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No matter how much of a role tradition, self-improvement, or physical fitness play in your martial arts training, you should always be keeping real life-protection techniques at the forefront of your mind. All other aspects of your art will develop naturally out of the training but the ability to use martial arts to protect yourself requires focus. If you don’t constantly consider the “why” of everything you are doing, movements will deteriorated into abstraction.

I have had instructors tell me to always prepare for the biggest, meanest person I can imagine. When it comes to scenarios, we tend to think a lot abut defending ourselves against one or two attackers in the context of robbery, home invasion, bar fights, rape, and murder. But what about terrorism? Or, a public shooting? The following video, “Run, Hide, Fight” has been attributed to the Alabama Department of Homeland Security as well as to the City of Houston, TX. Although these scenarios are statistically very, very rare it did get me thinking about my training. Take a look and keep reading.

The actions recommended in this video make good sense. Evasion always improves one’s chances of survival as opposed to the variables inherent in engagement. This is why fighting is suggested only as a last resort. I have seen posts by some gun activists suggesting that the video is “anti-gun” since it encourages escape and does not present armed, “stand-your-ground” options. I think they are missing the point. The real message here is to be aware, and have a plan ahead of time. This removes a lot of thinking, allows for quick action, and improves chances of survival. For more on awareness training take a look at the Cooper Color Code.

But what about those of us who have spent years training in unarmed combat. Be honest. We have all fantasized about being heroes in one scenario or another, and we all want to do the right thing. Do we have an obligation to fight, to protect others, to put ourselves in harm’s way? You will each have to answer that question for yourself, based on your own set of values. Certainly Sandy Hook elementary teacher Vicki Soto thought so. She lost her life but saved eleven children. Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer (“Let’s Roll”) thought so. He and fellow passengers died saving uncountable lives on 911.

So, fighting may save lives, but also decreases your own odds of survival. Accept this and make whatever choice you see fit. But, if engagement is an option you want to be prepared for, here are some points to consider in your training.

1. Distance is your enemy when you face a shooter and you are unarmed. Bullets travel too fast to give you any appreciable advantage. You need get and stay close to use your own weapons (hands, feet, head, body). In the end, if there is going to be a fight at all, it is going to be close quarters, and much of it is going to be centered on wrestling control of the gun.

2. Having said that, don’t spend too much time training actions against a specific weapon or attack. There is no way to prepare properly for every situation unless you focus on the one common element – the man holding the gun. Weapon or no weapon, his (or her) natural weaknesses don’t change and that is where your attention should be.

3. The video mentions improvised weapons. Start assessing the objects around your office, school, or home and consider what use they might be. What can you throw. What can you stab with. What has weight.

The video got me thinking and these are just a few ideas that came to mind. I am far from being an expert in anti-terrorism. I do believe my training can have value in any situation as long as I don’t panic, and don’t hesitate to take action, regardless of whether it is evasion or engagement. If you have other ideas on this, please share. But, most of all, train hard, be smart, and stay safe.

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