About Featured Expert: John Correia the founder and owner of Active Self Protection, a self-defense and firearms training company based out of Phoenix, AZ. He travels throughout the country teaching practical self-defense, evidence-based self defense, and defensive strategies, focusing especially on those who utilize firearms in their self-defense toolkit.
The following is a condensed version of the full audio interview, which can be found in the above link at Science of Skill’s SoundCloud station.
Marcus Roth: Hey there folks, welcome again to the Science of Skill podcast. This is Marcus Roth and I’m on the horn tonight with John Correia, who has spent the last 11 years gaining experience in the field of evidence based self-defense training. Now he’s here again for the second part of the podcast where we interview John and we really get to look at John’s most dynamic skillset this week, evidence based self-defense advice. Hello John, welcome aboard yet again.
John Correia: Thanks for having me, I really appreciate it!
MR: Didn’t realize you were such a YouTube star in the self-defense community. All your videos have more than a million views and I was just really blown away by that.
JC: Well thanks man, I wish every one of them had over a million views of course. A few of them do and it’s crazy, YouTube celebrity is not something I was necessarily aiming for, but it’s great.
MR: You can really see most of his work on his YouTube channel as we just mentioned, and if you want to see that you can head on over to that channel. What was that channel’s name again John?
JC: The channel is youTube.com/activeselfprotection – You’ll know it’s us, there’s a big snake head, Active Self Protection, ASP, so we call it ASP in-house.
MR: Let’s get into the very basics of what active self protection is and evidence based self defense education, which is what a large portion of your channel really promotes. In a nutshell, what is it and who’s it for?
JC: Well, so the words evidence based or the idea of evidence based does not come from me, especially now in the medical community, everything is about evidence based treatment. All of the best treatment plans, they want to know what works, “What do we have actual evidence for?” Not, “What theory do we have?” We want to look and see what actually happens in defensive encounters, what actually works? Not theories, not, “What do we think works?” Not stories that have been told. In particular, we use the modern proliferation of surveillance video and in some limited sense as well, cell phone cameras-
MR: Dashboard cams I’m sure.
JC: Dash cams, to see what actually happens in violent encounters. Armed robberies, car-jackings, stabbings, muggings, assaults of all kinds. When we do that, I’ve probably watched, oh, 5,000 to 6,000 gunfights at this point. I’ve probably watched another 10,000 assaults of all kinds, muggings, and stabbings, and car-jackings, things like that. After a while, the patterns start to emerge pretty clearly and then from there, we can start to see principles because things show up again and again, and therefore we have evidence that this works and this doesn’t. Then therefore, we can base our training and our approach to that task of self defense based on actual evidence.
MR: Where do you pull these videos exactly anyways? I feel like it must be hard getting the volume of tape that you’ve seen. Do you know a guy in a local courthouse?
JC: You know, the internet is a crazy place man, and it has some very dark corners. The reality is, probably 99% of the videos that I do at this point are sent to me by my fans, whether on our Facebook page, or on our YouTube channel, or to me via email. Every day people are sending me videos that people have posted online. Some of those videos are on YouTube, some of the are on other host sharing services. It all comes down to, if it was recorded on a surveillance camera, or a dash cam … Dash cams and badge cams are mostly police related so those normally get released by their departments.
MR: I see, so for the listeners who don’t quite know and haven’t really checked out this channel. One, I’d recommend you do that, it’s very interesting stuff, but two, John largely goes over about a three minute surveillance video and gives a play-by-play breakdown of what’s occurring. Things that went well in the situation for the good guy and things that the good guy could have done better. The situations are graphic and violent but it must be kind of one of your favorite parts of the job, right?
JC: Well, I mean it is and it’s not. Obviously I think when good people defend themselves well, that’s gratifying to see somebody protect themselves because I think that’s a God given right. There’s some very hard ones as well. I don’t shy away from the reality of life. I know we don’t like to think about that but statistically, the Bureau of Justice Statistics says in America that your cumulative chance of being involved in a violent encounter in your lifetime is something approaching 73%.
MR: Watching one video along that same vein, It was a gun instructor who gets thrown into a violent situation at a convenient store. The whole time he’s actively trying to avoid the conflict, right? He’s a trained gun instructor, he can clearly draw his firearm and defend himself but he doesn’t want to, and you praise him for that the whole time because obviously no one wants to hurt someone. Even at the greatest and last extent, he’s backed way deep into a corner, a hallway, and then at that very point when he’s about to be punched, he draws and fires. I just really appreciated the praise that you gave the individual there for really showing a textbook example of waiting until the last second to actually use deadly force like you’re supposed to, right? It’s one thing to preach only defend yourself when you have to, but it’s another thing to actually do it when you live it.
