Monday, October 20, 2014

Self Evaluation and Goals

It's not quite the end of the year but that's not stopping me from starting to highlight my road map for the future.

I decided about a year ago that I have no greater passion (as far as a vocation is concerned) than that of self-defense, be it armed or unarmed. I also have no greater passion than to share that with others, be that through writing or via instructing. I have made it a goal of mine to become an advanced firearms instructor.

Some life destinations are easier to map out than others. If I wanted to be a doctor I know which degrees I would have to get, the system is pretty well set up. Firearms instructing is a little more fluid. There's no set standard to what makes someone advanced, nor is there clear agreement on what it means to be advanced. Is it high shooting scores in competition? Is it a training resume a mile long? And where do I fit into it all? How far have I come so I might be able to find out how far I need to go?

People have a tendency to over estimate their own skills and abilities and rank in the scheme of things. I'm a regular person. But I'm not a dumb regular person. So, to more accurately gauge my own standing and becomes I'm a very visual person, I made this graph:

I figure myself to be somewhere on the precipice between beginner and intermediate, feeling much safer to assume myself lower in skill than above. Probably because lower is exactly where I am.

Why am I not further along? Because I haven't practiced the lessons I've learned.

I have a lot of head knowledge that is serving me very well in theory but I've not gotten out there and worked the work enough for it to be recalled as "second nature."

A perfect example was my Extreme Close Quarters class. One year ago this month I took that class fully expecting to be able to glean the knowledge, take it home and work it until I couldn't get it wrong. I was in a perfect place to do so as well. Both my husband and my martial arts instructor took the class with me. We could all go home and be on the same page. We could all work the skills over and over again until they were ingrained. I was so excited about working the work and taking that work to force-on-force scenarios in classes, and even out into competition.

And the day I got home from that class I found out I was pregnant with our youngest son.

Having to drop out of martial arts and any other aggressive force on force work shortly thereafter hit my retention of that class hard. I have more of the theory still in my head, not a lot of the practice.

The same is true of my room clearing skills. Having worked them only a select number of times I still make errors on my drop outs and use of cover. I also have to take far too long to recognize blind spots and favorable angles for clearing obstructions.

I'm not even going into my team-work.

These are all classes I've taken and learned so much from, but learning without practicing really isn't much of an advancement. It's more of a baby step.

Working those skills combined with simply running the gun as fast, aggressively, accurately and smartly as I can, combined with more education in the legal aspects of self defense, less-than-lethal and empty-hand and I feel like I'll be on my way to something similar to my goal.

Truth be told, my plan-old gun work could use some serious fine tuning from time to time.

What I Don't Know I Don't Know
The other reason I evaluated myself as being somewhere in the bottom is because I still don't know what I don't know. And that can account for a LOT. It's really easy to think you're on your way to some place great but once you achieve your first level of success you realize the mile hike you thought it was going to take to your destination just because a double marathon.

I don't know all of the skills I'm missing. I don't know what kind of experience will help me on my goal aside from the obvious experience in classrooms, competition and more classes and practice. I don't know what I don't know.

And nothing beats experience. Do I have experience teaching? Yep. Quite a bit, but not enough.
Do I have experience competing? Yes. But not enough.
Do I have experience carrying a gun? Oh yes. But many would say it's still not enough.
Do I have experience using the techniques I've learned? Not so much.

One thing I didn't put on that graph that I think is vitally important is evaluation. It's really easy to think you're good in your own eyes compared to no particular standard. It's something else entirely to submit yourself to the evaluation of those you consider to be in authority on the subject.

Over the past few years I've been blessed to have connected with some amazing people in the industry. I've been able to get frank feedback from them and will continue to look to them for guidance and honest evaluation.

I've been grateful for every word of honest feedback and criticism. I want those people to know every word they've said to me has been taken to heart. Some of them have put me through true tests of my skill. Some I have passed, others I have not. But it has given me more goals to strive for.

So, what will 2015 be? We'll see!! I'm optimistic. A lot of it might be repeat.

Finding a way to fit training and parenthood together has never been easy but my hope is that I will be able to return to combatives soon and work hand-to-hand again. I have my first pistol match since Feb coming up this month and then a handgun class in November. I'm hoping that 2015 Feb will see me back at Rangemasters for their conference for more head knowledge and a host of other refreshers as well.

