Parking Lots

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 27th Apr)


When I talk about muggers and other financial predators, in our women's self-defense course, one of the locations for muggings that gets brought up is that of parking lots (along with Transit Stops these locations, seem a favored place for street robberies and the like). This article will focus on the types of crimes that makes parking lots a suitable location for a variety of predators to work in. 


Predators will always go where their chosen prey are. A mugger needs a plentiful supply of potential victims who are carrying cash. Few muggers want credit cards etc. as it takes time to transfer these items into cash, and most street robberies take place in order to support a drug habit, where being able to get the next fix is the most pressing order of the day. It is a good assumption to make that somebody visiting or having just visited a shopping mall or supermarket is carrying some cash - with the advent of cash-back at most tills, even somebody who enters a store without cash is probably going to take advantage of this service, even if it is just to have some cash e.g. $20 about their person. Depending on a users particular drug of choice, $20 will get him/her their next fix - or will go a long way to.  

 

As diurnal (daytime), social creatures we often feel at our safest during the day, in public places, where there are other people around us. This can cause us to have a false sense of security e.g. we are relying on others to spot danger for us, and potentially intervene on our behalf if we are threatened or assaulted. Both incorrect and dangerous assumptions to hold to. Rows of cars, impede vision, and allow predators to move virtually unseen. They also can act as bottlenecks, in which we can be trapped or have our movement restricted e.g. if we are moved/forced between two parked cars. To try and prevent this happening, we should park in areas that enjoy natural surveillance i.e. places near to where there is a large amount of traffic, either in vehicles, such as by the entrance to the parking lot (cars coming and going), by the store-front, or even next to one of the areas where people leave their shopping carts. In these locations, predators will find it difficult to work unseen. 

 

Predatory individuals also know how pre-occupied we can become locating our car; even using the remote unlock to find it (opening it and giving any predator access to one of the safest places we have in that environment). The fact that we our so focused on finding where we parked, means that we fail to observe other individuals in the environment, who we would be well to take a look at. When you look for your car and find it, rather than go straight to it, develop a habit of taking a second look around to see who is around you, and taking notice of your actions. Once you get to the car, try not to load shopping in with your back fully turned - if possible use the back seat to put goods on; this allows you to open the car door and have it blocking your back, whilst you load up (if you reverse into a space where there is a wall/barrier behind you - you can create a small enclosed area when you open a door). As soon as you are in the drivers seat put on the central locking. 

 

Don't think predators are just interested in what you are doing when you leave the mall or supermarket, they may well be observing you as you park your car, and enter the store/mall. If you have the habit of parking your car, and then putting your laptop or other valuables in the trunk/boot, understand that this may well be observed, and will send a signal to anyone watching that you have valuable items in your car. A predator may well wait till you return and force you to unlock the trunk, or do it themselves if you have remotely unlocked your car in order to find it. 

 

There are no locations we shouldn't be aware in, and as open and visible (and therefore safe) parking lots may seem, the number of cars and other vehicles in them give predators places to hide, and alleyways that they can use to restrict and prevent movement. Parking in areas which enjoy natural surveillance, and making sure that one of your habits, after locating your car, is to scan your environment before making your way to it, will go a long way in helping prevent you becoming a victim. 



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5 Responses To Violence

(Gershon Ben Keren - Wed 23rd Apr)


Last month, I mentioned in an article, that there several ways that you can respond, when dealing with violence. In this article, I would like to elaborate on them, as there is often confusion within the martial arts and reality based self-defense communities, about what these responses are, and how they operate. When face with an aggressor(s) there are five ways you can respond:

Reason

Posturing

Submission

Fight

Flight

There is a sixth, involuntary response, which is, Freeze. However, this is an involuntary response, and is not a conscious response. Although, the Fight and Flight responses, can sometimes be involuntary, and initiated by our subconscious fear system e.g. we see a bear and we immediately start running (and only then have the conscious understanding/realization of our situation) etc. more often than not, when dealing with social violence, that develops along a timeline, the flight and fight response, is a conscious rather than instinctual one. In most types of human violence, the initial interaction, is made up of some form of verbal exchange rather than an actual assault; this may be to disarm us and/or for an assailant to emotionally prepare themselves, and build themselves up, before they make a physical attack etc. this means, that we have to consciously stimulate a flight or fight response, rather than rely on our fear system to do so. We may feel a certain pull in one of these two directions, this would make our fight and flight responses, in most situations instinctual rather than instinctive i.e. the urge to respond in one of these ways is derived from our instinct, instead of driven by it – this may seem like a matter of semantics, however there is a crucial difference between an urge to respond, and a natural reaction/response.

