Entrenched Positions in Self Defense

Although you can and most likely should try to glean what you can from what happened in Las Vegas in regards to your own safety, navigating a panicked crowd, etc., I want to make it clear that this post was written and prepped for publishing late last week before everything went down. So, no, I will not be talking about Las Vegas in this post.

The hardest thing, I’m told, is attacking an entrenched position. The challenge comes in the form of finding a way to maneuver around, to flank the position. This is just as true on the battlefield (never served, comment here is made from reading and going off what I’m told from servicemen who’ve “been there”) as it is when discussing opinions, especially hot button ones. You have to maneuver, you have to flank in order to get through the faulty logic and reasons in order to communicate effectively.

On practically every topic, you will find entrenched positions – regardless of fact, regardless of information or misinformation – it’s practically a given nowadays.

It doesn’t take long to find these entrenched positions in regards to self-defense.

If you hang around anyone self-defense minded long enough, you’ll eventually hear them talk about protecting their family and sometimes about how if “the day” comes, that they’ll be able to do it.

They’ll be ready. Full stop.

From my personal experience among those in the self-defense world, most of those who are “entrenched” fall in line with someone who – despite being well-meaning, – is untrained, unprepared, unhealthy (usually a few rolls over the belt), uninformed, or some sort of combination of those four.

I’ve had both failures and successes in the few conversations I’ve had with well-meaning folk like that fall into this category. The failures, of course, came from doing exactly what you shouldn’t do and the successes came from flanking to see what was behind the entrenchment.

When I’ve gotten around, I’ve tried to understand exactly why they believe they’ll be able to deliver on “the day”. Maybe its a form of cognitive bias, or confirmation bias – I’m not really sure – they insist that they will be able to deliver on “the day” despite training, despite physical fitness, despite mental preparation and counting the cost due to a myriad of reasons: the adrenaline surge, the love for their family, the anointing of God (think Samson), the weapons they possess, the “cowardice” of the criminal, etc. I have had at least five one on one conversations of this caliber over the last handful of years.

This subject popped back into my head again after my writing my posts about preparing for and participating in my first BJJ Tournament (See here, here and here.)

Firstly, as I cannot and do not speak on behalf of the trained warriors in our society (LEO, Soldiers, Special Forces), for the civilian, nothing can fully, truly, “prepare” us 100% for the time that violence comes to our doorstep. The closest we can get to 100% preparedness is training.

Serious training.

Training, drilling, stress testing the skill set learned, repetition upon repetition upon repetition, pushing your body physically, inoculating yourself to stressors similar physiologically to a real fight, rinse, repeat.

Over and over.

Similar to my experience at the tournament. I had trained, trained and trained some more. I had pushed myself with physical training on top of BJJ. I had taken care of my body with proper fuel and severely limited my intake of sweets and junk. I rolled many, many times with people who are better than me, both equals as far as rank as well as higher belts. I did everything that I thought was right to do in order to prepare. All of it certainly helped.

And here is where I tie this back in to the subject of self-defense.

At the end of the day I still found myself lacking and among the participants who did not go home in the top tiers of their brackets. I lost.

Does that mean I will lose in a real life fight? Not necessarily. However, I have gone so far as to see how my mind and body would react against an opponent who didn’t know me and was going full power against me to put me down. I put my BJJ skill set, technically speaking, to the best stress test I could and came back with a couple of losses.

Now, what if I believed with all my heart that the adrenaline would somehow get me through the matches – without training, without preparation – see what I’m getting at there?

My wife and kids were watching, too, and I love them dearly. But my love for them didn’t give me any special abilities. I personally do not buy the stories of “I know a guy who knew a girl who knew the cousin of the roommate of the person who bench-pressed a car off their baby”. People, no matter how much they love you or you love them, cannot imbue you with a super human strength and berserker warrior ability when their lives are in danger.

Guns aren’t magical. They are tools. Inanimate objects, devoid of special powers. Like it or not, when operating said tools in a real situation, what we have or haven’t trained will be to our benefit or detriment, and even that will be a severely downgraded version of our best training. I can’t be hardware oriented, tools are just tools.

I could’ve worn my coach’s brown belt and his favorite Gi but those things are just clothing – there isn’t anything magical or special in them that could transfer to me. It is the training that the person wearing the Gi and belt have put in that makes the difference.

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Hopefully you are tracking the overarching point of this post.

I won’t magically “have it” on the day that “shit goes down”.

This isn’t a mythical legend I am living in.

This isn’t a cartoon.

If I am serious about protecting my loved ones or myself, then it should behoove me to remove the planks from my eyes, take an unflinching objective look at what I am doing and weigh it against what I am not doing, and adjust accordingly.

Nothing can substitute training and preparation.

My life and the lives of those I love do not deserve anything less.

Train, then train some more.

Deeds over words.

So, some may be thinking, “Well, Tom, do you think you’ll be ready when/if the day comes?”

My answer: Am I willing? 100% Am I able? 100% Will it be enough? I hope so.