Above all, I'm hoping that 2015 sees me on the mat, with trainer guns in force-on-force scenarios, at the range and competing again.

Another baby step towards my goals.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Men, Come To My Rescue

An article has made it's rounds on my Facebook page via several instructor friends. It's titled Alpha Game: Protect Yourselves, Ladies and attempts to explain why women and children are being targeted more frequently in violent crime and why men are not coming to their aid.

The crux of the article can be summed up in these paragraphs:
"Men have been subjected to forty years of propaganda telling them that those old codes are outdated no longer apply. They have been taught from kindergarten that men and women are exactly the same. So, women shouldn't be surprised when bad men no longer treat them with kid gloves, but prey upon them as mercilessly as they do upon other men.

Nor should they be surprised when good men won't lift a finger or run any risks to defend them."
 After reading the article and feeling a little sad I started reading the comments to the article and even thinking back on my own experiences.

I've spoken against relying on someone else to save you. I've written countless blog posts about standing up for yourself and taking charge of your own self defense. I seek out the training that would allow me to better my chances against all aggressors--male, female, big or small.

But here's a little secret: I welcome help. I welcome protection. I embrace the kindness of a stranger or friend or spouse or family member who would stand up for me and say, "Leave her alone."

I won't wait for it. But I welcome it.

In the world of self defense things can get a little funny. Women train to fight off their most-likely and damaging attacker (a man) and that can often be translated into the idea that women are 100% equal to men or that she now no longer needs the assistance of anyone, even (or especially) a man.

Sometimes, that philosophy alone is what drives women to self defense classes. A woman, through the guise of feminism or equality, or whatever, decides the best way she can prove her superiority is to learn to defeat men in a physical match-up. Sadly, all too often, that drive comes from abuse or negligence at the hands of men.

Abuse at the hands of any man is enough to drive any woman to feel mistrustful of the gender as a whole. Abuse or neglect at the hands of a man that woman is supposed to have trusted to protect her can compound the issue even further.

I'm no stranger to such abuses and it was that abuse that drove me to the doors of self defense.

I made a decision that I was never going to rely on anyone else to save me ever again and if no one was going to help me then I'd help myself.

My drive for self protection was born out of hurt and bitterness, mistrust and anger. Yet the more I learned (the more I healed) the more I realized that my prejudices against men were planted in the shallow, infertile ground of perversion in a few.

Most men are not interested in hurting anyone. Many, in fact, want to be a protector. They want to be needed, relied upon or trusted to solve a problem. As much as men admire strong women there is a part of them that finds it perfectly acceptable for that woman to have her moments of weakness. Those men are okay being that knight in shining armor who comes to the rescue. If given the chance, many men would put forth the finest of efforts to fulfill that role and feel more like men because of it.

And yet, no one is asking them.

We're shoveling women into self defense classes and telling them that they don't need help. Worse, in many classes, women are being taught that the people they should be fearing the most are those they are invested in trusting. The domestic violence statistics are quoted. The rape statistics. The fact that most attacks happen by individuals the woman knows. And then the seed of mistrust is watered with words like, "Would you be ready to do this against your own husband?"

Don't get me wrong. A woman should very well know how to defend herself from anyone, including her spouse, if the need arises. She should be capable of standing up to the most aggressive and unlikely of foes. She should be able to do her best, with whatever tool is at her disposal, to defend herself. But I can't help but fear we're creating a much bigger problem by breeding that kind of mistrust and an attitude that she can always do it and do it best on her own.

We're breeding men who think they are irrelevant to the defense of women. That they don't matter and shouldn't help even if they are in a position to do so.

Worse still is that we may be breeding women who have a higher opinion of their own abilities than reality would dictate.

Women are plowed through self defense classes often paired up with other women or compliant male partners, given reassuring conditioning through defeating other non-skilled females or compliant males, told they are unbeatable, given a certificate of completion and told they are ready for whatever anyone can throw at them. The truth is that we women suffer a huge disadvantage when it comes to real world encounters with violence--particularly violent men--and we may not be able to conquer every foe out there without help.

