Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How Society Protects Rapists

So here we are to share some truth. It may be a long one so grab some gin and vermouth. I'll try to throw in some controversy because I know you have a sweet tooth. Now that I have your attention I want to talk with you about a serious subject. Our society protects rapists with a blanket of its own ignorance. You see the dynamics of sexual assault have changed over the last 30 years or so. The majority of the public and even some police officers and district attorneys and especially potential jurors have no idea what a "real rape" even looks like in the 21st century. Because of this it affects behaviour, arrests, and convictions. It affects every facet of the legal system. We can't fix a problem we don't understand. Before I continue I want you to read this:

“Where a vigorous woman alleges ravishment it is to be expected that signs of violence such as wounds, bruises and scratches will be present and their absence should induce a moderate degree of scepticism unless the girl avers that she fainted from fear, became panic stricken or was otherwise rendered incapable of physical resistance. The acts and demeanour of the female immediately after the alleged commission should be subjected to very critical investigation in these cases.”
                                                         -Fundamentals of Criminal Investigation 1970

“Generally, the actions and the appearance of a legitimate rape victim leave little doubt that a crime has been committed. Under such circumstances, the victim is highly agitated, emotionally distraught, often in a state of hysteria and may have sustained injuries, cuts, bruises or wounds. The victim’s clothing is often ripped or torn off as evidence that it was forcibly removed and if the rape occurred outdoors, the victim is generally thrown to the ground and her outer garments stained or soiled. Questions may reasonably be raised concerning the validity of rape charges in which none or only a few of the above manifestations exist.”

                                                      -International Association for Chiefs of Police 1995

Notice in 25 years almost nothing changed if anything at all. Most today will still read those statements and think that it looks about right. Today this is the common stereotypical view of rape and sexual assault. Unfortunately in the above statements there is almost no ounce of truth to any of it. Those two statements above are completely false and I can prove it. I will take this article and use statistical fact to absolutely DESTROY the above statements. As I said before almost nothing in those statements are true in any way, shape, or form. Now for the proof:

To summarize here is what we are going to show you:

Most rapes are done by strangers - False
A weapon is normally used - False
There's a lot of physical force and violence - False
Victim reports rape immediately - False
Victim is hysterical - False
Victims remember everything correctly and never fabricate - False
Takes place on bad side of town or dim area - False
Committed by minorities - False

That's right almost none of those things happen the majority of the time. Now that isn't saying those things don't happen sometimes because they do. What we are saying is those cases are the minority as compared to all cases. This misconception is so bad that often even rape crisis centers give out misguided advice like always walk in well lit areas or take a self defense course. Now those things will help some but will be useless to most. It won't hurt anything to walk in a well lit area or take a self defense course. I even teach women's self defense courses from time to time. It goes back to the old axiom it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I think it's great to take a great self defense course my point is don't let it give you a false sense of security or that it is going to fix everything because it definitely won't.

In reality, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the victim, without a weapon, physical violence, or signs of physical injury. Very few victims report the sexual assault to the police, but if they do, it is often after a delay of days, weeks, months, or even years. Many victims have a number of factors that limit their perceived credibility: they are often young, homeless, runaways, or transients, have a mental or physical impairment, are belligerent, and/or abusing alcohol or controlled substances. Victims often omit, exaggerate or fabricate parts of their account, and they may even recant altogether. They are not typically hysterical when interviewed by medical professionals, law enforcement investigators, prosecutors, or others.

So why do people believe this crap?

Because the sexual assaults that were reported to law enforcement in the past (e.g., 1970’s) tended to look a lot more like this stereotype than they do now; because the media tends to portray sexual assaults that fit the stereotype; because we prefer to keep the issues simple and not re-examine our assumptions and because we want to feel safe from threat of sexual assault.

From 1972 to 1976 71% of all sexual assaults reported to the San Diego Police Department were by strangers. But from 1992 to 1996 76% of all sexual assaults reported were committed by someone the victim knew. That number has stayed around 75% give or take a few points every year since then. Did you know that 32 % of all women who are sexually assaulted maintain a relationship with the rapist afterwards? It's true. Did you know that 25% of all women who are raped will have consensual sex with the rapist at a later time? That's jacked up isn't it? You see the reason making sure your walking in a well lit area doesn't help most of the time is because you will know the attacker and let them get close they don't have to sneak up on you. The numbers in Tucson are a little lower but still comparable in 1999 the number was 66% and has stayed pretty much the same since then. You see most of the advice given today about rape prevention is still geared more towards stranger danger which is very outdated and as the statistics show isn't very accurate. This is why we need to get the word out. We have to change this misconception. When studies these things I read about a woman who was raped and murdered by a co-worker. This happened at the University of Illinois. The primary response from the college was to install better lighting. This does absolutely no good at all since this woman was attacked by someone known to her. Once again it can save some because yes women do still get raped by strangers but it doesn't address the overall problem.

Even the news media can be a problem with the misconception not on purpose of course but it happens. Here is the problem with that. There are so many rapes that take place in large cities in a given day that they can't report them all in a 30 minute newscast; so the only ones that tend to make the cut are the particularly violent ones that fit the stereotype thereby passing the misconception onto the public without realizing it.

People believe what they want to believe. They want to believe people they trust aren't capable of this stuff. They want to believe this only happens to other people or people that engage in certain behaviors. None of this is true it can happen to anyone anywhere even in your home by people you trust. The truth is 1 out of every 6 women will be raped in their lifetime. For that matter 1 out of every 33 men will be raped. Statistics can be higher in certain populations. Now this is very shocking but here are the actual statistics:

36% of all women in the US Navy are raped
34% of all Native American women are raped
27% of all girls in college are raped

That's pretty jacked up and some of you are probably saying where is he getting all this info and how do I know its real numbers. The numbers are real I'll cover the source at the end of the article. For now let's get back on track.

