Know Your Enemy
One of the most basic principles of military strategy is to know your enemy, in doing so, you can prepare to fight him. Most in American society don’t understand criminal strategy; consequently, the gun community being among the most law abiding segment of society understands this process even less. As a result, we have only reality TV, Hollywood or the six o’clock news as guides.
Violence doesn’t go down like the entertainment industry feeds it to us. Unless you’re in law enforcement, violence will almost exclusively be unforeseen and without warning; that’s how street predators work. A couple of scenarios for example:
You’re walking to your car at night in a parking garage; you see a guy walking towards you. You’re your impression is that this guy intentionally cultivates a hard image. He looks at you, looks around the garage, you think to yourself, he’s assessing the environment and looks back at you. He keeps walking towards you, you slow your pace a bit, bring your hands in a casual but ready position and nod maintaining eye contact. You extend a resolute courtesy greeting “evening”. He cracks a smile out of the corner of his mouth, nods in return and continues walking. … You may not know it, but that night you were de-selected as his victim.
An hour later another guy enters the same parking garage, as he’s heading to the car his phone alerts. He looks at the screen and his heart beat elevates. THIS IS THE E-MAIL I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR! At the end of the garage our hard guy sees his intended victim and walks. His victim fiddling with his mobile device …. He’s not looking up; he’s still not looking up. Hard guy keeps walking, getting closer. The phone guy picks up on movement, stops what he’s doing and looks up; hard guy smiles and says “Excuse me sir, can you help me….”
Our Hard guy was at a non-threatening 4-5 yards away before he triggered the attack, but it only took two steps and half a second to close to within striking distance. The last thing our victim saw was the folding knife deploying; our victim is carrying a concealed handgun for protection.
(Note) I don’t want to get into the weeds about situational awareness. We all do it; we re-direct our awareness from our environment to specific tasks: keying a PIN on a retail card reader, tying our shoe, answering a phone etc.
Solution Number 1
Go Right to the Gun
For most of us in the gun world, this is the logical solution to a lethal force problem, but…
- Time and distance are against you. In the time it takes to drop the phone and clear a concealment garment to access the gun, the bad guy is able to knock the victim off balance and stab him 3-4 times in the neck and face. This, before the gun has even cleared the holster. A petite side step doesn’t change a thing.
- Going right to the gun presents serious weapon retention issues. This is not an issue in every case, but in scenario work, we’ve found that when it comes down to grappling for a gun, the one with the strength, fighting experience and initiative ends up with the gun.
- If going right to gun is found to be a bad choice, returning to holster is almost impractical. Most cases of self-defense are NOT lethal force situations, but are viable self-defense scenarios. Imagine trying to fend off a fight with a gun in hand that you can’t justifiably use.
Solution Number 2
Empty Hand Combat Techniques
Our friends in the traditional Martial Arts world won’t want to hear this, but it needs to be addressed:
- MOST Empty Hand Fighting techniques are less than lethal solutions. Kicks, strikes, blocks and deflections will have to do if you’re unarmed, but this case is clearly a lethal force problem. There are very few trainers out there who are teaching empty hand lethal force techniques.
- Blocks, strikes and deflections won’t stop a dedicated assailant. A dedicated assailant isn’t fazed by pain compliance; he’ll simply change his avenue of attack and continue until he’s successful. If an attacker’s knife connects just once, your world will start going downhill quick.
Solution Number 3
Integrate Empty Hand and the Gun
There has always been a huge gulf between the traditional martial arts community and gun trainers; both tend to lack respect for the other. However, a fight is a fight; hands and guns are simply tools. In preparing for violence it’s up to you to implement the proper solutions for the problem at hand. Empty hand, movement and tactical handgun skill-sets should work together.
- The Empty Hand Combat option is essential in situations where accessing the weapon isn’t practical. The response should be as fluid as water… too close for the gun, have to go hands on, move off the line and create distance.
- Strikes and blocks can change attack initiative. A strike or kick may not solve this, but an assailant’s attack that is failed by his intended victim’s counter-attack response sets the attacker back in the information/decision cycle. This is an initiative one eighty degree turn; again, these empty hand skills can buy distance and time (See number 4).
- Empty Hand techniques may not be lethal, but can be incapacitating. A throat punch is a wonderful extreme close quarters fight stopper.
- Blocks, deflections and movement buys you time and/or distance. The expansion of time and distance brings our intended victim out of the weapon retention danger zone. This gives you the defender options. Going to the gun if needed is now a lot more appealing as an option.
There is no default response to violence. Empty hand and weapon based techniques should both be a part of your defensive tool box. Like gears in the car; all of them, from one end of the spectrum to the other have their place. Back in the day when we had to shift gears manually; it was a thoughtless process but we eventually mastered it.