The other day I posted about my recent trip to a local hospital. During my visit I encountered a mentally challenged man pacing around the cafeteria. I wrote that I thought about using the napkin dispenser as an improvised weapon. My plan: should he get violent, I’d clock him with it. Thinking about it, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder‘s quote bubbled-up from my subconscious: no plan survives first contact with the enemy. More simply, sh*t happens. What if the napkin holder was out of reach? What if it was a swing-and-a-miss? Should I have a plan B? And if that was true, what about a plan C? And if I went through my daily life formulating plans self-defense plans A, B and C every time I went somewhere, what kind of life would that be? So I called the rabbi . . .
“You don’t want a plan,” the rabbi (a.k.a., gun guru David Kenik) advised, with characteristic bluntness. “A plan can be very dangerous.”
The rabbi confirmed my suspicions: if you’re responding to a potentially lethal situation by trying to implement a pre-ordained plan – in a self-defense situation that will be both fluid and chaotic – you could well end up doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Who’s to say your plan will be appropriate for the situation?
“Your pre-ordained plan will be a reaction to a specific, imagined threat,” the rabbi warned. “The problem lies in the fact that the actual threat could play out a million different ways from the scenario that you invented. The chance of your preplanned plan being the right solution for the real threat is nil.
“If you have a plan in mind and a threat actually appears, instinct will kick in and you will try to carry out the plan that is already in your mind. You may not discover that the plan is wrong until after you start to implement it. The time that you waste implementing the wrong plan increases the amount of time that it takes to implement the right plan, and that could have serious implications to your health and well-being.
“The trick to surviving is to respond appropriately, as quickly and decisively as you possibly can. Sometimes it means leaving. Sometimes it means fighting. Sometimes it means hiding – then fighting . . . You can’t know ahead of time who’s going to show up, what they’re going to do, and where they are going to do it. Therefore, you can’t know what you need to do ahead of time, either.
“How many bad guys are there? Where are they? What weapons do they have? What do they want? Are they robbers or murderers? Gang bangers? Terrorists? A disgruntled employee? Who’s with you? Where are they? What are they doing? There are too many potential variables to rely on pre-planned action.”
So . . . stay wary and go with the flow? No. The rabbi is a big believer in being prepared. (We’re talking about a guy who routinely carries two guns and occasionally carries three.) David instructs people who want to prepare for a violent attack – and then relax and forget about it – to scan their environment for defensive options. Possibilities.
“I’ll enter a room and take stock. I’ll look for exits, cover and concealment. I might have to go through a window. Is there a chair I could use to break the glass? I figure out my options, and store them in the back of my mind.”
And then? Then, if the s hits the f, then you make a plan with all of your options in mind. And implement it—fast. Only one problem: who can think – and think clearly – during the stress of a life-or-death self-defense scenario?
“Some people can, some people can’t,” the rabbi admitted. “Most people operate out of pure instinct – including armed people who depend on ‘muscle memory’ to react to a threat. Which can easily get you killed.”
After some discussion about genetics and self-selected sample groups (people who carry guns are likely to have different threat responses than unarmed people), we agreed that there’s only one way to test and improve an armed American’s “plan under pressure” abilities: force-on-force training.
“Good force-on-force training inoculates you to stress,” David said. “It helps make it possible to think and act under pressure . . . All that training on how to draw and shoot and reload and move is great, but there’s nothing more important than strategy and tactics. Knowing what to do and when to do it, and making those determinations fast is what you really need to survive.”
“Shooting skills must be so well engrained that you can shoot without thinking about it. Winning a fight is determined more by the plan that you implement and the speed at which you implement it. Surviving a lethal encounter is more mental than physical.”
“The biggest benefit that force-on-force training has given me is the ability to analyze threats, make a plan and implement it very quickly. This has to happen in fractions of a second.”
Question: is thinking under stress a frangible skill? The rabbi says yes, although not as frangible as shooting skills. What that means, exactly, is anybody’s guess. But this much I know: I’m heading back to Patriot Protection for some more training, to learn how to think under pressure. With a child in tow. At least that’s the plan . . .