Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Top 10 Attacks You Should Train For

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

While there is no question that violence can occur in many forms, again and again we find that there are a set number of ways that seem to be the favorite of those who regularly engage in violence.  To this end I have compiled a top ten list of the top ten ways in which a person is likely to be attacked and that they should train for.

Number Ten:  Having a gun pulled on you from within arm’s reach.    

Criminals of all types love firearms because they are a great equalizer; with a firearm a person can commit acts of violence without having to be bigger, stronger, faster, more intelligent, or more skilled than his target.  When a criminal does pull a gun they have a desire to get close with that weapon because they feel that the closer they can get to their victim the more control they have, and this is why most shootings happen within 5 feet.

The answer to this is of course to practice gun disarming techniques and be familiar with how to attack a person who has a gun without getting yourself or others shot and killed in the process.

Number Nine: Having a gun pulled on you from outside of arm’s reach.   

While most often a criminal will want to be close when they commit their crimes they may not always feel comfortable enough to do so.  Another possibility is you might have to engage them before they get to arm’s distance if they seem like they may start firing right away.

One should also be familiar with techniques to get off the line of fire and close the distance so they can attack the gun toting criminal without getting shot.

Number Eight: Getting stabbed for real.   

What is meant by “getting stabbed for real” is that when it comes to defending against knife attacks most people practice with someone brandishing a knife just outside of arms reach and then stepping in and making this big movement to lunge forwards with the knife and then the person practices sidestepping the thrust while parrying and then perform some type of disarm or controlling technique.  The problem is that police reports don’t support this narrative. 

When it comes to actual police reports from actual stabbing victims we see the same thing over and over and that is the person almost never sees the knife that stabbed them.  Nearly all reports from stabbing victims state that what happened is that they got attacked, thought that they were being punched in the stomach, and then felt a little weak and sleepy, noticed the blood, and then they realized that they’ve been stabbed instead of punched. 

If you do get attacked with a knife it will most likely be by someone who holds the knife by their side so you have a hard time seeing it and then when they stab they’ll come in low and repeatedly punch the knife into your stomach from a very close distance.  This sort of close in knife attack, consisting of very small and sharp arm movements, are nearly impossible to side step or deflect.  To see this in action to a web search of videos of prison stabbings and you’ll see this method actually being used.

Number Seven: Having your collar grabbed.  

 Grabbing someone by the collar has long since been a main way of intimidating and trying to control another person.  In studying reports of real acts of violence we see one and two handed collar grabs not only used in intimidation before the actual assault but even during the assault.  Often while fists are flying someone will attempt to grab the other person by the collar and hold him while they strike him with their other hand

The good news here is if someone grabs you by the collar that means that they’re close enough to hit and that they’re tying up one or both of their hands.  If you know how to capitalize on a collar grab you can turn this to your advantage.  One should learn how to take advantage of a collar grab when it is statically holding onto your garment as well as when it is pulling you forwards and pushing you backwards and/or up against a wall or other object.

Number Six:  A two handed choke. 

Like the collar grab the single handed and two handed choke is widely used both for intimidating and during the actual violent encounter.  People seem to have an instinct that tells them to attack the throat of another person leading to strangulation being a widely used method of assaulting and killing.  Being choked while standing up is a real possibility but also is being choked while you are on the ground.  In many cases we see someone being knocked to the ground, or tripping, and another person climbing on top and using the opportunity to choke the other person into unconsciousness.

Defenses against single and double handed chokes should be practiced both while standing and on the ground.  As with the lapel grab there are many benefits from getting choked in that the other person is both close enough to hit and has their hands tied up; being choked is a great opportunity to break someone’s arm.

Number Five: The sacrificial lamb.   

The sacrificial lamb is a tactic used by many gangs and other types of criminals where one person will either distract an intended target from the front while others attack him from behind, or the person will attack the intended target from the front and if things go poorly then others will jump in and help him out.  This is a very successful method for ambushing a target so anytime you’re approached while out and about you should always assume there is more than one attacker and you should position yourself so you can check around you to see if anyone else is approaching.

Learning to defend against multiple attackers is a must for anyone interested in learning to defend themselves.  Also, this is a good example of why anyone engaged in self-defense training should take up running because if you detect that you’re about to be attacked by multiple attackers often running is the best defense.  I was taught you should be able to sprint all out for at least 100 yards because most people can only sprint for maybe 40-50 yards so if you can go all out for 100 yards you should be able to outrun them over a distance. 

Number Four: Being attacked from behind by surprise.   

No criminal wants a fight so most will try to stack the deck in their favor as much as possible before they make their move.  Attacking from behind and by surprise are both key elements in most criminal attacks.  Since no one has eyes in the back of their heads these type of attacks can be very difficult to deal with.