Let's look at the next issue. How often is a weapon used in rape cases? How often is physical violence used?
That can differ a little based on if it's a stranger or not. Get ready for the bullet points.

Percent of Weapon Use:    Non Stranger 3% Stranger 16%
Choking and Beating:         Non Stranger 7% Stranger 16%
Hitting or Slapping:           Non Stranger 13% Stranger 28%
Twisting and Holding:         Non Stranger 68% Stranger 72%
Threatening:                       Non Stranger 33% Stranger 54%

As you can see actual violence during a rape is very low percentage. The reason I point this out is because of the 2 statements at the beginning of the article. Just to refresh your memory I'll post the first one

Where a vigorous woman alleges ravishment it is to be expected that signs of violence such as wounds, bruises and scratches will be present and their absence should induce a moderate degree of scepticism unless the girl avers that she fainted from fear, became panic stricken or was otherwise rendered incapable of physical resistance. The acts and demeanor of the female immediately after the alleged commission should be subjected to very critical investigation in these cases.

The second one is even worse scroll up and read that one. So you see most of the time weapons aren't used. Choking, beating, hitting, and slapping is in the minority as well. Threatening doesn't leave marks. Twisting and holding may or may not leave a bruise. The 2 statements law enforcement uses to judge rape are false. Society also shares this same view and we've shown you several reasons why. Do beatings happen? Of course they do. Are weapons used? Yeah sometimes they are used. Our point is the absence of these things shouldn't cause scepticism when a woman says she's raped because that absence is actually the norm. Our view of rape needs to change in this society. For God sakes at Fort Collins Police Department in Colorado in 1998 100% of all rapes reported when the attacker was known to the victim a weapon was NEVER used. That's right for an entire calendar in reported cases it didn't happen. That is very important info. So why don't these women fight back? Well here are some reasons
The rape is committed by someone the victim knows (rather than a stranger)
The perpetrator does not use physical force or violence to commit the rape
The victim is concerned about preserving the relationship with the offender
The victim is concerned about the offender’s judgment/opinions
The victim has been sexually assaulted in the past

How do they resist when they do resist?

11.2% Run
11.2% Scream
45.7% Cry
69.6% Struggle
76.6% Turn Cold
83.3% Reason and Plead

You see the picture start to take shape and only 1 of those could possibly leave signs of injury thereby ripping the original statements apart which is the point of the article. I also want to add that 1/3 to 2/3 of all rape involve alcohol or some other drug. There is a huge double standard with that in our society. When guys drink society expects them to be out of control but if women do it they are considered slutty. That just ain't right. Our entire culture is geared the wrong way. When it comes to sex men are seen as the aggressors and the women the gatekeepers. These men believe women are supposed to say no at first but not because they mean it. They just say it because it's expected and they are supposed to push to "see how far they can get."

They get to see it as a game of cat and mouse. This is also seriously messed up. This doesn't mean all men are rapists of course but it gives way to a culture that perceives aggressive men as normal which compounds the problem.

Do victims usually report the rape immediately?

Since we talked about sources earlier the 2 main sources for this article were the National Violence Against Women Survey and the National Women's Survey. Within a few points they all converge on these statistics and this next one is no different. Only 16 to 19% of women who are raped reported it at all. Out of that percentage less that 25% of that number reported it immediately. That means less than 5% of all women who are raped report it immediately. Remember that number because I'm building to something. There is also a misconception that the rapist will be a minority and I want you to know that most rapes are intra-racial. That means they rape within their own ethnic groups. If you’re a white girl you’re more likely to be raped by a white guy just so you know. Getting back to why women don't report rape let's look at it:

22% cited fear of the perpetrator as the reason for not reporting
18% stated that they were too ashamed or embarrassed
18% felt that the incident was minor, and not a crime or a police matter
13% believed that the law enforcement agency could not do anything
12% were concerned that officers would not believe or blame them

That really sucks because the fact is that men who rape and get away with it are more likely to do it again. Dr. Davis Lisak and Dr. Paul Miller surveyed 1,882 men with an average age of 28 who attended college part time (the college wasn't named). Of these 1,882 men 120 of them had committed 483 sexual assaults of women they knew. None of those assaults were ever reported.

There is a real disconnect between what society believes is "legitimate" rape and the truth. If the policy we showed you at the very beginning of the article continues to be believed then many more women will be raped and many more rapists will continue raping with impunity. When crap like that is believed then rape victims do not get believed when they come forward and arrests are not made and rapes continue when they could have been stopped. That untrue statement is very damaging in many ways. I want to give you a scenario.

A woman has been raped by a neighbor she's friends with and has known awhile. Police come to the scene and interview her and they follow through and arrest the neighbor. Then they start to collect evidence.

They collect fingerprints, hair samples, fiber samples, semen, saliva, footprints, maybe tire marks and other things of the like. They can absolutely prove he was there and that a sexual act took place and they go to trial with it. So what happens? Well it's an easy not guilty verdict and the victim gets victimized again. The rapist walks free. Why?

Well you see since it's a given they knew each other already the identification of the suspect should not have been the primary issue. You see a good defense attorney will use the consent defense. It will be her word against his and she doesn't have any bruises, cuts or marks on her body, no clothes torn. She probably didn't call the police right after either. Remember those misconceptions that are prevalent? They will be prevalent in a jury too. So let's back up and try that again.

A woman has been raped by a neighbor she's friends with and has known awhile. Police come to the scene and interview her and they follow through and arrest the neighbor. Then they start to collect evidence.