JC: There’s a paradigm that we talk about in the defensive training community called may, should, and must. The first question you ask is, “May I use deadly force in this instance?” In other words, is it legally defensible? Just because you may, just because you can get away with it legally doesn’t mean that you should. Then the next question you have to ask is, “Should I use deadly force in this instance?” Is there another way that you could get out of that situation without using it? Then the final question and the highest question is must. “Must I use deadly force?” If there’s no other answer, if there’s no other way for you to get out of this situation, well then there’s no question that you have to use deadly force. If you don’t have to, in other words, if you must not use deadly force then try everything else because a firearm is a tool of last resort. Even if you feel like it shouldn’t be, again and again I read of people who use deadly force and the incredible toll it takes on them personally. Even if they win the fight, then you got to fight the fight after the fight, the legal fight. You got to bear consequences ethically, morally, spiritually, relationally, people won’t understand, socially, people might not understand. You could get ostracized from various communities that you have, your neighbors might not understand, you can get vilified in the press. All those take a very heavy toll on somebody. I tell people, “Listen, my hope is to get entirely through my life and never have to use my firearm,” and I hope everybody else, especially firearms carriers think the same.
MR: I think that’s a great segue into my next question I wanted to ask. Can you give our listeners some of the major takeaways, you seem to cover almost every review of a less than optimal self defense situation? I saw one account where an individual attempted to draw their gun on an individual who already had a gun drawn on him, and well, it didn’t end well for that man attempting to draw his gun. What would you say is some decent examples of recurring problems you see?
JC: There is one problem that reoccurs again, and again, and again. It’s a lack of awareness, a lack of understanding where you are. In the defensive world a lot of people like to call that situational awareness, I kind of am now preferring the term threat assessment, that people don’t make adequate and accurate threat assessments. For instance, you see people with their face buried in their phone and their headphones in. They are watching a show on Netflix and because they’re radically unaware, the danger is on top of them and impacting them before they can do anything about it. If there was one piece of advice for people who aren’t even going to be Kung Fu masters, they don’t want to carry a gun, they don’t want to do any of that stuff. My big bit of advice would be put your phone in your pocket and be aware of your surroundings. Walk with your head up, see things that are going on around you, and be curious of your environment.
MR: I think it’s largely about context of the situational awareness element or the threat assessment element. People want to listen to their phones, they want to watch YouTube videos, but it’s where, right? It’s where you can do that and where you can’t right? You can’t do that while walking, one, you might get hit by a car in the city, you won’t be aware. It’s an exchange, right? You can probably listen to it on the bus, right? There’s a lot of people there, it’s public, it’s very open, and if you’re just sitting you probably have some awareness of the situation because it’s a small bus compared to the openness of a street.
JC: The more in public you are, the more careful you need to be. I talk all the time about transitional spaces. In places where people are coming and going, anyplace that could allow for an easy ambush and an easy exit by someone, you want to be more careful. Certainly walking down a sidewalk, you need to be aware. You can get ambushed very easy around every corner in every nook and cranny so you want to be much more aware there. Sitting on the bus while the bus is moving, I mean you’re in a fairly static environment and so you’re less likely for that. I still recommend to people, if you want to listen to your phone, I get it, leave your dominant ear open. The other thing I always tell people, if your phone buzzes or you get a text message or something and you need to look up, and you need to see it, the big thing that I see people do is they put their phone on their chest and then they put their chin on their chest so that they can see their phone and that just takes their eyes completely out. Instead, lift your phone up into your line of sight and get it out in front of you because then you can continue to see what’s going on behind it. I also think that smart watch technology is really helpful in that endeavor. When I get a text now, my phone can stay in my pocket, I wear a smart watch, and I can look at my watch and bring it up into my line of sight, still see what’s going on around me and check whatever notification it was that came in.
MR: What are some tips for our listeners on making some confrontations that turn violent into a justifiable situation in court? What are your go-to’s? I definitely remember that gun instructor I mentioned in the past, his hand was out, he was backing away, he got mopped around the floor of the convenient store for like a solid three minutes on camera before he even went to draw. Anything else of that nature? Actionable tips is what I’m asking for.