Having a heightened state of awareness when you’re in areas where crimes are more statistically likely is always a good place to start.  Areas like parking lots, gas stations, public bathrooms, elevators, hallways, and other areas where you’re with people you don’t fully know or trust are all areas where you should have your head up and be actively looking around.

Limiting distractions is another great method in preventing these attacks.  Often people are walking around on their cell phone, listening to music, or engaged in some other task instead of paying attention to where they are going and what is around them.  Not being alone is another great method; if you are with other people or even with a dog you have more eyes to detect when someone is approaching you and there is a degree of safety in numbers.

I always teach my students to adopt a 45 degree angle when at all possible.  When they’re in line, ordering at a counter, standing by their car, using an ATM, or even using a urinal instead of standing flush to it where you cannot see behind you, you can turn to a 45 degree angle and now you can see what is in front of you, to the side, and even what is behind you with little effort.  I also use this while sitting at a table or behind my desk.  If you’re sitting squared up to the table or the desk you’re trapped by it to a certain degree but if you adopt a 45 degree angle you are freer to get up and move if you need to.

 Number Three: The sucker punch

This is another great example of criminals, and bullies, not wanting a fight but rather a victim.  To a certain degree a true sucker punch is very hard to defend against because it is very difficult to see coming.  However, if you pay attention to when a sucker punch is normally thrown you can better your chances of avoiding it.

A sucker punch is often used during an “interview.”  This is where a criminal approaches you and engages you in seemingly harmless conversation to test you to see if you’re a viable target and to distract you while they get closer to you.  They often will do something like ask you what time it is and when you look down at your watch they’ll step in and sucker punch you.  If you believe you’re being interviewed you should keep your distance, check the area for other potential attackers, and then never take your eye off the other person.  If the person does come closer you should become assertive, aggressive if necessary, and be ready for the sucker punch.

If someone is approaching you they’ll often throw the sucker punch once they cross into “punching distance.”  Generally when someone is about 4 feet away from you that is when they can step in and punch you with little difficulty so when someone crosses that 4 for 5 feet away from you zone that is when you should be looking for the sucker punch to come.

When someone is close to you already generally they will act like they’re disengaging you before throwing the punch.  Often they will turn away from you and then turn back and throw the punch or they might step back like they’re backing off and throw the punch.  Another common method is someone who is quite upset suddenly acting like they’ve magically calmed down; if a person who was very upset suddenly becomes calm and even tells you that they’re going to let things go then there is a good chance a sucker punch is seconds away.  All these things are an attempt to lull you into a false sense of security first so that you won’t see the sucker punch coming.

 Number Two:  The right roundhouse punch. 

World over most people are right handed so it makes sense that if they were to punch you it would be with their right hand.  The roundhouse punch is a natural method of striking even seen in other primates, so if you combine these things together it is no wonder that the right roundhouse punch is statically the most common method of attack you will face.

The benefit of this is that if you know this is the probably method of attack you can be on the lookout for it.  Plus, since this attack is wide and circular it is often telegraphed and easy to defend against simply by stepping in and getting inside the circular path.

Number One:  Charging forward and throwing multiple punches.

 While the right roundhouse punch is the most common method of being attacked this is also incredibly common and arguably the most effective.  Whether it is during a robbery, home invasion, fight on the street, or even in the boxing or wrestleboxing ring this is one of the most effective ways of ending a fight and it is used by martial arts masters and professional bare-knuckle boxers as strategy and by common thugs and criminals by instinct.

The reason this is so effective is firstly that there are multiple punches to contend with rather than just one or two.  Being attacked by continuous punches makes it very hard to protect or avoid them all plus since each punch generally comes at your face each punch is concealing the one behind it making them hard to see.

The second reason this is so effective is because the aggressor is not simply standing still allowing you room to maneuver, rather they are charging forward.  By charging forwards they are throwing off your sense of distance and timing making the blows very hard to counter and this drives your weight backwards on your heels making it very hard to move.  Even if you do manage to move, since they can move forward faster than you can move backwards it is very easy for them to just run you over.

I learned this when I was about 14 or 15 and my instructor called it the “Tiger Attack.”  My instructor told me that as soon as I saw an opening, normally someone dropping their hands, getting distracted, or settling their weight more on one leg then the other, to suddenly charge forward with the goal of running over them, stepping on their foot if I could, and throwing repeated punches or tiger claw strikes at their face.  This technique is fast, effective and very hard to defend against.  Wing Chun had a similar method called the “straight blast” and supposedly it was even Bruce Lee’s go-to method.

