How Predators Choose Their Target

“There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory acts of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

“However, when there were cues given by potential victims that indicated they would not go easily, the cons said that they would walk away. If the cons sensed that the target was a ‘counter-predator’, that is a sheepdog, they would leave him alone unless there was no other choice but to engage.”

Lt. Col. David Grossman

Denial Kills You Twice

“Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth.”

Lt. Col. David Grossman

Mindset of Successful Defense Against Knife Attack

We have another post concerning a murder spree in  New York where Maksim Gelman killed four and injured another five people during a 28-hour rampage with an 8-inch chef’s knife.

His rampage finally ended on the subway when he ran into Joseph Lozito, a 40-year-old ticket seller at Lincoln Center.  He had noticed Gelman earlier and pegged him for a suspicious type. When Gelman tried to break into the motorman’s car and was repulsed by the cops there, he ran back through the car lunging toward Lozito yelling “You are going to die!”

Lozito’s actions and his story is a brilliant example of the successful self-defense mindset.

Lozito instantly counter attacked, taking down Gelman with a leg sweep. Gelman produced the 8-inch knife from under his jacket and began slashing at Lozito who was grappling with the killer, trying to control his wrist. During the onslaught, Lozito suffered a number of slash wounds to his head, hands and arms — typical

Joseph Lozito knife injuries
Joseph Lozito’s actions stopped the murder spree. (Photo credit NY Daily News)

defensive wounds suffered by stabbing victims.

Tying the bad guy up gave enough time for New York’s finest to charge onto the train and subdue the attacker.

Let’s look at the lessons we can take from Lozito’s brave and unselfish actions on that train:

  • Lozito is basically an untrained fighter although he is described as a “MMA buff” who watches the UFC on television. If he can do it, you can do it.
  • Lozito was highly aware of the suspicious nature of Gelman.  ”You could tell this guy was shady,” he said. “I had my eye on him”.  AwarenessHe was already ‘switched on’ to possible danger and was not surprised when the confrontation began. 
  • Lozito reacted to the threat immediately, most likely crashing into Gelman as the madman lunged forward, then kicking or sweeping the attacker’s legs out from under him. “I wouldn’t win any style points for taking him down, but it did the job,” he said. You are not in a competition, no one is scoring you on the looks of your techniques. Only the effectiveness of the techniques count. Remember, there is no second place in a lethal force encounter. 
  • His bulk (he is 6-2 and 270 lbs.) undoubtedly helped negate the charge from Gelman. Mass and firepower count in combat.
  • Lozito had a clear sense of his mission — take the bad guy down and control his wrist.  Concentrate on the immediate task at hand. Reject negative or disassociated thoughts that can enter your mind. Keep a clear mind and focus on what needs to be done right now, which is stop and secure the weapon. 
  • During the attack, Lozito pressed for a psychological advantage by telling Gelman, “You better hope that I die because I’m going to come kill you.” The tide of a battle or a deadly assault often turns in favor of the combatant with the sheer determination to fight to the end, to never give up.
  • Lozito’s commitment is obvious and he continued to fight despite being slashed severely.  However, as is often the case in the heat of defending against a murderous attack, he was unaware of his injuries until after the event when blood was pouring out of his wounds. You might have already been stabbed, cut, shot or knocked down. But that’s not the end of the fight. You must press on and persevere — finish the fight! Heinous injuries are survivable and modern emergency medical services will be there shortly to give you the best care on the planet. Better to act and be injured than freeze and allow yourself to be killed.
  • Lozito said, “I’m glad he picked me. There were a lot of women and children on the train who couldn’t defend themselves. He picked me and instinct kicked in.” You are morally justified — indeed morally obligated — to protect the weak and innocent from evil. 
  • He had something to live for.  After the cops subdued Gelman and a good Samaritan came forward to put pressure on Lozito’s wounds, he said, “I told him, you gotta get me out of here. I can’t die on this train.  I have a wife and two kids.” You have something bigger than yourself to live for: your wife, your kids, your parents. Don’t let him cut your life short — you have more to do in this life. You were not destined to die on the floor of some subway train or in a filthy gutter or deserted ditch. Keep fighting to preserve the life you deserve.

“I wasn’t going down without a fight,” he said. “I took his best shots and I am still standing.”

Kudos to Joseph Lozito for modeling the way of a successful defender.

This post has been revised from the original on the Defend University website which no longer features articles. 

Awareness for Self-Defense: It’s the People You Need to Watch

Most of the “common-sense” sort of self-defense includes some variation of the theme, “be aware of your surroundings and look for something out of place”.

We like to recommend something more specific and recommend that you watch the people in your surroundings.

Case in point: a weekend at one of the big box retailers.  Lots of people coming and going through the doors of the business with the corresponding volume of traffic in the parking lot.   About midday, tons of happy people walking.  Sunny and warm.

The ‘surroundings’ and the general environment were totally normal.  Almost festive.  If you simply vibed your surroundings, it all seemed normal and totally harmless.

Except for one car.

A car that blended well into the kind of crowd coming and going.  Nothing remarkable about it at all, except that it passed by the front of the store three times which is not normal.  Unless it’s someone waiting and trying to pick up a shopper coming out the front door.  But this car was stopping and talking with random people in the parking lot.  Wait — not just random people — only women.  And the women’s reactions seemed to be less than cordial to the driver.

What could possibly be going on?  Whatever it was, I’m not taking changes.  I wrote down the license plate number and the description of the vehicle.  Then I asked an employee to call the store manager.  I explained the situation quickly and pointed out the car.

The store manager walked out into the parking lot to investigate which prompted the car to speed away.  Probably a good indication that the driver’s motives were not entirely innocent.

