Revisiting the Terrorist Threat

A while back I took a look at the threat of terrorism from the standpoint of personal safety.

I said what I had to say on the subject, and I really had no plans to address the issue further. But attack after attack, and some of the attacks come close to home for me, living in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where five Police Officers were murdered and another eleven injured.

And then there were so many emails asking advice on all of these different situations, I felt that I should revisit the topic. I will try to keep things focused on the main idea of personal safety, but due to the nature of the subject, some people may end up getting their poor widdle feelings hurt. All I can do about that is apologize in advance.

We had the Islamic terrorist attacks in San Bernadino and Orlando. We had Police Officers murdered by domestic terrorists in several states in the U.S.A. Europe has been hit repeatedly by Islamic extremists. The day of this writing, Islamic terrorists stormed a Catholic Church in France and beheaded an 84 year old Priest during mass.

All of this is enough to make my blood boil.

But my anger means nothing. Neither does yours, unless you are in a position to give orders to end this nonsense.

So we must act on those areas that are under our control.

I teach all people who are interested in personal safety that it starts with ourselves. We have to first come to the realization that safety is our responsibility. We cannot count on the Government. Look at the response to the Hurricane Katrina or the BP oil spill and then honestly ask yourself if you really think the government can even find its own butt with both hands. Currently, the government is overly concerned with how their response will look and this causes a paralysis preventing any real action.We cannot count on Law Enforcement to save us from everything, and they will probably be minutes away when the SHTF. And we all know that in a crisis, we might not have enough seconds to add up to the minutes we will need to wait for help. When the Police get there, they will do the heavy lifting. They are professionals, and so when they arrive, get out of the way. But until they are there, you have to do what it takes to stay alive, and if possible, to stop the threat.

This means training and learning to identify the options.

If there is an attack of the type in France today, terrorists storming a Church (or any other public venue), your options are pretty clear-cut.

  1. Run
  2. Hide
  3. Fight

We all make decisions every day. While taking responsibility for our personal choices seems to no longer be in fashion, we will still ultimately be held accountable. If you run or hide or fight, you hold no guarantee of safety or survival. But a choice must be made.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these choices. When a tiger jumps out of the bushes, it is not cowardly to run. Each option needs to be based on your own individual strengths (or at the very least a knowledge of your weaknesses). Example; I am old and have bad knees and a bad back. I really cannot run. I am also six and-a-half feet tall and weigh 255 lbs., and that makes hiding a challenge. So, the OODA Loop does not really come in to play for me. Know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths. And be smart. If you have access to getting out safely and thus opening the chance to notify authorities more quickly – do it. This might save lives. If you are in a position to stop the threat before further loss of life, or better still – before loss of life at all – do it.

Stay aware. Since the Dallas attack I had been a virtual turret-head every time we leave the house. My Wife noticed and has kindly asked me to stop. I have noticed everyone and everything, except the good things. I have probably looked a bit like the hyper-ninja that I warn my students about becoming. I have toned it down. You can stay aware without the “I’m watching you! And you! And especially YOU!”

If you opt to run, escape, get somewhere safe and notify the authorities. It is human habit to think that someone else already has made the call, but what if no one has? Make the call. It is much better to be one more person giving information to Law Enforcement, especially if you consider the fact that you might be able to tell them something that saves the lives of potential victims or Police Officers.

If you hide, you need to understand the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment means you are harder to see. Cover means the bullets will not reach you. Sounds like a small difference but they are worlds apart. If your hiding place is a different room, you may need to barricade the entrance once you and whoever was with you are inside.

But even this is not enough. Barricades can be breached given enough time. You need to be prepared for this. Find whatever you can to use for a make-shift weapon. Anything heavy will create impact trauma. Scissors are sharper than most of the knives in your kitchen right now.

But keep your wits about you. When the Police do arrive, they will be coming in. They will be on an adrenaline rush like you wouldn’t believe, and they will have weapons drawn. The language will probably not be PG either. Follow their commands, do not make sudden movements, and please do not point.

Obviously, if the terrorist detonates a bomb, none of this matters except to parts about calling for help, if you survive the blast and are coherent enough to make the call. But we need to all understand that there is a point where we have to fight back. And sometimes the decision is made for us. When a person wants to kill you over an ideology, you really have your choices boiled down to a very simple two; die, or fight. We can be the most peace-loving people on earth, but we need to stand ready to stop those who would destroy those we love. I am all for peace, love, and food on the table. But if I have to fight to make those three possible, then I will fight.

None of this is recommending paranoia.But anyone can look around and see that things are not good right now. Until national leaders decide to stop the threat posed by terrorism, we all need to be prepared to do our part should the need arise.

