Sun-Tzu famously said, “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
One of the toughest concepts for people to wrap their heads around is that the best sort of fight is the one you avoid entirely. Unfortunately too many people get into self-defense/gun ownership with the intention of ‘****ing someone’s day up’. Some of them are trying to unleash some pent-up aggression or pay forward years of abuse at the hands of other parties. As a civilian, you are not the police; you are not the military. Your job is not to win a fight, but survive it.
This is a handy way to separate the wheat from the chaff in the gun ownership world, or in the world of self-defense. It’s a philosophy best exemplified by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial style that’s entirely predicated on neutralizing your attacker’s size and strength before it can be used against you. And it’s a mentality that more gun owners need to develop, the concepts of Avoiding the fight, De-Escalating your opponent, and Ending the encounter with the least force necessary.
Awareness: The token redneck in our gang, Casey, has a saying of which I am very fond: ‘People who play stupid games in stupid places, win stupid prizes’. I like it enough that it’s one of my life mantras. The idea is this: if you hang out with unstable people, in bad locations, doing foolish or illegal activities, the odds of you getting sucked into something bad go up astronomically. So it’s important to avoid not just friends who make bad lifestyle choices, but avoid bad areas or locations, and don’t engage in questionable or risky activity around them.
Almost all criminals share one thing in common– they’re predators. Predators prefer to attack not just weak targets, but vulnerable ones. A petite woman with her head on a swivel is a less choice target than a big college jock with his face buried in his iPhone. It’s your job as a responsible citizen to ensure you are not a weak link on the street. This doesn’t require any great measures or require you to walk around looking belligerent. It just requires that you pay attention to your environment!
See a man walking down the street in a heavy jacket in 90 degree weather? Watch him. A fellow who’s dragging one foot might be concealing an ankle holster, and someone who consistently hitches his belt up probably has something weighing it down. Watch hands, belts, and faces, in that order. Look out for someone who seems to be scoping out the area, making movement patterns, or has no apparent ‘business’ in the locale. Someone who follows you out of a bar, a car that takes too many turns into a residential area, a person passing your house twice in a short timespan– those are all people I’d keep an eye on. It’s easy to spot a tweaker, but it’s a bit tougher to spot a seasoned criminal.
Trust your gut, and trust your neighbor’s instincts. If everyone on the street is avoiding a corner or alley, you should too. If someone is making their hairs on your neck stand up, pay attention to them. The human consciousness is a remarkable machine and can often perceive things long before we are otherwise aware of them. While you’re executing the Awareness phase of this process, you need be making a Plan; plans are fluid and constantly evolving. You should be constantly assessing your surroundings, examining your vulnerabilities, and creating a plan to deal with a potential threat.
Avoidance: Many fights can be ended before they really get out of hand, but you have to set your ego aside to do so. This is where you avoid the fight before it can even really get going. In an earlier blog post, I referred to an old martial arts instructor who’d happily buy a beer to get out of a fight. He was a man who didn’t let his ego dictate his actions. Think about it: have you ever looked back at something you did in anger and said ‘Yeah, that was the best possible response?’ Odds are good it wasn’t. When we’re angry– particularly if there’s alcohol involved– smart decisions get pulled to the wayside of soothing our egos.
This is good life advice in general– particularly when it comes to relationships. Almost every fight any couple gets into comes down to ‘One of us was insensitive; the other overreacted’. The same holds true for any human interaction you’ll ever get into. most fights that couples get into end up escalating because neither party is willing to set their ego aside.
Mastering de-escalation is doubly important when carrying a firearm. You have a duty as a responsible gun owner to take every prudent measure to ensure that you never have to discharge that weapon! If that means giving a mugger your wallet or buying a drunk another round of drinks, you just smile and set aside your pride and ego. Real victory doesn’t come from humiliating someone, it comes from not letting them drag you down to their level.
Don’t think about ‘controlling’ the other opponent– that’s impossible. Other actors and parties have their own motivations and reactions that are inherently unpredictable. Instead, control your ego, your reflexes, and your emotions; then, put yourself in a position where you control all of your possible options, actions, and choices.
Remember that controlling the situation doesn’t mean that you are controlling all the other parties. It means that you are in a position of maximum flexibility to respond to whatever else might come along!
Action: End the altercation.
If someone throws a drink on you in a bar, leave. If someone’s starting to work themselves up to a fight, leave. If you’re stuck in traffic and someone starts kicking your car and screaming at you, just roll the windows up and let him vent his spleen. Unless he comes at you with a bat or a weapon, you’re perfectly safe inside that vehicle! There’s no need to get out of it to pick a fight or ‘teach a lesson’. I guarantee you that anyone dumb enough to pick a brawl with a total stranger in a public forum has had plenty of other chances to learn from their mistakes.
Many gun owners obtain their first firearm from a place of an insecure ego, having been threatened or menaced and made to feel powerless. No one likes to feel powerless, and firearms are the greatest of equalizers. But there’s a powerful temptation to use a firearm to stop any situation, and we must recognize firearms not as a skeleton key for all locks, but as a sledgehammer, to be employed in the most dire of situations. If you can end a conflict through non-violent means, congratulations: you have won the fight the best way possible.
However, if the situation you’re addressing is becoming violent or dangerous, then it’s time to Vocalize your desires (I want you to stop that!), Position yourself to implement your plan of action, and then Act with extreme violence on the objective– whether you need to knock down your aggressor to run away, or draw your firearm as a last-ditch measure.
As a gun owner you have a duty to yourself, your friends and family, and even the community at large to be a safe and responsible carrier. Don’t risk your financial future over a bar fight; don’t put your family at risk trying to out-draw a mugger on the street. Don’t injure your neighbors getting into a gunfight that could have been completely prevented with a few calm words and a call to the local cops. There are predators and dangerous people in the world– we train to deal with them when the time comes. But meanwhile, train yourself to control your ego and emotions, so that when you are needed by your community, you aren’t sitting in a jail cell wishing you hadn’t thrown that punch.