Back in the day I read a report in a martial arts magazine about a man who was killed, stabbed to death, by a street hood. The victim was a Black Belt Karate instructor. At the time I was just a teenager with perhaps six months of martial arts training under my belt. When you are low ranking kid, white, yellow, blue belt, you look up to the black belts as invincible demigods. “How could that happen?” I wondered. “How could a Black Belt be killed by some punk”?
When you cut through all of the minute details, it comes down to one distinct and ever so important factor: will. The will to immediately do what is necessary to not only survive but destroy your attacker.
There are plenty of example of gunfights where police officers and armed citizens lost their lives because they didn’t harness their will to live. For whatever reason—fear, lack of training or both—they hesitated when they should have committed. In the YouTube police dashcam era, the evidence of fatal paralysis is unmistakable . . .
I run a three-day Small Arms and Tactics program where we teach Judgment-based Engagement Training. On Day one of JET training we show the students a dash-cam video that involved a deputy murdered during a traffic stop [above].
I cringe every time I watch. Despite numerous hostility indicators the deputy allowed the man to challenge him, retrieve a rifle from behind his truck seat, load said rifle, and kill the officer.
Wasn’t the deputy trained? Of course he was. For all we know he might have been a great shot on the range with his service pistol. Yes, the killer had some skill with a weapon, too. But skill wasn’t the deciding factor in this encounter.
By the time the officer made the decision to shoot, his attacker had a huge tactical advantage. The attacker, a Vietnam-era veteran, was committed to the assault and was operating on his own terms. The murder weapon was a Ruger Mini-14 in .223 Remington, a tremendously more powerful cartridge than the officer’s .40 S&W pistol.
The officer got caught up in the broken-record syndrome or for you younger folks, he was stuck in a verbal loop. The officer kept yelling “show me your hands” and “drop the gun” over and over again, ad nauseam.
While the cop was stuck in verbal loop mode, the killer went about deliberately retrieving, loading, and firing his rifle. The killer had made the decision to act and was totally committed to it.
From watching the tape it was obvious that the officer was not committed or committed far too late. The killer had the will to carry through with his intended plan.
How do you instill the will to do what is necessary? How do we teach armed police and citizens to apply deadly force without hesitation?
Force-on-force (FOF) training. It’s not just some cool novelty; it is an absolute must for officers and armed citizens to operate effectively in the rapidly evolving, hyper-violent encounters they will likely face in the real world.
Too often the FATS trainer is seen as a neat novelty item that officers are put through once. Force-on-force scenarios with role-players involve a lot of time and logistics and therefore are difficult to put together.
I’ve attended private training academies with veteran officers whose first real FOF was during that school. They’ve been on the road five, ten, fifteen years but never had the opportunity to get serious Shoot/Don’t Shoot training. In my mind that is not only negligent, it’s criminal.
It is during FATS or FOF training that each officer will experience their own personal epiphany. They’ve been taught the Tueller Drill or had “action vs. reaction” explained to them. However, it is not until they experience it for themselves that they realize just how fluid and dynamic violent encounters are. They realize that hesitation will indeed get them killed.
When it comes down to it, the simple fact is that the will to win, to defeat the enemy, is more important that simply having the skill. The question is a very personal one that only you can answer. You may have the skill you need, do you have the will to apply it?
Paul G. Markel became a US Marine in 1987. Mr. Markel has been a professional bodyguard, police officer and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Markel recently launched “Emergency Tactical Skills” program. For more info go to: www.EmergencyTacticalSkills.com