Doing the Math of Violence – Marc MacYoung


I am constantly asked ‘what do you do if…?’ questions. These are seemingly simple questions that don’t have simple answers (And giving simple answers [You just do this] is both lying and dangerous misinformation.)

Someone painted multiple ambush scenarios and basically asked — for each — ‘charge or run?’ He referenced an incident where a burglar tried to put a hatchet in my skull. Here’s my response.


The answers to all of those questions are, “It depends.”

A term I picked up from a SEAL Team Six member sums it up a different way, “The situation dictates.”

Notice in both of those the underlying theme. There are variables that you won’t know until you’re on the scene and it’s happening. Those variables will dictate what is the best answer at the moment. It doesn’t work the other way around (In these kinds of situations you always do ______)

Five of the most common variables are:
Time (where in the process are you)
Environment (location/mobility)
His skill/intent/ability
Your skill/intent/ability

These vary. What is the best of a list of suck ass answers in one second can be a complete disaster two seconds before or two seconds later.

Using the time the burglar tired to put a hatchet into my head. The reason I leapt away was because I could.When I came through that door, it was open space to my left and I was still holding the door knob. When he shouted and swung that ax it was faster and safer to move the door out of my way.

Could I have charged him? Well, yes, but the truth is I didn’t know he had the hatchet until I was in the bathroom doorway. Had I rushed him, he would have put that ax in my back. Or quite likely my slamming into him would have driven it into me. (Watch quarterbacks getting sacked and you’ll soon see how rarely do they drop the ball. Now imagine those sacks with a blade.)

Yet at the same time, a half second later (or had there been a wall to my left)I would have had to charge. This not even knowing that he had a hatchet. That’s because sometimes it’s too late to withdraw and you have no choice but to go forward and through. If it was a bare fist or even a club a charge would have worked. Yes it would have been a blunt force trauma, but so what? Changing range against them reduces their power — but not against a blade or a gun.

My skill and intent is that I’d been completely geared up and ready to rock and roll less than a minute before. But because I didn’t hear anything, I’d dropped my guard, figuring it was over and the burglar was gone (Lesson learned, the place isn’t secure until you’ve searched EVERY inch.) So technically speaking I was still adrenalized. Had this been three in the morning and I was on the way to the bathroom, I probably would have gone down.

His intent wasn’t to kill me personally. My demise would have been a byproduct of his escape. Escape, not murder, was his goal. That’s a large part of why he stopped moving forward after his first swing missed. Because he wasn’t closing, there was no need for me to charge back at him after his initial attack. Had he kept coming, different story…

You can make up all the different scenarios you want in your head, and the only thing you will come up with is the best answer for that particular scenario. But the addition or subtraction of different aspects/factors and changing certain variables, will change the answer.

This is why I talk about “Learn to do the math.”

Learn what does change. Learn what doesn’t change. Learn what certain things mean. Learn what certain changes mean (base ten, base eight, binary) and how they ALL effect the answer.

7+2= 9
7×2= 14
7-2= 5
7/2= 3.5

Same numbers, different variables. Different answers. The same thing applies to what do you do in a violent situation.



Why We Disagree So Much on Self-Defense:It’s in the Math – Erik Kondo

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