Monday, December 31, 2007

Police Officers and Self Defense

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved

As a martial arts and self defense instructor I end up getting asked many interesting questions that range from subjects dealing with everything from "what would I do if...", to some small element of an obscure 800 year old technique that I've never heard of, to very complicated legal issues. Recently, I've spoken with several people about various issues that deal with the police; namely, whether the police are the "friend" or "foe" of the common man and whether someone should enroll in a self defense class just because the instructor is a police officer. Since I have a little insight on the topic I thought I should write a quick article to address some of those issues and help people better understand their relationship with the law enforcement community.

First, let me say that I am in no way anti-police and I have nothing but respect and admiration for the law enforcement community. I believe that it is every citizen's duty to support the police and their law enforcement efforts in any way possible. However, I don't subscribe to the notion held by some citizens that the police are somehow superhuman or that every police officer is a highly trained expert at all areas related to law enforcement, self defense, or dealing with violence. I've worked with the police enough to know that they are quite human, capable of mistakes, and just like any other large organization they have problems with their own training programs.

That being said, the first topic I wanted to discuss is whether or not the police are our "friends". Whether the police are "friends or foes" to the common citizen is a topic of much dispute depending on where you are, and often depending on socioeconomics. I find that most upper and middle class individuals see the police as a "friend" and most lower middle to lower class see the police as a "foe".

My opinion regarding the police is that they are definitely are friends, however, they are friends that we have to be very careful with. The police provide two major services to the public: law and order. The police provide the populace of this country with order when the order is threatened and this is their most important duty. If someone breaks into your home, you can call them and they'll send someone over to arrest the intruder. If a fight breaks out they'll come out and break it up. They "police" us as it were and provide us with protection and this is the obvious "friend" element.

One of the major sources of animosity that people have for the police is that they feel that the police aren't there when they need them. People misunderstand this "order" element of their function and they believe that the police are our personal bodyguards and then they get upset when they don't act as such. The truth is that the police are in no way the bodyguards of the public and you won't find a police officer anywhere who will tell you that they are. The police spend all their time dealing with crimes that have already happened and there is just no way that they can be our bodyguards. Thus it is up to each person to be their own bodyguard. Each and every person is ultimately responsible for providing for their own safety and if they don't then they really have no one to blame but themselves.

As for the "law" element, the other job of the police is to enforce the law and this again is a source of animosity. People seem to love when the law is enforced upon someone else but they sure do hate it when the law is enforced upon them. This is where you really need to be careful when dealing with the police because they will arrest or cite you just as quickly as they will anyone else. You need to understand that the police don't work for you, they work for the city or state and must apply the law equally.

Where most people get in trouble with the police is when they remember the "order" function but forget the "law" function of their jobs. As I said above, I think that everyone should support the police and assist them in any way possible, but there is one exception. That exception is when the possibility arises that you could be charged with a crime. If you're in a situation where the police are present and there is a possibility, or you think that there is a possibility, that you've done something illegal then you shouldn't speak to the police. I'm not saying that you should be rude or not cooperate with them, I'm saying that in that situation they're going to try to get you to talk to them but the only thing that you should say is, "I'm not making a statement until I speak with a lawyer".

People think that the police are only there to help us and the police use this notion against us, as part of their job. Watch any police show whether it be Cops, Law and Order, etc. and you'll notice something...the police try to get people to talk as much as possible before they have a chance to see a lawyer. When the police are called, whether its a civil complaint, a traffic offense, or after a serious crime, the police are trained to speak to everyone and either intimidate them with their position or to try to befriend them and make them feel comfortable so they can get them talking. The police want to make you feel that either you have no choice whether or not you speak to them, you do have a choice of course, or that it is in your best interest to speak to them, which it isn’t', in order to get you to make as many statements as possible BEFORE you get the chance to see a lawyer. That way, when you finally do talk to a lawyer you've already made so many statements that the only thing the lawyer can do for you is to try to arrange a plea bargain.

If you are in a situation where it is possible that you could be charged with a crime, and this includes self defense situations, the best thing that you can do is speak with a lawyer as quickly as possible and NEVER talk to the police or answer any of their questions beforehand. If you’re in a situation where the possibility exists that you could be charged with a crime and a police officer asks you what happened or to hear your side of the story, you should say one thing and one thing only, "I'm not making any statements until I speak to a lawyer". Once you have a lawyer the lawyer can protect you, but if you've already spoken to the police then chances are that there is little the lawyer can do.

Don't be dissuaded if the police tell you that not talking makes you look guilty or that if you talk the police can do something to help you, these are just tricks to get you to talk. Remember, the police can only arrest you, what really makes the difference is later when the lawyers, on both sides, get involved. The police can look scary and put the handcuffs on you, but a good lawyer can find a technicality to get you off, as long as you keep your mouth shut.

It really is sad, I know several people that ended up going to prison just because the police got them to talk before they had a chance to speak with a lawyer. In each situation the lawyer probably could have gotten them off if they would have refrained from speaking to the police first. A lot of self defense instructors will tell you to say "this" or "that" to the police after a self defense situation has occurred, or even that the police will help you to make a statement and word it just right. Don't believe any of this, the first and only person you should speak to is a lawyer.

Now, the second topic I want to cover is self defense classes that are taught by police officers. As someone who has been in the self defense game for awhile I can tell you that just because a class is taught by a police officer doesn't make it any better than a class that isn't.

There are some pros to taking a class taught by a police officer and one is that because people think that the police are better trained then everyone else they usually have very good turnouts. If a class has a good reputation and is advertised correctly, it is not uncommon for the class to have to schedule multiple dates to accommodate everyone who signs up. Self defense classes are usually more fun when you have a lot of people and having a police officer as an instructor can often do that.

Another pro is that you get the ear of a police officer for an hour or two so you can ask all the questions you want and have a great opportunity to learn all about the legal aspects of self defense and the role of the police in your community. You might also make a friend that can come in handy later when you have a problem with a neighbor or something.

