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The Messy Reality of Self-Defense

March 30, 2016

This is an adult discussion.  I report on self-defense – the good and the bad.  I talk about the messy reality when we defend ourselves from criminal attacks.  By self defense I mean real physical harm.  This is what I’ve noticed as I study violent attacks. First, thousands of ordinary people defend themselves with a firearm every day.  These people are our friends, neighbors, and relatives. They were simply going about their lives when they had to defend themselves.  Second, successful self-defense isn’t magic.  The people who studied and practiced seemed to do a significantly better job.  Third, the reality of self-defense is very different from what we see from Hollywood. That means we are carrying around bad ideas from movies and TV. We need some self-defense training to replace Hollywood fantasy with facts.  Here are some simple lessons that leave this student of self-defense wanting to learn more.

If we study self-defense for very long, we’ll see that robbers practice and plan ahead.  The sooner we interrupt their plans the better.  Right there is where training and practice can give us an advantage.  Once you’re being attacked it is too late to start your home study course in self-defense.  The people who trained for self-defense chose better options than those who had to learn through on-the-job training.  As a bonus benefit, good training before the fact helps us avoid being attacked in the first place. I like that a lot!

We are most likely to be attacked when we are away from home. That means the arsenal in our gun safe is useless most of the time.  Think about that for a minute.  What we have on our body right now is what we will use to win or lose a self-defense encounter.  It is unlikely that we will have time to go to our car or safe room and get our gun, cell phone, flashlight, and trauma kit. That is also why criminals attack people on jogging trails.

Sorry, but there are no magic tokens to save you.  This is reality we’re talking about rather than the role-playing video game you might be used to.

Our real options are limited.  Sometimes we can run away and escape.  Sometimes we can’t.  You will have to stand and fight if you are with your spouse, your children or your friends. You can’t run and leave them behind to face the attackers alone.  That leaves us to defend ourselves from the threat, summon help, and provide aid to the injured.. with what we have in our pockets and in our minds.  The thing we need most of all is a plan, and training lets us make good choices on the spot.

It isn’t a fair fight.  Criminals want to outnumber us and they come prepared to overpower us with fists, knives and guns. Unless we train, we suffer a huge disadvantage because we won’t believe this is happening when we’re attacked.  Precious seconds pass as we process the situation and consider which options are available to us. The criminals have already practiced and rehearsed for this moment with the intent to win at any cost.. while we are trying to mentally catch up to this violent and shocking encounter.

revolver CC

Let’s say that we’ve thought about protecting ourself and our family, and we decided to buy a gun.  That helps a little.  Suppose we’ve even gone to the local shooting range and practiced a few times.  That is better.  The situation will feel like less of a confusing mess with training and practice.

There is a lot to learn from the messy realities of self-defense.  Of course there are the techniques and mechanics of self-defense.  We should also learn how to talk to the police, and how to have a legal plan in place after we’ve been attacked.  You don’t want to face that alone.

You are not alone.  There are almost a million new gun owners every few month.  The number of defenseless victims is shrinking as more of us become well-trained and responsible gun owners.  Training classes with skilled instructors are a Google-search away.  We add millions of new concealed carry holders every year.

Defensive Handgun Class

Our neighbors have done it, and we can do it too.  We can learn to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe until help arrives.  The urge to defend yourself is both urgent today.. and it is timeless.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2016 2:36 pm

    Excellent reminders of how important forethought, training, and practice are in defense of self and others!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. March 30, 2016 9:22 pm

    Rob, I have to say that this is easily one of the best posts you’ve ever written. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. March 31, 2016 11:59 am

    Training and study over many years kept us from making mistakes recently when we had a late night breakin. Target and steel plate shooting gave us the confidence we needed to stand ready and face the threat. Perp is in jail with $150,000 bond.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. March 31, 2016 2:22 pm

    These are the assumptions this article is based on. I quote.

    • The people who studied and practiced seemed to do a better job at it.
    • The people who trained for self-defense chose better options than those who had to learn through on-the-spot, in-the-moment, on-the-job training.
    • We are most likely to be attacked when we are away from home.
    • It is unlikely that we will have time to go to our car or safe room and get our gun, cell phone, flashlight, and trauma kit.
    • The thing we need most of all is a plan, and training lets us make good choices on the spot.
    • The criminals have already practiced and rehearsed for this moment with the intent to win at any cost.. while we are trying to mentally catch up to this violent and shocking encounter.
    • The criminal will be moving.
    • We should be moving too.
    • Training classes with skilled instructors are a Google-search away.

    Although postulated by the article, they are all highly speculative, open to interpretation, and subject to debate. Several of them are easily disproved.


    • Matt permalink
      April 2, 2016 10:34 am

      T.P., Your point? Is it just to criticize? Actually, I’ve read thousands of articles, hundreds of such posts and this is the first one I’ve read that doesn’t come across as “overbearing, arrogant, and elitist mindsets” (below). Probably, you fit into that category. The “I’m smarter, better trained and practiced than all the rest of you” group. News flash, there are a great many out here that are better than you, but more importantly, no one cares. I can’t find any fault whatsoever with the article. I’m sure Mr. Morse went to great effort to write it (it’s quite good) and didn’t intend it as a request for criticism…


    • Katt permalink
      April 10, 2016 9:10 pm

      So then do it. Debate, speculate, and interpret…..
      BTW…this article is fantastic, Mr. Morse!


  5. neanderthal75 permalink
    March 31, 2016 6:08 pm

    I’ve finally decided to do some in depth research on how we physically impaired and financially impoverished folks can ‘train’ in our homes, to the best of our abilities, so that we too can be ready, when we are out and about, and certainly in our homes.

