In the last lesson, Up Close and Personal, we talked about how to detect threats in close quarters. We’ve discussed detecting threats as early as possible to avoid them, deter them, or gain extra time to react to them. But what about those times when it is necessary to confront a threat, whether you are forced to or by choice? Each time you do so, there is a possibility you will be injured or worse. Even a seemingly minor incident can escalate into a deadly confrontation.
Here is an example from an acquaintance of mine who visited the bar of a popular restaurant, located in an affluent, well-policed area of Northern Virginia a few years ago on Halloween night:
My acquaintance and his girlfriend were enjoying the evening at the bar with another couple. As the four got ready to leave, he went to the restroom. A few minutes later, upon returning to his group at the bar, he noticed that a stranger had moved in and was being bothersome to his friends, particularly his girlfriend. My acquaintance scooted in between this man and the trio, and he asked the stranger to leave them alone. He then turned his back. As soon as he did so, the stranger pulled out a large knife and stabbed my acquaintance repeatedly, continuing even as he crumpled to the floor.
His injuries were severe. After being rushed to a hospital, he clung to life in intensive care for some time. He had been nearly killed in a place where no one would imagine something like that could happen, over a seemingly innocuous incident, and in the middle of a large number of witnesses. Onlookers were frozen in disbelief and denial because when something like this happens in a place and at a time when we do not expect it, we find it hard to fathom.
This incident highlights that any small interaction, anywhere can turn into a deadly confrontation and that any time we confront someone, we run a risk of injury or worse. The moral of this story is not that being prudent means to avoid conflict at all costs. Instead, it means that when you enter a potential confrontation, you must take prudent measures.
Sometimes we are obliged to confront a person or situation that is a potential threat.
Maybe you get cornered in a place you cannot leave without first confronting a threat such as in a bar, a shop during a robbery, or on a sidewalk where muggers, robbers, or aggressive panhandlers hang out. It could also be that you feel the need to step in to help someone, or that you determine a cause or principle is worth the confrontation. All are reasons we enter dangerous situations or confront someone. Whatever the reason, and whether justified or not, all have the potential to put your life at risk, just as the person in the story above discovered.
Each time I enter into a dangerous environment or engage in a confrontation, I look at it like I have just lit the fuse of an explosive.
Imagine you see a fuse sticking out from under a door and decide to light it. You can choose to watch the flame as it inches along the fuse and decide what to do later. Or you might try to put out the flame by talking or walking away. (Hence the term, diffusing the situation.) You could also decide to stick around and deal with whatever explosion occurs. None is the right answer in all circumstances, and none is wrong in all others. What it boils down to is that you have decided to get involved in something over which you have varying degrees of, but never complete, control.
That little guy you thought you could intimidate into backing off might juat pull a gun on you!
How would I have managed the situation my acquaintance faced in the bar as described in paragraph three?
Let’s unpack some thoughts and possible actions during such confrontations.
I’d like to point out as we begin, that I am not a proponent of one type of response (talking) over another (attacking), nor am I a proponent of any one kind of self-defense technique or fighting style. I do think there are tenets to follow during a confrontation and ask that readers try not to get caught up in techniques but focus instead on the principles shared.
Principle # 1: Never turn your back once you light a fuse unless it is to run away.
Since we know neither how long the fuse is nor how big the charge is, we must watch the fuse by facing the threat and by focusing our close-in SA as discussed in the Up Close and Personal lesson. Watch intensely for the subtle indicators that will give you that margin of time to react.
Principle # 2: Prepare for action either before you light the fuse or as soon as you do.
– Have you shifted your stance to be ready to move quickly?
– Have you either removed objects that might impede your use of your hands, or have you picked up something that can aid you, such as the Rattler Self-Defense Tool?
– If you are protecting someone, have you prepared them by either distancing them from the threat or putting a barrier between the threat and them?
Principle #3: Scan for secondary threats or means of assistance.
As soon as I have accomplished #1 and #2, I scan for other persons that might be part of the threat. If space and situation permit, I recommend taking a step or two in an oblique direction to the threat. This helps you detect and elude any accomplice that may be coming up from behind. You are also looking for anyone that might be of help: physically, verbally, or even to dial 911. During that scan, take the opportunity to look for any object that you can pick up or use to help defend yourself.
Principle #4: Consider the secondary and tertiary effects of any action.
Is decking a guy going to end the confrontation, or will it ignite a bigger one? Who is with you, and what may happen to them? Or in my case a few times, how might my handling of this confrontation impact the classified aspect of my mission?
Note that all four of these occur in the initial assessment period. We have not yet acted, and we want as many options as possible at our disposal before we commit. And though it sounds impractical to run through a list like this in that instant you are threatened, it really is fast and much of it a learned or trainined response taking a fraction of time.
I listed the secondary and tertiary effects last but that does not mean they are any less important; in fact, the effect they have is often greater than that of prinicples 1-3, but those are more immediate.
After we’ve gone through numbers 1-4, what action do we then take? We will discuss that issue the next lesson and cover some examples of different choices I made in several high threat instances.
Until then, practice prudence!