I have a background in martial arts, taekwondo to be precise, back in the university days. I could recall our instructor giving us ample self-defence training, and using us to secure some event venues on campus, particularly those held at night. To properly carry out this task, we first got ourselves prepared. We did not solely depend on our martial prowess to function; rather, like our instructor taught, self-defence is about fitness, and we had to keep ourselves fit for the possibility of an unforeseen violence attack.
There is a mistake victims always get themselves into. I have discovered that many of them wrongly deal with the situation and these mistakes often prove fatal. Is this the victim’s fault? Yes, it is. In most cases they are overconfident; they do not take the threat seriously and they never prepare themselves for the possibility of violence.
Martial art training is not all based on kicking, punching and close-up fighting. If that is what you are expecting to learn from this column, then you are in the wrong place. But, do not get it wrong, it is important to practice conflict rehearsals that cover all phases of an event including the pre-conflict, conflict and post-conflict phases. It is also important to practice scenarios against multiple attackers and weapons. While you are at that, have it in mind that it is just an aspect of what you need to adequately defend yourself against violence.
As much as in this series I am going to dwell on self awareness, decisiveness, and acting appropriately in a violent confrontation, I am not suggesting this will guarantee your safety and life, but it may increase your chances, and that is all anyone can ask.
Why are so many people continually surprised and caught completely off-guard in these situations? If you deny that violence can happen to you, then of course you will not be ready. If you are not ready, you will not have a plan, and without a plan you can become a victim, or worse, a statistic. But the typical reflex action response from too many people, especially martial artists, and self-pronounced confident people is, “I can take care of myself.” But often they cannot. Most violent encounters are sudden and last only a few seconds. Yet, they are extremely intense and can leave you badly injured or even dead.
The only way to be ready for a violent attack is to make a plan. A plan requires getting appropriate training. You need to approach the issue of self-protection in a holistic manner, that is, examine what typically happens on the streets (in your area) and prepare yourself for it. That means reality-based training. If you practice traditional martial arts and/or sport fighting, that’s fine, but you should augment your training with a realistic programme that prepares you for random violence.
Let’s see a real life violence attack that occurred in a suburb of Lagos and present an alternative way to handle it, to make you understand why preparation is a better approach to facing sudden violent attack than reprisal attack.
Case study: Attack Incident
This involved a man and a lady who were walking home from work in their neighbourhood, after alighting at their bus stop. The man always walked the lady through a dark and deserted road to her home before making the turn back to his, instead of using the major road that led to his house. They both had on them their bags containing their laptops and work tools. While walking, they were approached by two members of a street-gang on a motorbike who demanded for their phones and bags. The male victim, instead of complying with the criminals’ demands, charged at them on the bike and pushed the gunmen away. The victims were both shot but survived.
Alternative Response to Attack
The problem here is that the man initially acted too confidently, rather than focusing on using the safer way home. Then when approached, he did not take the gun threat seriously enough. He did not understand the situation’s full violence potential. The potentially fatal outcome might have been avoided all together if the he had just handed over his effects.
We have so many safety lessons to learn here:
Know your environment – Know where you are going and the safest way to get there. The short-cut paths the man preferred using were dimly lit streets that cut through the busy major roads that led to their homes. Walking there alone or even with friends after daylight was not smart. Leave your “I’m tough” attitude at home.
Keep your eyes open- Always be alert. Be ready for anything, ready to take action, or divert your path.
Suspect strangers – If strangers approach you under these circumstances, you should suspect them and avoid their path. Walk away or divert your path, such as crossing the street, or entering a busy or crowded road/street. If they follow you (on the street) then you know there is potential trouble brewing and you have a few seconds to prepare.
Keep your distance: If you cannot avoid approaching strangers, at least keep your distance. Do not allow anyone get too close to you. Do not let people surround you.
Have escape plans for your girlfriend or wife – Have a code–word (between you) for a pre-arranged set of actions.
Watch the attacker’s hands – their faces will not attack you, but a weapon in their hands can. If someone pulls out a gun, NEVER push them away, you will not be able to disarm them. Do you know how to disarm a gun? Do you know how to disarm a gun without your loved one getting shot? Then do not.
How to prepare yourself for violent incidents
As a member of the Boys Scout in primary school, I was always fascinated by the watchword, “Be Prepared.” According to Baden-Powel, the founder of the Boys Scout, it means “you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty.” The following are ways you can prepare yourself for an unforeseen violent attack:
- Admit to yourself that violence can happen to you or your loved ones at any time. Be alert, aware and ready for anything. Learn how to be non-confrontational in situations that have violence potential and develop skills that can help reduce the potential that a confrontation or robbery will escalate into actual physical violence or use of a weapon against you.
- Prepare to deal with violence by seeking appropriate training. Seek out reality-based training. The best way to prepare for violence is by training in a manner which mimics the event. If this training is not provided in your area or by your martial arts centre, ask for that specifically. I remember back on campus that we specifically had training sessions with female students on reality-based training against violence attack from male students. One person against several attacker drills were often practised in many martial art schools, and these types of drills can be modified to group-attack training.
- Practice your boundary setting skills (not letting a potential attacker closer than a certain distance), both verbal and physical. This is called maintaining a fighting distance. If you feel something is going badly, it probably is ATTACK FIRST, then escape.
- Develop plans to counter gun assaults, knife and impact weapon attacks from individuals as well as groups. There are some people who say there is no such thing as a gun or knife “disarm”. If they believe this, they have trained with the wrong people. If someone is attempting to take my life, I am going to fight for it. I will use my training to attempt to disarm the attacker and if I do, I will try to make them PAY! Also, know how to defend yourself against a group of unarmed attackers – how to move, who to attack and how to break free.
- Be prepared to hurt an attacker, or even take their life to save your own or the lives of your loved ones. Many people cannot come to terms with this, but a criminal doesn’t care about your morality, and all too often will take your life with little regret.
- Be alert and aware of your environment and the people around you. You need to profile individuals quickly; this can save your life. If several individuals in hooligan appearance approach you on a dark street at night, you can be sure that they are not there to make friends with you.
- Watch the hands of any person who approaches you. If they are close to you and a hand or hands go into their pocket you can be sure that it is not coming out with a smile. Run, push, or throw something into his or her face, and run. If this is not possible, attack FAST and HARD!
- Always carry weapons, but get training first. For me, I always want to quickly identify objects around that I can use as weapons. For many this is not natural, especially those who seek most to avoid violence. But, if you want to be prepared, be trained and armed. We are tool-bearing animals. Leave the unarmed fighting for the movies. If you cannot legally carry a knife or firearm, then carry a pen, your bunch of keys or anything that can be used as a makeshift weapon.
- makeshift weapon.
Although there may be a number of instructions and activities related to violent actions to be undertaken in this column, Safety Record Newspaper, its officers and the author of this column cannot assume any responsibility or liability for any injuries or losses that you may incur as a result of acting upon any information provided by this column, nor assume any third party liability arising out of any legal actions you may be involved in as a result of the training you received by engaging in a study of any martial art as presented by this column or any other source cited herein either directly, or indirectly.