This is more difficult to defend against but it is so incredibly common that it should be one of the major techniques we practice defending against.  Some methods of defending against this are to bend your knees and drop down into a deep strong horse stance which puts your head under their shoulders.  This will get you under their punches and if they do hit you they’ll glance of the curvature of your skull.  Next you can step forward striking them under the armpit or under the chin with a nice powerful high block, palm strike, etc.

Another method would be to simply step forwards into their attack with a strike of your own.  Since they’re coming forwards you should smother a couple of their punches and the force of their body coming forwards should make your strike all the more powerful. 

You could also drop down low in a tackling technique if you feel comfortable with wrestling but wrestling during a real violence encounter is never advised.  However, you could drop to a knee and strike upwards into the groin or grab their leg and do a takedown.

If you notice that attack early enough when you still have control over your balance  you can sidestep or even step back with one foot and pivot your body towards them to counter in that manner.

You should never try to kick because you’ll have little power and will just probably fall over and if you do try to strike you should focus on soft tissue targets since your weight will most likely be pushed backwards and you’ll have little leverage.  I’ve also had success during training with stepping forwards, grabbing them, and doing a “drop-back throw” or a “sacrifice throw” as it is called in Judo.

If you’re interested in the art of self-defense or you teach any self-defense discipline then these ten attacks should be what you focus a lot of your training on since they show up more often than not and have proven to be very effective when used against both the general public and trained fighters alike.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Learning From Criminals: What we can learn from criminals to keep ourselves safe

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved

This video has been making the rounds since last month and millions of people have seen it; the video I’m speaking of is the armed robbery at a Jimmy Johns restaurant on April 26, 2017 in Kansas City.  Quickly becoming the topic of conversation both online and among survivalists and those who study self-defense, this video is a perfect example of several habits that criminals exhibit before, during, and after their crimes.

Here I will go over four lessons that we take away from this video that will help us become better prepared for criminal violence when it does occur and help us be able to spot it in advance so hopefully we can avoid it all together.

Here is the video and the lessons we can take away from it are below:

Lesson One: Criminals often use a ruse to get close to their victim.  He could have put on a ski mask and just ran into the restaurant waving the gun and screaming like he was robbing a bank but instead he walked right up to the store employee and ordered a sandwich and even asked about their choices of cheese. 

Criminals know that seldom is causing panic in their victims something they want to do.  Panicked people make mistakes, take longer to complete tasks, behave unpredictably, and might just turn and run away.  Therefore most criminals don’t want to alert you to the fact that you’re being victimized until they are standing right next to you and feel they have control of the situation.  A practice known as an “interview” is the method of choice where a criminal approaches you from a safe distance and engages you in seemingly harmless conversation to distract you while they close distance, and then once they’re right next to you and you’ve lowered your guard and they suddenly attack.

An example of this might be you’re unloading a shopping cart and putting bags of groceries into the trunk of your car and you see a man about to walk by on the way to the store’s entrance but just when is about 10 feet from you or so he says, “Excuse me…I’m running a little late today.  Do you know what time it is?”  Nearly by reflex you put the bag you’re holding down and look at your watch only to look back at the man and see he is standing right next to you and he’s holding a gun and ordering you into the car.

If he would have just walked right up to you then you might have got defensive and perhaps saw him pull the gun from his pocket and started to run away or maybe just caused a scene that drew unwanted attention.  By asking what time it is he appeared harmless and took advantage of a psychological tick we have where our brain automatically tries to answer any question that we’re asked.  Asking questions has the effect on our brain where we switch from paying attention to what is in front of us and we start to think of the answer even if we don’t want to or we are uninterested in the question.  This is a very effective technique for distracting people, getting them and keeping them engaged in dealing with us, and getting them to exhibit predictable behaviors and it is used by everyone from salesmen to psychologists to those who teach the power of effective conversation.

The question about the time seems so harmless and our natural instinct to look at our watch is so ingrained that we do it without really thinking even though common sense tells us that we should probably not take our eyes off an approaching stranger.  We don’t even notice that the stranger who starts the conversation from a distance where we feel fairly safe begins to slowly walk towards us and close the distance with us as soon as we start to answer. When we take our eyes off of them and look down at our watch that is the perfect opportunity for them to take those final quick steps and pull their weapon or strike us without us ever seeing it coming.

Not only is this an effective method for getting close and distracting us but it creates a safety mechanism for the criminal as well.  Just like any predator about to attack their prey, the criminal predator rarely just runs over and attacks his intended victim without carefully testing them first.  While some criminals, often the ones desperate or on drugs, will just rush someone and attack seemingly at random, most criminals will carefully test their intended victims and at any point if they don’t feel comfortable they can just walk away and be just some guy who asked  you for the time and then walked out of your life.

