Principles of Personal Defense

I have been familiar with one of the war hero’s of our nation, Colonel Jeff Cooper for a number of years now. He is renowned in the firearms community for establishing the Gunsite Training Institute where he provided training on rifle and shotgun as well as pistol training in Cooper’s modern technique which is identified in part by the use of two hands to shoot accompanied by the use of the weaver stance. In addition to a proud military history and phenomenal training academy, Jeff Cooper had a writing career that extended across seven decades of his life. While he wrote for several magazines and newsletters throughout his life, Cooper also wrote many books, one of which is titled, Principles of Personal Defense which serves as an awesome primer on situational awareness and dealing with the reality of having to defend oneself in the face of attack.

What I find particularly great about Principles of Personal Defense is that it is written from the perspective that attackers should not be allowed to dictate the circumstances in which we live. Colonel Cooper mentions in his introduction that only a small percentage of people are sociopaths that will commit crimes and go on to mention that,

Violent crime is feasible only if its victims are cowards. A victim who fights back makes the whole business impractical. It is true that a victim who fights back may suffer for it, but one who does not almost certainly will suffer for it. And, suffer or not, the one who fights back retains his dignity and his self-respect. Any study of the atrocity list of recent years-Starkweather, Speck,Manson, Richard Hickok and Cary Smith, et al-shows immediately that the victims, by their appalling ineptitude and timidity, virtually assisted in their own murders. (“Don’t make them mad, Martha, so they won’t hurt us.”)

Obviously the list of criminals from “recent years” is not so recent as this quote is taken from the first edition written in 1989 but the principle is a sound one. The idea of personal defense in this booklet is not limited to one particular setting but encompasses crimes at home and on the street which provokes additional thought as well. Cooper goes on to outline the seven principles of personal defense which are:

  1. Alertness – Know what is going on around you. This is covered with two basic rules. The first is know what is behind you and the second is pay particular attention to anything out of place.
  2. Decisiveness – When faced with a life threatening situation you must make the appropriate decision on how to react immediately.
  3. Aggressiveness – “The best personal defense is an explosive counterattack.” Being on the defense doesn’t allow one to be on the offense but a violent defense can completely stop an offensive attack.
  4. Speed – “The perfect defense is a counterattack that succeeds before the assailant discovers that he has bitten off more than he can chew.” Speed is key to surviving an attack by an assailant.
  5. Coolness – Keep your cool. Failure to keep it together can result in an inability to mount an effective defense.
  6. Ruthlessness – “Anyone who willfully and maliciously attacks another without sufficient cause deserves no consideration.” Operate within the confines of the law but offer no relief to the enemy. Given a chance to remove the threat, do so.
  7. Surprise – Do what your attacker does not expect you to do. By catching the attacker off guard, you can gain the advantage.
This booklet is not a long read at all and I would encourage everyone to read it. Even if you do not have an interest in firearms, the book can teach the reader a great amount about situational awareness and dealing with an attacker or the potential of facing an attack.

In addition to the previously mentioned works, COL Cooper is deeply engrained in many other principles of firearms training which include the four rules of firearm safety and firearm carry conditions. If you have ever heard of the scout rifle concept before then you have heard of another one of the works that COL Cooper is well-known for refining.

What do you think is the most important principle of personal defense? Leave your remarks in the comments section.

Do you have a personal defense story that you would be willing to share? If so, please fill out the contact form on The Prepared Ninja homepage and let us know about it.

Disclaimer – Consult all local laws and regulations regarding use of force and personal defense. The author of this blog post is not an attorney or not otherwise qualified to offer legal advise or counsel on any subject. The information provided here is strictly for the purpose of provoking thought on the subject matter.

  • Mark

    Has to be situational awareness. Its hard to respond effectively if you let yourself get blind sided.

  • http://www.thepreparedninja.com Tom

    Mark,

    I think you are spot on. Criminals look for soft targets. The people who are walking around with their iPods blaring in their ears, blocking out the rest of the world or updating their Facebook on their phone while walking down an alley are setting themselves up to be victimized. Being aware of your surroundings and avoiding distractions can be the key to survival. Thanks for your input!

    -Tom