Self Defense Training Priorities

By MamaLiberty

I read quite a few shooting and personal defense type blogs, and occasionally participate in such forums as well. Most, of course, reflect the interests of men, and young men seem to be fairly dominant. Even the blogs that showcase shooting and self defense for women seem geared toward the young and physically active. The training usually encouraged, then, is most often the vigorous and intensive sort, usually in a formal shooting school such as “Front Sight” – or at least fashioned after that level of experience. I can always tell that when the first sentence starts with: “I trained with three Navy Seals” over the weekend…”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not ever going to be able to “train with Navy Seals.” My 68 year old body has received a good number of insults and injuries over those years, and all that running, crouching and crawling around on the ground is simply not something I can do.

But older folks, and those of any age with limited physical abilities, have as much – or more – need to defend themselves than the young and fit. I think that goes without saying – but I said it anyway.

Here are some serious considerations.

First, a great deal of the professional and intensive training available seems to be geared for police, even when it is offered to ordinary people. You have to decide for yourself if you are ever going to need any of that, but most of us older folks, or otherwise physically challenged, will never need to “clear a room,” or probably ever encounter a hostage situation. Old women and young ladies with an SUV full of babies and groceries are not likely to need to know how to crawl through the woods and set up a sniper shot.

So, how do you decide on what kind of training you actually need?

Obvious as it might sound, first decide on the kind of threats you actually might encounter. Anything can happen anywhere, of course, but there isn’t any way to prepare for everything, so you have to narrow it down to the situations and dangers you are most apt to run into where you live, work and travel. Big City? Gang warfare and drive-by shootings may be your biggest worry. Live in a suburb? Probably home invasion and parking lot mugging are the most common. Travel long distances by car? You are most apt to find trouble along the road, or when you stop for gas and food. Drive a truck? That’s a whole other level of potential problems.

Read the news, the relevant statistics, and talk to your neighbors. You are most likely to run into unexpected problems when away from home or traveling, so extra precautions are necessary. The most important consideration is probably understanding the potential so you can avoid the places and people who would most readily present a threat. That’s the first level of intelligent self defense… don’t be there, and if you are there when trouble starts, get away as quickly as you can. Never forget that your awareness, your attitude and your resolve to make armed response a last resort is terribly important.

Being aware and anticipating problems takes some thought and planning. Think about what MIGHT happen, and go through the steps you’d need to take in your imagination. Visualization of potential situations and responses is almost as good as physically being there. Having a plan, even if vague and subject to change, is so much better than standing there looking at the reality in horror… with no idea what you can or should do. And if you don’t have a plan that you’ve practiced, at least in your mind, the frozen horror is the default response.

So, how do you train for that? Best is if you remain aware of that need all the time, as much as possible. Expand your “dry fire” practice to include home invasion scenarios. Think about where a criminal might gain entrance, what it would sound like, what you would do. What if you came home in the middle of a burglary? What signs from outside would indicate that someone had broken into your home? Practice looking for those signs, and what you’d do about it. Rushing in blindly, arms full of groceries (or God forbid, children), would probably put you into a very dangerous position.

On the street, in a parking garage, a dark parking lot at the mall, or out late shopping? What kinds of crimes are happening there already? Can you think of some way to avoid them? What would you do if someone approached you threateningly in those situations? WOULD they seem threatening at first? How would you know and respond? Think about this each time you go out, even if just for a little while.

Give some real thought to the idea that survival may well depend on your attitude, your willingness to fight, to do ANYTHING necessary to live. Most people I’ve talked to have not spent much time actually picturing themselves in that extreme place where they might have to shoot, and might end someone else’s life. How would you cope if you were injured, shot, stabbed? Do you have the will to continue fighting then? You have to think about how it will affect you ahead of time. Remember the default response of indecision – frozen horror.

No matter what your physical abilities, age or limiting situation, you can and should train yourself in this sort of response each day, all the time. Yes indeed, go to the range and practice your marksmanship. Take whatever formal training you can afford, to the limit of your physical abilities. Just remember that putting holes in paper, or competition shooting, isn’t enough to prepare you to stop a rape or end any other attack. You must be mentally and emotionally prepared/trained as well. And that’s something you pretty much have to do on your own.

Finally, you can have the best gun handling skills in the world, but it won’t do you a lot of good if you allow the criminal to take advantage of inattention or indecision.

