Mario Villalobos

Embrace the Suck

I learned how to disarm a guy today at school. You grab the barrel of the gun with one hand and pull it away from the perp, grab the barrel with the other hand and twist his arm toward your body while turning your back against him and pulling the gun away. I practiced this with trained police officers and a group of teachers from school, and I had a lot of fun. I learned four basic defensives moves: an overhead punch, with the meat of your hand and not your fist, sort of like swinging a hammer; elbow strikes, either straight on or coming from above; knee strikes, where you grab his shoulders and strike his body as hard as you can; and a kick, where you use the heel and not the toes of your foot, to push yourself away from him and get some distance. Put them all together and you have a very effective combo to disorient the perp that hopefully buys you time to get away or let others get away or to simply give others enough confidence to dog pile him and subdue him until the authorities come.

All this was a small section of a larger class about preparing ourselves in case of a school shooting. Not every school in the country wants to do this type of training because they feel that school should be a school, a place of learning and not of violence. But in an age where school shootings are increasingly common, it’s nice that our administrators deemed it necessary to train their staff in this. We examined a lot of school shootings from the past, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to Newton. It was all very enlightening, and our teacher, a big white guy with a beard and named after Levi’s, was very funny, very serious when he needed to be, and very clear in his message: school shootings are remarkably short, and police response times are just a bit longer, so the onus on protecting ourselves and our kids falls on us. Even just being told that hitting people is okay, which goes against everything we were taught and are teaching our students at school today, goes a long way toward saving lives.

When there’s a guy with a gun shooting people, you have three options: run, hide, or fight. We did drill after drill practicing different scenarios that incorporated all three options, and all of them were tough, enlightening, and scary. During our first scenario, all we heard was yelling and gunshots. Some of us tried barricading the door, but others started jumping out the windows in the back of the classroom. Unfortunately, they jumped right into the path of the shooter. Another scenario had us hear the shots and before we could do anything, the shooter burst into our classroom and started shooting at us. Our teacher was shot first, but luckily, we had a bunch of guys attack the shooter with desks and chairs and we were able to pin him down and dog pile him. And in another one, once we heard the shots, we had enough time to lock the door and barricade it with desks, tables, chairs, anything we could find, and we waited. We heard the shooter try to open the door, but since he couldn’t get in and all he wanted to do was rack up the body count, he left and didn’t bother wasting time on us.

These exercises were scary. We knew a shooting was going to happen. We knew the few things we needed to do to protect ourselves. But once those shots were fired and we heard screaming, a lot of us just froze. We were taught about the herd mentality. If we see everyone not doing anything, we’re all not doing anything waiting for someone to do something. If we see some people start running and jumping out of windows, then most of us are going to do the same thing, oblivious to the fact that maybe there’s another shooter back there waiting for us. And if some people start fighting, others start fighting, too. It’s amazing to think that this is how we operate, but it’s very true.

I’m very glad and very grateful I was asked to do participate in this class, considering I’m not really a teacher. In fact, I was the only non-teacher there, which was a little awkward, in a way. I guess I am teaching a class next quarter, so I guess that’s why the principal asked me to take the class. If something like this happens while I’m teaching a group of kids, I’m responsible for their lives. I have to be ready to tell them what to do because our lives depend on it. It sucks that these are the times we live in, but we do, and we have to prepare ourselves and our kids for it. Because a little bit of preparation, no matter how much it sucks, can save lives. Levi, our instructor, was in the Army, and in the Army they taught him to “Embrace the suck.” That’s what we did today, and I think we’re all better off for it.