Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters by Charles Remsberg – Reviewed by Tim Boehlert

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Charles Remsberg

Calibre Press – Kindle Edition 2016

If you want to step up your game, improve your security stance, and increase your chance of surviving a violent encounter, you owe it to yourself and your family to educate yourself. Reading this book would make a great start.

It was first published in 1980 for the Law Enforcement Community, and I am assuming that it was written after too many Police Officers had been killed in the line of duty. Studies had been conducted that found their mistakes and identified the source of many of those mistakes made.

This book also served to launch a travelling road-show called Street Survival, which sought to correct a lot of the common mistakes that officers had made in the field. To that end, the Street Survial series of books served for many years as required reading in many academies.

I was lucky enough about 6 years ago to come across more than one reference to these ‘lost books while doing my own research to keep myself safe. These books contain a lot of great information. In these books you will find much of what we study and take for granted today. The adage, “Study the Old, to Understand The New” applies here. We didn’t invent this stuff.

One of the biggest challenges of learning anything is that you need to look behind the curtain and question many aspects of it – why does it work, what makes it work, why is that knowledge perhaps more important than the knowledge itself? If you want to learn anything, take ownership for your  own endeavors and effort. Ultimately, only you are responsible for you. Own that.

Much of what we train today, is not new, or original as you may be lead to believe. Exploring older books can lead you to some ‘new’ discoveries – tactics, techniques, philosophies, principles. This book is 36 years old, and yet there is a ton of relevant information in it that still applies and holds up today.

Below I’ve highlighted just a portion of what I think is still relevant and useful for self-defense, and I hope you do too!

Some of the many ideas found within the first volume of this series and which are worth reiterating here are:


  • The combination for survivability in the street is a combination of your abilities and what you have been taught. That is NOT a one-way street. You will be provided with only so much based on budgetary restrictions, the rest is on you. Too many professionals rely strictly on what they will be provided by their employer. In our world, that’s you. You may need to justify what you think is a reasonable amount of funding to keep yourself and your clan safe, but don’t sell that short. Here’s an example: I work five days a week trying to keep myself safe, my company safe, and our clientele safe. I spend annually between $1k-$2k to achieve that goal. That money is mostly for training. That training consists of books, videos, seminars primarily. This fits my needs, but does not maximize them necessarily. This will hold true for all of us. BUT, I am making the effort to keep my education moving forward, and ever-expanding, and honing in on specific skill-sets that I require due to environmental needs. That leaves holes in my plan that you could drive a semi through, but that’s life. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but if you can narrow down your specific threats, you can assure that you will prevail under those sets of circumstances, and MAY be prepared for others based on your learning.


  • Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it won’t or that it won’t happen to you. Complacency affects all of us in some way. Don’t let it settle in. Don’t tell yourself a story that just because statistics say it’s likely to never happen that it wont or that you aren’t the one it will happen to. Take a reality check and let that sink in. You, and only you are responsible for yourself.


  • Be prepared. Again, that falls into several categories, but in my opinion being prepared mentally is at the top of that list. This covers awareness, but it also cover physical and emotional realms as well. Don’t be that guy/gal.


  • You don’t get to decide that the BG (Bad Guy) is going to do, UNLESS you can. Violence is a very broad set of rules and you don’t get to know which ones are in effect, nor which ones will be on the table when the SHTF. Know that you dont know, and be good with that. Make peace with that and move forward with your plan to shut it down.


  • Come to terms with your moral and psychological considerations BEFORE you get into it. Really spend some time examining yourself and your capabilities and responsibilities. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Just because you should, is it legally justifiable? Spend a lot of your time doing what-if scenarios in your head – where it’s safer to make mistakes.


  • Force is not the answer to everything – there are alternatives that you need to arm yourself with. Learn some basic verbal skills, de-escalation, tactical communications, verbal judo – it’s all about NOT having to use your physical abilities on another, and it’s legally your required first step of use-of-force when it’s applicable.