Yes, many men can be deterred or fought off when encountering the minimum of resistance. Many women have fought off attackers using basic self defense skills. There are also some highly skilled women out there. Those skills should be taught. They should be learned and they should be applied when necessary. They have and will continue to be successful!

But those classes and skills should not be a substitute for an able-bodied, and preferably skilled individual coming to help.

My journey into self defense began on the premise that I never again wanted to rely on someone else to save me. I stand by that decision. I do not want to wait for someone to come to my rescue. But whereas I crossed the start line determined to resist all outside offers to help, I've reached a point of this unending journey with the realization that I don't want to do it all on my own anymore. Not only is it impractical, it's foolish. If the bad guys can embrace the need for assistance in victimizing others, why should I try to stand alone in defending myself? 

So, to those who would question whether or not I would ever want any assistance from a man, the answer is, "yes."

Help me. Save me. Rescue me. Protect me.

Encourage me to learn how to do it myself. Congratulate me when I take the next step in self reliance and self defense. But if you see me in a position of need, please, help me. I will thank you for it. I will appreciate you for it. I will not feel less of a woman because you helped me. I will not feel as though you are undermining me. I may be able to do it on my own but I know I have a better chance with your help. I welcome your help.

For those men who have felt like we women don't want you or need you anymore. I'm sorry. I can't speak for every woman but for my own part in shutting you out of my own defense I apologize.

We women will never be as good at defending ourselves from men like you men are.

For those men who have wanted to help but have been hesitant for fear you'd be seen as undermining us and our strength. I, for one, would like to invite you to jump in and help. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I want you to know I'd appreciate your help.

To those men who have never wondered and never asked but have thrown themselves into the mix on a woman's (or anyone's) behalf. Thank you! You are appreciated. Even if it wasn't by the individual you helped, I appreciate your spirit.

To the women who read this. Good for you for learning how to defend yourself. Keep at it. Don't stop and don't wait for someone to rescue you. But don't discredit the ability and desire that men have to help you and protect you, either.

In the world of self defense, it still counts as a win to be rescued.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Judged By Twleve, Carried By Six

The self defense community, like any I suppose, is filled with quips and clever saying. Eventually they all become trite but that doesn't keep them from being thrown around with little thought or consideration to what is actually being expressed.

One such phrase is, "I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."

What is trying to be expressed here is that one would rather be judged in a court of law by a jury (twelve jurors) than die (six pallbearers).

This phrase is frequently used when there is a measure of confusion about a self defense law. Instead of searching for legal clarification someone will say, "Well, I'd rather be judged by twelve than carried by six," implying that they are okay being on the questionable side of the law than face dying at the hands of an attacker.

Firstly, ignorance of the law is never a good defense. 

Shaneen Allen, a PA resident, was driving in NJ when she was pulled over for a dangerous lane change. She handed her driver's license and PA-issued carry permit to the officer and informed him that she had a gun in her car. According to her lawyer she did not know what she was doing was illegal.

She is now facing prison time. As this article, by the Washington Post puts it, "But if she is denied [an amnesty] defense, she will almost certainly go to trial, and under New Jersey’s gun law, she will have no real defense. Unless her jury engages in a defiant act of nullification, she will be convicted, and her trial judge will have no choice but to sentence her to the three-year minimum."

Shaneen's only crime was having access to a firearm in her vehicle and having a specific type of ammunition. She is going through a legal hell because of it. How much more difficult might the situation be if said firearm had been used? What if someone were involved in a questionable act of self defense with a firearm?

If there is ambiguity about a law it is not time to throw up your hands and say, "I don't understand it so I'm just going to hope for the best." It's time to knuckle down and get to the bottom of that law. Your future and freedom may depend on it.

Read your state statutes. If you don't understand them, ask someone who does. Get a few books and start reading, compare what you know about your own state with the states around you. Attend a class geared toward self defense law. Do not leave your understanding of self defense law up to chance, especially if you carry a lethal tool. 

No trial is no picnic.
I believe a lot of people who throw out this phrase really don't think their particular case will ever make it to trial. They are somehow under the illusion that if they ever get into a lethal encounter it will be so black and white that their innocence will never be in question.

