Why I Died

As I lay there mortally wounded, with my life slipping away, I could not help remembering the words of the instructor who had taught my concealed carry class. He said, “This training is not the end, and really not even a good beginning for your self-defense training. Get some more training!” His point, as he often repeated during the one-day class, was that I was not even close to being prepared for the real deal if it happened to me or any of the other 15 students in the class.

Now I am not sure about them, but I knew he spoke the truth about me. Fitness has never been part of my life, that firearm class was my first (just to get my carry permit), and I honestly preferred to spend my money on the skiing trip I had planned with my buddies rather than paying for more training or practice ammunition. The class got me the certificate I needed to legally carry a gun, and with a gun I had the great equalizer, right?

Wrong. During that day of training, my instructor listed all the things he wished each of us would do to ensure our survivability. I could not help thinking of those things, all of which had affected the outcome on this fateful day for me.

Non-standard exercises like this, or the ones found in workouts such as CrossFit, prepare the body for a fight.

Non-standard exercises like this, or the ones found in workouts such as CrossFit, prepare the body for a fight.


My instructor was really serious about this one. He said that during a fight, no one was immune to the catastrophic responses of the human body under stress. He made it very clear that just owning and even carrying a gun are not the answers unless a high level of fitness and plenty of ingrained skill accompany them. He told us that most encounters would be very close, and might actually be a physical fight first. He was right.

My encounter started with a punch to the side of my head from an unobserved attacker. Even though I was armed with my trusty gun, my mind went blank after that first punch and I could not believe the terror I felt. I was frozen and didn’t know what to do as more punches impacted my face and neck. Once I finally got the mental signal to do something, I could feel my pulse in my ear and would have sworn that my eardrums were about to be blown out with the pressure I felt with every beat of my heart.

Fight back? I tried, but found that the few punches I threw back had no effect on my attacker. After hitting him several times with no effect, my arms got so heavy that I could not raise them to protect my head. I felt weak, and my heart rate had gone up so high that I began to have problems thinking and seeing clearly.

I wish I had worked through this feeling in the gym a few times to get prepared before it happened to me. Could this really be happening to me?

This shooter is training for competition. Even so, his level of dedication is obvious. If you are training for a fight, it is not optional.

This shooter is training for competition. Even so, his level of dedication is obvious. If you are training for a fight, it is not optional.


Getting more training was not “optional,” my instructor said. In fact, he told us this so many times throughout the day, I found myself getting sick of hearing it. But he was right. He mentioned that with the proper training, a person would learn all the critical pieces of the self-defense puzzle. He said that learning how to defend against an attack might include using punches and kicks initially, and maybe even knowing how to wrestle someone on the ground before I had a chance to draw my handgun.

I really needed that information when, after my attacker had punched me a dozen times, he knocked me to the ground and began to stab me with a knife he had in his waistband. If I had known just a few techniques to protect myself and maybe launch a counterattack, maybe I would not be lying here bleeding out on this cold pavement. No one knows I am here. I feel so alone.

Sweeping a garment out of the way during a draw might have dire consequences if done incorrectly. Train until you get it right.

Sweeping a garment out of the way during a draw might have dire consequences if done incorrectly. Train until you get it right.


My instructor told me that I did not even need ammunition to practice! He told me that I could practice my drawing techniques in a safe area without spending a dime on ammunition. He called it “dry fire,” and said that the most important thing I could do was learn how to get my gun out quickly. He did say that the concealed carry course we were taking would not teach me the draw process, so a few of us stayed after class and got to practice some draws under our instructor’s watchful eye.

It was great information, but after the class I did not make even the slightest effort to practice it. I wish I had, since after being stabbed a few times, I got one lucky punch in to my attacker’s nose. It actually knocked him back into a car, and I had a couple of seconds to grab my gun and save my own life. . . . Too bad I didn’t know how to get my shirt out of the way.

Getting my hand on my gun was not even possible, since I fumbled with my shirt and my attacker immediately recognized what I was doing. He was street smart and came after me with the knife again. Those next few stabs to my neck and head area really did some serious damage. I had the chance to defend myself for those few seconds and I missed it! Now I lay, nearly lifeless, wishing I had listened to those wise words: “Practice drawing your firearm every day.”


