“There are two sets of skills that we have available to ourselves, and those are soft skills, that is using the brain box, and then there are hard skills, using the hands and weapons. The better of the two, 90 percent of that equation, would be your soft skills. So being able to see it, hear it, smell it coming is going to serve you better than relying, if you’re back on your heels against a wall with a really bad situation that forces you into going into hands and going into guns.” – Steve Tarani in For this self-defense expert at the NRA convention, something is more important than a gun for protection [via rare.us]

27 Responses to Quote of the Day: Using Your Brain Box in Self Defense

    • There’s an old aviation saying along the lines of “The wise pilot never has to use his superior stick-and-rudder skills.”

      It may well be nothing new, but it sure seems to be forgotten far more than it is remembered…

      • “A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of his superior skill.”
        -Frank Borman

      • Just wanted to jump in here, for the mere fun of it.

        “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots.
        There are no old and bold pilots”
        – – Whoever said it first

    • Perhaps; but it’s still a good reminder. Strapping on a gun doesn’t magically make you an all-seeing, all-hearing wonder-guy.

  1. Wait, the guy pictured, does not support a beard, show any tats, or wearing tactitard clothes. Therefore, knows NOTHING.

    • I read this as more of an “and” than an “or” recommendation.

      And this still works if you ever do find yourself in a gun free zone you can’t not go to and don’t want to take the risk (e.g. where I work).

  2. I suspect that we all know that the brakes on a car are only a small part of the overall function. A gun is only about 10% or less of rational self defense strategy or training.

    But when you really need the brakes, or a gun, nothing else is going to do the job.

  3. Your brain is obviously the most import element of your self-defense strategy because it is integral to every aspect of self-defense: recognizing a threat, formulating a response to a threat, and enacting your response to a threat.

    Perhaps the second most important element of self-defense strategy is speed: the sooner you understand a threat and the faster you respond, the better your odds of prevailing. This obviously requires that a person is alert and able to quickly get past confirmation bias. (Confirmation bias refers to our brain’s huge tendency to initially interpret a threat as a non-threatening situation. Coming to terms with the situation and finally recognizing a threat can easily take five seconds or longer … which is basically an eternity during some attacks.)

    Your third most important element of self-defense strategy is whatever actions you take … including whatever tools, weapons, and methods you deploy.

    • “confirmation bias”
      I thank you for that along with the definition.
      That will be added to my ever growing list of understanding the why & how of human action.
      Such as “accommodation”, “OCD”, “ignorance”, “arrogance”, and “stupidity”.
      (The last two being the most prevalent and, most interestingly, the easiest to fix. But it just doesn’t happen that way.)
      “Here’s yer sign…”- Bill Engvall

    • “Confirmation bias refers to our brain’s huge tendency to initially interpret a threat as a non-threatening situation.”

      That’s not really the definition of “confirmation bias” but it’s not a bad one for the discussion at hand.

      However, it should be pointed out that this works both ways. There are things that are hardwired into us in terms of survival and, due to this, we can see things as a threat when they are not. A stick may look like a snake and cause us to recoil from it before we recognize what it really is. That’s an instinct kicking in when our brain took a survival shortcut to warn us of potential danger.

      It also has a lot to do with previous life experience. People who grew up in the “burbs” will do all sorts of dumb stuff both in the woods and in the “concrete jungle” because they have no frame of reference. Conversely someone who has spent some time in bad places will have different reactions while in “the burbs” and what some suburbanite does may cause an unexpected reaction because, to the person with different experiences, the suburbanite just unwittingly did something that the other person perceives as a potential threat.

      You can see this with some of the protests against police. Someone does something incredibly stupid, gets shot and a bunch of know-nothings cry about it. Well, they’ve likely never had the experience (or any training) with how fast a weapon can come out and wreck your day. As such, they have no frame of reference and they don’t see the action as potentially threatening the way the cop does.

      It’s also important to know that our brain tries to make things fit our instincts and our preconceived notions and therefore will “fill in the blanks” in many cases. Our brain actively searches for patterns and where it finds part of a pattern it will often fill in the rest even if that means inventing things that are not actually present. Really useful and it explains why we sometimes see something as something it is not but it can lead to serious errors in judgement.

      We also naturally use shortcuts. Heuristics is the term IIRC and we become more dependent on these as our stress level rises. This, in and of itself, can lead to problems because those shortcuts, while useful, raise the rate at which we make mistakes. Combine that with the other problems and you can start having serious issues that are difficult to explain to people who didn’t see what you saw and don’t have your life experiences.

      You saw it, you know you saw it, but it wasn’t really there or it wasn’t what you thought it was. That’s a sword that cuts both ways and both ways are dangerous.

  4. Reading the article, this is the exact same trio of awareness, avoidance, and de-escalation that I was taught years ago and have been teaching ever since. I agree with the broad outlines here, but the key is in application of the specific techniques to achieve these ends.

    I’d assume he covers that material in depth in his classes. From a PR standpoint, it also looks good to have a normal looking fellow discussing other conflict resolution options before resorting to a firearm.

  5. ” Engage your brain before you engage your weapon.” – Marine General and Secretary of State James Mattis

    He said it much more economically.

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