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I reckon self-defense has three main elements. First, detect. I can’t say it enough (although God knows I’m trying): it’s the bus you don’t see that kills you. Second, escape and evade. Sun Tzu knew it. The Japanese figured it out after two atomic bombs. There’s no reason to get into a fight if it can be avoided. Third, engage and attack. In Russia, attack engages you. Same goes for people who lack detection skills, or who are just plain unlucky. Now we can talk about how you engage and how you attack . . .

I’m a big fan of the Krav Maga philosophy of self-defense: hit them as hard as you can with everything you’ve got as soon as possible. When it comes to armed self-defense, there’s a somewhat simple trip wire for unleashing your firearms fury. If you or your peeps are in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily harm, if the bad guys are in the process of actuating that threat, you’re good to go.

YJMV (Your Jury May Vary). And what seems simple in theory is devilish in its details. At what distance does a perp become a credible threat? Shouldn’t you challenge before you fire? If not always, when? And if you do challenge, doesn’t that remove the surprise part of Adam Deciccio’s Krav Maga-like recipe for successful self-defense (speed, surprise, violence of action)?

Not so simple now, eh Mr. Bond?

Add another non-lethal self-defense system to your arsenal—martial arts, TASER, pepper spray, less-than-lethal ammo, etc.—and you now have a way to deal with a less than lethal threat. With a larger choice of tools, you can defend yourself appropriately and, thus, better avoid a manslaughter charge, right?

Legally, self-defense lives in the land of “equal force.” If someone shoves you, you can shove them back. But you can’t punch them. If someone hits you, you can hit them back. But you can’t knife them. If someone tries to knife you, you can shoot them. In other words, don’t shoot someone trying to punch you and don’t pepper spray someone trying to shoot you. Generally.

Equal Force Land has a sub-division called Disparity of Force. If you’re at a distinct disadvantage in a nasty self-defense situation, you can respond with greater force than the bad shit coming in your direction. If you’re a small, old, frail women facing a large, virile, male, chocks away. If you’re alone facing a gang of thugs, you can bring out the big guns. Generally.

YJMV. The more you think about it, the more you realize that you have to think about it. And the decision tree is a thorny mo’ fo’. Is that a bad guy? Is he about to harm me? How badly? Are we evenly matched? What weapon(s) does he have? How far away is he? Does he have any friends?

Conditions change. Quickly. The guy who punched you gets out a knife. And stands there. Now what? Challenge, pepper spray, gun, what? OK, you’ve pepper sprayed the perp. Two friends come to his aid. One starts swearing at you. You’ve got kids nearby. It’s a crowded restaurant. Now what?

You’re a woman walking to your car. A well-dressed man starts following you. He makes obscene remarks, but doesn’t close. Do you reach for your gun? Spray? Taser? Phone? Keys? You Tase him. He hits the deck—and then gets up holding a knife. Now what?

You’re a teacher in a classroom. A student starts acting strangely. He becomes belligerent. He knocks over a desk and reaches into his pocket. And leaves his hand there, smiling like a loon. Now what?

Adding a second or third weapon system to your concealed carry weapon adds complexity to the decision-making process. Which adds to mental processing time. Which slows you down. And remember: in all of these examples, there IS processing time. What do you do if you’re jumped?

The rabbi recommends carrying pepper spray. I understand his rationale. But I’m afraid it will cause a mental roadblock at a time when I need to be bombing down the synaptical superhighway. If only there was a place where I could learn when and how to use a range of self-defense techniques in an integrated fashion . . .

Until then, my self-defense strategy is sealed with a KISS. Avoidance. Hand skills for non-lethal threats. A firearm for anything approaching or within the lethal threat department. Generally.

Related: Michigan Self-Defense Legislature Allows More Powerful Pepper Spray

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  1. you should also have the card of a good defense attorney before you ever may one.
    Just in case.

    • +1!

      And it would also be great if you qualify for a handicap sticker. Or if you’re a woman. Or old. If you’re an old, handicapped woman with Dick DeGuerin’s card in your wallet, you can wipe out half the neighborhood with no adverse repercussions.

  2. Don’t give up on the pepper spray. Hand skills only work with you are close to your attacker and he is, therefore, close to you. Pepper spay works up to about 10 feet away (depending on the container) which can keep you from being hit, or de-escalate the situation before the physical fight starts

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