Tactics and Strategy

Everywhere I turn, I am bombarded by the words “tactics” and “tactical”. Every folding knife is a tactical blade. Every new firearm has a “tactical” version or some new “tactical” attachment. Surefire has all of its “tactical” flashlights. Every mixed martial arts school in the world is “tactical combat” this or “combat tactical” that. We are so overcome by the marketing of “tactics”, that we have forgotten something just as important. In fact, what we have forgotten may be more important. It is called strategy.

The problem is there isn’t much money in selling a “strategic” knife, firearm, attachment, flashlight or class. That’s because strategy happens in your head. It requires serious forethought, planning and execution to develop and implement a working and successful strategy. For you martial arts folks who like to speak “fight speak”, strategy is “soft” rather than “hard”. None of which gives us the chance to punch, kick, stab, slice or shoot our way into feeling like James Bond or Chuck Norris. But, it just might be the ticket to keeping us and our families safe.

So before we go any further, let’s define both strategy and tactics. Strategy, according to my handy Webster’s dictionary is defined as “the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war” and “the art of devising or employing plans toward a goal”. Tactics, on the other hand, are defined as “a method of employing forces in combat” and “a device for accomplishing an end”. So then, strategy is the over-all plan and tactics are the specific means and tools used to execute the plan. This explains why nobody is selling a “strategic” knife. A knife, being a tool with which to achieve an end, can only be tactical.

For the sake of argument, let’s say I have purchased my tactical knife, tactical firearm and my tactical accessories and flashlight. I’ve even taken my “tactical combat” classes and I took some “combat tactical” classes just in case the first instructor had it backwards.  I’ve gotten my concealed carry permit so I can carry all this stuff and I’m ready for anything!  Bring on the fight!  I can take on the devil himself and defend my family, no bones about it!  When I go to bed at night I stack all this crap next to my bed in the sure and certain hope that when somebody busts through my flimsy front door or my paper thin windows in the middle of the night, I’ll be ready!

Sounds kind of silly doesn’t it?  But, silly or not, it’s all too common an approach to the problem of personal and family security.

Now, before you get your knickers in a knot, let me be clear about a couple of things. I own a tactical knife, firearm or two, a tactical flashlight and some accessories. I’ve studied single combat in the form of traditional martial arts, firearms training and various “combat” & “tactical’ seminars for years. There is nothing wrong with doing any of those things and I applaud you if you have done them. However, developing the means to execute a plan without ever developing the plan is a fool’s errand in the extreme.  It should also be noted that “self defense”, the process in which all this “tactical” stuff would be employed, is only one part of personal security.  Actually, it is the part that is employed as a last possible resort and, in most cases, the least often used.  It’s just the most exciting, which explains why it sells!  Nevertheless, a personal security strategy has many components: deterrents and provisioning to name just two.  Like a mission statement for a business, your personal security strategy does not need to be complicated and can be stated quite simply.  Here is the personal security strategy we have adopted in my family:

  1. In order to provide for the security of our family, we will take steps to make our home, our surroundings and ourselves less attractive as potential targets to criminals.
  2. We will acquire the training and tools necessary to defend against criminals should they not be deterred.
  3. We will provide for the event of a natural or man-made catastrophe by preparing and storing supplies and equipment, preparing to defend our home against criminals who might take advantage of such an emergency and providing for evacuation should it be necessary.

The strategy written above is simply a general overview of the steps we planned to take and the attitude with which we have approached the problem of personal security in our family and home.  Once we had a strategy, we began to implement it by employing the tactics or means necessary. For example:

In order to make ourselves, surroundings and home less attractive to criminals we have employed the following tactics:

Our home – Lights, locks, landscaping and alarm:

  1. Our house is well lit at night.
  2. We have good, solid locks.
  3. Our doors and windows are of good quality.
  4. Our landscaping is properly trimmed, so that criminals cannot hide behind it.
  5. We have a monitored alarm system in our home, with the stickers and sign to warn off criminals

Our surroundings:

  1. We do not associate with trouble-makers.
  2. If we know trouble exists somewhere, we do not attend.
  3. We have all been trained to be more aware of our surroundings and to make good choices.


  1. We follow our training in the three “A’s.”
    • Awareness
    • Attitude
    • Avoidance

Most criminals will be deterred by the tactics listed above.  However, if they are not, we have the training, skills and tools in place to address the threat and eliminate it. The nice thing is, because we have adopted our strategy, the chances of our ever having to take such drastic steps are significantly reduced.

As you travel on your self-defense journey, remember that self-defense is only a small part of personal security. The tactical is more glamorous, exciting and fun. Still, the strategic is vital, if we are to first define and then achieve our goal.  And you needn’t take my word for it. I think Sun-Tzu said it best, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”


  1. Well said… and thank you for reminding me that brain before brawn is always best.

  2. Great post . . . I was just searching for some comments related to The Art Of War and came across this page. Definitely like the site and added it to my feedly to follow!

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