There are also some cons associated with taking a self defense course taught by a police officer and the most common one is that, unfortunately, they are usually rather lame. Most people think that because the instructor is a cop that they are getting the best training possible but the truth is that in most cases you're not; as one person told me after taking one, "it was like being taught self defense by my mom". This is because since the instructor is a cop they have a greater responsibility then the average instructor.

For example, let's say you take one of these classes and later you get attacked. You use your training, successfully defend yourself, and wind up in court charged with assault. You get up on the stand and say, "I just did what the police officer told me to do". Now not only does the officer look bad but the entire Police Department as well. What's more is that the criminal who got injured might be able to sue the officer or the entire Police Department for his injuries. You see, because the instructor is a police officer they have a greater liability and responsibility then other people do and tend to err on the side of caution.

While I'm sure that there are some great classes taught by police officers, every person that I've ever spoken to that has attended one has had less then stellar things to say about it afterwards. The feeling that these classes were like being taught self defense by the guy's mom is quite common, from the comments I’ve heard, because police officers, because of their position, tend to give the politically correct answers instead of the best answers.

I'm sure that there are some officers out there who teach great classes but I don't advise taking a particular class just because a cop teaches it. All the police officers that I've spoken to who do teach self defense classes admit, to me at least, that the only reason that they're teaching it is for the money. If "Joe Blow Black Belt" teaches a class at a local gym he might get 5 people, but if a police officer teaches a class at the same gym he might get 30 people and be able charge twice as much.

It is an often held misconception that the police are privy to special training that civilians aren’t, but this really isn't true. Think for a moment about where the police get their training. They get it either first, second, third, forth, etc. hand from martial art instructors. The police practice pretty much the same techniques as any martial arts school does.

Most people find it interesting to find out that there is no standard defensive tactics, unarmed combat, martial arts, program for police departments. While the training offered by police academies is pretty much standard across the board, each police department is responsible for providing its own training to its officers. So what police departments do is find someone within their department who has martial arts training and they get them to teach, or they hire someone with martial arts training, or who has developed a special martial arts course for police officers, and they teach everyone.

Sometimes there is a sergeant who does Tae Kwon Do so all the officers learn Tae Kwon Do, or Jujitsu or whatever. Or sometimes the department just opens up the yellow pages and finds someone who is fairly cheap. At every police department's or military unit's door there is a whole line of martial arts and self defense instructors with their special "just for police officers" courses just waiting for the prestige of saying that they teach cops.

The only real difference between what police officers learn and what any other martial arts school teaches is that police officers don't fight with people, they arrest people. So while most martial arts or self defense instructors can teach techniques that allow you to seriously injure someone that is trying to seriously injure you, police learn to restrain them instead. Everything that police officers learn is meant to allow them to subdue and restrain a person with minimal injury to them, the bad guy, and for the common citizen that training is fairly useless.

The rub is that when police officers teach anything other than restraining techniques, they learned the techniques from a martial arts instructor, and that very same instructor may be teaching their own self defense class right down the street.

The last thing I will say about this subject is that not only are the police not privy to some special training that is withheld from civilians, and not only are self defense classes taught by police generally very politically correct, but police officers are not better at self defense than anyone else. If you watch “Cops”, “Shocking Police Videos”, or pretty much anything on “Court TV/Tru TV” you’ll see something interesting, when police officers get attacked they usually aren't any better at defending themselves then anyone else. You see all kinds of videos where police officers go to question or arrest someone and the individual turns and attacks the officer. When they start fighting the majority of the time you'd never know that the officer had any kind of self defense training at all.

Bottom line, the police primarily receive training in restraining techniques and if they know anything else they learned it from martial arts or self defense instructors, so you're not getting any special benefit by attending their classes that you wouldn’t from any other class. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take them or you won’t learn anything from them, I’m just saying don’t expect magic just because the class is being taught by a cop

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What Are We Training For Anyway?

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved

So, what are we training for anyway? This is a question that everyone who studies the martial arts should ask themselves every so often, after all there are many reasons to study.

Some people study the martial arts for the pure enjoyment of it; some people study the martial arts for the exercise; some people study the martial arts for the social interaction; some people study the martial arts for the prestige of rank; some people study the marital arts because they enjoy competition, and then there are those people who study to learn to defend themselves.

Of all the reasons given, the only reason that I’m concerned with is the last; I train in order to defend myself and my loved ones from anyone that may try to harm them. I couldn’t care less about the prestige of being a “master instructor”, and I couldn’t care less about competing or going to tournaments. The social interaction is nice and I enjoy being around people who share my interests, but first and foremost I enjoy studying the art of self defense.

Now that I’ve defined the reason that I study I have to decide HOW I’m going to practice and thus we come to the point of this article. The point I want to touch on here is how we train to learn self defense.

If you go to most marital arts schools, watch TV, read martial arts magazines (or pretty much any magazine nowadays), or go pretty much anywhere on the internet you’ll see that pretty much everyone trains for self defense by sparring or doing MMA (mixed martial arts-the whole Ultimate Fighting Championship thing). Now, that’s fine if that’s what you want to do but that won’t be a whole lot of help during an actual violent altercation (someone trying to seriously injure or kill you).

Today it seems that EVERYBODY is brainwashed into thinking that MMA is the “end-all-be-all” test for martial arts and if you don’t believe that then you don’t know what you’re talking about, and if you don’t put on the pads and spar then you’re totally clueless. During my classes I’ll have people walk in and want to talk about taking lessons and everyone has the same line of bullshit. Now and then I get people who are interested in learning to defend themselves but it seems that all anyone under 30 wants to do is MMA training, and I’m sick of having to de-brainwash people.

Let’s look at self defense logically for a minute. Since I have decided that the reason I want to train is to learn to defend myself, the next questions I have to ask is WHAT I am learning to defend myself from and WHO I am learning to defend myself from? So the basic question here is what threat do I really face? I am not in the military anymore, I don’t do security work, and I am not a policeman, I am just “Average Joe Citizen”. And what threat does “Average Joe Citizen” face? The answer is crime! Since I don’t do dangerous work and I don’t go to bars looking for fights, the only person that I have to worry about attacking me is a violent criminal, and therefore the threat that I face is violent crime.

