Studying violence. What is most important for the civilian combatant to learn? Well…If you don’t want to get your ass kicked… Breach-Bang-Clear
Studying Violence | If You Don’t Want to Get Your Ass Kicked…
There are a few things you might ought to do.
Some conversations I’ve been in recently on social media have brought up the question of what’re the most important things to study and train in order to become a proficient civilian combatant—in other words, what should people prioritize if they want to avoid getting their asses kicked in the event of a fight. After some thought, I came up with the following list of seven items. I’ve ordered them deliberately, to some extent the order I’d recommend someone brand new to the field approach and prioritize them. Of course, there’s plenty of room for debate on that subject, and I don’t at all claim this is the definitive list. For example, I left off medical training, which I do consider essential to being a good armed citizen, specifically because that’s for dealing with the effects of a fight rather than helping you during the fight itself. But the list was designed to spark thought and conversation.
So without further ado:
1. If You Don’t Want To Get Your Ass Kicked | Fitness
Three components to this. First, you need a decent enough conditioning level so you’re not gassing out 10 seconds into a fight. Whether or not you can keep going is one of the most decisive factors in an entangled engagement of any sort. Plus it helps when you decide discretion is the better part of valor and it’s time to run away.
Second, you don’t have to be the strongest guy/gal in the world, but stronger is better, especially relative to your opponent. Yes, technique is a thing, but strength can overcome a LOT of shortcomings in technique so long as you’ve got at least SOME technique. A recent article at jiujitsubrotherhood.com pointed out what the author called “the biggest lie in jiu jitsu,” the idea that technique overcomes everything. In fact, a strong fighter with decent technique will generally overcome a weak fighter with excellent technique.
Sure, excellent technique will often beat awful technique regardless of strength, but if you’re in an entangled fight against someone with even a basic level of training strength makes a huge difference. Plus many violent criminal actors are generally looking for a payday and are less likely to target people who don’t look like an easy mark—muscles help you avoid the fight in the first place.
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, get in the gym.
2. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked |Decision-Making and Judgement
The ability to a) recognize indicators that shit is about to go down and b) make good decisions to either avoid the shit in the first place or set yourself up for success when it does go down, is absolutely essential to avoiding getting your ass kicked. The easiest way to win the fight is to not be in the fight. Any time you engage in combat, there is a non-zero possibility you will lose. Any time you’re caught unaware and start at a disadvantage, that possibility goes up dramatically. Learn to recognize pre-violence cues and respond appropriately. ECQC and similar force-on-force scenario training is great for this, supplemented by watching videos of others doing it right and wrong with proper analysis (such as that offered by John Correia at the Active Self Protection channel on YouTube).
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, make decisions to avoid it — and pay attention to what is going around you.
3. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked | Aggression and “Violence of Action”
This wins an awful lot of fights even in the absence of any skill whatsoever: The mindset that you WILL win. You don’t want to fight unless you absolutely have to. But if it becomes necessary, you want to win, and to win as quickly as possible. You need to train that mental switch to go from “nice guy” to “turbomurder” the instant you decide there’s no way to avoid this fight (though I’d avoid that phrasing if you have to explain yourself to the authorities).
It’s not a natural thing. No one goes from Joe Schmoe to Viking Berserker without planning to do so beforehand. The idea that you’ll just “see red” and become an unstoppable fighting monster is bullshit, and you should feel free to point and laugh at anyone who claims that’s what they do in a fight.
Such a response requires mental preparation well in advance of the fight. Get your mind right and your body will follow. In the immortal words of James Dalton, “Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.”
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, get your mind ready to make that switch.
4. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked |Unarmed Skills
While the majority of self-defense fights aren’t entangled engagements, a significant number are. There’s no really good dataset, but I’ve heard estimates from multiple experts ranging from 15-35% of fights ending up in extreme close quarters (that is, within arm’s reach, if not actively entangled), if not higher. As Craig Douglas likes to point out, a mugger by necessity has to approach to conversational distance to take your stuff. If it’s a bar fight, you’re likely to be standing really close before the fists and bottles start swinging. At such distances, you can’t rely on the magical talisman of your weapon(s) unless you can effectively deploy and apply it/them. You’d be well advised learning how to deal with the entangled fight, unless you want to roll the dice and hope you’ll get lucky. I’m a gambling man and I know I wouldn’t take those odds. If you choose to study unarmed combat, there are many options.
While I’ll avoid recommending any specific art over others, I’ll say this: I’ve studied martial arts for over 20 years. I’ve got black belts or other advanced rank in styles ranging from Tae Kwon Do and Karate to multiple forms of Kung Fu. I’ve studied Krav Maga and Kali and boxing even a little Muay Thai. And I still got my shit pushed in by a girl 2/3rds my size at ECQC. Why? Because she was better at grappling than I was.
