8 Essential Elements for the Capable Self-Defender

While I am primarily a handgunner in the field of personal protection the handgun related skillset is only one among many that a capable individual should be serious about.  Many folks within the self-defense community have put together lists of critical skills to have, so this is obviously nothing new.  However, what I am trying to capture here is the elements that are virtually universal to the needs of all prepared citizens.

Some who offer such lists include things such as defensive driving skills and fire starting skills, but these things are relevant to only such environments.  Obviously, most of us drive a lot so knowing how to drive your vehicle defensively and safely is important.  Likewise, I think any capable man should be able to start a fire.  But here I offer specifically defensive skills that are universal, potentially needed in any environment. I propose eight elements as the core for anyone who is a civilian that does not necessarily need specialized skills or tactics, but wishes to be prepared for and capable of dealing with criminal assault and violence.  If you check these boxes you have a solid foundation to build on.


This first priority should be self-evident.  An individual will never pursue self-defense training of any kind if they don’t develop the mindset.  The acceptance that violence can touch you, personally, is the foundation on which all is built.  If you never come to terms with this, and you think violence only happens to others, then you will never pursue the rest.  This mindset will also lead to the development of situational awareness, which is essential.

Knowledge of Self-Defense Law:

This second priority is exceedingly important but, sadly, is typically ignored by most.  If you spend the rest of your life in prison after you defend yourself due to using force inappropriately because you are ignorant of the law that is not exactly a win.  You need to know self-defense law.  I put this towards the top of the list because I consider it essential before proceeding any further.

Contact Management and De-escalation Skills:

The ability to communicate is an essential life skill in general, but most don’t realize that it is an extremely important defensive skill.  To have a complete defensive skill set you need to know how to communicate with a potential threat, and you should be good at de-escalating bad situations.

Handgun skills:

Carbines and shotguns are awesome but the vast majority of civilian world self-defense with a firearm is accomplished with a handgun.  It is the gun you can carry on your person.  If you know trouble is coming then grab a rifle or shotgun, but when in civilian life do you know it is coming?  Such a luxury is exceedingly rare.  The handgun is the primary weapon of the citizen self-defender and long guns are supplementary.  Train with the gun that you will use.

Combatives Skills:

You should know how to use your hands in a defensive capacity.  A lot of gun guys don’t think it necessary, but 80% of assaults are less-lethal in nature and deploying a lethal weapon in response to such an assault will land an able-bodied male in prison for a long time.  Even under critical circumstances when facing a truly deadly assault hand skills may be needed to even be able to bring the gun or another weapon into play.  Combatives are crucial.

Less-lethal and Alternative Weaponry Skills:

Not every defensive scenario warrants shooting someone in the face, and not every situation affords you the ability to be armed with a firearm.  I am an absolute believer in carrying a less-lethal tool at all times since most assaults that transpire are not considered deadly under the law.  Having good hand skills is essential, but having a less-lethal weapon stacks the odds in your favor and gives you options.  Similarly, having skill with a variety of weapons, such as blades and impact tools, gives you force options when not armed with a gun.

Medical Skills:

You are statistically more likely to need medical skills to save a life in the wake of an accident or other crisis than you are to need your fighting skills.  Knowing CPR and basic trauma casualty care is exceedingly beneficial.  In terms of self-defense, people can get seriously hurt in a fight, obviously, and having the ability to stop traumatic bleeding is a priority.

Physical Fitness:

Being in shape makes everything you do better and this is especially true of fighting and survival.  You need to be fit to be truly capable of employing a complete set of fighting skill.  Not only is it essential for your health and longevity, it is essential for your functionality.  Work out.  Lift heavy things and do aerobic conditioning so that you have the strength and stamina to survive bad situations, be that a fight or otherwise.

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