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Imagine this frightening scenario and try to envision yourself here: You’re strolling through an empty parking lot at dusk thinking about the events of the day when suddenly your arm is clasped from behind and pulled forcefully downward. Your head crashes against the unforgiving concrete. Blood gushes from your nose. Before you have a moment to process anything, your attacker is now on top of you, beating your face with open fists. Gasping for air from fear and excruciating pain, you scream and slap him in an aimless attempt to shield yourself, by which time he has secured your flailing arms. His eyes are dark and empty. He barks out orders that your mind fails to decipher, while pressing the icy blade of a knife against your throat. Your shrieks of panic echo through the air, but no one seems to hear. Subdued under the weight of his body, you have nowhere else to turn. You are the next victim.
For the better part of half my life, I was to a perpetrator the perfect, unsuspecting victim. I had all the key elements for an easy take down: Though I was physically fit, I lacked situational awareness, the proper mindset and the necessary skills to defend myself in the event of an attack. Sadly to say, I embodied the average woman. And I can’t even use the excuse – I was young and stupid – for what I know today can be taught, learned and applied at any age.
If you’re fortunate enough to have been trained in the art of self defense from childhood - more power to you - but women are typically indoctrinated from youth that fighting is for men and that they lack the physical dominance and strength to defend themselves. Although this may be true to a point, personal self defense is not measured by the size of your muscles, rather possessing the proper mindset to perceive a threat, executing the proper skills to overcome the threat, and purposing – as much as it depends on you – never leave with your attacker to a secondary place, lest you become the probable “investigation site”. If your mindset is such that physical strength matters more than these principles to ensure your safety, then you’ve missed the point. Personal self defense has little to do with strength.
Let’s face it gals (and guys) – times are rapidly changing for the worse, and as morality and the economy continue spiraling downward, so does your security. You cannot nor should you leave your safety solely to the government, local law enforcement, and - even in some cases – to your own family: You must learn, possess, and practice these self defense skills for our survival. These newly acquired skills quite possibly may also save the lives of those you cherish most. No matter how well meaning our government agencies might be, what if they simply are not there when you or your loved one is attacked?
There are three essential principles we must adhere to in a self defense situation if we expect to overcome the odds of being injured – or worse yet, killed:
Principle #1: First and foremost, we must possess the proper mindset to perceive a threat by maintaining situational awareness of our immediate surroundings. How do we do this practically? Train your mind to be proactive and aware. Study people as they’re approaching you; look at what they’re holding, how they carry themselves. Make eye contact – it demonstrates confidence – and perceive their possible intent by their response. Know what is behind you, beside you and even in front of you. Glance under, around and inside your car before entering. Never park next to a van with tinted windows or no side windows, or beside a car with suspicious characters. Notice anything out of the ordinary. Trust your intuitions. Always confirm or refute your suspicion or it “may well” become your threat! Oftentimes while driving, my husband will ask me: Without looking, what color is the car behind you? Or after passing someone in the grocery store, what was that man wearing? At times it seems somewhat silly, but I believe it’s these practice drills that may one day save my life.
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Most attacks are perpetrated upon easy prey. What do I mean? To understand the tactics of the predator, you must get inside his mind: Would he prey upon someone who holds her head high, keys in hand, shoulders square, scanning the horizon for anything unusual, or one who obviously has her mind elsewhere, shuffling to her car, cell phone glued to her ear, fumbling for her keys, clueless? The first would be a fighter; the latter, a vulnerable, easy target. See it from the perpetrator’s perspective, and don’t give him what he wants.
