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More on The Way of the Hero

Jack Donovan, of The Way of Men fame, resurrected his Start The World podcast the other day, with an interview with Greg Hamilton, former Ranger and SF soldier, and one of the founders of Insights Training, in Tacoma, WA.

Whether it’s because Greg and I come from similar backgrounds (although Greg did a hell of a lot more cool guy stuff than I did), or we ended up in similar places because of similar philosophies, I couldn’t say, but he spends a lot of time in this interview discussing the Way of the Hero, and his thoughts on following that Way.

Listen, think, learn, apply.

 

http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2015/08/stw-podcast-episode-10-greg-hamilton/

From the Comments

I found this request in my comments today:

http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Caught-on-Cam-Shooting-Deli-Robber-Fight-Hoagie-City-322084072.html

Would you mind doing a breakdown of everything that went wrong here? I don’t have the chops/experience to Monday morning quarterback him but I think this falls in line with what you’ve been stressing lately.

Thanks for doing what you do.”

So, I’m going to preface this with the statement that this is really, kind of outside my area of expertise. I would really like to see someone like Paul Sharp or Craig Douglas break this down, but since I was asked, and it’s something we all need to be thinking about, I’m going to go ahead and give my thoughts on my observations.

1) The victim (and make no mistake, he was a VICTIM) had zero fucking situational awareness. I’m guessing he was buying lottery tickets and scratching them off (seriously. That in itself tells me he’s a sucker), but I cannot imagine, in my worst nightmares, letting someone I didn’t know–especially in an otherwise empty Stop-N-Rob station–get that close behind me without at least turning around to a) see what the fuck he wanted, and b) asking if he would “pretty please, wouldja mind” BACKING THE FUCK OFF!!?

2) It looks like, and the movement of the BGs right hand seems to indicate, that his “concealed” gun was printing through his t-shirt. I could go into the benefits of appendix carry in preventing this, as well as protecting against the gun grab, but that would be self-evident (and will be mentioned below, anyway). While concealed carry is the only legitimate method of carry for thinking people for normal every day carry, for both tactical and political reasons (open carry in the woods is not “normal” for most of us, since we tend to live in towns, and carrying at a political rally MAY be open to debate, but for both tactical and political reasons, open carry in day-to-day life is retarded. Period.), it has to actually, you know…be concealed….

3) While, laudably, the victim was apparently WILLING to fight, he lacked the ABILITY to fight. This is something I’ve beat the EVER-LOVING-FUCK out of on this blog, as I beat on the “you need to get training” drum. Will is great, but skill beats will, more often than not. Dude is on his back, wrestling for hand control of the gun, and doesn’t know what the fuck to do. Now, I’m not going to say that having studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for six months would have made a difference (it would have), but at least, with some experience fighting from the bottom, he could have leveraged the presence of his legs into the fight by trying to replace guard, and giving himself some better degree of control of the situation to hopefully hang on to the gun, and maybe not get shot. Carrying appendix, when combined with some knowledge of how to fight, would have damned near guaranteed that he would have maintained positive control of the gun. Hell, he might have even been able to shoot the Bad Guy. As it is, he got shot at, with his own gun, before the BG took off with it.

There are few ways in this world that one can die, more embarrassing, than being shot with YOUR OWN GODDAMNED GUN!!!!

4) Dude just looked like a victim. I mean, seriously. Look at that scrawny little dude. My wrists are bigger around than his biceps. He needed to be in the gym, throwing some heavy weight around. At least then, since he lacked the skill to fight, he MIGHT have been able to leverage the STRENGTH to win….

(Yes, maybe he has cancer, or AIDS, or HerpeGonorrheaSyphilAIDS, or something else, and I’m a horrible person for making fun of him for not being a weightlifter. Tough shit. Fate don’t care. She’s a mean old cunt like that.)

Edited to add: And he looks like he’s wearing his goddamned pajamas out in public. Even the bad guy took the time to tuck his shirt in before he entered the store. Seriously. Dress like a goddamned grown man, not like a fucking eight year old. You’ll look less like a victim.

Building Tribe: The Way of the Hero

...Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker…

–C.S. Lewis

…the sagas celebrate the deeds of heroic individuals who often break the rules. But, such individuals are celebrated because they are exceptional. It is such men who lead, and command the loyalty of others (which is the virtue most conspicuously celebrated in the sagas). All people need leaders; they seldom if ever liberate or enlighten themselves. If great changes are to be made, a vanguard is needed, and in the beginning, that vanguard will be feared and despised.” –Colin Cleary

For much of human history, the art of the hero wasn’t left up to chance…the hero’s skills were studied, practiced, and perfected, then passed along from parent to child and teacher to student. The art of the hero wasn’t about being brave; it was about being so competent that bravery wasn’t an issue. You weren’t supposed to go down for a good cause; the goal was to figure out a way not to go down at all. Achilles and Odysseus and the rest of the classical heroes hated the thought of dying and scratched for every second of life. A hero’s one crack at immortality was to be remembered as a champion, and champions don’t die dumb. It all hinged on the ability to unleash the tremendous resources of strength, endurance, and agility that many people don’t realize they already have.

–Christopher McDougall

As I’ve been working steadily along, trying to create book number three in an image that at least somewhat resembles the goals I have for it, the three quotes above have been pinned to the wall above my office desk, because so much of the essence of the goal of the book is encompassed in those three quotes.

You see, one of the characteristics that defines a tribe, both anthropologically and practically, is a shared history, whether real or mythic. This history may be ancestral. Generally, all members of a kin-group tribe will be able to trace their ancestry back to a common individual, but often—thanks to the phenomena of intermarriage and adoption in tribal societies, those ancestral bonds are as likely to be mythic as they are to be connected by DNA. In sodalities, like guilds and war-band type tribes of course, it’s almost a given that the shared ancestry of the tribe—the nucleus that makes them a tribe, their “mutual exclusivity,” is going to to be more mythic than real.

That’s okay. Why is that okay? I mean, isn’t that a lie?

Let’s back up, for just a moment, and look again at what defines a tribe. A tribe is a social unit that possesses something that defines the group’s boundaries, but also that separates it from the rest of humanity. It’s the “us vs. them” that Jack Donovan discusses in his writing. I refer to it as “mutual exclusivity.” It’s that je ne sais quoi that defines the boundaries of “our”group from others.
It doesn’t need to be real, as long as it’s real to the group.

That mutual exclusivity, typically, can be defined as the shared history, ancestry, values, traditions, and customs, of the people of the tribe. Some may be shared with other tribes, but the specifics of how OUR tribe recognizes or exercises them is different enough that it separates us from them. In pre-Christianization Europe, for one example, pretty much all tribes that are now recognized as having belonged to the Germanic linguistic group—the Cherusci, the Allemani, the Marcomanni, the Franks, Angles, Saxons, and Jutes; the Vandals and Gepids, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, and Lombards, were “Germanic.” Their languages were all connected. Their cultures shared similarities, but their cultures were not identical. They were separate tribes, even as they shared common cultural characteristics.

Today however, we’re going to discuss one particular characteristic of tribalism and neo-tribalism, the immense value of the shared mythic ancestry of a tribe.

In what can be defined as an “intentional tribe,” such as a guild or war-band type association historically, or in our post-modern context, the intentional grouping of like-minded families for mutual assistance, where shared ancestry is not—and almost cannot—be certain, the mythic ancestry, and the lessons that can be gained from claiming a shared mythic ancestry cannot be overemphasized.

An example of this can be seen in the military, with the adoption of unit lineages. The United States Army says the following about the lineage of the Ranger Regiment: “The U.S. Army Ranger history predates the Revolutionary War.” Now, BY DEFINITION, nothing of the United States can predate the Revolution. So, by citing Majors Church and Rogers, fighting for the British, in the French and Indian War—especially considering Major Rogers’ later loyalties—as ancestral figures for the U.S. Army’s Rangers, is the very definition of a mythic ancestry for the unit. That doesn’t, however, change the fact that the exploits of Rogers’ Rangers, for one, have long served as a catalyst for awesome achievements by members of the unit.

We can do the same thing with our own intentional tribes, and kin-group tribes as well, today.

So, what is the value of the hero? In the Age of the Anti-Hero, why bother? Nobody takes that heroism shit seriously anyway, right? Two days ago, as I write this, three young American men, along with an older British pensioner, followed the Way of the Hero, on a train in France, when a would-be jihadist gunmen decided to shoot up their train car with a Kalashnikov. Rather than sitting back and hoping for “someone” to do “something,” they took action. There was, apparently, no hesitation on their part. They “went to the sound of the guns” literally.