Before a criminal attacks their intended victim they will ask themselves four questions:

Question Number One: Is this person the right target?  When selecting a victim the criminal has to make sure that they’re not wasting their time or putting themselves into a situation that they cannot control.  They want to make sure that they’re confident that the intended target has the ability to give them what they want and is in the right place.  A criminal might find the perfect target but if they’re in a crowded restaurant they probably won’t be able to execute and get away with the crime.

The criminal wants to find someone who appears to be able to give them what they want and is vulnerable.  Vulnerable typically means appears weak, is accessible, and is distracted.   In the same way that a hunting lion targets those of the herd that are young, old, weak, injured, and alone as opposed to the big strong and healthy, no criminal wants to get into a fight and risk becoming injured or arrested so the criminal will often find someone they believe they can overpower and will not try to defend themselves.  Whether criminals realize it or not they are serious students of psychology and most become very adept and reading body language. 

Someone that carries themselves in a way that makes them appear small often lacks confidence and has a more fearful personality so someone with their head down, shoulders rounded, arms held into their body, takes small steps, and has poor posture is probably someone that will instantly give up when confronted violently.  On the other hand someone who carries themselves in a manner that makes them appear large often has a more confident personality so someone with their head up, shoulders back, arms held away from their body, takes long confident strides when they walk, and has good posture is more likely to have the confidence and the emotional capability to try to defend themselves if attacked.
During interviews criminals admit that basic body language plays an important role in determining who they will and who they will not attack.  In fact, serial killer Ted Bundy once stated that “he could tell a victim by the way she walked down the street, the tilt of her head, the manner in which she carried herself, etc . . .”   In numerous interviews criminals have admitted that just like a seasoned poker player folds nearly all their hands and only plays the hands he thinks he can win, the common criminal passes right by most people and only attacks those people they think they can victimize successfully.  Ideally that want someone who is smaller in stature they then are (so take note of someone approaching you who is larger), of a particular gender (depending on what they want to accomplish some criminals only target a certain gender that they feel can provide that thing to them or only feel comfortable attacking women since women are generally weaker), of a particular age (some criminals only target the young or the old), those that are alone, and those exhibiting passive body language. 
In addition to body language criminals also admit they look at a person’s walking pattern.  Several studies with convicted criminals have been done where women were filmed walking and then the images were converted into black featureless figures so the only thing that set one woman apart from another one on the screen was their size and how they moved when they walked.  Those women with short strides relative to their height, small arm movements, exhibiting low energy, moving slower, who primarily just shifted their weight forward and backward when they walked, and who primarily just moved their feet up and down when they walked were universally chosen by convicted criminals to be the ones that they’d likely select to rob or rape.
Conversely, those women who walked with long strikes relative to their height, had larger arm movements when they walked, exhibited higher energy, walked faster, who shifted their weight in all three dimensions while they walked, and who’s walk consisted of bigger movements swinging their feet when they walked were seen as less desirable targets to be robbed or raped.
The researchers noted that this seems to correspond to the level of perceived power that the walker possessed.  Those with less perceived power walked with smaller slower movements while those with more perceived power moved with larger and more energetic movements. 

Subsequent studies were conducted with both male and female victims and also included the intended targets wearing clothes.  It was found that when it comes to selecting a male to attack the same rules apply but the size of the intended target becomes a greater consideration in the decision as the larger a man is the more physically powerful he is assumed to be.

When it comes to clothing criminals routinely chose those wearing skirts over pants and who were either barefoot or wearing high-heels over flat shoes.  This makes sense because skirts often restrict movement more than pants and victims can’t move as fast in high-heels or barefoot then they can wearing flat shoes.  Numerous studies have clearly shown that clothing is something that criminals do take into consideration when picking a victim although the level of confidence a person is displaying and whether the person is paying attention to their surrounds or not is of more importance. 

As a side note, although it is widely reported on the internet I have yet to find a single study that shows that criminals prefer to victimize women who wear ponytails over other hair styles.  The thinking is that they can grab the ponytail and use it to control the intended target but if a criminal wants to grab you by the hair it doesn’t matter how it is worn.

In addition to body language and style of walking the level of awareness the intended target is demonstrating is highly important.  Even if a person is small and exhibiting weak body language, if they have their head up and are looking around them to see who is near them the criminal will often determine that they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to them because they’d see them coming and probably just run away or they could possibly have time to pull a weapon. 

Criminals want you to be distracted and they also feel that a weapon is an equalizer to size and confidence.  Even if you’re a guy who is a 6 foot tall, 300 pound bodybuilder and you’re walking down the street with big movements, if you’re looking down with your face in your phone not paying attention a criminal might think you’re a perfect target because they can walk right up to you and take you by surprise.  Once they’ve taken you by surprise and they have that gun or knife in your face they may not be too worried about your size, or they might just walk up and club, stab, or shoot you first and then rob you once you’re on the ground bleeding.

