In his timeless work The Art of War ancient author Sun Tzu wrote “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
For concealed carriers and dedicated self-defenders the majority of training available focuses on skills development. Taking the right kind of training that pressure tests your skills can indeed work towards “knowing yourself.” What are your capabilities? What are your skills? Do they hold up under pressure? However, most of the training world is devoid of helping the civilian self-defender know the anticipated enemy; the violent criminal actor. Many instructors will give a brief synopsis of the criminal element, declaring them ruthless and urging the proper mindset to be ready for the violence they can bring to bear. And………….that’s it. Do we truly know the enemy? The term “enemy” may seem out of place when we refer to the criminal element, but if a bad guy does his best to kill you or your loved ones, make no mistake, in that moment he is indeed your enemy. So, how can we truly “know” him?
The best source within to world of self-defense and personal protection for intel on this enemy is Dr. William Aprill. I had the opportunity to attend his class called Unthinkable this past weekend. William is a mental health professional with many years of experience in the field; he currently runs a private practice and consultancy. He is also a former deputy sheriff, and he is a dedicated practitioner and expert in the field of firearms and self-defense. So, he is hardly the typical academic (which I realized as soon as I noticed the Clinch Pick hidden under his shirt). He has practical experience in law enforcement, a lot of tactical training, and all of the academic and clinical training needed to bring his excellent class to the world of personal protection. Unthinkable is a deep dive into understanding the violent criminal actor (VCA) and it is geared for the layperson interested in knowing this threat.
I will say that I have probably listened to every available interview with Dr. Aprill up to this point. Seek him out on the many podcasts and other media he has been involved in. This, however, was the first time that I have directly attended his training. As much as can be gained through listening to his interviews, there is no substitute for spending a day in a class with him. Unthinkable is a phenomenal experience that should be at the top of the list for any dedicated self-defender, or simply anyone who believes in self-reliance.
This class is entirely presentation and discussion. The morning started with William giving a bio on himself, detailing some of his very interesting life experience. Then, he moved on to outline the central topic for the class: the Violent Criminal Actor. William explains that the VCA is actually just a small sub-set of overall criminality, but obviously a very threatening one. Violence is a tool of the trade for this particular actor, or even the end goal itself.
William delivers an excellent overview on “thin-slicing.” This essentially refers to the information a human can almost instantly gather based on first impressions of someone, and the conclusions drawn. Traits such as self-esteem, anxiety, and deception can actually be quickly determined based on only a glance. This applies to both our ability to recognize threats and also to the ability of the criminal actor to read us.
One of the most beneficial elements of Unthinkable is William’s presentation on the victim selection process and what criminals look for. They look for attributes that make a good victim and they do it by making rapid decisions based on quick impressions. Knowing these traits that mark an individual as a good victim is important for anyone interested in defending themselves, and the first stage of self-defense should be lowing your likelihood of being selected in the first place. William discussed the interesting, yet sad, element of multiple victimization. There are actually many people out there who have been victims of violent assault over and over again. The messages they put out into the world regarding their own personality are magnets for violent criminal actors.
I found this topic particularly interesting as I have dealt with it before, but only at the level of a layman. In an article that I wrote several years ago for Concealed Nation entitled, Body Language: Lower your Victimization Profile, I compiled what I could find from the research available on this topic to help the average concealed carrier understand what criminals look at in the victim selection process. Needless to say, Dr. Aprill provided an amazing deep dive into this. Interesting and disturbing as it may be, a person’s gait has everything to do with it. Physical infirmities, and certain awkwardness, makes a person far more likely to be victimized. Also, as should be more self-evident, being distracted and unaware of one’s surroundings makes for the ideal victim.
Dr. Aprill breaks these considerations down into a relatively simple concept: the VCA quickly makes the determination between “go” and “no-go.” Is an individual a “go” or is the person potentially dangerous and more trouble than worth, thus a “no-go.” The goal of the citizen should be to appear as a “no-go.” William also provided an overview on the typical cop killer. While this does not necessarily translate directly to civilian self-defense, this highly dangerous brand of criminal, inclined to ambush and murder police officers, exhibits the traits in the worst types of VCAs that we should all be concerned with. The personality type of the cops who are most often killed are also pertinent to the discussion, as these same traits apply to the citizen.
The afternoon was spend dissecting who the VCA truly is. Dr. Aprill provided an excellent overview of the top tiers of violent criminals, those with Anti-Social Personality Disorder, the Sociopath, and the apex Psychopath. He also explained that the majority of crime is not actually committed by these more rare, yet exceedingly dangerous, actors. A great deal of violent crime is committed by the lower tier of criminals, or even seemingly normal folks. This was accompanied by a discussion on the main reasons people commit assault and homicide.
Dr. Aprill also provides a great overview on mental health issues, and how these truly do, or perhaps better said, do not, influence crime. While there is indeed some VCAs who are mentally ill, people with legitimate mental health issues are rarely the bogyman they are made out to be. The worst offenders are, as Dr. Aprill so well illustrates, calculating and committed to their deeds. And, as is stressed throughout the Unthinkable class, they are entirely human, with their own code of conduct and their own values. There is a grave mistake in thinking otherwise. The real monsters walk among us, and Unthinkable provides the best analysis of this threat that I have yet to find.
I can’t recommend this class highly enough. Find out more about Dr. William Aprill and his training at aprillriskconsulting.com