Surviving? Escaping? Destroying the Enemy?
By W. Hock Hochheim
You find yourself in a 6-man foot patrol in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War. You suddenly are confronted by an entire battalion of North Vietnamese. Do you stay, fight and try to win? Or, you are a city police officer on patrol and suddenly you are jumped by three vicious men with guns. Or, what if you are surrounded by an armed cartel gang on a supermarket parking lot? Must you win? Must you win every encounter right then and there? Muster up the mojo to stay on in the face of impossibility and win-win-win? What if you are a citizen in the same mess? What is winning?
There have been numerous police and citizen instructors in the last 10 or so years with the "winning is everything" message. It is a simplistic message and sometimes even suicidal. And I think this drumbeat misses a lot of typical war and crime-fighting situations.
This isn't a business negotiation deal, a Sunday football game or a MMA match, or even a one-on-one arrest. I do think a lot of these instructors naively seem to view the world – view the only kind of fight you'll fight as sort of a one-versus-one, or one-versus-two alleyway or bar struggle? One where you are not performing to your maximum and need the mental, rah-rah to overcome with their invigorating speech and tricks. Or, in police circles, they only see an officer having a fight with a suspect. Yet, studies have proven that you, as a citizen or a police officer, will be fighting two or more people 40 percent of the time, and some say as high as 90 percent of the time! Yes, 90 percent! One FBI study actually hit a 90 percent high figure! Now let's add the stat from the FBI that 40percent of the time, the person you'll fight will be armed with a gun, a stick of some sort, or a knife.
So, must you ever and always stand your ground, outnumbered or under-gunned in the jungle or surrounded in the street to stay and win, win, WIN! As so many modern “Win Instructors" declare you must? As they pound this into your psyche with their winning macho courses? No. I think we need to expand the definition. We need to take a look at situational problem-solving. We need to further define the word "win" and not let it get confused with a Rocky movie.
"We need to further define the word win and not let it get confused with a Rocky movie or a UFC match. "
In the who, what, where, when, how and why of this, what exactly is winning?
- Who are you? Cop? Soldier? Citizen?
- What is it you are doing exactly? Arresting someone? Fighting the Taliban? Defending yourself?
- Where is this happening? Home? Out? Battlefield?
- When is this happening?
- How is this unfolding? How might it end?
- Why is there even a confrontation?
Define "winning" for all of the above. Everyone's definition of winning is really situational. Mission-based, different and situational. It is indeed situational. It is small-minded, inexperienced, immature and plain wrong for instructors to preach this simple “must always win” mentality to prep everyone, every time and not explore the actual situations and the related responsibilities. Their small perspective isn't from a high enough altitude to see how these win messages spread across the board to police, military and citizens and can create a generic, confusing and dangerous message. Missions are different. Daily life is different. Citizens, soldiers and cops have different goals. Winning means different things to different people in different situations at different times.
To a police officer winning usually means arresting the suspect, or at times, just staying alive. To a citizen it usually means escaping a crime or escaping injury, or possibly confining a criminal until the authorities arrive. To a common citizen, escaping a parking lot crime unscathed is win-win. For the officer or citizen, this may also mean killing a criminal. In the USA, there are about 320 million people and only a few rare times citizens shoot and kill criminals. Same with the police.
If you are in the military, winning means – winning both small and big battles. And it may mean also winning the hearts and minds of the populace around you. Winning may also mean an escape to fight another battle another day as in the aforementioned Mekong Delta ambush. A prisoner of war wins by escaping, not stopping and fighting and winning/killing every guard and soldier along the way in hand-to-hand combat.
For all these groups, we share the temporary solution that discretion may be the better part of valor, at times. Live now to fight another day when there is chance to win. Yes, the orderly retreat! Cowboys have a "get out of Dodge" plan. Colonel Hackworth always had a "go to hell" plan for when all other plans have "gone to hell." (Hack once told me his "go to hell" plan had yet another go to hell plan within it.) Discretion is the better part of valor. Have you heard this line before? This idiom officially means that it is often better to think carefully and not act than to do something that may cause problems. Experts say the phrase comes from: "the better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life," – Falstaff in Henry IV, Part One.
