A good talk with John Miglorie Monday got to one of the deep frustrations with trying to teach this material. The night before, at work on a very, very quiet night, one of the rookies said, "Yeah, but it can jump off in a second." It bothered me partially because he was a rookie, partially because he was exactly wrong and partially because he was exactly right, too.
Experienced officers are rarely surprised in a dorm setting. The mix of 75 inmates in an open room has a sound and a feel and you almost always sense when things are going bad well in advance. So the things that "jump off in a second" never really do. Most take days or hours for enmities and anger and indignation to build up... at the same time, these things can jump off in a second. The days and hours may have happened years ago on the street or in another prison. An experienced officer is rarely surprised, except when he is, and then he tends to be really surprised.
Someone breaks into your house in your sleep- do you make a noise to let them know the house is occupied? That would actually work for many of the low-level burglars. If, however, it was a home-invasion rape that's just calling the predator.
But what if you say you have a gun? Probably good, unless this was a process predator who had studied you and believed that you didn't. Lying from fear would encourage him. If you actually had a gun? Cool, except not announcing works better if you have to use it, announcing might work to prevent having to use it.
The assertive body language that discourages most predatory assaults might invite or even trigger a monkey dance.
The best research shows that survivors of vicious assaults fell back on an enraged and righteous mindset... but acting from anger instead of fear might negate a claim of self-defense (your lawyer will try to explain that anger was an expression of fear, the opposing attorney will argue that fear and anger are mutually exclusive and the jury will decide who had the most honest-looking haircut.)
I have to teach about the effects of adrenaline and the different types of freezes, but I rarely get them anymore. But I still can, and it is just as bad.
If you have trained to reflex so that the thug attacks and you parry and strike faster than thought and pull the punch a half inch away from his nose, he'll probably reconsider and back off and you will think you have done really well...except if the guy is experienced he will immediately know that you have just missed, pulling strikes is a reflex and you have thus been training to miss and he will bring a fight to you like nothing you have ever felt.
You will get cut in a knife defense. Believe it... but in my local circle of friends, including myself, we have twelve knife defenses and only one of us has even been scratched- and it was just a scratch. At the same time, it's a false sort, since the people who did get cut are far less likely to tell the story. (I could add two more data points, Jeff and Mauricio, but I don't have the details of number and severity of encounters.)
Action beats reaction. I live by this, but I've beaten it too, and so has everyone I know who survived a close-range knife ambush. Does the fact that I've done it mean my students can do it? It doesn't even necessarily mean that I can do it again.
That's a lot of hard truth that all boils down to uncertainty. Nothing works all the time, not even a .45 to the head. It is hard to teach confidence when the more you know, the less confident you feel. And for the record, the real job (and life for that matter) is to act anyway. You don't need confidence in a successful outcome to do the right thing (and that confidence would be false, anyway.) Every time you put your life on the line, it is an act of faith.
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