As we talked about earlier, many people reading this will be using mental rehearsal specifically to train for using a firearm for self defense. Obviously, shooting someone in self defense is not something that you can train at full speed or even half-speed. You CAN train for it with simunitions, lasers, airsoft, or paintball, but in order to do it effectively, you really need to train your brain for what is likely to happen in a firearms incident so that it won’t surprise you when it happens.
One of the first things that is important to realize is that if you get shot with a firearm or are forced to shoot someone with a firearm, there is a 93-97% chance of surviving a gunshot wound. In TV and the movies, people die quickly and quietly after the first shot. The real world isn’t so quick or clean.
When you’re going through your mental rehearsal for self-defense scenarios, you need to keep this in mind. You might even want to run through scenarios in your head where you DO get shot/cut/ hit and visualize yourself fighting through it and STILL eliminating the threat and being able to go home that night.
I go so far as to run through scenarios where I am out with my wife and sons and one of them gets shot. In these scenarios, instead of focusing on tending to them and eliminating their last line of defense (me), I run that 93-97% stat through my mind and immediately take out the threat and then tend to any injuries. It should go without saying, but I ALWAYS train successful outcomes.
Will this always work? No. One famous example of not being able to separate tragedy from performance was when US Olympic speed skater, Dan Jansen, fell in the 1988 Winter Olympics after his sister died. But an example of mental training paying off happened right before the 2003 Pan Am Games when US Pentathlete Anita Allen lost her best friend in Iraq. She was devastated, but went on to win gold and qualify for the Olympics. Again, it may not ALWAYS work, but you hopefully won’t need it to work more than once in your lifetime.
At a minimum, you want to make sure that as you’re running through scenarios in your mind where you’re eliminating lethal threats, you envision the possibility that it will require multiple strikes or shots to stop your attacker. If the time ever comes where you have to use lethal force, you don’t want to be surprised and stall unnecessarily when your first strike/shot doesn’t stop your attacker. If the first shot stops the threat, that’s great, but there’s a good chance that it won’t.
What Will You Say?
One of the benefits of mental rehearsal is that you can dialog with an attacker and have them say anything you want them to.
You can also go through what you’ll tell them:
“Drop your weapon NOW!” (instead of “Drop your gun NOW!”) “Lay face down and look away from me!”
“Cross Your Legs”
“Arms Straight Out”
What if They Comply?
A very difficult scenario for people who have only trained for lethal force encounters on a range or even doing force on force is what to do when your attacker actually listens to you. If you engage a home invader in your living room and you’ve got them laid out on the floor but your phone is in the kitchen and you’re not sure if they’re alone, what do you do?
Tase or pepper them to subdue them? Ask them to lay there like a nice home invader? Stomp on their ankle, wrist, or floating ribs? Strike them in the back of the head to subdue them? Cuff/ plasticuff/zip tie them? If you decide to restrain them, what do you do first to insure that you don’t end up in a wrestling match? Have THEM restrain themselves? The time to figure this out is during your mental rehearsal…not when your life depends on it.
What if you’re a woman, you’re out in public, and your phone is in the bottom of your purse? Can you get to it, unlock it, and dial 911 without taking your focus off of your attacker? Would you be better attacking them first, and then calling 911?
In any violent confrontation, what is your strategy for staying aware of your surroundings while you have your attacker laid out?——-What If They Comply…partially?
One set of scenarios that you need to run through in your mind is what you will do if your attacker listens to your command to drop their weapon but then nonchalantly approaches you. Should you shoot them? Should you pull out pepper spray or a Taser and engage them? Keep in mind that if your attacker has intent to kill you, they may bet on you not shooting an unarmed person and walk right up to you. In other words, just because they’ve dropped their visible weapon doesn’t mean they still can’t rush you and kill you with their hands or your gun
You also need to keep in mind that your attacker could change their mind at any point…if they detect that you have a weakness, that they have an advantage, or if they see a “friend” coming.