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TTAG Commentator A Critic writes:

Fight, flight, and freeze are all forms of panic. The first two are panic driving your actions. The third is panic stopping your actions. None of these are desirable in an emergency. One should always remember the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe and practice the first and most important rule for gunfighting: DON’T PANIC . . .

I’ve read maybe four dozen books on martial arts and combat. My favorite is “Combat Strategy” by Hanho, a South Korean special forces type. There isn’t anything original in the book, it’s just the fundamentals I picked up piecemeal, and figured out on my own, laid out in a logical concise well explained order.

Chapter 1

Conflict between opposing forces. This is the most universal definition of combat. The concept of combat is that of opposition, resistance, competition, discord. And in many instances, this is the reality. Most conflict is born of animosity, anger, fear, hate or another negative emotion.

But there is another type of combat, that of warriors, those trained in the art of combat, not just the skills. They may begin the fight out of emotion, but once they engage the opponent, emotion disappears. It is replaced by total concentration and dedication to a single ideal – victory.

At its highest levels, combat is comprised of two forces moving not against each other, but in harmony with each other. They are not compelled by emotions or fears. They are in full control of their actions and understand the actions of their opponent. Like a physical game of chess, they plan many moves in advance and estimate their opponent’s actions and reactions based on training, experience and intuition. This combat is beyond the combat of conflict.

But what is the difference between beating the opponent with an emotional attack or beating him with a well composed mind? The results are the same. Each method will make the fighter victorious if he has the physical skills to apply. But what if he doesn’t? What if he faces a highly skilled or physically superior opponent? Anger alone will not carry him to victory.

When the opponent is superior in any way, the untrained fighter will have great difficulty in defeating him. The skilled fighter will have a dramatic advantage, allowing him to overcome his disadvantages and turn them into advantages. He will coordinate his skills to attack the most vulnerable parts of the opponent and defeat him with a minimum of effort. This is where combat becomes harmony within conflict. Harmony inside oneself and harmony with one’s surroundings. The skilled fighter trains not to oppose his opponent, but to flow with him.

This does not mean that he is passive. He has a set strategy for fighting, but he is not confined by it. If he finds a better way, he can adapt any time. He does not resist the rhythm and flow of the fight itself.

– Combat Strategy by Hanho

That is the fourth and superior option. Rather than reacting as an animal would, we have the capacity to develop and prepare ourselves to respond on a higher and better level.

There was a dramatic example of this in Mexico not too long ago. A former cop killed three out of four heavily armed and determined home invaders with a .380. I believe he was later ambushed and killed in retribution, for which there is often little to nothing you can do.

When this man was attacked in his home though he obviously didn’t freeze or flee – and since he was able to use a .380 in an extremely lethal manner (unless he got damn lucky) he didn’t panic either. He entered the harmonious combat mindset and was victorious.

Think about it. If you are home carrying and four guys break in wearing body armor carrying AK type weapons do you really think you are going to be able to kill 3/4 with your 9mm XD while you enter the panicked fight reaction in which your motor skills go to hell? Is it really a good idea to plan on being incapacitated when you need to have full access to all of your resources?

Self Defense Tip: DON’T PANIC


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  1. I am in shock and awe at the skill and determination of the man n the story. clearly and example of the adage ” any gun will do if you’ll do. ” within reason of course.

  2. Hmm… I don’t think my plan is that good.

    What about:
    “When in danger,
    or in doubt,
    run in circles,
    scream and shout.” – L. L. Long

  3. “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
    -Helmuth Von Moltke

    Having a plan in mind is all well and good. But you darn well better be able to improvise.

    • I think that’s rather the point isn’t it?
      If your plan is something like “Starting with my initial plan and assumptions, modify my plan and assumtions as more information becomes available, and calmly follow my plan as it currently stands.” then you’re pretty much covered, and the plan can survive contact with the enemy so long as you don’t panic.

      Anyone who thinks their plan must be followed to the end irrespective of changes in conditions is already screwed, because as soon as the plan needs to change they are bound to panic.

      Plan on changing your plan.
      If you are working with others make sure they know that is part of the plan, and make sure they know how you will communicate the change of plan.

  4. +1 A Critic

    It’s the same issue that we discussed in the stages of grief. Any emotion gets in the way. Anything that lessens self-control is a problem. Panic, extreme anger, fear are all killers — but not in a good way.

  5. Most people have no clue how they will react when the SHTF, and I must admit that I’m one of them. I’d like to think that being prepared and having a plan will make everything work out fine, but then again it might all go to hell when the time comes. Stress can completely change your plans and get you killed.

      • I’ve found that, when being shot at, you either piss your pants or get really pissed or both!

    • Join a dojo, Joe (then we could call you Dojo Joe). Have someone liver punch you and then have someone else ask you a basic math question. If you can answer promptly, you should be fine 😉

  6. One should always remember the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe and practice the first and most important rule for gunfighting: DON’T PANIC . . .

    I actually have that tattooed in three inch letters on my back. My only regret is that I can’t see it, but it’s still slowly seeped into my consciousness.

  7. In a severe emergency, you may not sense fear or anger or be aware of the adrenalin rush until it’s over, when you are beginning to reconstruct the events in your mind. When you realize what just happened, then you get pissed or scared enough to get the shakes. That’s a very common response, actually. I’ve experienced it several times. It must be a useful response, I have to think. It means you did not panic. At the key moment, you simply acted.


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