What we see happen at international level makes personal defense ever more a hot topic these days. More and more people plan to buy a firearm or already got one but, as Jeff Cooper aptly said “having a gun doesn’t make you armed more than having a guitar makes you a musician”.
There is a set of lies most people tell to themselves (and to you) that contribute to create a very dangerous mindset I’d like to tackle.
YOU CAN’T WORRY ALL THE TIME!
One of the arguments I most often hear about is: “one cannot live in constant fear of being assaulted”.
For most people, crime and attacks are something that happen “out of the blue”, and having to constantly worry about something you can’t have any way to predict or control would indeed be very stressfull.
So, the solution most people apply is just not to think about it. This leads to the next one.
IT CAN’T HAPPEN TO ME
"It never happened to me, it will never gonna happen".
Our mind draws schemes out of contexts and projects trends into the future.
While this is a very good trait of the human mind, especially when talking about fantasy and creative imagination, this tendency can lead into false certainties and, particularly when coupled with the previous lie, it can lead to living in denial of what is an objective reality, unpleasant as it may be.
SOMEONE ELSE IS GONNA TAKE CARE OF IT
"Police is gonna protect me, it’s what we pay taxes for, after all, right?"
Marginally better than the former two, for at least it concedes something bad may indeed happen, still fails to account for the grim reality of such events: your safety and life are ultimately your own responsibility.
Others may or may not be there, may or may not chose to help you.
But get this well into your head: in the "exact moment" when the danger is "on you", the only one that can do something, "anything", will be you only. The Police will always be late (not their fault: simply, they cannot be everywhere).
I GOT A GUN, TRY ME NOW, PUNK!
"I’m armed, I’m protected".
Another step forward: assuming that something bad may indeed happen, taking responsibility for your own safety, doing something about it.
Only… is it the right thing? Is it enough?
The answer to both these questions is, unfortunately: “No.”
A gun is not enough unless you know how to use it and, even more important, when not to use it, least you become the danger you are trying to protect yourself and your loved ones from. And, unless you have the chance of using it.
Protection VS Self Defense
And this brings us to the first topic: Personal Defense.
Personal defense means defending oneself from something. A situation that usually implies confrontation with a hostile element and all its consequences, that may imply PTSD, medical bills, hospitalization, retaliation from criminal elements, legal action, facing jail time, legal fees, economic insecurity for your family, or even all of the above.
Is this a situation you want to find yourself into? I believe the answer for anyone sane is “Hell, no!”
So, a much better approach is thinking about personal safety and self-protection: about being your own bodyguard, and it is a very poor bodyguard the one who lets his charge stumble into a shootout, isn’t it?
"A great general wins all the battles. But the true genius wins the war without fighting" (Sun Tzu)
This is why it is so important to learn what are called “soft skills” that involve awareness of your surroundings, of other people and their intentions, of what areas to avoid or choose, of what kind of behaviors on your part may lead to unsafe circumstances or, on the contrary, to defuse a dangerous situation and so on.
This because 90% (or more) of what is personal safety is about what happens before you have to resort to self defense, so you don’t have to resort to self defense at all, if possible, because if you find yourself into a life-or-death situation, then your plan for personal safety has already failed.
First step: accept the fact that something bad may happen, as it happened to many others, and refuse to fall for the denial lie.
Second step: start to get more perceptive.
You’ll soon discover you won’t have to worry about “being worried all the time” after all: there’s a great difference between wading into the tall grass hoping that predators are few and far between, that none of them will take notice of you or single you out for a prey, and walking with a clear view, knowing if there are any predators around, where they are, if they are on the prowl or minding their own business and how to avoid them or the areas they usually dwell in.
And the best part is that it works both ways: predators like easy preys *, unaware they are about to be pounced upon; on the contrary, predators do not like preys aware and ready to react with force, making everything more difficult and dangerous for the predator itself.
As a matter of fact, in most cases you will not even have to fear them, as the "predator" will avoid you in favor of an easier mark.
So, start to cut down that tall grass: most soft skills are somewhat innate (we have great instincts for predators, for evolutionary reasons) but they are dulled by our everyday life and the culture we have been grown in, and need to be honed and trained. Luckily there are reputable and competent instructors out there, and they are a great starting point.
* The same thing happens with undemocratic governments (and dictatorships), with the rise of political parties willing to disarm all citizens just to prepare the ground for a total control over the people and the country.
There are other dangers than muggers… a lot of people go around completely unaware of their surroundings, eyes on their smartphones, and loud music in their ears.
While such a behaviour on the street may attract the unwanted attention of a mugger, assured that you are distracted and that you have something valuable to steal (your smartphone, as a minimum), in other circumstances this lack of attention may have dire consequences.
Less than a year ago, right next my workplace a girl got killed by a train as she crossed the rails without paying attention while she texted on her phone with music in her ears.
She was not a dumb girl: she got good votes at school, she was liked by her firends as a smart person.
She just grew up in a society that teaches us that everything is safe, that others must take responsibility for our errors, and got distracted for a few seconds at the wrong time in the wrong place.
A train, or a criminal, or a terrosist: it does not make any difference. Be always aware of your surroundings.