Protective Driving Training Yields Lessons

You are in and around your car for a large portion of your day and it’s statistically likely that you are at risk for assault or injury when you’re on the road. In fact, according to one U.S. Department of Transportation study, aggressive driving may be a factor in 50% of auto crashes.

In low risk, permissive environments, your highest risk for assault might be in the form of road rage.

If you can detect and avoid dangerous situations by the intelligent use of your own vehicle, you are far ahead of the game, even for for the other 50% of crashes that are not caused by some maniac with anger management problems.

We participated in an executive protection driving course and here’s a couple of highlights gained which you can incorporate into your own training:

Explore the capabilities of your car. Modern technology is amazing — the tires, suspension and brakes for newer, well-maintained vehicles provide you with an escape capsule that is capable of more than you think. But you have to find out the handling characteristics of you vehicle before you have an emergency situation. Find an empty area where you can practice turning and braking. Then begin to take corners progressively faster and try to stop progressively faster. Be prepared to hear your tires howl under protest and learn what it sounds like as you push their limits. Also be prepared to feel the thumping of the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) engaging when you brake hard. The Mercury Marquis that were used in this course are extremely heavy at about 4500 pounds, yet they proved to be surprisingly nimble when pushed. For example, I could do reverse 180s with the big car.

Explore your own capabilities as a driver. You’ll find that once you start exploring the limits of your vehicle, you’ll run into resistance from yourself as fear and old training fight to keep you from pushing the vehicle to it’s ability. Some students report they are hesitant to increase speed or provide sharp steering input because they are afraid they will lose control or because they fear damaging the car’s engine, brakes or suspension. One student (who provides close protection for a well-known female country music star) told me she was holding back because when she heard the tires squealing, she assumed she was doing something wrong.

Be mindful of your tire contact and car balance. Car control depends on an understanding of the physics surrounding acceleration and deceleration and it’s effects on your tires. The only thing holding your car on the road — and therefore allowing you to go, turn and brake — is the contact patch provided by each tire with the road. At the highest circles of driving, you’ll hear more talk about tires and suspension geometry than you will hear about horsepower. Ironically, drift drivers seem to have an advantage here because they are pushing the limits of traction all the time. They know where the edge is, because they intentionally go over it. For many, however, it seems that that only time you know you are on the edge of losing your contact is when you are inexplicably making lazy circles without any control because you’ve lost all traction with your tire patches. You’ll learn how to use your throttle and brake to put the weight of the car where you want it to maximize contact.

Get a coach. Many people think they are expert drivers just because they’ve driven for a number of years or they have never been in an accident. But the truth is, we can all benefit from having a professional coach observe our driving and providing instruction and feedback. Hey, you have a coach for personal training, martial arts and shooting, having a driving coach is not any different.

If you have any road rage stories that put you at risk of assault or injury, please share them here with the group. As always, you comments are encouraged.

This revised post originally appeared on the Defend University website which no longer features 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:


Lessons from Katrina: Neighborhood Defense

Here’s an article that originally appeared on the Defend University website about a real-life example of how you might be forced to defend yourself in a catastrophic event where there is no law enforcement around. 

A number of my team members from the agency I was connected to at the time volunteered to go to New Orleans to assist other LE units trying to restore order when local cops fled.  They told of some eerie scenes at night where the bad guys would assemble in certain intersections under the cover of almost complete darkness with just the lights of their cell phones making out their activities. They would assemble for a few minutes and then promptly vanish off into different katrina devastationdirections. The assumption at the time was that these groups were obviously up to no good — but the LEOs who were on station at various checkpoints had no directions to pursue or investigate.

Here’s the impressions I get from the news stories about this one particular neighborhood defense organization:

  1. These are not professionals.  Clearly they are a mixed bag of personalities and skills — however their motivation and creativity to protect their neighborhood is admirable. (If they can do it, you can do it).
  2. The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun. You can argue that a .22 magnum pistol and an antique 8mm Mauser are less than optimal as self-defense firearms, but having a firearm that you can manage and are confident with is a major advantage in these sort of situations.
  3. Yes, Virginia, real gunfights do occur and you have to have the will and the skill to defend yourself when no one else can.

katrina_defendSome of the other anecdotal stories I had heard about successful defense of homes and neighborhoods included the use of cars as barricades in front of homes and, in one case, the success by a single defender driving off an armed group of gang members with a 12 gauge shotgun.  Supposedly, the guy’s front porch and steps were littered with about 25 empty shotshell husks following the incident (meaning you might have to reload — multiple times). Other neighborhoods hired outside security firms to patrol the perimeter.

You and I may never find ourselves in this sort of situation again in our lifetimes.  Then again, we might.  You can never say never. Find your knowledge from others’ experiences and successes.

Train like your life depends on it.