Winning – by the retreat! This Shakespearean passage is the original sentence-structure-version of “discretion is the better part of valor.” Wordsmiths say this phrase usually means caution is better than rash courage. In my world for decades now, especially in the military business, the phrase is a common rule and guideline for the smart time to retreat. So, despite the rah-rah-must-always-win speeches, all military in combat, big or small, recognize the time to retreat and do so properly. Orderly.
For example, when Alexander the Great retreated his troops still in the phalanx formations, never turning their backs to the enemy and flat out running off – which historically causes the greatest casualty figures in war. In retreat, "winning" then and there meant escaping with the least amount of casualties, via the orderly plan. I cannot tell you exactly what to do for every orderly retreat in life, in combat or crime-fighting. It is too situational, but Alexander could predict his problems! Orderly retreat in the phalanx. Study the who, what, where, when, how and why of your life and make "go-to hell" plans.
Winning – Taking One for the Team. Sometimes losing means winning. Lose in the short run for a win in the long run? In sports we see a lot of dramatic "victims" overact and fall down and cry out to be noticed. When they are fouled or almost fouled. The fouled players like to be seen by the referee and they overact their injury. Penalty flag! The other team gets penalized. This is evident in soccer, basketball, karate tournaments, well, in any sports really, and in life too! Frequently when police arrest people, the poor suspect screams out for all to witness, to hear how they have been injured and abused by the officers. A very common ploy, but it seems to work a lot, doesn't it?
Have you ever taken one not for the team? Lose, but for the overall cause? I have been in a few, odd situations such as once in a court room and in the halls outside. The situation heated up and it looked as though there might be a fight. There is no question that if I got hit in public, either inside the courtroom or out in the hall with witnesses, I knew it would be smarter to drop like a stone and cry out like a wounded, soccer or basketball player! FOUL! The bailiff would have cuffed the puncher, and we would build a better case for my client and entangle the puncher and the puncher's defense team with even more distracting trouble and another list to force a plea bargain. I was prepared to take one for the team. But in the bigger picture, one has to only think of the 300 Spartans and their loss at the Gates of Fire, to see their loss was Greece's, overall eventually gain.
Winning – And In The End. Remember that for citizens in modern times and civilizations, your willingness to fight, no matter how righteous and defensive your actions might be, may often end with you going to jail, with considerable legal fees and maybe with some added doctor bills to boot. You may well be vindicated later, but at a physical, emotional and monetary loss.
Who are you and what is winning, surviving, escaping? We all share these same possibilities and goals in the situational combat of crime and war. I warn you to be leery of these one-note, Win-Only courses and teachers. Their altitude and perspective are unsophisticated, short and low. Their message can be dangerous. Suicidal , even. Crime and combat are not like a Sunday football game. In real life, an escape, even a tie or yes, even a loss, can be a win.
Winning might be:
- Escape from the opponent (using the "Orderly Retreat" concept).
- Threats, demands and actions to make the opponent surrender and/or desist and maybe even make him leave.
- Less than lethal injury to the opponent. Injure and/or diminish to a degree that the opponent stops fighting, and,or stops chasing you.
- Control arrest, contain and restrain. Capture and escort the opponent. Or, you detain/capture the opponent and await the proper authorities.
- Lethal methods. We fight criminals and enemy soldiers. Sometimes we kill them.
We fight criminals and enemy soldiers. Even if your drunk brother-in-law takes a poke at you during the Christmas party, at that very instant he actually, technically, becomes a criminal. You will react accordingly based on the situation. But we fight criminals and enemy soldiers. Sometime we escape. Sometimes we wound them. Sometime we arrest/control/contain them. Sometimes we kill them.
"Missions are different. Daily life is different. Citizens, soldiers and cops have different goals. Winning means different things to different people in different situations at different times."
(Think this is common sense that everyone must already know? After this essay was first published in a police magazine, a rather famous, police WIN instructor back then changed his program, turning the course word "WIN" title into a clever acronym of W.I.N. and using the message of "what is important now." instead of just generic winning. He was able to salvage his old foundation into this smarter, more broad, yet refined approach.)
W. Hock Hochheim is a military, police and martial arts vet, who teaches hand, stick, knife and gun seminars in 11 allied countries around the world. He can be reached at Hock@HocksCQC.com
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