Defensive Intelligence, The Foundation

Defensive Intelligence, The Foundation
Defensive Intelligence, The Foundation
Defensive Intelligence, The Foundation
Defensive Intelligence, The Foundation

If you “Google” self defense in your given city, you’re probably going to see a list of martial arts schools. Rarely will you see a school that blends unarmed and armed tactics with a firearm. I know you can get training at a dojo for nunchaku, swords, etc. But those are not things you are going to use for self defense in everyday life. For instance, here in Findlay, Ohio we recently had an elderly lady robbed at gunpoint in the Texas Roadhouse parking lot. What are the chances she could have used a martial arts weapon for self defense; next to zero. Luckily, her assailant was not interested in doing her harm, just in making off with her money. That’s not always the case as you well know if you read much on current events or have read the “MY Story” page on my website.

The truth of the matter is that to be realistic, you have to train to absolutely minimize the time you are engaged with your assailant. You have to quickly escape, or quickly stop them if running away is not possible. Posing up into a horse stance, ready to serve them the good news is going to do little to help you if they have a gun or knife and have already decided they are willing to hurt or kill you for what they want. How many times have you read of someone using taekwondo to fend off an armed home invasion? It probably doesn’t happen. When someone comes at you, confronts you with a knife or gun or enters your home in the middle of the night, the last thing you want to do is get in close and mix it up with them and see who comes out on top. First of all, if it really is a robbery, they rarely work alone. So while you are going at it with pillar of the community number one, their friend is going to flank you, stab you, maybe pick up your kid to get you to comply. Forget it, this isn’t the movies!

I’m not saying you will not need to know an unarmed technique, but learning a martial art is technical, takes a lot of time to master, requires a lot of thinking (I’ll explain this later) to evaluate the situation to select the correct maneuver, and requires you to get in close to the threat to be successful. If they have a gun, your mastery of the art is absolutely useless. You will need to learn some unarmed tactics because there may be a situation that you need to buy yourself some time to produce your weapon because they are at arm’s length and could be on you if you tried to just draw. They may also come up from behind and surprise you, again requiring some sort of hand to hand method of freeing yourself to escape or produce the weapon. But, that is it. Under no circumstances should you rely on unarmed self defense as your sole method of survival. There is always someone bigger, better, and more than likely they will have the element of surprise.

What you have to focus on is a method to quickly and efficiently allow you to escape or create that little bit of time you need to pull your gun out and stop the attack. The whole point is to stop them from being able to cause serious bodily harm or death. If you can do that by getting away, you should. But if you can’t get away or need to protect someone else such as your child, you have to ensure that you can stop them and that is best done with the use of something that can stop them in the least amount of time; a firearm.

Using a firearm for self defense is a simple thing. You point it at the bad guy and pull the trigger. It’s simple, not easy. Among the many psychological issues at hand with the use of the gun is the simple fact that when threatened with immediate lethal violence your brain function changes dramatically. A part of our brain called the Amygdala takes over and the thinking part of your brain is just along for the ride. I will give much more in-depth information on the function of the Amygdala and how it pertains to

self defense in future articles.

The amygdala is responsible for fight or flight performance and it’s because of this you will sometimes see things in slow motion when you are extremely afraid. The reality is that you are moving and reacting at full speed with whatever knowledge or training you have stored on the synapses controlled by the amygdala. Your frontal lobes and visual cortex, which are responsible for your reasoning and cognitive visual perception, are much slower than the amygdala (about twelve hundredths of a second). So if you have based your self defense solution on something complex that requires much practice and years of precision decision making to engrain this system into your mind, you’ll probably never get around to realizing what your first step should be until well after the attack has started. This is why you must understand what it is neurologically, psychologically and physiologically that you will go through when attacked to fully understand what effective training is.

This concept has been well established in elite military training for more than a decade and is why there is not much time spent in broad martial arts training, but much time is spent utilizing specific training methods that are effectively used by the amygdalaic response in the brain to protect the individual. Much of this training is not yet available outside the military except that some law enforcement departments with good funding have been able to receive this specialized training through contractors such as Close Quarters Defense, the former Blackwater USA and similar programs that offer this as protected, select training. The irony of this is that it’s not really all that special.

It’s simply involves;

  1. Streamlining a self defense response to basic moves and tactics that minimize fine motor skill involvement (because they quickly deteriorate under high stress);
  2. Reducing, as much as possible, all physical variables in technique, stance, grip, etc. that effect weapon performance because of adrenaline overload, and;
  3. Exploiting the fact that your attacker probably has no clue of any of these things and most definitely is counting on you to panic and not be prepared to launch a counterattack. In short, exploiting that his/her amygdala is also in control and has little to non-existent or flawed training to pull from.

These are the basics. There are very complex neural mechanisms at work when confronted by immediate violence. The irony is that these very complicated brain functions limit you when trying to effectively defend yourself if you have not established a response through training or, you have established an incorrect or flawed response known as a training scar or, you have not trained frequently enough to prevent loss of the training experience effectiveness because of a neural process called Hebbian plasticity.

