“You can’t expect to be a Sheepdog… you can’t expect to be able to stand up and fight when you don’t know how to do any of those things.”–Tony Sentmanat
In January, SEALFIT is launching the Cleaner Eating Challenge. If you’re ready to clean up your fueling and your nutrition in 6 weeks, check it out. Go to sealfit.com to find out more information. We’ll also be sending out info on our email list, so if you haven’t had a chance to join yet, do it now.
Commander Divine saw Tony online and knew that he had to have him on the podcast. Tony Sentmanat is a former Marine and a long-time veteran of the Miami police force on the
SWAT team. He owns and operates Real World Tactical, which is a training center devoted to giving clients the real-world knowledge and training that they need in order to effectively take care of themselves and others.
- How Tony used disassociation and humor in some situations as a police officer
- How he uses breathing techniques to be able to function well under pressure
- How it’s important to prepare and train yourself to be Sheepdog
Listen to this episode to find out more about police work and staying prepared in an uncertain world.
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Transcript & Shownotes
Hey folks, this is Mark Divine with the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Welcome back. Thanks so much for your time today. I do not take it for granted. I know you’ve got a ton of things vying for your attention, and the fact that you’re giving it to us today speaks volumes. We’re not going to waste your time.
Before I get started, we’re launching our new cleaner eating challenge in January, so if you’re ready to take 6 weeks to clean up your fueling–clean up your eating. Feel like a million bucks. Then check out the Cleaner Eating Challenge. Go to sealfit.com and you’ll find information out about it there. Or just look out for it if you’re on our email list. If you’re not on our email list, then you should go get on our email list. You go to unbeatablesite.wpengine.com and look for the podcast, or just… you’ll find it. Easy day.
All right, so I’m super-stoked to be talking to our guest today name Tony Sentmanat. Tony is… man, he’s a former Marine, retired law enforcement SWAT operator. Lifelong MMA guy. A tactical genus and a fitness badass. I tell you what, you know, I recently learned of Tony when John Wornham, who’s one of my SEALFIT coaches… many of you who follow SEALFIT know who John is. All of our videos.
And he’s just a total badass himself. And he was showing me one of Tony’s videos and I was transfixed. Tony’s like throwing freakin’ monstrous tires over his head. And doing burpees and jumping up, bouncing off the tire… Literally, like, 5 feet off the ground. I tried that myself and it didn’t go well.
(laughing) At any rate… it’s just awesome shit. Tony is in probably one of the best shapes for his age I’ve ever seen. And people have said that about me, but this guy puts me to shame. Super-stoked to meet you Tony. Thanks for your time today. Hooyah.
Tony Sentmanat: Oh it’s a pleasure, and an honor to be here Mark. Pleasure and an honor.
Mark: Yeah, so we got a lot to talk about, because one of the things I mentioned to you before is I love… I’m a lifelong martial artist, and Navy SEAL for 20 years, and whatnot. And so I really am moved by watching people step up and learn how to be a sheepdog. Because there’s a lot of civilians come through my training.
We were talking about that.
You were looking and laughing about our pricing and structure and everything, but we have a ton of civilians who want to learn how to be stronger mentally, emotionally… Be able to take care of business, you know what I mean? When shit goes down.
And this used to be just the domain of law enforcement and military, and now we’re seeing a lot of people get into it. And a lot of people like you and me are training individuals and so I think it’s really cool. We have that in common.
And it’s necessary, isn’t it? The world is getting pretty crazy. You live in Miami, what’s life like down there?
And let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us how you got into the SWAT team after your Marine Corps service. What was motivating you back then?
Tony: Well, as soon as I got out of the Marines… there’s not a lot of things that you can do getting out of the Marines being a grunt. So I jumped pretty quick into law enforcement
And I started off as a correctional officer down here. About a year, year and a half. Wasn’t my gig just because you have to have a very, very light temperament to be in corrections.
Mark: I bet. I’ve been at a couple prisons before and I just don’t know how those guys do that job.
Tony: I don’t know either. I did about a year. I got half of the scars on my hands because of the place. It was rough, so I decided to move on. Lateraled over to law enforcement. And within the first year and a half, 2 years, I jumped into SWAT. I did SWAT most of my career. And I was on a full-time SWAT team where we handled pretty much all of the high-end or high-risk narcotics… High-risk warrants.
And down here in Miami, as you well know, it’s super-busy. We have anywhere between 60 to 75 operations a year. It was a 80 hour work weeks, know what I mean?
Mark: Really? Tell us about an average week. What was that like? What was a good week like for you?
Tony: Good week in the mid-2000s, obviously things were different in law enforcement. Obviously back then.
You’re talking about probably 2 vehicle chases, 2 or 3 foot chases, 2 or 3 operations whether they were warrants, whether they were buy-bust reverses. At least 1 or 2 manhunts that we had. I mean, the thing is down here in Miami, there’s a lot of armed robberies. Lot of homicides, carjacking’s… so it was a constant battle and constant hunting for those individuals.
You know, we have a lot of bad neighborhoods down here. The city that I worked with… or the city that was my department… it’s the 5th largest city in Miami-Dade–in the state of Florida. We’re the 2nd largest in… You have Miami-Dade County, then you have city of Miami, then Halleyeah, which is where I worked out of. Halleyeah happens to be the heart of Miami-Dade County, which is surrounded literally by all the bad neighborhoods of Miami-Dade County. So we were ended up getting flooded with tons and tons of crime. So we were constantly working.
It’s just… the best way I can say it is you’re… on SWAT you’re on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And every single week I had we would run ten hour shifts, so Monday through Thursday at work. And then Friday, Saturday, Sunday off.
I could probably say maybe once out of the whole month I would get one weekend fully off. Other than that… we were working on a call.
Mark: So were you like… Okay, wake up. Nothing’s going on. Go to the range to train. And then you’d get a call and have to get in the car? I mean, when did you find time to train?
Tony: Honestly? I would either wake up early, or I would do it right after work. Whatever… for me training and fitness was always been a part of my life. Always.
Mark: Right. Me too.
Tony: And when fitness… and I explain to people the best way… “How do you find the motivation? How do you find it?”
When someone’s life depends on whether you’re fit or not, and whether you know what you’re doing or not. It becomes a little bit more serious. My teammates–just like yours–depended on you, depended on me. And I was not going to be the one guy that was not physically conditioned or tactically proficient and be the reason why I lost a team member. Because of a mistake that I made, you know what I mean?
Because… not because it was a mistake, because we’re all human, we make mistakes… But it was because a lack of either training or physical fitness… Somehow or someway, you know?
Mark: So your team didn’t do any training as a team? Any functional fitness training? It was all on your own?
Tony: Yeah, we did. We did, we did. But I personally, myself wouldn’t rely obviously on a team to do… you know what I mean? Cause you’re training as a team every other week. So it my department we were trained every other week. We would have a “training day.” Like and then we would have 2 physical days. Which it be one tactical full-day. One day of tactical training. And then the other 2 days would be either running, physical… You know what I’m saying?
You had a specialty day. Which was either explosive breaching, mechanical breaching, sniper day, whatever. Defensive tactics day. So we had those different days specialized on whoever the instructor was.
Of course, that’s when we’re not doing operations. Because, you know, a lot of times, “Oh, you’re supposed to have training. Sorry guys, we got an op. No training. We’re going to be on an op for the next 10-12 hours.” Barricaded sub or whatever it was.
So that always took precedence over everything.
Mark: Right. What were some of the… 1 or 2 of the most crazy situations your SWAT team got into? Where you like… where you thought “Wow. This could go bad really quickly.”
Tony: Well my team had a active shooter turned hostage situation, into barricaded subject all in one day. So the guy killed 7 bodies…
Mark: Holy shit!
Tony: Yeah, killed 7 people. Took 2 people hostage and then my team had to go in there and neutralize the guy. And save the hostages for the day. So we had that all in a 3 or 4 hour span.
Mark: So in that specific situation, because he had already killed some people, there was no, “Hey, we’re going to talk this guy out of it.” I mean, you guys had to…
Tony: At the end of the day, you have to try. You have to try to negotiate. You gotta play it by the numbers, you know?
Just… the thing was is that at that point we had tried to communicate with the guy for quite a long time. He wasn’t responding, wasn’t responding. And, you know, it’s pretty much up to the commander at the end of the day. Whether they say, “Okay, we’re just going to try to wait this guy out.” Or, “We’re just going to go in.” You know what I’m saying? He decided after a certain amount of hours, “We’re not waiting anymore. We don’t want him to kill…”
He already killed 7 people. It wasn’t like, “Oh, let me take some hostages and I haven’t killed anybody.” He’d already killed people.
And one guy died… it was horrible. He shot one guy from the 2nd floor of the apartment building. The round… it was a 9mm round… ricocheted off the concrete as the guy was getting out of his car. Hit him in the side of the body, went through his lung and right to his heart.
Mark: Oh my God.
Tony: Ricocheted off the concrete on the ground. Crazy. Crazy.
It was his day, you know what I mean?
Mark: Yeah, exactly. It was his day. He probably would have gotten killed in a car accident or something that day, you know?
Tony: If he did get through that day, he would have got into a car accident the next day and got killed. Like, “Final Destination.”
Tony: Yeah, it’s… you just never know, Mark. You know that. You just never know. When it’s your day, it’s your day. You try to help yourself as much as possible, but situations like that there’s nothing you can do. Nothing.
Mark: So how did you deal with the stress of the job? What did you do? What were your average ritual like to mentally prepare–mentally, physically, emotionally prepare and deal with the stress?
Tony: I would tell you, I was very good at disassociation. As soon as I got into my car, my unit… I was a different person. Than I was at home, or with my family, or with my friends, or when I was off duty.
