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Officer Survival trainer Lt. Dave Smith (a.k.a., JD Buck Savage) presents an excellent example of paradoxical thinking. How can you expect the unexpected? (As Monty Python reminded us back in the day, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!) Still, Buck raises an important point: complacency kills. And nothing creates complacency quite like routine. If routine has conditioned your mind to consider a particular situation non-threatening – like, say, coming downstairs for breakfast in the morning – an unexpected threat will catch you flat-footed (like the flat-foot described in the video above). How do you prevent that? Here’s the problem . . .

You can’t maintain a constant state of vigilance. Not only does the adrenalin demand wear you out physically, but people will start thinking of you as Mr. Paranoid. When you people start thinking of you as Mr. Paranoid, bad guys will force you to be a lookout for a robbery. When you’re a lookout for a robbery . . . you’ve seen the Direct TV ads. Suffice it to say, there’s a way to OODA loop up and spinning quickly and appropriately in response to a changing threat environment.

Sitting down somewhere, adjusting your breathing, closing your eyes and visualizing a successful battle against bad guys immediately before you go downstairs, walk the dog or enter a restaurant isn’t it. Who’s got the time, privacy, energy or expertise for that? Certainly not a cop about to handle a call, no matter how much self-hypnosis he’s practiced or how “routine” the job may be. No, you’ve got to program yourself well before time, so you can spool-up automatically.

Ideally, you should have someone else program you to automatically switch into self-defense mode as required. Self-hypnosis is a lot of work, much of it guesswork. Am I hypnotized? What should I be saying to myself? Am I hungry? I wonder if there’s any of that turkey left over from lunch? What time is it? Like that.

Finding a hypnotist who doesn’t call themselves a hypnotherapist and ask you about your mother and book you for weekly sessions is just as difficult as mastering the art of self-entrancement. Don’t look at me; I’m retired (although I did put together this hypnosis video for self-defense). But most things that could save your life are worth a little hard work. So . . .

Find some quiet time. Close your eyes, take five slow breaths, and guide yourself through a self-defense scenario visually while talking yourself through it. “I’m walking down the street at night. I see something move in the shadows. I hear a strange sound. I stop. I’m ready to draw my gun and move. I know where my cell phone is. I look for an escape route.

“Someone comes out of the bushes. I begin to move away quickly. I warn him off. He keeps coming. He’s got a weapon. I draw mine and fire. I stop the threat. I scan for other threats. I re-holster my gun and call 911. I am alive.”

The key difference between my recommendation and my man Savage’s: you’re pre-visualizing yourself detecting danger in an initially non-threatening environment, then imagining moving quickly from unaware to aware to prepared to initiating combat effective action. You’re programming yourself to be ready to react.

You can’t know when something bad’s going to happen. Bad things can happen when we least expect them. But you can train your subconscious mind to look for trouble and give your conscious mind a heads-up so you can react swiftly and appropriately. Strange but true.

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  1. Carry a flashlight, light up the sounds. Should give you a headstart or make a baddy pick a new target.

  2. Visualization of the best moves is something pro-athletes do a lot of, I understand.

    PS: was always curious ’bout the hypnosis angle, Robert, so thanks for the link…
    Uh, I have always been a little nervous about the comedy club hypnosis gigs – all the guys and gals getting walked on while suspended between chairs… “now you will make your body stiff and strong as a steel bar…”

    and doing various other embarrassing things in front of the crowd…so a question:

    If I start watching this vid I am not going to start barking at the moon here in the coffee shop, right…

  3. “Buck Savage” videos were part of training back in the 80’s.
    “The hands… Watch the hands”

    • “Ideally, you should have someone else program you to automatically switch into self-defense mode as required.”

      Actually, I think the technical name for this is the “Pink Panther” method. (/joke)

  4. Seesh. OODA Loop, Condition Orange, blah blah blah.

    Here’s an important self defense tip — PAY ATTENTION. How hard is that?

    If you don’t pay attention when you come downstairs for your morning bowl of Fruit Loops, you’re going to step on your kid’s little toy truck, fall down the stairs and break your damn fool neck.

    And yes, you can pay attention all the time, you won’t overdose on testosterone or cortisol, you won’t go crazy and your neighbors will not think that you’re bonkers.

    • I’m kind of down with this. I think having an active imagination helps. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, your impish mind insists on presenting the shit that could go wrong.

