defense training

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One of my dreams is to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail. This trail about 2200 miles long running from Georgia to Maine, and takes several months to hike in its entirety. I have watched documentaries, read stories, looked at maps, etc. to get a feel for the experience. In my studies, I learned of a little shop at the top of a hill close to the southern trail head. A hiker would likely get to this shop within a couple of days. It is full of all kinds of random things, off the wall trinkets, obscure and expensive gadgets, and hiking equipment. It also is well stocked with the essential hiking equipment.

This store sells the essentials, and buys  the excess. Hikers very quickly learn what is important. Every ounce matters in the pack. Those who pack in unnecessary gear for an extended hike may be well-funded, but lack experience/knowledge. They learn quickly just how important knowledge is, and are willing to sacrifice equipment once they understand what they are doing.

We can circumvent the vast majority of this difficult and possibly costly learning curve by doing some homework, and learning from the pros how to do it right. This approach carries over to pretty much every aspect of our lives. Let’s take a look at how this applies to our personal safety.

Every now and again I have a student come in with a brand new $1000+ dollar handgun that has never been shot, because they have never shot a hand gun… They have the equipment, but no understanding of how the thing works, essentially rendering it a really nice paper weight (but, they came to learn!). On the other hand, I have had students come in with grandpa’s old revolver that has seen better days. And yet, they perform very well! They have trained, learned, and bothered to gain the knowledge necessary to get the best from any tool available.

There is an old song that goes by the name of “Touch of the Master’s Hand“. It says that even though something may appear worthless, in the right hands, it is priceless. This puts focus on knowledge and capability as opposed to gear and equipment. Some of the most capable “operators” I know use quality equipment, train with it extensively, and place knowledgeable above all else.

What knowledge is most valuable? A few key topics come to mind: Tactics, Weapons manipulation, Human functionality, and Your own limits.

  • Tactics: We must know how to move, where, and when with purpose and intent.
  •  Weapons Manipulation: If you don’t know how to handle your weapon proficiently under stress, you better get there!
  • Human Functionality: We need to know how our body acts under stress, as well as how a threat’s body reacts to injury and other input.
  • Our own limits: You cannot do what you cannot do. There are some physical limitations. Can you honestly say that you can take a head shot into a moving threat through an active and dynamic crowd in a mall? I can’t. I know that, if you are being honest you can’t either, not without hitting a bystander. That is just reality…

I am not saying you cannot have nice gear, far from it! We should invest in quality gear. However, consider getting a $800 gun and spend $1200 on training, as opposed to $2000 gun with no training. If you can do both $2k on a gun, and train, more power to you! Most of us however, must settle for good quality consumer grade tools and train, and train… and train some more.

Never feel like you need to compete with other people’s gear, more on that here. What they have may not work for you, shoot, it may not work at all! Sometimes I see some “tactical” gear and cringe due to its disastrous potential! Gear does not equal good. A 10 lb rifle may look cool, but is all but worthless when clearing rooms. Your goals and priorities must be weighed, measured, and considered when creating a strategy for your safety. Seek professional help if necessary, but please learn!

What can we learn?

  • What is more valuable, gear or knowledge? Without gear, knowledge is worthless, without knowledge, gear is.
  • Gear is not always good, nor is it always helpful.
  • Equipment can be good, but be selective.
  • Avoid becoming obsessed with equipment
  • Spend time and resources on training!
  • Knowledge will cost more time than anything else, it is worth the investment!
  • Knowledge is power!!

Stay Sharp


In 1989 Patrick Swayze starred in a film called Roadhouse. It is a rough and tumble movie with even rougher characters. Swayze is hired for his reputation, site unseen. They know this guy is as bad as bad can be. He woops butt, and loves the back leg spinning roundhouse (possibly why the movie carries that kick’s namesake). He brings in his mentor (played by Sam Elliot) when things get rough. A few guys want to prove they are tougher than they hear these two are and are dead set on proving it; then the fight is on! Both of these men had reputations that far surpassed their geographical reach. What does your reputation say about you?

