As I continue to train in and practice personal protection my evaluation of the world that surrounds me continues to evolve. A thought exercise that I have done for quite a few years now is try to prioritize the most essential elements of self-defense for the civilian. Occasionally, my criteria changes based on my further development of knowledge and skill, and also based on the evolving threats that materialize in the world. Crime trends and threats change.
At this moment, in the year 2022 in the United States of America, this is my recommended list of knowledge/skills to prioritize for your self-defense. While they are somewhat in order of most to least important, that is only based on likelihood of need. If you need a particular skill in an emergency, then that is the most important skill at the moment, regardless of your statistical likelihood of needing it.
Consider that the wider and all-encompassing scope of mindset is the most important aspect of personal protection. Likewise, physical fitness must be maintained, not only for the ability to fight, but the ability to live well. However, I here offer you the important knowledge sets and skillsets specific to personal protection for your consideration:
1. Emergency Medical Skills
This is quite likely the skill you would need most often and it is of the utmost importance. Start off by getting CPR and Stop the Bleed certified. After that a TCCC course would be worthwhile. The need to be able to perform CPR on somebody, or to stop life threatening bleeding, goes far beyond just preparation for violence.
2. Knowledge of Use of Force Law
If you are not intimately familiar with the laws that govern the use of force in your jurisdiction, don’t even bother carrying a gun. You must know the law. At a minimum, read the book The Law of Self Defense by attorney Andrew Branca before you start carrying weaponry. If you use force inappropriately your future is compromised either through financial ruin, incarceration, or both. The stakes are too high to neglect this essential knowledge set.
3. Proactive Avoidance
I will take “avoidance” a step farther than usual and reference “proactive avoidance.” In contemporary America, there is a great deal of social tension and mob activity pops up sporadically. Certain urban centers are also witnessing massive spikes in violent crime. Therefore, you must be proactively aware of what is happening in your vicinity or in any you will be traveling to or through. You must proactively find out what is happening and avoid the danger zones whenever possible.
4. Proactive Awareness
Once again, the time for casual awareness is over. You must practice to proactively see and identify danger in any environment that you inhabit. When pulling into parking lots you need to scan, and even drive around, to verify what is there, before parking. When entering transitional spaces you must take note of who is around you. Proactive situational awareness is of the utmost importance for the citizen self-defender.
5. Defensive Driving Skills
The automobile is a cornerstone of American life and most of us spend a lot of time in the car. The skills that are most essential to the citizen self-defender pertaining to vehicles is the ability to drive defensively so as not to be boxed in and immobilized. While high-end driving skills are fine, an overall awareness of what is happening around you, and a well-developed habit of leaving yourself room to move, are most important.
6. Interaction with the Criminal Element
This involves managing unknown contacts, de-escalation skills, reading threat indicators, and the other elements involved in dealing with the criminal element, or those who approach in a potentially dangerous way. These are essential skills that you should get training in.
7. Defensive Tactics
What I reference here are the skills and tactics related to managing and utilizing the environment around you to gain the advantage in a violent situation. The ability to pie corners, cross thresholds, use cover, use obstacles, and use white light when in dark environments to your advantage all fall into this category and doing specific training in this regard is of great value. A good understanding and practiced execution of lateral and diagonal movement in reference to a threat is also a key defensive tactic for civilian self-defense.
8. Less Lethal Weaponry Skills
While it has always been essential, the ability to deploy less lethal force is more important in contemporary society than ever. Most confrontations are simple assaults rather than deadly assaults, thus a less lethal response is justified where a deadly response is not. Not only that, but having only the ability to use lethal force and nothing short of it can leave you in a position where the situation escalates to deadly rather than being cut short in a less lethal fashion. In particular, defensive OC Spray should be a staple within everyday carry gear for most and the skills involved in its use should be learned and practiced.
9. Hand to Hand Skills
No matter what weaponry you carry there is the possibility of needing to deal with a contact distance threat with only your bare hands. Having at least a rudimentary skillset in combatives so that you can prevent yourself from getting knocked out, getting your weaponry taken from you, and making enough space to either break contact or deploy a weapon, is in order.
10. Handgun Skills
As is no surprise, the handgun is the best tool for defense against a deadly threat that can be carried concealed on the body. While there are many other facets of self-defense that prove important, it is skill with the handgun that makes the world of difference when facing the worst possible violence.
11. Long Gun Skills
The handgun is the daily weapon of self-defense for the armed citizen, but long guns serve an important purpose in overall preparedness. A fighting rifle, in particular, should be maintained for the event of social collapse where violence may run rampant. A rifle or shotgun also makes for an excellent level of superior force for home defense.
12. Alternate Weapon Skills
The most obvious two alternate weapon types referenced here are edged and impact weapons. It is my opinion that both prove limited as a go-to means of defense for the citizen on a daily basis due to a myriad of reasons, but knowing how to use edged and impact weapons is sound as they are the likely tools available in restricted environments where you find yourself unable to carry a firearm.
These are my twelve recommended categories for skills development for the armed citizen.