We clearly see our fight and flight response kick in, when the threat or danger, does not come from another human e.g. immediately running when we hear loud noises, such as gunfire, or are confronted by a wild animal etc. It should also be noted that when our flight response, instinctively kicks in, it has only one goal: to get away from the danger – it is not trying to get us to safety. This could mean that it causes us to run away from gunfire, into a road with on-coming traffic etc. Our fear instinct, and responses are designed to work in the majority of cases (they are there to ensure the survival of the species, not always the individual). If running away from a threat works 9 times out of 10, then it’s a pretty good survival response. If it had to be changed, to running to safety, so many factors would come into play, so much information about the environment, would need to be processed that the response time would increase so much, that the success ratio may fall to something like 3 in 10; not good for the species or the individual. A quick response is required in more instances than a slower, “better” response.

In most social species e.g. humans, dogs, wolves, elks etc. most conflicts are not resolved through fighting. Most packs, herds and groups, survive largely by strength of numbers. Using fighting as a means of resolving disputes, could cost the collective dearly e.g. a significant contributor to the groups well-being could be injured (or even killed) and no longer be able to participate in the groups survival – if two dogs in a wolf pack, consisting of eight members fought, and were both injured to such an extent that they were unable to hunt with the pack, the pack’s hunting ability would be down 25%, reducing the groups survival chances significantly. In most social conflicts, matters are resolved through acts of posturing, and submission i.e. one party demonstrates their physical superiority, and the other either postures back (escalating the conflict), or acts in a submissive fashion, such as cowering, apologizing, retracting a challenge/insult they may have made etc. More human conflicts are resolved this way, than we may realize; most people don’t want to fight, and will tend to escalate situations only when/if their judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs, or if there are other people present – there is a fear of losing face, and a possible social standing.

One of the important things to understand about the way in which posture and submission work, is that they operate hand-in-hand; when somebody is posturing, they will recognize when a person is responding in a submissive manner – through both their body language and what they are saying. In a wolf pack, when there is a dispute between two dogs, both will normally posture, until one rolls over on its back, and shows the other its throat; this ends the conflict. In my time working door, I’ve seen many occasions where during an aggressive exchange, one person will suddenly offer their hand out, and apologize. In almost all cases I’ve witnessed, the other person will immediately cool their jets, and shake hands. This is normally accompanied by a state of relief, with both parties acting amazed at the exchange they just had. I have also witnessed situations, where drink has impaired this process, and both parties have rapidly moved into fight mode. It should be noted that acting in a submissive manner, is not part of the de-escalation process, as in some cases, submission can be seen as a weakness, and encourage violence. Rather, responding submissively, should be seen as an act of conflict resolution, that can work when an aggressor isn’t overly emotional, and does not have any predisposition or premeditation to act violently – this is why de-escalation, should be attempted before submission.

Where aggression and violence are concerned, reason has little place, and in fact can make matters worse. I once witnessed a middle aged man, try to explain to somebody younger, and obviously more aggressive in nature, why he couldn’t have knocked into him, and spilt his drink. The younger man, had little time to listen to “reason”, all he knew was that somebody had knocked his drink over him, and that in his mind he was justified in acting violently, and wasn’t able to think of any other suitable alternatives to this. Emotional people rarely, if ever, respond well to reason.