In addition to this your level of accessibility is essential to determining if you are the right victim or not.  They’ll watch you and ask themselves if you’re alone or headed to an area where you’ll be alone?  Do they have the opportunity to approach you later in an area where the two of you will be alone together?  If you’re with someone that could alert you to danger or possibly assist you in fighting back then they’ll probably pick someone else.

If a criminal decides you can give them what they’re after and you exhibit weakness so you will most likely not fight back when attacked then they’ll often watch you from a distance and determine how accessible you are.  If they decide you are a good candidate they may watch you for some time because they know that accessibility can quickly change.  If you’re with friends and they wait it out perhaps your friends will leave and you’ll be alone, perhaps you’ll leave the safety of the group at some point and use a restroom or walk to your car; either way stalking and basic surveillance is important to any criminal and it may take place for a couple of seconds or several hours or even days.

Your level of accessibility is determined by four factors.

1.)  How aware of their surroundings is the intended target?  If a target sees you coming they may attract help, pull a weapon, or even turn around and run away.  The perfect target is distracted and not paying attention to their surroundings at all.  This means the criminal can just walk right up to you and take you by surprise and take control of the situation before you have the opportunity to try to protect yourself.  Therefore it is important to not only be aware of your surrounds but look like you’re aware.

2.)  How freely can the intended target move?  Again, are you wearing tight clothing that restricts your movement?  Are you barefoot or are wearing high-heels that make it hard to run?  Are you limping or have your foot in a cast so you probably cannot move very fast at all?  Are you disabled in any way, perhaps missing a limb or blind? Are you sick?  Are you young or old?  Do you have a child in your arms?  Are you loaded down carrying shopping bags?  All these things are indicators of whether you can move freely to defend yourself or escape.  Therefore it is important that you don’t weigh yourself down with bags or restrict your movement with clothes.

3.)  Who is around the intended victim?  Criminals don’t want other people to come to your aide or be able to identify them.  Ideally the criminal wants you to be isolated so they have totally privacy when they commit their crimes.  Therefore, any time you are going someplace where you’re isolated or if someone is trying to get you to go with them to someplace that is isolated you should be aware that you might be in danger.

4.)  What location is the intended victim in?  A criminal wants totally control over you and the environment when they commit their crime.  They prefer to attack in an area where the intended victim is trapped or has their movement restricted and they’re isolated from anyone that can help them.  A criminal may often follow an intended victim for some time waiting to strike once they enter such an area.  An example may be a criminal who hangs out in a large shopping mall, finds a victim, and then follows them at a distance until they enter the parking lot and then they attack once the victim gets to their car.  In fact, there are certain areas where most violent attacks occur and you should be very aware and cautious whenever you enter these areas.  They include parking lots, parking garages, and out of the way areas like elevators, public bathroom, and hallways.  Essentially, if there is an area where a lot of people congregate or have to go (shopping centers, schools, banks, ATMs, etc), any area around that area that gives a degree of privacy (parking lots, alleys, bathrooms, back hallways, etc.) are a likely area for a criminal to strike.  Parking lots and gas stations remain two of the most dangerous areas you can be in and deserve special vigilance when you are there.

After the criminal has decided that you exhibit the right passive qualities, you are distracted, and you are accessible and in the right location they will go to the next question:

Question Number Two: Can I approach unnoticed?  Any criminal has to get close enough to you before they can attack you and this is where the level of awareness you display really comes in.  If you are standing in a parking lot unloading your shopping cart and placing bags into the trunk of your car but while you do that you are glancing around and taking note of everyone you see, even though you may be “right” in all the other ways the criminal may determine that they wouldn’t be able to get close enough to you without you noticing. 

A great method of deterrence that numerous studies with convicted violent criminals have confirmed to be effective is to simply make eye contact for a brief second with everyone around you.  Since a criminal wants to go unnoticed until they are very close and ready to attack having their intended target make eye contact with them from afar will send the message that they’ve been “seen” and will normally make the criminal chose another victim.  Eye contact is also an assertive action as most passive people lower their eyes and don’t make eye contact so this also communicates to the criminal that you just might try to fight back.

It is important to note that you want your eye contact to be very brief as anything other than a quick moment of eye contact could appear to be a challenge to others who would see you as a potential rival.  Unfortunately the tribal mentality is alive and well in some people and a woman who is out seeking a man or a man who is out in what he believes to be “his territory” might take more than a quick second of eye contact to be act of aggression by one of their same sex.

