Fitness: The Foundation of All Pursuits, Especially Fighting

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I am a guy that constantly battles putting on weight because I generally eat too much.  Pathetic lack of self-control, I admit.  I go up and down.  I never get really heavy, but I am usually not at my ideal fighting weight either. So, I get it.  There is nothing easy about keeping the weight off.  This is an important aspect of staying healthy as being over-weight is a health risk.  But being fit is a lifestyle, keeping the excess pounds off is part of it.  I am generally fit.  I have a desk job and a lot of exercise has to be done in order to off-set that lack of activity throughout the day.  Fitness is a must for longevity and health, of course, and this is why most people pursue it.  However, being fit is also about being functional.  In the world of self-defense part of what we consider functional is the ability to fight.  A core element of being able to protect yourself and those you love from bad people or from other unforeseen disasters is being fit.

I am not a fitness guru or a personal fitness trainer of any kind.  I have always been into exercise, however, and here is what I can tell you with certainty:  the core of being fit, for male or female, is lifting heavy things.  You need to lift weights.  Cardiovascular aerobics is also important, but if you want functional strength to be good at doing things, including fighting, you need to lift weights.  It is that simple.  If you argue that weight lifting is not necessary, you are wrong.  We are not talking about necessarily doing heavy weightlifting like training to be an Olympic weightlifter, or a bodybuilder, but we need to lift.

Lifting weights makes you stronger so that you can hit harder, of course, but that is just part of it.  Can you grab your small children and run for 200 yards with them?  Can you throw a table through a plate glass window to escape a bad situation?  Can you pick up an adversary and throw him off the balcony?  Can you grab a family member and pull them out of a burning vehicle?  This is what lifting weights is for in the world of self-defense and preparedness.  The surplus benefit of lifting is that you look better, but this is secondary.  I know plenty of guys who are not diligent about their eating habits who maintain some fat and have a bit of a gut, but they lift and they have strength.  They can pick up and throw heavy things.  They can pull their own body weight over a wall.  Very few people who don’t lift weights can do these things.

Can you do a pullup?  If not, what makes you think you could pull yourself through a window in a time of crises?  Sure, the adrenaline may help, but if that is what you are counting on, good luck.  Can you do 20 sit-ups and 20 pushups without passing out?  I see a lot of shooting enthusiasts that are so out of shape they obviously stand a far greater chance of keeling over from a heart attack in a dynamic situation than they do from catching an enemy’s bullet.  Those dollars spent on ammunition are much better directed towards a gym membership.

If you are serious about being able to protect yourself from evil people, or any other form of disaster that can arise, you need to be conditioning your physical fitness.  You need to be lifting weights.  If you don’t lift, you need to start.  Forget buying a new gun, forget reading all those gun magazines, get to a gym or build one at home and start lifting weights.  Lose weight, get strong.  That should be your first priority and if it is not your ability to take care of yourself and those you love is entirely peripheral with no core.

Emerging Threats: Vehicles and Edged Weapons

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Many in America despise the firearm and do their best to trample on our freedoms through an incessant campaign against the Second Amendment.  Yet, the pro-gun and pro-freedom factions of this nation continue to strengthen.  One reason that so many have turned on the absurd rhetoric of gun control is the fact that many “active shooter” attacks have happened in the countries with the greatest firearms restrictions in the world.  Another phenomena that has awoken many naive people from their slumber is the realization that an evil individual who wants to commit mass murder will do so regardless of what tools are available.  The other noteworthy aspect: when nobody present is armed the attack goes on longer and costs more lives, but when an armed defender with a gun is present these rampages are cut short.

Yet another terrorist sicko, this time in London, this past week used two devices that have become more common: a vehicle and an edged weapon.  So, do the anti-gunners propose cracking down on cars and kitchen knives?  Of course not.  Guns give a people the means of ensuring their own freedom from tyranny, not cars or knives, and we all know that is the only reason the antis have it in for firearms.  Anyway, as a concealed carrier you probably have given some thought to what you would do in an active shooter situation since that is a well-established scenario at this point.  But have you thought about what to do in the event of a vehicle attack or edged weapon attack, or as in this case, both?