Never shut it off. It never turns off completely. It’s impossible. You know that. You can never shut it off, but you learn to… the best way I explain to people is you learn to function like everyone else and not let it bother everyone else. You know?
Because obviously me and you are always going to be at a heightened state of awareness that other people aren’t going to be. We’ll go into a restaurant, or we go into malls, or we go into these crowded places… I’m always going to be on edge. I’m always going to be… just because of my job that I did for so many years.
But I can’t let my family or my friends realize that I’m on this heightened awareness, you know what I mean? Because I make them feel uncomfortable. It makes them feel… you know?
So I learned to disassociate. Once I got into my car, I guess that was my like… my switch on. And then when I got out of the car, I got home, I switched it back off.
I had a lot of friends that had been involved in some stuff where… and they could not switch it off. And their personal life suffered a lot because of it. Whether they’re detectives, whether they’re whatever… and they would always bring home with them. And I always said I would never do that. I would always leave everything at home and whatever was at work… whatever I saw, whatever I did, whatever happened there stayed there.
And obviously you talk to your buddies about it. Everybody talks, but to bring it home… unless it was something really bad. There were a couple cases… anything involving children is always bad. You know what I mean? It always affects everybody a little different.
Other than that you build callouses, you know what I’m saying?
Mark: Yeah, for sure. And you know, PTS is a big issue obviously in the military community. And we’re trying to do our part… we started something called the Courage Foundation to help vets with PTS. And next year I’m going to try to raise $250,000… “Do or do not, there is no try.” I’m going to raise $250,000 to help raise awareness for these vets. But do you see that kind of… that type of situation arising with folks in your field? In the SWAT world? Guys getting PTS from maybe long-term chronic stress, or some sort of event scenario that causes that?
Tony: Yeah. It does, it does. I mean, most cops… I will tell it like this, especially SWAT guys… if they don’t jump into… let’s say when they do their 20 years. Let’s say they’ve done full SWAT they’re whole career. And it was an active team. Like my team where you’re constantly doing ops.
I would say if they don’t jump into something else when they retire, they last about 2 or 3 years and they pretty much… they pass away. Whether heart attack, whether it’s from suicide, whether it’s from…
Yeah. I mean, think about it. You’re working 70, 80 hour work weeks for 20 years of your life. You’re constantly in that zone all the time. And then from one day to the next, you’re sitting on your couch and doing absolutely nothing. Watching TV.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. No kidding. I’ve seen that a lot in the military. And I think guys just also lose their sense of purpose. They start drifting.
Tony: Yeah, definitely. Well, think about it… they’re a sergeant, a lieutenant, they’re in charge, you know what I mean? They’re in charge of a unit. Whatever.
20 years down the road, and then they get home. And then they’re nobody again. They’re nothing. They’re a guy that’s watching TV and he has nobody that looks up to him, nobody that talks to him every day. And you know as well as I know… these guys that you’re with in a team, they’re your brothers. Those guys are your brothers. You live and die with those guys. You eat, sleep, drink, everything with these individuals for many, many hours. Their lives are in your hands. And everything depends on them. And what they do and what you do… it becomes a bond that nobody can really understand unless you’ve been part of a team, you know? A team like that.
Mark: Yeah. That’s true.
Breathing and Stress
Mark: You know, 2 of the things that I teach people to be able to manage stress–1 of them is breathing–breath awareness, and I have a practice called Box Breathing. And the other is managing your internal dialogue. Curating it for a real powerful, positive kind of dialoging. Self-talk. Do you use tools like that? I mean, what are your practices around breathing and mental management?
Tony: I have what I call “Steady Breathing.” Which is probably similar. It’s whenever I end up getting in situations like that with a very… very high-risk situations where the adrenalin’s pumping and stuff. I do what’s called Steady Breathing where I learn to control my breathing as I exhale and then I think about all the different angles and options of what I’m doing.
Instead of focusing on what I’m about to do, I think about everything else. Other than what I’m about to do.
For example, you have a barricaded subject where we know the guy’s armed and we’re about to go into the house. So I think about all of my team members and what their job functions are during this op. And what we’re going to do.
I don’t really think, “Fuck, I’m about to go inside this house and I may die.”
Mark: That skill is kind of to take your mind off… take your mind off the impending disaster or problem and putting on other things that are productive.
Tony: Correct, correct. Because, I mean… you get into a situation like that–and I’ve been in many. I’m sure you’ve been in many too. We try to shrug it off. At the end of the day. Like, it was a running joke on my team whenever we had an op that it was a bad one or whatever. Right before it, my buddy would tell me, he’d tap me on the shoulder he’d go, “Hey, man. I quit.”
And I’m like, “Dude.” You know?
Mark: (laughing) I love that. That reminds me a lot of the SEALs. We’re always busting each other and playing stupid jokes. And that lightness and that humor really helps.
