Common Denominators of Self-Defense Training

From mindset to situational awareness, mental to physical health, here’s what it boils down to.

Story and Photos by Paul Pawela

The outcome of any self-defense situation “is determined by who is better prepared, who is better skilled, who has the strongest resolve, and who has the better training,” writes author Paul Pawela.
When it comes to self-defense training, there are many different philosophies, some dating back thousands of years. But ultimately, the outcome of any encounter is determined by who is better prepared, who is better skilled, who has the strongest resolve, and who has the better training. In short, it’s about mental and physical toughness.
The late Jeff Cooper, known as the father of modern pistol craft, has many books on the subject. In Principles of Personal Defense, he asserts that the most important means of surviving a lethal confrontation is neither the weapon nor the battle skills. The primary tool is the combat mindset.
Cooper came up with a color code identifying the four levels of awareness: white (unaware and unprepared), yellow (relaxed alert), orange (specific alert), and red (ready to use lethal force). The color code helps one “think” in a fight. As the level of danger increases, one’s willingness to take certain actions increases.

Along with learning hand-to-hand combat tactics, weapons training is a must for building a complete body of self-defense skills.
ANOTHER SELF-DEFENSE EXPERT is Jocko Willink, a former lieutenant commander of SEAL Team Three, a Silver Star recipient, an author and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In the foreword of the new book Breathe: A Life in Flow by Rickson Gracie, Willink writes: “The principles of jiu-jitsu (considered by many to be the best self-defense fighting system in the world) can be applied to every endeavor in life.” Some of these principles, according to Willink, include:
  • • You have to stay calm when you are in bad situations.
  • • You need to cover and conceal your intent with other maneuvers.
  • • You need to utilize the simplest and most effective methods.
  • • You need to prioritize your focus effort.
  • • You need to train until you trust yourself to move intuitively, without having to think.
  • • You cannot let your emotions drive your decisions.
  • • You have to establish a good base foundation to build upon.
  • • You have to continuously learn new techniques while reinforcing the fundamentals.
  • • You have to adapt your plan if circumstances change.
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Jiu-jitsu follows a disciplined code of conduct but also encourages a free and open mind, which in turn gives the individual staying power, helps in overcoming fears and helps give self-confidence. Confidence turns into courage, which then leads to honor, strength, pride and ultimately to the power of forgiveness. This is the warrior way. Finally, here is Master of Arms and top-tier tactical instructor Ernest Emerson on the subject: “Man is still the universal common denominator in all combat.
And more to the point, no matter what the evolutionary sophistication of weapons and their means of delivery become, there is and always will be the need to face the rigors, the danger, the reality and the finality of man-to-man combat. Whether it be facing an armed intruder in your home, an active shooter, in a robbery or a terrorist hiding in the next room, the need for an individual civilian, a police officer or a soldier to be willing to fight tooth and nail against an evil entity, cloaked in the guise of a fellow human being, will remain with us as long as man continues to walk the planet.”

“As my mentor Ernest Emerson says, ‘Train like a mad man and fight like a demon!’” states Pawela, right.
THE TOPIC OF self-defense training is ultimately a matter of life and death, and no subject deserves more attention to detail. The first rule of thumb is to have mental fitness and to decide what means the most to you in life. Who and what would you be willing to fight and possibly die for, if need be?
Second is physical fitness. Push yourself to the ultimate limits so that you are in the best shape possible. Look at the all-time greatest fighters – Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Rickson Gracie, Mike Tyson, and especially our Special Forces soldiers – and see what kind of shape they are in.
Get both empty hands training (including boxing and grappling) and weapons training (edged weapons, First aid and driving skills should be implemented, as well as a thorough understanding of the laws of judicious use of deadly force.
None of these concepts are new. In the earliest formation of our country, it was considered negligent by law to go about your daily business unarmed (or untrained). Self-protection was not just a personal responsibility; it was the duty of the community.
The founding fathers included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights for three main reasons: 1) self-protection, 2) community protection, and 3) protection from government tyranny, both foreign and domestic. This is why we train! So, as my mentor Ernest Emerson says, “Train like a mad man and fight like a demon!” And that is my two cents.

Editor’s note: For realistic self-defense training, see assaultcountertactics.com. Author Paul Pawela is a nationally recognized firearms and self-defense expert.