Guest Article – Seven Elements of Self-Defense by Rory Miller

lucky-seven-1187052

 

Toby’s Note: While this article is written primarily as advice to Self Defense instructors, it should be noted serious students of Self Defense need to be studying and addressing all the points raised AND we highly recommend choosing their instructors in accordance with the advice given in this article.

 

There are seven things you must cover if you intend to teach self-defense. Failure in any of these areas will leave your student vulnerable.

 

1) Ethical and Legal Aspects of Force.

Self defense is a legal term, not a selection of physical skills. To teach physical self-defense without respect to self-defense law is as irresponsible as teaching someone to drive without teaching the rules of the road. Many of the systems we teach are either older than the legal concept of self-defense, derived from a military art without legal niceties, or invented by criminals.  As a rule, nice, peaceful, law-abiding people are crappy at designing functional combat systems. It is not hard to teach with respect to the law, most people’s instincts are fully in line with legal expectations. When one hears, “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six” it is a sure sign of an instructor too lazy or too arrogant to do the research necessary to help the students avoid both of those options.

 

The law is the standard society will hold you to, but your internal ethics are the standards you will hold yourself to. There is always a moral dimension to any use of force and you will always be either the good guy or the bad guy in your own mind when the smoke has cleared.

 

That seems clear-cut, but it is not. Even the most necessary force often runs counter to the student’s social conditioning. Realistically, everything involved in self defense is breaking a law or, at minimum, a taboo. When you strike someone to defend yourself, even if the person is attacking you with a knife, you are committing the crime of assault (or battery, depending on how your local jurisdiction defines things.) Self-defense does not make the crime disappear, it makes it justified. Hitting someone is committing assault. Killing someone is intentional manslaughter. But even something as simple as setting boundaries is being rude to a stranger. Every last act that comprises self-defense are things most students have been taught never to do, or taught that bad people do them.

 

This social conditioning creates hesitation. It can get your students killed. One of your primary responsibilities as an instructor is to find your students glitches and work them out. It doesn’t matter how skilled a fighter you are if the small voice in the back of your head won’t let you act.

 

2) Violence Dynamics.

You must understand how crime and violence actually happen. Without this knowledge it is impossible to have a realistic and efficient defense. You will never meet a doctor who studied medicine and surgery but refused to study disease and injury. You will never meet a mechanic who practices with tools but has never looked at an engine. But it is endemic in martial arts and self-defense for instructors to have fifteen or more years of practice in “what to do if attacked by a bad guy” who have never spent a single day studying how bad guys attack. In any other field this would be considered literally insane and unforgivably negligent.

 

3) Avoidance, Escape and Evasion, De-escalation.

Your students must know it is okay NOT to fight and they must know how to NOT fight. It’s not enough to pay lip-service: “Always walk away if you can, but today we’re working on hitting people in the face…”  They must know it is the better (safer, more effective) thing to do. They must have the tools to avoid, escape or de-escalate violence, and they must practice those tools.

 

4) Counter assault.

Under the assumption that the students are smart enough to walk away from anything they see coming, it is axiomatic that they will be hit by something they didn’t expect. Or something they expected and were too arrogant to acknowledge. They need skills— simple, effective skills— trained to reflex speed to get past the sucker punch or ambush in one piece.

 

There are no perfect answers for counter-assault training, but there are some damn good ones. The technique itself must be efficient, have no decision tree (e.g. the technique is the same for right or left attacks, high or low, straight or circular, hand strikes or kicks, weapon or empty hand attacks), robust (meaning the technique still works even if done mostly wrong), and, ideally a “golden move” (prevents harm to you, injures the threat, betters your position, worsens the threat’s position or structure).

 

Proper operant conditioning can get the technique up to reflex speed.

 

5) Breaking the Freeze.

Well-trained and experienced operators still freeze, even if only to switch gears from patrol to combat mode. People freeze. It is natural. Some freeze in their minds, denying the attack is happening or trying to make a plan when there is no time for that. Some freeze chemically, getting such a dump of stress hormones that they are helpless. Many, especially in their first violent encounter, freeze because they do not know what will make things worse.

