Assessment, Alternatives and Articulation – Marc MacYoung

In speaking of “In the Name of Self-Defense: What it Costs. When it’s worth it,” Anthony M. mentioned that his firearms instructors talked about the “Combat Triad consisting of Marksmanship, Gunhandling, and Mindset.”


My response: Good model there.

Dropping into a similar mode I’ll say there are three important aspects of mindset (not only three, but three biggies)

Assessment — what is going on. This is big (lots of little elements). Not just what you think is going on, but what kind of violence is developing (and why). What is the danger level? Is force necessary? And if so what level? (Scaling force).

Alternatives — Starting with preclusion. But a big element of this is viability. In INoSD I extensively cover how changing your behaviors reduces the chances of certain kinds of violence, while on the other hand increases the chances of others. Thing is there are always alternatives, just not always good ones.

Articulation — The third rule about any kind of violence — but especially self-defense is: Someone is going to be unhappy with with your use of force decision. Gone are the days when cops could look at a situation and tell you “I could arrest you both or you can both go home.” Now days, ‘someone has to go to jail.’ This has to be factored into your strategies. Also gone is the cop looking at a body and saying “Well someone finally did this douchebag” and going for coffee.

This is doubly important because when you claim self-defense you are — in essence — confessing to a crime (the first rule of self-defense). But there’s more, self-defense is an affirmative defense defense (no I didn’t stutter). You are saying “Yes I did this which is normally a crime, but I had good reasons. And they are ….” YOU must provide sufficient evidence that what you did was not — in fact — a crime, necessary and that you should not be held accountable for the crime that it looks like.

Believe me when I tell you the unhappy brigade is going try to ‘prove’ that it was a crime. Usually by nitpicking your assessment and attacking your choice (why didn’t you ….?) This is why, like it or not you HAVE to be able to articulate your assessment, show you considered alternatives (and assessed why what they are saying you ‘should have done’ is unrealistic and be able to articulate the whole mess.

Later Anna V asked:”So should you try and almost articulate as you go? I’m thinking that it may help find alternative solution when no violence may be necessary, but slow things down too much in real emergencies.
Does it help keep the monkey in the back seat?”

My response:
Four points
1- Most violence comes with instructions how to avoid it
2 – The monkey is already in the building if you’re thinking well that won’t work in ‘real’ emergencies
3 — While not entirely true — “your thinking is done in training.” I’m going to put this into an analogy. It’s in training, learning and skill development that you learn to tell the difference between a crocodile, a bunny rabbit and a tom cat.


That way you become able to spot them in the field — especially when one of them is coming towards you. At the same time you’ve learned what the dangers/non-danger of each are, how they act when they’re being dangerous, etc., etc.
4 — you have a preexisting check list of known danger signals. If you see this, there’s a potential for danger. If you see this and this, there’s a probability of danger. If you see this, this and this, there’s developing danger. If you see this, this, this, this and this, just take your pen and instead of ‘checking’ each box just slash a line through them all and act.

That’s a crocodile on the opposite river bank. That crocodile just went into the water. That crocodile is moving towards me…


Or — and as opposed to that schmuck — when that bastard unexpectedly comes out of the water at you, you handle it because you know how they hunt and you readied yourself when you went down to the river. But see in that situation, you’d already checked off some boxes before you came close to the river’s edge.

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