Monday, June 30, 2014

3 Out of 3

There's lots of info on the fight or flight impulse we experience when faced with sudden danger, and there seems to be more talk nowadays about the freeze as well.  If you aren't familiar with it, we often freeze first before fighting or running away - and sometimes the freeze itself can be our instinctive first-line defense, and we stay there.  

People don't want to admit to themselves that they freeze, because they think it makes them look like scaredy-cats.  Actually there seems to be a lot of shame attached to both the freeze and the flight impulse, as if they are strictly acts of cowardice.  I suppose sometimes they are, but sometimes they are also the best way to stay alive.  What are you supposed to do if a bee lands on you? Freeze!  A lot of the animal kingdom survives by doing just that.  

But the saddest thing I've ever heard was when a rape victim told me she couldn't forgive herself because she "let him do it".  No, she froze, and survived.  I also had a student run away during a scenario drill where you're walking in a sketchy area with your friend and are afraid you might be attacked.  They were attacked (of course) and one girl panicked and ran while the other fought.  The one who ran cried because she thought she was a coward.  I told her she was a survivor, but she didn't buy it.  In our society the only impulse response we value is "fight".

I think what matters is that we're having the right response at the right time.  

I will admit that I've done all three.  I move in toward danger & fight at work if I have to because sometimes my job requires it, and since it is a natural as well as a trained response for me it has gone well.  

I've also run away like my butt was on fire once when I thought I was about to be attacked by a homeless person while walking my dog in the woods.  (No, I did not leave my dog behind, duh!)

And recently I froze - and got stuck there.  I was able to observe it while it was happening because of my training, which was so cool.  But I was still stuck!

I was in a parking garage when I heard two shots fired.  Holy shit!  I was just about to open the door to my car when I heard it & it was like in the movies when everyone but the star freezes in place.  I wasn't the star, so I froze in place.  So here's what went through my head, and quickly, "two shots fired…where is it coming from? (only my eyes moved to look around)…it could be an accidental discharge, I am at a law enforcement conference after all, everyone's armed…(listening for screams, the sound of running feet or a car speeding away…nothing)…oh, I should be throwing myself on the ground if someone's shooting, I need to hide & see if I can see a shooter…I should call 911...I'm not moving, shit, I must be frozen…well, I'm not dead yet, I think I'll just stay here…get down, stupid…this is my first real freeze, the next time I probably won't react this way…"

Turns out it wasn't shots fired, just two big fast loud bangs that had no danger attached.  And I probably won't freeze like that the next time two sudden bangs happen out of nowhere, because the first is the worst.  But pretending like I didn't do it this time won't help!  

So please know that any and all of them can happen to you and try not to judge yourself too harshly when they do.  But if you find you have the wrong impulse at the wrong time, work on that.  Train.  You can educate your body in how to react under stress.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Two Smart Guys

I listen to podcasts when I get ready for work in the morning.  I'm not a morning person, & listening to intelligent conversations and stories helps my brain wake up.  One of my favorites is "Martial Secrets", with Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder.

These guys have a great depth of knowledge and a friendly, laid-back, no bullshit attitude that is very appealing, and they interview excellent guests.  

There's one episode in particular I want to steer you toward, and here's why…

If you've ever tried to help your family or friends take more responsibility for their own safety, to be more careful out in the world, but they give you every martial artist & cop's favorite response "You're just paranoid", you have probably just experienced something called proximity bias.  This is when someone close to you won't listen to your advice because they're close to you. You may be an expert to the rest of the world, but to this person you're just their friend-son-cousin-whatever, so how could you possibly know?  It's incredibly frustrating.  If you've experienced this, I have a gift for you:

If you click on the "Martial Secrets" link it will take you to a podcast episode where the hosts discuss a recent attempted kidnapping of a teenager near her school.  They talk about what a predator is, and advise listeners - particularly teens, the attacker's apparent target - how to stay safe.  The episode is filled with practical non-nonsense advice, and at just under 20 minutes it's perfect for a listen in the car on the way to run errands.  

It's a fantastic introduction to the concepts of predatory violence, recognizing the predatory mindset and how to protect yourself.  

The specific crime they're discussing happened in Seattle, but the situation occurs anywhere and everywhere, including where you live.  

Listen to it, pass it along…stay safe out there.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One For The Boys

I'm super excited about an upcoming series of classes at Fit and Fearless.  Jason Fryer will be teaching a men-only series in January.  This is something we've talked about for years but haven't done before, and I think it's a great idea.  However, I've had some students tell me they don't think it's fair to exclude female students from the class…after all, women have had to fight for decades for the right to be fully included in sports - particularly combat sports - and some feel like a men-only class is a step in the wrong direction.  So I thought I'd put in my 2 cents on why I disagree:

1 - Fair is fair.  We've had female-only classes, taught by me, for years.  I've always kicked men out of the room entirely - they can come in if I invite them to play a particular role in the class, but then they're out.  Period.  I do this because having another gender in the room changes the dynamic.  We talk about things differently and train differently than in the co-ed classes, and I want the students to have the freedom to do that, so even male instructors are generally barred.  To say, "we can do it but you can't" is unfair.  Equality means equality for all.  The argument has been put to me that it is different because women are still fighting to be treated as equals - and then the question always comes, "What if a bunch of white people wanted to have their own group and wouldn't let any black people come in?  Would that be alright, too?"  

Well, it's not the same.  Race based groups who exclude others are generally saying, "We're awesome and everybody who is not us sucks".  That is not what's happening here.  This is not the beginning of the FnF He-Man Woman Hater's Club, any more than we disparage men in the women-only classes.

Even if there were no other reason than equal treatment for all students, I'd still support having the class.  However, the bigger reason is…

2 - Just as women have self-defense issues that are much more frequently faced by us (sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking) there are also issues that are much more frequently faced by men.  

The Monkey Dance and how to avoid it, questions of honor being challenged (and of courage and cowardice), different methods of de-escalation, protecting one's wife and child (if his wife trains in self-defense hurray, but most of our male students do not have that luxury).  The issues listed for both genders can obviously be faced by anyone, but the reality is that different genders are more likely to deal a few problems more than others.  As Drew put it to me recently, "You teach a lot about defending, then running away and calling the police.  But I spend most of my time with my wife and child, and if we're attacked I can't run.  I have to stay and fight to give them the opportunity to run."  Just as the female students are given the opportunity to focus their training once a week on just their issues, the males should be able to step outside the regular curriculum and really hone in on what they specifically face.

3 - If a woman has a question she won't normally bring up in a co-ed group, she'll generally ask it in the women's class.  The environment is intentionally created to encourage openness, and we sometimes toss the lesson plan aside and train techniques that will address certain questions or concerns brought up by a student.  And I'm hearing from the guys that they'll be able to be more open about certain types of questions or concerns in a single gender class as well.  Yes, it would be lovely if we all felt comfortable addressing every issue in front of everyone.  But I'm going to give my students the support they need in the way they need it in the moment, if at all possible.  Our job as instructors is to create an environment that meets each student's needs as an individual so that she or he can grow to become their own best self.  Because if you're attacked, you're probably going to be on your own.  We want to leave no stone unturned to make sure you have all the tools you need to survive.

4 - Lastly, having Jason teach this class is going to make it awesome.  He's put a great deal of thought and effort into creating a lesson arc that will let each man get the most out of this specific type of training.  Jason is cerebral guy, very calm but resolute.  His approachable, laid-back style creates a class where you can feel comfortable asking anything and can take the time to hone your technique, but when it's time to bring overwhelming ferocity he drops bombs and can help you do the same.

The class begins January 7, 2014 and runs for 4 weeks.  It's only $39, which is crazy but true.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In the women-only class we were practicing defending against being dragged off by our feet.  As a prelim I had them lay prone on the floor arranged with each defender a few feet ahead of their intended attacker.  On "GO" they jumped up and ran, the defender trying to reach the safe zone before the attacker could catch them and drag them back to the starting line.  

Some defenders were half-assing it because the knew their attacker wouldn't hurt them if they caught them.  So I told the attackers to drag them back by their hair.  Women generally hate being dragged around by their hair, so all of a sudden they were jumping up and running FAST.  

But I really gave them no true head start & sometimes the attackers were just faster & would catch them & drag them back.  So the question came,

"When should I run and when should I fight?"

I asked the class what they thought and as usual someone nailed it: 

"You run when you can and you fight when you must."  True!  

One thing I notice in running these types of drills is that the fleeing trainee generally waits until the attacker has a hand already grabbing them or is starting to bearhug them.  I personally think that's too late, because his momentum is going forward and he's already got the jump on you.  To turn and fight at that moment puts you at a disadvantage because you're changing the direction of your own momentum and responding to his attack defensively instead of taking charge of the whole event.  It's very difficult because you're making a decision in the blink of an eye within a frenzy of movement and being pursued by a predator tends to make people a bit panicky.  So, I think we're going to keep practicing making that decision in the moment.  

We did it again later out in the parking lot.  The chasee got a 1 second head start running toward the building to get into the front door - which I had rigged to not open on the first try, so unless they could force it open they'd have to make their stand and fight.  It was creepy!  And again, the attacker was always right on top of them before they made the decision to fight.  

So here's the rule we'll play by:  Run when you can, fight if you must - but fight before they're physically on you and do it with everything you have and then RUN again once it's safe to escape.  Get to safety.  

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.