Relationship Abuse

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 28th May)


It’s awhile since I’ve written anything that directly addresses women’s personal safety and self-defense so I thought I’d do an blog piece on abusive relationships, focusing on those that have the potential to become violent (Domestic Violence) or possibly aggressive (Stalking).

We are by nature optimists; we believe that bad things happen to other people, not to us – if the average age of death in the U.S. is 87 and you inform people this and follow it up by asking them how old they believe they will be when they die they’ll tell you 89, 90, 90 + etc, any figure higher than the average. Whatever the statistics say, we will always believe we’ll be the exception. I don’t knock this optimism I think it’s one of the character traits that makes us such an amazing species.

However our natural optimism can sometimes get the better of us – especially when we like to believe that somebody else’s behavior and actions are acceptable (or excuse them), when clearly they are not. Relationship abuse (which also covers/includes Domestic Violence) is one of those areas where the victim and often the public excuse behaviors and abuse, which should never be tolerated or excused. The disturbing thing is that domestic violence and abusive behavior(s) in relationships is often seen as something that the victim is to blame for.

When singer Rhianna was physically abused by her boyfriend Chris Brown, many young women sided with Brown rather than his victim, excusing his violent behavior by stating that she’d provoked him to a point where he had no alternative but to be physically violent towards her. Although there may be many situations within a relationship where the wronged party is the man and not the woman, this never justifies or gives a green light to physical aggression. That women are excusing and validating male violence and aggression towards women is a very worrying thing.

No relationship starts with physical abuse; no abuser is either that stupid, or at the initial stages of a relationship accustomed to acting this way (there are both “conscious” and “subconscious” abusers – the state of mind/intent does not excuse the abuse). Those who “consciously” abuse, know that they have to first gain trust and dependence before they abuse, else their partner/victim will leave. Those who abuse as part of the way they manage relationships tend to do so after the relationship has moved into a particular phase. Both types of abuser give warning signs early on in the relationship.

Often people who look on from the outside can’t understand why women in abusive relationships stay with their partner (especially when kids/children aren’t involved). What they don’t realize is that the “good times” are so extra-ordinarily good; and not just because the bad times are so bad. Abusive people are skilled at making the good times something exceptional, something so good that a person will risk anything and everything to experience the “high” they once had. You will never meet a more loving and caring person as a relationship abuser. The good times will be over the top good: so good that you’ll be hooked, that you couldn’t believe such a caring and loving individual existed.

In real-life, people have good moments, bad moments and indifferent ones – that’s reality. Relationship Abusers, know their own profile and will do everything to create the illusion that they are the perfect partner without any flaws and faults (they will over do this by hiding their bad and indifferent moments). In the initial stages of a relationship they will be overly attentive, often making lavisous gifts, and talking endlessly about their future with you – they’ll often advocate things such as moving in together, getting married, or other long term plans very early in the relationship. What may appear as attentive may merely be them expressing a dependency upon a dream or plan where you are an interchangeable/bit player or to put it another way someone who appears to be fulfilling a role in their life. When planning becomes a big part of the early stages of a relationship the other party should accept the flattery but at the same time be very aware of what is going on.

At the same time, the expectation of how the relationship will be managed will be moved from something that may have been casual to something formal; with one party requiring another to account for any and every time spent away, whilst at the same time arguing that every spare moment a person has should be spent with them.

Often our heart strings play to these abusive individuals who appear to be acting in the best interests of others, however we should recognize that concern in one (our own) relationship may be akin to claustrophobia in another. Identifying in the early stages of a relationship the risks of having an abusive partner is a valuable skill. Dealing with such behaviors and people early on is the best way to act and precede.



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Combat Fitness/Cosher Kravi

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 21st May)


I always stress that there are three components to reality based self-defense: an aggressive mindset, simple techniques that can be performed under stress and the one people always pretend not to hear: physical fitness. It is no coincidence that the best-selling martial arts and self-defense books and DVD’s are those that detail secret techniques, such as lethal blows and pressure points that require little training and no physical effort or exertion. As long as you read the book, watch the DVD etc, you don’t need to worry about what you eat or whether you ever step out on to the mats to train. Of course, if you fall into this category (Non-practitioner with books and DVD sets) be sure that you post all of your opinions and thoughts regarding self-defense and martial arts on some forum using the name, “UrbanWarrior” or “StreetNinja” etc. Believe me the world desperately needs to hear what you have to say.

Firstly let me caveat this blog post by saying, we could all be fitter, we could all be stronger etc. and anyone who steps out on to the mats or gym floor regardless of their current physical condition has my respect. Too many people, and I’m guilty of this myself, live off past fitness glories e.g. “you should have seen me when…..” Mine and your(s) past physical condition have no relevance currently or historically. Where we are now is what counts, and if we have to improve – and we all do – then that’s where our collective heads should be.