I don’t think I’ll ever come to a place where I believe I have done “enough”.

I have work to do. What about you?

Pursue Mastery.

choose-wisely

**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in the writing you find here, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of it. Thanks again for reading!**

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Acta Non Verba

“A good man doesn’t go around begging people to believe in his goodness. His actions and behavior speak for him.” ~C.H.

As the Scripture goes, “by their fruit you shall know them”. Actions and behavior, these things prove what you are about; these are the fruits of what you really believe or value. You can emote, prattle on and make convincing cases about all the things you believe or support and the positions you take. But without corresponding action, it doesn’t really matter.

Men. Fucking. Do.

Acta Non Verba. Actions not words. Like it or not, this is the plumb-line. You’ve heard it a million different ways: Talk is Cheap. Put up or Shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk the walk. Prove it.

If you pause and listen to all the talk around you from your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc., and compare what they say versus what they do, you can very quickly make assessments as to who is full of shit. Their behaviors and actions prove what they are really about. This is very disruptive, I know, because talk is always the easier and more comfortable path. It’s disruptive because it is the wind that will cause our house of cards to tumble and be scattered. Politics, Religion, Work, Relationships, Passions, Hobbies, Businesses, etc… all of these and more are weighed by what you do over what you say. Well, except maybe politics and religion, people seem to eat up massive amounts of bullshit in this area before calling leaders out on what they actually do… but I digress.

Acta Non Verba not only sifts the wheat from the chaff, but it can actually help us find the harmony in our own beliefs as well. Notice, I said harmony and not balance. Balance is like a see-saw with no motion. Harmony is more like two people working in cooperation with each other on that see-saw. The tides ebb and flow, bands and orchestras work together, peoples and tribes find a way to create civilization. It is all more harmony than balance. Applying Acta Non Verba helps find the harmony by prioritizing and executing; sifting through and finding the most important things and then acting on them first.

I’ve been putting Acta Non Verba into action in my own life over the last few years; taking inventory of what I do versus say and focusing on the doing more than saying. And if I don’t do then I shut the fuck up. It is a great reminder to continually strive to become a better man. To show, through my consistent actions and behaviors, the kind of man I am and am becoming. Talk is cheap. Actions have value.

No more, “I’m gonna do…”. No more, “I’m planning on doing…”. No more, “I should do…”

No more. NO MORE.

“Talk – Action = ZERO”

There is much more that could be unpacked here, but I am trying to keep my posts shorter and to the point.

ACTA. NON. VERBA.

Pursue Mastery.

 

Eulogy

graves

There is a man in my community, I’ve never met him, he passed away about ten years ago. However, his impact was huge. There are still ripple effects happening because of the way he added value to people’s lives and made an impact. Think about that… ten years later, his name is still being spoken and he is still having an impact. No foundation in his name, no organization. Just a man who made a difference.

“He had a lot to say. He had a lot of nothing to say. We’ll miss him…”

~Eulogy, TOOL, Aenima

Take a moment to ponder your death. Think about the people that will attend your funeral. Think about the people that can’t or won’t attend. Enemies. Acquaintances. Friends. Family. Community. Tribe.

What are these people going to say about you when you are gone?

Will you be truly missed once you pass from this world or will there be a great sigh of relief?

Will your name be spoken of ten years after your death? Ten months? Ten weeks?

“Standing above the crowd, he had a voice that was strong and loud. We’ll miss him. Ranting and pointing his finger at everything but his heart. We’ll miss him.”  ~Eulogy

Don’t fool yourself. Are you adding value to those in your life, especially those that are closest to you? Or, are you sucking all the damn life out of every relationship and interaction you have? Are you truly engaging people to bring the best out of them and yourself (again, adding value) or are you just being an asshole who wants his opinion heard and submitted to?

How do you know?

I’m not saying to seek to be everyone’s best friend.But don’t be that miserable fuck that everyone sees coming and mutters a curse word or two under their breath, frantically looks for something else to do before putting on the facade and having to deal with your unbearable ass.

Check yourself. Build yourself up. Build others up. Reciprocate the value they bring and add value of your own.

Not everyone is going to like you. Don’t waste your time on trying to make people like you. Great people always have a metric shit-ton of haters. All the haters can do is talk shit while you build. That’s what the greats do. The haters try to heap on shit, the hated keep building and let their work speak for themselves.

“The world lost a great man when he died…” This could be said in one of two ways at your funeral. The first can be said in an emotional kind of lip service. They are saying what they feel at the time, but more than likely it is only based in emotion and how they wish things to be. The second option is that the world truly lost a great fucking man.

Which do you wish it to be?

You don’t need to make headlines to be a great man. Think of the gentleman I mentioned at the beginning of the article. There are countless “unsung heroes” like him out there. They are unsung, only because on a macro level, they weren’t well known by even the local media, much less nationwide. However, within their community, friends, family and tribe… that’s another story altogether. Their names will be sung for decades…

Pursue Mastery… even in this.