Another benefit of making brief eye contact with those around you is to take advantage of a technique called the “look away.”  If someone is watching you, perhaps sizing you up, they don’t want to be seen watching you.  If they see you look at them they will suddenly look away as if they’ve been caught doing something wrong.  If you ever make contact with someone and they quickly look away and act like they’ve been caught watching you then that means they have been watching you and you should take note of them as a potential attacker.

One additional method to determine if someone is watching you is to yawn and then quickly look at them.  Yawning is, in fact, contagious and if they yawn right after you then that means that they were most likely watching you.  One thing to keep in mind is you have to make sure that no one in the area was yawning already because you want to rule out them yawning in response to someone else, them yawning anyway because they were tired, or you yawning in response to watching them and not realizing it.  While this method seems a little weird or nonscientific it was taught to me by a former CIA officer who said it is one of many legitimate counter-surveillance techniques he learned during his training.

Lastly on this topic, this is also where not being alone can be an effective deterrent to crime and having a dog can be either better.  Not only does a dog pose a physical threat to a criminal (assuming you get a larger dog) most dogs will see you coming a mile away and alert their owner well in advance.  Having a dog, especially a big dog can be a great deterrent against criminals.

Question Number Three: Can I invade their personal space?  At this point a criminal has observed your body language and overall behavior and determined you can give them what they are after, you probably won’t be able to fight back, you’re alone, and they approach you from a distance without you seeing them.  They’re now standing maybe 10 feet or so away from you and the question is can they invade your personal space without you stopping them.

Everyone has a bubble of personal space around them that they feel violated if it is encroached upon.  While a stranger asking you for directions from 8 feet away may not make you feel threatened if the same stranger was to ask you for the same directions while standing 3 feet away it probably would.  The problem for the criminal is whether or not they can invade your personal space so they can put their hands on you, or pull their weapon, without you trying to stop them.  This is another example of why criminals love to target people who are distracted and not paying attention because they can just walk right up and invade their personal space without them realizing it.

The last thing a criminal wants is to start to invade your personal space and have you try to stop them or make a scene to alert others.  If these happen then the criminal will typically just go find someone else to target.

A criminal will use some tricks to distract you while they invade your personal space so that hopefully you won’t notice when they do it or at least you won’t try to stop them.  The typical method, known as the “interview,” is to approach you like they were going to walk right by you and then once they are near you, but still at a safe distance, they will engage you in conversation and probably ask you a couple harmless questions to distract you.  Here are some typical interview techniques that are commonly used.

-Asking if you have a cigarette or a light.  If they get lucky you will look away to retrieve one for them which will give them the excuse and opportunity to walk right up to you.  If don’t have either they might switch the subject and ask a different question.

-Asking for the time.  Here they hope you’ll look down at your watch and give them a brief moment to close the distance or attack you.  If you’re in this situation always say, “no” or keep looking at them and bring your watch up to your eye level so you can keep your eyes on both at the same time.

-Asking for directions.  This is probably one of the most popular.  First, it gets them an excuse to talk to you.  You can yell out what time it is to someone from 15 feet away but getting directions is a more detailed affair so they have an excuse for wanting to get closer.  This is also used by criminals in cars quite a bit where a car will stop next to you and either the driver or a passenger will get out and ask for directions.  At any other time you’d think you might be in danger but it could seem reasonable that a lost person in a car might stop and ask someone for directions. 

Second, by asking for directions they appear lost which makes them appear vulnerable and your natural reaction is to want to help them instead of see them as a threat.  Third, it gives them an excuse to talk and tell you how they became lost and this drawn out conversation can be used to get you to lower your defenses or to inch their way closer to you little by little.  Fourth, it gets you to stop and think.  When asked where the nearest gas station is or how to get to the local hospital you will instinctively come up with the answer in your head even if you don’t want to and since directions can be complicated and you might have to decide which location is closer than another or perhaps even which is open at this hour you may have a few things to think about and this gives the criminal a great opportunity to get close without you noticing.  Fifth, it gets you to look away.  The best case scenario for a criminal is that when they ask you for directions that you look and point over in the direction they need to go.  They want to get your attention off of them and out “there” in the direction you need to go and while you’re not looking at them they can get closer or even attack.

An old misdirection trick used by magicians, pickpockets, and other criminals is to get you to take your eyes off of them and get you to look at something they’re holding. A typical method would be to have a map with them.  Not only will this prop make them a more convincing lost person which will increase your likelihood of helping them but the map can be used to hide their weapon so either you can’t see it until it’s too late or anyone passing by will not be able to see them point it at you once they get close.  The other use for it is to get you to focus on it.  Even if you don’t want them to get close to you if they hold the map out to the side at arm’s length and then point to the map you will naturally be drawn to focus on the map and once you’re looking at it they’ll just walk right up as if they’re sharing the map with you and you probably won’t even notice that they’re picking your pocket, pulling a weapon, or even that they’re now standing next to you.

