Self Defense Series II

Some thoughts on mindset, intent, and general awareness. I am still putting ideas to paper for my upcoming self defense class. One of our most important weapons is our brain housing group. With that in mind I put down some thoughts on the subject of mindset and awareness:

“If you look like a rabbit, and act like a rabbit, you will be treated like a rabbit – prey for all predators.” 

I often talk to my Marines about comportment. What a great word. It has to do with how you carry yourself and what your body language is communicating to everyone around you. It’s been said if you look like food you’ll be eaten. So how does one not look like prey? More importantly, what does prey look like in the first place?
Last time I checked, bullies and predators did not select their targets from among those who seemed confident, alert, and willing to put up a fight. They seem to target fearful, weak, victims who appear asleep at the wheel.  
One of my pet peeves is walking around with hands in your pockets while in uniform. To me hands jammed firmly in pockets tells me your brain is switched off and unprepared for action. “Live” hands unencumbered by pockets tell me your brain is switched on ready to fight the forces of evil. Those who identify themselves as warriors should keep this in mind. For everyone else I will point out this is a great example of body language predators read.
Headphones, ear buds, and the like are another peeve of mine. Fortunately they are not a uniform item so in my daily duties it’s not an issue. When I see folks walking around the streets at all hours with their music on it screams they have tuned in, tuned out and are easy prey.
If vigilance is the price of freedom then I’d say the appearance of vigilance is the first step in protecting yourself. It would be even better if you were actually vigilant though.
I was taught about an incident in Europe where a terrorist cell was targeting American officers for kidnapping and/or assassination. The cell was captured before they could do anything but during questioning they identified which officers had been under surveillance. The terrorists had remarked a particular officer as being a hard target. When asked what made him so they said every morning this particular officer would walk around his car checking for devices or anything unusual. They decided not to target him because he was too alert.
When the officer in question was asked about his personal protection measures he was kind of surprised. What actually happened was there had been a number of tire slashing incidents in his neighborhood recently. Every morning before driving to work he would check his tires to make sure they hadn’t been slashed. So although he wasn’t looking specifically for a physical threat, the appearance of vigilance on his part convinced the terror cell to go find an easier target.
I myself walk around with my head on a swivel. I like to take a look over my shoulder and see who is around me. This has become such a habit sometimes I look around but am not really looking at anything. Anyone watching me though will probably think I’m paying attention to my surroundings. I walk with my head up and my hands live and like most Marines have a swagger associated with the confidence of a fighting man.
The opposite of this is someone with their head down, shoulders slumped, hands in pockets, with ear buds on really trying to be invisible. That person looks like lunch. I’m not advocating people walk around like they are some kind of bad ass. There is a difference between that and being alert and confident. 
This is by no means all inclusive, I will likely speak more broadly on the subject in class than I will here. Just wanted to share some thoughts I’m working out. 
Semper Fidelis,
America’s 1stSgt 
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  1. So true. Most predators aren’t brilliant, but they have the sense to go for the easy payoff. Among strangers, appearance is everything.

  2. Top,
    Right on! I’ tried to train cops about these little details for years. Look tough and you won’t get messed with.
    The other thing, and I’m sure you’ll touch on it, is to practice your defense!
    I have folks come to the gun range all the time and ask which defense handgun is easier to learn to shoot. One guy has a very nice Sig, but thinks the different trigger pulls are too hard to learn. I asked how much he’s practiced and he said: “well, I went to this fancy school one time that cost a lot of money.”
    But he failed the course because he doesn’t have time to practice. He wants that “magic gun” that will shoot for him.
    I told him to spend the money on more ammo and a clas with me and I’d show him how to practice on his own.

  3. I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster. We ban personal electronics at Scout outings. I loathe kids walking around with ear buds in. You can’t hear the birds and the wind or animals moving in the brush with those in. A Scout is supposed to be “mentally awake” and to “be prepared” and you can’t if you’re blocking out reality.

    Also, without going into details there has been more than one occasion where standing up straight and looking like I was paying attention when walking in unfamiliar areas has saved me grief.

  4. When I was a correctional officer, I put my “game face” on before I got out of my pickup. I may be old, fat and grey headed, but I will definitly make a meal out of your ass.

  5. White – ear buds in , tuned out unaware of surroundings. Easy prey.
    Yellow – alert, paying attention to surroundings. Carrying yourself with confidence. Bullies and thugs will probably go elsewhere.
    Red – Ready to defend yourself against threat.
    These are the 3 stages that we were taught in my pistol class. If you walk around at “White” alert all the time, someone, somewhere will be glad to take advantage of your carelessness!!

  6. I grew up in a city, and learned early to pay attention to my surroundings. Also, and this is kind of silly, but because I’m short, I’ve always made the effort to “walk tall” — head up, shoulders back, brisk movement. It makes me look taller and, as a pleasant byproduct, it makes me look alert.

    My kids, suburban to the bone (and tall for their ages), are oblivious. What I’ve learned is that it’s not easy to make young people who feel safe become alert without also making them become unpleasantly paranoid.

