Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and look beyond our accustomed tactical comfort zone. Often, we are so consumed by all the typical tactics, gear and training available we forget to consider other aspects of protecting ourselves and our loved ones.
Consider the following. According to the FBI, a total of 12,765 homicides occurred in 2012. That same year there were 33,561 vehicular crash fatalities. That’s almost three times the number of homicides. You drive every day. You are responsible to your family to arrive home safely. You are also responsible for their safety and that of any other passengers. It would seem that obtaining drivers training is a critical component in the survival equation not only for yourself but also for your family members.
Also, “Other Arguments” is the leading circumstance related to murder in 2012, with a total of 3,085. Robbery tends to be at the forefront of many people’s minds when it comes to tactical training, but consider this: The total number of robbery incidents for 2012 in the U.S. was 341,680. Out of all those, only 652 people were killed. That’s only 0.2 percent of the total number of people who were robbed. This is probably why many self-defense instructors tell their students that money and belongings aren’t worth dying for. Let’s extrapolate some training insights to expand your everyday defense skills.
I have a passion for driving. I love it, live it, eat it, breathe it and teach it nearly every day at Academi Training Center in Moyock, North Carolina, where I work. I have been with the Driving Program since September of 2006, and I am a staunch believer in the importance of driving skills. Most of us like to think we can drive. I thought I could. I went almost 12 years as an officer with only one minor accident that involved the flu, extremely long hours and a fence in a post-office parking lot at about 3:00 am.
When I went through the Driving Instructor course at work, I found out I really wasn’t a good driver—I had just been plain lucky for a long time. I had many bad habits when it came to my eyes, braking and steering wheel management. These are the most common mistakes that most people make—yes, even many who believe themselves to be good drivers. Why? Because when stress is applied, a lack of solid fundamentals in these areas can instantly turn a normally good driver into a wide-eyed novice pawing the wheel at light speed while literally standing on the brake and staring at the obstacle that threatens to cause him or her harm.
In driving, when things go wrong, they go wrong fast! If you are not maximizing the use of your eyes and driving in search of information as far out ahead as possible, you are far more likely to be overcome by stress. The closer, faster and more dangerous the threat appears, the greater the adrenaline, resulting in protective reflexes such as tunnel vision, bracing out and extremely twitchy movements from both your hands and feet.
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During the first couple of days of instructor school, I was one of “those guys”—meaning his momma told him he was Superman, he thinks he can violate the laws of physics in a single bound and he doesn’t have sense enough to know when serious injury is just a late brake away. Understanding how driver inputs on both the wheel and pedals command a direct response from the vehicle and affect tire traction and control of the vehicle is foundational. Unfortunately, it is not taught in most Driver’s Education courses. In addition, recognizing how speed and steering demands factor into braking-zone judgment are life-and-death concepts, especially if you have to drive beyond normal limits.
The addition of stress compounds all of this. It’s critical to develop the ability to manage stress and not let it compromise good judgment. It is also paramount that every student become aware of the limitations that different vehicles, road layouts and traction environments place on performance. But perhaps the most important thing that you will get out of driver’s training is figuring out just what your own personal skill limits are and how to avoid exceeding them. You cannot fully understand this in theory—you must experience it behind the wheel, in a safe environment with a qualified instructor. They will know how far they can safely let you go, as well as where you can push it and make mistakes safely. Immediate feedback and guidance from a professional is what you need to really improve your driving skills.
Avoid The Threat
If you engage in high-risk behavior, you are much more likely to get burned. Don’t interact with people who like to argue, even if it is just casual contact at a bar or a club. It elevates your chances of getting drawn into an altercation.
Treat people looking for an argument like the plague. Stay aware of what’s going on around you. Often, violent people will look for a way to create an argument, but one in which they feel justified. When you see someone cruising for trouble, leave or move somewhere else. Don’t stay and become a possible target.
Don’t provide opportunity for your ego to get engaged. Once that happens it is so much harder to walk away and mutual combat is only a bit of verbal carelessness away. Also, monitor your alcohol intake. The first thing these chemicals do is lower your inhibitions and loosen your tongue. You are far more likely to voluntarily enter into an argument (or escalate it) while drinking than if you were sober, landing you in the middle of mutual combat and eliminating any opportunity to claim self-defense later on.
If you are angry, do not stay near the target of said hostility. Leave. Cool down. Do not engage while emotions are high. Also, if they are a stranger, you never know who you are dealing with or what they are willing to do. Avoidance is always better than engagement.
Before you can attempt to diffuse someone’s anger, you have to accurately read it. Become a student of non-verbal communication like body language and the differences that the pitch, tone and cadence of someone’s voice make in determining whether they are emotionally and physically on the edge of violence. Practice watching people whenever possible. Focus on determining what kind of pre-assault indicators angry people give off before attacking.
Engage in verbal and non-verbal dialogue that may undermine his anger. It might just be swallowing your ego. Both hands up in a non-violent posture is always good, but you have to sell it with natural body language. If it’s stiff and contrived and looks like you have karate kid hands, it will not work. Your whole posture—arm and hand movements, shoulders, head tilt and, most of all, your eyes and voice—has to communicate an authenticity, a congruence between what you say and what you show. You have to sell your sincerity, even if it’s fake. In the process, do not be aggressive in word or deed, do not invade his space and do not disrespect him or shame him, especially in front of other people.
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Shame is arguably one of the biggest motivators to use violence. Sometimes you may have to look soft at just the right moment and at others appear tough, dangerous and disconnected. Pick words that can diffuse his psychological state and appeal to reason. Read his motivations and the surrounding context. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so make a plan to address these areas. Read Gavin de Becker’s Gift of Fear, Rory Miller’s Facing Violence, Verbal Judo by George Thompson, Reading People by Jo-Ellan Dimitrius and anything on Marc MacYoung’s nononsenseselfdefense.com. Also, watch YouTube.com videos with real arguments that escalate into violence. I dissect them regularly at facebook.com/hardtargetsayoctg. Shows like Cops can also be helpful as well to study angry people and de-escalation tactics.
Commit to enrolling yourself and your family members in a high-quality, hands-on driver’s training program. I put both my son and wife through our Academi Accident Avoidance course, and it has saved them on multiple occasions. Stay Aware. Avoid if possible. Engage when necessary.