Every now and again, I meet someone who says: “Markesbery? any relation to….”, or “I think I met you at…” or maybe even “Oh my gosh, I’m your biggest fan!”. Okay, I made that last one up. However, I often meet people who have heard of me, know of me, or know some of my family. They have some predetermined view of me, and have made assumptions based on what they have heard, seen, or read even though they have never met me personally.

We have no control over what people think of us, how they see us, or what they say about us when we are not around. What we can control however, is our own actions. This is where we need to spend our efforts, not worrying about what others say about us. I have had some nasty rumors spread about me in the past, but, those who hear them discard them out of hand, or ask me about it. I have spent many years gaining and maintaining a reputation of honesty, integrity, humility, and character. Those that have spent time with me know that if they hear something counter to what they know me to be, know the rumor to be bogus because it is inconsistent with my character.

What in the world does our reputation have to do with self defense? Frankly, nothing directly, but, indirectly is another story. Your reputation does not help you shoot straight under stress, make you stronger, or sharpen you blade. What our reputation does for our defense is spread the word. I have personally witnessed several fights that started as a result of something someone said about someone else, or at least were accused of saying.

If you have a reputation of being above reproach in character, as well as being a capable warrior, then you are a lot less likely to be attacked by those around you. If, on the other hand, you have a reputation for drama, histrionics, and starting fights, guess what? You are going to be in a lot more fights.

I was able to avoid fights for the most part growing up, as I was born bigger than most and maintained that advantage into adulthood. At 6’5″ and 240 lbs, I am larger than most. One day, during my stint in public school I somehow collected for myself a bully, he was 3 years older and 2 grades above me, with about 70 pounds or more (even if it was all fat, it was still mass). He kept pushing me around and down. One day, after I reached my tipping point I told him “If you do that again, I’m going to hit you back”. He and his two friends were standing over me mocking me and betting with their tongues I wouldn’t. They bet wrong… The next time he pushed me down (about 5 minutes later) he started walking away. I stood up, and commenced to run as fast and hard as I could, lowered my right shoulder and put it into his lower back right on the spine with everything I had. He went flying in the air for a few feet and landed on his face. He started to get up and come back at me, and one of my buddies tripped him again. He then got up and left the Gymnasium.

From that day forward, if I was in and around the Gym, he would not come in. Several times I witnessed him looking through the doors, we would make eye contact, and he would walk away. What did I do in those five seconds of action? I established my reputation. Everyone there that day knew that if you pick on me, there will be retaliation. I did not have a problem with a bully for quite some time after that.

What does your reputation say about you? Are you an easy victim, a pushover, liar, drama queen/king, a jerk, rude, needlessly combative, hateful, arrogant, etc? Or, are you humble, gentle, kind, hard, strong, an intercessor, a warrior, capable, honest, man or woman of integrity? Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments; my wonderful wife can tell you that I can be a jerk at times. But, does that define me? I certainly hope not, nor is that the feedback I get from people I interact with!

What does your reputation say about you? If someone was telling me about you, what would they say? Is it flattering or degrading? Would what they say honor or embarrass you? People will not remember you for what you had, but for who you where; what does your reputation say about you?

What can we learn?

  • Your reputation proceeds you.
  • Be conscience of your reputation and do your part to ensure you project the kind of person you want to be
  • People talk. If you are a jerk, people will know about it. If you are kind and capable, people will know about it
  • It takes 1 second to ruin your reputation, and years to repair, if repairable (consider public figures who lie or cheat, they are often ruined and fade into obscurity)
  • Integrity and character is critical for establishing a positive reputation
  • A good reputation won’t keep you from spontaneous attack (robbery/mugging, indiscriminate attack, etc.)
  • What does your reputation say about you?

Stay Sharp,