Have a plan, be ready and aware, and hope for the best.

A “New Normal”?

The phrase new normal kept popping up in news articles lately. There was something about it that I didn’t like, but it wasn’t clear to me before coffee.

Then it hit me, after coffee, of course.

The articles were focused on the rise of violence in our time. We have terrorists abroad murdering people over what is at base a difference of opinion.

Then we have groups here in the U.S.A. who have started murdering Police Officers.

As to the first issue, the terrorists killing over opinion, when I am speaking to adults about how to handle disagreements, I often note that it is childish to come to blows over a difference of opinion because it shows that you are not secure in your argument and stance on the subject matter.

How much more so when you murder people who do not see things your way?

Regarding the murder of Police Officers, what precisely do these domestic terrorists think they will accomplish? The road to improving relations with the Police certainly doe not involve shooting.

So we have a violent time in our world. This is not new. The world has never really been 100% safe, but for most of my life, I have been able to get through each day without resorting to violence at all, and I can go even further and state that I have more often than not had no need to even resort to the threat of violence.

In recent months it seems that the headlines have been going from domestic terrorists attacking, then foreign terrorists, and repeat and repeat.

But what is this new normal they keep writing and speaking about? And why did it irritate me so much?

The new normal is this wave after wave of terrorist attacks. It irritates me for a simple reason. Calling the current state of affairs a new normal is clearly a surrender. It is a subtle push toward the option of throwing up the hands and saying the cause is lost and violent extremism is here to stay.

I do not recognize the authority of “news reporters” to tell me when the cause is lost. I do not accept that there is now a world where I must grow accustomed to the murder of Police Officers or citizens of any nation at the hands of extremists of any ideology. I will not give up and say that the bad guys win.

There is good and there is bad. Right now we are seeing a violent lashing out of the worst that humanity has to offer. And, especially if you spend a lot of time glued to news outlets, it can be easy to see the situation as hopeless and fall for this “new normal” BS.

But it is BS. There is no new normal. There are just a lot of bad things happening at the same time. We are so connected to information that it can overwhelm our brain. The thing they seem to be actively avoiding is the way to get these issues resolved is going to be a hard road with a lot of work involved.

Here are a few points to consider.

First, think about when that scumbag murdered five Police Officers in Dallas. The next day, did Police Officers across the nation refuse to go to work out of fear? Nope. They went to work protecting and serving like they do every day.

Did Dallas riot and burn and loot? No. We mourned.

Think about the people around you every day. Do they kill people who disagree with them? I’m willing to bet they don’t.

You are surrounded by good people because there are more good people of every race and creed than there are bad people of any race or creed. And those who protect the good people still show up for duty in spite of the fact that their lives are on the line for doing so, now more than ever.

I want the senseless killing to end. I am against murder and hate. I am for peace and love. I think most of us are the same in that regard.

So, what are you to do?

Train to protect yourself and others. Be prepared to fight if the need arises. If you are not a fighter and not willing to engage the enemy, then do what you can to either shut down or cut out the extremists in your group. Every group has them. When you are silent about, or even worse – when you offer excuses for – the behavior of the worst in your self-identified group, you further the cause of violence and death.

We do not have to accept this chaos and mindlessness as normal.

Five Tips to De-Stress in Stressful Times

In our time it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of he facts. Fear mongers on both sides of every issue spin every minutia possible into something to support their claims. As a self-defense instructor it is bad for business for me to openly state that you are safer than you think. There are threats out there, deadly threats that you will be defeated by if you refuse to acknowledge their existence and end up facing them. But most of you will never face them.

I want to take a moment here and let you know that there are five simple steps you can start using today to lower your stress levels and start to see things more clearly. No voodoo, no tin hats, just simple steps that only require the initiative on your part to begin.

1. Do not get your news from social media or any other single source.

If your social media newsfeed is anything like mine, you see posts from people on both sides of any issue claiming doom and gloom if the other side wins.

Give yourself a break from that.

If you get all of your news from a single source, you are going to be subject to their spin. No matter the source, they have an agenda and they will use emotional manipulation to keep you coming back.

The internet news sites do the same thing. Cable channels as well. Whether you are looking to Fox News or MSNBC, you will be subjected to their take on the issue. Use a mix of sources and learn to see the facts and identify immediately when you are being emotionally strung along.