It is popular in contemporary American society—and make no mistake, it carries over into the shooting world, as well as the preparedness and liberty communities—to belittle those who choose to try and set themselves up for success when their time comes to follow the Way of the Hero. Long-time readers of this blog have seen it regularly in the comments.

“Oh, you can do all that PT you want. You can do all that training, but you could still get unlucky, and catch a bullet. You could still die from dysentery or smallpox or anthrax.”

Those people are absolutely right. You COULD die from one of those. That doesn’t matter though, because, as they point out, it doesn’t matter how fit or prepared you are…when smallpox catches you, smallpox catches you, and fitness—while it MIGHT increase your survivability—is going to have less impact on your future than good nursing and medical care.

In The Fate of Empires, Sir John Baget Glubb argued that the rise of intellectualism was one of the causes of the decline of empire. In Athens, the spirit of continual conversation, mentioned Biblically in The Acts of the Apostles, “…all of the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas…” led to interminable debate and discussion, and constant argument, back-and-forth, among factions with different views of the end-state goals of Athenian democracy.

Just like in our own time, when people are too busy arguing over the details of their pet peeve or concern of the week, instead of getting out and doing something that matters, the spirit of Athenian debate seems to be, much like it was in other historical imperial cultures, the destruction of the spirit of action that is necessary for success.

Make no mistake, the rise of intellectualism seems to be a good thing, at first glance. Surprising advances have been made in the sciences, and the understanding of our physical world. The cultivation of the human intellect seems to be—and I would argue, for the most part, is—a magnificent ideal. This is only true however, if the pursuit if intellectualism does not rob a culture of its willingness—even its longing for the pursuit of—to pursue action for the furtherance of its ideals and the protection of its values.

The most damnable result of the rise of intellectualism however, is the growth within the collective psyche of a people, that the human brain can solve all the perceived problems of the world. The reality of the human experience over the last 40,000 years rather clearly illustrates that, in order for any human cultural activity to succeed, some form of community must be engaged in an actual effort towards the completion of that goal. The idealistic naivete of the idea that “reason always wins,” and mental cleverness alone can resolve all problems, without physical effort, falls flat as soon as a foe is met who is willing to stop talking, and start chopping the heads off the intellectuals.

We see this in our contemporary world, as the intelligentsia of the West looks for ways to reason with the Islamo-Fascism of extremist Mohammedism. We look for ways to appease the soldiers of the resurgent Caliphate, even as they are taking heads. We pontificate on some “moral high ground,” without being willing to accept that it was not the moral high ground that led to the ascendance of western cultural values in the world. It was the willingness to raze cities, and put heads on spikes, that allowed western culture to overtake the world. It was the willingness to firebomb and drop atomic bombs on cities that allowed American culture to overtake the world. We can sit in our comfortable, climate-controlled homes and offices, and worry about the “moral high ground” because our forebears were willing to take action. We can look back at history and believe we’re above all that, because we live in the Age of Intellect.

Before we can begin to recognize the impact of intellectualism on the Way of the Hero, we do need to concede that intelligence is not bad. Having the intelligence to understand the meanings of words, and to apply those words correctly, is important. Words have meanings. In order to avoid being pawns of The Narrative, we have to 1) understand those meanings, and 2) insist that those words are used, within the context of those meanings. Anyone who insists on misusing those words, or relying on “the generally accepted definition” is not worthy of wasting our own energy on debate.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary—which is, in my estimation—the final arbiter of meaning within the English language, intellectualism is defined as “the exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions.” In turn, intellect is defined as “the faculty of reasoning or understanding, objectively, especially with regard to abstract or academic matters.

Intellect is good. The ability to set emotion aside, and look at things objectively, as they are, rather than as we wish them to be, is critical to survival and life. It is not until we begin to consider the realities of human nature though, and the resulting expression of intellect, sans emotion, in our current socio-political climate, that we begin to see the deleterious effects.

Noam Chomsky, a prattering “social activist” intellectual of the worst sort, pointed out—in a rare moment of honesty—that “…intellectuals are specialists in defamation. They are basically political commissars, they are the ideological administrators, the most threatened by dissidence…” In Marxist philosophy, the social-class function of the intellectual, referred to by Marx and Engel as the “intelligentsia,” is to be the source of progressive ideals for the transformation of society, and to interpret the country’s politics to the masses, as well as to provide guidance and advice to the political leadership of the Party.

This is, ultimately, the problem with intellectualism, and its negative impact on our society’s view of the Way of the Hero. Thomas Sowell—who is by any objective measure, the definition of an intellectual—makes the case in his 2009 book, Intellectuals and Society, for a justifiable level of anti-intellectualism in the modern world, due to malfeasance in the educational system:

By encouraging, or even requiring, students to take stands where they have neither the knowledge nor the intellectual training to seriously examine complex issues, teachers promote the expression of unsubstantiated opinions, the venting of uninformed emotions, and the habit of acting on those opinions and emotions, while ignoring or dismissing opposing views, without having either the intellectual equipment or the personal equipment to weigh one view against another in any serious way.

It is critical to notice that Dr. Sowell is critical of a misplaced emphasis on unreasoned thought, not on the use of intellect. In fact, it is a call for a more disciplined intellectual rigor, requiring both the intellectual tools of critical thinking, and the empiricism of life experience, for decision-making on where an individual stands in regard to complex issues. This distinguishes intelligence (good) from intellectualism (bad). As Thucydides famously reminded us in History of the Pelopennesian Wars, “…the society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting by fools.

The academic who has never tasted the copper-mouthed sensation of life-and-death fear, as he watches muzzle flashes downrange, or watches someone charging him, with fists clenched around the haft of a cold steel blade, or has never watched the blood flowing out of someone that he knows and loves, lacks the real life experience to genuinely understand, at a visceral, human level, the warrior past of our human heritage. On the opposite side of the same coin however, the warrior—no matter how blooded in battle—without an intellectual understanding of the human past, can never really begin to understand the strategic social implications of the combat in which he took part. He is forced to accept the explanations of his leaders. For our tribes to thrive, there must be a balance sought between the intellect and the instinct.

The balance must be sought between the intellect and the instinct.

The folklore and legends of the past—the tales of our heroes—are the epic oral traditions that form the beginning of the foundations of the study of history. They are—first and foremost—bellicose. If Achilles had been content to sit in a classroom and debate the merits of Lacedaemonian militaristic social structures, versus Athenian democracy, would anyone really remember him? Has Brad Pitt ever starred in the movie portrayal of Socrates? (For the record, for those readers whose entire view of it is based on a shitty comic book-turned-movie, Lacedeamonia was the actual name of the city-state we refer to as Sparta.)

Until the rise of Marxist intellectualism in the 20th Century, historiography was largely nothing more than the study of conflict and wars, and—occasionally—the social and political catalysts for both. History is the study only of the written accounts of the past, and writing is a social communications device limited—by definition—to civilized societies. For this reason, the history of the world has been limited by the prejudices and cultural cognitive biases of civilized historians. While particularly prevalent in the Marxist-dominated intelligentsia of the 20th Century, even previously, this has led to a discrediting of the value of myth and legend in the telling of the human experience.

Even Herodotus, “The Father of History,” recorded legends and fanciful tales, explaining himself with the fact that he only recorded what he’d been told, in order “to prevent the traces of human events from being erased by time, and to preserve the fame of the important remarkable achievements produced by both Greeks and non-Greeks.” Herodotus understood the importance of history and knowledge, but he also understood that myth is history, told better.

Recognizing the existence of cultural biases of historians, we are forced to acknowledge, within historiography, valid, unbiased observations of the significant majority of the general human experience of the past, in the form of preliterate cultures, including many of those that our most cherished cultural values and traditions derive from. This leaves us with a limited number of options for studying much of the past, and how humans have survived outside of the civilized nation-state construct.

In the first, we can turn to the ethnographic observation of the acknowledged biased studies of civilized observers, like the legendary Roman historian Tacitus. In the second, we can turn to the relatively modern study of anthropology. These two allow us to look at what were and are preliterate societies, as they existed alongside civilization, both in the past, and in the present. Through critical thinking and comparison of these two, we can often deduce valuable lessons for our intentional tribes. While some intellectuals argue that the access of modern preliterate cultures, to modern technology and cultural values through even limited contacts like trade and the presence of anthropologists in their midst creates an artificiality to the study, this argument overlooks the fact that even our preliterate barbarian ancestors had contact and trade with their civilized society neighbors. If not, we’d know nothing of them, for lack of written record. Anthropology and ethnography does have limitations—mostly in the educated biases of the recording writers—but it does offer one of the most valuable options for comparison.