According to the FBI, “violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s definition, violent crimes involve force or [the] threat of force.” [Underlining added for emphasis] (To learn more about violent crime in the U.S. go to

So that’s it; for me, “Average Joe Citizen” the threat I face is some violent criminal coming into my world and trying to rob, rape, violently injure, or kill me or my loved ones, so that is what I need to be training for. (It should be noted that most violent crime is actually committed by individuals you know as opposed to strangers. I believe that around 80% of all violent crime is committed by relatives or acquaintances.)

Now that I know why I’m training and what threat I’m facing, I now have to decide how I’m going to train. In other words I have to decide how I’m going to model violent crime and here is where the plot thickens.

To find a way to model violent crime you have to study violent crime and the ways criminals commit violent crime. If you actually spend some time studying violent crime you’ll see very quickly that traditional sparring and MMA are not an accurate model.

I have an article around here that I’ve written called “Romantic Martial Arts” that talks about how real violent crime in no way models the sparring scenario used by martial artists. If a violent criminal wants to rob, rape, assault, or murder you they will just walk up to you and do it; they won’t walk up to you, put their hands up, get in a fighting stance, announce their intentions, and then allow you to get in a fighting stance so the two of you can go at it like to see in traditional sparring or MMA matches. Their attack will come out of nowhere, it will be fast, it will be violent, and it will be scary as hell.

Spend some time on the internet or watching TV shows like “COPS”, “Shocking Police Videos”, or pretty much anything on “Court TV/Tru TV” and you’ll quickly see that fighting stances and the “give and take” of MMA and sparring don’t occur during an actual violent confrontation. Watch security camera footage of criminals attacking average people and you’ll see that each and every time the criminal just nonchalantly walks up to their victim and attacks them once they are in arms reach. Quite often the criminal will try to engage their victim in idle conversation to distract them and allow them to get closer for their surprise attack. Almost every single act of criminal violence starts with a surprise attack, often from the side or the rear, or a sucker punch.

Quite often this tactic is learned in prison. In prison inmates actually learn how to victimize people from other inmates or from actually doing it. If a criminal wants to stab you, for example, they won’t walk up to you, stop just beyond arms length, show you the knife, swing it around, and then attack in a large slashing motion like you see on TV or in a lot of marital arts schools. While this type of attack does happen it is only used by inexperienced and untrained individuals who often are attacking out of blind rage; an inmate quickly learns that it you want to stab someone you conceal the knife, walk up to the victim either from behind or from the front, pretend that you are going to walk by them, and then once you get about a foot away from them you stab them a few times as hard as you can in the torso, in a upward direction, and then you walk away. This kind of training is the standard kind of training that criminals give each other and that is why when people report that they have been stabbed, very seldom to they say that they even saw a knife. The truth is that when people get stabbed they very rarely ever see the knife that stabbed them and most of the time they don’t know they have been stabbed until later when they see the blood, before that they think that someone just punched them really hard.

There have been numerous studies done with violent criminals and there have been many that have stated that in prisons the marital arts are considered a big joke. Some criminals actually said that they loved when people studied marital arts because it made them easier targets. They’ve stated that people who study martial arts think that violence starts with two people in fighting stances and so it’s very easy to take them off guard by just walking up and sucker punching them. Many repeat violent offenders have actually said that they actually count on people studying boxing or martial arts because it is so easy to use their training against them. For example, they said that when they throw a punch at an average person they may instinctively put their arms up to block it, but if you suddenly throw a punch at a boxer or martial artist they will instinctively step into a fighting stance instead of trying to block it right away, and they end up getting while they are getting into their stances.

If you actually spend some time studying violent crime and watching videos of attacks it should be easy for you to see that MMA and sparring actually trains you to do all the wrong things during a real violent attack. I can’t stress this enough: sparring and MMA are NOT an accurate model of violent crime, what they are is a method of competition.

Now I know that some people will get upset by reading this and they will say that I don’t know what I’m talking about because they have been in fights, and have seen people fighting, where the altercation started with both parities in fighting stances. To them I say that they are absolutely right, but, we’re not talking about the exact same thing.

If you’re talking about going to someplace like a bar and having words with someone, and having that situation wind up in a physical altercation then it may start with both of you putting your hands up and assuming fighting stances and it may even follow the sparring/MMA model. However, while people may classify this as a “fight” or a “street fight”, what it is not is an instance of criminal violence, it is a competition.

If you want to go pick fights with people then that is your business, and if you want to call yourself a “street fighter” then more power to you; but what you are doing is competing with another person to see who will come out on top. The goal is not to maim, cripple, or kill, rather it is an ego based altercation where you try to best your opponent.

A “fight” is a kind of altercation that is voluntary because most of the time people who get into it are actually looking for it, and because it is not an instance of criminal violence you can actually walk away from it before it escalates to the point where people start swinging. The main difference is that a “fight” is all about stroking someone’s ego by besting someone else, and an instance of criminal violence is not always avoidable, you can’t just walk away from it, it often evolves multiple assailants, knives, guns, or some other weapon, and if you don’t come out on top you or someone you love could wind up dead.

Even with “fights” where the goal is not to seriously injure or kill someone, as a guess I would probably say that only around 20% of them start with people assuming some kind of fighting stance before they attack, and around 80% of them start with two or more people arguing at close range and then start swinging from no noticeable stance at all. It is just a guess but I do know that studies have shown that about 80% of all physical altercations happen during or just after an argument so I’m probably fairly close.

Another issue that those brainwashed into thinking that MMA models reality may have with this article is the notion that that MMA is important because 90% of fights end up on the ground and you need to know how to defend yourself there. While I believe that everyone should know how fight when on the ground, this statistic is dead wrong.

People sure know to quote this statistic but they don’t know where it came from. It actually is a misquoted finding from a study done by the Los Angeles Police Department. The study reported that when a suspect resists arrest, about 90% of the time the arresting officer(s) has to take them to the ground to cuff them. Not quite the same is it?