2. Look for the good.

I don’t buy into the garbage that is heaped on me that all people who liberal or conservative are evil. I have close friends of both political viewpoints. I love guns, and some of my friends are terrified of them. I love bacon, and some of my friends have never had it due to religious reasons. I don’t tell them how to live because their views and opinions and way of life, as Thomas Jefferson said, “Neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg”. If you look at your friends you will see that a person can disagree with you and still be a good person. Instead of focusing on the differences, look to the good qualities that your friends have. You just might be able to tone down the angry rhetoric.

3. Build confidence through training.

If there is something you are afraid of; terrorists, muggers – whatever, find training to make yourself strong enough to stop being afraid. Addressing fears, facing them, is the only method to overcome them. Then if it comes to a point where what they are doing picks your pocket or breaks your leg, you will have the tools to stop them. Since this is not a commercial, I will move ahead.

4. Stay aware.

In my daily commute, at every stoplight I find myself surrounded by other drivers who cannot seem to stop staring at their own crotch.

In their own brand of  group cleverness, they think that no one knows they are looking at their phones.

But when we are glued to the tiny screen on our phone, there is a whole world going on around us of which we are totally unaware.

Awareness is more than seeing the bad guy in the shadows. It is also seeing the elderly woman smiling as she makes her way into the store. It is noticing the good and the beautiful and the right, as well as the bad, and the ugly and the horrible.

There is so much more out there than what we see on our phone screen. Can you really enjoy an event when you force yourself to view it through your phone? Or would it not be better to see it as it is, as it happens?

5. Find time daily to center.

Some people call it meditation. Others call it prayer. Still others call it centering. I don’t really care what you call it. Do it. Every day.

Take some time to shut off the chatter inside your skull, and just be at peace.

We spend so much time thinking of another day, or year, or point in life where we will be happy. We stress ourselves to no end over what could go wrong before we get to this mysterious there and when we do get there, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we feel a tremendous let-down, because we missed the entire journey.

In many parts of my Country, you will never even meet a criminal, much less a terrorist. In the U.S., our criminal class tend to hurt each other almost exclusively. If we focus only on the criminals or the terrorists, we lose a big chunk of our life worrying over a threat that will, for most of us, never materialize.

In short, be prepared, yes! But live your life. There is no do-over.

Train in What?

The question comes up often, and I am sure I am not the only instructor who gets this question over and over.

You say I should train to protect myself, train in what style?

When I urge people to train, I am not suggesting that I am the only one who should teach them. I am certainly not trying to sell them lessons with me. If someone wants to train with me, great! If they want to train with someone else, great!

The point is in getting physically conditioned to be able to actually fight back when you need to, should you ever need to do so.

I have been around martial artists almost all of my life (so far). I have also been in enough situations where things went sideways that I can tell you without hesitation, most of their skills looked sloppy as buttered hell when training theory met improvised application. I never understood why until I was knocked goofy. When you get hit square in the nose, all of your theories fly away and all you will have left to work with is basics and whatever skills you have honed.

Get some training in anything. Improve your overall health, balance, focus, physical strength, awareness, and confidence. Training improves you on many levels.

I don’t care about style. I have, in the past, questioned the usefulness of some styles. I now see that if you like the style and the instructor, you will have a base. If you are willing to study and keep your mind open to the idea that your style does not have every answer, and that these answers can be found and mastered with some further outside study, you are going to be ahead of the curve. Yes, there are boxers who would not be able to stop a determined mugger, but I personally know some who would turn him inside-out. I poke fun at a lot of what goes on in sport karate, but there are some sport karate people who are also real fighters.

The old line about it not being about the style, but being about the person. Yeah. That one. It happens to be true.

When I say get training, I mean it. It is not a commercial for my school, system or style. I mean; find someone you like training with, in a style that is a good fit for your body and temperament, and train. 

Hopefully, you will never need to defend yourself or your loves ones from the bad guy. I really hope neither you nor I ever face that day. But there are people out there who hurt other people. I study this subject, and I can tell you; there are some scary individuals out there. You can hope the bad guy never sets his sights on you. Or, alternatively, you can be prepared so that if he ever does notice you, he gets the creeps and moves on with his day. Preferably  elsewhere.

I hope that answers the question. It isn’t about a commercial or chest thumping. I want people to be able to protect themselves effectively. The first step is going to be found in starting to train in some method of self-defense.

On Defense

If we listen to the news or spend too much time reading social media “newsfeeds”, we are hit with wave after wave of emotionally charged propaganda (and this is true regardless of which side of any particular issue you stand).

I want to take a moment here and look directly and honestly at one issue which is of concern at the time of this writing, and that is how are we to defend ourselves when it is too clear that the powers that be are not going to do it for us.