My first observation concerning vehicle attacks is simply this: pay attention to what is going on around you.  If in a large crowd try to stay away from the roadways.  Even if they are closed to traffic to accommodate an event take note of the barricades being used.  Most of the time it will not be a barrier that will actually stop a vehicle.  Situational awareness has no equal.  If in a crowd with your children be sure to have them close by so that you can grab them and get out of the way of a vehicle attack or any other such scenario.  If possible, position yourself in the vicinity where you would have some protection.  Obviously a vehicle can plow through many types of obstacles, but often there is a reasonable difference between standing around right on the sidewalk adjacent to the street and positioning yourself in an area where you would at least have time to react to such an attack.

If facing a vehicle attack the first priority is to get you and yours clear of the oncoming vehicle.  If you have the opportunity to shut down the vehicle with your handgun the only means of doing that, of course, is to take out the driver.  Easier said than done if the vehicle is moving.  If the vehicle at any time slows down, and it is clear that you are witnessing a vehicle attack, killing the driver through the side window may be more viable than trying to shoot through the front windshield of an oncoming car.

If the threat emerges with an edged weapon, as we have seen transpire in several incidents now, there is no need to hesitate, especially if the individual has just been in the process of trying to kill people with his vehicle.  Don’t fall into the “hierarchy of lethality” bullshit of thinking he is not that dangerous because he only has a knife.  If he has tried hitting people with his vehicle, then emerges with knife in hand, shoot him to the ground.  Don’t wait for him to stab someone so that you have yet more proof of his intentions.

Of course, as we all know, most of these attacks happen in gun free utopias like London or our own like California or New Jersey, so if you live in one of the Free States this is less likely to happen as terrorists prefer slaughtering helpless people rather than getting into gunfights.  But if it does and you are present and armed, which I hope you are if you live in a Free State, I hope you will give the world another example of how Free Americans deal with this phenomena.  Leave the gun control and sheep like behavior to the Europeans and the California liberals, they are good at it.

Combatives: Training Considerations

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The firearm is absolutely the most effective tool of personal defense available to mankind that can be carried hidden on the body and any other such option is inferior.  It is that simple.  If you want to be able to protect yourself then carry a handgun.  If you are in a state that does not allow you to carry a handgun then start voting against communist politicians or move.  However, no matter how clear the Second Amendment is we all must deal with environments from time to time that deny us our rights.  In such times having some hand skills may be our only means of self-defense.  Also, there are many incidents in which even armed defenders must use, or desperately could use, hand skills.  Getting a gun out and into a fight at contact distance with an opponent is more difficult than most realize.  I think all concealed carriers should strive to have some basic and functional unarmed combative skills.

Unarmed skills have always taken a back seat to my shooting and gun handling training, but I have studied it off and on throughout my life.  I have little training in formal martial arts but have studied different combatives.  What is the difference, you may ask?  Well, most formal martial arts are an entire system and philosophy and many tend to be far more art than martial.  Combatives are the distilled elements of fighting skills.  Martial arts are great for those who are interested in making a lifestyle commitment to training, but without such a dedication most martial art systems do little to prepare the practitioner for conflict.  I am a believer in studying combative systems.  Take some training in these systems and practice your strikes and movements as part of your routine.  For example, I like to integrate my combatives training into my regular workouts several days a week, and train with partners when I can.

I am not in the position to give my opinions to those of you who have dedicated a lifetime to martial arts training and that is not what I aim to do here.  You serious martial artists often know what works and what does not and even if you are steeped in a traditional art you may be advanced enough to bring the useful skills to bear in a fight.  Also, I think training in certain arts like Brazilian Jujitsu or Boxing can build a great foundation in these skills.  However, for those of you that carry a gun but have little if any unarmed training, I wish to provide you with some advice as to how and what to look for.  If you have no martial arts background but want to develop skill you can take combatives training and practice your skillset for a short block of time several days a week and you will keep these skills ready.  There are quite a few good instructors and courses out there.  When looking into these various offerings consider the following:

A Smaller Tool Box is Better

One issue that plagues most martial arts systems is the bloated nature of the “tool box.”  For example, certain arts will teach four or five ways to counter any given common assault.  Why should learners be exposed to five different possible ways to do something if there is one particular technique that will consistently work every time?  This leads to a huge reactionary gap on the part of many practitioners when they need to exercise a technique for real.  A go-to response for any given attack, with perhaps a secondary “plan B” option, is the way to train.