  • What you think about violence isn’t necessarily the reality of what it will be – for you. Many things happend during ‘an event’ that you haven’t even begun to consider. Add to that mixture the fact that you haven’t practiced much of what you know nearly enough to handle this situation. Throw in your reactions – chemical dump, emotional upheaval, environmental booby-traps, multiple goals, etc… it gets complicated in the blink of an eye, and a lot goes through your head or it doesn’t. Have you prepared yourself for any of that?


  • “Training to face reality takes extra time, extra energy, extra creativity.” A direct quote from Carl Remsberg. It’s not only important in formal training, but in what you do everyday. You need to make the effort to move yourself forward on your on time as well as when you’re ‘in play.’


  • Have you truly assessed your capabilities and your dependence or independence of deploying a weapon? Do you know your weapon intimately? DO you know your ability to use that weapon on another human being intimately? Do you understand the aftermath? Some very heady things to work on, now!


  • Hands. They are what will hurt you. Agreed, but there is a larger picture to consider as well – being blind-sided is one of those possibilities. You can’t always be ON, but you need to raise your level of awareness, and educate yourself on everything that MAY keep you safe. Whether it’s learning more about knives and knifers, or guns – handguns, long-guns, ammunition. Try to educate yourself to the extent that your friends will get a little uncomfortable about how much you know and the things that you find interesting. THEN you might be ahead of the game, just a little.


  • Educate yourself not just in Martial Arts, but in Military Martial Arts, and Police Marital Arts. Learn about the OODA loop, about the Awareness Color Code. OODA alone will make you more capable IF you have digested it, and keep it in the forefront of your mind.


  • Practice is always good, and the more realistic it can be, within reason where injuries are uncommon, but not unexpected, but it’s not the same thing. Realize that it’s not real, but a pale substitute. It’s not like being there, and doing it. There are many, many aspects of being there and doing it that you’ll only get after you’ve been there and done that, that’s when all of the training starts to make sense, to make you go back and revisit or reassess.


  • You will find that one guy that is willing to die rather than to submit. Have you even considered that his goal is not your goal?


  • Don’t be afraid to criticize yourself. We’ve all done it. Try not to be your own worst critic, but take a healthy dose of ‘I told you so…’ and learn from it, move forward.


  • Keep moving. Don’t wait for reaction or results. MAKE results happen. Overwhelm and win.


  • Weapons – study them, get intimate. Learn as much as possible, for you may end up  having one in your hands when you least expect it.


  • Study your adversary. Learn what makes him tick, try to put yourself in his/her shoes, and understand what their motivations may be. Study your enemy, for they’ve already studied you.


  • Learn your targeting. Understand as much as possible what the right target is and what the right weapon is for that target. The goal is usually to stop the violence as quickly as possible, but do you have a solid legal foundation for that goal? Is this social or asocial violence? The targets and tools will be different perhaps?


  • Train under stress, fear if possible. No one can really tell you what that is like – it’s different for everyone, and likely different under every circumstance.


  • ‘Practice at surviving.’ Don’t become complacent.


  • ‘Patterns of instruction’ should ‘match patterns of encounter’ – train for the most likely encounters?


  • Under the stress of combat, and that’s what fighting encompasses, you will ‘revert without thinking to the habits you have learned in training.’ Agreed, and one important thing to consider here – if it ain’t working, move on. Don’t be the guy that continues to repeat the same ‘move’ and expects different results.


  • Don’t fight like you train, and therein lies the rub. As an example, don’t spar. Sparring trains into you some very bad habits – pulling your strikes – only hitting at X% of power, stopping after scoring a point, and other ‘rules’ that will work against you. It may cost you dearly. This also includes – don’t WAIT for results – keep moving, keep doing damage until the threat stops.