This is in no way an attack on Law Enforcement. They are doing such hard work and getting very little appreciation from much of our current society. The First Responders, those who run toward the sound of trouble, should be cherished. But they cannot be everywhere at once, and they also have protocols that they need to follow in different situations.

But what are we to do in the time between when someone is actively trying to kill us and the time the Police arrive?

The first step is going to be taken at this very moment.

Have a Plan

If you refuse to even consider what you should do in the event you find yourself in the midst of an active shooter, or a terrorist attack, you will be caught in a mental loop of thought.

So your first step is to have a plan.

Honestly evaluate who you are. Not your digital identity, not your wish or fantasy, but who you really are. Most people are not fighters. If you are not a fighter, you need to escape or hide. This will clear the path for those who will fight, possibly save your own life, as well as others if the fighters are able to get to the bad guy more quickly.

Escape and hide are two options for the non-fighter. If you have an avenue of escape, take it. If not, you will need to hide.

If you have the option of hiding in another room, separated from where the bad guy is, lock and barricade the door. Make it as difficult and time consuming as possible for him to get to you.

Once barricaded, you will need to find something to use as a defensive weapon.

Firearms are not allowed everywhere in the U.S.A. We have a lot of Gun-Free Zones which are the sort of soft targets that the bad guys like. In some countries, the entire civilian population has been disarmed! This creates a much more dangerous situation, but one can still improvise. Anything heavy can be used to inflict blunt trauma. Every office has scissors somewhere, and scissors can be deadly, just be careful how you hold them. I have started carrying a stainless steel water bottle that is heavy enough to be an impact enhancer. Fire-extinguishers can have the element of surprise (when you spray the bad guy in the face) as well as being heavy enough to cause damage if you bash him with it while he is distracted.

In short – you are never helpless, until you give up. Your plan needs to include what to do if escape is not possible and your hiding place is discovered. I’ve just given you food for thought on that one.

Fighting Back

Whether fighting back is your first option or last resort, there are two things to keep in mind.

First, are you physically up to fighting. I’m not talking about a bar-fight where you and some other drunk guy are throwing baseballs at each other, I mean are you fit enough to physically tangle with someone who is actively trying to kill you? Can to slice them with scissors, or bash them with a laptop or staple their face to their ass when they are shooting at you?

If the answer is anything other than absolutely YES then you need to get in better shape.

The next question is mental. Can you commit yourself to damaging another person in such a way that he has to stop doing what he is doing?

In my experience, some people can and some people can’t. If you can’t, then stay out of the way and wait for someone who can. If no one around you can, you either need to find the resolve to take that action or suffer the consequences.

No Easy Answers

None of this is intended to make things seem simple. Predator humans are tough to face and for the most part anyone offering simple answers does not know what they are talking about. There are no easy answers for most of these situations.

This is why having a plan is so important. It gives you a mental head-start that can create an advantage, provided it is a good plan based on who you really are, and how the bad guys operate.

I want people to be safe and I want people to be informed. I offer training in personal safety because I think everyone should be able to fight back. Self-defense is a human right. If you live in north Texas, it is easy to train with me. If not, I can come to you or give you information on people near you. My friends and myself train anyone who wants to learn. Use the contact form on the Train with Wallace page and I can get you started, whether with me or someone else. Get some training, or at the very least have a plan.

Why I Stopped Being Afraid of Guns

There is a lot of fear mongering going on right now, and I want to go ahead and share with you just a bit on my change in stance regarding firearms.

I was raised to be afraid of guns. There are a lot of reasons for this. People only know what they know and experience. My Parents are no exception.

My Father was a World War II Veteran who was stationed in the Pacific. He never spoke much about the combat part of what he saw and experienced, but what little he did tell is enough for me to say it was horrible. He operated what I believe are called LCVP, the boats that brought troops to the shores from the ships. Knowing many of the people he was delivering would not survive had to be hard, and he did tell of some bad stories that he said were just scratching the surface. Former Military typically are not afraid of firearms, but there could be further history he never discussed. He was against guns in the house.

From my Mother’s side, she lost a brother to an accidental shooting and a nephew to a moment of carelessness as he was cleaning a gun and told his wife, “Hey look honey! I’m a suicide!” whereupon he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, not having checked first to see whether or not it was loaded. She commented often about how in the casket he seemed to have a surprised look on his face.

I first learned about the freeze response on a basketball court in south Austin when a car drove onto the parking lot and fired some rounds at those of us playing ball. I stood there like an idiot, unable to even flinch. My friends said I was hardcore. I knew I was scared out of my mind.

