People much wiser and experienced than I have all proclaimed this to be true.
Yet, at the same time we do hear stories of individuals defending themselves and those they love with little-to-no extensive training and a strong will to survive.
People who feel that those like me are a little extreme in our training regime's often point to these stories as excuses as to why they don't feel like they need to train hard, often or at all. They might even use those stories as excuses to not be aware of their surroundings, take stock of their personal health and fitness or evaluate their personal preparedness.
Many rely on their pure passion for life to save them or someone they love, pulling out statements like, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog," or "If your will to survive is greater than his will to do you harm, you will be victorious!"
Where I see this bravado most in the self defense community is in parents. Their passion for the lives of their children burns so bright it blinds their own, honest evaluations of their abilities. They slam their fists into tables and say, "If anyone touches my child I will kill him!" and they believe it.
While I believe in the motivational power of these kinds of statements, I feel they are misleading in that they give an individual a sense of a power they may not possess.
The power to be skillfully violent.
And when confronted with a situation they did not know how to handle they fail. Then the doubt and guilt become almost unbearable. The parent whose child is kidnapped or assaulted questions his or her passion for the life of their child that they could stand by and watch something like that happen. How could one really love and not be able to protect from such horrors?
The problem is compounded by the comments on news blogs and videos where anonymous twits who have never had to face fear and violence can spew their uneducated opinions about how they would never allow something like that to happen to them or to their children.
Here are a few examples:
In this first video a mother runs from a knife-wielding attacker and leaves her 4 year-old daughter behind.
When I talk about these scenarios in my classes I get bombarded with the comments, "How could that mother just leave her child?.. How could that mother let someone grab her child?.."
I can promise you one thing. These mothers do not love their children less than you love yours. You are not special and they are not stupid. If you have an advantage over them it is that you are reading this, evaluating yourself and realizing your own potential to let this very thing happen to you or your children if you don't prepare yourself.
Why did they "allow" these things to happen? Because they were literally scared out of their rational thinking minds. It has a lot to do with limbic system brain function and a perceived lack of time, fear and the suddenness of the attack. One or all of those things overwhelm the rational, thinking brain and dump adrenaline for the flight, fight or freeze response. All primarily centered on self preservation, NOT the preservation of those around you (including your children).
But there are always those who will follow up watching these videos with, "I would have........"
And the armchair tacticians begin their proclamations about how they would have saved the day.
And I'm forced to ask a very tough but honest question.
How do you KNOW you would have done better?
What experience in violent encounters gives you the foresight to know how you may perform under life-threatening stress? What skillful, life-altering decisions do you make on a regular basis that prepares you for such situations?
Could you rise to the occasion? Some do. But they are the exceptions. Your normal, every day individuals are those like the ones you saw above. They have no great preparation or skill in self defense. Standing in shock as her child is lifted from the shopping cart in front of her or running away and leaving her child behind. Still others cover their heads, curl into a fetal position and hope they can deny what is happening to them until they are either dead or it stops happening. Others plea for a mercy that's likely not to come.
So many want to believe they are inundated with this great ability and talent to perform perfectly in life-threatening situations to save their own life or the lives of those they love. The fact of the matter is that even though our emotional stakes are raised when it comes to our loved ones our ability stays the same until we do something to improve it.
So how does one know whether they have what it takes to respond in such situations?
To steal from my good friend, Ellifritz:
- You are highly trained and skilled
- You have seen ways out of similar situations
- You have a history of winning in a similar situations
- You have practiced this type of situation before
A lot of us practice and train for a lot of situations dealing with attacks against our own persons. But many of us ignore practicing attacks that happen to those we love.
How many of us have practiced how we would respond to someone taking our child? How many of us have practiced what we would do if a loved one was in a fight for his or her life? How many of us have trained in what to do if our children are with us when the bullets start to fly?
Many people every year die in fires because they were going BACK for loved ones. They had enough sense to get out of the fire themselves but realized that they left their loved one behind and died as a result of attempting to go back for them. If you don't want to be running back into a fire you have to be prepared to save your loved one in the process of escaping yourself.
After showing the WalMart kidnapping video in a class of all mothers not to long ago I watched their faces become hard and animated with anger.
"What would you do?" I asked.
"I'd shoot him!" came the response from one. Everyone quickly agreed.
"How?" I asked.
There are glances around the room.
"He has your child in his arms. He has a knife to her. Are you even carrying your gun or did you decide you were just going to the grocery store so you don't need it? If you you don't have your gun what are you going to do? If you do have your gun and you decide to take that shot where would you shoot him? How do you make sure he doesn't cut your child in the process? Would you stand back or would you try to make a contact shot? Do you know how to make sure your firearm doesn't jam when attempt a contact shot? How to shoot so the bullet doesn't exit him and hit your child?"
My goal is to inspire thought and the room falls quiet as every mother is evaluating her skill vs her passion.
Don't let your passion for those you love deceive you.
Raise your skill to the level of your passion. Prepare yourself to defend those you love. Don't let yourself die in the fire of trying to go back.