 

Your students need to understand that freezing exists, learn how to recognize when they are frozen and learn a method to break the freeze. It doesn’t matter how good they are at fighting if they stay frozen.

 

6) The Fight Itself.

Most training concentrates here and too many instructors believe that this is enough. But, obviously, you need to survive the sucker punch and break the freeze to even access this training. The good news, most things that are taught do work here.

 

The bad news, the circumstances under which those effective skills have to work will be completely different than what the student expects.

 

The student in the fight will not be the student that trained. In training, students are alert, sober, warmed up and stretched out, attentive and engaged, and not under the influence of adrenaline. Threats (bad guys) are not training partners. The threat is not trying to help you be a better person, does not care if you go to work tomorrow, and will be attacking you— fast, hard, up close and by surprise— not giving you predictable feeds to work on. And the fight happens in places with bad footing and lighting and improvised weapons and environmental hazards.

 

7) The Aftermath.

When the physical part of a self-defense situation is over, things are not over. There are potential legal, medical and psychological consequences as well as the possibility of retaliation. There is no consequence-free way to get involved in an intensely violent event, and the student unprepared to deal with the aftermath might bleed out, or say something that sends them to prison, or turn to drugs, alcohol or suicide. And that’s not a win.

 

Conclusion. All seven aspects are important, and they also affect each other. Working out your students’ ethics prevents freezes and also helps with the psychological aftermath. An event avoided has no injury, no paperwork and few internal issues. Students who have never heard “Everyone freezes” often interpret their own freezes as symptoms of cowardice and psychologically hammer themselves. Appropriate de-escalation or efficient hand-to-hand is impossible if one doesn’t recognize the dynamics of a particular act of violence. And a good counter-assault kicks in at the speed of nerve, giving you an edge before the stress hormones and freeze can even happen. All of these are important, and all work together.

To read more on these critical seven aspects you can read my book, Facing Violence

 

Post Disaster Violence

 

disaster

Today I travel back in my mind. I write a lot about my preparations and assessments since the time I got trapped in my city and views on the future, but I will just now, write some about ‘How It Was’ back in that time. Remember we were all thrown into that situation with no preparation, and found often our allies were our enemies from one day to the next…

Violence is something that people like to talk about, give theories and opinions, but at the same time few of us experience the real ‘deep’ face of violence, being trapped in a prolonged a deteriorating situation.

You may have experienced bar fights, or home invasions maybe, shooting somewhere and similar, and those events can be life changing situations for sure (or life taking) but I am talking here about violence so large scale and long lasting that it brings something like a ‘new way of living’, overwhelming violence that demands a complete change of mindset.

I often hear, and I often agree, that violence cannot solve anything, and that violence only brings more violence, but when you are faced with a man who wants to kill you, you are going to have to probably kill him in order to survive.

I hope that, in this moment, you will not care for philosophy, humanity or ethics, and that you just going do what you have to do, and survive. Later you will cope with other things, it is how things work.

As I get older I realize more and more that violence is wrong thing, but in the same time I also realize that I have to be more and more ready and capable to do violence when the time comes.

It is paradox maybe, but again it is how things works, I do not like that, but it is what it is.

 

 Violence and You

 

It is way too big topic even to try to explain it in one article, but some things I must try to show you here.

There is a man, let’s say we are talking about you here. An average citizen, a law abiding person, and suddenly you are going to be thrown into a (prolonged) situation where you are going be forced to watch and use exceptional levels of violence.

Do you think that you are going to be able to „operate“ in those conditions with the mindset you had from the time where you were average law abiding citizen?

No of course not, you will have to jump into the another mindset in order to survive.

Let’s call it survival mode.

In survival mode you’ll have to not to forget what it was like for you in ‘normal’ times, but you will have to push those memories aside, in order to operate in different mode – survival mode.

