Hank Hayes and Steve Mosley No Lie Blades!


The Prepared Mindset

What is a prepared mindset?  Well, one thing it is NOT is paranoia.  Perceiving everything as a threat is no way to live and enjoy life, and to my way of thinking, it represents a mind that is out of balance.  I know folks who live like this, and it would seem that they often attract bad circumstances to themselves, inadvertently creating self-fulfilling prophecies.  Paranoia makes one jumpy from maintaining a constant state of fear which really produces lots of stress—this is not productive at all, and the mind does not operate efficiently this way (not to mention it is hard on the body to have all those stress hormones zooming around the system on a daily basis).  The opposite of paranoia would be Condition White—the state of “cluelessness”; burying one’s head in the sand and subscribing to the notion that nothing bad can happen because that only occurs to others in some distant universe.  This is equally non-productive.  Developing and maintaining a prepared mindset lies somewhere in between these two poles.  It means staying informed, giving threats some thorough and objective consideration, contemplating solutions, learning and practicing skills, and developing awareness habits and plans.  There is an important shift from either extreme: knowing bad things can and do happen to good people, taking necessary and reasonable precautions, and then going on about one’s life while maintaining vigilance.   One would be wise not to live always as if there is no tomorrow, and wise not to forget to live.

When people are executed in a movie theater, or while attending worship services, it brings the point home that anything can happen to anyone and anywhere.  Nowhere is sacred, and nowhere is truly safe.  Not even home—home invasions are a growing problem.  So what must  a logical person do?? 

Step One: Make the reasonable assumption that a bad thing could happen–admit it to yourself and realize that you are not invincible.  Even the most savvy self-defense instructors/practitioners can find themselves in sticky situations.

Step Two: Take a step back and analyze your life for the vulnerabilities.  Solid threat assessment.  Where are the security holes in your day—moments when some miscreant could catch you by surprise?  Could you modify your behavior to shore up some of these holes?  A good example of this is texting and walking—do you need to text while wandering through a parking lot?  Parking lots are ripe hunting grounds for the bad guys.  Do you tread in higher-risk environments?  Believe it or not, a bar is a higher risk environment.  So is a bank.   Can you take extra precautions when going into these environments?

Step Three: Ask yourself a very important question: what is my life worth to me?  Will I do whatever I have to do to survive and win a violent confrontation?  Only you can answer this question for yourself, and despite what you may believe, years and years of combatives and martial arts training are worth zilch if you have not made the decision to respond to an imminent threat with ferocious resolve.

Step Four: Get some training.  Train the soft skills and the physical skills (empty-hand and weapons).  Soft skills include communication and de-escalation, threat assessment, awareness, conflict management, etc.   I read a recent interview with combatives expert Lee Morrison, and he stated, “For me the soft skills (personal security) side of things is where it’s at; the best self-protection comes from not having to be physical in the first place, or better yet ‘not being there’ this comes from seeing it coming (situational awareness) and understanding what ‘it’ means to you right now (threat recognition) without these things the rest is redundant.  Of course an understanding of how to articulate you defence post event in court is absolutely crucial; I don’t think enough has been done in this area. “.  Mr. Morrison also faithfully trains the hard physical skills.  To me, the hard skills are like your little insurance policy in case you have an off day, or someone is hell-bent on causing you harm.  I have also been training the hard skills faithfully for the past 11.5 years.  For self-defense, it is important to find the things that actually work, the things that are simple, and to train with full emotional content.  Winning a fight against an assailant on the street is not about competition and trading blows—it is about full-on aggression and fighting dirty.  Learn how to tap into your aggression and harden your body through vigorous training.  Hardening the body can help harden the mind, and both can boost your confidence in handling yourself.

Step Five: Educate yourself about self-defense and the law.  Know when you can use force and when you cannot.  Know what to do after you use force. 

Step Six: Decide on self-defense gear, whether or not you wish to carry it, and broaden your mind to encompass the world of improvised weapons.  Knowing how to use this gear goes back to your training.