Many times that is the case. The evidence paints a pretty clear picture and charges are never filed. That doesn't mean life gets to go back to normal. Sometimes it does. A lot of times it doesn't.

Reading accounts of self defense accounts where shots have actually been fired and especially where there has been loss of life shows a grim reality. Sometimes there are injuries to recover from. Other times there may be a loss of a loved one's life or an injury. Many times there are still social repercussions wherein friends and family distance themselves, no longer wishing to be associated with someone who has taken a life.

There may be threats from friends and family of the aggressor.

Even if the situation itself was pretty clear in the mind of the shooter, however, that doesn't always mean that witnesses or evidence paints the same legal picture. In which case, a trial is at hand.

Finally, death may not be the worst outcome and there are many ways to die. 

What really irks me about this particular phrase is that it implies that death is absolutely the worst outcome and that putting your future in the hands of a jury is always going to be a better option.

This will largely depend on what an individual can handle and what s/he can take in the way of financial, emotional and personal stressors.

There are people out there who can genuinely say that death for them would be the ultimate, worst case scenario. They don't care if they are bankrupt, in prison with no friend, have failing health and no rights. They are breathing, therefor it's not as bad as it could be.

On the other hand, there are many people who would welcome death before they welcomed bankruptcy or a felony murder conviction, the disgrace of their name, the loss of their wife and kids (even if that loss is only emotional), a substantial prison sentence or the loss of their lifestyle as they know it. To some, losing everything might as well be death. It may not be a physical death but it's a type of death just the same.

That may happen to anyone who leaves his fate in the hands of a jury.

You don't have to look far to find cases of where self defense is used as the legal defense that have gone to trial. Two of the most well known and publicized trials were the George Zimmerman trial and the Michael Dunn trial. One ended in exoneration, the other in conviction and both lives will never be the same.

Court costs and lawyer fees leave individuals hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt if not millions. Homes are sold. Divorce is common. The social repercussions from neighborhoods push families out of communities often resulting in divorce and disassociation of children and loved ones. Jobs are terminated. The trial process is long and even if the verdict is favorable there is the stress of picking up those pieces and moving on. There can even be PTSD or living with life-long injuries. If the verdict is one of guilt (and it may be) you then have a prison sentence to serve and a criminal record for life and the subsequent struggle to find work and a future based on that record.

Very few people know with certainty what kind of pressures they can handle. Could you handle a 20-year prison term separated from your family and life as you know it? Would your family be there for you afterward? Could the person you are survive that? If you physically survived would you emotionally survive? Could you pick your life back up after a manslaughter or murder conviction? Could you find work with a felony record? Is the death of everything you knew something you have considered?

Because I can't answer those questions for myself I choose not to be flippant about the responsibility I have to make sure I don't put myself into a position where such an outcome is probable. Don't get me wrong, a worst case scenario is always possible, not always probable.

To paraphrase one of the instructors at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference, "When you decide you will take on [a lethal fight for your life] you agree you accept the bill and pay for [the trial and any outcome] no matter what the cost."

That's not something anyone should take lightly.

Know your local law. Know the law of any states you frequent or may travel into. Learn the difference between true lethal situations wherein lethal force is justifiable and less-than-lethal situations. Learn when lethal force is no longer justifiable. Seek out training that helps you identify those differences. Understand the gravity of what a trial would likely be.

Are you giving those things the respectful attention they deserve?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bad Info Prevails

A few weeks ago I went to a jewelry making event. There were a number of women there who didn't know me and I didn't know them. While we formed our pendents we started getting to know one another but I don't always disclose my interest and passion for self defense and firearms.

Somehow, however, the conversation turned to guns and self defense.

I tried to keep my mouth shut.

Someone said she didn't want to get a gun but she was thinking it might be good for her to get some pepper spray.

One of the other women said, "You know what's a great alternative? Wasp spray! It has better range and is more effective."

I couldn't hold it in any longer. I asked, "Would you like to know why that isn't necessarily true?"

She said yes.

After I was done explaining that wasp spray has never been proven effective against human beings like pepper spray has been I explained that modern pepper sprays have a great range and then left it be.

