By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved
A lot has been written about the "fighting mindset" or "combat mindset". Pretty much every self-defense course talks at length about how you have to think a certain way to defend yourself and how you need to develop a "killer instinct". To tell you the truth I think this is more of a gimmick than anything else. The "combat mindset" or a "killer instinct" are esoteric ideas that allow a guru to sell books and videos for big bucks. Normally they bring it up in a column they write or spend a few minutes talking about it during a seminar and then let you know that, luckily for you, they sell a course that will tell you exactly how to develop it for just 4 payments of $39.95.
In reality, the whole idea of a "combat mindset" is over-rated. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: it is what you DO that is important. You can think anyway you want, the only thing that is really going to matter when someone is dragging you into the back room of a convenient store at gunpoint is the physical action you take. You can be scared shitless and ready to pass out from the fear, but, regardless of the condition of your mental faculties, if you suddenly grab a telephone off a desk and the turn and strike the attacker in the head as hard as you can and then run like hell, you're alive. You didn't think the telephone into the man's skull, you physically put it there.
Don't get me wrong, a certain state of mind is beneficial but it is not absolutely necessary. The necessary part is physically acting when you have to. Adopting a certain state of mind or way of thinking can definitely increase your chances of being able to act when you have to, but all it really does is prepare you mentally for the occurrence of violence and it is certainly possible to act without preparing. The process of preparing your mind for an occurrence of violence is what we'll cover next.
If you want to mentally prepare yourself for violence and increase the chances that you'll be able to act when you have to then the first thing you have to do is to REALIZE and ACCEPT is the fact that violence CAN happen to you and your family. Not only that, you have to REALIZE and ACCEPT that violence probably WILL happen to you or your family. Until you accept this truth you won't be mentally prepared for a violent altercation. When violence does happen your brain will think, "Wait a minute...this isn't suppose to happen!" and you'll be standing there frozen trying to process the event while it is happening. This is one reason why criminals get away with so many crimes, because their victims think that it will never happen to them they freeze like a deer in the headlights.
Once you realize and accept the fact that violence probably will happen to you or a loved one you need to make the simple decision not to be a victim. This may sound kind of odd but one reason many people don't fight back, even when they're being murdered, is because they don't know if they should fight back or let themselves be victimized. There have been a lot of people that have actually just stood there and let themselves be choked to death because they couldn't make up their mind and decide whether or not to try to resist.
It is as simple as saying to yourself, "I am not going to allow myself to be victimized". Once the reality that violence can and probably will happen to you is accepted, you allow your mind to open up and deal with the possibility of it happening. Then once you decide not to be a victim you give your mind a direction to go in when it does happen.
Next you need to learn exactly what your threats are likely to be, how they are likely to come after you, and then you need to develop a workable plan for when they do come after you. The difference between being a victim and being someone who successfully survives violence is having a workable plan beforehand. The reason criminals are so successful in committing their crimes is because they have a plan and know exactly what they're going to do and their victims don't. The importance of having an actionable plan for what you will do in a violent situation, and for having it before you step foot out your front door, cannot be stressed enough.
The next step is to educate yourself about self-defense and then take proactive steps to avoid crime and be on the lookout for it. You have to know the places where you're at risk and the places where criminals are most likely to attack you and you have to try to avoid those areas, and if you can't you have to consciously be on the lookout of criminals and other attackers. But again, these are actionable steps and not a special "combat mindset".
After that you have to understand that action always beats reaction. Action is offensive and reaction is defensive. Action takes control of the situation, charges forwards, and gets the job done, while reaction waits to see what the other person is going to do, then it decides what it will do based on what the other person did. Reaction is always a step or two behind.
In any potentially dangerous situation you need to take control and the way that you do it is by acting. If someone confronts you, tells you he has a gun, and then he starts to reach for it you should be taking action. Reaction would be waiting to see exactly what they do, letting them pull the gun, and then trying to play catch-up. Action is stepping in and driving your forearm into the guy’s throat the second he reaches for it. In any potentially dangerous situation action is always better then reaction.
This is one of the reasons why you should generally resist an attacker and always resist someone who is trying to abduct you. There are many people who have had someone try to kidnap them and by taking some type of action, often just yelling, biting, hitting, kicking, or turning and running away, they have created a situation where they could get away.
So we know that when something happens we're going to take control of the situation by acting rather than reacting and we have a plan so we know what we'll do when something does happen. As far as the mental preparation part of self-defense goes, that's the majority of it. By realizing, accepting, and deciding you've told your brain, "when this happens, I'm going to fight back", and by being knowledgeable about criminals, aware of your surroundings, and having a plan for when violence does happen it becomes far more likely that you'll act instead of react. Everything else in self-defense has to do with physical actions.
The only other aspects of mental preparation are to practice with both mental rehearsal and physical practice. Of course you should hit the mats and get some training time in but you should also spend 5 or 10 minutes a day mentally rehearsing an assault and seeing yourself, as clearly as you can, be proactive and striking your targets to end the situation. By mentally rehearsing your encounter you are further giving instruction to your brain and telling it what to do when you are faced with violence.
Now what about the actual encounter? Let's say that you've already done everything I've talked about above so you've prepared yourself mentally, and now you have a man standing in front of you trapping you against your car and threatening you with a knife. So now what do you do mentally? The answer is pretty simple, you focus on targets. The only way that you're going to stop this man from hurting you is to physically injure him so he is physically unable to attack you. The way you get this done is by driving as much force as possible into the weakest areas of his body...or in other words: striking targets. Since what you need to do is to access targets, what you should do is focus on them. The only thing that is going to save your life is by accessing his throat, temple, carotid artery, liver, knee, etc., so they are what you should be focusing on.
It doesn't matter what that man plans to do with his knife, his plans won't save you. The only thing that matters is to be proactive and get to his temple with a hammer-fist strike and drive all of your bodyweight all the way through until he hits his head on the ground. That is the only thing that will save you, targets, so that is what you should be focusing on.
There is another benefit of making yourself focus on targets and that is by making your brain focus on targets it isn't free to panic. It is ok if you feel fear because fear is a natural feeling that we have little control over; it is panic that we need to avoid because panic can lead to freezing like a deer in the headlights. Panic happens when your brain has no direction and is free to do whatever it wants. By directing your brain to focus on targets you are giving it a task to do so it won't have the free time to make you freeze with fear.
That's pretty much it, "combat mindset"/"killer instinct" in a nutshell. So save your 4 payments of $39.95 for something you really want...or if you really enjoyed this article you can always send them to me.