Learning to Protect Yourself, Is More than the Physical

As Trainers in Personal Threat Management our greatest challenge is overcoming the divide between teaching for, and the actual event of interpersonal violence. To make matters worse we are often confronted with time and budget constraints. As such Personal Threat Management (PTM) training can range anywhere from a few hours, a day or a week. How we teach for maximum effect with the time and resources allocated is our top priority.

With this in mind, we realized early on that knowing what obstacles our students will face in the in-contact phase of interpersonal violence is crucial to an effective teaching approach.

Engaging in a Fight, is More Than the Physical

The physical skill sets taught in training will never look exactly the same in a real interpersonal violent encounter. If we are going to learn how to mitigate interpersonal violent encounters, we need to start from the fight itself. In other words, what are we personally to encounter in those moments of interpersonal violence?

Through our years of teaching members of special forces military units, law enforcement officers, close protection teams, and the general public at large our research has shown the following;

1. Once you are engaged in interpersonal violence, long term prediction becomes fuzzy. You have no access to other people’s minds. Most people don’t know what they will do next. As much we wish it to be otherwise, long range prediction of what that person may or may not do in the fight will always remain elusive.

This is why, training for overall adaptability is key. In WYB we call this the All Terrain Methodology. Rather trying to teach everything we teach only that which will be accessible in the widest possible contexts.

2. Interpersonal violence is a chaotic event. There is no engaging in interpersonal violence where you remain the dominant force at all times. In other words, people will fight back and they will fight back even when you are fighting back. Added to this people will fight back in a way that may only loosely resemble how you trained for it in the Weaponize-Your-Body Program. Not withstanding that you will likely encounter situations that no training could have ever prepared you for.

Here training centered on dealing with progressive resistance is key. With sufficient resistance students will fail. Failure here is good, because it leads to troubleshooting, and working solutions out in real time.

3. You may be fighting from a losing position. This is probably our greatest gripe with how defensive tactics are taught. In training, the attacker mounts an attack, the defender responds and wins. The truth is, you might start off winning the fight, then find yourself losing, and then have to find a way to turn the tide. Or to be brutally honest you may start off losing right from the onset.

In training we don’t sugar coat the reality. Not everything deployed will work. At times, especially in ambush situations you might be on your back foot, while trying to make sense of what is happening, and getting your head into the fight. This is why, we train to failure, and from failure, using that as an opportunity for self-growth, and learning to find solutions in the training context faced.

4. Interpersonal violent intentions are driven by both sides. In real life and death encounters, like in self preservation, the attacker may have the intention to do serious bodily harm to you. Your goal on the other hand may simply be to survive at all costs. In other words, the attacker’s intention may be to kill you, while your intention is to escape and survive. Your intention therefore will shape your next move.

If your intention is to escape, then standing your ground and fighting back shouldn’t be your focus. This means, the techniques you apply in that moment will be dramatically different to offensive action. In our training we look at the context, if it is to escape your strategy will be different than if you intention is to neutralize the threat for good.

5. Surviving Interpersonal violence is hinged to your disposition.

Building on point 4 above,

Who are you as a person?

Do you have natural grit, or do you give up easily?

Like it or not, some people are able to invoke natural aggression, whilst others are unable too. Sometimes your natural aggression can get you into trouble, clouding your sense of judgement because you are running on being ‘hot tempered’, and as such find yourself not thinking straight.

You might be utterly afraid of violence, whilst someone else was born into violence and hence has normalized it. If you are the former, this may well be something you need to address – or better still you need to tell us in training so we can show you how best to manage your fear response.

Taking all of the above into account, teaching someone to fight then, isn’t as simple as teaching physical technique and then hoping a person will deploy it when necessary. Sadly, most ‘defensive tactics’ courses deal almost exclusively with the physical.

Training for Personal Threat Management is more than the Physical


The reality is:

The entropy of your technique in a fight is multi layered, and goes beyond just the failure of the technique itself. How well you manage yourself inside will either see you through to victory or not!

Training that leads to complete failure in the reality of interpersonal violent encounters is training that hasn’t dealt with ways to manage unpredictability, failure, resistance, the intention one faces from the attacker, your own intentions – which is further underpinned by your disposition.

Looking it at this way, as Trainers in WYB, we have found it far more productive to begin by assessing a person’s current disposition and use that as our starting point. In psychological terms disposition is defined as a habit, a preparation, a state of readiness, or a tendency to act in a specified way. Your disposition in others words reflects your personality traits.

Let me give you an example. I am confident that what I teach works. I have taught thousands of people physical skill sets to be deployed against resisting, unpredictable opponents. I have seen them do it. They have told me of their successes in doing so on the battlefield, and inner city streets.

So when I am teaching someone these physical techniques and they find it difficult to deploy them against a resisting, unpredictable opponent, I know it’s not the technique that’s failing. Rather its not knowing what is going on inside them that is the problem.

If you were one my students and you are finding it difficult to deploy what I am teaching you, it may be because you are utterly afraid to engage with violence. My goal then is to find the best way to teach you the material in a way that begins to change your dispositional response to the fear of aggression. In other words I need to find the best way to build your psychological muscle to fight back and win. I know if I get that right, your ‘technique’ will take care of itself.

How might I do this?

Everyone has what I term a starting-ability threshold. In other words, what ever I teach you that encompasses both unpredictability and resistance — there is a point where you can to some degree get it right. Now that may mean doing it slowly, with little or no resistance in the beginning. I realize you might want to go all in, and see results straight away, but the truth is you learn nothing if I put you under pressure and you fall apart psychologically.

The goal as your Trainer is to find your starting-ability threshold and then build from there. How fast that happens isn’t as important as getting it right. As a your fight disposition grows in confidence (i.e., their ability to psychologically, emotionally engage in the fight), the more you will actively troubleshoot the strategic aspects of the fight too.

Said another way, if you are absolutely terrified of going up against an uncooperative, resisting opponent in training, what makes you think that out on the ‘street’ it will be any different? In fact, it will likely be worse.

Together we have to work to enable you to manage your current fears, through the actual experience of learning to fight back. In this sense, how well you can ultimately deploy the fight skills you learned, will only happen once the dispositional aspects holding you back are addressed. By developing the correct fight dispositional characteristics through your experience of systematically engaging in violence, will then give you the inner fortitude to take on the reality of the actual fight.

When your dispositional characteristics change towards specific experiences, such as interpersonal violence, so do your beliefs about them. What previously you may have seen as impossible to overcome due to fear, now becomes doable due to an inner confidence built upon the ability to successfully engage and win in the experience that you once feared.


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