In managing a violent physical threat you have only three available protective measures: proactive measures, active measures and reactive measures. You guessed correctly; the “A” answer is proactive measures. If you can hear it, see it, smell it coming, then you’ve got all the time and opportunity at your disposal to step off those railroad tracks and avoid the impact of that incoming freight train.

Failing proactive measures, you still have time and opportunity to take effective active measures, such as move out of the way, cross the street, get out a back door, place an obstruction (or obstructions) between you and the threat. All of these will at least help you avoid being trapped with your back up against the wall and forced into reactive measures.

Failing both proactive and active measures you end up behind the action-reaction power curve where your soft skills (non-physical measures) are no longer applicable. Here, you are caught off guard, moving backwards on your heels and trying to gain control of extreme physical violence.

First responders, if alerted, may try to reach you expediently, but if they don’t, then you are the one and only first responder on scene by default. You are the “agent in charge” responsible for protecting those with you including yourself.

Under duress optimal physical performance is diminished. Trying to remember a dozen different tacti-cool ninja moves and keeping them all straight in your head doesn’t afford you a tactical advantage and adds nothing but further complexity to the situation. Keep it simple by employing three core elements of an optimal response: preparation, mental toughness and planning.


There are two most common mindsets. The first is, “It will never happen to me.” How often have you heard this before or know of someone who thinks that way? If you ever watch a documentary where they interview survivors of tragic experiences, the two most common statements you will usually hear are: “I couldn’t believe how fast it happened” and “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”

The second is, “Someone else will handle it.” Many people think that the cavalry, somehow notified, will ride over the horizon to save their day, and that all they need to do is wait for its arrival. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under duress optimal physical
performance is diminished

A third mindset, separate and opposite from the first two, and the one you rarely run into, is “Personal security is my responsibility.” Of the three, which one do you think will serve you best in managing an active threat?

The adage of antiquity “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude” remains true to this very day. Choosing the most effective mindset is not a matter of reading a book, attending a class, or watching a video. It is simply a matter of making up your mind. All you need to do is make the conscious decision that personal security is your responsibility and adopt that choice internally.


As a personal security instructor, I am often asked, “If it does hit the fan, and I find myself staring at the white elephant, how would I control my anxiety?” The answer is to develop an inner strength that resides in the depth of your being. A protection industry term for this inner strength is mental toughness. Mental toughness is a subject that can be studied, cultivated and developed through training and practice.

Mental toughness is a measure of individual resilience that can determine success in defensive or competitive situations while under pressure. It refers to any set of positive non-physical attributes that helps you to cope with and perform under duress and in difficult situations.

Throughout history, the likes of the ancient Roman and Spartan armies, because of their unparalleled discipline, training and mental toughness in physical combat, commanded unequivocal respect from their enemies.

The same holds true for Olympic athletes pushed to their very limits. At that extreme level, there’s only one thing that separates those who quit from those who don’t, and that is mental toughness.

The bottom line is to make up your mind right here and right now to never let up on that mental gas pedal, especially if you find yourself in a stressful scenario requiring mental fortitude. An essential aspect of optimal response is to be mentally tougher than your adversaries.


General George S. Patton in referencing rapid response is credited with saying, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
Small arms expert Colonel Jeff Cooper (USMC) cited in one of his awareness-based training lectures, that what it takes to be a hard target in any response scenario, is to have a plan.

Internationally respect former FBI agent, competitive shooter, and founder of the Roger’s Reactive Shooting School, Bill Rogers, in his training classes and in his book “Be Fast, Be Accurate, Be the Best,” expounds on the critical need of having a plan in rapid response.

If you do the research, you will find repetitively stated throughout the professional protection community that without a plan, even a makeshift one, you will find yourself behind the action-reaction curve trying to catch up instead of taking control of the fight.

When it comes to managing a violent physical threat, you may be relegated to reactive measures and not by choice. To make the best of such a less-than-optimal situation, is to be prepared by adopting proper mindset, developing mental toughness, and having a plan.