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The decision to kill has prompted many changes in my life. The killing that I am referring to is the decision to use lethal force, in self-defense, if I ever need to. Luckily I have never needed to. But I do not know when or if I might become a victim to violence. For this reason I have trained in self-defense. My decision to learn self-defense skills started in my early twenties. With violence being more and more present in everyday life, I felt I needed to protect myself. First I had to ask myself, "Could I kill or seriously hurt someone to stop them from killing or seriously hurting me?" I was able to answer yes to this question. If I could not have answered yes, there would have been no reason for me to pursue any type of self-defense training. As I started to learn, I realized that mindset was by far the most important aspect of self-defense, not guns, knives, or any type of martial art. Mindset covers many things, awareness, ruthlessness, and aggressiveness to name a few. Awareness is simply being aware of your surroundings. When I go to a restaurant the first thing I do, after being seated, is look for the exit. Knowing where the exit is guarantees me an escape route if I need one. If I can run from violence I will. There is nothing about my manhood that I need to prove. I look around as I am pulling up to places like an ATM to make sure there is no one suspicious hiding out. If I see someone or something suspicious I will drive away. I look through the windows of a store before I walk in to make sure the store is not being robbed or something of that nature is happening inside. A lot of people walk right into the middle of an armed robbery because they do not pay attention to their environment. Every fight that I can avoid is a fight that I win. The way I look at ruthlessness and aggressiveness is simple. Having another man’s nose in my mouth is better than having my family’s tears in my casket. I know this sounds very awful, but if I am fighting a drug addict or some other unsavory type of person for my life, being awful is better than my being dead. I will, and I feel everyone should, refuse to be a victim. "The born fighter’s refusal to give up as long as he can still remain on his feet and lift his two fists." (Catton, p.406) I feel that if I am in a fight I must fight with everything that I have. My life is worth too much just to give it to someone without aggressively fighting for it. To improve my self-defense skills, I realized I needed to stay in good physical condition. I exercise often and try to eat right. My main reason for this is because someone the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger will never be mugged. I say this jokingly, but I do feel that if I am in good physical shape I will not look like an easy target to a criminal. Exercise allows me to walk with a head up shoulders back type of posture. I do not walk around with an attitude, just with a look of confidence. Also, if I am in good physical shape it will make me less likely to get injured in a violent attack, and more likely to recover if I do get injured. I have had to learn, develop and understand tactics. Self-defense tactics can basically be defined as, using all available means to an acceptable end. Opening up my mind to see weapons of opportunity gives me more options. Options that the average mugger or thug does not realize. If I have to run over a car-jacker to stop him from killing me, I will. If I have to use the cushion out of my airplane seat to fight off a knife-wielding hijacker, I will. I have learned that a weapon of opportunity can be almost anything, ink pens, car keys, rocks, sticks,the list goes on and on. The main thing is that even if I do not have a gun or knife with me, I am never truly unarmed. Skill is very important in self-defense. Any tool that I plan on using for self-defense I must develop a proficiency level of skill with it. I have always loved guns, so it was simple for me to choose guns for my main fighting tool. But I found out there is a big difference in shooting guns and fighting with guns. I see a lot of people make the mistake of buying a firearm and then feeling they are able to defend themselves with it. It is simply not that easy. I have had too spend a lot of time and money learning to fight with guns. I have received a lot of training and have put in uncountable hours of practice. I am now skilled in fighting with knives, pistols, shotguns, rifles, and I also have basic hand to hand fighting skills. My level of skill with a firearm is enough that I am now certified by the state of Tennessee as a firearm instructor. I currently, as a part time job, instruct for Options for Personal Security, a Florida based company that offers self-defense training all over the United States. This job allows me to travel across America and teach people life saving self-defense skills, which may one day save their life. Equipment is the thing that a lot people pay the most attention to. Through my training, I have learned that equipment is the least important when it comes to self-defense. Basically any gun will shoot you and any knife will cut you. This does not mean that I have not purchased quality equipment. It just means that a few determined people with cheap box cutters can kill several thousand people, like the hijackers in the recent terrorist attacks did. Attacks like this are the reason I carry a handgun. My Tennessee handgun permit allows me to legally carry a handgun in eleven sates, and I fully take advantage of this permission. Carrying a handgun on my person is not comfortable, but it is comforting. The people who do not understand self-defense think that I am some type of armed vigilante lunatic. This view of me could not be more wrong. I try to explain to these people that there are three main reasons that I have trained in self-defense. The first reason is because I feel the worst thing that could ever happen to me is to watch someone be killed or seriously injured and not have a way to prevent it. I simply could not live with myself if I had to watch a child be murdered because I did not know what to do or have the means to stop the attack. The second reason is to have the means to stop someone from killing or seriously injuring someone else. Having to kill someone would definitely change anyone’s life. I just feel that I could live with taking the life of a murder rather than having to watch a murder take place. The third reason is to be killed or seriously injured myself because I did not have a way to prevent or stop an attack. I will run from an attack if I can, but if I cannot run, I want to have a way to prevent it. Some people have told me that I carry a gun because I am paranoid. I tell these people that I am prepared, not paranoid. I do not wear a seat belt because I am paranoid. I wear it because I do not know when or if I might have I car wreck. This is the same reason I carry a gun. I do not know when or if I might become a victim to violence. I am now thirty years old and have never had a violent encounter. I believe this is because of the lifestyle changes I have made. The greatest self-defense skills that I have learned are the skills to avoid, de-escalate, and detour violent encounters. Barry Yeager