I am about to take you back to a time when we actually called things what they were. A time when we didn’t sugarcoat things by giving them names that were easier to digest. A time before gun-fighting was called self-defensive shooting and before weapons training was referred to as a firearms class. A time when book titles read “Shooting to Live” instead of “Tactical Pistol Marksmanship.” Way.. way.. way back even before the garbage man was called a sanitation engineer. Back to a simpler time when people said what they meant and meant what they said. Back when my father was young and I was the apple of his eye.
As a sheriff’s deputy in the 1950’s and 60’s, my dad was a student of what he called gun fighting. In those days, a cop was pretty much on his own. Back-up, if there was any, was too long in arriving. It was you and your partner, and that was about it.
Being keenly aware of the aforementioned facts, Dad was diligent in practicing his shooting. He studied such books as “Shooting to Live” by W.E. Fairbairn & E.A. Sykes, “Kill or Get Killed” by Col. Rex Applegate and “No Second Place Winner” by Bill Jordon, among others. Dad knew that these men were the real deal. If he could learn from anybody, he could learn from them, and learn he did.
Unlike many self-defense schools and authors of today, authors and instructors in my dad’s time made no attempts to hide blatantly obvious facts. They knew and taught that fighting includes acts of great violence. They didn’t hide the fact that criminals are often brutal, extremely violent and without mercy. Likewise, their students (like my dad) had to swallow the bitter pill of reality. They had to come to grips with the fact that successfully fighting off a violent criminal often requires the law enforcement officer or civilian to commit acts, which may be distasteful or even grotesque, and which will most certainly be extremely violent.
Training in those days was straight forward, simple and based upon lessons learned in the real life laboratory of the streets, where good men fought with bad men and some men lost their lives. There were no fancy names or euphemisms. The title of Col. Applegate’s book pretty much summed it up, “Kill or Get Killed.” In today’s world we are forced by political correctness to discard unwanted words and phrases in favor of those which make preparing for violent encounters more palatable to the general public. Unfortunately, this has also resulted in the degradation of the training itself.
It is no exaggeration to state that over ninety percent of my pistol students claim to possess handguns for the purpose of home or self-defense. Yet, the overwhelming majority of those students are appalled at any suggestion that they might have to actually deal with an extremely violent criminal in an extremely violent way. Similarly, each day hundreds of people come to the range where I teach, bringing with them a mind-numbing assortment of “tactical” home defense guns with every sort of bell and whistle they can afford. And what do they do? They practice target shooting for an hour or so and leave fully satisfied and feeling ready-for-anything, in spite of the fact that target shooting is useless in close quarters fighting. As Fairbairn and Sykes put it, “The two things are as different from each other as chalk and cheese…”
So what’s my point? In this world of dumbed down training, sugarcoated names, endless gadgets and marketing glitz, the truth about dealing with violence remains. Successfully dealing with a violent encounter requires a willingness and ability to be violent, and sometimes extremely so. The tool, whether it is a gun, knife, stick, skillet or pencil matters very little. What matters is your willingness to fight for your life with every fiber of your being, and with every ounce of strength and spirit that you can muster. If you don’t, you will probably die. That is what makes a violent encounter something to be avoided. All the same, bad things happen even to those who make it their mission to avoid them. It is for this reason that we should seek real training. The type of training that will prepare us for dealing with violent people. You can start by reading the books my dad read. Here they are again so you don’t have to go back to the beginning of the article: “Shooting To Live” by W.E. Fairbairn & E. A. Sykes; “Kill or Get Killed” by Col. Rex Applegate; and “No Second Place Winner” by Bill Jordon. After you’ve read these, give me a call or send me a note. I’ll point you in the right direction.