Why You Should Train with a Partner for Personal Defense

posted on October 1, 2021
Sheriff Jim Wilson

One of my favorite force-on-force scenarios involves partners walking down a trail, maybe out for some late afternoon exercise.  As they round a bend, they see an attractive young woman lying by the side of the trail in a fetal position. The first assumption is usually that this woman is sick or has been injured. Frequently, both partners will approach her and try to get her to tell them what is wrong.

The "bad guy" is hidden in the woods to their left. And, it is usually quite a surprise when he appears. He will also usually get off the first shot. The reality of the scenario is that they woman lying by the trail is actually an accomplice set up to serve as a decoy and draw the partners’ attention away from the threat.

The obvious lesson is that the defensive partnership is weakened if both partners focus on the same threat. Of course, initially, both are going to look at the problem. But, as one partner moves to deal with that problem, the other should move into a supporting role. It is time to create a bit of distance from the other partner so as not to create one target area and scan the surroundings. In this scenario, when students took these steps, the scanning partner nearly always saw the gunman the moment he started to move from cover and was able to successfully deal with the problem.

It is not as easy as it might seem for partners to take supporting roles in potentially threatening situations. First of all, there has to be an element of trust—that your partner is willing and able to do their part. It is based on a strong sense of trust.

Trust comes from training and practicing together. It also comes from having discussed various threatening scenarios and the roles that partners will have to play. It is through this training and discussion that we develop the team plan for dealing with a potential threat. It helps us to create signals that can alert our partner as to what is going on. It helps us to create diversions that can throw the advantage to our side.

It is never enough just to say that we are defensive partners. We have to learn to communicate with each other.  We have to learn to formulate defensive plans that rely on each other’s individual strengths. In short, we have to develop the ability to work as a team through training, practice, and planning. If not, then we are just two victims.


Sheriff Jim Wilson
Sheriff Jim Wilson

What We Look For

There are a lot of things to watch out for before, during and after a violent attack.

First Look: PHLster Skeleton Holster For the Glock G42

A small and slim holster for a small and slim pistol.

First Look: NEBO Slyde King Lights

A versatile tactical flashlight now offered in Mossy Oak.

Reactionary Zones Part 2

What happens when the problem is too close to avoid?

First Look: Walther PDP Steel Match

The addition of a steel frame takes the already proven PDP platform to new levels of performance.


Get the best of Shooting Illustrated delivered to your inbox.