Jon Pascal-isms, Week 3: Once You’re Out of the Line of Fire, Stay Out!

By: Jeff Mount

Week 3 of my Jon Pascal-isms requires a bit more context. The phrase refers to a core principle regarding a defense against a firearm. When a threat presents itself, a Krav Maga practitioner’s mentality is to ask the obvious question, “What is the immediate danger?” Our first movement is dedicated to dealing with that danger. Tactically, we always attend to first things first. When the threat involves a firearm, the immediate danger is unequivocally the line of fire – the trajectory along which the projectile will travel which can cause injury or death. This is the same reason why one of the basic rules of firearm safety is to never point a gun at something you don’t want to destroy. If someone points a gun at you, they are willing to destroy you. If you’d rather not be destroyed, your first task (the ONLY task that matters unless it’s completed) is to redirect the line of fire away from you.

Skilled educators have a talent of boiling down complex ideas into simple concepts so they can be transferred easily and reliably recalled. Jon Pascal is better than most. Phrases such as the above are the vehicle for such transference. On the extreme off-chance that any of his students would forget what comes next after redirecting the line of fire – Jon makes it clear. Once you’re out, stay out.

And as obvious as it may seem, it needs to be said. When I instruct handgun disarms, I’m amazed at otherwise highly trained individuals who need to be reminded. They put themselves back into the danger that they just spent so much time escaping. If you have successfully redirected the line of fire, it is worth all the effort one has to stay out of the line of fire.

At the risk of forcing a square peg into an overly didactic hole, many of us often exert tremendous effort to escape a danger in our lives, only to go right back a short time later. I myself am guilty of being waylaid by the same faults time and again. This occurs, though these faults are the ones MOST known to me. I know them exactly because whatever freedom I do have from them came at great cost.

I know I’m not alone. An unhappy employee thinks that a job change will improve his or her happiness. He or she fails to recognize that their new job contains the same dynamics that frustrated them previously. For those who study violent crime trends, it’s well-known that the best indicator of future victimization of violence is past victimization of violence. All over the world, people put their heart and soul into escaping their own personal “line of fire”, and never give a thought as to how, once they’re out, that they’ll stay that way.

Here are a few quick thoughts that come directly from our gun defense training:

1) Have a plan – Because of the consistency of the principles that constitute Krav Maga’s gun defenses, we always know that controlling the line of fire will come (sequentially and in priority) immediately after redirecting it. It never comes as a surprise after escaping the danger that securing and solidifying that escape then become the focus. If you’re removing a destructive threat from your life, what’s your plan to keep it removed?

2) Put your weight on the threat – Most of our gun defenses rely upon bursting forward, putting weight on the weapon, and trapping it so that the defender can give counter-attacks. The momentum of the forward counterattack is powerful – the attacker often doesn’t expect it, and it allows one to move from reactivity to proactivity. Likewise, true lasting change in any sector is a matter of building and maintaining momentum for longer periods of time, rather than experiencing isolated bursts of self-preservation.

3) Keep the threat in mind even as you move on – When a student fails to stay out of the line of fire, at some point they lost sight of the line of fire itself. If you have a fatal flaw you’re looking to change, what ways can you keep in mind the threat while still preserving forward momentum?

4) Trust your instructors – I find gun defenses almost impossible to teach when I’m also serving as the attacker for my trainee. I do much better assessing their actions I am allowed the perspective to give consistent feedback. In your efforts to get out and stay out of your own personal line of fire, who is giving you feedback? Who do you let evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts? Are they qualified and available for the long haul?

As the New Year bears down on us and we all hear of “resolutions” that are paradoxically marked by their lack of resolve, what is your plan for lasting change? How are you going to be as committed to change in April, or August, as you are in January? What’s your plan? How are you going to maintain momentum? Who is in a position to give trusted feedback? What reminders of the goal are you putting into place? If it’s worth putting effort to get out of the line of fire, it’s certainly worth putting effort into staying out.

Rachel Parker