  7. Suz, for instance, I “appear” to be America’s 1stSgt. 😉

    CI Roller, it is unfortunate most people think weapons will do the work for them. Weapons are not talismans that make the bad man go away. Training and practice is the only way to go.

    Ron, glad to see your scout troop is on board. I have hope for Scouting.

    Lin, really, that’s just gross.

    Leslie, none of us are invincible but we might as well direct the bad guys to an easier target.

    Book, people often confuse readiness with paranoia. It’s kind of like the old story about someone making a comment about gun owners: “Why carry a gun? Are you really afraid someone is going to attack you?”

    “No, because I carry my gun.”

    We often forget the first and final weapon is the mind. Kind of like CI Roller’s student forgot.

  8. Thanks for talking about leaving your i-pod or mP3 behind when you go out into the world. People running around with their ear buds in is something I see all the time in my neighborhood, and they are such easy targets. None of them look around at their surroundings; they stare at the ground or straight ahead, and they are afraid to confidently look someone in the eye. Modern culture and the school system does not encourage true confidence in youths nowadays – just arrogance or submission.

    Good musings, 1st Sgt., and I look forward to hearing more!

  9. For me the trouble is leaving my hands clear. I live alone and have to park away from my codo, so things like carrying groceries or my computer bag into the house constrain me some. My sister taught me to carry my car key b/t my index and middle finger, since it can be used like a knife in a pinch, but you might want to talk to the ladies in your class about comportment when they’re loaded down (diaper bags / strollers/ etc.). They might not looked tuned out, but they certainly look weaker than others.

  10. Erika, it makes you a somewhat unusual teenager to agree with me on the iPod/earbuds issue. I figure music can be enjoyed by the survivors later.

    Becky, in my discussion about general awareness I intend to talk about having keys ready, where to park, load groceries then kids, etc.

  11. Most CHL holders that I know make two basic mistakes:

    1. They don’t practice, and when they do, it’s not realistic practice.
    2. They react to carrying as many drivers do to driving a car with anti-lock brakes. ” I can drive as fast as I want on any surface ’cause I’ve got anti-lock brakes” becomes “I don’t have to pay attention to where I am ’cause I’ve got a handgun.”

  12. “If you look like a rabbit, and act like a rabbit, you will be treated like a rabbit – prey for all predators.”

    Not if that rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide. He’ll do you up a treat.

  13. animeyer, if I didn’t appreciate LCpl humor I’d thrash you here and now.

    Jim, agree. I say again, weapons are not magic talismans that keep evil at bay. A trained brain housing group is better.

    Magoo, granted the exception is the Holy Grail variety of rabbit. Runaway!

    Erika, no worries there. I know plenty of home schoolers.

  14. Come now 1st Sgt., I’m sure you wouldn’t run away from a vicious man-eating rabbit. All Marines carry holy hand grenades!

  15. Thanks for the good thoughts on Scouting. I’m in a suburban environment where the moms and dads try to pad everything and keep their kids away from anything that might at all be hazardous. I view it as part of my mission to get the kids to understand that the real world is different.

    We’ve graduated a number of Eagle Scouts, one of whom joined the USMC last year. I had to warn him, though, to keep aware of the major difference between the BSA and the USMC – the Boy Scouts have adult supervision.

  16. Miller’s advice is sound concerning this aspect of training.

    In order to find the gaps in one’s own body language, one should switch the pov to the predator. People watch in a crowded area. Select the targets you think would be easy to coerce, kidnap, threaten, or steal from. Find the compliant, defenseless, not paying attention people. Notice how you noticed them.

    Then remember those parameters and avoid doing them yourself. Change your observation to now look for people you intuitively feel like avoiding. Watch how their body language works and what triggers your instincts.

    It is important to keep social and emotional values out of the assessment, as they otherwise pollute an objective view point.

    One of Target Focus Training’s recommendations for mental training was to visualize what I would do to eliminate a target in hand range, 3 moves or less. Just whenever I would see people as they pass by me or around me. That not only improves mental agility and reaction times, but it also exudes a certain aura that perceptive people will notice. They may notice that you are concentrating on something and that something isn’t choosing between vanilla and chocolate.

    After awhile, according to Frontsight’s color codes of awareness, a person can train themselves to be perpetually in the yellow zone, always alert and playful ready put on the game face at a moment’s notice, instead of being in white thinking about going to sleep after a day’s hard work.

    Those at a white level of mental and physiological awareness, tend to have higher incidences of freezing and slow reaction speeds.

  17. “Erika, it makes you a somewhat unusual teenager to agree with me on the iPod/earbuds issue. I figure music can be enjoyed by the survivors later.”

    While I don’t normally run around with ipod earphones, they do seem to make running and walking more enjoyable. If I ever did use them, I would only ever use the left ear, using the right as an aura sensor and realizing my left side is aurally deficiency, a blind spot.

    I normally don’t use them because they are another thing I have to remember to carry around and not misplace. It’s a lot easier for me to carry more weapons, as they are more fun to carry. Although police inspections prevent the feasibility of that kind of “fun”.

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