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Change your mind and the rest will follow

On a regular basis I am interjected into the lives of others. Often enough this comes from when their life hits the fan so to speak. Occasionally I have the time to train others in shooting and what we would generally recognize as self defense. Having myself gone through a fair amount of training in many different aspects there is one thing that I have noticed that escapes most instructors.

To systematically ingrain into students to think positive and to react in a manner that invokes a positive/winning/I-will-feed-you-your heart attitude.

And while it may seem obvious it is not a given teaching method. The truth is it's very easy for all of us to focus on the mechanics of drilling,drawing, and defense that we don't think WIN.

hmmm I hear snickering.

Think for a second of this scenario whether you are a man or woman.

You come home late at night through the front door, pull the key out of the lock, and walk to the other end of the house. Something doesn't seem right and you look back behind you to see a 6'5" 230lbs male in a ski mask with a 10 inch bladed knife between you and the door.

Before you go into that clearing of the holster of that gun you may or may not be wearing. Break down your own personal mindset here.

The initial sucking in of air and "oh shit" is completely allowed because we all (a-l-l) get caught off guard in life but the next response should be in your head should be:


and by "GO!" I mean you need to have a mind set of being able to Go-straight-at-him with a total intent on leaving him dead on the floor. Whether you are a man or a woman.

There is a prevalent thought in the defense world that you need to turn and put distance between you and him. So prevalent that this is an acceptable response both amongst instructors and even legislators where we have become ingrained that our first obligation is to flee. Mention the concept of "counter attack" and the defense attorneys begin sweating.

The entire concept of fleeing from an attacker can be appropriate at times. Sometimes you are simply out matched-out gunned-out maneuvered. In Executive Protection "fleeing" is a doctrinal part of protection work. However there is also the point where sometimes you are left with no other option than to fight.

The moment you flee from anything it is incredibly difficult to then stop the flight signals in your brain and turn them over to fight. That's not just conceptual that chemical. Once adrenaline and the flight response kicks off in your head you damn near have to manually over ride it. Combine this with a society that systematically tells you to flee, or have zero tolerance policies for self defense and we are left with sheep dead in the streets.

This is why members of the armed forces, police and firefighters go through boot camps and academies. They see a potentially lethal situation and run towards it with the entire mindset of defeating that which aims to kill.

Some of this has also become subconsciously ingrained into the Defensive/CCW/Shooting Community. At least in a couple of ways that I see it (personally).

One is simply the caliber debate.

We have given far far to much credit to Ed Sanow and Evan Marshall (respectively) in that the concept of the one shot stop is interesting "science" however it is certainly not an applicable one.

The far reaching consequences of the one-shot-stop business is that it makes us question our equipment and think we aren't using enough gun. The physical fact is a .32 ACP does not make as large of a hole as .45 ACP, but six or seven bullets into the body of an assailant is going to either have a lasting effect or an effect that will end his life very soon.

True enough we've all heard the stories of how the .380 entered someones face and skirted under the skin and came out the other side doing no damage. What I can guarantee is that you have never read of an account of seven .380s doing that.

Don't worry about your "caliber" of choice near as much as whether or not you can make all of your hits count and that your equipment is reliable...

And that you have a plan when it is not.

Which may mean when your Glock's magazine fails to feed properly you dump it and go to your spare magazine that you carry (right?). Or that you pull your Sure Fire flashlight and one handed opener knife and make ready for up close work.

For all the debate surrounding pistol calibers no one questions a rifle's ability to make a supposed “one shot stop”.

The 5.56/.223 in the extremely popular M4 configuration being used by our troops has a relatively low reputation in CQB where Operators are having to put three and six shots into an enemy.

Yet as one SpecOps guy I know says “so you just shoot again. Whats the problem?”

So return back to our Ski Masked Attacker in the home with his bare bladed knife.

He is the living nightmare we have all read about, the guy who is laden with PCP and soaks up round after round of .357 Magnum.

Are they out there? Sure.

Are they common? No.

Case in point. I very recently had a client find herself backed into a corner armed with a Snub-nosed Smith & Wesson .38 Special (loaded with Glaser safety slugs). She had never fired the weapon, didn't want a gun in her home and yet when the time came she fired once into the very very large body builder typed attacker. The bullet striking him where the foot meets the leg.

One single round.

He fled/drug himself from her house and collapsed in the street where police found him.

"Come to the nightmare that is me."

Talk about a winning mindset. This is where your head should be. Where YOUR confidence should be. Your gun, knife, baton whatever is simply the tool. The weapon is you.