In class we discussed the laws surrounding carrying a firearm and how we were responsible to follow them, but my instructor was not afraid to point out another responsibility: the responsibility to prepare. To his students, the instructor said, “Take responsibility for your own survival.” No one would be there for us when the ultimate test occurred. He said that all our excuses for failing to heed what he told us would be worthless. He was right.

All the reasons I found to ignore his advice reverberated in my mind now, and I felt myself screaming inside my own head at how stupid I had been. But it was too late. I felt my life slipping away. As I lay there within minutes of death, I prayed for a second chance. I prayed for the opportunity to prepare like my instructor had begged me to. If only I had listened! If given a second chance, I would prepare like my life depended on it—because it did.

My instructor attended my funeral and prayed for me.

This is your chance. Prepare like your life depends on it. Take responsibility for your own survival.

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30 Responses to “Why I Died”

  1. Scott S

    Very effective way to impart that “readiness”, and the individual’s responsibility for attaining and maintaining it, is vital.

  2. Roy Blinn

    How amazingly right you are. I was held up, at knife point, many years ago at a bus stop in Kensington, MD. I froze and couldn’t comprehend what was happening to me. The punches and being pushed around wasn’t the worst of it. It was the knife one of the attackers was pressing into my belly. But I was very lucky. Other than my wallet, which oddly enough they threw to the ground after taking thirty some odd dollars, and my groceries being slammed to the ground, I got to go home that night. The Montgomery County Police were of no use at all. I was asked if I provoked the attack. I hated living in the Communist Republic Of Maryland and my wife and I couldn’t retire fast enough to move out of state. We both now carry firearms and carry liability insurance. Even so, we hope the day never comes when lethal force is absolutely the last resort. We’re both 74 and our health and physical abilities are compromised. We’ve both had several firearms training classes but it’s never enough to keep skill sets sharp. Great article, we thank you.

  3. TexasOyler1947

    This is so “on point.” My basic training Drill Sgt ingrained all these points so avidly, that 48 years afterwards, I still practice them, though I have slipped somewhat on my physical conditioning. It has been a revelation to me to be more active as I practice and get more training, even at 68 years old. Learning never really stops until one has taken their last breath, and they enter eternity in either the smoking or non-smoking section. I thank the Good Lord for all His blessings, including the weapons I have to defend my family, friends and loved ones, and myself. My wife thinks I’ve been brain-washed by the NRA, USCCA, etc.; however, I am a realist and know that usually the well prepared person is ready for the unexpected assault from criminals, who are mostly asocial and will rob, rape, torture, maim and kill. It is my hope that I never have to kill a person, but my 25 years of Army duty as an SF medic, drill sgt, and PA in the 82d Airborne Division, have caused me to develop a warrior’s mindset, and I will kill if it comes to that. Mike Seeklander, this is a great article. Keep up the good work. AATW.

    • Marcus P.

      Sure is something. You develop the mindset to be aware everyday. But, that’s the way of the world, and you get used to that.

  4. Marcus P.

    I’m the kind of guy. Millitary training. Like to draw my firearm, dryfire. Do it at your leisure anytime. Make sure it’s safe. Thought the story to be tragic. Hate to hear it. Been caught off guard numerous times. Most are raised, in America, to be aware. Never stop being aware, anywhere- anytime. It’s that kind of unforgiving world.

  5. George

    You are right you must train every day to improve your chances of being attacked , one God thing about training is you will be more alert to your situation that you may find your self in. I dry fire every day and live shoot at the range about once a week , that’s works for me.

  6. johnchap2

    Conditioning is all well and good, but one really needs to know how to fight, which I do not know. And up to a point, no matter how good is one’s strength and condition, if you don’t know how to fight you will likely lose to someone who does. Although perhaps naïve, my long term strategy should I ever find myself in the situation of sudden unexpected attack as described by the author is to use my feet and kick. It would likely surprise my attacker, who would more likely be expecting an upper body response, and my legs have a much greater reach than my arms. If I can land even one hard kick on the shin, knee or preferably crotch, I will then hopefully have the time to pull a weapon or, better yet, beat feet outta there.