In the third option, we can rely on a study of the myths and legends of the past, handed down through the biased lenses of historians, When coupled with the study of the archaeological evidence available, and the intellectual rigor of solid, objective critical thinking, we gain a great deal of value. The greatest drawback to this route however, is that internalizing the understanding of the myths and legends handed down to us from the past requires overcoming the influences of the biases and belief systems of the civilized scribes—generally non-believers of the myths they recorded—that first put them down in ink.

Ultimately, the only way for this method to have value to us is for the modern interpreter, retelling the legends, to have a legitimate, experiential frame-of-reference in the subject matter of the myth or legend. An academic who has never been in even a schoolyard fistfight, has no legitimate frame-of-reference for interpreting the legends of a mythic warrior’s actions, when considered objectively. This doesn’t mean he can’t gain value from the legend, or pass on lessons to others, based on that legend. It simply means that often, the most valuable, more nuanced lessons, will go unremarked, because the teller lacks the experience to recognize their import.

There needs to be, in the distillation of experience that forms the shared traditions and value of our intentional tribes, a balance between pure reason and intellect, and the more gut-level intuition that can only be developed through the experience of living life. We have, in the western cultural tradition, numerous examples illustrating a perfectly valid alternative to the “real” history of academia, all of which illustrate our cultural values far better. They are the mythic histories beloved of all people, except the intellectuals who possess a vested interest in maintaining the myth of the intellect over the instinct of action.

In the Hellenic tradition, we have the great Homeric epics, including the Illiad and the Odyssey. We have the teachings of Socrates, first expressed in writing by Xenophon, Aristophanes, and—most famously—Plato and Aristotle. None of these stories can be considered strictly historical. Intellectuals would insist on referring to them as “legends,” since they lack any evidence beyond second-hand stories. There is little or no archaeological evidence that the characters in Homer’s epics—or even Socrates as an actual person—ever actually existed, beyond the stories. Rather, these are the mythic histories of the classical Hellenes. They portray the preliterate ancestry of the classical Greeks, in the way the classical Greeks wanted to believe that their ancestors existed (if you haven’t figured it out yet, that last clause in that last sentence is the critical point of this article).

To the North, we have—at a much, much later date—the same types of mythic histories, in the form of the Norse and Icelandic sagas, and epic poems like Beowulf in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, and the Nibelunglied in the German. These too are the mythic histories of the respective cultures, forming a portrait of the preliterate ancestors as either the Christian scribes that put ink to parchment, or the individuals who passed the tales on to the scribes, wanted their ancestors to have been.

It is popular among the intelligentsia to discredit the accuracy of the sagas and epics, precisely because they were written down long after the times they are credited with having occurred, by Christian scribes with an entirely different cultural bias than the subjects of the myths. Some of the legends inherent to the mythic histories, of course, are beyond the belief of rational, critical thinking, to our minds. Is it creditable that Achilles really was impervious to all wounds, except to the back of his ankle? Could Ragnar Lothbrok really have accomplished all the things he is credited with? Is it creditable that Siegfried—or Beowulf, for that matter—actually slayed a dragon? Perhaps not, at least from a rational, scientific point-of-view.

The most common course-of-action then, has been to attempt to explain these myths in more scientifically plausible ways. Achilles was not really “blessed of the gods.” He was just supremely gifted—or inordinately lucky—or he was an early pioneer of social engineering, and managed to induce a mass hysteria that affected all who confronted him so that none of them actually ever tried to actually kill him, because of the legends he spread about his own birth.

Ragnar Lothbrok was really a composite of a number of minor warlords, blended together in legend, to create a fictional character worthy of the origin myths of a strong, proud, national and cultural identity. The dragon foes of Siegfried and Beowulf were metaphors like the “snakes” that Saint Patrick drove from Ireland during the conversion era, or they were just made up, whole cloth, by the original poets, long before their tales were written down.

While this urge makes sense from an academic standpoint, where everything has to have a rational, plausible explanation, it does a great disservice not only to the men who possessed the original foresight to record the legends for the future, but to the rest of mankind as well. The fact is, mythic history is just as important—more important, I would argue—than actual history, to the cultural identity and history of a people. We “know” for example, that—despite the cultural cognitive biases of the Chinese—the Middle Kingdom has seldom been a single cultural and political entity. Instead, while certain dynasties have held the imperial throne, the vast majority of China, even as late as the early 20th Century, was actually a broken, scattered composite of minor fiefdoms, ruled by fiercely independent local warlords who may—or may not—have offered token fealty to the empire, whole practicably retaining total autonomy. Despite this though, the mythic history of the Middle Kingdom has been critical to the ethnic and cultural identity of many people of Chinese descent, around the world.

The same is true of the value of the Homeric epics, the teachings credited to Socrates, and even the sagas and epics of the North, for western cultural values. Our own national founders, raised with classical educations, knew the mythic histories of North and South, and accepted them—if not as actual history—as an important cultural myth, forming a significant portion of the better foundations of their own—and our own—culture. Myth really is history, told better, and myth is as important to the identity of a culture, as actual history.

So, what does this mean, in the context of trying to form intentional tribes for survival of the decline of empire? Where can we apply these lessons as praxis?

Number One, we need to begin creating a shared mythic history of our tribe. This need not be all mythic of course. Within our own cultural traditions and history, there are ample stories of seemingly superhuman feats and achievements. The problem is, if your children are publicly educated, they will no longer hear of the feats of men like Nathan Hale, Francis Marion, and Paul Revere. They won’t hear of a young JEB Stuart, not even 16 yet, when he blew a highwayman out of the saddle with his grandfather’s blunderbuss, loaded with powder and gravel. They won’t hear of the “stooges if the colonialist imperialists” that fought in the China-Burma-India theatre as Merrill’s Marauders. They probably won’t even hear of the actual mythic legends like Ragnar Lothbrok, Egil Skallgrimmsson, Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus. It’s a given that they won’t hear the stories of heroes like David and Joshua and Daniel…

More than just knowing these tales, we need to TELL these tales. Whether your own children, the children of your family, or the children of your intentional tribe, our young people need to hear and learn the mythic history of their people. If your tribe has monthly or weekly training drills, or even just meetings, someone should be entertainer enough to tell these stories in a way that keeps the young mesmerized, and away from the television and iPads and computers. Even the adults in your groups may be unfamiliar with the lessons of these myths.

The stories need not be of legends either. Their are ample tales of heroism, of life and health sacrificed for the good of one’s own people, one’s tribe, all around us. From the stories of Medal of Honor winners, to modern soldiers in combat, to firefighters and police officers, to normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill, suburban soccer moms and dads running to the—literal or figurative—sounds of the guns. The goal is not to simply recite stories. The goal is to create a tribal tradition that values heroism and The Way of the Hero, to counter and overcome the rise of the Age of Mediocrity.

Even more than living and telling these tales, we need to begin to relive the lessons of these tales. Among the excerpts that I prefaced this article with, was one from Christopher McDougall’s book Natural Born Heroes:

For much of human history, the art of the hero wasn’t left up to chance…the hero’s skills were studied, practiced, and perfected, then passed along from parent to child and teacher to student. The art of the hero wasn’t about being brave; it was about being so competent that bravery wasn’t an issue. You weren’t supposed to go down for a good cause; the goal was to figure out a way not to go down at all. Achilles and Odysseus and the rest of the classical heroes hated the thought of dying and scratched for every second of life. A hero’s one crack at immortality was to be remembered as a champion, and champions don’t die dumb. It all hinged on the ability to unleash the tremendous resources of strength, endurance, and agility that many people don’t realize they already have.

It is not just ourselves that we train for. It is not for my own ego that I go out into my backyard gym and throw heavy iron barbells and kettlebells around. It’s not for my own aggrandizement that I run sprint intervals, or take long, fast hikes through the forested mountains, over broken terrain, with heavy packs on. It’s not even for the survival of my children. My children are with us, watching us, as my wife and I do our daily PT. They see us doing it, every day, rain or shine, good health or ill, and they learn, from our example, the Way of the Hero; of being prepared. They learn the message of being “so competent that bravery isn’t an issue.”

