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SemperFi brings up a good point underneath this video from gun guru Chris Costa: “Costa doesn’t teach taking cover because he has a ballistic beard to hide behind. For everyone else, take cover when you are in a gun battle. No exceptions! No one is going to stand there in the open and let you shoot at them, so don’t give them that courtesy.” Still, easier said than done. As someone who found himself planted like a Sequoia during a potentially violent situation, I can testify that getting off the X (as they say) can be . . . problematic . . .

Under stress humans have three—count ’em three—subconscious response patterns: fight, flight or freeze.

Freezing is not a completely ineffective strategy (otherwise it wouldn’t exist within us). Hunters look for movement. Freezing can make you less likely to be the target of their aggression, especially in a group. And make you seem like less of a threat if you are a target.

Freezing is not my favorite response. For good or ill, fighting makes you the master of your own destiny. To some extent. Fleeing offers you the best chance of emerging from a potentially violent encounter unscathed. When possible. Freezing makes you a sitting duck.

Most gun gurus’ have a simple, mostly effective answer to the standing still problem: dial-up your situational awareness before the incident goes critical. Have a plan ready-to-go. If you’re prepared to move before you have to move you’re far more likely to move when you have to.

This theory rests on the bedrock of Col. John Boyd’s OODA loop: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. That’s how we all process information. If your OODA loop is faster than the bad guy’s OODA loop you might be able to knock him for a loop, and live to tell the tale. The key to OODA loop speed is practice.

Chris Costa clearly has his OODA loop at maximum rpms. His classes are designed to make it possible for average dudes to do the OODA voodoo that he do so well. Like most tactical classes, Costa aims to create “muscle memory,” so that armed self-defenders can OODA-up ASAP.

Yes, well, in the video above, Chris’ customers are NOT getting a move on. They’re not running for cover. And when they DO move they usually do so in a line triggered by a verbal command: SHE’S GOT A GUN! SHIT! THREAT!

What happens when you’re not training with Chris Costa? When you’re, God forbid, relaxing? How do you get off the X when Chris Costa isn’t there to yell “THREAT!” at you?

That challenge is not OODA loop related. Truth be told, a good guy is always behind the bad guy’s loop. We are defenders. Worse, bad guys know that speed, surprise and violence of action is the road to success. When they strike their OODA loop is spinning like a top; ours is just spooling-up.

If it is. Don’t forget: that freeze thing is out there, somewhere. The trick to avoiding becoming rooted to the spot isn’t muscle memory or OODA loop practice. It’s recognizing and mastering DABDA.

That’s the acronym for the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. The grieving process isn’t just triggered by losing a loved one. Humans go through DABDA¬†all the time. Moving to a new city? DABDA. Caracal C recalled so you can’t carry it anymore? DABDA. Lost your keys or wallet? DABDA.

Facing a threat of violence? DABDA. This isn’t happening to me. Why the hell is this happening to me? How can I convince them not to harm me? I’m about to get my ass kicked. This is happening to me.¬†

Unintentional freezing indicates that a person is stuck in the first phase of DABDA: denial. This isn’t happening so . . . I don’t have to do anything. In fact, I can’t do anything. Processing information (i.e. formulating a plan)? Fuhgeddaboutit.

Moving on to anger can certainly work for a potential victim of violent assault. (Again, Darwinian evolution put it in second place for a reason.) That said, when someone acts/reacts out of initial anger they tend to do the fists-of-fury thing. Lashing out without any strategic considerations.

Phase three, bargaining, can also work. If you’re good at it and the bad guy’s into it. Phase four, depression, puts you back into life-threatening paralysis. Not to put too fine a point on it, that really sucks.

Acceptance is awesome! You know what might happen but you’re ready to act strategically, come what may. Once you reach the acceptance phase you can get off the X and fight. Or run. Or both. Or, indeed, freeze, should that be the best course of (in)action.

So how do you get through the DABDA process quickly enough to not get killed? Forget it. Skip ahead. Train yourself to move.

Moving is physical acceptance of a threat. I’m moving because this is happening. This is happening because I’m moving. You mind will catch up, eventually. Or not. Either way, you won’t be standing there when the S hits the F.

As Semper Fi asserts, no exceptions! All the time. Every time. It’s not draw, shoot and move. Or draw, move and shoot. As gun guru Rob Pincus points out, it’s drawshootmove (DSM). Or drawmoveshoot (DMS).

Practically, there are very few ranges where you can do realistic DSM or DMS. Find one. Use it. More importantly, practice your moves at home. No gun needed; mime your drawmoveshoot or drawshootmove with your finger. Do it twenty times in the AM, twenty times in the PM. Practice until you can’t stand still and draw.

DABDA helps humans cope with their world. It’s a normal, natural mental process for dealing with change. It can also get you killed. Master it or learn how to short-circuit it. Either way, if you find yourself frozen to the spot, remember that the mantra isn’t “THREAT.” It’s MOVE!

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  1. To wit,

    Mission of the Marine Rifle Squad—— To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy, by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy assault by fire and close combat.

    Fire and movement. I remember running live fire ranges in the 90’s through the early zeros in the Marine Corps. Good times. Tracers set more than a few ranges on fire, and we occasionally ran through bits of our own brush fires. Coordinating movement and fire was (is) a beautiful thing.

    I respect Pincus, and believe that be has done a very good job of taking those principles into the civilian world. My friend and I have our eyes on taking one of his carbine classes. He can definitely move and shoot, and I don’t know anyone who would want to be on the receiving end of all that.

    Pincus also has a hard core stance on fitness. It makes a whole lot more sense to be in good physical condition when facing and / or preventing a physical confrontation.

  2. I have to agree, a darn good article. I have trained to move foward, towards the threat, it really freaks out the BGs!

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