When to Move Out!

You have been “bugged in” your city apartment for several weeks.  No electricity, no phone, no running water, and lots and lots of crazy people are running around the streets. There is truly no way of knowing what exactly is happening in the world, but it really does not look good for the home team. Even though living conditions have certainly not been up to your preferred standard of living, you and your family have felt secure up until this point. You have plenty of supplies and your vehicle is still operational, but the environment outside filled with crazies, criminals and crusaders is out of control!  Life is just not the same as it was.  So what do you do?  After a thorough threat assessment is conducted by your group, you determine that your security precautions are holding up, but depending upon future threats, they could break down at any moment.  The tough decision must be made: re-enforce the homestead or move out.  The group decides that moving out is the best option.

When deciding to move out, several questions must be answered.  First and foremost: do you have another place to go? The last thing that you want to do is leave a not-so-good situation and move to something that is far worse.  Obviously, that makes no sense!

In the excellent book, CONTACT! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival, Max Velocity states that “you should only move if you have a safe place to go to, or your home is untenable.”  Max also states that “Getting out for getting outs sake, perhaps with nothing but a camper or a tent and heading to a National Forest like everyone else, will simply leave you out there at a great threat.”  I totally agree with him.  You should not move unless the situation dictates that you absolutely must move.

When you decide to move, there are a few additional questions that must be answered:

  • How do you get where you are going?
  • What type of areas will you be crossing to get there?
  • What are the potential security threats?
  • How do you secure your supplies or do you just leave them?
  • Do you have prepositioned caches along the way or are there additional supplies at your future location?

There are certainly more additional questions to answer, and they should all be addressed prior to the disaster as part of your “Prepared Lifestyle” contingencies plans.

As a side note, if you are going to be prepared or live the “Prepared Lifestyle” in earnest, you must plan and train.  Here is a simple blue print for the prepared lifestyle: Mindset, Tactics, Skills and Equipment.  Mindset requires the understanding of two key concepts: Awareness and Threat Evaluation. Situational awareness is a critical skill that must be instilled in your subconscious mind and you must be continuously evaluating your threats.  Always remember that the following are threats to your safety; Crazies, Criminals and Crusaders–the 3 C’s!

You should develop a set of core Tactics to deal with a variety of situations. Study and understand Colonel Boyd’s OODA Loop and make it a habit.

Understand that in living the Prepared Lifestyle, you must also practice Skills that work.  This is just a short list of skills that you should be honing: unarmed and armed fighting, use of improvised weapons, first aid, escape and evasion techniques, and driving skills.  The list could and should be endless.

Lastly, you must know your Kit, i.e. your Equipment.  Please ensure your kit is serviced and in working condition.  DO NOT carry kit that you do not know how to use!  I believe strongly in keeping things simple, and equipment should be ready and available when needed.

We must consider some of the following things prior to moving out;

  • When is the best time to move out – day or night?
  • Do you have contingency plans for emergencies and security issues?
  • What is the best route to take to the new location?  Do you have maps and predetermined routes to take?
  • How many people are you taking to the new location?  Are non-family members allowed?
  • How many vehicles will be in the convoy and how will you protect them?
  • Do you have spare equipment?
  • Are you prepared to move out overland if your vehicle(s) becomes disabled?
  • Do you have proper first aid equipment to deal with any medical emergencies en route to the new location?
  • Are you prepared to fight your way to the new location?  What is your weapons and ammunition count?
  • Is security at the new location in place or are you potentially going into a hostile area and will you have to fight your way in?

It quickly becomes apparent that the question of “Moving Out” is not an easy one.  I truly believe that if the option of staying in place is available and you have everything you need for survival, you remain where you are, hunker down and wait for conditions to improve.  If you do have an alternative location and prior proper planning has been conducted, then moving out is a viable option.  Just make sure you have considered the possibility of things going wrong and have plans in place to deal with as many difficult contingencies as possible.

A variable that is often overlooked is martial law, law enforcement and military interaction–are law enforcement officers and soldiers still operating under the laws that were in place prior to the collapse, or has martial law been declared?  Depending on how bad things have deteriorated, Rules of Engagement (ROE) might be the “law” of the land, and you most certainly will not be entitled to the same protection as before, nor do the same rules apply to search and seizure (or other constitutional rights).  You must exercise extreme caution.

