T Nation

Defense Tips When Indecisive?

This is pretty common. We are conditioned from an early age to abstain from violence. This is required from us as healthy members of a civil society. This compounds what I believe is a near universal human aversion to interpersonal conflict. This is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary.

When we take up boxing or other combat sports we retrain ourselves and learn that, in this context, violence is not only ok but is rewarded (progress, positive feedback from coaches, belt promotions, amateur victories etc) and for the most part we don’t get really hurt.

There’s an element of predictability. You know that you’re gonna touch gloves and come out punching or slap and bump and try to submit each other or whatever. There’s no real decision making. You’ve agreed that you’re going to “fight” ahead of time. There are attacks you are likely to see and others that are unlikely and others still that are against the rules. You know that if you are unwilling or unable to continue it will end. You know that you won’t get stabbed or curb stomped. In short it’s a “game”, not a “fight”.

However most of us still remain averse to violence outside that sporting context as it’s still unacceptable and unsafe. I know I can’t choke my boss out if I don’t like my next review (well, maybe I could, but it would be very bad for my career). I know if I get into it with a guy on a back road somewhere he might not stop when I’m done.

Any anxiety we feel about punching and getting punched or grappling in the ring fades as we learn that it is acceptable and safe to do. Faced with the propect of real street violence, especially when there seems like there may be a chance to avoid, it the anxiety returns along with real fear concerning uncertainty of the outcome etc.

We feel anxious then we feel anxious about feeling anxious because we liked to think of ourselves as badasses. Now our image of ourselves comes into conflict with the reality of how we are handling the situation and it accelerates the downward spiral into a “goofy loop” of indecision.

We hesitate. We try to back people down and play social dominance games. We puff up our chests, square up, stand tall, spread our arms and jut our chins (e.g. adopt the worst possible fight stance) in hopes of looking big. It’s primate shit. Our conciousness retreats from our rationale mind into our “lizard brain” and all that fight science and verbal deescalation is replaced with fight, flight or freeze.

One way to deal with this (other than simulation training) is to give some serious thought to where your personal “lines in the sand” are. If/then scenarios run in your own head are useful. As much as possible make decisions about what you will do (or at least attempt to do) while you are not in the heat of the moment. When you’re game planning remember that you will be afraid. You will be stupid. You will have tunnel-vision. Expect this. plan for it. Manage it. Research and practice “combat breathing”. It can literally save your life.

As an LEO there are a number of situations where I may be required to shoot someone. I have done my best to reconcile myself to those situations ahead of time so that in the moment I ‘only’ have to worry about executing, not deciding. The other guy will have chosen for me by his actions. Real violence of any kind is similar, if potentially less severe.

Lastly, IMHO confidence without competence is highly over rated but all too common.

Hope something in there is of use.


@Uncle_Gabby @batman730 @Sentoguy

Thank you all for your replies, you have all confirmed the things I thought we did wrong. I hope this kind of situation never arises again but I think we will be better prepared if it did.

My wife knows 100% that she would be less than unless in a fight, she really is not confrontational at all. You hit the nail on the head about her growing up without seeing or being involved in any violence. She went in to the situation completely oblivious and only say a woman in need of comforting, I do believe though that if she had been alone she would have rang the police and stayed at a safe distance. She had full confidence that I could have handled the situation which led her to her actions. Unfortunately her actions made the situation 10x harder for me to deal with!

I have witnessed other domestic abuse situations, our neighbours across the way are at it all the time, she gives as good as she gets and anything involving them I have always rung the police and stayed away. This was not like that at all though, and like I say we didn’t know it was a domestic until it was too late, I thought it could be robbery or rape.

Since the birth of our little boy we have discussed on many occasions what her role is in terms of safety. Her one goal is to run like hell with him to safety and call for help.

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Good on you. I would add that this is a good “One Big Thing goal” to have for her when you know, like batman said, your brain will be “stupid” in the heat of the moment.

I’d also encourage you to break that down and train it mentally with her–what routes does she run? What environmental routes does she avoid while running, if given a choice? What happens “if”…? If she starts to run but she sees you go down? She starts to run but she sees a weapon? She starts to run but…?

It’s less likely now, having been through this ordeal and taken time to learn lessons about it together, but it is still possible she freezes because of some new element in a future conflict. It really pays off to discuss the brutal facts in advance to try to inoculate her against freezing in response to one of those events.

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