In real life situation that means for example that you ll maybe have to ignore panic, fear, smell, noises in the middle of an attack and do your steps in order to survive.

Maybe you’ll have to ignore the screaming dying kid next to you, maybe you’ll have to ignore your pride and run, or simply maybe you’ll have to ignore your „normal“ mindset and you going to have to kill the attacker from behind.

There is list of priorities in normal life, and there is list of priorities in survival mode.

Let just say that you using your different faces and „small“ mindset during your normal life and everyday business with different people around you.

Just like that, when faced with violence you’ll have to use different mindset, different face. Or another you.

 

Violence and Experience

 

There is a strange way of thinking here for me, but since I have live through the time when huge number of people did not die from old age, rather from violence, I have experience in this subject. So here are few thoughts.

Experiencing violence over a prolonged period of time does not make you superman, actually in some way make you crippled man, man with many problems, psychological and physical.

But if I put myself in way of thinking that I am in better position now then people who died next to me, or in front of me. You may call me a winner or survivor but many days that ‘title’ sounds very hollow.

Am I lucky man-yes, am I happy man – no.

But we are not talking in terms of quality of life, we are talking in terms of surviving or not.

Ethics, psychology and everything else here are matter for couple of books to be written, and even then you are not going say anything new, it is like that from beginning of the mankind.

What is more important about having experience in violence is that you simply KNOW how things are working there.

In lot of things you simply know what you can expect.

You know what chaos is, best way of dealing with it, you know what it takes to do things.

 

Preparing for Violence

 

Again nothing like real life experience, when you experience something like real violence you keep that in yourself for the rest of your life. What is best next to that? – other people’s real life experience.

So is it make sense to read about other folks real life experience? Of course, read a lot about that.

Training (physical) yourself is great thing. You’ll train to get yourself into the state that you are (physically) ready for hard tasks. So of course it makes sense to do that.

But training yourself mentally can be a hard thing.

You actually can only guess how it is going to be, how it is going to affect you.

I can tell you that it is hard, chaotic, I can describe you a situation, but can I bring you the feeling of terror in your gut when you feel that you are going to shit yourself? Can I give you smell of fear, smell of decaying body? Can I give you feeling when you realize that „they“ are coming for you?

No of course I cannot. You can read stories and real life experiences and based on that you are going to „build“ your possible mindset for violence situation.

You are going to build your „survival mindset“.

But there is a catch there. If you build it too firm, too strong, and then there is SHTF and everything that you imagined doesn’t fit the given situation or scenario and you are still pursuing and acting in the way that you imagine dealing with it you are going to have serious problems.

The situation will not adapt to your mindset; the situation will kill you if you are sticking too firm to your plan when it is not working.

You simply have to adapt.

It goes for many situation, if your plan and mindset says you are defending your home until you die, you are going to die probably.

Whenever I heard people saying „I’ll do that when SHTF „ or „I’ll do this when SHTF“ I feel sorry for them.

When SHTF you will adapt, and change your given plan accordingly to situation.

It is same with violence.

Violence is a tool that you going to use according to the situation. It is a tool, not a toy.

Now to finish with a final thought. It can sound, from what I have written, that a SHTF situation is like a Mad Max movie. Everyone running around killing, hurting, doing things with no consequences. In fact, this fantasy of a world ‘Without Rule of Law’ (WROL) is a big discussion in some circles.

For sure regular ‘law’ has gone. There are no ‘authorities’ or courts as we know them to deter or punish, BUT, during a SHTF situation you will find:

It is (especially in the beginning) like everything is possible, law is gone, you could go outside and see people looting stores, groups organizing (by street, or other facts like same job in company for example) trying to either defend part of the town, or bring more chaos just for fun, sometimes you could not say what, both could bring violence and death to you. Over time the ‘violence’ becomes more organized and ‘structured’ to start to achieve certain specific goals (although there is always ‘chaos’ as well).

After some time you look at violence you encounter in two ways. Violence happening outside your group, or inside your group (It is quite certain you will need to be in some sort of ‘group’ to stand any chance of surviving).