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8 Responses to Self Defense Training Priorities

  1. Excellent article, ML, especially the discussion of attitude. I myself was moved at an early age by Jeff Cooper’s outstanding booklet “Principles of Personal Defense” and even moreso by his description of the combat mindset. Since that time, I have spent enough time on fundamentals to keep the technical skills reasonably sharp (okay, they’re probably better than that, but then I love to be underestimated), and the rest of my time training myself to be alert and aware.

    I like to think of it this way: I train not for the day I get into a fight, but rather for the day I finally fail to avoid one. For me, the difference in viewpoint is profound, and I have been perfectly happy with it. ML, I know you’ve heard me say this before, and I’ll say it again until the end of my days: the most unexpected and delightful thing about putting nearly all your energies into awareness, is that you notice far more of everything–and for me, at least, this means I notice a lot more things that make me smile than I ever used to. Sure, I do see the dangerous things from a lot further off now–and I’ve got a plan for nearly all of it–but most of what’s out there is definitely not that. And along with the basic competence to handle emergencies, confidence is high; I suspect strongly that I have avoided at least a couple of fights because of a simple projection of confidence at the right time.

    Basic competence requires neither high-speed nor low-drag. What is required is an excellent mindset, a commitment to awareness, an understanding of your own mind and body, and (only then) a few fundamental tool skills. (What I love most about writing out that list, is: look at how much broader this investment is than “just weapons”…it’s an investment in your own life. How could anyone say no?)


    • MamaLiberty says:

      Indeed, situational awareness is so much MORE than simply watching for danger or avoiding confrontations. Rounding that out to include being aware of all the joys and beauty around is an individual choice, of course, and I’m not sure it can be taught… but I think I need to add that aspect when talking to students. As much as they will agree with the concept, comprehensive situational awareness is probably not practiced much and this idea just might help cause more folks to make the commitment to observe, assess and plan better, both for dangers and the pleasure of just living.


  2. I would add that that last sentence does not just apply to fogies like myself, but should be Standard Operating Procedure for *anyone* carrying a firearm (or whatever) for personal protection. All too many of those “I Shooty-Trained With SEALs And Got Perfect Shooting Scores (and this T-Shirt!)” types absolutely lose it and fill their shorts when it comes time to do something that doesn’t involve carefully prepared and orchestrated range time.

    Paying attention to what your eyes and ears (and rest of your senses) are telling you will get you out of more Ugly Situations than all the SEAL-based T-Shirts in the world….if nothing else because one great option often – though not always – is to STAY THE HECK OUT OF THE UGLY SITUATION IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!

    Great article, ML!!!


    • MamaLiberty says:

      Thanks, my friend. I tried to show that the same precautions and training needs apply to everyone. One thing is sure… no matter how young, able and “Rambo” we might be to start with, we become the old and infirm eventually – if we survive.


      • The truly scary ones are the ones you read in blogs and fora who sound almost like they’re LOOKING for a chance to have to shoot someone. I will be a very happy camper if I can go to my grave without ever having had to fire a shot in self-defense.


      • MamaLiberty says:

        Oh yeah… Really scary… and yet, we live in a scary world. 🙂 If some want to be stupid that way, they just will have to live (or die) with the consequences. Stupidity doesn’t always have to be fatal, but it should be painful.

        As you said, even the buffed out and highly trained “Rambo” types have to deal with their nerves (if not full shorts) when faced with the real deal. I lived most of my life among military veterans, and the old guys will tell you ALL about it if you ask. Those guys never go looking for a fight, but they can sure finish one if it finds them.


      • I will be a very happy camper if I can go to my grave without ever having had to fire a shot in self-defense.

        Heard that.

        I admit I am pretty mystified with otherwise decent people’s interest in training like militarized cops…especially as it becomes more and more apparent that the blue gang does seem to have a continual jones to…ah…demonstrate what they have learned–to the point of deliberately escalating a non-problem into a problem in order to do it. (And then, what they do is usually a disaster…which is little surprise, of course, since training individuals with collective ethics and tactics would seem to guarantee nothing but disaster. But maybe it’s just me.)


      • MamaLiberty says:

        The militarized police, indeed. This is one of the main reasons I talk “turkey” with students about going to shooting “schools” such as Front Sight. Most of them (that I’ve looked into anyway) teach at least some “cop” stuff which can so easily lead folks away from the purely defensive attitude and skills they need. I read the comments often on various “gunny” blogs and forums, and am so often appalled at the “Rambo” attitude sometimes displayed.

        The best gunfight is the one that never happened. I had to shoot a man once, and I pray with all my heart that I never have to do so again. But I’m as ready as I can be to do that very thing if I can’t avoid it. I think that’s a very difficult thing to learn and teach, training hard for something you never want to actually do.


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