By: Lt. Charlie Strickland
Are you a deliberate man, or woman? In the many movies about Wyatt Earp, one of my favorite scenes, and one that sums the man up, is where Wyatt says to Ed Masterson, “You are not a deliberate man, Ed. I do not sense that about you.” I know this is a movie, but, most American Heroes come from the movies. We study these icons and form our ideas of what a hero is from what we see on the screen.
That being said, the scene depicts a key point in the real world of combat, whether as a cop, a soldier or a citizen in an alley. In the training world we say “Action is faster than reaction”. That implies that the first to move wins. In reality based training scenarios, over years of teaching, I have seen again and again the first to move decisively, aggressively, in a determined manner, typically wins. It is hard to face a determined aggressor without having the inclination to retreat. Even in a scenario where five SWAT guys you know are coming through a door with plastic bullets and you are padded up, knowing it won’t really hurt, you have a hard time not retreating. It is just our nature to back away from an aggressive, deliberate threat. Getting into the mindset of being the aggressor takes a bit of mental preparation. Once that is achieved, think of yourself as a weapon, with a hair trigger. Keep the safety on, but, if you reach the point where a fight is eminent, bring it hard and fast. Make the first move and keep making it until the fight is over. Go long, win big.
There are, of course, legal considerations. Know the law and make good decisions about when to fight and how much fight is justified. As a citizen, stand your ground laws help in this regard. Know them. As a cop or a soldier, know the law, policies or rules of engagement. Knowing all this is a necessity, but, to put them into practice under critical incident stress takes mental rehearsal. Playing “what if” scenarios in your mind is a great way to stay on top of these situations. Take a possible threat and play it out in your mind. Then back up and change one variable. Play that one out to its conclusion. Do it again. Change variables like lighting, position, timing, weapons, nature of the threat, and numbers of subjects.
If you run into something that you don’t know, in practice, you have time to ask someone and wait on an answer. In a real fight, you have to make a split second decision and your life or your freedom may depend on your answer. Playing these scenarios over in your mind ahead of time teaches you the possible outcomes and gives your brain a place to go when it is looking for an answer in a hurry. Mental rehearsal is great practice. Having a canned response to an armed robber at an ATM, at a store, in your home or on a call for service can give you a starting point that your brain can react from in a hurry, and help you take the high ground. From there, you act, he reacts. You take the fight to them and don’t back up. I see in many scenarios with civilians and cops where indecision cost them the fight. They pull a gun and pause to see the bad guy’s reaction. Sometimes it is to shoot them, stab them or just take the gun away. Make a decisive move. Commit to it. However, make sure you keep in mind that you might have to stop as well. If the fight deescalates, you need to be able to stop just as fast.
Taking the fight to the bad guy is a deliberate act. Making a decision and acting on it is the way to win decisively. Having a plan for most everything is the key to being deliberate. When you take the initiative, you have to get into the aggressive mindset. I decided, long ago, that when the fight happens, I will move forward and end it. If I am hurt, I will fight through it. Hiding behind the car while someone walks around it and shoots me is not an option. Hiding in a corner, waiting for them to come to me is not where I want to be. Taking the fight to them is. I want them to fear me, not the other way around. Getting to the nasty business of killing someone takes deliberate action. Being mentally prepared to look someone in the eye and pull the trigger is a tough one. We may not have the intent to kill, but, we all know it is the likely outcome of our use of deadly force and we need to be prepared.
If I go, it will be growling at the world, not whimpering. I recently heard Lt. Col. Dave Grossman say it takes a predator to fight a predator. Well, I am the apex predator. I live at the top of the food chain. There are a lot of really bad people out there that may be better shooters, better fighters, smarter, and faster. They may even be better trained. But, they are no more dangerous.
I am not saying you should walk around picking fights and being arrogant, Just the opposite. Look people in the eye and speak politely. Carry yourself with a quiet sense of confidence. People see this “posturing’ and understand the volumes you are speaking, without a word. Be kind and polite, but, when someone crosses the line and you have to fight, have a hair trigger and be mentally prepared. When you are confronted with a threat, deal with it. Once you clear leather with that pistol, there are no time outs. In a real fight, end it fast. Be deliberate, move forward, cheat, but, win big.