Step Seven: Develop tactics and strategies.  Home emergencies, emergencies out in the environment with or without loved ones (group plans should be thoroughly discussed and drilled).  It is true that plans often go to hell on the battlefield, so learning to be adaptive is also important.  This also goes back to your training.

Step Eight: Stay alert and aware.  As soon as you step outside the threshold of your castle each day and out into the unknown, maintain 360 degree security at all times.  Observe and orient yourself and listen to what your intuition tells you if you get a bad feeling.  You get these feelings for a reason, so honor them.

Step Nine: Live your life.  Never forget to live.  Life is a gift.  Live it graciously, become a hard target, and defend it if anyone tries to take it away from you.


I hope you can see that the prepared mindset really equates to a strong will to live.  A prepared individual knows the value of life, and is going to do whatever it takes to protect it.  Life is, after all, precious and fleeting.   I encourage and challenge you to do whatever you can to keep it from being any more fleeting than it has to be.

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.

Animal Analogies

I was contemplating Mark Hatmaker’s analogies about the creatures we can identify with when it is time to kick off in a life-threatening encounter.  He gives two examples to live by: the Tasmanian Devil, and a crazy cat.  Of course, we are talking about the cartoon version of the Tasmanian Devil—the critter that whirls around and mows down everything in his path.  I can certainly understand the cat analogy better, since I have had cats as pets.  Once they get angry and very pointy (teeth and claws), they are extremely hard to control, no matter how much I outweigh them.  Mark talks about his tiny, eight-pound cat that struck fear into the hearts of accomplished martial artists—mostly because of the cat’s unpredictability and ferociousness.  He recommends we choose one of these analogies, or something similar, to identify with when we imagine ourselves in the event of fighting for our lives.  What an awesome idea!  The more fast and furious we are at the onset of a physical confrontation, the more the scales are tipped in our favor.  Once you break into someone’s OODA loop and gain the upper hand, the more you force the other party to react and the harder it is for them to catch up.  Imagine an attacker’s surprise, when he has targeted you as his next victim, expecting you to submit, and you launch into him like a tornado with pre-emptive strikes.  Even if he gets the first power move and uses force, perhaps he still imagines that will scare you enough to submit.  No!  Imagine yourself taking that first strike and transforming into a whirlwind of teeth (yes, Mark recommends biting despite most people’s distaste for it), claws, and your other eight personal weapons: (fists, elbows, knees and legs).  Well, nine personal weapons if you also fancy headbutts.  Simply put, this behavior represents what we like to refer to as ferocious resolve, and we have talked about this before in discussions about Marcus Wynne.  I recall him saying that all the skills in the world are nothing without the right mindset to use them.

So, which animal are you going to be like?  Get your mind right about it NOW—remember that the imagination is a powerful training tool!

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!

The Warrior Leaves No Opening

Brian Willis’ writing is so thought-provoking.  Though his post is geared towards the law enforcement community, the same things apply to civilians interested in self-protection and training.  I was talking to my brother this weekend and he made a statment about being able to learn something from just about everyone.  Brian echoes that thought here about most trainers having something to offer, but that we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in hero worship, which I have observed so many times over the years.  Check out Brian’s post:


Article on Controlling Fear

Here is an excellent article on controlling your fear and preparing the proper mindset that is needed to function under the stress of a lethal encounter.  He is specifically talking about carrying a firearm, but the same principles apply even if you are not allowed to carry a gun where you live.  Mindset, mindset, mindset–it cannot be stressed enough.  And, mind you, there is nothing wrong with fear.  Fear can be a very useful thing, but we cannot allow it to paralyze us.  Courage is only the decision that something is more important that fear, and getting the job done.  After mindset, comes training.  He says it should follow the three R‘s: Relevant, Realistic and Recent.  Is the training relevant to self-protection?  Is it realistic with those same parameters?  How recent is it?  Think of your skills as perishable and stay sharp.  Anyway–enough of my yammering: