In the minds of many preppers and survivalists, the pinnacle self-reliance and apex survivor skill is not to procure food or build a solid shelter; it’s to execute the role of the guardian and protector.
Many of the scenarios we prepare for cause us to anticipate having to protect lives and defend supplies and other possessions with lethal force, in effect having to become a warrior. If we’re honest, we hope it will never come to that. But, if we are to go down that path, be effective and prevail, there are some topics besides stocking an armory that need to be addressed before the time comes.
So, you want to be a warrior? The path to becoming a warrior is not an easy one, because at its core is discipline. A warrior is a master of spherical awareness, ever vigilant with their head on a swivel. They know their operational environment, can improvise, adapt and overcome all adversities, and while they’re able to accept that they aren’t invincible, they never run from adversity; instead, they face it head-on with a positive outlook.
THE WARRIOR FIGHTS WITH THEIR MIND,BODY AND SOUL, AND WHILE THEY HAVE EMOTIONS, THEY MUST MASTER KEEPING THEM AT BAY IN ORDER TO FIGHT WITHOUT LETTING THEM INTERFERE WITH THEIR CLARITY AND LUCIDITY.
The warrior fights with their mind, body and soul, and while they have emotions, they must master keeping them at bay in order to fight without letting them interfere with their clarity and lucidity.
None of these things will come easily, so do not be discouraged. The only path to mastering anything, particularly the warrior arts, is via hard work and due diligence.
It is particularly difficult to master anything in the physical world until you conquer the demons in your own head that foster such impediments as fear, anxiety, panic and self-doubt. Once you are able to eliminate these counterproductive and debilitating thoughts, you can move forward in mastering the warrior mindset.
The root of fear, anxiety, panic and self-doubt is the lack of experience. Having a warrior mindset means being able to set aside or subdue your fear and anxiety so as not to panic in the face of danger and to diminish self-doubt and project self-confidence toward the eyes of any opponent. Confucius once said, “He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.”
ANY TIME YOU LOOK AT PEOPLE WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL, YOU’LL LEARN THAT IT USUALLY HAPPENED BECAUSE THEY WERE ABLE TO GET REALLY GOOD AT A FEW THINGS BY REPEATING THEM UNTIL THEY EXCELLED AT THEM.
Once you learn to subdue your fear and vanquish panic, you will be on your way to achieving the warrior mindset. The biggest contributor to fear and panic is the unknown. The best way to conquer the unknown is to not only face it but to dive, head first, into it. By immersing yourself in your fear, you will achieve “stress inoculation,” as a result of which you will be able to function and think with clarity, even under conditions for which your previous response would have been panic.A warrior never runs from adversity.
Being a warrior is about showing up to the fight when every bone in your body tells you to run in the opposite direction. It’s about striving for greatness so that you know either the elation of high achievement and victory or the pain of defeat; but in any case, you can hold up your head proudly, knowing you showed up at the fight as opposed to running.
In his 1910 “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, Theodore Roosevelt said,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
A WARRIOR’S HEART IS NOT AFRAID OF DEATH AS MUCH AS IT FEARS A LIFE LIVED WITHOUT HONOR, LOYALTY AND STANDING UP FOR WHAT IS RIGHT.
What defines you as a true warrior is your ability to face danger. That doesn’t mean you want to be a hero or that you’re some kind of a superman, because I can tell you from personal experience that one of the most difficult things to do is to override the basic human instinct to protect yourself. You must have the discipline to counter your innate instinct for survival to then run toward the gunfire. It’s having that mentality that you’re going to put yourself into the fight, particularly if you are connected to those who are in the fight, to get in there and to help them, no matter what.A warrior mindset means having the discipline to become extremely good at doing just a few things.
Any time you look at people who are successful, you’ll learn that it usually happened because they were able to get really good at a few things by repeating them until they excelled at them. A couple of the other traits of successful people are that they are able to learn from other people’s mistakes and can look at other successful people and understand why they succeeded. They then apply those learnings to their own life.
I try to do that as much as possible. When there’s something I don’t know about, I find someone who is good at it. I observe how they do it, and then, I just try to, basically, mimic what they are doing.
THE PATH TO BECOMING A WARRIOR IS NOT AN EASY ONE, BECAUSE AT ITS CORE IS DISCIPLINE.
We’ve all heard the term, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” One thing I have always tried to do is stay good at a few skills. The way to do that is to pick out the skills that you believe are most important to maintain and then make practicing those skills an integral part of your day.
The way to master a skill is to learn how to do it the right way, establish the proper technique and practice it regularly. If you’re practicing bad technique, you’ll just get really good at doing something wrong. In addition, it’s important to remember that all skills are perishable: Just because you are the master of a skill today does not guarantee you will be a master five years—without practice—from now. Dedication to daily practice is the best way to maintain your skills.A warrior is flexible and knows how to improvise, adapt and overcome.
It’s also important to remember that techniques sometimes need to change when situations change; it is up to you to learn or relearn what you need to know in order to maintain mastery of your chosen discipline. For instance, when I was in the Special Forces, it was imperative that I be highly proficient at transitioning from my rifle to my pistol as rapidly as possible in case my rifle ran out of bullets or malfunctioned.
ONCE YOU LEARN TO SUBDUE YOUR FEAR AND VANQUISH PANIC, YOU WILL BE ON YOUR WAY TO ACHIEVING THE WARRIOR MINDSET.
Now that I’m retired from the military, proficiency in this skill is no longer necessary, because I don’t carry a rifle all the time. I do, however, always carry a concealed pistol. The physical act of drawing a pistol from a concealed holster is much different than drawing from a leg holster, so it was back to the drawing board for me. I had to learn and practice a new technique to become as proficient and lethal as I had been in the past.
Remember: You can’t just rest easy and expect skills to stay with you for life because you knew how to do them a long time ago. You should continue to practice, modifying your technique if necessary, no matter how good you are at any given discipline.Never quit!
In his epic novel, Gates of Fire, about the Spartans and the battle at Thermopylae (which is taught at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy and in the U.S. Marine Basic Course at Quantico), author Steven Pressfield wrote about how the Spartans trained:
“The hardship of the exercises is intended less to strengthen the back than to toughen the mind. The Spartans say that any army may win while it still has its legs under it; the real test comes when all strength is fled and the men must produce victory on will alone.”
Having the will to fight on and not quit is more of a trait than it is something you can “learn” through conditioning. A warrior never leaves a fallen comrade behind and only needs to look to his left and right to find a reason not to quit and to keep the will to drive on until the war is won.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
I would like to share an example of my personal experience with the stress inoculation training being used successfully in the military. I have always been deathly afraid of heights. But when I decided to join the U.S. Army, I realized that this was one fear I would have to overcome if I were to become an e ective warrior. That said, in my 25 years in the Army—starting as an infantry soldier, then as a paratrooper and ultimately serving as a Green Beret—I had no shortage of challenges that took me well o the ground. On the low end, I had to maneuver over high obstacles, climb 50-foot ropes and rappel o of 100-foot towers. I got to soar above the trees in a SPIES (Special Patrol Insertion/ Extraction System) rig after a jungle extraction and did some fast-roping out of helicopters hovering 90 feet above the ground. By using the techniques I learned in training, I was able to do some static line parachuting with full combat equipment into drop zones around the globe from 800 feet. My greatest challenge came when I jumped from a perfectly good airplane at 25,000 feet into the dark of night. I had oxygen, 80 pounds of equipment and a ram-air parachute on my back and my weapon strapped to my side. I fl ew myself at high altitude for over an hour and then landed in a postage stamp-sized landing zone many miles away from where I had exited the aircraft. I was able to do all these things—not because I am particularly courageous, but simply because I learned how to inoculate myself from my own fears to develop the discipline needed to control them to a point at which I could do my job.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the July 2018 print issue of American Survival Guide.