If you look at successful MMA fighters, you’ll see they’ve all got a couple things in common. Damn near every single one of them uses some form of kickboxing for striking, either western or Thai for the most part, though a couple branch out with things like Sambo. And every single one of them uses some form of grappling for entanglements, generally BJJ, Judo, or western wrestling (or, again, Sambo). Virtually none use fancy traditional martial arts like TKD, Karate, or Kung Fu. This is what is commonly called a clue.
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, learn to grapple.
5. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked | Non-lethal Options
It doesn’t matter how justified you are in killing someone in self-defense, if it happens, you’re going to have a bad day. Potential psychological trauma aside, think about the legal fight: possible criminal charges, possible civil lawsuit. Even if you were fully justified, there’s a chance you go to jail anyway. How it looks, how the cops respond, and how the prosecutor frames it to the jury will all play a part.
Even if you don’t to to jail, odds are very good you’re going to be out a shitload of money after paying your lawyer to make sure you don’t. And depending on your community, there’s the possibility of social repercussions for your actions, too—again, no matter how justified. So try to avoid killing anyone you don’t absolutely have to kill. Understanding what your nonlethal options are—pepper spray, tasers and stun guns, even a flashlight or an impact weapon—and how to use them properly can help you both avoid an asskicking AND murder charges.
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, learn ways to beat the other guys besides killing them.
6. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked | Bladed Weapons
Anyone studying violence will quickly see that a significant number of fights become close quarters entangled engagements. Often it’s difficult to access and use a gun in that kind of environment. An alternative is a blade. But while many people carry knives, they often have zero training on how to use them.
How many of you reading this carry a folding pocket knife for self defense, but have never practiced drawing, opening, and establishing a useful grip on it under the pressure of someone charging you down intent on murder?
From personal experience, I can promise you that it’s not easy, even with practice. Force on force training is invaluable here, because it will expose the flaws in your current thinking: if you carry a small fixed blade on your belt angled up, you might discover that it’s a lot harder to draw that way when someone is fighting your arm to keep you from succeeding, while angled down is harder to conceal but more accessible. Or if you carry a pocket knife on your right side, what happens when your right arm is pinned or busy doing something essential and you can only use your left to access a weapon?
Things like this must be considered. This also goes back to judgement: when are you legally allowed to use a knife, given that it’s potentially lethal force? If you ARE allowed to use it, when and how will it be effective versus when will it just be a waste of time and effort? Do you know whether slashing or stabbing is a better option in a given situation? Where should you target?
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, don’t just carry the knife, learn when and how to use it.
7. How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked | Firearms
There’s a reason I left this one for last.
It’s not because I think knives are more effective than guns and should be prioritized over guns. It’s because too many people fixate on the gun as a talisman that wards off all evil. “I don’t need to worry–I’ve got a gun.”
Unless you’ve trained in using it, and (like any other weapon) know when and how to use it properly, congratulations, you’re carrying a cool-looking highly dangerous paperweight. It’s as potentially deadly to you as to anyone else, and there are ALL SORTS of considerations that most concealed carriers never even think about. You don’t know what you don’t know. So if you’re going to carry a gun, GET TRAINING. GOOD training, not a bullshit four hour concealed carry permit course from some random jackass at the local gun range.
Find people who know what they’re talking about and study. Read articles and blogs from famous trainers and gunfighters. Attend high quality shooting and force on force training. Do the dry fire practice. Go to the range and practice the stuff you suck at until you suck less at them, using the drills you learned in training courses. Learn the laws of self defense inside and out in your jurisdiction.
So if you don’t want to get your ass kicked, carry a gun AND KNOW HOW AND WHEN TO USE IT EFFECTIVELY.
Studying Violence : If You Don’t Want To Get Your Ass Kicked
If you aren’t comfortable carrying and using lethal weapons, that’s fine. You do you. The first five will get you an awful long way along the road to not getting your ass kicked. As Tom Givens put it in a recent class I attended, “I’d rather face a doofus with a $3000 Wilson pistol than a hard man with a sharp stick.” But if you ARE going to carry weapons with the intention of possibly using them if necessary, then learn how to do so well.
Guns and knives aren’t talismans. They’re tools. Owning a tablesaw does not a master woodworker make.
Some of my friends have taken to referring to this concept as “The Study of Applied Violence.” We need a better name for it, but it’s not a casual pastime. It’s very much a comprehensive martial art, with distinct yet interrelated components of unarmed fighting, nonlethal weapons, and lethal weapons, unified by a common understanding and mindset. It deserves as much devotion as any other martial art, because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you don’t want to get your ass kicked, do the work ahead of time so you’re ready when and if that day ever comes.
Now, questions for the crowd:
What have me missed? Anything you can add based on your experience?
Know of anywhere readers could go to learn more?
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Breach-Bang & CLEAR!