The late Jeff Cooper, author, speaker, president and founder of The American Pistol Institute developed what he called the “Color Code of Readiness”. The “white zone” is when someone is oblivious of his surroundings and immediate environment, typical of the one described earlier. The “yellow zone” signifies someone has situational awareness, conscious of everything within his visual reach, ready. At “orange zone”, the person is alert, perceives a threat and has already determined to act if need be. And finally, at “red zone” the person’s has actually encountered a specific threat that poses immediate consequences to his personal safety. At this point, he should fight or take flight using clear, concise verbal commands and movement. If you want to dramatically increase your odds from avoiding or evading a threat all together, you must purposely be on guard at yellow, orange and red zones, depending on the severity of the threat. Never, under any circumstance, choose to live in the “white zone” – to do so could reap severe penalties.
Being situationally aware also means making wise choices and taking extra precautions even in ordinary and oftentimes suspicious situations. In everyday practical living, be aware of the person watching your transactions – such as showing your driver’s license to the cashier while some shady character behind you gets a quick glance of all your personal information. While driving or on foot, beware of the person or car behind you. A good rule of thumb: If you’re being trailed behind after three consecutive right turns, there’s a good chance you are being followed. Do NOT go home at this point, lest you reveal your place of residence to this possible perpetrator. Drive to a well-lit, populated area like a large gas station, or better yet, the police department! Assuming you have a cell phone, you may even want to call 911 if you fear for your safety.
Principle #2: We must execute the proper skills to overcome the threat by honing some hands-on self defense techniques now. What good will it do for you to practice the first principle but at some point fail, then find yourself pinned to the ground by your attacker with a gun to your head, or – like our earlier scenario - feel the icy edge of a knife against your throat from behind. Trust me: You don’t want to end up there! This is where practical, personal defense training becomes critical. Here are a just a few suggestions:
a. Practice and become proficient with a firearm. Though the mere sight of a handgun intimidates many women, it’s a great place to start. The only way to overcome the fear of the unknown is to gain a working, practical knowledge of the thing you fear. Contrary to popular belief, guns aren’t dangerous - it’s the criminal behind them, or those who simply do not understand the basics of handgun safety. To be efficient in a deadly situation, you have to be comfortable with defending yourself, and it begins with the proper training and practice.
Get involved. Contact your local police department – like I did with my first exposure to handgun training – and inquire about any self defense training offered. Check online or your yellow book pages. Many gun stores also have an indoor shooting range for a nominal fee. In varying locales, there are outdoor shooting ranges and gun clubs available. With a little inquiry, you will find that you are not alone. There are many folks just like you with varying walks of life who share the same belief: We cannot depend on others for our safety in a world of increasing moral, social and economic decline. Self defense training starts somewhere, and the practical skills of using a handgun are just one of them.
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Though a handgun can bring a sense of security to an otherwise dangerous world, it cannot always protect. What if you simply forget to carry it on your person or you cannot get to your weapon prior to the attack? What if your attacker is able to knock the gun out of your hand, or fear arrests you and you simply cannot maintain the collectiveness to shoot with precision? These are real questions that to ponder them when it happens is to risk being a victim. Though handgun training is crucial, honing other self defense techniques can be a wise backup plan.
b. Learn and master the necessary techniques while conditioning your body to subdue, or – better yet – escape from your attacker. Self defense is not for the weak and winded. In order to preserve yourself in a deadly situation, your physical body must be prepared with both the stamina and skills. Going to the gym, lifting weights, or running on a treadmill provides some physical conditioning to resist exhaustion in the heat of an attack, but even that is not enough.
Remember our earlier attack scenario? No doubt without the proper training and body conditioning – aside from Divine intervention or sheer coincidence - you will not be prepared for the sudden abuse to your body, fear will arrest you, and you will lose the battle. There are far too many victims than victors to prove this point, but it doesn’t have to end this way. You do NOT have to be the next victim and your fate is truly up to you. Instead of one day living out this frightening scenario, let’s rewind the scene: What if you knew how to break the fall when landing on the ground so that you did not injure yourself? What if you knew how to defend yourself effectively on the ground with controlled breathing techniques while countering the attack to your eventual escape? This is what body conditioning and self defense training – like martial arts – can do for you.