Outside your Group, you just wish to be very ‘small’, invisible after some time, not pay attention to anyone doing violence to others, because, quite simply you are still alive, and want to stay that way. In terms of “I am still alive, I do not care what they doing to that person, and how bad it is (your will and judging of good and bad is broken, you just care for your own life) it is like you care only for yourself while you are watching how others get killed, no matter that you feel that it is going to come to you in the end (violence) you just care for yourself.

Leaders of the “bad” group (gang) have best chances to stay leader if members fear him, so in fact he is most dangerous, vicious, sick bastard, nothing like a “reasonable” man. (Competition is huge in SHTF) Instilling discipline (through fear) and enforcing ‘your’ rules are paramount to holding your position as leader.

Various groups were interacting with the outside world and each other through fighting, exchange information, trading goods etc, but every group were more or less closed world, with trust only for those inside the group.

Forming of a group was quick mostly, because nobody expected this situation was going to happen, and so were not prepared, but very quickly were literally ‘fighting for survival’. Any problems were solved “on the way” (bad members, not skilled, not obeying etc.) Sometimes through discussion and agreement, but always with the threat of violence as an option.

To finish, and to educate, as opposed to shock you. Many folks cannot think to clear about the level of violence I am describing being involved in. Maybe you think SHTF is just like ‘Black Friday Shopping’ but every day. So let me just give examples of the how far the world I lived in descended from ‘normal’. Remember this was a regular city, in a nice country, in Europe, less than 25 years ago…

-People who never used violence before, doing some ‘hard’ violence: normal people, dads and mums, killing folks in order to save their families.

-Certain groups of people who looks like they are just waited for the SHTF so they can go out (“crawl out from beneath some rock”) so they can fulfill their own fantasies about being kings of the town, imprisoning people, raping women, torturing folks in the weirdest ways…

-Strange groups organizing in whatever the cause they choose name it, again only to gain power in order to have more resources (sometimes simply “gangs” of 50 people, sometimes whole militias of thousands people) through terror over other people or group of people.

-Irrational hate towards “other” (whoever “other” could (or might) be (other religion, group, street, town, nation) because it is very easy to manipulate groups of people through hate and fear (from and towards “others”), if someone manipulate you that your kid is hungry because “others”, he can do a lot with you.

Real life examples I saw:

-People being burned alive inside their homes (And people ‘enjoying’ watching this)

-Private prisons were made where you could go and torture other folks for fun, or simple rape women as a “reward”

-Kids over 13 or 14 years of age were simply “counted” as grown up people, and killed as enemy

-Humiliation of people on all different ways in order to break their will, for example forcing prisoners to have sex between same family (like father and daughter and similar)

-Violence was everyday thing, you could go outside and get shot not because you were ‘enemy’, but only because sniper on other side want to test his rifle.

It is a needed, but depressing realisation, that people, even regular folks can become so cruel, so fast, BUT it is an very important thing to be aware of for anyone truly involved in ‘preparedness’.

As always, its great to hear your comments and experiences on situations where you have had to deal with violence and what lessons you learned from this…

 

What To Do….?

fork

When SHTF, making the wrong decision can cost more than you will ever realize, so advice on what to do and what not to do should be sought out and heeded.

You see many articles like „Ten Things to do When SHTF“ or „ 5 most likely situations…“ or similar.

The truth is that these articles, while a great way to learn something (I’ve written posts like that too) are, very often, ‘over simplying’ situations or scenarios that most likely when SHTF are going to be dynamic and probably complex…

It is essential that you are ready to adapt because there are many variables about what to do (or not to do) when SHTF. So read these ‘lists’ but be careful of how ‘attached’ you get to them.