While it is true that fights do go to the ground, very few actual violent assaults end up as wrestling matches. The fact is that over 90% of violent assaults start with a right hook to the head and end right there when the victim falls and bounces their head on the ground. Actual fights involve people getting hit, falling down, and then getting hit and kicked while on the ground. Sometimes people do end up on the ground but that is because they have been knocked down, tripped, slipped, or they don’t actually know how to fight and have grabbed each other and tussled until they both fell.

If you do end up on the ground all that MMA shit is the last thing you want to do. Those MMA guys are in terrific shape because they need to be…wresting around is a lot of work. Here is the truth they don’t tell you about in the MMA world: if you’re on the ground you will be able to reach at least one of the following, their eyes, their fingers, or their groin. If you’re on the ground wrestling and you can reach their eyes all you have to do is dig your fingers in his eyes until he starts screaming and grabs his face. Then you push him off and run away. If you can reach his fingers all you have to do is grab one or two fingers in each hand and forcefully “punch” them in opposite directions breaking them like a wishbone (of course other finger breaking techniques can be used). If you can reach their groin all you have to do is hit up into their groin and grab their testicles and then violently shake them back and forth like you’re trying to rip them off and they will stop fighting.

They don’t teach this in MMA because MMA is a sport and going after the eyes, groin, and fingers (small joint manipulation) is illegal. They also don’t teach this during sparring because sparring is a sport also and you don’t want to hurt each other.

The only way to accurately model a violent attack is to simulate a violent attack. Give a partner a rubber knife and have them walk up to you and try to either stab you (murder) or take your wallet (robbery). Have them do the same thing with different weapons, sucker punches, and have them come from different directions and angles. Start slowly and when they come up and reveal their purpose, usually by starting their attack, do your self defense technique. Go slowly to make sure that no-one gets hurt and when you get more comfortable you can go a little faster. This is the only way to get accurate training. You have to practice the exact same way that violent criminals attack.

If you want to do MMA or spar then that’s fine, more power to you, just don’t confuse it with real self defense training because it is not.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Romantic Martial Arts

By Matthew Schafer

Copyright 2007

Over the past 21 years in the martial arts I've seen many people and fads come and go. However, one thing that seems to stay the same is the romantic notion of what a "real fight" will be like. Women seem to have their heads on fairly straight when it comes to self defense but I'm sorry to say that generally I can't say the same for they guys, especially the young guys. I've asked many women why they're studying self defense and their answers seem quite realistic. Generally women talk about a guy getting too "touchy feely" and having to stop them, a guy following them home and trying to rape them, or being car jacked. Where it starts getting interesting is when you start talking to the guys.

I place a certain amount of the blame on TV and the UFC personally, but when it comes to guys nine times out of ten they almost always envision a bar fight. Women picture some drug addict kicking in their front door and coming in to rape them, but guys picture some macho scene in a bar and going outside, putting up their hands, and squaring off with some other guy and having some big fight like in the UFC. It takes a lot of work to break these guy's romantic notion of squaring off in a bar and trading blows with another guy while their girl cheers in the background.

The truth is that people actually squaring off and assuming fighting stances rarely, if ever, happens during a real violent encounter and if you look at statistics you'll see that they show this. After spending 5 years as a bouncer I've seen all kinds of things and hundreds of fights but never once have I seen two guys model the "sparring scenario" which is to put their hands up, get into fighting stances, and then fight. Even in a bar or nightclub there is no "stepping outside" or putting your hands up; if a guy gets pissed off and wants to get you they'll walk right up to you with a smile on their face and when they're standing right next to you they'll sucker punch you with an ashtray and then start kicking you when you're down and helpless.

The point I'm trying to make is that the notion of putting your hands up and getting in a fighting stance is really just romantic B.S. Sure if you're just messing around or in a competition you have the luxury of "getting ready" but when someone really wants to hurt you it’s not a luxury you will have. If someone wants to punch you they won't put their hands up first so you can see it coming, they will walk up to you and sucker punch you. A common tactic that I've seen used time and time again, and is also commonly used to mug people on the street, is for the "bad guy" to pretend to ignore someone and walk up to them like they're going to walk right past them, and then when they get right next to them they suddenly turn and punch, grab, shoot or stab them. Another popular tactic is to maneuver behind them and punch them or jab an object in their kidney which can completely incapacitate them.

The threat that people face isn't some big guy in a bar, its violent crime which is aggravated assault, forcible rape, robbery, and murder. It would be great if someone that wanted to rob or rape you would walk up to you and announce their intentions so you both could get into fighting stances and use your best sparring techniques, but statistically the encounter will actually start with you being blindsided and punched, stabbed, bludgeoned, or shot. Statistically, when you actually become aware that its time to start defending yourself its far more likely that you'll be laying on the ground and bleeding with one or more people standing over you, then dancing around in your sparring stance.

Luckily there is a silver lining and that lining is that since the person that actually wants to hurt you isn't going to bother with putting their hands up, getting in a sparring stance, dancing around with fancy footwork, worrying about kicking and punching ranges, setting up combinations, and pretty much everything else that is a part of sparring, you don't have to worry about that either. When a real criminal attacks you they won't be in a fancy stance or using fancy footwork, if they attack you they will just walk right up to you and attack leaving themselves wide open and completely vulnerable the entire time. If they throw a right hook, which is how most assaults and fights start, they’ll just walk right up to you and throw it which means that every single target on their body will be exposed and unprotected.

If you’re walking down the street and someone surprises you by coming out of nowhere and punching you in the face, as long as they haven’t knocked you out or incapacitated you then you can defend yourself. You don’t have to worry about all that fancy sparring b.s. because your attacker will be standing right next to you completely exposed. At this point he will probably be grabbing you with one hand and punching you with the other, but as long as you’re still conscious you can turn the tables. All you have to do is locate one vulnerable area on his body and hit it as hard as you can.