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James Barnhart is a Veteran of the U.S. Navy, a former fugitive recovery agent and contract bodyguard and is a gunfight survivor. James has been operational and/or an instructor for firms such as Vance International, Dyn-Corp and the former Blackwater USA. He currently is an NRA instructor and teaches unarmed and armed self defense and lectures on the psychological and physiological aspects of training for violent confrontation. He has also been featured on the Dr. Gina Loudon Radio Talk Show. He can be reached at DefCon CCW and followed on twitter @defconccw.
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The ability to know that you are in danger is not is only half the battle. But knowing that you must do something about the dangerous situation that you are in can win the battle. I agree with everything stated 100 percent! In my opinion muscle memory is what it takes, And yes martial arts do require years of training in order to master them. With a firearm all that is required it is a bout a months worth of reflexive fire drills and you could possibly neutralize a threat faster then taking 1 or 2 years of martial arts, and even 3 or 4 years for that matter. I cannot even entertain the thought of hand to hand combat with somebody that enters my house this is why I keep my firearm no more than 3 feet away from me at all times ( not exactly 3 feet of course). But I can tell you this for a fact, if my weapon is in the other room and my door comes flying open I have to run to that room grab my weapon and then make sure that I shoot the intruder and nobody else………. I have a wife and a daughter I think not. My wife and my friends may think that I’m crazy but that’s alright I’d rather be considered crazy, then considered dead. ( by the way I’m using a cell phone right now to write all of this sorry if there are any grammatical errors).


Good article. I have been practicing martial arts for about 20 years…I have trained with nunchukus, broadswords, staffs, etc. have trained fighting multiple people and have spent countless hours working on punching and kicking speed and power.  All this training amounts to nothing if I am caught off-guard, a lucky punch from my opponent, or some other factor like a firearm. Much of what you say is true in respect to the amount of martial art training time required to effectively defend yourself.  It may take years, especially with some styles of fighting.  I unfortunately live in Illinois, and I don’t a right to conceal carry and must train with the available resources at hand (no pun intended).  I agree with everything you say, but martial arts can be a form of advanced self-defense training that should be considered by individuals after they have effectively trained with firearms in conjunction with streamlined martial arts techniques that you discussed.  Just some thoughts. 

James G. Barnhart

Thanks for your thoughts. Self defense is often down and dirty. I’m predominantly a firearms advocate, though I have training in unarmed tactics as well.  There is a need for both, but my opinion is that the firearm takes priority when training the public as there are many who cannot train for unarmed self defense because of age or physical limitations. The firearm, as most who read on this site will agree, is the great equalizer.  I’ll be doing an article in the near future on the LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) mindset of tactical training in elite settings versus what is needed in the civilian realm to help the regular Joe and Jane live through an attack.  Thank you for your remarks. Often someone with a martial arts background will take remarks like this as a person insult to what they have achieved through dedication and hard work. That is not my intent. It can be very effective with dedicated training, but should be a supporting skill for firearms deployment.


Yes I also agree very good article,people dont realize just because you know how to shoot doesn’t mean you can think and react properly in a have to take in cosideration the fact that shooting at the range theres not going to be any one posibly shooting back or trying to attack you ,someone that is close enough to be a threat can possibly get to you with a knife faster than you can draw your gun.So practice,repatition and drilling its not just about being able to shoot you haveto be able to react to situations.

James G. Barnhart

Thanks for the comment….In the next articles on “Defensive Intelligence” I’ll start explaining that the part of the brain that you use to think right now is taken out of the equation when in fear for your life.  The rational process you use to think your way through a range session is nearly disabled in a mortal situation.


If any readers want to get a good workout along with learning a self defense meathod with amygdalaic instinct as the director of that first response, look into Krav Maga. I’ve studied several martial arts from China, Korea and Japan, but this Israeli system is the easiest to learn and the fastest to become reflexive. It also includes defense against knive and handgun attack. Just a suggestion. Look up Krav Maga.


Thanks, looking forward to your next installment.


Those of us who are in the Senior Citizen age group, are usually a least a little out of shape, and some have physical impairments that leave us sitting ducks for criminals.  The great equalizer is a firearm, knowing how and being prepared to use it.
I have my 12 gauge in an easy to access place, loaded Winchester PDX1 shells and have made the commitment to use it if necessary.  Just having a firearm without the commitment mindset is more dangerous than not having one at all.  If you are not mentally prepared to use it to defend yourself and your family, any criminal will be happy to turn it on you.
We may well have roving gangs and other threats should the political conditions continue to deteriorate.  I expect to see this happen either just before the elections; if Obama’s reelection is threatened; or within twelve to twenty-four months after the elections if Obama is reelected. There is a lot that conservatives need to do before this happens. Even more than firearms will be necessary. 
People need to prepare by building a home food storage program, they need to secure their homes with devices to prevent illegal entry, a safe room for refuge, a generator for power, fuel, an alternate heating source not dependent upon electricity, and at least 1500 gallons of water. The last task sounds impossible, but I have devised a way to store that amount in our garage, and still get our vehicle into it.  Also make sure that you have a 45 ACP pistol small enough to carry concealed.
If anyone wants me to supply more information on how I am getting ready for the inevitable, just post a request and I’ll be happy to provide information on what I am doing.