The Importance of Confidence

Somewhere in my brain there are neurons that contain the memory of a commercial that aired pretty extensively when I was a kid:


Ol’ Jack’s tag line there made quite a dent in the popular culture of the time. Jack, if you don’t know, was kind of a tough dude. A coal miner, professional boxer, and a WWII bomber pilot before he turned to acting. I’m certain a lot of people bought Skin Bracer as a result of this ad, likely hoping to get  a little of Jack’s panache by wearing it. As best I can remember, Skin Bracer was some pretty low-rent aftershave made with a lot of alcohol and it didn’t actually smell “Great!”…but you wouldn’t know that listening to Jack. His confidence infused his performance in this ad, and subconsciously I’m sure a large chunk of the consumers who bought Skin Bracer hoped that a bit of his confidence would rub off on them, too.

Believe it or not, Jack’s kind of confidence plays a crucial role in self defense. Listen carefully to what is said in the following clips:


Ernest Langdon and Jeff Cooper are both talking about the ability of confidence to prevent the need to use violence.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the kind of “confidence” that comes from ridiculous self-affirmations spoken in a mirror. (That jackass is a senator now. And people wonder why our country is messed up.) That stuff is largely crap and it falls apart because the guy trying to talk himself up in a mirror knows he’s a fraud.

I’m referring to confidence that comes from accomplishment. When you put forth the time and the effort to train yourself to a high level of skill in something, you know it….and that knowledge infuses the entirety of your being. It colors how you think, speak, and act when you’re dealing with a situation that requires that skill set. This kind of accomplishment-bred confidence is visible to others you are interacting with and can have a profound impact on them as well.

In class with Tom Givens earlier this year, he told us about an occasion where he and his lovely wife Lynn were having dinner and they spotted a ne’er-do-well enter with a poorly concealed weapon. Tom’s experience told him that the guy was casing the place for a robbery…so Tom stood up and looked at the guy…and grinned. The bad guy got a look at Tom and ran away as fast as he could.

I once trained with a police officer who fielded a call about an armed robbery at a convenience store. When he arrived the robber had the clerk at gunpoint while two other officers with guns drawn repeatedly screamed at him to drop the gun. He took a look at the scene and without a sound maneuvered around the other two officers into a position to take a head shot on the multi-strike felon holding the gun on the clerk. The felon saw this and instantly surrendered, dropping his gun. When asked why he suddenly gave up later, he nodded toward that third officer on the scene and said “That *CENSORED* was going to kill me!”

Why would a would-be robber get scared away by an older gentleman who grins at him? Why would a would-be hostage taker act defiantly in the face of two police officers pointing guns at him but wet himself out of fear when a third officer shows up pointing the exact same gun?

Both of these individuals had trained extensively with their weapons and had made important decisions about how and why they would use them long before the moment of need arrived. Deliberately cultivating their skills with a sidearm left them in absolutely no doubt about their ability to handle the problems they were facing. They knew that when they reached for their pistol, some stuff was about to by-God get solved and in a hurry. This colored their demeanor and behavior to the point where bad guys who had never laid eyes on them before nevertheless recognized they were screwing with the wrong hombre.

The person who reaches for their sidearm in expectation rather than hope is less likely to fire a shot in anger with it because that confidence and competence is perceived by the criminal aggressor early in the encounter, and it’s often sufficient to convince them that continuing to press the matter would be foolish. They often react to the covers coming off of those assets like most people would react if they turned a corner and found themselves face to face with a 500 pound male lion.

There is certainly more to self defense than the development of technical skill with a weapon (or empty hands, frankly) but the cultivation of those skills to a high degree of proficiency has a number of positive effects when it comes time to win the fight…or in many instances preventing one in the first place.

The great thing about this kind of confidence is that it’s not a superpower. Anyone can have it…all it takes is work.

Be honest with yourself. Challenge yourself. Do the work. Deliberately cultivate your skills.

The benefits are worth it.




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