Let’s say he’s repeatedly punching you in the back. While he’s doing this you see his eye so you simply step into him and jam your finger into his eye as hard as you can and push. You’ve just collapsed the dome of his eyeball and now his optic fluid is running down your arm as he drops to the ground, grabs his eye, and begins screaming, giving you a chance to run away.

He may have broken your nose and nearly ruptured your kidney from the repeated punches but he didn’t knock you out or incapacitate you; while all you did was look at someone who was completely open, pick a vulnerable area, step in and hit that area, and then follow through. As long as he didn’t knock you out you can defend yourself and you have a completely open and vulnerable person right there.

Since criminals like to surprise you and sucker punch you its very unlikely that most people will ever see the attack coming unless they’ve received the proper training and are using it. Even then you can be surprised which is why a lot of situations start with someone bent over covering their head, or on the ground, with someone standing right there hitting or kicking them repeatedly.

Here’s a quick technique that has saved several people. You’re walking down the street minding your own business when you notice that just up ahead there is a man leaning against a building looking at you. As you get closer he comes off the wall and walks towards you. He’s now just about 6 feet away and he says, “Hey, do you have the time?” You instinctively look down at your watch and just as you’re focusing in on the dial you feel like a bomb exploded in your head. The stranger managed to distract you for just a second and as soon as you looked down at your watch he came forwards and punched you in the face with this right hand. Now your head is ringing, you’re seeing double, and your knees are starting to buckle. You’ve just been knocked nearly unconscious and you never saw it coming.

You’re a little dizzy and off balance as you instinctively bend forward and cover your head with your arms. Your attacker grabs your left shoulder with his left hand and begins to repeatedly punch you in the back of your head with his right hand. You begin to curl into the fetal position as you open your eyes and see the ground…and his knees. You stare right at his nearest knee as you take a small step into him with your nearest leg, drop shoulder first right into his knee, and roll towards him. Your entire body weight has just crashed through his knee tearing his joint as he falls to the ground. As soon as you hit the ground you roll into him and grab his head with both your hands and you push it to the ground and use it to help you come up to a knee. Once you’re on your knee you strike his head into the ground once, twice, or as many times as you wish and then run away.

Most people like this technique, especially after they practice it, but often ask, “what if you miss the knee?” Since your entire body weight is falling down onto his leg you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll knock him down with your weight. If you don’t think so then just practice this a few times and you’ll see how easy it is. Since your entire body weight is crashing into his leg, even if you don’t fall directly on his knee there is a good chance that you will still tear his ACL (the ligament that connects the front of the knee joint) on the way down.

But what if you don’t tear it? Well, you will still knock him down which means that he can sustain other injuries from the fall (broken wrists, broken arms, head trauma, etc.) but even if he doesn’t you’ll catch him by surprise and when you roll into him and hold his head down as you get up you ensure he stays on the ground because it is impossible to get up if someone holds your head on the ground. After that you strike his head into the ground which will most likely knock him out right away and could very well kill him.

I’ve taught this technique for years and many people have said that it has saved their lives. Many people have adapted it to use it before they get hit. The way this works is when someone confronts you, you go submissive, put you hands up, tuck your chin, and curl your back. Then once they get right next to you, you just drop onto the knee and do the technique. Either way it is very effective.

Unfortunately few martial artists or martial arts schools realize that real violence doesn’t start with two guys squaring off in fighting stances and everyone seems to be only preparing for the one-on-one sparing style fight, and that would be fine in criminal wanted to "fight", but statistically they don't and they seem quite content with leaving fighting stances out of it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Can You Talk Your Way Out Of Violent Crime?

You're sleeping peacefully in your bed when suddenly something disturbs you. You don't quite know what it is, but whatever it is, it is enough to rouse you from your slumber and so you slowly open your eyes...only to wish you hadn't. That little disturbance you felt wasn't in your mind; it was a knife being pushed against your throat. You go from being in a deep sleep to being fully awake in about a second as you see a large naked man kneeling next to you on your bed. In a blur of motion he leaps on top of you as he covers your mouth with his hand and pushes the blade of the knife a little harder against your throat as he says in a low growl, "Don't scream or I'll cut your f$%ing throat."

This scenario is extremely scary, and what's even scarier is that untold thousands of people have woken up to find that this, or a very similar situation, is happening to them. In the middle of the night an intruder has crawled through a window and now plans to victimize them, and this is probably going to be the most horrible experience they ever have. The big question here is: can they talk their way out?

This issue comes up over and over in the self defense world: can you actually talk a violent criminal out of attacking you? Despite the fact that certain martial art and self defense instructors teach various verbal techniques to do just this, the simple answer is that out of a thousand situations you might be able to talk your way out of one, maybe.

There are those people who really believe that if you talk to a criminal and you are able to humanize yourself you can then get that criminal to see the errors of his, or her, ways and they'll go away. They believe that all you need to do is get that criminal to see you as a person and not just a target, and as soon as you do their humanity will take over. If you think about it, it really does make sense...but that is the problem.

To you and me it may seem perfectly reasonable that you would be able to rationalize your way out of a violent situation, but that would be assuming that your attacker is making an out-of-character "mistake" by attacking you when it's far more likely that attacking you is perfectly "in character" for them. The real problem in this kind of thinking is that we are applying our morality and reason onto another person, but if you've never robbed someone at knife point then chances are that your particular moral code doesn't apply to them.

The truth is that most criminals commit crimes for a living so victimizing you is part of their daily life. Add on to that the fact that about 63% of attacks in the United States happen with the attacker being either drunk or on drugs. If somebody does something all the time, may possibly be doing it for a living, and there is a good chance that they are either drunk or on drugs, do you really think that you will be able to get them to stop with a few words? Unfortunately, the only thing that will consistently deter criminals is the chance of being hurt or caught.

There are only three things that will deter a criminal from attacking you. The first is the likelihood of getting caught, the second is the likelihood of getting injured, and the third is actually getting injured. Very few criminals actually care about hurting you and reasoning with them just won't work. You have to convince them that they'll be caught or injured if they commit the crime or you have to actually injure them, and the only way you can do any of this is with actions, not words. Anything less just won't work and can make the situation worse.

