Thursday, May 30, 2013

Are You A Wet Cat?

No one is going to help you.

Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but it's true.  

This happened in my town this week, and possibly in your town, too.  I've talked about it before.  No one is going to help you, so you've got to fight like you're all you've got.  Because you probably are.  

It's fascinating really, the way the brain works to freeze us up and prevent us from helping someone who is obviously desperate.  I first learned about it in the book Opening Skinner's Box, many chapters of which I still think about years later.

On the other side of the coin, at work today I responded to an assistance call over the radio.  I ran into the hall as fast as I could, with every other available officer running in from every direction, and we physically stopped what was happening.  So what's different?  We are normal people like everybody else.  Why do we show up when the person on the street won't?  Here's what I came up with:

*We spend many hours every day in an environment where the assumption is that violence will break out at any moment.  It may be directed at someone else or at us, but it's going to happen, it's just a question of when.  Now happily, it usually doesn't, and things generally click along smoothly.  But it could turn on a dime.  I think people may assume I'm talking about murder when I say "violence", but it could be as simple as two guys suddenly in a shouting match or someone throwing a sucker punch.  Or maybe worse. Whatever the situation, my job is to stop it immediately.  This, I believe, is the most important thing:  We're mentally in a place that we understand it can happen, and it can happen now.

*We're trained to respond to different types of aggression or violence, and taught to use different methods to solve different "problems".  An hour after the incident I was in a small group talking to a person who could be quite dangerous if he wanted.  Instead of a show of aggression, we used banter to keep things going in the direction we wanted, and a dangerous situation was simply avoided.  Different problem, different solution.

*Every other person dressed like us is going to run to put out the "fire".  Do you want to be the only person standing there not helping?  I don't.

*If someone does not respond, or seems to respond weakly in an emergency, that person loses respect.  There is an expectation that you will be brave and you will give a competent response.  The expectations of one's group have a very powerful influence on one's behavior.

If you read the four points above you will see they are the opposite of normal society.  

*In normal life (at least in my normal life) there is no expectation that violence could suddenly explode into being.  That's why people are so shocked when it does.  

*Most people have little to no training, and if they do have training it is usually in a sports-type setting.  This can certainly help, but it's not the same.  

*Every other person, if there are more one, will probably stand there and stare at the situation.    This makes it less likely that you will respond.  

*If you're not a first responder, there is no realistic expectation that you will know what to do.  I think people really do hope they'll know what to do.  But once, "hey, what are you doing?" doesn't work, that's about all they've got.  Because once you're in the situation you suddenly learn it's not like it is in the movies.  And why would someone know how to respond to unexpected violence?  If you refer to the above points, there's really nothing in normal life that would prepare us - indeed, the whole thing is set up to insulate us from sudden violence.  Which I appreciate, because I like to be able to go to the mall without getting mugged.  But if you want to learn to be prepared, you're going to have to go out of your way to get that education.  

Oh, and another thing.  People under stress follow orders.  Big time.  Think about what the attacker and the victim each said to the witness.  The victim said, "he's going to kill me".  The attacker gave the witness a direct order & told him to go away.  He went away.

If you need help, say clearly and loudly, "Call 911!"  "Please help me!"  "Get me away from him!"  Notice I'm not saying 'get him away from me', which would require the witness to grab the bad guy.  Not many people want to grab the bad guy.  You can even say, "I don't know him!" as many people are reluctant to get involved in a 'lover's quarrell' but are willing to help a victim of a stranger.  It may not work, they may just stand there anyway, but it's worth a shot.  

But no matter what any witness does or does not do, you must fight like no one will help you.  Have you ever tried to give a cat a bath?  That's how you have to fight.  Like a wet cat.  Stay safe out there, y'all.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Do What You Can For Now

A friend & former student wrote to me and my friend Jennie, another Krav Maga instructor, asking about a scary situation she'd encountered.  She also wanted to know what, if anything, she can do to help herself stay sharp since she can't really train outside of the occasional seminar.  Here's what I think:  if you don't have time to train regularly, you can still help yourself learn to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.  Is it better to train?  Of course!  But life sometimes has other plans for us, so until then you can tread water by:

*One of the most important things you can do to stay safe is to be aware of your surroundings.  Don't walk around endlessly texting and gabbing on your phone for extended periods.  Know who's around you and who is moving your way.  Be aware of the body language of those you're moving toward.  Do you have a creepy feeling in your stomach?  Get out of there.  This doesn't make you paranoid.  I watched some movie about criminals with Robert DeNiro (I think - this was years ago) and one of the things his character says is, "The only people paying attention are the criminals and the cops".  It's so true.
A way to make this interesting is to mentally play the part of a predator.  STOP RIGHT NOW...think about this...if you were someone else and you were going to attack the real you right now, how would you do it?  Okay, what's another way besides that?  Play that game when you're out switch it up, how would you attack that guy over there - and get away with it?  Who's vulnerable and why?  You don't necessarily have to kill them, just take their stuff and split.  It's shocking how vulnerable we are simply because we're not paying attention.  

*This is sort of part 2 of what's above - stay away from the 3 Stupids:  Stupid people, stupid places, stupid activities.  You don't need to stay sitting on your couch wearing a helmet murmuring, "no one can get me here", just understand that some places are more ripe for an unpleasant encounter than others.  You know that friend you have, the one who always seems to set people off?  Maybe do a cost-benefit analysis of hanging out with that person on weeknights.  Then if you choose to do it, at least you're going in with your eyes open.

*Stay fit.  You don't have time to train?  Fine.  Go to the gym, take a class, lift weights.  No time or money for that?  Run in your neighborhood, do some pushups in your living room.  We have t-shirts at our studio that say "Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general".  I like this.  Reaching the goals that inherently come with fitness training breeds confidence.  I like this too.

