Do you want to be involved in a deadly force incident today? All of us should answer, “No!”

However, in some sense, self-defense is not a choice. The requirement for self-defense is often thrust upon you, and you literally have no choice; you must attempt to defend yourself or your loved ones. The criminal attacker dictates your actions and forces your hand at the time of the self-defense incident. You are simply responding to his violent actions. Yes, you have choices, but the most important choice (participation) is pretty much made for you.

By participation, I mean that you are either the victim or the victor. To be the victor, you must prepare for the fight. That is your first choice. You have a choice about how, when and where you will prepare for a possible self-defense incident, but once the incident starts, you have no real choice. You are a participant, and your participation is at the time, place and circumstances of someone else’s choosing. The outcome of that incident will depend on the choices you have made before the incident begins. But make no mistake: If someone attacks you, that attacker forces you to do something and takes away your initial choice.

Sure, some of you reading this will say, “Well, you still have the choice to give up or fight back.” That is true, but you are still forced to do something. Therefore, we talk about the decision tree.

Let’s think about your options. In any fight, you have only two immediate options: escalate or disengage. You must do one or the other. If a guy pulls out a knife and says, “Give me your wallet,” you can run (disengage), comply (delayed disengagement) or fight (escalate). The bad guy has limited your choices to one of those three, but that third choice is where the decision tree begins to really branch out. What are you going to do?

If you have little or no training, your choices are limited. Many people will buy a gun, take a permit class only if they are required to do so and feel like they are ready to protect themselves. They are not, but they will still be forced to make some sort of choice in that situation. Barstool commandos will say, “I’ll just step off line, draw and fire.” Really? Will you really? Will you step right or left? Will you defend against a thrust or a slash? Will you fire for center mass or the pelvic girdle? Will you move backward or laterally? Do you have a first-aid kit to treat the wound you got from blocking the blade with your arm?

The decisions listed in the paragraph above all grow from the same seed. That seed is planted when you choose to prepare for the possibility of your forced involvement in a deadly incident.

If I have the choice, I am going to avoid that incident, but like I said, the bad guy takes away that choice. The attack comes at the time and place of his choosing and under the circumstances he dictates.

Your choices start with making the decision to get training, to practice the skills you have learned and to think about what you might do next. The branches of this decision tree spread out nicely and give you many more options once you make the first decision to learn more.

Go out and train. You will be happy you did.