Are you now prepared to make the critical decision: hunker down and stay put, or move out?  It is your choice!  For the sake of you and your group, make sure it is the right one.


Preemptive Strikes and Distraction Techniques

Many self-defense practitioners and self defense legal experts believe that if the situation is so clear-cut, and one feels certain violence is unavoidable, the defender has a much better chance of surviving by landing the first blow and gaining the immediate upper hand.  I totally agree with this.  In fact, statistics have shown that a single well-placed strike in such a circumstance has usually been all that is necessary to end the conflict.  If we get lucky, we might just knock the attacker out; even if this was not the result, the first strike is usually enough to distract the attacker so that one can either run or follow-up with more effective strikes.

“When it is clear to you that you or anyone dependent upon you for protection is about to suffer physical violence at the hands of extralegal assailants, attack, and keep on attacking until you are safe.” – Professor Bradley J. Steiner

Your Self Defense arsenal should include “preemptive” (offensive) action on your part.

“An attempt to strike another, when sufficiently near
so that there is danger, the person assailed may strike first,
and is not required to wait until he has been struck.”

– 16th Century English Self Defense Law

First, let us consider the situation of what I refer to as an individual’s preemptive self-offense.

Hypothetically speaking, you are face to face with the assailant, and you know you are about to be tackled.  What should you do?  You might look for an improvised weapon or other tool.  But what if these are unavailable?  If you plan to hit and kick your way out of the situation, should you be the first one to strike? The answer is yes, you should.

Preemptive Attack

A preemptive attack, i.e., physically hitting someone else before you yourself have suffered actual physical damage, would be justified for an individual if, in an emergency situation, he had a rational (reasonable) expectation that another person was about to assault him.

Lawful “preemptive” self offense is simply the act of landing the first-blow in a situation that has reached a point of no hope for de-escalation or escape. If you are walking alone down a dark street, and you notice a suspicious person approaching you, what should you do?  Should you wait until they have their hands on you to start preparing to fight back?  No!  What you do before the physical attack begins can have a huge impact on the outcome of the attack.  If you know an attack is imminent, or you have a strong gut feeling that you might be in danger, it is time to begin mental preparation.  If you have a stun gun, pepper spray, or another self defense device, it is also time to make sure it is immediately accessible and not buried in the bottom of your bag.  Many people shy away from making the first move for several reasons.  One may be a lack of confidence in fighting skills.  Another may be fear of legal aftermath—will one get in trouble for initiating the attack?

The short answer is, no.   Whether you use a self defense device, or protect yourself using your fists, as long as you can articulate that the attack was indeed imminent, the law allows you to protect yourself physically.

It is often unwise to wait for your attacker to get his hands on you before you put up a defense.  In fact, you will often find it very difficult to defend yourself if you wait until you are already in this situation.  By allowing the attack to unfold without creating a pre-emptive offense, you lose control, or the upper hand of the situation.  It is always best to run away from the situation, if at all possible, but if not, you should still be the one to make the first offensive move.  If the attack is truly inevitable, you have no reason to wait.

Intimidation is a crime.  The definition of intimidation is this: if someone verbally threatens you, even if they have not yet touched you, they have committed the crime of intimidation, which is considered in most states as unlawful force or coercion.  If someone threatens you by shouting, “I’m going to kill you!” they have already committed a crime of intimidation.  You should, in fact, you must assume that they mean what they say and immediately take whatever action you feel is appropriate under the circumstances!  Do not wait for confirmation when they actually attempt to murder you!  I believe that this statement by Professor Steiner truly sums up my thoughts on this topic, “Innocent human beings cannot be expected to wait until they are actually suffering what may be permanent or lethal injuries before undertaking necessary self-protective action.“

There are a lot of martial arts teachers who are divided over the issue of the pre-emptive strike. On the one hand, some traditional training begins with the “assailant” attacking the student.  As a result, many students think that they can wait for someone to attack them, at which point the student deftly escapes the attack using their martial arts techniques.  Although these strategies work well in practice, will you really be able to escape such a situation by beginning to fight back only after the attack has already begun?  You might if you have invested some time in training for the surprise assault and utilizing some form of default position.  I would rather position myself for the preemptive attack and let the bad guy play catch-up, not the other way around.  Keep this important fact in mind: fighting in a martial arts competition and real fighting on the street are two completely different things, requiring two completely different mindsets and training.