Question Number Four: Do they exhibit passive or fearful qualities?  This is the last question a criminal will ask themselves and they ask themselves this question at each stage from selection of their target, to stalking, to closing the distance, to launching their attack.  They want you to be passive and not try to stop them when they walk right up to you so throughout this process they test you little by little to see how you react and how much they can get away with.

All predators test their prey before they attack.  Even a shark that is large, powerful, and has you out of your natural element and into his won’t just swim up and launch their attack.  They’ll test you a few times to see how you react just to make sure that they’re not in danger.  First the shark will swim up and bump into you to see if you’ll turn and attack.  If you don’t then it will often swim up and give you a quick nibble and then quickly swim away to see if you’ll turn and attack then or if you’re good to eat.  Since humans are not their natural food if a shark does bite a human they will typically notice the unfamiliar taste and spit it out and just swim away.  When people survive shark attacks they usually do so because they are at this stage of the attack.  However, if the object they bit was something the shark wants to eat the shark now knows that the object is both tasty and won’t fight back so now it goes in for the full attack.

The point is that when a predator chooses their victim they are very picky and let most people pass by.  When they find the right person they will continually test them to see if they are in fact the right victim.  They might observe their target for a few minutes without the target noticing and thereby pass that test.  Then they might be able to walk up to them unnoticed and pass that test.  Then the criminal might be able to invade their personal space without them objecting and that is a big test that they just passed. The ultimate test of course is if you let them touch you.  How much you let them get away with before you object or try to stop them, and if you do whether some simple intimidation will get you to back down, is the test.

Each step gives them confidence to do the next step, however, if at any point the intended victim responds with confidence and aggression instead of fear or passivity the whole thing may be called off.  If the criminal stands 8 feet away and asks for directions but you tell them “no” or (my personal favorite) “I’m sorry, I’m new to this area but there is a store right there and I’m sure they can give you directions there” in an assertive manner there is a good chance they’ll just walk away and pick someone else.  When you refuse to help them you fail their test and they will often try again by seeming more desperate, getting aggressive, or just taking a big step towards you and if they do that you have to become very assertive and tell them to stop.  If you assertively communicate to them that you will not tolerate them invading your personal space they’ll realize you will most likely create a scene which will get the attention of others and probably attempt to fight back. 

How much they will test you after you assert yourself depends on how badly they want you for a victim and how much attention they are willing to draw but here 99% off all criminals will leave at this point or well before.  If a criminal doesn’t leave at this point they probably will try to kill you.

You also have to be prepared to deal with intimidation.  Typically if a criminal looks at you and sees that your assertiveness is solid they will just walk away, however if they don’t think it is 100% solid or if they are more desperate to victimize you they may see if they can get you to back down with by first telling you a sad story about their situation and trying to close the distance again, and if that doesn’t work they’ll become aggressive and see if they can intimidate you into backing down.  If you can keep firm and show them that you won’t be intimidated that sends a clear signal to them you don’t plan on being victimized today and they’ll almost always leave.

Two other important tests criminals give is if you’re walking can they get you to stop.  If you’re walking or driving and a criminal engages you and is able to get you to stop they will consider that an act of compliance and passivity on your part.  If you’re walking or driving and someone is trying to get you to stop don’t stop moving unless you know it is safe to do so.

The other one is if they come to your home and see if they can get you to open the door.  Contrary to what movies show most home invasions don’t happen in the middle of the night they happen during the day with most happening about dinner time.  It makes sense if you think about it, a home invader wants to gain access to the home, overwhelm its occupants, and gather everyone in one room to control them.  In the middle of the night everyone is spread out all over the house in their respective rooms and someone could use that to get away or contact the police.  In the stereotypical nuclear family during the day the kids are at school, the husband is at work, and the wife is home alone so there is only one person to overpower and control and you know exactly where she is because she is standing in front of you answering the door.

The reason dinner time is when most home invasions occur is because it is towards the end of the day and people are winding down and dropping their guard and everyone is most likely grouped in one place.  You can kick in the front door, rush in, and catch everyone right there at the dinner table.

The front door is the main point of entry for most burglars and home invaders and they’ll either force the door open or get you to open it for them.  They’ll often knock on the door and say they’re lost and ask for directions, pretend to be a delivery guy (some even steal UPS uniforms and show up with a box with your address on it), say their car broke down and they need to use your phone, say they’re injured and they need help, say they accidently hit your car, or they accidently hit your pet. 