The only way you can convince a criminal that it's likely that they will be caught is to attract other people to you, who could possibly help or call the police, and typically this means yelling. If you are approached by a criminal and you start yelling for help you may be able to scare the criminal away but it's a gamble. Most criminals either attack you by surprise, which means that you won't have time to yell, or they come up and talk to you first and do an "interview" to size you up. If you recognize that someone is approaching you to attack you and you start yelling for help while they are 15 or 20 feet away if could work, but if the attacker gets closer and you start yelling they might lunge at you to shut you up. The success of this manner of deterrence is a matter of whether there are people in the area to attract and whether the attacker is close enough to get to you and shut you up before your yelling draws attention. In any matter I wouldn't want to trust my safety to the possibility of scaring off an attacker by yelling for help.

So if scaring them away by attracting other people isn't reliable, what about convincing them that they might get injured by attacking you? This actually works a large percentage of the time. There have been many studies done with both serial killers and repeat violent offenders in prison that try to determine what makes a violent criminal attack. Across the board the criminals said that they wanted to commit their crimes as cleanly as possible and if they suspected that their victim would fight back or that they wouldn't be able to take them by surprise then they would pick someone else rather than risk being hurt. Therefore, they carefully picked their targets and focused on people who showed certain vulnerabilities, namely not paying attention to their surroundings and certain mannerisms that showed a lack of confidence (which indicates that they won't put up a fight). Of these two, not paying attention to their surroundings was seen as a much more important vulnerability than a lack of confidence because with a skilled surprise attack they can avoid a fight.

There are certain techniques that have been identified as communicating the message to an attacker that you, as the potential victim, will either fight back or will not easily be taken by surprise, and these techniques are surprisingly simple. For example, both serial killers and repeat violent offenders admitted that if they were looking for victims and one of those candidates looked them in the eye then they most often would pick someone else. This goes back to the desire to take their victims by surprise; if the potential victim does something that shows the criminal that they know and recognize that they, the criminal, are "there" then the criminal feels that there is a lesser chance that a surprise attack can be successful. Acknowledging the presence of a criminal has proven to be a great deterrent.

The way you use this to deter a criminal is to constantly be on the lookout for them. You want to not only be aware of who and what is around you at all times, but you also want to show off the fact that you are doing so. While it is important that you walk in a confident manner, it is far more important that you walk with your head up and be constantly looking around and behind you. If a criminal sees you doing this it will make you unattractive as a target. Next, you want to acknowledge anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable or looks out of place. Look them in the eye for a second, give them a quick smile, a wave, a nod, or say hello. By showing a criminal that you know that they are there you become undesirable to all but the most determined.

The other way that you communicate to a criminal that they may get hurt by attacking you is to show them you will fight back. If a criminal approaches you to "interview" you, to test your vulnerabilities, and you appear fearful or you let them get as close as they want, then that communicates to them that you won't fight back and that you're an easy target. What you want to do is the opposite, if they try to get close you need to look them in the eye, confidently tell them to stop, and assert your boundaries. If they test your resolve by taking another step you need become aggressive with them. Again, studies with criminals have shown that if you become aggressive then they will most likely leave as opposed to risking injury or attracting attention.

Beyond that the only thing that you can do to deter them is to actually injure them and this is where a lot of people get uncomfortable. A lot of the so called "experts" tell you to not resist being victimized, to give a criminal everything they want and hope that they take what they want and leave. While it is usually better to give up a purse or wallet then risk serious injury fighting with a criminal, if they want something more than a material possession I advise you to ALWAYS fight back, even if you don't know how. If all you do is to aggressively start hitting them and screaming it could be enough to create a chance for you to escape or convince him to leave.

Don't listen to people who tell you not to fight back, and that if you do then you're just inviting more violence from the attacker. Federal victimization studies show that people who resist an attacker and fight back are not injured any more than those who don't. The fact is that it is just the opposite. Studies have shown that over half of all attackers will actually leave if the person indicates that they will resist. So if they want your purse or wallet it may be better just to give it to them, but if they want more there isn't any benefit to not fighting back.

Now, I want to make one point very clear, when I said "injure them" I didn't mean "hurt" them or cause them pain. Techniques that rely on causing pain or discomfort to a violent individual are simply unreliable because of differences in pain tolerances, the fact that some people actually enjoy pain, and also that 63% of attackers are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol which can effect the functioning of there pain receptors. When I say "injure" I mean that you have to take a part of their body and render it nonfunctional and in need of medical treatment.

If a violent criminal grabs you and you punch them in the face the result would be pain and that pain may only serve to make them mad because the punch didn't actually "do" anything. If, however, you lowered the punch and hit them in the throat you could cause an injury by crushing their windpipe. A crushed windpipe is not subjective nor is it something you can "shake off". If your windpipe is crushed you will not be able to breathe, which will quickly induce panic, and unless a tracheotomy is preformed you will die of asphyxiation. While punching them in the face will probably just make them angry, punching them in the throat and crushing it will cause them to stop their attack, involuntarily grab their throat, make a high pitched noise while trying to inhale, drop to the ground in a panic, and continue to make the noise until they...well...stop.

The point is that the punch to the face is an example of pain and the punch to the throat is an example of a medically verified injury. A criminal will only stop their attack for two reasons: if they decide to stop, or if you make them stop, and the only way to make them stop is to stop the functioning of a part, or all, of their body.

As far as talking a violent criminal out of their plans of attacking you goes, as you can tell from what I've presented here the chances are incredibly slim. The only way that someone would be talked out of the crime would be if they were a rational person to begin with, sober, did not have a criminal nature, and they were new to this whole "hurting people for kicks, money, or sex thing".

Studies have shown that trying to talk or plead with your attacker can actually make things much worse. For instance, since rape is about power and not sex, if you plead, cry, beg, or try to verbally dissuade a rapist it may increase his sense of control and make it more enjoyable for him or her.