One of the great things the U.S. Market did when it started promoting Krav Maga was to emphasize the importance of fitness in self-defense. Unfortunately at the same time much of the fighting and self-defense skills were lost at the expense of promoting the fitness and workout component of Krav Maga e.g. doing 50 push-ups followed by 50 punches doesn’t really improve punching ability, just the ability to do push-ups followed by punching. Much of what is promoted as Krav Maga in the US would in Israel be defined as “Cosher Kravi” i.e. Combat Fitness.

I often couple mental aggressiveness and physical fitness. If you give up or stop when performing a physical activity, can you be sure you won’t do the same when confronting and dealing with a physical aggressor? If you grimace and show exhaustion when made to train with physical intensity, will you be able to prevent yourself from showing or demonstrating fear? Giving over to your emotional state and being an open book is something to avoid. Whatever hurts is never relieved by exhibiting the fact to those around; train to show no emotion when you’re tired and you’re learning a skill that can be transferred to other emotional states as well.

Fitness is important in a street-fight because once the adrenaline has gone that’s all you will have left. Although most physical confrontations last under 10 seconds, the entire incident takes much longer. The majority of violent situations will involve threat identification a period of verbal aggression etc before erupting into a full blown physical assault. From the moment of identification, the adrenal system is in action. The adrenal system may well give you a 20 second shot of super-human energy but if 15 of that has been taken up as part of a verbal confrontation, you’ll have only 5 seconds worth left. If your aggressor has only just started to get fully adrenalized at this point, you’ll be working from the back foot.

Next time you step out on to the mats understand that this is an opportunity that has been given you so that you can improve both your fitness and emotional control. Whatever your fatigue level don’t let anyone else know, if you want to have an easy session – without pushing yourself – don’t. The time on the mats is yours and you shouldn’t waste it. Train with energy and enthusiasm: every time you hit a pad, hit it with everything as if your life depended on it. Next time you feel you physically can’t go on, do one more punch, kick or repetition, then another, then another etc all the time without letting on your pain.
The ability to appear indomitable and un-fatigued is enough to make 99.9% of aggressors mentally crumble.



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The Art of \"Throwing\"

(Gershon Ben Keren - Mon 14th May)


This semester sees us introduce some basic throws into our Krav Maga syllabus. Many people are unaware that in the early days of Krav Maga, Judo was taught alongside the program and that when individuals graded in Krav Maga, they also graded in Judo. There is a reason that the majority of military close combat systems (are based on or) have a Judo component to them: throws, chokes and strangulations are effective fight finishers that a smaller person can perform against a larger and heavier opponent. Another major reason is that most fights rapidly progress to a grappling or clinch type range – an attacker will always try to eliminate time and distance from their assaults, so being able to work in close gives a person a real advantage.

Although the Chinese martial arts contain throws, it was the Japanese systems of Ju-Jitsu that really turned them into an art and systematically studied ways to effectively throw people. The ground is the largest and hardest punching surface that you’ll ever be able to find (much better than a fist), and it never misses. A 150 lb person will not have the same striking power as a 250 lb person but they’ll be able to throw as hard and if not harder than their heavier counterpart – something I’ll explain later in this post. The Japanese arts (like Krav Maga) are all about finishing a person: Japanese Karate has the concept/idea of “One Punch, One Kill”, whilst Judo and Ju-Jitsu are concerned with joint breaks (not joint-locks), incapacitating throws and chokes/strangulations that leave an individual unconscious. Throwing is a great way to physically finish a person and also cause them to mentally remove themselves from the fight i.e. there is nothing more obvious than who is the superior fighter, when one person is left standing and another finds themselves on the ground.

There may be “lucky punches” but there are never “lucky throws” and as such throwing takes a bit of time to get the hang of – as does punching/striking correctly. Moving yourself and another person in a dynamic context is the pinnacle of physical mastery. We teach our throwing from realistic self-defense scenario’s, recognizing that strikes are necessary to enable you to perform a powerful and finishing throw. In my time working professional security I have probably “finished” more fights through throwing than by any other means – I’ve had people walk away, refuse to fight on but in terms of actual finishing, throwing remains top of the list: nothing hits harder than concrete.

A throw consists of three distinct phases: breaking a person’s balance, “fitting in” or positioning yourself ready for the throw and the execution of the throw itself. Balance breaking is a key self-defense concept/idea. Whenever I attempt any disarm (knife, gun, stick etc.) I attempt to break my aggressor’s balance. It is much easier to take a gun off of someone who is 100% concerned with gaining balance rather than thinking about the gun itself. When throwing someone, taking a person’s balance, is what gets them ready to fall (this is why the larger a person is the harder they fall – 250 LB moving downwards hits the concrete heavier than 150 LB’s). When you perform a hip throw, you are not lifting a person’s weight, merely presenting their moving weight with an obstacle that “trips them up” or gets in their way.