As a self defense instructor, you should encourage the preemptive attack in real self defense situations.  In other words, hit them before they hit you and keeping hitting them until they are no longer a threat to you.

Index Positions or Passive Stances

Index positions are prepared stances.  They allow you to place your preemptive weapons in range of a target without telegraphing your intention.  The four basic index position are the “Jack Benny”, the “Ed Sullivan”, the “Bodyguard” and the “Fence”.

“An index position as is nothing more than a stance you assume in any threatening, face-to-face situation you can’t simply walk away from.  Indexing enables you to instantly defend or attack without the appearance of being prepared to do either.

-Kelly McCann-

These are natural positions, sometimes called “passive stances” that you might find yourselves in on a daily basis.  Miyamoto Musashi said, “Make your fighting stance your everyday stance and make your everyday stance your fighting stance.”  We highly recommend you follow this simple principle and to become cognizant of the stances you currently assume habitually.  It is impractical to assume a fighting stance all day every day—what a ridiculous thought.  The answer to readiness is the index position, which becomes your everyday stance.  When assuming an index position, the feet should be placed in a configuration that provides you with a balanced platform.  Once the balanced platform is in place, focus should shift to hand and arm positioning.  You should position your hands for the most effective preemptive strike.   A great concept to remember is Closest Weapon, Closest Target, which is a fighting strategy developed by Tony Blauer.  Blauer’s concept, coupled with index positions, is a very effective strategy for situational readiness.  An excellent example is the Ed Sullivan index position.  It is a very natural set-up for the Ax-Hand strike.  The Ax-Hand strike, as you probably know, is a penetrating hand strike that can truly devastate an unexpected opponent.  It should be noted, that the more persistent the aggressor is, the more quickly you should move to the “Fence” position.  This position allows for a natural barrier between you and your opponent.  It also places your hands in position to strike very effectively, if needed.

Distraction Techniques

Distraction Techniques are designed to disrupt the assailant’s mental process and draw focus away from their primary assault, thereby allowing the victim the ability to apply a release and or escape.  Bruce Siddle, of PPCT Management Systems, LLC, defines the distraction technique as “the use of control techniques that weaken motor action by changing the thought process”.   Most distraction techniques work for about 3 seconds, which is a very short amount of time. Either immediate follow-up or escape is highly recommended.  Distraction techniques are often used in situations where another person grabs you or your clothing.  They are a simple, yet effective.


As I suggested, if you believe that the situation is so black and white as to feel certainty that violence is unavoidable, you stand a much better chance of surviving by delivering the first blow and gaining the immediate upper hand.  By gaining the upper hand you are more likely to WIN in this confrontation!  I am all about winning.  It is critical to understand that three elements should be in place for you to utilize any type of force.  Those three elements are ability, opportunity and jeopardy.   As I say, once the “stars are aligned”, hit them and keep hitting them until they are no longer a threat to you or your loved ones.  Preemptive striking is an important element that must be considered in regards to your Self Offense arsenal.  Ensure that you are training and practicing these strikes often.  Remember this great quote: “Martial arts are something you do with someone; combatives you do to someone.” – Kelly McCann

Recognizing Warning Signs of Impending Attack

I have addressed this topic before in older posts, but it is always worth reviewing because if we operate with the correct winning mindset, we will help to ensure most of the time that we perceive things in the early stages before situations become physical.

The following is an excerpt from a self-protection manual I put together to give to my students.  It addresses communication, and the importance of reading the non-verbals to assist us in determining the intentions of an individual.  Since we cannot read minds, all we have assess intention is someone’s observable behaviors.  Of course, our intention is to thwart the bad intention, of course.

The other key point about communication and people skills that I wish to emphasize is the importance of non-verbal communication.  We all pick up on non-verbals in conversation whether we consciously think about it or not.  How others say their words (tone, inflection, rate, pitch, volume) is even more important than what they say.  Body language speaks volumes about what people are saying.  Facial expression expert Dr. Paul Ekman has devoted many years to mapping out the human face and identifying how emotions are expressed through the musculature therein.  It is a science unto itself!  Our bodies betray how we are feeling through our movements, gestures, postures, and even how our eyes move.  If our verbal communication does not match what our non-verbal communication is saying, we tend not to believe the words and rely on what everything else is expressing.  Certainly, in the art of persuasion, you can use all of these things to your advantage by becoming more adept at reading other people, and with making your communication that much more effective and purposeful.

