Training and Tactics: Fighting Mindset

She seemed like your average rational person—but then she had to open her fool mouth.

Cruising the local swap meet, I was engaged in the inevitable masochistic pursuit of hoping to stumble upon a $10 Webley Fosberry or similar never-going-to-happen bargain. Encountering a pair of pit bulls, I stopped to trade some doggie-talk, ear scratching, and face licking.

As I turned away to continue my fruitless search, from behind me I heard The Comment: “Pit bulls shouldn’t be allowed at swap meets.”

Being the proud owner of a carefully cultivated intemperate disposition, I was hard-pressed not to about-face and respond to Larva Lucy with the perfect “Bite me” ad lib. Or maybe I should have whispered “bite her” to my newfound canine buddies. In any event, I chose to ignore the comment and continued on down the aisle, only to happen upon a Remington 11 receiver—in good condition, complete with all internal parts and magazine tube. All for the princely sum of $25.

Since I now had a complete set of spare parts for my treasured A5 Brownings and Model 11 Remingtons, my capricious nature had reverted to the zenith of Mood Swing Mountain, and I’d almost forgotten about the human larva I’d encountered earlier—almost.

But once I’d returned to my kennel, I began the admittedly rare-for-me process of thinking—specifically about the canine incident. And as is so often the case, I attempted to analyze Madam Butterfly’s mindset relative to fighting strategy.

What, you may well ask, do a moron’s opinions have to do with battle mindset? Probably nothing—or maybe everything. Obviously the woman in question is of the type who will happily stand in a cloud of diesel bus smoke and then finger-pinch her nostrils when she sees somebody light up a cigarette 50 yards away.

And she would love to see the death penalty abolished—until it’s her daughter who is raped. And of course she wants to see pit bulls become extinct.

Since these are acquired opinions and not innate phobias like a fear of spiders or heights, it’s obvious that these opinions have been accumulated over a period of years via media indoctrination and acceptance thereof. (To illustrate this point, witness the dearth of ocean-going swimmers the summer the movie Jaws was released.)

So how does this relate to fighting—or more specifically, being a mental victim before the physical encounter actually commences? If your mindset is of the self-indoctrinated type, which says that if you see a pit bull he will bite you, the pit bull will, indeed, probably bite you. Not because he’s inherently a “vicious” dog, but because he’s confused. And like a confused human, a puzzled canine’s confusion leads to trepidation. Once any animal—be it two-legged or four—feels uncertainty and apprehension, it reacts in one of two ways: it runs or it attacks.

And pit bulls don’t run. But neither do Chihuahuas or Dachshunds, and a dime gets you a dollar that more people have been bitten by Wiener dogs than pit bulls. Yes, people have been killed by dog attacks. But by a long chalk, many more have died from skydiving, bungee jumping, and eating sushi.

Put yourself in the dog’s Hush Puppies for a moment. You don’t watch Animal Planet or the 11 O’Clock News, so you don’t understand that you’re supposedly violent.

Now you’re approached by two different humans at a swap meet. One walks up to you, offers the back of his hand, and spends five minutes discussing Kibbles ‘n’ Bits® recipes. The other circles you with reticence, staring nervously into your eyes. Which one do you think would raise your hackles?

You smell the fear on her, you don’t know why she’s soiling her foundation garments, and so you experience a reciprocal feeling of trepidation. So you bare your teeth. Nice going, lady—you’ve just morphed a mild-mannered pooch into a so-called vicious dog.

Yes, dope dealers train pit bulls to be attack dogs. But you can also train a monkey to ride a bicycle. That doesn’t automatically mean all simians are inherently Olympic cyclists.

Finally, it’s down to the crux of this article. Not all fights are won by fists, bullets, or blades alone. Prior concepts—and misconceptions—can win or lose a battle before it starts.

Case in point:

A female acquaintance was being stalked by an irate ex-beau. Naturally he chose to ignore a restraining order, so in order to deal with any potential violence, she chose to partake in some defensive pistol training. (And, I might add, has become extremely proficient in this field.) When I suggested she might also want to take some intermediate force classes—since the law draws a very narrow line on the use of deadly force—her initial response was that the cretin in question “is a lot bigger physically than I am.”

My first thought was, “And he’s going to shrink sometime?” If he’s physically big, he’s physically big, and that’s all there is to it. Now you have a rabid dog, and a rabid Pekingese will take you out as quickly as a rabid pit bull. If you’re out-gunned, that doesn’t mean you’re out of ammo. You just slow down, shoot more carefully, and pray a lot. You can’t win them all and there are no guarantees. But you don’t have to hand over your head on a plate either. The paradoxical result of the above situation was that the jerk laid off after an even larger acquaintance stepped in and had a gentle discussion with him. We are, apparently, creatures of habit—and creatures of self-induced thought processes.

Usually if people want something eradicated, it’s because they feel they do not have control over that entity. But if you’re faced with a home invasion, calling your Congressman to pass yet another counter-criminal law isn’t going to solve your immediate problem. Either you stand up and fight or you’re going to get mauled. In case you hadn’t noticed, murder and rape are illegal—but that hasn’t stopped murderers and rapists.

If you believe everything you see on TV, shame on you. Get some backbone and fight if you’re confronted with a deadly force situation—irrespective of the odds against you—because nobody’s going to be around to help until after the fact. And don’t blame one breed of dog for your own stupidity and lack of intestinal fortitude.

In a fight, as in life in general, you can’t fear the pit bull—you have to be the pit bull.

[This column first appeared in the October 2006 issue of S.W.A.T.]

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