Train Like Your Life Depends on It

(Here is another in a special series of articles by Jeff Cantor, an expert on personal security and close-quarter combat.)

So many people love to talk about their training, whether they go to the local shooting range and throw some lead at the targets or they hit the local martial arts school for a self-defense class.

Some folks have even spent years training in one thing or another to prepare themselves to defend against anything from muggers to madmen.

Over the decades I have had many martial arts and self-defense instructors come through my door with a foundation they thought was geared to the “mean streets.” That is, they believed their training was truly and authentically practical for street survival.

From my experience, however, I have found that the vast majority of these people – and with no disrespect to them — have studied concepts and techniques in an organized, progressive system of self-defense.

They have learned how to “fight.” And though those skills certainly warrant value, they won’t help them deal with real violence, like a ruthless, murderous, sneak attack by a career thug.

Then there are those who like to go to the shooting range. Yes, it’s fun and entertaining. You may even pick up some good tips and tricks. But it’s not training.

Ask yourself … Are you “target shooting,” punching holes in paper and looking for good groupings? Or are you training for a bloody shootout with a crazed gunman?

Most shooting ranges will not let you draw your weapon from your holster on a target or multiple targets – even if you don’t fire it. And don’t even think about trying a quick draw under stress.

So that removes a substantial aspect of practical firearms training right there. So target shooting at a range is not preparing you in any way for a violent encounter. So it’s not training, either.

Let’s clarify the concept of “fighting” versus “violence” because many people confuse the two and they are quite different.

Someone is “fighting” when they focus on hitting you, punching you, kicking you or beating you up. It is what everyone thinks of when they hear the term “barroom brawl” … but it is not about what I call “violence.”

In my world, “violence” means facing experienced criminals and psychopaths. These scumbags strike with little or no warning. They often ambush their victims, be it at night in the darkness or from behind.

They almost always use weapons that they are familiar with. And they will strike to kill you as quickly as possible or to inflict savage wounds that will leave you helpless and in shock.

And it will be over in a matter of seconds – one way or another.

In contrast, here’s how most fights go among normal folks.

When I was a very young man, I had a friend named Steve. He was an average guy from a normal home. He did some exercise, played sports and drank beer.

One night a group of us went out to the local watering hole to celebrate Steve’s birthday. While he was at the bar getting a beer, Steve apparently “bumped” into another young man standing next to him. The situation escalated as the guy said, “Hey, what’s your problem?” And then the long, cold stare between the two “combatants” began.

Luckily the observant bartender called over one of the bouncers. And the hired muscle told them both to walk away, which they did … for that moment anyway.

About an hour later, the guy at the bar walked over to my friend Steve and whispered in his ear that he would be waiting outside for him. Sure enough, we all walked outside and there the guy was with his friends.

Well I think Steve was nervously amped up at the sight of this guy and his friends. And I don’t think he really knew what to expect. He did not have to wait long to find out. The other guy quickly shoved him and then punched him in the face.

The two men grappled and fell to the ground together, wrestling and hitting each other. It ended when several of us broke them apart. Steve was bleeding from his face and ear. The other guy didn’t seem to have a scratch on him.

While not downplaying the fight that happened, punches were exchanged, there was bruising and some bleeding, but both people walked away. The margin for error in this type of situation is great.

On the other hand, when violence rears its ugly head, you can suddenly find yourself trapped in a life-or-death struggle. Don’t believe me? Just turn on the TV news. You’ll be inundated by stories about brutal home invasions, carjackings, assaults, rapes and murder.

Once while deploying overseas, after being wheels down and after doing the normal routine with customs and immigration, I checked into my hotel and made contact with my team. I had a couple of hours to kill before we all were meeting at the rally point to go over the latest Intel.

Though it was after 11 p.m., I went out for a walk. Being close to the beach, I ended up sitting on a far stretch of stone wall, well away from any passersby and adjacent to the sand where I could hear the surf and smell the salty fresh air.

It was a little before midnight, and there was a full moon. As I faced the dirt and sand road that traversed this long stretch of beach, I was just relaxing while planning out some contingencies for the mission.

About ten minutes into my dreamlike state, a man began walking toward me. Though I couldn’t make out much about him in the dark, I heard and glimpsed all that I needed to know that he was definitely a foe.

I heard an ominous click, like metal-on-metal. Then I saw the moonlight reflect off of his blade just before he swung it at my neck.

The blade was long and thin, designed for puncturing flesh. I ducked under the forehand slash, blocked the backhand slash at my throat and face and executed a “quick eject disarm.”

The blade flew out of his hand and down onto the dirt road. Though stunned momentarily, he kept coming with his fists. This time, I stopped him in his tracks and I made sure he understood that this was his last chance to get away, shall we say, somewhat unscathed.

He got the point and ran off into the darkness. I never saw him again. To this day, I don’t know if the attack was a random act of violence or was ordered by one of my enemies.

In any case the takeaway from these stories is that you must understand that when it comes to real violence, there is no margin for error. So you can’t just prepare, you must train to win!

The skill sets you need to combat the violence that exists in our society today are not intuitive, they are learned. In order to learn them, you must practice and hone them so they are part of an unconsciously competent response. Train the way you will need to defend, like your life depends on it … because it does!

Lastly, never forget that in a crisis situation, you will not simply rise to the occasion, but default to your own level of training … so start training now!

Until next time, stay alert, check your six, put your back against the wall and stay safe!

Jeff.

P.S. I’m deeply concerned about the explosion of mass shootings and terrorism we’re seeing in places like Columbine, San Bernardino and Orlando. I absolutely refuse to stand by quietly while these kinds of tragedies continue to happen. That’s why I created FREEDOM FROM FEAR with Sheriff John Bunnell of America’s Wildest Police Videos. And it’s why it’s so critical that you view it the minute it’s released Tuesday, July 12. Click here now to register!

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