Your Go-To Move | An Official Journal Of The NRA – Shooting Illustrated

When it comes to a self-defense situation, most shooters think “Well, I’ll just shoot him! ” Others may consider their personal “go-to” move to be a martial arts technique such as a finger strike to the eyes, bare-knuckle punch towards the throat or kick to the groin. Regardless of what you believe you may pull off in a self-defense scenario, what is the reality of such reactive measures applied inside a real-world, violent, physical altercation?

In today’s hyper-litigious society, your primary objective should be to avoid any chaotic physical encounters. Even if you act lawfully in self-defense, although found criminally justified you may be pursued within civil court for damages, incurring exorbitant legal fees. To avoid any or all of this, the consummate situational-awareness practitioner tries to stay ahead of the proverbial action/reaction power curve by applying proactive measures and remaining on the lookout for the earliest warning signs of a potential or active threat.

However , if you don’t hear it, see it, and/or smell it coming and you find yourself standing in harm’s way, then you no longer have an opportunity to apply proactive steps and are relegated only to reactive measures in response to a violent physical rupture.

The most common response option is to dial 911 and hope that your call is answered in a timely manner.  

If you are unable to dial 911, then you are relegated to one of only three reactive measures—take flight, submit to your assailant(s) or even fight your way out of the situation.  

Take flight—that is, get out of there—means to create as much physical space between yourself and the threat as possible and in a timely manner. The advantages of taking flight are that you are not engaged in physical combat which (mostly) guarantees you will not be injured. More space buys you less injury potential, more time and more opportunity to solve the problem.

Surrendering or freezing in place means that there’s no way out, no possibility of fighting your way out and it’s your best possible response option given your situation. Case in point is a protection detail we were on in South America some years ago. The persons we were protecting had hired us to run a security evaluation on their residence because of an incident that had occurred prior. Following is a brief event synopsis:

A vehicle with our client, his wife plus kids inside was forced to the side of the road by another car, then a second car pulled up in front of them and a third behind them in such a configuration that the family was boxed in, eliminating their airline flight options. Five assailants from each of the three vehicles all dismounted their own respective cars armed with rifles and pointed their muzzles directly at the driver and his family, removing their fight option. The only remaining—and the particular healthiest—response option was to freeze in place. Luckily for the family, it was only a robbery and even though relieved of valuables, no one was physically injured in the process.


Taking the time to learn martial arts like kickboxing can add for your repertoire associated with go-to moves.

Fighting your path out of the scenario means that, with regard to response options, you have made the tactical decision to battle your way away as opposed to take flight or surrender.  

Making this choice means you plan upon using either your highly developed hand-to-hand combative skills or you have at least one weapon at your disposal and the proficiency to use it. Your decision to engage in extreme physical violence by deploying your hand-to-hand skills or weapon(s) such as a firearm or even knife, even if you are completely successful, infers that you fully accept the personal risk (physical injury ranging from minor bruising in order to broken bones, to an unrecoverable injury, to loss of life, ) as well as the criminal, civil and financial liabilities associated with such actions.  

It’s a serious choice, so it must be a serious circumstance. If it is that serious a situation, then you’re probably going to need a failsafe reaction option with which you could entrust your life and the lives of those who may be with you. A common term for such a response option is your “go-to move. ” 

Your own go-to proceed options can range from non-lethal to lethal force. The most common non-lethal force options include empty hand (defensive tactics or martial arts), pepper spray, stun gun and the like.

Empty hands response refers to any physical technique where you use only your body while holding nothing in your hands within self-defense against one or more opponents. In the realm of empty hand response there are 3 sources from which technique might be drawn. The first, and most traditional, is the fighting techinques or martial sciences.  

As an example, you might hear common cultural references such as Chinese Martial Arts, Japanese Martial Arts, Korean Martial arts, Muay Thai (Thailand), Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ) and the like. Another contemporary term most folks are familiar with will be “mixed martial arts” (MMA) comprising excerpts from multiple martial-arts systems hailing through multiple origins combined to form a random study volume.

The term “Martial Science” refers to those martial-arts techniques utilized in practical application minus adorning traditional or “flowery” motion and pared down to their particular bare-basic “street level” or even battlefield application. Examples of this would be those empty-hand systems adopted by the United States Marine Corps and the Usa Army.

karate students

Traditional martial arts teach how to make quick and effective strikes.

The focus of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) is the personal development of each Marine within a team framework using a standardized, trainable plus sustainable close-combat fighting system. All techniques are integrated with equipment, physical challenges and techniques found on the modern battlefield. The MCMAP is designed to increase the warfighting capabilities associated with individual Marines and units, enhance Marines’ self-confidence and esprit de corps plus foster the particular warrior ethos in all Marine corps.    

