Sunday Rant

From Jeff Cooper, Principles of Personal Defense

Principle Two:
It is difficult for a domesticated man to change in an
instant into one who can take quick, decisive action to meet
a violent emergency. Most of us are unused to violent
emergencies-especially those which can only be solved by
the use of force and violence on our part-and these emergencies
require a parturient effort of will to transform ourselves
from chickens into hawks. Decisiveness, like alertness,
is to some extent a built-in characteristic, but, also
like alertness, it can be accentuated. In formalized combat it
is supplied-or it should be-by appropriate orders from
above. In cases of personal defense, it must be selfgenerated,
and this is the problem.
When “the ball is opened”-when it becomes evident
that you are faced with violent physical assault-your life
depends upon your selecting a correct course of action and
carrying it through without hesitation or deviation. There
can be no shilly-shallying. There is not time. To ponder is
quite possibly to perish. And it is important to remember
that the specific course you decide upon is, within certain
parameters, less important than the vigor with which you
execute it. The difficulty is that the proper course of action,
when under attack, is usually to counterattack. This runs
contrary to our normally civilized behavior, and such a decision
is rather hard for even an ordinarily decisive person
to reach.
Short of extensive personal experience, which most of
us would rather not amass, the best way to cultivate such
tactical decisiveness is through hypothesis: “What would I
do if . . . ?” By thinking tactically, we can more easily
arrive at correct tactical solutions, and practice-even
theoretical practice -tends to produce confidence in our
solutions which, in turn, makes it easier for us, and thus
quicker, to reach a decision.
English common law, the fountainhead of our juridical
system, holds that you may use sufficient force and violence
to prevent an assailant from inflicting death or serious
injury upon you-or your wife, or your child, or any other
innocent party. You may not pursue your attacker with
deadly intent, and you may not strike an unnecessary blow,
but if someone is trying to kill you, you are justified in
killing him to stop him, if there is no other way. This is
putting it about as simply as possible, and since the law
here is eminently reasonable, the legal aspects of personal
defense need not detain us in formulating a proper defensive
decision. We must be sure that our assailant is trying to
kill or maim us, that he is physically capable of doing so,
and that we cannot stop him without downing him. These
conditions can usually be ascertained in the blink of an eye.
Then we may proceed. (Incidentally, rape is generally considered
“serious injury” in this connection. A man who
clearly intends rape may thus be injured or killed to prevent
the accomplishment of his purpose, if no lesser means will
So, when under attack, it is necessary to evaluate the
situation and to decide instantly upon a proper course of
action, to be carried out immediately with all the force you
can bring to bear. He who hesitates is indeed lost. Do not
soliloquize. Do not delay. Be decisive.

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