The conversation continued and one of the other gals said, "Well, that's why whenever I go anywhere I put my keys between my fingers so that I can punch with them if I need to."

I winced. "I'm sorry. But would you like to know why that's not a good idea?"

She said yes.

I explained that the keys between the fingers have no stability and punching someone with your keys between your fingers will likely do no more damage than just punching them. In addition, finger bones are not all that strong and if someone stronger were to grab your hand it's entirely possible to break a few fingers around those keys as they act as a sort of fulcrum. If you have any kind of key defense you're much better off getting a kubaton (careful to observe that in some states you need a carry permit to do so) or just swinging your keys on a key chain line a mace and chain.

I shut up again and eventually one of the other gals said, "What I don't understand about these shooting things is why the police can't just shoot people in the arm or the leg or something?"

I put my head on the table and said, "Would you like to know why that's not an option?"

She said yes.

I explained a little about deadly force and when you can and cannot use it and that there is no such thing as a non-lethal shot, not legally anyway.

The girl I came with happens to be one of my former students. She started laughing and finally spoke up, "Just in case you were wondering why she's so passionate about this stuff it's because she's a firearms instructor."

We eventually got the class back on a jewelry making track but this all got me thinking about why the bad information keeps circulating. Why, despite our best efforts, do people still regurgitate the same old myths over and over again? Why do they get shared with higher frequency than good information?

Is it because the information is novel and therefore sticks out as something to remember? Is it because the techniques seem easier or more accessible to common individuals?

Of course it doesn't help that we have national television programs spewing crap, either. Thank you, NBC, you just set us back seven years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Announcing You Are Armed

For the purposes of this blog post we're going to assume you are a concealed carrier.

Here's the scenario:

You are confronted with a potential threat. You feel it may escalate to a confrontation involving serious bodily injury or death.

Do you tell or otherwise demonstrate to the individual that you are armed?

There are four ways that you could do this:

Verbally. Saying, "Hey, I have a gun. Back off!"

Implied. Sweeping your cover garment aside and/or placing your hand in the general area of where a firearm is likely to be kept. This is often called a furtive movement and widely recognized by criminals and law abiding citizens alike.

Brandishing. For the purposes of this post we're going to call brandishing the display of a firearm while it's still in the holster with intent to intimidate. Usually brandishing means the display of the firearm is not justified but we'll get to that in a moment.

Implied or brandishing combined with a verbal confirmation. Placing your hand on the firearm or displaying it while it's still in the holster and saying, "I'm armed."

I'm usually a "never say never" kind of gal. But I will say that some things are generally not a good idea. Any of the above responses, in my opinion, are all bad ideas.

The thinking, of course, is that announcing you are armed increases the stakes for the bad guy to a point where he decides to deselect you as a potential target. This has happened and it may work at deterring the threat . But, it may not and when it doesn't deter the threat it generally means you are dealing with someone who isn't afraid of your gun or isn't convinced you will use it, or use it effectively. In which case you are probably in for a violent encounter--an encounter you would be in anyway even if you didn't announce you were armed but now wherein you have lost a significant surprise advantage.

Not only am I a strong believer that a firearm should be kept concealed pretty much at all times, but I also believe that the only time a potential assailant should know that I am armed is when I'm pointing my firearm at him or he's hearing really loud noises and wondering about the strange sensations in his body accompanied by flashes of light.

This isn't an opinion I've borrowed from others. I'm sure there are others out there who will disagree with me but I've decided it's better not to tip my hand. I want the element of surprise and here's why.

You Announced That You Have Something Desirable
A gun is a pretty desirable thing to have if you are a career criminal. And if you don't mind beating someone up to get one, here is someone who just announced that there's one available for the taking if he's willing to take the risk in fighting for it.

The only thing that will likely save you is his ineptitude, your skill, luck or a combination thereof.

There Could Be More Than One
If your training is reputable you are being taught that bad buys come in pairs. In a confrontation you should always assume there is another assailant ready to jump into the fray when you least expect it. That could also happen to be the moment you decide to announce you are armed while fixated on bad guy #1. While there is no honor among thieves, there is potential for a lot of violence, and announcing you're armed might be all that the second assailant needs as ammunition to unleash his violence on you instead of allowing his buddy to interview you further or initiate contact. And his attack will likely be targeted and brutal (more on that below).