They collect all the identification evidence mentioned in the previous scenario but this time they also:

Photographs of any genital and non genital injuries
Documented complaints of pain
Evidence of prior similar acts
Suspect statements made in a monitored phone call to victim
Any crime scene evidence that could support a struggle
Records of communication with dispatch
Interview with first person victim told of assault
 Detailed information from the victim, describing thoughts and feelings during the sexual assault, as well as any sensory and peripheral details that can be recalled
Detailed information from others, to describe the victim’s behavior after the sexual assault, and contrast it with the victim’s typical behavior before the sexual assault

Any number of these can help beat a consent defense. On top of that a prosecutor having statistics like these to change jury perception of what is normal and what is abnormal their case will be stronger.

In closing this ignorance helps rapists and hopefully we've helped in some small way to help you understand just how much damage has been done to our society and even our justice system due to lack of understanding of the real issues. If you found this article informative I can tell you that it's just the tip of the iceberg. This info came from a course I took called What Does Rape Really Look Like that is offered by End The Violence Against Women International. There is much more info there than I can put in this article. You can look into those online courses at www.evawintl.org. We've got to work together to change this perception and make real help available. Thank you

To find out more about Stonewall Tactical Defense Systems visit http://www.stonewalltactical.com/index.html

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Do you really need more tools for your toolbox?

How many times have you heard the phrase it's always good to get more tools for your toolbox? Honestly, in martial arts I hear it all the time but is it actually true? Well, the honest answer is it depends.

Before I get into all this I want to talk to you about context first. If you’re getting into martial arts to study a martial art then more tools doesn't hurt. Some people are basically technique collectors and that's what they like to do. If that's what you like to do then more power to you I hope you find a bunch of stuff. I'm also not talking about groups of arts. For the purposes of this article and historical fact, unarmed fighting is its own art. Knife fighting is its own separate art. The same will hold true for sword fighting and the like as well. For the purposes of this article we will be focusing on this phrase applied to a single art.

So to get to the point quickly do you need to always be adding more tools to your toolbox? The correct answer is an emphatic no! You simply need the right tools for that box.

Let's look at a little science here. In another article we talked about Occam's Razor, also known as the Law of Economy. When it's correctly translated it means that when two answers solve a problem a third one is irrelevant. Try taking that and applying it to martial arts. You’re gonna piss off a lot of people, as I'm probably about to do.

Have you ever been in a class where you had to learn 5 or 6 escapes for something and it was obvious some of them would never work for you but they made you learn it anyway for a belt rank? That doesn't make a lot of sense does it? Wouldn't it be better to learn a concept that everyone could apply that worked for all? If so then why are you forced to learn a bunch of crap? Well the most common answer you'll get is that it's tradition and it's always been done that way. But is that even true? The answer is no.

Let's look at the Toda samurai family in the 17th century. How many techniques did their low level soldiers learn for combat as far as unarmed self defense? A hundred? A thousand? Try 8...yeah that's right 8. They were taught 3 strikes, 1 throw, 2 armbars, and 2 wristlocks. They would also learn a short kata that taught body mechanics but that was it. They won a lot of battles too because they could take 8 techniques and modify them for any situation they would find themselves in. They would master those 8 techniques and could adapt under pressure easily because they weren't trying to pick between a hundred techniques and figure out what in the hell they needed to do. 

On top of that look at all the old Karate masters. They didn't learn a bunch of kata they spent their whole lives dedicated to one kata because it gave them everything they needed to defend themselves. So, was it always done that way? Umm… no sorry that argument isn't true or valid in any way; you see in the modern age a lot of traditional systems put all this stuff in there to preserve their history and culture and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The thing is they were very honest about it and respectable. It's the western world that has gotten it so twisted around. It had nothing to do with teaching you an ounce of self defense.

Does that mean these guys that teach all this stuff can't fight? No it doesn't mean that at all some can and some can't. What it means is that if you’re going to them for self defense you’re learning in a way that is inefficient and unnecessary for your immediate goal. Sure if they are a good teacher in time you can get really good but what are you going to do until then? If you get attacked ask the guy to come back in a couple years when your skill set is better developed? Yeah I don't see that happening.

On a darker side of the issue you also have instructors that are only in this for the money. They are always adding techniques and requirements for you so you will have to stay there longer and pay them more money. They will tell you pretty much anything to keep you subservient. The most common trick these days is to get you to sign a huge long term contract and pay them a lot of non refundable money up front. That way if you catch on and leave then they have your money and couldn't care less. There is a lot of that but thankfully that isn't always the case.

Martial arts are fun as they should be. More often than not (hopefully) what you actually have is someone confusing need with want. They want to do more things because its fun and they enjoy it but want and need isn’t actually the same thing now is it? Unfortunately even though they are well meaning they confuse their own want with what you need and this can get you hurt. I know instructors all over the world that teach 1 and 2 day courses where people can learn to defend themselves against basic attacks.

Ironically enough, if applied correctly courses like these could be of great benefit to "traditional" schools. They can actually co-exist together. It only requires 1 thing...innovation. The first thing that needs to happen is a change in the curriculum. Take all the basics for the types of techniques you teach and put them all at beginner levels. Do stress drills early on and troubleshoot and work fail scenarios. Make everything flow together and have continuity.  When that foundation is firm and the fundamentals are sound you can actually add things to it without damaging your students. Then you could actually add tools to your toolbox and they would know where every tool went and which tools didn't work for them. You gotta stop making them learn techniques they can never use on belt promotions. If it's useless they shouldn't have to learn it. There's nothing wrong with upgrading a curriculum and making it more efficient and conducive to learning.

If you’re part of some money hungry organization that requires you and your students to learn things that aren't in their best interest then leave that organization. Your loyalty should always be to your students they are the ones that put faith in you. Your goal should be to strive to prove that you earned that faith. If you’re just teaching a bunch of stuff and you know some of it won't work for a student but you make them waste their time and yours learning it anyway then you’re unethical and immoral. As an educator you should always hold yourself to a higher standard or risk becoming a hypocrite as well as other things. 

