Most of the personal security and self-defense market in US seems to cater to traditional hard skills reactive training, in particular shooting and physical self defense techniques. These are important skills to have but there seems to be a dearth of training in other more soft, preventative skills. Even with in the hard skills arena there are several key skills that are under represented on the spectrum of available training. This is particularly true for people living away from major metropolitan areas who may find their options more limited. I am speaking mainly about the US market now, where shooting courses are particularly popular, but its also true internationally although the shift is more on physical self defense skills and martial arts. Again, there is nothing wrong with this type of training, but it is very reactive and usually strictly addresses or at least heavily focuses on worst case scenarios.
So, what other types of skills should we focus on? Here I present some ideas, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. I’ll will mention some soft skills first and then address a couple of under-represented hard skills. I should note there is some overlap on the soft skills part. We will do a set of mini articles in the future that will discuss these in greater depth and will look at how you might acquire this training or work on developing these skills independently.
Criminal Culture & Methodology
This is the basic intelligence on potential threats that should be used to inform many of our personal security plans and strategies. Understanding how criminals, terrorist or other potential adversaries think, live and operate can be extremely beneficial. Criminals are fundamentally different from us in the way they think and behave and applying logic and empathy to them is not an effective strategy. They will also often self-identify in many ways, either intentionally or unintentionally through behavior and iconography such as clothing, tattoos, etc. I should note this will vary greatly depending on your geographic location. There will also tend to be particular trends in terms of tactics, techniques and procedures used. Again, while some will be somewhat universal, many are geographically specific.
This is true tactical intelligence that can be applied to avoid potential situations. We will go into greater detail in another article but acquiring this type of understanding can go a long way towards identifying potential threat actors and spotting pre-incident indicators that an attack or other event is about to occur.
While criminal culture and methodology may vary from place to place, human behavior is largely universal. While there are cultural differences with body language, such as making/maintaining eye contact, person space considerations, etc., human beings across the world manifest signs of stress and discomfort in much the same way. There are a number of books and resources covering body language and behavioral warning signs. Some experts like Paul Ekman have done extensive research on facial micro-expressions for our purposes this is too granular and too difficult to detect, at least without extensive training. We need to focus on larger movements, particularly from the shoulder down but also head movements such as looking around, especially checking over the shoulder which is a very unusual movement under most circumstances.
Behavioral analysis needs to start with a baseline of the environment to determine what is normal and then cue in on anomalies or persons displaying behavior that is not normal. Being able to detect these anomalies requires a strong understanding of the baseline.
Social Engineering Recognition
One type of behavior we need to train to recognize is social engineering. Social engineering is a broad term we use to describe deliberate efforts to deceptively elicit information or manipulate someone. While this term is often associated with cyber security and information protection, it plays an important role in personal security in the physical realm as well. Being able to recognize when these techniques are being used on you is critically important. The use of guile and deception can cause the victim to lower their guard and make them very susceptible to an attack.
Conflict Communication / Verbal Judo / De-escalation
Conflict communication, verbal judo and the broader range of verbal and physical communication skills are very important and generally not well addressed. In particular, having a range of responses to different situations and know what is appropriate in each situation is critical. Some self-defense programs teach assertiveness, which can be very appropriate in some cases and can escalate the situation in others. De-escalation can be very useful in cases of social violence, like a confrontation in a bar or at a party, but will create a vulnerability with a more predatory criminal.
Any training involving use of force or physical self-defense, whether it be with firearms, empty hand, less-than-lethal weapons, etc. should include training on the legal aspects and implications. This should include, but not necessarily be limited to, local self-defense law in your jurisdiction, the use of force continuum, means/opportunity/intent/preclusion, interacting with law enforcement, articulation, etc.
Now we will look at a few of the underrepresented hard skills:
You are much more likely to be confronted with a medical emergency than you are with a serious security incident and many security incidents may have a medical component. Medical training should include basic first aid and CPR as well as treatment of trauma injuries such as hemorrhage. Training should address providing care to yourself for to others under less than ideal circumstances and with materials readily available in your environment.
As with medical, you are much more likely to become involved in a dangerous situation while driving than from any hostile threat. Driving training can include both routine measures and emergency response skills such as skid management and braking. In more hostile environments there may be a need for additional training such as barricade breaching, advanced backing and evasive driving maneuvers.
Integrating Firearms with Combatives
Plenty of people who train with firearms don’t spend much time thinking or training about how they would access their weapon if they were attacked at close range, how they would retain their weapon in a struggle and how they would maintain control and create space so they could either bring their weapon to bear or otherwise dominate their attacker without using their weapon. This is a very real issue and potentially a very real threat. The Tueller Drill or 21-Foot Rule demonstrates the risk posed to a person with a holstered weapon if they are attacked at close range. It doesn’t really matter if its 21 feet, or 15 feet or 12 feet. If the assailant has the element of surprise and attacks from close range it will be difficult to impossible to bring your firearm into play to defend yourself, you will need to deal with it another way. Training for this scenario needs to be a part of your training if you carry a firearm.