Mental Preparation

I was talking to a couple of friends and a couple of guys I had just met, recently. Each of us are involved in teaching defensive imageshooting and defensive tactics. One guy is somebody that I served with in the Army many oh so many moons ago, one is a 20+ year police veteran that worked in Detroit, and the other two are, in their own words, “just a couple of guys that train because we want to protect ourselves and our families.”

After a few minutes of BS, and some discussions about our different backgrounds, we found a couple of topics that really stuck with us and drove the rest of the discussion:

  • Tactics differ between the military, police, and civilian worlds. They are dramatically different.
  • The mental aspect needs to be a major focus in training.

Let’s focus on the latter for a this post. I have a couple of great examples.

Example 1

My police friend told us a story about being called out to a shooting. He got there, and found the victim, alive, but in serious jeopardy of dying. As he applied first aid and was waiting for medical services, he heard the victim tell the story.

The victim was approached about a block from the ATM machine by a guy asking if he had a lighter or match as his lighter was out. As he started to say that he didn’t smoke, the other guy got closer and then within a couple of feet, then demanded the money he just got out of the ATM. The victim finally clued in, way too late, and tried to get distance and pull out his gun and yell at him to get away. The guy then punched him, and took his gun away from him. The victim then tried to rush him, and got shot. While they were talking, he asked the victim why he didn’t shoot. The victim told him that he would never shoot somebody and that he only carried the gun to scare away potential attackers.

My police friend said that he had the victim’s conceal permit taken away while the victim recovered in the hospital. He told the Sheriff that issued it that he said he would never shoot somebody, so there was no reason to let him carry a gun. I am sure several of you reading this are thinking, “I would have shot him.” I will have to say, yeah, I bet you believe you would have, but, really would you have shot him? After all, he wasn’t armed.

Example 2

My military friend said, “I am not shocked to hear that he didn’t shoot. I am shocked to hear that he had made the decision long ago that he would never shoot anyone.” Then he looked at me and said, “No, I will tell this one. Don’t you dare say anything.” He then proceeded to tell his story.

During a mission, him and the other three members in his team were trying to get close to an enemy position so they could call in indirect fire. As they maneuvered through some dense jungle, being as quiet as possible as the team was not to engage the enemy, they were there to find the target, verify it, and call for fire. He was on point, at the time, and coming around a couple of trees, he came face to face with two guys on perimeter security for our target. He froze. The three of them all froze just looking at each other. He said it felt like they looked at each other for several minutes, then he heard the shots that killed them.

One of the team, shot them. A burst into each of them.

They were blown, and they had to haul ass and get out of the area.

I am sure some of you are thinking, yeah, he trained for that, and failed. That is on him, and he must have had some crap training. This is somebody that I respected more than the vast number of people that I served with in the past. He was somebody that I always trusted to have my back. He, later, proved himself over and over.

Mental Prep

As we talked, it was clear that some people just don’t do what needs to be done for whatever reason. It can be conscious choice or just being startled and the training not kicking in like expected. It happens.

The question is how you train to be able to do what needs to be done at that critical moment. We all kind of agreed that force on force training doesn’t help because everyone knows it isn’t real. It may was well be paint ball.

We all, kind of, agreed that it is all about the mental reps. You have to imagine the scenarios, you have to visual drawing and shooting. You have to imagine the after action and what you will do when the threat is done. You have to imagine it all over and over and over again. You have to visualize it until it becomes real and so that, just like drawing and aiming, it becomes muscle memory. It needs to become an automatic response to the triggers that you imagine and that fit with when you are willing to shoot to defend yourself and your loved ones.

I am sure there is more to it, but that is what we all got out of the conversation.

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