I love martial arts and want them to always be relevant. When old outdated logic isn't thrown out then a martial art can become a museum piece and lose its relevance. I don't want to see that happen. If you don't want to update then I have some news for you. The public is getting smarter and your days are numbered. You’re slowly turning into a dinosaur as we speak. People run from dinosaurs not towards them because they are smart enough to know dinosaurs can hurt you. Your dinosaur logic can do the same to the very people you’re trying to help.

I've been around this a long time. Time is precious to me and I hate to see people waste it. I certainly don't want to bash anyone; I would just like to tell you… Put your students first. You may not know the science behind the things you say or even know you’re doing something wrong. You could have the best of intentions. I would ask that you look at your curriculum and go to your libraries or even on the internet and research what you are doing. If you find something isn't right change it. Life is too short and your students deserve the best you can give them. So be the person that deserves the faith you receive. Don't confuse need and what. That's all I have to say.

To find out more about Stonewall Tactical Defense Systems visit http://www.stonewalltactical.com/index.html

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Basics of Verbal De-escalation

So there I was trying to stop WWIII in the parking lot trying to protect some jerk that didn't really deserve it. I barely even knew the guy had just met him that night, it was Halloween. I was sitting at bar a little way away from there when he and his girlfriend walked in. They were with this other guy that I actually knew fairly well. They were trying to talk me into going to this club that I hated but there would be a lot of girls there. They offered to drive and all that and they eventually talked me into it.

So we got to the club and everything went well we shut it down and were talking about getting a room at the hotel across the highway. I was right outside the door talking to a girl when I saw new friend number one(NFN1) talking to some guy he knew, apparently. It didn't seem like anything stood out I was just kind of checking it with my peripheral vision because I heard something about somebody pulling a gun on someone's dad which was odd.

Then I notice a third party come into that conversation and get a little too close to NFN1. His head is moving like a woodpecker or some kind of hen pecking at something and he looked at NFN1 and said," You pulled a gun on his dad? Man, that's messed up" then was saying something inaudible so I turned quickly to intervene but not in time. The next thing I heard was the familiar clacking noise of a forearm hitting a jaw cleaning and third party man dropped like a ton of bricks and not moving on the sidewalk.

First people rushed to check him then most turned on NFN1. Even worse NFN1 was talking smack to everyone pissing them off even more. I jumped in front of NFN1 with my arms out at my sides (like a hira no kamae posture for those in the know). Basically I was using my body to move him backwards towards the car and my arms to monitor his movements and keep him behind my without looking at him because I had to have my eyes on the crowd.

The bouncer on duty wasn't helping; he was acting like a punk because he was scared of the crowd. After I got NFN1 behind me to shut the hell up I started to use verbal de-escalation to keep the crowd from attacking giving time for the police to get there and make a report. In that example the crowd wasn't mad at me they were mad at someone else which helped but the only thing that saved a parking lot melee that night was verbal de-escalation. It is an incredible tool to have and NFN1 obviously didn't possess it so I had to do something myself. Had he possessed those skills my night would have been a lot less stressful. The following are some simple basics for verbal de-escalation:

The first thing is to know when you are being threatened. In all honesty you will feel it. If something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't. We are sometimes taught in our lives to ignore our instincts but we have them for a reason. They are there to help protect us and you should listen to them. If you feel threatened then it's real to you therefore it's a threat.

Verbal De-escalation isn't about self defence; it's more about self protection. Self defence for our definition is when you have to use physical force against an imminent attack. This is more about self protection which is not making the 10 mistakes you probably made before violence ensued. If you look at the example I gave up above and think,"well I don't go to places like that or hang out with people like that so I don't need this stuff," then I think you need to rethink that. It comes in handy anywhere there could be a conflict.

A teacher disciplining a student;
A parent with a problem child;
A stewardess with an angry passenger;
A manager with a disgruntled employee.

That list could go on forever, workplace violence is on the rise. Years ago before I was able to run Stonewall Tactical full time I worked as a team leader in a factory that made DVDs to pay the bills and did private security on weekends. At the factory management was horrible and stress was at an all time high. When employees would get pushed to the edge I'd call them over and take them for a walk. I'd let them vent for a bit then use verbal de-escalation to calm them down so they basically didn't attack me and get fired.

You never know some people or what they are capable of doing so it has to be taken seriously. I remember there was this one guy that flipped out a couple times and I'd have to walk him around the complex and calm him down. Other than that he was always smiling and making jokes, a real jovial guy. He was the kind of guy you think wouldn't hurt a fly. A few months later after he left the company he brutally murdered his girlfriend and stuffed her body in his closet. He got caught when the neighbours complained about the smell; he's currently still in prison. So this is a skill you should really take very seriously.

To me this is always better than physical force. Physical force should always be your last resort when everything else breaks down. You don't want to risk hurting someone or getting injured if you don't have to do so. Not to mention all the fallout that could ensue such as civil suits or angry friends. So let's take a look at some tactics:

The first one is a big one…

Listen - If you take a pissed off person and try to talk over them they are only going to become more angry. You aren't going to accomplish anything by being dismissive of someone else's feelings. You have to empathize and try putting yourself in their shoes. When I worked in that factory this was the main tactic that I used once they got it out of their system then it was much easier to calm them down.

Distraction - If they are hell-bent on flipping out over something and focused then break that concentration just doing it in a challenging way. I once used this tactic by asking about a guy's pit bull and getting him to talk about that. It's a way of establishing a rapport with them and establishing a commonality. Another time I offered a guy a beer. It's kind of hard to flip out on a guy that just gave you a beer. That's just a couple of examples but its tactic that can work.

