about the bread pudding I ordered, or putting the Splenda in my coffee.  I must let it goooo.  In this particular establishment, I can hop the counter and run towards the kitchen.  I’ve been here before and I know the employees take the trash out that way.  But what if I cannot get to the kitchen?  I need to become a track star and get to the nearest exit.  There may be obstacles (i.e. people).  If I’m running, I need to be a moving target because otherwise, I’m basically a fish in a barrel.  I may need to run like an alligator is chasing me (they tell you in Florida to run in a zig-zag pattern).  If the exit is blocked with people, I may have to make my own opening, God forbid.  These windows look sturdy, and the chairs are made of wood.


Alright.  What’s behind door number 3?  My last resort option.  I can just run right at the fool.  SURPRISE. . .SURPRISE!  I’m pretty sure he won’t be expecting this one.  Visualize him as the quarterback with the ball, and he is TOAST.  I’m going to run right through him like a battering ram.  NOTE: Incoming rounds have the right of way.  Use this option in the worst case scenario!


Whew!  I made it outside.  Now what?  I need to run to a safe distance and call the proper authorities.  I need to be a good witness when they arrive.  I may need to go home and change my underwear.  By the way, I forgot my gun today, in which case the scenario would have been totally different.