Just saying you're armed allows him to speculate as to where it is, but placing your hand over the firearm or displaying it allows both assailants (again, assuming there are two) to plan for it accordingly if they decide to continue their assault. Depending on factors such as distance, holster type and carry method and skill you may not be able to get your firearm out of the holster before your attacker is on top of you and doing serious harm.

You Open Up Dialog
"I have a gun."
"No you don't. I don't see a gun. You think you're all big and bad?"
"No. But I will use it!"
"You don't have to be like that. I don't see any gun and I don't think you'd use it anyway. What's a sweet little thing like you doing with a gun?"

All the while bad guy #2 is sneaking up behind or bad guy #1 is creeping closer and closer and planning his attack.

Dialog is dangerous. If you have to say more than, "BACK OFF!" you're starting down the rabbit hole. A few of the close quarters classes I have been to have demonstrated the dangerous potential of dialog. We naturally allow people to get closer to us when we dialog with them. Dialog also slows down our reaction time because we're thinking about responses instead of defense or offense.

Your safest bet is to shut down dialog immediately with anyone you perceive could be a threat.  If you want to dialog, verbally establish a boundary and have a plan should it be crossed. 

Yes, you could scream, "I'm armed! Back off!" and leave it at that and refuse to engage in any other dialog but then you're still leaving yourself vulnerable to my next point.

You Set Yourself Up For A Targeted, Brutal Attack
When the bad guy knows you're armed and decides to fight you anyway he will target your weapon or attempt to overwhelm you with such violence you are unable to use that weapon. If you don't have retention skills, a very good retention holster and the skills to resist that kind of violence you will likely lose your firearm and/or your life. 

All you have to do is watch altercations with police officers. One of two things happen:
1) The violence of the attack is so brutal the officer rarely has opportunity to defend himself with his firearm, if at all.
2) The gun is immediately targeted and fought for.

What ends these scenarios is death or defeat on the officer's part (at times resulting in the firearm being stolen), a competently trained officer being able to retain his firearm and regain control and fight through his injuries (make no mistake about it, there will likely be injuries--possibly severe) with skill and aggression, the officer using a hidden weapon the bad guy didn't see, or the force of other responding officers ending the confrontation.

You retain a small advantage if you have not revealed the firearm's location (i.e. saying you are armed but not indicating where it is by either touching it or displaying it) but you lose any advantage of surprise.

And here is where I will refer back to the Extreme Close Quarters class I attended in the fall of 2013.

In the final force-on-force scenario with Greg Ellifritz, Greg decided to try to disarm me even though he hadn't seen my weapon. He knew I was armed but he didn't remember where I was carrying my gun (if it was appendix or behind the hip). While we fought, if you watch the video (NSFW, btw), you can see him searching behind my hip for where I would normally carry my Glock. That little bit of confusion on his part allowed me the opportunity to simulate stabbing him in the groin with my trainer knife. I never actually did get to my gun until after I broke contact but neither did he. Had Greg known exactly where my gun was I'm not sure how things would have played out. I prefer to never find out. Or to find out, but in the safety of a training environment because I'm morbidly curious like that. In real life, however, I prefer not to have people trying to take my gun away from me.

I do not think one has to be a skilled fighter to carry a gun but I do think anything less than a skilled fighter trained in weapon retention is taking undue risk by advertising a weapon they can legally conceal.

You Lose A Fighting Arm
If you have done any force-on-force while armed you know how hard it is not to reach down and finger your firearm during the interview portion of the scenario. You know your gun is there and you know that if you need to use it you want to get it out quickly. There's a psychological comfort in having your hand on top of it even if it's not necessarily the best tactical move, especially in close quarters.You soon learn that if you put your hand on your gun you aren't protecting your face and you have one less appendage to use in fighting and controlling your attacker so that you can get in a better position to use your weapon of choice.

Yes, there are times to put your hand on your gun. No, I can't tell you when that will be. A lot of that has to do with distance, gear, skill, size and you will have to figure that out for yourself in a safe training environment. In my opinion you should either have your hands up in a defensive posture ie. the fence or your gun out and in your hand.