Humor - This is a great tool to put someone at ease but use it sparingly. I mean if you’re not funny normally you’re not going to become funny under stress. I once had two friends arguing and I stood up and farted. Cleared the whole room and they were so wrapped up in that they forgot about being mad. You could also say that's a distraction but trust me it was funny.

Empathy - I mentioned this once already but it's very important. How can you calm someone down when you don't even understand why they are angry? Put yourself in their shoes, they aren't mad for nothing. This goes back to listening; if you challenge them by basically invalidating why they are angry then you are not going to be successful.  Don't be judgmental, try to understand.

Motivation - If you’re a teacher try to refocus them on something positive and motivate them and help build them up. Angry emotions tend to come from someone who is hurt or feels disrespected in some way. You need to know this.

These are some good tactics to use and I've used most of them. If you really think about it all you’re really doing for the most part is not being an ass. Don't prejudge someone with the whole, "Oh good Lord here they come with that same old crap again." People are the center of their universe. Maybe it's something else or maybe if you’re the focus of the crap find out why the same crap keeps happening. I can't stress this enough. Listen! Don't try to be domineering and order them or threaten them in some way. Don't make it a competition and start arguing; put your ego aside.

Getting into a power struggle isn't going to de-escalate anything. Definitely don't criticize someone who is always angry. Don't start name calling and don't try to invalidate their anger. These things are barriers that you put up and can make the situation much worse. I've seen it a million times, "You did this!"..."Oh well you did that other thing".... It just goes on and on and gets worse and worse. Don't put up those barriers.

Try using calming statements like:

I want to help you.
What can I do to make this right?
Tell me more so I can understand.
I understand what you’re saying.
Let's see what we can do to make it better.

Note: Try to understand how they feel but don't actually say out loud to them the phrase - I understand how you feel. If they thought you could possibly understand how they felt there's a good chance they wouldn't be angry in the first place, you don't want to open that can of worms.

These are a few of the statements that aren't challenging or insulting but I think you get where I'm coming from on that. Also make sure you’re being attentive. You need to actually be listening not just hearing. Don't be thinking about what you’re going to be doing next week or somewhere else you wish you were because people can tell when they are just being pacified.

Make sure you use eye contact and neutral gestures such as nodding or asking neutral questions from time to time without interrupting them or stepping over what they are saying. You can do things like take something they are saying and repeating it back to them but wording it differently. This way they know your listening to them and trying to understand them. When you’re doing this don't be fiddling with a pen or playing a video game or watching television; don't multi-task give them your full attention.

Remember 80% of all communication is nonverbal so don't communicate the wrong message. People are more observant that you think and angry people don't always listen to what is being said so your body language could be doing the real talking so watch that message!

Here are a few body movements that send the wrong message as well as a few helpful hints:

Finger pointing can escalate something quickly so don't do it.
Shoulder shrugging makes it look like you don't give a damn.
Clenching your teeth makes it look like your mad and maybe you want to fight.
A fake smile would honestly make me want to hit you more.
Quick movements could surprise or scare someone making them feel threatened.
Raising one eyebrow like can appear condescending or stern.
Both eyebrows raised could spur them on so keep those eyebrows in check.
A hard stare can appear threatening.
Closing your eyes longer than normal will do the same as a shoulder shrug.
Keep your hands visible.
Don't invade their personal space and keep a distance from them far enough way they can't grab or kick you.
Keep your hands to yourself don't touch them that could really set them off.
Don't raise or lower your voice talk slowly in a soothing nature.
Don't do anything that is disrespectful.

Another thing that helps is try to talk with them somewhere away from other people. Onlookers can try to instigate things and be real jerks. People love seeing others go at it especially in this day and age. If at all possible bring another trusted person to talk with them usually when two people are talking with someone there's less change of violence. Not always....but usually. Also the same tips listed for body language as far as staying neutral you should watch for those same cues in the other person as well.

In closing what it all boils down to is listening and actually giving a damn. Sincerity goes a long way. Don't be dismissive or try to insult someone's intelligence by pacifying them and thinking they won't notice.

Listen...Listen...and Listen. These skills are not difficult to master and frankly a lot of people do these things naturally and if you don't now you have some skills to work on. Be Safe! 

To find out more about Stonewall Tactical Defense Systems visit http://www.stonewalltactical.com/index.html

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Managing Avoidance and Awareness

As you are reading this I'm sure most of you have either attended a self defence seminar or taught one. We spend a lot of time on techniques and how to bash the bad guy and so forth. We mention awareness and avoidance but do we emphasize it as much as we should?

The fact is if you’re in a street fight you’ve probably missed at least 10 things that got you there. No matter how big the next Super Datu Ninja Commando Killer Fighting System it still isn't as effective as plain old awareness and avoidance. No matter what, the best way to survive any violent conflict is to never be in it.

However there are a lot of well meaning and inadvertent fear-mongers out there that make this seem unmanageable and overwhelming when they cover it. It can be very confusing to someone new. They can make it sound like you need to be afraid every time you leave the house. This of course is wrong. The changes you need to make are actually pretty small. I've put together a few exercises and tips in this article that I have picked up along the way that will help you get a reign on this subject in a proactive way. I didn't invent any of this and I'm not the first to write it down but I hope this will help you feel a little less overwhelmed. 

Let's look at an exercise. To my knowledge it doesn't have a name but that's ok you can make up your own name for it. If you sit down and actually think about it you don't really go to as many places as you probably think you do on a regular basis. I'm guessing you probably really only go about 7 or 8 places. Now in this we aren't talking about vacations or anything like that this is about your normal daily routine.