*Learn to tell people no without making excuses.  I was going to say without feeling guilty, but I don't really care how you feel about it. However, making excuses can be used against you because it seems like you're not comfortable just drawing the line, and it's human nature to want to retreat into what's comfortable.   Learn to draw the line in small matters, the big ones will come more easily.  Make no mistake, it is often easier to strike back physically than it is to stand your ground socially.  Practice.

*And the opposite:  Learn to apologize when you didn't do anything wrong.  "Oh, I'm sorry if it seemed I was staring you, I was just lost in space for a minute there.  Sorry."  And leave alive.  Rory Miller writes about the whens-and-wheres of these tactics quite a bit.

*Take advantage of the folks who think about this stuff a lot.  You can get a lot for a little by reading blogs like this one.  I've already linked to Jennie Trower's site, here's a few more:

Those are the ones I follow, just for kicks I googled "self defense blog" and of course 93,700,000 came up.  There's bound to be one that strikes a chord with you.  Ok, rosstraining is mostly a workout blog, but the guy is a former boxer, and it's one of my favorite sites in the world.  And naturally, you can silly nonsense by keyboard warriors online as well.  Reader beware, and trust your gut.

*If you have kids, educate yourself about crimes against children (by adults and by other kids) then talk about this stuff with them.  It can be difficult, but you'll find some ideas here on how to go about it.  Thinking about how you can help your kids stay alive will make you creative quickly.

*If the worst happens, and you're prey, and they've laid hands on you, FIGHT.  However you can, as dirty and hard as you can, for as long as it takes to end the threat. Don't give them half and see if it's good enough.  Go nuclear until the threat is over.  Then RUN.  When you're safe THEN immediately call the cops.  And your lawyer, because it's probably going to get legal.  You don't necessarily need any fancy techniques.  This is the reason in level 1 Krav we keep trying to scare the crap out of you, then yell, GOOOOO!  (That's "go", not "goo".)

Doing these things will make you more prepared than you'd be if you didn't do them.  And ultimately, that's the best we can do, even when we are training.  The question is how far you're willing and able to pursue that end.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Really Bad.

Below I link to a horrible video of a person getting stabbed in the face.  If you've seen it you already know it's extremely tough to watch.  However, I'm posting it because of a few things I noticed.  Don't watch it if you don't want to, but if you choose for these things:

The attacker - clearly he isn't trying to kill her.  If he wanted to do that he easily could have.  I think he's trying to punish her, make her in "oh, you're going to leave me?  Well no one will ever want you again!".  I don't know if that's correct, I don't know anything about the situation, I just notice he's not killing her, he's only stabbing her in the face.  Or maybe he's just crazy.

The victim - While she's trying to get her face out of the way by moving her head around & covering with her hands, that's about as far as she's taking her defense.  I'm not trying to criticize her, the poor woman is probably in shock and incapable of doing anything else.  I have to assume under the circumstances that if she could do more she would.  I wonder if she had some training if she'd be able to get her feet up close to her body to maneuver better, use her arms to deflect the weapon, buck, etc.?  

The bystanders - Here's where it actually gets interesting for me.  What fails: There are a couple of young men who make little pathetic useless kicks at the attacker's body, and I've heard lots of people criticize them for not doing more.  Personally, I feel those boys were very brave.  They tried to stop a guy with a knife who clearly has no problem slicing people up.  If he'd sliced out at them as they kicked and opened up an artery on the inside of their thigh, they'd be dead.  How many strangers are you willing to die for?  What I think is that they simply didn't know what to do to help her, so they tried as best they could.  Which of course, was sadly not helpful at all.  
What succeeds:  One guy finally sneaks up & grabs him from behind ...crap, maybe you haven't seen it yet.  

Watch it if you want to, I'm about to spoil the ending.

Don't look below this line unless you want to know what happens!!!

The man who grabs his hoodie from behind finally succeeds in pulling him off.  Then, kneeling on his neck, pins him.  

Do you notice the woman hops right up like she's merely tripped on the sidewalk?  Then a few moments later she slowly sinks to the ground.  Adrenaline is super powerful, but it doesn't last, and losing that much blood doesn't help, obviously. 

And a truly extraordinary thing, the bystanders, having gotten the attacker away from his victim, protect him from mob justice and don't permit the crowd to beat him, which frankly he has coming, the bastard.  Incredible self-control or ethics or I don't know what.  Very impressive.

It bothered me so much that only one guy on the scene knew what to do that we worked a bloodless version of this in 2 of my classes last week, to practice how and when to jump in in such a situation.  It was really interesting.  Knifing each other seemed to be out of the question so in one class we had the attacker beat the crap out of the victim with pads & lash out at anyone who came to help.  No, the real attacker never did that, but the "bystanders" needed to be somewhat afraid to move in, because they damn sure would be in real life.   In the second class we used a little Halloween party knife I had left over from my Psycho Ex-Girlfriend costume.
Don't you love me anymore?  

It wouldn't actually cut anyone, but it wouldn't feel good if it slammed into you either & I told the attacker to get wild with the knife to make the folks who tried to save the victim think twice before they moved in.  

After the dust settled I asked the class, "what failed?"  

They said, "being timid" "being slow" "hoping someone else would help"  "chasing the hand around to grab the knife, it's going too fast so you get cut"

"What succeeded?"  

"Being sneaky" "Attacking from behind" "Being aggressive" "Totally committing to your attack"  "Having someone else on your side attacking with you"

I'd like to point out these are the same things that fail and succeed in most all self-defense situations. And if you reeeaaally want to take that ball and run with it look at the list of qualities the students gave for a successful defense.  If you're ever attacked you should assume the attacker will strive to do most or all of these things, and defend accordingly.