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I used to go shooting. A lot. Since the move to the Lone Star State, not so much. I think it’s because I now have something roughly approximating a life. Either that or I’ve screwed-up my priorities. Anyway, I do what I can away from the range to keep my armed self-defense skills fresh. For example, I practice drawing from concealment and moving towards cover or concealment (at home, unloaded safety-checked firearm) at least twenty times a day. There are things I do to maintain some semblance of operational readiness that don’t involve touching a gun, of which I’ll share with you . . .

1. Exercise

As anyone who’s ever fought anyone will tell you, combat is exhausting. Especially if you go all-in and get the f out (the recommended strategy for successful self-defense). Exercise is key to having the physical resources to stay mobile and mentally sharp when the s hits the f. Although there’s nothing wrong with gradually working towards a smaller, less bulbous profile, the benefits of exercise accrue to overweight people, too. A small amount of regular somewhat strenuous exercise can increase an OFWG’s speed and stamina considerably. Same goes for regular weight training and increasing strength. And then there’s balance . . .

As the above video demonstrates, “street fighters” are all about getting their opponent on the ground and then beating the bejesus out of them. Your ability to maintain your distance and/or stay on your feet after an initial attack could easily be the difference between life and death. So practice balance as well. Any exercise involving a BOSU ball [top image above] will do the trick. (I practice drawing from concealment while on the ball as well.) Really odd yoga positions work too. Or make something up.

2. Visualize

While what can be conceived can be created, what can’t be imagined can’t be created. Well, not as quickly or as well. So spend some quiet time closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a self-defense situation: a scenario where you might realistically encounter an imminent threat of death of grievous bodily harm. See yourself avoiding, escaping and/or attacking the bad guy or guys. Are your kids there? What do they do? What about the people around you? Are you carrying something other than a gun? Do you drop it or throw it at the bad guy or guys. Cover? Concealment?

“Gun visualization” isn’t about nurturing boyhood fantasies of good triumphing over evil. Wait. No. It is like that. Just as fantasy role play helps children make sense of difficult reality (and pack relations), positive visualization prepares adults to think the unthinkable. Not wanting it to happen. Preparing should it happen. There’s no harm in that. And plenty of real world benefit.


3. Immortalize

After interviewing dozens of professionals who go into life-or-death situations (e.g., a member of the 82nd Airborne) for a book, I reckon that accepting the possibility of death is one key to achieving grace under fire. Not the certainty of death. The possibility of death. You accept that possibility and then put it out of your mind. For some, that means placing one’s faith in God and an afterlife. Others simply decide what things – usually people – are worth dying for.

Don’t get me wrong. To paraphrase General George S. Patton, an armed innocent’s job is to make the other bastard die for his aggression. (Technically, “stop the other bastard’s imminent threat of death of grievous bodily harm.”) Knowing what you’re fighting for and accepting the risk of death allows you to relax enough to make that happen. To be focused and determined. Put another way, you don’t need a gun to figure out why you need a gun – just as you don’t need a gun to train for a gunfight. It’s one thing, but not the only thing.

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  1. What’s funny is after many bicycle accidents from childhood through adulthood my most grievous injury that took a year of recovery with PT, Chiro, massage & accupuncture happened not from a firearm, but doing a similar stance on the same kinda boosta-ball. LOL

    I think I’ll start “Moms against Boosta-balls.” “Mayor Bloomers? I need an influx of cash please.”

  2. “…less bulbous profile…” True of many people I know who ccw. Big isnt bad, but when their draw includes “move stomach fat” as a part of the process…something needs to be done.

  3. Once you’re comfortable enough with your gun handling skills to routinely not shoot yourself in the foot the exercises are the most beneficial thing to do. All of us can benefit from routine exercise in more ways than just surviving street combat.

  4. You’ve screwed up your priorities! Definitely screwed up! LOL

    I am very glad you put exercise first. I think that this is something that is too often missed. It is easy to go out and buy a gun and claim it is for self defense, I get that, I done that. I was in the same boat, fat and white with dozens of various guns around me.

    Then Sandy Hook happened and everything dried up. No guns, no ammo, no reloading, nothing. Sure I had a good stockpile but there was also talk of them banning guns and I feared deep down this would be the straw that broke the camels back. I started considering what I would do if I didn’t have the option of guns for defense of myself and family. Knowing I needed to be in better shape, being frustrated about the why things were going, and needing more confidence in myself I started exercising like crazy.

    I have to admit I didn’t know what I was thinking before. We have guys argue over if a 9mm is enough for self defense or do you need to go 45acp. Instead spend a little time lifting weights and spending time with a bag to throw some really good punches so you can get the guy off of you and then go to the gun, if needed. My reward for the work I put into my exercise is having much more self confidence that I have the tools to get to my gun.

    I also enjoy going to the range and being able to outshoot just about anyone(except current military) that accepts the challenge of shooting against me………challenge being that we run a half mile and then shoot using time and hit points!!

  5. Best advice I ever got in martial arts came from the son of the founder of the Tang Soo Do school, in my twenties, as a white belt, for what to do to prepare for a fight. It applied to everyone in the school he was visiting, white to 9th dan black belts:
    “Get in shape. So you can run away.”