For me I go to the track, grocery store, the gas station, etc. Just normal places like that. I want you to get a piece of paper and write down all the normal places you go routinely. Once you've done that I want you to ask yourself some questions. Ask yourself in any one of these places - What, How, Who, Where, and When would I be attacked? Do it for every location you wrote down. You'll come up with things you never thought about and you'll already be finding solutions. Still a little confused? I'll do one with you as a sample and we'll use a grocery store. It's some place we all pretty much have to go.

Who would attack you?

This is a question only you can answer. It could be a random mugger sure. Does someone have a reason to be mad at you? For example do you owe someone money or going through a nasty divorce where child custody is involved. This can vary from person to person and depending on time and location. Take some time and think about it. Put some real thought into it.

How would they attack you?

Would they just bum rush you? It's possible but probably not. The large majority of these assaults or attacks start with some type of verbal exchange. In self defence circles it's often referred to as the interview phase of the attack where you are being sized up. Let me give you a few tips on how to tell if something doesn't fit. I'm sure others could add to this all day but these are some good ones.

1. Looking around as they approach - Someone says, Sir or Ma’am do you have a moment? Then they look around for no apparent reason as they approach you. This is very odd, they could be looking to make sure there are no witnesses; they could be looking to see if there is a security camera up that could identify them. Either way, this is out of the ordinary and you should be leery of it.

2. The arms don't move as they approach - In anthropology humans are what are known as diagonal walkers. That means when the right foot moves forward the left arm sways a little bit. It's normal for people's arms to move. In the animal kingdom when animals lumber around on all fours it's perceived as a sign of anger and aggression by other animals. It should be perceived that way by you as well. This should also be a trigger for you to look at the hands. Are they clenched? This could also be a tell that they are concealing a weapon in one hand or the other.

3. Watch for the weight shift - When a person shifts weight and begins to blade their stance an assault could very well be imminent. This isn't always noticeable and definitely isn't noticeable if you aren't paying attention. This could very well be a chance for a pre-emptive strike on your part to escape. They could also be using this to attempt to conceal a weapon draw from a pocket or waistband. A good idea in this case is to look at the elbow. Look in the mirror and try to take something from your waistband without bending your elbow outward. Probably can't do it can you? That's a good thing to know.

4. Protect your space - Of course the best thing to do in these circumstances, when possible, is to get the hell out of there. Barring that, if you see any of these triggers don't let them get near you if possible. Get loud and draw attention to yourself, curse if you have you. You don't have to let them into your space. If something doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Do not ignore your intuition. Intuition is a great tool and you should listen to it.

With what would they attack you?

So let’s say you blow all of that stuff. Are they going to be empty handed? Is it just a plain old assault? Would they have a gun? Would they have a knife? Do you have training to deal with these things? If not maybe you need to find some. Honestly it could be any of those things. As a general rule your money isn't worth your life. If that's what it's about just give it to them. Even if you have some training there's no guarantee that you won't be stabbed or shot. However if they are attempting to move you to another location you probably need to fight. They could very well be moving you somewhere else to kill you there or do something else to you.

The Where and the When.

These two may be separate but for this example of the exercise they are related. I picked the example of the grocery store. As far as the where it probably isn't going to be in the produce section. I just can't see someone flying up out of the lettuce bringing the Black Death. In a public place like this the usual culprit will strike when you are on your way into the business or on your way out of it headed back to the car. To deal with this only requires common sense.

This could also be true of a parking garage. Don't talk on the phone on the way to your car or text. If your car isn't a keyless entry then get your keys out before you walk outside. Be aware and confident; don't look like someone who isn't paying attention. Just simple things like this make a huge difference. The when of this situation is basically going to be when it's most opportune for the attacker.

I know there are grocery stores and super-markets that stay open all night. Some people like to shop there late at night because there is less of a crowd and it's more convenient for them. Remember safety in numbers? It's more convenient but also more dangerous. If you’re going to do this, try parking as close to the entrance as possible, where it's better lit. Take someone with you when you go shopping. If you’re not comfortable, ask someone in the store to walk you to your car and in most cases they will.

In closing, take a night when you aren't doing anything and sit down and write this out and do this exercise. Be proactive about awareness and avoidance. If you do this you'll be surprised at how much you teach yourself. A lot of the places you go the techniques will overlap. You’re going to find out this is easier and more manageable than you ever thought. You don't have to be afraid to go out and live your life. Just be smart and change simple things. Do this exercise and you'll be surprised at just how much more aware you become without really even being conscious of it. Most of all don't be afraid to do the things you do and don't let anyone tell you that you should be. Just simply be cautious and use good judgement. Be aware and be safe! 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How to stop a time bomb.....

I wanted to talk with you all today about something that's been rolling in my head for a little while. There's been a lot of anger and emotion floating around as of late and it seems to be getting worse. I see a lot more cop bashing than what I used to see. I also see a lot more cops losing it. Things seem to be building towards something ominous if we don't get a handle on it. We all seem to be losing a little perspective and with emotions at an all time high something is bound to explode.

First of all I want to talk about anger. Anger is a natural emotion and anyone that says otherwise is delusional, there is nothing wrong with being angry about something. It's very common to want to hurt someone badly. We all have those thoughts no matter if we admit them or not. We all have that tipping point in my experience, it usually seems to be caused in some form or other by a lack of respect or perceived lack of respect but that's another article. Sometimes it can get pretty deep and you'll shock yourself but I promise you that you aren't the only one who has had those thoughts; it’s just in our society we seem to be so repressed about everything and deny everything that doesn't conform to some social protocol.

Years ago I was struggling and decided to get a roommate so I could have cheap rent. It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time and the guy seemed easy to get along with so I didn't see a problem. Well after this dude moved in and I got to know this person better...there was a problem. He was one of these wannabe "hustlas" that thought he could bullshit his way out of anything and rip people off. He was incredibly immature and irresponsible for his age. My main beef is that the bills didn't get paid on time but he always had money to party and buy video games. There was always a bullshit excuse that was obviously crap and I was insulted that someone thought I'd believe it. I'd always paid my stuff on time I wasn't going to let this jerk mess up my credit simply because he was an idiot.

