I think it would be interesting to ask a bunch of defensive shooters what they consider the two most important defensive skills might be. I suspect that we would get answers like the ability to hit a target accurately. Others might suggest the ability to quickly and smoothly draw the defensive handgun. Others, still, might talk about the importance of being able to manage a handgun that is chambered for a real fight-stopping caliber.
While these, and others, would certainly be things that the serious defensive shooter should consider, they would not be the first two that I would list. The best gunfight is the one that you don’t get into. There are a lot things that can happen when people start shooting at each other and most of them are bad. So, for what it’s worth, here are my picks for being the two most important self-defense skills.
Number one is awareness. The more aware that we are, the more likely we are to spot potential trouble. The quicker that we spot trouble, the more time and options we have to deal with it. There are some who claim that they are always aware of what’s going on around them. I would say that they are either fooling themselves, or trying to fool us. None of us are as aware, all day – every day - as we should be. It is a goal toward which we must continually strive.
In addition, many of us look, but very few of us actually see. We must not only see potential threats, but we must see them for what they are. Are they a carjacker or merely a street bum? Is it a street gang up to no good or just a group of young people having fun? How do we tell the difference? If we strive to keep our senses alert and strive to understand as much as we can about the criminal mind, we can harden ourselves as a target by merely spotting trouble while there is still time to do something about it.
The second most important defensive skill is avoidance. By spotting trouble before it is right in our face, we have more time to get away before the attack starts. Too many bad things can happen when guns start going off, so it is really a good idea to avoid it entirely.
Many people make a big point of sitting with their back to the wall when in a public place. That’s a good plan. But it is equally important to take the time to locate every available exit and locate your seating near at least one whenever possible. In crowd events, it is an excellent idea to locate yourself on the edge of the crowd, should a timely exit be advisable. In my view, too few people take the time to look for the various exits that they can use, should they need one.
We also exercise avoidance by not getting into heated arguments. We don’t always have to get the last word, and we don’t always have to be the winner of an argument. Sometimes, the smartest thing to do is just to stop the fuss, change the subject or leave.
Films and television rarely depict our favorite hero exercising awareness and avoidance. Hell, whoever saw John Wayne back down from a fight? One should just remember that this is fiction and we live in reality, two entirely different things. It’s not cowardice; it’s simply exercising good judgment.
Truly, the best fight is the one that you avoid entirely. You do that by being aware enough to spot trouble while there is till plenty of time to avoid it entirely.