Knowing five ways to accomplish the same thing will make you mediocre at five different techniques rather than being excellent at one.   Think about this: how many ways do you draw your gun?  There should be one. Maybe an alternate as well, for example, like acquiring the weapon with the off-hand if necessary, but consistency works.  Too many choices does not work under pressure.  This same principle applies to unarmed skills.

There are many gross-motor movements that actually work essentially the same way to counter different kinds of assaults.  A good combatives system should strive to use consistent principles within techniques to combat a variety of possibilities.  This ensures that the practitioner can dedicate to reflex the smallest toolset possible that is still effective.  Fights are most often affairs in which the good guy must react to the bad actor.  We want a system of immediate action defenses and counter-assaults that can be executed with great speed and effect: go-to counter assault moves that are not fancy or glamorous, just predictably workable.

Simple Works, Complicated Does Not

There is a concept that seems to elude traditional martial arts doctrine:  three and four step moves that work against an “opponent” on the mat that is standing still do not work against a real adversary that is putting all of his speed and strength into resisting your attempt.  It drives me crazy when I see this.  Traditional moves taught in the dojo work against static partners that stand still for the demonstration.  As soon as someone starts teaching you a multi-step move against a rapid and violent assault they are wasting your time.  The exception may be the techniques to escape certain chokes or restraints as there is the ability to do a move that requires several steps as all of the opponent’s resources are applied to holding you in the particular choke or restraining mechanism rather than raining blows on you.

You will consistently see techniques taught in traditional arts that focus on a single item but ignore the whole picture.  For example, many techniques taught to break free of certain grabs will focus all attention on doing something fancy to the opponent’s single grabbing hand, all the while ignoring the other hand which can immediately pummel your unguarded head.  Such techniques are demonstrated on a training adversary that does not resist or in any way react to the technique you are trying to apply.  Traditional arts that teach such things do not take into account the simple fact that an enemy combatant will rapidly adjust his plan of attack based on your resistance.  Convoluted moves do not work.

Technique without Context is a Poor Training Strategy

Guys who study BJJ will spend months rolling around without discussing how a fight actually starts and why you would end up on the ground in the first place.  Arts like Tao Kwan Do will spend months practicing kicks and strikes without addressing the dynamics of how fights unfold.  This is not all bad as valuable movements are learned, but techniques are better learned when placed into context from the beginning.  Watch the videos of actual street fights that are all over the internet.  How do things start?  A concentration on a non-confrontational stance (the body’s natural and best fighting position) and a set of gross motor skill movements to counter the most commonly seen attacks is where your training should start.  When training in ground fighting know why and how you can end up on the ground.  If training to defeat a headlock know why and how you can end up there, etc…  Know the context.

So, in closing, I truly urge all people serious about self-defense to get some training in unarmed combatives.  Your hands and feet are sometimes the only weapon available and with some effort you can acquire some fundamental skills that can greatly improve your abilities.  Even for those of you that are armed most of the time there are many possible circumstances in which deploying a weapon will not be possible without using unarmed skills first.  If you don’t have training get out and take some combatives seminars.  It is worth the commitment.

Individual Responsibility: A Lost Concept

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When an individual hurts another, or perhaps many others, it is not the fault of that person; it is society’s fault, or the government’s fault, or some ideological or religious affiliation’s fault.  It is not, however, the fault of the individual who actually did the deed.  Does that sound like an absurd statement?  Well, we obviously live in the era of absurdity.