My children have been given rubber training knives in lieu of teething rings. They have had bedtime stories of the ancient myths and legends, and their lullabies have been songs of battle and strife and good overcoming evil through skill and will.

We need to live the Way of the Hero, not so much for ourselves, as for our children, that they might learn these lessons, to pass on to their children, that the values of the tribe will live on. Ultimately, it’s a given that we’re all going to die. I’m well into middle-age. If I’m not at the halfway point of the modern human lifespan, I’m pushing it closely. I make no claims to physical immortality. I strive to ensure the survival not of myself, but of my kith and kin. They garner the benefit of the struggle to live the Way of the Hero, because it gives them a moral exemplar to strive for.

Sacrifice is something that is often talked about, but seldom really discussed in detail. This is too bad, because really, the Way of the Hero is Sacrifice. Sacrifice is a gift exchange—a barter if you will—with the divine. When we offer a sacrifice, regardless of our personal belief system, and regardless of the sacrifice offered—prayer, blood, or other—we are offering the gods a gift. In exchange for that gift, we are hoping that, when we need it, they will offer us something in return. Training is sacrifice of the self. When you train, you are offering your time, your sweat, your effort, and occasionally, your blood, to the divine. In return, you are asking that—when you need it—the skill developed by that training, will be given to you by the gods, that you will be able to do what you need to do.

When approached this way, it makes training a tribal value—again, regardless of belief system or religion of the tribe. Sacred things are those things that have been marked off and set aside from the profane space of the world, separated from the mundane of every day objects and activities, and from profane time by being linked to the eternity of the divine. Our training becomes a sacred tribal tradition and value of we “set it side,” and treat it as “holy,” or “consecrated.” We make it special by making it ritual. Would you let daily life interfere with your prayers? Would you let your job interfere with your family time? Make training a ritual of importance, and dive into the Way of the Hero. If it’s appropriate to your belief system, open and close your training with prayer, to set it aside from the mundane on either side of it. Make it “holy” by incorporating “scriptures” of the stories of the heroes of your traditions into it. One thing I try to do in every class is tell stories that are relevant to the class, at that moment, of men I’ve known, or people known by people I’ve known, who have done amazing things, relevant to that lesson. Stories drive home the lessons we are trying to impart, just like a particular religious parable or legend can drive home the lesson of a sermon.


That, ultimately, is the value of the Hero. Not to live forever. It is to give us an example of behavior to strive for. I am not Achilles. I am not Hector. I am not Arminius. I am not Ragnar. I am not Joshua or David or Daniel. I am John, but I can strive to be LIKE all of those men, and in the struggle, I am better, and my tribe is better.

Podcast Appearance Tonight

At 2100 tonight (CST), I will be appearing on the Spearhead Transmission podcast, out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I honestly don’t know fuck-all about the podcast, or the two dudes who run it. I only have a general outline of the conversational path. We’ll see how it goes. Feel free to listen in, maybe I’ll say something profound (it’s more likely I’ll say something really fucking stupid though……)

Spearhead Transmission Podcast:
http://spearheadtransmission.libsyn.com/

Their Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/spearheadtransmission

TEOTWAWKI is NOW! Overcoming Normalcy Bias: Critical Thinking for Survival

One of the most important skills for survival that must be mastered, or at least practiced at a journeyman level, by the prepared individual, family, and tribe, is critical thinking. Of all the practical, tactical training and preparedness you can can do, the single most important, most often overlooked, is basic critical thinking skills. As I write, travel and teach, and interact with contemporary people, I regularly witness the lack of this in the broad majority of people. I’ve even been known to suffer from it myself.

People, even in the “firearms,” “tactical training,” “preparedness,” and “militia” communities, suffer from a pronounced lack of critical thinking skills, all too often.

An example of this can be seen in the recent frenzy within the preparedness and liberty-minded communities, over the Jade Helm 2015 UW exercise. For months prior to the beginning of the exercise, we saw unfounded, unsourced reports by sensationalist outlets in the preparedness and militia communities repeated across the preparedness “media” and social media as “fact.” Here we are, a full month into the exercise, nearing the stated end of the exercise, and most of the original source reporters have either stopped talking about it completely, or have taken a 180 degree course shift from their original stance, of “it’s an imposition of martial law,” to “well, it’s still an attempt to normalize seeing military personnel operating on US soil!”

This is despite the fact that COUNTLESS recent Special Forces veterans within our own virtual communities (yes, myself included), have spent an inordinate amount of bandwidth trying to explain to people the concept of a “theater-level” exercise, and pointing out the recent historical precedents for this exact type of exercise.

It’s funner, and far more entertaining however, to imagine resisting against martial law, in some form of masturbatory Red Dawn scenario, than to use critical thinking to recognize, “Hey, maybe we SHOULD at least listen to what the guys with actual experience in THIS EXACT TYPE OF TRAINING EXERCISE have to say, before we jump to conclusions. You know what happened as a result of the hyper-paranoia induced within the preparedness and militia communities by these Harbingers of Doom? The virtual community lost even more credence with the average Joe and Jane Citizen, who saw the community represented as a bunch of farcical, paranoid lunatics. Seriously.

That was a lack of critical thinking. It’s easier to blindly repost scary memes on Facebook though.

A similar example can be seen in the oversimplification of “use-of-force” scenarios among the preparedness and survivalists. Too often, discussions of use-of-force end up being artificially simplified to, “I’ve got mah .45! Ah’ll jest shoot that there sumbitch in the eye!” Or, “I’m going to use my gutterfighting, dirty tricks to gouge his eye out and skull-fuck him to death!” While those may work as standard responses to dangerous encounters in a TEOTWAWKI “Zombie Apocalypse,” the simple reality of life is, we’re not dealing with a Zombie Fucking Apocalypse. We’re dealing with an entirely different TEOTWAWKI situation. In the real TEOTWAWKI life we’re living, right now, today, those responses as standardized responses, will only end up in one result: getting buggered in the ass by your cellmate. Oversimplification of any scenario is, in itself, a failure of critical thinking, in recognizing that the world is NOT black-and-white, and there are always shades of gray involved. Maybe not fifty shades, but damned sure more than two.

The above example of the REAL TEOTWAWKI leads directly into the one failure of critical thinking that is currently, and will continue to be, the leading killer of otherwise solid, prepared individuals. This ranges from armed citizens, to soldiers, to armed police officers on the street. That is “normalcy bias.”

What is “normalcy bias?”

Wikipedia, that paragon of journalistic objectivism, defines normalcy bias as “a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to undestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects….The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur….People with normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before…”

That’s actually—surprisingly for Wikipedia—a pretty accurate description. So, how do armed citizens, who have actually, apparently overcome their normalcy bias at least enough to recognize that something bad enough to warrant needing a gun MIGHT occur, suffer from normalcy bias? How do soldiers and police officers suffer from normalcy bias? How can I say that preppers, who obviously recognize the potential for a disaster to occur—that’s why their preppers, for fuck’s sake—suffer from normalcy bias?

Well, let’s back up for a few minutes first, and look at WHY normalcy bias occurs.

The Why and How Behind Normalcy Bias
Humans as a rule, in any given scenario or situation, generally “see” exactly what we expect to see. An example of this regularly occurs in the shoot house during the decision-making drills when I teach CQB. As the shooter moves around the angles of the door, he “pies” quickly, to see as much of the interior as possible, before actually effecting entry. Many times, they’ll “see” a role-player inside “pointing a gun” at them, because they do, in fact, see the role-player’s hands up and to the front, and they do, in fact, see a gun. What they don’t recognize, because it’s not what they expect to see, is that the gun is actually laying on the ground at the role-player’s feet, and the outstretched hands are palms-out, in a placating or pleading gesture. For the first several iterations, almost invariably (certainly in more than 90% of cases) the shooter engages the role-player with simulated gunfire, because they “saw” a “gun pointed at them,” because that’s what they expected to see, and that was processed faster than their brain could piece together what was actually seen.

The same thing often happens in what later turn out to be apparently unjustified shootings by both armed citizens and sworn police officers. In dealing with an aggressive, combative subject, something appears in the hands, and the good guy, conditioned by sub-par training, to “expect” a combative subject to have a weapon, engages with lethal force, only to discover after the fact, it was a cellphone or some other innocuous implement that was not really a weapon at all (it’s important to note, I’m not criticizing the individual in this case, but their training. There’s no point in criticizing someone for following their human nature).

