De-escalation and Professionalism-at-Arms

A few months back I received an interesting email. One of our clients who had gone through our CCW program and is a medical doctor wanted to know if we taught classes specifically geared towards de-escalation tactics.


I explained the corpus of our curriculum is based on the principles of de-escalation. After a fairly lengthy conversation I encouraged him to become a member at Artemis and begin participating in our 4M classes.


This, of course, got me thinking about how to address this as a blog.


The other day I ran into him in the lobby. He told me how pleased he was with the classes, and, yes, he understood what I meant about de-escalation being the gravamen of our programs. He also told me there was a turn of phrase that I use: “professionalism-at-arms” that really resonated with him.


Many of you have heard me talk about or reference “mastery at skill-at-arms”. This is an obvious goal for anyone who owns a tool of self defense. Sadly, for most it is limited to the specific firearm, knife, cane, or spoon they decide to carry for self protection. This is wholly inadequate. Certain weapons are clearly more efficient at solving a life-threatening problem than others. (I abandoned the spoon defense years ago.) Yet, understanding and mastering the intricacies and uses of a variety of weapons is, and should be, our goal. There is a famous adage, “the gun you use in a gun fight might not necessarily be the gun you brought with you to the gunfight.” This is absolutely true. In any fight we are essentially attempting to improve our position. This is true from a defensive tactics standpoint, but it is also true from a weapons standpoint as well. If I am armed with an umbrella (something I do carry, thank you) and nothing else, I can use said umbrella against opponents who have a more lethal weapon at their disposal. If multiple ruffians are attacking me and escape, or evasion is not a viable option, I feel fairly competent in my abilities to use the umbrella as a means of disarming the first rapscallion.


I am not so self-absorbed to believe the same umbrella would be equally viable for the remaining offenders. The now disarmed gun on the ground would be a significant improvement over my trusty umbrella. Use it I will, because I actually know how to proficiently operate a multitude of firearms… including the one at my feet.


“Professionalism-at-arms” means not being in the kill zone to begin with.


Many people misunderstand, or at the very least limit the term “professionalism-at-arms” to a sort of stoicism or underlying maturity that comes with bearing weapons. To a large degree that is true, but it only speaks to part of the equation. Professionalism-at-arms also includes sound judgment, situational awareness, and, most fundamentally, a respect for one’s self, and… counterintuitively… a respect for one’s potential opponent.


Ah… there is the rub, is it not?


In order to prevail against one’s adversaries, one must have a respect for their abilities. Most people assume their assailants are cowards, craven, emotional, or suffering from some mental affliction. They create a caricature as one dimensional as the buffoon-like targets we typically shoot at the range. (Don’t get me started on the IRS zombie targets… well… actually I do sort of like those… but that is not really the point.)


People in extremis do irrational things. Martial artists who are quite accomplished in a rules-based combative sport often suffer catastrophic results when they are paired against an opponent who is prepared to use a broken beer bottle to achieve some form of dominance.


Opponents who have made the critical antisocial decision to use force, or the threat of force, against you to achieve an objective, will not be constrained by a rules-based order.


Their narcissism and social pathology make them extremely dangerous, and that danger must be given a level of respect, just as a hot stove or scalding water must be respected.


Professionalism-at-arms also requires the maturity to allow your opponents a way out of the situation they have placed themselves in. This is absolutely critical. Professionalism-at-arms, in a sense, is everything up to the moment of combat. Once the Rubicon has been crossed, then mastery at skill-at-arms comes into play. Once the threat no longer presents an imminent likelihood of death or great bodily injury, professionalism-at-arms reasserts itself and constrains us from delivering the coup de grace.


Professionalism-at-arms is the armor we don each day as we prepare ourselves to participate in the great existential dilemma that is modern life. It is the challenge coin in our pocket we quietly rub to steel our nerves and remind us that often discretion is the better part of valor. It is the quiet maturity we bear inside that allows us to defer the great aggression that others would foist upon us. It is the canary that warns us of the possibility of danger and the intelligence to take the longer, but well-lighted, path…


At least until the point the battle is joined, then we say F@#k them, and give them the total war they have asked us to provide.


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Comments (7)


    Only a learned man would use the word rapscallion when talking about a scumbag.

    02/01/2023 at 10:20
    • Jack Reply

      hahaha. Love it.

      Another great article Steven.

      02/02/2023 at 00:29
  • Chris Telarico Reply

    I have taken to carrying pepper spray, Sabre, as well as my carry gun. It is a first deterrent instead of going straight for the gun, barring of course the opponent does not have a gun already out.

    02/01/2023 at 15:59
  • Robert Hagler Reply

    Great reminder on exercise of caution until that moment there is no other option. It is good to be clear about force, even when you are first in line. What I mean by this is that in multi person CQB, the team lead, (the lead position rotates fluidly) whoever that might be may have a tendency to go thru an opening or enter an opening prior to the team being fully prepared and risking it all. Sometimes that first person may feel an obligation (mindset in the moment) to LEAD, and then act prematurely, feeling like they had to take that action. But, a well thought out hesitation, to be sure all are ready, is usually the better course of action. A little patience can be a good thing! Thank you for the de-escalation mindset thoughts.

    02/02/2023 at 00:51
  • Steve Leonard Reply


    02/02/2023 at 07:50
  • Tom Williams Reply

    I posted part of the article and the link to it on FB hope people read it

    02/03/2023 at 03:42
  • Norm Ellis Reply

    Very nicely written, thank you!!!

    02/04/2023 at 16:36

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