    The other issue which I think is important but not addressed in the original or the responses is that concealed weapons are probably carried by a person in different ways and locations on the body depending of what clothing one is wearing, weather conditions (e.g., so cold that a jacket needs to be zipped up or buttoned?) and what locations one might be dressed for, and what laws are in effect at that time and place. For example, open carry might be best in some circumstances. It certainly is a better visible deterrent.

    Some of the responders talk about practice drawing like an old time gunfighter who always wore his gun low on the hip of his gun hand. But depending on dress, weather conditions, etc. one might be using a shoulder holster one day, a right hip holster the next, a small of back holster the next, a cross draw hip holster, or even simply keeping a weapon in their pocket or in a purse.

    While not intentionally trying to devalue the points the author and other commenters are making, I would think the emphasis is better placed on practicing to be more alert to one’s surroundings and circumstances. Walking down a dark street late at night? Walk on the street edge of the sidewalk as far from alleys coming into the sidewalk, or even walk in the street. Most people I observe, whether driving a car, walking through a mall, or whatever appear to me to be rather oblivious to their surroundings.

  7. Michael

    That was an EXCELLENT story Mr. Seeklander. It invoked a flood of emotions from me and really got my heart pumping. I shared it with some friends, family, and students. I had one guy email me back and said “Wow, that was powerful. I am going to really start working on my pull this weekend”. I reminded him not to stop after the weekend and commended him for his decision to take his self defense into his own hands. I figure if even one student does that, then that was one of the best stories ever written. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Mr. Coryell, like I said above, if only ONE of your students takes heed to such things. Take heart, you are doing it right. I know your frustration but remember… You can bring a person knowledge… but you can’t make ’em think. Maybe start sharing this story in your classes and you will hit home with a few more. I know I intend to.

  8. Mike Bellew

    WOW!! That’s me in that article, maybe not such a wimp grew up on the streets of Boston fighting kids from different sections of Boston never been scared to fight specially if the person is bigger than me I love it. I’m not 20 years old anymore though so these days I find myself avoiding confrontation at all costs.That concealed carry license would be snatched away from me if I was still in my 20s looking for a fight because I thought it was fun activity to fight another person So I would get arrested sued my license taken away Because now I have a felony battery charge. thank God I’m not 20 anymore. I go to the range maybe once a month I find myself more concentrated on further education for my career as a HVAC service tech. But that article I just read is a wake up call to start not just concentrating on further education in my career but also further education on my personal defense too oh well it will make life twice as hard but twice as rewarding and thank you for that eye-opening article. I am going to the gym and then to the range right now.
    Mike B

    • Jerry

      I went to Frontsight in Nevada, They teach you to get your firearm into the fight fast. Muscle memory .You have to practice everyday. like your life depends on it. It does, and so does your wife and children’s.
      Many training facilities out there, but the one I like the best. Is my living room with a full size mirror. My PDN video on the big screen. Practice drawing that gun everyday, slow then speeding up. Of course, use an empty firearm. Safety first, but dry fire practice getting that gun into the fight daily.

