“Whenever possible pick your fights, and always pick the ones you can win.” – Me, I just said that.
Even Paris Hilton "Gets it"
Recently I appeared on a radio show where the host was telling me about how he had to fill up his car at a gas station in a high crime area. He then went through great detail on how he would position himself around the vehicle and his behavior when anyone approached. He continued to describe what weapons and what techniques he would use to defeat anyone who attacked him. When he asked me what I would do, I said “Go to another gas station.”
There is this underlying idea that you shouldn’t have to alter your behavior because it would yourself to fight everything that comes in your way that’s instilled in training. And while you do “train for your worst nightmare” common sense needs to play a role in how you live your life.
Tsun Tzu himself suggested only engaging in battles you know you’re going to win “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”
Why would you deliberately put yourself in a position of weakness? Going into known, high crime areas when you don’t have to, is literally asking for trouble. Hey, I know some people put their faith in the kindness of man, me, I’d rather put my faith in my ability to protect myself. Even with all my training and experience I will always choose the safer route and if it does happen where I can’t avoid it, I have planned for these contingencies with small weapons and tactics.
A little planning goes a long way.
Having an exit strategy, not crowding the car in front of you when you’re at a traffic stop are just a few things to start thinking tactically. Understanding the physical abilities of the people you are with is important as well. What if you needed to escape, how far and how fast can you run? Can you scale a 3 foot wall? Can you swim? Can you do a pull up? Knowing your capabilities and the abilities of the people around you should dictate your behavior.
There are some people who feel entitled to fill up at that gas station. “It’s a public business, I have the right to go there.” Stow your rights and use your head. People have lost so much because they stuck to their principles for what?!?! The end game is survival and living a healthy life. Don’t be a knuckle head and put yourself in a dangerous situation for no good reason.
Sometimes, trouble finds you
Sometimes you can’t pick your battles and that is what we prepare for. That is also the reason you need to use any means and method at your disposal to give yourself the highest percentage of success. Honor is how you live your life, not wage war. The only people who have the luxury of honor and mercy are the victors. When you survive and win, then you show mercy, Leave style and “honor” at the door until the situation is under control. There is no “fighting honorably” only “honorable reasons to fight.”
Escalation of force is a recipe for disaster
Initially engaging in a use of force situation with the attitude of “escalation of force” where your response is at the same level of your assailants puts you at a clear disadvantage. This notion put the enemy in control and you one step behind. How can you tell that initial push doesn’t get followed by a stab? You can’t, that’s why you always need to react more viciously and ruthlessly than you’re being attacked. He pushes you, you don’t push back, you hit him and end the situation on your terms before it gets out of control. Not only are you within your legal right to do so, but you know if you knock your target out, the fight is over. This is also the time to deploy pepper spray and other non-lethal countermeasures. As soon as there’s trouble you need to take the driver’s seat and shift the momentum in your favor.
You don’t fight squat!
I don’t fight; I react tactically and seek to end the situation as fast as possible. This is a direct contradiction to my martial arts training that has told me (subconsciously) that I need to fight someone on equal terms. If ending the fight means distracting my enemy with a question or another distraction, so be it. If that means I fake compliance, close the distance and attack, so be it. The techniques are secondary.
The notion of "fighting" forces you to think of technique and the minutia of the fight. Because of sports you think of attacks and counters. But real fights don’t really happen in that sporting rhythm. A fight is more “attack and retreat” than anything else. In a fight you’re either the one doing the attacking or the one being attacked. It’s that simple. In combat, the goal is to injure your attacker as fast as possible while sustaining as little injury as possible.
Don’t forget, the “spirit” of martial arts and competition is the positive aspects of combat without the negative. Budo is about mutual respect, honor, healthy competition, national pride and a way of pushing yourself and satisfying your inner warrior without having to take a life. Martial arts are designed with safety and style in mind, not all out warfare.
Listen, I love the spirit of martial arts and train and teach on a weekly basis. I love rolling around with my buddies and coming off the mat with a wide variety of mat burns and sore muscles. But I know that this is not “real” no matter how many martial arts we mix in. I know a real fight with someone who has little or nothing to lose is dangerous, caustic and violent. I don’t like them and I never met anyone sane who did.
Look at the big picture
Thinking tactically is about looking at the big picture, having your eye on the end game and desired result. The means are whatever gets you to the end result with the least amount of sacrifice. I don’t know a military or law enforcement commander who would ever chose to engage an enemy if the odd were 50-50 (or even 75-25). Always prepare and seek to stack the odds in your favor. Logic dictates that your attacker will do the same. Believe me, they only pick marks they think they can overpower and manipulate. It’s up to you to have a nasty surprise that “changes their mind.”
Self Defense, Combatives or whatever you want to call it is all about the “end game”. The only goal is your survival and safety.
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Damian Ross is CEO of the Self Defense Company and developer of The Self Defense Training System, the most lethal and effective self defense system in the world, The Guardian Defensive Tactics Police Combatives Program, 60 minute Self Defense and the Family Safe Program. Mr. Ross also founded the Self Defense Instructor Program that helps people develop their self defense careers from the ground up. Mr. Ross is originally from Ridgewood, NJ where he was a High School Hall of Fame Athlete in football and wrestling as well as a varsity wrestling coach. He then went on to Lehigh University where he was a varsity wrestler and football player. Mr. Ross has 3 black belts, 4th Degree in Tekkenryu Jujutsu, 2nd Degree in Judo, 2nd Degree in Tae Kwon Do. In addition to his martial arts experience, Mr. Ross spent 8 years in the professional security and personal protection business. He is internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities in reality based self defense.