Fitting in, is the way you position yourself ready to execute the throw – this will only work if a person’s balance has already been broken: it is this which gives you the time to position your body accordingly ready to make the throw; as well as making the throw itself easier – because the person is already falling. The execution is merely the final piece, that should be simple and effortless whilst at the same time causing the real damage. When we reap the leg, after an attack with a knee, we do so after moving the person out of balance, and then stepping through to get in position. By the time we reap/”cut away” the leg, the person should effectively be falling. The reap should add the last 10%, which sees the person 3ft in the air and waiting to crash.

We have a small number of throws to focus on this semester and by the end of it you’ll be performing them like professionals. You are learning and equipping yourself with some of the greatest equalizing techniques out there.



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\"Visual\" Decision Making

(Gershon Ben Keren - Sun 6th May)


I don’t know much about American Football (coming from the UK I grew up with “Soccer”) however I do know one thing about the sport and that is the Quarterback – the person who throws the ball forward to his teammates in the hope of scoring a touchdown – has to make some very quick decisions whilst under immense stress and pressure; he has the opposing team attempting to take him out of the game before he makes the throw.

He needs in one glance to be able to assess the state of the field in front of him and assess which players are in the best position, all whilst waiting for some 250 LB giant to bear down on him and prevent him from throwing the ball. He certainly doesn’t have time to weigh up the pros and cons of each potential decision rather he must look, decide and then act. His visual assessment immediately determines his decision, in the same way that many emergency personnel immediately seem to know what to do when they turn up at a fire, a train wreck etc. One look at the situation will tell them what “type” of fire it is and what they must do to combat it – as the fire develops they may take in the new information available to them and adjust their plan but in the initial instant they know, just like the Quarterback, what they must do.

A computer has beaten a human at chess: IBM’s “Big Blue” beat Gary Kasparov, a Chess Grandmaster. However no computer program has ever been written that can beat a person at either Backgammon or the Japanese game of “Go” (a game where players attempt to change two sided disks to their color by trapping a line of their opponent’s disks between theirs). Chess differs from these two games, in that it is possible to make predictions and comparisons based on different plays. “Big Blue” beat Kasparov by comparing all the potential outcomes of a particular play and evaluating it against all the other ones available to it. Kasparov said he was only able to do this for one or two moves ahead and that he normally had a gut feel for a play based on the way that the board looked i.e. he’d seen the pieces laid out in an identical or similar way before. In Backgammon and Go, there are no “set outcomes” as such; every decision has to be based on the way the board “looks”, where the pieces lie etc. In Backgammon/Go the layout of the pieces do not result in any predictable outcomes; any computer attempting to run comparisons of plays would end up getting caught in an infinite loop – each year a large cash prize is offered to any programmer who can write a program that will defeat a top Go player.

When doing crowd surveillance, a security professional is presented with the task of identifying any potential assailant that may be in a crowd of possibly tens of thousands. It would be impossible to assess and compare every individual’s behavior and actions to ascertain if they represent a potential threat or danger, whether to others around them, such as at a sports event, or to a particular individual, such as a politician at a rally or similar. Any identification of such individuals must be done by looking at the crowd as a whole, in a similar way to a Quarterback who looks at the field in front of him and let’s his eyes be drawn to a particular player who is in the “best” position. The Quarterback knows what a “Best Position” looks like because it’s stored in his memory from previous experiences. He probably couldn’t even explain why one player is better positioned than another rather he just knows what looks right.

A Security Professional may never have seen an assassination attempt first-hand before – he will probably have been shown footage of previous assassinations as part of his training however these will have been caught on film from a cameraman’s perspective. Despite lacking a firsthand visual memory of such a thing, he’ll know from experience what a peaceful crowd attending a political rally etc will look like, and what behaviors people in such crowds engage in e.g. flag waving, clapping, smiling etc, he’ll also be aware of how people in such crowds move; whether the majority stand and wait, how those wanting to get a better look move through the crowd etc, etc. Whilst he scans his eyes over the whole scene, he will wait for his eyes to be drawn to the person whose movement, actions or behaviors are out of place and don’t adhere to the “normal” picture of a healthy crowd.

Just as a Backgammon, Go player or Quarterback can take in the importance of what they see in an instant and make a decision based upon it, so can the security professional. He though works from what seems out of place as opposed to what looks good and in place. Most of us have had that experience of walking in to a bar or pub and feeling that something was wrong; something that we couldn’t actually identify or put our finger upon. This is our fear system alerting us to the presence of danger by identifying that what we see before us doesn’t marry up to all our previous positive experiences of bars or pubs. This comparison of images is a bit like trying to do a “spot the difference” puzzle, where we can see that the two pictures/photos we’re meant to compare are not the same but we’re not immediately able to identify the five actual differences etc.

Our fear system works like a “behind the scenes” security professional, comparing situations with previous ones. If everything looks the same as a positive experience, then no alert is given. If it matches a negative experience an alert is given - likewise if it doesn’t match a positive one. Once this alert is given we must make a dynamic risk assessment.



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