Besides seeing what we expect to see, the second why behind normalcy bias is the human tendency to ignore and/or deny those things that make us uncomfortable. Someone who is uncomfortable with physical violence may be in denial, even as they find themselves on the pavement, getting a boot stomp party across their forehead. This happens with police officers and armed citizens with a frightening frequency, and there is ample surveillance and dash camera footage to validate it. Even a half-hearted search of YouTube, coupled with some minor objectivism when watching the videos, makes this abundantly obvious.

Finally, if something cannot be “ignored” or “denied,” we dismiss it as unrealistic. I witnessed one major example of this on my buddy Greg Ellifritz’s Active Response Training Facebook page recently, when he posted a link to an article discussing the relationship, or lack thereof, between what “gun guys” wear in tactical shooting classes, and what is actually needed for personal protection, based off the recorded use-of-force experiences of armed citizens and police officers. The argument was made that, since the chances of a private citizen getting involved in a shooting that involved them using their rifle was slim to none, that training with a full load-out, and practicing things like speed reloads and related esoteria, was largely unnecessary and irrelevant.

There’s a lot of apparent value to that argument. While I do drive around with a loaded M4 on the backseat floorboard of my vehicle, and carry a Glock 17 or 19 concealed on my person religiously, I don’t drive around with a plate carrier and warbelt or RACK on. If we look at regular use-of-force incidents by armed citizens in public, and at home, most are successfully ended with far less than one magazine out of a Glock, let alone out of a rifle. One commenter noted that if an armed citizen fired an entire magazine out of an AR15, in a defensive shooting scenario, he or she would be the lead story on the national news. If they used TWO magazines, they’d probably go in the history books.

The problem is, THAT is normalcy bias, and it leads us directly into the crux of this article: We don’t live in what most of us recognize as “normal” times anymore. I would argue that we are, in fact, in the midst of TEOTWAWKI, and most people, including “preppers” are in a normalcy bias-driven denial of that reality.

TEOTWAWKI…For Real
For most of us, of a, shall I say, “certain age,” normal is defined as the America we recognize from our youth and young adulthood. That America is gone, as most of us recognize. The denial in question isn’t that. The denial is expecting that “normal” as we define it is going to return.

The core of this article clicked with me several nights ago, as my wife and I watched the Republican presidential candidate debates on television. No one of the candidates was arguing for a return, or even a conservation, of “normal” America. From Donald Trump acknowledging that he had—and would continue—to buy politicians, and that it was “no big deal,” because “everybody does it,” to Chris Christie arguing that there was nothing wrong with shredding the Constitution, in the pursuit of “security,” to Ben Carson arguing that taxes are a moral equivalent of tithing, there was really none of the candidates—with the arguable exception of Rand Paul, who made any argument that even hinted at a desire to return America to “normal.”

We face constant, and increasing foreign invasion across the southern border. We face increasing socialization of our society and government, and beyond calls for electing a “Republican” to roll back the socialist policies of the Obama administration, including his “unconstitutional executive orders” (no mention was made of those of his predecessor, I noted), no one really expects any changes to that either. We see calls from Mohammedan subcultures within our country to be allowed to deal with things under Sharia Law. Rather than laugh at the absurdity of it, too often, we give it credence by even taking it seriously.

Sure, they’re serious, but the only sane response to that is a resounding, “Go fuck yourself, or go home and fuck a goat,” by the political leadership of any community that finds itself confronted with such pleas. Even giving them the appearance of legitimate consideration is admission that “normal” is no longer “normal,” and is admission that it really us TEOTWAWKI.

Normalcy bias, in this instance, is the belief that TEOTWAWKI will be heralded by some obvious, major catalyst, like an EMP or the declaration of martial law by the government. Ignoring the absolute, absurd impossibility of effective martial law in the United States, as a whole, think about the actual definition of TEOTWAWKI. It’s HERE, NOW, and denying it is normalcy bias.

Yes, use of force by armed citizens are generally solved by 2-3 rounds in 2-3 seconds at 2-3 yards. Accepting that, and determining that, because this is “normal,” then that’s all you need to prepare for, even as we argue and discuss the infiltration of jihadi terrorists, and WITNESS the radicalization of home-grown jihadi sympathizers, is a textbook example of normalcy bias.

Stockpiling beans, bullets, and band-aids, in the interest of being prepared for TEOTWAWKI, without recognition that you are in the midst of TEOTWAWKI, is normalcy bias.

Overcoming The Bias
We see media pundits every day, telling us we have to move past our biases, and accept all people as the same. While that’s absurd, on the face of it, there are biases we do need to overcome, if we’re to survive long enough to ensure that our children and grandchildren will survive. How do we do so?

1) Accept that “normal” is no longer “normal.” This requires more than simply telling yourself. It requires internalizing it as reality and truth. It’s great for patriotic, conservative, Americans to long for yesteryear, and the greatness of the Pax Americana. It’s also completely fucking delusional. America is only a superpower now, among nation-state actors. The transnational terrorist groups do not recognize American sovereignty and superiority. If they did, they would never have started fighting, or would have yielded by now. A wall along the Mexican border is great…except we already know there are more tunnels than an goddamned ant farm, traversing the border. So, sure, let’s drop several billion dollars building a wall that won’t be any more useful than the locks on your car door are (remember, as my grandfather told me when I was a kid, “car locks only keep honest people honest.”). Illegal aliens are going to continue crossing the border, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it, outside of genocide, or the total collapse of our economy.

2) Recognize what the “new normal” implies for you and yours. This may range from reduced police presence in your neighborhood or community, especially for dealing with property crimes and other “minor” issues. Think about what happened in NYC last year after two officers were assassinated, sitting in their cruiser. If you live in a really shitty neighborhood, where people are as likely to assault cops as help them, you should—justifiably–expect the same thing. As my wife pointed out yesterday, when she heard that people were “acting out” in Ferguson, on the anniversary of the Wilson-Brown shooting, “if I was a cop, I wouldn’t even respond to calls in their neighborhood. Fuck them. If they hate me, why help them?”

Recognize that, as the elevation of “special groups” of people, of whom you are not a member, for whatever reason, continues, if you find yourself engaged in a legal or political struggle with them, you will lose, because they are “special,” and you are not. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to approve of it, but if you deny it, you’ll find yourself “married” to a cellmate, and the relationship WILL be consummated.

Recognize that, ultimately, you have to rely on yourself, and those with whom you’ve built trusted relationships. That may range from dealing with community problems in an “extrajudicial” manner, to helping those who’ve lost their employment and income, by either providing employment for them, or using some gray market type of exchange with them, to allow them to procure the necessary items of life, ranging from food to shelter and clothing.

Experience Is Only A Start
Experience is a great advantage when dealing with bad situations. Experience in violence is a great advantage when overcoming the normalcy bias necessary to self-defense situations, whether that’s getting caught in traffic in the midst of a “flash mob” and recognizing that escape means driving OVER people, or it’s recognizing—and accepting—the reality that the dude coming at you in the middle of the alley, with a knife in his hand is not curious if you could spare a pat of butter for his crackers.

When we’ve faced violence before, it becomes significantly easier to acknowledge its occurrence. This is why the criminal gangbanger with a Saturday Night Special has a far better chance of survival than a white-bread suburban stockbroker with a basement full of bunker supplies, but no experience with interpersonal violence, regardless of how many AK47 and AR15 rifles he has stockpiled in his safe.

Ultimately though, experience can be as much a hindrance as a help. If you expect all future engagements with people to reflect what you experienced as a neighborhood bully when you were a kid, or what you saw in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, you may find yourself unpleasantly surprised when it takes a different face. Experience is useful, only when it is used as a springboard metric for improvement through further training.

“Hey, I recognize that trouble can occur. It will probably NOT look like what I’ve experienced, so let me look around, do some serious studying, and see what it probably IS going to look like.”

I’m a historian. I see and recognize the parallels between the TEOTWAWKI we are experiencing, and the TEOTWAWKI other empires have faced in the past. Expecting the Vandals to come through the gates, on horseback, swinging swords and lances, behind war banners and a single leader though, would be a hindrance. I recognize that the Vandals, this time around, are already here, and more are en route daily, not under one leader, but with a common shared cause, that includes marginalization and disenfranchisement of people like me. They’re not armed with swords and lances. They’re armed with computers, reporters in their pockets, guns, and IED.

Experience is a teacher, but we have to let it teach us.

Last Open Enrollment Classes, Probably

We’ve got a few open-enrollment classes coming up in the next two months. We’ve so far had enough interest in them to go ahead and still plan executing on the classes, but we’ve had little enough interest that it’s really pushing the envelope of whether it’s worth it or not, from a time investment standpoint on our end. If we don’t get at least a few more students in each class, these will be the last open-enrollment classes I do.