Of particular importance within the area of self-defense is the ability to identify non-verbal communication as it relates to potential aggression.  In his excellent book, Management of Aggressive Behavior, Roland Ouellette lists signs to look for in the eyes: 

  • Contracting pupils (agitation)
  • Alternating eye movement to size you up
  • Jerky eye movement (hallucination)
  • Darting eyes
  • Searching/looking around eyes (searching for weapons or escape route)
  • Thousand-yard stare (high potential for aggression)
  • Target glancing (are they staring at what they wish to strike?)
  • Breaking eye contact (sometimes before initiating an attack)
  • Glistening eyes (distress) 

As an individual begins to lose control of himself and move towards verbal aggression, he may engage in these body displays: 

  • Darkening of the face
  • Baring of teeth (think snarling)
  • Quickening of breath (usually indicates adrenaline dump)
  • Frowning
  • Shoulders and head back
  • Opening and closing hands
  • Shaking 

As an individual escalates towards physical aggression, he may: 

  • Lose color in the face (and extremities)
  • Display distortion on the left side of the face
  • Tighten the lips
  • Tilt the head forward (tucking the chin)
  • Blade the body (think fighting stance)
  • Stop talking
  • Rock back and forth from heels to toes 

Hopefully you will never be in a situation in which you must deal with a violent individual.  But you must be aware of the signs as a precautionary measure.  Persuasive skills are important in verbal de-escalation of situations.  Verbal de-escalation can begin as soon as we encounter people; we give them no reason to be angry, and/or we work to disarm them if they are already angry.  Keep in mind that once someone has escalated to the final stage of anger, i.e. violence is imminent, logical thinking in the pre-frontal cortex of his brain is taking a back seat to what is often referred to as the lizard brain, which controls fight or flight.  The aggressor is most likely experiencing an adrenaline dump into his system and is beyond the reach of reason.  If this is the case, you must make your own fight or flight decision.

One thing that is not mentioned in the above excerpt is the idea of controlling personal space.  Monitoring your little bubble is extremely important.  Be wary of encroachers, and keep in mind that when men attack women, they tend to engulf them.  Be especially alert if people rush up to you in a public space and ask you unusual questions, as this could be an orchestrated distraction to set you up for an accomplice to rob you, or something even worse.

Seeing the warning signs and avoiding danger are keys to being a hard target.  And, as an instructor of mine once said, “You can win 100 percent of the fights you are not in.”  Amen to that.

Awareness Article

We have done many posts on building awareness skills as an essential component of self-protection.  Here is an article on the same topic, which is a nice review on developing a vigilant mindset:


Be Like a Gazelle. . .Scout Out the Watering Hole

In his book, No Second Chance, Mark Hatmaker talks about gazelles scouting out escape routes at the watering hole before they settle down to drink.  He then suggests that we, as human beings, do the same with the places we frequent.  Keep in mind that he sees the good citizens of the world as prey animals in comparison to the beasts that perpetrate such crimes as described in his predator profiles.  Whether it is your place of work, your home, restaurants, bookstores, coffee shops, or whatever places you frequent, it only takes a few minutes of your time to make an assessment that could save your life.  He says it is not paranoia, and I have to agree.  It never hurts to plan for worst case scenario, yet continue to live positively in each moment of your life.

You can practice this by taking note or even writing down information about the places you visit often.  How many exits do you see, and where are they located?  If it is a food establishment, can you determine whether there is an exit from kitchen?  What else do you notice about the layout that may help or hinder your departure in case of emergency?

Something else I want to mention about the book is an interesting discussion on running from danger.  He advocates flight whenever it is an option.  You only fight when you absolutely cannot flee.  One thing about flight is that if you are in a crowd, it will encourage others to do the same.  He explains that humans are often sheep-like in a crowd, and if one person initiates some kind of response to a situation, others will often follow suit:

“If one individual, in a threatening situation, makes a movement toward escape, the herd begins to ripple with like-minded activity.”

