S.A.F.E. | A.I.R.S | A.P.E.

The simplest way to become an unattractive target and stay safe is found in two simple words, LOOK UP.  

When moving between an entry/exit point and during transitions (to and from your vehicle, work, dinner, shopping, etc.) the simple act of LOOKING UP and being Present will do more to keep you safe than any tool, tactic or technique.

We have created training methods that are understandable, doable, and work in concert with our own hardwired responses to danger.  Simplified and summarized below, our three Principle based acronyms help make it easy to remember what/how to practice.

S.A.F.E. – Situation | Avoid | Finish | Escape

 Our training objective – do not be “there”, and Finish to Safe Escape if you are.

A.I.R.S.  Automatic | Ingrained | Response to | Stimulus

Practicing slow, perfect iterations of fundamental movements to subconscious mastery ensures they will be there for you.

A.P.E. Audibly | Physically | Exactly

We train following the A.P.E. model to ensure our responses are deliverable during a high-stress encounter.  Just “knowing” what to do and say will not be reliable in a real-world threat to your survival.  

Our objective is not teaching people how to “fight”, practice martial arts, or combative sports training.   I completely support participation in all of them (coordination, fitness, and exposures), they just are not found here.

Staying safe has three important elements:

  • Contextual Awareness (a more precise version of Situational Awareness for day-to-day application)

– The awareness to identify situations or threats early so you can steer away from them, before needing to get out of one.

  • How you Practice your Tactics – [A.P.E.] Audibly | Physically | Exactly

 How to Practice your responses so they will be there when you need them under extreme survival stress.

  • An Offensive Mindset, Balanced mentally and physically

The shift in your mind from a “prey/victim” position, to an offensive and balanced “Predator” mindset, is critical for surviving a real world threat to your safety.  If attacked, it usually means facing a bigger, stronger, faster opponent who often brings friends. You can not “defend” yourself to safety in that context.  

You must be willing to accept becoming the most aggressive, brutal and relentless version of yourself possible.  The persona that is reserved for just that survival moment…it is me or him.


We know two things about attackers:

  1. They select victims they think they can dominate
  2. They don’t want to get caught.  

This should be used to our advantage.  When practicing, making noise and adding light (300+ lumen LED pocket carried flashlight) is smart, affordable, and effective.  

Whether it is used to add light to “dark” spaces before you enter them (in a parking garage, parking lot, around home) or temporarily blinding a threat you did not notice. Either will help you avoid a confrontation altogether, and could save your life.

Take-aways:  Changing an attacker’s mindset to “I misjudged my easy-target” is the goal. It will give you valuable seconds to avoid, escape or access your practiced responses and tools for staying safe.  Criminals rarely have a plan “B.”  Causing them to create one can end an attack before it even starts.


The Plan:  Committed Intent ⇒  Create an Injury ⇒  Safe Escape

Since I was a teenager, I have always enjoyed learning, practicing, teaching and exploring self-protection.  Including mental composure/fear management, human physiology, and biomechanics that enhance your ability to perform at a high level under stress.

As a result I have learned “Guarantees” are hollow in the context of personal defense.  

There is one thing I have come to believe is certain:

“Your success in a survival situation is largely determined by How you practiced.” 

spped bag edit

Your commitment to repeated, perfect, slow* iterations of fundamental movements is the scientifically proven way our brain creates an “automatic” response to a stimulus.  

(*Speed will come as a result, so slow enough to do it perfectly, every time.)

Frankly, becoming a competent protector is not sexy or flashy and is a little monotonous and boring as you ingrain the fundamentals.

The good news is it’s not complicated, nor costly, and does not discriminate based on size, strength, or agility.

Learning fancy techniques is fun and provides the illusion of feeling protected or can boost an ego.

The consequences of “ego” training are often exposed when you need them most…outside a controlled environment with uncooperative training partners, they may not be effective, or even doable.

Under extreme survival stress with a non-cooperative training partner, no rules or points, and your survival in the balance, just forget fancy.

“Conditioned Response was created to work with your reflexive responses, to enhance your trained responses, and create your Conditioned Responses to a threat.

A.I.R.S. – Automatic | Ingrained | Response to | Stimulus.

Joe Frazier stencilHumans are born with a self-protection system which is remarkably effective. It includes reflex arcs that you may relate to if you have ever bumped your hand into a hot stove (immediate retraction, no thought required).

Whether something gets in your eye, a sudden loud noise, or a sense of falling/off balance, our bodies own self-protection system ACTS BEFORE we have time to think.

Knowing how these reflexes manifest in a personal safety encounter allows you to build a solid foundation for your trained responses that follow.

An overview of some of these reflexive actions are below:

  • When startled by a loud sound or surprised, our hands come up toward the chest/head to protect the brain.  You may have seen this in funny video clips when someone is surprised.
  • As hands come up, we will orient toward the danger and try to “push it away”.
  • Shoulders come up and chin tucks creating additional protection for the brain and neck/spine.
  • We go flat-footed, our back locks, and we will square ourselves to the threat dropping our center of gravity for improved agility, balance, and power.
  • We will clutch/grasp with our hands (sympathetically under stress).  In the context of firearm safety, this is why it is so important to keep our finger outside the trigger guard so you do not negligently fire while trying to control a threat with your off hand.

No one can “out-think” or bypass reflexive responses to danger and why it is critical we know what they are. We should prepare and train to work with those responses because they always come first.

  • Our bodies physiological responses include dumping hormones, chemicals, and adrenaline in the bloodstream to increase strength, speed, power, and increase pain tolerances.
  • Heart rate spikes to keep up with the increased demand.  Senses often distort as our brains filter what is pertinent to our immediate survival and essentially “ignores” incoming signals that are not.
  • Thinking of a response is NOT going to happen once the threat is real.  Our brains are looking for what it already has practiced the most to deliver the quickest response.
  • Precision skills and complex physical tasks are challenging (ex: dialing a phone, tying shoes, fancy techniques).  
  • An example our own physiology can be found on video footage showing a pedestrian that is surprised by an oncoming vehicle.  Once the vehicle is noticed you see the freeze, center of gravity drop and going flat-footed to stabilize for an impact.  Accompanied by squaring to the vehicle (threat) as hands come up to push away the danger.  Though our reflexive responses are not helpful in that scenario, it illustrates the point that they will come first.

The take-away:  To become a competent protector, practice your principles, tactics, and techniques until you can’t do them wrong and without needing to “think”.  These will become your Conditioned Responses so that you become your own protector.

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