When a racist freak with a bowl cut murdered nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, it was not the freak’s fault, it was the Confederate Flag’s fault.  When a psychopath shot up a military base it was not his fault, it was the FBI’s fault.  After all, he was “on their radar” so why did they do nothing?  Maybe they should just imprison everyone on their radar.  When a jihadi terrorist, born and raised in this country, shot up a night club, it was not his fault, but the fault of over a Billion people of a particular religion.  When the drug dealer in Chicago killed his rival on a corner it was not his fault, it was the gun’s fault.  This is what it has come to.

At what point did the individual who chooses to do harm become a misunderstood victim of society instead of what he really is: a monster?  This trend reflects something deeply seated in this disastrous generation: the complete and utter lack of individual responsibility.  When a monster strikes we immediately look for the reason “why?”  Because it must be the fault of something other than the individual who did the deed.  If it was his fault, then that is an admission that my own mistakes and misdeeds, no matter how comparatively minor, are my fault.  We can’t have that.   There must be a reason for the transgression beyond human weakness or inherent evil.  How can a snowflake be inherently evil?  What a scary thought!

Certainly the reason for the monster’s actions are a result of this oppressive society we live in, you know, the most equal, most secure, most soft society in the history of mankind that is the present.  Sure, there is still racism, there is still inequality, there is still oppression; but a fraction of what there was decades ago yet our rate of mass murderers has increased although homicide in general has decreased.  Apparently it is a privileged white society’s fault that the white male who is a looser living in his mother’s basement and mad at the world goes on a rampage at the university.  Apparently it is a fractured black community’s fault that the gangster in the inner city does drive-by shootings against rivals.

Apparently it is the Neo Nazis’ fault. It is gang culture’s fault.  It is religion’s fault.  It is a flag’s fault.  It is a book’s fault.  It is a video game’s fault.  It is rap music’s fault.  It is heavy metal’s fault.  It is a drug’s fault.  It is the gun’s fault.  It is racism’s fault.  It is poverty’s fault.  It is the liberals’ fault.  It is the conservatives’ fault.  It used to be Obama’s fault.  Now it is Trump’s fault.  Apparently it is the fault of anything and everything EXCEPT the individual’s fault.

No, sorry, it is that person’s fault.  And, yes, when you screw up, it is your fault too.

Less-Lethal

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Roughly 80% of assaults each year are not deemed “lethal” assaults. I have written about this before but I will say it again here: due to the legal concept of disparity of force I believe strong, trained, male defenders should carry a less-lethal option when armed with their handgun even more religiously than a female or older person who carries a handgun.  Why?  Because the majority of assaults that happen do not justify a lethal response, especially if the individual being assaulted is a capable and strong male defender.  If you need to defend yourself but are facing an attacker who is not a legitimate lethal threat then you are confined to using your hands unless you have an appropriate tool.

I like to carry pepper spray, not because it gives me a better weapon than my hands, but because it is actually less force than hands.  When men get into fist fights bad things can happen.  An individual who sustains a traumatic blow to the head can end up dead.  A less-lethal tool like pepper spray can sometimes de-escalate a situation before it gets that far.  Not always, and sometimes spray may actually enrage a determined attacker, but armed citizens should have a good plan B on their body most of the time.  For less-lethal assaults, however, spray is often a good option.

I carry the ASP Key Defender. I like this unit because it holds my keys very efficiently when it is tucked in the waistband.  This has proven more secure for me than any kind of belt clip I have tried for holding keys.  Because it functions as a kubaton it gives me the ability to escalate force to focused impact if needed. This unit is, obviously, not as efficient for actual spray as is a larger unit, but the large cans tend to not get carried due to bulk.  The Key Defender, for me, is a good solution.  I like the option of going directly to impact with the unit itself if an aggressor presses the attack after being sprayed.  I have a small but fairly powerful light attached to the unit along with the keys.