Tony: Yeah, you have to. Cause I mean, what else are you going to do? You go into these houses… you go into houses every other day. People cutting their heads off, blowing their brains out. And you sit there and you think about this every single day. Yeah, of course it’s going to affect you.
So a lot of times the best way that you can relate to something like that is you try to disassociate yourself and make a joke about it. Know what I’m saying?
Not a joke that the guy killed himself or that he killed people, or that he whatever… But in our brains, that’s how we deal with it. And a lot of people, you know, they don’t understand that.
I had one incident where it was a murder suicide down here, and we were clearing the house. As we were going through the house, I remember hitting the bathroom. I was one man, a guy behind me. So I hit the bathroom first, and then the curtain of the bathroom was literally maybe like a foot wide. And it was towards where the actual shower-head is, you know?
So the last thing on my head was that there was somebody in the bathroom. You can literally clear the bathroom from the door. I’m not even lying. It was like a foot. So I go and I clear the bathroom and of course I’m going to check that 1 foot. Because you have to check the 1 foot behind that curtain. And when I pull the curtain, the guy’s literally hanging from… he put a rope to the roof and a pipe in the roof. Or a 2 X 4. And then he hung himself.
And the guy was actually, like… literally… I’m not lying to you, Mark… maybe an inch and a half from that curtain. So his face and his tongue was sticking out. So when I peeled the curtain… the guy scared the living shit out of me, you know? I jumped back and I was like, “Holy shit.” And the guy behind me jumped back.
So everybody started laughing. In the team. Everybody was… they just started dying. So I come and I clear the bathroom and I go and we clear the next room okay.
So we have the last room to clear. We’re pretty much sure that the female’s going to be in there. Probably, you know, DOA.
So the door’s locked, so I go to kick the door. And of course, my foot goes completely through the door. And so now I have my foot through the door, my body’s on the other side of the door. And it’s just like, “I’m not catching any breaks on this op whatsoever.
I slam completely through the door, I break the whole door down. And of course the lady’s there, passed away. The guy choked her to death.
And we’re all laughing. We’re not laughing about what happened to these individuals. But we’re laughing at my foot…
Mark: Laughing at yourselves, yeah…
Tony: Exactly. So the whole team now is trying to hold their composure. Because when we walk out of that door, you know what I’m saying? There’s cameras, there’s TV stations, there’s a crowd of people outside. Can you imagine how bad it would look for a team to walk out…?
Mark: (laughing) You come outside cracking up. Oh my God.
Tony: So everybody was trying to keep their straight-face. And of course, when we’re walking out, somebody cracks a joke again. We’re all like holding our mouths, you know.
Just things like that. It’s things like that you don’t forget, because those times are the times you really think back to other stuff you’ve done, and it makes a difference, you know? It helps.
Mark: Totally. And I think it’s helpful for people to hear that because it’s hard to imagine. You’re right, it’s not a laughing matter. Warfare, dealing with violent criminals is not a laughing matter.
But there’s the Sheepdog has to jock up and do this day-in and day-out. And so one of the great releases is just kind of the “stupid” factor, you know what I mean? It’s like, just, shit happens and you gotta find humor in it. In spite of the situation.
Tony: Yeah, you do.
Mark: So I wanna get back to the breathing. So you said Steady Breathing. I love that term. The SEALs have something we call “Tactical Breathing,” and essentially it sounds the same. Where we really slow things down and we just inhale to a 5 count and exhale to a 5 count. You practice it like that until you’re able to do that like a 10 count breath. So you’re down to like 5 to 6 breaths a minute. And you can even slow it down from there.
Is that what… do you have a count? Or are you just…?
Tony: I don’t have a count. What I do is during my firearms training classes, and I do a lot of my shooting that I do… a lot of technical shooting I do… I do it under elevated heart-rate. So I like to do a lot of training under like 175 beats per minute… 180. I try to get it as high as possible and then…
Mark: So you do a bunch of burpees and then go to the range and start shooting right away?
Tony: No, I do… listen, believe it or not, I try to do everything. I do all of my conditioning on the range, and then integrate live-fire shooting.
Mark: Yeah, that’s cool.
Tony: I’m putting myself through every possible scenario that my body can do. And then integrate the shooting. I did that towards the end of my career a lot because I was always the bigger guy on my team. I walk around at 225-230 when I was on the team and I’m about 240-245 now. So I always had to be in better condition, shape than all the other guys… The guys that were a buck 85, buck 90. At least when it came to the high intensity stuff.
Because they always loved to freakin’ run. You know how it is, they love to… 175 pounders love to run 10 miles.
Mark: (laughing) Exactly.
Tony: Hey, how about we go squat? Let’s go do something that… you know? Or else let’s go do Jiu Jitsu for 45 minutes? Or some boxing or something, you know?
So it was always a constant battle so I always tried to get myself to be stressed out as much as possible when I shot. So the Steady Breathing, what I do is I teach that in my courses. And I explain to people because one of the hardest things that I’ve come to realize in 20 years. And obviously I’ve trained and fought with SF and all kinds of shit. And even SF guys and even the Special Forces guys and stuff, when their heart starts pumping and they’re used to always being on the range. It’s range, range, range all the time. You’re going to miss. You’re gonna miss. You’re not going to always hit your target.
