You don’t know what you’ll do…


I hear this phrase a lot. In fact, it’s scary how often I hear people say this. “You don’t know what you would do” or, “You don’t know how you will act”. I suppose there are a few events in life where you truly don’t know how you’ll act until the time comes. However for most of us, we can already know how we should respond to an event.

Actual training in a force-on-force scenario and other such skill builders is great, and will give you a good insight into proper tactics. What this training doesn’t do is give you the mental prep that you need to execute your training in real life. What happens is by doing the training over and over, you slowly build your mental prep, to where your reactions to events become a second nature, a muscle memory.

Why is this important? Because mental prep is probably 90% or close to that number, of how you will act during an event. If you’re mentally prepared to confront someone, you will have a much easier time when you need to confront them. This is true for everything in life. You can condition yourself mentally without having to do expensive training.

Some of you may not know what I’m talking about, so let’s go through a few examples.

I carry a firearm daily. I know that the chances of having to use my gun are very low. I would rather never have to need to use a firearm in self-defense, and not have to carry one. However, I understand that being prepared is essential to surviving any number of events, including day-to-day life. With knowing I need to be prepared, I don’t stop with just putting on my knife. I also decide that I’ll carry a gun. With the gun, I also will decide to carry at least one extra magazine. I also make sure my cell phone is charger before I leave the house in the morning. In my car, I have more spare magazines. I also have a trauma kit in the trunk of my car.

This is the physical prep, where I’ve made it to where I feel physically prepared to handle most scenarios which I may run across. Obviously I can’t prepare for everything, but in terms of protecting my life, or that of my family, I feel that my preparations are adequate and reasonable. Now onto the next step, which is mental preparedness and some of our examples.

When I stop at a red light, I’m checking my mirrors and looking at the different vehicles and people around me. Sometimes, people will cross outside of the cross-walk, or will walk down the island. This is where I start running through scenarios in my head.

If this person tries to open my door, what next?

If this person puts a gun to my window, do I get out?

There are a lot of things that can happen, and depending on how you’re positioned in your vehicle, and who is in the vehicle with you, this entire scenario can change drastically. If there is a vehicle in front of you, then you obviously cannot drive away. This is where you may be forced to confront the person. During summer hours, you may have been driving with your windows down. Hopefully when you saw this person walking along the island, you rolled up your window as a precaution.

Another scenario. You’re in the grocery store and there’s a commotion at the front of the store by the registers. You look and see a man waving a gun around. Or, you’re walking the isles with your wife and/or kids. They continue to the next aisle while you continue putting items into your cart. You hear gunshots, and run to the next aisle. There you see a man 25-30 yards away with a gun. Do you engage the threat? Is it a threat?

Some of these scenarios can be difficult because of our training. We’re often taught that we need to be presented with a clear threat to our own life before we can act in self-defense. While this is generally true, and it’s easier for a jury to find a person acted reasonable when the terms are clear. But lets look at the grocery store incident. Your family is somewhere in this store, and they may even be wounded for all you know. While the man may not be an immediate threat to you, if left unchallenged, he may continue shooting people, including your children.

Any jury would see this as a reasonable action if you engaged this man. Unless of course, you’re wrong, and you just shot the off duty cop. This is where actual training comes into effect. The more training you have, the less likely you are to shoot the wrong person, even if they’re armed. More and more people are carrying firearms these days. The chances of two CCW holders being in the same place is growing with each day. This is something to keep in mind when you’re planning your mental scenarios.

Every time you enter a building, an intersection, a freeway. You should be thinking about, “What if?”. You don’t need to let it consume you, but it’s important. Watching for vehicles which may be following you, or people who may be following you. If someone is tailing you into a store, or into the parking lot, they may try to rob you or attack you inside the store or when you come out. This is something to be aware of, and should be included in your mental scenarios. Visualizing what the attack will look like, and what actions you’ll take. Where is cover? If not cover, can you conceal if needed? Did you see emergency exits in the store if you need to take one? Did you leave enough room between the vehicle in front of you and your car so you can exit a potentially dangerous situation?

We cannot control all the variables in the world, but neither can the bad guy. They’re subjected to the same odds and chances you are. The difference will be that they’re mentally prepared to confront you. They’ve already done the scenario in their head where they rob you at the ATM. If you haven’t thought about it until they have a knife pulled on you, then you’re way behind the curve.

So, next time someone tells you, “You don’t know what you would do…”, scoff at them knowing you DO know, because you’ve already done that scenario a hundred times in your head. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. The important thing is knowing how to play the game, and not hesitating to execute your plan once things escalate.

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Greg Ryman is a certified NRA instructor and RSO. He is also a California DOJ Certified Handgun Safety Instructor and a Certified Glock Armorer. Greg has been shooting for over 20 years and is the owner of Ryman Tactical.

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