Over time I found myself getting angrier and angrier and I was always an even tempered person. Even when I worked in the strip clubs bouncing and had to toss a guy out I wasn't angry when I did it. It was just another fun part of the job. But I was pissed. I was tired of the excuses. At the same time I was starting a business and beating this guy senseless and putting him in ICU was a charge I didn't need especially if I was going to be training police I had to hold myself to a higher standard. I would sit around sometimes and just think about where and how I was going to take him out. I even picked out a spot in the hall where his body would fall. I thought often about would I just break a finger or his entire arm?

For a short time I even thought about after he was beaten so bad he couldn't move I'd cut off part of his tongue so I'd never have to hear him talk again. I even thought about taking pictures of his bruised and battered body and posting it on FaceBook so others could see him being humiliated.

Sounds pretty messed up doesn't it? It is but you've probably thought something similar. In the end I realized how crazy that was because this was a worthless insignificant person and I had a future. I always say, "Don't let someone who has nothing to lose take away everything you have to gain." What I decided to do was tell a mutual friend my plan to break his legs knowing he'd go blab it. I told several people actually. They told the guy and scared the hell outta him and he started paying everything on time until I broke the lease and had him kicked out on his ass. Sure it was manipulation but he deserved it and I didn't break a law.

The point is everyone gets pissed and thinks messed up stuff but there's a big difference between thinking about it and actually doing it. When you’re a police officer dealing with the public the first trick is you can't personalize anything. You represent a department and you wear a badge you are not the badge. People are going to provoke you all the time and they'll probably be ignorant when they do it. Screaming about a constitution they've never read. Yelling about how they pay your salary. How they know their rights when it's obvious they don't. There's a special place in hell for the ones that do know there rights but don't think anyone else has them.

You see some disgusting things that bother you and they should. If you go to a domestic violence call and see a woman beaten half to death by some jerk that doesn't care and you aren't upset about it then you need to take a vacation or find another line of work. At the same time you have to have control of your emotions because in the end it isn't about you.

When you've lost your humanity you've lost something far more than a job. Being an officer is a hard job very few will ever understand. We see the worst the world has to offer every day. It's hard to shake it when you clock out which is why police have a very high divorce and suicide rate. Sometimes it's like you’re a time bomb just waiting to explode. Some people just don't get it.
I was on a police site awhile back and was watching a video about an incident in Oakland where it appeared an officer shot a cameraman with a beanbag for the hell of it. Now from my understanding since then there may have been some editing done on that video similar to what was done in the UC Davis incident where protestors attempted to kidnap police and threaten them then edited a video to make it look like police were pepper spraying "peaceful" protestors for no reason. However you couldn't tell that from the Oakland video at the time. 

Some of the officers posting on the thread about it didn't sound much different than the protestors that were bashing them. They were saying things like," Those protestors are scumbags they deserve whatever they get kill them all." A friend of mine that retired from the FBI always used to tell me, " Be careful in your pursuit of the monsters lest you become one."

These officers posting on that board were well on their way, you could tell it was beyond thinking about. If you allow those dorks to provoke you into becoming just like them then they win. Remember you have to uphold a higher standard. But we all get angry and that isn't as easy as it sounds is it?

Remember you can't personalize or politicize things. When someone provokes you they aren't provoking you, they are trying to provoke an ideal or displace responsibility for something that they've done; maybe they are just really ignorant and immature. Do you really want to let a childish idiot beat you? Take your job and damage your department's credibility? That doesn't just hurt you it hurts all good cops because at that moment you are the face of police everywhere and how you behave affects them as well.

Being a cop may be who you are but it isn't all that you are, it isn't the sum of every part of you. You need to find unrelated things to do to keep perspective. If you’re on all the time it'll drive you nuts. I've already mentioned divorce and suicide rates. If the occupational stress becomes a problem get help don't let it mess up your family as well. Remember when a bomb goes off that bomb is also destroyed and a big enough bomb not only destroys its target but everything around it. I encourage you to find other things to focus on. 

Personally I write short stories as well as music. There are times when I'm calling departments  to try to get a course set up and it's like they are delusional or just don't give a damn about officer safety. Usually after about 3 calls I have to take a break and I pick up the guitar by the bed and play a few songs until I feel better then go back at it.

Remember these things I've said and remember you’re not the only one going through them. Continue to be a solution to the problems don't become a part of them

To find out more about Stonewall Tactical Defense Systems visit http://www.stonewalltactical.com/index.html

Friday, 4 May 2012

The Foundation and Structure of Learning

Years ago I sat in the audience at a brown belt test for a friend's dojo. It was towards the end and the guy going up for his brown belt had done all of his kata and one step sparring and all that stuff. Now it was time for the actual sparring. As they bowed and began to spar it became painfully clear this kid had no idea what he was doing. A much lower belt rank was just picking him off at will and he seemed to be just looking for a spinning backfist because he couldn't think of anything else. He had done all of his kata correctly and his one step spars and demonstrations went fine. So what happened?

This is something that is all too common that we will revisit later in the article. For those that haven't read my other articles I've been involved in martial arts since I was 4 years old back in 1977. For the last several years I've developed programs for Law Enforcement here in the United States. This gave me a greatly different perspective as a teacher and really changed the way I look at curriculums and structure.

You see with law enforcement I don't get the luxury of giving long term training. I have to teach in a way that they can learn and retain in a very short time span. If I can't break things down to a strong foundation within a couple days then I've honestly wasted their time. I think being forced into doing this made me a much better teacher and gave me so much more of an understanding of what I need to do.