I encourage everyone here to take what I've written to heart and not only pay more attention to your surrounds but take a reputable self defense class as well. I hope that all of you not only learn some dependable self defense techniques but also learn to get in touch with your aggressive nature because it is primarily your ability to be aware or who and what is around you and your ability to be aggressive and fight when cornered that with keep you safe.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Most Common Self Defense Mistakes Women Make

When it comes to self defense both men and women make mistakes, but it is interesting that men and women typically make different mistakes. Men typically make mistakes by being "tough" and overly confident and they usually end up walking right into the hands of a criminal, while women typically make mistakes by not knowing what to do when someone confronts them and this lead to making poor decisions.

Here are the eight most common mistakes that women make in self defense situations. Any one of these mistakes can lead to being assaulted, kidnapped, rapped, murdered, or any combination thereof.

Mistake number one: Letting people get too close. If someone comes up to confront a man, a man will usually adopt an aggressive posture; however, a woman will usually respond with either an impartial or fearful reaction. Time and time again, when we look through case files we see that women let men walk right up to them instead of establishing boundaries.

Attackers only want to attack easy targets and there are two things that they typically look at to determine if someone is an easy target. One, are they actively paying attention to their surroundings? If they are then they might see the attacker coming and either run away or make a scene, but if they are not paying attention then they probably can be taken by surprise. Two, when I approach them, how close do they let me get to them? If the intended victim lets you walk right up to them then chances are they won't fight back, but if you start to invade their space and they stop you and establish a boundary then chances are they will fight back and you'll have to find an easier target.

You have to learn to be assertive and protect your personal space. To a criminal the invasion of your personal space is a test to see how vulnerable you are. So, if someone comes up to you, often to ask you a question such as "Do you have the time", there is no reason for them to be closer than 10 feet. If someone approaches closer you need to tell them to stop.

Mistake number two: Not being alert in transition areas such as parking lots, parking garages, driveways, and stairwells.
Criminals want to attack their victims someplace where they can take them by surprise and that makes transition areas perfect because people in parking lots, driveways, and stairwells usually are preoccupied. While both men and women are attacked in parking lots, women are targeted there more often then men and this is for three main reasons.

The first reason is that women, who often run the home, are usually busy with thoughts about the 8 million things that they have to do that day. While they walk from the store to their car they are thinking about rushing home, getting dinner ready, what they will wear tomorrow, and a thousand other things and that means that they are not paying attention to the fact that a criminal is following them.

The second reason is that women are usually easier to victimize then men. There are many reasons for this such as the fact that most women never even seriously consider what they would do if they were attacked, and therefore when that happens those women usually do nothing. Also, criminals have stated two other reasons that women are easier to victimize then men: women love to shop and often burden themselves by carrying lots of bags which make them easy pickings and virtually guarantee they can't fight back, and women's skin tight fashions drastically limit their range of motion and make it incredibly hard to fight back or run away.

The third reason is that criminals know that women generally carry more money then men, and the things they have to steal are usually more marketable then what they could steal from men. For these reasons all over the country women are mugged, carjacked, robbed, abducted and raped in parking lots. In fact, in 2002 25% of all reported rapes in America occurred in parking lots and parking garages.

While it is important to walk with confidence, it is far more important to walk with your head up and actively look around to see who and what is around you and if someone is watching or following you. If a criminal sees you actively looking around they will most likely find someone else.

If you leave a store stop and look around you to see if anyone is watching you. Don't walk straight to your car, instead walk to another area of the parking lot and zig zag around to see if anyone is watching or following you. If you walk down an isle and then suddenly cut between two cars to the next isle and you see that someone stops or changes direction to keep up with you, then head back to the store. Also be aware of cars driving slowly through the lot because some criminals attack their victims by driving slowly around a lot until they find someone they like, then pulling up next to them and jumping out to rob or abduct them.

Mistake number three: Getting into the attacker's car. If you allow an attacker to take you to another location your chance of survival is only 3%. If someone is trying to get you into a car you want to fight and scream as much as possible and do whatever is necessary to avoid getting into the car.

If an attacker has a gun and orders you into a car your best option is to turn around and run toward the closest populated area. Very few attackers actually want to shoot you, and according to FBI statistics, if you turn and run 95% of the time the attacker will not shoot. Even if he does shoot at you, you are now a moving target and it is very unlikely that he has any training with firearms, which is why you have a 97% chance of surviving because either he will miss you or won't hit anything vital. So if someone pulls a gun and orders you into a car and you turn and run your chances of surviving are over 95% compared to getting into the car and having a 3% chance.

Mistake number four: Pulling over when a man signals that there is something wrong with your car. This is another common ploy used by men to rape, abduct, and carjack women. Simply the guy, or guys, will drive up to a woman's car and wave her down by signaling that there is something wrong with her car. Then once she pulls over he pulls over too and attacks her.

If this happens, drive to the nearest well populated gas station or other well populated area. Do not pull over. Many women do fall for this because of the notion that guys know more about cars then women. Unless there is smoke pouring out of your car there is no reason to suddenly pull over.

Mistake number five: Not locking your doors while in your car. For some reason people, not just women, tend to not lock their car doors. Knowing this, criminals often walk up to a car that is stopped at a light and just open the door, jump in with a gun or knife, and either abduct or carjack the driver. Another tactic they use is to wait until someone gets into their car, and once they shut their car door they run over and open the door and have their way with the driver. The simple act of just locking your car door once you get in your car can save you from many attacks. If you are in your car and someone does run up to your car and try to open you door, just drive away.

Mistake number six: Opening your front door without knowing who is there. Unfortunately this has led to many attacks, robberies, rapes, abductions, and murders of both men and women. A criminal knocks on a door and the person opens the door to see who is there, and the man just pushes her inside and victimizes her. You should never, ever open your door without knowing who is there.

If you don't have a peep hole then you should get one installed and use it. If you look through the peep hole and you can't see the person clearly tell them to back up so you can get a better look at them. If they refuse then don't open the door. Also don't rely on the door chain protecting you because it can be broken. Unless you know exactly who is at your door never open it.

