“Everybody’s got a plan until they get smacked in the face” – M. Tyson
The entire scenario of being in real physical danger due to your stance against corruption is so unimaginable to many people that they refuse to acknowledge it as part of their reality. If you fit into this group of readers then please just ignore this post and let me address those unfortunate but noble few who do know the grim reality of standing against corruption.
Every week I receive a few emails asking for my recommendations on how a leader should view self defense. Specifically what gun, knife, or martial arts style I recommend.
My answer is very simple: a leader should avoid violence, if at all possible. Probably not for the reasons you would first assume, as I am not a pacifist. But instead because you are in the public eye and it does not matter what you do or how you do it, the media and your enemies will use any act of violence (even self defense) to portray you as a monster.
It will damage your personal image, that of the organization you serve, and your goals of advancement for your stakeholders.
If you need protection then my advice is to have professionals to provide that service for you.
If you cannot afford professional protection then try and learn the ways that professionals AVOID violence. The best body guards proactively AVOID potentially dangerous situations so that violence is avoided. This is the best art of self defense.
My suggested reading list provides useful resources for these skills but there is no substitute for the real world experience acquired by the best bodyguards. Recognize that if you are doing your job properly your mental and perceptual resources will be directed to leading your organization and not to the environment around you. You will probably miss many potential threats simply because you are so busy. That is why having a professional look after you is the best solution.
However I acknowledge that there are places in the world where you, as a leader, may have been called into a situation (such as addressing corruption or refusing an offer of corruption from the powerful) where you become perceived as a threat by bad people and you have no personal protection staff.
Every situation will be different so I cannot realistically advise on every possible scenario, however here are some bits of wisdom based on my own experience.
Make sure your home is secure. You can get professional advice on this without much cost.
Having weapons in the home may be illegal and may work against you if someone breaks in and uses them against you.
Be prepared to be able to relocate at short notice. Prepare a grab bag with your essentials.
Always keep your gas tank full and your car serviced with good tires.
Always check around your car before you get in it and drive.
Avoid leaving your car where it could be tampered with.
Keep the car locked at all times.
Be careful what you eat and even more careful what you drink. In extreme conditions, you can live on fresh baked bread loaves and carbonated cans of drink (that you open yourself and you can test the fizz is intact) for a surprising length of time.
Change your routes to and from regular travel locations.
Most assassinations look like accidents so you should focus more on planned car accidents or muggings gone wrong, instead of grassy knolls and lone gunmen.
Anonymous threats are intended to make you and your family lose focus or to quit.
Depending on where you are and your situation the police may not be a useful protection as they work for powerful people.
Make sure you know who you can trust. Realize that maybe no one.
Remember even a Lion can be brought down by Hyenas, if there enough of them.
Martial Arts take a long time to master and require constant practice.
Soft Martial Arts (like Jujitsu) are best for controlling an attacker within Rule of Law (ROL) conditions. Hard Martial Arts leave bruises and broken bones that look bad in court, no matter what threat was posed against you but are effective outside of ROL conditions.
If you do know a Martial Art never allow your enemies to see your practice. They will learn your style of fighting.
Unlike the movies there is never just one attacker and they seldom take turns at attacking you.
Assuming it is legal: Unless you really know how to fight with a knife do not carry one.
Assuming it is legal: Unless you really know how to shoot do not carry a gun
Assuming it is legal: Unless you are prepared (legally and mentally) for the consequences of using a weapon in self defense do not carry one.
Assuming it is legal: The best gun, or knife, or weapon is the one you are carrying when you are attacked. If you can legally carry it every day everywhere and you know how to use it then its the best – regardless of the brand, length of blade, caliber or number of rounds.
There is no defense against surprise attack.
Have an exit strategy unless you are prepared to “die on this hill”.
“Anyone who appears to be triggered out of watchfulness and into action by your appearance must be explained.
Anyone observing you carefully must be explained.
Anyone whose behavior seems to be geared to yours must be explained.
If the explanation does not satisfy you, be ready to take appropriate defensive action.”