Violence is a funny thing. As a civilized society, we almost universally condemn violence. We all think of ourselves as being so evolved that we never have to stoop so low as to use violence in any way. Violence is not the answer. People, for the most part, forget that we are all just highly-evolved animals, and that violence is part of the animal kingdom. Walk into any urban court house on a Monday morning, and watch how many people are being arraigned on violent criminal charges. We are violent by nature, but we are conditioned throughout our upbringing that violence is wrong and unacceptable. This is a good thing, to a point; the vast majority of us are able to conform to social norms of non-violence, and we get through our days without acting out. This conditioning becomes a problem when violence is necessary. It can prevent a person from properly defending themselves. Despite what some people would want you to believe,words don’t stop violent attacks.
As an executive protection professional, it is my job to avoid violence for my principal/client. I conduct threat assessments and security advances prior to my principal’s arrival at a particular location. I also plan travel, evacuation, and escape routes in order to be prepared for a worst case scenario. I do not like violence, but I am mentally and physically prepared for it. I certainly don’t want to strike someone in the throat, kick them in the groin, or shoot them, in order to protect my principal, but I am prepared to use whatever level of force that is necessary because that is my job.
In a self-defense scenario where violence is either imminent or already taking place, you have to be able to flip the switch and bring the violence if escape is not an option. Generally speaking, if you strike first with the superior level of violence, you will be the victor. You do not want to be engaged in a prolonged encounter, you want to end it as fast as possible. This is part of the mindset needed for not only engaging in professional protection work, but for everyday self-defense scenarios. Quite literally, we are all in the protection business; you may not have a client paying you to provide protection, but you are responsible for your own protection, as well as your family and loved ones.
As a former law enforcement officer, I can assure you, the police do not prevent violent crime, they only respond to it after the fact. You can apply many of the same concepts and principles from executive protection work to your own daily life. Why travel through a bad section of the city when you can take a slightly longer route through a safer area? Why walk down an unlit street at night when you can go a block over and walk in a properly lit area? Why go to an ATM at night and withdraw cash, when you can likely just use your debit card for your anticipated purchase? Why vacation in a foreign country that is in the midst of political upheaval? This list could go on and on. It’s all about mitigating risk factors to reduce your odds of being put in a violent encounter.
I am not imparting any new wisdom here. Nothing I am writing about is a new idea or concept. Heck, even the title of this article is not an original idea (Thank you, Jeff Burger)! The point is, although we would all like to avoid a violent encounter, many of us do not take the few additional steps necessary to increase one’s chances of mitigating that risk. The all-important, situational awareness is key. In fact, projecting that situational awareness into the future will help you consider what “could” go wrong in a given situation, thereby allowing you to plan for it accordingly. Many people, particularly those who do not train in martial arts or self-defense, never think about how they would react in a violent encounter. In my view, this is fatal. If you don’t train and you’ve never even thought about how you might react if thrust into a violent encounter, then you probably won’t react at all.
Years ago, while still working in law enforcement, I was conducting a scenario-based training exercise involving a new, female officer. For this exercise, the officer knew only that she was responding to a call for a man (me) acting strange. When she entered the room, I was standing with a chair in front of me, so my hands were not completely visible, and I was mumbling. The officer walked right up on me, as I drew a training gun out of my waistband and pointed it at her. She froze. She didn’t verbalize, she didn’t attempt to draw her weapon, she didn’t try to disarm me, and she didn’t even try to get out of the line of fire. Clearly, she had never given a thought as to what she would do if she was ever in a violent encounter such as this.
Previously, I had mentioned that the person engaged in a violent encounter who acts fastest, and with the superior level of violence, is usually the victor. Clearly, there can be legal ramifications to this. If you successfully defend yourself in a violent encounter, you may or may not be charged criminally, or sued civilly. So many factors play into the potential legal battle, and laws vary from state to state, and country to country. Generally, in the United States, to defend yourself legally you will need to be able to articulate why you acted the way you did to justify your actions, and this explanation must pass the “reasonable person” standard; would a reasonable person in the same situation and with the same level of training and experience have acted the same way.
In Massachusetts, where I am licensed to practice law, the claim of self-defense is considered an affirmative defense- you are claiming that you were justified in taking this action. That is to say, once you assert this defense in court, the burden now shifts to the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self-defense. This is not typically an easy burden for the prosecution, because it must be proved, “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you did not act in self-defense. All things considered, you are likely to end up in court one way or the other. Even if you are not charged criminally because the prosecution agrees that it was likely self-defense, that doesn’t prevent you from being sued successfully in civil court. Civil court has a much lower burden of proof than the, “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard in criminal court. Like many of the contributors here have written before, there are several stages to self-defense, and the potential court battles are all a part of it.
Think. Be prepared. Make smart choices. You ARE in the protection business, so take it seriously. Others may be counting on you.