I also recommend the Sabre Red Spitfire if you want a small key chain unit that is more conventional. I like the kubaton aspect of the Key Defender, however, and this unit is two defensive tools in one, plus a great device for carrying keys in its own right as it does not fall out when tucked in the waistband.  Pepper spray is not just for women who don’t want to carry guns, it is a good tool to have as a male or female who is already carrying a gun because a firearm is not a universal solution.  Get a good pepper spray tool, train with it, and carry it on a daily basis.  It may prove well worth the effort.

Carry Guns

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People always ask “what do you carry?”  This is common since as gun people we are all to a greater or lesser extent into gear.  First, a reminder: the gear we carry is vitally important, but your mindset, your tactics, and your skills, are far more important.  Don’t be that person who is a hobbyist and buys all kinds of gear but does not train and does not condition the mindset.  With that said, I will now partake in the EDC ritual and share with you what I currently carry and my thoughts and rationale for these particular items.  I will start off with my carry firearms, which is but one item within the essential tool set that I believe in carrying.

I carry either a Glock 19 or a Glock 26 (very original, I know).  I am generally a fan of full-size or compact double-stack autos.  I also carry a Ruger LCR revolver when I need deep concealment, but most often I carry one of the two autos.  My other recommended autos are the Smith and Wesson M&P line and the Sig Sauer p320 line, for the striker-fired handguns.  All of these handguns are excellent and all have full-size and compact models within the line.  Handguns are entirely personal preference, however, and there are many good ones.  But I do suggest settling on one family of handgun for your carry purposes, if possible.  Most of the big manufacturers produce many size and caliber variables within their lineups, so you can move from big to small gun and still be using essentially the same platform for familiarity.

I always carry at least one spare magazine for my handgun.  The great thing about using the Glock 19 and Glock 26 is that I can carry the same reload for both, as the Glock 26 will take Glock 19 or Glock 17 magazines.  This principle can be applied with the other major handgun platforms as well; if you use the full size model and compact model you can just carry a full size magazine for the reload for either.  For my spare I carry a Magpul 21 round Glock mag and it works great.  It is perfectly reliable, slightly longer than even the G17 mag, of course, but is easy to carry and it is very light since it is only polymer and has no steel liner like the factory mags.

For ammo I use any of the good modern loads for 9mm.  Speer Gold Dot, Federal HST, Hornady stuff, whatever.  Use any of the good modern service loads, it matters not beyond that, all that matters is where you place the shot.  My primary deciding factors are point of impact and reliability.

So, there is a rundown of my carry gun choices and the reasoning for my choices.  If you are new to the discipline this advice may help you out, but preference is entirely personal, my main advice is to minimize the amount of weapons that you carry in your “carry rotation.”  Keep it simple, functional, and familiar.

Only What Hits Close to Home

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I find it entirely absurd how, since the election of a particular individual, a significant amount of people from the left-leaning political spectrum are now arming themselves, and even suggesting that their political peers arm themselves, in order to protect their own lives from the alt-right Nazis who are apparently getting all uppity since said election.  Were these not the same folks who did their best to disarm everyone during the eight previous years of utopia under President Obama?  I am confused.  These people who are now afraid of racism are apparently embracing self-sufficiency for a change.  Of course, these folks can’t figure out that they still remain far more likely to be accosted by a crackhead named Cricket in a parking lot than by a band of guys wearing KKK hoods.   Oh, the irony.  I suppose if it gets them to arm themselves then there is at least that, which might be a good thing.

The reality is that too many people are responsible for this sort of thought process regardless of their voting preferences.  Even within our community of people who do embrace self-sufficiency to at least some extent we find that the only motivation for many is what hits close to home.  For example, look how much attention active shooter situations garner.  I am all for the focus that the tactical and self-defense communities put on this because it is such a complicated and dangerous situation that being prepared and never needing the preparation is better than needing it only once and not having it.  However, I find that a lot of the same folks who talk a good game about smoking an active shooter don’t carry a gun while walking to their mailbox.

