For today's blog I have decided to talk about the importance of de-escalation and self awareness in the realm of self defence and self protection. I feel that I would be more then qualified to talk about this subject, as it is an area that others in the self defence industry such as Tony Blauer, Richard Dimitri, Geoff Thompson, Lee Morrison, and the late Drew Guest have all mentioned in their teachings the importance of this skill set. I will share some more of Drew's teachings in the next blog post.
Any instructor worth their salt will teach you about the importance of these skills, in fact that can be the difference between an innocent misunderstanding and a knife in your stomach.
Besides the fact I have studied martial arts for the last 17 years and I have spent the last 7 years working in the security industry as a crowd controller and security officer I feel that I have been exposed to my fair share of difficult situations. Some of them are simply resolved over a brief conversation and a polite smile whereas other situations require mental dexterity and the ability to think fast on your feet. Working in the industry is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. It is extremely frustrating that there are instructors who are purely dojo trained and are teaching self defence to naive students who dare not question their credentials, let alone their technique. As an instructor I make it my mission to be the eternal student and continue to train for my benefit as well my students and draw upon my experience working the beat. The key to teaching self defence is understanding why people become violent and working in volatile environments.
The one thing I will say to begin with is you must be in tune in with your environment. I speak about this in more detail in the blog post ' An Axe to Grind' where I discuss the importance of being alert in ones environment and the safety awareness code created by the late Jeff Cooper. Learn the codes and practice thinking in this manner next time you are out and about and see if you would observe things that would normally not enter your field of vision.
Working as a security officer and crowd controller from the moment I sign on for a shift, till the time I sign off I am aware of my surroundings. Over time you begin to sense danger before it happens. Like Spiderman with his inbuilt 'Spidey Sense' you look at your environment in greater detail. There have been times where my familiarity with the environment and the people I encounter in it have helped me identify potential threats before they unfurl. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to you the reader is to simply identify the incongruencies in your environment and investigate further.
For example, If you are visiting a night club look at the demographic that frequent the venue. Are they roughly the same age, gender, demeanour and dressed appropriately for the venue? I want to show you an example of how this level of security analysis can be used in a potential scenario. I am using this iconic scene from Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton about how simply by looking for an inconsistency in the environment can help identify a potential threat. Please watch so you get an idea of how to do this for yourself.
However, as a civilian I do not recommend that you engage the threat, if possible alert the security officer or policeman on duty if there is one in the vicinity. If you have no choice to engage, be prepared to faced with a weapon and neutralise the weapon possibly by using a block or disarm followed by a lock or choke. It is important to remove the weapon from your attacker's grasp or if positioned correctly you can use the weapon against them. Just be mindful of the Use of Force principle and section 462A of the Crimes Act.
I am fortunate I have never been attacked with a firearm, but I have had fists, knives, syringes, beer bottles and even firecrackers used against me. In all those situations I have felt fear but have used my discretion when engaging those threatening violence against me. Often I have had to react and deal with a situation using gross motor skills in order to defend myself. There is a reason why I believe in simplistic techniques that require only a couple of moves as opposed to a flurry of 'flash in the pan' techniques that will likely fail and leave you exposed in a situation. This is the advantage of studying arts like Close Quarters Combat, Krav Maga, Systema, Sambo, Keysi Fighting Method Silat and Muay Thai. These arts were designed for combat unlike Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Tai Chi, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which are sports oriented
In one of the most complex situations I have found myself in is when I had to remove a person under the influence of methamphetamines from the shopping centre I was deployed at. I was nearing the end of my shift and I was getting ready to sign off. I had my 2 way radio screech at me, I then received a request from the mobile phone shop to attend a disturbance. I saw a very gaunt, pasty skinned male with blond hair and moustache, with tattoos and dirty clothes yelling and screaming at the staff who were trying to close up shop for the days. I intervened and began speaking to the man. He immediately began cursing at me (Because I am dressed in a security uniform) and I told him I just wanted to know what is the matter and why he is upset? I began to use 'verbal judo' to lower his defensiveness and probe his thoughts.
Eventually he began to settle down and told me his situation. From my understanding he was financially disadvantaged and wanted to settle a dispute about an expensive phone bill issued by the carrier. He told me he had no money and needed to feed his daughter and was distressed by the situation. Other security guards working there wanted to restrain the individual, but as I was making progress I began talking to him and suggested he take a walk with me. He was fearful and was expecting me to restrain him and injure him, but I told him I want to help him. He followed me and I removed him from the area, and sat him down near the Mc Donalds and kept talking to him.
He then began telling me his life story how he went from a paid position as a school teacher to facing redundancy and becoming a junkie. He had many debts because of his drug addiction and was facing homelessness. As he was telling me this story, he began crouching on the ground racked with nerves till he collapsed into the foetal position and began crying. 30 minutes ago this man was filled with rage and hostility. Sometimes the best weapons are empathy and a dulcet toned voice.
To ease his burden I told him to come with me to Coles and paid for a basket of groceries so that at least this weekend him and his daughter can eat. The man was no longer hostile and angry, but in tears and was compliant. I bought him some bread, milk, eggs, cereal, bacon, and some pasta and pasta sauces. Once we left the check out I told him that he has to leave because of the disturbance he cause earlier, and he left with a smile on his face because I didn't belittle him, yell at him or harm him. I stepped into his world and could understand his situation to a degree. Instead of having to force him outside, he walked out on his own accord grateful I spent time listening to him. Other guards who witnessed the situation were preplexed I handled the situation like I did without using force. Even though I was $25 poorer, I stopped a situation from turning potentially violent. It was a win-win encounter for all. Sometimes, that is the key to self defence and that fisticuffs would have only exacerbated the situation.
I have included another video example where this method of de-escalation had a positive outcome for the assailant as well as the victim. It is rare in this day and age that we see a non violent outcome. Please watch this video and see how well the victim handled the assailant without force and simply listened to him and his concerns. It goes to show you that everyone is vulnerable at times and that people sometimes deserve compassion as opposed to a choke hold or a taser stream to the chest. Remember in a situation it is important to not make forceful commands, but use empathy not sympathy in order to curry favour with the opponent You will often find they realise they are acting brash and sometimes may apologise for their actions. This has happened to me many times when I 'agree' or 'understand' their reasoning. Until next time, keep safe and remember to be observant in your surroundings.