Understanding how social violence works is extremely important, as it allows us to respond appropriately. There are situations, where posturing may work as a deterrence, and times where it may be disastrous. There may be times when we instinctively run or fight, however we should recognize that if we aren’t doing these things, then we will have to make a conscious decision to do so. Thinking about and visualizing the types of incident where these responses are appropriate, will allow us to create effective, pre-built decision trees, that we can employ when we face these types of danger.



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Improvised Weapons (Re-visited)

(Gershon Ben Keren - Fri 18th Apr)


If we understand that every time we fight, we fight, we are fighting for survival, all options should be on the table - including the use of weapons (if we are not fighting for survival, then we have to question why we are fighting). If we also understand, that the types of individuals who are likely to be questioning our right to exist, will be carrying some form of weapon, it would be extremely naive of enter a conflict unarmed.  

There may be a number of reasons why we choose not to carry a weapon; it could be that the state or country we are in does not permit us to carry one (we may have a legal right to carry a weapon where we live/reside however that right may not be granted to us when we have to travel), or that it is not really appropriate for the situation we are in e.g. a bar/restaurant or place of work etc. may not allow us on their premises when armed. This is where we should be prepared, if necessary, to improvise a weapon.  

There are three types or categories of improvised weapons:

Weapons of Carry

Weapons of Opportunity

Environmental Advantages 

Weapons of Carry 

These are things found about your person e.g. mobile phone, keys, belt, jacket, briefcase/computer bag, loose change, pens etc. We could also choose to carry items, that can be used as weapons, however to be considered as an improvised weapon they must have a primary purpose that is non-combative e.g. a Maglite torch is primarily a torch, even though it can be used as a short stick, or a small striking object. There are also objects such as pens and torches that have tactical equivalent e.g. tactical flashlight, tactical pens. Here we must consider, whether a tactical flashlight is primarily a weapon that can be used as a flashlight, or a flashlight that can be used as a weapon. This can be an important factor if the conflict/assault ever goes to court, and the question of whether you were prepared and armed (tactical pen/flashlight), versus unprepared and unarmed e.g. Maglite torch, ballpoint pen etc. gets brought up.  

There may also be objects we carry as part of our jobs, which can be used combatively e.g. a clipboard if we are working in a hospital etc. If we have a legitimate reason to be carrying such a tool, then it is quite a straightforward, explanation as to why we used it to defend ourselves i.e. we had it in our hands when we were assaulted. There may be objects that we will have in our hands, due to other situations that we find ourselves in e.g. if we are in a bar and we are holding a bottle we can use this as a weapon, if we are on a train/bus reading a book, we can use this as a weapon etc. 

Whatever weapon we carry, whether improvised or designed as a weapon e.g. knife, baton, gun etc. it must be accessible and ready to use. If you can't get to it, it's of no use to you. So anything you carry about your person as a tactical/defensive too has to be easily deployed. An assailant will always deny you time and distance, so the quicker you can get your chosen weapon into your hand the better.  

You may have a magazine in your hand but if you have no time to roll it up it won't serve you well as a stick like weapon. A Newspaper can be folded into a brick like object but this takes time, and you may not be able to do it surreptitiously, and or quickly enough - it can however be easily deployed as a distracting weapon, or put over the person's face as a mask. 

Fashioned Weapons 

Fashioned Weapons are those that need some degree of assembly before use - and are therefore not necessarily the most accessible. A mobile phone can be picked up and smashed into somebody's face, whilst filling a condom with coins and using it as a long range schlock will take time. 

Fashioned weapons also show a degree of intent, and understanding of the potential consequences of what they are capable of. If I fold a newspaper into a brick and use it to break somebody's nose, then I can hardly say in a court of law, that I just happened to have it in my hand in that form when I was attacked. If I break a bottle, to have a cutting/stabbing weapon, I have fashioned it i.e. I have changed its form. If I use it as an impact weapon, whilst it is still intact, I can argue/claim that it just happened to be in my hand at the time of the assault.  

There might be times when it is necessary to change the form of an already available weapon e.g. slashing a broken bottle in wide arcs may help me keep multiple assailants away, while I disengage, whereas using it as an impact/striking weapon may mean I have to get closer to my assailants.  