Tony: I’ve come to find… and I’ve trained with some of the best competition shooters–J.J. Rickaus, and some of the guys who are world champions… is the more time you learn to shoot with 175 beats per minute, the easier it is to control the breathing and disassociate your lungs and your heart from your trigger finger.
Tony: Which is one of the hardest things to do. Cause obviously if your heart’s pumping and you’re breathing really hard, the first thing you want to do is jerk the crap out of the trigger. You know what I mean? And that breathing pattern that I do which is that steady… as I’m punching out it’s always “steady, steady, steady.” Steady in, steady out. Helps a lot. It just helps control the adrenaline. It helps control the tunnel vision. It helps control the other factors that come across with the stress.
Mark: Mm-hmm. When you’re shooting, do you always do the trigger pull on the exhale?
Tony: Yes. I am actually hitting the wall on exhale. So I’m going to be hitting your… As I’m pushing out, I’m squeezing it, I hit the wall on my trigger. And then once I’ve got that…” bang, bang, bang,” then come back over. Same exact thing. And then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Mark: So when you pull the trigger, then are you holding your breath at the exhale?
Tony: It’s hard to say. Because…
Mark: There’s a natural pause kind of probably…
Tony: It’s hard because if I’m doing let’s say multiple engagements. Or I’m moving. I’m moving and shooting… meaning I’ll come to a position “bang, bang, bang,” then I’ll run to another position. “Bang, bang, bang.”
It gets to a point where I don’t even honestly… unless I see a video of myself to see what I’m doing. If you ask me, “Hey, were you holding your breath at this shot?” I wouldn’t even know.
Mark: Yeah, that’s interesting though. It’d be interesting to check that out, I bet. I bet you do find a natural pause in the breath when you do the trigger pull.
Tony: I know that when… When I’m going to shoot let’s say 4, 5, 6 rounds and I have multiple… a multiple target engagement where it’s 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Most of the time I will hold my breath through all the engagements and then exhale, you know what I’m saying? And then take another breath and then Steady Breath out…
Mark: That’s pretty cool.
And do you have a mantra or something when you’re in that total zone? Something going through your head or is it empty? Is your head just clear?
Tony: When I was at work and we were hunting and it was a foot-chase, or if it was a car-chase, or if it was… my only thing that would ever run through my mind and I remember… Cause I had somebody who had asked me this before… was “don’t let the bad guy get away. The bad guy cannot get away no matter what happens.” I would repeat that stuff through my head. “You’re not getting away. You’re not getting away. Doesn’t matter what you do, I’m going to get you. I’m going to get you.”
And I used to… when I was chasing after guys I would tell them, “Hey, I’m going to get you. I’m going to get you.”
Mark: (laughing) You actually tell them that.
Tony: I was screaming at them. I go “You’re not going to shake me. You’re not going to shake me.”
You know, that was in my head, it was kind of like a… once you get to the point where you’ve done it as many times as I had, it becomes a cat and mouse. You know?
Yeah, they’re… when they got guns in their hands and you’re running and there’s a guy with a gun and he’s got an AK or he’s got something…
We had one where got an AK and he’s running and it… you think about, “Man, that was pretty fuckin’ stupid.” You know what I’m saying?
I got handgun and the guy’s got an AK in his hand. And I’m running after the guy. And I’m jumping fences. But you know, at that time, you don’t think about it. After the fact, you might say, “That was probably not the smartest thing to do.” But at the end of the day, I gotta get him off the street. That was my whole thing. Like, I can’t let him get away. I’m gonna catch him. Either he’s going to give up or I’m going to have to shoot him. And eliminate whatever threat it is.
And I’m sure you had the same… similar situations, you know, where it’s either/or. There’s no… in the brain, I think once you set yourself a goal…
Mark: Once you commit there’s no going back.
Tony: Once you commit there’s no going back. Absolutely. 100%.
Mark: Most of these turds are not well-trained though. Aren’t they just…? I mean they’re either doped up or they’re adrenalin is just cranking and so they can wreak a lot of havoc, but they’re not like, super well trained, are they?
Tony: No. We’ve had situations where we’ve had guys come back from a war. That were well-trained. And I came across 2 guys.
But for the most part… for the most part… it’s your basic… They’re not real tacticians or tactical guys. But the thing is is that they’re younger… I mean, I’ve seen some of these kids… take this one kid. There was an armed robbery, got into a car-chase. Pitted the car. Had to bail out.