In my opinion, the hand goes on the gun as part of the draw stroke.

The key point here is that before you decide whether or not you want to announce you are armed and how you are going to bring a gun into a fight you need to be getting training in those scenarios and practicing them.

This is multiplied if you chose to carry openly on a regular basis.

It's a really bad day when you get your gun targeted, have to fight for it and potentially taken from you and shot with it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What Advice Would I Give My Younger Self?

What advice would I give my younger self?

Man, that's a hard one.

I've been trying to answer that question ever since Baz Luhrmann came out with the song "Everybody's Free" in 1999. I still don't know what I'd tell my younger self in regards to life to prepare myself for the future. Maybe that's as it should be. I probably wouldn't have listened to myself anyway. My life has been a journey of ups and downs, failures and successes, surprises of all kinds. And not knowing has always been half the fun. Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

Today, however, A Girl And A Gun challenged those on her facebook page to reveal what they would tell their younger selves in relation to self defense.

That, I can do!

It's a narrow enough scope that I can pinpoint specific areas where I could have been better prepared to face the evils of life.

The original challenge was "what would you tell your 20 year-old self?" Well, I'd have to go a lot younger than that to really do much difference in the scope of protecting myself or preventing some of the worst tragedies in my life.

How young? That's a tough one, too.

I decided to look at it from the perspective of a mother. I look at my two sons and my daughter and I think, "When should I start teaching them these lessons?"

The answer is now!

So, if I could go back in time and teach my younger self some self defense lessons I'd go back to the times of a little girl who was terrified of flushing toilets, learning how to tie her shoes, how to write the number "4" and stealing her mother's high heels out of the closet to wear around the house and these are the things I would tell her:

- It's okay to say, "No!" 
In fact, you need to say no. You need to have boundaries and it's good to have boundaries. People who don't respect your boundaries aren't people you should have in your life.

- Your body is your own. PERIOD!
With EXCEPTIONALLY few exceptions, no one has the right to touch you, hold you or ask you to do something with your body that you don't want to do. You don't owe anyone your body.

- Your parents are wrong.
A lot of society will be wrong, too. They will tell you things like, "You are safe here," "This person is okay," "Stay in public places. The public will protect you," "Good girls don't hit." It's confusing, I know, when people you trust tell you things they believe to be true and they turn out to be wrong. It doesn't mean they don't love you, it means they were human. You'll have to learn to discern the truth for yourself and that's where your own instincts, life experience and feelings will have to come in.

- Listen to your instinct.
When that inner voice says, "Something's not right," listen to it. Don't try to talk yourself out of it. Don't let other people downplay your feelings or talk you out of them. You're having those feelings for a reason. But here's a newsflash for you, sweety, you'll be wrong from time-to-time, too.

- It's okay to be angry. 
There are people who waste their lives on anger. They are consumed by it and use it for minor issues where it has no place or they use it disproportionately to the offense. Or they dwell in it, wallowing in it in misplaced comfort and failing to use it as the tool of action it should be. There are also people who never use anger for fear of it. They allow people to misuse them and abuse them and never get angry enough to change their situation.

Don't be either one of those people. Don't misuse or neglect anger. Don't be afraid of it, either.

Anger is a tool of action when you have suffered a legitimate hurt or injustice. Get angry--even if you need to get angry at someone you love. Use that anger to cut through the fear, the societal norms, the lies you've been told about how you or a "good girl" should act. Use it to give you the courage to act, to stand up for yourself, to do something about your situation. If you need to, use that anger to act immediately to save yourself. If it's after the fact, use that anger to give you courage to seek help. Learn to use it appropriately and to the right degree. Then, learn to put that anger away. As useful of a tool as it can be, it will destroy you and your relationships with those you love if you overuse it.

- Learn to hit.
Despite what you've been told, good girls DO hit. They hit hard and in the right way and at the right time. Be a good girl. Learn to hit!

- Get strong.
Seriously! Do it now. Lift weights. Screw running! Your life and the defense thereof will be way easier the younger you do this and the better you maintain it. You'll probably save yourself a lot of aches and pains and open up a lot more opportunities for yourself, too.