This is why it is important to use your peep hole and leave the door shut and locked until you identify exactly who is there.  If someone needs help tell them to stay there while you call for help, and don’t rely on door chains to keep someone out.  If you open the door even a few inches they will usually throw their bodyweight against the door and force their way in.

The real lesson here is to understand how this testing process works and be able to spot it and fail their test it when it happens.  The sooner you can pick up when a criminal is testing you the better you will be able to send a strong message that you are way more trouble then you’re worth.

Lesson Two: Most criminals will get close to you and put the weapon right next to you or in your face.  Whenever I teach handgun disarmament one question I almost always get asked is, “how do you disarm someone who is 8 feet away?  After all only a complete idiot would actually walk right up to you and stick a gun in your face where you have an opportunity to take it away.”  I agree but not all criminals are bright.

The thing to keep in mind is that a criminal sees their weapon as their source of power.  Instead of understanding that a handgun is a tool whose purpose is to kill they use it as a tool to intimidate.  A criminal will naturally want to get as close to you as possible and they’ll want to put the gun right in your face if they can because this allows them to feel in control.

Another reason why criminals will put their weapon right in your face is because they know that once they’ll pull their weapon that you’ll most likely focus on that and if they stick it right by your eye you won’t be looking at their face.  Many people who have had a gun put right in their face clearly remember looking into the barrel but don’t remember the criminal’s face even if they got a good look at it and some criminals rely on this.

The truth is that if a criminal wants to shoot you they will most likely just walk up and shoot you but if they want something from you they will want to get close to you and how close they get to you depends on how comfortable they feel with you.  There are things you can do to make them feel comfortable enough with you to make them want to walk right up and hold the gun against you where you can simply reach out and take it and there things you can do that will make the criminal nervous where they’ll back up and keep their distance.  If a criminal is close enough to you then you have a chance of disarming them.

Lesson Three: Very few criminals know how to properly use a gun.  Most criminals have little to no training in the correct use of firearms.  The typical criminal is not out at the range practicing good fundamentals; when their gun is not held in the face of a victim it is tucked in their waistband or kept in their sock drawer.  This is another reason criminals like to get close because most don’t know how to properly align the sights and aim the gun so to hit anything they need to be close.  This is also a reason why 97% of single gunshot wounds are not fatal and why if someone pulls on gun and you turn and run away you’ll have about a 98% that they won’t shoot at you.

Two reasons that this video is so popular is because the restaurant employee is so calm that it seems like he doesn’t even feel threatened.  The other reason is that he actually was in very little danger since the gun that was put in his face was basically just a paperweight at that moment.

If you look at the video you’ll see that when the robber pulls the gun he racks the slide but he makes the mistake of holding onto the slide as it goes forward and his hand interferes with the action enough that the gun gets what is called a “stovepipe malfunction.”  You can clearly see the slide is back and a round is sticking out of the ejection port.  That guy can pull the trigger all day long and it won’t fire until that malfunction is cleared.

You can see that when the robber notices this he actually tires to hide the gun from view to hide the malfunction.  At this point he already showed the gun to the employee so he was trying to hide the fact that something went wrong.  However, once he tells the employee to open the register and he hesitates (it is not clear if the employee hears him at this point because at first he spoke very softly) the robber then puts the gun right in his face to give him the encouragement.  Even when he knew he couldn’t shoot anyone with the gun he still decided that he had passed the point of no return and stuck it right in their face anyway.

It is thought that perhaps the reason the employee was so calm was he noticed that they gun cannot fire however during interviews with the press he didn’t mention that he even noticed this.

Lesson Four: Criminals are often stupid.  This criminal, who was caught mere hours later, made a lot of stupid mistakes.  First, the reason he was robbing anyone is because he needed to pay off his drug dealer.  The lesson here is don’t get involved with drug dealers.

Next, he robbed a place with a high risk of being caught and a fairly low risk of payout.  I don’t know how much money he needed but robbing a fast food place like that isn’t very smart.  He said he thought about robbing a gas station or a McDonalds but he chose the Jimmy Johns because the thought the lights were dimmer.

Now I had to rewrite this because I just realized that I wrote three pages on how I would rob a store and my concept of a “soft” vs “hard” robbery I don’t want to give any ideas.  However, he showed his face to everyone putting it clearly on camera, wore very identifiable clothes, and then stayed in the area after the robbery.

After the robbery Jimmy Johns called the police and then this video got put on YouTube pretty much right away.  A couple of hours later a retired police officer who’s friend had emailed him the video notice the man standing in front of him at the 711 was the robber and he called the police who then stopped his vehicle and arrested him shortly afterwards.