I’m not lying to you Mark. When I seen this kid, he was running. And I’m running after him. And it was 3 of them, they bailed out of the car on me. And 1 kid literally jumped… he was running… he jumped on the front fence of the house. From the front fence of the house he jumped and he landed on the roof of the house. With his arm…
Tony: On the roof of the house! With his arm. He chicken-winged it. You know what I mean? He chicken-winged it. I was running after him, I remember seeing this. And in my head I was like, “That just didn’t happen. That just didn’t happen,” you know? And I stopped. As soon as he did that, I just stopped and I was like, “Hey, start me a perimeter. Give me a point. This guy here… I’m not going to run after that guy! That guy’s he’s almost superman.”
Mark: (laughing) Like parkour. A parkour master.
Tony: (laughing) Parkour stuff. And I’m 220 with 30, 40 pounds of gear on me. Kit, full kit, you know what I’m saying? So it’s… you see these individuals and yeah, they’re not tactical guys but a lot of them, they do things that are incredible. Probably because of the adrenaline. I’ve seen guys clear 6 foot fences and not even touch the fence.
Mark: Holy shit.
Tony: They’ll clear the fence, Mark. They’ll clear it! Just “boom, bam” and they’re over it. And I’m there trying to go over the fence… jumping over the fence and this guy’s already almost a half a block away from me, you know?
Mark: Holy shit. That’s gotta be from the adrenaline. They’re just so jacked up, right? And they’ve got some semblance of athleticism…
Tony: And they’re 19, 20, 21 year old. And they’re probably in really good shape in regards to like they were athletes when they were in high school, whatever. Played basketball or football or something. And they just took the wrong turn, and they got with the wrong people and started doing armed robberies for a living. You know what I’m saying?
And unless they were a high… for me, at least in my unit… unless they were high in narcotics. We’re talking about kilos of cocaine, or heroin, crack… we weren’t chasing after them, know what I mean?
There were always armed robbery, armed carjacking, grand theft auto–armed or something like that. Where we knew the guys were convicted felons and they were just pretty much scumbags.
Mark: Just thugs, yeah.
Tony: Yeah, really bad people. And those are the guys that we always ended up dealing with but… you see things that are incredible sometimes. And it’s a shame because instead of being in a football field or being in basketball, they’re doing those things.
Mark: Yeah. That is a shame.
Such talent just gone to waste.
Tony: Gone to waste. That’s exactly what it is.
Mark: We had the Las Vegas shooting just recently, and I had a few people who had been following my training… you might have had this happen to you, occasionally–where someone says, “Hey man, your training really helped me out in that shitty situation.”
So what is…? What can you tell the listeners about a situation like that? If you find yourself suddenly in a crowd with an active shooter at a concert. What the hell should people do?
Tony: Well, that’s tough. Because, I mean, you know the scenario and everything…
Mark: Yeah, it’s tough. Without knowing the details, yeah.
Tony: Funny that you do say that to me because one of my students was actually there in the Las Vegas shooting.
Mark: Yeah, I had 3 people there too…
Tony: And she told me that because of the training that I put her through… she had been through all my courses. To lead, and she got everybody to cover. Her husband had a gun. He was armed and they were ready and they locked everybody into their room, know what I’m saying? So they actually had a plan.
There’s a couple of different ways to think about active shooters. One, if you happen to be the guy that happens to be bending down and an active shooter goes off and you stand up and the guy’s right behind you and you get shot, there’s absolutely nothing you can do. Okay?
You’re in the…
Mark: If you’re the target of opportunity, you’re kinda hosed. Don’t make yourself a target of opportunity.
Tony: Absolutely. But, I mean, any of us–even you or me–you go to the mall or wherever you might be. And you’re just in a regular store. And the guy comes into the store and you’re paying. And the guy just comes with an AK-47 and starts randomly shooting. We could be one of the random people that he happens to shoot before we’re even finished giving the money to the counter. You just don’t know.
Now, granted if that first volley goes through and he doesn’t hit us, now it’s a different animal. Now we’re talking about a different game now. You know what I’m saying?
One, I mean for me–I’m always… I always have a gun on me. I always carry a gun on me. If I can go to the bathroom with my gun, I will, you know what I’m saying?
Just because Miami is really bad. It’s really bad down here. You can get carjacked, robbed, any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Anywhere. It doesn’t really matter where you are.
And that’s number one. Because that’s… if the guy’s got a gun, that’s the only way you’re going to be able to defend yourself.
Mark: Don’t bring a knife to gunfight.
Tony: Yeah. You would hope not, right. So if you don’t have a gun, if you don’t have anything then it’s a matter of, find out where the shots are coming from and try to find some form of cover and then as soon as you find the cover, that first volley goes and you gotta take of running.
Gotta get as far away from the situation as possible. Some people say, “No, hunker down.” But you don’t ever want to hunker down. Because just like that, he’s just going to be picking people off…
Mark; Eventually he’s going to see you and find you…
Tony: Exactly. You wanna get…
Mark: So, okay, let me break this down… I’m at Las Vegas or wherever and I hear some shots. They miss me, but I see maybe someone 20 yards away from me go down. My first reaction is to look for cover. And to take cover. That’s number one.