Weapons of Opportunity 

These are things which are found in your environment e.g. fire extinguishers, chairs, ash trays, car radio antennae, pool/snooker cues etc. 

These items should be benign i.e. they should not be recognizable to your assailant as a weapon; something that could be used against you. It is also something that should be easily accessible - you don't want to have to spend several seconds getting to a weapon, especially if it may alert an assailant(s) to the fact that there is something they could use against you. To help recognize objects in your environment that could be used, we need to have a method of categorizing them so that we can understand how they can be used.  

The system that was first taught to me, is one that the IKMF use. It was taught to me by Eyal Yanilov during an instructor course I was on, many years ago, however I believe it should be Avi Moyal (the now head of the IKMF) who should be credited with it. The system recognizes six basic categories:  

 

  1. Objects like Sticks (Makel) - Snooker Cues, Brooms, Golf Clubs 
  2. Objects like Shield (Magen) - Bags, Clipboards, Chairs, Trash Can Lids, Toilet Seats 
  3. Objects like Knife (Sakkin) - Keys, Screwdrivers, Pens/Pencils 
  4. Objects like Rock (Even) - Snooker Balls, Water Bottles, Bottles 
  5. Objects like Chain (Hevel) - Belts, Dog Leads, Wires, Cables, Radio Antennae 
  6. Small Objects (Ktanim) - Projectiles, Coins 

 

Being able to put objects into these categories helps you determine how they should be used e.g. a key is more like a knife, and should be used like a knife, to cut and stab, rather than to insert between the fingers to make a knuckle duster - which is really an impact weapon. Some objects share properties e.g. a chair is a shield, but it also have four legs, which can be used like sticks. 

In the Small Objects category, I would include sprays and liquids e.g. you can empty an oil based propellant like WD40 into somebody's face, and/or throw a cup of coffee over a person. 

I would potentially add a sub category into this system, under Objects like chains which would be clothing i.e. flexible weapons that the other person is clothed/dressed in. Using a person's clothing to strangle/choke them, and direct them is extremely effective.  

Weapon vs Weapon 

Is a chair better than a screwdriver, or a golf-club better than a belt etc? Situations determine solutions. If dealing with a singular assailant a hard-object that can knock somebody out and cause concussive force may be preferable to a knife like object, which although may be painful and even deadly may not get such a quick result - an attacker may take a long time to bleed out whereas a knock out is instantaneous. Flexible and long weapons may be better for keeping multiple assailants at range, and shield like objects for protecting yourself against an assailant armed with a knife. 

It may be easier to explain in a court of law, what you did, if your aggressor's face isn't all mangled and

cut-up (a jury may be more sympathetic towards you), which may be a consequence of you using a knife like object. The general public can be squeamish where blood is concerned, and may feel sympathy for an assailant whose face is permanently scarred, and as a consequence judge you to have used excessive force, even if this wasn't the case. 

Structural Integrity 

A weapon must have structural integrity, either in itself or in the way that it is used e.g. a water bottle which you can't close your grip around, will probably slip out of your hand if you strike somebody with its base, however if you ram it into somebody's face, using your hand to push it, it will have structural integrity. A magazine although strong after several stabs/strikes may start to lose its integrity, and may have to be ditched in favor of open/empty hands. 

Environmental Advantage 

It is also possible to use hard surfaces, such as walls, and the floor to inflict pain and damage on an aggressor. As one of my Judo coaches used to say, whenever someone questioned him as to the validity and effectiveness of Judo as a self-defense system, Nothing hits harder than concrete. Using solid objects, such as urinals, sinks, tables, counter-tops and walls to slam your assailant's head into etc. will give you a very solid striking surface to work with. 

Your environment can always be used defensively too i.e. you can use a car or other vehicle as a barrier/obstacle to put between you and your aggressor. 

However more important than tool and environment recognition is your Mindset. 

