Preparing mentally, physically, nutritionally, and tactically, for anything
Story and Photos by John J. Radzwilla
“It is a mistake to push a man to violence when violence is what the man has dedicated his life to perfecting.” – Tim Kennedy
That statement sums up Tim Kennedy—a man who has, self-admittedly, had a lifetime of pain and suffering, but who has made enough mistakes, that today, after 25 years of real-life training is more than qualified to give anyone advice in the arena of preparedness. They say never take advice from someone you would not want to trade lives with. In this case, if it is your life that depends on it, start taking notes.
“In the past 25 years, I have been continually focused on preparedness—every day. Occupationally, as a hobby, and as a passion. I have been in Special Forces for the past 17 years, before that I was in law enforcement, before that I was a firefighter/EMT, before that I was the son of a narcotics officer who was stealing planes full of cocaine from Pablo Escobar. That was the world I grew up in. I realize that I have lived an extraordinarily abnormal life, but it is that life, including 20-plus combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, all over Africa, all over Europe, all over South America, that qualifies me to give this advice. There barely is a place on the planet that I haven’t spent time doing things to bad people,” says Kennedy proudly.
Today, Kennedy lives by a singular mission statement: to preserve and protect human life. It doesn’t matter what creed, nationality, race, gender, or sexual orientation they are; he strives every day to “force multiply” or in civilian terms, create more warriors for good. And through his elite training classes, offered to civilians, law enforcement, and military alike, he is living out that mission daily.
“My dream come true is that I am at the bar, and some dude comes in to kill everyone. It would be awesome if I was in there. But that probably isn’t going to happen. There is though, a chance that there will be someone I have trained there, because I am continually force multiplying. I am trying to train enough people to where the next time someone walks into school to shoot a bunch of kids, one of my students is going to be there and be like ‘the hell you are…not today.’”
Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a day in the life of Tim Kennedy, including conference calls with more than 50 police departments, a vigorous workout to say the least, helicopter rides to beat traffic, CQB (close quarters battle) training, and range time. Before we dive into the invaluable advice he gave me, I will state, that at face value, Tim Kennedy is a beast, but he is no different than you and I. Sure the combat deployments and battlefield experience separate him from most of us, but that is not the focus of this article. The purpose of the following sections is to prepare you as a civilian. Advice is only worthwhile if you are willing to do something with it. Personally, I have taken it all, and in the weeks since we spent time together, I have become better and more prepared. You can too.
“Do what you did yesterday and make it a little bit harder today. One percent incremental improvements, every day, no matter your baseline, over time, will inevitably create drastic improvements. The only difference between me and others is discipline and a choice to implement,” says Kennedy.
He presents preparedness in four main categories: fitness, diet, training, and tactics.
Tim trains at a very high level, daily, with a combination of cardio, core strength, functional, cross-fit, and power-lifting techniques. His workouts will intimidate even the most fit individuals, myself included, but referring back to Kennedy’s one-percent quote, you too can achieve a solid level of fitness.
“If you can walk a mile and you did that in 25 minutes today, tomorrow do it in 24 minutes and 30 seconds. Eventually, it will become 15 minutes, and that will happen quickly. Then start slowly running that mile and try to get it in 13 minutes. Next, get it to a 10-minute mile. Now, let’s do two miles. It’s all about gradually getting better. Pick a spot where you feel comfortable and start from there,” he says.
Without fitness he stresses, you will not be able to react with the speed and agility that you will need to remove yourself from a dangerous situation. “I have had students that couldn’t get into a kneeling or squatting shooting position because they were so obese. In months though, they improved, and guess what, they are now able to get low enough to shoot effectively.”
Once you are in shape enough to incorporate more complex physical fitness routines into your daily workouts, do so, Kennedy encourages. Add weight, keep increasing miles. Also, continually change up your routine, because you never know when, where, or what, an unpredictable situation will require of you to survive.
“Eat real food. That’s it. I don’t eat fried food. I don’t eat sugar. I very rarely have any alcohol. The alcohol I do have is for health reasons—I will have a glass or two of red wine. As a 41-year-old man I need my testosterone—heavy drinking lowers that… also I don’t need the calories.”
Kennedy suggests that rather than unhealthy choices like fast food or high calorie and fatty items such as chips, try to eat foods that are protein rich like venison or elk. “I realize that not everyone will start anywhere near the far end of the healthy spectrum such as only eating wild harvested meats, but staying on the opposite end, just like fitness, will limit your performance. Either you say I am going to stop buying the chips and stop with the soda, or you stay the same. You just have to start, again, making those one-percent improvements towards eating better. How far you get depends on your commitment and resources.”
Diet directly ties to fitness and performance. It is the fuel that fuels your body to perform. And just like most concepts in life, they build upon each other. Eat better, to perform better, better fitness and performance leads to better reactions and strength to react to situations more efficiently and effectively.
Not quite as straight forward as fitness and diet, training in Kennedy’s opinion is a multi-faceted skillset to develop. Situational-awareness, individual-awareness, threat-assessment, fundamentals of marksmanship, shooting from non-standard shooting positions (kneeling, squatting, sitting, prone, urban-prone, etc.) are all skills that must be developed to be optimally prepared.
Starting off with situational-awareness, individual-awareness, and threat-assessment, Kennedy advises to challenge yourself as a person. “When we discuss assessment and awareness, it starts with you. So, if for instance, your life is mess, you are not in a good place to make decisions or look out into situational awareness. How are you going to take your clouded lens and look out for threats? You’re not,” stresses Kennedy. “So, first, get yourself together.”
He continues, “I tend to batch groups while in public. I am not against facts and statistics. I am not generalizing nor profiling. I am using real known numbers to identify what I have to worry about as threats. Then everything else, I don’t need to worry about. For instance, men from 14 to say 55 have committed most of the attacks in recent history. That is a group I look at first. The mother in the restaurant with the baby—probably not a threat. The old people drinking coffee — same. The 20-year-old with his hands in his pockets and a hoodie on—yeah, I’ll spend some time on him.”
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Keep your eyes open for threats, and remove yourself from that situation before they happen. If the kid in the hoodie is acting funny, get up and leave before you ever need to pull out your weapon and shoot someone.
Further, training such as keeping your fundamentals of marksmanship sharp, is key if a situation escalates. The fundamentals (stance, grip, trigger control, aim) dimmish quickly while under stress. Practice these often. Next, Kennedy suggests finding a range that allows you to develop non-standard shooting positions. Rarely does a threat present itself like a paper target on the range. Learn to shoot from behind cover: kneeling, squatting, and sitting; from under cover (such as cars); from prone or urban-prone positions. Repetition is key for hits on target. Practice these positions often.
The best tactic to being prepared is to develop your skillsets to the level that you don’t need to even fight. Let’s face it, you are far more likely to get into a situation with a drunk at a bar than be in an active shooter situation. So, what do you do? Literally remove your ego—that is how you deescalate a situation. How do you do that? “Become a badass,” according to Kennedy.
“At first, that statement seems conflicting, but in reality, it is not. In order to become a badass, you have to challenge yourself to lose. To chip away your ego. Get involved in hobbies that will humble you such as Crossfit, Krav Maga, Jiu Jitsu, competitive shooting, races, etc. You will lose, but with each loss, you will become stronger. The higher your skill level, the less ego you will need. It comes down to the interpersonal development of the person who always challenges himself. I argue that it would be nearly impossible, outside of hurting my wife or kids, to get me to fight you. Why? Because I know I can win, but I don’t need to prove it.”