Terry’s Rules: Part I – Rory Miller


Terry Trahan posted something on FaceBook. Something important and iconic, and I want to play with it, the way I intend to play with Wilder and Kane’s recent work on Musashi’s Dokkodo soon.

Terry posted them as his rules. The Italic afterwards is my commentary.

No matter what, I go home
Yes. Everything else is bullshit. This is also the first of Mac’s Golden rules: “You and your partner go home safe at the end of each and every shift.” It is the essence of hostage rescue’s “Immutable Order.” Here’s the deal. It’s not just because we do this so we can go home to our families. If that was the only criterion, the smart thing would be to do something else. Be an accountant, whatever. But for society as a whole, someone has to stand up, someone has to take the risks and take the hits. As the saying goes, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

But the cold hard math of it is that a dead medic never saved anybody. A SWAT operator who overestimated himself and did something stupid and got hurt doesn’t just take himself out of the equation. He takes himself and all the resources diverted to save his dumb ass. Those resources are now unavailable for the primary problem.

So, absolutely, for your family, for yourself, and for society your safety comes first. We aren’t paid to lose.

It’s ok to stop and think
One of the hallmark differences between an amateur and a professional is how they understand time. If no one is getting hurt, the bad guy can say any shit he wants. If I can tell, because of height, distance and weight distribution, that attacking me will take a full second, I’ll use half that second to plan.

Time is a magic thing. It makes many problems go away, especially problems based on a bad guy’s adrenaline. If there is any time to stop and think, I will use that time as ruthlessly as I would use a weapon or any other resource.

Remember to get doing again
That said, when you have time, you think. When you no longer have time, you need to be me moving. Running, fighting– whatever is appropriate. But if talking is going to get you killed, one of the stupidest things you can do is keep talking.

There’s a subset in our society that thinks that planning and thinking are just as valuable as doing. They can kiss my ass. There’s an old saying in intelligence that communication without information is noise and information without communication is useless. Plans without execution are useless masturbation. Thought should inform action, no doubt. But everything predicates on action.

Do nothing you can’t live with
Any form of violence has consequences– physical, legal, medical and psychological. There is always a moral aspect to any use of force. In the end, you have to be able to live with whatever you do, whatever you have done. The drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide rate among survivors is unacceptable.

And this involves knowing yourself. It’s easy to say the words, no matter what the words are: “I would kill to protect my children.” “I’d rather be tried by twelve than carried by six.” “There is no moral way to use force.” There’s a lot of words, and all of them are bullshit until they have been tested by you in the field.

Knowing what you’re capable of is less than half the battle. Knowing what you can do and still look at yourself in the mirror is the greater goal. And, my personal take– learning how to change what you can live with is a superpower. Understanding the depths beneath the ethics.


Terry’s Rules: Part II

Terry’s blog

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