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Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: THE TACTICAL LIFESTYLE   THE TACTICAL LIFESTYLE Icon_minitimeWed 26 Aug 2015, 11:15

Dennis Martin

This is a term I coined way back when writing my On Guard column in Fighting Arts Magazine. It refers to the blend of Mindset, Tactics, Skills and Kit, acquired during the training process and applied everyday in your own work, travel, home and leisure activities.
The Tactical Lifestyle concept is the result of the years I spent on VIP Close Protection teams. When deployed to provide protection everything was based on a painstaking Threat Evaluation. Then, we would plan everything in a thoroughly detailed format. We had tactics, SOPs for every eventuality, and “actions on” for every emergency. Each team member brought a range of general and specific skills. We were given detailed kitlists specifying the equipment to be carried on body, in vehicles and pre-positioned at the residence and office. Of course, all of this was based on a platform of  Mindset elements, with constant visual scanning, observation arcs, and being on constant alert.

[Den prepping kit in the hotel on a VIP Protection task]

Having protected a variety of Diplomatic and Executive entities, I thought it only common sense to apply those same principles to my own personal protection.

These concepts were expanded by a number of expert instructors I was privileged to train with and work with. Among these was Evan Marshall, a veteran of the Detroit Police, who was the prime mover in the “Officer Survival” movement in the USA. Both through his writing, and later working with Ev on training contracts, I gained great insights into all aspects of the Tactical Lifestyle. Ev’s experience was unmatched, and one of his incidents is discussed later.
As always Lofty's Vital Pyramid is the model we use. Let's look at each element.

I doubt anyone involved in self-protection training would decry the importance of Mindset. However, learning about it on a seminar is not enough, it must become the bedrock of your waking life.
Many instructors have adopted Colonel Boyd's OODA Loop, ever since it was introduced into the personal self-protection community by Marcus Wynne. I'd recommend all readers to utilise this concept for themselves.

[Slacky discussing the OODA Cycle]

To take Mindset into daily life we start with Threat Evaluation, a realistic look at the threats which may face use in daily life. Of course this doesn't remain fixed. The threat can change over time, as new criminal trends and methods develop. It changes as we travel. Even within one city there will be bad areas.
Situational Awareness is our personal radar, operating in a 360° "bubble" around us. Colonel Cooper's famous Colour Code is an essential tool for this.


These are ploys and methodologies that support Mindset and Skills. They are of prime importance during the "Orientate" phase of the OODA cycle.

[Den discussing vehicle tactics]

The main component is what I termed Situational Control, which comprises Relative Positioning, Proxemics, Verbalization, and Unobtrusive Readiness Positions.
We must have tactics for a variety of situations. If we work with partners or a team, then our tactics must integrate. Two people operating with a tactical plan have a "fighting power" of three.
It may seem that all these tactics will clutter the mind; not so. Tactics become habits. They must therefore, be simple. Actually the specific tactic is less important than the will and decision to act. I've seen senior NCOs from exactly similar backgrounds arguing vehemently over a tactic. There are many tactical solutions to a problem, the thing is to use the OODA concept and act faster than your enemy.

These are the physical techniques of striking, kicking, shooting, edged-weapon employment, baton work. These hard skills are supplemented by various complementary subjects such as First Aid, advanced driving etc.

[A wounded operator drill on range]

Much information on self-protection is centred on skill training. However, in the overall scheme these are less important than Mindset and Tactics, however, because they require time and effort, we must devote the biggest chunk of training time to developing, refining and maintaining our skillset.
Gyms are full of guys enthusiastically sweating through a severe workout; but training hard is not enough. For effective self-protection, training must have purpose and direction. It must be capable of transfer from the gym to the street.
The prime consideration is stress. The skills must be capable of being used under intense psychogenic stress. Here "less is more" a few, simple techniques preferable to a whole library of complicated routines. Also commonality, having different options operate from a common core, is an aid to performance under stress.

