Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor
It’s a bit cliché’ but often said that the best defense is a good offense. What does that mean? To me; that means always be on the offensive. All over the internet we hear people expounding the idea of the “defensive mindset”; I say hogwash. A defensive mindset is the mindset of a person who doesn’t plan or take measures to better ensure their safety or the safety of their loved ones; they sit around waiting for something to happen so they can defend themselves against it. A person with an offensive mindset is always thinking, they are always planning ahead and doing things to mitigate the risk of being attacked.
What kind of a person are you? The defensive mindset person pulls into a gas station hops out of their car and fills up with gas. The offensive mindset person pulls into a gas station takes a look around and assess their surroundings, looking for possible problem people, areas, and avenues of approach and formulates a plan of action for the what if scenarios.
It’s 1 a.m.; you need to stop at a gas station along the interstate because you are down to an eighth of a tank of gas. You find a gas station and pull in to the end pump and get out of your car and start pumping gas. Out of the shadow on the end of the building a young misunderstood youth walks to the back of your car without you noticing and demands your wallet or he is going to kill you. You have three choices fight, flight, or comply with his request and hope he goes away. The gas hose is behind you cluttering your exit route and you didn’t notice that the gas station had put trash cans and displays between the pumps. You’ve been to some training classes so you’re going to fight. You waited until something happened and then were forced to work out a plan to defend yourself.
Let’s look at what you did wrong in the above scenario.
- You didn’t assess the area you were pulling into.
- You pulled into the pump on the dark side of the building where those up to no good have good concealment.
- You had poor situational awareness of your surroundings after you exited the car.
- You left yourself really only two options; comply or fight.
I won’t say comply is never a good idea because there are always exceptions. I also don’t think starting the fight from behind the OODA loop is a good option either. Trading punches, slashes or bullets is never truly a win, even if you come out on top. Your victory cost you more than it should have cost you and how is your family going to fair while you’re recovering from the trading physical damage? In the above scenario a lack of attention backed you into a bad scenario where you didn’t need to put yourself. In my opinion; this is a defensive mindset. You waited until something happened and then worked out how to defend yourself.
It’s 1 a.m.; you need to stop at a gas station along the interstate because you are down to a quarter tank of gas. You find a gas station and pull in to the parking lot. As you pull in you’re looking around the area and notice the only pump open is the one on the end nearest a dark corner of the building and there are some misunderstood youths hanging out by the store entrance. You decide to drive to the gas station up the street and not possibly place yourself in a situation where you’re uncomfortable.
Let’s look at this scenario and see what you did right.
- You assessed the area before you fully committed yourself to it.
- You decided to go somewhere else rather than put yourself unknowingly in a bad situation.
What are the downsides to following this option? You can only do it so many times before you have no choice but to use whatever gas station you find yourself at or you run out of gas. Me personally; I start looking for a gas station just as the needle moves below a half tank and try to stop before it reaches a quarter. I like to give myself options.
It’s 1 a.m.; you need to find a gas station along the interstate because you just went below a half tank of gas and want to find a station before you reach a quarter tank. You find a gas station and pull in to the parking lot. As you pull in you’re looking around the area and notice the only pump open is the one on the end nearest a dark corner of the building and there are some misunderstood youths hanging out by the store entrance. You also notice that there are tire displays set up between the pumps so you decide to go to the next station. Upon pulling into the second station you find a middle pump open and there is nothing blocking you from moving between the pumps. You also notice some shady characters hanging out at the entrance and the end of the building. This is the only other gas station for 100 miles so you decide this is the station you need to use. Before you get out of the car you take a moment to decide what avenue of approach you would use if you wanted to rob someone and take notice of what the shady characters are doing, where they are and if they are paying any “special” attention to you. You get out of the car and begin to pump your gas while keeping a scan going looking to see if there is any change in the attitude of those hanging out. You’ve positioned yourself so that you can get back into your car and drive off if you detect something out of place early. You’ve also placed yourself so that you can exit on foot between the pumps if you need to create distance and can’t get into your car. With a little prior planning you’ve given yourself several options.
What did you do and what are your options?
- You assessed the situation at both stations and decided on your best option.
- You positioned yourself to be able to scan the area and continually assess what is going on around you; you increased your situational awareness.
- By giving yourself the extra space you have an increased chance at stopping someone with a stern word before they can get close enough to be a significant danger to you.
- You gave yourself two routes to escape should you choose flight over fight or comply if someone does get closer than you would like.
- By giving yourself the extra space to scan you have also given yourself increased time if you decide you need to go to a weapon. You’ve also given yourself time to get a weapon in your hand first; discreetly of course.
From my perspective those who advocate good situational awareness, don’t go to stupid places, do stupid things, hang out with stupid people (the 3S rule) and plan ahead aren’t setting the stage for a defensive mindset, but are actually setting the stage for an offensive mindset. Anytime you are proactive in thwarting possible threats you are putting up an offensive posture. If you’re sitting around until something happens so you can defend yourself; you’re in a defensive posture. Who do you want to be?