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Fitness isn’t fun, but it’s essential

By Russ Haynes

Russ Haynes

I frequently encounter people in the shooting sports that carry every day for the purpose of protecting themselves, their loved ones, and if needed, total strangers. Some of these people I have met during classes, which they attend because they are serious enough about their decision to seek high quality training. But among this group, I have also frequently encountered those who are “exercise resistant,” or who lack any basic hand-to-hand training. When confronted with this apparent dichotomy, many respond that they carry a gun so they don’t have to fight, or that they would just shoot someone from further away. This is usually the point where I laugh along and let it go (unless I know them well, in which case they wouldn’t say this in the first place). But we shouldn’t let it go. This is a very dangerous form of denial and it should be addressed by each of us that choose to carry a weapon every day.

Abraham Maslow once famously said that “To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail.”

If the gun is your only tool, isn’t every problem going to start looking like a target? In other words, if you are in a situation that turns into a fist fight, are you going to immediately escalate the situation to a deadly force encounter by drawing your weapon? Are you legally justified in doing so? If you are in a restaurant and a man slaps his date, are you going to draw down on him? Omitting hand-to-hand training also makes you less effective when fighting with a gun. Many, many deadly force encounters are initiated at contact range. How often in your daily activities is an unknown person inside your 21-foot circle? Would you have time to identify the threat, create distance, draw, and deliver rounds on that target that wouldn’t hit any bystanders? Or are you more likely to wind up in physical contact with the aggressor, fighting for the ability to draw your weapon and shoot them off you? How much space would you have in an attempted carjacking, or inside your own home? The static range mentality of a stationary target, 7 yards away, not shooting at us, not punching us in the head, has led to an unspoken fallacy among many concealed carriers – that because the gun is the “great equalizer,” it is a substitute for fitness and effective martial arts training; it is not.

Fitness isn’t fun, but it’s essential to your ability to respond quickly and effectively under extreme stress. The only way to simulate the effects of adrenaline and fear on yourself during training is extreme physical stress. If you are not in sufficient shape to place yourself frequently in that condition, then you aren’t “fit to fight.” If you are not able to run even short distances from an incident, then you have eliminated a very important possible strategy for all civilian concealed carriers: GTFO. If you’re a static range person, I strongly recommend taking those skills to a training opportunity where you can run, jump, crawl, or do whatever else is needed to get your heart rate pounding, then put your skills to the test and see what it does to your marksmanship, weapon handling, and decision making. If you don’t train like this, then you are making it much less likely you will be effective in a life or death situation. We do not turn into super heroes when the SHTF, we revert to our lowest level of training. If yours is standing at the static range and shooting paper with a normal heart rate, then you are essentially untrained in the context of a deadly force encounter. The fitter you are, the more comfortable you are in extremely uncomfortable circumstances, the more effective you are likely to be when your life is on the line.

On April 24, 2018, accomplished BJJ black belt and competitor, Tiago Guma, was fatally shot in a road rage incident in São Domingos do Maranhão, Brazil, after attempting to subdue an armed man. Guma was 29 years old and a world class grappler at the top of his game. Guma’s grappling skills and physical conditioning once again prove that the gun is the “great equalizer.” The speed with which the incident unfolds and the tragic outcome prove that even the best martial artists cannot adequately protect themselves and others against the full spectrum of threats that exist in the modern world. Just like the gun is not a substitute for fitness and training in unarmed combat, even the highest level of training in unarmed combat is no substitute for having a gun and being well-prepared in its proper use. In jiu jitsu, the triangle is an important symbol, and I think it is also an accurate representation of how a modern fighter should prepare themselves. The three bases of the modern combat triangle are: (1) fitness, (2) armed combat, and (3) unarmed combat. With all three, the triangle is very strong. Consider your own readiness. Tiago Guma had two of the three, to a very high degree, and wound up dead. If you have only one of the three, do you honestly believe your chances are better than his? Be honest with yourself, get fit, and get trained. It may save your life or someone else that you love very much

Russ Haynes

Russ Haynes

Russ Haynes is an attorney in private practice in northern Virginia. He is an avid proponent of the shooting sports and trains frequently in tactical shooting with rifle, pistol, and shotgun. Russ also trains Brazillian Jiu Jitsu with Big Brothers, under Scott Salb, a black belt under Leo Dalla. General fitness and health are important to Russ. He practices yoga several times each week, enjoys road cycling, and sharing the health benefits of clean eating and lifestyle with others. He is also a student of history, with particular emphasis on the early United States and the Constitution. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.

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