And then number two, you said, if there’s a pause in the volley or while a volley’s launching? Do you get up and run? Or what’s your trigger to start running?
Tony: Yeah, well the thing is that he’s gotta reload. At some point or another he’s gotta reload. So if you have eyes on the guy, when he reloads, you take off. You gotta go as far away and try to get to his back. Because obviously if you’re behind him, he’s not going to see you.
We’re talking about a person that doesn’t have a gun. Just trying to survive, you know?
What I recommend to regular civilians with no Mixed Martial Arts training, with no tactical training, with nothing on their body to attack a guy with an AK-47 or even a gun. Just a regular handgun. I mean, if you have to you have to. You don’t have a choice, you get me?
But if you have 20, 30 yards away from the guy, you have a chance to get out and call the police. And you get on the phone as fast as possible and try to give as much information as possible on the guy. But it comes to a point where… Mark, I mean, you wanna be a Sheepdog, but if you don’t have the tools to be a Sheepdog, you’re literally… you’re running to your death. You know what I’m saying?
That’s at the end of the day. Because I don’t care… if you’re 20 yards and I’m running toward you to tackle you. I pick up my gun, I’m gonna shoot you. You gonna die before you get to me. There’s no… It doesn’t take a lot of skill to do that. You know that.
One or 2 of the rounds… I may shoot 7 or 8 rounds, but 1 or 2 is going to hit you. And you’re going to go down.
Now if you’ve got a gun, it’s a different animal. Now you find cover, you find the opportunity–you wait for the opportunity. And then you engage.
And 90% of the time, it’s been researched that as soon as the attacker gets engaged, the attacker takes off. You know, he’s going to take off running or he’s going to end up retreating. Or he ends up killing himself. One of the two.
Mark: Yeah, most of those guys… they don’t want to get hurt. (laughing) In a sense they’re bullies but they’re pussies when it comes to them… when the rounds start coming at them.
Tony: Of course, of course… that’s why they’re picking… that’s why they picked a spot so they know that most people are not going to be armed. What’s better a spot to go to a concert where you know that most likely everybody had to go through a metal detector?
Tony: Nowadays, most concerts you go to you have to go through a metal detector because of the shootings that have happened in the past.
Mark: Yeah, I can imagine that concert promoters are now looking for venues that don’t have perches where people can shoot into them.
Tony: Oh, of course. Listen, the Las Vegas thing was just a tragedy you know? And I actually gave a firearms training class… me and JJ Rikasa together, the weekend after it happened in Vegas. I taught a course there and one of the head security guards from the Hotel Wynn was at my course. And he told me that the owner of Wynn had already predicted that was going to happen within the next couple of years.
Mark: No kidding.
Tony: Yeah, they had already set up a reactionary plan for something like that in their hotel. They actually… they have… I don’t know if they have 3 or 4 Delta guys or 3 or 4 SEAL guys… obviously retired… that work security throughout the whole year. And an undercover. That there at all times, you know? Just in case, for something like that.
Mark: Yeah, it just goes to show you it doesn’t matter how many ex-SEALs you have on staff, you know? If the shooter puts himself in the right place, you’re not going to stop him.
Tony: It’s not just that… it’s how much time is it going to take for you to get there? And where is he? And where is it coming from? And all that… all these different questions that you’re asking as this whole ordeal’s happening, it’s vital seconds that… a person is dying every 3 or 4 seconds. A person is hit every 3 or 4 seconds.
So what may end up minute, minute and a half, right? Let’s say it takes a minute and a half to 2 minutes to get to where he’s at. In a minute and a half, 2 minutes, he’s killed 40 people, you know?
Tony: It’s a lifetime.
Mark: So hey Tony, situational awareness is super-important. It’s one of the things I talk a lot… in the SEALs we used the Cooper Color system and whatnot, but how do you teach situational awareness? For your clients?
Tony: It’s really hard to teach situational awareness to individuals that have never… have no clue what situational awareness is. The younger generation, just because most younger generations… we’re talking about in your 20s… they spend 90% of their day on their phones. So they are literally walking from the mall to their car on their phone. They sit down on their phone. All the time.
So to tell a kid, “Hey, you need to put your phone down and pay attention to what’s going on around you. It might help you.” Unless they’ve experienced something that affected them, it’s very hard to get them to understand that.
Do I still teach it? Yeah! I explain to them, “Listen, go into a restaurant. Always try to find all the exits to a restaurant. Always keep your back to the wall. Always keep your face forward, keep your back away from some kind of wall or something.
If you go into the mall remember always where you come in. Remember all the exits and entrances to the mall. When you go into a store, always looking at people.”
You know, you could tell somebody that till your blue in the face. The only time that it really hits somebody is when they’re one day walking to their car on their phone and next thing they know, they feel a freakin’ gun to the back of their head.
Mark: Jesus. Yeah.
Tony: Then, they’re gonna be like, “Wow. I should have listened to Tony.” (laughing)
Mark: (laughing) Right.