As I’ve visited departments over the years and seen other programs out there I've noticed some striking similarities between defensive tactics training and martial arts that was both disturbing and enlightening at the same time. The problems I found in the short two day programs seemed to be a microcosm for the problems that plague martial arts programs everywhere. I was asked to develop a specific outline for a department that wanted to fully adopt our program and had difficulty doing it. It was at this time that I figured out the problem and I want to share with you all what I’ve learned.

You see, in these courses a lot of time there's a lot of material to get through. So the instructors come in with an outline and work straight down it like a checklist. If they get behind they may even speed up a little to make sure all the material gets covered.

This causes a very specific problem. The students memorize the techniques but they never learn them and that's a big difference. This is what happened to our brown belt at the beginning of the article. He got in a hurry and he memorized the belt requirements but never actually learned how to apply them under real conditions. This is a bad curriculum.

I'm not going to get into certain techniques being better or worse than others long term that isn't the point of the article.  The point is that the student lacked a proper foundation and the curriculum didn't have a structure that was conducive to learning. When the minimum time in grade came around the instructor was too worried about the student's feelings and wanted to give him a sense of accomplishment so he rushed the test. However it goes much deeper than that. This student had been let down by this instructor the whole time. These errors didn't just start with this belt test it had been ongoing since white belt and it was obvious. Now the type of martial art being practiced doesn't matter in this case because with a proper foundation and structure you can produce high quality students in any art form so it isn't really about tossing or bashing an art so let's look at some solutions to these problems.

The first thing is concepts over techniques. For the purpose of this article a concept is basically a general principle such as breaking balance that anyone can perform in one way or another. A technique is a specific task that must be performed a specific way. Now we all come in all shapes and sizes. The simple fact is that not every technique is going to work for everyone. When dealing with a beginner you should never force them to perform techniques that you know are going to be problematic. They often get frustrated and leave then never come back and it reflects badly on you and your dojo because now these people are going to go around and tell people your stuff doesn't work or even worse blame themselves and damage their own self confidence.

In the beginning concepts should be the part that matters most. Not everyone can do the exact same technique but they can execute the same concept. I'll give you an example. Let's say you want the student to begin learning how to break a person's balance. Now a big guy might be able to grab someone's head and control it breaking the balance that way. A smaller person may not be able to reach the head but they can attack the legs with knees, kicks, etc. Both break the balance by upsetting the person's structure. Both are correct in the big scheme of things. Later on in their development, because of this, the student will be able to adapt new techniques easier and make them work for themselves at a faster rate.

Now of course a technique is the execution of the concepts so of course there are techniques but the concepts must be fully understood before learning a bunch of techniques. There's a program here in the U.S. where police officers learn 165 techniques in 5 days. Under stress very few of them work and they can't even remember most of them when they leave. There will be plenty of time for teaching your student techniques but they will be understood much better when they are taught as an extension of a concept.

People retain things better when they can relate to them. Sure you may want them to try different techniques to find out which ones work for them and which ones don't. After that however don't force a technique on someone when it's useless to them it will only bog them down and confuse them as well as hurt their development.

I'm going to skip over the techniques in the middle for now and go to strategy. Strategy is a part of a good foundation and is what keeps you from basically being hung out on an island like our poor brown belt. Direction would be another way of saying it. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of something and having no idea what you’re supposed to be doing.

This goes right into learning instead of memorizing. It's about being goal focused. If you’re a judo guy your goal is to put that attacker on the ground. If someone is choking you then you don't just grab their thumbs and jerk their hands away and stop. You follow up and put them on the ground. This is an idea that needs to be established from the beginning. If your just memorizing techniques you will stop after you've gotten the hands pulled away and that is bad training and bad structure.

When you’re working on executing a strategy from the beginning it teaches the student how to think and adapt. It also teaches efficiency. It teaches you how to deal with problems instead of just symptoms and is a great metaphor for leadership in daily life. In the beginning you never want to teach a technique that isn't moving towards executing your ultimate goal. An example of this in law enforcement courses would be that the ultimate goal is to get the guy in cuffs and in the car. Well if you have to do a takedown and don't have some control over the guy beforehand then you lose contact. Now you have to get on the ground and fight with his hands to get control, but if you hand an arm control and maintained it then it would be much easier to get them in cuffs. When you’re dealing with your beginners they will appreciate this. It instils confidence in them because they are able to accomplish something that's real and substantial right away instead of something hollow.

When you do this it establishes a great foundation and your students are already learning something useful. Now you can plug in techniques. Since your students have a full understand of what they are ultimately trying to accomplish and good sound concepts to always fall back on they can now adapt and deal with random changes. They understand the purpose of the techniques they are learning and they learn them faster. You never have students that don't know what to do. I've seen students invent techniques out of nowhere and make them work because when something failed they understood the concept so they made something else work. It's a great thing to see. They can take techniques and modify them to their needs. At this point it starts to become a real art because they are now expressing themselves.

My only caution would be when teaching new techniques you must protect the foundation. People have a tendency when learning something new of tossing out the old and you can't let them crack the foundation. Even if they are going up for black belt make sure they focus on the core techniques that they learned in the beginning. Everyone likes the new cool thing just make sure their foundation doesn't crack while they are playing with it.

In developing these ideas about structure we also developed a new program for the public called KONBATTO (Stonewall Tactical Jujutsu). In this program you not only learn some very simple, direct, and vicious combatives you will also learn how to implement this structure into your curriculum at your school that we discussed in this article as part of that two day course. We are happily launching this program in England and Ireland this summer. If you like these ideas and find them useful I'd be more than happy to show each of you how to apply them to your martial art in person. I thank you for your time and remember. Learn don't memorize.

To find out more about Stonewall Tactical Defense Systems visit http://www.stonewalltactical.com/index.html