The least important component of the Vital Pyramid is Equipment, or, Kit. However, in some circumstances equipment can be the difference between life and death.
I was once on a car journey with a mate when we suffered a puncture. I asked "Do you have a jack?"
"Yes, at home in the garage" he answered.
"It comes out here automatically, does it?" I replied, to be told I was a sarcastic sod. The point of this story, is that nice, shiny, state-of-the-art kit is of little use if you don't have it with you.
Last year in America a chap told us of an advanced firearms/tactics course he attended. The instructor asked how many of the class were trained in Advanced First Aid. Many hands were raised. He then asked how many had first aid packs with them. Only a couple of hands went up. The instructor pointed out that driving a couple of hundred miles to attend range training involved the possibility of encountering a traffic accident, or some training-related injury; and their skills would be of little use without the necessary first aid equipment.
On my forum we have had a Kit-thread running for some time
Here we look at the different elements
Going back to your initial Threat Evaluation, assess what equipment you need to support your plan.
The most controversial element is Weapons. There are many people who are upset by the thought of someone carrying a self-protection weapon. Others have an actual fear of weapons. These hoplophobes are, unfortunately, often found in positions of authority in the legislature and the media. Since, like any phobia this is an unreasonable fear, we cannot argue with it, because they are impervious to logic. The weird thing is that several hoplophobes can be found in the self-protection community.


Weapons are, after all, tools. Compared to other predators man's natural weapons are puny. However, we fight with our brain, and man has been able to use his mental ability to improvise, adapt and manufacture tools and weapons. His first weapon was either a stick or a rock that he simply picked up to fight with. He later combined the two into a Stone Axe. From observing wildlife he saw animals and birds equipped with claws, fangs, horns, tusks, beaks and talons. He used animal weapons as tools for hunting, eating and defence. He eventually learned to make his own edged weapons. From these initial tools man progressed to developing other tools to dominate his environment, from the computer to the space rocket.
To me, anyone who opposes the concept of weapons for self-protection is counter-evolutionary.
To me it seems simple. Firearms, edged weapon and impact weapon training to a very high standard is widely available. If you were trained in firearms and lived in an area where it was legally permissible to carry a handgun; why wouldn't you?
The critics paint a picture that we are aching for any excuse to use our weapons. The truth is, that the employment of deadly force is such a cataclysmic event that all the guys I know in the community avoid it unless absolutely faced with no other option.
I once told a class of US police officers "the worst thing that can happen is that you are shot by a bad guy. The second worst thing is that you shoot a bad guy" The class agreed. The legal/ media aftermath of even the most justifiable police use of deadly force can be a life shattering experience.
How much worse, then, is it for a civilian involved in shooting a criminal?
How much worse is it for a civilian shooting a bad guy in a country less "firearms aware" than America?
How much worse is it for a civilian stabbing a bad guy?
No, we are no more anxious to use our weapons than our seat belts, fire extinguishers or first aid kits.

The term "every day carry" [EDC] refers to the equipment selection for your routine tasks. This, of course varies according to your specific threat assessment, training, legalities etc.


For a chap living in England, the EDC could be as follows:
Inova X-5 flashlight
Swiss Army knife
First aid kit

[Useful items can even be carried on your keychain]

For a guy living in Jo'burg the EDC could well comprise:
Pistol + 2 spare magazines
Tactical folding knife [clipped to right pocket]
Hideaway knife [on left side]
Pepper Spay
Strobe flashlight
Trauma pack

The premise of the Tactical Lifestyle is that violence can be sudden and unpredictable, you never know when, or, where.. After all, if we could predict the trouble we would avoid it. So the idea is to routinely go equipped with the mental, physical and hardware provisions necessary to defeat possible aggression. A case in point is when my good friend Evan Marshall was asked by his wife to go to the local convenience store for milk for the kids. Ev debated whether to take his Browning 9mm, but then, since it was only a trip down the block, slipped a snubby S&W revolver into his pocket. Within minutes he’d shot two armed robbers. You can bet that Ev is a great exponent of the Tactical Lifestyle!

[Den and Evan during a CQB training session in a "shoot-house"]

The Tactical Lifestyle is an individual choice. It is a highly personal amalgamation of Mindset, Tactics, Skills and Kit, through a filter of experience, common sense and beliefs. Some people invest more heavily in their personal protection than others. However, any instructor who fails to inform their trainees about the constituents of the Tac-lifestyle is selling them short.
On our seminars and training classes we emphasise the attitude “I will do whatever it takes to win the fight” By actively using your Mindset components, having Tactical SOPs in place, honing your Skillset and carrying the requisite Kit, you are far more likely to be the winner. Stay safe!
For further discussion checkout our thread here

Check Six,
Dennis Martin
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