Mindset vs Skillset

What is all this “mindset” training I hear about surrounding self-protection?


Your mindset determines how you train and practice to stay safe:

  1. A defensive mindset – hoping to survive an attack or avoiding all training because it only happens to others.
  2. A prepared mindset – relies on your physical size, martial arts belts, sport fighting classes, and a firearm for those who Carry.
  3. The Survivor’s Mindset:
    • Accepting of the uncomfortable realities of survival violence.  Including the need to create an injury.
    • Capability to shift from a prey-to-predator mindset for surviving an encounter.
    • Train to survive the initial assault.  We practice postures and movements to make us appear compliant/non-threatening to the attacker.  This helps us buy time until we launch our counter assault.  
    • We accept that conflict is “fluid”.  It is not plug-in-play where if they do this, we do that.  Principles matter over a particular style, or technique in an encounter. 
    • No techniques exist that can remedy all scenarios. 
    • All practiced responses are ingrained to subconscious mastery (no “thinking” required).  This allows immediate follow-up after our reflexes and these become our Conditioned Responses.  
    • The simple formula we teach to guide you out of any threat is Compliance, Distraction, and Surprise to Attack.
    • Never submit.  You are doomed if you do, so don’t.
    • The survival mindset views weapons as tools.  They do not possess a mysterious power. We practice and train viewing them as such.

Why is Mental Preparedness so important?

The ability to maintain our emotional and mental composure (not becoming overwhelmed by fear/panic) is the most under-trained element of personal protection training.  

It comes first but is trained the least.

Without mental composure, we will be unable to engage our physical responses or safely escape.

Do you remember the Incredible Hulk?

When an injustice needed correction, the very nice guy David Banner’s shirt would explode open, his pants burst into “capris”, and he morphs into the enormously built Incredible Hulk to seek justice.


That is the survival mindset switch, Hollywood style.  He was a well-mannered guy, until it was time to not be.

Why does this work?

♦  Bad guys share the same hard-wired reflexive responses to an attack that we do. They have the same startle response patterns.

As an example, when you get poked in the eye, we all respond the same way.

Including the bad guy.  

The head launches itself away and the hands come up to the eyes. They water and blur compromising vision.

You can’t help it and neither can he.

♦  Attackers are not planning to deal with defending themselves. They bring tools or friends to do the “heavy lifting” for them.

The attacker’s survival system will control their movements for a brief time if you are able to get them off “script”, on the defensive, or can create an injury.  The goal is “buying” the time needed to safely escape.

When a tool is presented by a threat, your compliance, panic, or freezing are the expected responses.   Criminals with other intentions would have already shot/stabbed/harmed you.

When a tool does not give an attacker the power or control they expected, you have psychologically taken power away from the tool that the attacker expected.  Compliance is advisable, but submitting is waiting to be hurt or worse.

By causing this disruption in the “script”, it gives you valuable time to figure out your escape plan or how you are going to destroy him with the tool he presented.

To become a competent protector, practice and train to view tools for what they are, tools.

♦  Have you ever tried “attacking” while falling backward or being off balance?

It does not work.  It doesn’t work the for the bad guy either.  Maintaining your emotional and physical balance is critical to safe escape.

The takeaway…

Tools are not irrelevant, but they are not the cure-all in a survival situation.  Training with that mindset will keep you from remaining “frozen” when confronted by one.

Mindset preparation needs to include a basic understanding your own physiology, including reflex patterns.  This allows you to create your Conditioned Responses in concert with them and more quickly eliminate the threat and safely escape.

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