I was raised around the open fear of firearms. It was taught to me and hammered into my brain.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s as I advanced in the martial arts, I classified guns as the weapon of cowards. I know all of the arguments used by the anti-gun people and know them well, because I used those arguments. If social media existed back then, I am sure one would be able to find damning evidence of a flip-flop on my stance in the subject.

I grew up, and never really thought about owning a gun.

The first point where my mind started to change was when I started losing venison connections. I had been surrounded by people for a long time who supplied me with deer meat. When these connections moved away, I started thinking about taking up hunting.

Yup. My first thought about owning a gun had to do with eating.

But if a person has a brain, they have to be able to see that the world is not always a safe place. Loving your enemy sounds good until he starts killing you for fun. I want peace, I hope for peace, but if the bad guy kicks in my front door and he has a gun, peace is no longer an option. An added challenge; if the bad guy has a gun, my awesome kung fu skills don’t mean doodley-squat. Even the many swords I have will not help as much as I would like to think. I have often said that “when I start swinging a four-foot razor blade at him, he is going to hesitate”. I really believed it, but it is an untested theory.

What if he didn’t hesitate? What will he do to my Family when I am bleeding out on the floor and no longer pose a threat to him?

These people exist. Those thoughts kept me awake.

Regular readers know that my first firearm purchase was not a hunting rifle, or an “assault rife” (a term made up by politicians). I bought a handgun.

The criminals will be armed, no matter what laws are passed. Terrorists will be armed no matter what laws are passed. They also seem to have no issue with killing you over a disagreement on how to live your life. I get tired of being lectured about the American gun obsession. Being able to protect my Family is not something that I care to put up for debate.

The bottom line is this – self-defense is not just a Constitutional Right, it is a human right. No one should be the victim of the destructive aims of another person. I stopped being afraid of guns when I became more afraid of not being able to protect my Family. I hope I never have to use my gun against a person, that would be terrible. But if that person is intent on hurting my Family, at least I can even the odds. And if I fall in the process, my Wife can pick up the gun and take over where I left off. That gives me peace of mind.

In closing, I want to offer a simple thought. Instead of looking at those who have a different opinion than you as an enemy, how about seeing that we can disagree on small matters and great matters, but in the end, we need to stand together. I am not your enemy unless you want to harm my Family, so stop viewing different opinions as reasons to hate and stay divided. And how about not waiting for a tragedy before we consider doing so?

Define “Enemy”

A large part of personal safety is going to be found in reducing conflict. Put simply, if you are a hothead, you are going to find a lot of conflict in your life. You might justify it. He made me mad is a sentence that has a lot of poorly examined ghosts in it. But how often do so many people justify bad behavior – behavior that they condemn in no uncertain terms when it is exhibited by other people?

There is a certain shortsightedness in chastising other people for doing something that we ourselves do as well. The answer that it is okay for us because we have a reason to do it falls flat when viewed rationally – if a behavior pattern is bad, our self-justifications (excuses) of why we do it mean nothing.

In order to engage in a behavior that you condemn in others, you are going to need to do a bit of self-hypnosis. You will claim that the action is bad, but that you have a reason for doing it.

For example, you might claim that all ideas, lifestyles and choices should be accepted.

It sounds very good! You may now congratulate yourself for being such a tolerant and caring person.

But what if someone disagrees with your position?

Now you have some thinking to do, unless you just want to go on a spree of hate fueled angry rhetoric.

Your original position that all ideas, lifestyles and choices should be accepted includes by default those ideas and lifestyles and choices that assert your original position is incorrect.

Of course, in our time, there seems to be no room for dissenting opinion.

We are taught from too many sources that those who disagree with us are our enemy.

But what, specifically, is an enemy?

An enemy is not someone who disagrees with you. An enemy is someone who hates you and wants you destroyed.

I have close friends, people I truly treasure, who could not be more different from me in thoughts on Politics, Religion, preferred martial arts or good cookery.

But they are not my enemy.

My idea of an enemy is pretty strict. If someone is attempting to cause direct harm to my family or myself, they are my enemy. If they disagree with my thoughts on anything at all, they are just people.

When someone disagrees with you, you have options. You could opt to hate them and use ridicule and name calling to make yourself feel superior. It does seem to be the standard response these days.

You could also use it as a chance to sharpen your ability to verbalize your position. Rational argument is a lot like sparring. It makes both people better, and can be tremendous fun.

So I would suggest allowing others to disagree with you. In truth, you cannot stop them, but if it makes you feel better, consider it allowing them. You do not need to accept their ideas as fact, but you do not need to view opposing ideas as a threat. There are real threats out there. Do not be blinded to the real threats because you were worried that someone thinks differently than you do.