  9. Cheyenne Kelly

    I COULD NOT AGREE MORE ABOUT THE NEED TO further TRAIN once you had the CCW-CHL permit in hand. However what or HOW? Does one train when they have been diagnosed with a combination of degenerative bone disease and leukemia? I’m barely able to walk and definitely couldn’t run if I tried. I’m 80% dependent on the use of a cane and sometimes I have to depend on a pair of them just to maintain my balance. I’ve spent the money for a pair of good hardwood and tubular steel canes and have bought Michael Janich’s video on “Martial Cane Concepts” adapting and modifying some of his maneuvers to fit my own personal defense plan. BUT I have yet to see any professional tactical firearms proficiency instructor…or school training curriculum that truly addresses the self defense needs of the physically challenged. Especially when dealing with concealed carry use of a firearm, edged weapon, or empty handed defense. And when I have its been very limited. Since 2013, (after a major relapse that hospitalized me much of the summer) I’ve had a major struggle with regaining a strong remission period. BELIEVE ME having to undergo infused chemo treatments is nearly enough to want to call it quits, and let the process of internal infections take their natural course. My problem is that I’m too much of the survivor type to give up. After I was sexually assaulted, beaten, knifed, and left for dead in my mid twenties, I was so mad at the idea of being the “defenseless female”, I made a vow to myself that I would never again allow myself to be defenseless, vulnerable, exploitable, or ever fully trust anyone (especially a man) ever again. I took my first CCW permit course, got my “slip” BUT just like the guy in the article who warned his students to get more training and to practice. I did exactly that with the money and time I had. And, then one day I got deathly ill and over a period of 5 years I would be in/out of the hospital ICU with infections of the blood and bone marrow and in April of 2006, I was diagnosed with chronic leukemia. With as much as I was physically able to manage, I kept up my dry fire practice, and going to the range. I watched SWAT tv and Best Defense tv shows on Direct TV Outdoor Channel. I ordered dvds from various sources (mostly Paladin-Press). A few months ago I joined PDN Premium and much to my frustration, finances just haven’t afforded me the money to spend on some critical DVD titles. Living on disability benefits just doesn’t give me the funds to spend at the drop of a hat. I also have other things of tactical importance to apply the little bit of spare change$ too. At any rate I’m doing the best I can but it’s not without an enormous amount of frustration. I also am constantly reminded by my doctors or my health, that my life is on a short time clock. I’m fighting an invisible enemy that is just as determined as the thug in this article, and despite my best efforts, to be better prepared, this thug can hardly wait to finish me off. It’s the when that makes life so frustrating.

  10. Skip Coryell

    This is so true. I’ve been teaching Concealed carry classes for 15 years, and 95% of my students never practice or go on to get more training. It’s like talking to a wall. They don’t want to know how to protect themselves. They simply want the illusion of safety, and that’s what they get from the government permit and the handgun they buy but can’t use proficiently. It’s very sad. I love this story.

  11. charlotte

    I esp like the words “I was not actually dead” that made me laugh that anyone could assume this. Youre so right about the correct training and bad habits so easy to pick up. Get your point about the gear & agree the important part is the continous training..I remember a terrorist looking straight up into my face and saying “You have to be lucky everytime you go out, I just have have to be lucky once” unfortunately for him this day he wasnt! Thats says it all…the real reason why we should be prepared prepared for any eventuality. Good article Mike

  12. cshoff

    Mike nails it again! What a great piece of writing, Mike. This will definitely be shared with my students!

  13. rsharrer

    Mike, Really Powerful Article! You did a great job here! I have shared this article with several CCW Instructor that I know.

  14. Mike

    Great article. As one who just applied for CCW permit, it was sort of uneventful, as I’m leaving our Court House thinking, “I’m simply not ready to conceal carry yet, this was just too easy”.. This article speaks volumes to me and hopefully others. Thanks for the insight!

  15. mikeb302000

    You should prepare for a meteorite strike. At least that way you won’t spend your entire life fantasizing about the “kill or be killed” scenario.

  16. Proximo

    I practice/train often. I shoot IDPS and other competitive shooting events such as GSSF. I practice my draw and dry fire as well. BUT… I am not in the physical shape I should be in and I need to train for hand to hand combat. This article has started that journey for me. Thank you

  17. Jordan

    Yes, it really happened. The author came back from the dead and wrote this piece.

  18. Mike Seeklander

    I wanted to drop a quick line in reference to this article and let everyone know I was not actually “dead”. I also wanted to say that while the article was not written after a specific incident, but in relation to many other unfortunate situations where the injured or deceased made mistakes I refer to in the article. I hope it is a wake up call and motivator for all who read (we all need motivation from time to time, including me!).

    Thanks for reading-
    Until Then, Train Hard
    Mike S.

  19. HondaTrip

    AWESOME!!! ” Prepare like your life depends on it”, it DOES. So may your child’s or your Mom’s or a total stranger’s!!! Well Done.

  20. JMAN1120

    Wow, is this a real, actually happend, situation?
    Regardless, it has inspired some powerful thought.
    Im am glad to say i practice drawing/trigger control daily..but unfortunately i dont get to shoot live rounds very often.

    Great Artical, a Real Eye-Opener.