“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

~Marcus Aurelius

 

Show Up and Fight.

Show up.

This does not mean being in attendance somewhere; being in a particular spot while you occupy a space.
It means being present; mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically; to fully engage in what you are doing. Showing up means not just going through the motions. Too many of us go through life on auto-pilot. Not fully committing, wanting to keep one foot in and one foot out…just in case.
In case what? 
Life is full of risk. Deal with it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes. Focus and commit!

Fight.

This does not mean simply drawing your weapon of choice and being violent.
Violence of action is needed, to be unrelenting in your pursuit, but in this context it also means putting in the work. Putting in the blood, sweat, tears and time; the discipline required to giving it every damn thing you have, and then some. It means not quitting. Having the strength, will, and indomitable spirit to keep going. It means not turning back because there was a setback, or challenge, or it got hard.
Life IS hard.

Life will hit you and hit you and hit you, whether you want it to or not. And life hits hard, it pulls no punches. Many times in life, most times, you have to hit back. Hit back with the strength and fury that is within your heart. And never, ever quit.

Show up and fight.

In Pursuit of Mastery

I’ve been tweaking a few things with the look and feel of the brand.

I like the colors, it reminds me of a private library or study; old paper, journals, leather-bound books, the smell of coffee, whisky and even some sweet tobacco. The kind of place I imagine having where I spend time each day studying, expanding my mind, enjoying a good read, or maybe even a peaceful nap while classical music plays in the background

I’m also reminded of training, hard training. Indoors and outdoors. Dirt, sweat, blood, canvas, chalk, leather, wood and iron, brass and lead. The kind of place I imagine having where I can spend time each day training and pushing myself; understanding and pushing past my self-imposed limitations with loud music in the background.

You’ll notice the picture of Leonidas, from the movie, “300”, accompanied a quote from the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus which reads, “First, decide who you would be, then do what you must do.” I’ve had this picture on my desk for about a year; a few months ago I made it the cover of my binder where I keep my goals. It is a constant reminder to act and pursue.

Underneath the new title, you see the tag line: Freedom | Strength | Courage | Honor | Mastery | Family.

First, let’s take a look at the beginning and ending “tenets” of the tagline.

Freedom: In life. Financial freedom. To do what I want, when I want; not tied to a 9-5 sedentary desk job. To be the craftsman of my own income and potential. In life, freedom from false allegiances, ties and obligations.

Family: You could also call this “Tribe”; the blood of covenants can be much stronger than the water of birth (which is where the saying blood is thicker than water comes from); some friends are closer, more fiercely loyal than family. I am pursuing Mastery in my life for my own sake, to become better, to grow and learn and improve, however, my family and tribe benefit from this and I take pleasure in that fact. I want them to benefit. I want to enrich the relationships I have and make them stronger.

The middle four tenets are taken from Jack Donovan’s Tactical Virtues in his book “The Way of Men”. I highly recommend reading this book. No, I am not compensated for suggesting it. The book is definitely something I will return to annually, his tactical virtues clarify thoughts and ideas I’ve been driving at.

These four vitures are the qualities you would want in a person if “shit got real”; these are people you want to depend on in a number of scenarios.

Strength: To be physically strong. Strength is a value all its own and you want those you depend on to be strong as well. Mental/emotional/spiritual strength is necessary too, because a weak person will crack regardless of their physical strength when the pressure is on.

Courage: In part, linked with mental/emotional/spiritual strength. It’s also the ability to act, to stand up and fight despite fear.

Honor: Having standards internally and externally to strive towards and to hold yourself accountable to. Having a sense of pride in the things you do that add value to the tribe or shame when you do something to their detriment.

Mastery: To be competent in the task you are given and to continually pursue improvement in areas of your life. Making strengths better and to make your weaknesses areas of competence. To be stronger, smarter, better. To add value to yourself and to the group.

For a better, more in-dept explanation, read “The Way of Men”.

In Pursuit of Mastery is about relentlessly pursuing the best life possible by improving yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.

It all boils down to Mastery, or Mastery covers all of them in some way, shape or form. Like a Master Craftsman of Life.

Masterful in my relationships with tribe and family, in relationships with women and men.

Masterful in my ability to achieve a level of financial freedom; to grow in that area for my benefit and purpose as well as my family and tribe. To carry a level of Mastery and competence in my work.

In pursuit of Strength; competent in the lifts and the PT sessions but continually learning and growing, pushing and striving to be better, stronger, tougher.

To be a man of Honor. Having your “word as your bond” is a rare thing anymore. Its rarity speaks of the lack of understanding of personal and tribal Honor. To continually challenge the weak areas in my life to grow to their fullest potential.

To risk sounding cliché, Mastery is a journey, not necessarily a destination. But it is a journey of ever-increasing skill, knowledge, quality and value. There is always another mountain to climb, another level to rise to, another horizon, another price to pay and another sacrifice to make to get to where you want to be.

 

Pursue Mastery.