When we started the MG blog, three or four years ago (legit, I sometimes can’t remember how long it’s been), it was never intended to be a vehicle for training classes anyway. So, if you know someone who can make these classes and will benefit from some legitimate, real-world training in solid tactical decision-making, under stress, while employing their weapon in the contexts of these classes, tell them to get lined up with HH6, and get their information and deposits in.

So, what exactly does a MG class entail?

1) It will be physically arduous. That having been said, no one has ever died, or even come close to dying, from drowning in sweat during one of my classes. I’ll be the first to tell you to back off and actually learn, instead of pushing to the point of passing out, if it looks like you’re sucking too much.

2) You will learn the current “best practices” for running whatever weapon you bring (and in the context of the CQB courses), the current “best practices” methodologies for fighting in/around structures in the UW/Small-Unit environment, with limited equipment/munitions and manpower.

3) Every MG class focuses on that single most important factor in shooting in the real-world: critical thinking under pressure and good decision-making on the shoot/no-shoot spectrum. This is NOT the tired “hey, shoot the guys with guns painted on the silhouette. Don’t shoot the dude with hands painted on him” decision-making you’ve seen in too many “tactical” shooting classes. Real-world shooting decisions aren’t that cut-and-dried, and teaching people that they are does the student a disservice that WILL result in negative outcomes in the form of either a) the shooter shooting the WRONG person, or b) the shooter taking so long to make the real-world types of decisions that he/she ends up getting shot instead.

Take a look at the Upcoming Classes tab, and get enrolled. Like I said, these may very well be the last open-enrollment classes we offer.

Training Priorities: Which Classes Should I Take?

One question I get asked frequently—at least weekly—is “John, what classes should I take?”

Really, the answer to that question is so fraught with variables that any generalized, universal answer is rendered almost useless from the start. Your personal training experience, your personal, objective life experiences, your level of dedication and drive, and the perceptions you hold, regarding the state-of-affairs in the world today and tomorrow, all play a role in that particular decision-making matrix. Nevertheless, in the interest of answering such a common question, let’s use some of the practical lessons we’ve learned in the Mountain Guerrilla experience, to try and determine some semblance of a relevant answer.

METT-TC Matters

Really, it does. It underlies our entire Estimate of the Situation, in determining where we are, and where we need to be. Until we know those two things, figuring out how to get from here to there is going to be….well, difficult, at least.

Mission

What is your mission? How do YOU define it? For a “prepper/survivalist,” the answer might be “to survive.” Pretty self-evident, right? It’s also completely, utterly, hopeless. I don’t want to be all pessimistic, but ain’t a single one of us getting out of this alive. It doesn’t matter how bad ass a gunslinger you are. One of the most dangerous dudes I ever knew died instantly when he turned left, instead of right, and caught a 7.62x54R round to the face. Shit happens.

Arguably the fittest dude I ever met in my life died at 36 years old, from a brain aneurysm in his sleep. Shit happens. Survival, as a goal, is not enough. We need to get past that to “WHY do we need to survive?” From a strictly biological standpoint, we need to survive long enough to make sure we pass on our biological material—our DNA—to our children, and to ensure that they survive long enough to pass it on again.

That’s a pretty solid reason, right there. It’s really still not enough. I’ve fathered three kids (that we know about….), two of whom are still alive. Major accident or homicide withstanding, both of those will make it to breeding age, and if the oldest is any indication, neither of them will unattractive enough that breeding will be an issue. My genetic inheritance is as assured as it can be.

So, why bother? Wouldn’t it be easier to sit on the couch, watch Ink Masters or Pawn Stars, and eat pudding and cake, and get fat and nasty? Of course it would, but that’s not acceptable. I don’t just want my daughters to breed with whatever white trash hillbilly will take them to their high school prom. I want to set an example for them, of a life lived well and right, so that they aspire to greatness. In his second book, Natural Born Heroes, Christopher MacDougall writes “just because men and women of our era do not live up to the myths, does not mean no one ever has, or ever will again.”

I’ve accepted that I will never be the hero of future myth. Perhaps my children won’t either, but in the face of the Decline of Empire, I’m willing to work to inspire my future descendants to be those heroes that drag their society back out of the darkness, and into the light, because I believe in heroes.

So, I need to stay alive, as long as possible, to educate my children as a positive role model. If staying alive to teach them were all that mattered though, I could keep my head down, hide in the empty spaces, and ride the coattails of better men, and point at them as examples for my children to aspire towards. That’s not acceptable though, because Edmund Burke’s words still ring true to me, two centuries later, “all that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing.”

I was taught, long ago, that good leaders lead from the front, and good teachers teach by example. So, I cannot just sit by and hide in the shadows. I want my children to have an example of what a good man is, so they know who they should look for to carry on the genetic material, but also because, I want them to live in a better world than what I live in.

My “mission” is to survive the here and now, and to protect my people; my kith and kin. Yours, hopefully, is similar. Even if you’ve aimed higher however; you aspire to lead the masses of America out of the darkness of their self-imposed collectivist utopia, back to republican liberty (more power to you, Don Quixote), you still need to survive the here and now, before you can move on to greater things.

So, we need to begin by defining our “mission” as “Survive the Threats I’m Likely to Face Today and Tomorrow.” In order to do that, we need to define the rest of the METT-TC equation.

Enemy

Who is the “enemy” you face? If you listen to some of the doomsayers in the preparedness/liberty/III% community, it’s American servicemen, being forced to prepare to subject you to martial law. Others will swear on their mother’s left breast, that the “Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” in an Internet-based attempt at being the Paul Revere of our generation. While both myself and Sam Culper—amongst a host of other voices of reason—have wasted a lot of bandwidth trying to dispel that stupidity, it COULD occur. After all, provide enough thrust, and a pig can fly.

Others will insist the “enemy” is the law enforcement agencies of America, doing the bidding of their hidden masters, by falling prey to the brainwashing they receive in their morning briefings. There’s probably some validity to this. I know a lot of cops, and most of them are damned fine people, with the exact same concerns that you or I have. They’re on our side. At the same time though, there’s a lot of cops out there that really do fit the stereotype of the guy who got his ass kicked in high school, now hiding behind his badge, thinking it’s both a bulletproof shield, and a license to kick ass and stomp on puppies.

Then there is the would-be, self-proclaimed jihadi, ISIS supporter that decides to get some licks in for his fellow believers, by lighting up a shopping mall. You may agree with him that the wars in the Middle East are all a result of American Imperialism. Hell, you might even be right. It doesn’t matter though, because I can GUARANTEE you, when that dude decides to light up a Semtex vest, or mag-dump his AK-clone, while yelling “Allahu Akhbar!” he is NOT going to stop and ask first, to ensure that none of his potential victims share his geopolitical outlook. It just doesn’t matter.

Or, perhaps the enemy you should be concerned with is the sucker who has spent his entire life being told how racist America is, and he should be paid reparations because his great-great-great granddaddy got stuck on a slave ship and brought to America as a slave. Now, since he’s not getting reparations, he’s going to TAKE reparations, from you, because he’s PISSED. Guess what? It doesn’t matter that you never owned slaves. It doesn’t matter that HE has never been a slave. It doesn’t even matter that your great-great-great granddaddy was an abolitionist who participated in the Underground Railroad, and then fought for the Union Army, from Fort Sumpter all the way through to Appomattox. You’re still a target.

Or, perhaps the enemy really is a gang of Cannibalistic San Franciscans on souped-up, chopped-down Harley-Davidsons, swinging logging chains as they roll through Mayberry, USA, in a flurry of ravaging rapine and murder. It doesn’t matter that you’re white, and own a Harley-Davidson too. It doesn’t matter that you’re just as much a bad-ass as they are, in a one-on-one fistfight. It’s not about a one-on-one fistfight. It’s about gang-stomping the ever-living-fuck out of anyone that even looks cross-wise at them.

The funny thing about all these potential enemies is, you’re not going to be kitted up in head-to-toe multi-cam, with your full-on battle rattle load-out on, when you find yourself confronted with them. If you had that much warning, at this stage in the game, you’d simply not be there. We don’t go stupid places, with stupid people, doing stupid things. Right?

No, those enemies are the type of people you find yourself confronted with suddenly, because you didn’t KNOW you were in a stupid place, or you didn’t know stupid people were going to show up there. Nobody does stupid shit at the shopping mall, right?

That is what, in the detective novels, they call a “clue.”

Troops

Recognizing who the enemy is likely to be, gives us an idea of what friendly troops we’re likely to have available. Guess what? Most of the “militia” members I’ve met don’t go to the goddamned mall with their fellow militia members. In fact, for the most part, the only time they ever see, let alone hang out with, their fellow militia members, is when they get together for a training weekend. So, what are the chances, really, that when that dude decides to light up the food court at the mall, that you’re going to have a “trained,” equipped, fire team with you? Pretty slim. I’d put it somewhere between slim and not-a-fucking-chance. Worst case scenario, it’s you, all by your lonesome. Best case scenario, there happens to be an ODA of National Guard Special Forces soldiers, or a platoon of infantrymen having lunch at the food court at the same time, and they decide to join the fray….and all happen to be illicitly armed with privately owned, concealed-carry pistols. Probably not going to happen, but a guy can hope, right?
More likely, it’s going to be you, your spouse, partner, or a buddy you’re hanging out with. Really, counting on having more than one partner is asking a lot. Expecting to have more than one other person that you KNOW, and have trained with, is somewhere akin to buying lottery tickets as your retirement plan. It’d be nice, but it’s probably a shit plan.

Terrain

Urban. Urban. Urban. Urban. Seriously.

Sure, there’s a chance that a gang of hard-core Mexican SF-trained banditos could raid your rural homestead/survival retreat, looking for your stash of precious metals, some semi-auto only rifles, and a box of cucumbers, but, unless you a) hang out with Mexican gangbangers, b) are a member of a criminal gang, or c) make it a point of bragging about your guns and gold and silver to random strangers who might meet one of the previous to criteria? Pretty slim chance.

Besides, if I’m a gangsta from the barrio, why in the nombre de Santo Maria, Madre de Dios, would I drive all the way out in the bumfuck back-ass end of beyond to steal your shit, when I’ve got people right down the street that I can steal it from, and not risk getting smoked by Elmer’s elk rifle, in the process?

For most people, even the most ardent survivalist/III%, in the event you have to go to guns, there is an overwhelming chance that it’s going to happen on your way to or from the goddamned grocery store, or the gym, or the movie rental place (do people still rent movies?), or the mall with the Missus.

That too, is what we call a “clue.”

Time

Time is a big one. Far bigger than we give it credit for. How long, from the sound of the first gunshot, until the last shot rings out, does it take a dedicated jihadi to dump a magazine or two out of his Kalashnikov? How about the hood rat gangbanger with a MAC-10?

Nobody “wants” to go to a gunfight—especially against a rifle—with a pistol. How long do you really think you’re going to have to get back to your truck, grab your tricked-out AR15, don your plate carrier and war belt, and then get back to wherever the gunfire is coming from? From a standing start, with the gear sitting in the open, on the floor next to me, it takes me about 45-60 seconds to toss on my plate carrier and war belt, and run a press-check to ensure my rifle is loaded, and has a round in the chamber (if you respond with, “I don’t need to do a press-check because my rifle is already loaded,” you’re too fucking ignorant to comment, so go play with the kids, and leave the adults alone to have real conversations). I’m a reasonably fit dude. I can complete a 300 meter run in well under one minute. I can complete a 50 meter sprint in around 6 or 7 seconds. So, it really depends on how far out my truck is parked, but even at a best case scenario, we’re looking at a couple of minutes….

Do I leave my wife and kids in the danger zone, while I go get my “Rambo Gear” on, and come back? Or, do I do the right thing, and “run what I brung?” I know my answer….

“Oh, but I open carry my AR15 to the mall.” Then, you’re a fucking retard, and deserve all the grief you’re going to get. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t make it right. Sure, people SHOULD be okay with Joe Militia walking around the mall with an M4 slung across his back. Here in the real world however, they’re not, and you shoving it in their faces is NOT going to make them okay with it. If you scare the shit out of Suzy Homemaker…and playing Bubba With A Battle Rifle at the Mall, IS going to scare the shit out of Suzy Homemaker….you deserve to get hassled by the police, because really, you’re too retarded to own a gun anyway.

You’ve also lost any element of surprise and tactical advantage you might have had. Mohammed Jihadi is NOT going to decide, “Oh, look! That guy has an AR15! I better go home and rethink the error of my decisions in life.” Instead, he’s going to go, “Oh, look! That guy has an AR15! If I smoke his stupid ass first, now I get to shoot twice as many people!”

Time is of the essence, and semi-auto rifles can do a LOT of damage, very, very quickly. That too, is what we call, a “clue.”

Ah yes, that bugger of a consideration that no one remembers, if their training consists of reading FMs
produced before around 1996. Everything you do has an impact on the people around you, for better or for worse. So, preparing for Mohammed the Solo Jihadi, by walking through the mall, kitted out in multi-cam, with an AR15 slung across your back? It IS going to impact the people around you, and those people WILL have an impact on your ability to accomplish your mission.

I walk through the mall, go to the movie theater with the wife, go to the park with the kids, and go grocery shopping at the hippie natural foods store, all the time, armed. Glock 17, Ban Tang Clinch Pick (yeah, I finally got one. Thanks, Ban! Seriously, get one. Well worth the price, if simply for ease of carry…and wicked, scary sharp!), and two spare magazines for the G17. I’m not going to say I’ve never been made, carrying—although I doubt it—but I’ve certainly never had anyone, including cops in close proximity and eye-fucking me, out me for carrying concealed. So, while my scary appearance may have a negative impact, the fact that I smile a lot, and know how to say “please,” “thank you,” and “pardon me, ma’am,” goes a long way toward mitigating that….walking around in camouflage, with a rifle over my shoulder would not be mitigated by nice words and a smile.

So, let’s look at a quick summary of what our METT-TC analysis has told us:

My mission is to survive, long enough to ensure my children’s survival, and to stay free of imprisonment long enough to set a good example for them, as they grow up.

My mission is to survive, long enough to ensure my children’s survival, and to stay free of imprisonment long enough to set a good example for them, as they grow up.

The likely culprits that I may face, who would be an impediment to mission success include: rogue LEO with an attitude of cowardice, and a desire to stomp puppies, and other assorted criminal elements. More likely than not, any confrontation will occur in a relatively crowded, populated area. I will likely be alone, or with my wife and children, and armed with my EDC/CCW loadout, unless/until I make it back to my truck.

Chances are, if you look at things objectively, your METT-TC considerations are remarkably similar, regardless of where you live, or who you are.

So, let’s look at the ideal training progression, with these considerations in mind:

1) Physical Fitness

Come on. You KNEW it was going to lead the list. If you didn’t, you’re really, really, really new here. You don’t need to be a Crossfit Games champion. You don’t need to be an Olympic decathlete, or a professional powerlifter, or any other sort of professional-level athlete.

You DO need to be strong enough to do what you need to do, and you DO need to have enough endurance to do what you need to do. How fit is fit enough? Hard to say. If we look at the instances of civilian use of firearms in personal and home defense, not very. If we start looking at other instances—say “knockout games,” and similar, being fit is certainly going to be high on the list of priorities.

Rather than taking the easy way out, and assuming the enemy will be a fat, donut-eating, pastry chef with an attitude, maybe we need to assume the enemy will be younger, stronger, faster, and fitter. If we train with the goal of being as fit as we can be, then that’s the best we can do.

My recommendations remain the same as they’ve ever been, regardless of age or physical infirmities:

Lift heavy shit, often, and repeatedly. Run fast, as far as possible.

2) Fight

The root word of “gunfight” is not “gun.” It’s “fight.” You need to be able to fight. Not every life-and-death situation is going to warrant “going to guns.” Maybe it starts out as shouted angry words with some dude that grabbed your wife’s ass, in front of your kids.

Now, maybe the “mature, civilized man” would let that slide. After all, if I get killed, because I decided to say something in defense of my wife’s “honor,” I’ve done a piss-poor job of surviving, right? Unfortunately, my mission requires more than just survival. I also have to set an example for my children to look up to. If you grab my wife’s ass, you can damned sure be certain, we ARE going to have a conversation about it, and that conversation is going to involve me breaking your goddamned arm.

Of course, in order to do that, I better be able to fight, right?

What if it’s not that simple. What if it’s some dude that comes around a corner, already has a gun out, and is five feet away, demanding my wallet, or trying to convince my wife to go into the alley with him, lest he shoot me? Can I go to guns, first, and win that fight?

Maybe. I’m pretty quick.

Am I willing to risk my wife or kids catching his round if I’m wrong? Maybe, just maybe, going hands-on, and trying to gain control of his weapon FIRST, is a better option? You need to be able to fight, and six months of ninjutsu at the local strip mall dojo is probably not going to cut it. Get to a boxing class, get to a grappling class. Worst case scenario, get a bunch of your buddies from the militia together, and spend a couple hours a week just beating the shit out of each other…

Even better, if you think you can’t afford the time to get to a regular boxing and/or BJJ class? Go take Cecil Burch’s Immediate-Action Combatives course. At least then, you’ll have been introduced to the basic fundamental skills/techniques of jiujitsu and boxing, in an armed environment. Go take Craig Douglas’ Shivworks/ECQC course. Go to Paul Sharp’s MDOC course. Hell, come take my Clandestine Carry Pistol course, where 2 of the 4 days are combatives-centric, focused on fighting TO the gun.
3) CCW

Seriously. I don’t care if you get a concealed-carry permit. In fact, in a lot of cases, I recommend against it. But, carry a motherfucking gun. EVERY. TIME. YOU. LEAVE. THE. HOUSE. I don’t care if you’re going to the neighbor’s for supper, or you’re going to church. CARRY. A. GODDAMNED. GUN. Concealed.

More importantly, don’t be deluded into thinking the gun is a magical talisman of protection. Your CCW certification class is NOT a defensive handgun course. Take a practical shooting course with pistols. Here’s the catch though, not all defensive handgun courses are created equal.

It’s cool to take a course that focuses on shooting fast, accurately. In fact, that’s probably the first pistol course you should take. It helps start developing the fundamental skill sets. In the real world though, it’s entirely possible that you’ll end up shooting TOO fast, and TOO accurately.

WTF?

Too many shooting courses focus any “decision-making” on simple, binary decisions. “Gun or no gun?” is NOT a valid decision-making matrix for shoot-or-no shoot in the real world. It’s more complicated than that. Hell, even “that dude is pointing a gun at me” may not be adequate grounds to drop the hammer.

A solid, practical, real-world shooting course MUST include practical, complex decision-making processes in the course work. You’ve got to learn to SEE and PROCESS information FASTER, so you can shoot SOONER. A sub-one second shot is great…right up until it takes you two seconds to determine that the apparent target is your wife/best friend/father-in-law, coming to help.

Seriously. If you haven’t had a legitimate class in running your CCW pistol, that emphasizes rapid-fire, accurate decision-making processes, under stress, you’re legitimately not qualified to be carrying a firearm in public, regardless of what certifications you may have.

4) Carbine/Rifle

Nobody WANTS to get in a gunfight, armed with a pistol. We all get it. The reality however, is that, outside of certain law enforcement situations, or being in the military, in a combat zone, in a combat arms MOS, chances are, if you ever find yourself involved in a shooting situation, you’re going to be armed with a pistol. Deal with it.

There are times when a rifle may be a viable option. Dealing with a road-rage incident, or some sort of vehicle ambush/carjacking, or accidentally driving into the middle of a fucking riot, when you have your rifle in the vehicle, and ready-at-hand; those are situations where a rifle is not only an option, but the best option. So yeah, you should learn how to run your rifle. You should learn how to carry your rifle, at home, and in your vehicle, for the best results (note to self: add rifle in the vehicle carry methods and positions to the Combat Rifle POI).

Guess what, none of the likely situations where you’re going to have a rifle handy, and need it, involve shooting motherfuckers 500 meters away! It’s about using rifles at 0-100M, and really, anything past 50M is probably stretching credulity a little bit. Shooting tight, accurate groups is important, but shooting them “tight enough” and “fast enough” is more important. How quickly can you get your rifle out of the backseat floorboard, and into action, from the driver’s seat?

I’ve got a friend that keeps a folding stock Kalashnikov tucked between the passenger seat and the console, covered with a jacket. He can deploy that thing in less than three seconds. I keep a rifle on the rear floorboard, beneath the kids’ feet. I can deploy it in 5-6 seconds, or I can let the wife get it out, while I lay down a base of fire with the Glock (but really, as the driver, I shouldn’t be shooting. I should be driving us the fuck out of danger).

Like the pistol, shooting fast and accurate with the rifle is important, but again, good decision-making is more important. If the coursework you’re taking doesn’t cover decision-making, whether it’s because the trainer doesn’t know what that means, or doesn’t know how to teach it, beyond “shoot the guys with guns painted on them, don’t shoot the guys with hands painted on them,” find another trainer.

5) Small-Unit Tactics

The next three options are really a toss-up as to which is the most important to train first, second, and third. I put SUT first, because in my course-work, it’s really the foundation for everything else.

I teach SUT, using a patrolling format as the vehicle. Some guys just teach the basic battle drills and call it good. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach, I just find that using patrolling as the vehicle helps put things into context better for people.

SUT, at this level, is not about platoon or even squad-level tactics, techniques, and procedures. It should really focus on two-man and four-man team tactics. How do you conduct a “break contact” battle drill with two guys? What about four guys? Can you conduct a “hasty attack” with two guys or four guys? (Yes. It won’t be pretty with two guys, but it has been—and can be—done effectively). Can you conduct an ambush with two guys or four guys? What about fighting your way out of an ambush?

Which battle drill should you focus on? When is each applicable? Are any of them NOT applicable, in the context of the METT-TC factors we’ve established? Legitimately, I don’t know many people that are putting out good POI on SUT. Obviously, I teach a class in this. Max Velocity’s class is supposed to be good, but I haven’t taken it personally. I don’t even know who else is teaching this material, and I certainly don’t know who is teaching it reasonably well.

6) Fighting In/Around Vehicles

Americans, outside of a few major metropolitan areas, have an interesting love affair with vehicles. While I know people in New York City who have NEVER been behind the wheel of a vehicle, most of us start driving at 15 or 16, and drive daily, the rest of our working lives. I spend an inordinately large amount of time behind the wheel of the truck. Even when we’re not traveling to and from classes, we spend a lot of time driving to and from town to take care of daily business, like going to work, grocery shopping, etc.

The chances that I’m going to run into a riot in the vehicle are pretty slim. I’m more likely to have the kind of shit happen like happened today, when a dude decided to run a red light, and I was the only guy in four lanes of traffic that saw him coming and stopped, instead of almost hitting him or getting hit by him. On the road traveling though? We roll through major metro areas regularly, any of which could be host to a shit storm at a red light. Even when we go to town, which is now a University town, there’s always a chance of rolling into the midst of a shit storm.

If you live in, or spend time around, a city of any size, especially with the race-baited tensions currently running rampant in America, and you’ve not gotten some serious training in dealing with a bad situation, while in and around, your vehicle, you’re fucking yourself.

Of course, like everything else, decision-making should be a major part of the curriculum. Should I just run through the crowd, and play “Bowling for Bodies” with my rig (make sure you’ve got a LOT of ground clearance, so you don’t end up bottomed out on a body….), or should I try and back out? Should I just say “fuck it!” and start shooting motherfuckers? What happens if I wait too long, and somebody is already in the car with me before I realize that he’s got ill-intent?

7) Fighting In/Around Buildings

The one place we spend more time than in our cars, is in buildings. Whether you’re trying to get OUT of a building where there’s an “active shooter” situation going on, or you’re hunting said “active shooter,” or some skell IS coming through your front door, and you need to get to the kids, knowing how to deal with the angles in buildings is essential.

Even more than every other type of material that might be covered in any given course, decision-making HAS to be incorporated into the POI for fighting in/around buildings. The speed required to effectively clear a building, without eating a faceful of bad guy pew-pew (I’ve been trying to figure out a way to incorporate pew-pew into an article!), while also taking enough time to avoid inadvertently shooting your wife, kid, or mother-in-law, requires some serious fucking quick decision-making processes. Any CQB course work that doesn’t include decision-making in the training process is fucking you, in the long run.

Conclusions

Not gonna lie. Running rifle/carbine classes is pretty cake, from a trainer’s perspective. Even when you start making shit a little more…should I say…dynamic? It’s still—relatively—easier to run a straight carbine class, safely, and still get valid information across to people. That doesn’t mean we should be pushing carbine classes for students, if we’re trying to honestly help people better protect themselves and their families.

One of the most important skill sets we can develop for life in general, and survival specifically, is critical thinking and sound decision-making skills. If we legitimately develop those skills, and apply them to determining training priorities, it becomes readily apparent, what direction our training planning should follow.

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