Standing and fighting may play well on film. But if this were an actual emergency, it’s better to “get off the X” (run away) as fast as you can.
Google “personal security training,” and you’ll find all kinds of providers teaching things ranging from combatives to firearms to defensive driving. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to be an MMA fighter or shoot like an “operator.” After a two-day seminar at one of these schools, you’ll be ready to fight in the cage or line up in Seal Team 6’s stack, right? Wrong.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for “counter-threat” training and concealed carry. But the reality is that if you are attacked by a professional adversary, a normal “Joe” or “Jane” with two days of training at the range is at a disadvantage. So, what is a better approach?
A better approach is to avoid the threat altogether.
Avoid – Evade – Counter
When evaluating threats, there are a number of ways to mitigate risk. One is to do some research in advance: Know what areas and activities are high-risk, and try to avoid them.
For example, when traveling to any Latin American country, flagging a cab off the street could result in an express kidnapping…so don’t do it. Understand that vacationing in Syria is probably a bad choice. Do your homework, read the State Department’s country reports, maintain situational awareness, and have common sense on the street. Avoid known threats, and try not to place yourself at risk.
Sometimes a threat can’t be avoided. Seemingly random acts happen, and in an instant, you find yourself a target. In that case, what’s the next best option: jiu-jitsu in the street, letting bullets fly, or fleeing?
If you can flee, do it. The real world isn’t a Stallone movie, and you’re not the Italian Stallion.
If you can, evading (or fleeing) is the ticket. Sure, it doesn’t feel macho. But the real world isn’t a Stallone movie, and you’re not the Italian Stallion. There’s a popular saying in the military, security, and intelligence fields: “Get off the X.” The X is the ambush spot, selected by the aggressor to provide them with an advantage.
Getting away from the ambush location as fast as possible takes away the aggressor’s advantage and control and therefore, diminishes their chance of success. Why would you want to stand and fight on the enemy’s terms? If you can flee, do it.
Finally, there are times when evading isn’t an option. This is when countering comes into play. Your ability to pull off a weapon disarm, outshoot your opponent, or nail that flying arm bar is now live.
This training has its place, but what most instructors fail to mention is that you’re at a huge disadvantage. But why let reality mess up a perfectly good martial arts class? After all, what most students are paying for is a belief that they’re ready for a leading role in The Equalizer (which, by the way, is an awesome movie).
Countering techniques play better on film and may seem sexier than outright fleeing. But they can also give you a false sense of confidence…which might result in your skipping far sounder practices, such as avoidance and evasion. This overconfidence can be deadly.
Sound security training will focus on avoidance first, evasion second, and countering as a last resort:
- Avoidance training should stress situational awareness, target hardening, and research techniques.
- Evasion training should focus on security driving, conditioning responses, and escape techniques.
- Countering should focus on weapon disarms, quick and effective combative skills, and weapon employment.
As you seek to expand your personal security skills, make sure you take a comprehensive approach. Don’t get roped in by the glamour of standing and fighting. Instead, focus on the practical.
About the Author
Zach Grove is a former Counter-Terrorism Operations Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency who has lived and worked in some of the world’s most hostile environments. Zach is now the President of Armada Global, an investigation, intelligence, and security firm in Pittsburgh, PA.