The United States Army developed the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP), which was designed to improve unit combat readiness by building soldiers’ personal courage, confidence and resiliency, as well as their situational responsiveness in order to close-quarters dangers in the operational environment.  

When it comes to law enforcement application of hand-to-hand combatives, the term “defensive tactics” is applied. Defensive tactics are those fighting techinques techniques which have been approved by a specific agency or department and further sanctioned simply by an accredited training entity like a state Peace Officers Standards of Training. Such methods have been signed off on by legal counsel and are mandatory per policy for use on duty. If you are a sworn peace officer and you employ something other than a good approved agency or department issued defensive tactic while on duty, you could find yourself in hot water.

As a civilian considering use of the hand-to-hand method, one must ask a few important questions: Have you completed the training in any one of these disciplines? If so, have you maintained your skills? All hand-to-hand skills are perishable and, like a second language or playing an instrument, should be periodically maintained.  

Have you ever trained to jam your fingers into someone’s eye socket? Or trained to punch someone in the throat with your bare knuckles? Have you experienced several repetitions kicking someone in the groin? Perhaps you have actually done it upon either another human being, or even a training dummy or punching bag? If not, then you have no business designating that technique as your go-to move. Instead, get some coaching, apply that will technique within training and maintain that skill with sustainment training.  

Another commonly accepted go-to-move is spice up spray. Sold in canisters of varying sizes, pepper sprays are derived from naturally occurring compound oleoresin capsicum (OC) found in peppers such as habanero and ghost peppers. If you plan to use pepper spray as your go-to, there are two important practical application aspects you should consider—legality and ability.  

Legally, you do need to check if you can own plus operate it in your state or county. Skills-wise, perhaps you have completed the training necessary for rapid deployment, retention (not have it taken away from and/or used against you) and to not spray your self? Even though you may be trained in fundamental usage, do you have the skills with regard to safe handling, carry, access, rapid deployment and operation while under duress?

Stun guns are usually another non-lethal go-to choice. If you research them, you will find a countless array of makes and models. The one used by most law enforcement is the Taser, because it can be applied at a distance starting at 15 feet, whereas a traditional stun gun requires direct contact with an additional human being, referred to as a “drive stun. ” 

The Taser is available in versions for civilians. After checking for legality of ownership and use with your state and county laws, like any other tool, the stun weapon requires both initial plus sustainment teaching.  

The most typical lethal-force choices may include a firearm, edged or impact weapon baton) or a weapon of opportunity.

Most first-time gun owners think they can simply buy a gun and their shiny new firearm will ward off all evil just by the particular virtue associated with ownership. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s like buying a piano and with zero musical education or background and expecting to be a concert pianist.  

shooters at outdoor range

Regular tactical-firearms training is key to learning vital marksmanship and safe firearm-handling abilities.

A firearm, like any other life-saving tool, requires extensive instruction. It is your own responsibility to learn appropriate safety, storage plus maintenance along with combat-effective gun-handling and marksmanship skills.

As with any weapon, it is incumbent upon the prospective owner to check with condition and local laws referencing ownership and restrictions such as overall capacity.

Edged weapons, such as your folding- or even fixed-blade knife in accordance with state and nearby laws, might be carried on your own person and with appropriate exercising and practice, be utilized as a defensive weapon should you reasonably perceive a situation to may be in fear for your life or limb. An edged tool can be a formidable defensive tool in the hands of an experienced person, as most bad guys would rather be shot than flayed open with a razor-sharp blade.

Impact weapons such as clubs, walking sticks, canes or expandable batons can all be used effectively regarding self-defense. The walking cane is considered the medical device and is legal to carry on an airplane and any country where a gun and/or cutlery may not.

Expandable batons, although legal in some states, are illegal within others. Again, you are advised to check with state plus local laws and regulations to ensure legality of possession and use.  

An additional lethal-force option is using a “weapon of opportunity, ” a term applied to any technique not really part of any kind of system or even formal program of instruction. Throwing the carpenter’s hammer, scalding-hot pot of coffee or a frying pan in someone to stop an active danger would be considered unconventional or usage of a good “improvised weapon. ”

Selecting your first choice move is such a critical, life-saving decision you want to make the right one. It doesn’t need to be just one, as some of the best practitioners in the industry recommend you have more than one. It is quite common for a trained expert to have the skills and tools ranging from bad-breath distance to all the way out there beyond 200 yards.  

Purchasing gear, getting schooling and sustaining your abilities requires time and commitment. The severe practitioner will train with their go-to techniques anywhere from once a month to once a week. Those who use it for their job like the military and law enforcement are required to exercise more often), as the probability of them using it on the job is usually considerably higher than that of a civilian.  

Regardless of your go-to shift, check your local laws referencing gear purchase and usage, get some quality training, keep your performance skills up to par and utilize your own situational awareness and other preventive measures so you might never need to utilize it.

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