Tony: It’s true and it happens. I’ve had 2 people come up to me already, “Man, they robbed my phone. I was in the car, the guy hit me from the back.” Down here in Miami they do a lot of things where if you’re driving your car and you’re in the wrong neighborhood, they’ll crash you from the back. And you get out of the car and you’re like, “Oh, what’s going on?”
And then when you get back into your car some random guy comes up and then as you’re on the phone calling the cops, they’ll freakin’ reach in the car, boom, take the phone, jump in their car and take off, you know what I’m saying?
Or they’ll just freakin’ put a gun to your head once they crash into you. Take you out of the car. Jump in your car and take off. And leave you there, without no car.
Mark: (laughing) Jesus. Remind me not to come to Miami any time soon.
Tony: It happens here all the time. In my gym where I train and do all my stuff, my car’s been broken into twice in the last year and a half. And the last time they broke into it, I saw the guy in my car. The guy was like… I’m coming… I’m walking out of the gym and the guy his head is in my car and I look. And ever since they broke into my car the first time, I always look at other cars, now. Paying attention. And I see this guy… see the back of his head… the top of his head… and he looks up at me, and I look at him. And I’m like, “This motherfucker’s in my car,” you know what I’m saying? (laughing)
My face must have been just like… just said everything because as soon as he me his eyes got huge and he ducked and he was gone. And I ended up… I tried to break the window of his car, cause he was parked in the parking lot. And I almost ended up breaking my hand because he was going too fast. And anyways, but…
It shows you that doesn’t matter where you are or what you do… you could be in the best neighborhood or the worst neighborhood, and it could happen to you. And this little world that you live in a bubble, that most of these people live in. Until something like that happens to them, they don’t realize it could happen to anybody.
Mark: Right. We gotta wrap up, but if a client were to say or call in right now and say, “Hey, Tony. What’s the first thing I need to do to start preparing myself?” What would you say?
Tony: The first thing to start preparing?
Mark: Preparing for something like this. So I can take care of myself.
Tony: I would tell you, number 1… If you don’t own a gun, buy a gun. Number 2, get formal training with a gun. And number 3, go to some form of defensive tactics classes. Some form of… I don’t care if you’re taking Tae Kwon Do. But something is better than nothing. Boxing… something. So at least you have a fighting chance. Whether it’s with a gun, whether it’s without a gun, whether it’s… you have some form…
You can’t expect to be a Sheepdog or you can’t expect to be able to stand up and fight when you don’t know how to do any of those things.
Because the most physically fit guy in the world, but if you don’t know how to throw a punch or you don’t know how to shoot a gun, or you don’t know how to do anything… that’s what these people are coming at you with. An active shooter is going to be there with a gun. A guy that’s going to rob you, he’s gonna be there with a knife or a gun. And if you’re an MMA fighter, yeah, you might beat him. You might get him if he’s close enough to you. But, like you said, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Everybody wants to… I get… I rant about it because I’m very passionate about it as you can see. Because that was why I started my company in the first place was to give people a fighting chance.
Why? Because I saw armed robberies time and time again of people getting pistol whipped, or people getting shot for no reason.
In 2014 I said enough is enough. You know what I’m saying? I think I’m gonna go teach somebody to defend themselves and have a fighting chance. Because down here in Miami it’s not like, oh, they rob you and then you give them the money and then that’s okay.
Here in Miami, they rob you, you give them the money and they still shoot you in the face! You know what I’m saying?
I’d rather die fighting, Mark, than die on my knees begging for my life. I don’t know. What do you think?
Mark: Hell yeah. I’m with you on that. I’m with you.
And your training… your website and business is called Real World Tactical. Website is realworldtactical.com, right?
Mark: And you run firearms training and whatnot for people who’ve got no skills. So someone can go find you and…
Tony: Yeah, military, law-enforcement… I do everything. I travel the country, Mark. So I’m always teaching in Texas, Las Vegas, New Jersey, Arizona… going to be teaching this year in Arizona as well. So travelling a lot this year, teaching around the country.
Mark: Awesome. Well thanks for doing what you do. It’s certainly critical and we need to teach more sheepdogs. And teach people to take care of business and stop these turds in their tracks. So hooyah. Appreciate you.
Tony: (laughing) We’re trying. We’re trying.
Mark: Well we can only do what we can only do. But it’s important work, I think.
All right, my brother. Good to meet you. Thanks very much for your time today. Stay safe.
Tony: Likewise man. It was a pleasure being on the show. Had a great time. Thank you for having me.
Mark: Me too. Take care Tony. Hooyah.
All right folks. That was Tony Sentmanat. Realworld-tactical.com. Check out Tony’s work. Go support him. It’s really important to learn how to defend yourself. Take your kids. I imagine you have some programs…? Take your son, take your daughter. Learn how to use a weapon. It’s important. Like I said, don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.
Coach Divine out.
I will see you next time. On the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks very much for listening.