Gustavo Machado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Moultrie

Keepin’ it Recent, Relevant, and Realistic

Personal Defense training is probably one of the most contested subjects that two people could get into. Some people say it’s not necessary at all, and some people think you have to be Super Ninja 6000 and have a backpack full of tools to go to the grocery store. Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle. 

Personal safety is…personal. The decision for what’s important and relevant to you is up to you. Whether you even feel the need to become informed or capable at all is your decision. 

If you don’t feel the need to become a citizen capable of ensuring their own well-being, then that’s your prerogative. You’ll probably want to stop reading now, because I’m not out to sell you anything. I wish you the best.

Ok. Now that the Neverlanders have left, let’s talk about being a responsible member of society, because no one is coming. It’s up to us.

There are skills that are required to deal with someone who means to do you harm. Whether they’re an experienced attacker, some dude who thinks you beat him to a parking spot, or a wanna-be HOA representative who thinks your grass is too tall and has cooked up in their brain that you’re going to fight them about it, you’re in a bad spot and are going to need some skills to get yourself out of it.

Those skills are typically put into two categories. Hard and Soft.  Hard skills are probably exactly what you’re thinking.  Empty hand combative skills all the way up to firearms.  The movies have done an ok job making folks aware that this exists, and even have some folks thinking that because they’ve watched those movies, they have a pretty good idea of what they’d do.  I wish it were that easy. 

Soft skills are the things that nobody likes to talk about. Avoidance, Deterrence, and De-escalation. Verbal Judo. Farnham’s Rule of Three. Managing Unknown Contacts. Navigating transitional spaces. Nonverbal cues that violent criminals use when interviewing potential victims. Nobody talks about these things because they’re internalized skills. You don’t really get to show off how cool they look.  The irony is that these are far more important than hard skills.  The soft skills can help to prevent you from ever needing to use hard skills.  Wouldn’t that be cool? To have the skills to make sure you’re never in a violent altercation to begin with?

There’s a problem with both of these, though. They have expiration dates.  They’re rented, not bought.  And rent is due regularly.  If you haven’t made a payment in several years, it’s safe to consider those skills repossessed.

Legendary firearms trainer, Tom Givens, says that training needs to check three boxes. The three Rs. Recent, Relevant, and Realistic, with Recency being the king of all. 

  • Recent – When was the last time you tried it? 
  • Relevant – Does the training reflect my contextual concerns?
  • Realistic – Does it actually work, or is it feasible for me?

A quick note on Realism – If you intend make a pistol part of your plan, but can’t put your hand on it at any given time, it’s not really part of your plan. Please, stop kidding yourself. “In my truck” is not a good plan, for several reasons.

If your training does not check these three boxes, I’m afraid you may be in a worse position than if you had no training at all.  You may have a false sense of security about your ability to see yourself through, or better yet avoid, an altercation.  Now, I’m not saying that you have to go to class 5 days a week for 3 years to be more than capable of navigating these situations, but what I am saying is that single-session Women’s Self Defense class you took 8 years ago at the YMCA has long ago reached it’s “best if used by” date. The purpose of those classes is supposed to be to give you a starting point to continue your education, but they’re either never sold that way, or they’re not taken that way by the participants.

“I was never told that!” Well, consider yourself told.

You really don’t have to run yourself ragged by devouring every training opportunity that’s within traveling distance, but it would be a good idea to find a good school in your area that offers relevant and realistic training sessions, and attend them a few times a year. Find a quality school or instructor that’s within a reasonable distance from you, and see what they have going on.  Most schools are happy to set up group sessions that are separate from their regular classes if demand is there. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There may be other folks reaching out also (and the instructor is waiting for demand to make an announcement), or there may be people who are afraid to ask for themselves. 

Going to a few training sessions a year, optimally twice a month, will get you to a pretty solid place. As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to be a mat rat or range chicken to have a level of competence that puts you way ahead of the curve, but it can’t be zero or in the distant past, either.  Find a place where you can have a good time, get some work in, and develop the confidence to move through the world with a little less worry.

Take care of yourself. – Scott

Recommended Reading on the soft skills – 

The Gift of Fear, by Gavin DeBecker

Verbal Judo, by George Thompson

Left Of Bang, by Jason A. Riley and Patrick Van Horne

Choose Adventure, by Greg Ellifritz (also see his excellent blog here.)

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