- Don't mistake your skill or defensive tool as a talisman.
I know you won't, but here's a reminder anyway. As you get older you will learn the hard lesson that there is no magic talisman against evil. Saving yourself will mean hard work. It will mean exercising your boundaries, your anger, your common sense, instincts, avoidance and learning proficiency with whatever tool or discipline you choose (Hint: choose as many as you can and take time working them all when you can). It will mean working that tool or discipline as regularly as you can which will demand money and time. You will need to keep working those tools and skills and it will become a part of who you are but it won't define you and it shouldn't. Avoiding or defeating evil is a tiny, TINY part of what will make up your life and the joys therein (as it should be), but that doesn't mean you should neglect developing and maintaining your skills in that area.

No one is as devoted or available to defend yourself as you are. You need to be in a condition--physically, mentally, skillfully--to do the fighting for yourself.

- Not everyone is out to get you.
There will be people you trust who will betray you. They will hurt you. They will make you question everything you thought you knew about life, love, trust and who you are. You won't be right about everyone and you will be hurt. Sometimes more than others. Sometimes just emotionally, sometimes physically. But there are other people who do love you. They legitimately want to help, encourage and support you. They won't test your boundaries, instead they will help you build new, stronger ones. They will love you. Rest securely in the love of those people. Seek out those people. Appreciate them, as I know you will. It will be your relationships with those people and the people you meet (and even create with a special someone down the road) that will make it all worth it in the end.

Friday, April 25, 2014

How Are You Going To Do That?

Anyone who's been in the gun community for any length of time has come across this scenario.

Someone reads a news report or hears a story and the conversation abruptly turns into a "What Would You Do?" situation.

Good, conscientious gun-carriers do this all on their own. Asking themselves what they would do in any number of given situations is part of the mental training that goes along with carrying a gun in self defense.

Sometimes those questions lead to revelations about gaps in training. If the answer is, "I don't know," to any particular scenario situation, it becomes wise to seek out training to fill that gap.

But every now and then and sometimes far too often, there's a jump in track of the logic train.

A scenario will be presented and the answer becomes, "I would shoot."

It may be a very reasonable and justifiable answer but there is a whole lot missing--the how.

The other day I read a scenario of a woman being run off the road, pulled from her vehicle and beaten.

The levels of avoidance when coming to road-rage incidences being discussed, the scenario was whittled down to being run off the road, not being able to flee and the driver of the aggressor's car is coming after you.

The go-to answer was, "I'd shoot."

Legalities aside, I begged to ask the question, "How?"

You are sitting in your vehicle, presumably seat-belted in and you want to shoot someone who is walking towards your vehicle, (again, presumably) from a vehicle that is in front of you, cutting you off.

How, physically, are you going to accomplish this task?

Where is your gun? Is it accessible with your seat belt on or do you have to take it off? Once you get your seat belt off, how do you draw your gun? Do you shoot through the windshield or try to get out of the car or roll down your window? Do you know what a windshield will often do to handgun bullet trajectory? How many bullets are you willing to waste through a windshield before you switch to another tactic? Is there a better alternative to shooting in the first place or a better way to shoot out of a vehicle if you have to?

This isn't the first time I've talking about the "how" and it won't be the last.

I'm on a campaign of sorts to getting others to start thinking about the how as well.

When you approach scenarios don't start and stop with "what would I do?"

Start with "What would I do?" and finish with "How would I do it?"

Think it through and then practice it. Even if it's just a matter of walking through it with your hand as a finger gun. You might even be surprised that discussing the "how" might actually change what you would do in the first place.

Many times new carriers don't know what they don't know. Influenced by bad television, biases, misinformation and pure ignorance they may have no idea that there are so many variables in any given situation.

I stood in slack-jawed amazement the first time I watched what happened to handgun bullets being shot through a windshield. I really had no idea they could be deflected so much. It's something I didn't even know to consider when it came to the dynamics of shooting in and around cars. Now that I know it's something I must consider when it comes to vehicular incidences.

Scenarios are (and should be) a lot more than simply deciding whether or not to shoot. They should be an exercise in determining the steps you may or may not take given that scenario.

Next time you read or ask what others would do in a given scenario, add "And how would you do it?" in there.