If you’ve never experienced a “simulated attack” including some of the pain involved with a real attack then you’ll never know what to expect. Close Combative Self Defense training provides the environment to learn and feel what it’s like in a “simulated attack”. You learn techniques to defend yourself against any punch, kick, grab or throw. If your attacker knows how to counter your defense, there is also a counter to his counter. These techniques are traditionally taught in many martial arts schools, and should be acquired by experienced, Certified Martial Arts Instructors. Jujutsu and Judo are just two of many styles that involve grappling and ground techniques, which I believe is where self defense is most practical. Ground self defense techniques are so important for the obvious reason that the majority of all attacks end up on the ground at some point: The key is knowing what to do effectively when you’re there – and this comes through awareness and honing the techniques proficiently. As Master Larry Hartsook, Eagle Karate Systems, astutely states and is part of our martial arts school motto: “You are as you train.”
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Some other self defense techniques involve turning the tables on your attacker by giving him the opposite of what he expects. It’s called diversion. First, you fain fear and vulnerability only long enough for him to let his guard down, then with ruthless aggression you divert or attack. Your action will beat his reaction. For instance, if your attacker towers in front of you with a gun, spewing out profanity in an effort to manipulate, you hold up your hands and plead for your life. Then before he has time to blink, swiftly step to the side, blocking, and compromising the barrel of the gun with the outside of your wrist and hand. Your immediate intent is a counterattack once the gun is out of his reach or escape. Another technique is attack by combination: For instance, the attacker attempts to grab you from the front, you execute a knee strike to the groin; his hands drop while you eye gouge or throat strike him; repeat the process. Be ruthless. Be aggressive. Continue to strike. Surprise even yourself, but never give in.
There are many ways to prepare your body for action, but martial arts ranks highest in my opinion. It creates confidence and fosters self esteem in one’s ability to face fear with tenacity and resolve. It also builds endurance and tolerance of pain. I’m used to bumps, bruises and broken bones – fingers and toes, mind you, but it still hurts! When faced with your attacker, don’t be afraid of pain. Though pain may seem like your enemy now, it may one day be your friend. Learn to endure it so you can easily overcome it when it really matters most.
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In addition to physical training, mental preparedness is just as important. And this leads us to Principle #3: Never, under any circumstances – as much as it depends on you – leave with your attacker to a secondary place lest you become the probable “investigation site”. At some point of an attack, you may be subdued and dragged against your will to a vehicle or threatened with a weapon to drive to some remote place. Your attacker has no sympathy at this point – not that he ever did – but you are almost certain to be his next victim if you ever submit.
Many of you may remember the Channon Christian / Christopher Newsom case in Knoxville, Tennessee, where this young couple was carjacked at gunpoint, bound and taken to a rundown rental house. One can only imagine the horror of being tortured, repeatedly raped and finally murdered. I cannot write this without feeling immense sorrow, especially when I realize these vicious, inhumane acts of violence quite possibly could have been avoided. The point is don’t ever surrender or submit – even with a gun to your head – to leaving the premise to some other place. Your chances of survival are greater to run away while your perpetrator attempts to shoot you; or to jump out of a moving vehicle if you find yourself already in the car with your attacker.
It may seem overwhelming to think that even you can learn and apply these three principals. First you need to know that physical strength is secondary to overcoming the obstacles of self defense. If you become increasingly aware of your immediate surroundings while honing the necessary self defense skills to ward off an attack, you will dramatically increase your chances of survival; and even if you are subdued, to determine now that you will never submit to your perpetrator’s attempt to take you to a to a secondary place. Though it’s good to set realistic expectations when it comes to your personal self defense, don’t let complacency keep you from doing nothing at all. Just make a commitment that you will start somewhere and follow through until your proficiency outweighs your feelings of inadequacy, fears and doubts.
By Roxanne L. Griswold
Ready Made Resources, LLC
© Copyrighted 2010