You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Contents - By John Schwartze, Net­work Man­ager & Act­ing Edi­tor // RE­COIL OFFGRID

Ire­cently at­tended traf­fic school for a speed­ing ticket. If ever there were a col­lec­tion of armchair ex­perts as­sem­bled in one room, this was cer­tainly it, as well as a les­son on peo­ple’s in­abil­ity to be ob­jec­tive about them­selves. The in­struc­tor asked the class for a show of hands of ev­ery­one who con­sid­ered them­selves to be a good driver. Of course, ev­ery­one in the class threw up their hands — in­clud­ing me. As the class pro­gressed, my lack of fa­mil­iar­ity about the ever-chang­ing laws be­came more ap­par­ent. I also couldn’t help but won­der how some of the peo­ple around me would even qual­ify for a li­brary card, much less a driver’s li­cense. Bot­tom line — I re­luc­tantly ac­cepted the fact that if I were such a good driver, I wouldn’t be there.

Not long af­ter traf­fic school, some fel­low staff mem­bers and I were in­vited to at­tend Bon­durant Rac­ing School in Ari­zona to par­tic­i­pate in their ex­ec­u­tive pro­tec­tion driv­ing pro­gram. The cur­ricu­lum cov­ers brak­ing at high speed, driv­ing cars with hy­draulic out­rig­gers to sim­u­late over­steer and un­der­steer, prac­tic­ing re­verse 180-de­gree turns, per­form­ing and learn­ing to es­cape from PIT ma­neu­vers, and a whole host of other skills. To say I was hum­bled about my driv­ing skills is an un­der­state­ment. Con­trol­ling a car un­der those cir­cum­stances is much harder than it looks.

What it all clearly demon­strated was that, whether in a car or any other type of sur­vival sit­u­a­tion, peo­ple over­es­ti­mate their own level of knowl­edge. There’s re­ally no plateau to the learn­ing curve. Even when you’ve man­aged to do some­thing fairly well for over 20 years, you prob­a­bly only know about half as much as you think you do. The lessons we gleaned from Bon­durant were in­valu­able. Nowhere else can you get the level of in­struc­tion we did about vehicular sur­vival — a topic that doesn’t get enough at­ten­tion given the amount of time we spend in our cars. Turn to Tom Mar­shall’s piece else­where in this is­sue to ex­am­ine some po­ten­tial sit­u­a­tions where these skills might save your life.

Aside from brush­ing up on your abil­i­ties be­hind the wheel, your choices for per­sonal pro­tec­tion and train­ing are truly end­less. Given the pro­lif­er­a­tion of mixed mar­tial arts, and now that Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso have rekin­dled their ri­valry, we felt it ap­pro­pri­ate to out­line sev­eral self-de­fense strate­gies — from how to re­act if your car is mobbed to se­lect­ing the mar­tial arts sys­tem that’s right for you.

We also spoke with some first re­spon­ders about their ex­pe­ri­ence deal­ing with the aftermath of Hur­ri­cane Irma. Even if you don’t live in an area af­fected by hur­ri­canes, you’d be sur­prised to learn what pos­ses­sions might save your life and com­mon mis­takes peo­ple make dur­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Since we’re also in the midst of fire sea­son, have a look at Scott Fi­nazzo’s piece on fire sup­pres­sion to learn some tools and tech­niques to de­fend your hum­ble abode if a blaze breaks out.

In this is­sue’s Sur­vival­ist Spot­light, we sat down with for­mer fire­fighter Thomas Coyne and learned about his tran­si­tion from a rough child­hood to bat­tling some of Cal­i­for­nia’s big­gest wild­fires to start­ing his own sur­vival school. This il­lus­trates what one mo­ti­vated in­di­vid­ual can do to im­prove their life and sur­round­ings if they want it badly enough. Coyne’s been on the front lines and teaches things that could only come from some hard-earned ex­pe­ri­ence — some­thing des­per­ately lack­ing in many other sur­vival schools run by ques­tion­ably qual­i­fied in­struc­tors.

Our ini­tial in­stinct is al­ways to fo­cus on our own sur­vival mea­sures, but the more we help others help them­selves, the less de­pen­dent ev­ery­one will be dur­ing a cri­sis. If you don’t help or teach others, de­pen­dency be­comes des­per­a­tion. While we might not see the changes po­lit­i­cally we’re hop­ing for, it’s up to us to form our own en­claves of pre­pared­ness and ex­tend an open in­vi­ta­tion to those who may even be crit­i­cal of it. If you want to see real change in so­ci­ety, it hap­pens from the ground up, not the top down. But even though you think you’ve mas­tered a skill, rest­ing on your lau­rels is one of the eas­i­est ways to en­sure your own demise when the sit­u­a­tion be­comes per­ilous. Al­ways con­tinue to work on im­prov­ing what you think you’ve mas­tered.

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