Habits which make you more effective in the pursuit of your security and the security and safety of your loved ones.
Habits — we all have them. But just like there’s no such thing as a “good” gun or an “evil” gun, there’s no such thing as a good habit or a bad habit. There are only habits that help or habits that don’t help.
Help what? Help you to be more effective in the pursuit of your security and the security and safety of your loved ones. To be truly safe in this world would require a nanny state the size of which I am not willing to accept. Thomas Jefferson said it best in a letter to James Madison on Jan. 30, 1787, “I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.” Well, he actually wrote, “Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem,” which could also be translated as, “I prefer the tumult of liberty to the quiet of servitude,” but you get the point. True liberty and the freedoms associated with it are often dangerous. Americans have always prized independence and individualism, and there is no more noble aspect of individualism than ensuring one’s own safety. So without any more fanfare, here we are: Seven habits to help keep you safe.
Habit #1: Maintain Baseline Fitness
I’m talking about maintaining a healthy body weight and enough muscle mass and cardiovascular endurance to optimize the skills that we are going to cover. If you can’t climb a flight of stairs without gasping for breath, you’re going to be useless in a fight, whether it’s an armed conflict or an unarmed conflict. Furthermore, if you are not healthy, you won’t be around to help guide and protect future generations, which is our only biological reason for living past 30.
Life and stress can get in the way of this, but you can start small. Go to the park and walk. Do simple exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups. From there, you can progress to things like pull-ups and burpees. Eventually, you may join a CrossFit Box or a gym. That’s great, but it’s not necessary. Strive for at least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise five times a week.
Habit #2: Learn How to Fight
This is old-school fisticuffs. During the course of your life you will use empty-hand skills far more often than you will use a firearm. Regardless of what style you choose, there are some absolutes. If you are not being punched in the mouth fairly often, you are not really training. If you are not being choked-out on occasion, you are not really training. It needs to be real, and it needs to be tough. These skills should be part of your overall physical and mental conditioning program. I’ve never met a true badass that couldn’t get it done with their fists as well as a gun. I train in Krav Maga often, but I also train with kickboxers, Western boxers, Judoka and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. Fights happen fast, and they don’t go according to script. Make sure you have a well-rounded understanding of the reality of a fight.
Habit #3: Learn & Live Col. Cooper’s color code
Read Col. Jeff Cooper’s “Principles of Personal Defense” and internalize the lessons. There is no better resource to begin to understand the proper mindset of living an aware life.
The lowest level. You are switched off and unaware of what is going on around you, and you’re not ready for anything. Reasons why one may be in this condition include: sleep deprivation, fatigue, stress or drug/alcohol impairment.
You are alert and aware but also calm and relaxed. You are alert to the surroundings (and environment) and to the people who occupy it and their body language. You are alert, not paranoid. In this state it is difficult for someone to surprise you.
A heightened level of awareness. You sense that something is not right. This is the time to evaluate and to formulate a plan. Evasion and diffusion works best here before the next level.
The fight is on! You are taking decisive and immediate action! Recognizing attack rituals and setups helps avoid this level.
Habit #4: Maintain Excellence with a Chosen firearm
Notice I said excellence, not proficiency. I’ve seen many a person killed who was proficient with their weapon; I haven’t seen many killed that were excellent with it. We can’t always get to the range twice a week — I understand that. But I don’t know anyone who can’t get to the range at least every other week. If you can strive to get to the range weekly and dry-fire with your pistol daily, you will be able to maintain a valid skill set. But to get there in the first place, you will need training. Training is expensive, but it’s worth it. If you are going to the range without guidance or a plan, you’re making expensive noise. I attend training at least twice a year out of my own pocket. It’s that important. As far as dry-fire practice, Gunsite Training Academy’s IL Ling New has it right. “I dry-fire every day. On most days I also visualize a drill several times,” New said.
Habit #5: Maintain Proficiency with Many firearms
For me, this was a lesson learned on the battlefields of Iraq, where I went from Mossberg 590 to AK to PKM to M16 in a matter of hours. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but it was reinforced during a conversation with one of the fathers of modern gunfighting, Ken Hackathorn. I took a class from Hackathorn several years ago, and during a break he said something that stuck with me: “No matter what kind of gun it is, you should be able to pick it up, line up the sights and hit a target.” Simple and true. I am always striving to master my chosen firearms, in my case a Glock and an AR. But several times a year I make sure that I either take a course with a new firearm or have an organized training day with new guns. The more common firearms, such as the AK and the 1911, I can run nearly as well as my primaries. You may not have the opportunity to train frequently with different firearms, but you should at least understand how to operate them.
Habit #6: Always Learn, Always Evolve, Never be Afraid to Fail in Training
If you never fail in training, that means you’ve never pushed yourself as hard as you can go. Push until you fail, then get up and try again. Take a scientific approach to your training. Never be afraid to take a class in something that you don’t understand or that you don’t agree with. I started my shooting life with a hard Weaver stance, but I’ve evolved into a different stance. I was once dead-set against optics, but now I run them on everything I can. As we age, there is a tendency for the brain to lose elasticity and for us to become set in our ways. Have you noticed that as you get older you’d rather listen to music from your younger years? Scientific studies show that as you age, listening to new music can optimize neural pathways and keep the brain healthier and more ready to learn new information. Being set in your ways and unwilling to learn is a roadblock to reaching your potential. Even famed tactician and swordmaster Miyamoto Musashi recognized this, and in his seminal “The Book of Five Rings” he encourages warriors to learn other skills such as calligraphy to keep their minds sharp and in a “learning” mindset.
It does not matter if you used to be a Grand Master pistol shooter or a black belt Judoka, if you have not maintained a baseline of skill, you are failing. Practice. Don’t just think about being vigilant after a terror attack, be vigilant every damn day. Don’t just workout when your pants get too tight, workout every damn day. Don’t just lock your doors and windows after hearing about burglaries in your neighborhood, lock them every damn day. And lastly, if you have the legal means to do so, don’t just carry a gun after reading a frightening headline, carry it EVERY. DAMN. DAY. In the words of the late, great Pat Rogers, “The car is not a holster. Carry your f***ing gun. All the f***ing time.”