The Principals of Personal Defense: Aggressiveness

Jeff Cooper’s third principal of personal defense is “Aggressiveness”.

As responsible, law-abiding citizens, we do not initiate violent attacks on others. But, we need to be able to respond to a violent attack on us (or someone else we wish to defend) when necessary. Because we do not initiate the attack, we must wait for the attacker to strike (or attempt to strike) the first blow. In the vast majority of cases this won’t be difficult because the attacker will likely act suddenly and we will have little or no warning that the attack is coming, especially if we are in Condition “White”. When the attack does come, we must be decisive by quickly selecting the appropriate response. Next we must then act to stop the threat. That response probably won’t be perfect, but it does need to be “good enough”.

General George Patton once said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Taking immediate action—any action—is the best way to throw the attacker off balance. Criminals are not expecting their victims to resist, they expect compliance. So any response that does not follow what the attacker expects will force them to go through their OODA loop to re-evaluate their plan of attack and adjust it. While this is going on, you have the opportunity to gain control of the situation, significantly improving your chance of surviving the encounter.

The very last thing an assailant expects is an aggressive counterattack! This is exactly what the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 did on September 11, 2001 in response to Islamic terrorists taking over their aircraft. Instead of letting the hijackers use the aircraft as a weapon to kill others on the ground, several unarmed passengers rushed the hijackers resulting in the crash of their plane in an unpopulated area of rural Pennsylvania. All 45 people on Flight 93 were killed, but they prevented the death of many others that the hijackers intended to kill by crashing the aircraft into a high-value target such as the Capitol Building or the White House in Washington, DC. There have been several other examples of this, most recently in August 2015 in France when several unarmed passengers attacked an armed assailant that was threatening the other passengers on an Amsterdam-to-Paris train. By acting aggressively, they were able to overwhelm the attacker and subdue him. While some of the passengers were injured, none lost their lives.

For the armed citizen (i.e. concealed carry license holder) the attacker does not expect you to be armed so when you respond with your firearm it completely changes the encounter. You may not even have to fire a shot, but don’t count on that. As I’ve previously written, in the 65 known cases of individuals that were trained by Tom Givens being confronted with a violent attack, all but three ended successfully for the individuals that were the victims of the attacks. In the three cases where the victims were killed, none of them were carrying a firearm on the day they had to confront their attacker.

But, how do you train yourself to be “aggressive”? The key is your mindset. Your initial response to being attacked is most likely to be hesitation and fear as you try to figure out what is happening and what you should do—fight, flee, freeze, posture, submit, etc. By quickly transitioning from a state of fear to one of anger and indignation, you can generate the rage within yourself to aggressively respond to the attack. Your focus will change from being concerned about protecting yourself to being focused on stopping the attacker.

[Until next time], stay alert, act decisively when necessary, and when you act do so aggressively!!!

Gary Evens is a NRA-Certified Instructor and Range Safety Officer.

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