Because parking lots are high-risk, transitory areas, it is particularly important to be aware of who is moving through them and who seems to be ‘hunting’ for prey (and not just hunting for a parking spot).

It’s the people you need to watch — not the environment.

This a revised post which originally appeared on the Defend University website which now does not feature articles. 


How to Win a Fight as an Underdog

The odds are against you winning against a larger, stronger opponent, right?

Not so, says Malcolm Gladwell in this article, “How David Beats Goliath”.

The secrets?

  1. Break the conventional rules.
  2. Effort trumps ability.

Thanks to Greg Holmes for the heads up on this.

This revised post originally appeared on Defend University which no longer features articles. 

Is it Reacting or Responding to an Attack?

This post originally asked for your comments regarding using the word ‘respond’ to an attack instead of the word ‘react’ to an attack.

Definitionally, both words are close in meaning.  The verb ‘respond’ means to react favorably or, in physiology, to “exhibit some action or effect as if in answer”. The verb ‘react’ means to act in response to an influence or to respond to a stimulus in a particular manner.

So you can see they are both somewhat circular using the other word during the description of their definitions. ‘Respond’ uses the word ‘react’ in its definition and ‘react’ uses ‘response’.

However, for self-defense purposes, I am trying to make a semantic differentiation to communicate a mind-set.

When you ‘react’ to an attack, it infers that you are acting in an immediate, instinctive manner. When you ‘respond’, you are assessing the stimuli and choosing an action that is the most appropriate. To me it seems that ‘react’ is natural and ‘respond’ is trained.

There are basically three natural actions when you are attacked:

  1. Flight
  2. Fight
  3. Freeze

The untrained reaction puts the defender, who is under tremendous stress, in danger of simply hitting the freeze button to answer the attack.  This is especially likely for defenders who don’t know how to to fight and who cannot flee because they are trapped or are co-opted by the attacker who threatens harm to their person or friends or loved ones.

The trained response follows more of Col. John Boyd’s famous OODA Loop that is comprised of observe, orient, decide, act.  Using this theory, the trained defender can process this OODA cycle quickly to events that are unfolding and use it to interrupt the opponent’s OODA loop (called “getting inside his OODA loop”) and gain the advantage.

I’m trying to get students to think about responding to an attack in a way unlike the untrained person who simply ‘reacts’ to the stress.

Am I simply splitting hairs here and making too much out of a slight semantic difference?

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Self-Defense: But It’s Only a Knife, Right?

This subject seems to come up whenever citizens and police officers are forced to shoot a knife-wielding attacker.

There seems to be something insidious about many people’s attitude to the deadly nature of a knife.  Perhaps it’s because knives are so utilitarian in our daily lives that we become overfamiliar with them and complacent.

We all need to remember the extremely deadly nature of knives. Take, for example, the killing rampage by Maksim Gelman in New York. Four people killed and five wounded. This should be a sobering reminder that you are automatically involved in a deadly force encounter when facing an adversary armed with a knife.

But, it’s only a knife, right?

Say that to the terrified victims who got away from Gelman after he stabbed them during two separate car-jackings during his spree. 

Read their stories at the link above and then refocus your mindset of what the level of response you need to consider when attacked this way.

You must be prepared to use lethal force against the knife.

The Modern Society Rules for Firearms Safety

This article originally appeared on the Defend University website. It should strike a very alarming chord for anyone who is — or is considering — using a firearm in their self-defense plan.

The traditional rules for gun safety are generally expressed as:

  1. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded
  2. Never point the muzzle at anything you do not wish to destroy
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until on target and ready to engage
  4. Be aware of what’s behind your target and beyond

There is also another set that is sometimes called “Lovejoy’s Rules of Gun Safety”:

  1. You must have a gun (sometimes you’ll see this as “the best gun to have is the one you have with you”)
  2. Keep your gun loaded and ready to fire at all times
  3. The first hit counts more than the first shot
  4. Use cover, concealment, movement and distance to your advantage

The website referenced above also has these two subrules:

  1. Keep a gun you carry holstered or concealed unless you’re ready to use it.
  2. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough or using cover correctly.

Now Gun law author Alan Korwin has another set of rules for gun safety that address the modern aspect of our litigious society:

  1. If you ever shoot in self defense you must prepare to defend yourself against execution for murder.
  2. When you drop the hammer plan to cash in your life savings for your lawyer’s retainer. Avoid this unless your life depends on it.
  3. Sometimes the innocent get decent treatment, sometimes they don’t.
  4. It’s always better to avoid a gunfight than to win one.
  5. If innocent life doesn’t immediately depend on it, don’t shoot. And if it does, don’t miss.

Beware the Knife Within 21 Feet

“…Department of Justice studies have proven that an adversary armed with only a knife can advance and defeat an individual armed with a handgun from distances up to 20 feet. By the time the armed individual recognizes the threat, determines that lethal force is justified, and withdraws the handgun from the holster, the adversary can overtake and incapacitate him. Adding additional steps to employing the handgun (chambering a round or sweeping the safety), significantly delays the shooter’s ability to respond and place rounds on target. Additionally, during life threatening encounters, one proven physiological effect is that individuals lose fine finger movement, and other motor skills are significantly impacted. This inhibits the individual’s ability to operate small controls on the weapon, such as the safety lever, and can event create problems with his ability to perform such tasks as pulling the slide to the rear to chamber a round. All of these factors reduce the shooter’s capabilities to respond to the threat with rapid and accurate firepower and places him at a major disadvantage, especially against an adversary armed with a firearm. “

Lt. Col. Stephen Dade, USMC (Ret.), Marine Corps Gazette, Jan. 2012

Many of you have heard this before — the so-called 21-food rule.  If you haven’t heard of or seen demonstrations of this concept, there are a lot of videos like this one available: