“But what if he [INSERT AWFUL THING HERE]?”
I get asked this question all the time. It tells me a lot about the person asking it. “But what if…” tells me about a person’s frame of mind, and how they see themselves in violence. They’ve chosen second place, victimhood, with a wait-and-see attitude that makes them perfect prey for the best predators out there.
Now, this is not a conscious choice—they’re not “wrong” in an absolute sense—and it really speaks to how little violence we are subjected to across a lifetime. The average experience is zero to a handful of incidents, not nearly enough to draw operational conclusions. Our collective lack of experience shows what a nice reality-bubble we’ve created here in the First World.
Don’t get me wrong, it is nice; it just leaves us woefully unprepared when the rare, “black-swan” event of real violence intrudes.
A lot of time and money is spent figuring out how successful people think. In business, for example, it can be shown that there are modes of thought that routinely lead to ruin; closer to what we’re up to we can look to professional sports where the winners envision themselves doing the thing they wish to do, pushing away or minimizing doubt and worry, and then act purely to achieve that imagined goal.
Predatory sociopaths, especially those in prison due to society’s recognition of their success rate, thrive because they never see themselves as the victim in a violent exchange—only as the giver.
If you enter into such an interaction with your primary thought process being “what will happen to me?” then you are bringing along something that will impede your ability to succeed and win.
There’s nothing anyone can do about the biological facts of fear—the body’s response to danger and preparations to handle it (fight or flight) —but the psychological response to those preparations is under your control. Making worry a priority is a great way to kick off psychological panic. You want to use your body’s response to your advantage, not his. Train defensively and you train to help him do whatever it is you’re worried about.
If your primary concern is not getting hurt, well, I share your sentiment, but here’s another self-defense truth: That’s not really something you get to choose. Expect to get hit, thwacked, cut, shot. These things will happen whether you want them to or not. If we could choose not to have them happen, then believe me, we’d train them. We’d train the hell out of them. But it turns out the only thing you really have control of in violence is what you do to the other guy.
How do we train, then, for the best chance of operational success? Again, we can take our cues from professional athletes: worrying about losing does not make one win—worrying about winning does. Train for the result you want. Practice smashing targets.
It’s really that simple.
Trade out the worry for “How about if I do [INSERT AWFUL THING HERE].”