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

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