It is just as important to teach our students that there is nothing to gain by entering into an argument with another person as it is to teach them defensive pistolcraft. In many instances simply keeping one’s mouth shut and managing distance is all that is needed to avoid getting involved in a beatdown or a gunfight. I am concerned that there may be a tendency for some students to stay in place perhaps due to a decision to “stand their ground,” reluctance to appear weak, or simply because he or she does not know what else to do and “freezes.”
I am of the opinion that one of the most important skills we can teach is the ability to move and manage distance based upon existing circumstances and to never get emotionally mud-sucked into a verbal disagreement. This suggests that students need to be advised to consciously engage the “rational side” of the brain in spite of any urging on behalf of the “emotional” side to defend their ego and not show weakness. It is also possible that students may believe that good social skills include standing in place quietly and patiently waiting while hoping that the offending party will soon finish yelling, cursing, threatening, or “trash-talking” and then amble off. All of this is especially problematic when the distance between the parties involved in the confrontation are at normal conversation distances. A well-intentioned and polite attempt to de-escalate the situation may work, but a de-escalation attempt will not work if the antagonistic party is not willing to be de-escalated. I have viewed multiple videos and personally witnessed several physical assaults when one person’s attempt to goad another into a fight failed and the aggressor attacked anyway.
A concealed carrier who sees activity on the part of another individual (or individuals) that differs from the norm might be best served by immediately increasing their distance and defaulting to an existing script. One of the problems with teaching this concept is showing the students how to convert theory into application. How many times have we read articles or heard other instructors tout the importance of being situationally aware without explaining how to physically accomplish that action? I remember a scene from the movie called “The Outlaw Josey Wales” in which Native American actor Chief Dan George said that he had been told by the Great White Father (the United States President) to “endeavor to persevere” without further explanation as to what that meant and how to achieve it. To that end, it might very well be worth the effort to run the students through several drills in which they get both detailed instruction and hands-on practice in practicing social skills useful for dealing for persons in ambiguous situations.
My school incorporates into our Managing Potential Threats in Public Areas class short blocks on dealing with unknown contacts or contacts with questionable intent whose motivations might be robbery, road rage, sexual assault, and political or interpersonal conflict. The prevailing theme is that the student perceives the other party as a potential threat, but an assault has yet to be launched.
We typically break persons who might be potential threats into two categories. The first category includes unknown contacts who may be using ruse or deception in the form of questions or pleas for assistance in an effort to get close enough to overpower their intended victim or produce a weapon and threaten deadly force if the intended victim does not comply. I am unable to think of a better system for dealing with these contacts that fall into this category than the Craig Douglas method of managing unknown contacts. I know instructors that were
Craig’s students at one time that do not use the same exact interpersonal verbiage that I do when teaching these skills, but the principles that we teach are all basically the same.
The second category includes unknown contacts and known contacts of questionable intent in which there is no discernible effort on the approaching person’s part to use ruse, and instead they simply are closing in or trying to cut the student off. The main difference between the two is that in the first category the manner of the approaching party is not overtly threatening, whereas the manner of the approaching party in the second category is overtly aggressive or at least suspicious.
I am an advocate of teaching the students to immediately increase distance from that person by moving in an arc or laterally and asking the person to stay back. Dependent upon the circumstances, I like using phrases like “sorry, can’t help you,” “sorry, man, didn’t mean to offend you,” or “do you mind staying back?” If the approaching party instead continues to encroach, I then suggest that the students speed up their pace and firmly tell the other party that they need to stay back. If that fails and the other person continues their encroachment, I then advocate issuing a loud command such as “Stay Back!” and preparing to take immediate action to flee the scene or defend themselves using the appropriate level of force.
Once the students understand the concepts then it is probably a good idea to have them practice these scenarios. One issue I see sometimes during these scenarios is a tendency for the students to default to whatever they think they should do, saw on YouTube, or were advised to do by a well-meaning friend or family member that they trust. It may be necessary for the instructor to play the role of the potential threat and/or law-abiding concealed carrier a few times until the class gets it
By no means do I imply that other FTA members need to act upon my suggestions, nor do I think that I have discovered something new that no one else has. As a content contributor for CCW Safe who frequently works with legal experts like Kyle Sweet, Don West, and Shawn Vincent, Use-of-Force expert Rob High, and former homicide investigator Gary Eastridge, I have developed a far deeper understanding of what our students will likely go through if they have to use lethal force to defend themselves. The worst possible outcome may very well be death or a grievous injury that ruins their life, and the best possible outcome involves decisions made by other persons as to whether or not the student is going to be charged with a misdemeanor or felony. As instructors, I think we should do anything that we can do to increase their odds of not getting caught up in a lethal force encounter, surviving a lethal force encounter without serious injury, and winning a possible legal battle afterwards. Good social skills can have a lot to do with this.
Steve Moses has been a defensive firearms trainer for over 27 years and is a licensed Texas Personal Protection Officer with 7 years of experience performing as shift lead on a church security detail for a D/FW area metro-church. Steve is a co-owner and Director of Training for Palisade Training Group, LLC based in Dallas, Texas. Moses is a retired deputy constable and spent over 10 years on a multi-precinct Special Response Team. He owns multiple instructor certifications, including Rangemaster Advanced Handgun Instructor and Defensive Shotgun Instructor, Red Zone Knife Defense Instructor and Adaptive Striking Foundations Instructor, Modern Samurai Project Red Dot Sight Instructor, and State of Texas Personal Protection Officer Instructor. Steve holds a BJJ Brown Belt in Relson Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He is a content contributor for CCW Safe and writes weekly articles on various subjects of interest to concealed carriers. Moses shoots competitively and holds an IDPA Expert rating. Steve is an annual presenter at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference.