Developing a Pre-Disposition For Effective Violence
I had a student in a class recently (IIRC, it was the Iowa Combat Rifle course, but I could be mistaken), ask the very serious question, “How do we prepare mentally for the act of killing another person?” While, after giving him the tongue-in-cheek answer of “go chop people’s heads off with a pen knife?” I gave the legitimate answer that it’s a matter of overcoming cultural conditioning, it’s a question that’s been nagging at my conscience ever since.
For the most part, neither I, nor any of my friends who have been downrange, has ever voiced a concern over a reticence to drop the hammer and kill the enemy. Unfortunately, because of the prevalence of feel-good, New Age humanist bullshit in the soft sciences like psychology, there is a lot of nonsense in the world about “mankind’s natural, inherent reluctance towards intra-species killing.” All the archaeological evidence to the contrary, too many people have conflated a CULTURAL conditioning that illegitimizes interpersonal lethal violence, with a “natural” human reluctance.
Regardless of the status of the oft-voiced reluctance—inherent at the genetic level, or culturally conditioned—the fact is, it is a very real concern for a lot of people (FYI, before anyone starts citing BG SLA “Slam” Marshall, do more background research into the repudiations of his “research.”). At the risk of getting slightly side-tracked, as we all know I am wont to do, I will point out that I am an inveterate journalist. At any given time, I’ll have anywhere from six to a dozen different journals floating around. These serve as PT records, a means to record ideas I want to develop into articles for the blog, and things I’ve come across in my reading, as well as simply random thoughts that pop into my head. Once or twice a year, I’ll sit down and compile all the notes and records into a single volume, then dispose of the old, partially full journals that now are serving no purpose other than taking up valuable space on my bookshelves. This is important, because I spent much of last night and yesterday on that very task.
As I collated journal notes from a round dozen different journals, I came across an entry on the subject of this article. I am not sure when I recorded it (this particular journal actually has notes from over four years ago, so it’s been stashed away in hiding for quite some time!), or what the original source was, but…..
According to the journal entry (which I obviously agreed with, or I wouldn’t have written it down in the first place), there are six basic facets to developing a predisposition towards effective violence.
One of the first “training” lessons I ever learned was from my grandfather. While I’d like to believe he picked it up during his OSS training in WW2, I honestly never bothered asking him, so I genuinely just don’t know. I’ve since heard the same advice from dozens of different sources, have practiced it myself for well over twenty years, and have repeatedly found…it works. Not just well; it works like a Creole hooker during Mardi Gras…
That lesson was on the importance of visualization. Play the “what if” game. Not just in the context of this conversation, I play the “what if” game constantly. “What if” that car in front of me suddenly loses control and starts sliding all over the road? “What if” that dude walking into the steak house pulls out a Glock and starts shooting people? “What if” I look out my front window and see a group of jocked up dudes in black nomex in my yard? “What if” I’m driving down our road and come to a tree across the road, then gunfire starts pinging into the truck? “What if” I take a gunshot wound to the lower abdomen below my plate carrier?
The key to effective visualization of course, is REALISTIC mental images. Basing your visualization on John Woo action movie behaviors is not going to do you much good. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, there is an amazing resource just a couple mouse clicks and typing away, in the form of YouTube. Despite the noise:signal ration on YT, the fact is, there are lots of camera recordings of everything from helmet cam footage of gunfights in Iraq and Afghanistan to criminal assaults and convenience store robberies. By studying the appropriate videos, and dissecting the behaviors and movements of the key players, you can begin to form a relatively accurate mental image of what a given scenario might look like, when you experience it.
This allows you to begin formulating realistic, effective responses to those scenarios. There is ample scientific experimental, research, and anecdotal evidence out there, aptly proving that if you can create a realistic image in your head—visualization—of yourself performing certain actions in response to certain key stimuli, to your brain, it’s as if you had actually performed them. You get the benefits of the experience, without the attendant risks and costs of the experience.
Ultimately, for the inexperienced, the surest way to inculcate the ability to be extremely violent, without actually going out and beating the shit out of people…or chopping off stranger’s heads with a pen knife, is through visualization. Visualize the reticle of your optic superimposed on a bad guy’s face or chest, and “feel” your finger squeeze all the way through the trigger break. Visualize the recoil cycle of the gun, and visualize seeing the rounds impact his shirt or jacket. Visualize his face being distorted from the impact, and the violence of high-velocity blood and brain matter spray out the back of the skull.
Visualize the slight resistance and sudden give of the tip of your kabar puncturing his clothing and flesh. Visualize the warm, stickiness of blood flowing over your hand. Visualize punching a dude in the face so hard that you can “feel” his cheek bones fracture under your fist.
The catch of course, is that you have to actually visualize the entire physical performance, in all of its details, and ACCURATELY. You also have to actually be physically capable of performing the action. I don’t care how realistic your visualization is, if you’re a quadriplegic, you’re not going to be able to perform a Master-level run at the local 3-Gun match. Having the physical ability to perform the tasks, of course, requires,
You have to engage in effective training. This means learning proven, effective TTPs, and then practice them in an effective manner. Shooting Appleseed alone won’t cut it. You need to be able to shoot, but you also need to know what it feels like to run a dynamic, fast-moving break contact drill, from the way your movement patterns change when you’re kitted up, to the way it feels to twist and slam into the ground as you bound backwards while your Ranger buddy provides protective suppressive fire. Performing as the maneuver element during a Hasty Attack requires actually having trained in the task, so you know what it feels like to make that long, sprinting bound around. You need to know what it feels like to perform 3-5 second rushes and crawls through the terrain you will be visualizing that you will be performing on.
Beyond visualization, you also just have to be able to perform the tasks necessary. From throwing a rapid-fire, machine-gun barrage of punches to beat the piss out of an attacker, to executing a blistering fast drawstroke from concealment, to SEEING the front sight superimposed on the bad guy’s face. If you don’t train and learn how to actually, accurately, effectively perform any given task, all the visualization training in the world won’t do you a fuck-all bit of good.
At the same time (and you KNEW I was going to slip this in somehow….), you have to be physically fit enough to execute the violence you need to execute. Knowing HOW to crash and clinch then stab a dude in the carotid artery is not the same thing as being fast enough and strong enough to actually pull it off. Visualizing humping a 40-50 pound rucksack for 6 days straight, on less than 2 hours of sleep per night is NOT the same thing as having the physical and mental discipline and conditioning to actually pull it off.
That doesn’t mean you have to be able to pull off any given physical feat today. You just have to be trying to improve. If you are doing more today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow, you do more than you did today, you’re doing the right thing. Right?
You need to know your legitimate, honest level of skill…and your limitations. If you’ve never managed to hit an e-type silhouette at 200 meters, there’s little point in trying to project violence at 300 meters, until you improve your marksmanship abilities. If you’re a short little fat bastard who has no interest in doing PT or getting into a Jitz class, there’s even less point in planning on choking some pipe-hitting powerlifter in SWAT kit.
Be objective about your abilities, and you can limit your attempts at violence to what you are capable of.
Teach yourself to relax under stress, and you’ll be able to focus on the fundamentals of executing a particular skill set or task. Use patterned breathing. I tend to be really, really good at remaining disturbingly calm under stressful situations, because of positive self-talk (see below) and a lack of negative reinforcement (in other words, remaining calm has never caused me any harm under stress). As I’ve pointed out to people in daily life, ad nauseum, “unless you’re getting shot at, there are few things in life worth getting panicky about, and if you are getting shot at, panicking will only result in your dying, so calm the fuck down!”
In those occasional moments where I do lose my cool and start getting stressed out (truthfully, they usually only happen when HH6 is driving me absolutely, batshit fucking crazy), I generally catch myself in a hurry and calm down quickly and easily because of controlled, patterned breathing. Some instructors suggest a 4-count. Inhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of four. I use seven, because at some point in my youth, my grandfather told me seven was the “magic” number (or perhaps the “magical” number, since I recall him saying something about it having had spiritual significance prior to computers….fucking weird if you ask me). All I really know is, THAT SHIT WORKS!!!
Positive self-talk, during training and daily life, will go a long way towards making you more effective in violence and in life in general. It goes right along with the visualization mentioned above. “Hey, if that car starts sliding into my lane, I’ll be fine. I can steer into the ditch and control the car, because I’ve done a lot of off-road driving, at ridiculously high speeds.” “Hey, if that dude walks in with a Glock, I know how to handle the situation, because I can draw and fire an accurate first round head shot at twice the distance between here and the front door. I do it all the time in training.” “If the cannibalistic San Franciscans start rioting in the streets and my life, or the life of my family is in danger, I can deal with it. It’s easier to shoot them effectively in the middle of the street than it was to hit that half-sized silhouette at 300 meters last weekend on the range!” “Hey, I’ve had SUT training, and my wife and I have practiced buddy team bounds using fire-and-maneuver, so if I have to fight off a home invasion by MS-13 banditos, we’ll be alright!”
Arguably tied for the most critical with visualization in developing a predisposition towards effective violence is having a positive support system, starting with—most important—a deep, legitimate belief in the righteousness of your actions and your cause. If you believe that your actions may be too aggressive, or you hold some retarded, childhood belief that only fair fights are okay, then you’re not going to be effective, because you will unconsciously hold back. On the other hand, if you KNOW, in your soul, that what you are standing up for is right, and that the actions you are taking are justified, then you won’t have any reluctance to do what needs to be done.
At the same time, after the fact, you shouldn’t have to deal with your friends and family second-guessing your actions. Sure, an honest appraisal, in the form of an AAR critique can be useful…but ultimately, if your friends and family don’t share your values….I’d suggest dumping all the fuckers and finding better people to hang out with.
This belief can be seen in elite military units (so much for Grossman’s sociopath arguments….), with a strong sense of esprit de corps. The cultivated belief system that “we’re better than everyone else, and we’re fighting for the man next to us” IS a support system that facilitates the use of effective violence. We know, at least amongst our brethren, that as long as we use it in accordance with the rules, no one is going to judge us harshly for being violent. It’s not until we start dealing with outsiders who don’t understand the culture or mindset that we start having to deal with doubters, non-believers, and second-guessing.
Ultimately, all of these—like so many things—are intertwined and synergistic. None of them work particularly well without all the other pieces in place. So, get training so you can practice effective visualization, and engage in positive self-talk. Most of all, develop a legitimate belief that you are doing the right thing.
It is my firmly held belief that the idea that humans have an inherent, genetic resistance to intra-species violence that can only be overcome with operant conditioning is a bunch of statist, mind control bullshit. If the prophets of this nonsense can convince you that you need special conditioning to be effective at violence, that can only be achieved through military or law enforcement training, first-person shooter video games, or being abused as a child, then they can facilitate your being effectively controlled, without worrying about violent revolt from the proles.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian who follows the adage of “turn the other cheek.” Intra-species violence is—truthfully—one of the most natural acts of human kind. Christ may have said turn the other cheek, but I’d point out, his daddy only created you with two cheeks…..what do you do after you’ve been bitch-slapped on the other side? Same thing he did in the temple. You beat the shit out of the offenders, and drive them off with weapons.
For us heathen non-believers? The archaeological and historical record is amply clear that there is NO inherent genetic resistance to stabbing a motherfucker in the face, chopping his head off with sword or axe, or burning his house down around his ass.
If you can manage to practice the six aspects of developing a pre-disposition towards effective violence, then dropping the hammer, fist or firearm, will not be an issue when the need arises.