David's Performance and Training Corner

Expanding Our Defensive Readiness Through Reading

With David Salthouse from APC, Inc.
Associate Director of Training & Program Development

Email David at with comments, questions, or topics you would like him to cover in a future article.

People today have crazy schedules. We work more hours a week then ever to makes ends meet, provide for ourselves and families. Still most people have two things they can’t, or are not willing to spare. Those things are time and money. Attending training classes is not inexpensive, and takes a lot of time, because of that, I feel most of our student’s often wish they could train more then they do. While there is no substitute for quality instruction by a certified and competent instructor, another great way to learn and advance your skill sets is to read books related to self defense. Let’s talk about how to make it happen.

Before we go out on a shopping spree and by every book with the word “tactical” in it, let’s set the right environment for learning. If I tried to teach you advanced weapons handling skills in your living room, with the TV blaring and you are half asleep with the lights dimmed, you wouldn’t retain much of what we spoke of. The same applies to reading. When we read to learn, we need to set ourselves up for success. Pick a location where you are comfortable and are not going to be distracted. My favorite place is under my umbrella at the beach or in my living room. Make sure the area is well lit so your eyes don’t get strained.

Be sure to have a pen to take notes and a pad to write them on. I like to write down questions I have that I plan on clarifying or discussing with an instructor/author when I see them and quotes that I want to use in classes or in life. A highlighter is a great tool as well. Don’t worry about writing in the book, they whole point is to learn. Margins are there to be written on! I also keep a small dictionary in my bag because authors love to sneak in the 47 letter words that I have never seen before. I read the book cover to cover to get the flow and concept of the book. I then will go through the book again chapter by chapter and make myself an outline of the content. I have found that using these techniques I am able to retain what I read. That is what works for me, but experiment and find what works best for you. I have even heard of people using a recorder to speak into with questions as they read and they jot them down later.

Now that we have our environment set, let’s look at what books you should get. This is an area where you need to be cautious. There are a lot of books out there that are geared towards military and police personnel. While there is great information in these books, always remember soldiers and police officers operate under a different set of rules then the private person who is defending them self. It may be fun to read about swat teams breaching doors with explosives or making entry into a building with a ballistic shield, but how many of us employ that equipment in our defensive toolbox? Try to focus your energy on books that will benefit you like books on the specific pistol you carry, legal issues of self defense, CCW tactics, and the physiological effects of combat. Below is a short list of my personal picks, all of these books will give you invaluable information. They are also available from many sources and are available in paperback.

Armed Response David Kenick

In the
Gravest Extremes
Massad Ayoob

On Killing
Dave Grossman

On Combat
Dave Grossman

The Gift of Fear Gavin De Becker

Art of War
Sun Tzu

Except for Su Tsu, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the authors listed and I can tell you that they all have important and interesting things to say. They all are life long students and instructors of self defense in one form or another. Any one of their books is worth far more then the cover price.

In conclusion I would like to leave you with a statement made by a firearms instructor I hold in high regard. “I can not show you THE WAY. I can only show you A WAY. Be wary of anyone who says they know THE WAY” The point of his statement is that everyone has their idea of the best way to do something, but their idea may not be the best way for you. Take these books, read them, learn from them, relax with them and enjoy the process, but understand they are not gospel. Practice mental imagery as you process the information and never stop studying the martial art of defense.

Keep an eye on our training calendar for advanced classes. Please feel free to contact me with comments on this article or suggestions for future ones.