Valley Voices

Wolves, sheep and sheepdogs: Who are you in a crisis?

Sensei Matt Smith from Pacific Martial Arts shared with me some years ago a view of the world that I have found useful. He said there are three kinds of people in the world: wolves, sheep and sheepdogs.

Wolves are sociopaths that have no empathy for their fellow man, predators who view most of us as prey. Examples are your neighborhood serial killer, serial rapists, hoodlums, gangsters, your Bernie Madoffs, and perpetrators of mass killings such as the recent one in Orlando.

Sheep are your average citizens who walk through life mostly unaware of and unprepared for the wolves; that’s 90 percent of us.

Then there are sheepdogs who have an instinct to protect the sheep from the wolves, who run toward the sound of gunfire, who run up the World Trade Center toward the fire, the warrior-heroes who sacrifice themselves out of love.

Wolves are out there whether you like it or not. The question is: What are you? Are you a sheep or a sheepdog?

Did you know that law enforcement is teaching even kids in schools with an active shooter to fight back rather than huddle in the back of the room against the wall? If you would rather be a sheepdog, then it is imperative that you gain some skills through training and to properly condition the mind. Never forget that the police only respond after something bad has already happened.

Useful skill sets include a facility with hand-to-hand combat, both stand-up and on the ground; armed combat with both edge weapons and firearms; and a willingness to carry both lethal and nonlethal weapons till it is second nature.

Conditioning the mind may be the harder part. It means to live in condition yellow. To quote what is taught law enforcement: “In condition yellow, you remain relaxed, but are aware of who and what is around you. This merely means that you are paying attention to the sights and sounds that surround you whether you are at home or moving in society.

“Condition yellow does not equate with paranoia or any other irrational fear of persons or places. Instead, you simply have moved your alertness to a level of attention that will prevent you from being totally surprised by the actions of another person.”

With practice, one can live in condition yellow as naturally as breathing. Check entrances and exits as soon as you enter a new environment so you can find them in the dark. Look at the people around to see if anyone makes you a little uneasy and pay attention (situational awareness).

Don’t look like a sheep and wolves are less likely to bother you. Have a plan for different situations; run through scenarios in your mind often. This is practiced so when there is a crisis we don’t waste time in denial, panicking or deciding what to do.

When something makes you uneasy, leave right away. My wife and I have an agreement that if one of us says, “We need to leave now,” we get up and leave, no questions asked. She would be at my 7:30 with her right hand on my belt so both my hands are free and my dominant right hand is unencumbered.

Obviously, it is a lot easier to go through life as a sheep. You don’t have to change a thing. It is my hope that more of us decide to be sheepdogs and do the hard work of acquiring the skills and training necessary to be effective.

You can be a member of any minority and be a sheepdog for your family and community. You may be hurt or die in the process. A sheepdog accepts that and knows that there is a special place in heaven for all sheepdogs.

Peter T. Truong, M.D., resides and practices in Fresno.