Mindset 

Do you have the mindset to stab somebody? If you haven't, don't pick up a knife like object. Be honest with yourself. Could you get, close up and personal, with somebody and ram a screwdriver into their leg? Understand the force you would have to generate to do this, what it would feel like and then visualize yourself doing it. Also what type of situation/altercation would warrant you doing this - not legally, but morally (when you looked back at the situation a few years later would you have judged yourself to be excessive). If somebody took your wallet, would that necessitate it? If somebody tried to abduct you? Be clear when you would draw a weapon, and when you would use it - if you draw it you should be prepared to use it. 

If you are fighting for survival, all things should be on the table, and you should be prepared to do anything and use anything in order to achieve this. If you're not fighting for survival though you have to question why are you fighting?   



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Situational Self Defense

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 13th Apr)


Our society is one where we want to be given the answers, rather than be taught to figure out the solution for ourselves. Personal safety is the same. People either want a list of rules to follow (which they'll conveniently ignore when they’re too inconvenient to follow) or will convince themselves that personal safety is nothing more than formalized common sense. There are five main reasons why following rules or relying on common sense are not reliable methods to keep us safe. These are:

 

  • Our rules are based on situations that aren't realistic
  • Rules designed to work in one situation, can end up conflicting with other rules designed for other situations
  • Predatory individuals know our safety rules and will use them against us
  • Folowing a rule, may make us believe we are doing the right thing and so cause us to miss the real threat/danger
  • We don't follow the rules we set for ourselves

 

At root, we as individuals have become so far removed from real life violence, that we don’t actually know what it looks like. The rules we create our based on situations that we imagine we might have to deal with, not ones that are likely to happen e.g. we plan to protect ourselves against muggings in deserted, dark alleyways not in crowded shopping malls. To develop effective self-protection strategies, we must start to understand the situational components of violence, and how these will shape our risk assessments and our responses to violence.

There are five basic situational components that should be considered, when trying to understand how dangerous situations can be identified, predicted and avoided. These are:

 

  • Location/Environment
  • Relationship to the Assailant
  • Assailant’s Motive
  • State of Mind/Preparedness
  • Third Parties with You

 

Relationship and Location are two, very interconnected situational components. We often imagine violence only being committed against us by strangers, but many assaults (especially against women) are carried out by people who the target/victim knows; either as a friend, friend of friend, associate or co-worker etc. In these types of attack, it is more likely that an assault will happen in a very familiar location, such as the person’s home, somebody else’s home or a local bar/pub where they regularly drink etc. Where the assailant is a stranger, assaults are more likely to happen in more public settings, which are dictated by the attacker/predators familiarity with the location rather than the victims.

When we understand a person’s motive, we are better able to make an assessment of the likelihood of them using violence as a means to accomplish their goals. I initially try to assess, whether a criminal is “object-orientated” or “person-orientated” i.e. do they want objects/things I possess, or do they want me. A burglar, is certainly Object-Orientated, as well as “Non Interactive” (meaning they want to avoid interactions/conflicts – which is why most burglaries happen during the day when people are out of their homes), whereas a mugger although primarily “Object Orientated”, chooses an “Interactive” method in order to commit their crime i.e. they have to engage with us. Someone who wishes to abduct us for a sexual assault is “Person Orientated”, and has already planned to assault us and cause us harm. We can plot these on a spectrum, which demonstrates how likely an individual is to use physical force against us.

Our state of mind and level of preparedness takes two forms. Firstly are we accepting or denying the possibility of being assaulted? If we are in a state of denial, believing that we will never be a target of violence, we are much more likely to be in a state of shock (and “Freeze”) than if we had accepted and come to terms with the fact that violence can happen to anyone. If we believed that our common sense was what was keeping us safe, we might spend a large part of the assault, wondering and questioning why we are being attacked. There is also a level of preparedness within the assault itself i.e. were we able to recognize that we’d been selected as a victim a few minutes before the assailant was able to carry out the assault – did we have the time/were we able to get to a weapon of choice, physically position ourselves, use the environment etc.

We might be adept at protecting ourselves but are we able to protect those who are with us? What do you do if you have your 6 years old daughter with you? What do you do if a predator targets your child not you? Do you have the skills and the technical knowledge to protect both of you, along with a way of communicating/explaining to your child after the event in the post-conflict phase what happened and why you did what you did – you don’t want this to be a traumatizing experience that affects them for the rest of their lives.