There is one thing I instituted for myself along time ago in dealing with everything from potentially violent encounters to verbal confrontations to even shooting sessions at the range. It is the simplest confidence booster for bad situations. it's free and it works.

I smile.

Not a big toothy Burt Lancaster smile, but I grin inward and outward. I raise my head up and whether its at the paper target in front of me or a stalker that has been haunting my client, I smile.

I do so because it reminds me that I am capable, the equipment that I carry is reliable.

The bad men who roam the world are not the Boogy man. Cut them they bleed. Shoot them they die. They have nothing on you other than whether you allow yourself to be mentally beaten from the start.

When the feces hits the impeller (and it does constantly in life). You are the motor to the fan. You either shut down or you speed up.

Speed up.


Jane Doe said…
Finally! I was starting to get the D.T.s

Excellent writing and strength in your advice.
Casey said…
Excellent post! I've always thought there should be more emphasis on mindset. Make your attacker think about nothing but getting away from you as fast as possible.

Smile. that's funny. I do historical re-enactment where i fight in armor with a wooden sword. we hit each other pretty hard, leaving bruises where there isn't armor, like the backs of your legs.

since i fight with an open front helmet, you can see my face under the bar grill. you'd be amazed how disconcerted people get when they realize that the person who is about to wallop them with a stick is grinning about it. i guess they worry about anyone who is so looking forward to putting a hurting on them that the anticipation of it makes him smile.

how much worse would it be to have that easy victim pull a gun and smile as he starts shooting. you can just hear the bad guy's thought pattern... "hey, that's not the way it's supposed to go..."
Drew said…
Thanks for taking the time to write these things out Matthew, excellent thoughts and advice all around =)
Camry said…

That's funny: I do the same. When I spot a person of interest, I smile. I always thought it was an instinctive primate reaction: don't make me bare my teeth.

How did the anti-gun lady end up with a .38 in her hands if she was so dead-set against guns?

Thanks for continuing to write. You have a great many interesting lessons to teach. Too bad I don't know you in real life.
Pat and Rory said…
a true story

Some years ago my wife and I bought a Ruger P89 9mm for the whole cost of $250. We were dealing with some things that had us worried to the point we bought our first gun.

We were living in St. Louis at the time and I asked some friends if they knew anyone who could teach us to shoot.

Enter Matthew.

After sitting down with us and going over the basics and several rounds of dry firing and Matt working the slide we finally started shooting. Matthew I believe at the time was carrying a very expensive looking Colt 1911. I said something about his gun being nicer than mine. With out missing a beat Matthew picked up our gun and loaded a clip. One round live the next one a fired empty case, and he did this until the magazine was full.

He then fired the gun working the slide to clear it every other round. I wasn't sure the point of the exercise until he retrieved the target from 25 yards and placed a white index card over the shots in the target. He then said "any pistol that can put all of its rounds into a head shot at 25 yards AND feed empty cases is a GOOD gun, don't worry about price".

The sad thing is I have gone through other training with other (and nicer) guns that I own only to hear the instructors talk about this brand or that brand of gun some student carry as pieces of XXXX. And it effected their confidence in their guns and their shooting.

While we've now lived in Virginia for some time and I haven't talked with Matthew in a number of years I can still see that his low ego approach has not left him. A rare thing for someone who has 'been there/done that'

Erica said…
Apparently Officer Kim Munley, the one who ended Nidal Hasan's shooting spree shares your like mindset.
Anonymous said…
Matthew, I think this approach applies, no doubt, to other things in life as well as to self-defense challenges.

I continue to find your writing most worthwhile.

Please continue to share your experience and insight whenever you can find a few moments to gather your thoughts.

Seabat said…
Glad to see you're back. Thanks.
Anonymous said…
"The one shot stop is a unit of measurement not a tactical philosophy." Evan Marshall
Anonymous said…
Evan Marshall may have intended for it to be a unit of measurement, but I think we can all agree that a generation of gun writers, ammo makers and hoplo-philes have turned it into a requirement.

