Your best personal defense tool is your mind and the information you put into it. This includes what you extract from your training in mental preparedness and the use of techniques or equipment. The mind is our most dangerous and most valuable weapon. As a result, people are capable of extraordinary feats—things one would not expect to be possible.
For example, we would not expect a 70 year-old granny to be able to lift a car off of her granddaughter. Likewise, we would not expect one soldier to be able to single-handedly kill a platoon of enemy soldiers and save his squad. Nor would we expect a 98-pound female police officer to survive a .357 magnum shot to her heart, to return fire, and take out her 300-pound would-be murderer. Yet the right mindset made it possible for each of these heroes to prevail. Thus, it is clear that mindset can transcend most limitations—physical challenges, flawed personality traits, cognitive limitations, and so forth. So, the question is: what are the elements of the survival mindset that will assure victory in a combative situation?
Willingness means that we are ready to do whatever we need to do to survive a violent encounter. When we are willing, we will take the initiative and speedily, ruthlessly and mercilessly close the gap between a violent attacker’s actions and our defensive reactions. This is the counter-ambush mentality. Actually, we don’t defend. We counter-attack. After all, it is our life that is at stake!
Do something. Don’t dither. Noted defensive firearms instructor and author, John Farnam, is known for teaching that in a fight for your life, to dither is to die. You cannot afford to hesitate or freeze. You must always be doing something. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
Hesitation means death.. In The Shootist, John Wayne’s final film (1976), he played an aging and ailing gunfighter, John Bernard Books, who is asked by his protégé (Gillom Rogers, played by Ron Howard) during a shooting lesson, “Mr. Books, how is it you’ve killed so many men? My spread wasn’t much bigger than yours.” To that John Wayne (Books) answered, “First of all, friend, there’s no one up there shooting back at you. Second, I found most men aren’t willing; they bat an eye, or draw a breath before they shoot. I won’t.”
Fear is normal and okay. Fearlessness is not always okay. It could be detrimental to survival as it could lead to recklessness. Courage means that even if you are afraid, you do what you have to do. In his book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker talked about fear as a survival signal that alerts us to potential violence and danger. Thus, it is a signal that should be heeded, similar to physical pain. Heed fear’s signals and evaluate your risk profile. Unevaluated by a clear mind, fear becomes a phobia, panic, or “free-floating anxiety”. Evaluated by a rational mind fear can be transformed into righteous anger. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said on the eve of World War II that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He wasn’t talking about fear that freezes you into inactivity. That’s fear that can get you killed.