Mistake number seven: Trusting a clean cut, honest looking stranger. Many people believe that they know what a criminal or sexual predator looks like, however if you were to sit down and look through mug shot books of sex offenders you would see that they look just like everyone else. Most sexual predators are clean cut and even attractive. Also, don't be too trusting of young, old, or crippled people. There have been tens of thousands of cases of rapists being on crutches or having only one arm or leg.

If some approaches you, don't be disarmed because they are in their 70's or because they are only 13. Robbers, rapists, kidnappers, and murders come in all ages. The best thing to do is the exact same thing that you probably tell your kids: if you don't know someone then they are a stranger and should be treated as such.

Mistake number eight: Trusting people to be alone with your children. This one is more for your children but important none the less. When it comes to child molesters they are usually the last person you would think of. They are usually kind, trusting, and good with children. Although women can be the perpetrators, usually the abuser is a father, stepfather, mother's boyfriend, sister's boyfriend, brother, step brother, uncle, grandfather, babysitter, neighbor, family friend, sports coach, or other person who is supposed to give care or guidance to the child.

It is important to observe your children and see how they act before and after they spend time with someone. Often a sign of abuse is depression and poor self image. If a child who is usually out going and full of energy returns from staying with someone and suddenly they are quiet and acting depressed it may be a sign that something happened during their stay. Another good clue is how they act when their abuser's name is mentioned. If they get quiet, sad, angry, or fearful when a particular person's name is said, take notice. Make sure you observe your children and talk to them about their contact with other people

Making Your Home Unattractive To A Burglar

Usually it takes having their home get robbed before most people start to think about securing their property. Often it is only when the homeowner is standing in their looted home talking with the police that they learn about simple steps they could have taken to make their home less attractive to burglars. However, burglars are like any other criminal in that they like to victimize easy targets and avoid difficult ones.

There are many simple things that you can do to your home to make it look unattractive to a would-be burglar and make them look somewhere else. A burglar will often observe your house by walking by, driving by, or hiding and watching your home to get as much information as possible. What they see determines whether or not they will target your home.

The first thing you can do is make sure that you regularly shut and lock all your windows and doors. If the burglar sees that you're leaving your home open it can be quite inviting regardless of what other security measures you have. They know that if you're leaving your doors or windows open chances are that you're being sloppy elsewhere also.

The next thing that you can do is have a fence around your yard to make it just a little bit harder for someone to get onto your property. While this probably won't prevent someone from coming onto your property, it will put an obstacle in between the burglar and you.

A burglar will also check out your yard to see what obstacles you have there, if they can get any clues to your routine, and find out when you will be out of your home. They will look for things such as whether you have mail or newspapers piling up as this could mean that you're away from home for awhile. However, one of the main things they look for is whether you maintain your yard. Leaving your grass uncut and shrubs and trees untrimmed will make a burglar spot your house as a potential easy pick. Why is this? First of all people who don't take care of their yards usually don't take care of their house either. This means that they can expect such things as you not having an alarm system, not bothering to lock your doors or windows, and even if you do lock those, chances are it won't be too difficult to force them open.

They'll also see if you have places for them to hide while they break in such as trees, bushes, and large gardens close to your home. This being so, you want to keep all plants and other places to hide away from your house.

You also want to make sure you keep from leaving gardening and other tools around your yard. This again makes your yard look unkept and even provides tools for them to use to enter your home. A ladder left in your yard is an open invitation for a burglar to try to break into your second floor.

A burglar will also see if you have dogs in your yard. Having a dog or two in your yard has proven to be a big deterrent to burglars.

Having a well lit yard can make even the most brazen burglars pick another house. Some people choose to install lights throughout their yard to keep it lit all night, but a much more cost effective solution is to install motion lights on every side of your home. Motion lights have proven to be an effective deterrent to crime because if the lights suddenly come on while they're creeping around your yard they won't know if someone can see them and they often won't know if the lights were turned on by someone awake inside the house.

Another thing burglars look for is security systems and cameras. While I definitely suggest investing in a security system they can be pricy. If you look around you might be able to find yard signs with security company logos on them. If you put one in your yard, especially one from a large company like ADT, it can scare all but the most skilled criminals away.

Security cameras are another great tool you can use. For most people installing security cameras around their homes is not a practical expense, but the good news is that you can buy fake cameras. Many companies such as the "Johnson Smith Company",, sell them for around $10. Buying a few and putting them in visible areas around your house is a great deterrent. Some cameras even come with realistic working red lights and motion sensors that can follow people around.

With the majority of the things I've listed above in place it is very unlikely that anyone would try to break into your home. At that point chances are that the only thing that would make your home attractive to a burglar would be for you to have bad habits, and that's what well talk about now.

A very common bad habit people have is to hide a house key. Most criminals will look under the mat, around the door frame, in a garden for fake rocks, and in the areas around the door to see if they can find a hidden key before they break anything. Even if someone has no interest in robbing you, if they know you hid a key they might rob you just because an opportunity arose.

Not locking your garage or leaving your garage door open is a big invitation to a burglar, especially if your garage is attached to your house. Burglars know that the garage is often easier to break into then the house and quite often the door going from the garage to the house isn't locked or if it is it's easier to break open then the exterior door. The garage also provides someplace private to work while they break into your house. Access to your car is also very tempting because quite often people put a spare house key in their car so if the criminal gets into the garage they can get to the car and either enter the house, get a key from the car, or hide in the car and wait for you to get in in the morning. As you can see, not securing your garage is one of the biggest security mistake people make.

It doesn't take a lot to make a home unattractive to a burglar, all it takes is a bit of common sense and forming natural habits of things like locking up tools, trimming shrubs, locking all doors and windows and so forth. If you follow these rules and you have solid locks and some lighting around your house, you might not even need a professional home security system or a burglar alarm installed as they will be sufficient in preventing burglars from picking your home as a target as well as stopping them if they try anything.