My main point here is this: there is only one thing worse than being without a plan (for/when SHTF). And that thing is having plan and sticking to that plan so heavily that you simply end up dead (because your plan is not working for that particular SHTF situation)

So what to do (or not to do) when SHTF? Lets look at ‘two sides’ of a couple of things:

Panic

One side:

Panic is a „plan killer“. Panic is a fearsome enemy. You may have a very good plan and preparations and end up dead, simply because you failed to understand how bad panic is going to affect you.

There is research that says that 74 % of people who, in a case of disaster and being forced to quickly leave their home would forget to take a lighter and something that could boil water in (in order to disinfect it)

We could say that research is for „non –preppers“, but be aware that in the case of panic and fear (and we ar all are going to experience some level of that for sure) you are going to make mistakes. Be ready to accept, adapt and overcome this.

The ‘Other’ side:

Fear of, or when in, danger is a powerful thing and you need to not deny it, rather go into a mindset like „s..t, of course I am afraid just like everybody else, let me use that fear and do something smart“

The good thing here is that most of the people around you are going to be in some kind of ‘panic’ (fear, confusion). Let’s work on the basis that you, as a prepper, are going to be in a lesser state of panic than these other folks.

So suddenly, panic and fear can become friends in some situations, use it in your favor.

For example while everybody else is in panic still figuring out what really happened, use the moment for a last run to the grocery shop for more food, or use it to simply to get away from the danger.

This short video offers some very powerful examples of how people react during a bad event.

 

There is also one important moment here to recognize, some researchers conclude that people actually panic much less than we imagine.

So they stated that in cases of some catastrophes (disasters in sports stadiums, factory disasters and similar) first reactions of a number of people is not to panic, rather to help other (injured) people.

I agree with this, but only to a certain level. If you find yourself in the street and see a building collapse suddenly, and hear screams from rubble, most peoples reaction who just saw the event is to go there and help injured people, but if you see (or hear) other buildings continue to collapse you’re going to panic, and other people are going to panic.

It is an example only, but in the case of a serious SHTF event, expect panic and simply use it in your favor, however you can.

Change the rules!

One side:

I’ll try to explain this „change the rules“ rules with one small, short but serious real life experience.

Just after the S. hit the fan here, a man went out to seek help. He saw a police officer, he ran towards the officer and cried for help (his wife was wounded at home) and the police officer just shot him in the head and robbed him.

End of story.

Story could be (and actually it is) longer, because I should go through the events leading to that, panic on street, no info. on what is going on and much blah blah blah.

But the point of the story here is that dead guy simply failed to change rules from the mentality of „their is a police officer“ to the „their is an armed dude in police uniform.“

When SHTF, rules are changing, all rules. Rules like“ police are going to help us, goverment is going to take care for us, there is help in hospital etc etc.

You simply do not know, rules are gone.

Other side:

Nobody said that you can not be a guy in a police uniform when SHTF. I am not saying that you have to put on a police uniform when SHTF and go out and shoot innocent people.

I am saying that you may use other peoples lack of knowledge and adaption to the new rules and for example wear EMT uniform in first day of chaos in order to go through some part of the city, or a police uniform, or act like a rescue worker or whatever you think makes sense in your particular situation and moment.

Switch yourself to the SHTF situation thinking in all ways and means.

ABCs  (Go Back to Basics)

It is again about big and small circles.

People tend to think too much (actually can be bad when SHTF initially) simply because there is no real information.

You need to look for the right information, of course, try to figure what is happening etc, but in the meantime, if you do not know what to do because you do not know what is going on, use that moment to go for your basics.

That means if suddenly something bad is happening (SHTF) and you do not know what to do, do something that is useful. Why don’t you use that moment and go to fill your bathtub with water for example?

Most probably you’re going to need it.

Or go through your equipment, or check your weapon?

Just go through the ‘basics’ if you do not know what to do when lacking real information.

We will be covering a lot of ‘decision making’ of this type during our excellent physical course in Croatia, which is happening in just a few weeks. It is a great training opportunity and one you should all consider. More details are here:

https://shtfschool.com/survival-course-croatia/

 Have you ever had to make decisions under pressure?  Please share your stories in the comments below…!