  • Learn about spatial relationships – proximity. Test your variables, test your ability to work within certain distances and environmental constrictions. Rory Miller is a proponent of ‘In Fighting’ – I’d only heard that once before in my years of training, and it didn’t make sense the first time, until I explored the larger possibilities behind that simple phrase. Explore.


  • Most confrontations are over quickly – seconds at best. Work smartly within that time constraint. Work to that goal as well.


  • Reaction to recognition is key to victory. The quicker you can respond, the better your chances are. Get beyond the DENIAL hurdle and your over the first large hurdle in your way. This takes practice, practice, practice. It starts with excellent awareness, and anticipation. Don’t daydream when you’re ‘on.’


  • Don’t expect your assumed authority to work in your favor – bouncer, security, owner, etc… that may be the impetus to action and the fuel for the fire that is about to light you up.


  • Criminals train more than you do, most likely.


  • Don’t expect rationality or compassion from your opponent.


  • Their desperation and your constraints are not equal but are opposing forces internally.


  • Don’t hesitate to act based on what you think. Your gut feeling may be the only thing that saves you. For the uninitiated, read Gavin de Becker’s THE GIFT.


  • If you are to survive, you need to be aggressive, and take chances.


  • Don’t give up. It’s been proposed that many officers died in the line-of-duty because they ‘thought’ they were going to based on some subconscious ‘understanding.’ Being hurt is not the same as being out of the fight. It’s time for Plan B!


  • Never let your guard down. Even if you’ve overcome one or many opponents/threats, don’t become blase about your abilities to overcome. Always be vigilant. There is always someone that will surprise you and possibility defeat you. Be realistic, not complacent.


  • You should walk out of your house/business with survival as the most important thing on your mind.


  • ‘Let the circumstances dictate the tactics, not vice versa.’ True Dat!


  • Always be rehearsing mentally. It’s as important if not more-so than hitting the gym or the Dojo, in my opinion. As an example, I have personally watched a video on a specific technique, that I only mentally rehearsed before having to actually deploy it, on more than one occasion. In Japanese culture, I believe that that is referred to as Mushin – without mind. It works, and don’t let anyone persuade you otherwise. Your mind is your best tool – develop it. Survival instinct is string, and your mind WILL take over when all else fails.


  • “Whenever possible, you want to cultivate tactics that are unexpected, to be ‘systematically unsystematic.'” HUH? Yeah, something more for you to explore! Have fun!


  • There will always be a clue, if you’re aware, that it’s about to go down. Learn those clues – body language, non-verbals, physiology. If you have a better understanding of your opponent, knowing them perhaps more intimately, you have your baseline to gauge by, otherwise… pay attention and look for the subtle, micro clues.


  • “Uneventful familiarity breeds complacency.” Just because it hasn’t happened, doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t. Keep your wall up!


  • Keep your head on a swivel and your ears on. Always be ‘scanning.’


  • Watch for the ‘grooming’ or ‘comfort’ touch – signs of nervousness. Grooming is done to comfort the person doing the grooming, perhaps to work up the courage to strike. A Comfort touch is to reassure the threat that his weapon is still there.


  • Always look for the most likely places that someone would carry a weapon when being approached. Do it to everyone to stay in practice and make it a part of what you do as your norm.


  • Keep a safety zone around you at all times. They have suggested 36″. I think it depends on you solely, and whom you face.


  • “Repetition of good tactics forms good tactical habits.’ Amen, right?


  • Control what you can.


  • “Human nature is very predictable.” Maybe in context, or maybe if you have studied it in depth. I think otherwise mostly sometimes. Does that even make sense?


  • “you must be ready to execute it without hesitation.” In the context of use of force – you must commit fully once you have decided to act. Totally agree. I have done otherwise, and gotten what should have been expected results. If you don’t fully commit, then you are holding back. If you hold back, you lose advantage. If you lose advantage, you also lose surprise. Its a crap shoot after that. Good luck, you’ll need it!

I’ll explore Volume 2: The Tactical Edge in a future article!

tim boehlert

© Copyright 2016



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