He argues that it is the very best thing you could do as Joe Random citizen, is to make the decision not to freeze and to run, even though at first blush it may not seem like the most heroic thing to do.  But if there is no way to avoid fighting a threat, then you must fight, and others will probably follow suit, as well.  For instance, you might find yourself in this kind of situation on an airplane.  Kind of hard to run at 30,000 feet.

He always provides interesting food for thought and thinks of things from a different perspective.  I am really looking forward to his bootcamp in May!

Reading Aggression on the Face

Did you know that most of what you say is not with your words—around 90 percent of communication is non-verbal.  Around 55 to 60 percent of non-verbal falls into the category of body language.  Why is this important to mention here?  Because reading body language correctly lends itself greatly towards perceiving aggression and potential violence.

Several great books have been written on the subject of facial expressions, as they are a key place to look for affect display, i.e. emotions.  It’s hard for us to completely hide what we feel, and though we may diligently try, we often unconsciously reveal what is going on in our brains in the form of micro-expressions.  One of the world’s leading experts on facial expressions is Dr. Paul Ekman, who is also expert and inspiration for the TV show Lie to Me.  He literally mapped out facial expressions based on the musculature utilized and catalogued facial expressions.  It turns out that we cannot make certain expressions on purpose—they happen under our own conscious radar.  There is a direct link between emotions and the face, and we are even able to create emotions, working backwards, by assuming certain facial expressions.  Very fascinating stuff.  I say all this to let you know there is a lot of scientific study in this area!  I have yet to get around to Ekman’s book Unmasking the Face, but it is on my to-do for this year.

In other resources, including Management of Aggressive Behavior, I have discovered interesting bits of information as they pertain to the face and aggression.  Smiling, apparently, is akin to snarling in the wild (we are still members of the animal kingdom, after all).  A smile with just the mouth (and not the eyes) looks a lot like primates bearing their teeth.  Tension often shows in the face, as the muscles in the face tend to contract when we are under mental duress.  In addition to tense facial muscles, here are some other possible signs of potential aggression:

  • Teeth clenching
  • Pale skin (also possibly fear)
  • Darkening of skin (anger)
  • Distortion of the face on the left side
  • Bearing teeth (a snarling smile, perhaps?)
  • Lips quivering (anxiety)
  • Lips tensing (anger, high potential for physical violence)

These are just some signs, and as I am discovering in Allan Pease’s book Body Language, we often have to read expressions, micro-expressions, gestures and micro-gestures in clusters to get the full picture of what is going on.  Not impossible to do, but it takes a little practice.  One easy way to practice is to watch people out in public, or even mute shows on TV, and attempt to discover the emotional gist of the situation by reading the face and the body.  Keep in mind that the hearing-impaired have to do this all the time!  Nevertheless, the rest of us rely on it more than we realize to size up situations.

I will be writing more on body language in future posts.

The Scene at the Bookstore

I am standing in the aisle one of the major bookstores, browsing for books on conflict management and having a conversation on my cell phone as I scan the titles.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a young lanky guy adjusting his. . .double take. . .horrendously fake moustache.  My voice trails off on the phone as I observe him walk over to three other guys, two sporting similar fake moustaches and mirrored Aviator-style sunglasses.  The last guy with no fake disguise appears older and has the look and body language of being the leader.  They huddle together and continually adjust their moustaches as they engage in an animated discussion, frequently popping their heads up to look around the store.  I am openly staring at this point and describing the scene over the phone.  My curiosity is piqued.  I can’t decide if this is some prank about to go down, or if these guys are up to no good, and I stand transfixed for several minutes.  I decide to move, and they decide to break up in two groups and move as well.  They ride up and down the escalator several times, pretend to look at merchandise, and continue pacing around.  They consistently regroup and talk in a very agitated manner.  I cannot help but take note of the fact that none of the store patrons are even cueing in on this odd behavior.  Are people really this oblivious?  Yes, yes they are.  So, I wander out the first double doors and stand in the vestibule, still observing the group as they all congregate at the foot of the escalator.  I make the decision to move on, half wanting to stay and be a fly on the wall, and half wanting to get out of there.  I can barely believe how un-observant people are, and wondering what it takes to grab their attention.  How easy is it to blend in, in plain sight, wearing a laughably fake disguise and looking completely ridiculous?  It is kind of funny, in retrospect, but the implications are kind of sobering, too.  What nefarious schemes could one pull off, if he or she is so inclined, without anyone really noticing until the point of reckoning?