Do you carry while walking to the mailbox?  A lot more people are assaulted within their own yard or on their own sidewalk every year than are killed by active shooters or terrorist attacks.   The idea of carrying a handgun and other weaponry is to be ready for what might happen but hopefully never will.  Many, however, carry only at certain times they deem higher-than-usual risk.  So, since there has been a few mass killer attacks at malls lately some folks will carry when at the mall, but will stroll out to their neighborhood park with the kids without wearing their gun.  Perhaps they live in a supposedly safe neighborhood that never has seen an assault at the park, but they will carry when being around the riff raff that packs the mall.  Folks, it does not work like that.  Murphy’s Law is always in play.  You will need it when you least expect, for what you least expect.  Carry your gun all the time and train for all of the contingencies, whether that be a mass killer, a bunch of dudes wearing KKK hoods, or much more likely, Cricket the crackhead.

I Only Carry When….

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I have heard this many times: “I only carry when I am going to a bad part of town.”  Or, “I only carry when I am doing so-and-so and I might need my gun.”  So, in other words, aside from these perceived high risk environments or tasks you don’t carry.  This is a significant problem, but the unfortunate norm among the vast majority of concealed carriers.

Here is the problem people; there is no such thing as knowing when you may need your defensive weaponry in civilian life.  If you knew when you needed your gun then morally, ethically, and LEGALLY you should just not be there to begin with.  You don’t get to choose when a bad thing may happen: the criminal actor, or multiple actors, choose the where and when.  The idea of carrying a handgun is to have a weapon that you can carry on your person at all times, not for expected trouble, but for the unexpected emergency.

If you know that you run a higher-than-usual risk of being violently assaulted then you should re-evaluate your life choices and avoid the particular environment that is giving you such reservation.  Sure, if you own a business and carry the cash out of the store on Friday evenings, might it be possible that you are more likely to be held up at that moment?  Yes.  The underlying problem, however, is that by carrying only when doing this task you are not only convincing yourself that it is more likely to happen at this time than usual, but you are convincing yourself that it won’t happen at any other time.  Thus, if it does happen at any other time you will not be armed and you will be thinking to yourself “I can’t believe this is happening!”

Carry your gun, carry it all of the time and everywhere legally permissible, or don’t carry at all.

Civilian Specific Doctrine

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Within the world of tactics, training, and even gear, there tends to be three demographics: military, law enforcement, and civilian.  Civilian, in this context, refers to armed citizens.  Even law enforcement officers and military members are, of course, civilian when out of uniform or off duty.  Most civilians who go armed are, of course, not among these uniformed professions.  One of the issues that we deal with is an often inappropriate overlap between these three sectors in terms of training doctrine.  It may be obvious, but a great deal of military and law enforcement training is not applicable to the civilian self-defense context (especially military).

I have no background in military and law enforcement and that leads me to have a direct lane in civilian self-defense.  I am not experienced in nor interested in military or LEO doctrine.  Now, granted, shooting is shooting, and good shooting is a similar skill set between all three sectors.  However, the shooting is only one part of the whole puzzle that is self-defense and personal protection.  Beyond this given skill set the vast majority of the doctrine is different.

There are more similarities between law enforcement and civilian context than between either of these and the military.  Many of the well-known trainers in the field of firearms instruction are ex-military and that is not a problem as long as they are tailoring their teaching to the civilian context if they are teaching tactics to civilians.  Again, the shooting tends to be fairly standard affair: if you take a carbine course with an ex-special forces guy the actual shooting skills should transfer over to your use of the carbine in a home defense role. Many of the better known trainers are indeed active duty or ex law enforcement or military.

My advice to people new to this endeavor is to seek out trainers who are relevant to the skill set you need.  This does not mean that the ex-military guy is not a good choice, just verify that he is credible and that he is indeed tailoring his training to the civilian context.  There are a lot of good instructors out there and, of course, a lot of horrible ones.  My final word of advice here, though, is to get your priorities straight before beginning a search for training outlets.  If you are a civilian concealed carrier, set that as your priority in attending training and in your own practice routine.  While clearing structures with carbines or using night vision in a “night fighter” course may be quite entertaining, be sure that you are solid with the skill set that is actually going to be used in your real life if you need it: in particular your handgun.

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