I think Matthew's intent is throw out bad mindset and insecurities and replace them with positive re-enforcement.
Anonymous said…
Disrupting the bad-guy's pattern with a smile helps, probably in the same way that turning a knife fight into a coffee fight did. (see "Don't bring a knife to a coffee fight." I can't remember the author off the top of my head. Sorry.)
Heartily agree about mindset and "go" vs. flee. I was cornered, unarmed (this was high school. No one ever has trouble in high school, right?) and the only thing I could think to do was to charge the guy. I'm a 5' tall female and was overweight at the time. He was so surprised that he got out of the way and I fled before he could touch me again.
Why didn't I do more? Because the reprecussions would have been on my head. He was a star athlete and could do no wrong.
Kimp said…
We recently moved from STL to FL and parts of it just so happens to be high crack and crime. There is one stop over a bridge on the way home, if I am traveling alone, my husband tells me to keep on the look out. It's dark and scary. He keeps a gun in his big, manly durango and I don't know how to cock it and use it.
But that's not the car I feel a wimp in. I drive a mini...and there is no gun in it. Dang. I need to grow a pair or take gun classes.
Thanks for the boost, Matt. You are the man!
Anonymous said…
Good stuff.

On all of these issues, I usually say "it depends". Everybody seems to want a hard and fast "rule" that applies 100% of the time. Should you always "run"..not necessarily. But being a cop also doesn't mean that I run AT every gun wielding crazy out there or that I whip out a rifle and enter solo into a robbery in progress at a bank. While I may not "run" from a gunfight, I will surely try to find cover if possible. I doubt I would charge at the BG blazing away. LE Tactical Assaults are the tool of last resort. Getting closer to the bad guy only makes it easier for him to hit you. Some of the times it's the only option though so..."it depends".

An aside on the .223/5.56 debate. It's my opinion that the military efficiency debate is largely due to the restriction to hardball ammunition.
Matthew said…

I think you are certainly right on the 5.56 Military Ball Ammo argument. A valid point worth pointing out. Thanks!
Anonymous said…
"We have given far far to much credit to Ed Sanow and Evan Marshall (respectively) in that the concept of the one shot stop is interesting "science" however it is certainly not an applicable one."

I personally know Evan Marshall and he would agree enthusiastically with what you wrote.

Terry (here by way of Breda)
Glenn B said…
"There is a prevalent thought in the defense world that you need to turn and put distance between you and him. So prevalent that this is an acceptable response both amongst instructors and even legislators where we have become ingrained that our first obligation is to flee."

By this statement alone, it is apparent you fail to see the difference between putting distance between you and an assailant as a tactical maneuver and the act of mere fleeing. I almost always suggest distance is your friend in a scenario such as you described but I rarely if ever mean fleeing. I have never had another tactics instructor tell me to flee as being the best routine to follow in such a situations as you described; most of all because in the scenario described it would probably be ineffective. I have been taught, and have taught others, to gain distance if possible, take cover if possible, draw while doing so if possible and fire when ready and as needed to defend yourself especially in the instance of an attacker using a blade. That is not fleeing but is gaining the upper hand and tactical advantage since the firearm you have is a longer distance weapon than is the knife the bad guy has - again, that is not fleeing the situation.

Of course, in some situations you may actually have to go right at your assailant but it is not usually recommended. Contrary to what you say, that law enforcement trains their people to run right at danger, they are usually taught to gain distance in a scenario as you put forth or to approach a dangerous situation with caution and not run right into it. As for the military, their objective is not to simply stop a threat as would be yours or mine in self defense. Theirs is often to gain ground, to take and to hold it and thus offensive advances are often called for. That is quite different than a self defense use of force in the home in the great majority of cases.

All the best,
Glenn B
Matthew said…

Actually I do not "fail to see the difference".

Prior to wide spread passage of Castle Doctrines many self-defense laws had a certain level of "Fleeing" required before one could firmly establish their life was in peril.

Commonly known as "Obligation to flee laws".

Having worked in Executive Protection all over the world as well as instructed, and conducted critical extractions in some real swell shit holes all alone and with some ex-SOF operators I think I may grasp the concept of tactics slightly, and not get hung up on terminology and think you may have missed the spirit of the meaning in generalized sense in the later mentioning.

The same holding true for the statement of law enforcement training there people to run right at danger. Again it was meant for generalization, not to imply that law enforcement teaches human wave attack responses. It was rather a given.

...but I think you knew this and as a grumpy bastard just wanted to stir the pot and ignore the spirit in which the post was written.

So settle down you old SOB we're on the same side.

Thanks for reading, for commenting and take care Glen.
Lawyer said…
Great post and great points! I'm linking to this.

Lawyer (here by way of Breda)
Island Boy said…
@Kimp - put a small .38 or PPK in that mini glove box/hidden compartment on the MINI dashboard. Put a knife in there too while you're at it.

Fellow MINI driver.