    I’m no expert, at all, but any casual review of all the fights on youtube today says- don’t get in a fight. And if you do, run away. And if you cant fun fast enough, then stay off the ground. And if you have to avoid going to ground with multiple attackers, end the fight, fast. That’s why I would carry a gun, in any high risk places, to protect my family, and me as the provider.

    If I cant carry, I stay out of those places, and maintain SA to get out if one is developing around me.

  6. Read “Starting Strength”
    Do that ^^
    Stretch every morning
    Dry fire everyday
    Avoid stupid people doing stupid things

  7. The visualize exercise just recently got me to reconsider my EDC. I have a wife and two young kids (4 and 18m), so option #1 to run away may not be an option in certain scenarios. My EDC had been a pocket 380 for ease of carry and I was confident it would be enough to assist me in getting away. So running scenarios through my head being out and about with the kids I could envision many scenarios where I’d have to do something tactically stupid in the defense of my kids and for that purpose my pocket 380 seemed severely lacking! So now I’m the new owner of an XD 9 subcompact, 13 rounds in the flush mag and 16 more in the extended mag.

    • Very well put Chaddy. You can never really know what might happen, but if after running through realistic scenarios even the slightest possibility remains that you may need to do something stupid, try your best to prepare for it.

  8. “I practice drawing from concealment and moving towards cover or concealment (at home, unloaded safety-checked firearm) at least twenty times a day.”

    Only twenty? You’re not operating operationally unless you run that drill every ten minutes, like clockwork, all day, every day, bro.

  9. Opinions are like (noses). Everybody has one:
    1. Exercise –Play a sport regularly that actually demands that you move in balance and in all directions automatically. Singles tennis and squash come to mind. Austin has lots of both. Run, whether on the road or on a treadmill: There’s a reason boxers do lots of “roadwork,” and it’s the same reason SF guys do. It gives you leg strength, heart, and breath, and the improved vigorous circulation is very good for your brain, gets endocrine products to where they are needed, in the brain.

    2. Visualize –“Gun visualization” isn’t about nurturing boyhood fantasies of good triumphing over evil. Wait. No. It is like that. Good simply does not triumph over evil. Ask any attorney or experienced soldier. What triumphs is some mix of more practiced, tougher, smarter, and yes, meaner and more determined, whether in negotiations or street fights. Practice getting rid of your nice and considerate side the instant a fight is on. It can be done.

    3. Immortalize –I reckon that accepting the possibility of death is one key to achieving grace under fire. I don’t know about “grace” under fire. Sounds kind of Hemingway, and he was never really a warrior. He only boxed guys that he knew wouldn’t badly hurt him. He bragged a lot and often lied. I can only claim nine months of working very closely with true bad ass soldiers doing bad ass small-team things, and this is what I took away from them: Thinking about death is silly, basically a P’y activity. (Chose an heir, write a will, done.) What you should absolutely fear is dying a death that leaves a story of how you hesitated, f’d up, froze, panicked, begged for mercy, or hid behind some chick. Fight or evade, shoot, grapple, punch, kick, slice, but above all and for god’s sake just do it 100% all-in. It’s OK to die, just not to leave a corpse that is ridiculed. Achilles in the fight, Odysseus in deliberations. Or, hell, just avoid trouble….

    I spend much more time playing tennis than shooting. It makes me laugh. I must have identifed with “Kelly Robinson” as a kid.

  10. Train with all your weapons. Stay in shape so your heart doesn’t ecplode. Go easy on the fried twinkles. Punch a heavy bag. Kick a heavy bag. Practice with your knife, pepper spray, etc.

    Better yet, actually fight people. Grab some gloves and punch someone in the face. It’s best to get their permission first. Take a punch. Throw a kick. It’s good exercise, and good training.

      • Hell, when I came up if you had a beef with another kid at school the coache’s would bring out the boxing gloves and have you settle it.

        We still had that rope that hung from the cieling in the gym. I hated that rope. Try to have that rope or boxing gloves in a school now and you’d get sued and arrested.

        • What memories! I actually loved the rope. But the fights. My elementary school gym teacher did the “bring out the gloves thing.” I thought it was a great idea. If somebody started a fight they knew they were going to have to finish it. But in high school locker room fights were very common, and good training because the guys generally weren’t strong or skilled enough (9th and 10th grades) to do much harm, so it was good prep for the following years.

  11. Regarding exercise, if you are going to run for your exercise, get fitted for shoes. It pays off in spades when running by preventing injuries such as shin splints.

    Work out with someone you know to get a little competition going to push just a little extra.

    Buy a kettle bell. You can do a metric ton of exercises with just a kettle bell (there are even gyms dedicated to nothing but kettle bells… a little odd but whatever.)

    If you are going to lift weights, find someone who knows what they are doing. Improper lifting will hurt you and wont help you at all.

    And, finally, mix it up. Doing the same thing every day gets old fast and can cause you to quit.

  12. Try yoga. It’s relaxing, stress relieving, and does keep you in shape. Granted, it’s not cardio, but I find it easy on my body without shin splints, sore knees, torn rotator cuffs.
    You’d be surprised how difficult it can be at first, but it grows on you.


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