    Sadly, I’ve become rather chagrined at the overbearing, arrogant, and elitist mindsets in far too many (the majority unfortunately) articles about self defense/home defense: the authors are almost always very healthy physically, as well as being financially ok, or even well off, compared to those of us who live with physical disabilities.

    I’m not hollering ‘victim’ here, I’m simply stating a fact: 99% of every article written in magazines, online, and in books, as well as those on cable, come from the healthy/financially able point of view: ie, someone who goes to the range 2-4 times a week, and shoots several hundred rounds (200-300 on average from what I’ve read). They’ve taken at least 2nd tier self defense courses, quite often courses involving not just side arms, but shotgun, and AR course work as well.

    What this comes down to, is that the 99% of these folks writing, and probably 70%-80% of those reading such articles, can afford to go to the range that often, paying those range fees, and can afford to lay out $50 per caliber/weapon in ammo, each time they go to the range.

    Newsflash for the 99%: there are millions of us who can’t afford the range fees for weekly visits, much less MULTIPLE weekly visits, and that’s not even counting the ammo costs. Many people depend on public transportation, and sadly, many state or city laws make it a CRIME to travel on public transportation when armed, and in some instances, you can’t even take an unloaded, locked up, weapon on public transport, so even getting to the range is a problem.

    These are some of the REAL WORLD aspects of being physically impaired and financially behind the proverbial 8 ball, for millions of your fellow Americans, who have the same need to defend themselves and their loved ones, as all the able bodied, and financially better off folks.

    Horrifically, there are actually some writers whose arrogance knows no bounds (the author of this wordpress blog is NOT one such), and they actually state that if a person can’t follow the outline of going to the range and shooting that many rounds on a weekly basis, and can’t take training courses, then we simply do NOT deserve to own a gun, or to carry one, or have the ability to defend ourselves.

    Happily, those with such levels of arrogance are in the minority, but they are indeed ‘out there’ and they do write articles/blogs and they DO have an impact on the mindsets of many, even on those who are physically impaired and are trying to decide if they need to get a weapon for self-defense.

    So, I’ll do my research on methods/techniques for those of us physically impaired and financially limited, so that we can better prepare ourselves for the unexpected event, of having to defend ourselves with our sidearms. Once my research is completed, I’ll shop some articles around for publication, and eventually, hopefully, get enough reliable material together to publish an E-book.

    I’m tired of being treated like a Red Headed Step Child, by the majority of gun writers, and there are MILLIONS of people who are just as tired of it as I am.

    Thank you for writing a generic, but detailed article concerning the real world mindset needed to approach the concept of self-defense. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • April 2, 2016 12:06 pm

      Hello, neanderthal. I read an article by a self-defense instructor who talked about this very issue. He said he would not teach a technique unless it worked for almost everyone almost all the time. I think he wants us to master the basics, and then advance by perfecting the basics before we branch off to esoteric techniques.


    • MrApple permalink
      April 3, 2016 11:38 am

      Some interesting options:

      Liked by 1 person

  6. April 1, 2016 9:22 am

    There are several other aspects to self defense more so than just “defense.” Here is a layman’s perspective that I’ve found helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. April 4, 2016 5:28 pm

    Good advice. I can’t even count the number of folks who come over, shoot a few rounds, get embarrassed or frustrated and quit. “When the time comes I’ll know what to do.”
    Like magic, I guess.

    For the rangeless folks- daily draw and dry fire practice will go a long way toward insuring your gun handling, at least, is flawless and even improve your accuracy a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Missy permalink
    April 5, 2016 5:23 am

    Since you cannot have a gun on you at all times, it makes sense to have a Plan A that does not make you dependent on a gun.

    “You should not have any special fondness for a particular weapon, or anything else, for that matter. Too much is the same as not enough. Without imitating anyone else, you should have as much weaponry as suits you.”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

    “Do not sleep under a roof. Carry no money or food. Go alone to places frightening to the common brand of men. Become a criminal of purpose.”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings: Miyamoto Musashi

    “To become the enemy, see yourself as the enemy of the enemy”
    ― Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

    In short whenever you are outside of your comfort zone you are vulnerable. By stepping outside of your comfort zone more often you expand your comfort zone. By immersing yourself into the comfort zone of your would be enemies with the psychological intention of harming him first you become the de facto aggressor. This gives you a powerful psychological advantage over your would be attacker in a dynamic critical situation. On the contrary, if you are walking around looking vulnerable your enemy will sense this and use it against you.

    To quote a statement attributed to General George Patton: “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no one – for I am the meanest son of a bitch in the valley.”

    If you are beginning to see the fine line between the wolf and sheepdog you know what I am.


  9. April 10, 2016 12:21 pm

    Situational awareness is the first step of self-defense. Luckily, people who have made the decision to carry are usually thinking along those lines. Teach your kids/family to be aware and to be able to anticipate potential threats. I am just beginning to carry but of course there are many areas where that is prohibited. You need a plan to deal with that. Practice is very important, having a mindset and a plan for defense is still the first step.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Fact checking is hard permalink
    April 11, 2016 8:19 am

    As Abraham Lincoln said, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Not once did Archilochus use the attributed quote or something even close to resembling that quote in any translation of the scraps of poetry and writing we have left from him. But I’m sure it was on the internet somewhere, so it must be true.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mike permalink
    February 6, 2023 7:04 pm

    It’s a jungle out there prepare and educate yourself as best you can be aware of your surroundings at all times


  12. Scott Schach permalink
    February 19, 2023 4:22 am

    Thank you for putting a positive word out in our defense. I think you are well written and intelligent. It’s good to hear an advocate not sounding like a “gun totin’ idgit”. Clear, concise, and to the point in a manner that doesn’t offend. Keep it up!



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