JC: Like anything else you need training in this endeavor. If you’re going to be a self defender, knowing the law of self defense is important and there are two nationally recognized experts that have written book length treatises that I really recommend. The first one is a long time trainer named Massad Ayoob and he has written a book called Deadly Force. You can get it on Amazon, great book on the legalities of self defense. Mass comes at things from the perspective of a former law enforcement officer. The other one is a nationally renowned attorney named Andrew Branca and his book is called The Law of Self Defense, it’s currently in the third generation, the third iteration. I’m actually certified by Andrew, by The Law of Self Defense as a verified instructor graduate. His book, The Law of Self Defense is excellent and very understandable.
MR: The context of that is interesting, right? I saw in one of your videos a man getting robbed for his cell phone and he actually had his concealed carry but he’s not in a position to draw it. He gets robbed and the assailant drives away on a motorcycle. Curiously enough, the punisher principle, right? If that man chases after that motorcycle and finds where he lives and a day later comes back and shoots him, that’s a problem, right? That’s not self defense anymore, that’s way too late I think as a great example of it. If he happened to have his concealed carry on him at the time … It’s interesting legally that if you shoot him in the moment it becomes legal-ish, it’s tentative, right? But not so legal the day later.
JC: That’s because again, in that moment you’re not protecting your phone, you’re protecting your life. If he comes up and says, “Give me your phone,” and he sticks a gun in your face, well the threat there is not about the phone, the threat’s about your life. You have the right to defend your life, life is the most valuable thing we have. Human beings, legally and morally are of inestimable value, so you have the right to defend that. Once he is gone, so if he’s driving off down the road on a motorcycle and I mean the video you’re thinking of, he jumped on the bike and he ran off. Then the guy drew his gun and shot down the street at him, well it’s incredibly reckless to do that because you’re accountable for every bullet that leaves the chamber, leaves the muzzle of your firearm, but also in most jurisdictions, really with very few exceptions, that’s also a crime because the imminence is gone. You aren’t facing a threat anymore.
MR: Along the same vein, what are some of the sure fire ways to get into legal trouble after a violent confrontation now? Obviously breaking one of those pillars is obviously a very clear way. More specifically I’m talking things that are important to keep in mind so if a situation where force is required and a person is legally justified, they don’t accidentally talk themselves into assault charges when they’re talking to police post-fact, post-event.
JC: Yes. Remember, once everything goes down, then from that point on if you win the fight, you’ve got to recognize as a self defender then you instantly engage in a second fight. We call it the fight after the fight and that is the fight for your freedom at that point. You want from start to finish to look like a victim who protected themselves and not like an aggressor who was breaking the law. Now, there’s a lot of discussion in the defensive training world as to what does it mean to talk to the police and how much should you talk to the police? I’ll give you my understanding and there is some discussion on this and other people have some different perspectives. If you have broken the law, if you are a murderer then shut up, okay? If you have done something stupid then do not say a word and call your attorney and let them fight it out. Now, okay, that being said, for good people who have done good things and are worried about that. I have heard people give advice, “Don’t say a word, just say I want to talk to my attorney.” Well, I would recommend instead say little and say the right things to the right people.
MR: Wow that’s some dynamic legal advice.
JC: Well, and I want everybody to recognize that I am not an attorney.
JC: I’m not offering legal advice, that’s my suggestion as a defensive trainer, my suggestion as somebody who is a verified graduate in The Law of Self Defense program. Of course, consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction. I highly recommend if you’re a self defender that you have some kind of legal protection for deadly force incidents. I don’t like the insurance products out there but there are several defensive use of force services memberships that are very valuable.
MR: Yeah, I certainly should have said self defense advice there, obviously you’re not a lawyer. That said, I think that’s a great spot to wrap it up. Most of our listeners are older, 40 plus, so I’m really glad you covered the ability to go to the hospital after a very exciting event like this, right? Perfect advice. That’s said John, thanks for coming on the cast. Any closing remarks before we wrap this up here?
JC: Well, I think that I recommend that all Americans become self defenders. You don’t have to be Rambo, you don’t have to have mad Kung Fu skills but we live in a day and in an age that the police cannot protect us from everything that comes our way.
MR: All right, thank you very much for that John. All right, well this has been Marcus Roth and John Correia for the Science of Skill Podcast signing out.