The third parties who are with you may be friends. If you’ve been talking yourself up about your fighting skills, and/or making public threats and promises about what you would do if somebody acted and behaved in a certain way etc. you may feel the pressure to fight, when there really is no need to. My favorite quote at the moment is one of Dr Gavriel Schneider’s, “You fight for one of two reasons: ego or survival.” In my opinion fighting for ego is something we should have left behind us as we grew up and exited childhood; the stakes of violence are really just too high.

Understanding violence from a situational perspective will allow us to make realistic risk assessments of the situations we are likely/might face, and form effective and appropriate solutions to dealing with them. 



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Clothing Grabs

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 7th Apr)


I first started working door/nightclub security when I was 18. I was a student, and a guy at the Judo club I used to train at got me the job. I'd never thought about doing security work before but the need for money - and it was paid in cash - convinced me that this was an easy job to do that didn't conflict with my university/course work. My first job was at a club called the Golden Monkey, which was burnt down (arson) a few years after I started working this job. I mention this only to give you a rough idea of the types of place(s) I initially started working at. 


In those days all I had was my Judo skills and training (no Krav Maga etc), and Judo isn't in and of itself a great system of self-defense; it teaches you how to throw, takedown and control people whilst standing and on the ground, but it doesn't have a blocking or striking system - and whilst traditionalists may disagree with me, I believe the one self-defense kata the system contains is so basic and specific that it is effectively useless, from a self-defense perspective. However, in saying this, Judo does  teach a student some very effective fighting skills, along with its throws and takedowns e.g. how to use clothing, how to keep a level head when being thrown around, how to stay on your feet at all costs etc. One of the key skills that Judo taught me for security work was the importance of using clothing as a weapon. 


I remember, all too vividly, my first one-on-one conflict, that saw me being rescued by two larger colleagues, and realizing that unless someone had a jacket or coat on I was next to useless. That experience taught me that the first thing I should do when asking someone to leave the premises was to hand them their coat/jacket - this was the North of England where having a Cloakroom established a place as being a cut above the rest - even if the bathroom floors were permanently coated in vomit. A drunk person with a coat on was easy pickings; my success rate in dealing with unruly patrons rose considerably when I handed them their coat and could use their clothing to control them (it also marked me out as a polite and basically a good guy - which meant I avoided many potential conflicts). 

 

Many martial artists/self-defense practitioners feel invaded if their clothing is grabbed or see it as a dirty tactic i.e. this doesn't measure up to the way they practice. If I was to organize violence on a timeline I would say that most fights are precede by some form of verbal interaction, the next by pushing and grabbing, and the next by actual an actual assault e.g. punching and kicking etc. If you don't know how to handle/deal with clothing grabs, you will have to escalate a dispute, where somebody grabs you (and sometimes they regret doing this as soon as they've done it) to an all out fight very quickly i.e. simply hit them when they grab you; as you won't have any other options - and if they have friends with them, or they're a work colleague or family member who has simply had a few too many to drink, this may not be the best/most effective option available to you.           

 

One of the great principles Judo taught me was the idea of who controls who. We immediately think that when someone grabs us they are taking control. Not true. When somebody grabs me either one hand or two-handed, it tell me they aren't ready to attack, and/or that they're setting up an attack but not actually making one e.g. a person who grabs me with one hand may use the other to punch me, somebody who grabs me with two may try and head-butt me etc. The grab is either to intimidate me or facilitate an attack, in and of itself it will cause me no harm. When somebody grabs me they join to me; when I move they move etc. I actually control them. If they are holding me and I step back they have to follow my movement or let go i.e. I control them. 

 

Learning how to move with someone who grabs you is a key self-defense/fighting skill. It's one of the reasons that training in a GI will improve your combat skills. However simply understanding that when somebody grabs you, you can control that person will allow you to switch your mindset from prey to predator in the shortest amount of time. The class on Saturday hopefully brought out some of these ideas.

 




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