      • Sure, it’s all fun and games until someone trips on that toy truck and snaps his neck and his kid starts running around yelling, “Mommy! Mommy! Come quick! Daddy’s head is on backwards!”

        • I have an uncle that went out just like that, except he was going up the stairs, and it was at night, also he was drunk, and the stairs were going into a bar… Oh and, he wasn’t walking so much as driving a car, and the toys trucks were actually people… But, other than that, just like that.

        • I had an uncle like that. Except she was my aunt, she didn’t drink, she never drove a car and she’s still alive. But other than that, it’s like you and I were separated at birth. Or maybe by birth. I’m not sure.

    • Wow Ralph with that attitude we’ll soon be asking you to send back your secret Ninja decoder ring ! No more Ovaltine for Ralph !

    • ” Here’s an important self defense tip — PAY ATTENTION. How hard is that?”

      Whoa, whoa, whoa…. that’s not high speed enough for me, you’re gonna have to tactical that shit up!

  5. Did you don the proper 37 pieces of blackhawk gear before going to eat your tactical bacon for breakfast? That’s the most important part.

  6. Whatever ad server plays in the upper right corner is auto playing and making my life miserable here. PLEASE do something about it! It’s almost impossible to watch a video for having to pause until the auto play ad is over so I can hear it. Boo TTAG! Boo!

  7. My dad told me “even if you can’t pay anything else, at least pay attention”
    I was an absent minded kid so remembering his saying has saved my bacon more than once
    just by being aware.

  8. The key to reducing, not eliminating, the possibility of surprise is to know your environment and learning to spot things that are out of place. That is much easier on the brain than trying to evaluate each and every possible threat in the environment. Spotting the two hoodied gents punking around late at night in your neighborhood where such behavior is an aberration is much easier than maintaining a constant high alert level. Train your mind to trigger a higher mental alert level when you see something that doesn’t belong. Will that eliminate the possibility of surprise? — No, but it will make it less likely. A friend of mine and his buddies got mugged in Rio in the early 90’s. They were trained case officers who just let their guard down. You would think that three people trained in countersurveillance would have spotted the threat. It shows that you can’t be on orange or red alert all the time.

    • I’m afraid the system you are referring to is known as profiling. Even though it has been used successfully for going on ten millennia now it has been discredited by our current administration and is no longer authorized for use by non-professionals. Please cease and desist immediately.

  9. Observing mammals that have evolved to be very good at handling danger is instructive. Consider the lion: The lion walks calmly. He doesn’t have to work at being constantly prepared, hyper-alert for conflict because…he actually is prepared for conflict. He always brings his claws and jaws along for the walk. He’s looking for food or pleasure, but if he sees danger, he responds. He doesn’t forget how to use his claws just because he is basking in the sun.

    It doesn’t take more than a split second to go into full-claws-mode, does it? As they say, “when you spot a human predator, send signals that you are a predator, not prey.” If you are. If they don’t notice your signals, well, you will have to use your claws. That’s nature. Why go through mental gymnastics, beyond deciding in advance exactly what you will respond to with a gun? If carrying a gun and knowing how to shoot it quickly and well does not let you devote your focus to more interesting or profitable goals, what’s the point of the gun, exactly?

    • The lion doesn’t feel stress. The lion IS the stress. – COL Dave Grossman

      My favorite part of the “Honey Badger” episode Nature aired last night was the part where the honey badger broke out of his pen so he could go and mess with the lions in the next enclosure. And he did that repeatedly. Honey badger, apparently doesn’t give a …

    • Saw a piece the other day about a master sword-fighter who challenged and defeated 17 opponents in one day without hardly breaking a sweat. Apparently the key to his technique was to ALWAYS move (get off the X) in a relaxed circling motion, an action that was not common in the days of dueling with swords. He would continue this until his opponent got frustrated and made the first attack, at which time he would stick him easily and move on to the next.

      This relaxed attitude while keeping in motion and watching for potential aggression seems like a fine way to move through life with a balance of safety and sanity.

  10. These techniques are being used by PDs everywhere. Conditioning yourself to be hyper sensitive to a perceived threat is horrible advice. The results are more and more incidents of dead, innocent civilians and pets. Just last week a 15 year old child holding a wii remote was shot point blank by a cop at the front door.

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