Trainers, Training, and Mindset

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This is an ancient piece of wisdom and is true today. But does it apply to the individual citizen or law enforcement officer who just wants to get through the day and make it home to see his or her family in the evening? Absolutely. Mindset is the key to everything.

I was fortunate enough to sit in a live conversation broadcast the other night on training and how to select trainers. One of the participants, Varg Freeborn, made a statement about mindset at some point in the chat (most but not all was broadcast and I can’t remember if this was or not) saying mindset is 80% of any fight. He talked about a fight being pretty much won or lost before it even begins based on mindset. That one comment opened my mental file folder of mindset material previously read, taught, presented to students, or written.

A good friend and training mentor over the last decade exposed me to mindset when I first began training outside of my former occupation. One of the points he hit on was, “the best way to never lose a fight for your life is to not be there when it happens.” Of course that didn’t jive with my previous learning where my professional capacity was to find and win fights and it didn’t apply to my professional pursuits at the time, but it was a lightbulb moment for my daily life in society. Many people out there have this vision of overcoming steep odds and prevailing. It often doesn’t work that way unfortunately.

There are few “winners” in lethal encounters. Even if one successfully handles the encounter and emerges without injury, there are legal worries including civil suits and there is societal stigma in many places to face. News reports will often try to paint the defender in a bad light with family members going on camera to say their loved one made a bad decision but didn’t deserve to die and that person just got away with murder. These are real things to consider.

On the other hand, preparedness is key. I never intend to find a fight in my older and somewhat wiser age (and no longer being employed in that capacity). I would much rather be left alone and not have to deal with interpersonal violence. I steer clear of places and activities that would be conducive to producing those conflicts. But I don’t wear blinders either. The world is an ugly place and at the end of the day I won’t allow my daughters to be denied their daddy’s continued presence or be easily victimized because of my failure to see reality and prepare accordingly for the unlikely but potentially disastrous occurrence. After all, no one wants a house fire and everyone tries to prevent it, but how many people keep smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in the home?

I continue to train myself for the possibility of something happening against my wishes. I continue to use mental rehearsals to ingrain “battle drills” in my mind for getting out of an area before something happens, deescalating a situation if possible as it presents itself, or dealing with problem sets with the necessary force should deterrence, avoidance, or diplomacy fail. So far in regular life I haven’t had to use the third option since having the training induced epiphany and hope to never have to. That doesn’t mean I don’t make efforts to remain physically and mentally prepared to do it. I’ve thought about likely scenarios and a few unlikely ones, as well as continuing to observe my environment, and have made decisions before having to make decisions. That shortens my loop exponentially and greatly increases my chances of getting home to be daddy without worry for my freedom or lawsuit imposed bankruptcy.

How does this apply to the training and trainers conversation? It runs deep into the simple 80% statement as well as another statement to train with an instructor you could go to court with. That was a brilliant statement. I read about a course last week that is titled something along the lines of legally killing. Run from that class. Do you want to have an investigator, prosecutor, or “victim’s” family attorney find that on your training resume? I can see that class attendance alone used to hang a premeditated killing around your neck. Good luck with the jury. Then again, I was involved in an online conversation awhile back with a prolific trainer concerning a tragic incident of a reporter and cameraman being murdered on air. My points were coming from my experiences and my training, some of which was a course specifically focused on interpreting behavioral patterns and pre-attack indicators to stay “left of bang”. His main premise of the conversation was that the event was an ambush and that the individuals had no chance to react before being shot, despite multiple behavioral cues indicating something bad was about to happen including having a drawn pistol pointed at them for over 15 seconds before the trigger was pressed. He told me, “I don’t think situational awareness means what you think it means.” Evidently not. If those two poor souls had been given any training on SA and mindset they might have noticed something bad coming and might have been able to survive the situation. Unfortunately, we will never know. I will train with this individual to glean more insight into his statement. I disagree wholeheartedly but want to have a better frame of reference to base my final opinion on his material.

Here is the bottom line in my opinion… it doesn’t matter how good a fighter one is. There is always one better. There is always one faster or one more cunning. Develop the proper mindset before having to face that fact. Prepare as best you can. Finding a good trainer is much more than finding an individual who can get you to shoot A target at B distance in C time from positions 1-7 consistently, or how to use whatever martial arts technique. My experience tells me the best instructors give you that plus a big slice of how to seldom or never need it outside of the training facility and how to be able to use the skills without notice if it’s unavoidable. Mindset is the key.

 

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Mike Lewis
Retired Senior Noncommissioned Officer of Infantry with 20 years of active service in the United States Army.

"During my tenure, I was blessed to serve in some of the most storied units in the Army, including the 82nd Airborne Division and the 506th Infantry Regiment (AASLT) (Band of Brothers), and with some of the finest human beings one could know. I have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in support of combat operations, served on deployments to Egypt and Saudi Arabia in support of peacekeeping and stability operations, and served on the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). My final assignment in the Army was as the 82nd Airborne Division Small Arms Master Gunner, developing and instituting weapons training, conducting force modernization activities pertaining to small arms weapons and enablers, and consulting with the Maneuver Center of Excellence (Fort Benning, GA) on said subjects. I have attended both shooter and instructor level classes from some of the best trainers in the industry, am an NRA certified instructor, and have conducted firearms training on the civilian market for concerned citizens since 2007."