Just for the loyal readers of S.W.A.T., I am finally ready to reveal the ultimate secret of street survival.
Gained via nearly half a century of hard knocks at the hands of criminals, enraged animals, stupid people, the weather and every other type of misfortune experienced in this vale of tears we call life, I’ve managed to figure out the single best method to triumph over those occasional annoyances that maim or kill.
The secret is a profound truth that some men and women have learned over the years while so many others blindly scramble about, groping for the ultimate weapon or tactic that will insure their life against all odds.
Are you ready? Drum roll, please.
I will now present the long-awaited secret: learn how to do everything.
Actually, I don’t mean literally everything, as that isn’t humanly possible, but rather I encourage you to strive toward the ideal of a true Renaissance man or woman. In modern parlance, I’m suggesting you endeavor to become a “polymath,” meaning someone who is knowledgeable over a wide variety of disciplines.
Sorry if you’re disappointed. I’ll bet some readers were hoping for a simple magic formula, all-purpose trick, training school or recommended rifle that would ensure the mortal body remains extant for the foreseeable future.
Therein lies our problem. Too many of us in the shooting, tactical and preparedness arenas are looking for the “ultimate,” whether it be a gun, knife, boot, or dog breed. Those things are all useful, but to survive and thrive despite whatever life throws your way, it pays to be intellectually diversified.
One of my most unshakable core beliefs is that a person cannot truly be prepared to face adversity unless they are in possession of a wide range of skills and knowledge. I’ve seen situations where hardcore shooters failed because the need for rock-climbing expertise was greater than the need for well-placed shots, and instances when a working familiarity of land navigation was far more life-prolonging than the latest black rifle. The list of such examples stretches to infinity.
When those in the shooting and training industries talk about street survival, we are really just discussing weaponsmanipulation and tactics. May I humbly suggest that hereafter we aim to cover a little bit of everything else in the world? Guns, knives, bullets and gear are very important subjects to master, but they represent only a tiny slice of life.
What I am urging is that in the midst of all the neat stuff the “gun press” flings around and instructors love to blather about, you should understand that a truly prepared person approaches survival in a more holistic manner.
As we have mentioned a few hundred times in this very column, an errant vehicle or communicable disease will kill you just as dead as a .338 Lapua bullet, yet we tend to ignore those types of commonplace, un-sexy threats. Meanwhile, unless you are hip-deep in a Godforsaken sandbox in the Middle East, you probably will only encounter gunfire a few times in your life, if ever.
Even if we are in the middle of a shooting war, I’ll choose the well-rounded individual for my team every time. The best operators I know are those people who can not only shoot and scoot effectively, but also are likely to play the guitar, know how to cook a muskrat, start a balky engine, speak Mandarin, or steer a boat through rough seas.
Let’s face it: far too many people get wrapped around the axle concerning gear, instructors, and favorite weapons. Those are crucial items, but there is only so much you can learn, or more importantly, should learn about them. I know that sentiment will not play well in certain quarters, but my experience has taught me that it is absolutely, utterly true.
On this point, I wholeheartedly subscribe to Louis Awerbuck’s opinion that he’s never seen an advanced gunfight. Instead, it’s all about the basics. Become proficient in the basic skills of combat, have reasonably good gear, and practice, practice, practice. Then go out and learn something else like muleskinning, watch repair, or how to splice computer cable.
Become a student of life. Make an effort to at least have passing familiarity with how to butcher a deer, dig a well, perform basic carpentry, brew beer, grow food, fix a water pump, home-can tomatoes, start a fire without matches, hack a computer, survive in a snow cave, deliver a baby, sew up your torn pants, etc.
So how does one go about becoming a modern-day Michaelangelo? In this modern age of communication, the often-maligned Internet actually serves the purpose well.
Start researching things you find interesting: somewhere in cyberspace resides an in-depth website on the subject. Whether you are trying to understand how electricity is generated or learn the basics of building a fieldexpedient lookout tower, someone has already made that information freely available at the stroke of a few keys.
Such things might seem off-topic for “serious” students of combative skills, or alternately fall into the bailiwick of the hardcore survivalist, but in reality, they are the types of skills that will get you through life, especially if things become very unpleasant.
You’ll never learn everything. However, staying too focused on one area to the exclusion of all else is pure folly. In my book, the master at arms can not only shoot the eyes out of a target at 1,800 meters, but also knows the technique for making farmer cheese.
Next month in Street Smarts: how to make a garrote from a discarded banjo string, and 50 tactical uses for whey.